Weekend Wrap at Inside Trail: A Party of Course Records

Liza Howard‘s rabbit costume was, uh, fitting this weekend at Javelina Jundred.  After months of injury (broken foot), recovery, and rebuilding, the excitement to race again was uncorked to the dismay of her female competition and all but three of the men in the large starting field of 100 milers in Fountain Hills, Arizona.  Howard scampered into the lead from the start and held the torrid pace throughout, crossing the line in 15:47 and eclipsing the course record by 1hr 24mins.  Brenda Corona ran a great race but was still over four hours back in 2nd (19:57).

Hal Koerner ripped through the seven loops of desert trails, holding off a pesky Evan Honeyfield all day for a course record effort of 13:47.  Congratulations to everyone at JJ100.

Around the world in New South Wales Australia records were being buried as well at the Great North Walk 100mi/100k.  Four men crossed the finish under the former course record time with Andrew Vize winning in 22:02.  For the women’s win (and 7th overall), Meredith Quinlan showed everyone how it’s done in 25:03.

Jean Pommier Photo: his blog

Of course, Western States 100 opened up entry into its lottery on Saturday.  One must at least finish a 50 mile race in under 11 hours in order to qualify for the lottery.  The aptly named Last Chance 50 took place Saturday in Granite Bay, CA.  Jean Pommier continued his fast wins, crossing the line in 5:43 (CR and PR for him).  For the ladies, Beverly Anderson-Abbs returned to racing with a bang, finishing first in 7:00 (CR).  Oh, and 89 people finished in under 11 hours, so they qualify to enter Western States.  They would likely have a better chance at beating Mr. Pommier in a 50k than getting selected to run WS.

Javelina Jundred 100 Mile Race Preview with Liza Howard

Photo: Event website

Finally!  Another 100 we can sink our teeth into.  With 384 participants, the Javelina Jundred has a solid depth of talent.  It’s been two years since Dave James blistered the six-loop course in his course record 14:20.  Last year saw Jamie Donaldson set the women’s course record of 17:11, nabbing 2nd overall in the process.  I’m not certain about Dave’s record but I feel good about Jamie’s record being eclipsed this year.  We’ll get to that in a moment.

Javelina gets under way at 6AM on Saturday November 12th in Fountain Hills, Arizona at the McDowell Mountain Regional Park.  The loop course is 15.4 miles, repeated six times reversing directions each lap.  A 9 mile loop adds up to the 101.4 mile total.  Though the total climb looks to be approximately 4,000 ft, the terrain includes several sandy wash areas, single track, and jeep roads.  The loop course lends itself to great spectating and easy crewing.  Ample food is on the menu with sub sandwiches, pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, along with all the staple ultra-fare.  Temperatures should remain comfortably between 75 for a high and 50 for a low.

The terrain. Photo: Sue Norwood

The event website is well laid out, comprehensive, and fun (even if the red on black layout cause your eyes to start twitching).  The only thing I noticed that could use some fixing is the outdated “blog/news” page.  It’s always a pleasure to be able to obtain all the information you may need directly from the website.  I’m always struck by the many event sites that omit important information.  It just increases work for the organizers by having to answer email questions.  Anyway, the JJ site is good, right down to providing the entrants list, which brings us to a very special treat here at Inside Trail.  Liza Howard, if you’ve forgotten about her after her early season injury, is returning to the race scene at the JJ100 and she is healthy, trained, and eager.  Bad for the other ladies.  Good for us fans!  Liza took the time (after some minor pleading on my part) to write up a preview on the women’s race.  My only regret is, like I told her, that her writing is so graceful, thorough, and humorous that it’ll be like Lenny (Of Mice and Men) trying to dance with Paula Abdul when I try to match her with my men’s preview.  I’ll get that out of the way quickly, so you can enjoy her take on the race.


Hal Koerner – Ashland, OR.  Hal has shown both speed (Rocky Racoon) and fortitude (UTMB) this year.  Watch for him to show us some speed again to cap off his year with a win.

Jay Aldous – Brighton, UT.  Jay is 50 years old.  Jay is faster than people half his age.  Jay just ran 15:06 at the Pony Express 100 two weeks ago.  If he hadn’t just raced the PE, I would pick him for the win here with a 14:45-ish time.  I mean, he did just come in a scant 18 mins (2nd place) behind Dave James (JJ course record holder) at the Burning River 100.

Jay Smithberger – Granville, OH.  This Jay has some speed too and, like Hal, has had a “character building” run this year as well (his 28:30 Wasatch).  He also ran 14:53 at Umstead 100.  He knows what he’s doing and could pounce for the win late in the race if Hal and Jay A. aren’t on their games.

Guillermo Medina – Santa Maria, CA.  To say Guillermo is a veteran ultrarunner is like saying U2 has played a few concerts.  Guillermo has had a prolific ultra career over the last 13 years, approaching 100 ultra races.  He’s only 37 years old.  I lined up with him (and Leigh Schmitt) in my first 50 mile race in 2007.  I bounded along with those two, leading the race for the first 20 miles before I realized that they planned to run that pace for the whole 50 miles.  I bonked and finished an hour behind Guillermo.  Since then I’ve been a fan of his as he methodically bangs out great races, including winning the Javelina 100 last year.  His consistency will pay off again.

Now please welcome Liza Howard, coming on board here at Inside Trail with her preview of the ladies’ race.  Note that she is too humble to say that she will win.  She’s my obvious pick, anyway.  Enjoy.

Javelina Jundred’s Women, Ladies, and Chicks

Liza Howard earlier this year en route to her win at Rocky Raccoon 100. Photo: Lynn Balard

Tim asked if I would write a short Who’s Who piece about the women who are running well in ultras right now. I agreed in a moment of insanity and then realized it was too big a task for an uneducated sportsperson such as myself. I told him I’d be happy to write something other than “And as for the women running, I have no idea” for any upcoming races he’d like instead. I sent along this Javelina Jundred preview because it was the first race that came to mind – as I’m running it.

So in case you weren’t in Fountain Hills, AZ last year, or following on Twitter, or you haven’t read all the females’ race reports, you should know that Javelina was a pretty darn exciting 100-mile race in 2010. And it looks like it’ll be the same this year. Jamie Donaldson broke the course record in 17:11, and while she won’t be there this year, the next four ladies will be. Take a look at their finishing times.

2. Brenda Carawan, 33, Virginia Beach, VA, 19:56:44

3. Ronda Sundermeier, 43, Tigard, OR, 20:07:14

4. Brenda Corona, 48, Escondido, CA, 20:20:41

5. Katherine Metzger, 30, Phoenix, AZ, 20:30:40

I asked RD Nick Coury about it and he said everyone was biting their nails when the Brendas, Ronda and Katherine left so close together on the last loop. (Javelina’s a 7 loop course. Six 15.4-mile loops and one 9-mile loop. Yes, that’s 101.4 miles.)

It was Brenda Carawan’s first time on the Javelina course and Nick said she started at a moderate pace and was able to maintain it until the end. She actually finished the last loop faster than Jaime did. Brenda wrote afterwards how coach Amanda McIntosh kept her on track for a finishing time of 19:56:44, 2nd place female overall, and 9th runner overall. You can read her race report here if you haven’t already. http://www.brendacarawan.com/race-reports.html

Since JJ, Brenda’s run a the Seashore Nature Trail 50k, the Rocky Raccoon 100 (2nd in 22:31) and her dream race, Badwater.

Ronda Sundermeier came in third and was “never too far behind Brenda” according to Nick. Ronda’s race report begins, “Beating my own expectations doesn’t happen often but Javelina 100M was so much more than I could have imagined… Racing a 100M is often the next step for many beyond just finishing. The word “racing” also has many meanings. It could mean winning, it could mean going for a PR or just simply putting your head down and focusing. That’s what endurance activities have to offer. An array of meaning for each individual and most of the time that personal meaning is respected among peers.” You should read her race report and her blog in general.


Ronda’s been busy becoming a Leadwoman since Javelina. (That’s where you finish five of the following events: Leadville Marathon, Silver Rush 50 bike or run, Leadville Trail 100 run, the Leadville Trail 100 MTB and the 10K run.) Oh, and Ronda also did the Grand Slam back in 2007. Bring your autograph book.

2011 will be Brenda Corona’s fifth Javelina and her times have gotten faster each year. Nick says she “could be going for a sub 20 hour finish this year which would put her in the top ten all time for the race.” Brenda’s run three 50ks and the San Diego 100 (26:38) since Javelina.

And Katherine Metzger, who came in fifth, is a local runner who Nick says has been “training for the race while preparing and taking her medical boards.” (Now I feel like a slacker.) “Javelina was her first 100 last year and she kicked hard on the last loop to catch 25 minutes on 4th place, so look for her to be a competitor.” Since Javelina Katherine’s run two 50-milers and a 50km. She won the Deadman Peaks Trail Run 50-miler in New Mexico on Oct. 22nd in 11:25.

Nick also says Alexa Dickerson has great potential to do well this year. It’s her 3rd time at Javelina and she won the Mohican 100 in June in Ohio. She’s a lot younger than the rest of us, but maybe that won’t be too much of a handicap.

Brenda Carawan adds that Badwater runners Jess Mullen and Cheryl Zwarkowski are both very strong competitors. And Brittany Klimowicz, who also ran Badwater, just won The Gibbet 50-miler going sub-10. AND Jen Vogel is “on fire this year” according to Brenda. She set a new course record for the Double Ironman in March, placed 2nd female at Badwater, and won the Great Floridian last weekend. “Vogel could very easily sweep the field at Javelina.

As for me, I’ve had a broken foot most of the summer, but I’ve been healthy and on the trails since August. I haven’t run 100 miles since February at Rocky Raccoon, but I think I still remember how. And I’ve got all that running in the Texas heat going for me…

I’m thinking floppy-eared rabbit for my costume. Carrot-shaped water bottle? Maybe I’ll just stick to getting these ladies’ autographs.

Please comment if you think I’ve left off anyone. A friend will be tweeting the women’s race at lizahoward1 if you want to see who’s chicking whom on November 12th. 😉  

Enjoy more of Liza’s writing about running and daily life at her site, www.lizahoward.com


Inside Trail Chat With Liza Howard

Liza cruising at Rocky Raccoon 100 2011. Photo: Lynn Ballard

Liza Howard lives in San Antonio TX with her husband, Eliot, and their firefighter-aspiring son, Asa.  Stop by her website/blog, www.lizahoward.com and you’ll be smirking and outright laughing at times being entertained with mundane observations of Lego construction, yard plant mutilation, and then there’s the running.  Liza is currently the USATF National Trail Champion at both the 50 mile and 100k distance.  Unfortunately, after those wins and her win at Rocky Raccoon 100 (in 15:33!) the last several months have been mostly idle ones for her due to a broken foot.  Now, after wearing her “boot” and pining for the trail while doing run-laps in swimming pools and spending hours attached to anti-gravity treadmills, she’s back to training and gearing up for her next race, the Javelina Jundred 100 miler in Arizona.  The Ultra Runner of the Year buzz has begun and her results demand attention even with the 7 months of inactivity.  Other accomplishments include: Leadville champion in 2010, overall winner (men and women) of Cactus Rose 100, and two-time winner of Rocky Raccoon 100.  The fact that she only raced the first 9 weeks of this year and is national champion at 50 miles and 100k is impressive, to say the least.  The lady makes good use of her races when she can.  With her return to racing after the long injury, we wanted to showcase this special lady with an interview.  Enjoy.

IT:  So, Liza, where’d it all begin?  Where does a petite, self effacing young lady who dominates races (over women AND men) come from?  How’d you get to this nice life you’ve found?

Liza:  Army brat.  Navy wife.  I fell in with a wonderful marathoning crowd living in Virginia Beach.  After a mid-course correction in life, I went to work for Outward Bound in Colorado.  I worked out of Leadville and Silverton and became aware of the 100-mile race.  Eliot, my husband, was my co-instructor on a 30-day mountaineering course in the North San Juans.  (You know someone truly loves you when they think you’re great even though you haven’t showered for 30 days.)  We moved to San Antonio for Eliot’s job.  He runs the outdoor program at the University of Texas at San Antonio.  I started working for NOLS and one of my co-instructors suggested we run the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim.  It sounded fun and after that it was a pretty slippery slope to my first 50k.  Then it was the usual story: I fell in with the wrong crowd and succumbed to peer pressure.  

Liza pacing her son, Asa, in their yard

IT:  Let’s get started by bringing people up to speed on your racing and injury this year.  What’s been going on in 2011 for you?

Liza:  2011 started out pretty well with Bandera and Rocky in January and February.  I PR’d at both, but GI troubles and wardrobe malfunctions made Rocky a bit of a suffer-fest.  I ran Nueces in March, the USATF 50-mile trail championship.  It was my fourth ultra in four months and it was “character building” for 46 miles.  I was happy to finish and happy for a break from running afterwards.  It’s hard to have an off-season here in South Texas because our big races run from the end of October through the beginning of April — just before the season gets into full swing in the rest of the country.

In any event, I didn’t run for a good two weeks while I worked a NOLS backpacking course in the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico.  I felt well-rested and excited to run again when I got back to San Antonio.  I promptly got a stress fracture in my third metatarsal and I was in an immobilization boot for two months.  It turns out my Vitamin D levels were very low.  I aqua-jogged for hours and hours and even had the chance to run on an anti-gravity treadmill, but I was still in the boot when Western States rolled around.  And I only had a few weeks of running on the ground before Leadville.  I was sad to miss running those races.  I was sad to have used so much of the family budget on the entry fees.  More than anything though, I was sad I couldn’t go out for a run.  Injuries are good for keeping things in perspective at any rate.  I was ecstatic when I finally got to join my running buddies again for a weekend run.

IT:  How’s your foot now?  What’s your longest run been since coming out of the “boot”?

Liza:  The foot is solid.  I ran 67ish miles on it over the weekend for a 9/11 memorial run with Team Red, White & Blue — on highways and country roads and sidewalks. Not a whisper from the foot.  🙂

IT:  You’re racing the Javelina Jundred 100 miler in Arizona on November 12th.  With two months to go, how do you feel for that one?  Think you’ll be 100% for it?

Liza:  I’m very excited about Javelina.  As much as anything, I’m excited that the terrain is similar to what we have here in San Antonio.  It’s frustrating trying to simulate mountain terrain.  I’m also a bit nervous because I haven’t raced anything since February, but my four year-old keeps me too distracted to dwell on that too much.

I’ll certainly be as fit as I was for Rocky come November 12th.

IT:  You excel on flatter, long courses, as seen at Rocky Racoon 100 (two wins 2010/11 with a pr of 15:33) but then you showed up to Leadville that climbs up to 12,600 ft. and took the win there in 2010.  How in the world do you find places to do your hill training?  Do you suplement your normal running with any strength work?  I read somewhere that you completed a one-day push up dare.  Tell us about that.

Liza:  My former coach, Amanda McIntosh, won Leadville twice and she trained for it here in San Antonio too.  Honestly, I didn’t do all that much steep hill work.  I ran some moderate 3 mile repeats a handful of times on a smallish grade hill.  And I did train on the treadmill some, but I think I really just reaped the rewards of my time working for NOLS as a mountaineering instructor carrying a heavy pack.  I’m a good hiker — and that’s mostly what I did up Hope Pass.  Ultimately though, the key for me was going early to acclimatize.  I was in town twelve days before the race.  I would have been crushed otherwise.  I also doubt I’d be successful at a mountain race with significant climbing like Hardrock or Wasatch if I had to train here in San Antonio.

I wish I could tell you that I am consistent about strength training.  I certainly want to be.  Other than a 30 minute core workout I do about 4 times a week, I really just run.  Obviously I think I would benefit from a good leg workout.  If I get to run any mountain races next year, that will become a routine.  Right now I’m concentrating on increasing my cruising speed for Javelina and Rocky.

The summer push-up challenge was something to keep things interesting between me and my co-instructor on a NOLS course up in Alaska.  I believe the goal was a thousand throughout the course of one day.  My arms would fall off if I tried that now.

IT:  You and I joked about the density of men’s thinking and general knowledge of women in ultrarunning.  Why do you think that is?  I mean, do women need to start winning races overall (like you did at Cactus Rose 100) to demand notice?  Seriously, what causes women to be overlooked in our sport?

Liza:  I talked to my friend Chris Russell about this.  We came up with three reasons.

1. Lack of competition.

Besides Western States and a couple of other races like Miwok and TNF 50 in San Francisco, the women’s fields at races just aren’t that deep.  I won by 7 hours at Rocky last year.  There’s just not as much racing going on on the women’s side; And it’s the racing that draws interest and coverage.  There was a good amount of coverage of the women’s race at Western States with its deep field.

2. Time gap difference.

It’s logistically difficult to cover both races unless you have a loop course.

3.  Ann Trason factor.  (Chris’ insight)

“A lot of her records still stand whereas the men are setting new marks.  If someone started shattering Ann’s records, it would cause notice.”

IT:  Even though you look like you’re in your late twenties, you’re hitting a milestone birthday this year.  What do you think about Meghan Arbogast’s performance at the World 100k Championship?  She lead the US team with her 5th place in 7:51… at 50 years old.  Do you see yourself running ultras competitively in ten years, 20 years?

Liza:  (Very nicely done with the intro there. Strong work!)  I think Meghan exemplifies what’s possible for female ultra distance runners.  She inspires.  I certainly don’t see why I can’t improve over the next decade.  I’ve only been running ultras for about 3 years now.  Maybe by the time I’m 50, I’ll be as fast as she is.  It would be pretty darn satisfying to lay down a super speedy time at Rocky right after my 40th birthday.  Good present.

IT:  Thank you.  My mom taught me how to soften women up (likely why I’m still single)..  Any interest on your part in running the 100k worlds?  I think you could do very well in that format.

Liza:  Roads.  Ick.  Perhaps with the right peer pressure…

IT:  You’re sponsored by New Balance.  How and when did that come about?

Liza:  I wrote them and asked if they’d consider sponsoring me.  I was running in their MT100s and I saw that they had “Outdoor Ambassador” team and I thought it seemed like a good match.  Happily they did too.

IT:  It sounds so easy but you have to have the results to back it up.  How has being a big sponsored runner changed your running?  Do they help you out with race/travel costs?  Will it mean you travel more next year to race?

Liza:  New Balance provides me with shoes and clothing and helps with race and travel costs.  This is huge for our family budget.  I would not have been able to sign up for Western States or Leadville this year without that aid.  Their sponsorship has made it possible for me to race outside of Texas.  New Balance doesn’t ask me to run any particular races or any number of races.  It’s very surreal and exciting.  I hope to convince them they should have me travel more next year.  (Me and my son and a sitter.)   Seems like I should concentrate on doing well at Javelina, Bandera and Rocky to make this argument more convincing.

I am also very fortunate to be sponsored with product by GU and Drymax socks and by Team Traverse, a local philanthropic group of runners here.  It’s still a net loss hobby, but we haven’t had to put Asa to work in a sweat shop to fund any airline tickets yet.

IT:  Speaking of next year, you’ve had a lot of time to think about plans.  What are your big races next year?  Are you doing the heavy early season racing like you’ve done in the past?


November: Javelina Jundred 100

January: Bandera 100k

February: Rocky Raccoon 100

March: Nueces 50 mile (because it’s right in my backyard and there’s prize money because it’s the USATF Championship)


Western?  Leadville?  UTMB?  2nd child?  Hard sayin’.  If someone would like to send me and my family — and a nanny — to France for the summer to train —  I promise to do really really well at UTMB.

IT:  I’m going to open it up here.  Anything else on your mind?  Thoughts on commercialization of our sport, like Leadville’s new owner, growth of our sport, DNFs, other nations nabbing wins in America’s biggest races this year, gardening or landscaping at your home?  

Liza:  Trying to understand what caused someone to drop from a race is an important part of becoming a better ultra marathoner.  I try to read people’s race reports with an eye towards anticipating problems and gaining trouble-shooting techniques. (e.g. have emergency supplies of electrolytes on hand for cramps, bring cold weather gear, study the course map etc.)    

Because ultramarathoning is fundamentally about perseverance, however, it’s easy to move from evaluating the reasons someone dropped to evaluating the person themselves. This is especially true when you don’t know the runner.  

“Why didn’t he keep going?  He could have after a little rest.  Ego too big not to place?  Why not walk it in and inspire other slower runners? Why not set an example for tolerance for adversity and uncertainty? Etc.”   

When my thoughts turn this way on a long run, my mantra is: Why-do-you-look-at-the-splinter-in-your-brother’s-eye-and-not-notice-the-beam-in-your-own-eye?  (After 20 miles that usually turns into a breathless: Stop-criticizing-or-you’ll-run-into-a-tree-branch-and-get-a-stick-in-your-eye.)  It helps.  I will say I’m rarely judgmental when I’m giving 100% to my own run.  100% effort usually fills me with all sorts of empathetic compassion. 

DNF-ing myself: I run ultras to practice perseverance.  Hopefully, with enough practice, I’ll have reserves to tap into when the suffering isn’t a choice that I’ve signed up for.  So while I work hard to avoid a suffer-fest, it’s still useful to me.  I imagine a DNF has a lot to teach me that I also need to learn.  I am working very hard to avoid that lesson none-the-less.  Perhaps listening compassionately to others’ accounts will serve instead.  

 PS. You should definitely stop running a race if you are injured and continuing would seriously exacerbate the injury.  

IT:  Liza, thank you and have a great race at Javelina and enjoy the rest of the year!