Liza Howard. Ultrarunning Mom.

Ultrarunning Mom

Crewing at Western States

I’m sitting in the lobby of a hotel in Sacramento scribbling on one of those tiny hotel notepads while my phone charges. Formula One is on the TV and the housekeeping staff is vacuuming and cleaning up the continental breakfast fixings. I’m feeling a bit wrecked after crewing at Western States yesterday, but I am chock full of stories. Here’s the one I’d start off with if I wasn’t wearing an immobilization boot and we were running together:
Brian, Chris and I met the friend we were crewing for at the Green Gate aid station, at mile 80. The shuttle from the Calgary Chapel Church parking lot dropped us about a mile uphill from the station and we hiked the rest of the way down towards the American River. (The podiatrist will be pleased to know the immobilization boot can handle some pretty steep grades.) We looked like a group of disorganized sherpas loaded down with shoulder bags, an ice-filled cooler, a folding chair, and a jug of water. Nonetheless, we outpaced other crew teams to the bottom — even with a mid-hill porta-potty stop. We’re good. (Well, Brian and Chris are good. The schlep confirmed that I need to start doing some bicep curls.)
We found some level ground, dropped the baggage, and then Chris and Brian headed down to the river to meet our runner. I puttered around organizing things for a speedy transition. Then the mosquitos and I sat down to spend some time with one another. I have not been surrounded by so many mosquitos since I worked in the Alaskan wilderness. Mosquitos usually bite the people around me and leave me alone (sour blood), but these one treated me like a tasty dessert. I would gone into hypovolemic shock if I hadn’t thought to stuff a windbreaker and a pair of pants into one of the bags we were carrying. (And, no, it is not easy to put on a pair of pants over an immobilization boot while you’re standing in your underwear in the bushes — just out of sight of the runners going by — especially if the boot gets stuck in the pant’s leg for thirty seconds.)
After I’d gotten my armor on, I had fun watching the crew to my left down beer after beer. It seemed questionable they’d be able to stand when their runner finally arrived.
I also watched the parents of another runner get ready for her arrival. The dad marked down each female runner’s time on a metal clipboard as she went by. He and his wife wore great matching crew shirts. Our runner’s parents also wore matching shirts — with a picture of their son from elementary school on the front. He was wearing medals he’d won in a race around his neck. (Yes Asa, your father and I plan to make matching t-shirts for some future competition of yours. We’ll use that picture of you walking around naked with a big blue bucket over your head.)
I did a lot of people-watching yesterday between brief stints of frenzied crewing. It was great fun to see the lead runners speed by, but the runners’ families were an even grander show.
Let me know if you have any questions about the race. We got to see a lot of the women’s race — everything except the sprint finish after the bear encounter.
Gotta get on a plane now and get home to my sweet family.
And welcome home brother in-law!!

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  • http://www.trailzenner.com Julie

    I bet its so interesting for you being on the other side crewing. I heard their was a bear somewhere on the last four miles of the course that allowed down some of the front pack of ladies. Crazy! I look forward to following your race at Leadville!

  • http://www.trailzenner.com Julie

    I bet its so interesting for you being on the other side crewing. I heard there was a bear somewhere on the last four miles of the course that slowed down some of the front pack of ladies. Crazy! I look forward to following your race at Leadville!

    • http://lizahoward.wordpress.com lizahoward

      Can you even imagine running into a bear in the last miles of a hundred mile race? I heard it was a mother bear with a cub that was growling and generally being threatening. The second, third and fourth place women all caught up with one another, and when they were finally able to get past, it was a sprint to the finish. Makes me feel fortunate to only have to worry about big snakes in San Antonio.

  • Lisa

    It would be a shocker to be sure to run into a mama bear! I thought for sure Tracy Garneau would win it like last year but there are always surprises in a 100 miler! I admire all those lead women a great deal and I can only imagine you would have been up there Liza!
    Did you see the interview Bryon Powell did with Andy J. Wilkins (I think that’s his name) Anyway, he seems quite fun and likeable but there is a point where he mistakenly predicts that a female might place in the top 10? And then he and Bryon had a good laugh about it! It was hilarious to watch this interview and fun for me because I could just feel the enjoyment these two were getting out of talking about the race.
    But then the indignant female side of me rose up: oh, so females can’t place in the top ten eh? Well, just you watch, next year Liza Howard will KICK BUTT!!!!! aaaaaaagh!! ok now I’ve said it. To be fair, at least Bryon interviews the female racers too. Do you sometimes feel like I do? or am I just silly? My husband tells me to “take it easy sister” when I get worked up and then I usually punch him and then we have a good laugh.
    Heck, maybe after my first 50k I should look into a 50 miler, what with all my passion huh?
    Happy healing Liza!

    • http://lizahoward.wordpress.com lizahoward

      Well, you should definitely do a 50 miler after your 50k regardless. :)
      I’ve actually come to enjoy how the female field often gets such short shrift. It’s pretty funny. (“As for the female field, I have no idea.”) Bryon Powell does do a good job, (I definitely remember the part of the interview you were talking about though!) as does David Hanenburg of endurancebuzz.com (for athletes in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico.) Perhaps as women’s times get faster, there will be more interest? Mostly it’s just people’s personal blogs right now though, so it’s hard to fault them for not being more balanced. (Not to say that Eliot hasn’t gotten an earful from time to time.)
      I see the podiatrist tomorrow. Thanks for the good wishes!! I am so excited to be able to run again.
      Tracy Garneau always had a big smile on her face when I saw her during the race — and she looked gorgeous. Impressive. Anita Ortiz’s determination and strength were impressive to witness as well.