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, January 13, 2011

The Long Ultra

Please do click on the picture I’ve inserted and read this piece. There is a reason I had included it.

I wasn’t going to write anything about my experiences at Bandera, but then later afterwards, I came across this article in an Ultrarunning magazine (interestingly, a whole issue later, this is just how not obsessed I am anymore) – and couldn’t resist. Totally broke me into tears a few times. As a runner – for sure. How many times had I come across those wonderful, often un-named people, selflessly standing in the heat, cold or rain, serving me and other idiots with water and soup? Giving a word of “looking cute and booking it”? Lending you their own fresh pair of gloves and a hat because you decided that racing in CA means sunshine year round? But also as a volunteer. I had been giving my time back to help at the races since my own inception as an ultrarunner, which was a 50k in Central Park 8 years ago coming in exactly 1 month (why do so many think I am an old-timer? It wasn’t that long ago! Although it certainly seems like a century away, may be due to some 80 ultras, or may be because the scene and ideas had changed so much, I am, indeed, an old school). Volunteering officially, helping passing by while hanging out, crewing and pacing and pitching in, and even race directing. And it’s often difficult to decide which I enjoy more. It likely shifts around as I “age” in the sport. I don’t have FOMO (“fear of missing out”) anymore, I am not jealous, and I am not even inspired by amazing performances. I am simply helping normal folks, human beings, to achieve their goals, reach their potentials, fulfill their bucket lists, from front runners to last ones. It is very satisfying, and it is surely very tiring. 30 hours at Cactus Rose and 24 hours at Bandera were worth every minute of what you experience while running an ultra yourself. Aching feet, junk food and upset stomach, dehydration because you forget to drink, being cold and hot at random points, dirty, slimy, stinky, smelly, sleep-deprived, ranging your mood swings from extremely happy to pretty pissed off. You just don’t get to run…

I wouldn’t have been able to “own” the Lodge AS without my awesome volunteers: Thomas (whos pictures I’ve also included below, along with my own and a couple of stolen official), Larry, Jim, Tracy, Julienne, Meghan, and many more at various points, as well as famous cook Crash who tried to keep us fed, and, of course, never-resting-always-there RD’s Joe and Joyce of Tejas Trails and their right hand Henry. My boy Larry ran a 25k version in a great time and then worked the AS, and my boys Stephen and Harrison behaved rather well all day, so by 7pm and before the rain storm started, I decided to be a nice mom and send them home. After all, the official AS closed at that time for the half-way of a 2-loop course of a 100km race, and all we needed to do was serve finishing souls some hot food. As the damaging rain began to pour – so did our wet, cold, hungry yet excited runners. They got some chicken noodle soup and hot cocoa – and a heated tent to mumble a few horror stories from clay-like mud, lightening in the sky, ups and downs turned into rivers and buckets of rain Texas style. By the way, the Lodge was Soviet for a day, tough love military style.

The race itself went in a blast for front runners in each of the provided distances, 25k, 50k and 100k. Course records were crashed severely, and friends were thrilled with combination of WS100 spots (Montrail cup) and checks written (USATF championship). I had benefits of “hosting” my Oregon homies and all-over-the-country friends on this turf of rocks, besides sharing the day with local runners. Contrary to popular belief that views me as a social butterfly, I am an extreme introvert. The way so many remember me from serving AS or browsing pre- and post-race meeting is simply a compensating mechanism implemented since my childhood when I wanted to “fit in” so badly…I never did, though. So, as the day wore off and the night fell, I felt a need to retrieve to my “cave” and took a sitting in a dark room for 20 minutes. Later in a night you could find me quietly stirring the soup and hardly saying much. I apologize if it offended anybody (along with Red Flag)…I was still happy to see you be done and alive.

And that brings me to a second part of my post. It is a long ultra – to volunteer. It is a long ultra to stay upbeat for hundreds of people to see. I was thinking of the usual beginning of the year “2010 recap and 2011 goals” - and decided not to make oit a separate post. What can I say? I had a great year. Running-wise, it was nearly perfect. I had solid “training” races, and great-to-hard-to-believe “goal” races of Leona Divide 50M and MMT 100M. Even with coherent DNF at Tahoe 100M in mid-July due to burn-out, I was a happy camper with my season. Dropping off the running allowed me to come back to yoga, which was so far on a back-burner, I almost forgot just how much I loved it. It also allowed me to come to it with a lot of humility. After so many years of running and forgoing any legitimate stretching (in my books anyway), I lost all that I had naturally or acquired by hard work in that department. In fact, I managed to tear off my hamstring by pretending I am at least at 50% capacity – which I wasn’t.

And thus come my new season. The low key, the “travel-around-Texas-then-see-if-still-want-to-do-a-100” year. The year I call “taking care of me”. The year I am taking 4 classes of yoga a week, the year I pay attention to my weight training routine by making it smarter, the year I don’t set out to “drop x-amount of pounds”, but rather “figure out why I hold on to so much fat”, the year I – GASP – run less, yet everything I do run, I do quality and with love. The year I take care of my injuries – I had battled plantar fasciitis and that messed up hamstring for almost 4 months now, and finally, FINALLY, at the suggestion of Liza Howard had visited the Airrosti, and while they charge a small fortune, and I haven’t met my deductable for the year yet (obviously, I don’t go to doctors), they do what they claim – they hurt a whole bunch, but they treat your ailment in a couple of visits!!! I had run through every injury in a running book, and always simply allowed time (a very slow time at that since I never took time off or did much for myself in terms of treatments) to heal thyself. Paying most of my Christmas gift money for a single visit to a dude who made me sweat buckets from pain for a mere 10 minutes was new to me. So is scheduling 2 massages in the next 2 months – for myself, not to visit my clients. Wow, something’s wrong in this Universe!

But this is where I stand. Setting up challenges – and not sharing them with the whole world – or those few that still read blogs. As an introvert, my first response is to retrieve to my cave… Just being ourselves is the biggest fear of humans. We have learned to live our life trying to satisfy other people's demands. We have learned to live by other people's points of view because of the fear of not being accepted and of not being good enough for someone else. (Don Miguel Ruiz) But I figured I'll tell you at least a bit...

I had a great year, that 2010. I had made the best of my new life in a new place. I battled the heat of Texas summer, the absense of my beloved mountains, the "I don't know anybody who speaks Russian here" syndrome, I had (and continue to) adjusted to living with a husband - after dating long-distance, no matter how much love, it was still a challenge. I had faced another teenager meeting head-on all those teenage challenges. I did my best in dealing with it, and am constantly working on my attitude towards it. We cannot choose the things that will happen to us. But we can choose the attitude we will take toward anything that happens. Success or failure depends on your attitude. (Alfred A. Montapert) I dove into a new job, and entered an-almost-business-like market with massage therapy, slowly chipping away at the steps towards my semi-retirement goal: live in a small community near a mountain, own a small home out-right, do massages, teach yoga, and walk everywhere. Thank God Larry has the same goal! (sans massage and yoga parts). And I faced all these life changes without relying on a crutch. As my darling husband says, I am a different person (hope he still loves this one). May be I am finally becoming me...

Lets see where this year will take me!


  1. I can't wait to see you soon!! I love your intentions for 2011 :)

  2. What a great, introspective blog Olga. I LOVE the volunteer article- Been there, done that! Great semi-retirement goals too...sounds wonderful.

  3. So happy for your wonderful year, Olga. Here's to many more! :) Hope to see you in '11.

  4. When I ran one ultra, my feet were freezing and I called out at an aid station if anyone had a pair of thick wool socks; several people ran to their cars and gave me a choice. The next year, I volunteered at an ultra where a runner came into my station complaining that his socks weren't high enough and his shoes were digging into his skin; I went to my car, got six pair of different socks and gave him a choice. He asked how he could pay me back and I said, "Volunteer at races until someone needs a pair of socks from you."

    The volunteer culture at ultras is what I love.

  5. Glad to read you're taking care of yourself. You deserve it! Happy 2011!

  6. Great post Olga. Happy New Year!!

  7. I really love this post Olga. You sound super happy and have really embraced all the changes in the last year. So happy for you. BTW: no one told me this parenting thing was so hard :)

  8. You inspire me every day in all aspects of life, whether it be running, life, or whatever else one can think of. Meghan was right when she was talking to you after Bandera. I do know how lucky I am. :)

  9. Nice...I really enjoy reading your perspective...and I even recognized one of your pics.

  10. Volunteering is a great way to give back!