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.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Big Horny Revenge

I should be sleeping right now…I haven’t slept more than 5 hrs in over a week, likely 3 hrs a pop, and I am here…things had been happening past week, escalating the day before the flight to the point I emailed one friend not to be surprised if I won’t make it to the start. But I won’t be writing about it here, it doesn’t really matter. After all, when I relayed to Ronda at the airport in short my current life, she without a blink said: “what’s new? It’s normal life for Olga”. What will I ever do if my life becomes peaceful? In fact, quite a few people put pressure on me saying I seem to perform better under stress. Well, here you go. Case closed.

Adrien, Mike and I took a flight to Seattle, where we switched to Billings flight and met up with Ronda, Mike M, Steve P. and Ronda’s crew of Bill, Darin and Chris. It happened to be Steve’s birthday, and Ronda organized the flight attendants to sing “happy birthday” and serve cupcakes! That was fun and very thoughtful and made poor guy blush. We landed on time and went for our car rentals.


The drive was uneventful. I never looked at the course description or elevation chart, however Mike did send me an aid station file, and at 10:30pm I randomly put times at 6 main locations. Last year I did this run with my buddy Rick, and while I loved how tough and beautiful it was, I vividly remembered how miserable I felt last 30 miles and even swore off 100’s (for all of 2 hrs). This year lots of things changed. My training (or lack thereof), my attitude about running and racing, my life. I could care less about end result. I wanted to test my guts, my resolve – and to enjoy the moment. No pacer, no crew, no support buddy on the run…do I got what it takes? Am I “the shit”?
We checked into a motel 5M away from the finish and drove up to Sheridan for a packet pick up. I was still battling home struggles when it hit me: I am here, they are there. There is nothing I can do about anything, I should just let it go. This is not why I come to races, I come here to have fun, to enjoy friends and to let my mind to calm down. It was quite a light bulb, and the switch surprised even myself at how sudden and complete it was. So I began smiling and taking pictures. We hit the supermarket for last minute pick up and went to pre-race dinner to see more friends – reunion it is! Like Johnny, we ran together our both first 50M for half of it before he went to kick my butt (hey, my picture is still on their web!), then lost contact, then joined Montrail team together and occasionally met at the races and exchanged emails. But this time, rooming in, we found we can also be great friends! I love it when it happens! Catra and Andy are such long term buddies, it’s hard to point finger (well, Andy endured me at SD100 in 2005, and Catra – at ZG50 same year, but the roots lead even further back, I just don’t recall). PNW contingent was thick and we chatted while consuming insane amounts of food from the bar.

It was time to head out, but the sleep wasn’t coming, so our small group hit the bar for a beer and some more talk, and then Mike, John and I took a stroll on a half-a-mile length of a street that took all of the town of Ranchester. Eventually, around 10:30 or so, we turned in. I still had no idea what I packed at 11pm on Wed night…

I had to find out when the sun lit up the sky on Friday morning. With 11am start time, we could have slept it – but the inner alarm clock is a weird thing, so I had plenty of time to dig in my suitcase and figure that I do, indeed, have a skirt, a bra, a shirt, a pair of Cascadias (one), an i-Pod, 3 cans of V8 juice (my staple) and 30 gels. Oh, good, I can live with that! 2 drop bags that I’ll hit 3 times each, 5 gels per switch, 1 long sleeve shirt and 2 headlamps. Set to go!

We drove up for breakfast and it felt insanely relaxed, like none of us are going to do this crazy thing called 100 M race over the Bighorn mountains, and we really munched on eggs and other comfort food. A 2 min drive to the finish line for a pre-race hang-out, and I am still having too good of a time picking on those I haven’t seen in a while – and those I see a lot.

Looking cute is THE thing for a race like that!

Did I predict winners or what??

Kim G. and I are giving an interview for the race's movie.

So we were driven to the start by Dave S. wife Lynn and hung out a bit more. You know, I am still against such late start, just too much lingering around…but we did indeed had fun doing it! And I forgot my gloves and my i-Pod! Oh, well, whatever…

Lori B., my Teton buddy.

Eventually, it was time, and off we went. I settled in to the middle, and in 10 min, by the clock, my shins tightened up with compartment and I started my walking, the usual, yet again, what’s new in Olga’s life? I let folks pass and took pictures…



The early “taking care” of the pain paid dividends – it only lasted 20 minutes, and I slowly sped up my power walk, just as we were approaching the long continuous hill in the meadow. Boy, can I powerwalk! I was picking up those who I let go in the first couple of miles and having fun! The wild flowers were amazing as always, and the smells overwhelmed me big time, I was trying to breathe it in to remember.

So there we were, nothing major, slow slog up, chatting away, encountering first snow drift, going more up, and I finally forgot I am to make it through a whole 100 miles – just “being”, here, now, one step at a time… I really don’t know what to say about this part, because I was simply moving without judgment and without plan, one foot in front of another.

John L. caught up with me somewhere on the climb, and we then spent good 20 or so miles together, pulling apart and coming back together, talking like hell and even singing (well, he did anyway, you don’t want to hear me perform). As last year, I enjoyed and fully submerged myself to filling up on jumbo shrimps at Upper Sheep AS, and volunteers were delighted about it. Hey, I paid good buck for the entry fee, I might as well use it up to my advantage! I really, really love shrimps, but never buy them myself, so taking advantage of the offer is a given.

I finally left and worked my way rolling on a dirt road, where I suddenly came upon – who else – but Johnny H.! WTF??? He is supposed to battle the front pack of the boys! No, no injury, just not “feeling it”…happens, it’s OK, lets walk together and talk some. Milada C. (Bear 100 winner), Laurie A. and John L. are with us as well, and we are having a blast chit-chatting, even as a short rain storm rolls on us.

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More dirt road up and rolling until we finally hit Dry Fork AS at mile 15 (?) or so, and the main drop bag station. Charlie’s and Gilles’ wives worked me as a personal crew, getting my drop bag, switching my used gel packets to new ones and filling my bottles. Nascar! If I only was in a hurry…but it was totally cool and awesome and felt like I am a super-star! We leave on a quite steep jeep road down still in the same company for a trip to Cow Camp first.

I feel good. I feel really good, and while I enjoy the company, I just can’t seem to keep a pace suited for all and slowly pull away. I keep turning back and yelling to come catch me, but the distance is getting further with each step. At Cow Camp I load on shrimps again and some boiled potato (I really don’t have enough gels to have sustained energy, and surprisingly I can chew and swallow quite well on this day) and take up on Riley Point climb, 2000 feet in 3 miles. Hiking is fun!

I catch up on Steve A. and he mentions he’s been waiting for me to do so – we snap a picture and I go on up and higher. The climb is relentless, the breathing is hard, but it doesn’t matter, I am having a sick blast! There are a few snow patches before I see a truck – an AS with water only, which I don’t even refill, and then it rolls up and down on yet another dirt road with snow and muck. John L. is right near me, and I meet a great woman Michelle, with whom in about 15 minutes each we exchanged stories of our lives fully, like to a priest, and the bond that formed was unbelievable! I wish I could have enough patience to tell all the stories I hear on trail…but I type with two fingers only, it would take me a year and a day!

We make it back to Dry Fork, now at 30 miles, and to my total surprise, whatever time I happened to put on my bottle pace chart – I hit right on the spot. Go figure! The chill of the air was about to come, and I did a change of sleeveless top to a long sleeve shirt and picked up my headlamp.

Interesting how much body remembers. The whole day all I was thinking about is how I can picture every turn, every bump on this course even though I’ve only been here once, and it was a year ago. But I could, and I was moving on quickly without slowing down any. Could it be the fact that I was eating so much solid real food? I don’t know, but the bonking never came.

We rolled more, with John L. on my heels, all the way to Camp Bear, as the light of the day gave way to dusk, and the shades of the hills changed colors.

John wasn’t seen well without glasses and light, but I was totally fine and refused to stop, so had to yell out rocks and roots, which were plenty. The speed, tough, was never an issue – we cranked the section and got to mile 42.6 a full 30 min earlier (for what my chart was worth). This is where I put a headlamp – and realized I didn’t change the batteries. OK, that’s fine, I know next section as a back of my hand and at the next AS I have another light in a drop back. I took off, thinking again happily how wonderful the condition of the trails is comparing to last year. Don’t take me wrong, Bighorn is nasty, rocky, twisted, narrow, ugly, horse-hooves-prints abused, with mud and some water – but NOTHING what it was in 2007. I enjoyed it big time. Oh, and at the same time I noticed that my camera had only 12 minutes left of battery as well, so I tucked it into my pack and didn’t use till Sunday, so no more pictures…

John caught up with me a half a mile or so before FootBridge, and we both witnessed greatness of Bronco Billy, our own Oregonian, Jeff Browning, 2x winner of this race already, leading the field in a “happy camper”, almost singing springy hop up that monster hill back! It’s like we are at mile 42, and he is at 65…hmm, what a dude! We hi-fived and went on our merry ways.

An hour ahead of that silly number on my bottle, I am finally realizing I am having a heck of a day. I ask volunteers to pour a soup for me to chill (I don’t like hot food) and take off on the short out-back for 3M, running! Oh, yeah, baby, I don’t recall running in the middle of a 100 at night so happy for a long time! Back to FootBridge again, finally do a headlamp switch, grab that soup and my personal V8 juice, some potato, dancing at the AS and scaring the hell out of other crew people. Ronda’s crew is here, and I, with affirmation, ask if she is in the lead yet. Yep and cranking it! I love predicting race outcomes for others…as for myself, what I know for sure, I am over an hour faster at the same mile post comparing to last year, and darn if I won’t try keeping it up! Now I know – deep inside I have a goal, and that is to break 27 hrs. I do my math as I walk out – 8:40 first 33M, if I make 9hr second and 9:20 last, I am IN! I am on fire!

The night is deep and dark, and I love it! How much did I worry that I’d be scared to run through the night by myself, that I’d start slacking, falling asleep, been bored, kicking rocks and tripping over, getting lost and so on, and the bear will eat me alive…Nothing bothers me now, and I completely totally love this experience of running by myself, along the mountain river, on the ridge, over the rocks, with one headlamp and a bottle in hand. Full moon lights some of the way where it clears up off the trees, and I don’t want this feeling to stop. I am running it, dang it!

I come to an AS, and there is a guy singing with a guitar. Somehow they call my name out. I kept wondering the whole day how can people recognize me (OK, knowing me now is not a secret with blog) by an accent from 2 words like “looking good”, but apparently I was later explained my intonations are not American whatsoever, it’s not even how I say words, it’s how I enhance or lower the voice in wrong places. Hmm, well, be it, because hearing my own name around midnight in the middle of nowhere is pretty sweet! I decide to switch socks – I feel hot spots forming – and for some weird reason put 2 pairs instead of one. Don’t ask, never done it before, the toes got squeezed right away, but taking them back off was too consuming, so I figured I’ll handle it.

Next section was fun! Not only was it pretty runnable, this is where all the “normal” people started coming back from a turn-around! Ronda and Bill passed by focused, Mike B. and second place woman Kathy chatted a bit, so did so many many others, I had a blast! What sleep? This is party time! OK, just before that 56.4M I did get a spell of sleepiness, but with a caffeinated gel and a few sips of HEED I was back in business in no time, as I took on my own way back and to greet other runners now coming towards me. Only once did I trip over something and caught myself thinking I could have potentially fallen off this cliff and disappear in the angry waters, but it was a second of a thought that never came back. I did count women, just in case (a habit) and figured I am 11th. Well, as good as any other place to be – and before I realized it, I began passing them…

I stopped paying attention to my silly chart, but my mathematical mind did the calculation and said I have to leave FootBridge AS at mile 64 no later than 4:30am – and I did it at 3:45. My blood was boiling, never was I more proud of myself during a run, and this time it was all mine…

Back to climb 3.5M with 2300 feet of gain, and I always make it in 1:15, last year or this year alike. At around a mile into it I turned my headlamp off. The moon was full, the terrain open, and behind me was the most magnificent sunrise coming up, for now simply a narrow line of bright red color…and the birds were going crazy greeting another day!!! The smells on this hill, oh, the smells, just wonderfully overwhelming all the senses, I felt like I overloaded on it all and with desire of never letting it go somehow passed another bunch of folks. Back to Camp Bear it is, to see Mike E. and his pacer leaving – hey, didn’t I give a warning to not let me pick you up on the trail ever again?

I ran away from them like a possessed woman, with a spring in my step, yet shortly felt another wave of sleep deprivation coming. Yes, it’s about time (I actually don’t remember time, just a couple minutes past 5am?) – and this one took me a whole hour to get over, and that included some good running terrain which I made myself actually run until I came to Cow camp again. Shrimps, bacon, sausage! Runners from 50 mile race! Back to climb Riley Point at 75M into the race! I wasn’t sure where I am happy and where I am a bit ticked off, but my idea of doing a 100 is to never question anything that happens. I simply ate food, got my bottle filled up – and on to the mountain…

It took me 1:08, I timed it, and I remember. Time began to mean something to me. I was getting dizzy a bit and run low on calories, because my drop back was due in another 5M and the gels were gone. I asked the guys – and they shared their personal snack of puffy cheeses, what great volunteers! And then, as I was about to swear loudly about stupid rolling dirt road with snow and mud – the 30k runners started to come up my way…oh, how gracious, how encouraging they were! Many stopped and clapped hands, everyone said something, and I couldn’t believe I (and all other 100 milers who told stories) was put on a pedestal of a hero. That gave me energy and helped me to make a way down to Dry Fork for one last time.

Mile 83. Well, almost. And look who is here – Johnny H.!!! He dropped, yet he came to see me out! I mean, if it wouldn’t pick me up, nothing would – he did a stellar job throwing my gels at me for change and helping switch back from long sleeves to short sleeves. Yes, look me over at the finish line at 27 hrs!

I picked it up for the power walk and caught Dave S. By then I knew for sure my feet are blister-plastered as never before, and my right ankle has some sever tendonitis, but I was determined to not pay attention to it. We made Dry Fork to Upper Sheep (5M) in 1:10, where I loaded on shrimps again. I could still outwalk most people (if not all – who walked) and run downhills. So I did, with Dave, chatting happily, so close to the finish…when those stupid blisters started to pop. This is new to me, usually they simply fill up and wait on me to finish. The hike up was fine (even if breathing was out of limits), and the soft single track down was still OK, even if painful, although one bottle after 10am was a very stupid idea (why did I not pick up my second one that I dropped for night section?) and I was getting dehydrated and overheated. Last 2M of that trail was rocky – and I couldn’t handle it anymore. So I cried, and I slowed down, and I couldn’t believe my goal that was so wonderfully falling right into my hands without even trying is now slipping away…

At the road where it was “5M to go” I let Dave go. I did not want him to see me cry. I also knew a secret – I do better when hurt and angry if I am alone. So he left, and I sucked it up. 1:15 for 5 miles, 15 min/mile pace, you better do it, or you’ll never look into your own mirror reflection! I actually broke into some short bursts of jogging, but energy was too low to keep it for long. Deep down inside I knew I got it made. I made these 5 miles in 1:05.

I turned a familiar corner and walked around the campground. 26:50. I broke this stupid 27 hr goal. I am “the shit”. Now I know…

It’s funny how much “mind over matter” plays role in ultras. I managed to change and talk for a few minutes, but my next “get up” attempt sent me into fainting and nausea and total weakness. I almost crawled to find Mike and Adrien and they took me back to the room (I missed out on finish line hang-out!), stuck me into cold bath to bring the core temperature down and made me drink liquids. Eventually my breathing and pulse came to acceptable levels, and I survived. I don’t think I felt that bad after a race before, but all it means is that I tried my honest. And for that – thanks.

Next day, at award “plaza”, I found out for the first time my place, and it was that much sweeter. I am glad I didn’t know about it when I finished, I wouldn’t comprehend it anyway. Oregon swept the podium! Ronda rocked in 25:10, Bronco tri-peated his win in 18:56. Bushwhacker took 2nd in AG, and Dave S. followed in 3rd. Everybody ran an awesome race and had a grand time.

OK, it’s like 1 am and I am going to crumble the ending. Thanks to the RD’s and volunteers for making this amazing mountains available to us to explore, for changing the course last minute due to snow pack so efficiently and with high organization, for letting us meet our friends and have a party only we understand and cherish. Rock on, dudes!



Enjoy the pictures and results.
I thought the altered course was tougher, but faster. The climbs were tougher, steeper, but shorter, and you could power-hike them instead of wasting energy to try and run. Downhills came steeper as well, allowing for fast leg turn-over and not slogging through the so-much hated by me declines (and inclines...and flats...ok, I am a real hill freak). It's a must do for beauty, organization, and difficulty. I said it before, and I stand by it, good year or bad year.

31 comments:

  1. Congrats on a great run. The title to your post cracked me up. The pictures are fantastic. I'm really looking forward to seeing you at GTR !

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  2. Oh Olga, what an experience! YOU ARE AWESOME! I'm so glad you had such a great race! Thank you, thank you for sharing all the details with us! I am so inspired! I'm in tears. I WANT TO RUN A 100! And it'll probably be yours next year. :-) Hold me to that, will you? Take good care of yourself this week and recover well!

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  3. Olga:
    I felt like I was there. Awesome report. Take care of yourself this week and try get some much needed sleep, because you have another fun filled weekend coming up at WS, don't you? ;)
    -S

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  4. Great report Olga. I'm glad you had such a wonderful time and so much enjoyment - hope your feet heal up soon!

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  5. Jumbo Shrimps, GELS, HEED, Bacon & sausages ...ummm you had no choice to RUN with that combo cause if you stopped ur body would've kicked ur asss :-)

    Awesome Re-cap Chica & way to GRIND it out at the END and FINISH with nothing left, now that is the Olga that we love....leave it all out on the course, even da tears !!

    CONGRATS & Big HUGS )))) now Recover well and REST Up!!!

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  6. Thanks for the great photo documentary. Nice run on a tough and beautiful course!

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  7. way. to. go. chica! you rock.

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  8. Congrats Olga. You totally kicked ass on this course! Whereas I had my ass totally kicked by those climbs (and my Achilles done in by the slippery mud). It was great to see you again. I'll get around to my race report eventually.

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  9. Fantastic! You are my hero Olga!

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  10. Great to see you at the race, Olga! Fantastic PR. Strong, sweet, smart, beautiful! Very nicely done.

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  11. You were so strong and determined when I saw you coming down Leaky and I am so proud of your effort in spite of the difficulties. Glad I was there for your coming out race. Take good care of Steve this weekend and make sure he stays smiling (and running). See you soon in the Tetons.

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  12. To quote Memphis Billie. You are "The SHIT".

    Great Time from a Great Ultra Babe on a not so Great Course but the scenery was Great!!

    Bushwhacker

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  13. Olga,

    Yehaw! What an exciting race you had.

    Once I started reading your report I actually had to leave and come back to finish because it was pretty intense. I was right there running with you, minus the blisters and other pains.

    I'll say the same thing as when we chatted, you are one tough lady!

    Enjoy the afterglow and I hope those feet heal quickly!

    Congratulations!
    Meghan

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  14. Great report! I must admit that I am struggling with motivation and this helped. Seeing all you fit Oregonians makes me want to change my lifestyle.

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  15. Great solo run Olga! These runs are difficult enough with a crew. You "Cowgirled Up" for this one!

    Great to read your enthusiasm as you described the event. Glad Mike and Adrien were able to help you recover after your post race bonk. You obviously gave it your all on the course.

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  16. Wow, Olga! Sounds like you had so much fun. AND you got 3rd?! I am so happy for you. And you look so young and healthy in those pictures.

    I have to ask what is with all that goo/Gu (whatever)? Do you actually like that stuff? Oh and what songs do you sing on these 100Ms? I'd certainly need to sing, too, if I forgot my ipod :).

    SR and I are sitting here wondering when we should run a 100M. You really have inspired us.

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  17. Your last 5 miles was like my last 5 miles at KM, 15 min miles and fighting with everything to stay ahead of the runners chasing. Gutting it out, painfully. Ah Olga what a year we are having huh. I got a hug for you when I see you at Foresthill this Saturday.

    Bighorn 2007 was enough for me, it'll do me for awhile, can't believe you returned to similar conditions. Even more awesome is how you kicked some butt, yours included. You ran yourself into the ground thankfully Mike and Adrien were there to help.

    Isn't it great running in the dark by yourself. I was having a blast at KM doing just that. First time for me too because even in the races that I didn't have a pacer I managed to make friends and ran with them through the night. I thought my senses were sharper because I knew I had no one to depend on but myself out there. Sounds like you had a similar experience.

    Oregon rocks and I'm looking forward to running my first Oregon ultra at your race.

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  18. Congrats on the third girl. Great race. Looks like you had a blast this time around.

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  19. Wow, Olga, that's awesome! Congratulations on an outstanding result. And you even had fun out there. Imagine that.

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  20. WTG Olga! You did it all on your own. You beat all those demons. Plus I got a table for you to put that rock on. Ha!

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  21. Hey, woman! Congratulations on your most excellent run. It was fun to crew you at the Dry Fork pit stop. You were clearly having a great time and just enjoying the moment. Great work! Hope you get some well-deserved rest.

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  22. Nice run Olga! It was truely a blast and those trails are almost as bad as Wasatch. Rest up and have fun at WS....bring your face mask for the thick smokey air.

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  23. Geez, Olga! You totally kicked butt! Congrats!!! You have totally graduated to "The SHIT"! You inspire me so much. I'll be thinking of you at Leadville.

    Hey, its not looking good for WS with all the fires.

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  24. Nice! Way to break that 27 hour barrier. Awesome and great race report as always!! You are the shit!

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  25. You look so fit, my dear, and happy! That last photo should have Madonna's "Vogue" playing in the background! The beauty of that race is truly stunning... as is your tough performance. Why is no one on here surprised? Oh yeah, because it's YOU! :-) Sorry I haven't been commenting...only have time to read (not that everyone could use that excuse, I realize, guiltily). Brava!

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  26. Congrats on a fine run, Olga. You Oregon girls really kicked A$$ !!

    :)

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  27. Oh yes, oh yes, you are indeed THE SHIT. ;-D

    Way to kick some ass and finish under 27 hours AND finish 3rd!

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  28. Olga-
    It was so nice to see you. You are amazing I am so proud of your finish. I loved that course and will run it again next year.
    To bad about WST 100. Since it got canceled I invited my runner I was going to pace his wife and a few others who were in to run 100k with me tomorrow.
    I'm sure they will all kick my butt but we will have fun.
    Love ya,
    Catra

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  29. Awesome! Big congrats! You've definitely got it.
    : )

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  30. great report and way to run girl...you go girl..
    I hope you knee is ok from the fall and that you are still with your Big Horn smile.
    Lisa

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  31. Congrats on a such a great race, especially for living in the moment and having so much more fun this time around. Awesome! The jumbo shrimps sound so yummy-- I hope I can do this race before too long. Sorry about States, but I guess you're in next year....

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