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Lisa Ledesma: Never say never

Lisa Ledesma is the ultimate unstoppable multitasker.

She is a wife, married 25 years to Kekoa Ledesma and has called Kauai home since 1990.

She is a mom of four grown sons.

She works with HomeBridge Financial Services as a mortgage loan orginator and has 30 years experience in the mortgage industry. HomeBridge said Friday that Ledesma was January’s top producer in Hawaii.

She is a triathlete. She has completed four Ironmans, about 30 marathons and ultramarathons and numerous triathlons and local fun runs.

She is the founder of Kauai Divas and Dudes, a running group formed about seven years ago.

Most recently, Feb. 11, she completed her longest race, a 54.8-mile ultramarathon in New Zealand that included one steep climb after another, and endless rocks, roots and stumps to navigate in a forest, even a water crossing.

She and friend Maile Castillo, entered in a 40-mile race, ran the final miles together.

“We had a blast the whole way, grumbling about it, complaining about it, but then enjoying it,” Ledesma said. “At the finish line, we cried, we were so happy.”

“It felt good, until we sat down. Then we said, ‘We’re never doing this again.’”

But don’t believe her.

Lisa Ledesma will be back. Because that’s what she does. She keeps going, keeps pushing, keeps trying, keeps overcoming.

Not even a November bike crash that left her unconscious for a short time and hospitalized for three days, with a broken collarbone and shattered thumb, could stop her from completing a half marathon just two weeks later.

The woman simply will not quit, will not take no for answer. She only knows how to give more than 100 percent to her husband, her family, her job, her sports. Every day.

“It is not always about finishing the race,” she said. “It is about knowing your mind is strong and can carry your body to do anything you want it to do. You have to just believe in yourself and your training. Never doubt yourself. Always enjoy it while doing it. That alone will make anyone finish a race. Believe in yourself always.”

•••

What motivates you to do these long runs like this ultra in New Zealand?

I want to do it to challenge myself. I also love New Zealand. I did Queenstown Marathon in New Zealand in November. I just have a passion for trails more now. Plus, it’s better on my foot than the road. The road, with all my injuries I’ve gotten over the last four years, it just feels better being in the forest and running those trails. Breathtaking views.

How do you prepare for such races?

I didn’t really get a lot of preparation for this ultra because of my bike accident in November. I broke my collarbone and my thumb and the brakes of my bikes went through my thigh.

Can you talk about the bike accident? I understand you were biking near Kealia on the path when it happened.

I was actually closer to Donkeys near the pineapple bridge and four of us were just finishing a great ride to Kilauea and coming back. We did 34 miles that day. We were coming on the downhill of the bike path and I just happened to look over to the ocean because it’s just gorgeous. I’ll always stop to look at everything. We’re so lucky to live there. And I looked over at the ocean, my friends were kind of in a V shape and I was right behind one of them and I didn’t really pay attention that the bridge was coming up. I just looked at the ocean. I literally said, “Oh my God it’s a gorgeous day,” and when I turned back the pole in front of the bridge was right there and I slammed into it between my fork and my brakes. At that point, there was no way to even touch the brakes. The pole was there. Basically, the bike stayed still and I went forward and I landed on the bridge. I broke my handlebars — and my body.

How fast were you going?

I wasn’t even going that fast. We were cruising. We were going in a cruise manner but because it was a downhill, there was no braking.

What happened next?

I was knocked out, just for a few seconds because I remember waking up and going, “Everything hurts.” They told me to just stay there and lay down. Within, I thought, minutes, the ambulance was there taking me. According to my girlfriend, it was longer. I must have gone in and out without realizing. I just remember going, thank God, they’re here.

What was the extent of your injuries?

I broke my clavicle, at the very end. I broke my thumb so I needed surgery on my thumb. They had to put in a metal piece because I just shattered it and I got a deep wound in my thigh because the brakes actually poked me when I went forward. No surgery on the collarbone.

How long were you in the hospital?

Three days. I couldn’t stay because I was going to New Zealand to run a marathon in two weeks. I told my doctor I was going. I wasn’t going to let this keep me down.

Did you know how badly you were hurt?

I literally said this: “My legs are still working? Great, because I have a marathon in two weeks.” The doctor thought I was crazy. “You’re not doing a marathon,” she said.

I said, “Oh yes, I am.”

I told her I needed a strap for my arm that I would also strap around my waist as tight as possible so I wouldn’t move it. She was not very happy with me but she got me a really good strap. We Velcro-ed it and made it as stiff as possible so it wouldn’t move and my girlfriend Nancy stayed by me. I had my cast on my hand and my collar and my sling. I downgraded to the half marathon because it was a trail and I powerwalked it.

It took me three hours and 10 minutes to finish the half.

You finished?

I did it.

How hard was it to finish?

It was hard because I couldn’t really use my arms and it was all legs. I literally cried when I finished.

Was that your slowest, but greatest half?

Yeah, my greatest.

Were race organizers and spectators aware of your injuries and what had happened?

They didn’t know, but when they started seeing me with my arm wrapped up, they cheered.

We actually met a girl from New Zealand who was struggling with it. I told her, “We’re staying with you and you’re going to walk with us. I have a broken clavicle, a broken thumb and if I can do it, you can do it.” And she finished it. It was her first half and she was very excited about it.

That to me, helping someone finish it, was more satisfaction. I did it, I was awesomely happy about it, but I got this stranger I just met to believe in herself and finish with us.

Do you feel you have recovered from the accident?

I still have some issues with my shoulder. I can’t go back swimming yet. I don’t have the ability to do the swim stroke. I’m still in PT.

How hard has it been, the recovery? What’s kept you going?

It’s been more of a mental thing with this because I have so many things I want to do and succeed in, I feel like every time I just get ahead, I get into some kind of accident and I’m pushed back again, so I’ve been more careful with my runs. I’m just trying to get through it without getting hurt again. I want to do so much more. And my husband is always there to keep me going.

Does Kekoa support all your running?

My husband is amazing. He encourages me. He’s there for me. He catches me at the finish line. He used to ride his mountain bike with me on my runs before I created the Kauai Divas and Dudes. Once I created that and got friends to run with, he was like, “Yay, no more riding my bike at 5 a.m.” I couldn’t do this without him.

What else is on your list?

I’m signed up for a marathon in Nevada in April. And I’m signed up for a trail race in October, it’s a triple canyon. So the first day is Bryce Canyon, it’s nine miles. The second day is Zion Canyon, 14 miles, and then Grand Canyon, 19 miles. It’s a three-day event. I get to see three beautiful canyons, run in them, and then enjoy it after the run.

How did you get started with running, biking and swimming?

After I had my fourth son, I wanted to get into running. It’s something I can get out and be myself and I started to run at the age of 35. I never did sports in high school. At 45, I decided to learn how to swim. I never knew how to swim. Born and raised in Hawaii, don’t know how to swim. So I took swimming classes, learned how to swim, and signed up for my first Ironman when I was 50. Louisville. It went great. I felt good after that race. even at the finish line, I was like the happiest person in the world. I said, “I’m only doing this once and never again.” One week later I told my husband, “I’ve got to do another one.”

You created Divas and Dudes, a running club on Kauai, almost 10 years ago. How did that come to be?

I use to run by myself with my husband on his bike and then I met my friend Kamika Smith. We used to run together all the time and do a lot of races together. And then we would see a couple people running on the road and I would ask them if they wanted to run. There was just a few of us.

I decided to do Facebook and the next thing I know people started inviting more people and that’s when it grew to the point, some of the members we have are from the Mainland and live here part time or just visit. So it’s been amazing.

How do you balance training with family life and work?

I get up by 3:30 in the morning and I get to the gym by 5 and I’ll do some gym workout from 5 to 6 and then I’ll do my run from 6 to 7 or 7:30, then I’ll go to work. If I don’t go to the gym, then I’ll go to the pool, but I can’t swim now.

My cycling is twice a week in house and on Sunday, so usually three days a week.

Do you ever hit the snooze button?

Sometimes, I do. But most of the time I have a race I’m training for. That’s why I keep signing up, so I keep moving. And pushing myself. I want to do this long term, but I also don’t want to stop and start from the beginning, with the injuries, it’s almost like I do.

Have you been on a bike since the accident?

I’ve been on it twice since the accident.

How did it feel to be back out there?

The first day, I was braking a lot. Going downhill, I was really nervous. I really focused the first 10 miles. I really paid attention to everything I was going through. But by the middle of the ride, I felt good.

What would you say has helped you overcome such a setback? Determination? Perseverance? How would you describe it?

I think I just have a really strong mind and I just want to keep pushing myself to the limit. I’m someone that will keep pushing what I can do and succeed at and I do it with my business. I go all out when I go into something. I don’t do it half. I put 200 percent into everything I do.

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