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, February 22, 2006

Diary of the Hagg week.

Long post, read at your own risk. I started writing this draft on Tuesday, so if you don't feel like getting into deatils - I had a bad day, very bad, by many means, but it all ended up somehow OK.

I go out for a morning speed workout and in the first steps notice a very bad pain in my left shin. So much for posting about injury prevention...did I jinxed myself? Nope, I knew it was coming. My compartment syndrome is back. It’s been picking up its head for the last two weeks and today roared loudly. I make it for a mile hoping to warm the leg up, but decide to turn around and call it quits. 2 miles and a cross training on Stairmaster. Do I call myself a sissy or is it a smart act? Worries set in...Plus I put on 3 lbs on top of those 3 lbs I gained last month. Darn

Spin class in the morning, leg aches mildly at rest. I plan on going for a run in afternoon. Trails...boy, I missed them, and it’s only been 2 days! They revive me, and I’ve been pretty badly stressed out lately about lots of things. Besides, been an avid addict to lots of things throughout my life means if I have an addiction, it’s all or nothing. I carefully start out, testing the leg. The pain rises, but not too bad, dull, and I am able to continue the run. I try not to push and go by least hilly trails (if Tryon park has them), though in second half I pick up the pace slightly. I still stand a chance. The whole lower leg is aching for the rest of the day though. I use The Stick to massage it.

Meet Gail in Forest park. I tell her, at least one pressure is off - Kami Semick is registered, so we know the winner. Now it’s between me and Caroline Klug. And, of course, a bunch of girls I just never saw before....the usual. I whisper my goal - to break 5 hrs. Should be possible, banned serious problems. My PR is 4:47 on road (Central park inner loop 8 times, first ultra). Hagg course has no more than 1500 feet gain total, runable (who said I like to run for that long non-stop?). I have to work on mental part of been in a race - don’t give up, fight it...”head down and run”. OK, I'll take 5:10.
We run easily for an hour. I feel pretty good, more uncomfortable than painful. Duh! Should have used The Stick all year long, that's why I bought it! Gail recommends to drop out if I have the pain coming back. I can't promise...

Day off, but my body is crazy and wakes up anyway. I go for a short swim - with my technique and speed it's the same as a day off. Go finally to see Master John. He tortures me with Graston. I missed him. It feels good. He is working finish line at Hagg. Mike W. emails me asking who my competition is. Everybody? Myself? I am nervous.

Mike Burke picks me up at 6:30 am. We joke about my Montrail outfit. By the time we arrived, I realized I left my I-Pod at home. What a start! I am so used to it since SD100, I can't focus on racing or tuning into my body without it!

I ask around if anyone has a spare, but no. Oh, well. I meet all my friends (and even more people I don’t know but who somehow call my name), and, of course, Darcy. What a sweet girl! I am preoccupied, though, with what’s to come and how to run. I am not much social before the race. Last year, when there were 3 of them in a month, I got much calmer and thought nothing of another race, but now it’s suddenly a big deal!
We start on 3M out and back on dirt road, 1.5M up, then down. I run for a couple of minutes with Kami Semick and tell her how much I admire her and how I’ll be routing for her at WS this year. She says right now she has a hip pain (she did drop after the first loop), and I send her off with the front guys. I run quite fast and at the start of a lake loop see 24 min for 3 miles. Damn fast! Tom Riley joins me, and we run together. My compartment filled up with built in pressure, but by mile 7 or so (Dam road) it works itself out. I am happy with the development and think 5 hrs...There are more hills than I care to remember but it's OK and justifies walk breaks. By mile 10 my left hamstring (old injury) locks up and I bid goodbye to Tom. By mile 11 I have an unbearable pain in both hip joints, hamstrings and buttocks. It is a very muddy course (even on a dry spell) and you get to use all those small muscles you never thought existed. Pain gets sharper. On top of it I get a fuzzy head and a blurry vision and it takes me another couple of miles to realize I am bonking, and it’s completely my fault!! Like it’s my first time, right? Everybody knows how I don’t eat enough at an ultra. I get to an aid station at mile 13, worked by Liz and Kamm, and they force a gel into me. I am not picking up on lost fuel yet, and the start/finish area makes it hard to continue. I cry out to Mike McCarthy that I want to drop. He immediately says “I know you haven’t been eating” and puts some powder into my bottle (mine, but I forgot I carried it with me). Another 6 or so miles go by. Caroline Klug, who was on my heals all time (a great girl and a very good friend of mine, a very strong runner), gets close, and I ask her to please pass so I can relax. I am crying at this point and hating myself. Between a pain and a bonk, and not been able to push through this, I feel so sorry for myself. She says no way. I run on. Finally, by mile 24, I caught up on lost glycogen and my vision improves, the legs don’t feel like lead anymore - but the pain is still there. The muddiest section is right here, last 7 miles, made worse by over a 100 pairs of feet gone by (50k and 25k runners). I struggle to stay upright. Pass on the last aid station, apologizing to ladies for not smiling and not talking (not my usual self known around), I decide to give it all I have. Just about time! I lost Caroline behind, and pass a couple of guys (who at the finish said they were almost PO to see me gliding by - boy, they had no idea I had tears). 1M to go sign - I know it’s downhill and flat. Nobody passes me on downhill, ever! I grind my teeth and try to may be at least break last year’s time. Nope, not to happen. 5:22. Over. I find Mike Burke and sob for a few minutes on his shoulder. He says he hasn’t seen people finishing so smooth and then hobbling so badly. He drags me to the car to change. I keep sobbing and hating myself. I want to quit ultras, I am not tough enough, I don’t deserve to be there, I don’t want to be on a team!!! Change of clothes, a chat with a few people, some soup - OK, I am still hobbling, but feeling better. Out of nowhere I hear my name and don’t understand why. I took 3rd place. Go figure.


  1. Whew! That was a tense read. I think it is incredible that you not only placed, but were able to push through so much difficulty to finish! You are awesome. Atta girl!

  2. Wow, way to tough it out. Ugh sounds painful and torturous but you finished and finished strong. Jas and I were out on a bike ride today and we thought about you and the race.

  3. Olga, You are tougher on yourself than I am. It does not surprise me that you toughed it out like you always do and I certainly understand the doubts as well. I am happy that you have Gail and Mike and others to keep you going out there and to cry on their shoulders when you need them. Glad you made it through and finished third.

  4. Whew, tough. I got tense reading it! I want to give encouraging words, but don't know what to say!

  5. You aren't just an ultra runner but also such a tough woman which as the same time is so sensitive!

    Of course I imagine that with that pain it was hard to enjoy but finally a 3rd place maybe is not so enjoyable, that should be hard.

    Reading your writings is never long enough!

    I received all of your comments, thanks, but there is no specialist around, still I am much better, thanks again.

  6. Congratulations on your finish. I checked in just before church started to see how things went. Third place is not too shaby. But what's more important is that you know that you are tough enough and you do deserve to be there. I'm happy for you.

  7. Half way through your post I was thinking you were going to die or worse, DNF. Third place after all of that pain is great and it's the first race with the Montrail Team. Way to gut it out. Rest up, you deserve it after that race.

  8. Amazing post Olga and super effort, but way too short! I was just getting totally immersed in your struggles when the end was in sight ;-) Rest up those legs and recharge your mental batteries while your at it!

  9. Great job on sticking through even with all the emotions! I have a new respect for what it takes to finish an ultra!!!

  10. Sounds intnese Olga. You are a strong woman - you'll be fine! And 3rd place, that totally rocks.

  11. Fabulous effort!!! I, too, would have loved a longer post.....I crave your stories!
    Pick up, "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" by Judith Viorst. One of my favorite childrens books with an adult theme.
    Third Place? DAMN!!!

  12. Wow, reading that post was like being on my own adventure. I can't imagine a week like that. Way to stick it out, and yes, you are tough as nails.

  13. I love your race reports..the honesty and emotions...they are always so insightful. You are a strong human being and wonderful person....everyone has doubts, but by working through them you realize what you are capable of..and your personal limits are non-existent - there is no height you can not reach. Keep up the amazing journey...you are an inspiration to many of us.

  14. Great job Olga! And if you don't want to tough out ultras with all that pressure and pain, I can respect your choice. Not that I think you'll give them up, but I want you to know there is no pressure to be "strong". We'll love you whatever you choose to do. Thanks for the beautiful report!

  15. Olga...I really envy you, and you are totally too hard on yourself, but that is what makes you great..the desire, drive and determination to succeed no matter the circumstances..we are all behind you and thanks for the great reports!