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

Sunday, April 29, 2007

"I am not fast, but I am stupid"

(quote and picture by Luis Escobar)

(all other pictures are curtesy of Crew Pink Fuzzy!)

My weekend started with a drive to the airport. As I was leaving the house, I mentioned to Oleg we need to stop at REI to buy some gels - and then open a door and see a package from Cliff sponsors with my gels. Yay!
I flew to Phoenix, AZ, where Angie picked me up, and we just began talking non-stop. This girl is so sweet and comfortable, like my own sister, and conversation flows about everything you ever wanted to say to your best friend! 2 hrs drive went in a flash, and after situating in Motel 6 we went to the pre-race dinner. Since neither one of us eats pasta, we picked some food and the supermarket and took it to the school gymnasiun where the meeting was. None of the "fast boys" showed up, and we joked how they dissed us, conventional runners. I've met Larry, Lisa S-B client, and a few others, but mostly they are people I don't know (interesting thing was they did know me, but I'll talk about it in report). The controversial figure of a 17 year old kid Michael Hayden came to talk, then Luis Escobar walked and said: I didn't recongnize you with you clothes on! Shh, Luis, nobody supposed to know that:) He calls me talanted, smart and beautiful, and I want to marry him:) Why is that no white American boy ever compliments women, like we some sort of middle gender? But I already discussed it in some post... We laugh, he asked why I pick this course, and I say: this is my kind of course, I don't like running all that much, I am a hiker. He looks back and responds: yes, this is what I say - I am not fast but I am stupid to hang there all day. Right there and then I decided it would be the title of my post - and if I had known how true it will be, I might have changed my decision...

We went back to the room, and I spread out all my gels, bottles, packs and carb mixes to show Angie when is what. There is no science in my racing, I take 2 gels and 2 bottle in 1.5 hrs, nothing else. So depending on how far aid stations are I split my supply. Finally we watched some stupid reality show and turned in.

3 am came fast, but we were wide awake - at least until we got to the car, because driving put us into half-asleep stage. We were the last car parked at the start - the rest had been turned to the road - and happened to be behind Hal Koerner's group. I joked with him how he and the rest of elite's didn't show up at the dinner ("uhm, church? early sleep time? doesn't fly?") and went to check in. Kyle Skaggs was there and gave me a hag - I call him "my favorite boy with favorite thigh muscles", he is not only super-fast but an awesome kid, humble and friendly, and adorable too. I think of him as somebody who "grew up in front of my eyes" - he won his first long trail run at Capitol Peak 17M in 2004 when I won the 50k version, and then I gave him rides to his next 2 50k races he won, and I remember him looking up to me - and would you look at this kid now! He is such a sweetheart...but I digress:)

I was conteplating whether or not I should start with a flashlight, but really, the light comes up in 15 min after the 5am start, and we are so tight at first, there is enough people with lights around. We sort out on single track trail right away and single-file on the wash-out. I am feeling pretty good and clicking minutes, things go well, and I am listening to my tunes. The trails are rocky - and this is an understatement. Karl Meltzer cals this course the rockiest in the country, and he is a Master on this, he should know. So we kick 'em and step on 'em, and about 3 miles in I kick one big really hard, twist my left leg landing and a crazy pain shoots right inside the left hip joint in a place where my cartilage tear is! My eyes jump out of the orbits and I see stars, tears stream out, and swear profusely - F#$@!!! It is horrific, sharp and strong, and I can't make a step. I pull to the side, holding my fists to not yell much, and everybody - everybody! - and their mother passes me. I try to move causiously, and pull to the side again. Now everybody and their father, borther and sister go by me. I still can't make a step, I wonder if I damaged my hip completely and forever. I hobble a bit, lopsided and leaping, and reach out for my prescription pain killers. Thanks to my doctor for and for saving them! I pop two and walk. Bearing weight on left leg even for a split second is a disaster. I can stretch out my right leg, but absolutely locked in pain and muscle contraction on my left side. I slowly move on to the aid station. Hiking up is a bit easier, going flat and down sucks! Eventually I come out of clearing and Angie asks me what's wrong. Well, I am not sure, I think I tore something, but I took pills and it should get better, and I will hike to the next AS and see how it goes...

I switched bottles, put my pack on and moved to the next section. Luis Escobar (who was hired as an official photographer) is there yelling me: run! I am like: can't! He walks alongside me, listening to what happened, and wishes me strength. I continue walking. Whomever hasn't pass me yet, do it now. I feel like the last person on Earth, but tell myself: I pride myself in been a hiker, I power-walked 75% of this course last year, I can do the whole 100% and still get under cut off. I am not giving up, it is a far away from home race, and Angie is here for me...all those reasons flash, and I feel the pain finally easing off. I am still lopsided and can't reach out left leg, but I can make some kind of an uneven shuffle.  By the time I get to second AS I am almost running - what Luis and Angie (taking pictures of me) notice. I do another switch of bottles and pack, thank my beautiful Angie, give Luis a kiss, and go on 3rd section.

It is hot. Have I mentioned it yet? It is 90F, all open terrain, we are high at 7,000 feet and climbing, and the air is dry. 10 miles is a lo-o-ng way, but if I only knew how long it really is...I am hiking pretty well by now, and drinking and eating from my 3 bottles, hoping just over that ridge will be an AS. Not be. I come across a snake on a trail and pinch myself to make sure I am not hallucinating. I am not, and I am petrified on snakes, so I wait for it to go away. I have a weird thought process: may be I can get bit, and then I can quit this race for a serious reason, I so don't want to continue. But then again, it's so far to an AS, I may never make it there with a snake bite. Nope, I guess not an option. I pass a creek and get a bottle of water - I am dry - and the other ridge doesn't bring the site of an AS either. I also dip my hat in the water - and it's warm so doesn't bring any relief. Every ridge after that went in hopes, for the WHOLE HOUR!! Unbelievable. I try to stay positive, and I reel in on people. This is my high, this is where I start feeling I am doing something right. I pick a person and slwoly pull behind, and then come by, say "hi, how are you, it's hot today" and pass on. It gives me motivation, but I am so dry, I stagger and get lightheaded. Actualy, I was staggering and fuzzy on the second stretch as well, thinking it was altitude sickness. It gets much worse here, but I keep pushing. "I am strong. I am a real power-walker. This is a hiker's course, and I am a hiker. My best strength is mental power. This is what I am going to use - I am Russian and I am mentally strong! GI Jane, baby! Keep on pushing when others are breaking down!" Hour...how long is an hour? Longer than you think it is when there is no water, no wind, no cloude, no tree, and you are going uphill. Who said this year's course is downhill? Does it have downhill at all? I don't see it, and when a short burst of something resembling it comes, it is so rocky and twisted, walking yet again is the only option.

Finally there it is, mile 26.5. I can't talk - but neither can anybody else here - and point at my bottles and my mouth. I get a cup of cold water, a cup of coke, 2 water bottles refilled - and move on. Lots of people staying trying to recupperate, but I can't afford to loose time, Angie is waiting and worrying, I am so f$#@ng late!

I stagger on, drinking, and before I know it - my bottles are emty. I am so dehydrated and heaving, I can't bear a thought of gels and mixes, so I just drink. Another creek - and I refill my bottles, and they are empty in a flash too. I come by Michael Hayden sitting on a side and try to pull him in. He walks a bit behind and disappears soon (he dropped at the next AS). I come by Larry and his friend - and he yells: I knew you'd come. I stop and explain the injury thing, and his friend says how he saw me getting it and how it didn't look good at al. Well, here I am, still moving on, lets go, boys... Despite that creek refill, I am walking on empty for 40 min before the AS, and it seems that those (aid stations) run away as we move towards them. It takes 30 min longer on each strecth than I predicted, and I can't understand it. I see Angie, and she enthusiastically tells me how many places I moved up, how well I am doing and how everybody's times are not just slow, but slower than last year's "up" course. The AS mile 33 looks like a hospital - runners laying under tents, sitting down, drinking, gazing...I have an urge to fall into Angie's arms and not go anywhere. Eb comes (he started 1 hr earlier) and asks me how is the day - it f%#$ed up, I say, trying to see if I want another shot of coke. My mind is far in another place, like the other side of the moon. Don't give up, Eb says. Who, me? I am not! And I walk out, almost missing the check-out point.Angie is cheerful, and it's a bliss to see her.

I count my miles in "Angie's": I see her now, then one more time, then finish.

Next section is not letting up. It is still hot like an oven, although we got 2 clouds 1 min each and a few trees. I am in desperate search of creeks again, my body is like a bottom-less well that can't get filled up, but creeks are emtry-dry as well. I am still passing folks one by one, and that keeps me moving. But this section brings low points as well. I go through "I am not ever running Zane Grey again, this was stupid...I am not running any other ultras...if I can't race, I am not running at all...who needs this suffer? may be my family is right...oh, and what do I tell them when I come back???" This slows me down for a bit, and I have to will myself into going.
I want to quit at the next AS (mile 42) - I can't bear a thought of going another 8M that would take me 2.5 hrs. My bottles are dry yet again, but I still have one gel left, and I figure I should get it in for at least some calories. I gauge on it, get a strong vomiting reflex, and talk to my gel: c'mon, baby, stay in, I can't loose you, I promise I'll be a good girl, just don't come out...it stays. There is a lot of hourse poop on this trail, and it stinks and has million of flies sitting on, and they come flying around our stinky bodies, and it's disgusting...who brought hourses here??

Last AS, and I drop everything: my pack, my hat, my i-Pod holder, my headphones. I am so tired of it all!!! But Angie shoves me my headlamp and says they ar policing everne who lives AS after 4 pm to ahve one. I look at her with disbelief. Me a flashlight? Are you kidding? (besides the point this headlamp shouldn't have even been here: I was in the car ready to drive to the airport when I decided to go back home and get it for the morning start, then at the motel when I figured I won't need it I left it in a bag, but came back to get it as we were leaving for the race and put it in a bag with words: who knows...I could have been stopped at 42M if I didn't have it!!!) But this pissed me off. Angie asks me something, and I say - just shoot me! - and move on to the trail. Volunteers steer me in a right direction (I went straight into the woods), Angie is smiling (she later said when she heard my response and saw my eyes, she knew I am going to kick ass).

I want to finish. I want to finish this mo-fo so badly, I don't care anymore what time, what place, who passes me, if I crawl, what damage - I want to get it done! So I angerly move. Me, flashlight! What the hell do you think you are doing? I don't need no f%#^ng flashlight in a 50 miler! I picked 2 ladies on first uphil, then a gal and a guy on a flat stretch. I can see beautiful views of the canyon - last year they were behind my back, and now they are in glory of setting sun. I run. My juices fired up - you can pass me anywhere in the first half of the race, but come last quater - I am fighting. This is MY territory, this is MINE! While I can't even think of fighting in the last mile, this is exactly why I keep strong to pull away before that possibility might happen. I use a trick nicely decsribed by Dave Terry and Jeff Browning: when you decide to pass on somebody, walk (run) behind for a bit matching their pace, gather your strength, then move by with a smile and put a hammer down for the next few minutes - even if you will have to crawl after the next bent of the trail. The person who is passed has to be so demoralized that he/she wouldn't even think of hanging on! So I push. There is a guy gaining on me, and while I run parts of the rim ridge, he seems to run it all. He catches me, passes, but I quickly regain my position. No way! I see familiar tattoo on a right calf ahead - this is Jodi Chase. I can't believe it! Last year I passed here same place! I pull behind, smile, say "hi, Jodi, I am Olga, we ran together last year, how is your day?" and while she looks at me, kick in. I run. I see another woman, the one Angie and I called "the hair-do" (she had her hair blow-dried and all nicely in a "do" at the start), and I just NEED to pass her. We enter last downhill. I come on to her and say: hang in here, I think it's a little left - and she doesn't respond. Heck with you! I put my hammer down. It is steep, twisted, loose gravel and sand, covered with rocks and roots - who installed this downhill here???!!! I can't fall, all I can think of, and I can't look back. I once read - only loosers look back, winners look straight forward. I am a winner, I can't look back no matter how much I want to know if anybody is hanging behind, or, God forbid, gaining on me. I hit the last half a mile flat and see Luis with camera. Whoa, Olga, amazing! You are unbelievable, you came from the dead! - he yells while clicking pictures. I know!!! I just passed 5 women in 6 miles, and I am going to kick their ass! I battle an urge to ask if anybody is close - but no, winners are not scared, I am a winner. I see Angie and stream into the finish line. Y-E-S!!!

Bottles fall out of my hands. They give me a finisher's bag - I drop it too. I can't hold anything, and I gaze around and say - cold beer...what I get immideatly! Angie is jumping around, my Crew Pink Fuzzy, and I hug her and tell her what I was thinking the whole way "I want her to be my permanent crew. If and when I get to WS100, any other race - I want my Pink Fuzzy best ever most efficient most cheerful and always believing crew with me always! I mean how could I NOT kick it when Angie KNEW I will?

We go to the car, and I change right there. People driving by and walking by and striking a conversation with me: great run! What's up next? Doing WS again? No! Blah...we talk, they leave, Angie asks who was that - and I am like: not a clue:) I love been Russian!!! On the trail as soon as I open my mouth I hear" here comes Olga. I finish, and in the middle of AZ they come to me as they know me - I love been only Russian in this whole freakish crazy community of ultrarunners!!! Did I say I am done with Zane Grey? Heck, no! Did I want to quit ultrarunning? Hell, never!

There are no words enough to say "THANKS" to Angie for been there for me...so I spare you, I said it to her:) Thanks to RD and voluteers for putting this whackiest race ever existed in a 50M range. Thanks to all for good wishes.

The real point in all this what we do (or may be in anything we do) is not the time or the place (or any other number). The real point is the correlation of what you had to put in to it in order to get the result you did. And for that I am eternally happy.

p.s. we went to see the "number" result just before we left - it was 13:18:36, good for 7th female and 3rd AG. This "down" course is not any easier than "up", and the results show. Kyle won by 30 min, but only 30 min faster than his last year's run. Emily bayer won female division. pam Reed was a few minutes ahead of me, and if I had known...or had a couple more miles:)

p.p.s once I get home and Angie sends me a link, I'll get picture up - and trust me, there lots of them and they are hilarious! Pictures curtey of Angie-Crew Pink Fuzzy!!!

split place split time place total time
Mile 6 88 1:16:50
Mile 17 86 2:50:25 89 4:07:15
Mile 26.5 71 2:39:46 76 6:47:01
Mile 33 36 1:47:18 65 8:34:19
Mile 42 46 2:37:11 63 11:11:30
Finish 28 2:07:07 53 13:18:37

(I had 28th fastest split on last section, faster than David Goggins and Pam Reed!)

Sunday night update: my hip is absolutely fine (Angie had a "simpathy pain" on Sunday morning on the same side, and I didn't:) so I think she willed it away); I have 5 blisters but nothing special from rock running, nothing is sore in the body, and I am hungry as a cow. Stephen won his boxing fight, and at home I got flowers and sheesh-kebab for a welcome home. Normal life is in full force...


  1. WOO HOO!!!!!!!

    I knew you'd do it and you did and it was awesome and I'll be your crew whenever, wherever, anytime baby! You're beautiful!!!

  2. Wow wow wow! Sorry to hear about your injury, but like I said, you are more than just an "ultra" runner. Russians have a reputation for embracing hardship with stoicism and pride, and Olga, on this day, you surpassed that. You don't know how proud I am to be able to share this experience with you, even in my own little way :-)

  3. Congratulations Olga!!! outstanding job!!! you rock girl you totally rock!!!

  4. Way to hang in there. Things ALWAYS get better when you tough it out! You are a Great hiker and runner.
    All my best!

  5. AMAZING!! This will be a report I will print out & read the night before my TETON 50 miler, cuz I know I will be an ANGRY F!~@#$%^g runner at some point of that race!!

    Another great RACE & better fight Olga from an American Boy "You are talented, smart and beautiful" well maybe a little late after Luis but hey U have to know what words to duplicate & those are some good true words about a Russian girl :-)

  6. Totally kick arse!!!! Nice job!Way to fight, Olga. That is seriously impressive.

  7. Great job Olga, way to hang in there

    Joan :)

  8. Way to go kick some butt! What an epic report! I was on the edge of my seat but knew you were going to rock it in the end. Awesome! : )

  9. Fantastic race Olga! What a battle after crashing near the beginning and going on to place well and crush the field at the end. What if?? I'm so impressed with the effort and the great rambling stream of thoughts report. Wow!

  10. wow what a race...great write up ...totally riveting! congratulations olga!!

  11. great job. hope you don't have any lingering problems with the hip. that was some real courage to continue on like that.

  12. Olga,

    I loved the report - all the details, especially passing the "hair do" girl and the snake! That's hilarious! I love how you write about everything that pops in your head. You amaze me - congratulations on a really strong finish.

  13. Great job Olga, and wonderful photos Angie. I got this race on my never-ending todo list. Wishing you a speedy recovery...

  14. Way to go Olga! I'd already heard from Rob - via phone last night - that you finished and were happy. It was great to get details though - way to come back from the dead!

    Glad no permanent damage to the hip.

  15. Wow, Olga - amazing! Way to hang in there and come back from the dead. You're awesome.

  16. You are one incredibly tough trooper. I don't think anyone else would have finished such a brutal course after an injury so early in the race.

    Tons of respect!

  17. Great race report and awesome finish!

    This is why we all love you..One are one tough lady:)

    Take that cold bath!


  18. Great job Olga. That is amazing! I love all the pictures Angie took too. And I see that you met/know Rob Cowan? That guy is an ultra-machine!

    Congratulation! :)

  19. Congratulations Olga! These are the kinds of events that create awesome memories and some good war stories :). Way to persevere.

  20. Wow! Amazing race report, Olga. You are definitely one tough woman. I'd hat to be in front of you near the end of a race. Luckily, I'm too slow for that to ever happen :-). Congratulations on a great race.

  21. great race report! This was an excellent read. Well done of grinding it out. That's what its all about!

  22. What a great welcome home, flowers and kebabs! Great race, Olga. Man, the ups and the downs of emotions. Wanting to drop, wanting to get bit by a snake, wanting it to be all over and then feeling the finish. Feeling the push toward the end, feeling the competition and wanting to reel in one more person. 7th woman! Rock on, baby :)

  23. Another great example of why you inspire everyone and are so loved. Rob had a tough section in the middle of our Capital Peaks run but recovered and finished strong like you. Way to go.

  24. Olga,

    ZG sounds bad enough w/o having to deal with a hip injury. I hope that you continue to feel good. Perhaps you pinched a nerve when you stumbled.

    You look good in the pictures at the finish line despite all the pain and suffering. Must have been your strong will and Angies care.

    That beer looks awfully good!

    At mile 18 of the Eugene Marathon I passed a police officer that was controlling traffic in an intersection. I asked her if she would tazer me. She declined by saying "nope, can't do that". Oh well, a couple of runners got a good laugh out of my request.

  25. Wow, congratulations Olga! Your race report is incredibly inspiring, and I admire your perseverance and determination. Excellent job!

  26. Bravo Olga! It was incredible seeing you come from the depths of misery early in the race and come back so strong. I'm glad I got to see you, if only for two brief moments on the trail as I passed you, and then later as you passed me charging up the ridge and onward toward Washington Park. Outstanding! -Larry

  27. Olga says about a snake on the trail: "I have a weird thought process: may be I can get bit, and then I can quit this race for a serious reason, I so don't want to continue"

    HA! Olga! I know the feeling! That is hilarious.

    Super report, way to dig deep. Congratulations on such a great race. Sometimes those tough ones are the best...afterwards. :)

  28. Olga, what a great race report. You are an awesome writer. What a crack-up. Great effort and a great time for a HARD race. Keep up the good work. I just love your sense of humor.

  29. Great race and report! Thanks for calling on Saturday night. You look great in all the photos, but don't tell me how I look in the Capitol Peak photos.

    I hope to see you sooner than later, but don't know when.

  30. What an awesome and inspirational race report!!!! Great job!!!!!

  31. Fantastic report Olga. Happy that you got to meet Angie but sorry that our state beat the crap out of you at the beginning of the race. Great finish.

  32. Way to perservere! It was fun toread your report. I felt all your ups and downs and way to kick butt in the end!

  33. Great race and a great report. I could feel your anger and determination as you reported the race. Respect!

  34. Wow. Great race report. The way you describe these ultras, it can make any 5K whore re-think his goals.

  35. Dear We-don’t-need-no-stinking-badges Olga. :) Flaunting the flashlight rule, eh? Girl, you better have some sympathy when you’re an R.D. this summer. :) We're going to give you and Van Phan little “Hello my name is ______” stickers to pass out to people so that you can address them back by name! You famous gals, you. I was struck in your post by how on the one hand you appreciate the importance of individual accomplishment and the need to not emphasize numbers or placement, and on the other hand you obviously enjoy reeling people in and poring over your splits to see how fast your 28th one ranked, for example. I guess I just feel that it’s O.K. to care about time, and place, and not be deemed too cut-throat or shallow about it. It’s O.K. to want to be fast or faster. The best thing in the world however is to be genuinely proud of how you did no matter what, and you manifestly were. Your posts are so rich in all senses – we get the blood, sweat and tears! Your blog fans are spoiled – it’s a virtual free ride every time. Thanks, Olga.

  36. That was awesome Olga!
    I get a sense of just how tough (stubborn!) you ultra guys can be!

    As an aside Dean Karnazes is running past my house next week and will only be 1.5 miles away!

    I am so keen to meet him!!
    And Australia being small enough there may actually be a chance to chat as i run along with him!!


    Happy Trails R2B

  37. A-Freakin'-Mazing!!!! *ultrarunning fanboy squeal!!!*

    I <3 reading race reports like this. It makes me appreciate the sport even more and makes me reflect on why I got started with this. I just wish I would have started sooner. In any case, you've inspired this newbie ultrarunner for sure!

    *sends quick recovery vibes*