When something bad happens, you have three choices: let it define you, let it destroy you, or let it strengthen you.

The heart of the difference is not ability or even talent, but desire

The purpose of life is to discover and develop your gift. The meaning of life comes from sharing your gift with others. - David Viscott

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

VT replies

Just read your story, you are a great ultra runner and I admire you for what you have accomplished. You really do run with your hart there is no other way you could have done it.
When I read your articles I can actually feel you pain and glory, not an easy thing to put into words but you always fine a way. Thanks for making me cry in front of all my coworkers
They think I'm crazy anyway.
I only hope you recover soon and are able to achieve your slam goal. Please keep sending these stories you are as good at writing as you are at running.
Gary Spalter

Olga! Congratulations on persevering and finishing Vermont! You are one
tough, strong, humble, amazing woman! Your report did a great job of
highlighting the contributions of all the wonderful people who helped you
along the way, but all the help in the world won't get you across the
finish line if you don't have enough mental and emotional strength to get
there. And you did/do!! Wow. I hope your recovery goes smoothly
(especially your poor feet) and wish you the best on the next one. Thank
you for continuing to be such an inspiration!!!!

Caroline Klug


You are amazing! You have inspired me to do those 15 milers in the summer heat and humidity. You tell the story so well, I was there with you while I was reading it. Your tolerance for pain and punishment is unequalled. I will think of you when I feel tired, or when it starts to hurt.

Good luck with the Grand Slam..

Dennis Burns

Dear Olga: I have little to add to all the things that others from
VCTC have said about you--but want to highlight your strength,
determination, endurance, inner fortitude--and wish I had had the
chance to get to know you better (as a runner and as a person--but I
think of you whenever I go to Rockefeller and will always remember
how you introduced me to running the trails in such a wonderful
place) before you moved west. But I know that running is something
that binds people together across the country, and I have the feeling
we will run into each other in more places than New York.
Bette Clark

Jason A wrote:
Amazing story!!!! What will power you have..with or without everyone around you. You said you ran for other people, but it came from within. You are very strong and that strength radiates in everything you do! Congratulations on a great race! two down and two to go...you can do it. I am so proud of you.........

Great report Olga!

And...you're beautiful as is...you don't need to lose weight! Just my opinion...

Joan Messick

I read a lot of race reports, and I've written quite a few over the years. This is one race report that was truly written from the heart, and one that could have been penned only by a true warrior who has seen the face of battle and lived to tell about the experience.

You are a warrior. Not a fighter in the traditional sense, but a modern day trooper of the trail; a crusader of ultrarunning.

You are the Bear. In Lakota (a Native American tribe of the upper plains states) legend, the Bear is a powerful animal, representing the direction of the west, the color black, and the realities & possibilities of change. The Bear represents strength, conviction of heart, and determination. The west also is the direction of the unknown, but the Bear leads us into that unknown with strength. It can be a dark place where we face our greatest fears with power.

In this Grand Slam journey, you still face plenty of unknown. But right now, you can stand tall knowing that you have conquered two of your four races.

I believe that your journey is not yet half finished, however. At the Leadville 50 mile point or the finish line, you will probably be "half way home." Wasatch presents a challenge that will take you to your absolute limit of mind, body, and spirit.

You have dug very deep into an energy reserve, but your bucket soon must be lowered even deeper into the well. The rope by which the bucket hangs must be stretched to its capacity...and even further. You might have to throw the bucket down into the well, or even be helped into the well yourself, suspended by your ankles that are held by your friends (your family, your pacers, your supporters).

You might have to jump into the well yourself when the situation looks most bleak. It could be dark and very, very scary. Self doubts, like the ones you experienced in Vermont, will only grow larger and scarier. It's at these times when your inner strength will be most tested.

At these times, the power of the Bear will lead you to the healing winds of the red north and the light of the yellow east. You have shown yourself and all of us that you have this power within you.

You are the Bear.
Greg pressler

Friday, July 15, 2005

Vermont was brutal.

Guys, I will try to be short, what is difficult as I am very wordy thus my reports usually go to a close circle of people who pretend they can stand them. And since we already heard many times how humid it was, how many people dropped and how everyone suffered, I'll try to just state my problems as opposed to describing what it felt like. Everyone was in for the same:)
My friend Greg Pressler said on the phone Wednesday before I left: it will be a test. I was somewhat upset. Vermont100? An "easy" one with scale 2 from Don's book? OK, I ran WS 3 weeks prior and gave it my all. And I was a smart ass and ran SOB 50k a week before (don't ask why, but I may come up with something like: couldn't pass on great trails and great friends) and was tired. But a test?
It started with flights. One delayed, missed connection, night at Chicago airport/no sleep, hardly making on time to NY and my car ride to VT (thanks, Nick Palazzo!). It all worked out.
The people. I lived in NYC for 11 years, 2 years ago I ran there my first ultra, and last year moved to OR. Looking back and wondering why I fell for it I'd say - community. May be NY doesn't have those fantastic trails PNW is blessed with, but it has not any less greatest runners. VT100 was like a high school reunion. They saw me making first steps. And second. And they actually followed my progress after I moved. I was touched to the bottom of my heart and so happy to see every one of them!!
Organization. I am yet to see an ultra (with about 30 ran) I didn't like, and VT100 and right there at the top. Food before, food during, food after!! OK, you got the idea, I am an eater. Fully stocked aid stations (including electrolyte drinks and Succeed and all you can ever imagine). The volunteers! Oh, my, they were actually thanking me for coming and running and making their life easy. Horses on the course. They were gorgeous! And their riders (mostly women, what I was curious why) and very nice. Always warning on passing, encouraging, and their support with iced water buckets!!! Heaven on earth, best in the whole day of heat and humidity.
The course. As much as I love high mountains, there is no question VT100 is beautiful. Meadows, hills and running through the backyards is quite something. The marking is absolutely perfect, there is no chance you get lost unless you've got no vision or brain (what happens, no offense). Dirt roads. Yeah, it's road race with trails, all right. I'll stop right here:) Weather. Mid-July in Vermont. What else I expected? Did I forget what it's all about in less than a year? 85F, 95% humidity, light rain for 15 min didn't cool nothing, you run in a thick of it. Biggest challenge. Rolling hills. Really, didn't bother me. Yes, it's either up or down all the time, it is NOT an easy course, but it's runnable. For some:) And walkable for others, if you start easy and take care of yourself. Do it. It's got to be in a book.
Race plan. Meant to run 22 hrs, but considering recent WS and attempting a Slam, told myself to be happiest with finish. Went easy, felt good, talked with Kristy (eventual second female) for 20 miles, after which realized good race is out and slowed down. At 25 hit the wall. Face flat forward. Stopped running at 30, walked to Camp 10 bear (44) toying with idea of how to retrieve my entry fees from Leadville and Wasatch and get flying coupons from airlines. Cursed decision to ever enter Slam. And run 100. Stomach didn't process anything, including water. Dropped 5 lbs at first medical for the first time in my life (hmm, may be it's not a bad thing, I need to loose weight). Started to worry about been pulled off. Set for 10 min to recoup. Talked to Dot and my pacer Liz Kellogg, they kicked me out with notion I can walk it in under cut offs. I walked and ran some downhills on the loop. Second came heel bone bruises - I am a trail runner, haven't seen roads in a year, a heel striker (and not a light one) and wore road shoes that were 1 year old. Tried to land on toes while running down (weird feeling)- got egg size blisters on balls of my feet. Tried to land on the outside of my feet - got blisters there, ankle problems and shin splints. Lost spirit. There were some nicest people at the aid stations on the loop (and in between) who acknowledged I always smile. By mile 60 I had to admit it's for them, I swear when I am alone. Camp 10 Bear outbound - 6:50 pm. Slight chance of 24 on a horizon, but not important. I tell Liz I'll walk for the next hour and decide if I am capable of any other movement. Drink soup - finally!! It actually settles in. I guess the sun is down, though humidity is still unbearable (gentle West coast gal I turned into). Chafed at all the parts I don't even want to describe. Walking. Great company!! Besides Liz the pacer, we play tag with Liz Walker (another slammer), a couple of guys and Grant McKeown from BUS (NY club, my original home). Talking heart out. Energy from soup hits, I run for like....long, including uphills and flats, very surprised, but not wanting to stop and using the momentum. I am elated and think 23. Blisters burst by 85. Every twist and rock on trail and every strike on road - wave of pain overwhelming. No muscle soreness whatsoever, I am angry at my feet for not willing to play the part. Bill's (89M). I see Susan Dummar (who I saw a lot, and thanks so much, you are the greatest, for help and all the words you said and your ever positive attitude and smiling face), Grant gives us a one actor play with some doll from his waist pack and takes off to finish in under 23. I try to put moleskin on blisters to no help, and walk off. Lots of trail sections here. Not the NW trails. The "there is a way somewhere here by glow stick, the horses came by and dug in, the grass is high" trails. I cuss a lot and loud. I burst into cries (my new name should be sissy). Last manned aid, 95. Dot is there. I don't pretend to smile, tell her I feel like crap and ask if we have any road for at least 3 miles, I can try and walk there. She promised me that much. Thank you, Dot!!! I walk hard. Before that last 2.1M uphill trail to the finish I stop and tell Liz, I gave it all I have and I will take any outcome. It's 2:55. First step. I swear. Second. Blank, blank. A couple of runners with pacers outtake me easily, I am fine. Sorry for what you had to hear! 3:25. Water jags with glow sticks, final turn, last 400 yards downhill (grass and soft dirt broken by horses, 45% angle), stop. Another guy comes from behind, I tell him to go, I don't care. I've got a half hour to buckle. I crawl, literally, for 5 min. Finish. More crying (will I ever stop?). Realization I finished something I really wasn't meant to. Can't step on my feet. Excited. Determined to run another.

Post thanks. The biggest goes to Liz Kellogg, my pacer from Portland, OR and a friend of Dot Helling (who she was supposed to pace originally). Liz, thank you, I ran it for you! You admiration pushed me to the limit, I couldn't let you down after all you said to me. I am in debt to you for keeping me company, telling me great stories, withstanding my cussing and crying and taking care of me at the aid station. Next - and not necessarily in order of lessening - goes to Dot and Jim and their amazing volunteers for putting out such an amazing event at a very very high quality, to Dot more so for personally kicking me at the aid and been so positive. To Susan Dummar for smiles, salt tablets and care - it feels the best to have people out there who know your name. May Susan's first Umstead be a fantastic experience! Thus goes thanks to everyone who happened to know my name and used it!!! To all BUS members. To all slammers. To all NW runners as few as we had at VT and the rest of them wishing us well home. To Glenn Tachiyama who left a message on my cell phone about Scott's will power at Badwater - I came back to this message many times during VT. Of course to my husband, who stands me traveling so much this summer and worries like hell and always sure I will succeed (I wish I had this assurance myself) and even doing some crazy long runs to support me. To my nephew Michael who was watching me over from up there. To Gordy for starting it all and letting us go nuts. To my new found family of ultrarunners, where I feel at home, finally, after 12 years in this country. You are all I've got.

Admiration for this race. Not in order of quality. Nick Palazzo. My pacer for two WS100, the most encouraging and laid back guy I've met. He cared Jonny Kenul's number, the one who died earlier this year at the race and who this VT100 was dedicated to. There was no way Nick wasn't finishing. Nick also runs without a watch. But - he decided Jonny needs a PR. A buckle. How the hell did he do it? I don't know. But he came in at 23:57, the last one under 24. That is something. Hans Weisshaar. He ran Bighorn, WS, Hardrock and finished Vermont in just over 24. And he is not 25 either:) Krissy Sybrowsky. The girl is something! Not much to say. Byron Lane. Just got to love this guy. Kristy Delacruz. Ran first 100, under this conditions, for second place in 19:46. I hung out with her for about 20M, very nice girl, strong, fast, smart, got a bright future. All the runners who finished - who persevered. All the runners who didn't - for been smart and taking care of them selves. All the ultrarunners who start races. All the runners. We challenge lives. We live.