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, August 26, 2008

One tough cookie

What a weekend, what a race, what a girl! I wish I wasn’t so drained out so I can deliver the proper excitement, but I’ll do the best I can…

Saturday, yet again, the wake up call came early. Seems like that 4am alarm is just imbedded for my summer…Back at the beginning of the year I was setting up a year’s plan for races, and included CC100 as a pacing assignment for “whomever needs it”. When I emailed the plan to Gail Snyder, my ever-trusted running partner and friend, her response was “pick me, pick me!” Thus the commitment began. Gail’s training was going great, she had awesome races and fantastic training runs, until a phone call from her native Australia to come home for a visit (family emergency). While things turned out to be ok at home, almost 4 weeks of little running took the toll on her training, and by the time she was back (a mere 10 days before the race), Gail was contemplated to bail out. Well, Mike and I had no doubts she can come to the finish on the base she had before the trip, and she really wanted to run, so the decision was made in “favor”. We were going to have fun!

CC100 is a “local race” for us. Only 4 hr drive and 10 am start allows to get there a morning of, although since we wanted to see everybody before the race, we had to ensure 9am arrival, what we did. So many friends were milling around, I won’t even try to recount, just click on pictures link below. There was buzz in the air, as always at events like that, and Charlie and Audrey Crissman (RD’s) are absolutely wonderful in taking care of business. My cheeks hurt from smiling so much…

At exactly 10 am off the went. We chatted with a few folks left behind as crew and pacers, set meeting with Sid, Gail’s husband and chief in charge, and went for a bit of run (which turned out into a power walk because I refused to run on a dirt flat road out of boredom). As we cam back, we left a car at a parking close to many aid stations turns and piled into Sid’s crew-mobile to hit Tacoma Pass, mile 22. Everybody seems to be there already, despite not expecting even front runners to be there for another hour. Mike and I took off for another run, now on beautiful PNW trails…

Soon the front runners trickled in, with Stan in 5th position. We waved to each and continued on to the road intersection I remembered very well, about 3 miles out of AS. I did remember we had to cross the road back on trail, however, both Mike and I known as having “lost on trails” reputation and following conversation way too engaged, we took a turn and went up a dirt road for a mile.
After we realized there is no way it is possible to have such a huge gap between leaders and the next pack of racers, we turned back, and of course saw other running the correct course and the great marking we managed to miss! So back we went, letting folks go by and snapping pictures.
Gail came in to Tacoma at 3:30pm, 30 min ahead of her prediction, which neither one of us was surprised about. She was feeling quite well and alive and took her time refueling and replacing bottles and gels. So many helpers swirled around her that for the next AS we got a request to sit aside and let Sid deal with things to not get brain-fuzzy and not forget to put important things into the pack. Valid, and off she went on to the trail. This aid station was where we were able to see most of our friends, and I took as many pictures as I could before we piled back to the car and drove to Stampede Pass, 10 miles later on the race course.

We came there early again, so, the crazy runners we are, and in desperate need for training (that would be yours truly), we left Sid and ran the dirt road down to Mike’s car that was left for about 4.5M. Then we jumped into the car and drove back up. I know, complicated, but what it meant was that Mike and I got some 15 plus miles of running by the end of Saturday, and that was good. Gail came to mile 33 still on schedule that we as crew now adjusted (same 30 min ahead). The refueling process repeated itself, although I stayed back to not overwhelm our runner with too much noise. On, on, more running for Gail…

We all drove to Meadow Mountain, mile 41, and hung out there a bit seeing different runners from the previous AS’s as they spread out by now a lot. Short time later we all decided Mike and I should leave and prepare for the night and pacing and leave the car at Hyak while Sid would wait for Gail by himself. That’s what we did, changed into running clothes, got our bags, and Sid picked us up to drive to Ollalie Meadow, mile 47.

Ollalie was dark. I mean, the AS had lights and all, but it was really dark by then. By the time we met a few runners in and saw Gail, it was past 10pm, and the sky had the most magnificent stars ever (I kept remembering the year 2005 when I paced Rob Hester here and how strikingly beautiful the sky was), and we even saw a Milky Way! Wow was all I could think about…Maura picked up Eve Ponder here to pace, and then Mike went up the trail to meet up with Gail. Here Gail for the first time lost some on her schedule, and wasn’t as perky as last we saw her. That section is a doozy and takes toll on runners, especially in the dark. We fed her (by pre-requirement I was a “food bitch”), massaged her, dressed her up and sent her with Mike on to a rope section with tunnel thrown in…one of the fun stretches on the course. Sid and I drove to Hyak for more waiting game.

I bet I said it a million times by now, but aid stations are fun, and even more sore when the night falls, the runners become “real” (not lolly-gagging funky gun-ho first half of the race), you can see through their soul, and they also need more help I am so eager to provide. So I hand-fed, massaged, changed socks and gave advice to quite a few too many while Gail’s time was coming closer…came…and gone, and we become worried. Half-way is not the time to slip off the pace. I walked out of AS eventually and saw Gail and Mike running down the road.

Nothing really serious, just kind of slowing down a bit, no major damage. Good. Another pit-stop to take care of blisters, change of clothes, more food spoon-fed, more rubbing – and they were off for some 14 miles of dirt road, half up, half down. Sid and I – drive to Kachess Lake, mile 68 on the course.

Kendall Kreft is the Man in Charge there, and we have a good time chatting. Actually, for an hour and half I am trying to sleep in the car, but the car is so fully loaded, the front sit doesn’t move, and crouched into a ball not my idea of sleeping, so while I kept my eyes shut, I didn’t get rest at all. As I got out, soon I figured Gail is late. And getting later. And later. Over an hour behind my estimate I walk out for a quarter mile and finally see Mika and Gail shuffling down. Apparently, Gail was so low on calories, and the middle of the night didn’t help either – she was falling asleep on her feet and still didn’t feel recovered (nor was she taking much in calories yet again). Food Bitch to the rescue! She asked for another short break, and I gave her 7 minutes laying down under the tree, then got her up and fed some more. All this “more” came right back up. Nobody blinked, I got her up – and off we went, to the Trail of Hell…
The course description claims it’s only 5 miles. Everybody knows it is good 6. And what 6 they are!!! Hell, indeed…huge brushes, logs across, no footsteps, bushwhacking…that’s the first mile and halfd. It never let up later either, as the navigation continues around the Lost Lake over roots, rocks, with million of short yet steep ups and downs. Gail was sleep-walking, but I persisted on handfeeding her the whole way. From Gail’s report: Now the real struggle began. I was way too low on calories. I can honestly say that if weren’t for Olga during this next section of the course, I would not have finished. She was a task master. I was determined to keep moving, that part was not in question. But it took Olga’s insistence that I eat to actually be able to keep moving. She fed me like a baby bird, tearing off small pieces of a butter sandwich and putting in my mouth. I forced myself to chew and swallow. After the sandwich was finally all gone I was told to work on gels. I would take a small amount and wash them down with Perpetuum. I did not enjoy this in the least. Finally, the dawn neared, and the grey lights turned to magnificent colors over the lake, just beautiful!

It took some edge off the slowliness (in 2005 Rob and I did this section in 95 min, this year we walked the whole 2.5 hrs), and little by little I could see the gels \begin their work – Gail started to walk uphills a bit stronger. She never gave up, but now, despite still feeling sleepy, she had a firmness in her step. We even overtook 2 guys by the end of this stretch and when came to Mineral Creek AS, I didn’t let her either sit or stop, grabbed a cup of soup for her and we walked out. There were quite a few people at this AS, some dropping, some trying to recoup, and it was 2 miles to the road crossing where our crew would see us one last time before final 5M leg.

Sid and Mike were there, but they did not expect us for another 45 min or so. Hey, guys, you forgot who you’re dealing with, I am a master of pacing! That, and Gail’s closing the gap in caloric deficit gave her spring in the step, and she powered that 2M up the dirt road like crazy! I made her drink Frapuccino, packed more gels and Perpetium (her choice of drink), and we were out in no time, shortest crew stop (as in with chair and all, because I was NOT going to let her stop at AS under my supervision for more than a minute from now on).
The road continued on, and the views were truly breathtaking. .”
I kept stopping to take pictures, and Gail was so uplifted and strong on this section, I had to really speed up to catch her! This is where I decided we have to run in short stretches. From Gail’s diary:
“Six more miles of road lay ahead, all up hill. The views were spectacular; we were circled by rugged mountains. Olga kept insisting that I work on gels. I did exactly what I was told. I have never been so willingly obedient. I was walking strong and feeling much better. In fact, I would have been happy to walk to whole way. But that wasn’t good enough for Olga. No, after a few miles we had to run for short stretches. Okay, she’d say, we’ll run to that tree. (Mind you, there are trees everywhere so I never knew exactly where she meant.) She explained that we were running in order to use different muscles and to loosen them up. My glutes bounced and my quads hurt…I suppose that loosened them up.”

This stretch gave me hope…no, not hope, an assurance that we can for certain break 30 hrs (Gail’s original goal for the race). I kept pushing gels into her and walk/run up the hill. Finally, we came to No Name Ridge, where James Varner was the main man. I fed Gail with V8 juice and sent her off, while refilling our bottles and enjoying the grilled sandwiches. Yummy! Because the “bad me” when I pace I forget to eat myself, so this was the stop I remembered… Would you look how awesome Gail is?? Those stupid gels are working, damn them! My wheels are turning, and despite the fact we are entering the Cardiac Needles, a series of super-duper steep climbs, we are booking it and I am utterly optimistic! No, I am in charge to making this stupid idea come true! Gail is doing fantastic, never a whine, and we begin to overtake more runners. Oh, this is what I call “second half runner”, my dear! Not only do we power-hike like crazy, I order her to run downhills. From Gail’s report: “Olga kept instructing me: eat, run this section, breathe. Yes, she instructed me to breathe. I thought to myself, like I have a choice, but I did as she told me and took deep breaths. We walked. We ran. I focused on breathing and watching the trail so I didn’t trip. I commented to Olga that the beauty of the area made it much easier to tolerate the pain. We went up and down, up and down, up and down; the Cardiac Needles were living up to their name. The Thorp aid station suddenly appeared, so we knew the big climb was behind now. Now we had several shorter climbs and a lot of descent left.”
The climb up to Thorp is brutal, but we are really on fire, picking a few more folks.
I don’t let Gail stand on top even 10 seconds and usher her down, where Glenn takes our pictures, as he always does the best job possible. 2 photos of me on Thorp are courtesy of one and only GTach.

I kick Gail out of AS without stopping, grab our bottles and scurry behind. Time to set that goal out loud. Gail’s description: “We left many of our fellow runners behind here. I had more energy now, and it looked like I might be able to finish in under 30 hours. I didn’t really dare think about a PR and sure wasn’t going to say it, but Olga did. She said, “You’re going to suffer anyway so why not suffer just a little more.” After that neither of us mentioned it again but we both knew we were going for it.” Time to work, baby, really work…

Oh, the stunning views! They made each struggling step worthwhile! The climb to French Cabin (before descent) was brutal, but we were smelling the barn. Not many words were said, and it was fine. We knew what we are doing without communicating and our exchange was shortened to “run”, “come to AS and eat melon”, “breathe”, “you are one tough cookie”. She was. My, was she tough!

After French Cabin we had one more, final for now, climb to a saddle, and down we went, all 6 miles of pretty horrific in parts downhill (trust me, those who had run steep downhills at the end of a 100, know it’s not all that great, often it’d be better to walk uphill at this point). Gail says: “We ran. Not fast, mind you, but it was still running and it was certainly faster than walking. My legs were tired and sore and the blisters hurt a bit, but nothing was bad enough that I was forced to walk. Olga told me that I had two more gels to go, after which I didn’t have to take any more for the rest of the year. I could do that, I decided. The first gel went down okay. More running. The second gel–not so good. I was drinking the warm Heed at that point, and on the third mouthful of gel I reached a tipping point. I spat it out and tried not to heave, my mouth filling with saliva that I had to keep spitting out. That was the first time I didn’t finish a gel as instructed. Olga was finally sympathetic. I could make it on fumes from here in. Ironically, for the first time in the whole race it was during this section that I actually felt hungry.”

I ran down to AS last 2 minutes by myself to give warning to Sid and Mike (in fact, I wasn’t sure they are there yet as we didn’t have a contact with them since 8am, and we really picked many hours on Gail’s pace since they last saw her). They were there. Oh, was I glad! I really didn’t want to run last 5M dirt road and was sure Mike would do a much better job at pacing Gail in at this point. I just had to bark directions of “no talking, less walking, we have a goal, push it in, we need to work hard to break Gail’s PR from 2004, what was 29:33”. Phew, my job was done for the day…

Gail got in right behind me, ate melon as instructed and took off with fresh bottles and Mike charging her “home”. I could finally get in the car and let my tension go.

We came to finish line, I changed into fresh clothes (no, no shower), and we with anticipation went to wait. I knew PR is in the bag, banning the disaster, now how much of it will she do it? Soon, very very soon, we see bright-red outfit of Mike and Gail – and they are running! In fact, they ran pretty much every step of the way! Wow, girl! I couldn’t hold back tears, seeing them rounding the corner – and it was all hers to finish, all hers…all 29:10:09 of it.

That’s it, my friends. That’s it for now. As this past weekend I gave a part of me – and I am entirely happy. Gail is one tough cookie, so if you ever have doubts about yourself – read it over. Here is an example of pushing through circumstances when she was afraid she wouldn’t see the start, yet along the finish – and she PR’d. May be we all helped, but simply sometimes a person needs somebody from outside to allow him/her to realize full potential. That’s all we did. The rest is in the HISTORY BOOKS, as well as in the PHOTOALBUM.

And I am trying to pull myself together for another adventure weekend…


  1. I saw you at No Name (I was wearing the "not-found-in-nature yellow" wig) and was totally impressed how your attention was on Gail! You are a great pacer - congrats to Gail!

  2. See you soon....at the next adventure weekend !

  3. Olga, nice report and good job on pacing Gail to a PR. If I was the sort to use a pacer or crew, your just the person I would want. And, by the way, thanks for all the support at Hyak like stuffing chips in my mouth. In fact, you took such good care of me that I forgot to even get my drop bag. Turns out, I didn't really need it or the wasted time! Thanks again.

  4. Wow, great pace report! You are an excellent pacer! If I ever come out west for a runner I'd like you to pace for me!

  5. I like how you said "local" and "4hr drive" without skipping a beat. Now is it just me or Mike looks younger every time I see him in pictures? really. Funny how you and Rob were there in 2005, same year that I did it and we never met. Might have even crossed paths and not even said a word or a glance to each other.

    Good job at CCC100. These pacing duties can be more emotionally draining than racing itself no? It's crazy to feel that way, to feel so much for one person's race. To give everything just to see someone else finish.

    I'm glad Rob finished too.

  6. Great report Olga! It's fun to read the reports of others who were there, and all the different perspectives.

    I picked up a gray bandana at French Cabin that I think is yours or Gails. It's washed and waiting for next time I see you. No big deal, they cost less than a buck, but still, it's yours! (Maybe I should just use it and think of you for inspirations when I do...)

  7. Exciting and fun recap. A major success for Gail and the Uber Pacer.

  8. Great to read about those who help others reach their goals. Congrats to Gail on the great finish.

  9. Nice seeing you this weekend and please congratulate Gail for me. Solid race!

  10. That's one fantastic read, Olga. I'm sure I've said that before, but if I ever run a 100 miler, I wish I could have a pacer like you.

  11. A great pacer is worth a gazillions bucks. You rock!

  12. Nice work with the Gail pacing!

  13. Great job Olga,

    Tell Gail congratulations on an awesome race. See you soon.

  14. Olga-great to see you and your photos look great. Nice job pacing Gail! Good luck at AC100.

  15. thanks for the comment, bc! wow...your life is one adventure after another...the funnest kind of training there is! it was great to see your smile and feel your energy at the top of thorpe! great job getting gail to the finish!

  16. olga, this was an awesome report. i loved reading gail's thoughts as they were sprinkled throughout. and what a great taskmaster you were! when i do my first 100 (...someday...), i want you there for it :)

  17. Fabulous pace report, Olga, and heartiest congrats to Gail! It was great to see you at our local race. :)

  18. How wonderful, congratulations to Gail and to her trusty pacer! Great report, Olga, I can feel the excitement through your writing. Yippee!!

  19. Congrats to Gail, and congrats to you, Olga! You both should be so proud of working together towards Gail's lofty goal. And gaining a PR with it, no less! Miraculous! Big things come from people working hard together, that's for sure.