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, July 27, 2010

Time for a break.

The journey through life has many valleys that we can't just skip over, and also many mountains to climb that we can't just jump over. It is also true that we need the space and the freedom to make our own mistakes. Trial and error seem to be the only way we can learn and grow. Life is first and foremost a process. And this process is a zig-zag process at that. (John Powell)

Sometimes I wish that things would be much simpler, that there wouldn't be so many zigs in the road when I could really use a zag. Sometimes I look at the mountain in my path and I know that it's going to challenge me pretty dearly, and I think that I would much rather have a straight, flat path ahead of me so that I wouldn't have to do any more heavy work. Life can become overwhelming at times, and the more trials that we have to face, the more difficult it can be to see the good and the positive and the beautiful. After all, we can't see a whole lot when our noses are to the grindstone, can we?

I do know, though, that these are the parts of my life that help me to develop my character and to grow as a human being. Working my way through the valleys and over the mountains helps me to develop a sense of perspective that can be helpful to other people who also are going through trials. If it weren't for the trials in our lives, we would most probably stagnate and never come close to reaching our full potential. After all, life tends to know what we need much more than we do ourselves.

If I had the choice, I wouldn't give up the mountains and hills and valleys. Sometimes I might wish that they would come a few days or weeks or even months later, but when all is said and done I know that I need them. And I have no idea who will need me in the future, and what kinds of obstacles or trials those people will have needed me to go through in order to get to a point at which I can be truly helpful to them.

So, I burnt out. So, what. Not like it's the first time. And surely not the last. A year ago tomorrow Stephen and I had moved to Austin, and 2 weeks later my training started in it's earnest. I ran. I did gym workouts. I ran more. In cicrles. In the heat. With no mountains to stop and enjoy. It was all work and not much play. OK, I am over-estimating it. Of course, I played too, but with the terrain and the weather being what it is here, and with the fact that my life obligations hadn't allowed me to run with any group or a single person, for the most part it was training - and it paid off. I had a great season of racing, ever beginning with Cactus Rose 100 last October. I rolled from race to race, getting stronger, and even faster, with speedwork, hillwork, tempo runs and so on. I utilized all that I knew, I had help of someone else to learn more for a couple of months - and I had fun. But I am not invincible. By the time San Diego was over, while my body was feeling fine and I jumped right back into training, my mind and my heart lagged behind. I emailed Ronda saying "I am flat". I dreaded going to Tahoe Rim 100, and it felt so wrong, because this beautiful run does not deserve to be run "flat". I tried to watch the video of the race Meredith gave me, I was excited to be present at WS100 as a spectator, I followed Hardrock 100 and Badwater 135 webcasts...and nothing. All I wanted was just to get a backpack on my back, tag Larry with me - and go hiking. No pressure, no expectations...

There is a reason Scott Jurek doesn't run for 4 weeks every season, and tells his clients to do so as well. Not to mention the "season" in Texas has a span from October to April, which I participated in - and then continued on into a "regular" season I am used to. Because I missed mountains. Because I wanted to visit "West of Rocky" where the heart still is. Because I am stubborn, and I am stupid, but aren't we all? I am afarid I will loose this wonderful fitness I got myself into (greedy - ooh, I haven't been in this shape since a couple of years), that I just have to use all of it now, or else, and that there are people out there, waiting for me to perform...and this is where it goes all wrong. There are some points of our lives where we loose our identity to what we do, as opposed to who we are.

I run. I had been running, well, not so long, come to think about it - since 2001, and ultras since 2003. It's just the number of races is kind of overwhelming...As I made my way on Tahoe Rim trail, besides the famous Tahoe lake and Marlette lake views, there was a Washoe lake on the right of the ridge, and I remembered - I ran a marathon around it. When was that? 7 years ago - man, time flies. That was the year I visited the start line of WS100, and the start line of BW135 - and promised to myself to make those happen. And I've been at it ever since.

But every so often there comes a time when, because I don't recognize ahead of time the need to rest, not only body, but mind and soul, I get burnt out. It is a pretty scary state at first. It hits you out of nowhere, and you are at a loss - what do I do now? My body functions just fine - in fact, because I only made 61 miles, I hadn't a need for recovery at all. I do have a hamstring injury that has being getting more and more aggravated since March and finally tells me for certain it needs to be taken care of (old hamstring tear - has it happen again?). All that said - so far I haven't run a step. And, hear me out - I don't want to either. Ain't I supposed to inspire others?

The matter of the truth is, my break is an honest inspiration as well. To be true to yourself. To do things that are important to you. To be the best you can be - but not single-pointed. There is so much more to life, and while we juggle it all rather well, there are times we need to simply flip the switch, step away and tend to other things. As I said in my DNF report, and I seriosuly meant it - I'll come back on my own terms. So far, I always had...

So, I flipped the switch. I pulled out of my "left-over" 100's. I hit the gym and am enjoying the heavy lifting and hanging out with a different crowd. I cross-train on various cardio machines. I bought a monthly pass to my favorite Bikram yoga and finally remembered why I loved it so much to the point, I used to teach classes back in NYC for over 2 years. I am done with my massage internship and this Saturday am taking the National Board test for LMT (come over next month and let me wortk on your kinks!). I grew nails - and who knows, may be my toe-nails have a chance to grow too:) I read a lot. I am dealing with Stephen's teenager-induced challenging of rules, and his "entry" into high school and football practices. I am getting adjusted to my new diet as I finally was diagnosed to be gluten-intolerant, and learning a bunch on that. And - we took a family to a water park for Larry's birthday (where we stood in line for an hour to get onto a 1 min ride, and where we were petrified to see "up close and personal" the obesity rate in America!) and spent a bunch of time with his mom too. Life goes on. So it should.

Life is pretty simple. You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. (Tom Peters)


  1. Enjoy the time off! I burned out on roads and switched to ultras on trails, then burned out on those. Trying to come back too quickly just makes the burn-out last longer, I find.

  2. Um, hallelujah. Nail hit on head. Olga, you rock for your insight and perspective. A massive THANK YOU to you for your wisdom.

    Now enjoy the fruits of your own labor and wise-ness on this break.

    Love to you!

  3. Breaks are good for the body and soul. I'm not usually going full boar (sp?) so I don't need them so much :p

  4. My friends (all runners) ask me how I've managed to keep my sanity while injured. It really wasn't hard - I needed a break. Okay, not a "break" as in broken arm, but I raced like a mad fool for 4 years, sometimes 2 in one week. It was fun but there are times when stress from forgotten parties, unpaid bills, chores not getting done... It's nice to enjoy a quiet dinner without worrying about a tight schedule anymore.
    Like you said, there's more to life. Cycles are good. Roll.
    But long finger-nails? u gotta b kiddn! lol

  5. Olga, I'm taking kind of a forced break, and now that I'm in it, I'm kind of enjoying it! I know what you mean though, about being greedy and wanting to hang on to the current fitness level. It's always in the back of my mind. I think I'm just lazy though - I don't want to go to all the work of getting here again! Best of luck on your test!

  6. Well said Olga! My forced break of 3 months with a stress fracture to my femur this winter was exactly what I needed to kick start myself.

    Enjoy your time doing what you want to do!

    I love your enthusiasm and perspective.

    :) Dusty

  7. You are inspiring to others not because of what you do, but because of who you are. I hope you'll keep writing during your break. You're smart. Doing it on your own terms is much easier than it being forced. Enjoy!

  8. Anonymous28/7/10 12:18

    I have always admired your ability to make tough, necessary choices. Enjoy your "break." I know you'll make the most of every moment and no doubt return with great insights to share!


  9. You just nailed why I took a month, a whole month, off after WS just doing what seemed fun to me (which will be topped off with a tri on Sunday), and why I take off in late November/December. I feel likeit is physically impssible to enjoy a season in the mountains and a full season in Texas :)

    Enjoy the time off and I hope to see you soon!

  10. The only thing that matters is that YOU are happy. Whatever you decide, is what matters most. You are an inspiration to many of us through your personal honesty. We can't live a life based on what we perceive as other peoples' expectations. We lead by example and are true to ourselves. Others will be inspired by that because you are more than just a runner, but a true connoisseur of life.

  11. Right on, sister! I'm with you. Hope to see you out there soon, with "clear eyes, full heart" as they say in Texas :-)

  12. Great post. I took a year off and my running is nowhere near what it used to be but my life and inner-being have benefited greatly. You're on the right trail; no pun intended.

  13. You're so grown up now, actually admitting that you burnt out! Hahaha oh I'm just yanking your chain again but you know there is some truth in that. Years ago you would just try to power through until you would get injured and be forced to take a break. Sometimes it took multiple issues to make you rest. Enjoy your recovery, enjoy the downhill and yes of course it sucks to have to regain all that fitness again but un-motivated, slow, dragging runs suck more right? For myself I intend to make this lifestyle of enjoying the trails/outdoors a lifetime pursuit, with that in mind I have no problem taking a few weeks off a year or a week here and there during my season. Whatever keeps me going - body and soul, physically and spiritually. Glad to see you are doing the same.

  14. I know what you mean. Time to get some good quality family time in and let the body, soul, and mind get some R&R. You will be back with the mojo on high intensity before long.
    I took some time off as well but now it's time to get my base back and start to crank it up.
    Enjoy it Olga - Well deserved after such a busy year.

  15. First off, that big pic of you running (Hardrock)?, is amazing. You look so fit and your legs look sooo good! I'm impressed. You better keep that picture up there for a long time. It's too flattering to get rid of! Thanks for your post as always. I can relate so much to that right now. I wish we lived close. I would love to train with you. We seem to have a lot in common. Keep inspiring, Olga. Rest up and enjoy your life outside of running for awhile. Love ya girlie!

  16. I'm glad to learn that I am not the only one who suffers from burn out. I have been enjoying crewing and supporting my daughter Kelsey's first triathlon season. She has been doing great, with one more event before her XC season starts. Perhaps I will have to figure out how to breathe properly on the the swim and join her at some events next year.

  17. Robert Blair4/8/10 01:49


    I applaud you for this post. Ironically, after SD100 I entered burnout phase as well. I couldn't have put things better than you. Now, I'm running maybe 30 miles a week, tops, spending a lot of time with my family on the weekends, and so enjoying not having any pressure on me to train for that next race. So loving swimming for 45 minutes or riding the bike for an hour. Unlike you, my running body too was burned out. It needs a break after 18 straight months of 75 miles a week or more (not including lower mileage in tapering weeks). Resting that right knee. Resting that tibial tendon that had tendonitis at the SD100 and all three weeks prior.

    Not sure when I will really begin training again. Hoping I can race again from March through June of next year and better my Bishop 100K and SD100 times, but that all depends on if I ever feel that motivation and desire again. I do not feel like it's imperative.

    I'm having a lot of fun doing everything else.

    Was great to meet you at the SD100, and I am glad I motivated you to get your behind running that last stretch before the finish. I was closing in on you fast, but too little, too late. :) Take care. Thanks for your blog.

  18. ...it's all about the journey....you've got a good one going.....savor whatever's going on......

  19. Even while taking a break, you're such an inspiration. You're not just an amazing runner, you're a truly amazing person. You're always trying to find ways in all areas to be better, and that alone makes you better.
    Thanks for sharing and being an inspiration.

  20. It's so great to learn from ladies that have the experience! The good the bad & the ugly! Your one strong lady!