If you're lucky enough to be in the mountains, you are lucky enough.

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

The purpose of life is to discover and develop your gift. The meaning of life comes from sharing your gift with others. - David Viscott

Monday, March 24, 2014

5:1, or "Everybody's shufflin'..."

5:1 is my new mantra. 5:1 is my new running life. It is an approximate ratio of bad runs to get one good run somewhere - and "good" has become a very relative term by now.

Since mid-January I ran on average of 4 times a week (with a week after Mt. Mitchell totally not a step). In those first few short and slow runs pace didn't matter, since I was so excited, finally, after months being debilitated, to be able to string miles together without walking. As time moved forward, the fact that I am not progressing loomed over me. Let me rephrase it: I sort of progressed up until Mt. Mitchell, but that 40 miler, as slow and upsetting as it was, threw me way back and seem to have reversed my recovery. I had to start all over again...

And thus 5:1. On an average, it takes a number of slogs of 11 min/mile (if not mid-11's) to get one run down which is, well, closer to or even below 10, or simply feels good, even if still 11's. Because, you know, "how I feel" is equally, if not more, important these days. And it took me a couple of weeks to be mad, depressed, upset at myself, trying to push over without anything happening (like I was in October, November, December...) - to simply adjust, accept, and even enjoy my slogs. I look back into my beginning, and while even back then I was a tad quicker, I simply didn't care about anything beyond moving outside. Past week I even began getting out the door in the middle of the afternoon or early evening, on the roads, in a daylight, when people may see me! Something I am always fully aware of. And you know what? No matter what pace, the endorphins still come, still stir emotions up, and I still come home rejuvenated...And there are days I want to patiently improve and bring myself to some semi-acceptable (by my own standards) level to compete, race, do something, and then there are days I am just thrilled to love running regardless whether or not I ever enter a race, trail, road, long or short. And that is awesome.

Recently Scott Dunlap was interviewed and one of the points of his longevity he mentioned was something (I am using my own words here) to the extend of: pick a race 4-6 months away that scares you and excites you, and that will make you train. Those were great words. In the past 12 years, I picked a race that excited me (for the most part), and occasionally scared me, too. During the 4 months of being ill, and then 2 months so far trying to recover fitness I lost, I thought a lot, and with words of Scott I truly realized - there are very few "races" that excite me or scare me (that's for sure, "scary" is not much in my vocabulary in general, and definitely not in race-related). Some may excite a little, but not scare (slogging 40 miles up and down Mt. Mitchell off the couch proved that), some scare (mostly races outside US), but not excite due to expenses for travel, time involved and huge crowds participating. I had done over 100 of ultras, and the novelty is wearing off. I still have vague goals and even hopes, but not to the point I would jump into "go get it" beast mode.

Like everything in life with aging and wisdom, I like to take it slow now...:)

I tried to jump into Whole30 diet, but after week 1 figured life is so full of friends right now, I just need to be mindful, not restrictive. No tremendous fat loses, but clothes finally fit ok (not loose, but ok), running shorts don't ride up the legs, and I don't hate looking in the mirror.

I am fully committed to my weight workouts, putting 3 a week, plus signed up for a Bootcamp twice a week, and cardio cross-training on Stairmaster 3 times as well. So, yes, no "floating up and down the mountain", gym it is.

What mountain? Living in Austin for 5 years (half-way done, yeah!) doesn't help the case with all that excitement either. Every damn trail is known inside out, and tripping over rocks and roots after commuting to the trailhead for 30 minutes, doesn't fit my extremely busy lifestyle these days. I did make it to the trail we used to live next to for the first 2 years - and that was one of those "good runs", where I pushed, and almost floated, and ran every step, steep ups, rocks and roots including. Larry and I will try to drive an hour this weekend and put down 15 miles on the only trails I can tolerate today. Yup, 15! Because last Saturday I made it all of 12 in one push, with the hills, all running, in 100% humidity!!!
And I am knitting, lately mostly the "Pay it forward" project for friends, birthday presents, and a little bit for myself. I am learning to not overwhelm myself with work, and while my "real job" has been totally crazy, I now only work at massage place one of the weekend days (plus 2 nights a week), which leaves me with a whole day as a real weekend! I would have never thought it makes such a huge difference in my life.

And I am so looking forward all the trips we have planned with Larry, San Francisco in April, Oklahoma mountains in May, Portland (to see kids, friends and run Gorge) in June, then Bryce 50M and all Utah parks with Larry and Harrison...and a pinnacle of it all - Wonderland circumnavigation in September.

Life is really awesome. Having had a little scare with my health (turned out to be not a scare at all, but I did end up in emergency room for part of the night) put a lot of things in perspective for me.

And in the midst of it - some great company still supports my "shuffling", because, you know what, not only fast runners need to fuel up:) Thanks, VFuel!
I'll end with great words I dug out in this blog post.

Running has saved me.  In a world overrun with technological stimulus, where we've made comfort and convenience the ultimate goal, running has shown me what is truly important.
I use running as an escape.  An escape from all the screens staring at me, from the traffic, the advertisements, the commotion.
Out on the trail, running up a mountain, I feel at ease.  All of the stress seems to melt away as I put more distance between myself and the city.  I begin to lose myself in the primal, instinctual simplicity of charging up a mountain.  Listening to my breath and footfalls, watching my sweat hit the dirt.
To me, running is the most visceral form of expression: Finding the most efficient, aesthetic line up a mountain and achieving that line by way of my own blood, sweat and tears.  Moving with grace and style.  Engaging my body in the way it was designed; doing what my ancestors have done for millions of years. 
Running is my religion.  It simultaneously builds my confidence and keeps me humble.  It allows me to connect with the natural world-- to venture into wild environments in the simplest way possible-- and to connect with these environments in one of the deepest ways possible.
Without running, I don't know where I would be.

Back when I lived in Oregon, or when traveled a lot for mountain races, I used to write things like that. I may not live near-by such amazing inspiring places, or don't feel "at ease" as I "bound up the mountain", I may love "pushing iron" (big time, by the way, and I am up to the numbers I left back last summer, at least something is progressing nicely), and love trying to stretch in my hot yoga classes (whether Bikram or Baptiste), but running is still my savior and my religion. I am absolutely grateful for the fact that even now, as my competitive days, most likely, had finally wound down, and mountains are a dream for my vacation destinations every 2 months, I am still in love with the simplicity of the movement, with the sweat streaming down my face, with my heavy breathing, with the feeling high, with the sense of achievement once back home...and with all the thoughts I am able to process, and then forget, while on the run.

“I thought following a straight road would lead me right to my destination. Like the road would just take me there because I was following all the rules. And if the road curved, I couldn't be sure about where I was going. But look where it got me. Maybe it's time for a detour.”
~ Susane Colasanti


Sarah said...

You know in all those pictures, except the hospital one, you are absolutely glowing! :) Love the quote.

The Old Trail Shuffler said...

Olga: Thanks for sharing such a wonderful outpouring of emotions. I have been a shuffler for many years. I have missed cutoffs by a few minutes and have DFL'd many times. As I say, someone must come in last. And, now, as I shuffle down the trails I enjoy the rocks that trip me and the grass that offers me the colors of nature. I don't mind stepping off the trail to let the young and speedy get by, they're just running fast enough to catch up to me in many years. I am rich and fulfilled because I shuffle in the mountains and by the rivers and in the Snake River gorge; and then in September, I get to challenge the Plain trail once again, probably for my last time in an organized event. Life does change, and I, too, have gone from the first place finisher to the last place where I guess it's time to drop off the line and just keep shuffling the trail alone. I am fortunate to have shared trails and memories with you. Shuffling is another way of life that challenges us to look at ourselves and accept what we have at the moment. Love you, Olga, you are a great shuffler.

Danni said...

I am always a shuffler :-)

Carilyn said...

I so relate, Olga. I was just trying to explain it to another running friend who is burning it up in the ultra world right now - none of the races excite me anymore right now. I hope some day I get the fire back, but for now, I'm enjoying doing other things. Enjoying life. Take care, my friend.

Fawn Simpson said...

I still have a few goals to reach and then I can see myself stopping the ultras. You are always so honest in your posts. I have always been and will always be a shuffler. It suits me.

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