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

Sunday, April 04, 2010

New lessons at Hells Hills.

When had I become a runner? I mean, if you come here often, you had heard numerous times how I claim to NOT be a runner. I power-hike ups and float downs, and pick the courses to suit my strengths. I usually say I don't like running all that much - what always raises a few brows. OK, maybe I am overestimating it, but you know what I mean. Once at a race, I hate flats, inclines, slow descends and short rolls with all my might...

Hells Hills is a local race, just an hour east of Austin. This was to be my last "training race". While Rasmus pointed to me that I sandbag every race as a training run, I don't. But local ones for sure are. Less pressure when no travel or big buck thrown in involved. Just a good long tempo run:) I knew nothing about the place it is held at besides that I should expect trails similar to Bastrop park - soft pine needle covered dirt, not much rock, lots of twists, rollers to flat and some roots. Both Larry and Meredith pointed it is a "runner's course", what first of all, didn't get me excited at all, and secondly kept me wondering why in the world the times are so slow. Not to mention, apparently, Ultrarunning magazine sited it as 4/4 on their scale of difficulty. WTH? What should I shoot for? Now, if you know me, I always put a time goal, training run or race no matter. I like to know what to expect, and I am pretty realistic and end up very close to what I run. At first as Tracy and I emailed after looking at the photos, we thought "hmm, 9hrs?". But nothing made sense at this race, and I moved the goal to 9:30 - after running Nueces in sub-10 (otherwise I would have gone for 10 hrs flat). Larry said it's the heat that makes finishing times so long. Boy, was he right...

Besides all the local gang, I had 2 friends coming over: Tracy and Rasmus. We've known each other for what, over 3 years? Through the blogging world:) Ain't it wonderful? I am still against Facebooking, where, it seems, everyone moved on - you might meet that many more people, but you rarely know what's inside them, in their heart. And that's what matters to me. Reading Rasmus' musings as he was going through difficult periods in his life, then happy times, then having Tracy joining the blogosphere...so much more "up close and personal" then stating you had a nice run or bad day at work. Of course, not everyone is "personal" in their blog either, but this is how you choose who to follow:) After all, this is how I "met" Larry as well...

So, back to this couple, who now live in Denmark. They came to visit their family in Wisconsin, and signed up for Hells Hills (as they do every visit), in part to meet too. That was sweet. These two, may I add, are fast - and highly competitive. Rasmus came to put a hammer down on 50k runners and win, and Tracey had Juliet Morgan and yours truly in mind. We all expected Liza Howard to win this thing, but Liza decided to spend time with the family, and opened up a competition.

Now, unlike Tracy, I race the clock, not the people. Although I can predict very much correct the finishing order in about any race 50M and over anywhere around the country (think Karl Meltzer and his prediction charts). My knowledge put Juliet, Tracy and myself in this order, I chilled and forgot about it. This is where dark start helps - who knows where anybody is?

Speaking of dark. As we talked on Friday, I mentioned to the guys not to forget the lights - "what lights?". OMG, they didn't even think about it! 5 am start, people!!! Tracey got herself a headlamp - and Rasmus still showed up at the start hoping his 6 am 50k would be light enough. I had to set him up with Joe's extra hand-held, or it would have been very interesting...

As I drove to the race location at 4 am, the fog was so thick, you could cut it with the knife. The highway speed got down to 20 mph, and I couldn't see beyond 10 feet in front of the car. It could only mean one thing - we are in for a hot day, a very hot and muggy day. First heat wave of the season.

And we were off. I guess this is where the first paragraph comes to play - I ran. I ran, from the start, and I loved it! And it felt easy! Running! Not downhill! And I was breathing like a normal person! And my legs were moving! It felt fun, and it felt different. I had no recollection of how it supposed to be, effortlessly, wonderful. I had my headphones plugged in, and with trails twisting every 20 yards, you can see a train of flashlights ahead and behind for a long time. It was awesome!

Soon I had to pull to the side-bush, and, funny thing, I gave Tracy an advice to not eat spicy food, only to do so myself - and paid the price. That first stop was the beginning of a dreading slew of squattings every 20 minutes for the rest of the race (and the rest of the day, well into the next day). After 5th stop I stopped counting and stopped being annoyed. It is ultrarunning, you take a day as it is, with all it brings to you. Not the first time, likely, not the last one either.

The course was 3x16.7M loops, 2 manned AS's and 2 water stops. I don't read into details, but it was something like 2.5M, 4M, 2M and 3M for water - and I had my gels plan. I ran with one water bottle and 10 gels per loop.

All was going well, and I was totally shocked to come to start/finish area after loop 1 at 2:55. Rasmus passed me about 0.5M from the end of the loop, as I thought he would, and as I re-supplied my gels and was leaving, Tracy called me out. I was stunned to hear/see her so much that it didn't even register it was her. She was supposed to be a good 10 minutes ahead! She would have, but she went off course for some 10-plus minutes. Oh, trail running...as much as I preach that nobody gets lost on Joe's marking, I, myself, shamefully admit that I went off on the first loop! Mine wasn't that long, may be 3 minutes, thanks to a couple of guys yelling to me from behind (and with my new-found running and music in my ears, it took me awhile to realize, stop, stare, go yet to a different place, then come back and find that I STEPPED OVER the flagging, idiot).

Anyhow, second loop went like a clock, same running, same pooping, same happy face - with heat and himidity rising and warning for what lay ahead. I finished 2nd loop in 3:05, packed my gels, Rasmus, who, of course, did win the 50k, snapped a bunch of photos, and left for the last loop. And - I forgot my second bottle!!! I did plan to take it for the last loop, I am not a complete dummy, I knew it was to be 85F with some 80% humidity, and I was already struggling on the second loop short on water - and I had that bottle even filled up in my drop bag! And I didn't take it...I'll blame Rasmus who was being a paparazzi in my face with distruction:) That was a very costly mistake.

I felt the furnace rising as soon as I left, I set down to get some rocks out of my shoes, and cramped severely - I haven't cramped at races in many many years, and I was actually taking salt this day. I got up, and the energy just zapped out of me. In a matter of seconds. It was weird, ridiculous and unexpected to have this effect so sudden. You'd think you'd be slowly fading. It was like - bam, and I am a zombie. Hardly moving. Where did all that running go? I can't run. I mean, my legs feel really good, relatively speaking, of course, they did just run 33 miles, but good - yet my body was having none of it, just sapping. I was bargaining. I was saying - common, body, if you run this small descend and shuffle this flat, I promise you'll walk this hill, however tiny it is. And shuffle it was. And the walk was ridiculous - another news, apparently, once you learn to run, you lose your famous power-walk. Why wouldn't I if I wasn't practicing it anymore? So, I moved, one step at a time, leap-frogging with a guy from Seattle Chris, who, too, struggled, getting dehydrated and close to be delirious. I started bending over each and every swampy creek (which were many of, dirty, shallow, small) and washing my face in those, and honestly, I was so close to drink from them, I had to snap out of it each time, reminding it ain't Oregon nor Colorado. The bottle was empty, the throat was dry, I was heaving and waiting for first AS with Naresh. Of course dude said I look awesome - and got scolded by me for that lie. I am not a newbie to be soothed! I know exactly how I look! He dumped some water on my head, and it felt good, but next was the longest section with no aid, 5 miles, and my bottle lasted for about 25 minutes of it. I lost motivation to run a certain time, or 10 hrs, to place anywhere, I just wanted to somehow get done. I do believe everyone of us had same thoughts, so I am not trying to ask for any pity. I know this is what we all feel at mile 40 in a 50 miler, no matter the condition:) This is (actually, a few miles before) where the girl went flying by me, and besides being spooked and surprised, I had no other feelings. Apparently, it was Juliet, who is not a technical runner, and she took her sweet time to be slow and fall a few times on the first 2 loops, until powering at neck-breaking speed last loop.

Anyhow, I reached that last AS, downed 5 cups of water, told the girls I was dreaming about them yet happy to not ever see them again, and went "home". I finished the bottle in 2 miles, by the time the unmanned water stop rolled, and finally felt revived. Got more water - and finally started running. Turned out, I could move, and turned out, 9:30 was not a lost case. So I ran...

And that's the end of my story. I crossed the finish line in 9:29:XX, and as it usually is, with my watch some minutes ahead, I never know what my time would be till I see the clock. Makes it that much more entertaining. I fell in Joe's arms and said everything I think about him - what he always loves to hear. But the truth is, I loved the course, absolutely did. The trails were the closest to PNW trails with their soft dirt and pine needles, the pine trees, not nearly as big as we have in OR, still better than shrubs, and the wild flowers in those 2 meadows we crossed were magnificently breathtaking, just like wild flowers in San Juan mountains during Hardrock race. It was the prettiest place in Central Texas I had ever seen.

Juliet finished some 10 minutes ahead of me, and Tracy - some 10 minutes behind, each of the girls displaying bloody knees with war scars. I fell only once, and on a soft part, so besides a soft dirt bump I had nothing, what just proves that to be better at technical trails you got to train on it. I know I am getting very accustomed to them. I am extremely proud of Tracy, this girl is super-tough, and has great future – and present as well. We had nice chat afterwards, Larry and the boys came to see me finish - and I am so grateful I got to share my awesome day with Larry, who, being injured for over a month now, is really struggling with running banned, but still finds it in himself to be happy for me. Life is about compromises a lot. I wore my new "out of the box" La Sportiva shoes - Crosslites. They are light as feather, and super-flexible, and treated my well, with only 7M training run on them. I risked, and they didn't disappoint. Who needs "foot-gloves" (a.k.a. Vibram) when Crosslites are so awesome? Drymax socks held my feet the happiest campers - in 2 years I had not a single blister or a hot spot and any uncomfort in my feet. I wore Moeben hamp sleeves the whole time to keep my arms from getting slimy wet in the heat and humidity of TX and it worked great. The new "goat skin" (a.k.a. Wasatch Mountain Goat Team shirt from Green Layer) was super-light and moister-wicked. But my bra chafed me in every place to the bloody stains through the shirt, and please, Drymax, lets do something about it! This is the last piece of my gear that desperately needs a change!!!

On the a final note - this is a photo of 3 top ladies. As you can see, I am quite a "bodylicious" one (as in: have some more extra weight). I bet it is more aerodynamically difficult to carry it through the race:) But as much as running is important to me, it is not my only life, and I am pretty happy with where I am the way I am.

I'll add a few more photos once I get those.

Next up - Leona Divide 50M. My first 50M goal race since American River in 2006. I got such a lazy bum with doing all 50's as training for 100's, I am somewhat scared to set it as an official goal race, but I am getting out of the comfort zone and announcing it right here. The time goal? My original was sub-10, but after talking to Juliet who ran it before she claims I should shoot for 9:30. Ronda and Stacey finsihed in sub-9. 9:30 sounds a bit daunting, but it just means I have to work hard - and hope to come close. See ya in a couple of weeks!


  1. You are fast, tough, and determined. Can’t wait to see what you do with the 50. Congrats Olga and love to read about your race experience – Great report. Looks like your new training plan is working!

  2. You are just AWESOME!!!

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  4. Olga, thank you a million times for bringing us to your beautiful area of Texas for this race. It was a perfect trip for us. You and Larry are the most charming couple. I wish we could be neighbors in real life. But for now we will have to settle for being soul sisters in the blog world.

    You are a tough, consistent, inspiring runner and it was such a treat to race you, though I know, you were racing yourself, not me :). Congrats! Good luck at Leona Divide.

  5. So great to see you! Congrats on a great run IN THE HEAT!!! Can't wait to see you at Leona in a few weeks :)

  6. Congrats! Your story was making me laugh my head off. So honest and true and totally defining the amazing ultra running day. Nice work.

  7. Nice job, Olga! That's a great finish especially for the first run in the heat.

    btw. I didn't realize who Juliet was until your final picture. I've run with her in a few races around here. Well, not really "with" since I usually pass her on the downhills and then she passes me on the uphills, back and forth all race. She runs those hills like they're flat!

  8. Great race, Olga! You are running so well. I will see you at Leona! It should be "fun". See you soon.

  9. I'm so late in commenting...but wanted to say congrats! And Leona Divide is almost here...go get 'em! You're awesome.

  10. Hi Olga,

    How wonderful to be able to host/run with Rasmus and Tracey. The running blogs make the world a bit smaller. Great race report and great race!