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.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Merging experiences.

I had already mentioned that I did Pocatello 50+ (52.3M race with 14,000 feet of gain) in it's inaugural year of 2009 with Larry as a Hardrock training, while nursing a something torn in the ankle and wearing an air-cast brace. We got lost a bit, were slow on the ups with my leg not bending well, and in general goofed off and took pictures, finishing in 14:24. Having just being humbled by Quadrock 50 and realizing that not only due to not training for 8 months straight since last June with a bunch of injuries, but simply living in TX makes my what I thought natural ability of being a mountain runner is gone and done. I gingerly planned to make a run at 13:35, that's what my pace chart said, and most importantly, to tread lightly and stay within.

As often happens in my life, or in life of many adults, and as a reminder of my past from 5 years ago, I almost didn't go the night before, frantically trying to cancel the tickets. But I decided against succumbing to the crap that happens and to carry on. I needed time away from burdens of raising teenagers and to sort through some thoughts.

I arrived to the campground where the race starts and ends and found my long-time friends, and I was peacefully happy to see them, most of whom I haven't seen in few years. That's what happens when you move from West of Rockies to the other side...Jared and Mindy met me with memories of Mojita drinks in Silverton, Lori B. and Chris brought a tent and a sleeping bag for me, and Steve B., Paul "Sweatpants" L. and Heather were great company as we commiserated and laughed and gossiped silly. (and a little of Gretchen B., Trevor G., Mike Evans and Karl Meltzer and his sharing of us getting old and piling injuries and yet going on). These are the people I consider myself blessed to count as friends. We may not see each other for years, but once we do, it's like we were never apart, and nothing is sacred, and everything is comfortable. Family? Yeah, in details. Exerts read from a sex book? Sure, lets hear it! Raising children? Favorite topic!

Sunrise over the camp. Photo credit Jim Bruening
But I digress. It was a beautiful night, and the day was promised to be hot. Even in the morning it was barely 50F, and while I did don on Drymax new arms sleeves to try and give feedback, they really weren't that necessary. The fit well, like the socks, but seemed to be working better for a real cold weather or a real night running, and I also think they would do great calf sleeves if people interested (I am not). Of course, I had Drymax socks, and I also did away from Hoka's that were my saving grace as my foot was in recovery from all the mess and went back into my Sportiva Crosslite. I missed how they felt! We turned to shuffle along the road for a mile, and settled in on a power-hike - jog up the first hill. The sunrise was beautiful and even before that, at the start, there was a RAINBOW! No kidding! I looked around, and the memories from 3 years ago on this course with Larry flooded in. 

Double-Rainbow at the start! Photo credit of  Sam Collier via Paul "Sweatpants"  Lindauer


And this is how it went - every step of the way, I would remember where we stopped, where we took pictures, where each of us had a bad spot, or a great one. The experiences merged, yet every section seems to be shorter than I remembered...














The first aid station came a couple minutes sooner, and Jared-the RD there offered me a beer. I am not a beer drinker, and only once had accepted a shot of vodka from Craig Thornley in a race, but somehow it seemed fun at the time, and I obliged, and he snapped a picture, and a sneaked another sip - it actually tasted good and it was COLD! 
Michelob AS, photo credit Jared Campbell


Off I went, let some runners pass me, in anticipation of a pure cross-country straight-up 40min-mile climb. And there it was. And it wasn't bad at all. First pitch, a knife-ridge pile of rocks, a second pitch, and it's over. Wow, that was fast...

We dropped to 17M AS at City Creek, where the first drop bag was, and Mark Heaphy helped me out. And here I am aging myself, because I can bet my InkNBurn clothes that most of new ultrarunners don't even know who Mark and Margaret Heaphy are. That's too bad, it's our history...Here I was, second AS, and a totally personal attention. 

I left, thinking how Larry felt bad here, after a long downhill, and how I left him to recover on his own, and before I knew it, the Water AS came, and Ryan - the RD was there, and another personal hug awaited! This is getting really fun, and boy, how I miss my West-of-Rockies crowd! I felt great. Not just good, but great. I hadn't even tried to push, I was just going, not thinking about anything at all besides mountains, sunshine, single track, music in my ears, and gels every 20 minutes...

And yes, this is where I failed. As a completely cheap-ass person, I didn't buy enough Power Gels, the only ones I tolerate better than others, but had a bunch of free-inherited Hammer gels, and was taking those. At next climb, which again was totally straight-up in a ditch (3 years ago it was covered in sloshing snow and water, and it took me awhile to recognize it), I was happily pushing the pace and pacing guys panting. Sweat was pouring over my face in buckets, I didn't have enough seconds to wipe paddles off my eyes, but my legs were perky! As we topped it off, I took on down, not allowing myself to put any effort into the downhill muscles. Just nice and easy...At marathon AS in the middle of nowhere I caught up with Paul "Sweatpants" ( we go way back), and he noted to guys around: "Yup, she does it all the time". My response was "It takes me 5 hrs to warm up", to which Lance replied "You must have been feeling great for an hour". I looked at the watch and realized it is 2 minutes before noon, and I was on the go for a touch under 6 hrs (for 25.9M). Wow, I didn't even notice...

Next climb went in another bliss, but then when the suffering, the one and only bad patch, had began - on a very slight downhill, which is almost flat to me, and the heat was on, not a cloud, not a tree, and the double-track of a jeep road was boring, and my stomach had exploded to the extent I do not want to describe, and things stopped moving in there. Calm, I kept repeating, stay calm. Stop the Hammer gels, stop the extra salt. Drink more water. Walk. Yes, it's supposed to be easy running, but running was jarring my tummy, and I couldn't focus on anything besides pain, yet if I stopped and tried to "process", nothing was happening. Stay calm. I took a venture to a couple of low creeks and dosed myself with water, spending 30 seconds at least at each. I rarely if ever stop, but this was a training run with no pressure, and I wanted to take care of myself. My water was done, but a minute after last creek, I heard the yelling, turned the corner - and Mink Creek at mile 32.5 arrived a full 15 minutes ahead of time! And then as I scattered in a haze, Leslie the Banff Trail Trash jumped out and hugged me! She came all the way from Canada to volunteer! And Lori B., who dropped from 50k here with a flu, was to my services! So was Heather, who finished her 20M race! Oh, My God, can it be any better? As I retrieved my drop bag, Heather filled my bottles with ice (HEAVEN!), Leslie filled a cup with ice cubes and poured my V8 juice over it (the juice was boiling, I am not kidding, it is 85F at high altitude),  Lori  stashed my new batch of gels into my Ultraspire pack ("No Hammer, please" I pleaded), Leslie snapping picture of us (Lori: "don't pay attention, she bloats at races, she is not normally like that, with 7 month belly" - thanks, girl!). I meekly asked Lori if I could drop, and she sternly said "You are not a dropper". I smiled. It was just a passing thought:) 

And like that, in a NASCAR fashion, I was out walking to the next hill dirt road section. (Lori after told me someone was surprised how fast I was in and out, and to my standard this and last stop were actually quite long, but I really needed to cool down and to re-hydrate, and she simply told those folks "What, you never saw Olga at an AS before?"). And this hot steaming climb was my turning point back to a bliss. Sorry for nasty details, but things began to move, and the air started to pass with vengeance, and it felt beautiful (even if sounds yucky), and with each of those (that lasted for the next 4 hours non-stop) reliefs I was getting more energy, like a fuel in a tank, clear engine motor, propel forward. It was insane! I was passing folks like they were standing still. I packed an extra 2 bottles from that AS - one for this climb, and one for Scout Mountain climb. I drunk it all, ran a couple small patches of flats, and suddenly came into an AS - and just like that, I was a full 45 minutes ahead of my schedule. Holly cow. Just like that, without pushing, without any pressure, listening to my body and taking things as they came, I was not only making the goal, I was smashing it - and I didn't anticipate any failures, I was that confident. The AS lady asked how I felt while tending to a few other who stopped ahead of me, and I almost yelled out "Great!" and I wasn't even lying. Got my bottles filled, and quickly left. 

I was looking forward to that climb. Next 5 miles to the top should be perfect for my power walk, awesome grade for the step that is my best, and my energy was soaring. I ran some rollers, and power-hiked. The altitude (peak tops at 8600 feet) had no effect, the breathing was perfect and not labored, I wasn't pushing, legs felt springy, and not heavy or tired or heavy. At times I was feeling guilty as I was getting by stragglers dancing to my Eminem songs blasting. Just a last bit was somewhat "Oh, where is the top", but then there it was, and a guy-volunteer with cow bells cheering, and the drop...

Ha! 3 years ago it was covered in snow and had a rope on it, and we slid down, almost cheating. That very section with no snow was still a near-vertical drop, on a narrow trench of a trail covered with loose rock. I wasn't going anywhere fast:) I took my time stepping sideways, and at least 10 minutes later finally reached the "normal" downhill. I also was done with water, and had some 4 miles to go...

I ran, and stopped at a couple more creeks to wash off and cool off briefly, thinking if I don;t hear a civilization soon, I am going to drink from it. It was another 15 minutes as I heard a roaring motorcycle engine, and another 3 minutes - an AS around the corner. Roch Horton was the captain, and he knew his shit. He had an ice-filled bucket with towels, and I dunked it all on my face and head while he misted me with a spray. Lori and Heather were here as well, and they filled my water bottles "full with ice, please!". I took a deep breath, and then gulped 2 full glasses of iced water, and then looked at the watch. 

5:20pm. Roch told me it's a bit less than 5.5M and one more climb, and I exhaled "I know the course". My mind spun. If I take a full 1:40 for this section, I will break 13 hrs. Bliss. lets go! I took off to the road, and ran. And ran. Turned and began that hike up on a jeep double-track. Passing people, smiling, and with each I was like getting more energy if it was possible, that ice-cold water still working on my reviving, giving me life, that and the finish line in sight. I still had no pain in my legs, and as I crested, I almost cried out loud "2.5M to go!" and let it rip. Where did it all come from, I don;t know. A real run at the end of a real monstrous race. I ran so happy, thanking the day, my i-Pod that lasted from mile 10 (when I put it on) to mile 50 (when I crested that last climb), the blasting sun that still made me sweat profusely, the awesome views, the volunteers who are my friends, that stupid sport I am a part of - and I popped on the last half-mile road, turned into a campground, accelerating, seeing Jared announcing my name and opening his arms, and I kicked and without thinking ran into his arms and jumped up. Thank God he didn't fall down himself (I am by far outweighing his cute little wife Mindy, who finished 3rd female in 11:12) and even held me from falling as well, until I decided to set my feet down:) I think this was the most exuberant finish I had ever had to date. No bull. Go figure.
Finish line, Jared on the left and Mindy on the right, photo by Nancy Russel

Some days are just perfect. Lori told me that as she was driving to the start and chatting with Chris, she mentioned describing me: "She just grinds through. Trouble teenagers, making marriages work, or nasty divorce, races, adjusting to live in new places, heck, even TX, new jobs"...I thought it was one of the sweetest things I heard as a compliment. That is true. But there are days when grinding is not needed. Like the Universe conspires and throws you this day when things just feel right. You don't plan on them, you don't even want it that bad. And may be that's why you're given it. Because you're actually living in the moment...

Since I didn't even take a camera (because it really WAS that unimportant!) you can check out pictures of our 2009 course (same as this year) HERE and HERE. The night before the race my thoughts were: "Lets just stop participating in running ultras and get together and spend time talking, because we don't get enough time for it". After the race it becomes clear that this insanity is what allows us to open up so much, in a compressed time, and we will probably be doing it until we can do no more.

This race is one of the best course out there. Just as Quadrock 50 humbled me, Pocatello 50 told me that mountains are my love - and my life - and my strength. Mountains and my friends make me stronger, and a better person. Thank you.


I finished in 12:21. 1:15 ahead of predicted time. 2 hrs faster than 3 years ago. In EVEN SPLIT!!! 5:58 for 25.9M, 6:23 for second 26.4M. Last 5.5 miles in 61 minute. That is fucking flying for me if you consider the 1.5 mile climb I hiked. 8th female. When I finished and calmed down from all the excitement, I sheepishly asked Jared since I came so much earlier than anticipated is there any chance I had placed somewhere that you can count on two hands without involving toes? I did. 39th overall of 100 finishers. This was a rocking race for me. No matter what happens later in the year, or in life, this was awesome, and the memory will stay, so will the feeling.

I felt so good, that after initial hobbling, I got into the car and drove 3 hrs back to SLC without falling alseep or cramping. As I walked out to check into the hotel, I noticed I didn't need to take a moment. That was a first, truly is. I thought it was a fluke - but it wasn't and I kept walking fine, slept, woke up - and nope, no pain, walking fine, stairs, little jog to see how it is, nope no pain. I have no clue what is going on, but I want it to be bottled up and patented. I feel great! Socks Drymax trail grey worked perfect, no blisters, although Crosslites might be a bit too little for my foot quite yet (felt my PF rumbling and the cuboid not happy). And InkN Burn clothes proved again that there is something about that fabric - I actually truly did like them! I may loose another toenail, but that's the way I run, not what I wear. I gave up on it, as when the season starts, I generally only eventually have 2 toenails left between 2 feet (on my left #3 and 4). The rest are goners. Whatever.

I'll add those 2 photos that were taken of me, but other than that, sorry for too much writing and no colors:)
p.s. as I was "fighting" airport and broken plane and missed connections, I got a phone call from one of m coaching clients - she finished a Kettle Moraine 100, her first 100 miler! Way to go, Julia! Just to mention, she is not a spring chicken (with respect, as neither am I), nor blasting fast, and she also had a couple of setbacks throughout training, with foot injury and a thrown back. But she worked hard, and persevered! Couldn't be more proud.

18 comments:

  1. What a great race report Olga! I'm so happy you're feeling great. I just had the opposite experience as you...felt crappy the whole day but still managed to runa PR because I'm in pretty good shape. You take what the day gives you and move on to the next one—hoping that you get more and more days where you feel like you felt at Pocatello :)

    Congrats! Mac

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    1. Thanks, Mac. We all have days, and days:) What did you run?

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  2. About those "inherited Hammer Gels"... Those were for training runs, not training races. Imagine my surprise when I opened the gel drawer (who the heck has a gell drawer in their kitchen anyway!???) and discovered all those gels were missing. I had to use my good gels for the 25 miles on Saturday. But, still, I shook my head and laughed when I realized you took all those gels. Just like you. Maybe, those training gels were the secret to your training race!

    Awesome job!!! :)

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    1. One day I will actually treat myself to ALL good supplies during a race. May be.

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  3. I am so happy for you that you had such a great race!!!

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    1. Heck, I bet I am happier! :) Tell Leslie she was a great surprise!

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  4. Congratulations Olga, Nice to have one of the great days where it all comes together. Makes grinding through the rest of life so much easier. Great job!

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    1. You are so right. A glimpse that life is fair, sometimes:) or simply throws you a bone. I don't know. But that was something I needed.

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  5. Great race, Olga....imagine if you guys lived at altitude, in the mountains! ;-)

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    1. Don't even start me on that...by the time this happens, I think I will retire from racing. But I would still love being in the mountains and I will come cheer those who still in it on.

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  6. COngratulations of a great run! I love what you say about being given a near perfect day and maybe because we don't look for it; we are given it. It's so true. Those days are so beautiful and are enough of far and few between that we can recognise them as gifts. Recover well!

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    1. I know, right? Buddhism at its best:)

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  7. That is so great, Olga! I am so happy it felt so good and right for you - and it was wonderful to read about. I'm taking notes on the Hammer gels, as that is what I have been using. Maybe I need to switch. Glad to hear you worked it out during the race and felt so great afterwards! Huge congrats!

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    1. Power gels are the ones that work for me. Each kind of finds it empirical way, but I heard lots of bad things for many random people on Hammer. Sad thing is, lots of races get them as sponsors and supply them, and also lots of my friends-RD's (and my former RDing sting) had it as well. I usually use them for training, as nothing really happens in 2-3 hrs of not too hard of a run. But races - bad decision...

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  8. Great report! Idaho sounds beautiful. BUT, if you are going to drink a beer, don't drink a Michelob Ultra! Ick!

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    1. Clea, not like I had a choice! And really, it was my first time, and I gotta tell you, it tasted ok, like, no taste, and all cold, and no bubbles (gas). I don't like beer, or if I have to, drink European. I did ask for vodka next time:)

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  9. Drymax has arm sleeves now, get out, really! I want one. Bob at Drymax has been so good to us but I digress, so right about the family aspect of it.

    I learned the quick and out aid station hustle from you. Ah the memories of Bighorn and me constantly running after you because you always left the AS first. All that sprinting after you wore me down:)

    Speaking of gels, glad I read your post today. I am out of gels and I'm leaving tomorrow for San Diego. Wonder if Roch will run it again, the two times I ran SD he was there.

    Another happy and good event for you Grinder. People who know the history know the woman, she probably didn't mean it as a compliment just stating facts and I completely agree.

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    1. Larry's memories from our race together is same as yours...or Bushwhacker's...but you guys run faster on average anyway!
      I am jealous of your upcoming SD100. I just need to be back there. Like Pocatello, that one deserves many come backs.

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