Liza Howard. Ultrarunning Mom.

Ultrarunning Mom

Bandera 100k report 2011

“She’s ten minutes behind you!”  That’s what my father in-law yelled at me around mile 42.  Five miles later “She’s eight minutes behind you!”  It was down to “Six minutes!” nine miles before the finish.  Sheesh.  There are worse things than running a 100k race with Meghan Arbogast and Pam Smith gaining on you each mile, but they certainly didn’t come to mind yesterday afternoon 50 miles into the race.  (Giardia?  Giant silverfish?) I really wanted Meghan and Pam to pass me and get it over with.  I can keep things in proper perspective like a good adult, but it’s nice to have a little time cushion for that perspective to kick in before you’re socializing at the finish line.  Right?

In case you’re unfamiliar with Pam and Meghan, they are very (very!) fast and strong runners.  (Oh, and wonderfully nice too.)  Pam ran a 6:57 at the JFK 50 and, among other amazing feats, I think Meghan’s marathon time is 2:45 or something crazy like that.  That’s a 6:17 pace.  I think I ran that pace once for 5 miles — and then laid around on the couch for the rest of the day.  The only thing I had going for me at Bandera was the rocks.  I’ve learned how to careen down them at a good clip.  (Utterly, utterly useless skill most days of the year.)  My feet felt solid all day yesterday and I was thankful for every rock — though I did almost take out two 50k runners who didn’t get the implied “I’m totally out of control!” when I hollered “Coming down behind you!”  If the last miles hadn’t been quintessential Bandera, (a friend describes some of the downhills as the “place rocks go to die”), Pam and Meghan would have left me in the dust — trying to keep things in proper perspective.  :)

Bandera is a hard course.  It’s hard because, ultimately, it’s all runnable.  There are a fair amount of smooth, flat trails that you can run as fast as you want to.  And the hills are steep and rocky, but they’re short and you can push up them pretty quickly.  The technical downhill running is challenging, but you can run down that quickly too if you’ve practiced.  Every time I stopped to hike a hill or slowed my pace, I thought, “Come on, you should go faster.”  (Then I thought, “Oh SHUT up!”)  I was just on the edge of being out of breath the entire race and I just really wanted some section that would justify a rest.  Couple that with the speedy ladies who kept gaining on me and I was really racing the entire time.  And, I’ve got to say, I don’t like racing.  I don’t like thinking about how fast other people are running.  I don’t like thinking about how I’ll deal with the let down of being passed.  I don’t like having to open and suck down gels while I’m careening out of control downhill.  I’d like to stop and take a gel like a civilized person.   I think racing is good for me.  (Working hard is good.  Learning to be more at peace is good.  Blah-di-blah.)  But it feels like it’s good in the way drinking castor oil is good.

Ok, storytime.  I know some folks will write a mile-by-mile, blow-by-blow of the race, and I’m looking forward to reading those accounts a lot, but I’m just not excited about writing something like that myself.  I’m really happy to answer any questions though; I’m chock full of geeky thoughts about different sections of the course.

So I ran with this fellow from Alabama for a good number of miles.  He was shirtless and small short-ed and, when I mentioned how hot it felt, he said, “Yeah, I’ll have to strip down to my speedo soon.”  I honestly wasn’t sure if he was joking or not, so I didn’t know how to respond.  (“Oh yeah, speedos are great.”)  I did want to see someone make their way through the sotol cactus in the trail in a speedo though.  (I also like to drown kittens.)  There were some pretty scratched and bloody legs at the end of the race.  Sotol exfoliation.  I’d have taken pictures for you, but I was too busy looking for places to vomit.  I only got to chat with folks for a while before I was relegated to lying in a ball in the back seat of my small car with a plastic bag in my hand.  Eating gels for hours at a time is surprisingly hard on my stomach.

But, back to nakedness…  I had no intention of running this race in a sports bra (Check this post if this seems like an odd topic), but it felt really hot midday and I worried about overheating.  So I ducked behind a tree, threw vanity to the wind, and pulled off my shirt.  I was much more comfortable and was feeling pretty good about my decreased self-conceit, until I looked down and noticed the effects of my low-riding compression tights on my belly.  I am fairly sure this was not documented in a photograph.  Thankfully it clouded up and cooled down soon afterwards and my crew was quick to respond to my call for a shirt when I ran into the next aid station.

My friend David helped crew for me and he told me later that some of the people at the aid stations assumed he was my husband.  (Probably because I was so kind and sweet to him when I asked for gel and water refills.) David’s still in college.  Sadly he did not think to respond, “Yeah, I’ve always been attracted to much older, grouchy women.”  He was a prince all day and Eliot and I are blessed to have him as a friend.  My in-laws also drove in from Houston for the race.  They are wonderful cheerleaders.  Honestly, they should hire themselves out.  They know just what to say and what to ignore.  At one point, when it was obvious I was really struggling, P. told me, “I’m proud of you”  I can’t tell you how much those words buoyed me the next five miles.  I’m a sucker for “I’m proud of you.”

It’s late and Asa’ll be up soon, so I’ll leave you with this post-race image.  We pick Asa up around 9pm from a friend’s house and he’s bouncing off the walls with energy.  He finds an unopened Christmas present I’d been saving for a rainy day and opens it.  Amphibious remote-controlled car from Auntie C.  So there I am, 9:30 at night, salt still encrusted in my eyebrows, searching for two AAA and three AA batteries and a small screwdriver to assemble “Morphibians.”  It was just the right end to the day really.  Motherhood is nothing if not a direct road to proper perspective.  :)

And for those who are interested:

Shoes: New Balance MT101s.  They were awesome.  No complaints.  My footing felt solid on the rocks and my feet weren’t sore at the end of the race.  New Balance was kind enough to send me two pairs when I told them I was planning on wearing them for the race.  I am very much hoping this “supplying” will continue.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Socks:  Drymax.  Nary a blister.

Nutrition:  Gu gels every 20-30 minutes and water.  (And a liver-endangering amount of Tylenol for leg pain.)

Coach extrodinaire: Amanda McIntosh

Thank you to Joe and Joyce Prusaitis for this wonderful, humbling race.  Thank you to the gracious and skilled volunteers.  Thank you to Dr. Offenburger for the pre-race Airrosti tune-up.  Thank you to Team Traverse for supporting me and helping me run “for a reason.”  Time to figure out how to make this win useful, right?  Send ideas.

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  • http://www.footfeathers.com footfeathers

    Hi Liza,

    Super impressive race and equally entertaining report. I was trying to follow my buddy, Dave’s, progress but was pulled into cheering for you via twitter. Looking forward to following your success the rest of this year!
    Tim

    • http://lizahoward.wordpress.com lizahoward

      Thanks Tim. Promise to continue to entertain. Not sure about future successes. ;)

  • Mike

    Congrats Liza! What an awesome performance!
    While not asking for a mile by mile account, as I can make most of it up on my own, I’m curious at what point in the race the separation started to where you got ahead by 10+ mins, and if that was the plan all along?

    • http://lizahoward.wordpress.com lizahoward

      I headed down the rocks pretty quickly from the start and I think I was ahead from the first aid station. I don’t know how that lead increased or decreased during the first 50k.

      • Mike

        Thanks! I can play the rest of it out in my head!

  • http://www.ironmarianne.blogspot.com Marianne

    I am a friend of Mia’s and she shared this with me, this was delightful and as I sit here snowed in AR, drinking my coffee, I could imagine the race! I loved your comment about how motherhood keeps you in perspective!! you keep on running! Please come to Arkansas to trail run… you might have already!

    • http://lizahoward.wordpress.com lizahoward

      I haven’t run in Arkansas yet. Perhaps next year if my husband doesn’t throw me and my racing plans out the window first. ;)

  • Amy P.

    Liza! Congratulations!!
    I saw you come into the Lodge aid station at the 50k mark (I was volunteering; helping at the finish line, waiting for Crash to say it was ok to eat lunch, etc.) and I got so excited; you looked GREAT and super-strong. I hit the course to glow-stick mark shortly after that (was dubbed “The Glow-Stick Fairy” by one runner, who passed the moniker on to the Nachos aid station folks, who REALLY got excited about the nickname and took my picture with glow sticks), but checked your progress at the aid stations I hit en route. You were well finished and gone by the time I got back from all that excitement. Unbeknownst to me, I hitched a ride with the men’s 100k 2nd place finisher, D. He was incredibly humble and gracious to the point that I had to piece together clues about his identity from our conversation after our initial handshake and first-name exchange. He gave me his ticket to the breakfast – I’ll keep it forever :)

    Due to weather, course tear down was delayed until dawn for the simple reason that if it was going to thunder, lightning, and pour down rain, at least in daylight we would find more trash and ribbons and course marking materials than during hours of darkness and rain. Fortunately, it was GORGEOUS Sunday morning and clean up went very quickly and smoothly. Sorry I missed you out there! Hopefully I’ll see you soon for a recovery run!
    Congrats, again.
    ALP

    • http://lizahoward.wordpress.com lizahoward

      Oh, I wish I’d seen you at the 50k point. Come to Freetails Thursday if you can. And definitely a run together soon.

  • Emily

    Loved reading the update, Liza. I’m also a huge sucker for “I’m proud of you”. Because I love hearing it I also try doling it out to others…so from another wife and mother of a three year old who wonders how the hell you manage it all so well, I’m proud of you!

    • http://lizahoward.wordpress.com lizahoward

      Just made my day. :)

  • Todd

    Congratulations on a well run race. While there were some fast women, they probably weren’t prepared to fully leverage their speed on those rocks. And I’m sure everyone who reads your blog, myself included, are indeed very proud of you!

    • http://lizahoward.wordpress.com lizahoward

      Thanks Todd!

  • Chris R.

    Great report Liza! I agree with your comment about Bandera being hard because ultimately its runnable. If you do run it all your body definitely pays a price. I’m curious, what are your favorite and least favorite sections of the course?

    • http://lizahoward.wordpress.com lizahoward

      I’ve thought about this a while Chris and it’s hard. I love the views you get of the hill country out there — so anytime I’m in the high up places, I’m happy. I like the Sisters. Least favorite is easy: Any of the long flat sections of hard-packed dirt. They really make my leg ache.

  • http://www.trailzenner.com Julie

    After you run in Arkansas, please come to Oklahoma for a trail race. : )

    You rock! I had a feeling you were going to win and break the course record, but WOW..you smashed it!

    What are your racing plans/schedule for 2011? (besides WS, which you now have a spot for!) Ya know, Cross Timbers, the “oldest trail race in Texas” is coming up on February 19th. They have a 50 miler…. Just sayin’! ; ) Would love to see you there!

    • http://lizahoward.wordpress.com lizahoward

      Hey Julie,
      I’m going to do Rocky on February 5th. I cannot believe it’s so close. I want to do Cross Timbers someday, but I know I’ll be worthless for a while after Rocky. That said, I’m planning to run the Nueces 50 at the beginning of March. It’s just so close to San Antonio, and in such a gorgeous place…I feel like I have to do it. I’d like to do Leadville again and see what I can do if I’m not ducking behind a tree every mile. We’ll see. Western and Leadville and anything out of state will depend on getting some help with funding. Expensive hobby!

  • kerry

    Congrats, again! I wish I could have been there to say “I’m proud of you” in person, but there’s nothing like it coming from family, anyway!

    WS! And looks like you’re already planning Leadville. Only 2 more races added would make it the slam! Just sayin’! ;)

    Ok, now the selfish part… With Bandera done (and blown away!) how about write us the “how I licked PF” post? I don’t mean a sweeping summary, which you’ve already said you don’t want to write. Just geek out for us PF geeks on the turning point and recovery. Airrosti website says it is a “best practices” method, so I don’t see how it could possibly do in 2 or so visits=hours what it looks like may take me 3 years with Active Release and so on. But maybe you were not starting from my deficit. What did they do to your feet in those one-hour visits, how could you possibly have continued training during treatment, etc, etc, etc. Inquiring geeky minds want to know! Plus, I definitely think this blog is one big way you are already making your experience “useful” to others.

    Thanks in advance, and if you’re too busy with Morphibians to get to this for awhile, well, you’re still great anyway!

    • http://lizahoward.wordpress.com lizahoward

      The Morphibians is darn cool, but I will tear myself away and write a PF post. :) And a Slam would have to wait until I’m older and faster and Asa is in school full-time. :)

    • http://lizahoward.wordpress.com lizahoward

      Kerry,
      Serendipity. The Airrosti folks are about done with a video demonstrating their PF treatment. I’ll put a link to it as soon as it’s up. Also, Dr. Offenburger says give him call and he can answer your specific questions. (210) 441-2827. He’s a nice fellow. I’ll write more later like you asked, but, as you know, it seems like different things work for different people as far as PF goes. Airrosti is just what happened to finally do the trick for me. How it works makes sense to me, but that was also true of a lot the other treatments that didn’t work. More soon.

  • Domingo

    Great job Liza! Nice report. I wanted to give you some words of encouragement as you passed me but all I could think to say is hello when I meant to say “kick ass Liza!”. Which you did. Proud of you. You inspire me. You are one of the reasons I have attempted greater distances outside my comfort zone.
    Thank you!

    • http://lizahoward.wordpress.com lizahoward

      Thanks Domingo. I cannot imagine doing that course in huaraches. Amazing.

  • Cathy (Your Sister)

    I’m proud of you too Champion!!!!!

    • http://lizahoward.wordpress.com lizahoward

      Hey there! It was all that relaxing at your house. :) Asa asks every morning when we can go back. Trying not to take it personally.

  • http://miaphillips.wordpress.com Mia Phillips

    SuperLiza!!! Super duper awesome job! I’m at a loss for words when it comes to how impressive you are. I’m planning (as of today…but that could change) on racing in Comfort the end of this month. I’ll email with more details as the date approaches. I have a friend who may want to travel with us just so she can meet you :) She’s another freak-of-nature fast runner like you!

  • http://pancakeiscute@blogspot.com clea

    Loved reading your race report. I liked the end the best. I can relate….poor Jasper has endured many nursing sessions with me post run and salt encrusted. Babies and kids have no concept of being tired, smelly and sweaty. I just think of the non-stop activity as cross training.

    Can’t wait to hear about your next race. Enjoy some well earned rest!

  • http://www.gregsrunningadventures.blogspot.com/ Greg Luffey

    Congratulations Liza. I love your humour. Good luck at WS.

    • http://lizahoward.wordpress.com lizahoward

      Thanks Clea and Greg.

  • Anna

    woman, you amaze me! the good humor and acumen with which you narrate your life (much less your feats of valor) are an inspiration. i am proud of myself on days when i accomplish 1/100000000th the amount you do.

    • http://lizahoward.wordpress.com lizahoward

      Anna, you’re a nut. You’re my standard. (Not for being a nut, but for the accomplishment part.)

  • Steven

    100 points for an outstanding race!! +5 Extra Credit for not passing me! -10 for not drinking beer with me :( 95 is still an A though! Good times as always! Great to meet the other 2/3 of the fam as well. Take care, Steven.

    • http://lizahoward.wordpress.com lizahoward

      Next time I’ll try to postpone the desire to vomit until after drinking a lot of post-race beer. It was good to hang out for a bit though. I can’t believe I was even close to you. See you soon!

  • Thomas

    Liza,
    You’re a humble spirit and I hope you keep it that way. Somehow, through your recent many wins, it still seems as though you don’t know how fast and amazing you are! You put on quite a show for us and you were one of the talks of the race!
    Thanks for signing my shirt.
    I can’t wait to see what all the future holds for you.

    • http://lizahoward.wordpress.com lizahoward

      It was so good to see you at the end of the race. Motherhood humbles me daily and, if this morning is any indication, that’s not going to change anytime soon.

  • Tony Maldonado

    Awesome, Amazing, Humorous, Impressive, humble, and so much more! All this is true about you and you still hang out with and act just like one of us. We love you and are so very proud of you. I know I speak for all of us who are fortunate enough to train with you when I say “we love to see you run”

    • http://lizahoward.wordpress.com lizahoward

      I have a good example. And ditto.

  • http://www.runningmegleg.blogspot.com Meghan Arbogast

    Awesome running, awesome report, and most of all, awesome person. I really enjoyed hanging out with you after the race. I look forward to seeing you in Squaw! Let me know how I can help you out.

    Cheers,
    Meghan

    • http://lizahoward.wordpress.com lizahoward

      It was so nice to sit and chat with you. Pretty surreal too. Can’t wait to do it again in June!

  • http://endurancebuzz.com DavidH

    Liza – What an experience, eh? :)

    It was a real hoot to follow both the male and female race. You couldn’t help but feel the energy in the air as the front-runners came gliding into the aid-stations. Everyone knew it was going to be a special day once you all came through the first loop and we looked at our watches. A large number of eyes got bigger and jaws dropped.

    My family and I also enjoyed meeting the rest of Team Howard. A great team!

    Congratulations and Happy Running!

    • http://lizahoward.wordpress.com lizahoward

      Really nice to meet you and your family too. Thanks to Griffen for sharing!

  • http://the-poms.com/richard Pommers

    Well done on your win Lisa. Most impressed – I’ll have to get some tips on downhill running from you, as I think that was my ‘downfall’ so to speak, at Leadville! Great write-up as well – very entertaining.
    All the best for the rest of the year.
    Richard

    • http://lizahoward.wordpress.com lizahoward

      Thanks so much Richard. Rock running is really all we have down here in San Antonio, so eventually you get faster at it. There’s still quite a bit of falling though. I hope you’re hip is healing well. I really enjoy your writing.

  • njk123

    Great race report! So honest and real. As someone who is not so speedy on the trails, it’s refreshing to read that it’s not necessarily easy for you speedy ones. Sometimes it seems that only the good side of running and races is portrayed in blogs so it is refreshing to read about the reality of a race. Congrats on a great race!

    • http://lizahoward.wordpress.com lizahoward

      More “Wow, I felt awful.” reports to come, I’m sure. ;)

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  • Heidi

    Congratulations! My husband and I were rooting for you on Saturday. I caught a glimps of you leaving the crossroads aide station (was waiting to crew for my hubby) and got to holler out a “good job!” :) Thank you for helping my husband make a very special Christmas present for me. He actually scrapbooked (yes I cried) encouraging words from other runners and quotes about running. Love the blog…well written and so funny!

    • http://lizahoward.wordpress.com lizahoward

      True love is a man who will scrap book for you. Hope our paths cross again at a race soon.

  • http://www.theturtlepath.blogspot.com Pam

    Liza – Congratulations! What a stellar race! Your agility with the rocks was truly impressive. Also, congrats on WS! So glad you will get a chance after being injured last year.

    My parents have a house (and hot tub!)about 30 minutes outside of Auburn and you are more than welcome to stay with us there after the race if you want a free bed. Plenty of couch/floorspace for crew, too. E-mail me if you want more info (like if we are serial killers or not).

    Congrats again! See you in June. -pam

    • http://lizahoward.wordpress.com lizahoward

      Thanks so much Pam and Oooh! Will be in touch.

  • http://www.coachamanda.com Amanda McIntosh

    Liza,
    You are doing all the right things and it is really paying off for you!!!
    Awesome job girl. It’s an honor to be your coach!!!!!

  • Lisa Connors

    You are an inspiration to us all cuz!