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, February 09, 2010

Dancing on the roots

I really should have been writing as soon as I am home. The zest goes away rather fast, and I am starring at this screen trying to find the beginning. What did my previous post name mean? You might have heard Rocky is considered to be the "easy" 100 miler. My take is - there is no easy 100M. It might be not mountains, mild weather, full support, and even faster finish time - but it ain't easy. 100 miles is a long way to go...

On Monday Larry and I hit our usual yoga class. We've been at it since New Year, and I was still taking it easy until now, holding back, since I haven't practiced regularly for over a year. Monday I felt great - and did poses fully, to the point of becoming a "demo". It gave me pleasure, to feel my body responding still.

On Wednesday I had my class in massage school. I got lucky to be a "demo" for the instructor for 30 minutes, and then after I worked on a girl for an hour, she worked on me for an hour as well, both she and an instructor focusing on my back (that happened to have a huge tight band along the spine from that yoga twisting) and my glutes and legs in general. I think between the start of the class and the end of it my double-seized "don't touch me" behind relaxed to where they could push in - and I wouldn't wince. It was wonderful...

We had kids that weekend. I mean, Stephen is always here, but Harrison comes every other weekend, so Larry was to take care of them. They all agreed to come and watch me suffer:) After the drive we settled in a room and fell asleep around 11pm - later than I would have wished for, but the hotel was 10 minutes away. I slept ok, but I felt nervous. 7 years, 68 ultras, 13 100's later - and I still get nervous...it just never goes away.

It's a quiet nervous though. I just don't say much. I sit in a chair, wondering what possesses me to do such things. Suddenly, I have no answers. It was nippy cold, may be 35F and kind of wet air. My feet went numb. We only woke up Harrison, leaving Stephen sleeping in a room (Larry to come back and get him after the start), and he, too, was rather quiet. I did chat with a few folks while getting my number and a bib, and while I could muster excitement, and then crashed. I am like that - I go in bursts. Happy-chatty - and then hiding from the world. 10 minutes to the start. Time to take extra clothes off...

We take stride at Joe's "10, 7, 3...go", and I am right next to Dan Brenden. Yet again, as at Bandera, I take in this fact as a good sign. Dan is awesome. I want to be like him when I grow up. He cherishes memories of my cute leg's turnover at Sand Diego 100 in 2005. What's not to love about our relationship? I think of him - and his wife, how he will finish, and how he will pick her up 50 yards before crossing the line and carry her across. This is one of the most heartfelt moments you'll ever see at any race. He does it every single time...

We funnel into a single track, and have no fear - while single-track, it is rather on a wide side, and there is enough space to get by if needed. Interestingly, I am behind a large group and the next large group of runners pretty far behind. I basically run alone, with 344 starters in a 100. I kind of like it. Allows me to settle in - I am not wearing my headphones yet, and I am finding my stride, and my breath. It's still dark, and the first 2 miles are all flat as a pancake. I wonder when should I take a walk break, and the small hill comes right under my feet - so I walk. Before we know it - first aid station.

You'd think I'll look into aid stations names and distances, but for some reason I don't bother, yet again. I know they are close. This first one is manned by Team Traverse, and I hear my name shouted numerous times. It feels nice, I feel great, and we roll along. More inclines follows, and I am relieved - I haven't run non-mountain 100 since, well, my first one in April of 2004, at Umstead, and I don't know how to run continuously. I was afraid I'd blow my race - but the hills and inclines are nicely spaced out and dictate the walk breaks for me, what is much better then timed breaks - and I'd never do them by time, I don't like looking at my watch that much. It's becomes lighter, and before we know it - we are at the Dam Road AS, and Lynn Ballard and John Sharp yell out "Watch out for Olga, everybody duck!". I give them hugs and kisses. I feel like home. It's a nice feeling indeed...

We leave, and I chat with a guy I call "Virginia" for a while - until he says his name is Phil, and it's his first 100. A few more folks join conversation. We chat away, as the course gently rolls on this 6 mile loop, with the middle point timed by 2 volunteers (to make sure 100 milers don't take a cut-off trail designed for 50 milers). Another man jumps into talking, we power away together - and he is Larry from PA, a long time follower of my blog. We share laughs, stories and races. He runs every step, what kind of screws my intention for walks as I try not to loose him - because it seems he enjoys the company and waits for me if I take a walking step. But I am still having fun - we run a bit along the lake's shore and all 5 of us who are together holler for the echo. The echo is loud, and it makes us giggly and giddy. We turn and see 50 milers who started an hour later, and just in general so many people - tailing 100 milers, front 100 milers on second loop. Crowds of folks, everybody cheering each other loudly.

Back to Dam Road AS, I pick up Phil (VA) again, and tell him to walk, never be afraid of walking early and before he feels the need for it. Respect the distance. Be patient. It will pay off. We run. We walk. We talk. Like Larry (PA) said - who came up with the idea of calling your blog this way? Talk less? What a joke, if you know me! Yeah, I know. Run more is appropriate though, isn't it?

Another AS, and I am lost with miles ran and how many left. We see Liza H., Jamie D. and Connie G. one after another within a minute, and I yell to each of them - Liza and Jamie respond, Connie looks surprised. More front runners coming, more cheering. This course is fun! I am certain we have another AS and the 3 miles after that, so my estimated 4:15 for the loop looks perfectly fine, until I see a road on the side and realize I am coming to an end of the loop #1. Holly cow! When Larry asked me about predictions (so he can nap and then collect kids, feed them breakfast and come back to see me in time), I told him 3:50. His response - you better not. I know, I said, this is the best case scenario I could ever run 20 miles. Well, I make loop 1 in 3:42. Did I screw it up? And how in the world did I run it so fast for me? Larry is not around (no wonder), and I dig into my drop bag. Tomato juice down, gels replaced, windbreaker left behind - Larry jumps in front of me. Baby, sorry, I didn't mean to be fast! I want to linger, but he pushes me out. I already spent there over 5 min. OK, gotta go, I guess...

Loop 2 went same way, besides the fact that my gut was wrenching bad. I should get used to it. I should finally come to conclusion - I can't drink any calories, only water. Am I getting old? When I started, I could do Ensure. Then I couldn't handle it, but was fine with Perpetium. Then it was Clip2. Then HEED. Now - nothing. Nothing at all. How am I supposed to run long distances if all I can do are gels and water, for God's sake??? I am mad, and I am hurting. My lower intestines need relief, which is not in sight quite yet. At Dam Road it happens, and feels a bit better. My friends laugh - true Olga style, real ultrarunner. Sorry, folks. Happens to the best of us.

Back on that 6 mile rolls, I stride and smile - the trail is so soft, it reminds me of PNW. Really, it is not nearly as rooty as we were threatened about! Perfect trails! No roots, just soft dirt and pine needles! As soon as the thought finished - my foot picks a root and I go face plant a few feet down the trail. Thank God it's soft! I laugh, I truly do. Respect the trails, don't jinx them! They will bite you, and you should know better than that! I start looking down and see lots of them, roots. Funny how they suddenly popped. Ok, I promise, I will pay attention...

I pick up Naresh at the timing tent (mid-6M loop) and now we chat away again. Share stories. Give advice. Good ol' times. Gotta love these first 40 miles - life is wonderful, and even though the hamstrings and glutes behind to feel tight, there is still enough sparks to be simply happy. At least with Naresh I take my breaks on every incline, and the loop 2 comes to end - in 4:05 (I don't have a timer, I just note the clock arms, so pardon any errors). Much better. And still much faster than I expected. May be Larry was right, and I should shoot for 22 hrs. If my gut permits...

Larry is there, at the turn-around, ready with my drop bag. I get my tomato juice and gel replacement, but no HEED anymore. One more loop with no jacket and no light, that's the agenda. Time to go.

Loop 3 goes about same as loop 2. More people, but we all are getting quieter, less chatty, more focused. The work has begun. We are grinding and a little bit of grunting. We still cheer each other, but not in so many words. I spend a lot of time with my OR friend Steve Peterson, and he claims that now all we have to do is walk the next 2 loops to make sub-24. I am careful with my estimates - easy for him to say, his legs grow from his neck level. "Don't count chicken until the eggs hatched" - we say 'don't say "hop" until you jump over'. My stomach still bothersome, but is getting better. My feet, though, are feeling weird. What is wrong? No, it's not blisters - by the way, I had none, as in "zero", despite going through some muddy parts through without avoiding (after 2 days of rain in TX), Drymax socks do their job perfectly. I am wearing Fireblades, and they did a great job at Bandera. It's a different pair, but still...what is wrong? My feet feel bruised under, on the edges. I am bewildered, and hurt. I practice my conversation with Larry at the end of the loop:
- How are you feeling, baby?
- You want a dirty laundry list, or just simply that I am hurt in so many places?

But Larry knows better than asking me this question. I make loop 3 in 4:20 (or so), and I am so focused on this "conversation", I forget about what actually hurts the most! I get in at 6:20pm, and glad I didn't have to pull my headlamp out (which I always carry with me anyway) - it was a small goal. While Larry replaces my gels and feeds me another can of tomato juice, I see Stephen and tell him (somebody has to listen to me whine!) - "I am very hurting, sweetie". He looks at me and says nothing. It's not like he comes to this things often, or knows how to respond. His mom is crazy, and kind of invincible - why would she complain? So I give them kisses and leave, hobbling. Not 10 minutes out I realize what I forgot - to change my shoes!!!!

That was a huge mistake. While I am still unaware of "why", I know things are wrong, and I pray Larry, for some weird reason, comes to Team Traverse AS with my extra shoes. He doesn't. I can't even walk anymore, as I enter the tent in tears. "Please, what size you gals wear?". Weird looks, but finally 3 of them - Paula, Meredith T. (2nd place 50M) and Melanie F. (1st place 50M) admit to have same size. Ladies, please, can I have your insoles? Somehow subconsciously I figure it out - Montrail's HARD insoles don't work with narrow no-support Fireblades. Actually, I never wore those insoles for more than 30 miles (and for 30 miles anything goes - how are we supposed to learn ahead of time what would work for us??), and come to think about it, don't even know how they ended up in these shoes. Me and the insoles...wasn't Hardrock enough of a lesson???

Mel pulls her insoles out, Mer holds me while I, sobbing, exchange. It feels like heaven, but the damage is done. I hobble away, wondering if I can still make sub-24...damn it, damn me, damn shoes! Can I hobble and still make sub-24? I haven't done it in 4.5 years, since SD100 2005, mountain races and my general slowness as the cause. This is my only chance, and it's slipping away...

It's dark now, and getting cold quickly. May be it's because I am not running anymore, my body can't maintain the temperature. I am trying to power walk, putting all the effort into widening the steps and springing into next one. I calculate fuzzily: I can do 5.5 hrs on loop 4 and 6 hrs on loop 5 and be ok. I just need to not back off. I need focus. Full focus.

Turn-around again, 5 hrs on the dot for loop #4, Larry with a drop bag. He did stop at Team Traverse AS, but after I passed - and heard my story. I demand my shoes. I also demand a new battery for my headlamp, because with these roots growing bigger every hour (I swear!) fading flashlight is not an option. He finds batteries from someone and replaces them while I am changing my shoes. OK, one more to go. I wonder if I should ask him to come with me. I know he can't - he's got kids in a tent. I also know I don't want him - I am afraid I'll start whining and crying and waste energy and time. So I silently get up and limp away.

My legs feel great. My stomach feels awesome. My energy is high, I am light and wide awake - if not my feet. Wallowing between pity and anger, putting feet down rather gingerly, I step off - and twist my left ankle. No!!! The pain shoots up, and I close my eyes for a moment. This is not happening, not now, not to me...I hobble on, again, into TT AS, and ask for drugs. They supply me with Vit I. Praying I see Lynn Ballard at Dam Road, I try very hard to not get discouraged. What else can possibly happen to me, on this "easy" 100 miler??

He is there. Thank God! Lynn, duct tape? Yes, oh, man, you are true ultrarunner, carrying it in your bag! I tape it all around my left ankle, and set out on the 6M loop. Not a mile into it - I twist my right ankle. Jesus Christ! Is it ever going to end?? I calculate and re-calculate my times again and again. Push, don't give up. By the time I am back at Dam Road, I have 8 miles and 3 hrs to break 24. Lynn laughs - you should know better than that, twisting your ankles in a race! I swear, hoping nobody will feel offended. Not fair! I am trained, my legs are great, and all I can do is not even power-walk, but hobble! I tape my right ankle, and now not sure where to put the weight as I walk. Left or right? Outside of the foot or inside? Nothing seems to work. However, last AS is reached in the same time as the loop before. these folks have soup poured in cups and cut avocado - I wolf it down, thank them as best providers and tell them I am happy to never see them again - not today anyway.

Last 4.5 miles. I am not sure that's the mileage (it is), but this is what I figured from my times. 4.5 miles and 2 hrs. I can do it. The minute I thought this motto - a Marathon Maniac Claude catches up with me. You can do it! I tell him to go ahead - 23:45 sounds like a great plan for me, and I am ok with it.

Am I, really? Am I ever satisfied with simply be ok? Suddenly the sleep comes over me. It always does at 4am, and since all my latest 100's took me far longer than 24 hrs, I am used to 5 minute naps. Can I afford a nap now? I pass people, even though I simply walk, but I wobble so much, I am scared to fall off one of those wooden bridges sleep-walking. Can I afford NOT to take a nap? I sit down on a log, turn off my lamps and close my eyes. It's cold, and those I passed come by in a mere minute - Are you alright? Yeah, thanks, just needed a shut-eye. Well, here goes my nap. I get up, but even a minute with eyes closed helped. I feel energized. I look at my watch, estimate less that 3 miles left, and set out after another goal. yes, I do. 23 hrs seems doable. I want it. I want it badly enough to start running. I run it all, every step of the way, up, down the roots, flats, bridges, mud, dark and all. It is my last chance, I am aware of it, and I am not giving up. I know my watch is 2 or 3 minutes ahead, but have no clue exactly how much, so I simply run all out, turning last corner and seeing the straight line to the finish. Sprint, full out. Larry's flashlight of a camera, 5:25 for last loop, Joe and Joyce, a clock - and it says "22:55". I had done it. I am extremely proud of myself.

Joe gives best hugs. He holds me tightly, and I wonder why I am not crying. I pictured myself bursting into tears, from pain, from uncertainty, from happiness. But I smile and point at my duct-taped ankles. He and Joyce had heard the story by now. And they know me too well to be amused or amazed. They simply believed I would do it, the way I did it. I am thinking I should get mad for a minute - common, guys, aren't you proud of me? Joe handles me my buckle, and then later brings a big slab of rock carved as a state of Texas. I had done The Trilogy - Texas trilogy, 3x100, 262M in a season, Cactus Rose 100M, Bandera 100k, Rocky Raccoon 100M. Somewhere along the way at Cactus Rose I decided it would be a good idea of submerging myself into my new place of living. I don't know why. For a slab of rock...totally worth it:)
Larry helps me change into dry warm clothes and un-do my duct tape. I look at my ankles with disbelief. I actually thought I am imagining the pain. I guess I wasn't. They are red and swollen. A pitiful nap in a car for an hour - and we are on our way home. Thank God it's a local race...

I woke up at 3am next morning, in pain, to find my right ankle bone lost in a swollen red mass. My left, though, looks and feels much better. Now, 2 days later, it is obviously there is no serious damage, and I am greatly relieved. I am limping, and can't touch it, and the outside edge of right foot has a bruise on the bone, but it looks better. I guess I should be grateful for the induced break from running after finishing a 100.

Self-sabotage or self-distraction? This question boggled my mind as I ran through the day and the night. I don't know what to call it. I truly don't know why we do it. It's a test. To me - it is not a physical test. It's a test of will. Resolve. Focus. Determination. Perseverance. It's a prove - I can do anything if I set my mind to it. I can get through any disaster and come on the other side. And because I loose this confidence, I need to prove it to myself again and again...

Official photos to come, #186

p.s. On a different note, my name wasn't drawn to Hardrock lottery, what means Tahoe Rim 100 for me this July. I am going to miss San Juans. But may be it's for the best. I can't afford to spend even a week there this year with my miserly 2 weeks vacation at new job - and still be able to have a vacation with the family. Larry and I are planning a backpacking trip instead. Ideas welcome - we have such a wide selection, we are a little fuzzed out:) Anybody's been to Glacier National Park? How are the trails there in the end of June?


  1. Very, very proud of you! Hey!, I learned from the best when it comes to crewing. How could I not? I learned from you so I've learned what not to ask. But, I'm still learning and will remember the shoes next time. Big HUG!

  2. You're awesome! You and your insoles :-) I want to be fast like you :-)

  3. You want to be like Dan when you grow up - I want to be like you. Great job! You're right; there are no easy 100's. I'm not sure how those who live here in the arctic train to run there.

  4. Good stuff....Ballard is a good friend...who I run with often. Olga you inspire....

  5. Way to go, Olga! That's a superb time.


  6. Olga, great report on an--as usual--inspiring race. Rest up and let that leg heal!

    Oh, and I didn't get into HR either, but then a friend convinced me to sign up for both Bighorn (June) and Swan Crest (July) to make up for it. You and Larry should check Swan Crest out, it looks awesome.

  7. Well, Olga, once again you did a fine job at running a 100 miles. I SUCK at 100 milers. I will try BH 100 in June though. You are awesome, Girl. I enjoyed your race report so much. I miss you and hope to run into you this year. Talk to you soon. Oh, and you look great, too!

  8. great re-cap as usual, way to grind it out and get under 23 hours... speedy :-)

    COngrats Olga !

    PS Love the HR header at the top -- wishlist race for sure here!

  9. Olga - What an awesome report, and I can soooooo relate. The roots ate me up also and had to limp the last loop and a half. I also had stomach issues after loop 2 but some ginger ale brought me back. We crossed each others path a few time, and I said hi in passing, but you had a good pace going and really in the grove. I was not far behind you, and was hoping to catch up, but I lost too much time at the start / finish line AS (and you were kicking butt). I was hoping to run into you after the race but I passed-out in the warm car, only to just make it to the drop-bag pickup before closing shop. Hopefully our paths will cross again so I can run a couple miles with you - This would be an honor. I love the way you questioned yourself about why we run these races, and the way you responded! Myself, and two other runners, were saying the same thing on the last loop, but I could not respond because I knew my answer would be different after a few days of rest. Each time I say never again, only to start planning for the next race days later! It's funny how we forget about the pain so soon!
    Congrats on a great finish and pushing through the pain to get it done - Very impressive.

  10. Anonymous9/2/10 21:11

    A backpacking trip? John Muir Trail, baby! Two hundred and eleven miles of bliss, and unlike Glacier NP, you won't have to worry about grizzlies. (However, June anywhere in the West will either be snowy or very buggy--maybe both. Can you wait till August?)


  11. Love all the details! Persevere is right...that should be your middle name. : ) Not many are as tough as you. Just remember the right insoles next time! ; ) : )

  12. Classic! Both the race and the report :)

    it was a rollercoaster read - unreal how you ran those final miles so strong - but of course not surprised - just like the folks at the finish!!

    PS - thanks for keeping me honest - I'll update the Miwok goal :)

  13. I was totally immersed reading this race re-cap.I am in total awe of your inner strength.
    I am back at running after a long hiatus and have a half, 30K, full and 50K planned this spring. I am looking forward to testing myself in the 50K. I know, a total breeze for you! Take care in your recovery. You deserve it!!!

  14. Again, it was so fun to see you all day! It was also great to be there when you needed insoles. How funny that your "garbage" are my favorites. Sharing those moments are some of my favorites because it is people at their most raw taking a moment to rebuild to move on...inspiriing to watch and always great to remember!

  15. Congrats Olga! What a great acomplishment!

  16. Congrats on the Sub-23. I paced my brother for a lap from mile 60-80 and the first three miles rolled my ankle 5 times. Great course though the rest of the way through. He had a 6 hour cushion for the last lap to make it sub 24, but succumbed to the roots and DNF'd at mile 83.

  17. It was great to see you out on the trails Olga! Thanks for being so positive and peppy! Congrats on your great run!

  18. Sweet Olga! It was so good to read your RR report. Great job on your sub-23 finish. Sorry about the ankles - you KNOW I can relate to that! Way to perservere and overcome. Now RICE! :) Love ya'!

  19. Olga,

    What an amazing race and report. I was on the edge of my seat despite knowing exactly what time you finished in :).

    I had to laugh out loud when you described Stephen's reaction to your helplessness: exactly how I imagine my son reacting to me one day. "Crazy" running moms we are.

    I have to ask you, since I am still holding out the dream of running a 100 one day... do you always switch you shoes? Around what mile? Do you have two different types of shoes along or just one type, two pairs?

    Amazing run: very consistent (despite necessary breakdown) and such a strong finish! You are a very inspiring woman.

  20. Olga - Way to tough it out both mentally and physically. Awesome and inspiring. We ran together for a bit on loop 2 (I believe) around the Park Road aid-station and you told me to "focus on loop three, then it is all downhill for there."

    Happy healing!

  21. Good job Ms. Texas (former Miss Oregon) I wish I had your toughness on the trails. You seem to put your demons in a box most of the time during a long race. You control them not the other way around. Congrats again on another great race.

  22. Anonymous16/2/10 01:17

    Your blog is boring. I recently gave birth to identical twin boys and I plan on starting to run again soon. I can't wait.

    Kelly S. Nichols

  23. Anonymous19/2/10 00:02

    I like to post mean things on other people's blogs. I do this because I don't have the courage to write my own blog. I'm afraid no one would read it because I'm a really boring person. Also because I'm a boring writer. What do you think? Do you feel sorry for my twins because they have a mom like me?