I am a girl who loves mountains, changing seasons, running, true backpacking, strong coffee, and knitting with high quality yarn.

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

Friday, December 31, 2004

Purge and Splurge 2004

Purge and Splurge 2004

Or the personal recount of my running thoughts

By Olga Varlamova
It is December 31, 2004. The locals here (Portland, OR) are running 11th addition of Purge and Splurge 30M, the length of Forest Park. Some opted for the first ever double-crossing, some went earlier, and the main ≥event≤ (very low-key, non-timed) runners touched the tree at the end of the trail at 8:30 am. The group spreads out after about a mile. I have my usual pain in both shins (it goes for an hour and I will be quietly monitoring the pain) so I let everybody pass and stick with Monte, the climber from Mazamo. We chat as we go, about running, climbing (my husband is into it over the head), life in general, Russian quirks. It is New Yearπs eve, biggest holiday in my log. The weather so far is cooperating; the sun is peaking through clouds. We walk uphill and eat some food. By mile 8, I start feeling better and get moving. I am loving it. The clouds overcast the sky and some rain appears out of nowhere. Itπs nice and quiet here, with the tress surrounding the soft trail, some mud sections and the big drops to the left with occasional views at the city. I enter my favorite stage of running ∫ the Zen, when nothing matters, only my breathing and the foot strikes. My mind starts to wonder. It always does.

I go back a couple of weeks to Christmas marathon in Olympia, WA. I took up on it just to see my Maniacs friends. I donπt really belong to road marathons. I strode at 9 min/mile pace with Rick Haase, discussing plans for upcoming year. Life was good. It turned even better when I actually PRd on the course, breaking 3:45 for the first time and qualifying for Boston, the dream of every road marathoner. OK, it wasnπt certified course, but I did it. ≥You can Do It≤, I hear in my head. It's important to believe in yourself. I do.

Maniacs. I ran into Tony Phillippi (or tp! how heπs known in this web club) in the beginning of October in my first race here, in Northwest. He is one of the Main Maniacs. All the nutcases belong here, so I joined. Itπs nice to belong. Itπs nice to be normal. Itπs nice to be accepted. I am loving them. Every single one of them. With all my heart.

The rain turns into sleet, then I see some hail. I am still loving it. I am thinking ∫ what can possibly happen that would turn off this love?

I go back once again, to Mt. Masochist 50M in VA. The famous David Horton and his miles, his course. It was supposed to be my last race for the season. I flew in by midnight and drove 4 hrs to the start location. Sleepy. Tired. Hungry. Cold. Tired. Blistered. Tired again. That was the time I asked myself a question ∫why am I doing it to myself? What's in it to me? Shouldn't I be somewhere else, not enduring the pain in the middle of mountains, all alone? The finish line eventually shows ∫ and it's all clear now. I am loving it, no matter what. I get to test my endurance, but more importantly - my soul. It strips you to the bear minimum and you discover who you really are. I need that. I need to know who I am. This is a wacky world, and I am loosing myself. I can't afford it to happen. I need to find out about myself. And if I forget ∫keep reminding through my running".

Nothing matters. I am hearing my foot strikes and see the snow falling from the sky. It's New Yearπs Eve, for crying out loud, it's supposed to snow! I glance at the watch so as to not to miss the clock goes to next year for my home country. Iπve got 40 more minutes.

My thoughts float again, back to Vermont 100. I paced my dear friend Nick Palazzo there, for his 10th time at that race. I never thought how much more fulfilling this could be than any runs I had done so far! I had a goal. Read carefully ∫ I had a goal, he didnπt. Nick is my role model. He runs because he loves it. No times matter to him. I wanted to bring him in less than 22 hrs for his anniversary. He doesnπt wear a watch. I got his, but forgot to start it. I crew for the first 68 miles, him and some other NY folks. Itπs exciting. I meet old friends and meet new ones. Nick looks good going out for a loop before I get him back. Something happens out there. Itπs hot, humid, with some thunderstorms. It is July in Vermont. He is bonking and cramping, along with stomach problems. He is the experienced one; he knows it will go away. I do too. Now, after the WS100, I know a lot more about myself and ultrarunning. I know more about life. I give him what worked for me and keep him moving. I tell him stories ∫ he did the same to me just 3 weeks before. The night falls. I try to keep track of yellow plates on the trees. I am afraid to get us lost. He is cranky and tired; I try to say something nice. ≥You are such a fantastic person!≤ This is truth. You canπt be otherwise. You just donπt go for all this insane measures out of pure ≥kick butt≤ notion. I am loving him. He starts running better after 2 hours of slow motion. Wow, he picks up the pace and leaves me in a dust! I have an excuse of being injured and 3 weeks after Western States, but I donπt use it. I gather my strengths, shut down the pain and run alongside. We are clicking miles. The time goal from illusional becomes manageable. Nick loves to chat with aid station people. Itπs all about people to him. I drag him out. I have a goal he doesnπt know about. We run. We walk. Some more of it. He is tired again. So am I. I have no idea with this new course how far we are and it looks like weπre circling around the same mountain. I am scared I made the wrong turn. We pass at least 15 people but in the final stretch two pass on us. One of them ∫ Carry Miller from Portland. I ran with him at Capitol Peak. What a coincidence! This will come later. Now ∫ anybody knows what the hell time is and where is the finish line? I scream. Nick yells at me. A second later he humbly apologizes. I donπt care. I love him. I want him to make it to the finish. I see the light. Itπs a quarter mile straight down, and I let out a sigh ∫ Run, Nick, run fast! He stumbles down; I take side grass and look at the clock. 21:57. We did it! He did it! He is smiling, I am all chocked up. I had never been happier in my life, not in the last 3 years anyway. I have tears in my eyes as I am writing it now.

The time flies. Wow, here is Carry Miller and his two daughters managing an aid station in the middle of Forest park! Got to love people. People are what make this ultra stuff so magnificent. I get a gel and refill my bottles. I've been running for 21 miles and I have no idea what time is it. I donπt care. It's hail that falls from above now. I am wet. I run on adrenaline. I feel great. Wait ∫ there is Greg Pressler ahead, he is not supposed to be here, he is a fast dude! He has injured his calf and in pain. I stick around. Hey, who cares about time, itπs all about people, remember? We walk. We jog. We talk. Itπs not surprising to me anymore but still amazes how close you get to a stranger on the long run. Greg is my best friend. Iπve never seeing him before in my life. We share stories. How we started.

My mind goes back to that first 5k I ran on Motherπs day in 2001. How new it felt, how exhilarating, like nothing before. How I tackled distances in a month to 10k and ran a first half marathon. I donπt remember much. I didnπt drink ∫ I didnπt know I am supposed to. I didn't walk ∫ I didnπt know I am allowed to. 9M mark was the last in my memory, all faded after that. I finished. I knew I can do anything. ≥You Can Do It≤ ∫ rings in my ears. How true.

My first marathon behind a year and half later ∫ I come across Van Cortlandt Park and meet a group of runners. They are doing intervals on a track. They are VCTC. The guy comes up to me and invites to join workouts. Just like that. No fees, no memberships. Come and run with us. He is Firdaus Dotiwala. He just finished his first 100M in VT (see the coincidence?). I am curious. I am not laughing. I want to do it. I join the club. Itπs nice to belong. They made me feel at home. I have my first coach - Ken Rolston. I have Tony Thoman, Enid and Dennis, Bill, Wanda, Susan, Larry. They actually tell me I am a runner. Who, me? I am a runner now! I am a VCTC member! I am proud. More people to meet, more experiences to hear about, more advices to get. I am loving it. I am running. Running more. Running faster. Running longer.

Wait, I just missed 12 am in Russia! I scream with my full lungs ≥Happy New Year, mom and dad and my sister!≤ Greg is laughing. He understands. I am back to the moment. We are almost done here, on the Wildwood trail. I don't want it to end. I am having a ball! This is the best moment of my life, every moment! There will be more I remind myself. Many more. I can't wait. I am loving it.

We touch the tree at the beginning of the trail - it's the tradition. We ran 30.1 miles today, on New Year's Eve. Best holiday ever. Best run ever. With rain and snow and cold and not enough water and trails and trees and mud and hills - and best friends. Can't wait to do it again. I don't have to. Itπs that simple -just go out and run!


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