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

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Hardrock Camp

Oh, my…I don’t even know where to begin…it’s like the whole life lived in 10 days…but I’ll try to squeeze a Hardrock Camp Diary…

Friday, July 4th. I’ll take an easy route out and direct you to Larry's post on arrival to Colorado. I’ll add a couple of things though, what Larry mentioned as well. The folks that were hanging out at Charlie’s house. How I love coming to race and seen my best buddies from all over the country after a year or so away from each other!!! How happy we all are to meet again, give hugs and tell jokes! This is one of the most touching and strongest feeling I get to live through…The fireworks were absolutely spectacular, and I know what I am talking about, I lived in NYC for 11 years. They were magnificent as is, and the setting was perfect, but what absolutely had me drop my jaw was an echo – like a cannonade, like an army during a war ready for an attack – those mountains made it unforgettable and never to be “beaten” by other fireworks ever. Too bad I left my camera in the room – but then again, it wouldn’t be able to capture what I saw and heard anyway. Silverton is my place to celebrate this holiday from now on.

Saturday, July 5th. Yet again, I’ll slack on it because I can Just to stress out a few points: with my altitude-induced asthma and an inhaler left in a bag, I hacked my lungs out pretty soon and completely and at American Basin, which I reached by myself (as everybody went ahead) I felt my trachea narrowing in spasms, what freaked me out. Then I lost peripheral vision in my left eye…but Larry waited for me, so we pressed on to the Handies Peak. Bruce Grant shared his inhaler, so I kind of found some oxygen floating around and moved, albeit slowly, my legs, until Bushwhacker and Billy turned us around from their way down – the storm rolled in. With lightening, thunder, rain, freezing rain, hail, high wind and whole 9 yards. By the time we made it to the American Basin pass from the gulch, I went hypothermic and lost peripheral vision on right eye as well – all just in time to start technical downhill yeah, right. Well, we did alright, and soon over the pass warmed up and got down in altitude. This climb (not as successful as planned) was a good wake up call. Hello, anybody home? What did I get myself into? But the views were worth every single breath or lack thereof…

Sunday, July 6th. Larry had to leave, so we drove to the airport in Durango by mid-day, and then Mike picked me up and drove me back. The rest of the day went in slow “hanging-out” with people, making fun of Billy’s attempts to “get in shape” after his 3 months off in cast (he broke his ankle) and of Kyle’s hmm…body which, I swear, I’ll take pictures of and send it to magazines to model clothes (or not) so I can make a buck or few (if he doesn’t need it – I could use it for my kids’ education). OK, it IS a joke…anyhow, we ate dinner and hung out at Avon with a few people, where Gary Knippling stood out as the most positive, happy, outgoing person I ever met. That not to mention he gave me a second best compliment (all in a span of a month, first coming for Billy “you are the SHIT”) – as we discussed how I don’t like to train diligently anymore and don’t have any particular race set of mind, I just go out and play, Gary said: “Well, congratulation, you’ve graduated into Ultrarunning”. My vacation had begun on quite a high note…

Monday, July 7th. At 8am a huge crowd got together at Charlie’s house for a drive to Ouray, where we carpooled and took up on a jeep road to Governor camp (I think). From there we filed up on a climb to Virginius Pass (renamed this year into Kroger's Canteen in memory of John Kroger, who a few years ago proposed, set up and manned aid station at the top of this pass, and let me add, the place is so tiny, only 2 people can fit in besides the AS table, so when a runner comes in – a volunteer steps out). The route was snowy, 3M up, and last climb included 3 pitches of vertical snow crawl – what was actually fun. And my breathing behaved beautifully! I think I am acclimating, and now can start placing bets whether or not Mike would drop me at the race…Oh, the funnest part was to slide down that pass! I have an acrophobia (afraid of heights), but surprisingly for myself jumped off the pass first and couldn’t get enough of been a kid!

After we came down, we visited local Hot Springs Pool and had late lunch at a Mexican place, where Varner and Billy came up with idea of “writing a pool” for Kyle’s winning time vs winning margin time over second place. Yeah, I know, ultrarunners are idiots…sometimes.

Tuesday, July 8th. Everybody is on their own. Mike and I drove back to Ouray for a few reasons. First was to check out route in and out of town for an AS at mile 44. It changed this year. Then we, without picking up as much as a bottle of water (so far we carried only one for both of us) we took off onto new section out of town to the Bear Creek trail. That trail was quite a dozy, but Mike wanted to see if I can keep up with him and he pushed – and I did. Then we hiked up to that insane Shell Trail I was scared like hell of in case I decide to start pacing at Ouray (second option was to start at Grouse, 14 miles later). I love this trail! Something was happening to me in this High Country, my fears were slowly dissipating…At night we venture onto last 2.5M of the course finishing in Silverton...

Later that night Tommy the Avon Man had a Taco dinner for Hrdrockers, and we didn’t get to sleep until midnight (yet again…I thought vacations are supposed to be for sleeping in!)

Wednesday, July 9th. Mike needs taper – or so I decided, because I needed solitude on my Cunningham Pass climb. I was hesitant to go on, scared of what it'll do to me, how I'll react, because it was supposed to tell me if I am capable to be a pacer at this crazy run without been dropped. But with first steps I adjusted my attitude and was merry-go-up the whole way, making it to the saddle in 1.5hrs. I went a bit further to look at the downhill on the other side and set on the ridge enjoying views. The way down took me 30 min (with first 10 min carefully pickjing my feet on steep scree straight down). My quads felt the pain...a rare occasion for me. We packed drop bags later that night.

Thursday, July 10th. Runner's check-in. More friends arrive, more chatting, more excitement. Rest for body, jitters for mind.

Friday, July 11th. 6am - and off they go! I sped up along with many others to Mineral Creek, 2M in, to see them crossing it. the water was freezing cold! It was fun cheering everybody on, the only time I'd see the whole field. Kyle ran in 18min, a full 2min ahead of chasing pack, which wasn't really chasing shortly after that. Hugs and kisses all around...

Drive to Ouray, carpool from there to Telluride AS, just in time to see Kyle smash this section in 5:35. He looked great. So did most of others in the next 3 hrs, still. Mike came right on when I expected him, and was fresh as a daisy. I sent him off to Virginius climb and told him to meet me at Ouray around 6pm. All my careful planning of taking easy first half ("Don't come before 7pm, or I'll have you sitting down!") went down the drain because I could see he is ready.

Back to Ouray and change just in case he wants me to start there. I decided if he is struggling - I'll go "full distance", if he is not - he'll need me later more. He came 5:45pm, as I thought he would, and very chipper. I walked him out through the town to the trailhead (about 1.5M) and ran back, taking pictures of other runners behind.

I had about 2 hrs to kill before making it to Grouse AS, mile 58. This is where I will pick him up. According to his Engineer split he was cranking it, but I believe now he went too overboard and overspent. Mike came to Grouse about 30 min after I hoped for and now not looking so perfect, not to mention getting lost for a bit. Jacket change - and up we go, to Handies...

I pushed him hard. I can say it now, because he was lagging behind - that never happened before. I stopped many times for a few seconds to let him pull in. We also missed a bunch of markers in the dark and snow and did lots of scouting, what was annoying. But, we did the climb in 2:35, much faster than previous Saturday, and didn't pause at the top - too cold and tired. Who cares? Down the scree and snow, met the "wonder boys" Nick and Jamal, passed them, let them re-pass us at the Burrow unmanned AS(and toilets), walked hard the road to Sherman.

The road was flat for the most part, slight incline and decline, and we walked. 2 things for attention here: my body reacted to cold (while I didn't feel cold) with pit-stops every 5 min (seriously!) and I started hallucinating. I even spoke Russian to Mike. he was staggering himself, and it was almost fun to make jokes off each other.

Sherman - Varner is sitting down in a blanket. That kid! He stopped eating! Mike set down and kept talking - to James, to volunteers, flirting with women...hey, dude, we have another 50k to go! I kick his butt, shove a burrito in his hand and walk him out. He does tend to sit down and chat too much, he knows that too, and that's what I am here for:)

Next section is relentless with uphills on single track, bushwhacking and crossing creeks back and forward non-stop. Actually, the whole course is crossing streams, so don't plan on dry feet and don't bother with shoe/socks change. My Salomon and Drymax socks are holding on great, and Mike has no complains either. Sun comes up somewhere in mid-way here...

Pole Creek AS seems to never come, we wonder how much longer this section really is vs proposed 9 miles. Eventually, it's up that hill, and both of us prop on the ground to get soup and coffee. I swallow mine rather fast and, yet again, get Mike up and going. I hate aid station time waste. He naggs me, but follows. We are a great team...

If I only were warned about next section ahead of time!!! While trail to Maggies is ok, rolling single track, out of this AS is a whole different story. We have to get to 13,000 feet twice more before we hit descent to Cunningham. Why didn't I look at the profile? I forgot. I sunk deep and that not to mention the route was simply like that: marker - no trail - look straight up, find another one (after spending some time searching) - go up the mountain through grass or snow steep up - repeat. I lost climbing legs here, and I think most of it was mental. I tried to kick Mike out and drop me - I felt so useless. He stood strong - he is not finishing without me. What a friend! I even thoguht I should cry, but was too spent to do so, and after he calmed me down that he doesn't care what happens next - I regained my posture (and some of strength) back. Second 13-er went better than first here. Next stretch we just discussed how we should adjust goals from 33-34 hrs to "second sunset 38". We were cool with it, and got passed by a couple of folks (one been Betsy Kalmeyer).

And as Mike set down on a rock to empty his shoes before descending to Cunningham on crazy ass trail, I looked at my watch - and started doing math...PR is possible if we hassle (his PR is 34:40 this direction). We can do it! - I get him off as we move down.

We dropped all the extra weight out of our packs at last AS and bite our lips - grind our teeth. No chatter, focus and work. 2700 feet in 2.3 miles down during training/scouting in 1:30. Can we repeat it? Puffing quietly and putting one foot in front of another, I keep watching the numbers on my wrist. 1:25 to the top - wow! Now I want to adjust the goal, but before telling Mike, I just make a mental note.

We scramble on the other side for a bit sliding on vertical scree, then hit some ok trail, then dirt jeep rocky road. I say firmly "run". Mike follows.

Funny, we've walked most of the way all night and morning, and now we run. We run like crazy, and again, I figure the course map underestimates the distance, but eventually we cross the creek (part we did on Tuesday night). I keep pushing, and Mike comments how I get stronger as we get closer. Hell yeah! So I have to tell him, without breaking a stride, that we will be able to break 34 if keep moving, and that I'd like him to consider leaving me to run it in if the goal gets jeopardized. Mike refuses to even think about it. We are quite a team indeed...but with 20 min to go and an extra hill I didn't remember I turned around, took his waste pack off, shove him a water bottle and told him: run, do it for me.

And run he did. Finally the tears came, as I knew for sure he'll make it, while I slowly walked down that last mile. In fact, as slow as I was, I made it to the Rock exactly at 34:00 flat, so a power walk would bring both of us to the finish under. But I didn't want to risk it. And I am glad I did what I did...

33:51, a few seconds off the record for over-50...had I known! A PR by almost an hour. On a snowy course. At the age of 57. For 11th overall. I wanna be like him when I grow up...

I wish I had more time, but my boss pulled me today and told me I spent too much time on computer. And I do have a life at home, apperently, what I almsot forgot about, so this shall do. I wanted to interserse the post with pictures - but even that has to be forgone. Just go to the Photoalbum abd align the story with what is there. Check out Hardrock results for splits and other people's times. Yes, we allknow, Kyle smashed it. Kid is good. But even better are his personal traits, for what I really love him. Actually, each and every one of those who came to Hardrock Camp is special. If Ultrarunners are family - Hardrockers are "first in keen". I am so blessed to have visited. I am bound to Silverton every summer from now on.

Welcome to "2 Mile High Club".


  1. Awesome post, Olga! I got an email from Mike today and while I'll keep most of it to myself, I can share that you have the "Eye of a Tiger" and can almost make a grown man cry with your ability to bring out the very best in others. Bravo! :)

  2. Looks beautiful there Olga! Glad you had a great week - sure sounds like a load of fun.

  3. Amazing, truly amazing! What an experience to remember, but I'm sure there will be many more like that for you.

    P.S. I should give you a hard time for taking me off your blog list, but I guess there's not much of interest there at the moment. But I'll be back! : )

  4. Wow. What an awesome week, and incredible scenery. A friend forwarded me some pics from the raced, and I could hardly believe how beautiful everything was. And how come nobody had heard of Kyle until this race? The kid's amazing.

    Great post!

  5. Great report! I am glad you had a wonderful time and a huge congratulations to Bushwhacker.

  6. I'm unlikely ever to be able to get there, but you make it sound truly special. It really makes me think I'm missing out on something.

    Great report, fantastic photos.

  7. That sounds like an amazing experience -- and you are a good friend and pacer to Mike. I can just imagine that you are a total task master! I look forward to seeing you next month at Headlands!

  8. Great V-cat Olga...Glad I had a chance to talk with you for a bit, sounds so amazing out there...great job on pacing Mike

    Congrats Bushwhacker on ur HR pr you so kicked ass!!!

  9. Way to go, Olga & Bushwacker! What an amazing effort and accomplishment. You are, as always, an amazing crew and pacer. He was lucky to have you out there. Sounds like it was a wonderful week with friends. Recover well.

  10. Awesome...I have been waiting for your report. And...the pictures are beautiful!

  11. Wow, I was there and it sounds like a trip of a lifetime. You have my vote for "Pacer of the Year" award.
    Let me tell the world that this Ultra-Woman is very man's dream.


  12. I am so glad you had a great time! What a wonderful vacation!

    Yeah for Mike - and you! I love the toughness - mental and physical. Very inspiring!

  13. Oh wow, this entry was so inspiring. First Mike's and your's physical performance, next the beauty of the photos, and finally the strong spirit I can feel in your writing. What a great time you all had, and a hearty congrats to Mike and the rest of you!


    PS. Did anyone else notice the final line of Olga's entry? Hilarious!

  14. Olga,

    Love all the smiles from you in the pictures!

    Mike must be some sort of alien. Did you happen to notice a big spaceship up on any of those Mts? I think all the aliens meet at the starting line and run up to the mothership for an annual meeting. With all that climbing they can't be mere mortals!

    We all have our special places on this earth. I'm glad you have found a special place combined with a special event. Lake Louise in Alberta Canada is my favorite place. Fortunatly the Death Race will allow Michelle and I to visit in the week after the race.


  15. Olga, I love reading your posts. Sometimes I wonder how many people out there you have inspired to do ultras. I know you were pacing this one, but that also sounds like a lot of fun and I am now more interested in doing it one day. Sounds like Mike really benefited from your pacing, too(I am curious if that was the Mike you were talking about me to :)).

    Sorry you got in trouble at work for your computer time! I hope this doesn't mean less Olga. Either way, SR and I now decided we're going to look for a 50 miler in your neck of the woods before we move. We're still hoping to meat the real Olga one day!

  16. Awesome report Olga! I love the way you seem to recapture every moment and make me feel like I am there! Great job pacing Mike and kicking his butt. As for aliens, I think Kyle definitely is one! ;)

  17. Emilie Miller17/7/08 19:06

    Cute green skirt!!

  18. OK fine! You can have our matching chairs for your table if you will be my pacer for Waldo? Oh dern it! You are already running that one.

    Great pix Olga and a fantastic story. You did Mike good!

  19. Great report. Really enjoyed reading that. Thanks


  20. Olga- Yes I'm ready! Metally I'm already up in Canada. Physically I'm still going through the motions and making a living. One more long run up at Tiger and then I'll just work on speed for the week and start the twitch, I mean taper.

    I hope I can do the course justice with my camera along to share the experience and let others decide if it's a run they want to attempt.

  21. Sorry I'm late commenting - my company blocks blogger.com and my iPhone too often locks-up when I try to comment.
    As a pacer, I know I've improved. All I have to do is ask myself, how would Anita Fromm of Olga handle this? Smile a lot, laugh, joke, and when that fails, bitch and nag!
    Mike was lucky to have you there, both at the aid stations and as a pacer. You are both very tough! Great to see and meet both of you!

  22. Congratulations on getting your runner in, Olga. What a fabulous vacation away you had. You'll be a Hardrocker next!! Better stay off the computer at work; you want to keep your job :)