Friday, May 25, 2012

Spotlight Runner: Meet Lisa!

And who is this happy runner right there with our three top elite women??  Why, it's LISA!

Last spring my husband and I set out to finally break 1:30 in the half marathon.  I was training for the Newport Marathon and he was training just for the half marathon we were running: The 2011 Vernonia Half Marathon.  Well, we did run a strong race cigar baby!  In typical Amanda fashion (the old Amanda), we started off way too fast.  In fact, after several miles at sub 7, I didn't see a woman in sight.  I was feeling strong, we were passing around a few jokes, and the pace was coming very easily.  

And then around mile 4
out of what seemed like
came this tight-bodied, dressed-in-red, blonde, full of what seemed like smiling energy woman.
Flying past us and looking effortless doing so.  

Lisa Tortorice at around mile 4 of the 2011 ORRC Vernonia Half Marathon
There are many stories to go along with this race.  My stop for water at mile 8 (even though I didn't really need it) right before the last 4 miles of hills, the spat my husband and I got in that resulted in him leaving me behind (which I deserved), and more.  But it was this speedy runner in red that stands out in my memory the strongest when I think of this race. 

This was my first time meeting Lisa Tortorice.  Since then, I've slowly come to know more and more about her.  And the more I get to know her, the more I adore her!  Her positive energy is contagious and inspiring.  With each new race she runs, she walks away thankful for something, whether it be a BIG FAT PR, an opportunity, or a learning experience and a chance to keep growing.  

Lisa finishing Boston 2012 with a big smile on her face!  

One of the cool things about writing a running blog and reading other running blogs is that I've had a chance to "meet" so many inspiring runners of all different levels.  I've learned from you, seen how you train, and been touched by your beautiful and unique stories.  Lisa is one of these women runners that I've been thankful to know.  I've had the pleasure of seeing her come out of some pretty big races with a whole lot of Joy and Gratitude to be using her gifts.  Like many, she is a runner who started running later in life and now she seems unstoppable.  I was particularly inspired at how she handled her experience this year in Boston.  Even though she didn't meet her original goal due to the intense heat, she joyfully embraced her 3:20 something marathon time and chalked it all up to an experience.  Unlike so many of you that I've been inspired by, Lisa doesn't have a blog of her own so she agreed to let me interview her and share her story with you!  Enjoy:

Meet Lisa Tortorice

When did you start running and what got you started?

I started running in medical school to relieve stress. I was slow. I started by running 3 miles and chugging a Mellow Yellow after (no joke). I also smoked then. I don't drink Mellow Yellow anymore-- I upgraded to Diet Mountain Dew-- and I definitely don't smoke anymore. I have gotten just a little faster since then.

Favorite race distance?

Love the half marathon. It is a longer distance, which definitely plays to my running strengths, but it does not require as much time for training as the full. Plus, you can really race it from start to finish. Having said that, I am so addicted to marathons. I have a very specific goal, and I will not back off until I reach it.

What are your Prs in each distance that you race?

5K 19:14
8K I forgot!
10K- 39:10
half- 1:27:15
full- 3:07:30

Tell us about a favorite race experience? Could be due to a PR, the people who ran with, where the race was, etc.

Oh my god, there are so many memorable races, but the first race that came to mind was Boston 2012. Yes, the really hot one that just happened a few weeks ago. Since I live in Boston, I was able to train on the course and knew every hill and every turn. But even more than that, I had my family cheering for me at mile 24. I also saw a lot of people from Portland and from my work who cheered me on. It was the first time I had ever run a race just for fun. I always wondered why the hell anyone would do that! Now I know. Even though my time was ~25 minutes slower than what I trained for (I thought I would be close to 3h), it was one of my favorite races ever. By the way, I negative split that bitch. By 6 seconds. 

What has running meant for your life? Why run?

Running is HUGELY important to me. I love how strong I feel after I complete a speed workout. I love being outside. I love challenging myself to hit tough goals. I also love how great it is as a stress reliever and how it can lift my mood. You know those days where you just feel crappy or sad and you feel like not even running will help? And then you go running and you feel totally reset. I am addicted to that.

I also have to add that now it has become a family affair. My sisters and mom also run. We have met for races in Boston, Napa, Duluth, Milwaukee, Chicago, Green Bay... probably more. It is SO fun to experience races with them. We are all meeting in Milwaukee in fall for the Lakefront marathon. My dad and brother are professional spectators.

Do you think you'll always be competitive with running?

I was just talking to Mike (my fiancee) about this. I was telling him that maybe in a few years I will start running just for fun. Then we both laughed. Yeah, I will be the girl who is 6 months pregnant still running. I will be the 50 year-old who is still trying to chick the younger bucks.

Most recent race? How did it go?

Boston 2012! See above for details. I ran it in 3:28 and loved [almost] every minute of it.

Athlete Goals? (Time, certain races, strength, diet...)

First and foremost, I want to break 3h in the marathon. I have little inspirational pictures and sayings in the bathroom and in my bedroom. I am a pretty big dork about it. I also need to get better about stretching. I have the world's tightest hammies. I never foam roll, and if I stretch 2x in a month, I call it success. I also really need to break 19 min in the 5K. My 5K PR is pretty sad when you compare it to my other times. One more thing, stop drinking wine. OK, so I'm kidding about that last one.

What do you think about when you are faced with those moments when you have to dig the deepest in a race? A mantra?

Oh yes I do. I have no idea where it came from, but I yell (in my head, though you could yell it out loud if you wanted), "Don't be a baby!!" Over and over. Maybe I should find something more encouraging like my sister Manda's, "Light and Easy. Fast and Smooth."

When do you train?

Almost always in the morning. I love morning runs. If it's a double day, I try to get the second one in as early in the day as possible.

Do you have a coach?

Joel Gordon is my coach. He has been coaching me for about 10 months now and has coached me to PRs in every distance. He totally changed my approach to training which was very refreshing.

What do you eat? Do you think diet plays an important role in how you succeed as an athlete?

I think nutrition is very important. I follow a mostly-healthy diet. I eat a ton of fresh fruits and vegetables. I could not live without asparagus, turkey sandwiches and oatmeal. I also have only recently realized how important it is to refuel in that 30 minutes after a run, even if you have no appetite, and I have learned to embrace the protein shake. I have a problem with sugar though. I love it. Ice cream, cookies, cakes. I absolutely do treat myself though. I also have an affection for red wine. One of the lists I made on my bathroom mirror is a list of things I need to to break 3h. "alcohol and sugar in moderation. deprivation does not work for LT."

How old were you when you first knew that you were good at running?

Hmmm. Good question. I didn't run in HS or college. I think it was after my first full marathon in med school. I ran Chicago and missed a BQ by 2 minutes. I didn't take any GU or Gatorade, had no watch, and I am pretty sure that is the marathon when I ate a bag of popcorn the night before. ( I have learned a lot since then.) I don't know if it's fair to say I thought I was "good," but I at least thought I had potential.

Favorite speed workout?
Love me some 800s. I love the track in general.

How many miles a week do you run when you're training for a marathon? And other distances?

I hit 90 miles this past training block. I would say I average 70-80. I am hoping to hit 100 this block. When I am doing more 5K-10K training (which is sadly, rare) I am more around 65-70.

Do you have any pre-race “tricks” or rituals that help you feel good and get you in the zone?

Sometimes I like to listen to really bad (but oh so good) hip-hop/dance music. Rihanna, Usher and David Guetta can do no wrong.

Music or no music while running/racing? If music, what are some of your favorite tunes to race to?

Rarely music while running. Never music while racing. Though when I do listen to music, it is of the varietal mentioned above. My fiancee once found one of my mixes on my macbook, and I think he almost left me.

What is your next race?

A 5K in Waukesha, WI. I will be back for my wedding shower on that weekend. I scheduled the race for the morning of the shower. Who wouldn't do that? Time to break 19 minutes and get this monkey off my back!

Do you always have a smile on your face when you run? :)

Haha. I have two running faces-- a happy face and a super-extreme-focused-like-my-eyes-could-cut-through-you face.

Thanks for sharing your life with us Lisa!  Love love love!


  1. Wow, so inspiring! I love stories of runners who start later in life, and get hooked. I can relate to all of her reasons for running, it is definitely addicting. :) Sounds like she's well on her way to both the sub-19 and the 3 hour marathon, amazing!

    1. I agree! She's super inspiring. And she will crush her 5k doubts about that one! :) And the 3 hour marathon. Go Lisa Go! Take me with you!!

  2. Oh wow! Very inspiring. I'm excited to see a very fast woman who didn't start running until after college. Thank you for doing this interview and sharing with us. Go Lisa! :)

  3. What a speedy lady!! I have a feeling she will be breaking 19 very soon! I can't believe she didn't run in high school or college?! Great bio!

  4. Great read, Amanda! I hope to run into this lady at a race sometime. Ugh about the popcorn before a marathon! Funny- but no fun to learn the hard way. :)

  5. Great post - I love meeting and talking with new peeps at races. That's one thing I love about running a half in every state - so many great people to meet and run with!

  6. What a great idea. I haven't got to really read this yet but I will!

  7. Great! Super speedy lady, She needs a blog:)

    1. AM, you girls would make great running partners! She's near you too!

  8. Good interview. She's a very interesting runner. And fast.

    I've done interviews before, and I know they can take a lot of time to transcribe, so hats off to you for the time you probably put into this one.

    1. Thanks. Actually, the biggest thing for me was getting the motivation to finally get this up and posted. The questions came easily and Lisa is a great writer so I just sent her the questions and she answered them and they were good as they were...she was easy! And fun to read.

  9. The first pic is priceless :) I wish I smiled when I ran. I always think I'm looking all bad ass then, usually find the pictures to show me looking like I'm constipated. I'm jealous Lisa!

  10. Great interview! I agree, she needs a blog! And to almost BQ without GU or Gatorade? Crazy!

  11. Its hard to capture such an amazing woman through written word but I couldn't have done a better job writing about her...and she's my sister. She's impressive on paper but she's nothing short of phenomenal in real life.

    1. Aw, thanks! Yay, Lisa's sister! Sounds like you girls have a great relationship. Such a treasure.

  12. That was really interesting. It's great having a runner interview another runner - they know just what questions we runner-readers want the answers to.

  13. What a fun interview! Sounds like a great role model. Smiling while running-there must be something to that;)

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. (sorry, meant to post, "can we count on more [interivews]. And more blog posts in general from you.... beacuase you rock. LOL)
    Wow! What an amazing story! "the girl in the red" inspires me. Thanks for the great interview. (Can we count on more? :P)

    1. Yes yes yes. Thank you! And yes, Lisa is amazing!

  16. Wow, 90 miles? I'm still trying to get there! Nice interview!

  17. awesome Lisa. You are my inspiration. My mantra is "the race goes not always to the swift. " When I get tired these worths come to mind. Keep running and your goals will become reality . love mom

  18. Lisa is also quite humble about her running. When I first met her a year ago I was in my "Contemplation" phase about running. At 38 I had never run before but wanted to lose weight and be healthy for my kids. Lisa gave me some great advice for beginning runners, but I didn't know until about 6 months into our friendship that she's an elite runner! She continues to inspire, motivate and challenge me... And now my whole family is running, too. I have my first half in 2 months :-)

  19. Lisa is also quite humble about her running. When I first met her a year ago I was in my "Contemplation" phase about running. At 38 I had never run before but wanted to lose weight and be healthy for my kids. Lisa gave me some great advice for beginning runners, but I didn't know until about 6 months into our friendship that she's an elite runner! She continues to inspire, motivate and challenge me... And now my whole family is running, too. I have my first half in 2 months :-)