Eastern States 20 Mile

March 30, 2014
Portsmouth High School to Hampton Beach
New Hampshire

Preface: Eastern States 20 Mile was a bit of a breakout run for me mentally. Almost all of my training is conducted on very hilly courses, and I had no idea what to expect going into the race. I’ve decided to write this recap in a slightly different style from my typical race reports.

It is supposed to be a training run. Nothing more, nothing less. 20 steady state miles.

Mentally I’m in somewhat of a funk. Coming off a week of travel, I am tired and far from tapered. My head feels foggy. My heart isn’t in it. In a flash of brilliance I’d forgotten my pre-mixed UCAN drink on the kitchen counter. Nice one, Larisa. To make matters worse, I only have two gels with me, as I’d planned to rely heavily on that UCAN drink for fuel.

Driving down route 1A, the ocean and the sky seem to blur into one indistinguishable shape: a solid, ominous wall of grey. Rain pelts down relentlessly, hammering the truck. Boy, it’s rough out. I sure hope I’m dressed appropriately.

At packet pickup, more conversation about the cold and the wind. Apparently it was so blustery out that they were unable to set up the finish chute at Hampton Beach. But at least it’s a NNE wind. The race director calls for quiet. It is announced that the half marathon race will be shortened to 10 miles. 20 milers will still run the full distance.

Outside, the rain subsides. I crank up the heat in my truck. One jacket, or two? Two gels, or maybe I can bum a third off Rob? Decisions, decisions. Inclement weather makes race preparations immensely difficult.

Five minutes to eleven. There is confusion over where the race starts. We follow the crowd en masse up a small hill, only to be directed back behind the school.

Eleven comes and goes. So cold. Of course you underdressed, Larisa. Flash of brilliance #2 for the day.

I see my friend Sam Jurek and recall how fast he’s run this race in prior years. I wonder how far I’ll finish behind him today.

Five past eleven. Almost too casually, the race begins. I take off hard in a desperate effort to warm up.

New Castle. Beautiful, but deceptively hilly. I thought this was supposed to be entirely flat. Stress. I don’t feel quite right. There is a man in a white singlet ahead of me. I lock in and zone out. Relax. 

1A Traffic Circle. Maddy is there. Seeing a familiar face raises my spirits. I know we are nearing route 1A. Steady and strong.

Odiorne Point. We hit the seacoast. I love this route and run it often. So flat, so fast. And a tailwind. Something changes. A small spark lights up inside of me. It flickers briefly, but then burns brightly into a flame. In the midst of a washed out, punishing world of grey, I suddenly feel very much alive. My turnover quickens.

Wallis Sands. The volunteers are so remarkably friendly. They tell me I am the first female, and I thank them deeply for supporting my run, once again amazed and inspired by the selflessness of others.

I never run by pace in any race. Only by feel. The screen of my GPS watch presents one single metric: my heart rate. I take such comfort in that number. I trust it to guide me, and am always content with whatever finish it brings me.

Rye Beach. Maddy kindly takes my jacket. Dare I say I might have overdressed?

We reach the outskirts of Hampton proper. I tear open a VFuel and slowly sip the gel.

Final Aid Station. Mile 18. I recall this from the race sheet. Why am I not fading? Emotions scream inside me. Never before have I felt so strong so late in a race. A voice from deep within encourages me to go harder. To reach towards that boundary that separates the safe from the uncontrollable.

I accept the challenge and I push. Hard.

The final 2 miles zip by in a blur. I see the finish chute. I expect 2:10, but the red neon clock reads 2:04. That can’t be right.

I stop my watch. Check the data, this can’t be real.

The screen flashes back at me. 20.02 miles. 2:04:42. 6:14 pace.

That can’t be right. But it is.

Image courtesy of Maddy Hribar
Image courtesy of Maddy Hribar

It’s those unexpected, breakout moments in life that keep us motivated and pushing hard towards goals that sometimes seem impossibly out of reach. My run at Eastern States this past Sunday represented such a moment for me.

When I set a personal goal of qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials back in October, I knew there was a good chance that the goal was too aggressive. My strength as a runner lies in my endurance, not in my raw speed. A sub-2:43 marathon requires mastery of both.

Eastern States was supposed to be a training run. A cog in the intricate machine of an endurance runner’s training that slowly keeps her moving forward. Instead, it served as a catalyst. The fire that was already burning steadily inside of me now blazes more intensely than ever.

Some fun facts…


  • Pre-race – Several bananas + PocketFuel (vanilla haze) and 1 VFuel gel (chocolate – thanks, Rob)
  • Gels consumed – 1.5 VFuel (peach cobbler)
  • Water consumed – 3 inelegant sips from tiny cups

Calories/Heart Rate

  • Calories burned – 1,710
  • Average HR – 163
  • Max HR – 171


  • Polar RCX5 heart rate monitor
  • Voler Artico Thermo arm warmers
  • Pearl Izumi Ultra jacket
  • INKnBURN Lust tank top
  • CW-X 3/4 length Stabilyx tights
  • Altra Olympus (best shoes ever)
  • Drymax socks
  • Mountain Hardwear beanie
  • Marmot Connect Active gloves
  • RooSport running pouch


  • What a fantastic write up and race! I may have to quote you on a few lines on my own blog if that’s ok. My husband is an Altra cofounder and I actually saw that picture of you in our shoes and told him, glad you’re enjoying them! Best wishes for the future!

  • Thanks for the kind words, Leslie. Please feel free to quote – I’m honored! Discovering Altra back in February was truly a dream come true. I look forward to wearing them at Boston in three weeks, and am excited to see how they perform during ultramarathons as well. Thanks for creating such a great line of shoes.

  • Love your race recap! Especially the way you capture what was going through your head. I was 33 minutes behind you, but had a similar experience: a training run that turned into something more. Sunday’s race is a huge boost of confidence for me, proof that I’m stronger than I think that there are bigger goals that I can go for, that I can feel strong late in a race of that distance. Well done! And congrats on first female and top ten!!

  • Thanks, Brian. Running happy and healthily are the two most important things to me. I’m excited to see what the year brings!

  • Heather, it was such a shock to see that time! Since I never check my splits (unless forced to when they have clocks out on the course), it’s always a fun surprise to reach the finish line and see how I performed based on running by feel.

  • …and on you go towards the Olympic Trials marathon qualifier, which I think will come sooner than you think. Great job, Larisa!

  • Kick Ass, Larisa!

    I enjoyed the style in this post. Fantastic job and amazing time! I can only dream of having the type of endurance you have…I’m having trouble getting back into running right now after taking the winter off. Trying to figure out something to motivate me. These types of posts certainly help me with that! Thanks!


  • Karl, thank you! Motivation is one of those tricky things that comes and goes. There were certainly days this winter where it was well below zero and it took every drop of willpower I had to shuffle out that door.

    Have you considered signing up for a race so that you have a goal to work towards? I’ve always found that having a race to train for as a short-term goal really helps keep me happy and motivated during training. Also, try to get out on some trails now that we’re finally into spring! You could even turn a hike into a hike-run sort of workout (hike up, run down) to mix things up…🙂

  • Your blog was recommended to me by a friend. I have found it both informative and inspirational. I was wondering if you have done a post regarding heart rate training or could you recommend any resources? Thank you.

  • Love that lifting of spirit at Odiorne. Easy to imagine why that stretch would do it; it’s gorgeous! Cheers to more catalysts to come, Larisa. You’re gonna fly =)

  • Melissa, absolutely! For a comprehensive overview of HR training, I highly recommend that you check out Phil Maffetone’s book. It was an eye-opening read for me. Over the past two and a half years, I have followed many of his training principles with great success. For a shorter overview, here’s a good PDF that outlines his approach at a higher level.

    Do let me know if there’s anything else I can answer for you.

  • Larissa, thank you very much for taking the time to respond! I’m looking forward to reading the resources in hopes to improve my trail running. Congratulations on Boston, both on your time and your experience. It is truly amazing the impact of running on our lives. Just watching the Boston Marathon was an overwhelming experience for me.

  • Always glad to help a fellow runner out. Feel free to reach out to me via email if there are any other questions I can answer for you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s