2011 Holiday Lake 50k: race report

The Big Bonk

This being my second ultramarathon, I had three simple goals for the race:

1. Run with joy.

2. Take it easy the first lap to avoid bonking in the second.

3. Have fun.

Generally, I LOVE running. The miles. The forest. The people. Running puts a smile on my face and endorphins in my brain.

That is, until Holiday Lake  – the race that snuck up on me like a weasel and, in the moment, made me want to quit running for life.

The first lap was no problem. I made good time, and maintained a pace below my threshold (or so I thought). The running was smooth and light. I was never out of breath. I chatted with other runners. Smiled.  Laughed. By all accounts, I was on track with my goals.

PROOF. A smile in the following photograph documents me allegedly having fun and achieving goals 1 & 3:

At the halfway point, I ditched my useless hydration pack, which had deprived me of water for miles. The tube froze during the pre-dawn start and despite shoving it down my sports bra for a good hour, the ice never thawed. So I picked up my hand-held water bottle, stuffed some Pringles in my mouth and headed down the trail.

When I ditched my hydration pack, I also ditched the “crutches” I had packed to get me through the race. Gone was the Advil to relieve my aching feet. Gone were the Hammer Gels to boost my energy. Gone was my iPod to get me through the  doldrums. It was just me and the trail, mano-a-mano.

I felt good for a few more miles. The weather was beautiful. The sun warmed my face and visions of springtime dance in my head.

Then, without warning, my mood took a nosedive.  My legs seemed fine, but my pace was slowing with every step. Bliss was replaced with Misery as my spirit sunk low and lower. People passed me and I didn’t care. I tried to think positive thoughts, but nothing worked. I was bonking and the finish line was miles away.

When I crossed the finish line,  I wasn’t happy, per say, just relieved.

The Bonk lasted for a good ten miles, and I was relieved to be done. In retrospect, The Bonk was the worst AND best part of the race.  The worst thing about The Bonk was my inability to get out of the mental rut. The best part was my ability to dig deep and keep going. I also learned a Big Lesson about the need to eat more food during the race.

See you at Terrapin.


8 Responses to “2011 Holiday Lake 50k: race report”

  1. Rebekah Trittipoe Says:

    Great story…we all have races like this. Thanks for being honest. Another race is around the corner.

  2. Liz Barry Says:

    Thanks Rebekah!

    My legs are feeling good and I’m excited about Terrapin. (I still need to run that loop!)

    Logistically, I think my biggest problem with Holiday Lake was not eating enough food.

    But it was still a good experience!

  3. Rick Gray Says:

    Rebekah will get you around that tough loop at Terrapin before the day arives. Holiday Lake is unlike most mountain ultras that we run. First of all it is not mountainous. It is reasonably flat and fast. Based upon my memory, I remember following you up Apple Orchard Falls Trail at Promise Land. You are a strong climber, so you will most likely find Terrapin a bit more suited to your strengths. Work hard to eat more (I struggle here badly) and you will probably be just fine. The bonk will be back, but maybe not the last 10 miles of a 50k. You will run great at Terrapin. It is a whole new day and I for one am super proud of you for getting down and dirty with the nasty bonk monster.

  4. Liz Barry Says:

    Thanks, Rick! It was a good learning experience. I hiked on the AT Sunday, and was relieved that I still loved the mountains and started getting excited for Terrapin.

    Looking back, I didn’t eat or drink for the first 8 miles. The rest of the race: 2 Hammer gels and some nibbles at the aid station. That is WAY below what I planned to eat. Pacing is a whole different question. I probably went out too hard for my current fitness level, but cardiovascularly, I never felt like I was pushing it.

    Each race brings new challenges! I’m pumped to get back in the mountains for Terrapin!

    Great race, by the way. It was fun to see you at the turnaround. Was that a PR?

  5. jenny nichols Says:


    you ran so strong that first loop! I had a mantra: MUST. KEEP UP. WITH. TINKERBELL!
    I am so sorry that your hydration pack was MEAN sat morning.. my first ultra frozen sasquatch 2010, I had the EXACT same thing happen to me. also, I wish I had known you need some motrin, salt etc. I would of shared anything I had! I had so much fun running with you.. everytime I saw your skirt it made me smile! Rick is right, Terrapin is such a different animal. I’m more of a mtn runner too and HL was just FAST and no climbing ( so no breaks:o( ) I’m really excited about it! I love terrapin! and from the way you ran on the single track, I know you’ll LOVE it too!
    okay, so recover!! each time you run an ultra you learn something new! holiday lake was my 9th and I am STILL making mistakes ( I bonked hard at the end too) but it with each new experience is invaluable for the NEXT TIME!

  6. Rick Gray Says:

    Glad to hear you are excited about Terrapin. Rebekah knows that course like the back of her hand. Get her to talk you through it so you have some knowledge of what to expect, but hopefully you will be able to run part of it before hand. If your cardio was good, then the legs are going to come along very quickly.

    Thank you for your comments as I was excited about my run. I felt like I ran well as I ran hard all day long. I stayed focussed all day with no really low times, so hopefully that is going to continue as the year progresses. Saturday was not a PR, but it was very close to a PR on trails as I was only 40 seconds off of my PR for a trail 50k. Two years ago at Holiday Lake I ran 4:59:05 and Saturday I ran 4:59:45. I have nothing to complain about there.

  7. Christian Dahlhausen Says:

    Nice report Liz! Sorry to hear that your “crutches” wouldn’t thaw again. I did a similar mistake and didn’t keep up with nutrition. You made it anyways, thats what counts! Keep it up. Terrapin will be fun! See you there.

  8. Liz Barry Says:

    Jenny – you were cruising when I last glimpsed you with 12 miles to go! That’s when my decline began… haha. Congrats on running strong! By the way, that Hammer Gel you gave me was a lifesaver! Thank you! I hope I didn’t deplete your supply…

    Rick- you were rockin’ it! you looked great at the bridge when we crossed paths… congrats on an awesome race…

    Christian, Thanks for the note. See you at Terrapin!

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