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

Friday, November 06, 2009

Halloween night, #13

Dear Diary.

I bet you thought I had forgotten all about you. Well, I didn’t. I’ve been missing you too, but you know, sometimes it’s just gets too much with things in life. You know, sometimes it gets so much, it’s even almost good for your race. Like, that week prior Cactus Rose, I happened to get an interview for a job, go there, get an offer on the spot, go back and do all the paperwork, prepare for the test in my massage class, and then take that test and pass it with flying colors. All in 4 days. So, now you know – I couldn’t have written anything last week. This week wasn’t much better either. Not only I had started that new job of mine, in a lab of a director of ICMB at UT nevertheless, right on Monday, and with taking a bus it is almost 11 hrs out of my life, still went for classes (and have a full weekend of them on top of it), I also simply couldn’t sit. yeah, I know. It sure sounds funny, but trust me, it’s not funny at all. You try and crack your tailbone – how do you write lengthy reports when sitting is impossible, not to mention excruciatingly painful? Even now I am sitting on a soft chair with one butt cheek to it, pushing both feet to the ground to hold up just a touch above that very soft chair. Oh, and there is a donut under me too. But I am trying. See, Diary, I did miss you...

Where do I begin? I told you I wasn’t having any grand expectations for this race. I just wanted a few things to accomplish: to get another 100M for the season; to run a race in TX; to support Joe and Joyce’s Tejas Trails; to meet and mingle with my new “homies”. Thursday night I realized I don’t want to go. Yes, it was a usual pre-race jitters, but it was also a fact that Larry wasn’t coming with me, and that felt really weird. You see, for the last year and some, every race 50M and over included being with him. We either ran at the same race, or supported each other. And now, that I am here, in Texas, with Larry, not going to a race with him – was something out of this world. But, Dear Diary, some times we need sacrifices. The weekend being a Halloween weekend, and having 2 kids the age that still cares about candy (who doesn’t, anyway?) meant boys wanted to go trick-o-treating, and that determined the faith. I am to go on my own, dive into the midst of this new Texas community, feeling lost and out of place...

Or so I thought. I arrived to Bandera area, still sad, and found Joy and Joyce there reading the space for the race. I told you, Diary, this race is almost a Fat Ass (hmm, how appropriate, actually, no, I managed to get to my best racing weight). Joe and Joyce provide start/finish and 5 more aid stations with water and ice – the rest is up to us, crazies. We leave our drop bags with food and anything else we need and not count on volunteer’s presence. Self-reliable would be a better description. Thank God the RD’s are good friends of mine! At least it felt just a little bit better. I picked up my bib and a t-shirt and went with Joyce to drop my bags at couple of those AS’s, helping her on the way to secure traps and taking pictures. Boy, it was beautiful sight! I never predicted I’d like Texas hill country, but I surely did right there and then.

The hills reminded me of Vermont, may be the trees are not as tight and tall, but the views are very similar. But the trail – for the most part that one was different. Rocks and limestone ledges gave way to occasional smooth single-track, and climbs and descends were sharp and steep, even if not long. Race featured some 11,000 feet of gain, but it was done completely different from, say, Hood 100 with the same elevation change. There was no slow 4M incline at 5% grade you can run – or open up a power walk. Nor did you have long nice 3-4M downhills were you could fly – same loose rocks at over 10-15% for 0.25-1M, and try and pick some time there! But it was all single track, indeed...

Back to headquarters, a short briefing explained what I knew already – follow extensive marking, don’t take unmarked trails, get into AS and sign your name and time in. Simple and un-complicated. After that, while I still felt lost (while saying a bunch of hello’s – apparently I knew half the crowd, or at least they knew of me), Joe and Joyce took me under their wing and invited for a gumbo cook-out. Honestly, I had not a clue what Gumbo is. Hot soup, I was told, and two of the guys prepared their own recipes for judges. hey, I am always up for food! And more food! I was given a warning that tomorrow my stomach will rebel, but that never stopped me from eating, and I think I downed 4 plates full, hot and all.

Night came early, and I crawled into my car’s back-sit for some sleep. I actually was quite comfortable and slept well enough, thankfully having enough warm clothes. Because, you see, Diary, Texas is like that – it’s hot during a day, and freakishly cold at night. It was 35F at the start, they say...

There is one thing I forgot to mention to you, darling. Race being held on a Halloween, there was a costume competition going, which, of course, I didn’t prepare for. But Joe and Joyce came to the rescue and brought a bag of some stuff I dug in to and picked a dress, sunglasses and a man’s hat (gangster’s hat?). So, I pulled it all on for the first loop, and it was a smart decision – boy, was it cold! At 5am Joe let us roll without further due. Off we went on the first loop...

I think I told you I had very few aspirations. I wanted a finish, a buckle, and likely a 30hr – just because I like round numbers. That said, I picked 30 hrs out of the blue, and when Larry asked me what my plan is (what plan? the only time I even looked at the website was when Joe visited and gave me a tour of the course, I never went back to it. could I have had any less planning than that?), I responded: 6, 7, 8 and 9hrs per loop. Funny, when I added them on, it came to 30 hrs. Alrighty, then! Nice and slow!

For some reason for the first mile nobody passed me. May be because we hit a climb and a descend very soon, and then spread out on a single-track. It was so dark, peach-black, only a shining light in front. Still, as always, I was recognized by my accent. And – rumor travels fast – I heard comments: if I am passing Olga, she’ll come to haunt me later! I smiled. Yup, that was my idea of running a 100. Always was, always will be. We chatted a lot on that first stretch of 5 miles, I ran with Fagan, Mark R., Naresh, Chris and some others. First AS came – and I checked my time in as 53 min. Holly cow! Why am I running so fast? I don’t do that even on a daily runs on these trails! This is what happens when I run with somebody and not do my own pace. I left AS alone and decided not to hook up with anybody. What was easy – not only this was not a huge field, we spread out nicely, and my Gumbo soup made a call! And another one! I didn’t mind – I never mind stopping in the first part of the race, slows me down and rests me up. Soon after second AS the sunrise reddened horizon over the hills, and it was beautiful...peaceful... wonderful to be alive.

I had a great visit with Gordon here, but the “Gumbo call” didn’t allow me to stick around, though I knew, another couple of stops – and I’ll be all good to go for the reminder of the race.

Nothing new was happening, Diary, nothing that you haven’t seen before. I drank, I took gels, I smiled and yelled at people, I powered evenly up and down and immensely enjoyed myself out there. As the sun rose up higher and higher, the dress and the hat were giving me lots of heat, and my head felt like going into a heat-stroke, but I committed to wearing a costume, so I did. Especially since towards the end of my first loop some folks were already coming back (the course is a washing-machine 25M loops), and it was fun to meet and greet them. The AS’s were fun with decorations, and had some crew members for other runners who helped anybody and everybody getting in, meaning filling my bottles with water and ice – and what more do you need anyway? The hills got much bigger and much rockier, and I loved every step of them – I never liked running all that much anyway...

The first loop finally came to an end, and I clocked it in 5:45. Right on, baby! I, literally, tore off the hat and the dress, and the light breeze caressed my hair. Yeehaa!!! Off to the second loop now.

You know how it is, Diary, right? I figure numbers as I go, and adjust accordingly. The heat was rising, the sun was beating down, I was getting thirsty, but running really well. And still loving it. Why not? Nobody put a gun to my head to do it. The music on my i-Pod was on, finally, and dancing on the rocks became my agenda...when, shortly after 1st AS on the second loop, on that famous rocky-ledge downhill (I told you I didn’t study the maps, so don’t ask me the names all the locals recite by heart), I jumped off the edge, landed on the rock that slid – my foot went forward – and my tailbone landed right on the edge of the ledge! My breath stooped, and so did my heart, while my eyes popped out of the sockets. What was that??? As soon as air filled my lungs again, I screamed. The pain was over the top, but adrenaline pushed me up almost immediately (we are talking milliseconds here), and I touched my back-side for broken pieces. Nothing seemed to be moving down there, and all the muscles around that part of my butt bunched up like a rock. OK, OK, lets just make a step and see if things shift – I told myself, still holding my ass with both hands. Nothing shifted. So I figured, I won't get anywhere standing still, might as well walk...swearing loudly and screaming on every uneven surface (which is, like, every step?). I also decided not to take drugs (that I had with me) to access the pain level (doctor in me, you know, masking pain is bad for diagnosis). This continued for the next 3 miles, till mile 35, when I decided that I am still alive, my legs still move, I should stop screaming and start running. I popped prescription-strength pain-killers and went off, fighting heat and tailbone pain all at once...

Loop 2 done, as my new desire fancied, in 6:10, for a total time of 12 hrs. Sweet! I gave Joyce a big hug and told her that my ass is on fire, I think I cracked something there, but I need to change my shoes and pick up some things. She fed me a cup of soup and held my stuff while I, lopsidedly, took off my Fireblades and put on Cascadias (I have arthritis in my big toes, and narrow shoe hurts too much for a long time run). Moeben sleeves – check, jacket – check, 2 headlamps – check, tampon – check (oops, sorry). I wooppy-wooped loudly and went for the night...

It was getting lonely out there. Some of the 50M runners were done, and the field was so far apart, you could be by yourself for a whole stretch. Crew folks form AS’s also disappeared – to pace, or to other AS’s for their runner’s needs. Soon sun came down, and the day was gone...short day of the end of October. Chills were setting in rather quickly, so I tried to move as fast as I could, and amazingly, I still ran all the flat parts. Every single one of them! I couldn’t believe it. This lasted all the way till mile 70 AS, and then, to no surprise of mine, since I tend to stop eating gels after some 15 hrs, and there was no hot food at AS (but the main Lodge one, ha, self-supportive race, remember?) and I was lazy to dig in to my drop bag, (what is also not new to me), I began getting somewhat down. Not slow, just not very cheerful. Considering the fact that I was the happiest chap out there for 18 hrs, loudly joking with everyone I saw, I think I will excuse myself. What do you say, Diary? I passed Mark and arrived into the Lodge AS one last time, trying not to show anybody that I am getting tired...

But Joyce can’t be fooled. She looked me up and said I seem to have been having fueling issues. Yes, I am. Oh, by the way, loop 3 was done in 6:40, and I beat my new yet another adjusted goal of making it before midnight. Don’t ask me why. I like arbitrary goals. Joyce gave me 2 cups of soup now, and Diana tried to cover me with a warm jacket while I ate – and no, can’t get comfy here, ladies. Got things to do, places to go...sorry, ya know, 11 hrs to break 30 hrs...or 9 hrs to break 28. New goal? You betcha! Tailbone and all!

If only I could figure out why in the world this is the second 100 miler where I pee every 5 minutes. At Hardrock I blamed altitude. What can I blame here? beginning around mile 30 all I do is stop and let a full stream out. Lots. Clear. No pain. Just peeing as if I am drinking buckets - what I am not. Asuggestion, anyone? getting old? It doesn't bother me anymore now that I've had it before, but it slows the time down - I figured even with a mere 15 seconds stops by the end I lost at least an hour, and likely more. Just annoys the hell out of me, because I don't know why...

Soon, very very soon as I left, I feel somebody is approaching me from behind. I can not believe it. Nobody passes me on the last loop! So far I lived up to expectations and haunted every single person who passed me on that first loop (besides those, of course, whom I never saw since the “go” sound), I am power-walking like crazy (even if now refuse to run at all) – and somebody can walk faster? The guy was tall, and his legs were probably twice longer then my whole body, but I never used this excuse before, so I wished him well. If someone can outwalk me at the last stages of a 100 – more power to him. I kept my brisk pace, for two reasons – I had a new goal, and I was cold. One Patagonia windbreaker doesn’t do much when the temps are near zero, and it turned out they dropped to 35F yet again! I am glad I didn’t know it at the moment, but my eye balls felt frozen, and I got very sleepy at one point so much that I ordered myself to sit down on the rock and close my eyes Me and my 5-minute naps. But you know what? It helped so much! The slog was over, and I actually started shuffling here and there again! If only the trashed feet (try navigate those rocks for 80 miles!) and my full-blown knee (swollen and painful), on top of the “pain in the ass” allow me to move sooner, i would have. But I tried. 28 hrs, that’s all I wanted...

With 10 miles to go I clocked myself at the AS and did some simple math. Man...man, oh, man...If I push, if I run, I can break 27. Why, why in the freaking world do I do that? But don’t we all? Besides, asking questions is wasting time. What do you say, Moon?

That is one thing I haven’t mentioned yet. The moon. The full moon in the absolutely crispy-clear peach-black sky. It gave light, but it also gave scares. How many times I turned around thinking it must be the car (hello? on a trail?) or a runner with super-bright lights coming from behind and I need to give way – and it was the moon. Pretty soon I even knew that I am turning to see the moon – but still, the body consistently kept turning back. Spooky...

Oh, Diary, Diary...how I pushed. I came to the last AS, 5 miles to go, and didn’t even fill my bottle (which I didn’t fill last time either). I checked in my time (and noted I am 15 min behind that guy who passed me) and figured I have 1:30 or so to make it. 90 minutes for 5 miles with some steep hills, rocks, in the dark, in the cold, with knee that doesn’t extend, feet that can’t take anymore rocks, and back-tail that simply can’t even think straight, it is so scared for the consequences. But we never give up until we try, right? So we ran – me, myself, and I. As fast as we can...looking at the watch intently...pushing...hoping and loosing hope at the same time...until with ¾ mile to go I see that guy! Yay, baby, nobody passes me without paying for it! I picked him up and simply said: you wanna finish together, or shall we race? We figured we’ll do it together. After all, that was it, our goal at hand, last half a mile, so close – and with plenty of time to spare...

We ran onto a mat, biped out timing chips, and I fell into hugging arms of Joe. 26:46. Thank you, thank you, thank you! What a wonderful, beautiful, tough, awesome, unexpectedly crazy race! What a “Welcome to Texas!” What a way to make my number 13 finish! Thanks to Joe and Joyce for designing and organizing, thanks to Henry and Marc for marking, thanks for the Gumbo soup, for taking me into your “family”, for hugs, for personal touch, to that volunteer who gave me his own sandwich when I mentioned I can’t take gels anymore, to that saint woman who filled my water bottles with ice at 3 or 4 aid stations, for the huge metal Rose that marked my 3rd female place, to Abi for her sexy nurse outfit, to those two guys the night before the race who met me at SD100 in 2005 and believed I am still in the same shape to do well, to all the runners for the smiles, to all the hills for being there and letting me not run that much, to single track, to the moon, to the rocks, to the brush that cut my legs raw and tore flesh out, to the i-Pod that managed to not die on me for 3 loops, and to Larry – who firmly believed, apparently, that I went to break 27 hrs (without telling me) and wasn’t phased out when I called him in the morning.

And now, dear Diary, I need to get off this chair and hope to straighten up with not much swearing. I learnt to do it by now, you know. Coming first day to work when I can hardly move a step and hold scream muffled – and still not let anyone know what I did “last summer”...I mean last weekend...I can do it, Diary. In fact, I plan to go for a run now. Just to shake those things off. Cracked tailbone? Who cares! The legs are still attached to it, so go out and run already!


My photos

Official photos (my number is 31)


  1. Sweet Olga said:

    "I picked him up and simply said: you wanna finish together, or shall we race?"

    So you, Olga! I love it!

    Sorry about your tailbone. Those hurt, I know. Hope it heals up quickly.

    Congrats on the race and even more importantly on your job. It sounds perfect. Life is good.


  2. I told myself, still holding my ass with both hands. Nothing shifted.
    I felt guilty reading your diary BUT after this sentence I had to rad more - lol

    Congrats Olga !! Sorry about the T-Bone, they hurt!! Make sure Larry messages it twice daily :-)

    Best wishes with your new job!

  3. Ouch ouch ouch! Tailbone smash is the worst! I would have quit. You are way too tough. Good job. Gail and I will be in Austin Friday night. I will email you.

  4. Great report Olga. I always get pumped up when I see you at races! Glad you are in Texas now!

  5. Yet again, wow!!!! Your race recap is such a motivator for people like me in the flatlands..it gives me hope that people like you are doing these things that my friends think I am crazy to aspire to...And that pain and injuries are all relative...

  6. Great summary, and it was so good to see you out there. Know exactly what you mean about that moon - I also kept turning around thinking there was someone with a light behind me :-)

  7. Spectacular, girl! Except for the owie...hope the tailbone is better soon! I love how you write like you talk...great reading! Awesome news about the job too. I guess you really are becoming a Texan now.

  8. No one writes a race report like you Olga. Enjoyed every moment of it.

  9. A great story Olga - you are one tough cookie. Running with a broken butt? Holy moly!

  10. Hey Olga,

    That's got to be the first "Texas reminded me of Vermont" comment I've ever seen! :) Teehee! You're awesome.

    Sue (30-year past resident of VT)

  11. Ouch! I broke mine several times, and the last time was worst. Both feet went out from under me and landed on a dirt ridge. It snapped so loud it sounded like a dried branch broke. It hurt for two months. But I still went climbing the day after it happened - moving in slow-mo. No way I was gonna cut my vacation short. My a$$ was gonna hurt no matter, so why go home?
    Glad you're having so much fun. You are SO tough and fast and indomitable!
    Your "Yeehaw is getting to sound more Texan every day!
    Y'all take care!

  12. A great inspirational story. Thanks for sharing and congrats!

  13. Wow! Can't believe I didn't have a chance to read this until now. Awesome report! And you are SUCH and tough and in shape woman. And 3rd for the women (even after that nasty injury)!!! You are amazing. Yeah and I can totally relate to needing to constantly up the goal, just to keep things exciting. Congrats on making it under 27.

    And it has been a complete pleasure "knowing" you for, gosh it must be almost 3 years now (The Bois himself is almost 2). I sometimes wonder if you know how much your supportive comments and advice have meant to us :).

    Thanks and happy recovery (actually I hope you are running fine again by now)!

  14. OLGA !!!!! Congrats on Cactus Rose. You rock !

  15. Finally! A diary entry of your in English. I knew your personal time goal was way too conservative. You were training your butt off, by my standards. I know, I know, my training standards are not good enough and I'm working on it. Very proud of you dyevechka.

  16. WElcome to TEXAS! I really missed being there. I was suppose to pace Dmitry but had to ammend those plans. I was really proud of the North Texas Trail Runners Representation. You sound like you had a really good time...Congrats on a great job.