It was quite a weekend. A weekend worth every minute of it. One of those weekends I live for…
And it started on Thursday afternoon with a phone call from Title Company that my first payment for the condo is much more than I planned on. I stormed into the Bank and caught my loan officer by the shirt – WTF?? The Bank is closing in half an hour, the Title Company – in an hour (and there is a drive to it) – and it’s a mess. One thing to mention, my friend who was with me said – I wouldn’t want to be on a receiving side when you’re angry. No, I don’t raise my voice or say insanities. But I can burry 6 feet deep under the ground with my eyes. It worked out, and the $2k that were lost in calculation (as in “lost”, not even counted towards future payments, as in a “gift to nobody”) came back to me, and I got the keys. Thus was my entry into the Spring…
Adrien and I flew to Phoenix, AZ, and as soon as we started driving to Tucson, we opened the windows and exposed various body parts to the sun – tanning is great when you come from PNW! We had no problems finding Angie who was our host for the weekend – and my perennial cause for picking a race in AZ. Not only she is an awesome girl, a fun, kind, witty one, she is a “born crew”, and if you read my last 2 year’s Zane Grey 50 reports, you know about it. Oh, and she made me an awesome collage she specializes so greatly in for the last visit , the run that meant a world to me!!!
So, we met, and hugged, and laughed, and drunk beer (carboloading, you know), and were introduced to Chris (great guy!) and messed with our gear/food after home-made fast-food type dinner. The usual me was: open a cabinet at home with running stuff, with one arm motion dump it into the bag, then upon arrival dump it all onto the floor out of the bag and try and see if I have what I need and enough of it. Setting up for an ultra race gets easier with experience…I also noted my nerves getting hyped up – this is exactly why I love traveling for a race as opposed to do it locally. I am in a different set of mode, I am checking my gut status, I am curious what I’ve got for the day…
I had a great night sleep, all of about 6 hrs of it, I think the longest before the race away, and woke up calm. Not pissy, not jittery, not “don’t talk to me or else” that Angie and many others witnessed, just prepared for the day and ready to go. It was weird to say the least, it was different, and I wondered what the day will bring.
The drive was flawless in an hour executed by ever-greatest Angie, and we arrived with 45 min to spare. First thing – the bib number pick up – and first pleasant surprise: they are made from fabric, kind of like on a pot holder! Soft and very personal, I liked it a lot. We got to mingle with Trail Goat, I found a bagel to eat (forgot about breakfast) and looked at the night desert. Old Pueblo 50 is really something. Put on by Duane and Julie Arter (it was their last year to RD), this race filled up in 2 days with many return trips – speaks volumes. Last year it was windy and cold, the year before – it hailed. This year the race days was “blessed” with over 80F, no wind and heat wave even for Tucson…As I was getting ready and realistically assessing my fitness level, I set out to break 11 hrs for this run. Funny how Adrien asked me the night before if my split chart ever deter me from running my own race, and I told him – nope, because my splits are not made to chase after, they are a real (not optimistic and not pessimistic) goals I know I can make between aid stations and are there for me to know how much water/food I will need between those. That’s all the purpose, nothing more. 50 miles, 7,000 feet of elevation gain, the usual suspects around me in previous years ran 10:15-10:45, I am not up to perfect shape, but coming back slowly. Thus 11 hrs. With a few minutes of wiggle room.
6am – off we go. Starting on a dirt road on a beautiful dark morning with vast views even under the starry sky, I breathe deeply and enjoy the surrounding area. It is almost surreal here, I can see my steps despite the darkness, and I practically sense the dawn coming up. My compartment hits 5 min in – sadly, it is a solid statement I will not be able to get away from it by just using orthotics, well, at least it’s nothing new. I hike up the hill and “listen” to pain, as it slowly dissipates at about 30 min (a new record time) along with first rays of sun coming behind. I stop and take a picture – it’s breathtaking, put my i-Pod to work and begin to run. The desert is so quiet despite hundreds of feet making their way through it, and so peaceful…
After first AS at mile 3 we jump on single-track trail, and I get happy. No, roads, even dirt roads, are not my thing, and I take advantage of this paradise for what little I can (it turned out to be a dirt/jeep road race with may be about 8M total of real trails). I pass and pull away, hit twists and turns with attacking feeling and feel great. Yup, I am ready to give this race an effort! It gets warmer as we approach 7M AS, and as I see Angie, I take off my gloves and sleeves, get my ice-cold bottles and fly away. Hi, Ang, by, Ang, see ya at 25 miles!
Next section doesn’t leave any memories of been anything special, we were going up and down on dirt and jeep roads over all sizes of rocks spread out and around. Mile 13 AS came, and I dashed to refill my bottles to hear “Hi, Olga” – and Oregonian Tom Pelsor is here, waiting for a custom hug! I never refuse those, now, do I? I did have a fast thought about weird pattern of my body behavior though – my bottles are empty a good 15 min before AS, I have an urge to pee (I NEVER pee in a race until a night falls) with not much coming out, and I am thirsty (I also never feel thirsty). I dismiss it and go for the next 6M section.
After a couple of miles climb we hit some 5700 feet and “roll over” a ridge for a long steep downhill “Zane Grey” style (rocks, though on jeep road, not a trail). I look back and take a great picture of the best formation on this course (to my taste) and put on cruise control – what means I overtake a few guys who passed me on flatter roads before. One dude notices: I guess you’re a technical downhill specialist; I nod and continue on, only to hit my left foot into a rock 5 min later! I stumble, catch myself about 2 feet off the ground and see stars in my eyes, but quickly regain vertical posture and move. It feels that the nail came right off, but after a few wiggles inside the shoe I understand it is just lifted off but still attached. Good, I will tend to it later.
I come to mile 19 on time like a clock, refill, put ice, grab 2 gels and out in under 40 sec. I got no time to waste at aid stations, thank you very much, see you later. The next road rolls slightly, nothing drastic, but my pit-stops become more often and more painful – and less productive (if that at all). The heat is oppressive, and I am looking for more synonyms of this word in my head. By mile 23 or so, it finally hits me: I got this dehydration symptomatic bladder infection (you know, when urine cristallizes and "chafes" the inner liner of the bladder and urethra). F$@&! I mean, I should have realized it earlier, with my thirst and 2 bottles emptying in under an hour, but what could I have done different? I only have 2 x 16oz bottles with me! I always run with that much. And it should be enough! What’s wrong? Sun is beating down, there is some altitude effect, it’s March 1st and I am from PNW, but still – that??!! I am not liking what I am thinking and I am shutting my mind off, focusing on next AS and Angie.
Angie, thanks for been there for me! Even though I only see you for 20 sec while swapping bottles and drinking my tomato juice, I am so glad I can tell somebody I feel like shit. Sometimes I need to whine, as short-lived as it can be. Because things turn for the worst after that…and this is the first time in my life when instead of happily thinking “second half, it’s all
Another rolling dusty open road with crew cars passing us every couple of minutes. Angie gets by to hit next AS, and smile last time at her, pretending to run. As soon as she takes the picture, this nonsense stops – I can’t run. In fact, I can’t walk either. My bladder shakes with every move and sends pain signals, the urges to pee become frequent by 2 min, and “trying” to comply to them hurts like hell to the point I moan and groan as if ready to push the baby out – with only difference there is no end product for this labor. Luckily, only one gal passes me here, and she ain’t looking great either. Last mile into 29M AS is interspersed with many posted notes, like “pain is temporary, pride is forever”, “it never always gets worse” and so on. I manage to smirk (grimace?) to it, but it does lift the spirits, truly does. One more bottle exchange, and the wet towel wipe from volunteers (hmm, feels awesome!) – and I am off to my solo misery path. The next 11 miles (4M and 7M legs) were the longest and most struggle-fest of this day I ever want to remember…
We get to use some more of single-track for a bit, and at least it takes my mind off when I want to swear. Somehow I pass a few people, get into 33M AS and figure I finally fell of my pace chart. The guy is trying to be helpful and can’t get the lids back on my bottles, I try to take them away and do it myself, we argue a bit (I want to help – Yes, but I can do it faster, I got no time!) and I am off again. My stomach eventually shuts down and doesn’t want to process gels on empty dry liner of it, so I have to step more than 2 feet off the trail and, hmm, squat. That seems to help the digestion system, but not the urine flow (obviously) - and now the few drops that I get out have blood. By some creek I have a desire to wash my face – and I do that, thinking it would be nice to just stay like that. But I have to peel myself off this nice place and move on – late or not, Angie is waiting for me. This is my lowest point/stretch for the day mentally, and I have one pulsating thought that keeps me moving: if I loose it, fall and get taken to a hospital, not only will I get bills to pay, I will also DNF! So I compose and resolve to start pushing again, whatever it means at this time. I take the last picture – what you see is how I fell – and hide a camera away, no more for today.
After a treacherous downhill I hear the AS screaming and stop one more time to be able to make it through the people line (I stop THAT often, I am not sure I can get by aid station!). It is a hop over a small creek, and Howyee screams “Olga”. I fall in his hands for a second and tell him I am dehydrated. He radio’s to the AS “#119, bad, needs lots to drink, do not let out” and tells me I have plenty of time. While I haven’t looked at my watch for awhile, this shook me off. Lots of time? What time are we talking about? I missed my goal, dude! I get to Angie, she walks me to the car to sip the rest of my can of tomato juice, and I say “I am in survival mode, no more 11 hrs, I am walking it off”. No problem, she tells me, and I see a twinkle in her eye. 30 min behind my split (that what she told me later) – yet this girl never looses her trust in me. I think I owe my AZ runs to her…
I walk away, still somewhat slowly, and stop yet again; at the same time noticing the medication begins to kick in (I just took, finally, prescription strength pain killer before this 40M AS). There are 2 guys ahead of me, they run, I power-walk, but I am getting closer. This makes me giggly, if at all it’s possible. I pull onto one, and tell him – don’t you give up, never give up, latch on me, lets move it! Amazingly, he does – latch. And the transformation begins…Just as Angie is a born crew, I am a born pacer. If somebody needs me – I will find it inside of me. Or is it been a Mama thing and not been able to help my own baby boy now? I don’t know, but Dan – an Alaskan on his first ultra quest – was a God sent to me (as he said I was to him). After a mile of hard walking, I make him run – and run myself. I can’t believe I am not feeling that much pain, and I am yapping non-stop about things. After some time I point to him he didn’t ask me to repeat a single sentence (a normal for anybody listening to me for the first time, with my fast slurry heavy-accented blurb) – and his respond sends me hysteria: I am a speech therapist, I have kids speaking worse than you do. Ha! Well, than, hang on to your panties, man, I will kick your tushy!
He climbs very well and pulls me along, but as soon as the flats/decline come, I run, and he lags behind. I turn my head, I yell, I encourage, I hope he picks it up – but I have a mission, I suddenly think I can still do it, 11 hrs that is! Sorry, Dan, and thanks for been there for me! I run, run hard, like I haven’t in a few hours, I don’t let myself think of anything but one single idea: I can do it.
My bottles are empty again, I look at the watch, it is 9:50 into the run, and I try to calculate what I know/remember about last 5-6 miles. If I get to 46M AS at 10hr, I can make it. Clock ticks passed, I promise another 5 min to myself. Then 10. At 10:10 as I run a twisted nasty downhill, I hear people…afar…and realize that it’ll take me another 5 min to reach them and leave, and there is no freaking way I can do last 4M in 45 min. My eyes well up and get foggy, and as soon as I loose focus, I trip over a root and fly a few feet down the trail, breaking the fall mostly with my right leg and arm, but hitting left knee as well. Damn! Damn it, damn it! It stings, but somehow I don’t look down and get really mad. Don’t you ever f&%#ing loose focus! Now get your sorry ass together and run! I feel something streaming on my both legs into the shoes and think – great, now I am going to stain my shoes! My forearm drips too, but who cares. I get in, stick both bottles under water jag, and as asked to “may be we should wash it off" almost bark: no time! One man gets an idea and shouts to my back – there are 2 women a few minutes ahead of you! Not that it was what I was after, I am after 11 hrs! – but I’ll take the send-out.
I see the gal in a couple of minutes. Chocking on gels (how much can a person tolerate those?), I gain on her and pass right after the photographer at the creek. I invite her to run along, yet keep moving briskly and putting effort in every step. Now I am closely monitoring my watch. Don’t give up, honey, please don’t give up, you just never know, what if it’s possible, and you didn’t try?
I see another woman and try to find another gear. I don’t think I have anymore, so I just keep same distance. We hit steady flat section, she turns back, sees me – and takes off like mad (she did say exactly this after we met at the finish). I try to respond and can’t, and I wish her to break 11. I wish her to do it for both of us (she didn’t), even though I am still trying myself. How long 4 miles are? I look at my watch and see 11 hrs pass, and exhale loudly. Well, another day, another time. Now show me the finish line…
Cheers of people just over a hill, and the tears are streaming down my face, finally without holding back. I am crying of disappointment – and of pride. I see Angie and run for the camera – 11:09:56. She gives me a hug and lets me walk away – I love this girl, she knows, I need my 2 minutes along. I come back and cry on her shoulder – I tried, I really did, I didn’t give up hope, the little flicker of which you lid at 40M AS. She knows, and that is so soothing. It pays for all the pain and agony and misery. She knows I will never give up – so I don’t. It all good, stubbornness and all. Life is wonderful after all…
Adrien had an amazing run. While he had his own problems in response to heat (like barfing at the lady at AS and on the go, without breaking stride, so Tom R. can be proud of him), he ran away with 9:36, to 10th place overall and 8th male (he was chicked twice - I had to find something to make fun of him!).
What a super-strong year he has ahead of him, I am excited to watch his progress! Not to mention he ran with no watch – may be I’ll try it at Chuckanut 50k, who knows, it may work, especially since it’ll be a training run anyway. TrailGoat finished right behind. John Anderson won in 7:20, and Emily Baer took women’s in 9:13 with Juliet Morgan (first ultra!) on her heels in 9:35. We got awesome buckles (buckles? For 50 miler? But very nice design) and a cactus. They had food – what I never eat a day of the race, so it’s useless for me – and many many hugs. A guy taking finishing times “Hi, you’re Olga, I read your blog” gives out great hugs to dirty stinky runners, and so does another man (I am sorry I was so out, I have no idea of names) who handles awards. We drove back, and I had some screaming in a shower trying to wash off my wounds. The little rocks and dirt were embedded into my right knee permanently and I gave up, and my left big toenail was black and off its bed (Michelle, this picture is for you). The trails/roads were marked to perfection, never saw it to such extent, and the organization of the race was fantastic. I would highly recommend this race to anybody – unless you are a single-track-trail junkie…what means my next trip to AZ to see Angie will be for Zane Grey! Thanks to every person involved in putting this race together, it is a hard work, and you guys rock!!
The four of us (Adrien, Angie and Chris) made it to the Pasta place, but I was the one with full plate left, as I spent time in my now new favorite place (sitting on a toilet and moaning in labor of nothing) – where I spent a better part of next night as well.
In the morning Angie was brave to hit the trails for her planned 18M long run, despite so much hard work she did on Saturday. Adrien and I went to visit my great friends and mentors Lisa and Jay Batchen. Lisa and their older daughter Bella left that morning on a sudden trip to Lisa’s father (who is very sick and got worse, please say a prayer), but Jay and little Gaby welcomed us to their home and we had a great time.
My legs had never felt tired or sore – neither during a race, nor after, no DOMS, no lead, no nothing, and that’s the sad part of my misfortunate weekend – I was ready, strong and trained for it, as much as I wasn’t sure, I was. Well, at least now I know it. The flight home was good, and it was wonderful to see all the green as we flew above Columbia River Gorge. I love Oregon!!!
Oleg and I moved all boxes (all 14 of them) to the new place on Sunday night, so now it’s only 2 beds and 2 desks for a Saturday bi-annual migration move left. We went to visit our friend who just had a surgery (she feels great) and made it home by 9pm. My right knee got infected and swollen and bruised, so it is quite a picture, and the running shoe is not fitting on my toenail, so I poked it up to release the icky stuff out (Oleg and Stephen ran out of the room, wusses, and I thought I raised them well). I am still peeing with lots of pain, but at least I produce something more than nothing. Running is out of question for a few days – not for the toe or knee, but for the hurt due to shaking bladder. What is not that bad, because I need to clean my new place – I always have a feeling that things come to me when I need them, even injuries and sickness. Life is good otherwise. I am strong and stubborn – what more do I need? Bring on the season!
Now, what’s next on agenda?? :)
p.s. more pictures from Angie coming here