Liza Howard. Ultrarunning Mom.

Ultrarunning Mom

Thoughts, foolishness and Aveos


Hello from somewhere between Washington, DC and Grand Rapids, Michigan.  I’ve got a short layover in Grand Rapids before I head on to Denver.  Then it’ll be me and a cup of coffee in a Chevy Aveo en route to Pb-ville.
I want to stop en route and take a picture of Mt. Gray for Asa.  It’s named after Asa Gray, the botanist, which is how we came to name the boy Asa.  (You thought we got it from Dr. Asa Buchanan on  “One Life To Live?”  Or OT King Asa?  Nope, botany all the way.)  
I can’t wait to see Mount Massive and Mount Elbert today.  I love those two mountains.  My teaching schedule is pretty tight while I’m in Leadville, but I’m going to try to get up one of them while I’m there.  It’s been far too long since I was leading Outward Bound students to Massive’s summit — wearing a helmet, tall gaiters, and an enormous pack.  I wonder what the FKTs on Massive is.  I think I might have dibs on the SKT in a helmet.   
Western States is just around the corner now and I was feeling amazingly stressed about it for a good while — trying to balance mom-ing and 90-100 mile running weeks and work and marriage.  I was a basket case by the time Eliot got home last week.  (The blogging suffered!)  I wasn’t looking forward to getting out for a run anymore. Mostly I was just glad when a run was over so I could check off the miles.  I’d wake up each morning dreading all I needed to get done workout-wise.   I wasn’t running hard enough, or fast enough, or far enough as the other runners I compared myself to.  A missed run was a stress-filled failure, — and not a lost opportunity to run.  I finally realized I needed to change my plan.  I took a couple days off, ignored my weekly mileage total and stopped following ultra running on-line and regained my sanity and perspective.  And now I feel about 3000% more peaceful about Western States.  I’m looking forward to running the course and spending time with two good friends who are going to crew and pace me.  I won’t be the fittest woman there, but I will have a great day.  I’m still disappointed I’m not more of a Martha Stewart-esque running machine, who can cheerfully balance training, work, relationships, learning, parenting, and ornamental chicken raising.  But, well, I’m not.  
None of this is to say I won’t be training hard between now and WS or that I won’t give 123% on race day.  I’ve just made my peace with the fact that other runners will be doing more — and that I might not do all that well — which will let some folks down and maybe cause others to judge me.  Honestly that was the biggest weight my mind.  I know that’s foolishness, but it was hard to escape it.  (I’m particularly good at recognizing foolishness — less good at escaping it.)  
So I’ve relearned that “running pleasure” is an important marker to track after each workout.  A couple of weeks of dreary runs means the plan needs to be reevaluated.  And this isn’t a reflection on the runner’s character, but in the Plan.  Happy runners run better.  And they’re also happy.
Enough stating the obvious, I’ve got an “extra small car” to rent.

20 thoughts on “Thoughts, foolishness and Aveos

  1. Gene says:

    Fortunately, running and training to your own pressures and expectations is not required for a stellar, or at least satisfying, run on race day.  Also fortunately, you got it right by the end of the post.  Perhaps the most difficult thing before WS will be a proper taper, which, in my opinion, is the most overlooked necessity for a good performance.  
    Enjoy Pb-ville.  Hope you get to the summit of one of your favorites.
    By the way, what is the definition of FKT and SKT as mentioned above? 
    I am antsy for Kettle.  The forecast is amazingly good.  Maybe we will have a higher than 50% finishing rate again.
    Like Bobby McFarren said,  “Don’t worry, be happy”.

    • Liza Howard says:

      Thanks Gene.  I feel badly about writing about trials and tribulations on this blog — which are few and far between in my fine life — because people are so kind with comments afterwards.  But the writing of it is useful and I figure it’s best to be upfront with the warts and all.  :)
      FKT is Fastest Known Time
      SKT would be Slowest Known Time if there were such a thing.
      I will keep my fingers crossed for Kettle!  

  2. Steph says:

    A pretty smart person very recently told me: “The more you enjoy it, the easier the running will feel … and the more you’ll enjoy it.”
    I know what you mean though about worrying about letting others down and people judging. It happens, particularly the latter, but of course those people that judge they can’t really be that important anyhow. At least that’s what I think!
    Also, a botanist!? That’s wicked cool.

    • Liza Howard says:

      You are awesome Steph.  :)  It’s true about the happy running — sometimes it’s just hard to feel it even when you believe it wholeheartedly.  

  3. Olga King says:

    Finally, you spoke some sense, girl:) We love you, and running, well, is for you. Although I feel your pain (or pressure), I still remember you running foolishly for joy only, and it was not long ago at all. It just fits you better. Some thrive on plans. You seem not so much. But you tried. Now, hopefully, the smile will give you all you ever wanted, deep inside, from the experience at WS.

  4. ATAlvarado says:

    You have taught me so much! I always tell Lalo that you have taught me how to be strong and dedicated. And not dedicated to my plan or cross training. But dedicated to what brings me to the sport. And that’s my LOVE for running. You always pick me up and bring me back to that principle. And it hasn’t been through your words, but through the spirit that pours out of you on our runs. Your love for running shines on all of us and motivates us all. Keep that focus on yourself and your abilities and let the judges be judges. It never feels good to be judged, but has to feel worse to be the person that judges.

    • Liza Howard says:

      Amanda, that’s actually sweat pouring out of me during runs.  ;)
      Thank you for the kind words friend. I can’t wait for our WS adventure.  I promise to keep you safe from any bears.  

  5. Domingo says:

    You are going to be fine. Taking time to rest is good. I am still not running due to my injury.

    Take care.

    • Liza Howard says:

      Domingo, have you tried doing any run/hiking like Galloway suggests?  It seems like those folks who use that method suffer far fewer injuries than runners who run the whole time.  I don’t know if it’ll help you as you come off this injury…

  6. Erin says:

    boy oh boy can i relate…. (though on a very different scale than yours, running-wise, i know the difficulty in trying to balance “it all”, and feeling like a failure for not doing it all perfectly)…let me just say that from here you seem to be doing a fine job!! :) your dedication inspires me and your honesty is so appreciated.  when i was so scared for my last race (just a 50k), i remembered that you told me to “enjoy it!” first and foremost…as you say “happy runners run better”…. and this has helped me so much!!
    glad you found some peace.
    PS  Asa is such a great name.  In Japanese it means ‘morning’.   :)

    • Liza Howard says:

      Thanks so much Erin!  And thanks for the info about Asa’s name.  I’m sending Eliot a note about that now.  (Asa was too busy watching Curious George at my parents’ house to talk to me this morning, so he’ll have to wait for the information.)  :)

  7. mtnrunner2 says:

    The weekend in CO was sunny, but cool and windy, especially on high ridges; I was glad I had basically what was winter gear: hat, gloves, wind jacket, pants. Then we’d get below tree line (and out of the wind) and would be running in shorts and T-shirt. 

    You can skip the helmet.

    Then again, maybe decades from now people will look back on the fact that we don’t run with trail running helmets as being barbaric.

    • Liza Howard says:

      I have to find a picture of our little group and our siege tactics on Mount Massive.  I’ve traded some nice gaiter tan lines for some good running sock ones.  I can’t wait for our day off on June 4th so I can go for a loooong run.  I’m thinking I’ll just hop on the Leadville course from Turquoise and go.  I’ve heard there’s no snow on Hope Pass.  Guess I’ll find out.     

  8. Tlischka says:

    AMEN! Thanks again. You made Kerry verrrrry happy!

  9. Amy says:

    Hi, Liza! It’s Amy–Becky’s sister. I just wanted to say (I’ve been lurking for awhile) that this post really helped me. Not that I’m much of a runner and CERTAINLY not an ultra runner, but stopping to reevaluate when you’re dreary or unhappy or dreading? So relevant, so true, so applicable to many things. So, thanks. :)

  10. Lalo says:

    Liza–Understand the pressures and thanks for sharing with us.  Your life has definitely been a whirlwind recently and you’ve done great to keep it together.  Just wanted you to know that whether you come in 1st or DNF, you will always have family and friends who love you the same!  You will always be our champ and we will continue to love to hang out and run with you no matter what.  Have fun and enjoy the journey!  Give it your best shot and that is where you will find happiness!  Really thought Kilian’s new preview video really captured this in 2 minutes!  Inspirational!

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