No room for self doubt – Lisa’s Journey

Lisa’s perspective about racing and the benefits of positive self talk is a lesson for everyone. Her discipline and attitude about running is remarkable and I’m honored to share her journey this week. Her story resonated because personally I think that for the average runner (the non-professional athlete) DNFing an ultra – or any race for that matter – isn’t as big a deal as folks make it out to be (and I know this from my first-hand DNF experience last Fall). Choosing not to register for a race because of the fear of not finishing isn’t a mindset I agree with. So enjoy reading about Lisa’s wonderful attitude and helpful ultra racing advice.

Lisa Morris, West Suburbs of Chicago, IL

The biggest lesson trail running has taught me is not to limit myself. I am stronger than I give myself credit for.

Lisa Morris

How long have you been a trail runner?

I started trail running two years ago after running several road races. I find running trails allows me to free my mind and enjoy nature.

What are your top trail running accomplishments?

My top trail running accomplishments include running my first 50K (The North Face Endurance Challenge) in 2018. This was my first ever trail race. Three weeks later I attempted my first 50 miler at the Des Plaines River Trail Race. I didn’t finish the race due to an issue with my knee. I completed 39 of the 50 miles, which I still took as a small victory. I didn’t beat myself up about it because I knew I had given it my best, and I believe that’s all you can do – give your best. Don’t get me wrong, I was disappointed and sad when I didn’t complete the 50, but I took the moment as a learning experience. Plus I’m alive and healthy. There’ll be more opportunities in the future and I’ll use what I know from prior experiences to crush my goal. 

What’s the biggest lessons you’ve learned as a result of trail running?

Five or six years ago I couldn’t run one block. For a long time, I limited myself because I kept focusing on the past or stayed stuck in the present. I was my worst enemy. It was all in my mind. I limited and underestimated myself because of my thinking. I started to speak more positively to myself about my running, started setting small goals, and began going after these goals. Of course I trained to ensure I was physically fit to meet the task, but it was my mind that I had to conquer. So the biggest lesson trail running has taught me is not to limit myself. I am stronger than I give myself credit for.

What’s the best advice you received while preparing for your first ultra race?

While training for that first 50K, I was told to relax and prepare as if I was training for a marathon (26.2 miles). I was also told to enjoy the experience.

What advice did you wish you received prior to completing your first ultra?

It rained a couple days before my first 50 miler and a portion of the trail was flooded. I wish I had known about waterproof socks. I ran the entire time in wet socks, lol! Also, I didn’t know much about drop bags. I thought that since there would be support on the route, I didn’t need a drop bag. I was so wrong! The temperature dropped significantly, and I didn’t have an additional layer available. So, in addition to running with wet feet, I was freezing. 

Fortunately, I had enough hydration and nutrition and there were plenty of refueling items at the support stations. However, I would’ve included additional items in a drop bag such as  gloves, extra socks (waterproof), light thermal clothes to wear under my jacket, and an external charger for my Garmin and phone. 

Do you ever doubt whether or not you can cover a certain distance or finish a race? If so, how do you overcome self-doubt either prior to or during a race?

When I think about or decide to run a certain distance or race, I don’t really give thought to whether or not I can finish. In my mind, I will finish. I just focus on how to best prepare – rest, hydration, nutrition, etc.

What’s the hardest aspect of your training?

Rest is one of the hardest parts of my fitness journey because I like to stay busy. My family and friends fuss at me all the time to “get somewhere and sit down”. So it’s definitely something I struggle with, but I intentionally incorporate it into my life because it’s healthy for me. Rest helps me physically because it helps to ease my sore muscles and speeds up recovery from injuries. It also helps mentally to relax, focus and just enjoy life. 

How do you balance a full-time job with your running?

I get up at 4:30 a.m. to run.  I usually run 5 to 6 miles, 3 days a week before work and a long run on Saturdays. I’ve been working from home due to COVID-19, and this has allowed a little more flexibility. My schedule is as follows:

Tuesday – speed work

Wednesday – hill work

Thursday – stamina/tempo run

Saturdays – long runs

I also include 30 minutes of cross training/circuit work 3 days per week.

Tell me about your cross-training routine? Many long-distance runners struggle with finding the time to fit this into their schedules so what keep you motivated to cross train?

I cross train 3 days a week focusing on upper body, lower body, and abs. Cross training is essential in keeping my body strong and prepared to handle long miles. I did not finish (DNF) my 50-miler in 2018 due to knee issues which was caused by weak leg muscles. As a result, I make sure to incorporate cross training in my fitness routine.

What is your next trail running adventure?

I’m scheduled to run the Chi Waukee trail with friends next month and the Kettle Moraine 50K in September but this all depends on the COVID-19 situation.

What is your favorite trail and why?

My favorite trail is the IL Prairie Path. The trail is 61 miles and extends throughout the western suburbs. There’s a variety of terrain – some road, some rock, and dirt and gravel the further west you go. This is my favorite trail because it was the first trail I ran on.

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