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

Monday, November 04, 2013

Coming to terms at Ozark 100.

Sometimes walking away has nothing do with weakness, and everything to do with strength. We walk away not because we want others to realize our worth and value, but because we finally realize our own.
~ Robert Tew
So there is no wondering if you're not on Facebook, here is what I posted:

"Some thoughts: we both dropped. I didn't "surprise myself" as some anticipated (I was serious saying I can't run) - I walked from mile 5 to mile 51, I walked fine, but a bunch of injuries were piling up on an untrained body. Nope, one can not fake through a 100. Could I have continued walking (as Coleen at an AS tried to say "2 hrs ahead of cut off's!")? Sure. But 45 miles of walk in the woods is a hell of a lot time to think things through, things I had struggled with for years. 20 buckles later - would 1 more buckle make me a better runner, or, more importantly, a better person? I knew the answer to that. I didn't need to prove "I can be tough and stubborn" - I had done that. I also had done "get yourself in shape from 10 years ago". It is truly time to retire from 100's - I don't like feeling like crap in it, I had seen all there is to see, and I choose not to commit time and energy needed to truly prepare for it anymore. Time to move on. Larry had an amazing and strong run all the way into mile 65, when his vision deteriorated, and he walked last few miles practically blind, before dropping. Neither one of us has any regrets of starting - or coming to terms to move on with life in a different direction. The trails and colors were beautiful, the volunteers amazing, and I had a lot of chats with runners on the course, as well as with local gang while sitting at the fire waiting for my ride. Neither knew the other dropped - we ended up in the cabin within an hour of each other. It was a great time to make decisions - which we are hoping you will accept and respect. Thanks y'all for following alone! I had a blast, yesterday, and in 10 years past of running 100 milers!"

I actually typed 4 pages between 11 pm and midnight on Saturday night, when Larry walked in. I planned to post it all and wanted to put down all the thoughts I had while fresh (there was no internet access, but I could do Word file on my laptop). I didn't re-read it, but driving from Missouri to Oklahoma (we stayed with Larry's mom on Sunday), and then 8 hrs from OK to Austin, I tried to remember what was there (I still have the file but don't want to read it). Larry and I, of course, talked a lot too. There was a lot of anger in those pages. There was a lot of anger while I was on the trails of Ozark, whenever I was alone, not sharing steps with so many wonderful people, guys and gals, talking - that time was precious. But alone, I was in a pretty piss-poor mood. At first at others - those well-meaning wishers of "You may surprise yourself" and "Don't pass Larry until mile 85". Did they really not believe me and thought I am sandbagging? Then I let that go - and was mad at myself for taking those words to heart that way. Putting pressure on myself. Imagining that miracles happen? They don't! I knew that too.

When I said I am looking forward this weird experiment of entering a 100M run with no running behind, no training, and physically not being able to run besides one 20 miler (not injured, not ill, just not able to muster any runs, no matter how many tries I had putting on shoes and getting out the door) - I was wondering if I can "walk it in". Part of me thought so - not sure if I hoped so, but was pretty certain I could, after all, I walked many fallen-apart races, last 40 miler in September including. I am a very good, natural walker, and I was OK walking the whole damn thing. Unfortunately, the only surprise I did get was that even for walking - at least for walking a "good solid walk" when I was keeping up among the same group of runners during the race for all 51 mile - takes some being prepared as well. I wasn't. I hurt more than I anticipated, and it started much earlier than I could have ever predicted, and it rolled into overuse injuries that were not fun - and still aren't (and I am hurt right now more than I was after finishing SD100). I had a great 5M run in the woods, on a single track, in a dark, gliding easily, spring in my step - and that was it, loud and clear.

I won't be listing things, or re-living the miles. I had a smile on my face when came to realization where I am, finally, at mile 19 or so. Ever after that it was bad, badder and worst. I cried a lot. Because the experiment, like I should know in science, gave a result - it did - just not what I sort of wanted. What it showed is that you can't fake a 100 miler. I know some folks don't train, or train so little and poor, it's laughable, yet get through to the finish. I could have too. They hurt. They make it, and proud of it - I could have (and have had) too. But I also during the years had awesome 100M races - when everything clicks, the hurt is very measured, and I rip the benefits of training. That's the feeling I like.

Until you ask "What for?". It sucks you in, like a cycle of never-ending game. One race you nail it - and you want to re-live the triumph. Then you suck - and you want a redemption. And it goes, over and over. I kept wondering when I'll stop. I promised myself last Fall, when my body rebelled in the same way it did this season. I posted about it, how I plan to run un-attached at un-known small home-grown races and just learn new trails. And I did that - and somehow I managed to get in good shape, get into SD100 (which did mean a lot to me), and train for it - and have a blast. I have no regrets, I am thrilled - I even dug out my bucket list and found that "Get myself in 2005 shape" was on it, and I can honestly check it off. And then, before I knew it - I was seeking "Just one more chance to qualify for HR100", and then "add on another 100 while I am at it", and then get passed on it, and still consider a couple of 100's I DNF'ed previously (redemption, anyone?). 

It was an awesome result of an experiment that let me know - I can't fake a 100 miler, so I can't sign up for those 100's "just do them for fun" - because I already knew the answer to the other question: I will not be choosing to commit my life to train well and competent to get through a 100M race the way it deserves. And that means - I am not doing anymore 100's. No Fat Dog, no Hardrock qualifiers, no repeats, no new races, no roll-over Grindstone - no more. And then I grieved...

The last 9 mile section was all about "This is it". Life as knew it in the last 10 years was over. Who am I? I am known as "The Olga, The 100 miler, Do what you know how to do". It's real. I wrapped a lot of my life squeezing solid training around every other aspect. I thought I am doing a great balancing act, but the truth is, I don't think so. While I held jobs (plural more often than not), family, household, chores, other hobbies - it all evolved around picking a 100 or two for the year. And I claimed it was healthy, good for the soul (and therefore for the family) and "normal".

Until it was starring in my face: it's not. I am missing out on things I, myself, want to do, for the sake of another 100. I don't do things half-assed. I had to tell myself the truth. I had to not wean myself from my pacifier of being a 100-miler, but cut my arm off so the "other" life can begin. It had been an incredible journey, every step of it. It taught me strength, perseverancepatience, wisdom. It is much more, by far, difficult to walk away than continue. I am extremely vulnerable and scared right now. But this journey is exactly what taught me than I can do even that - move on another journey.

That post on FB generated comments many of which implied I must be leaving ultrarunning. I am not. God, I hope I can, eventually, run again - because I do love running! And I surely do love trails - heck, are you kidding? I am just simply not doing 100M races anymore. I am thrilled to have had an opportunity to participate and have an amazing run at San Diego 100 - my Swan Song. Some may say it would have been great to leave on that accord and not have a DNF tagging behind. I am thankful to have this DNF - because without it I would have still been wondering "What if...". Now I don't. It's over.

Don't feel bad for me. And absolutely, please, don't take it as lecturing! This is where I am, not you, not anyone else. This is the right time for me - and he right place. I am at peace. With a lot of emptiness, and scared, but at peace.

And that's how my last 2 slow miles went, as the darkness fell and the cold air descended (and I had no light). I walked - and smiled, again, tears drying off. I walked into mile 51 AS and as Coleen was about to start her "No dropping, you're looking great" - I raised my hand: Save your energy, girl, I've given this talk more times than I can count. I am done. And then I had another tear - she said: "Well, Larry said it's his last 100 and he is crewing for you". Baby, crewing is cancelled. We are going to do things together. Not sharing passion for something while not actually doing it side by side - no more of that. Our lives are going to be together from now on.

I prayed. Yes, this ex-Soviet girl can pray when needed - I was giving up my life as a 100 mile runner just so Larry can finish his last attempt.

And then, as I was done typing my somewhat angry thoughts on my laptop in a cozy cabin at Ozark 100 - Larry walks in: "Please don't hate me"...

This race was never about me. But as we set together on a bed, we realized - this was not quite about Larry either. It was about learning lessons from every step, needing it to figure things out - make decisions and come to peace. And just as so many times lately - our decisions match. Must be a good sign for our life together huh? 

I guess I should say a few words about Ozark 100 in the middle of Missouri. It is truly beautiful. We lucked out - the leaves didn't fall yet, and we were treated to awesome range of colors - on the trees, and under our feet. Yo could still see the rocks on this pretty technical trail in many parts, and it is wet with creeks, small and larger. The organization is awesome, and the volunteers at the AS's are all super-knowledgeable ultrarunners who know the deal well. The local folks are kind as only middle of nowhere people are, and the Bass Resort is a total gift as a race headquarters - or a family vacation destination. I am blessed to have visited and participated.

I am going to take some time healing those injuries I caused myself while still deciding whether or not keep on walking - and yes, I also dropped the Veteran's Camp this coming weekend (sorry for such a turn of events, but I am pretty useless where it comes to moving around, and I also simply need to be selfish and take care of myself), as well as from Hellgate 100k in December (I emailed Horton on that too). I will be still and listen to what my body is asking me - and where my soul is taking me. I know it will be something really wonderful.

Enjoy some shots we took on Friday. There was no better place to spend a weekend.


Ronda said...

Life shifts and it's good. Sometimes it takes a long miserable day on the trail to let in enough insight to make decisions. It's been years of running 100's. Some were epic racing, some hard fought and lots of proving we are tough. Sometimes it's just not fun anymore. Especially if the body is not ready. No need to beat that horse. Rest up and enjoy your free time with running. Get healed!

Olga King said...

Thanks, girl. I can always think of you speaking as it is! :) I am still visiting Bend, and we're going for a run!

Rick Gaston said...

It's your journey, your experience and you are in control. Whatever you have to do that makes you happy and keeps you, you. Only you would know best, you are the foremost authority on You. The 100 was part of the journey but not the destination, if it's time to let it go then so long 100 milers. Things change, life is change, we change. Besides it doesn't have to be forever, if you decide later that you want to try another, heck why not. Your journey, your experience and you are in control.

Life with Masha has been great. She has only reinforced something that I've always known to be true - there are other things than running. Oh she's been super supportive and she has taken to ultra as well but she's also adamant we do other things. Heck she got me to try cross country skiing back in April which resulted in a bad episode with my sciatica from all the falling, it took me out of running for 2.5 weeks. Wouldn't change a thing if I could however and I'll probably try my luck again this winter. I'm still doing the 100s because they are fun but when they stop being fun then I'll stop doing them too.

Moogy said...

Before we first ever talked, out on the trails of Cascade Crest, at the pre-race meeting I saw you and your crew and I knew who you were, not from being "Olga, the 100 miler" but from being such the positive energy that you are and I hope will always continue to be.
Thank-you for sharing those feelings. We have somewhat similar personalities and I too have thought maybe it is time for me to stop thinking about "What may be..." and let it go (mostly due to the fact that my work schedule pretty much negates trying to think that I can get better at this) but I am too a bit afraid of what might happen if I do stop running.

On a side note...do you or Larry run in the PI Trail N2s?

Olga King said...

Moogy, man, I am so scared, you have no idea! :)
As for the side note, I run in PI N1, and Larry in PI M2 - it's his fav shoes of all times.

Olga King said...

Sometimes it takes a life with somebody so things rub off - a little but of yours on other and a little bit of partner's on you. That's what marriage is about, when healthy.
Of course she took you to ski! Man, I miss ski - we're going this Christmas and luckily, we both know how and love to!
I can't wait to visit you guys.

John Nguyen said...

I don't think we've ever met, but I see your comments on a lot of the blogs I follow. I only have one 100 mile finish (Rocky Raccoon), but I hope to do more someday soon. I've always been impressed with everything that you have accomplished as an ultra runner. And everybody loves you - your passion for running is crystal clear! Maybe I'll see you around one of these days... Maybe even at Bandera or Rocky Raccoon... And you will always be the 100-mile runner, even if you're no running them every year. Personally, if I were you, I wouldn't give up on 100's completely... Maybe someday you'll put together a decent training cycle, completely injury free, and you can temporarily come out of retirement to give the 100 a shot... Just a thought. I still hope to meet you someday, and maybe learn a thing or two from you!

Olga King said...

John, if (and when, because I know I will) I put a solid training cycle, I am going to run a 50k, 50 miler in a new place, or - gasp - try for a marathon PR on the roads just for kicks (they are by far harder than any trail ultra for me). :) Thanks for the comment - may be we see each other at Lake Sonoma? Kind of sort of would like to do that one next year!

Sarah said...

I love Rick's comment. I really couldn't say it better. You know You best and it sounds especially like you and Larry are 100% in tune with what you want to do together. That's a real gift...so many couples are at odds on that. You have my continued support in whatever you decide to do. But what I or anyone else thinks doesn't really matter. Keep on being you and true to yourself!

Fawn Simpson said...

You are so amazing Olga. I just can't add anything. You are just amazing. Thank you for sharing.

Lynn B said...

You have nothing to prove... and I know the fear...
Take care, friend.
Lynn B

Steve Pero said...

Olga, as you know I had come to this same decision back after finishing my third Hardrock in July. It seemed right that once I got both directions in for me what is the best 100 in the country, I'd be done...so good for you to coming to this decision.
I have been enjoying them still, crewing Deb at the Bear and now I'm meeting new friend in the crew teams!
Change is good and just because you won't be running 100's anymore, you will still be involved and see all your friends at them. We can pace, crew or whatever it takes to help someone else and pass what we've learned over the years onto the new 100 mile runners. I'm thinking I might like to pace a rookie at Hardrock this year to show him/her the way and pass on that knowledge.
See you and Larry around somewhere...(pssst, Cowtown Marathon) ;-)

John Nguyen said...

Yeah, maybe I'll see you at Lake Sonoma next year! Its only a 3 hour drive for me!

John Nguyen said...

I saw that you ran "12 Hours at Cool" back in 2007 (and won). Its now called the "Cool Moon 12-Hour" race, and the company that runs it also runs a 100 miler at the same time. I won it this year with 47 miles (the faster kids never showed up - or were running the 100 miler)! I just thought was a cool fact to mention!

J said...

[ Insert a bunch of witty and compassionate stuff here]. Tap glasses, "Other days, Olga, other days." We are in regroup #671 and still wandering along. Hope to see you again (Cascade Crest a few years ago, but we never met). Run gently out there.
John M.

ultrarunnergirl said...

It is surely hard letting go of a part of your "identity" -- but remember you are SO much more than just a 100 miler. You're one of my favorite bloggers, for instance.
As you say, this just opens the doors to another part of life. Some of the best things I've discovered when taking a complete break from running. Be encouraged!


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