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.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Roughing it out at Rough Creek 40 M.

"In the first half of the race, don't be an idiot. In the second half, don't be a wimp." Scott Duglas.

This month has been - and is scheduled to be - one of the busiest I had in a very, very long time. So much so that sometime last week I exhaled on Facebook a scream that I am totally exhausted. I am not here for details of my life, it's a running blog, so, on the training side, I pushed my training, cramming it high-school and college finals' style, all in 3 weeks of finally being free of injuries. In the midst of it, I cut a tip of my finger, and then managed to totally burn my eyes at work while starring at UV light with no protective gear (dumb, I know) The two photos below are taken exactly 24 hrs apart (by accident, the first portraits a finished hat as a product - any takers?).



I was surprised Larry still loved me - he even drove home for lunch and brought me soup from Whole Foods!
I couldn't see a darn thing for 24 hrs. I couldn't open my eyes, close my eyes, read, watch TV, type on computer, sleep...I could just lay down on a couch and moan. Nice. The first night, as I awoke in screaming pain, I was on a verge of having Larry take me to emergency and was certain I am going blind - the only reason I didn't go to emergency was because I didn't remember when my medical card was, and I didn't want Larry to yell at me (he tends to do that when he is worried about my stupidity). I did send him at 1:30 am to Pharmacy - and it takes a lot for me to send someone anywhere even in a daylight for getting help for me. So, it was bad.
36 hrs later I managed to drive myself to work with my eyes closed (this job will kill me one day, or my ability to guilt myself into not taking sick days).
Another 24 hrs later I was up at 4:30 am to do my last long run with 20 hill repeats. Make it 21 for a good measure, just one-up from my last prep for San Diego 100.


I completed it in surprisingly great time, with surprisingly strong legs, and 5,000 feet of elevation gain - all on 2 streets of Austin. Yup, when I am focused, I am THAT focused.
And then I went to the corner store and stocked up on dark chocolate The well-deserved reward was worth the effort. Yes, dark chocolate is my vice, bite me!

I didn't taper through the next week, as I was still some 25 days out of the goal "destination", and I put a fast 9-mile tempo, and some random other runs, and the last 2 weeks I was also the most consistent in the last many years with my yoga practice - like, 3-4 times a week (don't ask me how I did that between other things I can't speak of). I wish I could just yoga and run...but that's a dream that ain't happening, so lets move on...

Rough Creek races of Endurance Buzz Adventures is a relatively new series, but David Hanenburg does a fantastic job organizing, marking, putting things together, and doing it in environmentally friendly style as a family business. His wife Wendy is a sweetheart, and his two little blond cherubs are adorable as the kids can be (and helpful too).

Not a clue where I stole this photo, but this is David H. and his son.

From race document.
A week prior the race David sent me a profile. I mean, he knew this was chosen as simply my last long run, a dress rehearsal of sorts, just because I wasn't sure I can will myself into another long run in the summer heat of Texas all by myself (well, I could have...but I also wanted to support his developing business). I actually even had Larry sign up for the same distance for the same "dress rehearsal/longest run" of his training for the Ozark 100. BUT my poor husband managed to come down with a flu! In Texas summer! He was down with fever from Wednesday to Sunday, holding on the slightest hope he might make it, if anything, then to support me - and with 102F on a thermometer on Friday at 4 pm it was obvious I am off to a road trip by myself.

And because he wasn't coming (and I am too lazy to put a tent up by myself, and then take it down in the dark), I skipped taking a tent for the campground we reserved, planning on car camping. Well, let me tell you, it is still summer in freakin' Texas! And I am not 5 feet 90 pounds child to fit in the back seat of the car - which, by the way, is a Honda Civic year 2005! All this provided for an interesting night. Cramped in my own sweat paddle, with windows open trying to not think of male predators after lonely half-naked women and wild Texas critters (at 11 pm someone at the bathrooms yelled: "It's a snake, it's really is a snake, stay away!"), hugging one leg over front seat, one arm out the window (hell with the snakes!)...5 am couldn't come early enough. It's official - I am too old for camping before the race, car OR tent. Even if the race is a training run. Camping is only for backpacking trips. Note taken.

So, back to the race profile. As someone who prides herself in being a mountain runner, and as I am "working" on my Grindstone 100 profile/split chart, this picture above didn't bring any emotions. Like, and? I also knew that the course is OPEN to the weather/sun exposure, is double-track for the most part (not my forte at all), the temps are hitting back into high 90's (even though I am 2 hrs North of Austin), and there will be some scramble hills called "Rusty Crown". Bring it, I am simply testing my fueling (alternating BRL Endurafuel and VFuel gels) and Pearl Izumi M2 shoes I got for free as a possibility for running 100M races.

So, we took off, marathoners and 40-milers, at 7 am, and I am, like, running on this flat dirt road, and thinking why the hell is my Garmin clicking low 9's? That is certainly stupid, right? Um, yes, it is. Where are the hills??
Race photo official - I bought them yes, I paid for them all 3.
Right after first AS at about 3 miles (and yes, trust me, later I learned to appreciate ALL aid stations 3 miles apart, and 4 miles section was way too long! ha!), we began first hike up. On vertical scree. OK, fine. We got to run down similar vertical scree right after. Then repeat. A couple more times. OK, I got what everyone is talking about - and I saw many stop dead in their tracks at the tops of those hills trying to scout the downhill. I even solicited a handful of advice: "Use the alpine ski image - feet angled, wide stance, side to side..." - to Texans who may have never skied in their lives. But for me it was fun, as was the hike up (there were a couple of hills that either required hands on knees, or grabbing onto the not-sliding rock, but it was all pretty short and good for mind break of monotony).
Race photo official. Fat girl climbing. Too busy for Paleo lately.

The Bowl AS came and left, and we went for some rollers in open terrain, and then into the back-side of the Rusty Crown, with more of those steep loose scree climbs and descends, where you see the other side as you come up, some through-cross-country connectors, and relentless beating. Back to the first AS (manned by my clients Brandon and Megan Walters and a couple of guys I knew too, thanks!), and back on the flat double-track to the loop's end (the race was 13.4M repeated either 1x, 2x or 3x). 2:30 on the clock, and I am like - Whoa, I planned for 3+, I will have to pay for it!

Photo E-Buzz
And pay I did. The 2nd loop was a complete disaster. The sun was high, I was dehydrated - carrying 2 (two!) bottles, somewhere in the Bowl I hooked up with the guy as we resolved to walk the whole thing. His name was Andrew, and he spent 4 years in Moscow studying international business. We passed time talking about Russia, customs, families, and how tough Russians are versus softie Americans (not my words!). I walked faster, but his long legs carried him up the hills sooner, and yet he'd be the one a little stuck before each downhill...and eventually I entered that "Walters" AS ahead of him. I stood there, pouring water down my throat (it's a cup-free race, and you have to use your bottles), telling Megan and Brandon how I am planning to drop at the start/finish AS. I mean, 27 miles is a good long training run, in fact, it'd be my longest for this back-end of my season by a full 2 miles. I am exerting far more energy than I am willing to spare with less than 3 week before my goal race. I am too heated up, cramping (I am determined that MY cramping happens from dehydration far more than from salt deficit, because I was so on cue with salt, it's not even funny, but I sweat more than I can consume liquids). The shoes I was testing sucked for me - soft, awesome, all's good, but the tops of my toes (where the nail bed is) felt some serious rubbing (which later happened to be raw) and altered my style (even walking). So, I stood there for good 5 minutes, since I wasn't in a hurry anymore, and walked out eventually resolved to quit as Andrew rolled in, asking him to catch up (poor soul, apparently I talked him into dropping at the end of that loop with my positive self-talk, and he didn't even plan on it!).
Race photo official
And as I walked towards the end of this 2nd loop, I felt energy coming back to me. Cramping getting down to nothing (holly water!). I tried to run a few steps gingerly, but then didn't allow myself to do too much of that stupid stuff. Then I saw another client of mine, Alex B., running strong back into 3rd loop - in 2nd overall! - smiling ear to ear. All that was doing tricks with my "determined to stop" mind. May be I can try different shoes? Walk some more? Lets make a decision when I come.

"It's very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit."-George Sheehan
Photo E-Buzz

The thought of going through the Bowl - or the Crown (no matter how fun it seemed on the first loop) was kind of ugly. I ran into the AS and told David I am about to drop. Just in case he should fill my bottle with ice. Just in case I'll put on the shoes I wore when driving in (which I thankfully dragged to the start/finish area for no reason, I never change shoes, but thankfully those were Patagonia's new trail racing flats I got also for testing, soft and not broken in at all besides the drive!). I complained that I had to bend over and pick up too many empty gel packets (half-marathoners?). I told him I hope that the softness and the width of the Patagonia shoes will let my toes to not scream (although the soles were too thin for the rocks). And that I am going to walk out to that first AS on the course and come back.

I stood another minute chatting with Angel, another client (and a wife of that fast Alex B. running second) manning the start/finish AS. Then I chatted with a tall guy who asked what I want - and I told him to go plant some trees for the shade! And then I power-walked out.
The Beast. Photo by Stephen Winton

And then I ran some, walked some, and repeated it - and made the 2.7M in 35 minutes or so? And as I entered the visibility of AS, I saw Megan standing there smiling like she knew it - and I was like:" You don't know me, you don't see me, pretend it's not happening". She laughed, as she filled my (both drained) water bottles with ice and water, and I rocked it out. And as I did - the cloud cover came down! Like, holly cow, that guy at the previous AS was Jesus! He didn't grow trees, but he threw clouds for me! Shade! And instantly the life turned from head back on its feet. I passed a number of guys, trying to persuade them to walk with me, but they had none of that (and laughed as they couldn't jog at the speed I was walking). I got those Rusty Crowns on both sides of the Bowl like nothing, and even ran some sections of the Bowl's road. I was repeating how great it is - to learn another lesson opportunity provided: to not give up, to believe, to hydrate and turn around, to believe, and to inspire all those who were there today and whom I couldn't let down.

So, that was it. My both 2nd and 3rd loop's time was 3:15 for each (though I putzed around in-between for quite long), and my finishing time was 9:06. I was 2nd gal and 7th overall (by default, I'd say, it doesn't really matter, as 21 folks dropped from 40 miler due to extreme heat). The winning gal Jessica was a highlight of my trip - a total hoot I'd take 2 hr drive to having meet! She passed me somewhere mid-2nd loop, cheerful and strong (and I totality cheered her on) and beat me by almost half an hour. We talked non-stop at the end, as we took shower together (don't you get ideas now! the resort had cabin showers, and we just took turns while chatting, modesty be damned), and I loved how free and free-spirited, and strong, and positive she is. All the best in your Rocky 100, girl!
I was never that crusty-salty after a run, even in TX. I also was burnt on my skin pretty red.  But at least I had tested out new Patagonia shoes sooner than intended!



I got to eat a LOT of breakfast taco's David provides for after-race, like, a lot! Yum! And chat and share stories with those I knew, and meet new people, and exchange war stories, and give David a hug (after telling him how much I hate him), and congratulate Alex B. on his awesome run.

That was not my course, or my weather, or my shoes. But it was an ultra run, and that all that mattered. It provides me an outlet that reminds me that I can be strong, there - and in life.

Two and half weeks. I am excited. Virginia, I am coming to have lots of fun in the mountains!

15 comments:

  1. Great post, Olga! You crack me up AND give great reports too :-)

    When you run your hill repeats, how long do they take? I have a 2:00 and a 4:00 hill for my short repeats (and longer out in the mountains) but would love to know what works for you.

    I know that camping (and now car camping) is not for you...but mark my words, after you come into the Gstone finish you will WANT to crash in the tent city or at least in your car, instead of leaving camp, driving 20-30 minutes away and then missing the finish line fun. I slept for about 4 hours after my finish in my tent, then took a shower before hanging out with Horty and Clark at the finish line. I slept a few more hours before the breakfast at 0800. So, think about it...you are going to do great! Temps this week: Lows of 40s and highs of 70s :-)

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    1. Sophie, trust me, I am ALL for camping AFTER! And I am certainly not missing out on the party - it's the before that I am old for:)

      This hill above is 0.4M/240 feet, it's on the road, and I run only small parts of it, I am a power-hiker, and "power" being a key word (always had been, just keeping it sharp). The hill that I do run is same 0.4M and about 120 feet of gain. I also do TM repeats, and those last anywhere from 0.2M to 0.5M to 1 mile (back when I lived in PNW, I used to do 2.5M hill repeats, but I don't have that luxury anymore, although I did do 30 min repeats on TM before SD100, but not now).
      Loving the forecast! Keep it coming!

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  2. Olga,
    amazing. Way to stick it out, in that heat. Hopefully that sufferfest will make Grindstone just a wonderful race for you in all aspects - weather included!

    Kirstin

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    1. I surely thought about Grindstone, as in: "I know it's going to hurt and suck ass, because I am not truly trained for it, so I need to make sure it is not a reason to quit!". Thanks!

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    2. If I remember right, it's a Hardrock qualifier, so just a finish is needed ;-)

      Best of luck!

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  3. Totally entertaining and impressive -- way to go!

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    1. Thanks, Sarah, entertainment is what I'm looking for, when can't run well, right? :)

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  4. Awesome, Olga! I need you to come with me to my next race and give me some tough love! I can't seem to make myself want to finish a race these days no matter how hard I have trained for it. Your stories always remind me that it's all in our heads and that I just need to keep on movin'!

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    1. As I said after the race, "it's all up there" - truly is!

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  5. I love the title of your blog, but don't know if this is really for me. The blog was really interesting and your husband sounds like a nice dude. I guess who knows until you try. Mental toughness is something everybody has, but it takes more for some of us to find it.

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  6. Olga, thanks for having me run that race! That was my course and my day. I love the heat and those stupid hills a bit too much. Glad I was able to help encourage you to continue on. I was having such a blast out there. It helps get my mind off work and life. Thanks again for pushing me with my goals and I can't wait for sub 24 at CR100!!!

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    1. Way to kick behind, Alex! You looked so smooth and strong, what a great tapping into your potential, no fear!

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  7. Steven Wray17/9/13 06:43

    Didn't you see those two trees I planted out there? From the Tall Guy

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  8. Oh, the UV light without protective gear - I've done that! At some point you wonder, "Why do my eyes hurt?" and then you realize you forgot the goggles. Fortunately, it only lasts a day or two.

    Nice race, btw.

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  9. Looks so hot!! I'm excited for you...not long until your mountain 100! :)

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