Liza Howard

Liza Howard

Liza Howard is a long-time is a longtime ultrarunner who lives in San Antonio, Texas. She teaches for NOLS Wilderness Medicine, coaches, directs the non-profit Band of Runners, and drives her kids around in a minivan.

February 2015
« Jan   Mar »


Rocky 2015: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (and Gear)


I’ve always wanted to visit the Huntsville State Prison gift shop.  Four years I’ve come to Huntsville to run the Rocky 100, and four years, what with one thing and another, I haven’t made it. Not this year; This year, gifts were purchased.
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Yes, I know how to take care of my crew.  (They actually work.  There’s a little key just out of the frame.)

The Good:  My Crew

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Look at these people who came to help me run 20-mile loops through the woods!  This is the first time such a gathering of New Balance trail folks has happened.  You can’t see Brendan’s shirt entirely, but it says: “We Love You Liza!!!”  Here’s Eliot sporting one.

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(I forced him to put it on as soon as we got home — as a reminder — while I hobbled around like a 97 year-old wingeing about my sore legs, sports bra chaffing, and urine output.)  (One more side note: That’s a post-race picture up of the New Balance Trail Team up there.  Honestly, my post-race hair might be the thing I’m proudest of this year.)

So Pam Smith wrote an excellent piece about the realities of sponsorships in ultra running  a few weeks ago.  Companies support athletes because it’s useful to them financially.  And I understand that I’m in a business relationship with a big company,

New Balance: If you continue to run well, we will continue to support you running well.

Me: Sounds great.

But whatever.   They did not have to make the shirts.  (Thank you Brendan!) They didn’t have to do any of the bazillion kind things they did this past weekend — the least of which was standing around in a park in Huntsville, Texas for over fifteen hours waiting me to circle by every 3-ish hours.  They also certainly could have required me to wear a different shirt during the race.  It says a lot that they supported me wearing a shirt that promotes veterans’ welfare.  The Team RWB logo is a lot bigger than the New Balance logo on that shirt.  It speaks to the kind of people that work for New Balance and the company’s priorities and values.

Dom Grossman, Katie DeSplinter and Brandy Erholtz have become good friends over the past few years, and it was wonderful to have their help pacing during the last 40 miles.  They’re really good.  I can’t remember much of what we talked about because I’m still in a post-race donut-haze, but I did learn the term “An-twin.”  (Runners who dress like Anton Krupicka.)  I thought that was hilarious around mile 85.  It still makes me chuckle sitting here surrounded by unpacked luggage and unanswered emails.

Dom made this excellent video that I can’t wait to show Ruby one day.  (Honey, there was a time when my wardrobe included spandex.)

Dom did a nice job editing out the wailing and gnashing of teeth later in the race, but I’m sad he didn’t get the sports bra cutting bit.  Yup, so once again I had to have emergency sports bra surgery.  I just couldn’t get a good breath in during my third loop.  I don’t know, maybe it was because I wasn’t stopping to nurse.  In any event, sometime around 4pm, I found myself bent over at an aid station with Katie and Brandy on either side of me while Dom used a Leatherman on my bra.  That sentence…

Anyway, the surgery was successful, and I was able to breathe again — until Eliot showed up unexpectedly at mile 96 and I turned into a blubbering, hyperventilating mess.  I’d thought he was going to have to stay in Houston with his father.  Eliot, as everyone here knows, is a prince.  There’s no way I could have sports bra adventures in the woods without his help.  He is also much more sympathetic to my post-race pitifulness now that he’s run a marathon himself.  Empathy!  Oh yeah.  Or maybe it was the shirt…

The Bad:  The Race (kind of)

I relied on experience rather than training.  I’d hoped to finally run under 15 hours this Rocky, but my running was pretty well shut down in December, and I was only able to cobble together short runs every other day until mid-January.  The longest run I did prior to Rocky was the Houston marathon on January 18th.  And you just need those long training runs to make your body more resilient to the pounding of hours upon hours of running.  And I couldn’t do it.  So by mile 60, I was just a bag of sore muscles and bones.  I’m grateful I was able to run Rocky, and I’m hopeful being able to gut out 15:34 bodes well for my 43rd year.  Sure I could take it as a sign that I’ll never run 14 something and a manifestation of my decline into senescence,…but that’s kind of a downer.  Life is too full right now for that kind of gloominess.

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I did do a good job showing up to the start line uninjured.  And, since my profession is coaching these days, I’m proud of how I managed my training to do that.  Next stop: Carrying a 19-pound pack through the Sahara Desert for 7 days!  (Actually, the next stop is the Starbucks with my birthday gift card from Isabelle.  And then I’m going to finish off a box of White Cheddar Cheez Itz.)

The Ugly

There wasn’t really any Ugly per se.  I did hit Andrew with one of my water bottles accidentally when I threw it to the ground at Damnation Aid Station on the second loop.  And I vigorously declined Brendan’s kind offer of a headlamp that he’d run to get me.   AND I made my low-carb teammates share birthday donuts with me after the race.  Oh, and this was overheard at one of the aid stations:

Wife to Husband Considering Dropping: “Take the tampon out and get going!”

I’m told her later encouragement included the line:”Did your vagina dry up and now it hurts too much to run?”

But, otherwise, not much Ugly.

In Summary: It would have been nice to finally break 15 hours.  I will work hard towards that in 2015.  I couldn’t be more grateful to have had Dom, Katie, Brandy, Monica, Brendan, Sanna, and Andrew from New Balance be part of this adventure with me.  I hope I can be of use to them in their racing and work.  I heart New Balance. Eliot is a prince.

The thought from Running With the Mind of Meditation by Sakyong Mipham that I relied on during the run:

“One could say that life is at least 50 percent pain.   If we do not relate to pain, we are not relating to half our life.  … When we are able to work with pain and understand it, life becomes twice as interesting.  Relating to pain makes us more fearless and happy.”

And gear:

Shoes: New Balance MT101s and 1400s

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Socks: Drymax as always!


Hydration: UltrAspire Spry Race Vest and UltrAspire 20oz and 160z Handheld (The Amphipod in some of the video was borrowed when one of mine was misplaced.)

Nutrition: Tailwind and various gels and sodas  — I took in about 200 cal/hour.


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Brandy’s suitcase with all her running clothes back in her driveway in Colorado.

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 11.40.00 AMMe and RD Joe Prusaitis.

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Huge Congratulations to Nicole Studer on her brilliant run and new North American Trail Record!!!!!!


Comments 18
  • Erin Earle
    Posted on

    Erin Earle Erin Earle

    Reply Author

    WAY TO GO!!!!!!! I am so so SO inspired. Rest well. I love that quote about pain. Stealing it. 🙂

  • Doise Chew Miers
    Posted on

    Doise Chew Miers Doise Chew Miers

    Reply Author

    Dom need to work on his skills. That’s very disappointing he can’t use a GoPro and Leatherman at the same time!

    • Liza Howard
      Posted on

      Liza Howard Liza Howard

      Reply Author

      I will share your disappointment with him. 😉

  • Sarah
    Posted on

    Sarah Sarah

    Reply Author

    Way to go, Liza! I was aiding at Nature Center with Sharpie, Dave James, and Vince Antunez and somehow the tent didn’t blow away from all the hot air. The early morning runners were mostly on top of their nutrition. Hooray for good weather!

    • Liza Howard
      Posted on

      Liza Howard Liza Howard

      Reply Author

      I’m so sorry I was such a zombie when I ran through and didn’t say hi, Sarah. That is quite the combo!

  • Ally Speirs
    Posted on

    Ally Speirs Ally Speirs

    Reply Author

    Nicely done. I spotted the Ant-twin !!! There was one at Leadville too hahaha hysterical. Many congrats on a fabulous race !!

    • Liza Howard
      Posted on

      Liza Howard Liza Howard

      Reply Author

      Thanks so much Ally! It was such a gorgeous day to be running. Yeah, Leadville is rife with An-twins. 🙂

  • PoDog
    Posted on

    PoDog PoDog

    Reply Author

    Is there anyway Dom made an out takes video we could get a look at?

  • Isabelle
    Posted on

    Isabelle Isabelle

    Reply Author

    “Relating to pain makes us more fearless and happy.” Love it! & that’s so totally you, fearless & happy. Congrats on another amazing race. Looking forward to our adventure in the desert!

    • Liza Howard
      Posted on

      Liza Howard Liza Howard

      Reply Author

      Me too Isabelle! Bring on the heat and sand!

  • UltraPom44 .
    Posted on

    UltraPom44 . UltraPom44 .

    Reply Author

    Many congratulations Liza – a great video, but you make it look WAY too easy ???? (the write up belies the fact it wasn’t though, so you’re forgiven!)
    Hope the MdS training is going well.

    • Liza & Eliot Howard
      Posted on

      Liza & Eliot Howard Liza & Eliot Howard

      Reply Author

      Thanks! MdS training is just starting to get going. Please send any “lessons learned” or food suggestions my way. 🙂