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.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Walking Hard, or Hardly Walking?

Look, there is Mary. Holding a baby Jesus. Long hair, long cape...no, wait, now it’s a Jesus...holding a baby Jesus? It’s not possible, he can’t hold himself...My, it’s a party going on up there, lots of people. Do they see us? Why aren’t they paying attention to us? Lets turn on this downhill...or that one. Where is the trail to the street? Just take any of it, the street is right below. More people? Now they are waving! So nice of them waiting in a dark o’clock of the morning. Good people. I know I am hallucinating, I am not stupid. But it’s kind of fun to see what comes up next. Lets go, Larry. Are you going to be able to take a picture of me kissing the Rock? I sure hope so, because otherwise why in the world was I doing all that? No, I won’t run last stretch. Why bother? I walked 85 miles of this whole course, there is no point to pretend now. I’ll walk. Slowly. May be I’ll even be able to savor the moment...

I slowly turn last corner and see IT. The Rock. Dale standing next to it, so is Jeff, Brownie, and a bunch of others. They are cheering me on, but I can’t even muster a smile. I am drained. Not so much physically, as emotionally. I just simply don’t have anymore. I just want to sleep. Curl up and close my eyes. I need to give folks a reason for standing here in the middle of the night, but I am not sure of that reason myself. Did I just do it? Did I really just traveled 100 miles on foot across San Juan mountains? Was it just yesterday that I stood by that Rock, facing the other direction? No, it can’t be. It wasn’t here. It wasn’t me. And it hasn’t happen in the last couple of days, but over a long time ago...somewhere else...with somebody else. It hasn’t happened at all, period. I see my mind separated from my body, floating high above. I am high...2 miles high...

Ten days spent in Silverton were clearly the best vacation I ever could imagine to have in my life. After driving from Portland to San Francisco, picking up a friend to get to Western States, spending some crazy hot day driving around to aid station and taking in the excitement and then driving for another two days to Colorado, I dove right into mountains. Well, you can’t really “dive” into mountains, more like jump atop. No, not that. You can’t jump at almost 10,000 feet baseline and going only higher when you come from zero altitude. But it was a blast. We marked the course. I made a point to get out with Charlie every single day. I felt that I knew the course, but what I wanted is to “feel” how this man decides where he goes on regular trail, where he jumps on goat tracks and where he turns to simply go cross-country to the top – or down. That knowledge, I felt, is the most single important element in my adventure. I wasn’t planning to race this race. Who would I be kidding? This year was the least training accumulated I ever had in my 8 years of running, period. I got in Hardrock – I never in my mind would I have even thought I’d pass on this opportunity. I prepared to walk. I can walk. I know that for sure. So, long days spent with friends in San Juans, beginning with a 5am wake up call, 7am gathering at Charlie’s, making some 13-18 miles a pop over the 13,000 peaks and finishing close to 7pm, were soul healing. I needed it. I packed 100 miles of those mostly hikes in 7 days, with 2 days to go before the race, and I didn’t want to stop. Larry, who arrived a week later, had to hold me back. Why? Why, let me ask you? Isn’t a reason I am here is to explore and enjoy? So what I have to string all these sections together in one stretch, like, a day after tomorrow? I can walk. I promise I can...

Oh, boy, Tomorrow it is. I am shaking. It’s here. How foolish of me was to think it ain’t nothing, to go those 100 miles! Can I? Will I be able to? Physically – I still hold no doubts. Mentally, though, is a whole different story. I am scared now. I stopped being scared before 100 mile races quite some time ago. I just go and do them. I get excited, and I also think of them as putting myself to work. And to hang out with my friends, be alone, look around, take a bunch of pictures. I know I can do that. Can I do it this time?

We gather at the school for the final check in. I am quiet, while the gym is buzzing away. Excitement and fear, all in one. Healthy fear is good. I am not sure is mine healthy or not. I am not even sure if I want to go. Of course I do! I just need to start moving. One foot in front of another...

I situate myself at the very end, with Joe P. and Johnny D. Two men, instrumental in my finishing. Two inspirations that kept me going when I really didn’t want to. Thank you. There is no better way to start...


We walk and shuffle on the mile strip of a Silverton street and turn into the woods, soon crossing Arrastra creek. As soon as dirt road turns up, I loose sight of most. There are may be a handful folks behind, but majority of them are way ahead, which is where I want them to be. I want to be alone. I want to listen to my body and make sure to feel all that I am about to feel. I feel like crap...so much for acclimating. I slowly climbing towards the trailhead, expecting it after each turn, and, of course, it’s not coming when you want it the most. I should know better than that. I know this course like a back of my hand. All but 4 section. I am trying to not think about those 3 sections...and as soon as I hit single track, I get stronger. What is it with me? I am ALWAYS stronger on a narrow twisted single track! No, not faster, but definitely stronger. I make it to the Little Giant Pass, first of 13. Shit, it’s gonna be a long day...days, I correct myself, and take downhill. 2600 feet in a touch over 2 miles – oh, yeah! I pass a few, but hold it back. I remember what the “oldies” say – do not trash your legs on the first downhill. I want to be smart, I think, and as I round last turn before seeing an aid station – I slip and fall, catching myself with two hands extended behind my butt. Pick yourself up, damn it! My hand is bleeding profusely, and there is a huge cut across my right palm, split open. Great, just great. Mile 9, and I am already stupidly hurting myself. May be I get it out of my way early and have no more problems?

Larry is at Cunnigham AS, and I am a mere 5 minutes behind what I wanted. Me and my pace charts...I figured, 42 hrs sounds like a great deal, best case scenario, and that’s what my little chart aimed for. Just in case. Who knows, may be I’ll have a good day(s)? Somebody tends to my hand, rapping it in a thick gauge, Larry fills my bottles, and I tell him to pour all the HEED in one.
I am just too lazy to carry 2 bottles, especially now that one of my hands is not very functional, so I stuff my other full of water in my Nathan pack – and walk out, with Lori B. and Joe P. I hope we can hang together a bit, but Lori pulls away and Joe falls behind. Oh, well, all by myself again – isn’t it what I wanted anyway?

It’s a jack-ass climb, that one from Cunnigham, on a goat trail. I take in another swig of my HEED and realize just how thick it is. I don’t drink thick, I should dilute it in a creek – but I also need to get calories in, so I finish this thing. Even before I do, my stomach goes ballistic, bloating and hurting like I am about to have a monster child. Great, yet again. I though I am done with stupid mistakes for the day! Frankly, I am not scared, I just fill my bottle in the next creek and stop eating. Like for the next 4 hours straight all I rely on is pure water. Thank God for my experience, at least I know how to correct my mistakes! I make my way to Green Mountain (#2) and soon after – to Buffalo Ridge (#3). I actually feel pretty damn good, stomach and all, and enjoy climbing. Hmm, this is weird, but I’ll take it for now. I enter Maggie AS 10 minutes ahead and don’t take anything. A woman asks me if I’d like to eat, and I point her to my Buddha belly – I can’t, I say, I am about to give birth. She stares and mumbles – well, then you need to eat for sure, for the two of you. I am too stunned to even respond. Wow, these volunteers really think we are wacky!

This thought propels me through another rolling section, the easiest on the course, where I even muster to run some stretches a bit, and by Pole Creek (20 miles, soon after pass #4)) my stomach finally settles in and I take my third gel for the day. Miraculously, I am feeling awesome energy, and take off as I hear Johnny D. coming right behind me.

The weather Gods are wonderful today. We must have done lots of sacrificing in days past, as it’s mostly cloudy, and soon the thunder rolls and it sprinkles then rains. Halliluya! As Joe P. says – let it be nasty! Hey, I am from Oregon, right? I pick up my attitude – and my speed – and move onto some folks, especially as I got over Cataract-Pole pass (#5) and started on a downhill. My, not only rain, but even the trail is like home! Huge trees covering single track, and the dirt leads me down twisting and turning. I am loving it! Picked up with Lori again, she doesn’t like downhills as much as I do though, but boy, this girl can hike! I bid goodbye and take off full gear. Sherman, here I come!

I am ahead of schedule, and it’s kind of weird. I am never ahead of schedule in the first half, and this time I stole whole 30 minutes by mile 29. Should I be worried? I drink my V8 juice and eat some soup, but don’t touch much in my drop bag. I think, for the future (as a side note), I won’t do drop bags. No need, really. Sherman is the best aid station in terms of food, and I wish I could linger more, but off I go, onto that dirt road to a tiny little water cache at Burrows Park...

I mentioned I can walk, right? So I do, swinging my arms happily, singing to my iPod and passing another batch of people – what should concern me as well, but it doesn’t. I am not pushing it at all, and the biggest surprise came right as I turn to a single track to the Pass of them all – Handie’s Peak. This #6, at 14,048, is the highest point on the course. I am supposed to suffer. And I don’t. In fact, I pick another handful pf runners, and see this monster looming right on top of my head. It is awesome...just awesome. My spirit is high and flying, and I almost want to cry. I am going to summit a 14-er, and I am not even straining myself, and this like shooting drugs into my veins. Either that, or the water in the creeks has some “shrooms” parts.

After scrolling on my butt the first steep and sandy part, I start running. Oh, yeah, sweet! I run all the way to American Grouse Pass (#7), climb that one, and take off, now pushing myself with one thought – I am too lazy to reach into my pack for the headlamp, so I need to make to the Grouse Gulch AS before dark. It gets dusk and I carefully pick my feet between the rocks, stumbling a couple of times, but safe, woof, safe, and run, run, run...

...and get to Grouse at 9pm, a full 1.5 hrs ahead. Holly shit! No, I am not happy, I am kind of mad, because I’ve calculated my “splits” from those course marking days, and I am not supposed to go any faster under no circumstance. But it surely feels good to feel good, so I dig into the pack Larry hands me. Another headlamp (for my waist), another V8 juice, another cup of soup. HEED packets out. I still have a full bag of gels – I thought I am taking them every 30 min, why do I still have so many with me? I add a few more and ask directions. I haven’t walked this road, I only drove it, in the back of a pick-up truck, in the opposite direction. Larry responds – it’s easy, just follow the main road, don’t take the turns.

Easy for you to say. Now it suddenly got dark, like in an instant. And the very first intersection – what do I do but take left. It ALL looks like a main road in the dark! I walk, and it’s kind of flat. Why is it flat? We are supposed to go up to Oh Point! 15 minutes after I left, I look up – and see another road atop of me with a car lights. OK, I’ll climb through...crap, should have turned around, would be easier. It’s straight up through some nasty stuff, and I am scared of snakes. A car driver is watching me and extends his arms – I politely decline – we are not allowed to use help, but where is the road to Oh Point? He points yet another one up – and now I refuse to climb that section. So I still have to go back, retrace my steps, and then, finally, I am on the right road. Crap. Crap, crap, crap. That’s not good, the only place to get lost is on an easy road section! I crank my music and try to separate my mind from emotions. Focus. Walk. That’s what you do best...

I do. Soon I get into my swing and huff my way all the way to the top of Engineer Mountain (#8). But I think I kind of exhausted myself now, and I stare at the cross-country style downhill that plunges for a mile to the aid station. Deep breath, lets go...but I kind of don’t run here. I am picking my feet through the field, making my way around a couple of runners with their pacers, and they shout – go, Rock-Star! Nice, thanks, very cute, does it mean I have to move faster now? I do, and I am at Engineer AS. I lost over an hour of the time I picked up before. That f*&^% road is much longer and steeper than I expected, and getting lost did not help either. My mood sinks, but I don’t linger and get out as soon as I refill my bottle. I wonder why I keep carrying and extra full one in my pack...weight training, I guess.

Bear Creek trail. Ha-ha-ha. I rather do it the other direction, really! Who wants to run downhill on loose sandy rocks covering a very narrow single track with a 400 feet drop-off to your left? Not I. I am also getting sleepy a bit, as it’s approaching 2am, and nearly miss a foot placement twice. Once I actually fall – and find my feet dangling over the sheer wall. Oh, shit. Walk, honey, walk. Nobody died at Hardrock yet...

My personal cheer-team is catching up with me, go-Rock-Star, I move for a bit, but then let them go. Despite my crawl, I manage to pass 3 more runners with their pacers, and I wonder if I am not doing as bad as I think I am. But my watch doesn’t lie. It takes me every single minute, plus 10 more, to make this trail and out – and as I pop at the side of Ouray town, I see Larry sitting waiting for me. We walk to the AS a mile inside the city boundaries. I whine. Just in general. I am pissed I lost my cushion, so I whine. Besides, I’ve been moving for 20-plus hours, I am allowed to whine exactly now! I tell him about my feet, and as we walk in (exactly on pace chart now), I take my shoes off and stare. No clue what’s going on. I know my feet have been wet with creek crossings and mud slipping for 57 miles, but not only I am wearing Drymax socks which had proven their work to me numerous times by now – I don’t even see any blisters, or much maceration for that matter. My feet look pretty darn good – why do they hurt as if they are about to explode? I poke – and while it hurts, it also feels numb. Is it even possible, to feel that at the same time? I sigh and put my socks on. We need to go. It’s going to be a slow night...

Larry walks out with me. We chat our way out of the town, cross the bridge over the Box Canyon with roaring water a universe below, and turn onto Camp Bird Mine Road. It’s inclines, but I am tired, sleepy and my feet are screaming bloody merry. I am at a low point. I get pissed at Larry for walking fast ahead of me. I don’t think he saw me at the low point ever. Just wait, honey, it ain’t over yet. I don’t think I like having a pacer when I am at a low point. I get quiet, and Larry has no idea how to bring me up. We walk, me weaving on the road and him pulling ahead or falling behind. Larry is not a walker, he is a runner. He can’t adjust to my pace, and I get pissed at that too. I am just moody altogether, and I want a nap. Eventually, I stop and tell him – now. It’s going to start getting light soon, and I need my freakin’ nap! We find a small side road, and I plop down. 5 minutes, I tell him. Don'’ worry, it'’ all I need, just 5 minutes, I promise, and I close my eyes...Oh, so good. Just to have my eyes closed and being horizontal is a heaven. Chill comes over my body, and as arose, it’s been exactly 5 minutes. I feel rejuvenated and walk on, soon the sky getting gray and Governor Basin AS appears. We are 50 minutes back by pace chart, but I sit down, planting into the seat and pulling a sleeping bag of volunteers over me. I want to sit here, and I try to eat. I don’t want to eat anymore, but I know I have to, so I push another cup of soup in me. Gag, nasty...I want egg burrito, but they don’t serve it her. I was promised a breakfast burrito at this aid station – I want to scream – but I get up, and we are on the slow move again. Time is slipping by, and I am trying really hard to regain my composure and positive attitude.

The climb is steep even on the road, but the sun comes up, and yes, my mood lifts up. I start smiling. I like Virginius climb, crazy as it sounds. At least that’s what I told myself, and I almost believe it. We see a runner sitting down right before it, but we forge on. Man, most of the snow melted in 6 days since I’ve been here last! Wow! One step, another. It’s vertical, this first pitch. I know if I just put my head down, I can practically not feel how steep it is, so I do. One step, another. Now cross the small field and on to a second pitch, sliding in the dirt. OK, done, cross some more – and look up. I can see the AS atop, and I take to the right, where we made ascend during course marking. Shit. The snow is frozen solid, and I can’t dig my feet in it. Why is everybody else going int he middle, including Larry? Rope! – somebody yells. What rope? They put a rope in the middle of the climb, but I am on the right side of it, damn it! I am not going back down, I swear and dig my fingers into the holes left by other runner’s poles. That’s how I am making my way – pulling myself with a finger. I am scared, but not because I may slide down, because I don’t want to do it over! So I jam my fingers tighter and pull some more. Whew, here we are, Virginius, Pass #9! I sit for a few seconds, and down another cup of soup. Somehow, we made 40 minutes on this climb. I don’t know how, but it’s awesome! I start smiling, but then remember the way down. Oh, boy...

I quickly drop on my ass, grab the loose rocks with my hands and almost lay down as I make it down the first short slide. Section number 2 I am unfamiliar with, but how bad can it be? Once we get over this, then cross Marshall Basin and over Mendota Ridge, we’ll get to a nice downhill, right? Wrong! It’s still ugly, still covered with shaking rocks under your feet, and quite steep in places! That, and I am peeing like a rhino. I’ve been peeing since the darkness fell, and usually go into more of a normal rhythm with the daylight, but it’s not working here. I have to stop every 5 minutes – literally! – and unleash at least a quart – literally – of fluids! And I am not even drinking that much! My stinking stoppings must have accounted for at least an hour and half over the course of those 2 days, and now I am pissed at that too. Shit, I need to learn to work on my attitude!

We finally see the roofs of Telluride houses, as we walk into the town, with full 20 minutes to spare. Weird, yet again. I know this part well, and Jeff is there, at the corner, taking a video, then running to an AS to give a warning. I slowly plop on a chair and take off my shoes. My feet! Still – no blisters at all, so why the f$*@ do they hurt like that??!! Like I am in hell, walking on burning coals, and the pressure is going to make them explode from inside out! Beth and Joyce are here, waiting for Joe P. and Larry H., and they along with Jeff tend to me. It’s just minutes past 10am, and I unleash my whining again. My feet! Nobody is paying attention. Oh, those girls...they know their job way too well. As I sheepishly ask if I, may be, should stop, they don’t even blink, putting my shoes back on my feet, feeding me some yummy hot food and hushing me out. I didn’t even notice when I walked out, I just remember Larry say “We’ll try it for the next AS, and then decide”.

Yeah, right. I know this next section! I don’t want to go there! It may be the prettiest of them all, but it climbs relentlessly forever! It took me 3.5 hrs to make on a good day, darn you! At one point I sit down and cry. Is it the first time? I can’t recall, but I am certain it’s not the last one. So we crawl, my crying, Larry scared of what he sees in me. Only a marathon to go...

Think “pretty”. Please, look around and think “majestic, beautiful, awesome”. Think of any synonyms you can come up with! Beth and Larry H. come from behind, and I let them go. Beth is great, she urges me to keep up. While under no circumstances can I do it, I perk up, just a bit, just enough to start climbing with a heart that doesn’t weigh 5 lbs. We do just that, climb, Larry exclaiming “We are almost at the top!”. I am so tired, I don’t even correct him. Silly Rabbit, Tricks are for Kids! Or something like that...because we simply reached a valley, and need to make another climb, over t-h-a-t ridge, and then slide down and make yet another push up, and only that last one is The Oscar’s Pass (#10)! He swears profusely, so I use it to my advantage and tell him I need another nap. I do. It’s past 2pm, and I need to recharge, so I drop right on the trail and close my eyes. Somehow it is not as comfortable as it was back on the road, but I stay down for good 4 minutes, just to give my eyelids some rest, and then pull myself up. OK, lets go, lets do it, we will be going down very soon...

We make it to Oscar’s an hour and half behind...so much being on schedule at Telluride! And – and!!! – this is yet another section I haven’t done, and the rocks, man, they are boulders, and they are loose, and they are moving under and over and trying to break my ankles, to break my spirit! And – and!!! – I can see Grant Swamp Pass across, yet another stretch I haven’t been on, and it’s f@$#% scary shitless, vertical, crazy! Between all of that, still peeing like a camel and my feet going nuts to the point I see stars between my eyes, I welcomed Larry to the World Of Hell...my personal hell. I cry, now out loud. I swear. I want compassion, assurance, confirmation, TLC, I want to be told it’s a piece of cake and I am one tough cookie, I want him to tell me he loves me no matter what decision I make. I don’t want to go anymore, I don’t care I am not finishing, who would it be for anyway and who do I have anything to prove? there is no glory and no shame, I tell myself, please, Larry, do something, or just go! He is petrified. And he thought my road whining was bad. Ha! Welcome to a real world...I think angrily, as I want to make a point by dropping from the race. Oh, yeah, I hurt too. But he tries. He tells me I would regret stopping, and that while we are behind, we can continue on. I am too tired to make calculations, and if we lost 1.5 hrs on one climb and whatever else we will loose on another – we don’t have time! I sob, but finally realize I am being a total bitch. So I turn to him and tell him how much I love him. I still haven’t reached a decision. I know I am not dropping – in my heart, I have no doubts I will go on, it’s just “one of those”, a mental and emotional breakdown, happens every time. But now I just have to make this decision with mind, my logical self. We twist a few more times and arrive to Chapman AS, mile 82.4, at 4pm, and it’s only 30 minutes behind the “chart”, but I don’t know that yet. I sit down and cover my face in my hands. I cry, I sob, I release everything that is bundled up in me, gathering myself to actually admit to myself I AM going to continue...and Joyce and Moogy walk in.

Oh, Joyce, wonderful Joyce, a Saint, an Angel from the sky, showing up where I needed you when I needed you...As at Telluride, she doesn’t blink as she lowers herself and she and Moogy take my shoes off, examining – and still not finding the cause of my excruciating pain. Then Moogy pulls the insoles out and asks – do you always put two of them in one shoe? I look dumbfounded...I can’t believe it. These are Salomon, shoes I used when I paced Bushwhacker last year, shoes I haven’t touched since then as I decided to save them for this year’s run, they are narrow and close fit – and I manage to store 2 pairs of insoles in them because I couldn’t decide last year which ones I would prefer? And I never checked on them and just pulled the shoes on on the morning of the race??? I believe mountaineers call it “crash syndrome”. I am in serious nerve and soft tissue pressure damage. But at least now I know why, and it feels better...kind of.

Larry feeds me, Moogy takes care of my feet, all the while Joyce whispers to my ear. Simple things. There is no DNF. You can use “I finished early” word’s trick, if you want to. But you don’t. Look, Joe just left Telluride, right on cut off, and he is still going, and I’ll be waiting for him here, because he will keep going. You got almost 14 hrs to make measly 18 miles, and you’ve been to those before. Piece of cake. You are wonderful. You are beautiful. You are strong as they get. Stronger then most can even imagine. If anybody, you can do it. Just think of it as a “walk in a park”. A romantic outing with your sweetie. Take your time. Look around. Don’t look at the watch, because you have so much time, you can circle the town of Silverton 10 times after you are done – and still make it. Think of Johnny DeWalt, that 73 year old man, who is still clicking it, and he WILL make it to his 14th finish. So will you. Piece of cake, dear, just piece of cake...

My shoes are somehow on my feet (with only one insole in each), my pack is on my shoulders, and Larry and I are walking out, after spending 35 minutes there. I am smiling. I am in completely loving state. I love them all, and I love it all! I hold Larry’s hand for a minute, and he smiles too. I tell him I want to walk with him, together. It is going to be our walk, that’s it, nothing else. He agrees, and it is such a relief. We are in love. For better or worse...

We make our way through the tree section, and come to an open area, where we can see the climb ahead of us. I am not scared anymore, not a slightest bit. Piece of cake. We walk, and see many friends on horizon, all those love birds – Lori B. and Chris, and Michelle S. and David. There is another couple there too. It’s a party! As we are making our way to that last pitch to the Grant Swamp, the thunderstorm rolls again, and everybody stills themselves low to the ground. I am kind of stupid when it comes to mountain safety, and I keep moving, albeit slowly and crouching. Larry gives me the “look”. I stop. The rain washes over – and it stops soon, so we are thankful for the break before that push. It’s steep, but nothing I feared. In fact, I think Lori and Larry and Michelle are scared more, and in a weird sense it gives me strength, like I need to look over them – like I could. We make it over it, the Pass #11, and I take a lead to scoot over the other side on my butt. I am getting proficient in it. Everybody follows, and soon we are stretching our legs on a gentle downhill.

I take Joyce’s words to heart, and I let everyone go ahead. I am walking. Of course I could run, but I don’t want to, I am afraid to get into that state of mind when this adventure becomes a race again and stops being a pleasure time spent with my sweetie. Larry slows down with me, and as we finally make it to KT, just as the dark falls again, at yet another 9pm, 24 hrs later after my entering Grouse, we sit down – and they serve the best roast beef sandwiches!! Heaven! I eat mine very slowly, enjoying every bite, and then kick Larry out of an AS. Time to go! I am full of energy, because now – now I smell the barn! 11 miles to go. Piece of cake. Ain’t nothing to it...

The climb is steep, and I decide I need my last nap. I don’t really nap when I do 100M races, I only had done it once – at Bear, and it helped so much, I became a firm believer. So, I find a spot in the woods and get into a fetus position. Others are passing us by, and I can hear Larry is saying ‘ no, all’s good, just a short rest. I am up in 5 minutes, and now I am ready to rock-n-roll!

It’s 3 pitches, I tell Larry. First is in the woods, then over to the ridge straight up, then over another ridge diagonally. Lets push it! I am weary some, but excited. I know my way here, I can sense it. Larry is weary too. After all, he’s been on his feet and awaken the longest in his life. His 100M took him 18.5 hrs to finish. So far, these 32 miles had taken him 19 hrs already, and there are still more hours and miles to go. It ain’t Rocky Raccoon either. So, for the first time since he picked me up, after being such a trooper and a wonderful help, moral support and physical example, someone I really didn’t want to disappoint, I hear Larry grunt. We make it across lots of water/mud (damn! I hear behind) and up to the second ridge (panting), Porcupine-Cataract Saddle, my pass #12, and for some reason, as the last steps are taken, I claim it’s the last climb. As soon as I arrive, a few feet ahead, I realize my mistake...darn it! What will I tell Larry? He pops up – as I take on a shallow downhill and across, and stops dead in his tracks. No – I hear roaring. No, no, no! It’s not another climb, These are cars, not runner’s lights, or may be it’s sheer hallucination?? I stop. I wait. he is almost not moving, mostly pissed off. I yell – shall I wait or go on? I am determined to make it to the finish soon. But then my mind clears, and I ask myself: what would be more important to me – finishing some hour sooner, or sharing the finish with Larry, one who came here and did everything possible in his power for me to make it that far? A finishing time in a log book and internet page, or a life-time of memories? So I slow down and apologize for accidentally giving him a false hope about the “last climb”, and promise this IS, really, the last one. We can do it. Together, Because we are a team.

We slowly pick our way to the ridge, as yet another thunder rolls in, and lightening stirkes, more of it, right next to us, and before we even blink, the pouring cold rain with sleet and hail pounds down. The thunder and lightening don’t stop, and now I am scared. I can make out Larry’s lips praying as we duck every time it strikes 10 feet away from us. Praying? I don’t know no prayers, I am an atheist from Soviet Union! Please God let us live. We are only beginning. We crouch in short bursts, I – with my headlamp off and following Larry’s steps and light, he – pushing me to extreme to try and make it over the ridge. Pass #13. This is really 13, alright. With all that this number is supposed to bring. I get hypothermic quickly and shiver, trying to keep my fuzzy brain occupied before I slip into hibernation sleep. I know that about myself. So does Larry. He doesn’t let me stop, and we keep moving, past a curled-up metal marker (from the lightening strike), up, over, in the freezing icy rain, wearing next to nothing, soaked to the bone...now down, it’s a mile downhill, I sing songs in Russian to myself, aloud, just to not pass out of cold...and here it is, last AS, Putnam Basin. Man, it had a campfire!

I don’t really care what time is it, and what time will I finish. I know if I don’t get my core temperature up, I may not finish at all. We’ve got tons of time, so I make my way to the fireplace and sit down, John and Marcy putting a bunch of blankets around. >Shiver. Can’t talk. Shake. In 15 minutes I can make words out. Lets give it another 15, and off we go...

It’s 1:30 in the morning, the second morning since I started my quest, and everything around me stopped. Time. Place. Universe. I remember every step of this rocky terrain – and I don’t know if I am here. I am trying really hard to not fall asleep. So is Larry. We are both exhausted now, and pretty emotional-less. We don’t talk, I just call out his name from time to time. Long way down. and still no river – where is the river crossing? Is it coming? It wasn’t that long when I did it a week ago...but here it is, finally. We plunge into Mineral Creek, emerging awake and energized – but slip into subconscious state almost immediately. I’ve been hallucinating for the last 3 miles, and it doesn’t stop there. Every rock, twig, tree – or nothing at all – is an animal. It is fun. It is really fun. I know it’s all not true but a product of my vivid imagination of a tired mind, so I eagerly look ahead to see what else appears there for me. I ask Larry if he sees anything – and that Jesus, remember? – he has same vision as well. Now that is weird. And fun. I tell him there is no Jesus at the Shrine, but we are almost done. Can you hold up your camera, sweetie, and take a picture of me kissing The Rock?

And just like that, it’s over. Had it even happened? I don’t know. It’s been a month since we are back from San Juans, my right foot still has no feelings in one region of it (at least most of it is back), so does some of my right shoulder, where I pinched a nerve with the pack strap. My hand is healed. I made it through 6 miles today, in Texas conditions, at 10 min/mile pace, what excited me to no words, so the legs are still spinning (once adjusted to the heat and humidity). I drove 2 days from Silverton to Portland, worked PCT50 race, then drove 3 days from Portland to Texas. Seems like my life is all at the stirring wheel – is that what I am supposed to remember? And then I look at the PICTURESs. Here I was. I really did it. I really, really was there. I smiled. I cried. I ran some, I walked lots, I crawled at times. I was happy, scared, elated, exhausted, I was alone, I was with friends, I shared miles with my love – and with my soul. And I hope that I will believe that it happened, I crossed 100 miles on foot over San Juan mountains with 13 passes over 13,000 feet, with some 33,000 feet of elevation gain, on a whim, not utterly prepared – I will believe it, and I will remember it. And it will help me on my journey to come...becasue I am a Graduate. A Graduate of Hardrock 100 School.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us….”

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
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28 comments:

  1. Anonymous13/8/09 15:20

    wow! still in awe.....

    --naresh

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  2. Olga, that was a report worth the wait. Thanks for sharing. I'll miss you at CCC this year. KRK

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  3. Wow! What a great adventure. Thanks for a truly inspiring story. Love it.

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  4. Raw, and beautiful.

    That poor lady who thought you were pregnant...it probably took all she had to not start criticizing you for doing a 100 mile race with a baby lol...

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  5. That will go done as the most awe inspiring race report ever. The pictures were incredible but they don't do justice to your words. Wow...WOW! : )

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  6. I was right. Liked the story even better than the pictures. And the pictures were phenomenal. Dickens has nothing on you.

    Congratulations graduate.

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  7. Either that, or the water in the creeks has some “shrooms” parts.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ahhhh shrooooooms brings back those college days - LOL

    AWESOME Re-cap Olga, what an amazing Ultra ride, big congrats again!

    You are a Hardrocker !

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  8. Seems like we were just there last weekend. Memories that will forever be stamped in my mind. I can't wait to do it again! I'd rather give up my dream to run HR and, instead, pace you there every year for the rest of my life than kiss the rock. Why? I would get much more satisfaction from crewing/pacing you through the good & bad and, instead, be able to kiss you at the finish. :)

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  9. Anonymous14/8/09 12:51

    Oh my God, what a wonderful report! I was in tears through some of it! I felt like I was with you the whole way. You are an amazing person! Fabulous adventure! Congratulations!!!

    Kat

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  10. Wow, what an epic adventure! Sounds like HardRock is all they say, and so much more!

    P.S. I don't think I'd ever want to be your pacer!

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  11. Olga, this is wonderful. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your adventure with us. Your photos were awesome, and you're an amazing athlete - even if you were walking most of the way. Congratulations on such an enormous accomplishment!

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  12. Anonymous14/8/09 14:17

    Olga- That is the most amazing, wonderful, brutally honest story ever. Your (and your crews') success is inspiring. Thank you for sharing. Congratulations! Gwen

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  13. Olga,
    A wonderful race report! And you don't know how much someone loves you, until you spend tens of hours on a course together.

    It's crazy that you did HR100, and then RD'd PCT50 after that long drive. We love you, Olga!

    Ben & Sophia

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  14. OMG Olga, I love that self portrait of you on top of Handies. Loved the narrative, told in true Olga style -
    One giant exhale of dialogue, emotions and memories all at once with no filter. Love it! You always tell it like it is!

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  15. Well, Olga, that was the best race report I have ever read. Wow, I cried for you and I laughed for you. Thanks for taking me on your adventure through the San Juans. How is Texas? Tell Larry hi for me. Hope to see you one of these days....

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  16. That race must be tough if it made Olga cry!!!

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  17. I've been reading this for days! Great post! Glad i got to be there. You are an incredible champ.
    Your finish with not much training will be inspiring me at the Leadville 100, since I've not trained in three months - just a few races.
    And your Hard Rock will inspire me afterward too.

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  18. OK so I never want to do Hardrock now. Ha...as if I could ever have half the strength you do. Great report, awesome race. I just love the comments between you and Larry.

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  19. I truely love your adventure writings. Years of wonderful, good and hard, experiances in two days. I laughed about the two insoles, we can be so determined and oblivious at times to push on. I hope to see you soon on the NW trails. Take care and appreciate how very much Larry cares for.

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  20. Olga, bravo bravo bravo. Thank you for the HR report, it was captivating. Knowing the course it was like I was with you every step of the way. I can't wait for my turn to experience this great course and finally one day kiss the rock.
    I hope your recovering well.

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  21. Congratulations again on finishing Hardrock. That race makes most other 100s seem short and easy. An major, major accomplishment.

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  22. Congratulations again on finishing Hardrock. That race makes most other 100s seem short and easy. An major, major accomplishment.

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  23. Beautiful. Simply beautiful.

    You have captured here, Olga, the answer as to why someone would ever run 100 miles.

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  24. You can try to put Hardrock into words and yours are great but it still will never match being there. Each moment (good and bad) is burned indeliably in my brain and I am thankful for that. It was so good to see you out there and knowing that, even when we weren't together, we were all out there fighting for it and loving it. Our time on Cataract Ridge in the storm, with Bob getting hit by the lightning, I felt everyone else's presence and knew we were all protecting each other. You were definitely seeing over us on Grant Swamp Pass because I was hyperventilating with fear there. I still live the moments each day. Can't wait for next year, maybe we will end up pacing Larry and Chris.

    Get that foot better, I have a neuroma in my right foot that doesn't want to go away. My race report is right behind yours.

    Be happy,
    xoxo
    Lori B

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  25. Olga!

    Great report...and I truly hope I am never running alongside you when you hit one of your low points ;-) Poor, poor Larry...

    See you soon! Congratulations, you Hardrocker you!

    Steve

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  26. Awesome Olga - truly inspirational story. And a love story too!! So happy for you to achieve this. If you need a pacer next look me up :)

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  27. Wow. Amazing race report. Best one I've ever read actually. Congrats on a great adventure. It's funny how I know exactly how you felt when you talked about quitting, but knew you'd never do it. I've been there!! Congrats again

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  28. I just read this for like the 15th time. love it.

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