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

Monday, August 28, 2006

Seattle and CCC100

There were high points, a little bit of low points, and lots of good times. I am really beginning to love weekends in a whole new way!

We drove to Seattle on Friday night, talking about many things non-stop, so those 3 hrs flew by like minutes. The funny thing was when we pulled in to our friends’ driveway, there were no lights in the house! Apparently, our host for the weekend had read only first 3 lines of an email and skipped the part we were coming Friday, not Saturday. He and his wife and their little girl were celebrating the win of his team in this year’s yacht run (or whatever it called in English). So we got the key from them and set ourselves up.

Saturday morning rolled in, and after breakfast and long and lazy getting ready we drove for an hour and half to Mt. Erie up north from Seattle. The area was famous for local rock climbing, with short walls of may be 80 feet and a few multi-pitch walls for experienced dudes. Of course, having me and Stephen meant we’ll be at the “short wall” place.

I have to explain that there was time, like 7 years ago, when I decided we need to get into rock climbing. So Oleg and I (and kids to some extent) started to visit rock climbing gym in NYC suburbs. We did pretty well, and considering that it was sport climbing with top rope, I could make assents of 5.8 if I tried really hard. Then we went to New Hampshire with some guys we hooked up with – and after climbing up the rock wall (what was not a big problem, though in nature it is never a pure 5.6 or 5.8 or whathaveyou) I looked back down – and froze. OMG, I have a fear of heights! As if I didn’t know. I cried, and screamed, and held on to that rock, and even tried to down-climb – I couldn’t let go. I simply didn’t trust anybody and mostly the rope to hold me while lowering down and pictured way too vivid how I drop on the rocky bottom and break my spine. Ever since I refused to climb, as well as watch it, while Oleg advanced, took kids out and progressed to an alpine mountain climber, who does mixed climbs of rock and ice wearing freaking heavy boots. Whew!

Anyhow, since I am all in this “you never change while you’re comfortable” stage of mind and AM willing to change myself; I decided I’ll take one minute at a time. So as I was sitting under the wall and looking Oleg leading climb to set the top rope, I thought – this is easy, I should do it. Actually, it WAS easy, it was 5.1 grade, but it was good to start and build confidence, just like in running I first ran 5k, then a marathon, then an ultra. I got up in no time (and not wearing climbing shoes, may I add) – and looked down…and while it was uncomfortable, it wasn’t “drop-dead scary”. So I survived, and got an itch on climbing, and went on to get on couple of more, last one being solid 5.7. Yeah, baby, I am back! OK, may be not, but at least I now know I can’t say “I don’t like it” unless I give it my best shot.

We took a ferry back after driving local scenic roads, and came just in time for dinner. And just as I was getting myself into Jacuzzi holding a freshly opened beer bottle…a phone call. See, it was a weekend of CCC100. The one that was Rob’s first. And this year he went at it again, though almost kind of at the last minute. Michelle and Sonya were crewing for Rob since morning hours, and we exchanged a few phone calls about his run. After about 10 miles or so Rob had begun to have stomach problems and nausea. That lead him to not been able to take in much fuel and water, not to mention his mood down-spiraling rather quickly. At mile 33 he was only half an hour behind proposed schedule, but at mile 40 it grew to over an hour, he felt crappy and asked Michelle to call. The original plan was to have me come after midnight and begin pacing him at mile 73, while his friend and one of last year’s pacers George would take on the responsibilities of a “running companion” between miles 53 and 73. Getting a phone call at 9 pm didn’t predict anything good…

Rob was in trouble. It meant I get out of bathing suite, put on running shorts, jump in a car and drive 60 miles to find Michelle and Sonya. We pick up George on the way and get to Olallie Meadows AS at mile 47. Rob is not there…worried of waiting, I go back on trail to see him. About ¾ mile there he is, moving slowly and sadly. He is hurting. Nothing’s changed since that call, he is still nauseated and doesn’t eat. I give him a hug, seeing him near tears. I promise he'll be just fine now. I pop a bunch of pills in him, squeeze a gel and give him my bottle. We make it to the AS and feed him with a bit of soup and pirogies.

I don’t let him waste time (my idea of a pacer is to numb the mind of a runner - first of all thinking takes too much energy, secondly way too often a runner thinks negatively) and kick him out for one of the nastiest sections on this course. It has 2 miles of loose-rock bad ass downhill, 1 miles of bushwhacking (seriously, no trail) through some crap downhill with parts so steep and scary, they have protective rope for getting down (and BTW, it poorly marked too) and 2 miles of running through closed-in spooky tunnel. I keep feeding Rob and entertaining him as much as I can. Left foot, right foot. Run, walk. Eat, drink. Simple thoughts. We hug, we laugh (he smircks), we predict every single possible blog comment that will come in any outcome, we get lost for a few minutes, we actually run in a tunnel!...and we make it to Hyak AS (mile 53) in a good time, passing at least 6 runners! We came so unexpectedly, Michelle wasn’t out of the car yet. So we are all hopeful. Rob changes out of old stinky clothes into fresh ones, eats some more, I load George with gels and carb-powder and my advice on how to make Rob do run-walk pattern, and we send them off. I make Rob promise me to keep going. We drive to Kachess Lake AS (mile 67) and try to get some snooze.

I don’t go to sleep for quite a bit as CCC100 is a “local” race for me, what means I know a “few” runners and love to chat. Tony C goes out with pacer Carol after been taken care of by Glenn, I talk a bit longer with John Pearch and Bob “The Beast” and retire finally around 3 am. By 4 am I am up – my estimate says I should be alert. First Mike “Bushwhacker” and Anna Bates come in, then David Bliss. I help a bit what I can (nothing really, they are experienced self-sufficient runners relying on AS volunteers) and talk, waiting for Rob to be any minute now…when the radio guy comes in and asks who is here for Rob Hester…and it my heart sinks. Rob dropped at the previous AS, and we are to pick him and George up at Keechelus Ridge (mile 60). At first I am so sad, I forget to ask directions. I wake up Michelle and Sonya and we get some loose directions about “turn this gravel road, then this gravel road” in the middle of dark night…

It took us 1.5 hrs of hitting dirt and scratching cars circling around those mountains on fire roads with no sign of an aid station. Eventually we make a smart decision to go to the finish line and figure out things through radio people. Where we immediately get a word that our boys are been driven to the finish line as well and are expected to be in 20 min.

In a mean-time we saw the winner come in, all the while trying to collect ourselves for Rob. He comes shaken. “It’s my first DNF” he says…”Welcome to the club, baby” I answer…It’s tough. It will be tough for quite some time, until you make sense of why it had to happen. But it had to happen, it had a reason. And it’s not the end of the world…I have much to say about it, but I say it to Rob. He is good. He listens. I hope I can help to make peace in his heart. I’ve been there before. I still am.

Rob gets in a car and ladies drive him back home. I am lost as I am not sure what to do. I am torn from been sad, disappointed, wanting to help someone else (as I said, it’s a local run, I could offer pacing to at least 5 people), and needing a long run (personal reasons). I don’t want to drive to any of the AS though, as they all are on fore roads in the middle of hell, and I am not sure how to retrieve a car back after all (I’ve had situations when it took forever to find somebody to give me a ride to my car). I think of running out to French cabin AS (mile 88) and there picking a runner up. I even start out for a couple of miles…but it’s lonely, sad and feels pointless…besides I had a deal with Oleg to help Rob, not to hang out at the race, and I need all the points I can score with my family. So I turn around, get in a car and drive back to Seattle.

It was a smart decision after all. My boys got excited to see my bright and early, and even though I was sleepy the whole time, we managed to enjoy downtown of Seattle together. I do need to go out for that missed long run though just about now.

p.s. I did get that long run in. I went from work through Marquam trail into the Forest Park on Wildwood some goddman miles and back. I hate out-back courses for long training runs! After spin class and full leg lifting routine in the morning to make my life more miserable (what I achieved quite well). My injury wasn't as bad as I anticipated, but I realized in the last month I lost not only my speed and my strength, but also endurance. Scary. My uphill stamina has been improved tremendously in the last 3 weeks though. I managed to average just under 12 min/mile, and almost died in the last hour - apparently, my lower back and upper butt forgot how to keep my body up-right for so long and hurt like hell. But it's done and over.
Next day I paid with my hamstring injury screaming at me full blast. I bailed after third 400m repeat. All these obstacles make it that much more difficult to have a decision on my rest of the season. I guess I’ll take another week to think about it. So, Rick, although I still do plan to come see you, I’ll let you know for sure after Labor Day.

p.p.s. Craig, I figured what quality I appreciate about Rob the most. His ability to listen. You know, not just listen, but hear, put himself in "your shoes", understand...to care. No, it didn't hit me on pacing night - he couldn't say a word anyway even if he wanted, and I don't think he heard much of my blunter - but it's what makes Rob, you know, Rob. It doesn't matter who he is talking to and what's it about - he always cares. A rather rare quality these days. Especially in men.


D said...

I'm so sad for him. What a great group of friends you guys are!

rick said...

What a rollercoaster weekend for you. Sorry to hear about Rob, it's a tough, tough course. I'm glad he had you guys there to support him. Take your time making your decision about RDL. Ran with Jason this past weekend, the first time in a long time, thought about you guys at CCC.

P.S. Saw Mike B's name on the results. Nice. Remember him as part of your crew for WS.

backofpack said...

You're the best! It cracks me up that we pulled you away from a jacuzzi and a beer. I know you gave it your all for Rob, and I really appreciate you responding so quickly when we called. I'm sorry we didn't get our talk time though - we'll have to do it again to get that in!

robtherunner said...

See I told you how nice it would be if we all took the day off early and got back home to our families. You were able to enjoy Seattle with the boys and yes I am still riddled with guilt for pulling you away from them in the first place. I'm almost ready for my lecture, but I'll e-mail you in person. Still collecting my thoughts.

Julie B said...

OH no. That darn hamstring!! It keeps wanting to act up on you. I know you should rest it, easier said than done, isn't it. Poor Rob, that's a tough one, the DNF. He'll come to terms once he figures out the why. DOn't you need to figure out why? I always need to, then I can learn from it and let it go. You are the awesome pacer lady. Wish I had you next week!

robtherunner said...

I am also sorry that I could not compliment you more since I was unable to think very clearly. I am sorry I was such a grump. There is no doubt that you are the best pacer out there and I always want you in my corner. I know I need to give now to you before I take anymore.

Robb said...

Olga, you are very kind to help Rob and support the others. The friendship that you share is extra special. My hat is off to you.

Wes said...

Olga, you are a real trooper! And your description of your family time in Seattle was priceless! I know Robb appreciated you being there. It's all about good people helping good people.

Anonymous said...

That's interesting. I sent Rob and e-mail today and among other things spoke about his compassion and the ability to place himself in someone else's shoes. You reading my mail?

Wish the night had gone better for him. But at least you got to make another memory together and friends treasure all of those, both the good and the difficult.

olga said...

Rob, compliments mean, you know, something nice and sweet, not "my ultra mentor"...you know, the ones you give to all the other girls we discuss on the run...

Sarah said...

You're a good friend, Olga. I liked reading the three different versions (your's, Rob's and Michelle's).

And I think that's great you're pushing yourself out of your comfort zone with the rock climbing. It's so true "you never change when you're comfortable." Good words to live by.

bushwhacker said...

Go easy on those training miles to get a real hamstring heal. Talk to Tom Chapman what he did.
It was great to see ya out on the CCC trail. The whole trail lite up when you smiled my way.

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