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

Sunday, November 24, 2013

This is where I am.

I am not Anna Frost by any means of imagination...but I had been pushing myself (in a combination of training and life) as hard as she had done in the her past years. I am not broken in a "normal" definition of terms, not injured like she was when it finally hit her. But at some level I am told by my body, in a different way, to stop, take a breath, look deeply, and re-think a lot of things. I can sign my name under what she said. Thanks for putting it into words, Anna...

Watch Salomon video on Anna's views on running, racing and life.

Thanks to Sarah Lavender-Smith for bringing it to my attention (and for transcript - I am re-pasting it here).

“I couldn't actually see that I was that bad, and running had become … the thing I had created for myself, so running was who I was. And that’s not right. It took until I got to the rock bottom, where my injury was so bad and my head was so far away from who I was, until I could actually open my eyes and say, ‘Wow you've gotten yourself really deep there,’ and it’s been a really, really hard journey back out of there, and made me open my eyes and say, ‘Running really is just running'. If you get disappointed by running, then it’s not running that you’re actually disappointed in; it’s yourself. You have to love who are, because that’s what you've got, that’s all you've got, and you have to be grateful for that as well. That’s what I’m learning.It took a long time before I could put on a pair of shoes again to go and do what I love, not just go and run. I’m sure it will come back—the drive to race—and if it doesn't, I've got a lot of adventures that I want to do, and there’s such a huge amount of life and the world to travel—to adventure and to explore—that I don’t need the racing to do that.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Beautiful cold grey day, just the way I like it. Beautiful new trails. Sad thoughts and tears...Simply life.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Blue Bear Knitting goes public.

It's official: Blue Bear Knitting has its own label. Exciting times! My husband Larry and I had come up with the name a while ago, merging Bear as a very Russian symbol, which also used to be one of my trail names, along with my favorite color Blue - and he designed the logo and the wording for the label. 
Thanks go out to David Hanenburg and Sam Voltaggio for my first big order(s) for their races (Endurance Buzz Adventures and Run like a wind, both on December 7th, go and sign up, still open!), and to all my friends and family who enjoyed their beanies as I sent them out testing my waters during last year! 

Check out my homepage - the price is half of what REI offers (for either machine or hand knitting) and the quality is better (I don't usually toot my own horn, but after going to the store have to say Larry was right). Now that the "big push" is done, I am taking orders - get your Christmas gifts done for the loved ones. Please contact ahead of time (email or via contact form on the link above). Shipping first class runs around $2.50, I accept PayPal and checks/cash (for locals).

I customize the hats for you, discuss pattern and colors - so, the order is done after contact, FYI. You choose color scheme and design, I approve (and adjust if needed) - and off we go. Please make sure to give me some time (depending on how many orders are placed at the time, I ask for 1 week in general).

If bulk orders (races, running or other clubs, family reunions) - please give a month notice to put everything together at good quality. 

Ski hats, scarves, arm sleeves and half-mitts can also be made per request.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Calming the mind chatter.

I always say good things come out of everything. Mysterious God's ways (or, in my former Soviet words, just ways by Universal laws). Quite a number of folks contacted after my post on overtraining (along with joe Uhan's original post), some just normal human beings, some even elite and somewhere there. It really doesn't matter what others see us as or what we see ourselves - if the effort between our lives and our training is our max - we get duped, at one point or another, no number of years to be predicted, just happens. Deeper for some, not too bad for others. may be depending where we figure out we're duped...

I had been highly recommended to try The Maffetone Method and The Van Aaken Method. Not that I didn't know about those, in fact I had written a blog post on it, suggested it to others, and probably somewhat used it during my own down times - just not in a very scientific ways. My experience with Heart Rate Monitor was back in 2005/2006, training hard with Scott Jurek and later with Lisa Smith-Batchen - after that I was pretty in tune with my body and was able to figure out paces/heart rates via own breathing, even developed technique what song I should be able to sing or phrase to say to monitor my 135/150/165/175 zones.

I asked Larry to pull out his HRM (mine died a long time ago) and strapped it on. We went for a short 5 mile trail loop, and I was to keep my heart rate under 142 (having used my HRmax as 186 from that time back). And here what was interesting - not in a good kind of way. I could talk in full sentences and having relatively calm breathing, what I would consider being at 135, yet the watch went over 155 easily right away. And as I always tell my own clients and anybody who asks - the definition of being fit is when your HR drops fast to normal withing 30-60 seconds after going up with effort (once you slow down the effort). Well, it would take me longer (2 minutes plus?) to get from 158 to 135 via extremely slow walking, and back up to over 150 as soon as any incline (or, God forbid, hill) comes. I am definitely in some other state but fit...

And it's not the muscles - no weakness detected, I can power-walk same, Stairmaster same, lift same weights same reps same sets with no soreness...it is that state of heart rate not catching up to the task. My fibrillation back in May (?) came to mind. Was it a sign?

So, I am at peace like never before, funny how it sounds. Every other time I was forced to have a break, I was fidgeting and anxious crazy. Now - the constant "train and race" wound down without my doing, and I am brought back to basics. Removed all the history, I want basics, I crave basics. I am exactly where I have to be...

And to be more in-tune and have that mind-body connection, I decided to take a break from Facebook. No, I don't think I am off for another 3.5 years span, and no, FB is not evil and at fault - I am responsible for being addicted to checking in, and I need my space today. Not only not see all talking about latest workouts and races, but to free y'all from awkward feeling of watching me not being the same rah-rah hard-core runner. It was funny to see some folks peel off, some get quiet and not respond to my post about potential over-training syndrome (whatever you think about its legit status), potential no-racing future (may be, may be not). That pause - what do I say? Nobody died, yet it feels like it. It's all good. Really is.

And the interesting part is - so far I haven't missed it. Just like with stopping half-way at Ozark, I am assuming this decision, too, came at the right time. Now I know I can float in and our of social media at will, depending on where my life is. 

Right now my life focus is on me. Why write a blog, you ask? Well, you must be new here. It's my blog, and I sort through my thoughts via writing. I don't have other means to do it, and not at the point to start a new web journal every time my life takes a twist. So, deal with it:) Sometimes I run, sometimes I run a lot and well, sometimes I contemplate on life.

We watched Picasa album yesterday - my God we traveled! And half of it had nothing to do with races, yet included triple the fun! And no, it doesn't mean races are no fun - they very much are. But those trips are priceless and have so much more in memory, it's insane.

I am the healthiest I've ever been in my life. Actually, I've been really healthy, like "99% population should be jealous" healthy, for the last 3 years - my weight is normal, my "diet" (or eating habits) are great (I took up on services of a nutritionist, but as I wrote things down, I was realizing the information is known to me, and utilized too), the food is all good, the exercise routine is exactly where it needs to be - not crazy training for ultras like I did years before (which you should if you have specific goals) but where it is sustainable, healthy mix of everything. Ran a bunch of blood tests - everything checked out A++. No bad stuff at all. Do I have belly fat? Absolutely yes! Do I want it to not be there? In theory. Do I realize it is stupid to have that as a goal? Yup, I sure do, as I know it's either calories restriction or serious HIIT (in our running world translated as track and hill repeats). Neither is what I am going to do in the near future. I'll eat my veggies and chicken and eggs and drink my latte with my honey on Sunday - and eat my chocolate with my girlfriend at work.

All the while wearing HRM and going back to basics. Lots of yoga included.

Life is good. So, so much good. Time to let go...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Surprises for the immigrants in US.

On a (much) lighter note (and I am totally ok, by the way), I saw a friend linking to this article: What 16 people couldnt believe about america until they moved.

I decided to throw some of my own - keep in mind it was 20 years ago (so I had to judge from that time, not from now), I moved from Moscow to NYC (both big cities), I was not even 24.

-squirrels everywhere, but their tails look like rats'
-old ladies drive cars (really old ladies that look like they should be in nursing homes)
-return policy in stores
-grocery/shopping bags (in general as disposable item, and for free)
-no polite way to address people older or higher in ladder (besides Mr. and Mrs.) - just the first name
-obesity level (in Russia I was considered almost fat, and I weigh the same now as I did then)
-laziness and inability to cook at home
-driving everywhere, even around the corner shop
-going to store/school/etc. in pajamas (and in general dressing up like slobs, unless you work in high rise in Manhattan)
-everyone smiles (sometimes it's annoying, still)
-when asking "How are you" nobody really expects anything besides "Fine" - it is not an invitation to talk
-you need to save for your own retirement (as a majority, but some don't?)
-wastefulness of everything - buying to no limit, too much "disposable" (sandwich baggies??), not fixing things...
-humongous houses and even apartments and constant complain of not enough space
-taking visitors out for dinner and having them stay in hotels means you like them, but cooking for them at home and giving them your bedroom is bad (totally opposite)
-gift giving for Christmas is crazy!
-nobody dress up properly when it's cold and everyone complains (I do the same now)
-education as a whole is really poor (yes, the possibilities and opportunities are great, but no push for it - all the freedom for kids is not something we agree on)
-how much and in what good condition folks throw things away (clothes, furniture, etc), you can live off "garbage" (I did for many years in NYC)
-cars stop for a crossing pedestrian (in general, as a rule)
-bottled water and
addiction to soft drinks, to drinking liquids in general - what's up with that? Cup of coffee in the morning, cup of tea at lunch and dinner. Done.
-parents too wrapped up into their kids' activities - once you can walk to school (at age 7?) - you walk everywhere by yourself, your friends, your extra classes...and if you can't/won't, parents don't owe you entertainment ("I am bored" would give you a stare in a mild case)

That was then. Even more surprisingly, not much (if anything) changed now. Just instead of squirrels I see deer in Austin on the streets (and the implications of running or driving into one are much worse, I should know). Practically my whole adult life in this country, and I still have believes hailing from my home where I grew up, my values, my ideals. I still drink little water and only tap (and no soft drinks at all), like living in small-er (at least by local definition if not by my compatriots') place, cook meals daily from scratch, walk (or try to) to places (and need to more), feel guilty about my weight being too much (and still consider myself fat), when wear yoga pants to the supermarket (pretty darn often) - feel extremely guilty about it and ridicule myself, don't throw away stuff and use it until it dies for good (and don't buy shit either unless it is going to be used daily and I can't live without it), bend down to pick up pennies from the street, disagree with education system (and shuffling kids around, even though I did that, but entertaining a 13 yo? get a book!) and drink my cup of coffee first thing in the morning (but no tea anymore, tea is really bad here, and the joy of it as a ritual is lost).

Why am I here? This is my life. I like that you really can get anywhere you want and achieve anything you dream about if you make wise choices and put effort into it. That you don't need to sleep with your boss as a female to advance your career. That you can choose where (which city, part of it, state) to live and move around easily if you don't like it. That you gets stopped by cops only if you break the rules, not because cops want your money as a bribe for letting you go. That the pay is adequate and if you don't think so - it's your own damn fault. It's the fact that I am responsible for my choices, that I can change them at any age (as long as I do no harm to others) and try new choices, - and that the toilet paper is soft:) Yeah, that's what I tell my parents at home!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The party downer.

Nobody wants to talk about it, and when someone does, it makes everyone around uncomfortable. And there will be responses "Yeah, but so and so did that for that many years!"...I don't care. As someone who is going through a lot of realization I can't pretend not happening anymore and as a medical professional, and as a really, truly compassionate speaker of the sport we call "home", trail ultrarunning, I am going to keep bringing it up - and stirring the pot, and reminding, pointing fingers, being a nagging annoying parent a teenager refuses to listen to because "they know better"...

Joe Uhan put together the 3rd installment of his series on Over-training at iRunfar.com -the best one as it has a twist we keep pretending to cite to not be subjected to such silly thing. We are trail runners, ya know, the la-la land, the lolly-gaggers, the "enjoying the beauty", the often slow pokes, the "I don't run fast" or "I don't run far" or "I don't run often" (comparing to whom??).

Low level of stress - and yes, a few hours on the trails, as awesome as it is, IS stress - does catch up to you. It could be 3 years, 10 years, 15 years (very few went that far) - but it will. I don't want to stop anybody! Heck, no! I've had my share, and in fact, I want more of that pie!!!

BUT - I want everybody to know WHY they are doing what they are doing, WHAT the potential outcome is, HOW FAST they plan to get to that point and WHAT can they do to NOT be there - at least any time soon. Because even in 21st century, in our over-ridden with social media and "support" society, we, deep inside, do want to stick with it for other reasons beyond sharing on running logs/blogs/Strava/Facebook/whatever, right??? Right?

Please read! Please don't think you're invincible simply because you "shuffle at half-walking pace and smell the roses" when you sing up for your trail ultras every other week/month! As I had stumbled into this last year, rebound, and am in it, deeper, this year - I spoke to a lot of folks, elite or "normal", who had gone through, done that, and not willing to share with the world - because it is looked upon as weakness and failure to give up. We can all find someone we knew who kind of, sort of, stepped away, and we say "injuries", "family", work obligations, lack of excitement...All of those ARE symptoms, believe it or not!

OK, enough yelling. I am just very compassionate. I had STOPPED a plenty of my own running coaching clients at the first (or, at the least, second) sign of heading that direction, and simply cut them off with "Why don't you take a break, I don't want your money" once they either can't find a goal (emotional struggle), can't lace up, get injured too weirdly/often, loose motivation...Be real, people. Trail ultrarunning is great - when you are aware of limits, which can sneak up on you as trails "beat us up less, provide more mental and emotional stimulation, slow us down"...

Enjoy, enjoy it forever and ever. Stay with it. But stay healthy - in body, mind and soul.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Running logs: years 2001-2013.

My first official race (in US, as an adult) was Mother's Day 5k in 2001. I did it in 27:43, having jogged on and off for weight control through the years, loosing 60 lbs after my second child was born (and I mean "after"), doing martial arts for couple of years, breaking my back, being scheduled for surgery after no other methods of treatment lead to any good results, discovering Bikram yoga in November 1999, postponing, and later cancelling surgery - and starting a slow and painful 1 M shuffle around my block back in 2000.

In 2002 I was in love with running enough to start my Running Log. It lasted up until today - when I decided to let it go. Now, mind you, it does NOT mean I don't plan to run anymore, or enter a race, or train hard from time to time - hell, no! I plan on all of those, I mean to continue on, may be go back to some short road races, do some trail mid-distance ("mid" by ultrarunning definition), do a lot - A LOT - of hiking and backpacking, some ski trips, try rowing next summer, may be finally take a horse-riding lessons...and yes, run, run, and practice yoga.

But the obsessiveness of entering it all in a log was wearing off. For the last couple of years I kept lagging, often over 2 weeks behind, trying to remember what I did and what were my times. I didn't need the accountability system anymore, or inspirational quotes, or to make sure I follow the plan - I created the plans, I knew what to do, how to do, and how to not use excuses (I never did anyway).

Through those years I moved, Gosh, 8 times! And I packed my log books with me every time, as I would dispose of clothes, household items, even books, merciless. Running logs had to be with me at all times.

Until they didn't.

And today was the day I went through the pages, figuring out if I want to keep anything at all - any data, any numbers, any memories...

The Texas years were easiest to go. Not to be mean, but little inspiration - training, numbers, routes, 99% by myself, no specific notes.

Portland years were more fun to live through. So many various routes, abundance, friends, some conversations recorded, PR's, lots of travels, lots of goals, lots of soul - and hard work.

Then it was all the way to the NY - Bronx and later Dobbs Ferry. The Beginning of insanity. So hilarious! I pasted pictures from Fitness magazine to make sure I did glut exercises, stretches, exact notes how I felt...various calculations of paces and predicted race times. So fun! What great times.

Feeling grateful. So awesome to have seen all I had so far - and be able to plan and hope to see more. So many people to have met and still yet to meet. So many lessons, so much strength in so many ways...

The stats. I figured I might a well take at least the stats of the yearly running. Lets see the trend.
2002 - 1865 M
2003 - 2215 M
2004 - 2466 M
2005 - 3119 M
2006 - 3074 M
2007 - 3000 M
2008 - 2604 M
2009 - 3060 M
2010 - 2753 M
2011 - 2000 M
2012 - 2214 M
2013 - 2250 so far and will probably get another 100 for sure by the year's end...

The facts:
I always cross-trained quite a lot. Stairmaster was my first love - I lose weight working this machine back in 1997. Spin classes too. Always weight training and yoga (the years 2005-2007 lacked yoga very badly, too much running and reaching out for race results). I always seem to be running a hell of many miles into June, when my first goal 100M would be placed, then taking some back, ramping bit up, and taking all of October off (why in the world do I keep being surprised for the last couple of years when my body shuts down in the Fall??!! It knows the deal better than I do, and there is a reason people keep logs - to learn from mistakes and good things happened!). Then I'd run more miles in November and December, but always easy, before jumping back into new year's training.

I used to be fast. Not "wow, fast!", but heck, fast for me! And I used to do real workouts. Not 6x800 being the "biggest hit", or 3x1M, but stuff like 2000k-1600k-1200k-1000k-800k-400k-then back ladder. In solid times too. Crap, aging is lazy! Texas is lazy too, not having partners who strive to get better and encourage is lazy. Truth hurts. That's the truth. I train, but my intensity and volume is half.

Speaking of volume. My biggest week was at 121 miles, and my biggest month at 413 miles. Those were the days. Huge vertical too. The last 3 years my "peak" never went over 65 miles (may be 70 once or twice). Too many roads since moving to Texas. Too little elevation gain.

Lots of injuries. I am extremely prone to injuries, despite natural gait, good flexibility, incredibly high bone density, weight training and cross-training. WTH? Who knows, but here I am, facing the truth, always battling something, one or another.

The memories. Great races, some fast and solid, some fun with friends, some both. No regrets of any. I'll have separate write-out on that part, I've been thinking about it anyway.

Took down some local routes numbers, in case I ever run fast enough to hit those:) Tore off some body composition numbers too - yep, that obsessive. I am getting back into stricter eating plan these days anyway, my intestines and colon demand some care.

Inspirational quote popped up: "Obstacles are those frightening things that become visible when we take our eyes off our goals". Henry Ford.

So true. Whatever your goal(s) are - focus. It's possible.

I still have goals, not to worry. In many more ways than one. Racing too. Running. Country scouting. And I do have one dream which, God knows, I want to fulfill before I really go off this trail ultra scene.

But for now - it actually wasn't nearly as hard as I anticipated. Bye, logs. It's been fun. It's been real. Lets save a tree. Hello, life.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Running clients and NYC marathon report.

Fall is the time to harvest the crops, and,thankfully, more folks are NOT me who only harvested a DNF one:) even if a delightful one. So, I'd like to share some things that inspire me daily, results I live through daily, and what keeps me going often.

It burst at the bubble with good dude HorHey taking an hour and half off his 100M PR - after we got him to Rocky Raccoon 100 last February in sub-24 as his first 100 (through first 50M and first 100k), he came back and asked for training for Arkansas Traveler 100 - and he nailed it all, training and racing! 22:01, and hour faster than planned - way to go! Here is his report.

Liz had come a long way through summer training - to nail her first 50 miler at Palo Duro in 11hrs and change! Strong season all-around!

Janelle had fun times at the D.C. relay, where too much fun lead to a broken arm - and 2 weeks later still finished a half-marathon, her goal race!

Doise trained consistently for a R2R2R, and due to the Government shut down couldn't partake in the endeavor, so she transferred the fitness into Cactus Rose 50 couple of weeks later, and PR'ed (and if it wasn't for stomach issues, would have gone faster still).

Angela finished her 2nd trail 100M at JJ in Arizona on a hot and humid day, when lots of folks decided to call it quits, after making her first finish at RR100 with me (as well as a really 1st 100 miles in distance at ATY just prior), while juggling residency in Pharmacology.

Alex B. decided to jump into ultras feet first, and just 4 months out of his goal of Cactus Rose 100, being an army guy, feared nothing - and finished in 29:43, just like that! He should have a write up (may be with some drama emailing me at mile 65 begging to quit) soon here.

His wife Angel, despite some, ahem, physical challenges (baby on board!), had PR'ed in a trail half-marathon!

Mr. Crash managed to drag his 60+ yo booty to a Toronto marathon finish as he is taking on Rocky Raccoon 50 training!

Emma fell in love with speed training so much, she decided to forgo her initial long-distance trail race goal and nail some road PR's - woot!

Alisa finished Pikes Peak marathon in style!

Both Lori and Erin were well on their way to their respective goals of Waldo 100k Cascade Crest 100 when the injuries stooped them during the race(s) - there will be other times, now that you know your body CAN!

Megan and Brandon are running more than ever and making strong decisions to never skip track workout, yeah! 

And lest not forget my own hubz Larry who got into best shape of his life, and while his goal 100 didn't happen the way it he was trained for - his body held A+++ and recovered like nothing (not 76 miles) happened! Lets put this solid base into something fun!

More peeps are getting stronger, faster and running longer - a plan and a someone to be accountable to for it, and who encourages - is often that little bit that missing. Lots more - first trail race, first ultra, first "I feel strong and recovery is easy"...

And now, Alma - my ever-wordy Alma (and you thought I write a hell of a lot!) - she PR'ed in NYC marathon, her dream destination, while slowing down with beloved CrossFit just to train well, and destroying half-marathon best time - by 40 minutes! 4:29 or bust, bummed hamstring and aliens' attack!  Below is her lovely report, enjoy - fresh and raw!


This was going to be short and sweet, but DANG IT.  I start writing about it and just get carried away.  I can't stop myself without giving all the details.  I tried.  I really did!
No! I haven't forgotten about you!  hehe  We just got back last night from a whirlwind week in NYC! WOW!   What a city.  We had a great time wining and dining and lots and lots of walking and riding subways.  It's amazing how quickly all the soreness disappeared with all the walking we did.  The Russian Tea Room was the first place we hit up when we got there - but only for afternoon tea.  Still, it was delicious with caviar, sandwiches, cupcakes, truffes, champagne and TEA!  I don't usually enjoy hot tea, but that was the best tea I've ever had!

As for the race, it's funny how so many little things could go wrong, and still not really matter in the big scheme of things.  

As I laid out all my gear on Saturday night, I realized I forgot to even bring any electrolytes with me at all - WTF? (My friend Heidi loaned me a couple of Nuun tablets which I've never tried before - I only used 1 in my water bottle around mile 20 I guess and didn't even drink it all).   But had I realized before SATURDAY night, I could've easily purchased some, I mean I didn't even think about electrolytes at the expo because of course I have that covered.  I NEVER forget my electrolytes.  Turns out I forgot my other little drug packet I usually bring too (it has tylenol, gasx, pepto and tums JUST IN CASE). 

The morning started out with both of us making the subway perfectly on schedule (THANK GOODNESS because it was SOO crowded once we reached downtown that many people got left behind on the subway platforms because there literally was no room inside the cars for even ONE MORE PERSON to SQUEEZE IN!).  We arrived at the ferry building with plenty of time to spare and we lounged around drinking coffee until the time approached for our ferry.  Heidi had to make a last minute bathroom break and I went ahead to try and secure seats for us onboard.  Once I was on, I got a text from her saying she didn't make the ferry - where am I?  Uhhh...I'm ON the ferry!  I realized on the ferry that I had forgotten my earbuds, but I wasn't planning to use them anyway, I just wanted to bring them for emergency backup, just in case.  So once I made it over to Staten Island I sat and ate my breakfast while I waited for her to get there before boarding the bus to the start.  The lines for the buses were SO long and the ride was SO long!  That was the most miserable part of the day.  I had to pee SOOOO bad on the bus that I almost started to cry!  I was literally on the verge of either stepping off the bus and walking the rest of the way or dumping the stuff out of my bag and peeing in the bag on the bus!  Fortunately when we arrived, I begged someone to let me break the line to the porta potty and they let me.  What a relief! 

The start village was a complete disaster.  We only had about 20 minutes until our start time once we got there and we tried to find the UPS "Ship it home" area, but no one seemed to know where it was.  We were racing back and to frantically trying to find it.  I had carefully planned out exactly what I would bring to the start with me because I had signed up to use the ship it home program.  Fortunately the many many layers of clothing I had on were all "potentially" disposable meaning no big loss if I ultimately had to toss them.   Except that at the last minute, I had decided to bring my most beloved trigger point therapy ball so I could roll my injured hamstring/hip area one last time before the start - I mean no worries, I'm shipping it home and if I need to roll after the race, I'll buy a cheap tennis ball to use until I get my TP ball back.  In the mass confusion, I managed to lose my friend - and I thought I would never see her again during the race.  Then I heard the call for wave 4 to line up, so no time to cry now!  I ran to the corrals and made the decision to just rip all my layers off and put them in the donation bins.  But I didn't want to lose my trigger point ball, so I stuffed it in my race belt (which meant I had to carry my phone in my hand now) and hoped to be able to pass it off to my husband soon.  I frantically searched for my corral, but ended up missing my whole start wave completely - along with a lot of other runners in the same predicament (they closed the gate on us).  I ended up in the last starting wave near the 5:00 pace group starting corral.  BUT.  My friend sent me a text as we were about to head up onto the bridge and she was headed my way, so I waited there for her and we found each other again!!  THANK GOODNESS! 

At the start line atop the bridge, I realized left my ibuprofen in the pants I was SUPPOSED to ship home but threw into the donation bin AND I forgot my lip balm.   As we stood atop the bridge waiting to start, I was actually quite miffed that they were NOT playing Frank Sinatra New York, New York.  THAT was one of the things I was MOST looking forward to about the race.  Every year when we get up early on Sunday morning to gather around the computer to watch the race, I always go overboard blaring out the song and dancing around the house and saying one day I will stand up there atop that bridge with that song playing - ready to run NY!  So it was a big disappointment for me to not hear it up there, but that's ok, my friend and I started singing it and a few others joined in with us.  It was good enough for me.  :)
Once we finally started, we got passed by SO MANY PEOPLE on the bridge.  We kept saying how tempting it was to run faster because it seemed like EVERYONE was passing us. But I was surprised that since we had made our way to practically the front of this last starting wave, it was not nearly as crowded as I expected it to be.  We just tried our best to stay slow and easy and I said we will be passing ALL these people right back shortly.  I think they forgot it is a MARATHON!  Brooklyn was our favorite part of the course - I have to assume probably because we were fresh and the crowds were so enthusiastic and it was new to us.  I realized early on I was in big trouble with my hip/hamstring/glute injury.  My friend asked me at some point around mile 3 how my leg was feeling and I told her I don't want to talk about it.  Around the same time, her husband was there and I was able to pass him my trigger point ball and finally get everything situated with my phone in my pouch and started to settle in. 

Around mile 4, another friend, Caty, met us and ran on the course with us up until around mile 13.  Heidi had sent her a picture of her bib for the race and she was going to try and copy it to make one for herself so she wouldn't get thrown off the course.  LOL  I was looking forward to seeing how she made it, but she didn't have any bib on and it turns out no one ever even noticed.  Thank goodness because those were the happiest miles of the race - when she was there with us!  She and Heidi chatted for much of the race and I apologized for not being chatty at all, I just explained that I was in a lot of pain and just trying to hang in there. I never even got the chance to ask her about the bib.  Sometimes my hip would actually ease up for a bit and I was able to relax a little, but it always came right back.  Caty would offer to grab water for us and she filled my water bottle for me a couple of times - it was really so nice to have her there with us!  I told her "I know you probably don't think you are doing ANYthing but just having you here has been a huge boost and a huge help for me.  It really means a lot to me."  Her sister lives in Brooklyn so she was also giving us details of some of the areas we were running through.  Sometimes they would call out the pace when they thought we had sped up too much to essentially say 'hey I think you need to slow down a little!' and I remember several times telling them - maybe we can run this mile a little faster, it feels SO good to alter the pace.  I tried to do a faster mile followed by a slower mile because it felt so good on my leg to switch it up.  I don't remember a LOT of the area, just the support of the crowds and especially the little kids with their high fives and checking the garmin and my pace band (4:29) every mile.  I DO remember an entire church choir had gathered onto the steps of a church in Brooklyn and were giving us a full out performance and that really made me smile.  That and all the Rocky Theme Song music as well as Eye of the Tiger - we heard them so many times!  People had just brought out their stereos and boom boxes onto the street and cranked them up as loud as they could play them. For the first few miles, we were ahead first 30 seconds, then a minute or so for a long time.  I knew there was no way I could hold onto that lead the whole time and wondered when we would start to lose it.  I kept telling Heidi I felt like I was slowing her down, but she kept saying no, not at all, she's fine.  And she didn't have a "real" time goal anyway, especially considering she hadn't "really" trained.  She's a top Crossfit athlete in SA, but she did do just a few long runs in the last couple months - the longest being 16. 
Around mile 5, I saw my husband and I tried to fight back the tears because I was already in a lot more pain than I should be and deep down I really didn't think I would make it and I wanted to tell him all about it, but at the same time, I didn't want him to see how scared and how much pain I was in.  I asked him to run with me for a few seconds and managed to say how good it was to see him there and  found out later he has all that on video.  LOL  I didn't even know he was recording me.  He said - "keep going, you're doing good" and I fought back the tears as we pulled away from him and wondered if I would see him again.

 At the last aid station before Caty left us, I didn't need to stop for any water so I kept moving through and ended up getting way ahead of them for a long way.  I kept wondering if they are ever gonna catch up to me again.  I wanted them to be back with me and started to look over my shoulder for them.  Finally Heidi caught up to me and I found out that Caty had left the course already.  I remember at one point saying that I WANT to go faster just to get it over with, but I'm scared to go too fast and have nothing left at the end, ESPECIALLY with my leg already hurting.  So then we were ready to cross over into Queens and wow, the Pulaski bridge was a bigger hill than I had figured on.  Still, we handled it well but I knew what was coming next and wondered how the Queensboro bridge would go.  Anyone who reads about the NYC marathon will see that the Queensboro bridge is the biggest hill of the course after the first mile on the Verrazano Narrows and it comes at a challenging point around mile 16.  Everyone describes the eerie silence of that mile on the bridge after having been bombarded by all the crowds before and ESPECIALLY the roar of the crowd that follows the bridge as you descend onto the most crowded spectator section on First Avenue.  I found it funny that right after the Pulaski Heidi said - well that wasn't really that quiet.  LOL.   I told her - that was not it!  It's NEXT. 

I had been wanting to take my gloves off for a LONG LONG time but I was waiting because I thought the wind might make me cold on the Queensboro, but I finally got so warm that I finally did throw them somewhere in Queens.  At last we can see the bridge coming up and as head into the sharp left turn to start up, we hear the strains of Sweet Caroline and Heidi sings along out loud and I say HERE WE GO.  Up up up we go onto the Queensboro, and oh my goodness - I said to her out loud - This sounds crazy, but honestly this feels SO GOOD on my leg - to use a different muscle group and get some rest of the ones that have been killing me on the flats.  I think she wanted to punch me a little.  It got a little frustrating on the way up because SO MANY people had stopped to walk and it was like playing Frogger trying to dodge and get around them.  We ran up until the very top (slowly - I  kept repeating EVEN EFFORT even EFFORT) - we maybe walked for just a few seconds near the top.  Then down and we know our husbands are there waiting on First Ave, but will we be able to see them in the throngs of people there?  YES!  We spotted them both and I passed off my fleece headband.   We are past the worst of it now!
So many people cheering, but all I can think of is now we are 2 minutes behind pace.  I keep checking every mile and we are still 2 minutes behind.   I tell Heidi it's ok - honestly I would be quite happy now with 4:35.  It's still a 35 minute PR.  And with my leg like this, I would be happy to get that and she agrees.  So in my mind, now I am shooting for 4:35.  At some point there in Manhattan, I told her to just go ahead without me - I'm not sure I'm gonna make it.  She said NO! and that she is fine and she is not going to leave me. 
I remember at mile 18 - I finally said to her; Mile 18 - I THINK WE ARE GOING TO MAKE IT!  Finally I relaxed a little just based on the fact that I knew I would finish - somehow or another, but we WOULD finish this marathon!  Then we cross over the bridge into the Bronx and I say to her, OMG, this is the last borough - just a couple of miles here and we are back into Manhattan!!  I look to my left on the bridge and point and tell her we are coming back over on that bridge.  The LAST bridge.  As we crossed over into the Bronx, I told her I need to walk at the next water stop - mile 20.  Little did I know it would come on a downhill and as we approached and the Garmin beeped mile 20, I did some math real quick and GASPED loudly OH MY GOD.  I didn't even think she heard me, but she said What?!  I did the math again real quick thinking it can't be right.  But it was.  It was 3:27 and we were at mile 20.  I said HEIDI - If we can hold 10 minute miles for the last 6, we can STILL BEAT 4:30 - a goal I had long given up many miles ago.  As I tried to figure out how it was possible at this point, considering we were 2 minutes behind my pace band, it occurred to me that  it would mean no slow down over the last 6 miles.  My pace band had been calculated to allow for "maximum fade" at the finish.  I said it's SIX MILES. Heidi, I do that 4 days a week!  That's EASY!  It's like a 3 mile out and back. WE GOT THIS!  I started to get SO PUMPED UP and said I'm NOT WALKING NOW - Let's GO!  We GOT THIS! 
It was around this time that Heidi started to get really quiet with a bit of a pained look on her face.  It was obvious she was struggling.  She kept saying she has to walk at the next water stop and we did stop to walk several times.  And sometimes I would say - come on we've gotta go.  And only once she said no that she needed to walk more - to the green sign.  So she started to ask each time we walked, how far can we walk and I would give her a point.  And she always wanted to walk more but I said NO!  Come on we have to GO!  She tried to tell me to go ahead and leave her because I have to make my time. But I kept telling her NO!  You are coming with me!  There was a lot of turns on the streets in the Bronx to get to the bridge to take us back into Manhattan through Harlem.  I remember seeing a band playing with the name "My Brothers Banned" and that made me giggle a little.  We passed over the bridge out of the Bronx and into Harlem and it was such a welcome sight - the HOME STRETCH.  And I was counting down the miles at each timing mat.  With 3 miles to go, I said 30 minutes Heidi - 30 minutes!  It's a little 30 minute WOD.  She told me later that she really did want to punch me at that point.  LOL 30 minute WODs are hard!.  LOLOLOL  The last 5 miles were so frustrating with the crowds of walkers on the course.  The whole course had been less crowded than I had expected - up until this point.  When I was finally fired up and my hip pain seemed to be numbing, succumbing to the drive inside my head to finish under 4:30.  And it was literally like playing Frogger again.  It was so hard to dodge and weave and pick our way through, and frustrating when we had to slow for them and then try to pick back up again.  But we kept moving. I yelled out to Heidi - its SO CLOSE I CAN TASTE IT!  We are SO CLOSE!  and I kept repeating it.  SO CLOSE!  WE ARE SO CLOSE!
The last 2 miles really were the worst.  I had gotten so pumped with 6 to go - I remember telling her that I think I went too hard too soon.  I was running out of gas and getting nauseated all at the same time.  I wanted to walk so badly but I remember at one stop where we walked a few seconds longer than normal and I told her we can't walk that long again because I can FEEL my quads tightening up after walking and I'm not sure I will be able to get them moving again next time.  I remember running through the little hills of central park and thinking WHY don't these hills feel as good on my legs as it did going up the Queensboro?  I tried my best to fly down the downhill parts and thought I might actually lose Heidi, although I wasn't really trying to.  But each time I glanced to one side or the other, there she still was right with me. I think it pushed me to still see her there hanging on, and it pushed her to see me still doing the same. 
It struck me as odd that during my training runs, I often envisioned the last few miles in Central Park, with the crowds cheering and urging me on, and I always envisioned that the crowds would be what pushed me to a strong finish, but it was actually QUITE different.  I could barely look at the faces and the throngs of people.  I was totally inside my own head at that point.  All I could see was the 4:30 and don't let it slip away.  THAT was ALL that was pushing me, the spectators were mostly meaningless at that point.   We took a right on Central Park South and I knew we were less than a mile away.  About halfway down Central Park South, I said to Heidi, I can't do it.  I can't make it.  Meaning not that I couldn't make it to the finish, but I couldn't keep the pace we were on.  She started yelling at me you ARE doing it!  WE ARE DOING IT!  It's HALF A MILE COME ON!  Then I saw the 800m sign and OMG! I felt a rush of renewed energy that was the strangest thing ever.  I suddenly felt like surging and we pushed until we saw our husbands on our left with about 200m to go!  It was a brutal 200m up a slight hill that felt HUGE, but as we approached the mat, I grabbed her hand and threw it up into the air.  Somehow I was recorded a second ahead of her, but we were literally holding hands and crossed together.  LOL
She recorded 4:29:09 - the EXACT SAME TIME as her (our) very first marathon in San Francisco 4 years ago!  What a coincidence, especially since this is her last!  Yes this is our LAST marathon, we SWEAR!  LOL  So we started the marathon journey together (as a bit of a joke actually) and we finished together, crossing the mat hand in hand!  It was a spectacular day!

I do want to THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH THOUGH for all of your help and inspiration in training me for this race!  Like I said before, I know that even running 4:29:08 (my previous PR was 5:09:05 btw!), my body was TRAINED to run this race even faster - at least 4:25 I'd say!  I never felt "tired" at all until those last couple of miles and I think it was as much a fueling issue at that point as anything (I took exactly 3 stinger gel chew packets during the race and a couple of 100mg caffeine pills).  My body (my legs and my lungs) WANTED to run faster and felt strong to the end.  The limiting factor for me was the pain I was feeling in my hip, although I have to say the rest during the las
t couple of weeks was probably what made it heal enough that I was able to finish at all, much less at 4:29.  

And so life goes on, folks are running, reaching out for the goals, grabbing them, working hard, transferring that attitude on anything else they touch - family, work, hobbies...Nothing is impossible!

And if I can be a tiny help, one who takes a guesswork out of your day, tells you how far, how fast, how much - and then ask "Well, did ya?", and then yell "Yeah, man!" or even at times be a shoulder to cry on...thank YOU for letting me do that! From the bottom of my heart!

Run on!

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.