Archive for debbie livingston

Hardrock 100: Here She Comes!


There are so many things that I love about coaching.  For starters, I love the opportunity to get to know and work with inspiring and motivated people every day who have a high standard of personal excellence, and who want to learn more and challenge themselves to achieve more. I love working with different athletes, from ultra-runners to triathletes - novices to world champions.

I also love how so many of those athletes challenge me (often without knowing it) to be better and be truly worthy of their trust. Every day I embrace my responsibility to find more meaningful ways to be a positive influence on both their athletic development and their lives as human beings.

Perhaps the most enjoyable of all though, is having the opportunity to work so closely with someone (and for a long enough period of time), that you can almost anticipate what they're thinking - how they're feeling, seeing deep inside of them to know what really makes them tick, knowing just what they may need to be their best.

To be able to watch them grow, evolve and thrive.

What hopefully develops with hard work, careful nurturing (and a little good fortune) is a mutual deep caring, trust and respect...a lifelong friendship that comes only from the true partnership that is a great coach/athlete relationship.

That's exactly what has happened with the incomparable Debbie Livingston.

Meeting Debbie with a big hug and smiles, just after she crossed the finish line of a 3-Day Stage Race, The Emerald Necklace.

I've coached Debbie for 7 or 8 years, I think. 🙂 Honestly, I've lost count - the years have just flown by. And they've been amazing.

Funny...I was thinking about it and wanting to write this piece, so I texted her this morning and asked her when we started working together. "2010," she said. She remembered because it was the year after her daughter, Dahlia, was born.

So why write about this today?

Debbie is in Silverton, Colorado, with her family (husband Scott, son Sheppard, and the aformentioned Dahlia), going through final preparations for her first Hardrock 100 Endurance Run.

Hardrock Hundred starts Friday morning, July 14th, at 6 am MST.  It needs no introduction for anyone who even remotely follows trail or ultra-running. Simply put, it's one of the most difficult to run (and to get into!) ultramarathon trail runs on the planet and among the most prestigious just to finish.

With 33,050 feet of climbing and 33,050 feet of descending for a total elevation change of 66,100 feet, AND with an average elevation of 11,186 feet (low point 7,680 feet and high point 14,048 feet), this ultra-running monster sure isn't for the weak or faint of heart.  

Hardrock has been a #bucketlist race for Deb for as long as I can remember. She's had an incredibly challenging time just getting into the race!  Each year over the last few, we'd talk about her race schedule and always had to consider that this might be the year she'd get in.

This year she's one of 145 runners who will start and one of only 22 women. Debbie's husband Scott wrote up a beautifully detailed blog post preview as a lead-in to this year's race. In that post, he outlines a brief history of Debbie's failed attempts to gain entry (the lesson: never stop trying!), along with all of the assorted fun they've had preparing for this unique race journey. To read that post (which I highly recommend), go HERE.

The real purpose of me writing this today isn't just to throw a huge shout-out and congrats to Debbie for having achieved this incredible feat of just GETTING TO the start line of Hardrock 100.  (That's no easy feat. A great many ultra-runners end up toeing the line of their goal events nursing some kind of injury - having been unable to complete the training required and also survive to get to the startline 100% healthy). No, I want to do more than that. I'd like to share with you a few things about Debbie that I've learned coaching her.

What is it that makes Debbie unique and allowed her to have such enduring success? 

I was going back through some of my old coaching notes and emails with Debbie and reminded myself that in the fall of 2012, we were fearful that Debbie might have a labral tear in her hip. As it turned out that wasn't the case. 🙂 The point of that story is, while Debbie's had many more victories than defeats over the course of her career as an ultra-runner, there have been some challenging periods. Like so many athletes, she's had to overcome her fair share of difficulty just to get to this point.

Every time we faced one of those difficulties, we did it together (as a team along with her family). We re-evaluated what we were doing and how we were doing it. We tried to find a better way, together. Debbie really has been at the cutting edge of so many of the things I've introduced to my coached athletes. She's always willing to try new things and has become a master of so many (yoga, kettlebell training, vegan nutrition, to name just a few) because of her boundless desire to grow both athletically and personally.

Deb and Lis. Amazing athletes - beautiful people - beautiful smiles! (All of the photos here are courtesy of Scott Livingston, hubby and photographer extraordinaire!)

As I think about it, Debbie often reminds me of one other elite athlete that I'm fortunate to coach, 5-time Age-Group Ironman World Champion, Lisbeth Kenyon. How so, you ask? Well, perhaps not surprisingly, they're alike in a lot of ways. Here's just a few:

  • Both of them are 100% willing to be accountable for every single thing they do in training. They keep great training diaries, are always timely in how they communicate with me, and they leave no stone (details) unturned when it comes to their daily training and preparation. They're detailed oriented in every way.
  • Both value their health ABOVE their fitness, meaning they would never exchange doing something that isn't smart for their health for a fitness "boost."  They deeply value what it means to "move well" and approach their training holistically. What results is that they both possess a near-perfect balance between mobility/flexibility and stability/strength; one reason why they've remained durable for so many years.
  • Both embrace a quality over quantity training approach which is based on a "movement-quality-first" mentality. Rare in ironman and ultra-running circles, it means they have more time and energy for family and work responsibilities. And less risk of burn-out over the course of many years of training and racing.
  • Both love to learn and actively participate in learning every day. They're always the first to 1. be accountable to something new that I introduce, or 2. attend a class or clinic that I host, or 3. show up in a room full of students with a "beginner's mindset." They are incredibly humble.
  • Both are mentally strong. In fact, they are the two most mentally tough athletes I have ever worked with. And I don't just mean on the race course. Yes, they are gritty and as tough as they come on the race course! More than that, by mentally strong I mean they willingly take days off and rest when they need it (do you think of the willingness to rest as a 'strength'?). They do the work without whining or bragging, they don't make excuses or miss training sessions needlessly, they own every result they get whether it's what they wanted or not, and they always put their family first and hold themselves to the highest standard, before anyone else.

Debbie and I at last year's Vermont 50 ultra-run and mountain bike.

A big group with my son AJ and his girlfriend Liz, and Terry, Deb, Dahlia and Shep...but we're missing Scott (per usual), he's always behind the camera!

Debbie and I have gone on to host many camps and clinics together. Our families have grown close. We've built a lasting friendship that I know will far outlive our coach/athlete relationship.

I'm honored to not only coach her, but to know her and call her a friend.  I'm privileged to play a small role in this amazing life (running) journey she is on!

In a short message on Facebook yesterday, one of Debbie's friends named Barbara, I think best described her (and I quote) as a "combination trail beauty and beast from the East." Yup, that's her! You nailed it Barbara. 🙂

I'd like to wish that wonderful "beauty and beast from the East" and her crew, the very best of luck as she toes the line this Friday and knocks one more trail "monster" off of her #bucketlist!  You are going to do great.

All my love, Deb.

~Coach Al

057: All Things Trail Running with Ethan Veneklasen and Deborah Livingston [Podcast]




UltraRunnerPodcast co-host, Ethan Veneklasen

UltraRunnerPodcast co-host, Ethan Veneklasen

Deb and Coach Al, at their Cedar Lake Trail Camp and Retreat this past weekend!

Deb and Coach Al, at their Cedar Lake Trail Camp and Retreat this past weekend!

Today I am excited to welcome Ethan Veneklasen and Debbie Livingston to the podcast. Without a doubt, this was one of my favorite podcasts to date!

I had the opportunity to connect with Ethan after this year's Miwok 100k. All three of us were there to race. Miwok is one of those old classic races in the ultra-running world. Held on May 2nd in the Marin Headlands outside of San Francisco, Debbie and Ethan ran a little bit of the course together that day.

Ethan is one of those great guys who seems to know everyone in the ultra-running world! Besides being a co-host of the ever popular ultra runner podcast (over 150k downloads per month!), he's also a Hoka One One and VFuel ambassador.

As for "Deb," anyone who listens to this podcast knows who she is.  Mom and wife, elite ultra-runner, coach, yoga teacher and steward of all things mother-nature and the environment, she was last on the podcast with me when we visited with James Varner and the Trail Running Film Festival back in February.

In June of last year, I did an interview with Debbie for the podcast. It's a fantastic chat where she shares some of her secrets to success, as well as discussing those things (like trail running, ultra-running, caring for the environment, her family) that are most important to her! She's one of the best!

In this podcast, we have a really informative and fun discussion on topics such as:

  • How far the unique sport of ultra-running has come in such a short period of time.
  • Why they feel trail running is special, unique, and so very different from road running.
  • Their "story" and some of the important things that have changed their lives and brought them to this point in time. Ethan has a unique one - you can read more about it here.
  • Miwok 100k: This was Ethan's 2nd try, after a DNF last year. Debbie ended up as 4th woman! What makes this race so amazing and special?!
  • Tips for those who want to get started in the sport. You CAN do it! 🙂
  • And much more!

I'd like both of them for joining me today. I sincerely hope you enjoy the chat and are inspired to get out there and hit the trails! All the best!

~Coach Al 

Are You Doing The Right Race Specific Training?


Now that spring has arrived here in the northeast (snow flurries yesterday not withstanding!), it is time for you to start looking closely at the specific demands of your upcoming races.

A smart training progression does build from more general fitness elements, to very specific race demands. Preparing in the right way can make the difference between a disappointing finish or a new PR!



Have a great weekend everyone!
~Coach Al

ps: do you have questions on how YOU could better prepare for your upcoming events? Ping me on our Facebook page.

pss: don't forget our upcoming Trail Camp and Retreat with Debbie Livingston! There are still a few spots left.



054: Presenting The Trail Running Film Festival [Podcast]



Click on the image to see all of the upcoming dates for the Spring 2015 East Coast tour!

Click on the image to see all of the upcoming dates for the Spring 2015 East Coast tour!

In today's Episode 54, we are psyched to welcome race director and trail running junkie, James Varner of Rainshadow Running and The Trail Running Film Festival. Also joining us is our own ultra runner extraordinaire and coach, Debbie Livingston.

The Trail Running Film Festival is coming to the east coast this spring, highlighted by a local showing on Wednesday, March 4th, in Hartford, Conn.  (For tickets to this show and others, as well as more information, go here).

In our conversation with James, we talk about...

  • How the Trail Running Film Festival got started and how the events are structured. (Can you say lots of community, food, fun, and a little beer too? Woo!)
  • Rainshadow Races: Where and what they're all about. As their motto says, "why run anywhere else?"
  • A little bit of history of trail films, and why James and Rainshadow (as well as those of us at Pursuit) are so passionate about sharing these films and bringing them to the world for all to enjoy.
  • Which specific films are featured in the Trail Running Film Festival, as well as additional dates and locations.
  • Practical tips and tricks for those of you who might be new to trail running or would like to learn more and enjoy it more!
  • Our upcoming Pursuit Athletic Performance Cedar Lake Trail Running Camp and Retreat, from Friday, May 29 to Sunday, May 31, 2015.  (Come join us!)

**James ALSO did a podcast with the Ultrarunnerpodcast back in 2014 where he talks about the film festival and other cool topics. To listen to that interview, go here.

**To check out the Trail Running Film Festival on Facebook, go here.

TrailFilmFest2And finally, to learn more about all of the great events in the Pacific Northwest put on by Rainshadow Running, go here.

Safe and happy trails everyone!

~Coach Al 

Musings From Coach Al: Are You Ready?

"If people can make permanent decisions in their life regarding their choice of mate, religion, or political party, then they are equally capable of making permanent decisions regarding their food choices, fitness commitments, and goals. (The human species is not biologically weakwilled, though you'd never know it if you observed typical human behavior.) Making sweeping, definitive, all-encompassing, and enduring commitments is an incredibly powerful and liberating experience, both in the making and the living up to them." --  Chris Kostman, Race Director of the Badwater Ultramarathon

Today I received an email from an athlete I coach, with a hyperlink to a blog post from another coach.

The post resonated with me because I could really relate to what the author, Coach Taylor, was ranting about.

Many of you remember the podcast I did with Coach Pat Flynn, on the challenge inherent in being a "truth-telling" coach and teacher.

Perhaps you remember my blog post from Ironman Hawaii in 2012 on truth and honesty.

Well, here's another piece on the topic that I believe is worth a few minutes of your time to read.

Blog image


But only if you want results.

And are willing to look in the mirror and hear the truth.

And aren't easily offended.

Are you ready??

~Coach Al 


Musings From Coach Al: What It Really Takes To Be Successful

"What a pity that so many people would rather believe their doubts and doubt their beliefts. Why don't we just decide to have no doubts, and believe our beliefs! Fear and worry are just the misuse of the creative powers we originally got to dream." --  Jannie Putter

There is more in us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps, for the rest of our lives, we will be unwilling to settle for less. -- Kurt Hahn

Every day I speak with athletes who are hoping to up their game to a new higher level.  They want more speed, more strength, less injury, and faster finish times. Every so often an athlete will walk into our Pursuit Training Center looking for a quick fix for a chronic injury, or the secrets to getting faster. For those who are willing to learn and work hard, they have found a home to build their "best" possible self. For others who don't find the quick fix, we often never see them again. At least for the moment, they lack what it takes to truly reach their potential.

In this society in which we now live, it seems that everywhere we look around us, we are encouraged to look for that quick fix, "instant" cure, or some kind of special secret to success. Take a pill, walk into the right gym, or meet the right person, and all of a sudden your life is better and you're faster and stronger, right?

Wrong. It doesn't work that way, not now and not ever, despite what you read or who you believe.

The great Jim Rohn once said: "Success is the predictable result of doing the right things, in the right way, at the right time."

John Gardner once said: "Excellence is doing ordinary things, extraordinarily well."

Athletes who are able to achieve long-term success and who reach their ultimate potential aren't born that way, in the same way that most people who are rich didn't just stumble upon a large plastic bag filled with hundred dollar bills.

Long term success happens to those who embrace the idea that it is a growth process that requires focus, determination, hard work, a little humility, and perhaps most of all, a willingness to do the things you often least want to do.

Emphasis ought to be placed on the humility and willingness to do the things you don't want to, as in my experience, they very often have a greater impact on long term success than many other factors. Humility means accepting you don't know-it-all and are willing to listen, hear the truth, and commit to life-long learning. It also means seeing supposed "failures" as not failures at all, but rather, as one more stepping stone that moves you closer to success - and to your ultimate potential.

Here at Pursuit Athletic Performance, we preach fanatically about the importance of doing things in the right way, as Jim Rohn said. My partner Doc Strecker is often heard saying that you can do virtually any exercise 95% correctly and get very little benefit from it.  To get the full benefit of any endeavor, exercise, or training progression, there's one best way - the right way.

Are you doing the right things, in the right way, at the right time, in your own training?

Are you doing the ordinary things, extraordinarily well?

There's no substitute for hard work and determination, that is true. It is equally true that there's is also no substitute for doing the right things, in the right way, at the right time.

  • Skill building: start immediately learning and building proper skills and mechanics, all of which will ultimately set the limit for how far you can raise your fitness level.
  • Fundamentals first: address foundational and fundamental movement quality elements first, before moving on to more advanced fitness oriented exercises and activities.
  • Get out of that injury cycle: fix that chronic injury once and for all so you can get out of constant pain and into a state of growth. (If you're frustrated and not sure WHAT to do, then contact me and I'll help you get the results you desire!)
  • Team building: who will help you achieve your ultimate potential? No one does it alone. Build a support team of family, friends, coaches, and training partners, who are healthy, like-minded, patient, life-long learners.
  • As hard as it is sometimes, be willing to take a good look in the mirror: Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? YES. The truth WILL set you free. It is only with honest and objective feedback of where you are, right now, can you truly move forward in a positive way toward meaningful lasting success and happiness.

Our future success and happiness isn't dictated or limited by our DNA, our parents, where we grew up, or who we know.

Far greater achievement, statisfaction, and fullfillment are available to each and every one of us, regardless of our background, talent level, or gender.

Start with the above quotes and live by them on a daily basis, and you'll be well on your way to making 2015 your best year ever!

~Coach Al 


046: An Interview With The Amazing Larisa Dannis! [Podcast]




Ultra-Runner Larisa Dannis (2nd Woman overall at the 2014 Western States 100) smiling as she rolled into the 100k aid station at Western States!

Ultra-Runner Larisa Dannis (2nd Woman overall at the 2014 Western States 100) smiling widely as she rolled into the 100k aid station at Western States!

Today I'm really excited (I mean, REALLY excited!) to be able to share a wonderful conversation with elite ultra-runner and friend Larisa Dannis, on the heels of her recent 2nd place finish at the Western States 100 mile Endurance Run. In a nutshell, Larisa simply shocked the ultra-running world and took it by storm with her amazing finish!

Also, Larisa and I were joined by Pursuit Athletic Performance ultra-runner extraordinaire (and Larisa's pacer for Western States), Deborah Livingston.  If you haven't yet, check out my chat /podcast with Deb from a few weeks ago here, where among other things, we talk about Deb pacing Larisa at Western States 100!

At the very young age of 26, Larisa has already accomplished more than most runners could ever even imagine.  And believe me, she's done it all with incredible toughness, class, a huge smile, and a zest for life!

Here are just a few of her most recent racing highlights:

  • 2013 Vermont 100 Endurance Race: 18:38:10; 1st woman, 8th overall
  • 2013 Peak Ultra 50 Mile: 10:40:27, 1st overall
  • 2013 Zion 100 Trail Run: 20:22:23, 2nd woman, 10th overall
  • 2013 Beast of Burden Winter 50 mile: 7:18:35, 1st overall, women's course record
  • 2014 Rocky Racoon 100 Mile: 17:10:30, 4th woman, 19th overall
  • 2014 Boston Marathon: 2:44:14, 33rd woman overall (1st in the non elite field), 17th American woman
  • 2014 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run: 18:29:18, 2nd woman, 22nd overall

Our chat is jam packed with incredibly powerful pearls of wisdom that every athlete, regardless of experience level or sport, will absolutely want to hear.  Among the many topics we delve into:

  • Larisa's development as an ultra-runner; her childhood background including what ultimately led her to follow her passion of ultra-running (not what you might expect but intriguing and very powerful none the less!).
  • Her philsophy on eating and fueling (she considers herself a low-carb, high-fat runner, but is she? Listen in to find out.)
  • Her "mental" approach: thoughts, strategies, and wisdom from inside the mind of a truly unique and humble elite ultra-runner.
  • What's next?  Larisa shares some of her long terms goals and what she hopes to accomplish. (and she's not even competitive!)
  • And much more!

Larisa is wise beyond her years. We can ALL learn from her AND be inspired by her, not only as it pertains to training, running and racing, but perhaps most importantly, life in general.

If you want to learn more about Larisa and follow her developments, check out her blog here.

For more interviews (including Larisa's) from the Western States 100 (and other ultra events), check out

Thanks for joining me on this podcast - it was a ton of fun to host! Happy Trails!

~Coach Al 

042: Interview with Pursuit Ultra-Runner Debbie Livingston [Podcast]




Ultra-runner, mom, wife, and coach extraordinaire, Debbie Livingston

Ultra-runner, mom, wife, and coach extraordinaire, Debbie Livingston

Hi Everyone. Coach Al here.  Today I'm thrilled to share an interview I did with elite ultra-runner Debbie Livingston. Debbie and I have worked together for a few years as coach/athlete. She's well known in local circles as an elite ultra-runner, yoga and pilates teacher, personal trainer, and even as a race director (the Soapstone Mountain trail race sponsored by the Shenipset Striders).

Debbie combines her love of running and racing at a very high level on the trail, with her various roles including mom, wife, citizen, and also as one of our newly appointed coaches here at Pursuit Athletic Performance. We are super excited to have her on board, as she has so much to offer and share with others.

In today's podcast, we get into all manner of topics that we know you'll find interesting.

  • Debbie's racing season - what she's done to this point (overall wins at Traprock and Peak 50!), as well as what is coming up (Tahoe Rim Trail 100 in July, among others).
  • Debbie's year long journey to find just the right race fuel balance - what she's tried and how it has come together for her.
  • Her experience with our Comprehensive Metabolic Profile and how learning about her unique issues with dysbiosis and certain food allergies allowed her to heal her gut and improve her overall health AND performance.  (If you missed episode #9 of our podcast, where we discuss the Comprehensive Metabolic Profile in detail, you can listen to it here.)
  • How her movement/strength training is progressing and how she considers this an essential component to her success at the ultra-distance.
  • Her new role as a coach with Team Pursuit Athletic Performance - what caused her to say "yes" to coaching, and what the future holds for her with our team.
  • Her trip out to the Western States 100 next week to help support and pace one of her friends, competitor Larrisa Dannis, as she competes in Western States.  (I'll be out there as well, first to attend the "Medicine and Science in Ultra-Endurance Sports" Conference, and then to volunteer on race day. Really excited!)
  • And much more!

Thank you Debbie for joining me. I had a blast chatting with you!  I'm looking forward to seeing you out in Squaw Valley!

~Coach Al 

Yoga For Endurance Athletes With Ultrarunning Champion Debbie Livingston

Hello Everyone!

Coach Al here with Pursuit athlete and ultrarunner champion Debbie Livingston.

Debbie is fresh off her WIN at the Traprock 50K ultrarun on April 13!

Traprock organizers call the race a true "test of the runner’s fitness and mental stamina." Fitness and stamina? Yeah, Deb's got that! And her season is just going to get better. Huge congratulations to her!

Debbie is also a long-time, accomplished yoga instructor. In our post today, she talks about the benefits of yoga for endurance athletes. Yoga not only keeps her physical body in balance, but also helps Deb hone the mindfulness she needs when training for and competing in ultra-endurance events. At Pursuit Athletic Performance, we work on those same tenets with athletes every day:

Integration of mind and body

Balance in the body of muscular strength and length

For certain runners and triathletes ("certain athletes" being the caveat here), yoga can be is the perfect way to increase much needed mobility and flexibility.  Some key elements regarding yoga practice for runners and athletes include:

1. Those who tend to enjoy it the most, need it the least!

2. Those who "hate it" likely need it most!

What I mean is...for those of you who are already very mobile and flexible, yoga can lead you down a path where you end up improving—and in some cases, over doing—movement elements you already "own" to some degree. For those (like me) who aren't very flexible or mobile, the practice can be very helpful in improving on that limitation.

As is always the case, a good yoga class—where each person only goes to their limits and learns their body while focusing on their own unique limiters—is the ideal approach.

 In this video, Debbie demonstrates "Melting Heart." The pose is TREMENDOUS for flexibility and mobility of the mid- and Yogaupper back (lats) and thoracic spine. It feels great, especially if you're tight through this region. 

Get down on the floor and do some yoga! Aaaahhh..... 

More yoga videos with Debbie coming soon! Until great! 

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.