Rocky Racoon 2011 Race Report

I’ve got about an hour before Eliot and Asa wake up to knit together some memories from Saturday’s race, so here goes.  Please send a note if you’d like details I left out.

Cliff Notes Version:

Loop 1: Felt great

Loop 2: Felt okay

Loop 3: Felt AWFUL

Loop 4: Felt awful

Loop 5: Felt a bit less awful

War and Peace Version:

Amanda took me to a Walgreens in Huntsville to get some immodium the night before the race.  I’ve had so much “stomach” trouble during races lately, I wanted it on hand at the aid stations.  A solicitous employee asked how he could help us as soon as we walked into the store.  I had a flashback to the clumsiness of buying feminine hygiene products in junior high.  “Hi, I need some…(blush) immodium, please.”  Without missing a beat, he replied, “Oh, are you running tomorrow?  Right here down aisle 6.”  He went on to ask us if we wanted any superglue for our blisters.  Apparently he was pacing someone.  We declined.

Loop 1:  I’m pasting the teaser from yesterday below, so skip to Loop 2 if you’ve read that nuttiness.

I was feeling great the first 20 mile loop. My legs were light and I was clipping along happily with a bunch of guys. It was dark, so I didn’t recognize anybody. And, truth be told, I’m about as oblivious to the names, faces, and feats of most male ultra runners as they are to the women, so I probably wouldn’t have recognized anybody in the light either. EXCEPT Scott Jurek and Anton Krupicka — because you’d have to be living under a rock not to have seen their faces or read something about them. So there I was clipping along, feeling happy. I wasn’t sure how fast we were running because it was dark and I knew I’d take a huge bellyflop if I took my eyes off the trail to take a look at my Garmin. I started to feel like I’d like to stretch my legs out a bit more, so I scootched around a few of the guys — and found myself 5 feet behind Scott Jurek and Anton Krupicka. Holy Sh***!!! I promptly slowed down and let them vanish from sight. Oops. I wish you a could have seen my face when I recognized those two. I imagine all the other guys in the lead pack were thinking, “Who is this nut?” Ah, well, it’s a good story now that the end-of-race vomiting has subsided. 😉

Loop 2:  The running still felt pretty good at this point and I loped along happily.  The biggest adventure was navigating the frozen footbridges.  Some of their angled ramps turned into sheets of wet ice as it warmed up.  I didn’t fall, but I did holler “Wo-o-ah!!” quite a few times as I slipped out of control.  Generally I stuck to tiny mincing steps going over all the bridges even when the ice was gone and they were just wet.  I’m not very coordinated and it was easy to imagine careening off the edge of one.  Apparently some poor woman did — and broke her leg.

Loop 3:  Things kind of fell apart.  I’m still not sure exactly why.  My legs felt strong; I just ran out of energy and I started having trouble breathing.  It seems like each runner’s nutritional needs are a little universe of their own.  And I’m still trying to figure out exactly how many calories and how much water I need to take in and how often.  And my stomach seems to get more persnickity with each race.  The immodium was certainly a lifesaver.  The Walgreen’s modesty disappeared I had no problem hollering out “Immodium NOW!!” at Eliot as I ran into the aid stations.  (Eliot is a prince.)  I think part of the problem was that I drank too much water and got hyponatremic.  I was a big sausage at the end of the race.  The breathing issues, on the other hand, were pretty straightforward.  My sports bra was too tight.  That’s right.  Okay, I know you’re not supposed to use new gear during a race, but it was a sports bra for gosh sakes.  I’ve been wearing them for quite a while and I thought I had a good handle on “this one fits.”  Apparently not.  I realized I was taking these really shallow breaths and it dawned on me that my bra was really tight.  I ran into the Dam Road aid station and asked the guy filling my water bottle if they had any scissors.  He said he thought so and I told him to have them ready for me when I came back through in six miles.  He did and I proceeded to ask a nice fellow I’ve met once or twice before to cut my sports bra.  “Listen, I know this is going to sound weird, but…”  And then I leaned over and lifted up my shirt.  (I know!!) He snipped an inch up the back and I sped out of the station.  I should have had him cut the thing off because it was still causing trouble at the beginning of the fourth loop.  I passed Scott Jurek as I was considering my next move with the sports bra.  (Yeah, that sentence was fun to write.)  I’d heard Scott had just come to run about 60 miles of the race, so I didn’t actually “pass” him.  It still felt pretty surreal.  I wanted to say hi, but he was in the middle of a conversation with a fan about how his last name was pronounced.  (Fan: “HI!! Scott!! Wow!!  I can’t believe it!!  I’m running with Scott Jurek!  Now is it Jurek or Yurek?” Scott: “Well, either is fine.  Most people in the States say Jurek, but in Europe…”)  Scott couldn’t have been more gracious to the folks who wanted to chat with him during the race.  I heard one woman attacked him Beatles fan style at the Park Road aid station for a picture.  She screamed loudly when she saw him.  Eliot said he thought someone had been injured.  Everyone had good things to say about Scott’s demeanor, attitude, and presence during and after the race.  He made a lot of people’s days.  Very nice.

Loop 4: I picked up my pacer, Kelli, at mile 60.  And the first thing I asked her to do when we got out of sight of the aid station was tear the rip in my sports bra more.  Kelli has paced me on Loop 4 for three years now.  She is primarily a road marathoner — and spending time with me during Loop 4 has done nothing to convince her that running hundred mile races might be fun.  At one particularly low point I stopped and asked her for a hug.  She gave me a good one and we struggled on.  I also did a lot of talking to myself this loop, “OK.  It’s going to be okay.  Everybody out here’s suffering too.  Let’s get going now.”  Kelli was nice enough to ignore me.  We saw a fair number of runners talking on cell phones this loop.  Weird.

Loop 5:  Kelli handed me off to Brian at mile 80.  I told him I really really wanted to PR.  He said we’d do it.  Brian is an extraordinary pacer and friend.  He paced me for 20 miles Saturday and then went back out to help a friend who didn’t have a pacer for another 20 miles.  He finished pacing around 6am.  I just tried to tuck in behind him and keep up.  I also asked him for a hug, kept talking to myself, and added in some swearing.  AND I asked him to rip the sports bra some.  It gets better.  He couldn’t, so he had to ask for scissors at an aid station.  They didn’t have any, but there was a knife.  I wish I had a picture of Brian sawing at the back of my sports bra with a knife at mile 83.  I also want to hear him tell this story to his wife.  I like to smile and say hi to other runners during races.  There was no smiling and very little eye contact this loop.  My head stayed down and Brian and I just got it done.  I couldn’t have run any harder Saturday, and I’d made my peace with any finishing time under 30 hours, so it was a real treat to PR.

Asa and Eliot are up, so I’ll save the wrap-up and many thank yous for later.

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44 Responses to Rocky Racoon 2011 Race Report

  1. Marianne says:

    very nice job! congrats (again) truly inspiring, I read this today.. passing it on to you.
    “sports are more than just games. they’re about life, emotion, passion, and some of the greatest highs and lows we can experience.” unknown,

  2. footfeathers says:

    You are amazing! Next time, you can tell Scott how to pronounce your name. I’ve only met him once here in Boulder but have seen him at races and he may be one of the nicest guys you could meet. He couldn’t care less whether you just ran for 1st place or 100th.

    I’ll make sure to have my buck knife with me at our running camp in case we have bra issues.

  3. Domingo says:

    Congratulations LIZA! Hope to here your stories on Thursday.

  4. Brenda Bland says:

    Congrats on the great finish! Why can’t our stomachs (and lower) keep up with our legs? You looked uber strong on the course, I was rooting for you all day.
    Take care,

  5. Brett says:

    Congrats Liza! Thought this might be fitting “If you start to feel good during an ultra, don’t worry, you will get over it.”
    – Gene Thibeault

  6. Maryann says:

    Never would have known you were having a bad day! You looked strong to me throughout! Congrats on getting it done, and in first place!

  7. Lynnor Matheney says:

    Congratulations !!! Great race report!! (wish we didn’t have to wear bras)It was great to see you go by, you looked wonderful. You are as big of a deal as Scott but I don’t attack girls, sorry! ( after I made a big fuss over Scott, all the other girls at the aid station did too). Good job out there, you make Texas proud!! – Lynnor Matheney/The Woodlands/ Houston.

  8. Pam says:

    Congratulations, Liza! Way to rock it. We had fun following you and the men on our run Saturday. Getting updates was a great excuse for us to take a break!

  9. Julie says:

    I followed on Twitter all day. (Thanks Eliot!) Great job as usual Liza, you are truly an inspiration!

  10. Kerry Rodgers says:

    Very inspiring, Liza! Congrats on the PR, and hanging in there, especially. Thanks Elliot for the twitters–with pics next race? Next year, there’ll probably be TV crews in their helicopters tracking Liza!

  11. Gene Taylor says:

    One more Congrats and I really do love your blog. It makes my day.
    Gene Taylor

    P.S. Glad you had a chance to chat with my friend Brenda the night before the race.

  12. Olga says:

    I had that same bra thing once. I changed bra right at the AS. But then again, I often change anywhere I feel the need for it:) And I NEVER start a race without Immodium in my pocket – not after my WS in ’05. Miles 80-90 were ugly, and guys around me were disgusted (it’s a side of a canyon, you know, not much spare space to get away).
    Anyhow, Liza, honey, yes, lets go for a run – you know, you running circles around me and playing puppy, and me trying not to laugh too hard while panting! May be I’ll work on my track speed and pace you for 3 miles next year.

  13. Kevin says:

    Amazing job Liza! The race report was truly inspirational. I’ll definitely think about it the next time I’m complaining about simple ole marathon training….hehehe. Congratulations on the PR!

  14. Lisa says:

    Hi Liza,
    Congrats on another great race! Trying to track you down for a quick interview…Can you let me know the best way/time to reach you? thanks! – lisa

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  16. Lynn B says:

    OK, now I will have to take extra care to control the male volunteers at DamNation as they drop everything to form a line to “give you a hug/cut off your sports bra”…

    Again, congrats on a fine race and on overcoming obstacles and demons!

    Lynn B
    DamNation Captain

  17. You are absolutely incredible.
    I really enjoyed seeing you again, it was a race highlight!
    Here’s my report 🙂

  18. Sarah says:

    Great report! I love how you asked for a hug from both of your pacers. Sometimes when everything is going to hell the only thing that helps is a hug.
    As a sidelight. I usually take the immodium prerace because once you feel sick it’s already too late. I’m actually going to try using Vespa this year because of the horrible reaction I have to using too many gels at races. Have you ever thought of using it. I’ve heard that people with GI issues like us have good success with it.

  19. Paige T. says:

    The sports bra debacle is pretty hilarious, lol!

    Wow, great race!! And congrats on snagging that PR!

  20. Norma says:

    Congratulations, Liza! First Place – absolutely wonderful! You deserve some good sleep and good food. 🙂

  21. Pingback: » Rocky Raccoon 100 / 50 Trail Run – 2011 Results

  22. Leslie says:

    I found your report from a post on RunningAhead and thoroughly enjoyed it. A great sense of humor and zest for life fairly vibrates throughout your report. Congratulations on your finish. I have only just begun finding my way in the 50-mile world, so am still always amazed at those who can finish 100 milers.

  23. Leslie says:

    *Slinkin’ back in tad red-faced.* Guess I shoulda started with the results page, ’cause not only did ya finish, but you were first woman. Again, congratulations, Liza. *Slinkin’ back out still red-faced*

    • lizahoward says:

      You just made me chuckle. I’m glad you wrote that first comment without seeing the results. It’s the finish that it’s all about anyway, not the time or placement. What I love about 100 milers is that when you finish it’s pretty rare to have someone ask where you placed. “I just ran 100 miles” is enough.

  24. Malea says:

    I was inspired by your run at RR. I was “running” my first 50 and saw you FLY by with a smile on your face. GREAT job! I went back out Sunday morning to greet those that finished the 100 within the last 3 hours of the cutoff. WOW! THAT was incredible too! I’m 54 years old and considering running my first 100 next year at RR. Thanks for showing us how it’s done! I plan on getting my money’s worth of the course! Any words of wisdom for an old woman????

    • lizahoward says:

      I’m so sorry for the late response to your comment. Somehow my original response didn’t post. Thank you so much for the kind words. My first words of wisdom are: 54 years-old is not old! Certainly not when it comes to fine ultrarunning women anyway. Do you have people to train with? That seems like the best recipe for success. If you’re near San Antonio, come meet up with the group here sometime. These guys are chock full of wisdom. Please do let me know if you have any specific questions. I’d love to be of help.

  25. Malea says:

    Thanks, Liza! Yes, I do have a couple of friends to train with. What I am dreading though, is training during these Texas summers! (as you well know!) I read an article this last week on acclimating, so I’m gonna give it a go. I’ve suffered a small set back this week with a pulled calf on Wednesday. Tried to mtn bike on it Saturday, and it screamed on the first steep climb. I bailed and pedaled in with one leg clipped in. Oh well! It is what it is! I’ll try another run this Wed. and see how she feels! Thanks again. If you are ever in the Dallas area, give me a shout. My husband and I are trail stewards at Cedar Hill State Park. We’ve got 12+ miles of beautiful trails! We love sharing them! Do you ever mtn. bike?

  26. Pingback: Rocky Race Report Preview -

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