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, May 06, 2007

Healing recipe

Prescription: Gorge and kids, 1x day, two times

wake up at the crack of dawn, have coffee, drive 30 miles to the Gorge, shove the watch into the pack, wander on trails you don’t normally go, get back home, grab kids, visit places, have pizza for dinner. Repeat next day; add a healthy dose of friends to each component.

The start of our many runs at Multnomah Falls – I believe it’s 5th highest in US(?), definitely highest in OR at 542 foot tall.

Another cool fall – Ponytail on Horsetail trail, you can walk under it.

Columbia River Gorge in morning glory.

Isn’t this one gorgeous? This is Triple Falls on Oneonta trail. I could take pictures of waterfalls endlessly, as any trail system in Columbia River Gorge includes at least a dozen of them.

Deep woods…scared?

This kind are my favorite spots – when you suddenly come out of dark forest into a great opening with vast views and lots of air. I can sit here forever. These are the only places I stop and turn my head, even if for a moment.

No specific workout – such was my claim for this weekend. Just revive the systems and be happy. It allowed me to go to the other trails – ones I rarely use when have a certain amount of miles/certain HR/certain hill work on a schedule. They are also very secluded and seldom traveled. I needed it for a day. So from the Lodge parking lot I took trail 400 away from Multnomah Falls towards Horsetail trail, ran it in and out admiring the falls, returned back and took Oneonta trail, one that goes inside very deep forest of Old Growth, lost in my thoughts. Eventually it took me up to Franklin Ridge trail, I turned to Larch Mt. (where my hands froze like hell), turned around, finally waking up my body (after over 3 hrs of feeling drained), up to Devils Rest, cross to Angels Rest, back to Wahkeena Falls, up to connecting trail again and down to the Lodge through Multnomah Falls trail. As my outing progressed, I felt more invigorated by the beauty – something I never get tired of here. I was glad I decided to come out here instead of Forest Park, even though I knew how painfully slow my journey would be. When I left the secluded section onto the popular routes, I talked to everybody I met – adult, kid or dog. And I am not one who comes up to “stranger” and begins a conversation (this is true once I get comfortable I talk your ears off, but not the one to start, I usually only respond when spoken to). It seems that on this day everyone is a bit happier and chipper than normal – and all of my sentences found reply and a short feedback, some laughter, some even talk. I ran into a group of hikers – and the last man yells “Good morning, Olga” – I stop and it turns out it is Bruce who we ran for a bit together at the Rumble 3 weeks ago and he is a friend of Anna Bates and Beast Bob Lines. There is a family I am climbing behind of one hill – and as I pass, a man says: are you running? Well, I am supposed to, lets pretend this is what you see – and we all laugh at it. Their 10 year old daughter is the one who runs ahead. There are few hikers who are not sure what way to go – and I explain the “longer loop” versus the “shorter” options with details of which one is prettier (is it possible to pick here?). Lots of couples holding hands on wider trails, and I smile as I get by – very sweet. At the top of Devils I encounter a couple of women, and hear as one says to another: this all was for a personal feeling of satisfaction… I have no idea what they were talking about, but I am thinking: right on! Stephen calls at 10:30am, I reach the phone to hear “when are you coming?” Honey, do you know what “emergency” means? Are you hurt? Is Alex ok? Is the house still in place? (Oleg is in Boston for the weekend). Well, getting bored is not an emergency, so how about reading a book, watching TV, playing with Charlie outside, or waking up Alex and nagging him? I smile as I say it – it seems he’ll never grow up and will forever call me to find a toothbrush or complain that he didn’t have enough milk for his cereal. I run a bit better on my second half of the day, although I get achy in many places. Keeping left leg close to the ground doesn’t pay off – I stub my foot numerous times, and every one of them the same shot of pain goes straight to my hip, so I developed a routine: I stop for a minute, then walk for a minute, then another 3 min later it all goes away and over. I am thinking I’ll need to take care of this thingy some day, but now is not that day, I am not ready to give it all up for few months. May be next year – or may be I can learn how to run and never step on anything changing leg’s position…I “water” the trail every mile and am very surprised by it: I only had 4 bottles on the whole adventure, that and 800 calories. Not nearly enough, and I am tired again as I am going down, but I am happy. 6 hrs later I reach my car and call the kids.

At home I have Alex who cooked me a cheese omelet and Stephen who drew a bath for me. The smell is killing, and I swallow it all – but the bath is torturous: it is lukewarm (Oleg did something with heater), and unlike some people, I prefer my bath to be hot and steamy. Somehow I get washed and grab my kids to the car – we are out to the library and then movie. They picked Spider Man 3, and I got an excuse to go grocery shopping, visit my ex-neighbor Russian friend in Tigard and after we came home, we had another Russian friend visiting.


We met at Multnomah Falls parking lot (yet again) at 7 am: Gail, Amy Coffey and myself. Amy will be pacing Gail at WS100, and I haven’t seen her in quite a while. After initial adjustment (as usual, 5 min into a run), we took off on a repeat of my yesterday’s route. At first I was quiet and lagging behind, afraid of kicking rocks and meeting pain, but eventually I opened up, started feeling better and more hopeful and took a lead on climb to Franklin Ridge. The conversation was flowing non-stop, it was wonderful! At some pint, hour and half into our run, we met a woman ahead who was obviously unsure of her way and carried no water. We introduced ourselves and told her to follow us up and that we’d show her the way down from there, claiming it didn’t matter whether she’d now take straight back or make a loop. Obviously, we were thinking in “ultrarunning” terms. She struggled behind while I decided that I was feeling awesome and pushed the pace, running even uphill sections where possible. Finally, we reached the ridge and set down for a snack, feeding Michelle (our new-found friend) as well and talking her into taking on 50k trail race. I think we got her! I said something in respect: it good you’re so tired, you’ll love to concur it. Gail laughed that may be not everybody likes this idea, but I believe by looking in her (Michelle’s) eyes she was sold.

We parted our ways here, as Amy took Michelle down to cars (6M downhill), and Gail and I went up, took connecting trail and ended up on Bell Creek trail. We both wanted no people and lost of solitude. The talk continued to flow, and Gail mentioned that it seemed we’d been running partners forever. Well, two and half years, remember? My family moved to Portland in September 2004, and on December 5th of that year Gail and her husband Sid emailed PNW ultrarunners on the list that they will hold a WS100 lottery run and party (as they did many times). I showed up, on a run in Forest Park Gail ran behind me (while Ronda ahead of me), and Gail asked me if I’d consider for Grand Slam if I get in. I almost had no choice but to say yes – and the rest was history. We’ve been training together ever since, rarely in a week day (like may be 10 times total), not every weekend day, but the most consistent partners.

We wandered on overgrown and covered with blow-down trees Bell Creek trail, making our way, when we came across a “something” laying under a tent on a trail. We both freaked out it may be dead body – and no, we didn’t open the cover, we just took off. In a few yards we saw a bigger tent on the side, but still decided against stopping, and it was good neither of us was alone. I don’t know about you, but I am still thinking what it was…

This is why Bushwhacker Mike gave me name “Wild Flower” – it has nothing to do with pretty, just with stinking as these “cabbage flowers” are.

The trails in Gorge are beautiful and soul-cleansing, especially less-traveled ones. I’ve written about it many times, and these two days tried to take a few pictures for you, as “seeing is believing”. I still can’t comprehend I live in this place and get to run in it! Our talk gently moved to “why we run” and what would we do if we didn’t. I know, I am supposed to be the inspirational one here (Mike Bushwhacker always makes fun of this word along with me), but truly, I run short runs during a week so I can be fit enough to run long – if I didn’t go on long outings in the mountain, I wouldn’t probably be running. May be it’s easy to say now that I do, because obviously I ran roads when I was racing 10k and half-marathons for 2 years…so another reason I am guessing is that I like to race and feel ready for it. But I’ve been a hiker all my life, and climbing mountains on foot is my true love. Later I learned about myself how much I love tearing downhills, so now it just fell together as a perfect long distance trail running.

We took switchbacks down and remembered how I ran with Mike first time and obnoxiously tried to tell him how I run downhill – and he quietly listened, after what told me he’s been doing it for like 30 years. How in the world he still loves me? We came to a river we had to wade – this one never gets shallow enough, and on this day it was freezing cold! We talked how we gladly wade through any creek, but both refuse to sit in ice bath for soreness prevention like some people do – and besides, what soreness? What lead us to discussing our monster quads that we as female often curse (who wouldn’t wish for skinny legs?), but then it’s fate – we both climb well and run steep downhill with no problems next day, so thank you, “thunder thighs”!

We took a turn to climb up to Franklin Ridge for the second time, and Gail took a lead. She was hammering it, and honestly, we both felt awesome! So much for Gorge healing power! No pain, good energy, and it felt shorter for the second time around. Once we got up, we switched and I bombarded downhill, Franklin to Larch trail. Still alone, still no people in site! Of course on Larch trail there were hikers and that’s been ok with us. We made a commitment to make a run longer and took connection to Devils/Angels intersection and down to Wahkeena. Another steep downhill, and at the bottom I suddenly felt dizzy and lightheaded. Admittedly, I am horrible with fueling on training runs, thinking: almost done, and: let’s save a gel for a race. I stumbled last half a mile and we took a final photo by our cars, happy and chipper. We bumped into William Emerson at the cars and exchanged hugs and tails - he is on his quest for 7 highest peaks on 7 continents and was rock-climbing in the area. Awesome athlete! Another 6 and half hours and definitely more miles than yesterday. Nothing hurt that day!!! Amazing!

At home Alex boiled dumplings for me, and after a shower we walked with Charlie and did some chores. Mostly we did nothing, what is important to include in life as well.

That was the end of my week, at approximately 87 miles (often we have to estimate all the connections in the Gorge) and finally feeling fully back. No workouts for the week, only one double, one weight workout, couple of long runs – one for the soul, and one awesome “power within” – I loved my recovery week, I should do it again some time.

p.s. weekend in races: Ronda finished Miwok 100km in 11:28, Eric ran Vancuver marathon in 3:25, Michelle PR'd yet again with a 5:25 on the same course, Lisa did a Sunflower Iron Double (43M) and Thomas kicked butt with a half-marathon PR of 1:29. Rick and Donald did Wildflower Tri in CA in 5:56 and 5:36 respectively. Angie ran her first ever 10k after finishing two 50k races! Pete ran extra-bonus miles at Miwok 100k and Catra got her French Doll arrived and getting ready for PCT through-hike speed record. Great going, guys!!!


  1. Thanks for posting the beautiful pics! Sounds like a wonderful weekend. Not many would consider 87 miles a recovery week. : ) I love the gorge too, but I mainly know it as a hiker. Hopefully more runs there this summer.

  2. As usual, I sit at your feet learning everything about how to live life from you. Thanks, Olga. As always.

    PS - I went to the wrong race Sat. Ran the Miwok 110K instead of the shorter version. Still writing a report.

  3. Olga,

    Looks like a great area to run. You ladies look like you had a very fun run. I need to get back to the trails. Have a great week! Thanks for your mention in your post!


  4. Fabulous photos, Olga! Wow, such a beautiful place to run. Great running. You and the ladies look strong.

  5. What a beautiful place to run. Thanks for the pictures.

  6. You run in the most beautiful places. I don't know if trail running is in my future or not, but I sure enjoy tagging along with you :-)

  7. Great pictures and a great write-up. Hmmm...87 miles a recovery week. Just incredible!

  8. Thanks for the pictures and story. I grew up in Oregon and often hiked the Gorge trails with my family and friends. Just hearing about it brings good memories. Maybe I'll get to run with you there some day. Take care and heal well.

  9. gorgeous photos, and it sounds like a soul-satisfying weekend. yay!

  10. Awesome waterfalls. Thanks for sharing them with us

  11. Nice pictures, looks like you guys were having fun!

  12. Lovely, rejuvenating weekend! I'm happy to hear that you're feeling much better.

    I, too, hate getting cell calls while I'm running. Makes me jump every time!


  13. great post. Those pictures are awesome. Good scenery always makes me want to stay out a little longer. Glad to hear you enjoyed your rest week.

  14. Been out of the loop to long so I'm catching up with the past weeks = ) Very happy to hear things are going well! What a great weekend those are some spectacular runs, plus having the kids cook for you is an even extra bonus.

    Take care!

  15. Great weekend runs Olga - and beautiful pictures. I've never been to the Gorge, but after reading so much about it on your blog, think I need to find my way there someday.

    And bonus on the cooking Alex!

  16. Olga- great motivating post there! And thanks for posting the pics validating why I love Oregon so much!!

  17. Great set of pictures Olga. It must have been nice running in the forest again after pounding out a 50K on the rocky trails in Arizona.

  18. Loving the pictures too. Thanks for sharing! I can't wait to someday running and finding waterfalls.

    I, too, love a hot bath--tried that ice bath thing once---ouch! Never again!! Hey--ever use Mr. Bubble?? He's the best!!

  19. One thing is for sure. Your trail running is a totally different experience than my road running, even though I still get plenty of solitude at 5am in the morning.

  20. "are you running? Well, I am supposed to, lets pretend this is what you see – and we all laugh at it."

    I love good conversations on the trails with total strangers. Those are some great pictures of the gorge and those waterfalls, WOW. Just beautiful. I'm glad you took the time to reconnect with the beauty of the trails. Getting back to the basics, to the reasons that keep us coming back to the trails despite the challenges of life.

    Thanks for the plug. Donald and I did fine at WF. During the race I thought much about the runners at Miwok and I was glad to find out when I got home that it was another good year and a new course record too. Dave Mackey would have broken it a couple of years ago had he not gotten lost. Haha the top guys get lost too.

    P.S. I'm still looking for those results. I don't understand why I can't find them. Have I completely lost it?

  21. Beautiful pictures. I can't imagine what it would be like to run through that kind of scenery. Sounds like a great weekend

  22. I loved hiking those trails growing up! Never run them though. Really gotta love hills. It's a doozy getting to the top of Multnomah. Once there though, all the other falls and trails are fabulous. I'm a bit jealous that you get to run there so often. I wish I could too. Maybe on a weekend visit. Thanks for the photos.

  23. Hi Olga, long time no comment - so sorry! Beautiful words, beautiful shots. Thanks for the recap of other runners at the end, too. :)