Lila Planavsky loves a challenge, especially when it comes to running.
So much in fact that after competing in, and winning, the Minnesota Voyageur 50 Mile Trail Ultramarathon in Duluth, Minn., last week, Planavsky is setting out to conquer a new challenge — a 100-mile race.
The 37-year-old La Crosse native finished her most recent 50-miler, which was the third of her career, in 9 hours, 14 minutes. The runner’s portfolio consists of major races like the Boston Marathon, but her newest adventure comes as she prepares for the Superior 100 Mile Trail Race in Lutsen, Minn.
“I just love a challenge,” said Planavsky, who moved back to La Crosse from Milwaukee four years ago. “I love seeing what I can do and realizing that we can be stronger and faster than we think we are, and it’s also just a lot of fun.”
Before finding fun in running distance races, Planavsky used the sport as a way to clear her head and reduce the stress that came with being a special education teacher in Milwaukee.
“I started running more to get my mind in the right place,” she said.
The mom of two completed her first marathon in college, but then abandoned running for some time after that. When in Milwaukee, she signed up for races that were, “way further than my training had me at,” and would eventually drop out of it before race day came.
But after arriving back home in La Crosse, Planavsky put in a solid year of training before finally completing her first 50-mile trek. Fast forward to present day, and she’s recording an average of 50 to 70 miles of running a week with the majority of it being done in Hixon Forest.
Training for a long distance competition includes more than running. Planavsky fits in 5:30 a.m. yoga classes three times a week while cross-training with her husband.
The various training methods help her for the physical aspects of the race, but the mental side requires just as much attention.
“Your body gets used to running, but the 50-mile races are more of a mental thing,” she said. “Being flexible in terms of thinking of not letting small things become big things and it’s so much of how you view it in your mind. If something happens you can be like, ‘OK, this is really terrible,’ or you can be like ‘OK, now how can I work through this?’”
Planavsky has been learning to work through the challenges of running ever since she watched her dad compete in the 400-meter run for UW-La Crosse. Some of her favorite memories stem from visiting the UW-La Crosse track as a kid, which has allowed her passion to run to bloom since then.
With a long history of love for lacing up her running shoes and hitting the trails, Planavsky has been able to see life-changing benefits come out of challenging herself, setting high goals and then eventually accomplishing them. A prime example: It took her nearly 10 years of trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
“Being able to hit goals in running helps in other aspects of life as well,” said Planavsky, who finished the Boston Marathon in 3 hours, 35 minutes. “When I hit that goal, in some ways, it gave me the courage to strive for other things I’d been wanting in life. There’s a lot of value in setting a really big goal and seeing it be accomplished.”