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The Duel Trail Race

Reflections on Pacing Leadville 100 Winner Liza Howard

“Pacing Liza was amazing!  By the time I ran with her she had about an hour lead on the second female and I couldn’t keep from being excited about the prospect of her winning.”

TALON athlete and ultramarathon coach, Amanda McIntosh, was out in Leadville to crew and pace for her client Liza Howard. In case you didn’t know, Liza won the whole darn female race (results summary)! A pretty inspiring finish for a flatlander debut on a mountain course. Ya think!?!

And between Liza and Amanda, these two TALON flatlanders have won Leadville three times – Surprise!

To get a unique perspective of the race at the pointy-end, Amanda was kind enough to share her thoughts on this amazing experience.

Enjoy!


I travelled to Leadville with my Sports Nutritionist and friend, Laurel Tierney. We would both be crewing Liza and I would also have some pacing duties.

When we arrived, Liza had already figured out all of the logistics of having two crew vehicles and three pacers.  She gave each of us a piece of paper outlining where, when, and how everything would go.

Car 1 would go to Mayqueen and Winfield (50 mile turn around), and car 2 would go to Treeline and Twin Lakes. Along with the race outline, Liza gave each of us flashcards with everything she wanted us to have for her at each station and what to carry while pacing her. Her organization made our crewing and pacing much easier.

The Race

Liza was in the lead through Treeline (@32 miles) but indicated to us that her leg and foot were bothering her a bit. She took a couple of tylenol and continued.

At Twin Lakes (@39.5 miles) she and last year’s Female champ came in together. During the long climb and steep decent over Hope Pass (@45 miles) Liza reclaimed and increased her lead.

Mental toughness and running strength are attributes that would help her in the later portions of the race. Shortly after 50 miles she began to have stomach issues which caused cramps and frequent pit stops. When I met to pace her at Treeline  inbound, Liza was feeling pretty bad. For the next 4 miles I asked her to stop taking in nutrition and just drink water. At Fish Hatchery (@ 76.5 miles) she got some saltines, tums, and a coke. The gut issues subsided a bit and she was able to run at a good clip and make up some time. She climbed power line with her usual strength and finesse and then bombed down the rocky trail between Haggerman Rd. and Mayqueen in the dark.

Pacing Liza was amazing! By the time I ran with her she had about an hour lead on the second female and I couldn’t keep from being excited about the prospect of her winning. I won the race in 1999 and 2000, but it was incredible to think that this gifted athlete I had been working with was going to be the second woman from San Antonio, Texas to win this high altitude, mountain race. It was difficult to curb my enthusiasm while we were running, but I didn’t want to put too much pressure on her either. We talked, laughed and did a lot of deep breathing (stomach issues tend to make your breathing shallow). As we came into Mayqueen (@ 86.5 miles) I gave Liza a hug and let her know that I would see her a mile from the finish to run in with her. I knew she was in great hands with her next pacer, Tony.

The Finish

The feeling at the finish for me was overwhelming. Liza and I had been through a lot during her training, with an injury and balancing training with work and family. It wasn’t always easy but Liza always had a positive attitude and a smile on her face. She is a joy to work with because she is committed, compassionate, strong, and yet truly a woman and mother. She possesses all the attributes of a great person and superior athlete and I am honored to be her coach.


There are a few things that come to mind after reading this.

First, although not a complete secret, athletes of all levels can and often do have various types of stomach issues during ultra events. Being flexible with nutrition once things get funky can save the day.

Second, you can’t help but sense the positive impact a supportive and knowledgeable crew can have on an ultra athlete. All of this is not quantifiable and may depend on the athlete, but man, I think it can be huge.

Finally about Liza…

Watch out ultra world, she is roaming and hungry! :)

A big thanks again to Amanda McIntosh for sharing her experience at the Leadville 100. You can check out Amanda’s coaching site at http://www.amandamcintosh.com/ .

Be active – Feel the buzz!

David – EnduranceBuzz.com

(Photos: Courtesy of Kamal H.)

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

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