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

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Grey laundry

You know the drill. If you wash all your colors with the colors and the whites with the whites, then the colors stay bright and vibrant and the whites stay white. If you wash all your clothes together, they all approach grey.

I've been known to wash all clothes in the same laundry load (in tune with previous post, both to save water and energy consumption). While I can't say my whites turned grey, they surely don't look as fresh as when Larry sneaks in and does whites separately with bleach. At times I succumb to a good thinking, most likely I continue doing what I am accustomed to.

Fortunately for you, this post is not about my dirty laundry (which, with 2 runners in the house and one teenager skate-boarding every day, is aplenty - we are one stinky family!). The post is about running.

I've been running for just short of 9 years. Not much by any standards, but I guess more than some. I even heard being called a "grizzly" of ultrarunning, but I am guessing it is mainly due to sheer amount of ultras I packed in 7 years, not years of experience. I know some, and I am still learning a whole bunch - not only about running, ultras and such, but about myself in general. I hope this is a never-ending process, because only when we advance and keep the process going, do we live fully.

After training with NYC's coach Bob Glover and his group for my first marathon, I jumped into long distance - still training with fast track runners, while living in NY. Then I moved to Portland and got myself signed up with Scott Jurek, the Greatest Coach, really. With added benefits of real climbs and still following speed workouts, I got where I was probably pretty close to my potential - if I was only to reach out after it (read Ronda's post on how she, and inevitably I, fear to put full effort into races while doing workouts at serious level. In fact, I never remember myself finishing an ultra and collapsing, having nothing more to give. Well, may be at San Diego in 2005 I came pretty close, curling in a ball after being carried from the car to motel room, crying non-stop for the next hour in pain and exhaustion). 2006 was still not a bad year, at least first part of it, as I trained hard and put miles in. WS100 that year, as unfortunate as it went for me (and many many others), shadowed my determination. A few injuries followed. I went from seriously training, to seriously running, to just running (add on some personal struggles, and my determination was pretty low). Eventually, my runs had become "grey".

I did raise my head up to some level in the beginning of 2008 and benefited from it with good Bighorn. And went straight back to "sleeping beauty". My runs were shuffles at most, and walks often. I needed it back then. With Gail and Bushwhacker by my side, we walked, we talked, we pondered on life - and neither really trained. I guess I better take responsibility on that one for them too!

Things started turning for the better last September - with negligible amount of climbs around Austin I had to re-learn to run, continuously, and with no training partners, I had to manage not getting excuses to take walk breaks. It's been 6 months and the base is here...

So, back to laundry. "Same thing with working out. You have to run hard on the hard days and easy enough on the recovery days to be able to run hard again when it's time. You don't make progress by working hard. Your progress is made by recovering AFTER you've worked hard. Training is a series of breakdown and buildup of muscle, nerve, and physiological adaptations of each to work. You HAVE to break down in order to improve, but you also have to REBUILD. Many ultra runners just plain run too much. Training for an ultra is much more than "Run a lot today. Run more tomorrow. Run more the next day..." Recovery is as important as the work portion. As well, we'll incorporate some shorter and faster work. It isn't because 100 milers need to have good leg speed. You will never approach in a race the pace that we'll do some turnover workouts at, but it is important to maintain stride length and strength through a full range of motion (full stride length). Running long and slow or running uphill just makes your stride length decrease. Also, it is important on technical terrain to be able to "pick 'em up and put 'em down" quickly."

You guessed it, I got me a coach. I thought he'd add to my long runs a bunch of hill repeats, intervals, tempo runs - push me, man! But when I got his first schedule, I went furious. What am I, a beginner marathoner? You think I can't handle all of those things together? I did just that, for a few years...years ago, indeed. And what do I do with my weekends now???

I slept on it. He sent me a couple of long emails. I made up my mind. I am going to stick with it and trust him completely. What do I got to loose, anyway? As he said, I can likely finish any 50 or a 100 in my sleep, any day I lace up my shoes. The goal is to get to that finish line faster - and being able to push myself while still be comfortable, but also push myself beyond comfortable.

This is my new challenge. Run speed intervals (for the time being just that) twice a week, while forcing myself to rest in-between and shortening my weekend runs to something I am afraid to even look at the number (Larry may get ahead of me in total mileage after all!). And this is my first impressions: I am enjoying easy days! And I am so out of shape for the speed! Last time I did speedwork on somewhat consistent basis was 20 months ago. I practically died today at the middle 10 min repeat, looking at the watch every 20 sec after 5 min passed, praying to quit, in cold sweat and about to puke. Trust me, you don't want to know what my pace was either, because it is so-o-o disappointing! And - Hello, Hamstrings!!!

But I am not ashamed. Ashamed would be staying comfortable where I am, finishing another ultra, and another ultra...and not gaining anything from it. Been there, done that. It's time for a change. I am taking on a challenge. Another way to put it - train your weaknesses, not your strengths. I am a good power-walker, hiker for long steep uphills and a downhiller (well, that needs to be checked upon since I haven't done this part in 6 months). I always said I suck - with capital "S" - on flats, at discovering my fast-twitch fibers and on shallow inclines when I have to run with no breaks. So, what did I do? Picked races that were for my strengths and shied away from those where the weaknesses would be obvious. I'd like to see if that can be re-prioritized at my ripe age. I also want to go against fear - fear of failure, of high expectations, and fear of potential success. There might be no tomorrow, why wait and play it safe?

It doesn't mean next time I line up at the start (which is the following weekend), I am fired up to go. First of all, work has to be accumulated. Secondly, there are races, and there are training runs (local being the latter). Third, I am far from being ready not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. But I am excited to work.

So, who is the lucky guy who gets to hear me fume this year without picking words? (ask Jurek, I think he was petrified every time we had phone conversation). Howard Nippert. Poor thing. Lucky me. He didn't know what he agreed on. But so far this week I followed everything to a "t". And may be, just may be, I'll wash whites today separately, and add some bleach to it too:)

And for a fun part - Gordy emailed me the other day with pictures from the award ceremony of last year's WS100. Ain't we looking swell? If all goes as planned, Larry and I are planning to spectate the big show again this year after a week in backcountry of Lassen Volcano National.


  1. Well, if Nippert does for you waht he did for Devon, we'll have to expect you in the front of the pack from now on!

  2. Great post Olga and that picture is an absolute classic! It certainly gives me a lot to think about as I have never actually had a coach (well, not since being a sprinter in high school). I am just not sure if it is really my sort of thing since I am so much more attracted to the adventure (as opposed to performance) side of the sport. And, I really have no running talent other than over tricky downhill stuff. However, I do occasionally think about it since now that I'm a couple of steps into my 40s, the opportunities for significant improvement are limited.

  3. Like Ronda told me "Nothing changes if nothing changes". Looking forward to see how your changes impacts your performance.

  4. I met Nippert a few years ago at Mad City 100k. The guy was super cool and his personal running results speak for themselves.

  5. As someone who *always* washes colors & whites together--AND someone my husband claims is "uncoachable" (heehee)--but also someone who enjoys her running more than ever, running ultras x 18 years, it will be interesting to hear about this coaching experience. Good luck Olga, and keep us updated!! :)

  6. Funny post Olga. I just started blogging and found your blog when I was looking for bloggers with similar interests. I noticed a couple of runs made both of our calendars. I plan on doing Hell's Hills on 4/3 and the San Antonio Marathon on 11/14. I thought I had a pretty full schedule but you really filled yours up. Doesn't look like your suitcase will be spending to much time in the closet. Thanks for sharing and keep up the great posts.

  7. It's one thing to know you need a change, but it's altogether another to actually make the change. Good for you! Can't wait to see how it goes for you with the new coach and plan.

  8. Olga,
    "In the day", like a zillion years ago I trained with Bob Glover in CP, I actually have fond memories of doing repeats of the upper loop. Funny, while walking a dog for a friend at 6 in the morning, I saw Greg Dimonte (a Chi-town running coach) giving a track workout on the track near where I live,(I have no excuses a track and the Lakefront all near me)...So my goal is to get back to speedwork next week)...

    Love your posts, appreciate how u deal w/life and w/running, my friend Judy with 3 boys appreciated your last one...

  9. OLga,
    I guess maybe we'll see you at WS! Eric is running, Steve is pacing and I am crewing.

    Yes, Rob is the RD and Eric the assistant RD for R2R. If you want to keep up with them, you've got to get back to facebook. Things are going well - though Eric is looking for work again. Rob is teaching and busy with all the kids getting older. They are still as funny and fun as they ever were though!

    See you in June...

  10. Love it Olga. Your not one to sit in idle for very long anyway. Oh and stop saying your slow and out of shape...didn't you read my last post, ha, ha. Excited to hear more. Cheri's got a coach now and it's really fun to see how he puts stuff together. Fun times.

    BTW: I tried to interpret your email about the Bridal Veil downhill but wasn't quite sure if I had the right spots. The point is Cheri is a bomber! She asked me what my record was for that decent and told her I don't have one but if there's one to beat it's yours. You and her would be dangerous out there.

  11. Let me know when I get to join you for a run :) Any day!! What a fun adventure with a new coach!

  12. It's exciting to see you separating your "laundry". Maybe, I do have a chance to pass you in mileage this year, but I doubt it. And, yes, I will sneak in and do the whites once in awhile. ;)

  13. I've been really enjoying your posts lately, Olga. You're intermingling life and running and identifying each as metaphors for the rest and it's just great writing that produces great thoughts.

    Thanks for this, and I wish you luck with your new coach. I know you're a feisty Russian, but methinks he can do the things you've sought him out to do, but only if you give him the time and place to do so. ;) Hugs!

  14. Great post Olga. I've been feeling grey lately too. I have become to comfortable with my routine. Once again, you have inspired me to do things differently and do things better. I am looking forward to see how your year progresses, it's very exciting! Good on you!

  15. I love this post, Olga. Thanks for making me think about what I need to change in my training in order to be as good as I can be. We ultrarunners need to be comfortable, being uncomfortable!! I look forward to seeing you out on the trails.

  16. Thats great you got a coach. I have been thinking about that or a PT at the gym (that I never go to). We are running 20 on Wildwood Sunday morning at Germantown. I will pick you up at the airport. We miss you. BH and GH.

  17. You're going to get really fast, now, Olga.
    Our plans are similar, but yours are bolder, with a coach. Since my injuries have derailed my ultra running, I'm taking advantage of it and will be working on speed before I get back into distance. It's the speed workouts that make us lean and more efficient. I ran too many miles and was so loaded with stresses that I was rightfully scared to do speed workouts lest my body disintegrate. I had hard weeks and easy weeks, which is smart, but there still wasn't enough "easy".
    But, geez, did I ever have FUN! I guess I have no regrets, but I'm coming back differently.
    Good luck with the new track. When I get my legs all the way back under me, I'm coming to Austin for some exh-Austin runnin'!