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, June 11, 2013

My journey to the best 100 miler.

"Tell you what....I value your friendship and history with the sport over so many years.....as such, how can I not find you a slot for SD 100 come June. "

How do you describe the feelings you have, when every moment, beginning with this simple email that I read while sipping coffee at Starbucks in some small town of Alabama in the middle of the afternoon a day before Cheaha 50k, was filled with something I can't put to words, even now, even as the SD100 is in the history books? I was humbled and speechless, as my most wonderful journey began. I am struggling beyond any possible explanations still, and that says a lot, as I am usually a wordy one...

My history with San Diego 100 goes back to 2005, when, having not completed Grand Slam due to Leadville's pulmonary edema and picking this race as a consolation prize I won and even set a CR when Paul Schmidt was the original RD of the race. In 2007 I returned there, on a new course, to pace a friend to a crazy finish - and to witness huge fires sweeping the area. In 2010, when they new course was designed (the more difficult of the three), and my long time friend Scotty Mills, an AMAZING ultrarunner (at 62 years young, he's got 20 finishers at WS100 in sub-24! and he is originally from VHCTR) took reins as a new RD as Pauly was consumed with taking care of his beautiful wife Kathleen fighting cancer (while they both still helped with course design and management), I returned to run it again, as part of my long summer and 4 weeks after MMT100, but the day wasn't stellar (they don't often are), and I wanted to make a come back. I wanted to give this course what it deserved. I wanted a great run out there.

My history with the sport...That would be a book, not a post:) In that very 2005, while training for Grand Slam under guidance of Scott Jurek, I was in best shape of my life. I ran a total of 22 ultra races that year, most of those very well, and some just as part of solid training. Years passed, I had stellar races, good finishes, I had dips as well, but I always enjoyed being out there and testing - testing myself, figuring out what am I made of, seeing new places, visiting "old" ones, and sharing it with friends. Years went by, we got older, life got more overwhelming, things changed, some for the better, some not so much. But we kept plugging along.

Some time last summer I made a decision to give up 100 milers. It's a long story I won't go into, but I was pretty set on it. And then there was this weird sudden urge, a moment, really, a simple email: "Is there any chance?", and a simple respond, almost immediate...and my life for the first 5 months of the year was changed.

I had  butterflies. I can't explain why, couldn't then, still can't, but it gave me a purpose, a focus I was lacking, an excitement, a destination, a goal. I was going to get int a best possible shape of my life and I was going to rock that race in sub-24 hrs. And I was going to have a great time in a process.

I know it's already a long intro, but it deserves it. In Larry's words: " I had the pleasure to watch her train her ass off for this race and reach her goal. Considering her full-time job, 2 part-time jobs, coaching clients, running a boot camp, dealing with other "stuff", and still finding time to be an awesome Wife and partner, it's even more sweet. I get exhausted just watching it all." I got on a wagon and did Whole30 and then stuck with Paleo - it worked for me, I dropped a few pounds, most importantly, I lost 5% body fat. It made my running easier. I hate running in Texas, it's hot and the trails are just not the same, but I designed the plan, the "schedule" - and I stuck to it to a "t". No matter what I never deviated. I also went on a running streak, what wasn't necessary, but added on a benefit of a couple more miles even on days off. I did my speed intervals religiously, my hill repeats first on the road and trail hills I could find, then, as they "grew" in length, on a dreaded Treadmill - and I never even blinked my eyes on it. Yes, I stayed on a TM for 2-3 repeats of 30-40 minutes of 5-8% hills, and no, I was not bored. I had a goal. I was giving it my best shot.

I have to say, this past spring in Austin has been blissful by all means. I was blessed with weather mild enough to get me through the training outside all the way into beginning of May. I had smartly put races into my plan as well, and those went great, every one of them, from a 5k to a 100k, with fantastic times and finishes. Things were rolling, giving me hope, and giving me apprehension at the same time. It was getting real. It was getting scary. I was "running myself in shape" and I had big goals and hopes. Now, I just had to not slip into what Lisa Smith-Batchen used to call me "sabotaging myself through a fear of success". 

The time drew near. There were a lot of personal challenges I choose not to discuss on my blog anymore, and a lot of times/days/weeks when the race was pretty much what made me not to loose my mind, not to go into depression, not to fall apart. That race combined so much beyond a simple 100M finish. Beyond a (hopeful) finish #20 for a 100M race, being "old school", having history and friends and run on an absolutely beautiful terrain with breathtaking views. The previous RD Paul Schmidt graciously opened doors for me, I studied last year's splits and made my chart - I was shooting for 23:45. The course is extremely rugged despite not being expected as such, and totally open to the sun 90% of the time, and I knew what I was getting myself into. Squeezing sub-24 was a high goal on a good day under great conditions. I had no pacer, no crew, and no fear. I was excited and ready to go. And then the weather forecast began dropping bombs of the heat index...and indeed, it was a hottest day of the year, hottest day in history of the race, hottest I ever ran in (taking that away from WS100 circa 2006 with 106F) - yet I made myself calm and steady-nerved. There was nothing I could do - I can not control the elements, only how I manage myself in those...

Pre-race hang out
And then there was time. Time to go. Time to have a great time and put your best foot forward. Time to enjoy the trails, the people, the fitness we have. Just like that, nothing else mattered. Only this minute, and this step...And it's time to write something about the race itself:)
Trying to contain excitement, photo by Liza Howard
178 runners lined up at the start, when it was already 78F at 7 am, and went through the campground filing into a single track.
Photo courtesy of Joel Livesey (FB)
The trail took us gently rolling for a while, and I tried to settle in. It always takes me a good 30 minutes to find the right breathing, and the right cadence. Not even 3 miles in, and I almost missed the turn, going after a few others, when a guy behind yelled at us. Jody Chase caught up with me here, and we chatted all the way into the first AS, into which I got exactly at 1:20, on the spot and 5 minutes faster than in 2010. I made one great decision I will be thankful for the rest of the day and that saved my day and made it all happen - instead of starting with 1 bottle as originally planned and picking up the second at 14M in, I started with 2 - and I drained both of them by the time I rolled into Meadows. 

Photo by Lynne Cao
 That made me aware of the day that much more, and I made sure to refill both of my bottles at the first AS, while "loosing" Jodi as a running companion. I tuned into my music, and what do you know, mid-way to the second AS, I plowed right through the turn onto the hill for 5 minutes, until remembered Scotty said there should be ribbons every 2 minutes! I still took another couple of minutes, already realizing what happened, came to a paved road - which was totally not marked and with nobody ahead or behind - and busted downhill to find my way back on the course. Well, yea, I am destined to get lost in pretty much all of my races, and despite some 10 minutes lost, I didn't allow myself any pity - deep breath "At least we got it out of the way early!". That also allowed me to catch up with my other friend, Jess Mulen, who was trying to do my MMT100/SD100 stunt (unfortunately, it wasn't her day), and we chatted for a few minutes, until I pulled away. Jess asked me how I felt, and, well, my answer was "achy". I wasn't lying. My hamstrings and my butt were pretty hurting, and I almost laughed that I had over-worked it at my own Bootcamp on Thursday! What a stupid idea! But, I was here, and I knew it would loosen up eventually...
Photo courtesy Joel Livesey, FB
Second AS, Red Tail Boost at mile 13.8, came 2:40 in, what was only - and that's the important part - 5 minutes behind, despite wandering off for 10 minutes. I was running well, and feeling smooth by now. I was calm and ready to have a great day.
"I went off course" - photo by Liza Howard

The heat was coming in, and by Todd's cabin I was already finding stragglers on the trail and passing them. I think it was hitting 90F by then, and I told some guy "5 more minutes, and we take a turn to the left and dive to Todd's" - as the turn came, we dropped, and I almost threw my water bottles to a volunteer (thank you!) as I stopped prior the table and dozed into the ice water bucket with sponges. Heaven on Earth! I would do it on and on at each and every station from there until sunset, and that was another decision that had saved my race. Those 15 seconds of cooling myself off were priceless. I picked up more time, and now was 2 minutes ahead of my pace chart.

Now, it may sound funny, but those who had followed my blog and read my race reports, know I am pretty good on my time predictions. How I do it is beyond my own understanding, but that said, I always have an estimate, and if all goes well, I hit those arrivals to aid stations like a clock. Thus, my mood often depends on where I fall between the numbers, and that is important point before I go on to the next sections write ups.
I ran in to a Penny Pine 1, mile 23.6, in great spirits, fully aware of my body, and picked up my gels for the next section (having consumed each of the ones I had at the start, what meant I am on track with calories) - and one EXTRA bottle. AND - this was my one and only mistake I had done all day - I did NOT fill that extra bottle! Why? I don't know. I was draining fully to the last drop both bottles between aid stations in 1 hr 10 minutes, and the next stretch was predicted to be 1:30 - why did I not get an extra water bottle filled? Alas, I didn't. It was almost 8M, and even though on a elevation profile it looks downhill, don't let it full you: it has hills, AND it is one of the most technical downhills you had seen. The only nice part was in the middle, for may be a mile and half, in the tree shade, on dirt (and even there I saw guys sitting with head down), the rest - exposed, rocks and more rock. The heat was on. It was past 12 pm, and not only it felt scorching hot from the sky, the dusty trails radiated the heat from beneath your feet and right back at you. And oh, the dust! It was eating into your nose, your mouth, your eyes...by then I already developed some kind of eye infection, and my left eye was producing pus non-stop, and wiping it with my dirty fingers did not do any good to it. And to add an insult to the injury, my right knee, that very knee that was hurting so bad between mid-April and mid-May and then miraculously got "treated" via running McDonald Forest 50k with 7300 feet of elevation gain - it was screaming! So, between getting dehydrated and trying to hobble sideways gently down the rocks, I knew I am about to a) get a heel blister, b) get behind in liquids, c) fall off the pace. My both bottles were dry exactly at 1:10, and there was no end of that stretch in sight. Then there were mountain bikers...now, don't get me wrong. This is a trail, and we all share it. I had never in my life had problems with mountain bikers on a single track, we all managed to be nice and courteous. And here there were, 5 of them, constantly passing, stopping to wait for each other and hang out (?) so we'd pass by, then passing again, on those exposed rocks on the side of the mountain. Annoying! Sometimes they'd bunch up to the point it was difficult to get around on a narrow technical terrain. And then on one stretch 2 of them passing, and the first says: "Those ultra chicks are surely all so gorgeous", and as I am about to smile ear to ear, another responds: "Yeah, but they are all brain-dead". WTF??!! The laughed in agreement, and luckily for them finally pulled away for good, as I was about to push them off the cliff. I wasn't brain-dead YET, and surely not deaf!
Photo by Lynne Cao
Anyway, a full 40 minutes passed with not a drop of water, and we finally arrived to a MASH unit called Pine Creek AS, mile 31 (Jimmy's AS report), where we'd go on a 5M loop before returning to the same spot. People were HURTING, and it was a crazy mess. Angela Shartel, a great runner in her own right, was running a show sharp - I gave my bottles to someone, and dipped my head straight into that ice bucket. One volunteer grabbed sponges and dozed my shoulders off while my head was in, and Angela touched me with "How are you doing, under control?". Yep, all under control, you got more job with others than you bargained for. That loop recorded 108F. It was as if steam was coming off your skin pores. And because I was later than planned, I also figured I am low on my gels. BUT I finally got back in a game by filling that 3rd bottle (and 2 normal) with ice and water, drinking a full cup, and walking out. I dissolved a serving of EnduroFuel in one of the bottles as an extra calories and salt (so far I had been doing 1 Succeed! cap or 2 MetaSalt caps per hour alternating), and I drunk it in a matter of 5 minutes. The loop had a climb and a descend to it, but it wasn't that simple, and it was open, and I was out of water, again, for the last 10 minutes. But I felt I was catching up, and my loop split was only 5 minutes slower than predicted - and the most important part of making my race what it was - I STAYED CALM! I was OK, completely, truly OK with where I was despite by now, coming back to Pine Creek at mile 36 at 2:50 pm, full 25 minutes behind. I couldn't even believe it myself. It wasn't that I was trying to talk myself into "calm" - it was from within. I told myself - only once - that whatever finishing time happens doesn't matter, as long as I take care of each step the right way, and utilize all that I learned in my previous 19 finishes of 100M races - and that was it. No more dwelling or coming back to it. 

I dove again into ice bucket, filled my 3 bottles with ice and water, picked 3 extra gels (since that time delay my supply was not where it had to be until next drop bag), and was ready to power 8M climb.
I remembered that climb. The first 2M are on black-top paved road, and ridiculously, very steep. I had made it 3 years ago in 2 hrs, and that's what I had given myself this year as well. I just put my head down and worked. I also knew that this year they are having an impromptu mini-AS at the top of the paved section and will have ice, water and Popsicle's. That allowed me to drain my first bottle without hesitation - I reached the ladies, refilled, picked up that Popsicle (I am not a big fan, but hey, it was cold, and it was awesome!), and ran away with it on a little down section, before the Big Climb came up on the side of the ridge.

And I was drinking. Non-stop, all 3 of my bottles. And hiking. No thoughts in a process, just get this last most difficult stretch over with, and stay strong and positive. I could feel energy filling up my muscles as the water was refilling the cells. I knew I was ok, and as the trail leveled off before throwing us onto a road with cheering people, I was running - I was running flats and even inclines - and feeling wonderful.
Photo by Lynne Cao, coming into 44M

My drop bag had my gels and another V8 juice can, I was 30 minutes behind, and I was delighted. I saw Jodi sitting down, more folks in a shade, dozed myself with those ice sponges and walked out strong, and before I knew it, I was running again. It was 5 pm, and the life was about to begin...

Mile 51 at Sunrise was simply wonderful. This is where my biggest drop bag was, with headlamps, a windbreaker, sleeves, bandana, and more gels and V8, as well as socks. I came in 6:25 pm, at 11:25 race time...oh, my God. This was late, the latest I told Larry I can be there and still give a shot to sub-24. But - still only 30 minutes behind, so I didn't loose any more time. And feeling awesome! And that's exactly what I said to a volunteer who asked how I felt - and he was "Hmm, this is a first". But that was true! I knew I had a heel blister, so I sat down and took my dirty socks off, popped that baby, wiped it off with those dirty socks, pulled on a fresh pair (ah!). A cute couple waiting for their runner was at my service as my personal crew - I was so grateful! They unpacked my drop bag, got me ice in a cup for my V8 juice ("Bloody Mary Russian style" - AS captain said), helped me shove the jacket into my UltrAspire Spry (a pretty tiny pack, come to think about), filled all my bottles, shoved my gels into all pockets, pulled my sleeves onto arms (no space in a pack), bandana on a head (same reason), headlamp on (early, but again, pack is small!), and discarded all my garbage, including those dirty socks (I think they were so into it, had I said I want those socks washed and back, they'd do it - thank you!).
Photo by Milan Kovacevic

And I RAN out! Literally! I spent exactly 5 minutes in there, and I feel great about every second of those! My race was made during those last 3 aid stations and stretches, with staying calm and positive and taking good - no, awesome! - care of myself. I put my Garmin on, clicked "Start" for the first time, and the first mile got clocked at 8:10 min/mile...Whoa, baby, hold it! I was flying! I can not explain how I felt, and having finished those 19 100M prior, I knew it is a LONG way from "here" to "there" and things happen. But somewhere deep inside, very deep, I had that sixth, or seventh, sense - I am going to make it happen. Today, on this hot freakin' day, with 11:30 for the first half of the race, I am going to run amazing splits, stay totally strong and prove to myself that when you put the work in, when you believe in yourself, when you stay smart and positive - good things happen.

And I ran. I remembered that section well from 3 years ago, how I tried to choke on some airport nuts package for my fuel (I was being cheap back then) while walking, and now easily consuming my second bottle of EnduroFuel and gels. No, I didn't clock anymore 8 min/mile, although I ran almost all section what felt like a great run, and was a bit discouraged (for the first and only time in a day) that it still took me exactly 1:30 as planned (it seemed I should have been faster/sooner, and I needed to pick up a few minutes on each section if I wanted to break 24). But I exhaled, filled up (dropped my 3rd bottle, finally) and went on to a next section.

I was so fast transitioning at the AS's, I never saw how many people were still sitting, and at times I was hurrying the volunteers to get faster at bottle filling, dismissing (and trying to be as polite as my damaged brain allowed) their questions and suggestions, while pointing at my bib number and saying: "My 20th 100, I am good, self-sufficient, no worries". I know they were trying to help and were just amused of me not doing anything besides filling those after bottles and flying out. I ran out of Stonewall at 59M and passed 3 couples of runner/pacer combo, and one guy slapped me on a back/shoulder "Good job" - but he slapped with such excitement I almost flew down! It was ok, though, I think I threw off all of them with my screaming by.

After a bit (just a tad over a mile) of flattish field running, there was a sharp left turn, and I knew a HUGE climb was coming. This is also where the dusk fell, and I turned my headlamp on. And few steps later, as I run, I suddenly (actually!) pay attention to the trail and see a Rattler coming slowly across the single track! Yowser! I stopped dead, and so did she. Great! Half a body of a foot and half was laying blocking my way. I picked up a couple of branches and threw them snake's way, but I missed, and it didn't move. It was testing me? I have a race to run, you mofo! I looked to the right (in the direction away from where the rattler was going) and tried to get into the grassy area to go around. In a couple of steps I get into thick bushes, then face a big rock formation. Great. I go left to the trail, not remembering exact location of that snake I left behind, but I made it - my FIRST encounter with a rattle snake, and in such an important race!

The climb starts sharp, and my Garmin slows the count. What I did (and I made that decision on the fly, and that was yet another very smart and helpful one) was I would start the Garmin at Zero at every AS, then, knowing how many miles to the next and how much time I need to make it in (adjusting to the fact I need to find 30 minutes in the next 50 miles), I would try and push myself every mile, and if one would "fall off", that simply meant I had to do more power/running next mile. It was a great. I had focus, extreme focus, not a blink of sleep or discouragement (besides pus clogging my left eye). I was working to make my dream happen. For myself. For Larry. For my dumb kids. For my coaching clients and all the friends - who believed in me, but also that they would also believe in themselves. Nothing was going to stay on my way...

Well, besides another rattler, as I lifted my leg and realizes what was underneath and was airborne jumping high over. For the rest of the climb every stick seemed to be a snake...thanks, I lived in TX for 4 years and haven't had a privilege, and here, in one stretch of 2 miles, I got 2!

But eventually the climb was over, and 2M descend ensured, and I hobbled here in 2010 with blistered feet, but ran (may be not great, but ran) this time. And without paying attention before, now I looked down on my watch, and wow - I was back on pace! Just like that! Somehow, somewhere, I picked up all the time I needed, and it was mile 64.2, Paso Picacho, and it was 9:25 pm, and I was right where I needed to be! I got my last drop bag, turned my waist lamp on, and got out quickly. Gels were becoming daunting, and I was looking forward some soup at the next AS. The night was warm, not only I never got a chance to pull my jacket out (and carried it the whole way!), I didn't even have to pull my sleeves up much (and only for comfort of not having them bunched up). I also didn't pee every 2 minutes by a liter - something my body does when night gets cold during a 100. Only every 10 minutes by a cup (pardon details, but it did save time!).

Of course, my wild life meetings weren't over, as the first skunk runs across and sprays the air - not directly at me (thank God), but I do run through a tail of its cloud, and then smell it on myself for the rest of the night. Another 20 minutes later, as a runner and his pacer approaching me from behind, another skunk crossing the trail, and I stop and yell "Skunk!", and we all kind of trying to smile. But all is good, and I ran, and power-walk, and do what I can, even though my gel consumption is down to 2/hr.

I get to Sweetwater (and FYI, that section was a full 0.25M longer! Just saying:)) - and "order" soup, quickly pour it in, grab my 2 bottles (still asking for ice in them!) - and I am out before all those who came well before me. Right on time, baby, right on time.

At some point I got emotional and talked to my body. You know, one of those: "You and I are a team, a great team. Sorry for coming down on you often, for calling you fat and being unhappy with how you look - it doesn't matter how you look, because how you work is absolutely incredible!".

And that how the night continued. 1 gel, 1 AS soup, power-through, looking for trail markers, hoping not to get lost, remembering some familiar signs and finding solace in it, clicking miles away, staying on task, getting a few more blisters from all the rock on the trail beating my feet (Sportiva Helio's are not a 100M shoe, not for technical trails anyway).

And funny thing is, not only was I never bored, the miles clicked very quickly, and I never thought to myself "Why the heck am I doing it?"

There was nothing exciting to describe, until, after Penny Pine AS at mile 91.5, which I left at 4:20 (and left behind the 2nd bottle, to empty hands a bit), I run some and begin a stupefying climb, turn off my headlamp as the dawn approaches...look to the left into the bushes on the side of the trail - and see 2 green eyes and a black line right above them. "Egyptian eyes" Larry called them.Yep, that's exactly what they were - 2 green eyes with lateral sides slightly higher, starring right at me. I blink - what kind of animal is as tall as 5 feet bushes, not a rabbit...I don't know why I thought rabbit first. I slowly take a look to the right - a wall of a mountain - back left - the eyes moved 2 feet up, all of it happening less than 10 feet ahead of me. It dawns on me - it is not a joke or hallucination. It is a mountain lion. Great. Rattle snakes, skunks - and now a cougar??? Jesus, really? I am trying to remember what I read in Joe Grant's and Candice's reports about their "meets" while going around Mt. Rainier. For the weirdest reason (I guess those bikers were right after all about our brain damage) the fear doesn't penetrate me. I mean, I am kind of scared, but mostly I am pissed off. I got a 3M freaking climb on rocky trail to make, I am at mile 92-93 of a 100M run, I got sub-24 on a line when nothing is for sure, and I have a mountain lion blocking my way! No fucking way! I spread my arms wide and growl. Don't laugh. In the 5 years I lived in Oregon and ran Columbia River Gorge more often alone than not, I thought about meeting one of those, and I always thought I'd probably either drop dead from a heart attack or scream like a girl. But here I am, growling what I think resembling a bear (what do I know, I never met a bear either!)! I make s step forward looking intently and trying to remember - should I look or not? Why did I not memorize what to do with various animals? Some of them don't like starring and attack, some don't like and run away. Which one is this?? The eyes moved one more time up. I step forward again, looking - and then not looking, because it's kind of IS scary, you know, and also trying to predict next moves: if it comes, I'll smack the shit out of it with my water bottles! I'll punch it in the face and poke its freaking eyes out! I got no time here, I am late!

I walk forward, and look forward - nothing. Turn my head back - but I can't really focus well while moving up. I look back over the shoulder, squinting my pus0filled eye, 4-5 more times, while continuing growling and waving my arms wide, and then decide, screw it, this is too tiring. Nothing happens, and, believe it or not, it is soon forgotten, and only this stupid joke of a climb, technical, 3 miles vertical, at mile 94, is all that matters. How long is THAT going to be for? (p.s. the winner, Jeff Browning, saw a cougar at mile 98, what for him was about 6 hrs earlier).

Finally, it's over the hump, and I actually manage to run down hill to the last AS. It is ALMOST a relief, it is 5:44 am, and I have a full hour for the last 4 miles, what a volunteer tells me: "You got it!". I freak out just a bit, with my mouth stuffed with banana (forget gels by now, I am running on empty): "NOTHING is a given in a 100 miler! Nothing!". I mean, folks, I can still get lost, break my leg, fall in convulsions...it's 4 miles! A guy and his pacer pass me here (I think same as with the skunk), and I let them go - I can see that the runner is getting almost dragged by a pacer (a pacer is running far ahead, and the dude was not moving happily, who is at mile 96?). I was counting steps, truly. I was going by memories. Those are not downhill miles as chart says, they roll, they flat, the cross the field - they pop at the edge of a campground - and then, this year, they ruthlessly take you for another 3/4 mile around on a pavement! Oh, sweet baby, that was not nice. I kept looking over the shoulder, because suddenly, while the whole day I had no clue of my position (what I get for having no crew) - I could have been 2nd or 12th and no difference - it became important to not get passed by a girl. So I actually kind of run, and finally turn the corner...
Photo by Lynne Cao

I finished the race, my SD100, in 23:35:55. On a day that will go down the history books as the scorcher, without a crew or a pacer, while training in flat Texas not exceeding 60 miles per week (which in my good years back in OR had been considered a base level off-season running), I had reached out far, grabbed my dream and held on to it tight.
Photo by Lynne Cao, Scotty Mills holds me from falling while I am crying.

Photo by Lynne Cao. Paul Schmidt shares my moment.

Angela and Scotty gave me a hug, and I cried a little. Joe Prusaitis and Paul Schmidt told me I managed to be 18th overall and 4th female and pretty close to 3rd (darn, this is where crew would have been nice with the information, I would have found another gear! - yes, I am competitive after all) - on a day when only about 44% of the field finished. I know a lot of folks bring their friends to pace, and nothing deters it from the fact a runner still has to run a race - they do. And those very folks, not only do they get help, encouragement, and so on, they also say they love sharing their trail time and accomplishments (and prevent from boredom of a late night time in a 100). I had a handful of 100 with pacers, they were awesome. But doing it solo, it is just different. It is so deep to the core yours, what you're made of. I come to a race because I want to know what's inside me. If I got what it takes. I share trails with others via the fact that we ALL do the same thing - I don't have to be next to you doing it. I love digging in. It makes me stronger. Not physically. It makes me stronger to be able to get through that very "stuff" in life I seem to not being able to shake off, like it's glued to me, like it's forever. So, I need it, that believe that I can. That I can - on my own. That, while I have amazing support of my husband and life partner, and my friends, many of whom were extremely instrumental in helping me hold it together last few months - if I need to, I can do it myself. Just in case...

3 years at SD100
I am still in awe, and it's funny how many people said "We didn't expect any less of you". It kind of makes me a little mad, almost. I appreciate a sentiment, but really it feels like my achievement gets less because of that. And it's not. This is to date the best executed race - 100 or not 100 - I had done. Even with WS100 in 2005 and a great day and similar splits, this one is mine, and on a day like it was it is THAT much sweeter.

I am going to add photos as Lynn will put them up and I buy them (yes, I plan to buy every photo I find of this race), and I am going to take a full month off running (well, besides the 2 miles a day streak, which yesterday was fulfilled wearing flip-flops at a pace of 22min/mile).
The Swag - if you're into it - the biggest ever. Photo by Catra Corbett.

I had a shower and half-slept right at the finish line for a couple of hours. Then I tried to make my way to the airport, but was falling asleep, and pulled off to Paul's home and took another 30 min nap. I finally made it, and slept on the floor between flights (almost missing one of them). Sometime towards that evening, I remembered I still haven't eaten, and tried to consume a salad - but chewing was exhausting, and I gave up half-way in. I didn't get in my home bed until 2 am Monday (poor Larry had to stay up picking me up from the airport), and with my back pain (somewhere I managed to throw it off big time) and my feet swollen, I actually, for the very first time, took a day off from work - sick day, which I felt exactly a right description. But it wasn't because I was sick - it was because I wasn't ready to face the world yet. I took Harrison to the cold waters of Barton Spring creek, and treated my "canckles". I have not a single muscle ache (go figure!) besides the feet and my back. May be I didn't run hard enough. Come to think about, because my right knee was always mad at me at every steep downhill, I didn't take on those hard at all. May be there is a sub-23 in me for the course...but I am not about to find it out.

This is the best race, truly is. I will (and was) recommend it to anyone any minute, and if you pay my way, I'll come and help you out. Scotty, Paul, Angela, Steevie, Jimmy, all the volunteers (top-notch ultrarunners themselves, hand-picked by Scotty) - you will never be disappointed. The beauty of the cliffs, the rugged terrain will make it worth your work every step. The simplicity of a 100M run  is emphasized here - and it IS simple: you just put one foot in front of another...and you take good care of yourself...and you stay positive.

This is how it is in life. The lesson we keep forgetting. May be that's why we keep returning...no matter how many times we swear to give it up:)

p.s. a conversation forwarded to me fro the Ultralist - thank you for kind words!!!:

Susan Rice - ...One woman, I think it was Olga Varmalos, was particularly impressive to me. She just got stronger as the race progressed. Every time she came into a station she focused on going forward - no crew, no pacer...(I think). She finished in under 24 hours. I don't know her, but she was astonishing to watch.

Lisa Bliss - Yeah, that's Sweet Olga (Varlamova) King, for ya'! We miss her here in the PNW. She now hails from TX where she says there is no better heat training. :)
She's run more than a few and won more than a few ultras. She's had her ups and downs in training over the years, but she always comes back strong. She's tough as nails but is the kind of person that exudes enthusiasm for life. She is a wife, mother, great friend to me and many others, a fantastic athlete and an inspiration.
Just a shout out to Olga!


sea legs girl said...

Wow. You are one hell of a 100 mile runner. I am filled with awe and respect and so happy you enjoyed it so much- I believe it! I would ask you your secret, but I know that could be summed up in a multi-volume novel. It's about a life of committment to this sport we love. So happy you just keep getting better. Enjoy a week of relaxation and "glow" and Rhonda said on FB. :0)

Thomas said...

Olga, that's amazing, all of it. The race and how you ran it,your awesome time, those animal encounters ... wow, just wow. I'm in awe.

Ric Munoz said...

I just wish there was a way that every word of your report could be published in Ultrarunning or in Runner's World so that it could reach as wide an audience as possible -- you write simply THE BEST race reports! I am the world's biggest sissy when it comes to running on trails, but after reading about your adventure and triumph in San Diego, it really crossed my mind to maybe sign up for next year's race. I hope you realize how incredibly inspiring you are -- I'm pretty sure you do, but it definitely deserves repeated declarations!

Julie said...

One of the best race reports I've ever read..I kept telling myself I had to get back to work but just couldn't until I got to the end! Congratulations, Olga. It's so good to see you succeed at something you poured so much of your heart, soul, blood sweat and tears into. So proud of you!

Clair said...

Excellent. Just excellent. Congratulations!

Sarah said...

Awesome! Checked on you when I woke up Sunday morning and you had just gone through the last aid station. So exciting to see you move up the field! I hope the endorphin high from this race lasts extra long for you...you earned it! Congrats!

Anonymous said...

SO inspiring and powerful Olga! Thank you for sharing all these details.... I will come back and read this many time between now and CCC100! Proud of your guts!! Way to remain calm and strong and get it done!:) Erin

Scotty Mills said...

The entire San Diego 100 family was thrilled to have you return and smack down a sub-24 hr finish and 4th overall. You are an amazing runner and even more amazing person. Thanks for the nice report. Again, congratulations and I hope you will come back to visit us anytime.
xoxoxo, Scotty

kelly said...

Olga, you are a rock star, and you totally proved it at San Diego! Way to go, girl. You are looking and running awesome! So happy for you.:)

Danni said...

So amazing!!! You are such a source of inspiration. Always.

Meghan said...

Awesome report, Olga. "I don't have time for you, mountain lion." To me, that's just you in a nutshell. Isn't it amazing what being in a good mindset can do for you? It carried you through the whole day, with confidence to do your own thing in the beginning and confidence to keep rolling as things got tough. I'm so proud of you and proud to call you my friend. And, yes, you do inspire others to be their best, too. CONGRATULATIONS!

Helen said...

I love love love how and why you did it on your own. Of course, you had the love and support of family and friends and no question that is a huge help with just getting to the start line but that deep, deep feeling of satisfaction of a job well done, a goal achieved, a dream made real... it's yours. All yours. Forever. Congrats Olga. It might be what people expect of you but no one but you knows the work and dedication it takes to put it all together.

Olga King said...

Do it, Ric! I promise you will love it!

Olga King said...

It was out-of-this world experience. It was like I was destined, like it almost wasn't me, like I was looking from above down on myself running...

Olga King said...

Thank you, Thomas! I loved it - let me re-phrase it: I love it!

Olga King said...


Olga King said...

I had hit hard the lows today as I realized that the day is over...gone in a history. I just wanted it to last:)

Olga King said...

Erin, you and many others were my inspiration and a reason to keep on pushing - to prove to you all that you, too, CAn do that!

Olga King said...

And I just might...oops:) I don't think I can top this one off, I may need to retire, but then gain, I need that "Can I?" to be tested, again, and again.

Olga King said...

Thanks, Kelly!

Olga King said...

Danni, thank you, girl!

Olga King said...

Meghan, yes, this is so true as you know, training is only a part of it, what's in your head, "the muscle between ears", The Central Governor, per OOJ, is a prime moving mechanism. As for the lion - yes, the question that was in my mind: would they still count me as a sub-24 finisher if I get eaten here? Truth. Sick, I know:)

Olga King said...

Yes, Helen, I may tick a few, and I don't mind/care how others do what they do, I was just trying to explain how it felt right for me. Thanks!

Olga King said...

Julie, thank you! We need to go for a run together!

Anonymous said...

Olga! Damn! This was a great read, I enjoyed reading from start to finish and was glued to the screen. It is so true, one foot in front of the other and keep a positive attitude- this is what we should be doing in life- in all aspects. I'm so happy for you and delighted that all your hard work paid off exponentially! Recover well, hope those cankles have gone away. What a wonderful achievement to always be able to reflect on!
So happy for you Olga!

Simon said...


A stunning race report and an amazing achievement. I ran my first "ultra" last month(it doesn't seem like an ultra, knowing what I know of trail running, and from your report) - the Back on Feet 24hr race at Camp Mabry. I managed 80 miles and was pretty chuffed with that. But, reading your report, of the trails, the wildlife and the climbs I know that I really had it easy.

I can but echo one of the earlier comments - your report deserves a wider audience.



Jen B said...

Bad-assery.... Yes I'm going with that, plain and simple. Training only gets you so far, the rest has to come from within. You know how to get it done and yet each race has a new challenge. Great job lady! Rest up!

Anonymous said...

YOU ARE A MONSTER! Great work out there. SD 2009 was my first trail 100 under 24 hours, and was just 2 minutes off your time. Recover well, and have a great summer.

Olga King said...

:) Love to you!

Olga King said...

Simon, congrats to you! Nothing is easy - great job!

Olga King said...

Resting up it is! Each race got something, always, never a doubt - what keeps us coming back:)

Olga King said...

Awesome! I plan on lots of fun this summer:)

Greg L said...

Great report. I was reliving that 5 mile loop down in the canyon. It chewed me up and I was done at Pioneer Mail. It was nice to meet you after your finish. Congrats!

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