VCM Elites: Liz Ryan

by EJN Comments (1) Articles, Racing

Continuing our preview of the invited field for the Vermont City Marathon (5/29 in lovely Burlington, VT), we have GBTC runner extraordinaire Liz Ryan. Here’s Liz’s profile, courtesy of the VCM website:

VCM preview 2016 Mason RyanTown: Cambridge, MA
Originally from: Farmington, CT
College & Year: Brown University, 2013

Occupation: Track Coach, Cheesemonger, Communications Associate at Clover Food Lab, starting a PhD program in September
Club Affiliation: Greater Boston Track Club
Sponsors: Myself
Recent Race Highlights: February 2015, Amherst 10 Miler: 1:00:55

April 2015, Boston Marathon: 22nd woman (10th American) in 2:47

May - December 2015: 6 months running for New Balance Panama while working for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

December 2015, CIM: Marathon PR of 2:45

February 2016, Super Sunday 5 Miler: 5 Mile PR of 28:30
Marathon PR: 2:45 in 2015 at California International Marathon (CIM)

Other Racing Highlights: I ran XC and Track & Field for Brown University. While I would have liked to focus more on running, I was taking too many classes, writing one too many theses, and doing too many extra-curriculars to focus on running. I believe I graduated with a 3k PR of 10:16.

We sent Liz some follow up questions to dig a little deeper:

How have you been racing so far in 2016?

I’ve had a pretty great start to the year. Started with a 5-mile PR at Super Sunday, then a 3k PR on the track (throwing my hat in the ring for the ATR series this year) and most recently a 2:51 at the Boston Marathon (6th American). I will be racing the USA 25km National Championship two weeks before VCM, so I’m just hoping to continue the streak, and not embarrass myself too much.

You have quite the packed racing schedule. Even the turnaround from Boston to VCM is tight. Is that something that you’ve always done?

I just love racing. I believe our sport is at it’s best an excuse to get out and compete. I think it’s less about doing amazing workouts while training solo (which Instagram tells me everyone is doing), and more about getting out there and testing yourself when you have the opportunity. I raced 31 times (2 of which were marathons) last year. It’s definitely not for everyone, and I do understand the injury risk but when opportunities present themselves I pretty much always say “yes”. So when I had the opportunity to race the National 25km championship 4 weeks after Boston I said “yes!”. It was definitely not a PR effort, but I got a chance to travel to a state I’d never been too (props to Michigan), meet some pros I never imagined meeting, and race to a 9th place finish. When is that going to happen again? Also, I highly recommend the race. It was a stunning course through the woods and Founder’s Brewery is a short walk from the finish line.

First time at VCM? What does it mean to be a part of the invited runner field?

I’m super pumped! It’s my first time at VCM, and I am definitely very intimidated by the accolades of the other women in the invited runner field. I love Burlington, and my life goal is to live in Vermont in a log cabin where my boyfriend will brew beer for me non-stop, so I’m also just excited for the whole weekend’s festivities.

What goal are you aiming for?

Top 3 would be nice, but obviously it will be very competitive. Secondary goal is to drink all the beer in Vermont. Hill farmstead is having their anniversary celebration the same weekend as VCM, so my biggest challenge for the weekend will be making it to the line sober.

What’s your biggest strength as a runner? How do you think that translates to the VCM course?

Downhills, downhills, downhills. I assume there are some at VCM?

What is your favorite race distance? Which one is your best one? Why?

My favorite distances are the marathon and 5k, but Cross Country is my favorite season. Working as a team during XC makes everything more interesting. Marathons are probably my strength. As a senior in high school my coach let me race the 400 once because I had begged him constantly to let me be a sprinter for the past 4 years. I raced it in 63 seconds, and afterwards my coach said, “yeahhhhhh, I think we’re going to keep you focused on the 2-mile until graduation. We can just assume they’ll have you run the 3k and up in college.”

How do you juggle family, career and training all while competing at such a high level?

Fortunately, I may be too young to have many responsibilities (or my own family). I’m starting a PhD program in the fall, but for now I’m coaching and enjoying my final months in Cambridge. Last Spring I had a stressful job in a Boston architecture firm, was trying to run way more than ever (55 miles per week compared to the usual 35) while training for my first Boston marathon, had just met the coolest person ever (my boyfriend Ryan), and was about to leave all of it to go do research in the jungles of Panama for 6 months. I don’t know how I juggled all of that, but knowing I did makes everything else seem like a walk in the park.

What was it like running for New Balance Panama?

It was a great opportunity that came about only because I showed up to race, and New Balance took notice and offered to sponsor me. Running in Panama was probably the hardest single thing I’ve ever done. I was living and working on Barro Colorado, a remote island in the middle of the Panama Canal, and the only accessible track was an 8 hour adventure away. One boat ride down the Panama Canal, a bus ride, a metro ride, and finally, a 1hr car ride. Obviously, I rediscovered the joys of fartleks during my time down there. While my runs in Cambridge average 0 elevation gain (I run on the Charles River every day) I climbed over 90,000 feet on my runs during my 6 months in Panama. So, add in a daily 4 miles of hiking up and downhill for my research job, and I was in a constant state of exhaustion. The daily temperature was 90 degrees or more, and 90% humidity or more (and a daily torrential downpour). Because of these obstacles, there isn’t a high level of distance running in Panama, but somehow everyone is a fun runner (which is why I turned into a celebrity overnight). When I ran a 17:45 in the heat island that is Panama city, the next woman (current Panamanian road 5k champion) was 3 minutes back. I was on the national news more than once, and they made a short film about me with a drone camera. I didn’t even realize that is a thing people do? By the end of my contract with the Smithsonian there, I was definitely craving the relative obscurity of running around Cambridge.

In a race like this, what’s more important, time or place?

For me, place. I doubt I will PR with such a quick turn-around after the Boston Marathon. I am just excited to compete!

Do you have a nickname?

L-Ry or Lizzie

Go-to post marathon meal (celebration mode)?

Beer and ice cream and tacos/quesadillas/bacon burgers…which also doubles as my pre-marathon meal and my every-day-of-the-week meal. I could beat anyone in an contest to see who could eat the most. I can’t do the speed stuff, but I can pace myself well.

You can find more on Liz and the rest of the elite field here. More to come!

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One Response to VCM Elites: Liz Ryan

  1. Steph says:

    Quick edit: The word should be “streak” and not “steak” in “continue the steak”.

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