Archive for Race Results

Ready. Set Intention. Goal!


“Setting your intention is like drawing an arrow from the quiver of your heart” - Bruce Black



Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak

Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak


We set goals. We strive to meet them. It's how we live.

Going back to school, a house on a hill, the corner office, fitting into those skinny jeans, a racing personal best, or saving money. We create challenges and drive toward them, keenly seeking achievement. We feel pride when we accomplish what we set out to do. We are disappointed when we don't.

After setting a goal, we willingly undertake the effort to reach it. While we expect to work hard and know the path won't be smooth, we often face unexpected hurdles, speed-bumps and delays, or even straight-up roadblocks on our path to an expected outcome. Those can make our effort more difficult, leading to struggle, doubt, re-evaluation, sometimes re-commitment, sometimes abandonment. (Note: all of these may be valid responses—neither positive or negative—depending on the situation) Even the most goal oriented and focused among us can grow weary when it seems like, despite our best effort, we don't hit our targets, or, if we got something or somewhere near our target but that doesn't look or feel like what we expected. How we feel about and respond to this situation depends on the intentions that underlie our goals. It depends on our awareness of our intentions, how aligned our goals are with those intentions, our understanding of what our intentions mean to us, and about the long range power of those intentions to commit us to our goals.

During our training camp a few weeks ago, Pursuit AP team members explored the notion that our pursuit of goals is done in he service of our intentions. This is an important concept that I wanted to share here, beyond the team. If we understand the power of intentions and consciously set, and then remain aware of them, we are more likely to set truly meaningful and fulfilling goals. We will face obstacles with greater resolve, resilience, and understanding, and we'll be more likely to accept the unexpected and handle it resourcefully. Most importantly, when our goals are intention based, our focus and energy are channeled in such a way that achievement is certain.

So what does intention mean? Definitions of “intention” are many, they range from clinical to spiritual. I like to think of intention as simply a higher purpose or aim that drives our lives; a foundational personal truth that is aligned with our core values. According to Phillip Moffitt, founder of the Life Balance Institute, we set “intentions based on understanding what matters most...and make a commitment to align [our] worldly actions with [our] inner values.”

You can see therefore, why knowing and setting our intentions is prerequisite to setting meaningful goals. As we undertake the work toward our goals then, an on-going awareness of our intentions impacts our engagement with the effort required to achieve our goals. This critical connection with “what matters most” enables us to face head on, the inevitable challenges that arise in pursuit of our goals and to manage them with a more regulated and understanding attitude. Just as we would a consult a compass as we travel along a wooded trail, we can check in with our intentions on the path toward a goal to validate that we are on course to a life lived according to our own truths.

Contrast this with a life lived pursuing goals set based on popular opinion, trends, bets with co-workers, or pressure (real or assumed) from friends and family. Sure, meeting goals like this will feel good inside, and will garner attention from outside. But at what cost? Can achievements reached and celebrated, but that are disconnected from our foundational truths really be a good use of our energy and other resources? How many “out-of-true” goals like this can we stand to endure before our happiness and fulfillment are impacted? The truth is, goals that are disconnected from intention are about as meaningful as a checklist or an inventory. Things get crossed off and you feel a sense of accomplishment, but in a sort of high-calorie low nutrient value kind of way.

So take some time to consider your goals for the upcoming racing season, for this quarter at work, for the coming summer with your family. Confirm that you can see and articulate how your foundational truths are aligned to those goals. Be able to say with confidence that you are directing your energy and focus toward goals that will nourish those intentions. Feel the excitement in your gut and in your heart! Then get ready! Now that you're set, you'll work, you'll fight, you'll re-assess and re-focus as required. Ultimately you'll reach those goals. How can you not, when they are so important to the very core of who you are?! And when you do, raise your arms in victory and happiness! Congratulate yourself! You're achieving the life you intend!


You Are Not The Judge Of Me


Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak

Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak


In sport and in life we are compelled to be remarkable. That drive keeps us striving and reaching for new growth. We set goals; we achieve them. We seek challenges; we meet them. We enrich our lives with experience, knowledge, and people that support our quest to be the best that we can be in whatever we endeavor to do. Along this path—somewhere, somehow—judgment creeps in. We start to question if we are remarkable enough. We start letting external parameters and stories that we tell ourselves define what it means to be remarkable.

In racing we have time clocks that give us precise and real feedback about how fast we covered the distance of the course; the time we post is documented, indisputable FACT. There's no judgment in the fact of a 2:30 or 1:30 half marathon time. Both are facts. So, how is it that if we find ourselves thinking or talking about our own personal effort in our own personal quests to be remarkable that we say things like, “I PR'd my last half marathon with a 2:30. Nowhere near as fast as you, but I finished. I'm just glad I finished. I really didn't have a lot of time to train like I wanted to, my job, and…,” and so on.

Do you see where the judgments start to creep in? Can you tell where the judgments are twisting a fact into a whole bunch of feelings, assessment, and conclusions about your individual effort as related to someone or something else?


Whenever I hear athletes talking amongst themselves I hear numerous instances of this kind of self-imposed judgment. Sometimes it is more camouflaged than others, but it is there. It is time we start to recognize when we are doing this and understand the impact that it might have on our quest for our own remarkable.

Out loud, to another person, talking like this discounts the effort we put into training, the discipline we impose upon our schedules, the patterns we shifted in our lives to do something remarkable. Somewhere in the words we choose we are telling ourselves stories about all that we give and do not being good enough. While it may seem like innocuous, self-effacing banter, there is something deeper going on. At the same time we are imposing these judgments on ourselves, we are unknowingly creating, rehearsing and affirming limitations on our potential.

It is almost as if we are afraid to really step into the spotlight beam shining on our own personal remarkableness. Certainly the facts of these two half marathon times clearly show that the 1:30 runner ran faster than the 2:30 runner. But that says nothing about one being more or less an achievement, or more or less remarkable for each of those runners. There is no limit on remarkable, and there is certainly no scale against which remarkable is graded.

Remarkable, like happiness and contentment in life, is fluid and stretchy and deeply personal. It is not a destination and it is not one-size fits all. Let's not let the stories we tell ourselves and the judgments we bring upon us constrain the enjoyment of the process of our growth and development our quest for those achievements. When you notice that your inner self might be telling the rest of yourself limiting stories and judging yourself unfairly here’s something to try:

Stand up. Then, firmly exclaim to that inner self, “YOU ARE NOT THE JUDGE OF ME!”

…and proceed with focus and confidence in the direction of remarkable.


In Training, Be Purposeful!

"For purposes of action nothing is more useful than narrowness of thought combined with energy of will."

--Henri Frederic Amiel, 1821-1881, Swiss Philosopher, Poet, Critic


"It is a psychological fact that you can influence your environment and thoughts. If you do so consciously and with high purpose, you can change your habits and attitudes for the better."

 --source unknown

 "Singleness of purpose is one of the chief essentials for success in life, no matter what may be one's aim." 

--John D. Rockefeller, 1839-1937, American Industrialist, Philanthropist, Founder Exxon And last but not least!:

"Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary."

 --Sir Cecil Beaton, 1904-1980, British-born American Photographer

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Coach Al : Secret #2 – 4 Secrets To Help YOU Explode Your Ultimate Potential (with triathlete Susan Ford)

Secret #2: Seek Clarity and Conviction - Choose Wisely

"Life is fired at us point blank and we must choose. " - Ortega
"We can have anything we choose, but not everything we want. Our appetites will always exceed our grasp."  – Philip Humbert

I wake every day affirming that what I do on this day is a choice. Some days it doesn't exactly feel like it :), but I know this is true. At the same time, I also affirm that what I DON'T do is also a choice.  Every single day, every one of us chooses to do (and think) certain things and not others. And there in lies the challenge: one of the traps we can all fall into is the belief that "we can choose to have it all." I don't think that is true, at least not all at the same time.

In order to reach your ultimate potential as an athlete, you must decide that is what you want, and then make clear choices that point you toward that goal. 

There's something unique about this day and age we live in that leads many of us to believe we can "have it all." I often speak with athletes who send themselves off in many directions at the same time. For example, in addition to training for ironman, they might also be starting a new job, raising a young family, buying a new home, or working on their Masters! Yes, these folks are super type-A high achievers with the commensurate commitment to make it all happen. But the truth is, doing all of these things well and reaching our true potential on the race course too, is fool's gold.

Each of us must choose. We must all decide for ourselves what we want to achieve, and then seek clarity and conviction and a singular focus toward that end.

 The problem some have when they read this, hear me speak about it, or glance at Susan's life from afar, is that they think that they are different. They don't want to give up certain other aspects of their life while pursuing their racing goals. They "like" dabbling in and pursuing many things all at once.  Some say that racing fast isn't their only goal. Others believe driving themselves into a hole of deep exhaustion from having so many irons in the fire is something to be proud of. As a society, we love to pat ourselves on the back for being able to "do it all!"

Trying to "do it all" leads to mediocrity.  Hey, if you're ok with your race results and your overall progression as an athlete, then read no further. However, if you are truly committed to being the best athlete you can be and seeing what you are truly capable of, like Susan is, you'll have to make THAT your focus and make some sacrifices in other areas of your life, at least for a period of time.

  • Susan narrowed her focus.  She makes sacrifices in other areas of her life in order to be on this journey.
  • She has built up systems including a support group of friends and family, and has created and nurtures an environment that supports this singular focus.

As many have said, ultimately the "winner" is the person who is most happy with their choices. I believe (as I bet Susan does), that happiness comes directly from having clarity.  To quote Philip Humbert, "happiness comes from deciding who we are, what we value, and how we will spend our lives, and that comes from taking time to think clearly, make smart choices, and plan wisely."

Susan is living life in her own way, according to her values. In this day and age, we often fall into the trap of working harder, doing and buying more, yet not finding the happiness we had hoped to. What we would all benefit from is what Susan has done: choose wisely, create clarity, and live life on our own terms to its fullest.

In the end, each of us is required to accept responsibility for the choices we make and the path we follow. We can't have it all. What we can have is whatever we choose!

Who knows what lies ahead? Follow YOUR path with clarity and focus and be the very best you can be!

Look for secret #3 soon. Enjoy!

~Coach Al

Coach Al : 4 Secrets To Help YOU Explode Your Ultimate Potential (with triathlete Susan Ford)

4 Secrets To Help You Explode Your Ultimate Potential!

(with Pursuit Athletic Performance triathlete, Susan Ford)

"Short cuts make long delays."  – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship Of The Ring
"It is not the table - it is the spoon."  – unknown
Triathlete Susan Ford

Triathlete Susan Ford


In four installments over the next few days, I'm going to share with you powerful secrets to help you explode your potential. Today my focus is secret #1. Over the next few days, I will share the remaining three secrets. The inspiration to share these with you comes from one of my coached triathletes and good friends, Tennessean Susan Ford (pictured left).

Listen to this: In 2013 at the age of 48, Susan set a new PR at the 5k, 10k, half marathon, half ironman, marathon, AND ironman distance!  Just this past weekend (now 49 years old), she ran the Cummins Falls half marathon in Jackson County TN, and not only set a new PR (on an extremely challenging and very hilly course), she won the women's OVERALL title. And that isn't all. She finished 4th overall among both women AND men, was a mere 17 seconds behind the 3rd place male, and only 6 minutes behind the overall men's winner! At age 48. Wow.

I can tell you, this is a vastly different experience than any she has ever had in the past. Susan not only hasn't always won races, going back she often didn't even finish in the top half of the field. In fact, she has spent many years struggling at the middle of the pack, in various stages of injury and plateau, always wondering whether she'd ever be able to train and race the way she really WANTED to.

When we began working together about five years ago, I had no idea how good she could be (I never know that with anyone I coach - how could I?), but I DID know she had a very long arduous road ahead of her to reach her true ultimate potential (whatever that might be). She was fragile and not moving well, she wasn't very wise or experienced as an endurance athlete, and was clearly training way over her head.  She had mastered the art of masking minor injury on a daily basis, and routinely dealt with so many aches and pains that I was concerned about her ability to continue to train and race long term. We've had many interesting conversations over the time we have worked together about how she doesn't have the proto-typical endurance athlete's body (tall, long legged, wirey) or that she never seemed to be blessed with as much natural talent as some other athletes (can any of you relate to that?).  What she clearly had (among many other things which I will share with you in this four-part series), was a strong work ethic and dogged determination.

Fast forward to today. Susan's amazing success that now has her at the TOP of her Age Group in any race she enters, speaks to just how FAR someone can go when they put the right resources and abilities together and don't give up or give in.

The path Susan has followed to reach this point is SO powerful that I felt I had to share her secrets to success, not from her viewpoint, but rather, from my perspective as her coach.  She isn't the only athlete I work with who achieves this level of success or who embraces these four secrets. However, what I will share with you is what separates Susan from many others trying to find their path toward fulfilling their ultimate potential and happiness.

Look for the next three installments of this series over the next few days. I hope you find them helpful. Trust me, this is no B.S.

What I will share with you HAS THE POWER to explode both your results AND your enjoyment of the sport. These secrets can change your life!

 Secret #1:

The Devil Is In The Details.

I could probably re-phrase this secret to there are no short cuts - no easy way. Regardless, this arguably overused cliche, "the devil is in the details," conveys what is at the very center of this secret for exploding your potential.

Every one of us has heard this idiom at one time or another.  It simply means that if you overlook certain things in a plan or scheme, having overlooked those things might cause problems later on. What I'm talking about isn't just having a desire to be better or willingness to "work harder," or even more efficiently. The difference between just going through the motions (or approaching something "mostly" correctly) vs. really focusing and zeroing in on detail is absolutely huge and can't be overstated.

To reach your true potential, you must embrace every detail associated with your development.  Here are just a few examples:

  • Seeking to perfectly execute any exercise or training session that is programmed.
  • Learning from errors and planning ahead to avoid repeating them.
  • Planning ahead in your daily schedule to ensure you're not rushing through any aspect of your training and preparation.
  • Taking time to evaluate (or have someone else evaluate) your movement quality on a regular basis.
  • Videotaping yourself to objectively assess what you're doing routinely.
  • Not rushing through warm up or cool down.
  • Getting enough sleep, eating optimally, and reducing daily stress.
  • Consistently and accurately keeping a training diary for appropriate reflection and monitoring.
  • Communicating clearly and consistently with those mentors who are guiding you.

And what's more, being truly detail oriented and not looking for short cuts goes way beyond the routine items mentioned here, and in fact, speaks to more holistic and ultimately profound concepts.  For example:   

  • Have you made a conscious choice (after thoughtful deliberation) to completely embrace the training philosophy that you follow? With 100% commitment to the process?  
  • Do you take 100% responsibility for your choices and actions, and approach every aspect of your training to the very best of your ability?
  • Do you haphazardly follow your training program (hitting "most" of the details) or do you execute it to the best of your ability, as closely as you can to how it is laid out for you?
  • Do you see the value in the very subtle difference between doing things "mostly" correct, vs. as correct as is possible for you on that day?
  • Do you take the time to learn about the philosophy behind the training system you follow, or are you content to just have "a plan" and wing it?
  • Do you embrace the mundane grind that is an inevitable part of long term mastery of a skill or ability?
  • Do you pick and choose from a variety of methodologies, thinking you have the expertise to know what is the best mix for you, or do you make a conscious choice to follow a certain path and then stay true to that path?

From day 1, Susan has worked hard to more fully embrace the philosophy of training and the detail presented to her, and then she put 100% of her energy into making the most of that philosophy on a daily basis.  She sees the training laid out in front of her and never looks for a way to make it easier for herself.  She has never changed something on her own believing she knew better than I did when I programmed it for her.

Picture a great artist toiling over tiny detail in a painting, a superb violinist carefully tuning their instrument, or a surgeon carefully washing their hands prior to going into the operating room. Like Susan, they all know the devil truly is in the details.

The greatest thing of all is that the same approach to detail that leads to mastery and improvement is also the thing that will enhance your enjoyment of the process itself AND lead to better long term growth and improvement!

Look for secret #2 soon. Make it a detail oriented day! Enjoy!

~Coach Al

PAP Athlete Lauren Novakowski USA Triathlon 2012 Aquabike Division Champion (Video)

Pursuit Athletic Performance's own Lauren Novakowski is the 2012 USA Triathlon Aquabike Division Champion for 2012. Yep, this hard-working, dedicated working mom of three ranked #1! HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to Lauren! We could not be more proud of you!

Lauren had a GREAT 2012 season, and I think a bit of a review of her story will be of interest to many of you. Some of her accomplishments in 2012 included WINNING the Rev 3 Quassy Aquabike event on June 3. Anyone who has raced Quassy knows that course offers quite the challenge. She went on a few weeks later to post the fastest female bike split overall--for triathlon, aquabike and duathlon--at the Litchfield Hills Triathlon/Duathlon. And those are just a few of the highlights.

No doubt, Lauren is a talented athlete. But there is another part of her story equally compelling. In the interview posted here, Lauren tells of her recent journey to redefine herself as an athlete. A serious knee injury keeps her from running "for now," as Lauren likes to say. Hers is the story of a deeply committed competitor who did not give up, but chose to evolve and find joy and challenge away from triathlon by focusing hard on the aquabike discipline. Lots to learn here for many athletes who, perhaps, find themselves in a similar situation.

Lauren is an inspirational example of an athlete not only willing to train outside the box, but of a competitor who finds ongoing fulfillment in training and racing despite bumps in the road. For her, training and life balance are not mutually exclusive propositions, even as she strives to reach her ultimate potential. And the proof is in her outstanding results last year! For me as a coach, it doesn't get much better than that. Congrats again, Lauren, my friend!

Coach Al

Lisbeth Kenyon’s Norseman Xtreme Triathlon Race Report

Hello All!

Norseman Xtreme TriathlonFor those of you who may have missed Lisbeth Kenyon's Norseman Xtreme Triathlon race report, here it is! We think you will enjoy her vivid descriptions that take you through the ups and downs (literally and figuratively) of the most difficult iron-distance race on the planet. In this epic event, Lis finished third woman overall, and together with the first two finishers, smashed the existing course record.

I received a lot of questions about how I coached Lis. You can find my debrief in this video post--Four Principles Guiding Lisbeth Kenyon's Training for Norseman Xtreme Triathlon I was struck when reading Lisbeth's race report how her words add force to these principles, just as her race powerfully demonstrated the real performance benefits I know come from getting functionally strong, training smart, and showing up 100% on race day. Yes, Lisbeth is an elite athlete. But these principles apply to every single athlete in any sport you can name--and that means YOU too.

Here are the Four Principles I adhere to in my coaching paired with Lisbeth's own words.

1. Movement Quality First

Coach Al: This is the baseline for EVERYTHING--your training, your racing, getting faster, unlocking your true potential, and reaching your goals.

Lisbeth: I started my training by taking 2 weeks off from running to concentrate on building my glute strength and resetting some basic movement errors that would cause injury if I didn't correct it. I actually had to re-learn how to walk up the stairs correctly, avoiding using stabilizers even in simple movements. It would be an experiment to see if I could get up the mountains without the specific hill training, but equipped with new found glute and core usability.

2. Quality over Quantity

Coach Al: It's also not about maxing out "training load," but, rather, it's about building your work capacity under the auspices of quality movement. If that's not the focus or the strategy of the training you do, you will be forever limited in your development.

Lisbeth: I trained an average of 13 hours per week for the past 6 months; anything more would impact family and work--for a hobby. That doesn't seem like much, but the sessions I did required this old body more time to recover. Given these limiters, Coach Al focused heavily on functional strength, mobility and movement skills.

3. Strength, Strength, Strength

Coach Al: True functional strength designed to shore up YOUR personal weaknesses and compensations is not just something "nice" to have. It is truly the foundation for all athletic accomplishment, regardless of your ability or your sport.

Lisbeth: Normally at this point in Hawaii I am in survival mode and leaning slightly to the left. Here I am feeling stronger and stronger. Mental note to not stop my planking routine.

4. There Is No Short Cut--No Easy Way

Coach Al: There are no special shoes, no magic workouts, no short cuts that lead you to outstanding achievement. It's not always fun or sexy to work on the fundamentals and skill development, but it always circles back to the basics when striving to reach one's potential.

Lisbeth: The climb to the finish--it never ends. Rocks are everywhere. Just rocks, wobbly gray wet rocks as far as the eye can see in all directions. We are on all fours climbing some of them. Now I get why people in the videos are holding their quads. Every time I look up, the radio tower is still far away. It is so much steeper in real life than the videos show and it is way less smooth than I expected. This was the hardest part of the day for me because we are now chasing the clock. What I really wanted was a sit down coffee break. All of a sudden the tower appears big and we are there. We make it in 12:46. Maybe the hardest one hour and five minutes I have done, mentally. This race is epic!

It means more than I can express to see Lisbeth be so victorious at Norseman. She understood our training approach and principles on a very deep level, and never wavered in her dedication to our approach. She also worked incredibly hard, and brought her A-game to race day. In short, she put it all together with 100% commitment, which is how she was able to achieve such an outstanding result. You might not be taking on Norseman Xtreme, but these same principles that guided Lis can lead you to your own epic performances, whatever your goals may be.

Click for Lis Kenyon's Norseman Xtreme Triathlon Race Report


Pursuit Athlete Lisbeth Kenyon Breaks Course Record at Norseman Xtreme Triathlon

Coach Al's Debrief: Four Principles Guiding Lisbeth Kenyon's Training for Norseman Xtreme Triathlon can be found here.

Hello Everyone!

Coach Al here checking in as proud and elated as I can be to report Lisbeth Kenyon's results today at the Norseman Xtreme Triathlon, the most difficult long course event on the planet.

Norseman Xtreme Triathlon, Lisbeth Kenyon, Pursuit Athletic Performance

Lisbeth Kenyon at the finish of the Norseman Xtreme Triathlon

Lisbeth Kenyon
3rd woman overall
12:47:42! A course record-breaking time!

We will be following up with lots more information about her day at Norseman, and her training. But for now, we at Pursuit Athletic Performance are celebrating!

Even for Lis, who is the current Ironman World Champion record holder (45-49), this is an extraordinary accomplishment. To be breaking records on a course like Norseman (total ascent is 5,000 meters) at this stage in her career is a testament not only to her incredible talent, but also to her dedication, her incredible training ethic, and her unwavering commitment to the work we do together.

Here is a glimpse of her day from an email I just received:

Hardest damn thing I have ever done. My head is spinning. It was a lot worse than what I had imagined. It was pouring some including during some of the scary descents, switchbacks, and all, with straight down to your death if you didn't make the turns. This is one crazy race. Nothing luxurious about it. I am very proud to have finished it. Nothing around [where we live] or similar areas could really prepare you physically for that one, so the training that we did absolutely was the best.

This is a landmark day for me as a coach. Lisbeth's performance, and her ability to repeat these amazing results year after year, is a complete affirmation of everything I have tried to share with the endurance world for a very long time. Our message and philosophy at Pursuit empower many athletes to believe their goals are achievable, and our brand of cutting-edge, movement-based training gets athletes to their ultimate performance. Lis is an incredible standard bearer for us, but we have many other athletes of all abilities who also do amazing things.

More on Norseman in a bit. Time to get back to celebrating! CONGRATULATIONS, Lis. We could not be prouder of you, or happier for you!

~Coach Al

Race Report: Debbie Livingston’s Record-Breaking Run at the 70.5 Laurel Highlands Ultra

Our athlete Debbie Livingston broke the record in the 70.5 mile run at the Laurel Highlands Ultra on June 9! No one works harder than Debbie, and no one is more deserving of this grand success.

We thought you would enjoy her race report. It's a look inside the experience of a champion running a very long way. Enjoy!

Laurel Highlands Ultra
By Debbie Livingston

Debbie Livingston, Laurel Highlands Ultra, Pursuit Athletic Performance, ultra runFor me, last year's Laurel Highlands Ultra was different than this year's in many ways. Last year was my first time. The course had a road detour that added 6.5 miles to the standard 70.5-mile trail race on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. I was also still nursing my daughter, Dahlia. 2011 was challenging, but I was able to make it to the finish line as the first female and that win secured a space for this year. With a new footbridge installed, there was no detour this year. With Dahlia done with "mommy's milk," I was determined to come back, race strong, and possibly win again.

Leaving for our long drive to Pennsylvania, our family had a hard time getting out the door of our house. Not only did I have to remember all the items for my race but also I had to be sure I had all the kid's clothes, enough food for all of us, as well as all our camping gear. So, it was inevitable that I would forget a very important item (or items) Succeed S!Caps salt tablets! I didn't realize this until I was setting my race items aside, but I wasn't worried. I knew that somehow we would find other runners or crew that had extra or they would offer them at the aid station.

We camped at Ohiopyle State Park, which was less than a mile by trail to the start area. After listening to countless train whistles blow, and even a child yelling in the middle of the night, morning rolled around fast. I jogged down the trail just like last year and crossed the Youghiogheny River via the Great Allegheny Passage rail trail to reach the start area at 5:10am. I pinned on my number and asked Rick Freeman, the race director, if there were any salt tablets at the aid stations. He said there we not. Bummer! I had faith that Scott would still be able to find some. I would see him at the second aid station at mile 19.3 miles. I headed to the restroom for one last stop and then back to the start line where RD Rick handed me a bottle of SaltStick Electrolyte salt capsules. and said, "Take what you need." I thought, "How wonderful!" I had never used these before, but I was not concerned.

The race started right at 5:30am and after going up the road and under a bridge we turned left and began climbing uphill. I chatted with a few guys heading uphill. I went back a forth for a bit with a couple of them and then lost site of everyone. No one in front, and no one in back. This was the theme for 80% of the race. Running alone gives me lots of time to think. One of the games I get into the habit of playing is crunching numbers; constantly calculating my pace and what I need to do. It helps pass the time and is quite entertaining. I had looked up the course record and without telling anyone decided I would make it my goal to break it or at least get under 14 hours.

I breezed through the first aid station at mile 11.6 and came into the second aid station in about 3 hours 15 minutes. I exchanged my UltraSpire Surge hydration pack with a fresh and fully stocked one and headed right back out. Scott was also able to get a hold of more SaltStick Caps. There was no time to hang out in the aid stations at this race!

I felt good about my pace and I got into a rhythm with my fueling; take a swig of Perpetuem from my flask on the hour and half hour, take a SaltStick Cap at three-quarters past the hour, and sip water every 5-10 minutes.

Debbie Livingston, Laurel Highlands Ultra, Pursuit Athletic Performance, ultra runI was nearing the 50k mark and knew I wanted to be there in less than 6 hours. I hit that mark at 5 hours 45 minutes and was happy with that. I didn't see Scott at the next aid station and it took me a bit by surprise. He and the kids weren't able to get there in time after leaving the prior station. I ended up stopping, getting a cup of water and grabbing a 1/4 banana. I didn't need either of them but got caught up in the aid station.

When I realized I had a banana in my hand I quickly left but decided that I would eat it since it was so small. This section of the course took us through Seven Springs Resort, which is the most open section of the entire trail. I ran around a pond, across ski slopes and on horse trails. It felt good to have a bit of sunshine on my face. I looked at my watch at 35 miles and it said 6 hours 32 minutes. I was still on pace, which was almost half way, and with a 45-minute buffer.

I started hitting a lot of dirt road crossings, and kept wondering when I would finally get to see that trail section and bridge that was in disrepair last year. I finally came upon it. This section seemed to go on forever!

At 39 miles I came into Linn Road aid station. I switched my pack quickly and swigged coconut water. I also told Scott I would like to change socks and shoes at the next aid station. I wanted to be proactive. I knew my sneakers were not as fresh as they should have been. I asked Scott for a caffeine gel as I left.

About a half hour after leaving that station I pulled out my Perpetuem flask and found it empty! Empty! Ugh! How did Scott forget to refill it? Oh, well I thought, "no big deal." I sure was happy that I asked for an extra gel. I believed I would be fine.

I reached 46.4 miles in good form. I promptly changed my socks and shoes. I drank a half a bottle of electrolyte drink and ate another caffeinated gel. I left with a little spunk and decided to wear my visor.

By the time I got to 57.3 miles I was starting to waver. I needed more fuel and a pep talk. I sat down and drank electrolyte drink again. I ate another caffeinatedDebbie Livingston, Laurel Highlands Ultra, Pursuit Athletic Performance, ultra run gel and pushed on. Not long after, a runner came up behind me. His name was Matt Clay. He helped push me a bit. I told him I was aiming for the course record and if I could only average 12-minute miles I would get to the finish with time to spare, but I was feeling low.

He believed we could do it. Matt asked if I needed anything. I had my fuel, water and salt tabs, so I said, "no." He got in front and tried to "pull" me along. He asked again and I said I needed caffeine. I don't drink coffee or soda at home, so caffeine really pumps me up at the races. After a few minutes of tailing Matt, I started running more and walking less. Eventually he said that he thought he might have been a bit too optimistic and that I could go ahead. Off I went.

Soon after, another runner, Andrew Bartle, passed me, and he was moving quite well. I tried to keep him in my sights but could not. One mile before the very last aid station at mile 62.5, the trail turns to rocky dirt road. It feels awful to me because the rocks are tough to run on and you can see so far ahead. One good thing was that I could see the runner that had passed me not long before, and I was keeping pace with him. I reached the aid station, grabbed water and promptly left. There was no standing around! I had 1 hour 40 minutes to run 8 miles and from what I remembered, it was mostly downhill.

So I began to dip into my reserve well. I remembered how I ran the last 6 miles of the Grindstone 100 in about 60 minutes, and it was almost all uphill. I also remembered that the very last mile is a bit short. Andrew passed me right way when we left the aid station but I never let him out of my sight this time. I watched for the mile markers and kept doing the math. Things were looking good! When I hit the cell tower I knew for sure that it was all downhill, and that I was golden; barring any terrible falls. Now the question was how much would I be able to break the record by.

Debbie Livingston, Laurel Highlands Ultra, Pursuit Athletic Performance, ultra runI turned up the intensity. Running downhill takes very little effort for me. I went into autopilot and focused on my target. My fellow racer, Andrew, hit the ground a few times as the toll of the day started getting to him. At one point he hit so hard he did not get up. I came up behind him, paused for a moment, and asked if he was okay. When he shook his head yes, I barreled on encouraging him with words, "We're almost home!" I began smiling ear to ear as I navigated the last of the rocky trail. I crossed the finish line with my fists pumping in the Debbie Livingston, Laurel Highlands Ultra, Pursuit Athletic Performance, ultra runair. I did it! I was well ahead of the course record (13:46:07), which was set by Alice Thurau in 1990. I finished in 13 hours, 34 minutes, and 12 seconds, and was 4th overall!!!! After I crossed the line, I looked for my husband.

I heard my son Shepard yell, "Daddy went back to the van." After all that, he missed my finish! Scott came running over and we hugged. The after celebration could have been more fun if I had a better feeling stomach and was able to rest. Due to all the caffeine I put in my system I didn't sleep a wink. Morning couldn't come soon enough!

The Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail climbs 10,700 feet and descends 10,560 feet over 70.5 miles of rocky terrain when traversing south to north. It is a gorgeous trail and the second longest continually run trail ultra in the country. The RD, Rick Freeman and his volunteers put on an amazing race. I will be back again.

Pursuit Athlete Debbie Livingston Sets Course Record at Laurel Highlands 70.5 Ultra Run

Debbie Livingston, Winner and Course Record Holder, Laurel Highlands 70.5 Ultrarun

Congraulations Debbie! PAP athlete Debbie Livingston WON the 2012 Laurel Highlands 70.5 mile trail race this past weekend, setting a NEW COURSE RECORD in the process! We are so proud of her hard work and dedication. No athlete we have worked with has worked harder than Debbie. She is so deserving of this level of success!

Today, we are turning our blog over to her husband Scott. Here is his fantastic post from the point of view of the support crew. It's a wonderful testament to family love and support--plus a great behind-the-scenes look at Debbie's kick-butt race! You can see lots of cool photos by visiting his blog, Life Adventures. We'll publish Debbie's race report when it's ready!

2012 Laurel Highlands Ultra
by Scott Livingston

The 33rd edition of the Laurel Highlands Ultra was a fantastic race. This is the second oldest ultra in the country. I gather that only American River 50 is older. Debbie had a breakthrough run. She smashed the 22-year-old women's course record, running 13:34:12 for the 70.5 mile point to point trail race in southwestern Pennsylvania. She was the fourth overall finisher, only trailing the top three men: Brian Rusiecki (11:30:37), Brian Krogmann (12:21:28), and Gregory Brant (12:56:45). The second and third women were Kaitlyn Kacsuta (16:02:08) and Robin Blendell (16:27:50).

The previous women's record of 13:46:07 was run by Alice Thurau in 1990. Naturally, I'm incredibly pumped up by her result. She pushed like never before. The result was a bit of a shocker for me. The kids and I crewed for her all day long. We followed her on the epic point to point course from the start in Ohiopyle to the finish in Seward. At the final crew accessible aid station at mile 57, she was in a very low spot. On the verge of tears (from pain), she seemed to have gone deep into the red zone.

I've only seen her in that condition a handful of times. One time, in France (and I'll leave it at that!), her race went downhill from there. This time, she persevered, pushed through the pain, and made use of the literal downhill last section of the course to hammer the last 13 miles. I'll leave the blow-by-blow for her report. She had a remarkable run.

She had a good, but unremarkable (compared to this year) run at the modified 2011 Laurel Highlands Ultra. The race was 77 miles, 6.5 longer than usual, because of an 8 mile road detour to get across the interstate highway. This year, the new foot bridge was in place, and the Laurel Highland Trail was once again a continuous 70 mile thread. She was still breastfeeding our daughter at this time last year and she was only a year and a half into her "comeback" after having our second child. She really wanted to return to the Laurel Highlands and give this race another crack. She felt like there was unfinished business and she wanted to experience the true course, which is nearly all single track, and tailor-made for her technical skills. Her Suunto watch registered 10,600 feet of elevation gain.

123 solo runners started the hilly 70.5 mile event. The race results show that there were 85 official finishers. There were nearly 25 teams (4 or 5 runners) in the popular team relay division. There was also a 50 kilometer race for both individuals and teams. I don't have the 50K results yet, but I'll post when they are available. The 50K started at 7:30 A.M., two hours after the 70.5 start.

This year, she only needed her headlamp at the start. Her scorching fast pace and the "no-detour" route had her in Seward at the northern terminus just after 7:00 P.M. The kids and I only had a few hiccups. I crewed for Debbie in late April at the Zane Grey 50 Mile Endurance Run. That was a solo job, and what a difference! Looking after a 5 and 3/4ths year old (as he likes to put it) and a 2 and 1/2 year old while also looking after Debbie is a big task. I've done it many times, and I'm only complaining a little, but a point to point race is an additional challenge.

We stayed at Ohiopyle State Park like last year. It is a great spot only 3/4 mile from the start of the race. Our "crew" only had two real mess up's. There are seven crew accessible checkpoints/aid stations. We skipped the Maple Summit Rd. aid station at 11.6 miles because it was too early. Debbie ran down to the start after getting up at 4:30 A.M. I saw her off and eventually got the kids awake, dressed, and fed. We first saw her at the Rt. 653 Checkpoint at 19.3 miles. She was looking good. It was mostly uphill climbing to that point.

We saw her again at the County Line Road crossing aid station at mile 28. Our first mess up came shortly thereafter. Checkpoint #2 at Rt. 31 is only 4 miles farther up the trail at 32.3. We made it last year, but his year, our packing and unpacking skills weren't as good. We hauled all the gear, food, ice, and stuff down a short trail to the aid station when we learned that we missed her by three minutes. She was clearly running faster than 2011. Ugh! I heard that she just tore through the aid station, only stopping for a cup of water, so I crossed my fingers and hauled the kids back to the van.

We met up with her again at Linn Run Rd./railroad grade at Laurel Summit State Park. We weren't there long when she came flying through. She changed her shoes and socks, swapped her Ultraspire hydration vest (she has a matched set and we alternated all day long), and was on her way again. All of the aid station volunteers were terrific. Several volunteers, fellow crews, and even relay runners helped me haul gear and watch the kids throughout the course of the day. This race has a great community vibe.

We hightailed it on the dirt roads of the state park over to Checkpoint #3/Rt. 30 aid station at 46.4 miles. We ran into Amy Lane, who was 2nd woman in the 50K. She was chasing down partner Brian Rusiecki. The kids and I saw him for a brief moment at the second aid station, and then he was ahead of us the rest of the day. Amy missed him at 46.4, but she helped me get the kids to the aid station in time to see Debbie. Debbie didn't stay long, and she was still looking strong. My second mess up came during the prior stretch of trail. Evidently, I neglected to refill her Hammer Perpetuem flask, but she survived. I filled the hydration pack, added salt tablets, gave her some gels, but forgot to fill that flask. I was bummed out, but she took it in stride.

We took our time packing up because the final crew accessible aid station was Checkpoint #4/Rt. 271 at 57.3 miles. We had more than two hours to get there. We drove down the mountain and stopped in the quaint revolutionary town of Ligonier. We drove by the old fort, and then parked just off of the "diamond" (town green). The whole town was set up for an antiques show. The displays were really cool and the kids had a blast. We sauntered down to the corner of the green, where we stopped at a coffeehouse and got smoothies and a sandwich. After we got our order to go, we strolled back to the van, and made our way back up the mountain to the ridge.

We had time to set up at the aid station, which was a short walk from the dirt road parking. This is when Debbie came through in a world of hurt. I was hoping it wasn't her fueling, which was impacted by missing that Perpetuem flask during that eight mile stretch. She had been pushing so hard, but she was definitely in a lull. We switched her pack again. She sat for a minute, but that was it. She got right back up and headed out. I walked up the trail with her for 50 yards and gave her a pep talk. I crossed my fingers and she was off running again. A couple of guys rolled into the aid station minutes after her. I encouraged them to chase her and offer encouragement. She had been moving her way up through the men's field all day long.

Little did I know that she had been "doing the math" throughout the course of the race, and she was on a mission to attack the course record. She kicked it into high gear over the last thirteen, while I took the kids to Johnstown and stopped at a cool restaurant. We ordered two pizzas to go, used the potty, and then headed for the finish. We got the van situated and then set up near the trailhead. Debbie surprised all of us. She came blasting into the finish while I was over at the van, fetching some snacks for the kids. I heard the cheers of the crowd and rushed over to see her ecstatically celebrating. It was a cool moment. She caught all of us off guard, including the co-race director, Rick Freeman.

He shared the great news about the course record. He was as thrilled as we were. He introduced us to Ted Massa, who preceded Tim Hewitt and him as race director. We learned a bit about the Laurel Highlands Ultra. The RD's were pleased to hear that Debbie has been RD of the Soapstone Mountain Trail Races for 11 of the 28 years. The Shenipsit Striders share some of the same pedigree as the guys and gals who put on Laurel. Soapstone, the NipMuck Trail Marathon, and Laurel Highlands all have great history of 28, 29, and 33 years respectively.

Overall, we had a fantastic time supporting Debbie. She ran an inspired race and we were inspired! Last week, at the Rev 3 Quassy Half triathlon, she supported me. This week, It was my turn to return the favor. She didn't have any falls. She only had one small blister and a little toenail problem. She made good use of caffeinated gels in the last half of the race. This is really a breakthrough run for her. She has put so much hard work in over the last two plus years. I want it to translate into future success. This is a new level for her and she is anxious to go up against top women's fields (like at Zane Grey) in future races including the Hardrock 100 (she lost out in the lottery this year) and maybe Western States 100. Under the guidance of Coach Al Lyman and Dr. Kurt Strecker from Pursuit Athletic Performance, she has put a lot more structure into her training, and it has paid off.

Next up for us is the Mt. Greylock Trail Race in Adams, Massachusetts, a Father's Day tradition. Debbie has run it 13 years in a row, and I don't anticipate that she will miss number 14, despite sore legs. At 14 +/- miles, it's a baby run!