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, April 27, 2009

It ain't over until it's over

Zane Grey...what can be said about it besides what had already been said? It is brutal, it is beautiful, it will test your will, it will chew you up and spit it out, and it's up to you to decide how you feel about all this. And trust me, you will feel pretty bad before you feel awesome:)

I did Zane Grey twice before. 2006 was one of my best performances in ultra career and 2007 proved to me that you never ever give up. I guess that played a huge role in my 2009 run. I didn't train this year. I think I said it million times by now, my life this year just doesn't include proper training. I am not making any excuses, and I don't feel like I have to justify why it is the way it is. It just is. I haven't done any hills whatsoever, I don't lift weights, I am not even into long runs, and my Gorge outings, rare as they are, are just fun. So, I entered for 2 reasons: Larry needed to face his demons from 2007, and I wanted to see Angie. I figured, it's a hiker's course, I might as well hike it...

Larry and I arrived early Friday morning, and after making our way to Payson, we went to check out the start. It looks pretty good on the first half a mile, doesn't it? We both knew all too well our smiles might fade quickly tomorrow:) Larry did our pace charts. He used my 2006 "real splits" and adjusted it for himself (I'll let him tell you his story) and for me - for 13 and 14 hrs. Frankly, I wasn't even going to think about 13 hrs, but 14 was optimistic hope, although I told everyone I am after 15. Juts in case, you know, I am a lazy racer, I hate disappointing myself...

We drove to start with Jamal and Nick Coury and their friend Jake making his foray into ultras. Jamal was to race (and he won!!! here, I sold the story. Nicki Kimball was second overall, no surprises) and Nick - to stay with Jake the whole way. It was chilly, but not bad. The forecast called for mild 70's and overcast, with wind gusts up to 50 mph. I shoved myself into mid-field and cranked my i-Pod. The trail quickly turned up, climbing ridiculous amount, but because I wasn't straining myself, I kept thinking how was that 3 years ago I suffered so much here? I loly-gagged up, making some miles with a guy named David who knew me through Angie's blog, and exchanging places with 2 pairs of runners, letting them pass on uphill/flat and taking them on dowhills. The sunrise came up and lit the horizon...beautiful. This is why I am here.

Besides those 4 guys, I quickly became all alone. For the first few hours that didn't bother me a bit, and I kept enjoying the views, the gnarly trails and my music.

And then the real fun began!

Zane Grey is famous for it's rocks. You can't run it - either up or down. I should know. I was fine with that. I showed up at the first 2 aid stations right on 14 hr pace, picked up my extra bottle at mile 17 and happily left. Soon after it became bad...the brush wasn't cut at all. It had never been like that in years I ran the course before. We had to go through torn, often sideways, and the sharp ends were leaving deep cuts on legs, arms and anywhere you can imagine. It slowed even the walk to the point, I laughed at first, then swore a lot, then became really angry.

You can see I am not all that happy anymore:) It was also time when I had nobody around. And I mean - nobody. Not ahead, not behind. It got really lonely out there. I lost it, I honestly did. I was resigning doing races when untrained, resigning training, resigning running altogether. Why bother? What's in it for me? I had done it all, and I can retire now. I am not interested, I can still get out in the mountains and enjoy my time there, I just don't need to subject myself to the brutality of getting ready for the race and to participate in them. I fell off the 14 hr pace, and while it wasn't hurting mt ego (I was prepared for it), it was just not fun anymore. And - I was bored out of my mind. I played with a thought of quitting at 33M AS. Angie was coming down, my ever-faithful crew, flying all the way from Canada to just help me out, but since she was late, I wasn't sure when would I see her. I really couldn't drop at 33 by myself as it's nearly imposable to get to the finish line, or find her elsewhere. A mile from mile 33 2 ladies passed me, and I didn't even get upset...

I come down to 33, and hear a scream let out - and who is there but Angie! Oh, no. First thing I said - now I should drop. But this is Angie, with her unfazed : "you look good, get out of here, nothing hurts". Nothing hurt, that's for sure.

I wasn't pushing! I whined as I changed my bottles and piled gels into the pack, but she set me out, and I started getting determined. This is ridiculous! Here is the girl who has this straight faith in me, and I am whining. Nobody made me do it, I did it myself! Off I went...into gusty winds, more gnarly trails and more insane ups and downs.

Last 17M is my territory. This is what I came here for. I am a hunter. I am looking for prey. And tired runners are right there, slowing down, letting me play my games. I know it may not sound nice, but this is the way I operate. I run, I don't race. But when I do - I am looking for someone to pass. And I am doing it only in the last 20% of the race, no matter the distance. It's not fair, but it gives me purpose to make my way to the finish line. I bounce full of energy, and I push, finally. I am behind 14hr, but I set a goal, and I work towards it. My attention span is not long enough to do it the whole distance, but it's enough to do it right here, right now. I make these 11 miles stretch in 3:15, a time under 14hr pace, and enter 44M AS on a fly. A few miles before that I prepare for the final push - get my headlamp out (they wouldn't let me out in case I finish in the dark), put my Moeben sleeves on (it's cold in the wind), move my gels out of the pack into the bottle pockets, and, most importantly, "make a face". A face of a racer. No more loly-gagging. It's time to give my all...

I bust into last AS at 44M, and I am on fire. Drop the pack, ask Angie to fill my bottle with water, pour Red Bull I've been caring since start into another bottle and out in no time. I got 1:50 to break 14, I might as well try.

I think I scared many folks on this last stretch. I run like a madman, in 2006 I did it in 1:30. I am not a runner I used to be, but I try. Music busting in my ears, folks walking slow, I am smiling ear to ear - hi, how are you, beautiful day - I am in search for the last stretch. I remember it vividly, like it was yesterday, and I float over rocks. I hear a road parallel trail, I know it's near. Could I possibly? Last turn. 13:46. I am done. I am done with this race. For now...for good!

Larry and Angie are there, super-happy to see me happy. We get cute hoodies and a picture from mile 18 crossing a creek (how nice!) - and we are off. I ask Larry how it went for him, because he looks extremely satisfied, if he got his goal, if he broke my best - and hear "Well, you are a bad ass! Now, I’m gonna have to go back out there and try and beat your time." So much for having enough of Zane Grey:)

We make our way back, eat, trying not to fall asleep in the plates, assess our damage - Drymax socks and Fireblades are a great combination for the feet, body doesn't hurt one bit (I guess we didn't push enough, ha!), but the legs are scary looking.

The sleep is restless as usual after such endeavor, and Sunday is spent exploring awesome Red Rock area and Tonto National Forest with cacti.

Would I recommend this race? In a heartbeat. It's crazy. Just the way I like it:)

p.s. So, I went back and re-read my reports from previous ZG50 runs. Should have done it before...it almost seems like I copied and pasted! I am guessing this course brings same emotions to me, along with many problems, and it also seems that for each of us every ultra has a point when we swear off running things like that again. Funny. Good to know that, wish I remembered it when those thoughts do come in during the race:) My point is, go, get out there, do it. Most likely, you'll be happy you did. And if not - you'll have stories to tell!


  1. Sweeeeet! Nice work on the final push with your game face on. Even the madness can be fun. :)

  2. Nice job Olga! Went to Zane one time and one time only. Tough on the skin. I still have a scar on my lower leg from a cactus scrape I think. I was pretty deep since it's been 4 years and I still have the reminder of that gnarly course. Glad you had a good run in the last stretch. It's always nice to finish on a high note. :)

  3. Nice report and photos Olga--looks like a gorgeous course! Congrats on finishing strong!

  4. Wow you are a TOUGH chica!!! I'm very impressed!!!

  5. I think you and Zane Grey belong together. It's a race made for a tough one like you.

  6. Yeeehaw! What a great race! Congrats on bringing it on in! And I love your pictures. My MIL has a place right next to Tonto, I love it out there. I guess I'l have to put Zane Grey and some of the other 'Zona races on my schedule since I have peeps down there now.

  7. Great job Olga. Great job...great report...great pics...your typical post !!! :))

  8. Go Angie! Atta girl, awesome giving her second thoughts about dropping. Sounds like such an epic run. You make me want to do the race. Congrats on breaking 14 hours and I love the scars. So sexy!

    You got me from the first paragraph, "And trust me, you will feel pretty bad before you feel awesome:)". Amen.

  9. Great post. It is now on my to do list.

  10. Crap! Now I have to hurry up and write a post! Whah! I'm sitting here waiting for the 2010 ZG registration to open. I've got serious business to take care of, like taking down your PR time at ZG! Wanna crew me??? ;)

  11. Great finish and writeup! It was my first ZG...the rocks, cuts, loneliness, downed trees and more rocks.

  12. awesome re-cap Olga, love the mental battles of ur day... and way to close it out at the end and get in under 14!! Keep focused Baby, HR is a coming !!

    Recover well!

  13. You and Gail, you girls sure like to cut up your legs! Nice job on a tough one. So nice to finish upbeat.

  14. Great Training Day! Those cuts look brutal, no thank you... Can't wait to see your Idaho report! mer

  15. Amazing. Great race and report. Your reports always bring tears to my eyes! Thanks for sharing.


  16. I'm glad y'all went to see the red rocks on your way back down! I LOVED seeing you, as always, and will crew for you again, when you come back (because, of COURSE you'll come back, ha!).

    ps can you send me the photo of us?

  17. Your first paragraph said it all ... but the rest of the report was great, too! And any report with an Angie sighting is pretty darn cool.

    Those rocks would make me crazy, too. The last stretch of Diablo is like that, and it felt like it tore my feet and legs apart. Great job to tough it out and get another ZG under your belt.

  18. Nice job lady! Yes, you are the queen of the suffer-fest. I love it--you're so tough!

  19. Nice report. Tough, determined, and inspiring – That looks like one demanding course.

  20. I don't remember what your PR at ZG is. But I almost get the sense that you are not as untrained as you think. Enjoyed this post immensely.

  21. Great post, Olga! It was so nice to meet you again, and finally to meet Larry.
    Check out the videos on my blog. I took some clips of me going through that gnarly burn-area shrub that scars our legs.
    It's too far for me to do again, but I can't wait until next year! We'll see.
    Congrats on another good finish. you're tough and beautiful!

  22. I absolutely love this race Olga. I've only done it once. It was my second 50 miler ever. My favorite part of the race is well everything. It's right up my alley. The most memorable part though is when you crest the ridge just after the first climb and the sun is greating the day. That's my idea of heavan. Great report and great hunting. Thanks for the comment girl. When are you going to get out here for a run? Take care. Later.

  23. Did I see some woman named Olga signed up for Mac Forest????? Cool! Gail and I signed up too. I think this year we are not going to be dry, I am thinking Hagg mud fest maybe?

  24. Way to finish strong! I actually saw your results and have finally made it to read the report. I've been out of loop for the last few weeks and am looking forward to catching up with everything.