A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn....

It's gonna get harder before it gets easier. But it will get better, you just gotta make it through the hard stuff first.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

I OD'ed, alright, enough is enough

I am behind and I am tired and I am busy, but I'll try my best to have a few words about Old Dominion 100M run in VA. You can gather information on their website, but to say the important thing, it is the second oldest 100 miler in the country, in it's 33rd year of running. It came about as a follow-up of Western States 100 and has the same beginning as a horse race. The challenge the RD's put out was to not only finish a 100 mile trek, but to do it in one day, under 24 hrs. The organizers are not runners - it is a family in it's 3rd generation right now (well, 2nd, but the youngsters are already in it), and the aid stations, as well as most volunteers are not runners either - just local family who have houses on properties through which the run goes, and they set tables out (very often and very much appreciated, I must add) with water, coke and a few small items. I liked how simple it all was. I only ask for water and ice at the race anyway, because I go on gels, and only on Power Gels, so I never rely on AS for anything else. The price was absolutely right too - $135, I believe it is the cheapest 100 besides Cactus Rose and Rocky. Can't beat that. To stress one more point, as I said above, the run has to be completed sub-24 hrs, and while they extended the finish time to 28 hrs at some point (not sure when), the buckle goes only to those who make it in 1 day. And now I know even more - what a sweet buckle that is! It is a real silver buckle, just like WS provides to sub-24 finishers, and to my knowledge it's the only second 100 to do that. I might be wrong, please correct me (Tahoe?). All this said, there are a handful of things I also knew. The race fell off the Earth (a.k.a. competitive running) somewhere around 2001 due to 9/11, and the OD Memorial came to replace (and Vermont started a few years earlier too), and due to various reasons I have no clue about the participation was down to a dozen of finishers some years. Now that we have 100M races popping like blisters on our feet during a long haul, some do have shortage of runners. I kind of felt responsible to bring attention back to "old and true" (nothing wrong with new stuff). And, it fell well into my wounding-down the season. It listed about 14,000 feet of elevation gain (plus same for loss) and I think it is about 80% done on either rural country asphalt roads or gravel roads. The hills are nice, rolling, through beautiful area East Coast style, reminded me of my days living in NYC and hiking/backpacking Upstate NY (my true background to taking this trail ultrarunning thing), and it was lovely. The smells of blooming tress and flowers were overwhelmingly awesome. The hospitality of volunteers was unmatched - they learned your name and as they moved their help around (or simply you moved in circles around their AS's), you've been called up on very personally.

Now, because the event is put on by regular folks, names of runners are unknown to volunteers (besides "repeat offenders"). It was cute to be asked at the sing in if I ever run a trail, ever donw a night run, and have an idea what to eat when I do this thing. I just smiled. You also don't know who else is in the race until you show up - and get a print out of participants. Only 7 female were listed this year, but the total was the biggest in a decade, 70 runners. I came with a goal of 22 hrs and, obvioulsy, a belt buckle. I knew only a handful of folks - and I mean a handful: Keith Knippling, Greg Loomis, Dan Brendan, Bedford Boyce and Levy Rizk. Levy and I scouted the first/last 7 miles the day before the race and were glad we did.

Usually the weather plays a huge negative role at OD100, but we lucked out so much, I have no words. Some did complain on the heat, but for this newly-Texan, 80's and humidity way below 50% felt a paradise. The race starts at 4 am, but it goes through the town of Woodstock for 3 miles and then ventures on a road up, so lights are not necessary at all. Then the grey starts coming up. The field spread out some, but still kept close. After 7 mile AS you hit long steep-ish downhill and make a loop on half-trail and half-road for Boyer. Besides this little thing (about 2M on trails) first 32M are all road-run. I wore my old road shoes, to get rid of them was about time (2 years old?). Actually, come to think about it, the whole thing can be easily done in road shoes, in fact, trail shoes are contra-indicated. I was smack on time on my predicted splits, and despite running roads, was extremely happy. I felt awesome, I didn't breathe any hard at any point, I was hydrating and eating gels on cue, I ditched my old shirt (ran first marathon in it, 9 years ago) at AS and was running in bra for cooling effect (Texas teaching), and I was listening to my music. Talked to an "Alabama" guy (who happened to be Dink Taylor) just past mile 25, I think, told him how I always happen to have some serious thing happen to me in the last 20 miles or so (like, rolled both ankles at RR, broke tail bone at Cactus, explosive pooping at WS..). What an idiot, jinxed myself! Was passed a few minutes before 20M AS by a woman, and learned from volunteers we are 1-2. She worked hard to pull away. I could care less, besides, it was mile 20, for God's sake, who races that early! Had some stomach loose, visited woods couple of times, hit Immodium, was ok after.

mile 28

Mile 36?
 Came to mile 32 spot on, changed into my Fireblades (trail shoes), re-supplied and took off, happy camper. Passed a few guys, was told Linda (that turned out to be woman's name) was 5 minutes on me, could care less. There was a long ATV climb, and when we got to a motor-biked in AS, water was sparse to offer. But I was peeing fine and did ok to manage one bottle per person request. Kind of got a bit tired of those ATV rocks, and also started feeling weird pain in my right lower shin, right above my ankle. Thought may be it's my shoes too tight. I never had my shoes tight before, but who knows, I had no other ideas. Kept plugging away and passing a guy here and there, was a nice ridge stretch, hot and open and with a bunch of flies, but nice smelling blooms. Finally came down some road, passed Levy and entered mile 48 AS (same as 32, it was a loop) while Linda was getting tended to by her spouse (or friend). Could care less. Got ice, re-supplied, took off on a 4.5M climb on a road.


Mile 48

Mile 52-ish?
Linda caught up with me in a mile, I was rocking my best music selection, hopefully she didn't think I am a nut case. She didn't say much (I pointed to a sign to a house with wedding and proposed we should stop by there). I think she mentioned she doesn't do well in heat. I was just running my own race, and yes, I did think that I might come back to her if I still feel good, and if I don't catch her - it means she is a better runner, that's all. Besides the ridge before, that was the only open section. Everything else was in a shade, so I felt great in this regard. There was a line on the road saying "50M", and I was there at exactly 10 hrs - not even funny (at work people say it's my staple, 10hr/50M). And it was exactly when I thought I should be there. Got to the top of the hill at mile 51 - and suddenly that pain in the shin got unbearable. Had to step aside, loosen up laces (still thought it was the cause). Felt some relief (now I understand the swelling started, so yes, there was a relief). But shortly after, as the downhill started, I couldn't run from pain. My mood dampened. Took Ibuprofen. Not much help. Took Aleve. When course goes up, I am fine, strong and almost don't feel anything. As soon as we go down (and road at that) - I am in tears. Still think it's from shoe laces and simply an aggravation, like an anterior tibialis tendonitis. You don't stop for tendonitis. So I went on. By Elizabeth Furnace, mile 75, the pain is really, really bad, and I am loosing the ground on Linda (Dan's wife and Mr. "Cappuchino" were giving me an update and saw my face changed with progress of miles and regress of leg). At first I just said "It would have been nice to train more than 45 miles a week", but at 75 realize it is stupid to hide the truth. I weighed in (same exact number as at the start, good thing) and yelled out for a duct tape. The woman came in and asked "What's wrong, I am a doctor". I said "I am a doctor too, I need duct tape". The RD Ray was there and later at the finish said it sounded very funny. I don't know, I wasn't much smiling. I taped my leg and walked out. We entered a bitch of a climb, but it was only bad last mile (straight up). The whole 6M section was on an extremely rocky trail (worst Massanutten memories imaginable), but when going up, I was so full of energy and almost no pain. The other side was a completely different story. I left Elizabeth Furnace still on predicted split (how in the world?), but all hell got loose here, past the top of the climb. It was very steep and very rocky way down, and it just got dark a few minutes ago (just about 9pm, I put headlamp on), and I couldn't put any weight on my right leg without crying, screaming and remembering every mother of God (and many, many more choice of words I could come up with in English). I actually made a cane out of a stick and basically hopped down on one leg. At the bottom the un-manned AS ran out of water. Sucks for us. Another 2 miles up the road was a regular AS, but I was in pain and on a "get the F* done" mode. Just got water. Another trail section (yes, it was simply the last, 4th, trail section in the whole 100), up and over Veach Gap. Again, my climb was awesome, gave me hope, I was just so pleased of how strong I felt and how well I took care of myself. On the way down I repeated the crying and swearing - but no stick. It was a somewhat "milder" trail downhill with "fewer" rocks. We wandered more on roads after that, and I even tried to shuffle some mild mellow decline parts (besides flats), calculating and re-calculating what is possible to still come under 24 hrs. That was all I could focus on. Ran many parts with a guy Juan on his first 100 - when he finally left me at 93, he was done in 22:40. At mile 93 a nice volunteer enthusiastically told me the next 4M are almost all downhill. I knew that (repeat beginning course back) and I still almost killed him:) I tried to run (and scream and yell), then gave up and hobbled. Was way too steep. Left ball of the foot developed a mother blister due to putting all that weight and pressure on only one leg, and walking downs. At this point I had no leg that could take any pressure. Took me 1:05 to make 4 miles downhill. At last AS (which didn't have water, and I kind of wanted it) I almost quit. I was positively sure I will not be able to make last 3 miles at all, in any time. And I couldn't scream (it does provide mental release) - we were in town, and people are sleeping in their homes! So, I just walked and cried quietly. 50 minutes total. The last 3/4 mile is on a gravel horse track, a really cruel joke - you can see the finish line, but can't go straight to it. I was in so much pain, I knew even if another woman comes from behind with 2 feet to go, I will let her go. It didn't matter anymore. But - it was a guy who came up on me mid-way, and asked if I'd like to run in together. I looked up and said "Do I look like I am eager to run?". Sorry, I can be very moody like that. I walked through the finish line in 23:11:23, good for 29th overall and 2nd gal, a bit over an hour later than Linda (who ran a great, consistent and strong race). Would I have caught her? The way I felt, possibly, but nothing is a garantee in life. All things considering, I am thrilled with physical aspect of this race. Boy, I was strong. And man, was I stupid. (p.s. to my excuse, I say I rwally, truly didn't know what was causing the pain, and in a race, with adrenaline and impared decision making process, it is difficult to figure out when is the right time to stop. It just I am always afraid to be a wuss. And yes, I was also thinking about a comment I left to Bryon Powell on his WS100 "waffling", so I had to live up to it.)

The Holiday Inn across had a great lady at the counter who let us use one room for the showers. It took me all I had to get in a tub (standing was not an option). I dozed off at the hotel lobby for another hour or so. Then I had to be out (ladies boss was coming), and it was raining outside. God, I was glad I am done. Got back to start/finish, dozed off some more. Dan Brendan, the animal at 60+, finished a couple of minutes behind me. Levy did 23:50, and he only had 1:30 to break 24 with 7 miles to go (so, 1:20 for those 7, and 2 hrs for me). The boy is tough! Also, shows what I lost...oh, well. Below is a synopsis from the VA Happy Trail runners:

The 33rd Old Dominion 100 was an epic year with great weather, a packed field, and fantastic volunteer support. Neal Gorman won in 16:16.47, Linda Gaudette was first woman in 22:03.22. Of 68 runners from 15 states, 54% were awarded the silver, sub-24 hour buckle. 72% finished under 28 hours. Neal, Eric Grossman, and Jeremy Pade lost 25 mins due to missing course markings heading into Elizabeth Furnace. Karsten Brown was second in 17:20, Eric third in 17:40, Jeremy fourth in 18:10, followed by David Ploskonka in 19:14 and Keith Knipling in 19:25. Sean Andrish finished near 22 hrs. Many other VHTRCers finished the challenging course. Bobby Gill photos.

I'll add photos from Bobby when get to work to spice up my boring recap.

The travel was horrific. The pain was getting worse, the swelling, hotness and redness on my leg, couldn't walk...the airport people are the best, wheeled me around, put me up with no folks so I can elevate my leg, people giving me Ibuprofen (I ate all of mine), flight attendants giving me bags of ice, the first pilot announcing I am a "bad ass" ("and I might get in trouble for saying it, but I have no other words"). I had to keep apologizing that not all 100's end up like that, it is really not a bad thing to do. I don't think they believed me much, I did a poor job explaining we are normal...well, kind of...I was also scared by then. I have had about 7 stress fractures in my life, but none hurt like that. So, I was afraid it's more. I hobbled to a doc for x-ray Monday morning (I don't do doctors unless it is crucial, I am a doctor, remember?) - no bad fracture. Got to MRI (they had a paid cab service, yay!) - and yes, indeed, a stress fracture in my lower tibia. Sucks to be me.


It is better today, though. I think it hurt so much because I ran so long on it after it happened. Previously, I actually had it at points when doing another 60-some miles wasn't on agenda. So, everything inflamed more. But my super-strong bones held on (I know they are super, I had bone density scan in 2008, it is way above normal). Thank God for my bones. Went to my personal trainer today - you know, I paid the due...thought we'd just talk...we did upper body, so no break for me, and I have to be on a bike tomorrow. Stationary. I can manage that, for couple weeks. then - TM at HR 135, ha.
Bottom line? As an event, it is awesomely organized, very pretty and really historically important - both for American history and for ultrarunning history. For me, personally, roads just don't do it. Nor super-rocky trails where running is imapred (at least somewhat). I like to glide mindlessly. I am still glad I checked this run off my list, and I still recommend it. Don't pay attention to my report, it is subduded because of pain. You can run a great PR on the course, if you will take good care of yourself. I am thrilled to have done just that - take awesome care of myself, the whole day long, even as the pain become excruciating, I never lost sight of my hydration and fueling. Body-wise, I felt great. Like, better than many other 100's by a long shot. And that's with 45 mpw. Speaks volume of wisdom: patience, pacing, taking care of yourself, and experience, along with weight workouts (yes, those helped). My muscles are not sore. And while I was fitted for a boot to not have me walk around much, if you know me, I ain't wearing this crap (I did walk out in it from a doctor's office, what a joke!). I will, though, keep my leg wrapped, elevated, iced and not run on. It's an off-season time. Lets the other challenges begin.


17 comments:

  1. I just spent a long weekend in the Shenandoah and one of the trails I did was the Elizabeth Furnace-Signal Knob loop. It is partly on the Massanutten Trail and I think the OD100 you describe. HOLY COW IT IS NOTHING BUT ROCKS for long periods of time. I can't imagine hobbling through that on a bad leg.

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  2. I'd try to scold you for finishing your race with such an injury, but I would probably do the same. I hope the stress fracture heals well. Take care of yourself. I know that doctors always make the worst patients. :-)

    Hmmm...45mpw? I think I have one week of that much running in all of May and SD100 is this weekend. Training is over-rated. That's what I say.

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  3. Wow, Olga, way to rock (!) that course! Sorry you got injured on it. :(

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  4. Olga, best of luck with the leg healing. I know you are going into your "Texas" off season, but hope you're better for our date on October 15th ;-)
    Yes, OD is a great race and I am glad I ran it in 2000 (one of my memorable 100's), but my year it was 90's and humid...but I was still able to get that silver buckle, but we've moved so much I don't know where it is!

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  5. Oh Olga, Owwwiiee! That looks so painful. You are one tough girl! Take care of yourself and quick healing thoughts coming your way!

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  6. You are the real deal ultrarunner. I kept reading expecting to hear about a dnf, but you still knocked it in under 24 hours. Great time. BTW-Plain is only $95. That's why I "like" that one. You need to come do Wild Idaho!

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  7. Damn, that is a tough story to read, Olga. Makes one think about what they would do in a similar situation. I want to think I'd stop, but ... Thanks for sharing.

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  8. Anonymous7/6/11 11:40

    Olga,
    Saw you come in strong at PCT50 - I'm so sorry to hear about the injury, but it sounds like you'll be back to it in no time! You're a strong lady and inspiring too!
    Congratulations on the belt buckle!

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  9. Wow, Olga. Ouch! You are one tough chick. I don't think I could have done it. Your grit is amazing. Rest it up and I know you will heal quickly. Can't wait to hear about your off season. I was going to shoot you a mail about some podcasts I think you might like.

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  10. So many things I loved about your race report Olga. The following quotes really got me laughing:

    “I could care less” – For Linda or anyone else. Run your own race.

    "I am a doctor too, I need duct tape" – Classic. Loved this one!

    “Do I look like I am eager to run?" – Last couple miles of most 100.

    “I don't think they believed me much” – Most of us share the same feelings when trying to explain what we do really is normal. I think everyone else is not normal for not thinking they can do it.

    Huge congrats on a race we all knew you would have easily dominated (which you did anyway) if not for the fracture. You are one tough cookie, and to go 70 miles on a bad leg and still finish under 24 hrs! Incredible. Hard enough just to finish well on a healthy body. 80 deg weather – nice. Still in the high 90s down in the deep south with plenty of humidity. TX training is a good thing!
    Get some rest (but knowing you, this won’t happen).

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  11. Sorry you got hurt. I got a minor injury too. I was lucky, the fact that i was not going to make the cutoff at Elizabeths Furnace stopped me. If i had gone on - it might have been worse. I was having fun too.

    ---- Marina

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  12. DAMN! You ran through a stress fracture! You are one touch chick. Your belt buckle is living proof that you have TRUE GRIT! Congratulations and here's to a speedy recovery!

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  13. Ugh!!!! The good thing is the rest from running will do you good.

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  14. That's an awesome run Olga! Congrats, and heal.

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  15. Olga--sorry to hear about the leg. When I finished FP 50K my foot was swollen and bruised and we're still trying to rule out the stress fracture. Had my MRI yesterday and don't get results for a week! Man I want your doc and same day service. No running for me either, just crossfit and trying to stay sane. Great report and good job gutting it out! Mac

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  16. No doubt about it, Olga, you're tough! Sorry about the injury but nice that you got the buckle. And I gotta say, you are looking awesome!

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  17. Ouch. At least you know how to put yourself back together again. It sucks, but the lifestyles we live, we're used to always putting ourselves back together again. I sure do wish you a seedy recovery.

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