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

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The playground of the Gods

OK, you asked for this.

On Saturday afternoon, July 1, we piled up into our Subaru and started driving east…Well, first let me mention how we came up with the plan. Stephen goes to day camp this summer, and it had a break on the week of Fourth of July. It meant staying home with him, but I rather travel. It was also strategically located only a week after WS100, what means I won’t miss any serious training – recovery mode. So as I was picking where should we go, Oleg’s climbing partner (a dude from NJ) expressed an interest to climb Grand Teton. Oleg and I visited Tetons and Yellowstone almost 3 years ago and loved it. Hence the trip.
So we drove a bit and stopped just passed Boise, ID. At first I wanted to give a visit to Theresa Schut, a fellow Montrail gal and a good friend who just recently moved out of OR, but she and her family went camping that weekend. So motel had to do. We had some laughs, what was a good omen for a fun to come…

Sunday we drove to Ice Caves Park in ID. It was hot and deserted out there. We did some flat hiking and visited all 3 caves, with flash lights and sweaters and all. Stephen enjoyed dark corners and slick rocks inside, though they were quite small.

Then, because we were all missing greenery, we just went exploring some local canyons and found a perfect pace to hike up to 9200 feet with fantastic views. As we got down, I asked if I could run. I saw a great campsite about 6 miles passed on the way and figured I’d make it there in time when boys set up tent and a fire. So it was, me running on a slight downhill and feeling the moving again…Night went uneventful.

We stayed by the good climbing site, and first thing in the morning Oleg and Stephen went for the summit. I, on the other hand, am scared of heights, and although used to climb a bit, gave it up completely. So I went for a run in canyons – I couldn’t watch them do it anyway. When I came back and they descended, I managed to step over an ice axe and poke my left calf. The hole, not big, was very deep and hurt. We caught a ranger and borrowed his first aid kit.
The irony was to get a climbing injury while not attempting to even pretend to be one. It looked like it required stitches, but I was too lazy and cheap to get to the hospital, so decided to postpone on this decision.

Our next stop was in Victor, ID, a small town on the border with WY/Teton range, where Lisa Smith-Batchen and her family live. As you may remember, Lisa was my coach, and even though official partnership ended, she was still my mentor, and we exchange many emails. They always welcome their friends to stay! As we were nearing, Lisa was coming back from her regular workout – pushing a stroller with a baby and pulling a tire on the road. Yep, you heard me right, it is real. She pulls a tire. I am not sure who invented it, but she’s been training this way for Badwater since many years ago. They have to adorable girls, 2 dogs and a house full of interesting things, including a room of race/run gear and supplies. They also direct a bunch of races, like Teton 50/100M, MDS and some other Africa stage races. Lisa and Jay took us out for dinner, and we settled in for a sleep.

The morning plan was to run together. I think this was one of the best decisions I’ve made that trip. Lisa took her baby Gabie, we drove to the Targhee resort where she has a spa, and went for a 12-so miles out-and-back on a part of their 100M course. It was a windy road, down at first, and we ran, and, obviously, up on the way back, and we power-walked. Lisa was pushing the stroller! We talked the whole way non-stop. A lot about families and what’s important. About training and racing. How to pick goals. How to cross-train smart. Why race. Where is the limit to abilities. She put my WS100 in perspective and helped me be proud of my finish. She also asked right questions – she believes I am capable of better runs. Is it that I am scared to succeed? Or to plan to succeed and fail? How I don’t pick my races well and end up with pour results. How I don’t have any obligations to anyone but my family. It was wonderful! And all that took us 2:22 (meaning our PW was at under 14 min/mile pace!).
Oleg and Stephen arrived and jumped in the pool, where Stephen (a Fish in his past life) spent 6 hrs non-stop. A couple of Lisa’s friends came, and we went for a hike to the top (Devil’s Thumb repeat on Teton 100 course, 1800 feet/2.5M) and back. Then Jay and Anabella (their 3 yo) came, and jay invited me over for the last 6M of the course. It was rolling terrain, and I was POOPED! So we played a “puppy run” – he would run ahead and then retrace steps back for me while I was huffing and puffing.

It was a great time together, and after a late lunch we had to go. Oleg’s friend was flying to Jackson Hole airport and we needed to meet him. Guys arranged their gear for the Grand Teton climb, and we were asleep – hostel is not that bad of a place after all.

Wednesday morning we drove to Lupine Meadow trailhead for their beginning of the trip. Stephen and I decided to keep them company for the first 3 mile hike through the wildflower meadows and up to where the trail split – they went into canyon, and we turned to Amphitheater lake at 9700 feet. Stephen was doing awesome! I always said this kid can kick my butt on any hike uphill, as this particular one gained 3,000 feet in less then 5M. By the time we made up is started to drizzle and then rain. Way back wasn’t as exciting, but we saw lots of marmots, and then a whole field of elks.

On Thursday I tricked Stephen into a long hike. I told him we’d do same 10 miles when in fact it was 13. He’s done 10 miles numerous times, and I knew he could handle it. Let me also add, when our crazy family hikes, we don’t walk enjoying views. We go hard, passing everybody on the way. And that includes kids too. I am not sure how it happens, it just does. We laughed and talked and on last mile it was almost as if Stephen felt he went more – he started whining. So I stopped and told him he is “going for a PR distance” and just has to make it up to the Holly Lake. And he did! We set down and splashed in ice water a bit, getting ready to retrace our steps back. The first hour was a bliss – we talked about everything! He expressed his interest first in ultrarunning “Mom, how do you go a 100M when 13M is hard?” and I had this whole conversation of “human body is capable of amazing things, and the mind is the one you need to train”. Then it was “how blessed we are that we CAN do it when so many are unfortunate with disabilities”. It moved to how fortunate we are to have food, roof and clothes and able to travel. How Lisa is doing double-Badwater to raise money for pour children’s fund. How sorry I am to always have worked full time and have no time/energy to spend with my kids when they were babies. How Alex started his roll downhill and ended up in boarding school. How proud we all should be of our heritage…many things. We made a special bond.

And then the roar of a thunder came, and the buckets poured! It rained hard. We were in the open, and even when we entered the tree cover it was soaking wet! My baby, such a trooper, didn’t make much of a squeak! We even managed to have fun splashing through ankle-deep trails! I was so proud of him, I cried at the car.

Our third hiking day was decided to be an easy one. What in terms of our family meant 3 hikes with rolling terrains of 4 miles each, yet with stops at every lake in the middle of those walks. BTW, I managed to run every morning on the flat bike path at Teton Village, 7000 feet altitude and all.
First was Phelps Lake, and mosquitoes ate us alive there. We also missed out on a bear that was in a middle of the trail and was spooked by previous couple of hikers.
Next was a trip to Taggart Lake, and Stephen finally got to get deep – the water in those lakes is pretty darn cold at altitude – while Mom was trying to get tan on nasty white stomach.
Last was Bradley Lake. When I said it is 2 miles to the car, you know what The Kid thought of? He wanted to run there! So off we went. First mile was rolling and I hardly kept up with my son who never broke a stride, uphill, baseball shoes and backpack, looking at me over a shoulder and all. Thank God, second mile was down! I got in a grove and started pushing him. I said – run, baby! I see you’re struggling, but you can make it in! You know, training can be achieved, but guts you have to be born with! When we got to the last part on dirt road and I looked at him – he was nearly fainting (we also never eat when hike, it’s part of a habit). But he was working hard and focused. May be I am a bad mom, but I kept encouraging him to run. Guts – my kid has got guts. He made mama proud. He said he wants to run a marathon. He said he wants to work hard and push the limits. Next year, he said. He is a runner, he announced…

That night dad finally came back, and the family reunited. He seriously bruised his hip and couldn’t make a hike we planned for Saturday, so after some arguments we went around Jenny Lake and then split – Oleg and Stephen went further around to find a spot to swim, and I went up the Cascade Canyon to run. I know, you think we should have stayed together. But I hate water! Spending two hours fighting bugs is not my kind of fun, I would have been miserable and made their stay worth too. And it turned out to be another great decision we came up with. They had fantastic time. I…
As I entered the canyon on the steep 1 mile climb…looked around…inhaled mountain air…saw granite walls around…my body absolutely indescribably lifted and I broke into running. You know, if Stephen was a Fish in past life and Oleg was an Eagle, I was definitely a mountain Goat – not because I am good with rocks, but because of the freedom I feel in the mountains. I need not simply trails, and not even lots of green – I need heights, shear drops, crisp air, creeks, majestic views and emptiness around. I was running and thinking – I am not even sure I love to run all that much, but I DO LOVE MOUNTAINS! And they make me move! Oleg claims inside of me died a mountaineer. I don’t know, I mean, carrying a heavy pack, getting cold and experiencing danger of death is not what I call feeling free. To each their own…

We met at the car, me blissful after 15 miles, them wet and happy, and went for last adventure – “Pirates of the Caribbean II”, Stephen’s highlight of the trip, and lots of ice-cream.

Speaking of ice-cream – I lost 6 lbs on this trip, what combining with 5 I didn’t recover from WS loss made me quite cheerful. On another note – since we ate “dinner” (if you can call it this way) at fast food joints, it was disgusting to see how much people shove into themselves without any thinking! America is coming to an end this stupid and easy way – by over-indulging. Eww…

I was going to put some more thoughts, but now I am tired, and it got long anyway. SO will have to make another post. Hope I didn’t bore you too much.


  1. Sounds like it was a great time. Glad you all had some family time together.

  2. What an amazing time, sounds like you really enjoyed it! You have a pretty amazing family there too, lots of activity and everyone enjoying it.

    You are so right about the fast foot joints and over-indulgance, this is becoming a serious problem here in Germany too, especially with the young people.

  3. What beautiful photos and beautiful family!

  4. Olga, the photos are gorgeous. It sounds like just what you needed - time to think, to regroup, to talk to people who understand. I love that feeling of flying in the mountains!!! It's the best :)

  5. I wish I could be on vacations like that, but my family is not agree with the idea...

    If he can be a runner, wooow with that mother, well!!!

    Is the first time I see you face while not smiling :I

  6. I know photos don't ever capture the full feeling so that must have been stunningly gorgeous! What a great trip!

  7. Wow, Olga. Absolutely gorgeous! I don't think I want to hike with you though if you are going to make me go fast and not eat! It sounds like a wonderful vacation. And it sounds like it did what it was supposed to do - refresh you!

  8. Oh, and I did laugh at the photo with the white tummy and the tan legs - I look the same!

  9. That's a pretty amazing kid you've got there. I love the rock climbing picture.

  10. What great photos and even one of you in your maniac shirt. And you could never bore us.

  11. Olga,

    you are a treasure in our lifes journey! It was wonderful to have you and your family here with us. The front door is always open.

    The Batchens!

  12. Great pictures! It sounds like a wonderful vacation.

    I love how you talked with your son about how fortunate you are just to be healthy, etc. I try to do that too. We have so many things to be thankful for...even (especially!) the basic stuff we take for granted.

  13. Ahh- beautiful photos! I've yet to experience that side of the country, so I am living vicariously through y'all..I hope to be able to do vacations like that when my son is a little older.