If you're lucky enough to be in the mountains, you are lucky enough.

When something bad happens, you have three choices: let it define you, let it destroy you, or let it strengthen you.

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, May 14, 2013

Home, Mac50 and "You always have amazing race stories".

That what Benjamin Chan told me when I posted my status update on Facebook. Unfortunately, the social media had gone from thoughtful blog posts with lots of emotions to Facebook updates, and even to Twitter one-liners, and it's getting harder to re-live what you felt when you said in one of those outlets.

But do I ever have stories, indeed...

I had an amazing race. Simply put, I couldn't wish for a better day, and even my dramatic finish was well belonged right there, right then.

In fact, this trip "home", to my sweet Portland of Oregon, was a highlight of all trips. And I don't even think it's because how it all fell together, but more so where I am. With every passing year, every visit, I get to a next, more solid place, in my life, where I feel more assured, more contempt, yet more bold and assertive, and just in my own skin. Couple it with fantastic weather I happen to always somehow experience when I fly over, and amazing, absolutely best ever friends I ever had, and the crowd that makes me feel most loved ever - and it was paradise and heaven in one wrapping paper.

Thursday night sleep was non-existent, as I landed at midnight, picked up the car, drove to my good Russian friend Anna, and by the time dinner and little chat was over, it was 2 am, which is 4 am my time and about to get up - so I never fell asleep. But at 5 am I was meeting Ronda and Amy for a little run in Forest Park and a lot of coffee and conversation...
Beautiful sunrise.

My happy ladies! Ronda and Amy
 The rest of the day was spent with my son Alex, who is moving at a good clip right direction, and while he, himself, might think things don't change fast enough, as an adult, I know he is in much better place then he was even few short months ago.
5 pm I hit an after-work traffic and made my way to Salem, to stay with Pam and Mac Smith. And to say it was the best part of my hang-out portion of this visit is an understatement. Can I be adopted, please? :) Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, this will stay in my memory and be cherished forever.
That's my girl! Pam

Pam is all about gardening...Larry would have been impressed.

Liam and Megan caught a chicken for me...we didn't eat it, but we ate plenty of fresh eggs.

Mac is making cookies for an AS and we're eating them fresh and gooey!
That night's sleep was very restful! We got to the start of McDonald Forest 50k right on time to see early starters go off, and I squeezed some hugs and kisses right there. And from there on, the next hour, and the whole race, was an absolutely best time of my life! Surprised faces, all the hugs, all the chats, all the welcoming, and compliments, and questions, and kisses...This is home for sure, and I never feel the same anywhere else. No disrespect, but this is where I "grew" as an ultrarunner, this si where I was supported and seeing through challenges of runs and life, and the crowd of Oregon is just special...

And we were off. (All race photos are courtesy of Long Run Pictures).

It was a beautiful day, 50's at the start, just reaching 80F by 2 pm. Sunny gorgeous day, that treated with amazing views at the top of the Maze climb, Old Growth forest, single track intermittent with some fire roads, soft footing, gliding opportunities, climbs that leave your hamstring and butt screaming and downhills that make quads shaky-jelly. And oh, did I take on those ups and downs! They are my favorite! I power-hiked like there is no tomorrow, and flew down yelling as I was coming by on a single track "Sorry, but I missed it so much!" non-stop. I realized I will pay the price, but my body remembered how to do it, and I wasn't about to disappoint it.

I had a goal. Well, realistically, my "pace chart" on the bottle said 6:25, but Ronda laughed me off and encouraged to shoot sub-6. Secretly, I wanted sub-6 as well, but decided not to re-do the chart so I don't get mentally wrapped up and disappointed. We don't have 7,300 feet of climb and same for descend in 2+ mile stretches in Texas! How would I know if I could?

But I tried, boy, did I have fun trying! As Ronda put it, lets have a race, not a run, and push, and breathe hard, and work, and not let up! We were together until about half-way, and it was so awesome to know she is right there, working with me and not letting me slack. When I saw a milder grade, I'd break into a shuffle and tell myself "Ronda is running it". Run she did!

Dimple AS at mile 18 came and left, and I felt a twinge in my calf. Uh-oh! I knew I was totally solid on salt, and drinking full bottle between each AS (approximately an hour apart) - so if a little less water than I would have wanted, then not by much. I was fueling on the clock, as for the knee...well, it was taped, had a strap on, and lets just say I had consumed 7 Ibuprofen in 6 hr run - I wasn't going to let it ruin my race, so no reason to discuss it!

I had the same group around me, some moving ahead, some dropping, then coming back, and seems that we were so supportive and evenly matched with each other, even if our strengths and weaknesses were different! We were passing on early starters, and more hugs and kisses and high five's ensured, and I felt totally like a celebrity. My jaws were locked from smiling so hard!

But by mile 20 or so the cramps were more noticeable and more consistent. It felt Cheaha 50k all over again...at least it started later! I pounded more S! caps, drunk a coke at the last AS and told myself: last 5 miles, 55 minutes, you can do it!

And it went nuts. My calves were moving on their own terms, and then my inner thighs started to have contractions. There was a nicely graded incline on a dirt road that totally deserved running, but I power-walked and prayed not to make sudden movements. The same slight grade of decline came on the same road, and it would have been nice to "take on it", but I shuffled gently, occasionally breaking into a walk to let the cramps subside. I knew there was Kamm and Megan were right behind, my good friends who we worked together with since almost very start, and who we exchanged non-dying support with ("Stay with me, I need you!" - "I am latching on you, go, girl!"), but I also knew I can not afford to lock up as I did on the last climb at the Cheaha, where I spent 20 minutes basically standing, and I still had 6 hrs in the view...

And then a short single-track climb came, and I thought: nice, it'll stretch my calves! I even stopped for a few seconds and literally stretched them! And then last 1.5 miles, softest most awesome steep downhill on a narrow trail to scream down on...and all I could was just maintain low-rise short gait to avoid disaster. From time to time the Charlie Horse would hit, the muscle would twist, and the foot would drop pointing, and I trip a bit, but still upright, tightening my fists yet trying to relax the rest of the body...hearing Kamm and Megan yelling to me" Hold it, push it!" (Kamm later said she saw my calf muscles moving in all directions separately from me). I see Michael of Long Run just before the final turn, slowly exhale...
cross the famous wooden bridge, think "I did it!"...see a guy laying right across the path in front of me, 10 yards from the finish line, and whether it was accidental sudden jerk of my legs to avoid him, or that "sigh" of all the systems that we're done, but the left leg completely seized in a mother of all pains wrenching and I screamed, and stopped, and kept yelling profanities not able to move, from pain, from frustration that the clock is showing 5:57 and I am not moving, thinking there are kids around, and my running girls are coming right at me from behind and around, and Ken the RD runs to me and helps me up, and then I start yelling "I have to do it under my own power", and strengthen up leaving him, consider hopping on the other leg but afraid that one will go seize as well, and Kamm and Megan come back to me, as I cry and smile, and keep those fists tight, and move forward, swinging that leg, and yes! It's done, and I am at 5:58:15! Holly cow!
My legs stand behind the guy in the picture.

Crying? Or laughing?

What a dramatic re-entrance into PNW racing scene! At the finish line, where everyone is watching! And in a way, it was like it was planned (it wasn't), and in a way kind of perfect too, and in a way so many laughs, support, hugs and stories...and frankly, despite moving a couple of spots down, I wouldn't want it any other way. It was the way it was, humbling, yet uplifting, and so absolutely wonderful. My best finish ever.

It was great to meet the goal, and the rest of the day was wonderful. We showered and drove to Father Clem's house for some after-party and I spent more time living in my past, the past of my ultrarunning, and exchanging news and gossips and races and support...
I spent another night at Pam and Mac's, another awesome sleep, and after a Mother's Day breakfast and precious hugs from precious kids, I drove to the park where I used to do my daily runs - Tryon. And as I did my shake-out run on the trails, the tears hit me, finally, my God, what I had in my backyard, I could walk to here, this paradise, every day, what I had, and what I don't have anymore...

But alas, it, but a past, a memory, etched forever, and aching often...More Anna, more Alex (and even Oleg), then dinner with Monika and Stan, and off I went, on my red eye flight, back to Texas, holding  dearly on to the memories and understanding that we all have to move one...and so I do. One step at a time.



fitmacdaddy said...

Olga, it was great to have you. And you ran an awesome race. Great job!

Tim Lofton said...

Not just a race report, but a great short story. I think many of us have that place that we would like to go back to and enjoy whatever it was that we enjoyed there. I fear going back to the Pac NW for the first time, whenever that may be, as I may never leave again. Your's is a good story and running a kick ass race doesn't hurt either. Thanks for this and the forest pictures as well.


Sarah said...

So awesome to see you Olga! Glad I was able to share in your return to the PNW race. Oregon isn't the same without you. Congrats on a great race with a dramatic finish. :)

Danni said...

Nice work Olga! Sounds like an excellent weekend in more ways than one.

Anonymous said...

Wished I could have been there. Bali was great. Just got tickets for a double GC on 25th and 26th. Time to get back into my long miles. The heat and work in Indonesia kicked my Ass.

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