Liza Howard, 2015 Leadville 100 Champion, Interview

Liza Howard finished her fourth Leadville 100, took her second win, and dipped way below the 20-hour mark. In the following interview, Liza talks about why she keeps returning to Leadville, how her day-long duel with second-place Kara Henry went, if she’s pleased with her performance, and where we’ll see her racing next.

For more on how this year’s race played out, read our Leadville results article.

[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]

Liza Howard, 2015 Leadville 100 Champion, Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here in Leadville, Colorado, at the finish line of the 2015 Leadville Trail 100 Mile. I’m here with women’s champion, Liza Howard. Good morning!

Liza Howard: Good morning.

iRunFar: You killed it!

Howard: It was a good day… and night.

iRunFar: And night. It extended into the evening, shall we say? It didn’t extend too far into the evening. You ran 19:34. That’s really fast on this course.

Howard: My pacer told me he had to do planks every day, and if we didn’t finish before midnight it was going to ruin his record. So I felt a little stressed.

iRunFar: So you delivered.

Howard: Yeah, I did. Go plank!

iRunFar: First, before we start talking about your race, I need to publicly apologize to you. You’re my good friend. We’ve spent some time together including a week in the Sahara Desert epic-ing under a hot, black tent. I got so excited about my friend finishing last night that I forgot to run a video camera to record your finish. I just want to publicly apologize.

Howard: I’m sure I looked really beautiful. I’m so sad it doesn’t exist.

iRunFar: I’m so sad. I apologize.

Howard: Thanks, Meghan.

iRunFar: Let’s talk about your race. This is your third time running this race.

Howard: Fourth.

iRunFar: Ahh, this is your fourth time running this race. You have one win. You went 20:01 last year. Returning to this race, what were your goals?

Howard: I’ve always gotten super sick around Turquoise Lake, I mean, just horribly sick—like had a good race up to that point and then vomited my way around there and apologized to pacers and just again, and again, and again. My goal really was to just have a nice race.

iRunFar: I’d like to have a nice race.

Howard: I didn’t want to vomit. At the beginning of the road people are like, “Oh, what’s your goal?” as we’re running out of town. I said, “Not vomiting.” I could tell it was kind of annoying. “What’s your time?” “I really, really don’t want to vomit.” I only vomited once, so check.

iRunFar: You ran across the finish line and about 1.2 seconds later you said, “I didn’t vomit around Turquoise Lake!”

Howard: They were like, “How was it?” I was like, “Well…” That’s how it was.

iRunFar: Where did you vomit?

Howard: On that little section of Colorado Trail when you go from Hagerman Road down to Turquoise Lake.

iRunFar: I got to get it done. I’m almost to the lake. It’s a unique thing to return to a race over and over. You know the course. You know the epic-ing that’s possible. What brought you back again?

Howard: I wanted to have a good race. I don’t feel like I’ve ever had a really solid race. I don’t know. I worked for Outward Bound here. I knew people at the Outward Bound station. I hugged my old boss. I met my husband here. Leadville has always been just a special place. The first time I ran it, I won and I got the ore cart. I gave it to my son, Asa. Now I have another kid and I’m like, Ahhh, she needs an ore cart, too. So I thought it would be nice to go back and do all those things.

iRunFar: Ruby, the cart is coming back for you.

Howard: It’s for you, honey. You can push it around.

iRunFar: Okay, so let’s talk about your race. You took things out kind of fast which is typical Liza Howard.

Howard: No, I did it really slow. I did it much slower.

iRunFar: What?

Howard: So the last years I’d done 8:36 and 8:45, and I did 9:05 out to the halfway mark. I was very proud of myself.

iRunFar: Okay. From my perspective, a 1:46 first half marathon on this course… you were four minutes behind the chase pack of guys.

Howard: It was downhill. It’s cold. It’s really cold at four in the morning.

iRunFar: You spent some time racing around Kara Henry. Talk about your journey with her. You guys were together for quite some time. When you came through May Queen at mile 13.5, she was basically right behind you.

Howard: Oh, really? Okay. I thought she was ahead of me. It was funny. She was gone. So I was like, Well, I’m just going to do my best. Then I got word that, one, she was 25, and two, that she had never done a 100 before. Both were entirely untrue, as I came to find out, but it gave me heart. Oh, if she’s only 25 and she’s never done a 100 before I’ve got a chance! Awesome! Come to find out, that’s not true at all. She’s done very well here before. I’m glad I didn’t know that. But she’s a very, very fast road runner among other things, so anytime we got to a road section, she was just… yeah. So I passed her coming down Hope. She was so nice. She was like, “Good job!” and hopped out of the way. I was like, “Oh, okay.” Then I thought, because she was young and had never done a 100 before, Alright! I’ve got it! I’ve just got to keep going! Then at Half Pipe, we were running out of there towards Outward Bound and I looked back and, That looks like Kara! And…

iRunFar: “Uh oh.”

Howard: I saw a friend. “Uh, is that her?” He said, “Yeah, she’s 90 seconds back.” I was like, “NOOOOOO!” because it was all road at that point.

iRunFar: Yes, you’re 75 miles in at that place.

Howard: I didn’t have anything. I did okay on Powerlines and tried to run that downhill hard. All I could imagine was getting to the road here at the very end and having her go winging by, because I got passed last year at, I don’t know, eight miles out or something. “I don’t want to be second again that way! I’ll take it if it’s earlier in the race, but not at the end!”

iRunFar: Now while I’m puking.

Howard: “Please, no!” Yeah, it was really, really stressful. It was not fun. People would be like, “Oh, she’s seven minutes back.” “Oh, she’s four minutes back.” “She’s 12 minutes…” “No, no, no, stop it. Stop telling me.” Yeah, that was pretty much my race.

iRunFar: So when… it was at Outward Bound where she was 90-ish seconds back, so coming through that grass into that aid station, you must have been able to see her?

Howard: Yeah, well, I stopped looking back because there are these gopher holes and all in that field. Yeah, I stopped looking back. My pacer kept looking back. We just tried to haul uphill on that road. I knew I was going at 14-minute pace. “I hope this holds her off.”

iRunFar: “This is the running motion.”

Howard: Then going up Powerline I was like, “Surely she’ll have to hike this, too.” I just purely kept expecting her to pass me and then have to make my peace—Okay. It’s okay. It doesn’t matter.

iRunFar: You ran a great final split in from Turquoise Lake. I think you ran to the finish line about 10 minutes faster than I thought you’d get here.

Howard: I had a really great pacer. My first pacer got sick from the altitude, so then the folks kind of scrambled and put together a team. The last fellow, Peter [Maskimow], was just… some people are just really, really good at pacing. He was one of those people. It was awesome. He was like, “Okay, so if she’s 12 minutes back, we need to do an 11-minute pace because that would mean she’d have to do a 7-8-minute pace, and I don’t think she can do that.” “Okay.” “Run here.” “Alright.” So that was him for sure. I just tucked in and tried to do what he said.

iRunFar: You came rolling across the finish line.

Howard: I kept expecting her to be behind me. “No, gosh, no!”

iRunFar: Don’t chase me down on the boulevard.

Howard: She’d come sprinting by. “Nooooo!”

iRunFar: So you crossed the finish line. You win the race. You finished 20 or 25 minutes ahead of your goal. Do you walk away feeling satisfied about Leadville? Are you ready to put this race away and try some other things?

Howard: Yeah. I feel like I had a good race here. Maybe I could train really hard and come out earlier and do better on this course, but I had a happy race, so I’m totally satisfied. I’ll come and pace and crew and all that kind of stuff for sure because I love it. But yeah, I don’t need to run it anymore. It’s good.

iRunFar: You heard it here first. She does not need to run it anymore.

Howard: If you need a pacer…

iRunFar: You’re going to have 20 requests.

Howard: I’m a really good crew, too.

iRunFar: I’m good at sitting on sidelines.

Howard: Exactly. I cheer.

iRunFar: Last question for you: What comes up next? What are you racing this fall?

Howard: I’m actually going to do a marathon because I want to do…

iRunFar: Leg speed.

Howard: I know. I want to go back to MdS, so I figure the two key components would be being faster and being stronger. So I’m going to work on faster first and do the California International Marathon in December and then work on getting strong. I’m not sure exactly what that entails yet.

iRunFar: “I have this vision. I’m going to get stronger. It’s a very intangible thing. [Liza flexes her bicep.] No you didn’t.

Howard: I did.

iRunFar: That was amazing. It could be my favorite part of the weekend. I only wish we had a camera person who could have zoomed in upon your bicep right now.

Howard: This one is stronger because of my two-year-old.

iRunFar: “So I only flex my right one.” Okay. So CIM in December, MdS next April, and anything else?

Howard: I would love to do TransRockies, so we’re going to see if New Balance might help out. So if they do… so yeah, maybe Brandy [Erholz] and I could do that. I don’t know. We’ll see.

iRunFar: Congratulations to you.

Howard: Thanks, Meghan.

iRunFar: The 2015 Leadville Trail 100 Women’s Champion.

Howard: Yay!

iRunFar: Hi, mom.

Howard: Hi, kids.

iRunFar: Thank you!

Howard: I’ll be home soon. Promise!

iRunFar: “Maybe. Maybe.” No, she will. Thanks, Liza.

Meghan Hicks

is iRunFar.com's Senior Editor, the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running,' and a Contributing Editor at Trail Runner magazine. The converted road runner finished her first ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places. For more information on Meghan and her adventures, please visit her personal website.

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