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

Monday, January 31, 2011

6 years later...

What a return trip! I am still trippin':) I ran a road marathon! Now, I ran 15 of those (and a couple of trail), but it was so long ago, I was petrified to try my hand (or leg) again in it.

But I signed up. To a Miracle Match Marathon, put on by Marathon Maniacs members and built as The Toughest Little Marathon in Texas. It lived up to all those expectations and then some...

You can say I actually trained for a road marathon. Not in conventional running website way, as my miles were extremely low, but I did track workouts on Tuesdays religiously, either tempo or hill workouts on Thursdays, and long/medium run combo on roads on the weekend, building from 12 miles to 16, 18, 20 and 23. Yes, 23 road miles on hilliest routes on NW Austin, at 4am, running every step. And yes, I enjoyed it. My only trail run was a week before a marathon, last 10 miler with Eman on flat yet technical Barton Creek trails ( and I managed to get blisters on each foot!). I haven't done any easy runs (not that I could squeeze them in my schedule), and I was quite scared to set out for the race.

I was nervous for sure. The fact that I needed to use a bathroom 5 times for some serious business the morning of tells me that. I gingerly picked a goal of 4:30 - it WAS a 27M marathon after all, and it WAS hilly. My results will tell you, it was a rather firm goal, on a qwest to find all or some of my 8 fast-twitch muscle fibers.

It was a perfect marathon for a come-back. Located just 1.5 hrs away from home, it allowed us to sleep in bed. Larry drove while I dosed off for another 40 minutes. We arrived with over an hour to spare, I picked up my personalized number (with a name written across), and we mingled a bit. There were a lot of Marathon Maniacs! And some of them still remembered my name (from the time I joined in 2004, I was number 101, and the group was rather small, now they are approaching 3500 in total). We stumbled upon Dimitry, an ultrarunner from Austin, and he (and a few MM) warned me about last 6 miles of crazy hills. Hello? The profile pointed at flat first 6M, incline with 2 hills thrown in between 6 and 13, then some rolls, last hill at 20 - and home-free! Boy, I should have listened and asked more questions...Anyhow, it was small in numbers comparing to big-city races, and so it did feel almost like an ultra, even though between a marathon, a half and relay, there were likely over 300 folks (or more). However, there was enough space to not worry about starting and getting left behind. Larry asked me questions about prep, and when I couldn't respond to half of them, he mentioned I was "prepared as usual, half-ass way". He also skolded me for getting hard weight workout on Wed and Bikram class on Saturday (as in sabotaging my marathon), but my excuse is that my races should never stand in a way of me having fun in other life's pursuits. So, sore or not, I was ready for a test...

And so we were off. Those flat miles clicked rather easily at 8:30 pace, which scared me like hell - I wasn't sure I could do it for even a couple miles! When I saw Larry at mile 6 with a bottle ready to switch (yes, we played ultra-style, and he was an unbelievably awesome crew!), I mentioned that I will pay back for the start like that - but no regrets. Larry popped up more than we planned, and it was always a boost! We climbed and climbed, and I slowed down to 9:30's, to reach 13M in 2 hrs - a feat in its own rights. I felt I had already achieved the ultimate reward, and was smiling ear to ear. I talked to runners I was passing by (yep, I started on that around mile 10, as usual), and smiled and cheered volunteered even though never broke a stride through an AS. I was super-happy - when the hills, the real steep ones, began. I was running every step! I'd pass a guy, turn to him, blurt something "We only have 10 miles to go, partner!" and move on. It was great! The music blaring, my form tight, my stride efficient, all hydrated and gelled-up, I was not slowing down! Well, I did begin to hurt around mile 19, but I popped Ibuprofen and resolved not to walk a step. It's only 27 miles, for God's sake! So, when we grunted the hill at mile 20, I yelled out "Last one" as I powered by a few strugglers. They looked at me weirdly. We streamed further - and another "wall" comes up, with a sign "Last Hill...Just kidding!"...and then another, with the same sign, and a couple more! Boy, it was unexpected, and folks were struggling. Even my face, when noone was around, expressed pain and suffer, but I never let anybody see it, so while passing, or getting by an AS, I smiled wide and talked cheerfully. We paid for it! Larry showed up at mile 22 or so, unplanned, with an extra bottle switch and a V8 juice - and it was a life saver! Best thing ever...

Last 2 miles were pure exhaustion. I held on, even though it went further than 26.2 (I knew that too). The last bridge to the finish line could not come soon enough, and during that last mile I cramped in every muscle of both my legs, from heel to calf to hamstring to butt. I was afarid to stop and stretch as to not be able to start moving again. I just prayed to not have the legs buckle under me. Last turn, last climb to a bridge - across it, and into the finish.

I was done in 4:12, what made it for pretty much even splits (13M in 2:00, second 14M in 2:12), and I had no regrets. I kind of lowered myself on a curb with Larry's help, and exhaled - I passed the test. Welcome back, sista. Your 8 fast-twitch fibers are still alive amongst 56 slow-twitches:) What a great course and a perfect venue to a Little One! And it was, indeed, the hilliest of my 16 road marathons. It reached 77F by the end of the day, and it was rather humid all morning, but I was right on with salt taking. My fueling was perfect, the energy never went down, the hydration was on cue (thanks to Larry!), the stomach behaved beautifully...the views were gorgeous, and the feel of a small-town marathon was pretty close to an ultra-crowd. I, honestly, never read-lined in my breathing (and was able to chit-chat to those willing to listen), but I don't think my legs could move any faster if I did try to pick up speed. I highly recommend this for everyone as a venture into roads. And I may be making some road shorter races, now that I had overcome my fear of it! I always said, as crazy as it sounds, running trail 50's (and even 100's) had become somewhat comfortable to me, not that it's not challenging, but not scary. I don't want to stagnate in my life, I want to challenge and overcome and test...I may never do well (in terms of how I used to be) in Yoga, but I will sign up to compete. I may never drop my fat to 15% as I was 13 years ago, but I will try a figure competition. May be not this year, but not too far away. I will pass PT exam, I will take psychology classes, I will do a lot in my life. We will hike CDT, and explore Spain backcountry. I will run a PR in 5k, and learn to bike and swim on a level that is not simply "holding on". And I will age gracefully and with lots of fun:)

Next up - Larry is running RR 50M, while I'll crew for him and help volunteering at start/finish (I do not officially own an AS at this race). In a meantime - enjoy some pictures.


  1. It's fun to mix it up a bit, eh? After all, FUN is what it's all about. ;-) NICE! on the even splits, too!

  2. Nice job Olga! Way to get outside of your comfort zone and still run a rockin' race!

    Every now and then I think about doing another road marathon (I've only done one). Then I remember how much they hurt! I'll stick to long, slow, mountains and such...

  3. You are hiking the Continenal Divide Trail up here I hope! Awesome work on the Marathon. You are awesome!

  4. That course was crazy with hills! You did awesome! Bike, swim? Um, is there something I don' know? You planning on going from an ultra-babe to a tri-babe? ;)

  5. Oooo a road marathon. Good for you. It ended up being a tough but satisfying say. Sounds like that running high lasted awhile too.

  6. What a fun race report Olga! I smiled the whole time I read it! Thanks for posting it.

  7. Glad to hear you mixing it up. 27 miles would be nothing more than a semi long run for you, but when you’re on a hard surface, harder pace, and higher heart rate, it becomes very respectable. Great effort and results on a hilly course! Looks like you really dialed in your salt and water needs. I will miss RR this year, and what a strong field to watch, but will be looking forward to the next one.

  8. "but my excuse is that my races should never stand in a way of me having fun in other life's pursuits. So, sore or not, I was ready for a test..." I love it! It's hard core. Great job on the marathon....way to hang in there on the pavement.

  9. So awesome Olga, Great job on the race and bust out that pavement. It's almost harder than a tough 50M :)

  10. Way to go, Olga! I love your positive spirit. Very inspiring!

  11. Very cool Ms Olga! I knew you had 26 miles of speed in you somewhere. Gail is looking over my shoulder and says "Hi, we miss you!"