Lessons learned at the Nueces 50 miler

Lesson 1:  If a race director provides directions to a race, use them.

Chris and I left San Antonio around 2:45am with plenty of time to get to the race and do a bit of pre-race puttering.  We’d both looked at Joe’s directions on the race website and knew where we were headed.  I decided to plug the address into my phone’s GPS just to make sure we didn’t miss the turn onto the dirt road heading out to Camp Eagle.  I didn’t notice at 2:45am that the GPS’s route to Hackberry Road was slightly different than Joe’s route there.  Cut to Chris and I sitting in his truck 8 miles down a dead-end dirt road (called Hackberry) in the middle of nowhere at 5 in the morning.  Race start: 6am.  You would have been impressed by our calmness as we realized the rest of the drive was going to be “a bit” rushed.

“Huh, well, looks like it doesn’t go through.”

“Guess we’d better turn around.”

“Gonna be close.”


We made it to the gates of Camp Eagle at 5:45 after getting caught behind a very law-abiding driver.  Chris sat on 15mph-Guys tail, but he wouldn’t scoot over to let us pass.  Interestingly I had a similar experience during the race with a runner wearing headphones.

Anyway, I made it to the start line at 5:58, embarrassed by the rush, but pleased I could check off the Murphy’s law-type story for you all today.

Lesson 2: Make sure you are clear about where you want a friend to put your drop bag (if you are not responsible enough to manage your own drop bag.)

Chris parked his truck and just had time to ask if I needed anything from the green bag I’d asked him to carry over before Joe began the start countdown.  I said no and headed off.  Long story short, my drop bag with all my fancy nutrition went back to Chris’s locked car.  Cut to the mile 22 aid station where Chris was volunteering.

“Hey Chris, where exactly did you put that drop bag?”

“Oh, it’s in the car.”

After a couple of rounds of “sorry’s-my faults” on both our parts, Chris hiked back to the race start to retrieve my bag.  I feel very badly about rushing Chris’s morning and asking him to leave an aid station to get a bag I should have been managing.  He does not appear to care — because he is good like that.  Lesson 2.5: Calm friends with high levels of tolerance are best.

Lesson 3:  Keep the Immodium on you.

Instead of putting my entire immodium stash in my drop bag, I put one tablet in my pocket.  Yeah, me!  Without my GU resupply I was forced to use Hammer gels.  My intestines registered their disapproval exactly 6 minutes after the first gel.  But I popped the Immodium tablet, and that was the end of that.  I was still very happy to switch back to GUs for the last loop.  I heart those Watermelon Chomps.

Lesson 4: It takes a while to work up to being able to run four ultras in three months.  I am not there.

I had a really tough time during the first two 16 mile loops.  My feet and legs hurt from the get-go.  And by the middle of the second loop, I was feeling pretty down on running.  Northface 50 mile in December.  Bandera 100k in January.  Rocky Racoon 100 in February.  Like I’ve said, I think these ultras are a means to practice suffering and work on integrity, BUT there has to be a little fun involved.  If not, there are other, less gel-filled, ways to approach compassion.  I was working on a list when I finished Loop 2 of 3.  And then I took some Tylenol and everything changed.  I’ve never had the “back from the dead” experience until yesterday.  It was as if someone had shaken the dust from me and said, “OK, let’s go for a run now.”  I’m not sure what my splits were, but I wouldn’t be surprised if my last loop was faster than my first.  I flew.  And, it was fun.  There wasn’t anyone to catch; the guys were long gone.  So it was just me careening down the rocks — and running back up them.  I might have bowled over a few of the 50k folks I met with my happiness at this point.  I am really thankful — because I might have stopped running after Nueces and taken up macrame if the suffer-fest had continued.

Refining the system:  My goal for Nueces was to work on refining systems –especially nutrition.  I learned again that I need to find a better way to dispense the gels than using the little packets.  I’m thinking of getting a refillable toothpaste tube and using that.  I’ll let you know.

I also need to figure out how to take on a bit more protein during the run.  Laurel had me try a rice protein powder.  I mixed it a bit of water in a tiny water bottle and thought I’d drink about a third of it an hour.  I couldn’t do it.  Tasted like chalk.  I’m going to talk to the GU folks and see if they have anything to recommend.

I’m also still trying to figure out how much water to take in.  Rhabdomyolysis is always at the back of my mind.  With my feet hurting so much yesterday, I really wanted to make sure I was taking on enough water to help flush any excess myoglobin through my kidneys.  I realized I’d taken on a bit too much when my watch started feeling tight on my wrist.  (I’m smart like that.)  Fingers like ugly little sausages.  Happily water intake will be easy enough to work on in the Texas heat before Western States.

Asa just got up, so I’ll leave off for now.  Here is Olga’s e-mail about the race results if they’re not up yet.

Jason in 6:28, Dave james (2nd from bandera) got second (again, 6:43), Jason Bryant (La Sportiva guy) 3rd, Steve Moore (one and only) kicked ass in 7-flat, picking up Jack Pillar in the last mile. Liza in 8:09. She wasn’t going to be even touched that day. Which is sad…we do need to bring more attention to Prusaitis races, esp. when it is a championship! For other news, Melanie Fryer took 2nd in 25k (guy, girl, guy, Mel all ran one minute from each other beginning 1:59). Wind was blowing. People were smiling. Ok, some were not…for a bit…but then they were:)
Good job out there, ya’ll!

And here’s a wonderful short video of ultra runners John Ticer and my hero, Meghan Arbogast.  (Asa’s hero is Ticer because he’s a fireman.)

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15 Responses to Lessons learned at the Nueces 50 miler

  1. Steve says:

    Great post, I enjoy your blog and your humor. Thanks for sharing the video, very cool.

  2. footfeathers says:

    Well done! Stay away from those simple sugars; they’ll get you every time. Regardless of what you write, you are a racing machine. You could take the next 10 months off and be candidate for female ultra runner of the year.
    Enjoy the rest.

  3. Paige T. says:

    Phew, thank goodness you got that ‘back from the dead’ kick when you did…I’m guessing macrame just wouldn’t cut it for you! Great work out there, especially considering the Murphy’s Law-ing that was going on beforehand, wow. Just reading about the drive to the race had me anxious!

  4. Olga says:

    I should have walked in my flip-flops and get a payday for a second. But I enjoyed playing devil’s advocat so much more! When the first loop was run in 2:00 by a collegiate miler without a bottle, the chat between Alyson Bryant, Joe P. and myself hasn’t stopped till he dropped after 2nd loop. Dave James was dooped because he went for a chase. Bummer, because I yelled to him (in case he had bad ears from the chase) that the dude (Chris) up front will drop, my word. I know what I am talking about.
    Yay, Immodium! I never leave for a race without having it – and Ibuprofen – in my pocket. Which I used today at my half-marathon (yep, Big Chris was right, I am going backwards, I ran a 13M race…). BTW, having Chris as a friend, who seems to never be pushed out of his calm big self, is a huge plus. I want one of those…can we find big enough package to ship him for Grasslands, please?
    Speaking of big, girl, you need to loos weight! I told you I only bench-press 90 lbs, and you are, like, full 98, plus the shoes, what makes it a 100!!! Who do you think I am? Not there, yet. Ask again in August. May be after running in your summer 100’s will slim you down.
    (for strangers – it’s a joke. kind of.)
    And lastly, Asa and Elliot are so lovely, I want to adopt them. But only for short periods of times. Because when Asa finally warms up, I can’t keep up with his energy. And Elliot promised to start doing biking races – and I am scared of bikes. So, when you wore them down and they are ready for a nap, I can rent them out, ok?
    Love to family:) Recover well. See ya in 4 weeks!

    • lizahoward says:

      So good to see you out there. Wish we could have stayed to visit a bit. Looking forward to playing devil’s advocate with you at Hells Hills. Please abuse me at the aid stations if you run.
      I am not allowed to drop weight, but I think if you try to bench press me when I’m horizontal, you won’t have any problem doing a number of reps. I’ll work on my core strength until then.
      Agreed, Asa and Eliot are lovely. See you soon!

  5. Derrick says:

    Good stuff. Great post and race.

    You might want to try these soft flasks… http://www.hydrapak.com/store-2/#ecwid:category=632580&mode=product&product=2526111

    Regular plastic flasks work well too and there are some clip-on ones that are easier to get in and out of.

    • lizahoward says:

      That Hydrapack soft flask is perfect. Thank you so much for the information! My good friend sent me their vest and I’ve been wearing it ever since. I wish I’d taken some time to explore their website a bit more before now.

  6. Kat says:

    The Golandos are very proud of you, Liza! You completely ROCK!!

  7. Lisa says:

    Yay Liza!
    It’s interesting how the written word decreases or puts into perspective the emotions felt by the writer. I mean, after I read about your mishaps- getting lost, the drop bag etc. I was nearly in a panic for you! You really seem to have such inner strength.
    Thanks for posting the video on Ticer and Arboghast. I am also greatly inspired by her and their stories brought some tears!
    Take care of yourself Liza and great job!

    • lizahoward says:

      Thanks Lisa. 🙂
      Asa keeps asking to watch the video to see Ticer backing up the fire engine and donning his gear — so I’m feeling very inspired today too.

  8. Pingback: EnduranceBuzz.com » Nueces Endurance Trail Run – 2011 Results

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