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

Monday, May 05, 2008

Yet another Miwok, like another day...

I had contemplated what to write and what not to write about Miwok 100k, and even whether to write at all. I have to thank the ultra list with a few people who sent out their pictures – they gave me all the incentives why I was there and why I will still be there on another day. Thanks, Craig Heinselman, Chihping Fu and Brian Gaines, for wonderful shots – I will be using them in my assay. It looks like Craig was somewhere around me the first half as the shots of people show those I ran with – too bad I wasn’t in the view…

My life, as any one of you, is not simply divided on ultrarunning and the rest of it, it all merged together. So, unfortunately for you, I can’t split my story, yet once I get over with prelude, I will tell you one thing – my pre-race mess has nothing to little to do with how the race itself went. I will not take any excuses. I made a simple single mistake that cost me a good day I was capable of – and I should know better…

I arrived to San Francisco at 1pm and took BART to the city – to stay in my friend’s Rick place. Rick was gone to do a triathlon for the weekend, but kindly provided me with a key, and I relaxed for a few hours, playing on the computer and waiting for another friend Jason to finish work. Jason was my perennial pacer at my 2 previous Miwok races. He picked me up and we went out for dinner, where I chocked on super-spicy “hot-n-sour” soup and inhaled a ton of shrimps in green curry.

At 10pm I happily went to bed, hoping for a good 6 hr sleep.

A few minutes past midnight my phone rang – my ex, in a rage of anger, announced that Alex was gone from the house, and “what are you actions?!”, demanding my immediate return. 20 minutes later he called back announcing that police stooped a car with drunk teenagers and he has to be picked up. I got on the phone and changed my flight back to Saturday early morning. Another 20 minutes later I got another call from him that Alex was the only one sober and they are going home. Some time passed – and my son calls that he is sorry, blah-blah, but he wants me to run the race as planned. After some consideration, I change my flight to late Saturday night – so much for free tickets I get on frequent flyer miles, this trip cost me more than any other this year did or will…There was no sleep after that, despite swallowing a sleeping pill at 2:30am hoping to get at least a couple more hours. That’d be all for whining. I’ll just add that I wasn’t that much concerned for Alex and his actions as I was for words and possible actions of my ex. I pray one day I’ll be free from it.

Jason picked me up at 4:45 am to drive to the start. He wasn’t going to pace me this year as he had prior commitments, but he did offer to give me a ride – thanks! The line to parking lot on the road was insane as there were new rules, and that made us somewhat anxious, although I realized the race will not start until all the runners arrive. The start was delayed by 15 minutes, and in a daze of my mood I managed to say a few “hello’s”. This is the part I missed the most from my weekend – the mingling at the start and even more so at the finish. I did, however, met up with a friend David S. and asked him to take me to the airport after the finish. I left my bag with all the clothes and belongings at the finish line (without even signing my name on it - I wasn't planning to drag it to the race) and packed my wallet and cell phone with me in case I need to make a dash to the airport.

We all moved to the beach, the starting line of the Miwok 100k. Due to delayed time of start, the dawn was already breaking in, and it was beautiful – I think they should permanently move time to 6am. We got into a conga line soon after getting off sand to trickle on a single track. I felt wonderful – strong, happy to be there, swift, making my way around and spilling on a road climb.

This is a great place to chat with runners. People spread out on a 2-lane road and go uphill, mostly power-walking, sometimes breaking into a jog (at least that’s what happening where I am). Adrien passes me, so does Stacey, Tom R. and so many runners, before Donald catches up. This is a first time we meet face to face, and, just like when I met Scott Dunlap, I am surprised how tall he is. I figured it from the pictures, but in real life it is still an almost shock. We talk – yes, of course, about WS100. His latest post installment made me laugh, and as we discuss it, the runners around listen or chime in occasionally. It is a blast to live in memories of 100 milers, and Donald is a sweetheart. For a very long time I am also a hip-joint twin with a girl from CO named Jean, who ran Wasatch 100 last year for the first one, arriving into ultrarunning from mountain biking. We play tag, as well as with Steve Ansel , there, just as Donald introduces me to his future WS pacer Richard. There is a lot of laughter here, and I felt awesome, and the downhill was marvelous.

First AS is water only, where I arrived some 15 min ahead of chart, and Tia Bodington herself (an RD for Miwok) is serving us. I put a mix of newly-trial Infinit mix into the bottle (got it off Joe Kulak’s blog site, check it out – the company mixes carbs, protein and salt, as well as taste strength in any given concentration after getting you through questioning), thanked profusely and went out on a flat path leading to another climb. The plan was 1 bottle of powder (200 cal) between aid stations, gels every 30-35 min and a sip of coke from mile 30 on every AS. On this hill I lost Donald for good, and was hanging out with Rena Shuman and Kim Gimenez a lot. These girls are a blast and so experienced, we continue to chat and pace off each other. I walk hard on this hill and feel no wear and tear from the track workout – my hamstring finally loosened up. The sun has risen and treats us to magnificent views, and I remember why I love coming back here. I am a dark forest mountain girl at heart, but this coast line with vast hills and ocean views are breathtaking!

The descent with knee-barring drop lets me test out my quads – and they are holding on great. Tennessee Valley AS at 12M comes in 2:04, a full 20 min earlier than expected. I am surprised to say the least, and just as I vow to slow down, Stan Jensen shows me 7 fingers. Only later did I realize he was showing 17 (10 and 7), at this point I just give him a “look” (how come? At least that many passed me so far and however many were ahead to begin with. Besides, I am in broken mind state with my favorite family crap) and feel how subconsciously I hit the “gas pedal”. Ah-uh, bad choice…but it really does feel good to let myself “race” a little after so many pour runs.

I don’t remember details of Muir Beach and Pan Toll aid stations (mile 16 and 21.7) besides the fact I was still feeling fantastic and 15 min ahead of pace. I am toying with the idea if I keep it up, I may finish closer to 11:30 than 12 hrs. What stupid thoughts at 22 miles into the race! But I am having fun. We enter the long stretch on Bolinas Ridge trail, 7 miles of rolling terrain along the hill with ocean on our left, and I play with Steve Ansel again. He announces he is a downhiller, and actually does pass me every time the trail has a decline, and then slows down on flatter and incline sections, and I am amusing myself with ideas how did I suddenly became uphill runner instead of downhill…how is that possible to change overnight? But to my full surprise I run practically all the hills and flats and not even straining myself. Yikes…until in the last 2M of this section where the trails go very slim and slanted, I make a summersault and fall. My left hamstring seizes, what scared me, although I feel on the right side, hitting my thumb and, of course, totally skinning my right knee and shin. I think I am going to stop shaving my right leg for good – there is no hair will ever grow on the place where I skin 3 times in 3 races in a row, before it even heals. I hobble as I assess the hamstring (a much more important part, despite the fact that the right knee pours blood like hell). And soon begin to run again. Whew, nothing serious. Though blood did give many folks a lot of scare as it looked like a good war wound, dripped on logs we had to climb over (one girl behind managed to splatter my blood on her own legs) and I was very proud to display it (got “Yowser, what a nice present to cherish!” from Luis Escobar too, bummer he was racing and not taking pictures). The “WOW” factor we, mortals, got when Dave Mackey was heading back a full mile before we reached Bolinas Ridge AS, and that had never happened to either of us around, what meant he was on a CR pace.

We buzzed about it till we came in to mile 28.4. While I was filling up my bottles and choking down yet another gel with comments “watch me puke” (I didn’t), I heard Gretchen and gave a wave. Quickly heading out, we all wondered where the rest of the front runners is. That’s the beauty of out-back course, you get to see the leaders! Soon (well, to be honest, a full 15 min behind Dave Mackey) there was Geoff Roes who screamed “Hi, Olga” and gave me a brain work how come I don’t know who he is until I figured it out (blog land is awesome), and then Lewis Taylor, OR favorite for this race. Then came Jerker and Jean Pomier, Hal was walking slowly (injury), buddy Sean Meissner as always with Kami Semick (women’s winner and a hot star from OR as well, they train together a lot), Mark Tanaka and many many others. We rolled on dirt road, and I was still running most of the up sections, still in owe at myself. On the steep downhill drop to the turn-around for the last 2 miles the high fives and smiles and encouragements were non-stop. What a blast!!!

Randal Trail AS, mile 35.6…this is where I did that stupid thing I am not allowed to due to experience. But such is our sport, we make mistakes, and as I emailed Donald today, I only had run 1 (ONE) ultra that was flawless, and believe it or not, it was my first one…Anyway, I was carrying little packets of my powder mix in the pocket of the Nathan pack, and the second half of those was in the back compartment. Here is where I should have made a transfer – and I was too lazy and high on good mood to do so. So I filled my bottles with water and took on uphill back…hard, passing a few folks and thinking I am on fire. I was. For about 5M out of 7 total, until I bonked. I still somehow pressed on, I quickly realized what had happened – and what did I do? Nothing! I decided to wait till the AS to take a gel!

By the time I came to Bolinas Ridge (42.8M), I was so far behind in fuel, my brain went into hypoglycemic state and as much as I knew I need to put calories in ASAP, I kept forgetting to bring the bottle to my mouth and open a next gel…all the while still trying to press on and passing about 5 people at the start of next stretch. I guess everyone else was bonky, it had nothing to do with me. There is a lot more walking on the way back on those gorgeous hills, and every step is a hard work. Mind starts dipping down, and I question my resolve to go on, to run ultras, to go after a 100 miler – everything. I feel like such a failure, and in the last mile all 5 of those I passed at the beginning of the ridge shuffle pass me back. This really brings me down. Don’t take me wrong – but it’s a bad day for me if I get passed in the second half. That’s my cue and it’s a shitty sign. At Pan Toll (mile 49.5) I am trying to decide if I want to continue, if it’s worth a suffering and if I make 13 hrs cut off (not official, but the one to head out for my night flight).

I look around, while trying to answer all those questions, and hear a British accent “Would you like some ice cream?” I don’t eat real food during a race. I look at him with his smile ear to ear and such sexy accent, and can’t resist. Yup, I am alive. I will be flirting up until my death bed, and even there I hope to crack a joke or few and smirk a famous eye squeeze/smile before I slip away. I pick a flavor, open it up – and make a decision. I walk out of the AS with an ice cream dripping in my hand and going after the finish.

I eat it during next mile of single track; with no rush neither in pace nor in swallowing. The cold heavy fat bites drop into my stomach, and as great as it feels mentally, my stomach begins to ache, more with each step, also sending side stitches and making me bend over every step on a dirt road downhill. It is downhill – and I can’t run, nor can I shuffle, yet I am OK with it and just moving forward. I feel strength returning to my legs, I just wish I could shake that pain in mid-riff away, but I am patient. Now I know I’ll come back. Isn’t it what ultrarunning – no, life – is all about? You make mistake – you fix it – you get back on track. By the time I reach a single track poison oak-overgrown weaving trail into Highway 1 crossing, I am pushing the power walk like crazy and pass on people again. Breathe, step, breathe. Arm swing, smile. Bottle sip, power. I am back…even if behind the time.

I keep on moving about the same, and I lost count of folks lost to heat and bad pacing/eating tactic. I feel bad for every one I get by – I was just there myself. I also not one good thing to experience – my feet have no blisters. It is especially obvious on the downhill into Tennessee Valley AS, where both previous years I had tears streaming on my face – my feet do not like dirt road downhill. I wonder if it’s the orthotics that elevated the midfoot arch and relieved some pressure from the balls of my feet, the Drymax socks or the absence of greese (I forgot my tube with Sportslick at home) – and the combination of all three, and I am liking it! I enter last AS at 58.4M, wave to Stan J again (“Ice in bottles for Olga, she is ice-cold!”), get a “you are caked in salt, you need something?” from volunteers, respond with “I’ve been around, I’ll make it: and take off mad. Now I want to go home – I want to go home so badly, I am flooded with feelings of uselessness of been here and the need to be home and hug my boys. I sob a few times (what shouldn’t be surprising anymore to anyone) and yell at myself to not waste energy. I powerhike so fast, I check off more people, at least 6, as I see the last ridge nearing. This is it, baby, like nothing, just push it on. I crest the hill, pick another girl up and fly downhill on a road. This is a 1.5M with a 1000 feet drop, only a couple of bumps – and I am feeling like an eagle. Steps wide open, quads in perfect shape, I run this downhill like I haven’t 2 previous times, weaving around a few more guys and just streaming, screaming inside, finish line getting closer by second. I cross it – in 12:32 – and hug tight Dave Stevenson and his wife Lynn. I break into crying and shaking while in their arms – “Just take me home” – and they gently lead me to the bathroom to change. Hopefully, Stacey wasn’t too scared of my breakdown there, but it happens – and the spent hormones at such an event make it that much worse. I am sorry…

Dave and Lynn drop me off in the city, and I actually have enough time to call my Russian friends (who I was supposed to spend the next 24 hrs with and who had made so many plans!!!), they picked me up, cleaned me and fed me in their house and drove me to the airport. Mike picked me up at 12:30 am, and that was the end of my not-fulfilled mini-vacation I dreamt about so long…

Alex was home asleep (he left Dad’s house after the incident), and after pitiful short nap I went to pick up Stephen. The day was a bit fuzzy with a lack of sleep, but we played, yes, we talked (and I’ll spare you details, even though after my recent email to the ultralist there are no secrets in my life), we went to the Gorge for a short hike (much shorter than anticipated because Ronda, Gail, Mike M. and Bushwhacker were faster than I thought, so we bumped into them much sooner and hung out a bit while walking back. As always, my Sanctuary of Gorge lifted my spirit (why not? Everybody’s alive and healthy, my boys are with me, my friends are the best of the best, and I am capable of running 62 miles on trails!), and thus my 3rd week of challenge finished with 85 miles.

Just as a side note – as bad of a stretch I had, I know I was able to break 12 hrs physically, so overall I am pretty satisfied with the race. I wish I had made smarter choice on catching up the fueling part once I realized what mistake I made, and I hope to learn from it – but most likely, I won’t, and I’ll make more and more mistakes in races to come…and in life as well. The important part is – I am not going to stop this crazy sport, or passion, or just plain craze. I just love it too much. I had this whole paragraph forming in my head on the airplane to Miwok before the race how I would start…”you can never do it unless you completely in love with it…personally, I can’t put a race mind in it in the first half because it takes me at least 6 hrs to keep thinking – aw, I am so happy to be here, with friends, on trail, with views, alive, capable…I am the blessed soul to have found it and will not anything stop me from doing it…” and so on, but I think my post already exceeded all the limits. If you’ve read so far – wow, my hat is off to you.

Results will be posted here, first glimpse on top runners is here.


  1. Nice report girl. Sorry you didn't go sub 12 but you did notch another finish. Which is something to be happy about. Just remember that a bad day on the trail is still better than a good day at work.

  2. Hey Olga! Sorry for switching from Eng to Rus.. Оля Молодец, это происходит в наше время, в наши дни и часы, возможно когда я бегу свои несчастные 8 или 10 миль. Ольга - про такие вещи кино можно снимать или продолжения в духе Д.Лондона делать. Про british accent и оттенки голоса - вот я бы в этом положении об этом только и думал :) Да черт с ними с 12 часами / также по русски можно сказать: Да Бог с ними с 12 часами. Если для нас открываются такие вещи .. про ошибки и про все заново и это проецируется на жизнь. Тогда стоит бежать.
    This is it.

  3. Thanks for taking the time to write all this, Olga. You should definitely not give up this sport. I get the feeling that ultra running is the one thing that keeps you sane, and the support from the ultra family is immeasurable.

    Hope it will work out.

  4. What a great report ! You are an amazing woman. I can't wait for you to visit your old stomping grounds so we can hang together !

  5. Olga you are an inspiration. I can not imagine trying to run for so long or so far, what an accomplishment.
    I look forward to reading more.

    Thank you for your support!!

  6. Props to you Olga, what a night you had before the race but you picked up the pieces and forged on...with a smile on your face. 12hrs?????....you can run 11:10 there if I remember correctly :). Good to see you yesterday and you looked like you hadn't run a step!

  7. good attitude. and great report! I'm glad you included pictures as those always helps the course come alive. Looks gorgeous!

  8. You are TOUGH.AS.NAILS. I want to be you when I grow up -- except maybe without children (JUST KIDDING!) :-)

  9. ha ha danni! you crack me up. Anyway, Olga, um, wow? i thought life was supposed to simplify? ;) I can't even imagine running 50 miles (coming up 4 m3 this weekend) let alone 60. Great job and keep on flirting - next time just skip the ice cream till later maybe! :o)

  10. ((((hugs))))

    good job powering through; being honest in your assessment of what happened. sorry to hear about oleg and his reactions to alex.

  11. Sorry to hear about the family drama right before your race. Your weekend getaway and you still couldn't leave home behind.

    The start of Miwok is my all time favorite start out of all the races I've done. Seeing all my ultra-folk making their way through the beach and snaking up the first trail is a sight I never get tired of, in person or in pictures.

    Way to finish another Miwok, I'm glad you liked our trails as much as we love them. Nice that you had your "Gorge" to come home to.

  12. "Isn’t it what ultrarunning – no, life – is all about? You make mistake – you fix it – you get back on track."

    Absolutely! You did great, girl! Sorry about the family drama, but I loved reading every word of your report. : )

  13. You never cease to amaze me. Great race, and way to tough things out. Awesome job, Olga. Thanks for sharing your stories.

  14. Olga,

    This entry made my heart swoop around over and over. You are an intensely strong, powerful woman.

    You are so right about life and running and everything else being muddied together. And about ultrarunning being a fair representation of what life is all about, the good times and the bad times. While you can't control what happens in the world around you, you can control how you react to it. This weekend you have proven that you respond positively and with strength when life hands you something really tough. And that is why I think you're amazing.

    Keep your head held high on this one, Olga. While you might not have had as great a day as you wished for, you did what you could with what you had. You should be proud!

    Thinking of you,

  15. Ditto what everyone has said. It is an amazing thing to be able to balance both physically and emotionally what you did in such a short time. You are an inspiration. Truly!

  16. I'm not surprised. Not surprised that you pulled through because you always do!

  17. Anonymous5/5/08 21:39

    Another incredible story from an incredible runner. You must have ahuge heart to withstand all of your lifes tests.


  18. Thank you for sharing all of this Olga. I could tell it was troubling you a lot on the trails on Saturday. I'm sorry that the day didn't go the way you wanted it to.

    Despite all of that, I really loved meeting you and sharing some time together, however briefly. Hopefully we'll be able to do it again under better circumstances.

    Also - I had an ice cream sandwich too! I cuold hardly believe that guy when he said he had some. Luckily mine didn't make me sick though - that part was already behind me.

    Congrats on another tough race, and thanks again for a great report.

  19. nice running into you out on the trail. hopefully next time we'll get a chance for a more proper introduction.

    great race out there though. you dealt with a lot to cross that finish line and learned a lot and you'll be a stronger person/runner for it.

  20. Olga, you are a warrior. I am so glad you pressed on and finished. Isn't it about the whole journey? If you ever do upstate NY Adirondacks or Canandaigua/Finger Lakes Ultras, I will crew for you. (I still think you look to young to have any kids. Woman, you are well-preserved.)

  21. Hi Olga - great to meet you going up the 1st hill and love your blog. See you at the next one - run happy! Jean from CO.

  22. Well another busy, crazy Olga weekend. Sorry to hear about the drama at home.

    Way to close the race out and Finish!! You are Winner :-)

    Lets catch up when u get a chance!

  23. Hi sweet Olga. I can relate to pre-race drama and that loss of control feeling when the drama hits and you have to drop everything and run to take care of other business. I can relate to the enormous toll it takes on your mind and body if you do get to run anyway, like you did at Miwok. I KNOW how hard it is, how difficult to have the stress of life nearly overwhelm you at a time when you hoped the your stresses would only be those imposed on your body by the trail.

    THAT'S why I KNOW you are one of the toughest women I know. That's one of the reasons I admire you. And that's one of the reasons I keep coming back to your blog...for inspiration and motivation and sharing life, which includes running.

    Keep embracing the freedom of the trails. Let it overwhelm you. Keep soaring like an eagle. I will too.

    Love ya!

  24. Your amazing Olga!! Thanks for the reports. You ran an exceptional race dispite many challenges. See you in Los Alamos next week! It should be an awesome course.

  25. Very cool. Even with the drama pre-race, you were able to get through 62 miles of trail. I hope that whatever happened after you returned home was handled swiftly and with little to no pain on your part.

  26. I loved your report and the quote "You make mistake – you fix it – you get back on track." As always, you did your best under the circumstances.

    Hugs and best hopes for your health and family

  27. Don't stop u;tra-running or blogging. We need you! You're power us through. We see you can do anything, in the roughest set of circumstances. I feel like such a wimp! And I know when things get bad for me and I get pissy, I'll eventually think of you and then I'll scold myself, hold up my head, and forge on. It means so much to have a real-life, modern day hero. You are TOUGH and passionate at the same time! Very impressive.
    I'm blabbering... I'm done.

  28. Geez Olga, you have a solid support network in Ultra-land and in Blog-land! I need to join the Olga fan club! I got a great picture of you up on my race report. Congrats on your day.

  29. Wow, especially with all the family crises, I think you could call it a great run-- falling, ice cream and getting passed the 2nd half aside (I had the same unfortunate experience getting passed). Stay addicted!

  30. olga, I'm sorry I didn't get to meet you on the trail, but duty calls (I passed you as you made a pit stop just before Tennessee Valley, lol). Well, I sort of said hi, did a head nod thingy. too funny.

    seriously though, damn! you're a strong person and a strong runner. you did great despite all that you've got going on. Stay true and you'll get through it all.

    take care,