A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn....

It's gonna get harder before it gets easier. But it will get better, you just gotta make it through the hard stuff first.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Climbing my own mountain.

Friday, 7 am.
I am at the Portland airport, and who is on my flight but my former co-worker and trail runner Kevin and his girlfriend Emily (who won a 50k once and now in training for Olympic marathon qualifier). We chat (they are going to San Francisco for Bay to Breaker 12k) and Kevin asks: “So, are you going to win?”. Ha, what a cruel joke! But what does he know – for him I am just a sponsored athlete. I smile and say: “I am going to run well and enjoy my day. I am going to climb my own mountain”.
Saturday, 6 am.
The first climb starts right away, at first gentle on a mile road stretch, before turning onto mountain’s logging jeep roads. I feel my shin expanding and switch to walk not even 5 min into the race. Runners go by, looking weird at me – I am, after all, wearing Montrail shirt, why am I walking? I ease off a bit more, trying to soothe my compartment syndrome bout – this is what was bugging me for the last 3 weeks, it is back to the level it’s supposed to be after giving me some breather, I should have known. Well, at least it is not a stress fracture.
Tuesday, 8 pm.
I skip track workout today – my shin still aches even at rest, and after I decided I am not up to speed this year, I don’t really feel like working hard in the heat. Besides, I’ve got some issues to work on, and the best way to think them through is to go on a trail run. I actually feel pretty good after those nasty 30 min of pain, and make 9 miles 5 min faster than I had been doing this loop before. I am glad I didn’t go for intervals…
Saturday, after 6am.
We are still climbing, and the gentle grade turns to horrible nasty climb for a couple of miles, but then back to gentle again on a last 2 miles to the top. My systems are all in check, and I look at the watch (I had it turned to HR window the whole time). 7:35 am, 6 miles and close to 3,000 feet up, 5 min ahead of pace chart. I think RD said we all should be here in 1:45-2:00. I guess I am OK.

photo courtesy of Tom Riley
Monday, 10 am.
Tom Riley emails me: what is you prediction for a finish time? Damn, I haven’t even started to worry about it! I respond – 12 hrs, and then look at the website. Hmm, 12 hrs is a cut off. Didn’t they say it is 3rd hardest 50M in a country after Zane Grey and Squaw Peak? Why cut off? The website also has no pictures, no elevation details besides the logo, no people I know well of who ran it before, and the RD never responded to my questions. I got 2 description – one off the website (good, but not personal) and one from my cry-out to ultra list from local David Elsbernd. I quickly glance at the logo and email Tom again: 11 hrs, how is that? I spent 2 min putting splits on sheet for my bottle and never looked at them again.
Saturday, 8 am.
Right after that first climb we head down. There are no trails in this race, it’s all 4-wheel, jeep, lagging roads with rocks. Somebody complains, and I say – it ain’t Zane Grey, baby, suck it up! Soon though I hear devil on my left shoulder whispering: “c’mon, Olga, you know it’s time. It’s your opportunity to get lost, you always do, why not get it over with rather sooner than later?” So as I approach a split on the road, I see a heavily decorated with pink ribbons left trail and empty right road…but a girl ahead of me is staying there and with confidence tells me: “relay people to the left, 50M runners to the right”. She looks like she knows what she is talking about. I go right, with nobody and nothing in sight, but in a minute or two hear yelling behind. A few guys scream to me to turn around. Thank God my i-Pod is never loud! I head back uphill and run down behind my savers.
Friday, 5 pm.
Tom and I go out to Denny’s to eat. We order breakfast, but neither one of us can finish it. We look around and wonder how so many here, with no exercise at all are able to swallow all this food with no problems. Then Tom tells me a story how he once yelled to some dork taking wrong turn in the race, but wasn’t able to make him hear behind his blaring music. I vow to lower volume of mine even more than I usually keep.
Saturday, just before 8 am.
We finally split with 50k and relay runners, and it looks like everybody is going downhill, and I am the only one heading on a slight incline on a side of the ridge road. Not fair! I want to go down too! Nah, not really, I don’t care. Funny how in the morning of the race I’d be all grouchy and not willing to go suffer for that long, but once I put my foot down and turn off my brain, I don’t care how far to go. It is just this moment, this step, and this inhale that counts (if you can inhale of course at above 7,000 feet).

photo courtesy of Tom Riley
And then it hits me” I am alone and better take care of the business.
Thursday, 8 am.
On the way driving Alex to school I stop at the supermarket. Alex nervously looks at the watch and asks what for. “Items of female hygiene”. I am that lucky gal, I tend to space out my races same amount of time as my body spaces out the rest of functions. At least I am used to it.
Saturday, 8:30 am.
I hit Ranch Creek aid station on time again, although the RD was saying something about it been moved further along. I don’t really care, but it would be nice to know. However, all the other 2 aid stations on this loop are located exactly where advertised, so I am not sure if we ran extra mile and half or somebody mistakes. Ranch Creek is marking a beginning and end of a 12 mile loop, and I have a drop bag here. I grab a packet with my carbo powder and ask to add water. A man puts in Gatorade. Great, I can’t stomach Gatorade! I feel bad for him and promise to survive.
This loop is the easy running on the course, rolling, flat, gentle grades, some trees; though still disgusting double-track.

photo courtesy of Tom Riley
At the middle AS a guy filling my bottles says I look awesome. I feel awesome! – I respond – Why wouldn’t I, I am a lazy runner, and I’ve been slacking! Oops, did I just say it out loud? Now everybody knows, I am out here enjoying myself and running comfortably. I am a lazy runner. I like to smile too much. I run through boy-scout camp with lots of activities and smile to them too.
Only just before we hit Ranch Creek again do we have a nasty 1M/1,000 feet climb on a very rocky road, and I realize I am developing a hot spot on my left foot. I think I have a bandage in my drop bag.
I come in, calming the “Gatorade guy” that I survived and tear off the package for blister – and it is liquid bandage! So I put it on and sit there yapping for 5 min and drying my foot. We discuss weather and altitude (or lack thereof) of Portland and some hiking experiences. I am bored to sit, so I put my sock on under concerned glazes and stuff all I had in my drop back into my Nathan pack. Heavy is good for training, and don’t worry about my foot – I am a queen of running on blisters!
Friday, 7 pm.
Pre-race meeting. Why am I not surprised to see Terry and John Rhodes working the packet table? I am very happy to see them! I first learned about this couple from WS100 movie of 2002 run, as well as about many other (Dawn Inferna-Bean, who is here too, also a face from it, and, of course, our own Lisa Bliss!) Then I met them at Silver State marathon in 2003 – and decided it’s an omen. I was running in WS in 2004. We hug, and they snatch me a slice of pizza (volunteer’s food). I wave to a few more people, and then comes Scott Dunlap. He is much taller than I expected, and we easily talk. He plans to run his hardest and is excited.

photo courtesy of Tom Riley
We take mandatory “blogger” picture, including Tom and Gretchen. I am so wobbly, I drop my camera, and it dies off completely. Good, now I don’t have to feel guilty for not taking pictures on the run! The RD Stan mumbles lots of directions of the race, and I loose following his thought in a minute. I just hope it marked! He says it is, so I don’t care for the rest of the explanations.
Saturday, 11:30 am
We get to turn from that same ridge road we took to Ranch Creek to a trail – finally! A whole 3.2 miles downhill on a real trail, in a 50M trail run!!! Yippee!!! I take it down with screaming speed, but then look up ahead – aha, this is what RD Stan said when I still was listening: see that mountain ahead? You’ll be climbing it. I relax and let my body just float down, but it’s definitely nice. I just wish there was better scenery than empty dry hills around.

photo courtesy of Tom Riley
We hit the road crossing, then rail-road tracks, and – wow, a river! I stop, dip in, fill my empty bottles and wash my face. There are two girls there, and they tell me the AS is just up the road. Yeah, but I bet it doesn’t have a river to put my head in! They laugh, I pull myself back and run on.
Saturday, 12:30 pm.
Well, here it is. A 4,000 feet in 7 miles climb. On dirt road, with 4 “short-cuts” through-country straight up. It wonderful! I mean, it is really great! I feel like I am just beginning to have a race here, I love hiking so much. The grade is perfect for fast power-walk, no stumbling, no hard breathing, just push on. I am having grand time, fresh legs and lots of positive thoughts. How is Lisa doing in her Bishop run? She must be done with her climb by now…

photo courtesy of Tom Riley
There is practically no snow, a few small patches we don’t even need to step on much. Somewhere just short of topping the mountain, while still hiking strong, I test my running legs – and suddenly realize I don’t have much of those today. How weird, because body feels well fueled and not tired, I have not encountered a single problem, but I just know I won’t be able to run. Here hoes my Western Qualifier…
Friday, 12 pm.
Reno airport. I meet up with Tom, and we go to get a rental car. It hits me that moment as we discuss tomorrow’s plans: if I can come in a second under 11 hrs I planned out, I would qualify for WS100 lottery. What is it with me to always go on “not fast” courses and never run a qualifier anymore? OK, it is my kind of twisted fun, but I need to have something to apply for the lottery next December. The fuzzy goal of 11 hrs thrown in just so Tom stop asking me questions kind of became a goal on its own.
Saturday, around 2 pm.
I come to Microwave Tower AS still exactly on the spot, but seem to be stretching here. The guys are great in helping and even have soup, but I finally feel the 85F and want ice water. They got that too. I tell them how I decided to use the last climb for personal reasons of a spa – I turned my hat backwards and let my face get lots of suntan. Don’t I look adorable now? I know, I am a weirdo, I combine pleasures. What else can I add on here? They kick me out.
There is a flat stretch on top of this almost 9,000 foot mountain, and I run it – and see a familiar figure ahead. Well, there are two more guys too, but I focus on this one, I want to run a bit together and have a good chat.
Friday, 7 pm.
Pre-race meeting. As we walk out, I come to Bill Finkbeiner – the legend – and shake his hand: remember we ran in WS2005 for a bit together? I love this sport, when would you shake hands with Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan? He does, he even recognized me today as I came, and I leave happy.
Saturday, still around 2 pm, or may be 3 pm.
I catch up with those guys and take my headphones down. We talk. One – George – says the now funny phrase “you must be Olga”, and we all laugh. He is a blog reader, and there is only one runner with an accent. Bill tells stories from his streak races, then asks me why is that women run with guys for “camaraderie”, and then smoke them at the finish. I promise not to do it today. We run now completely cross-country, following ribbons, but of course, this is my devil on a left shoulder, he is upset I am flirting with some men and not paying attention to him – so he points me to the woods. I have all three – George, John and Bill – following me, and luckily Bill quickly notices a ribbon in an opposite direction. Sorry, I warned you! We go a bit more, and see Dawn Inferna-Bean! She got lost for full 40 min and was waiting for us now. While I am sorry for Dawn, who is a super-strong runner, I am happy to see her. We are having a blast of a group!!
Saturday, somewhere around 4 pm.
We come to an AS, and I still think 11 hrs is in a bag, it’s 8 miles left. But – oh, my! – what a disappointment, this is another one of those “floating” aid stations, and we have 12 miles to go! Granted they go downhill, but I don’t have legs to run them well, I am not trained this year. I admit it, accept it, and just go with the flow. Bill takes off soon, and the rest of the group stays more or less in visible distance. Soon we hit the section that looks mighty familiar – and while Dawn swears her heart out, I exclaim: “Welcome to the Ghost of Zane Grey!” Yeah, well, it may be funny to say, but not funny to run. We leap-frog, walk some, jump over, walk more, let a bunch of motorcyclists and ATV people pass with huge dust creation, talk some more, and then I let her go on a "better” section. I go into my zen-state and move happily alone. At some point I am right behind those folks again, but they shoot down last 2 miles, and I just don’t want to fight. 11 hrs are gone, and a few minutes really wouldn’t make a difference in my mind, but would – in my body. So I continue slowly.
Finally a park is in sight, I turn and wave. I had promised myself one thing on this race – to finish Scott McQueeney way, so I do just that: I approach the finish line, tunr around and cross it backwards. Live the passion!!! even if 16 min over a goal:)

photo courtesy of Tom Riley
Helen Klein gives me a huge hug and I walk off to Tom. He finished great, in 10:30, but looks tired. I. on the other hand, am a famous “social butterfly”, and nothing is going to stop me from chatting with people. Runners, volunteers, runners, who I know, who I never saw in my life, massage girls – did I mention they had girls from local massage school there, wearing white shirts and taking care of our disgusting bodies? – I told them to clip wings on the back because they are angels! Bill comes over, and I am like” who said girls smoke the camaraderie for exchange of friendly finish? And he says – sorry, and there were a few times I worried you’d get lost again! Scott Eppelman, a Montrail teammate, had a good run despite a wrong turn. Scott Dunlap was amazingly fast on this slow course – that I still repeat is not THE most difficult, although definitely out there out of “good runs” category. I talk and talk until Tom literally almost drags me to the car. I guess I should comply…
Sunday, 2:30 pm.
I open my eyes on the airplane, feeling not a slight soreness, and look out the window. It is rainy and it is green. Welcome home, honey. Glad you climbed another mountain.

34 comments:

  1. Lovely write-up Olga!

    I'm glad you had a good weekend, despite not making your last-minute goal.

    Recover happy!
    Meghan
    www.running-blogs.com/meghan

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  2. Your title reflects my mood during my 50K last week, sometimes it just needs to be! I loved your report and pictures, I could feel your journey. Congratulations on putting the mountain behind you.

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  3. Nice report. Congrats on completing it, sorry you missed your time.

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  4. What a great report! You are becoming a very good (even better) writer than ever. Have you ever thought of submitting to M&B? Love the mood you set for the race.

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  5. Well done out there and great report!! You really set the mood for the readers. No worries on WS qualifier. there are lots of events still out there. 16 minutes over goal on a hard course is nothing to sneeze at!!! :)

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  6. Well done Olga. On a such a long race if you can come that close to your goal time is great. Being such a rookie at Ultra's I find it hard to guess what my time will be. For me its still a battle just to finish.

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  7. Olga,
    I loved the writing style of this report - back and forth - past and present.

    Seems to me like your race was exactly what it is all about - feeling good, having fun, testing yourself. Congrats on a great race and weekend!

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  8. OLGA said: Glad you climbed another mountain.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    YES, I am Glad YOU climbed yet another mountain, Great report Olga...Way to enjoy ALL the moments of the race!

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  9. Congratulations Olga and I loved the way you wrote your report. Sounds like you had a great time.

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  10. Beautiful race report Olga! I'm hoping to have a race where I feel like that too soon :-) before, during, and after!!

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  11. Congrats on a great race even if you were a little over your original goal. I really enjoyed the style of the report going back and forth in time. Very creative!

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  12. Great report! And way to climb your own mountain. : )

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  13. In one word: amazing! I've felt dizzy at times, jumping around times like that.

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  14. Great job, Olga! I watched the Zane Grey movie and I loved it. Thanks for sending it to me. It's on my list of to-do's. What a killer 50 miler! It's on it's way to Wynn Davis.

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  15. thanks olga for a wonderful weekend. you were very enjoyable to hang out with. great running also. great report.

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  16. Olga, so the shin pain was the old compartment syndrome pain? I thought it was different - and am relieved it's a "known quantity" after all! Congratulations on a rewarding weekend.

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  17. Wow - you don't have a WS qualifier yet?! I figured you'd have at least three or four of those things by now.

    You'll have to get one with me at Firetrails this October - arfe you still going to enter? I think they changed the race date by one week.

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  18. Great work, Olga! I'm glad you had a good time on such a wonderful day. Sorry I missed you and had to take off so early. I will post a story soon with the famed four-blogger photo!

    I have a deal for you as well. Since I had to buy a 2nd camera, why don't I send you my Sony DSC200? It's smaller than the one you have, and I even have a self-made belt strap to carry it on your gear. Just send me your address at scottdunlap (at) yahoo.com and I'll mail it to you.

    I had a great race, despite falling in the last 1/2 mile and giving up two places. Luckily one of them was to Scott Eppleman, whom I think ran 51 miles, so I don't feel too bad about it. He's a really great guy. The other was to the first female, who probably would have caught me anyway.

    It sure was fun!

    SD

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  19. Hi Olga!

    Nice report; thanks for sharing. Unrelated to running, I think you look very pretty in that shot w/ you in the brown top.

    JOan

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  20. Great report! I loved the style and flow while reading. Always enjoyable and reflective.

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  21. Sounds like you ran this race on your own terms. Loved the writing style. Told exactly the way a good television show would unwind, moving between story lines. I love to read about the way you run. But I also love the way you write as the story unwinds.

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  22. COME TO VERMONT.. 100, 50 or Pittsfield Peaks. You'll love either of them.

    Glad you finishing despite the downgrade in training. You're still running and looking great I'm sure. Chin up.. and fix the camera... I LOVE pics!

    How do I get a Zane Grey Movie??

    Sherpa John

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  23. Fabulous report and run, Olga! It looks like our races were similar in terrain. It also looks like we sent vibes to each other about the same time. :) How cool is that!

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  24. Great report. I love the format...very creative! It was a great read. Congrats on the race!

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  25. Great Job Olga and great report!

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  26. Great report! You give me hope! Oh, by the way, go run Jemez next year. It's an incredible course.

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  27. Thanks for a great race report!

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  28. I' m finally finish!! do you know how many time I came back because I did not want to miss a single detail!!! awesome, awesome race report thank you for sharing!! the race photos are incredible!!

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  29. Awesome report Olga...great pics too. The hillclimb pic truly shows how difficult that course must have been.....Congrats on a great race and for smiling in that approach to the finish. I'd be crying! ;-)

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  31. It was great to meet you Olga. Awesome job on the race, you have such a great attitude! It was a tough course for sure, you did great! I finally got my race report up. How come I didn't get a picture of you?? I even saw you on the course! I am a lazy runner/photographer. :) Hope to see you at some more races.

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  32. Loved your writeup! Yeah, let's do Jemez next year. When are we doing the Grand Canyon R2R2R??

    :)

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  33. sweetness. loved it.

    and you can't do a R2R2R without me there! :D

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