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

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Pines were whispering...

Photo by Movin' pictures.

It's been a while, but I always feel guilty writing anything when nothing really running-related had been produced. That, and the fact that my life is so overwhelmingly busy, I hardly find time to sit down with Larry and simply breathe...

But anyway, speaking of running. Or lack thereof. After Bay area trip, next time I ran was the weekend after, when on Saturday I did 20x0.33M hill repeats on a road totaling in 13 miles and 2,300 feet of elevation gain, and on Sunday I did another 10 miles of trail hills (steep with ladders and steps, in 1M out-then back intervals of hard rolls) that gave me 2,500 feet of gain. Those 2 days felt pretty good, the weather cooperated (I am not sure about this global warming thing, but Texas has awesome Spring, I can't believe I am writing this sentence!), and may be the fact that those were "repeats" and I was able to recover on downhills, and also power-hiked hard some steep portions, the runs were quite inspiring. I tried to run May 6th, when I went for 5 miles on the road, but made it 4 and was back to square 1 (may be 2).

On Saturday May 10th Larry and I traveled to visit our friends in San Antonio, and they, of course, put out a shout for a Rockhopper's run with us - of which Larry ran about 10-11 miles, and I shuffled about 2 out of 9 total (the rest I walked) - but it was awesome in every possible way. While that was the day my body, again, decided a no-go on running front, it was wonderful to spend time with my good ol' buddy Big Chris and talk, talk, talk...and a host of other peeps from time to time, share stories, laugh, explain in a 100th time that I am not injured, but not training anyway and why...Jason and Claudette hosted us for Friday night and Saturday, we all went for brunch after the trail outing (walk/run), then hung out with Liza Howard and her kids while doing nothing but chatting (a much needed kind of afternoon in life), and ended our trip with an early "dinner" with a few more friends. One can't go wrong when good people are involved...


Because I was so fed up by then to meet random people and respond to their "How is your training? No way you are not training!", I felt that I am in a constant mode of apologizing and explaining. I realize it is hard to grasp the "I can't run" when there is no visible injury present, and honestly, I don't have a coherent way to make sense of it either. So, I had posted on my Facebook a statement:

I am NOT sandbagging. The posts you see about my runs are pretty much ALL the runs I had done, may be a few short struggles 1-2 times a week in March and beginning of April (I gave up those "during a week" by now to even try). Between my body doing whatever it wants to, and my priorities changed for the time being, "training" as we know it is not happening (what does NOT mean I am not working out hard! I am, every day! But not running/training). I am strong and healthy (otherwise) and with a body that can do a lot of things. I have a few "races" that I had signed up for prior getting ill last Fall, and I have full intention to complete them, but NOT race them. I am in a perfect place of my life, way over the hump being upset/sad/whatever about it, and thrilled about how things are. And yes, I still love running (when it does happen) - which is very important to me. Now that Texas summer is here (and the last 3 summers were the times I got injured/overtrained/ill), and as Bryce 50 is about to finally happen (June 15th, for which I am even pretending to do those longer runs), I plan to stop most of my weekend runs as well (unless I really want to shuffle for an hour) to allow myself to heal fully (but keep exercise). What happens after - is not on my mind at this point (why fidget if I can't control it?). I am blissfully living today, and have amazing plans for the coming months...

Funny thing is, I posted this at the same time as I announced my lucky lottery win to a La Luz 9M uphill mountain trail race in August in ABQ - and was asked why would I apply/accept this if I am not racing. Well, one who follows my blog and FB would know, while I keep saying I will not race competitively, I also always quick to point out I will not promise to never "enter" a race again. What my "no racing" announcement meant was that no expectations had to be set, I am not doing specific running training, but I am keeping in shape, and there is some natural ability I have that would allow me to pull it off some races I do enter - and for those who keeps a tab on it, I am also in for Beacon Rock 25 km on June 8th (I have a trip to Portland planned to see friends and kids, so why not?), Bryce 50M on June 14th (for which I am registered prior being diagnosed with CMV and all the complications arose, and since I already dropped $125 registration fee, and our vacation is arranged around this race, I am going to participate and finish and give my best), and last, but not least, technically my  name has been rolled over to this year's Grindstone 100M in October (which has been cancelled last year), and I am NOT taking my name out - I will make a decision the week of the race, but even now, I am pretty certain I can walk it in, just depends whether or not I want to feel crappy while doing it.

That brought me to another FB post:
Giving up racing (competitively) was not difficult at all (after all, I had done so much, I could share with everyone and their mother). Giving up training was not necessary - the idea of setting goals and working hard can be interpreted in other working out means. It's when the "good run" does happen does it hit me just how much I love and miss my daily running routine, the freedom of it, the fluidity...and this morning was one of those "good run happen" moments that set me into tears....

Anyway, it's a long introduction to a simple weekend I had for a blessing: I went to Tyler, TX, to race Whispering pines. I signed up for a 20 M version as a (potentially seemed at the time) my only chance of a long run for Bryce 50. I managed to do 21 miles of trails on my own in April, along with 24 miles in Marin Headlands with Larry, so it ended up being my 3rd "long" run. I love Endurance Buzz races and David H. is my very good friend, and I love to support him, his family and his business. He does great job race managing - and this one in particular promised pine-needle single track under the consistent canopy of trees.  And boy, he delivered!!! All that, and hills, and awesome weather!!!

Photo by EBuzz

I spent the night with my good friends and both former coaching clients Brandon and Megan, who this time were volunteering for the race, and the conversations were wonderful. By the time I picked up my bib in the morning, it had a personal message from Brandon - and from Wendy (RD's David wife) - with general words "run happy". I was deeply touched...My Garmin broke in the bracelet, then never picked the signal, and I took it as a sign to just trust my body, as I entered the woods on a single track along with those doing 20 M and 50k version (in 10 mile loops). I did wear a regular watch so I can more or less figure out when to eat the gel, but I had not a clue about my location on the course...
Photo by Movin' pictures.
As I settled in, some guy introduced himself and said he heard of me as a great pacing device and that he'd like to stay. I was fine, but I did give out a warning while I am sure my body knows what to do, I, personally, right now, have no clue what it's capable of, but I was going to trust it can at least pace wisely, however fast or slow. We talked non-stop for the first 6 miles of the first loop. Megan and Brandon served AS #1 (around mile 3), and a couple folks I knew (including Ritu, my other coaching client) were at AS #2 (7+M?). There were also a few others there snapping pictures, cheering me on and letting me know my smile is contagious. As Ritu said in an email later "You run happy". I do! I was! Why not? 
Photo by Focusinonme.com, around mile 7.
My body was very considerate, doing very well, the trails were fantastic (if you only knew how much I am tired of Texas rock, I hate it passionately to the point I don't even want to be a trail runner anymore!), the weather held nice (between 55 and 70F and somewhat low humidity), and there were good peeps all around! I practically felt like flying (what is to say I was averaging 11 min/mile on the ups and downs), and I ran most of the hills too!
Photo by Movin' pictures, finishing 1st loop I think.

The loop 1 happened in 1:53. I spent good 2 minutes at the start/finish AS, lost the guy behind and went on. A half mile down, a girl in front of me does superman face-down and bleeds from a head scratch and nose. I stand with her, spraying water over and trying to assess damages. She seems to be somewhat doozy, but coherent, so I sent her backwards, thinking it's only 0.5M and there are people coming on to their next loop, so she'll be watched over (she was).

 As I got into the AS with Megan and Brandon, I had JLo on my ipod and dancing wildly. Why not? It's a party after all! I danced there for a minute happily, then moved on to a trail. About a mile later the wheels did begin to loosen up a bit here and there, the temps were warming up, and this whole non-stop running was wearing me out somewhat. I did manage to pass 2 girls here, but was also passed by one, and since I had no clue where I was location-wise (in a race), I could care less. I came again to 2nd AS and chatted some with  friends, then finally gathered myself for the last section. It took me 30 min on the first loop, so I figured I'll try it again...

The hills were quite relentless, and since I tripped a couple of times at the beginning of the 2nd loop over the ever-growing roots (the trail did have roots, even if no rocks), I was ginger to not do it again (one of those "trips" produced a hip pain in my torn labrum that I had to walk for full 5 minutes, swear and not smile). But I still felt rather strong, if not in legs, then in my will, and I ran same 30 minutes all the way to the finish. The mind had not lost its own training! I crossed the line in 3:54 and pointed to David "Who knows my body better??!!" and a total of 2:00 for a 2nd half split (which, after deductions of longer AS time, fallen girl and walking hip, is same as first). 

Speaking of David and our exchange at the end, I brought it up because 2 weeks prior we had this:
-You ready for a little singletrack fun at Whispering Pines? Maybe it will provide a bit of the PNW spirit within the "bigger" pines and rolling singletrack. No guarantee...but maybe. :)
-I am not ready one bit, no pressure, please, but I know I can make it through, and I need a 20 miler for the Bryce. I am thinking 4 hrs on a good day, unless it's hot and humid, then all bets are off as you already know:) That's my plan.
-My prediction for ya...3:15-3:40. There...no pressure!
-I never ran 3:15 even in my good years, honey:) 3:45 is a possibility for sure.
-OK, I will bend a little and tighten a little...3:20-3:39. Done! Ship it! :)
-And I thought you're my friend who understands my internal struggles...
-Just playing with ya. :) My non-vodka drinking wish...you put together a day you want for yourself. You smile. You enjoy the rolling singletrack. I really care very little about numbers, but I do care about the people behind the number. It is a runnable course. Mentally prepare for that. No complaining...this is Texas. :) But I do think you will enjoy it.
Photos of the finishing line by Movin' pictures.

So, yes, indeed, I smiled a whole lot and had a day I wanted for myself! Wendy (his wife and co-RD) gave me a hug even though I was sweaty like a pig! I changed, had a couple of tacos, took a couple of pictures, and was driving 4 hrs back to my boys, whom I missed a whole lot. It was totally worth the trip. I will be forever grateful to the pine-needled single track, cool-ish weather, tall trees, folks treating me like a royalty at the AS's, good friends, and my body's ability to do its thing...
Photo by (and with) Julie Dolph, a great friend from OK!

The man behind the scene, David Hannenburg
It is only at home through this link Results. I had found out that I was 4th overall (and 3rd was yet another one of my coaching clients, Jody, 3 minutes up!) and only 10 minutes behind the female winner. I joked: when your client beats you, you know you are a better coach than a runner, and it's time to retire...Would I have pushed if I knew? Would I have been able to? Because the "killing instincts" are obviously there, never do I plan to just "walk it in" and always, when a race bib is pinned on, do I plan to give my best and reel in if I can. At the same time, running without putting pressure on myself was an amazing experience, and I don't want it any other way for that day. I might have saved those 5 minutes I spent elsewhere on the course, and may be pushed another couple, but I wouldn't smile as much, and I could have tripped worse trying...and as my "return" race "on the other side of the moon", I feel this day was an epitome and the best it could possibly happen.

And that brings me to one more thing to come clean about (I know, I am silent for weeks, then just pile it all in one post). My body - and my body image as well. Granted, I had had a dissatisfaction with said image ever since I remember myself. Luckily, I always liked to exercise, although I also always liked to eat. While ill last Fall and Winter and not doing anything at all besides yoga (probably for the first time in 2 decades), my fat content shot up, but so did my water retention. While having higher fat percentage was totally understanding and expected and could be worked on, the fact that I tend to retain water (and my weight can deviate by 5-7 lbs overnight with literally not bad doing of my own I can speak of) was annoying to say the least, concerning, and also made me not fit into my clothes - and it was worse (the water retention that is) it had been in a long time (also since I am not training hard/running, I have time and energy to actually look after it, along with belonging to the gym that utilizes body composition machine, which I peruse every month). I know it sounds vain, but every season I allow myself to gain some pounds due to a break (usually that break is because of injury or overtraining, or now body infection with total shut down), and truly I am naturally not slim at all - a testament of it are those pounds I put on as a spare tire every damn time I drop the intensity even just a bit, and I am not even talking about living on a couch with a bag of chips and a beer! so if you're using your body composition as an excuse to never get in shape - don't talk to me, I don't take such excuse. When I begin on my "road back to shape", I take photos so I can have visual to compare (it is much easier to just hate myself regardless, but with pictures I can "judge" progress better). I have those "comparing" shots aligned from every year. This year is no different. Only when I stopped eating grains did I drop most of my water (which is off the "normal" scale produced by that machine"). I also lost couple pounds of fat, but that is all fine and dandy (what is 18% vs 17% anyway?). I did consult two of the nutritionists I know, and neither seem to have an answer (besides east fewer calories and add protein to each snack, but again, my question is about why I hold water, not weight in general). The fluctuation of intra- and extra-cellular liquid seems to depend on the inflammation I have consistently happening in my body (as someone with chronic IBS, as well as low thyroid function and now dealing with post-CMV recovery), along with hormonal imbalance likely due to an early menopause and probably a host of other things I need to check on. (As a side note, while I try to stay as close to no grain-no beans-no dairy eating plan, occasionally I loose the battle and indulge in pizza and cookie - I am human after all - but I pay for it with violent stomach pains, cramps, bloating, gas, all kind of weird elimination problems, and overall ill feelings). 

(TMI: my father visited my sister, the only family member with computer and internet, and saw photos from San Francisco trip. He called me and said: "You look good for your age, keep it up". Nothing like a brutal honesty of a Russian chauvinistic male - served straight up with no sugar-coating.)

That said, I am going to trust you with this year's line up of my "monthly photo-shoot" (done beginning January 17th, my first day of return to the gym for first dumbbell lift) and every month thereafter on the 17th. In pounds I dropped 10 (while I gained some muscle too), in sizes I lost 1 (but not enough to wear last year's clothes). With that I came to the conclusion, I am in great shape for an almost-45 year old woman who had 2 kids, has 2 jobs (one 40 hrs a week, and another that takes 3 evenings out and at least one day on the weekend), fully past "normal hormone" stage and physically active. I do not look (or feel) in "racing shape", but since I am not really "racing" (right now, anyway, no plan any time soon), I am going to stick with it and be happy. I will keep exercising every day, sometimes twice a day, at least an hour each time - I go to the gym 5 times a week, where I routinely lift weights for 30 min, then work out on StairMaster for 30-45 min, and I do at least twice a week hot yoga (last week was 4 times, go me!), and I run once a week, twice if lucky. Technically, I could probably benefit from Maffetone method running, since those days I try to run yet turn around are due to low energy and dragging, and moving at HR 125 is totally possible - but it is extremely boring on the local ugly routes - not only there are no trails close enough to squeeze daily runs into my life (and those that do exists have annoying rock piles I dislike almost as much as Texas summer), even roads around my neighborhood are so uninspiring, flat, with too many cars and no trees or views...Truth is, running is my passion, not my job. I rather wait patiently for the time it feels right, then lay out some harder stuff, but before that, easier running has to feel, well, easier. So, I just don't bother, until something clicks and I feel like I can call myself a runner, again. Usually, it happens about once a week. I eat healthy (if anything, then to prevent those miserable experiences) but allow myself celebrate things if traveling or meeting with friends, and hopefully take things slowly to continue improving - no "jump-starting" anymore. I am strong and healthy (where I can control it and take care of), I can trust my body to get me through a lot of endurance events (as was shown in that 20 M run last Saturday with only once-a-week running), I can make any 20 year old here at UT campus envy the fitness and muscle tone, and I am a proud wearer of pants a size bigger than I did last year (although they do swing on me, I refuse to wear smaller size and feel tight. It's all mental!). Bite me, I am in my mid-life crisis! :)

Every girl needs a little stash of yarn, just in case!

There was a fun order for some 20 alpaca hats with holes!

"Once a year, go somewhere you've never been before" Dalai Lama.

I've got a handful of such things planned for this year already, beginning with this long weekend's trip to Ouachita mountains in Eastern Oklahoma, where Larry had already mapped out a 22 mile loop and a 15 mile out-n-back, and then we go visit mama for some love and care.

This is going to be an awesome year. 

Happiness is about attitude. I choose happy.


Anonymous said...

i love this Olga! so honest. I know it doesn't matter what i think, but *i think* YOU LOOK AMAZING and you are working your ass off & it shows! i love smiley race photos! :)
i should do that photo thing rather than stepping on the stupid scale (which i try to avoid)...

Olga said...

Thanks, Erin! Yes, the scale doesn't do full justice. Though I still step on it, I learned to disconnect from the sheer number, especially with my problem of inflammation and water holding. I need a good endocrinologist...when I find time.

ultrarunnergirl said...

Love your approach to life. It's so great that you are sharing what almost everyone goes through, but doesn't talk about - the bad runs, the slumps, the pressure, the body image ... you are doing a great service to many by laying it out there in the open.
I'm doing the MAF thing as I try to get back into shape and I have good days and then a string of never-mind-I-guess-this-run-will-be-a-walk-instead ... but hopefully I am getting there and increasing fitness and I'll be able to run (not race) my 40 miler in June. I know I'll do it with a smile and think of your way!

Olga said...

Thanks, Kir! You know it, I simply can't write if it's a make-up:) I suck as a writer with no feelings, and things that produce feelings are not often pretty. Way to go on Maf! I sort of tried a couple of runs with HRM, but my (yet another) downfall on that was that I can't see in a dark what the numbers are saying, and Larry (who's HRM it is) does not remember how to set a beep at the upper limit. I am seriously still considering it though...but I am quite enjoying the gym, and ugly summer is upon us here, so I probably will stick with AC gym:)

sea legs girl said...

Olga- you are glowing! Glad you mentioned I should read this because I am thrilled you are running so well again and in no time you will be where you were when you are at your best, and then get better. You are smarter now, train better, eat better. I think what you wrote about simply breathing is what I am trying to do right now. I am finishing up my PhD and have had to basically give up facebook and reading blogs and all those lovely distractions unless I get an email notifying me of something. I am swamped in motherhood of two young kids and two step kids and working full time and I apologize it has been a while, but reading your blog brightens my day. Please accept my apology that it has been a while! I love your wonderful pictures and insight.

Olga said...

Apology accepted:) I just try to do my best to keep the blogs I DO enjoy going by commenting, and thus I kind of hope someone who likes to read what I write pays back with the same idea. Blogs ARE sorting down own life, but also are grounds for discussions.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you will soon have explained to everyone what's going on with your running and not have to explain any more, and that will be easier? It seems like the explanations are more stressful than any of the running issues for you. That's a nice lineup of races you've got there. Pine-covered singletrack, mmmm!


Olga said...

Alicia, you're totally correct. The explaining drives me nuts and depresses me more than where I am with running. But hey, look, even Tracy, who has known me for 7 years, somehow found in this post (?) that I think I am on my way to running better and that I want to/plan to return to my previous racing form? Where did I say that? But these are expectations, and seems that nobody wants to hear the answer. Part of me is mad so badly, even if it's all in good faith and support. Part of me keeps explaining for a couple of reasons: I made friends with people through running (although I am at the point this non-running separates real ones from "inspired"), and part of my income comes from being a good runner. Like, if I choose to not race, I suddenly can't coach well anymore? So...yes, it's in my head. Gotta stop that.

Sarah said...

I was passing on Beacon this year because I've run the route in training numerous times. And the new Smith Rock 50k is the week after. But now you've tempted me..... :)

We are different body types, but being almost 50 (!?!) I hear you on the annoying pre-menopausal/menopausal body crap. It amazes me that I can run 50-60+ miles a week plus strength train, etc. and I still have to keep a close watch on what I put in my mouth. I try to remind me to be be kind to myself. Being healthy is the important thing. Of course I think you look amazing. :)

P.S. I think I may have given up my blog. I just don't have the mental energy at the moment.... :(

Olga said...

Sarah, I hear you on all counts, loud and clear! I hope you managed to sign up for Beacon rock, and I get to see you!

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