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

The heart of the difference is not ability or even talent, but desire

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, April 22, 2013

When the race throws you lemons...

Well, actually, first the life throws you lemons before race even approaches. I mean, in general life in the past couple of weeks has been hectic, and while those were good things "hectic", they still took every once of energy and passion and time I had. And then a weekend before the race week it was "Kaboom" - a long kind of coming one, but still, "Boom" and all...and life goes on.
These words come to me often. I don't know where the egg or the chicken is, as they both are one: I am a distance runner, and I am a stubborn person who marches on in life regardless of world crashing. I do gasp, cry, curl in a ball - and next morning the alarm goes off, and I am up, in my running clothes, off into the darkness, and on, and on...

I picked Free State 100k back in January, I think, as a "pinnacle" of this season, because, you know, I gave up 100 M races and stuff, but needed a goal. I picked it for many various reasons. It was longer than 50 miles, so it felt like a nice progression and a statement for the end of the "season". It was smaller and in mid-country, something Larry and I decided to explore (as we ventured to TN, AL and AR so far) and support. The course was all about my weaknesses - and I vowed to work on my weak spots (less mountain climb, more small rollers to flat, technical trails). And the RD, Ben Holmes - we go back in history. From the early blogging days in 2005, to him bringing Kansas Trail Nerds once I co-directed PCT 50 in Oregon, to some sweet personal email exchanges as we kept up and supported our lives being challenged, and to the fact that our running club HCTR, while I was residing as VP, was looking for a destination race, and Free State had 4 distances to choose from. While it ended up only 5 folks from HCTR to come (and about 5 more from Texas), that was a start. I made my flight, car and hotel reservations, and trained.

And then I got into San Diego 100 - unexpectedly and somewhat anxiously, yet totally excitedly. And Free State, just like that, had become a mid-way run-through. That, and a gal from the club, Brenda Rogers, had contacted me if I want to pair up. Well, I am all for saving a buck, even if as I get older pairing up with random people gets more difficult...

Sometimes Universe has a way with us. As we both landed (via different airlines) in Kansas City and picked up a car, it was a match made in Heaven. Yes, as I was told, Brenda talks a lot - but with the right person, I not only love it, I can out-talk and enjoy every minute of it! OK, laugh all you want, but in the next day there was hardly anything that was left un-said, un-discussed,un-gossipped...We drove endlessly as real Blonds with no directions or maps, looking for random coffee shops, salad places, hotel entrances...and we found it all, may be not as fast as efficient as the guys would, but that was fun. We managed to get to the package pick up, had a volunteer draw us directions to the park, and still make wrong turns - and laugh about it. We explored the Clinton Lake park, a place where the race would be held, and got lost between parking lots, trails, and views...but we found what the trail looks like and where to go in the morning:)
Brenda and I explore trails.

It has that many roots!

And this is not the worst section where the rocks come!

But it also has some stretches of a nice single track - and a perfect marking.

"Red Trail" by the beach is just a pile of rocks, but only lasts less than a mile (for sure).

Even the hotel, a dingy Super 8, was really neat, and the lady who checked us was simply awesome. And then we got turned away from a Thai place just to walk across the street into a Japanese bistro with nice setting and great food. And to top it off - we bought a quart of ice-cream and dug into it, girl-party style, while kept talking into late night (and yes, not only am I not supposed to be eating it, I shouldn't due to intolerances, but who cares, live a little!). Could you have a better pre-race day?

But lets focus on the race, it was, after all, a reason we were there. Morning came with 39F but calm. As we drove to the park, we saw hundred(s) of young solders marching with full packs, running some, as part of their training day, and that was inspiring to watch.
I would think of them often when things went wrong in a race...

Brenda was to run a marathon distance, so she had an hour later start. The RD had an arrangement with photographers that they got paid by the race and all the runners got free downloads, so the photographers were running around shooting, and runners were having a blast before we even set a foot on trails!
We found Texans in Kansas!
And finally, we were off at 7 am (I don't even remember if anything was said, I lingered behind taking off extra clothes and almost missed it!).
While we are "filing onto a single track", let me look back on my goals and share them. When I just picked the race up, even as a "final" one, and checked out the results that I could find, I decided that 12 hrs is a very worthy goal to go after. I knew little about course (to nothing), but somehow I always have a "feel" on what I should be running here or there. And then lately, as my races were going well, I got a big head - no, really, I, who always tends to be extremely realistic (not pessimistic, just real) - got a big head and figured "Why not shoot for 11 hrs?". Right. Granted I ran Miwok in 11:07...once, in 2005, and that course, while having far more elevation change, was where my strength is, climbs and fast long descends. Whatever, bring it - said I, stupidly! And twas were my predicted "splits" for 3x20.7M loops: 3:20, 3:40, 4:00, no room for error. What made first loop to be run at just under 10:00 pace...
Mile 4, feeling groovy...
Somewhere still early on.

Like I ever tried to pace myself like that! Idiot! Not only I never know what my "pace" is, ever, the Garmin, damn electronic toy, "eats" a signal when a trail twists and turns onto itself and folds back, as it catches a satellite and tells you that you haven't moved a spot! What meant I was going at some random speed and reading 10:40, 10:20, 10:29...and thinking, whoa, I am slow, yet it feels like I am booking, I must have been over-raced! This whole thing lasted until the aid station I knew was at 8.7M, and as I passed it, it hit me: my watch shows 7.53M. F%#*! It took a couple minutes to process, and at 9 (official) miles into the race I was in 1:20, all with 2 pit-stops to pee and 2 AS stops for water refills, making my pace sub-9...which is all I can do at that pace - 9 miles! Dumb ass!
Having a good time at the speed of light.

Oh, I got mad. And scared, And pissed off. And frightened big time. I am so s-a-cr-u-d! All I could think. And as I thought that - I caught my first rock under, torqued my body to catch myself, and tweaked my previously-torn-and-now-scarred hamstring to the point of scream. I stopped and grabbed it. Rubbed it, held it, limped a step. Then a few, walked some more, turned my head, and saw a girl coming. Just as well...and I shuffled, trying to shake off the pain. Everything got super-stiff. With that pace of mine, it was truly a tempo run, and as a true tempo, it left my every muscle of the lower limbs tight, stiff and unresponsive. What means, along with hamstring pain, I couldn't lift my feet anymore, and wasn't clearing all those rots and rocks. And the swearing went full swing...

"Damn, F8%*, Mother of God, focus, stupid b^$#&^, look, breathe..." - I just hope this wasn't what held those 2 guys and a girl behind for many miles, as I was moving slowly aplenty...
 We had to run up some road section (which then front runners were already running down on), pass the AS within arm's reach and get another 15 minutes or so on some trails and across a field (simply following the flags), before actually hitting that AS. I got my water and took off, still ahead of that group of 3 (although already passed by 2 guys, I think). Seems that was I able to separate myself a bit there (she, the girl, had a camelback, and it takes a tad longer to refill than a bottle), but as I continued to stumble over and swear, I saw the group fast approaching, and eventually, in slow-motion, they pass - and I get deflated, unfocused, and finally come to a full fall. Thank God the body itself hit a soft part of the trail! Isn't it enough signs for you, girl? Stop letting your mind wonder off!!!
Photo by RunLawrence

I was still mad, no matter how many times I tried to tell myself I don't care, and I contemplated to stop and drop and make sure I don't totally do something irreversible before SD100. It took many more trippings and many more waves of pain sent into my hamstring to finally calm down and make a pact with myself: "I will run my own race. I will move the way my body dictates, slow when needed, a little faster but careful when allowed to, I will eat my gels, drink my water, consume my salt caps, and I will smile my way through"...

"I am a distance runner. I've been trained to keep going, even when it's hard. When it hurts. When it sucks. When I don't want to. I look past it. Relentless forward motion to the finish. Call it what you want: stubbornness, determination, guts. Deep down, I don't know how to give up"...
Turning into finish of Loop 1 - yeah, I feel exactly that good.

And so I ran, fully slowed down, just ran, without a single thought beyond a step in front of me. And before I knew it, I came to the end of loop 1, in 3:31. Time to re-supply and re-access the goals...

I left on the loop 2 with the thought that my initial idea of 12 hrs was the correct one (go figure), and regardless all that, that I will run this second loop completely and totally relying on my senses, as I do best. I managed to fall one more and last time, and as I landed, the tie around my hand-held bottle blew torn away, and from now on I had to hold a bottle by gripping my hand...but even that didn't phase me anymore. I disregarded any beeping happening on my Garmin (and if I knew how to use that device, I would have changed the settings, but alas, I just know start and stop buttons), and as time went on, I grew stronger. Not faster, mind you, but felt that the strength I am kind of known for is filling me from inside. I reached the first aid at mile 5, and the boys had music - and as I declined anything but water ("I am so boring, boys, just water and gels"), they offered a dance - and I accepted, and we danced for a few seconds, moving hips - and yes, the hips were back to moving!

And just like that, suddenly, I stopped tripping. I stopped thinking far ahead, far behind, and anywhere in-between. I looked directly 3 feet in front of me, I saw every root and rock, I was able to clear the obstacles, and even sneak some glances at the beautiful lake we were running by all this time, and note the canoe, a kayak, a motor device, a floating log...Life was good, life was back to normal, where I belong...

In the middle of Loop 2, contempt with myself and my run, no watch time noted.
And so I was, coming up the hill into the start/finish area (4:03 for 2nd loop), focused on one thing only: get ready to get out for the last loop. I see Ben telling me I am running great, I see Brenda, who finished her marathon, trying to help me...

I rip the sleeves off, throw my gloves, grab my V8 juice...Brenda asks what to do, and I point "gels out" - she dumps them all on a chair, as I shove them into pockets of my pack (which, by the way, for some reason chafed my shoulders big time that day, never before!), practically order her to open a can of Red Bull to pour into my bottle (later in a day my thoughts: "I hope Brenda didn't hate me for being so short and bossy!", Brenda's: "I hope I did ok and Olga will not ditch me as a race/travel partner!").
Brenda's helping to re-supply.

And as I am about to leave, I finally raise my eyes to a level above my pack...and see that girl and 2 guys leaving! Well, darling...what was supposed to be "just get out and get 'er done" had now become "It's hunting time"! And the blood rushed to my head, as the senses peaked. Calm, dog, calm...take your time...run your own race.

I turn onto single track, and see that they are not far. I order myself to not reel them in, just take my time - 20 miles is a long time. I sip on a bottle with Red Bull, hating every drop of it, and just run, holding it back...but within a mile there is nothing I can do but pass. The 2 guys pulled away a bit, leaving the girl behind, and as I get around, I smile and say: "Hold on, honey, last loop. The way I think about it is now we all counting backwards!". She smiled and replied "I like that. Good job", as I ran on forward, and pretty soon, I lost her behind.

I stayed calm and focused, not to mention that Red Bull was not sitting well, and soon after I retched it all out in a quick stop, and emptied my bottle. Another mile ahead, I passed the boys, and ran into the "Dance" AS with not a smile on my face. It was all game now. The race was on. "Water, thanks" - out.

The course seemed so familiar now, by 3rd loop, and it was like between last time and this not 4 hrs, but 4 minutes passed by, like I was there just a few seconds ago. It was surreal. I ran more than walked, and continued to not trip, not fall, not even as much as kick a rock. I was floating off the ground. The next AS comes, and they seemed to have been surprised to see me (later I learned that one of the volunteer was to pace that girl and expected her to enter ahead). I was a freight train, "Water, please, thanks" - out. The dance was over, it's all work.

And with that, the "2 guys" re-passed me, again. Really???

As I ran by that weird AS before the field wrap-around, someone yelled my name. I vaguely realized it is Justin from my running club, and thought "Sucker, show off, already finished and showered!" - and into the woods - and who do I see but those "2 guys", and I blast by with not a word now. "Here, get it, kids!" - and got back to AS to Justin taking photos and trying to encourage me. "Water, quick, please, coke, thanks a bunch" - out. Nope, the smiling and talking are not going to happen...
Photo by Justin

I ran down that little road section and saw the girls, the one I passed and her pacer, and there was the second time I smiled on the 3rd loop:" Lets go home!!!" as I pressed on a gas pedal. Yes, I am like that, nobody passes me in the last 10 miles of the race. This is MY territory...

The rest went like in a fog. I ran as much and as strong as I could, and despite being totally focused, I felt a joy. Yes, I love pushing - or more so, the feeling that you're capable of pushing. The feeling that you believe in yourself, trust your instincts, and the body complies. The feeling that I am strong, in my mind, in my body...

"I am a distance runner. I've been trained to keep going, even when it's hard. When it hurts. When it sucks. When I don't want to. I look past it. Relentless forward motion to the finish. Call it what you want: stubbornness, determination, guts. Deep down, I don't know how to give up"...

Miles clicked and when the signs began "3 miles to the end", "2.5M..." - I chocked up a little, but couldn't allow myself cry yet. Tears are emotions, they drain energy. Things happen in the last mile - I can not fall, I can not make mistakes. I have to focus.

With a quarter mile to go, someone yelled, and as I crested the little hill, there was Brenda! Sweet Baby Jesus, it was awesome! A wave of gratefulness overwhelmed me, as she snapped a couple of photos and ran in front of me.
Photo by Brenda

Last hill, which I ran every step of, every loop!
And there it was, a relief, it was over. My journey, so different than I planned on, and oh, so wonderful. As I say again and again, this is why we keep doing ultras - things go wrong, guaranteed. We keep looking for that perfect day, but when distances and time are such long, like in life, stuff happens. It's how we deal with it and make the best out of it what matters.

Telling Ben stories.
And this is the moment worth the struggle for.
My 3rd loop was run in 4:07, what with the re-supply time probably means I ran same time as the 2nd loop. Nobody in front of me had done it, and only one person far behind ran last loop faster than 2nd (what likely meant he was running mid-portion with somebody else?). My final 100km time was 11:42, and I can't complain. After all, again, my initial instincts on what I should be doing here, were right. Go figure:) I talked a lot of smack at the finish ("You wanna piece of me?", "Experience and wisdom over youth and speed" and such), when in fact I don't think anybody cared, and that was just because I was excited, and pleased that I could turn my day around when I was about to quit, and because there were friends near-by happy for me, and friends at home I knew will be cheering for me once they hear about it...

As always, it is not much of a description of a race course, or even the race itself. I suck at those. I process everything in life through emotions and visceral feelings. Take it for what it is.

Ben Holmes and his Trail Nerds do a great job putting on races. I am so glad I was able to fit it into my calendar and come run one of those, and to spread the word, and to bring some Texans. I got some serious swag, and even though usually I turn it down (I don't collect things) - this was beautiful, and it was easy to see in my house somewhere, minimal that it is.
Belt buckle was given too.

 Brenda had a grand time at the marathon, and Justin, unfortunately, had to drop due to injury (so much for "show off"). We drove back to Kansas City and Larry was able to book us (on a fully booked weekend for a bunch of events happening) at Hyatt, and were actually got a 20% discount (I walk in and yell "I am the King...no, really, I am, and I just won a 100k trail race!") on a perfect room. We ate at a perfect Ruby Tuesday across the street, took a perfect bath, and slept in perfect bed. And just like that, the weekend of a dream was over...

Not surprisingly, my chronically injured knee is stiff and hurting, and my streak of running every day was supported by a stiff shuffle. I, of course, am quite drained off energy, and my body not only retains a bunch of water (normal post-race), but bloated due to ice cream and some other nicks and knacks I consumed -  and no, I do not feel guilty, even if feel ill. I'll get it back in order. After all, this weekend deserved the spoil.

The events in life haven't changed just because I had a perfect weekend with a weirdly-perfect race. But, you know...

"I am a distance runner. I've been trained to keep going, even when it's hard. When it hurts. When it sucks. When I don't want to. I look past it. Relentless forward motion to the finish. Call it what you want: stubbornness, determination, guts. Deep down, I don't know how to give up"...

Race website, race photos, more photos and my album (includes photos from previous links). Results should be here.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Quick and not-so-dirty.

Had a solid week, even though after a great 25k followed by hill repeats and trail run combo, didn't think it would be possible. But, there is a calendar, and I have a goal to reach out for.

So, I did my mile repeats at the track on Tuesday (those were quite miserable, but it's the effort that counts, and the fact that  actually did them despite the track being locked in, me climbing over the fences, not feeling while warming up, and having first repeat being in time I can't even tell you about...) - pretty darn proud. Did my 2x30min 6% Dreadmill hill repeats on Thursday mid-day (sneaked out of work), and yes, I stayed on that evil machine for an hour and half...those felt easy for some reason. The Bootcamps prosper, my weight rouitne is fine, my easy runs are, thank God, easy...

My friend Eman asked me to support her group of freshman students and get on their team for Longhorn 10k. So, I did...what the heck, right, tempo runs are an important part of the training...

It was rather large (per trail standards, 1000 people and a few), and 90% of them were UT students (kids the age of my kids, ha!). I felt really old and odd and lonely. But the band played the UT anthem, there was a Harlem shake-out, and a canon, and some fire, and we were off...

I felt pretty crappy, like my legs were lead, and every step was requiring effort. But at mile 1.5 I saw my sweetie Larry, who showed up to support me and take photos, and I perked up and resolved to keep giving my best. There were more hills than I knew existed in mid-town Austin, and most of them in the second half. I didn't smile on the run, I focused on each step and arm pump, and grunted, and worked...They put worst hills at mile 5.7, and then 6.1. Right.

Of course, I can never do math, and only when I rested that last hill, saw Larry, did I look at the clock on top of the finisher's banner and realized I am PRing.

I ran 47:26, a 36 sec improvement from the 10k a month ago (and a negative split on the course by 40 sec). A week after a 25k race in PR and a week worth of workouts. I was surely impressed.

Oh, and I was 16th female out of 507 (and about 150th overall out of a touch over 1000 runners) - there were 2 gal (31 and 32 yo) in front of me, and next "older than 20's" was somewhere in 90 spots below...I am an old mama to those children, but I still kick ass. That felt good!

(Actually, it felt kind of sad, if you think about it, that 18-20-something kids are so out of shape, because I am no fast by any definition, the female winner came in 34 minutes. As I walk on the campus each day, I am overwhelmed of how this generation doesn't care about their health, yet along what they look like, and they are uncomfortable walking, breathing hard, pulling their super-short running (!) shorts down and yet holding a huge sugar drink in hands. It is sad that their moms and dads are physically more fit and are healthier.)

But I paid for it on today's "long trail run", which, after suddenly being overwhelmed with feeling drained, I cut short and went back home. And no, I am not feeling guilty for this either. Gotta listen to my body.

I got a little trip next weekend. I am going to pretend to be Dorothy and get my behind to Kansas. For a little race put on by Ben Holmes and Trail Nerds. Called Free States 100k.

And yes, I got a plan too.

I don't know if I hit it, but I will give it my best shot.

Friday, April 12, 2013

That food post...

EnduranceBuzz.com had published the story I had written about my personal journey into Paleo life style.

As a side note, I checked my notes from 2004/2005 training journals (yes, I hand-write it all, and had kept all of them since I started running, and no, I will never be into online logs), and my speed definitely improves by bits from that (best) year of my "career" in ultrarunning (in terms of where speed is), and that is with the fact I run half the mileage I used to run, and same quality consistency as I did throughout those years.

Must be something about that metabolism burn...or a little less fat:)

Monday, April 08, 2013

A throw-down at Hells Hills.

What a day!!! Hells Hills was a blast, a totally awesome one to boot! This Tejas Trails race is the mildest one where terrain comes (yet as a first one in a season when heat suddenly comes that very weekend onto non-acclimated bodies, it certainly gives enough challenges). The trails at the ranch are put on by and for mountain bikers. It's the trail that reminds me the beloved PNW the most - there are pine trees, so we have soft dirt, at times covered in pine needles. There are some rocks and roots, but by Texas definition, totally nothing worth mentioning (although if you read discussions on Tejas Trails Facebook by new-comers to trail runners, there are complains and exclamations beyond imagination, and I can't even picture myself calling this trail "technical"). It had dips and steep climbs, but all very in very short ditches, some twisting, and an estimated total elevation gain measured by a bunch of folks between 600 to 1000 feet (lets round to 800, flat, really).

I met all my "challengers" an hour before the start, and we continued trash-talking. This race is a buzz, as always, Joe's races bring all Texas together, lots of fun, it was also our HCTR club's picnic day (past 10 am since I was to distribute food tickets). Total insanity how many people I haven't seen in a long time, good friends, awesome times. All of us going for 2:30 tucked in together with Larry locating himself in the front with Melanie Fryar, Alison Bryant and Meredith Terranova. The 25km version of this race (featuring also 10k, 50k and 50M) is a Sportiva Cup championship, so it brings a handful folks wanting points, but the rest is all locals. Of course, I yelled a lot of insanities and kept newbies entertained and scared:)

And we took off. Once I put my music on, nothing else mattered. All "my" boys kept behind, for a bit I heard a chatter, then got lost in the tunes and turns of the trail...

Mike Ruhlin and Brian Ricketts right behind.
The first mile beeped on my Garmin and scared me some - 9:03. Uh-oh, slow down, sissy! I felt a little bit of working, but not too much. It is a weird distance, and you can't quite nail the effort for 25k - not hard as in 10k, but surely not chilled like in 50M, right? I have no clue how to race in-between...

2nd mile beeped in 9:06. Oh, shit, I am going to break. Breathe, stupid! I did, and soon felt smooth and in control. OK, honey, much better, keep it like that - just to find out my 3rd mile went in 8:54.

From there on, it was like that non-stop. Every time my Garmin beeps on a mile, I'd look, make huge eyes, get scared I'll break down very soon ("No, no, no way I can keep up-tempo pace for 15 miles! And on trails to boo!") and keep moving. I was just simply going for it, wondering where my limits are.

First manned AS (there was a water stop I didn't stop at) came around 6 miles, and I zipped in for a mere 10 seconds to fill my bottle, and as I turned my head, Brian went by. Bu#$%D! I yeled out with a smile. He responded without breaking a stride or turning his head: "If I have a chance to beat you, I am sneaking by!". Rest assured, Brian beat me by 20 minutes last year, so I was ok, but it didn't mean I wasn't trying to stay on his heels!

The next 5 miles were totally uneventful in trail description (actually, that was the easiest of 3 segments). The only thing was (besides slowly catching up with some 50k runners who started 1 hr ahead of us) 2 girls passing me, neither had a water bottle, both seemed almost professional. I didn't blink as they pulled away quickly, and in a minute actually thought - "Dang, they must be 10k front runners! No bottles, super-fast pace, I never studied the course, so who knows where we merge...don't go after them!". Of course, there is a little pull when you're passed, but in general I believed what I thought and didn't care.

Not a couple miles later, I saw both of theirs purple shirts right ahead of me. Hmm, am I an idiot of going too fast? I wondered. I was running very even at this point, kind of working, but not overdoing anything, smiling, talking to each runner I am passing in full sentences, so breathing in check, legs ok, fuel on spot, water still in the bottle...I passed girl #1 a mile before AS. I remembered the course from 2 years ago and knew aid is coming. Ran into it - and my friends Hor Hey and Diana - and actually spent 30 seconds chatting while filling my bottle. Hor Hey reported Larry is up front and running well, and chased me out.

As I got out, I pass the girls #2 with words "Common, honey, 5 miles left, just a morning jog!!" and she disappeared behind in a blur. Wow! I need to finally look at the watch!

All this time I was only trying to comprehend the fact that my miles vary between 9:02 to 9:29 at most, and since I never try to figure out my pace ahead of time (this is my 3rd race with Garmin, and I don't know "pacing", I know "going by feel"), I wasn't sure what it all meant besides "Holly cow, this is my road morning moderate effort run pace!". So, at mile 10.5, with 5 miles to go, I was at 1:38. What the heck does it mean?

Suddenly, that fuzzy math begins to make sense and scary and elate me simultaneously. Even if I run 10 min/mile to the end, I am breaking 2:30! Oh, s&%T! I am totally doing it!

This fueled me big time. That, and the fact that I wasn't going to let those girls re-pass me back. After a couple of miles, the trail entered its kind of "worst", with a long incline, then the "Grunts" (a series of steep ditches and twists, which I ran EVERY STEP of, just as I ran every step for the whole race!), more incline, some field...I came on a man who ran with me first section, then ran away, and yelled "Don't let me pass you, lets go, a mile and half left, work it, pull it!" - and within 10 seconds got around and lost him too.

The field crossing came extremely fast, and I picked it up. And in the last tenth of a mile, with all the folks (runners, volunteers and families), it was like running through the Boston's Wellesley girls tunnel...at least it seemed to be:) The yelling "Olga!!" echoed from one to another as I was passing, and it felt fantastic, will all the friends cheering and being there seeing my finish, and rooting for me, my family, my life, reason I stay with it, reason I want to do well always...

So, I pumped my fist and yelled some insanity as I finished as well:)
Yeah, I was that crazy...Photo courtesy Enduro Photo.

"You looked amazing today. One look at you face after you crossed the finishers mat and I saw how much you love running. You were shining!"
" This made my day even sweeter! I do love it all, the hard work, the exuberance of racing, the single track, the trees, the push, the smiles, the support, the finish line, the hang out and war stories exchange...wouldn't want my life any different! "

As I was there, reliving the fact I had just finished in 2:23 (!!!), over 10 minutes faster than my far-fetched goal (did you really think I believed I could go for 2:30? My goal was 2:35!), 19 full minutes PR on the course, feeling like nothing happened, like I could have given more to it if I ever thought, while out there, that I could...Larry comes over with a grin mixed with disbelief and points me back - "Go, get back on the course, no, not supposed to yet!". Ha! He finished in 2:00 flat, and since I had 30 minutes handicap, it means I beat him! Brian Ricketts finished a mere 3 minutes ahead of me! And Chris Russel...well, he will have to come back to this course, because I ate his cushion from 2 years ago and saw him for extra 5 (minutes)!

Happy Larry, 5th guy in an extremely stacked field, and Harrison, who was being a real boy!

With Big Chris, who is 6'8", by the way, rubbing it in.

Cris Strong, a good friend.

The rest of the day was just as amazing. After a shower, I was giving away tickets to HCTR members for food cooked by Ranch owners, chatting away, hugging, kissing, trash-talking, poking fun, loving every minute of it. Simply high. Too bad we had to leave earlier (to pick up Stephen from work). I didn't want it to end.
Photos from event.

(From my email later that day to the HCTR club: "4 weeks ago I wanted to be done with the position and tend to my own personal life. Last 4 weeks proved to me that this Club is united and exists and wants to continue going on. I feel blessed to be part of it. We are good people. I am still getting out:) I do need to re-charge. But rest assured, I am not out of the club and its activities. You'll hear from me, as always, loud and clear. Because I love y'all.")

The rest of Saturday went mellow, in chilling and being in two stages at once: elated for what happened and scared that I just set a bar for myself higher. As we discussed how next 9 weeks (7 weeks of training) will have to be focused and real, I got chocked on tears. I don't remember last time my goal meant that much, but this time it does, The way I got into San Diego 100, the way I almost gave up running competitively, how I struggled with adrenalin fatigue, my come back, sticking to me eating Paleo and seeing benefits of it so grand, refusing to "age", to slow down, to "retire", to stop inspiring - and in return being inspired back - all of it was so real.

Sunday was "into the grind". One hour on Treadmill with 2x20 min 7% hill repeats at 11:00 pace, and 2 hrs on trails to follow. Recovery, hard training, and a lot of those new projects/prospects I wrote last time. Next 2 months are going to be epic.

I am going to make it happen.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

A little trash-talking never hurts, and more busy developments.

Tue, Apr 2, 2013:
Chris Russell: On a more important note, of Hells Hills challenge. You got hurt doing 800 repeats? Say it ain't so!! I want to kick your Russian booty fair and square!!
Olga King: I am ok, not to worry, I won't make any excuses. Even though I'll be doing hill repeats Thursday night and in general not tapering, and have long run Sunday...all part of the package. Got leg weights, plyometrics and Bikram today on top. Knee is brand new!
Chris Russell: I did hard hill repeats yesterday and I thought I wasn't tapering. I better crank out some 400s Thursday just to keep it even!!
Olga King: That's my boy!
Chris Russell: After seeing you kick butt at Syllamo I thought I better get with the program!!
Big Chris and I go way back to my first Cactus Rose 100 in October 2009, when I seemingly easy passed him at mile 70 or so with a huge smile on my face. Ever since I have developed a great friendship with this former Air Force Commander and an always-there volunteer at the races (yeah, he is kind of a runner too:)). 2 years ago, knowing that his only chance to set a score right was a short distance, and after seeing my name pop up on Hells Hills 25km rooster, he jumped in - and with his legs the length of my whole body (the guy 6'6", or is it 6'8'?) passed me with 5 miles to go - and then beat me by 6 minutes! Well, at least that what he had reminded me recently, I never checked!

This year, he is coming back to try and feel the victory - but I am not going to give up easily! To make my life more challenging (like it isn't enough), he dragged Brian Ricketts into this, so what the hell, I invited John Sharp and a couple of ladies (Larry is kind of in it, but he is spotting us 30 minutes handicap). That said, our (the boys and mine) goal is to come in at 2:30. Can I do that??? Heck, if I believe it, but I'll die trying!

After last Saturday's longish run, I did a 10M road easy-to-tempo run with last 4 miles at low 8's pace. That was tough to handle, but I talked myself into it, and yelled (inside) when was about to back off. Tuesday were 6x800m, and the set I ended up running was fastest in many years - all 3:30-3:32 with last at 3:27. Boy, was I sore! And yes, my right knee was really cranky - not the same ITB problem I had after Syllamo (due to slanted trail the race was on), but my chronic patella tendinitis I kind of pretend doesn't exist.

But nothing that some ice and some serious plyometrics wouldn't treat! So, tonight I am ready to take on hill workout - 4x0.7M somewhat mellow grade trail hill. Take it, Chris!

Now, to the busy part - life's been awesome. Often we are so afraid to make a first step because we are afraid to fail, afraid to not live up to expectations, scared to find ways to make things happen, and of the outcome. I have had many ideas in my life, but at the same time, because of having family, kids, obligations, and because of the way I grew up (business did not exist back in Soviet Union, only daily jobs, so even here, I chose to have jobs with guaranteed salary and fixed hours), I was acting only on one at a time and as an addition to the main job. I had knitted and seamstress-ed first few years in US, taught various yoga classes next, eventually finished Massage school, had clients, got certified in running coaching and personal training, coached some with no advertising (hate that promotion stuff!), and kept pushing further out making a leap.

I am still not making a full leap:) For the outside reasons, I chose to end my scientific career (and, by the way, another publication with my name on it is in process of being submitted) no earlier (later if feels right) than November of next year. But my other ideas are taking more shape and speed.

I'll still be seeing personal massage clients that I established working relationships with, and on top of it I got through an interview and was offered a part-time position at Massage Envy. For a few hours on Tuesday nights, Saturday and Sunday afternoons, I will be able to learn to work with new people I am not aware of problems of, learn corporation environment, pick up new techniques, and see if this is the way I want to go further more.

To utilize my NCSF Personal Trainer's certificate (that I had worked feverishly to update with Continuing Education classes last 2 weekends and sent it in on Monday, since I haven't kept up with that credential for 2 years and it's about to expire in a month), and to fulfill my dream to involve more people of general population into healthy living, being fit and setting and reaching the goals, I had organized a Bootcamp on a wimp in our neighborhood - and had more response that I honestly expected. Almost scared me to death, and I couldn't back off, I was bound to make it happen, and it was coming on fast! We meet Monday and Thursday at 5:30 am for an hour of some awesome kick-butt exercises, and the ladies work hard, feel the pain, and are getting into it fully! We're going for a 5k in May challenge. There will be a Nutrition talk once a month, and we're discussing an addition of a Yoga class once a week. I charge a marginal fee, only because we all admit without a fee we'd probably be slacking (and missing classes) - and because I am using my NCSF and RRCA insurances and am required to have forms signed up and make official efforts, but I truly believe, just like with my Massage business clients, Running coaching and my Knitting, prices have to be affordable to ALL and not inflated (to the disappointment and discouragements of my therapist and my husband, who try to tell me it means I don't value my time and knowledge enough). I am a really bad business owner...

That Bootcamp has to side effects: I get 2 extra workouts a week (because I choose to lead by example), and I have to move my own running workouts to the evenings (which now takes another 2 evenings out, on top of that starting next week Massage Envy and my Wednesday Bikram class). Phew, lets get organized!

I got a number of knitting projects completed "per order", and I bet knitted items in general will take a little bit of a back seat (besides doing my own) since the summer is coming, but Larry is working on creating a real website for my Blue Bear trade mark, and we are researching the correct ways to advertise to make it happen as a real business, and not just "when friends want something".

The Running Coaching went up for a spiral as well - I guess season had started:) I was thinking of finding some school and get involved there, but I think at this point there are simply not enough days in a week - or hours in a day - to make that happen. I still have a full time job, you know, commute, family, cooking, and sleeping for 6.5 hrs is a minimal requirement to function! I thank the Universe for having given me a super-understanding husband, who keeps supporting me through it all to go after the dream(s), even though it means he sees me fewer hours and now cooks twice a week instead of once. I love you, and yes, it may sound a little bit crazy, but I do function so much better when have a number of things on my plate - and outlined clear goals. (p.s. we did have a lovely date on Sunday night, just the two of us, as a wrap-up of the crazy weekend between sod and club's insanity and my studying and kids...and it was by far one of the most enjoyable too, I didn't want to leave the place).

So, here I am. I had a lovely (and suddenly unexpected) phone interview with an www.iRUnfar.com junior stuff, as they thought it would be nice to talk to me about longevity in the sport. It was an honor - and another fear/horror experience. After reading Rory Bosio's interview just a day prior our phone conversation, I am like:" What in the world can I say even remotely interesting??". But Larry told me to be myself and talk about how to be me, you know, the "Work-a-horse", the "stable ring in a chain", the one who just plows through, no rises, no falling (not much anyway). While my placing had shifted from something near top 10% to something I call "beginning of the midpack", my times stayed the same (just the sport had brought a lot more competitive and serious runners in) and I keep going on. Not flash in a pants, not a huge star, just one that's there. You can count on me - and that you can.

I also finally wrote an article I promised for www.EnduranceBuzz.com about my personal Paleo journey - I'll let you know as it gets posted - where, since many had followed me here, I also put together some general information I gathered.

Speaking of Paleo, a friend of mine, Iva Paleckova, had written a book with an insane amount of recipes (she also has a website http://www.paleoflip.com/ on the subject), and asked me to write a Foreword. What I did - some of the personal information, of course, got crossed over from one to another. Check her stuff out!

I think that's about it, and I need to get back to my lovely Bacteria cells, and my Radioactivity Assays, so I can finish up and have 30 minutes to squeeze some leg weights at the gym:) Time to get ready to live up to Trash Talking! I'll see you on the other side of the weekend!