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, August 23, 2005
Probably ever (?)
In one word - altitude.
More detailed .
The story of how I had become statistic at Leadville 100 50% DNF rate and another "wanna-be" slammer.
Let me begin by stating that despite many predictions (or worries) before hand I didn't want to quit (or drop) in a race ever. I knew it would be very hard. I knew that the biggest problem I will encounter will be altitude. I knew I will slow down tremendously and had no obnoxious expectations of time finish - all I planned was to keep ahead of cut offs. Due to family and job obligations I wasn't able to fly there ahead of time and acclimate (I am just happy to be able to go for races at all). On top of it my family had run into some turmoil (our older son was held back in Russia after his vacation there instead of coming home last week due to favorite bureaucracy) and my head was filled with this instead of preparation. But I went to Leadville with a clear job to be done - come to the finish line. Honest;y, I wasn't excited much about this run even before problem arose - just not my kind of terrain anyway. But it was a mission. I wasn't going to quit. And I can say from the bottom of my heart that I didn't.
My husband Oleg and I flew to Denver Thursday night and by 10 pm were at Leadville. Next day after meeting some folks (Andy, thanks for your help) and checking in we went to scoot around the course for Oleg's crewing prep. Again, (sorry, Gail), not my kind of course. But nothing to be killed by. 3 big climbs done twice, lots of roads/nasty dirt roads with big rocks and some trails. I tried to "run) for 100 feet and went out of breath. As expected. Fine.
Race morning. Start at 4 am. Good weather. Stomach problems - not a biggest concern, but very annoying. Still, just swear. Surprisingly, I ran first 2.5 miles without any problem. Reached Boat ramp fine, saw Oleg and Sid (Gail's husband), then on to a Mayqueen. Didn't care about time, guess just over 2.5 hrs. First climb to Sugarloaf - dirt road to 11200 feet, on dirt road, but very gentle grade. Still - walk hard, not problems (besides stomach and stepping aside, but it's not something to cry out loud about). Fish Hatchery ( 23.5M) - 1 hr ahead of cut off. Perfect. Road to tree line. Pretty flat, but not inspiring to run. Stomach bounces, breathing difficult, walk hard, feel fine. Next aid at 30.5M, Halfmoon. Finally, stomach subsides (I knew it and it was a relief), and a second climb in two pitches toward Twin Lakes. Here is more steep, had to stop a few times to catch a breath, still OK otherwise. Ran out of water 1 hr before aid station, bonked, but came to Twin lake 1.5 hrs ahead of cut off. Very happy, just want to keep an hour cushion and think that once I am over the Pass twice will pick it up. Tony and Annie came down here to see me from Pike's Peak marathon - it was fun to see them. Change shoes and clothes, restock and determined go onto the Monster - Hope Pass at 12600 feet. After about 1.5M winding flat wet meadow we hit the climb. It is nasty steep. I begin to stop every so often, still mentally strong. By half point (and after I met Matt Carpenter going down) it started. The breathing began getting shorter, the stops more often. I do what I can, lots of people passing, but I don't get discouraged and just do what I can. 10 steps, stop, catch a breath, go. I thought nothing serious of it, just too much tar in lungs makes it worse than for others. As I got to Hopeless (12000 feet AS), I ask for oxygen, but it's not delivered yet. OK, lets get it over with. Climb last pitch. Can't breath. Think, everyone is in it the same. Start getting down on the other side. Despite not climbing anymore, breathing is still erratic, but at least I am moving faster. Come down to the trail head, see Oleg and can't talk - inhalations are short and not refreshing and the glands are swollen. Go for turn-around at Winfield for another 2.5 miles, but walk fast. See Gail, she says - don't drop. I am not planning to. I want to get over Pass second time. Come to 50M - oh, boy, I lost 45 min on my cushion! That;s how slowly I was up. Oh, well. Restock, go back. Pick up Oleg. He looks at me, sees something I don't and asks if I am sure I want to go on. I am. I said - 2 hrs of suffering, and it will be over. Everybody passes me. Everybody. All the people who made the cut offs at 50, passes me. It gets worse and worse. I don't go 10 steps anymore, I go 5, and don't just stop, I sit, lay, cough, can't catch a single breath, gurgle somewhere in my chest. But I am determined to get to the top. 2 hrs. Only 2 hrs. Hopeless on the other side - I get oxygen for 2 minutes. Did it help? Who knows. But the guy says I have 1 hr 35 min to get down. What means I lost another 40 min on cut off and pushing it. I get up and charge down. Oleg gets headlamps out. We pass at least 10 people on the way down. I try hard. I just pray if I get there with 20-30 min to spare (it seemed I was running pretty fast to gain time) and will be lower at elevation I'll resurrect. Twin lakes we made with 10 min under. Too little. Way to little time. Who cares, I am not giving up, no more Hope Pass, night is here, I'll make it. We change, and get out right on cut off at 9:45 pm. We have 3 hrs to make 10 miles in two pitches up and one down. Neither one of us is very optimistic (it took me 2 hrs 25 min on the way in), but we go on. They have to pull me out, I say. Dirt road climbs, and as soon as I step on, I bend over without breath. It's lower elevation now, but the damage is done. I can only go a few steps weezing before I half to either hug a tree or sit on a rock. No air in my lungs. But I am making it forward motion. For 50 min. 2 miles. Then Oleg, who had seen enough HAPE on the mountains, gets scared. It is in the middle of nowhere, and I am obviously developing pulmonary edema. I still want to make it to the next aid station and have them pull me out. It is no question I can't go 8 miles in 2 hrs at a rate like that, even flat and slight downhills I am walking slow and out of breath. We stop, discussing turning around and getting help. I see a couple of flashlights coming onto us, a runner and a pacer. They are trying to make it in to Halfmoon. May be I should give it a shot. I turn around and move forward. Out of breath after next 10 steps. Turn back again. See another light coming forward. Turn again and want to give it a shot. Bend over. Repeat another 3 times. No matter how sure I am I am not making it due to medical condition, I want them to tell me that (the officials). I am not ready to give up. Oleg is really scared. I am too. But I don't want to say I dropped. Next set of lights was the sweep. That was over. They were moving faster than I was, and getting to Halfmoon in the middle of mountains an hour after cut off would mean there will be no help there. We turn and slowly make it back to Twin lake. I am almost hanging on Oleg's hand, unable to walk even down. The aid station is demounted, the last person is ready to leave. We ask for a ride. It's over. The wrist band is cut. I practically don't care, trying to inhale enough air. On the way to Leadville, cramped in a volunteer's car with lots of stuff, I can't open my chest. I think on top of lung problems I began a panic attack. I thought we will never reach help and I will dye here, in a car, on the road. I am hyperventilating and panting, scaring a girl and Oleg. We finally made it to the medical tent. I get on oxygen for 30 min with strong suggestion to get to a lower elevation. After abotu 20 min, if I lay still, I can take a full breath. When I run, it comes back again - tight, short and weezing. Cough. Spit some crap from my lungs. That continues whole night, but by 6 am gets better. If I am slow, I can walk.
I am not hard on myself. There was nothing I could do. If I had time, despite all the symptoms, I would have gone on. I missed the cut off. That simple. The hardest part was to see quite a few of those who left Twin lakes with us, finishing the race. On the wire, but finishing. I question myself again if I could. I remember how it felt in the car. How it felt in a medical tent. How I missed the cut off. What's the point of replaying? It's over. Being there is painful, and we leave after we see the last guy squeezing it at 30 hrs flat.
Does it hurt (in my head)? Hell, yes! I did make peace with my first DNF. It's just a race. As Nick says, it's an experience and a lesson. I needed it, I guess. It sucks about the slam. Not that I will dye over it. But I grew to love all the guys and girls who's trying. Liz Walker rocks, she has asthma and pulmonary edema for 3rd year in a row there, yet she finishes! Gail, you came back from the dead, my heartfelt congratulations! Andy, I am so happy you made it! Me - I'll get over it. And after some thoughts I decided to go for Wasatch. It's OK I am not a slammer. I still love to run long. And, as Oleg said on that trail, it is more important to save this love (and life, I guess), than a single race.
Thanks to everyone who thought of me past weekend. I wish I didn't disappoint you. But such is life.
I'll see you all on trails.
Oleg is right, better to save your love and life and race another day than finish one race which will be there next year. You are an amazing runner with a long and happy career or running ahead of you. Learn from this, that it takes a strong person to know their limits, evaluate a situation and make a hard decision.......know you will be stronger in the future and that everything makes us who we are...it just depends on how you choose to learn from your life lessons. This was not a failure...this was you growing to become a better runner......you have many many many years of running ahead of you, this is only one paragraph in one chapter......you are an inspiration to me and I am glad we are friends. Do not relive this race as a failure...your body would not let you do what your mind wanted it to...usually the mind gives up first...the body is easy to strengthen, the mind is more difficult to train...but you have already made your mind and spirit incredibly tough.......you (anyone) can always make the body tougher, but a strong mind is something that is harder to train.....know that you have more than what it takes to be a lovely human and caring partner and tough competitor......
I feel like I known you for years because of all your race reports. I guess bad things come in batches. My company just laid off 50% of its employees, and I survived yet another round during my years here. Still, I didn't care about it as much as I care about your race. I've been checking the reports from the aid stations, and searching for your name furiously. I couldn't find your name after one of them, and I thought that the data was incomplete. I did not want to go the DNF route because you're a tough runner. I'm a little disappointed that you didn't finish, not because of the fact that you didn't finish, but because I know how determined you were to achieve the goal. Did that make any sense? Regardless, I am happy to know that you are safe. Maybe you're a little bruised, but you live to run another day. There is no glory in dying on the course. You'll get nothing more than a footnote in history of the race.
I have no doubt that you'll do this again. It's your life. You're born to run! In my book, you are still amazing!
I do not know what should I say... because I do not know you very well, but
coming from a fellow runner and a strong one as you are, I will say:
I'm very proud of you, you rock the mounts girl. Glad to know you're listen
to your body, because the ego is our enemy. You are here and heath.The
mounts are permanent. I'm sure you'll try next year and you'll be there much
more strong with all the lessons you've learned this year. And more, to
accepte our limitations is a sine of courage. I'm sure you know many
runners that are not capable to achieve what you did, recognize their
limitation, and you do not see their names on the races any longer and for
other they are no longer in this level of life.
Life is too short for us to learn evything by ourselves, and you showed that
you did learned from your fellows runners... never forget, you're the one
who are going home with your body... you did the right thing.
Hope you're feeling in your 100%, and wishing all the best in your next
Keep in touch, and thank you for get back to me.
Keep up with your wonderful work.
Love and serenity...
I am so sorry about your slam, and that your race didn't go as planned. I know you never gave up fighting, and you did the best you could. My heart was with you on Sat. and I thought about you several times.
You are tough and I admire you so much.
How is your son? That is a heavy weight on your mind I'm sure. Is he back with you yet, or do you know when he will be?
Let me know if I can do anything for you.
Do you feel better now?
I am sorry to hear about your experience at Leadville. Altitude can be a bitch especially with little or no acclimation. Its a wild card and you just never know how your body is going to react to it. It sounds like you were really experiencing some pretty knarly symptoms and I am glad that you were able to get back to an aid station and ultimately to a place where you could be medically assisted. Its good to know that you are okay and that you will live to run another day.
So do not be too hard on yourself, I know its a let down but it happens to everyone and this time you had virtually no control over your bodies reaction to the altitude.
Take care of yourself and have fun at Wasatch!
My dear Olga,
I am so sorry that the damn altitude waved it's wand.
I am SO very proud of you. Thank you for choosing life. Yours is far more precious than the slam. Slam shlam.....
You really are a hero, my hero.
Olga--It is just a race, you did your best and that"s all that counts.I"m glad your going to do Wasatch. As we have plained I will meet you on Thursday Sept 8. All you whant to do is finish Wasatch, I have finish the race 7 times you and I( will !!!) finish. Talk to you about final plains before the race, nick
I was genuinely saddened to read about your problems at Leadville. I know you have done all the self analysis of how to get pass this problem and I have no doubt that you will in grand fashion. I hope we get time to run together at Wasatch. We all have things to learn from each other.
Admiring Mike with Love
olga you did not dissapoint any of us!!!
you gave it your very best shot and that's much more admirable than what most folks did.
no more tears
Olga--You did not fail. You did your best, gave it your best and thats all that counts. Now I have DNF in some 100 milers I don"t think of myself as failed. Things will not always go the way we would like, take the good with the bad, and move on to the next day.Now rest and take care of yourself. e-mail me in a few days and let me know how you are. No one! thinks any less of you because you did not finish. Listen to me, I have been there and know what it is all about, nick
I just want to say that you are still a champion in my mind and you didn’t disappoint me (or anyone else) for your superior effort you put forth. I’m glad you are still positive about your running and that you did all you could to try and finish. As indicated many times in your report, it just wasn’t your day. I am still very proud of you Olga for all what you have already accomplished this year (including Leadville) and what is yet to come! Your one of my inspirations that drives me to get me back to running again!
Thanks for all your encouragement and good luck to you at Wasatch and future runs.
Sorry I couldn’t be there to help you, but my knee might have backfired on me too.
We’ll talk to you soon.
Thank you for sharing your story. I'm very sorry for what happened to you, and I'm positive you didn't disappoint anybody you sent this to. I'm excited that you're still going to run and finish Wasatch. Have a blast!