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.

Saturday, September 30, 2023

You try and catch up!

Jesus, I looked, and the last legitimate post was in the middle of March. What a shithole I dug myself into, because, apparently, I hate the Instagramm for the sheer shortness of its space and for the lack of deep thinking expressed. Although, lets be honest, there will be no deep writing here right now, as I'll try to cover over 6 months of life (beyond straight surgery update). There was just a regualr life there, you know.

On the first weekend of March, at 8 weeks post-op, I flew to St. George, UT, to visit my bestie Ronda - and to participate in a trail half marathon. Yep, I just officially took off the brace, and I went for it. Well, first of all, I had my airfair and registartion done prior injury. Secondly, I actually put a brace on (in unlocked position) just in case. Third, I hiked it in - and I wasn't even the very last one. I was basically shufflinf in a running form the last mile, despite having not tried it before, and crying happy tears. The knee held up. It was a great kick-start. (Apparently, I had a post about it. Sorry. Not that anybody cares).

The gaskets blew from here on, and I began hiking trails and walking roads, plus full rotation on the stationary bike, elliptical, and a little bit of the stairmaster. Plus - back to yoga!

I won't bore you with those pics, because you bet there were many. Mid-March I flew to Portland per usual matters, then on the last weekend of that month Annie and I took on our first "joint" event of theyear - she ran a 50 mile race in Moab, and I did my thing - crewing. She won. Overall. And set a PR on the course by 2 hrs in 2 years. The part that excited me the most was that I tried a little 1 mninute real jog on the treadmill with her taping me - and it worked! Scary, but for real!
This, in turn, kick-started my TM intervals. You know, when you're supposed to be doing like 3x30 sec with 1 min walk breaks, every other day...Well, it was 5, then 10 of 1 min on/1 off, then 10 of 2/1 (instead of making walk breaks double the time of run intervals, I kept all of them at 1 min), 10 of 3/1, then 5/1, the all kind of variations into 5x20 min. Yep, there was a day I ended up with 8 miles. All the while I "walked" outside on alternative days, and began throwing little shuffling steps in there, as well. By the month of May, I fully transitioned to running outside.

OK, before we get there (and the mileage listed in the previous post), there was still April. Larry and I started a garden. Well, Larry did (and still does) all the work. I mostly help with decision of what to plant, then consume the "fruits of his labor". He's got a real green thumb. He's got arms growing from the correct place, as we say in Russia.
Then the two of us took a long weekend get-away to New Mexico, and there the highlight was an 8 mile hike with a bunch of elevation change and some icy-snowy trail in parts. Dicey, but ok!
On the last weekend of April there was a second event with Annie - Canyons 100M race (by UTMB). Two things of note: it was the first race that Annie had participated in that had some serious competition. It's also where she was filmed by the crew hired for her sponsor Hoka - and they followed me around like puppies. Good boys, I didn't pay attention to them while I was doing my thing, but when they asked me dumb question in quietmoments, I wanted to kill them. I guess I'll never be a movie star. On related note, Annie had some light on her before (the race is sponsired by Hoka), and Hoka reps finally promised to send me some gear to represent when I'm around her. Anyhow, she had a hard race, took 3rd female, and showe some serious character, when at mile 65 managed to submit to hypothermia, seized up, was helped by another runner's pacer, and chose to continue (after recovering from the acuteness of the atack). After the race, we also met Heather Jackson and her husband and puppy (former professional Ironman winner turned trail runner and gravel biker), and she's as sweet and humble as one can be. Totally fun times. The film boys were nice as well, thanks for extra pictures!

OK, we're onto May, time's moving along. Of note, we volunteered at the local Aravipa event (we continue coming to their group runs on Monday, usually once, sometimes twice a month), celebrated 4 official years as Colorado residents, took a drive (ha!) up Pikes peak road, and I visited Annie in Leadville mid-month, where I ran my first longest continuous run of 10 miles (considering the fact that I already ran 6 miles that morning, it was a heck of a day).
Um, June...I volunteered at another event (now by Revenant Running), then Larry drove to visit Harrison, and I went with Annie to WY, where she ran (and won, overall, yet again) another 50M.
The garden grew vegetables, some more successful than others, we ate the crops, and I ran outside. A lot. Roads, trails, twice a day, long runs, few times a week...taking approach of adding a mile a week to the long run, I made it to 20 by July. On the 1st of July Larry and I made our anual pilligrimage to Mt. Rosa. Going downhill on lose scree was no fun with the knee and stuff, but we made it. June also when I experienced pain in my knee that was "unusual" (mind you, I basically always have some level of something inside there), asked for a new MRI, and when it was originally brought to our attention that my meniscus tear is not where the doctor put it with stitches during the surgery...

July was tiring. I had my last (for me) of the year "Annie event", and that was a hard one on both of us. Hardrock 100 was her prime focus. To the surprise of all, for the first time in its history, it was hot, sunny, and not a drop of rain, no thunder, not a cloud. One would think, awesome, no danger, no hypothermia. However, it brough different challenges to all the runners: hear exposure at high altitude is no joke. Everyone suffered. Courtney won (of course). Annie ran far off her goal time, but held on to 3rd. There was frustration, puking, tears. Feeding, hydrating, hugging. She got it done. I was exhasted. I drove off as soon as she crossed the finish line - after 2 nights of no sleep, I had a 6 hr trip, 2 days of work, and a trip abroad ahead...Oh, year, the movie crew was back. Wehad quite a few deep human conversations, they did their work while I did mine, and again, I couldn't give a nice "interview" style coherent response between the action shots. Apologies. I guess...

Well, my little girl is all grown up and graduated the School of Mentorship. From now on she'll be flying on her own, for the most part. Of course, I'll share the opinion and advice if asked, but I no longer feel the need to "mother" her. She knows how to do things. She's gotten "bigger" among her peers, met a lot of wonderful new friends, younger and faster - those who she needs to be around of more than old grouchy woman from the past, the "used to be". I hope I gave her some foundation - and helped her find some exposure. I'll be here. But, jumping ahead, she did a huge (biggest of her life) event in Europe in September with a couple of complete new-to-crew folks, and she did well. While mistakes were made, those (the mistakes) are the best teachers and just in her todays IG post she reflected on what we (she and I) discussed about it (Swiss peaks 230M race) only a day prior.
Also, Hardrock was something that used to mean a lot to me. I was wondering, having not being "in it" for exactly 10 years, if I feel butterflies. I ran into people from the past - it is, indeed, still a communal race of the "oldies", with an influx of the newbs and media nowadays. So many recognised me, it felt touching to be remembered. I knew my way around. To a certain extent, it felt homey...yet, it didn't make me want to come back for more. Neither as a participant, nor as any part of the "gang". Weird how time changes things inside of you - and outside, in the event itself. I grew out of it, away from it. They grew different (only those from old times who still stuck in a cycle, would be saying it's still the same - from the distance, it's not, but if you're knee deep in, you can't see it). 
OK, now is a biggie. Larry and I had a trip to Europe of our own! Well, it sounds "all that", but in reality, it was "a trip", not "the trip". Originally, we dreamt of going to Swiss Alps. When my accident and surgery happened, and I was told I'd be barely walking normally by July, we gave this dream a huge rethinking. I didn't want to spend so much money and go to the place (the only place) I truly wish to visit in Europe, and not be able to do all the mountains and long hikes that I want. I couldn't picture myself sitting in a cafe and simply starring out the window...so, in a quick youtube browsing, I picked Norway. There were mountains, waterfall, fjords, and national parks. People spoke English. They drove on the right side of the road. So, I talked Larry ino it...
I'm not going to say it was a disappointment, but it certainly didn't live up to expectations. All those things listed above (and seeing on the videos) - are the "only" things. Plus, Larry and I are both weirdly not liking to travel, no matter how luxuriosly, for more than 5 days (we get fed up and full of overload). Plus, Norway...it rains. A bunch. Like, half the time. Anyway, 7 days (2 of which were in Oslo, city life, ewe, and 4 of which it rained for the majority of those), and we couoldn't wait to go home. Have to say, the fjords were spectacular (would be fine seeing just a couple), lots of driving through the tunnels inside the mountains, and even under the ocean, some huge waterfalls for sure, amazing spread for breakfast (common, American hotels, you don't hold a candle!!!), and wonderfully awesome coffee. Larry celebrated his 57th birthday (love you bunches!), and an added bonus to the history of the country and the old buildings is the fact that my name - Olga - originated in Norway. So, checking in to hotels was quite a fun experience. Even Oslo had a Russian Orthodox Church of St. Olga. Yep, I am that popular!
We flew home, and a few days later I got a cold. Between Hardrock, Norway, and feeling off, July was a shaky month in developing fitness, but running never stopped, and as I already mentioned in the previous post, August blew my rocket off. Besides racking up my own miles, mid-month my friend from old-time Austin Pam came to visit and train, and we had a fun weekend. On the first day we went up and over Hope pass. On the second day (Larry joined us) we did Almagre (12k high) route with 21 miles and 5k gain. Third day was Pikes Peak - my first after surgery. It was so much fun!
After she left, I followed with my own Pikes peak (I believe I also wrote about it in prior post). I felt totally strong and got up the mountain in my 2nd fastest time! What, of course, is not to say about downhill. But indeed, while recovering and gaining fitness, I have changed my ways or where I can be better now in terms of "push". I was ready for my first race in September...
On the last weekend of August, though, I volunteered, again. This time for GNAR, at Staunton state park. It was a great day to be out helping runners!

Well, before we get to do some racing, which wasn't until the 22nd of the month, I had some major events to celebrate. On the 17th I hit 30 years anniversary. That's nuts. Nothing is more permanent than temporary...I came to US 30 years ago with a round-trip ticket for work exchange and got stuck. I didn't immigrate by choice, but I made choices along the way, at turns and twists of the long life's road, that led me here. Some of those choices were made for me, some seemed the only visible in the moment, some were deliberate. I missed out on an opportunity to build a career in the profession I loved and trained for (Doctor of Pediatrics), so I managed to spend 20 years in biomedical research, leading to 15 publications (blah), before walking away and "downsizing" my job (blah-blah). I learned to speak the language I barely knew the alphabet and rules of. I missed out on being with my family, feeling their love and support, helping them in their tragic moments, and sharing traditional holidays, but I never forgot the rich 1,000 year history and grit of Russian people. I discovered this crazy sport, and gave my soul away to the mountains. That's one thing I am most grateful for, otherwise I wouldn't have survived hard trials of life I faced here (and continue to). Being alone in the mountains is my salvation, the place I speak with my God. It is true, people of the first generation in a new country are neither here nor there. I've adapted and changed in many ways, but I did not "become" an American. I'm also a stranger back home. A loner. Always have been, now magnified. I do my best not to dwell on the past, nor predict the future. Life is just is.
Only 2 days later, Larry and I had turned a corner of our official 14 years of marriage.

It's been a lot of everything, those years, and as we move on forward, things might be different, yet still the same. What we have is deeper, and while we met each other and bonded over trail ultrarunning, we grew to respect each other on the whole different level, and many of those were not imagined 15 years ago. Ther was so much to overcome. Second marriages are no joke, baggage of bot of our past and present, cultural differences, kids, ex-spouses, careers, families, moves. We had an overnight hike right before this big day. Things were said, the air was cleared. It is good to state your feelings intentionally, from time to time, so we don't get to be on the train that goes without a locomotive. Even as we age, the support for each other is the outmost important thing in a relationship. That exact thing which drew me to this man, how he accepts me for who I am, and gives his unconditional support - is what the foundation is. When the life gets shaky, this is what one shall count on. Respect and support.
That overnighter also reminded me about my big love of a different kind - backpacking. More to that in a second, first - I had a race to run! Put on GNAR, one of my favorite people, it was a blast. 8.5 month after ACL reconstruction (and with meniscus tear that decided not to stick back and still flapping), almost a year after my last race, at the time that I was only supposed to begin getting on trails, I entered a 50k. And I nailed it (while it tried to nail me). I did all my "usual favorites": I ran a wrong way and added an extra 3/4 mile, took a full body slam Superman forward andate some dirt, cramped for the last 6 miles in both hamstrings, and jumped over a snake (totally locked in Charlie hourse upon landing for 3 minutes). Yet I ended up running the time I wanted to, taking not only "granny" (over 50) award, but 1st master (over 40). 13th female overall. I still got the mentality I am always proud of: you pin the bib, you give it all you've got.

And then we're here. It's the end of September, literally. It is the 30th, last day, and I am, very suddenly, super-rpoductive, yet again. In fact, much more so than last time (my brain and my fingers are toast). Why? Because Larry flew to Oklahome to visit his family. You see, this was supposed to be a weekend when my bestie Theresa was to come visit for some leaf peeping. Boy, did we pick the best weekend...However, she happened to injure her foot a couple of months ago, and instead of getting better, it kept getting worse, until it was obvious that she can't hike the trails. And there's no foliage in my town, yet (or spectacular, at all). So, Theresa cancelled the trip. I decided to make the best of it (below). Today, though, is the tail-end of that empty house, and apparently, once I do all my exercises (I ran, went to the gym, took a yoga class, and spun my bike for over an hour), shop for groceries, and do laundry - I'm too bored alone. And this bright idea to catch up on blog popped (dumb idea, as I spent 2.5 hrs sitting here typing and inserting photos). But here. A better ending to my blog post.

Chasing colors, day 1. Fall by far is my favorite season, after all I was born smack in the middle of it. The crisp in the air, the smells, the turning leaves...Fall in Colorado is something to behold. Maybe not Maine variety, but the fire of Aspens is definitely eye burning. So when the opportunity presented itself, I threw my trusted backpack on and went where I knew I'll see it in spades: Colorado trail from Twin lakes to Tennessee pass. The idea was to go 30 miles, test the knee under the weight and distance, camp, then finish up. Most importantly, to enjoy my Church. Wow, the trail provided. With 32+ miles, I ended up being too close to Leadville to pass on the option to stay at Annie and catch up, so after all, the 20 lbs pack was an added bonus. No regrets. I still got it!

Chasing colors, day 2. I ditched my backpack and headed out to my favorite pass on the whole Colorado trail: lake Ann pass. Sure, one can see the yellow from the window of the car on a drive, or if you're lucky to live above 8k, anywhere on the run. I prefer to work a little harder. The hills were alive! Up and over, to check on the new section on the other side, and being stopped a little short of intended turnaround by 4 moose stare down. Who am I to argue? Quick refuel, and back to lake Ann proper, where I dreamt of having lunch on my four previous trips in a hurry. It didn't disappoint! It was as beautiful and peaceful as I had imagined.
With 32/19 mile dooule, I fulfilled my "recovery" week after last race and started a "taper" week for the next one 😜

I am keeping my dreams alive, just as those hills, with all the different colors.