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

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Saturday morning started early. It was a time to test my long run in the Gorge. I haven’t been to the Columbia River Gorge trails since 2 weeks before WS100, what is a long time ago. So as I come up with the idea to go for Rio Del Lago 100M, I needed something that would tell me if my attempt is at least half-doable. Not that I was going to run half-the-distance of the race, but I wondered how I may feel (Monday’s run was somewhat on a simpler terrain, shorter in time and it did hurt during and after).
I met with Gail and we drove for my favorite route: PCT to Wahtum Lake to Herman creek, for a 26 mile loop (with a couple of spurs for water refill). We also haven’t run together since that same time before WS (it’s like my life split to “before and after”), and I was almost scared, as silly as it sounds. What if there will be no talk flow? I am so used to run alone lately, what if I will need to adjust my pace too much?

I worried for nothing. We took off from the trailhead and the conversation never stopped the whole way. The weather was beautiful, it may have been hot on the open stretches later in a day, but we ran mostly in the shade of canopy of huge tress, and it was wonderful. We hiked all the big climbs, inhaled all the views, discussed all the life matters (and, as always, speaking my questions aloud had lead me to some decision making or at least to clearer understanding of them). Lots was talked about kids – the experiment of one to raise them and how to let them go, as well as about past races and plans for near and far future, running for the team or not, friends in PNW.

We reached the lake, and the water was so warm and clean I wanted to jump in, but we had a strict time frame to adhere to so on we went. We’ve met many hikers and exchange a few words with each, wondering how many people are sitting home today or strolling the malls. Herman creek trail had many streams, and we filled our bottles with fresh cold water almost in each of them. We did get tired by the last hour, but we both got a big confidence booster – we made it, without big concerns, easy and painless (I took two Excedrin) and although an hour slower than my best time there (ran with Oleg last year), it was quite predicted.

So now I am not worried crazy about going for a 100M in 3 weeks, even though I had 3 long runs in preparation, and one was in mid-July, and none was over 30 miles. I really want the feeling of getting something big accomplished, so I will give it my best shot. The fact that I didn’t have a legitimate training would allow me to relax about the outcome and enjoy things more, because there will be no competitive juices flowing in me. And I will have my good friend Rick coming over later on Saturday to help me out and jump into pacing for the night. Things actually seem to be working out. As Lisa Bliss mentioned to me in an email (my virtual doctor) – I realize I may need to stop, but I don’t plan on it. Unless I re-injure the hamstring (what many predict may happen), I will count whatever distance I go (hopefully all) at RDL as the beginning of my training to Javelina Jundred which I intend to race this year.

I came home, cleaned myself, ate lunch and the family jumped into the car for a trip to Central OR. We wanted to go to Smith Rock Park , the Mecca of all local climbers.
The original plan was to camp out near by and may be meet with our friends from ultrarunning community Maura and Stan for some outings, but they had gone to East coast for the weekend. Well, that wasn’t all – Maura and Stan had left us a key to their house, 20 miles away from Smith Rock Park! We had a best “resort” anybody could offer!! I mean, there are many things I might complain about in my life, but I am so blessed with people, I feel overwhelmed. As for the house, I would just like to add, that since these guys traveled so much around the world for work and pleasure, it has so many authentic pieces of just about everything, you think you’re in a museum. Very cool! We drove passed Mt. Hood, my favorite mountain of all, and then entered high desert, where I thought of Angie. The weekend was shaping up.

Sunday morning came, we had a good full breakfast and head on to the park entrance. The first little hike brought us to a massive rock with 8 “lines” varying in difficulty from 5.6 to 5.10b. We started from the easiest. Oleg lead (hello!), and we followed. It went OK, but the next route we picked, although labeled 5.8, had first 12 feet or so at 5.9 (some negative wall entrance), and after at least 10 tries to get over that first part, I failed miserably. My worst side of character kicked in. I got aggravated. Angry, mad, disappointed, ashamed…I have this weird thing ever since we got married (what was a long time ago), that Oleg loves me for how strong I am (completely denying his own words how much he’d like me to be weak so he could feel the need to protect me and be a man). And every time I fail to prove my strength, I decide I am not worthy. So I got down from the rope, said a few words of choice meaning “leave me alone”, go around the rock and sit down to cry. Oh, boo-hoo, poor me, I am so bad, it’s not enough I can’t climb, I also break the mood of the whole weekend with my whining…and the circle goes ‘round and ‘round. But I was also thinking reaction and response. The big reason I couldn’t make that pitch I felt was that I had long nails (yep, I grew nails lately!) and I couldn’t jam my fingers into the rock holes far enough for a good grip. So while I was sobbing, I was biting and chewing on my fingernails.
Back I came, all ready to go, and made it to the top. Hee-haw! Life was good again. It was a pleasure watching Oleg leading any climb and telling those around – yes, it’s my husband, he can do anything. I think I never saw him in this way before.

We took a hike around the Mesa to get to Monkey Face, the most famous place for climbers, where, as they say, “the boys become men”. The hike went straight up, gaining 1000 feet in less than a mile. Most of it was on a sunny side of the mountain. As I was puffing and huffing, I kept thinking how idiotic we (ultrarunners) are, because we do these things numerous times during a much longer overall mileage, and how the hell do we do it if I hate it right now, I am not sure. Is it adrenaline? Total focus on a bigger task to get to the finish line? Camaraderie? Better taking care of ourselves on the way?

We reached the top, and while I was blabbing to Oleg my ideas about it, we turned a corner, and Monkey Face stood upon us…I saw pictures before, and once here from afar, but never that close and personal. So Oleg proceeds to tell me how first you do this pitch, then second one, then sit in that hole to rest, then put your legs down and face the wall to traverse this part on your arms hanging over the bottomless nothing, to reach the last pitch…and I say “there is no way anybody really can do it”…and he says “I’ve done it twice”….
Holly f* shit! I am so petrified by only looking at this thing, my knees are shaking and I am ready to throw up! My husband, the one I live with, climbed this wall…twice…not that how many times really matters.

I don’t believe I ever looked at him this way. I knew he was a good climber. I could proudly say that to anyone. But I had no idea what it meant. Not until now. “Good” got a whole new meaning. I wasn’t sure do I have a another level of respect, am I scared of him, worship him, feel relaxed for his future climbs or more scared (especially when he said “I wish you saw all of my paths my eyes”…I quickly responded “I wish I never knew what the hell you’re doing”).
I don’t know anymore if people running 100M in the mountains are crazy. May be a little bit “out there”, but really, all we need is a touch of endurance and a lot of stubbornness. These guys are a whole different level of idiots.

We stopped at the river for Stephen to swim a bit, then came to another climbing wall we picked to continue practicing. I didn’t feel any weird competitiveness anymore, or shame if I can’t make it. I felt at ease to belay Oleg as well, because doing it for the first time in my life is pretty darn scary, and my forearms were so tired from climbing, I was afraid I can let the rope go any moment. Now knowing that Oleg is a pro made me less tense. We did two more routes of 5.7, one been a crack route. It was fun, and Stephen and I made it all the way to the top of a 100 feet wall. Stephen is a real trooper! We kept talking how if he sticks with it, he may become a real climber! It is unbelievable to see this tiny body getting so far up and so quickly.

All in all we spent there all day, leaving at sunset. I didn’t run, but we hiked some 4-5 miles, and with climbing to the point my arms are shaking I’ll take it as a cross-training. When we came back to the “House on 16th”, I was afraid to serve plates and not drop them.

One more day for an adventure! Monday met us (me in particular) aching in new places, like forearms, hands and calves. Another lazy breakfast behind, we drove North passing Bend and Mt. Bachelor for a climb/hike to Mt. South Sister. This is a third tallest mountain in OR at 10, 358 feet and was on our “to do” list. Of course, we completely disregarded the guide’s paragraph saying “It is NOT a family hike, don’t take children and dogs with you”, because it has 5,000 feet elevation gain in 6 miles, and last 3 are loose rocks, scree and sand staright up. We don’t have children, we have Stephen! Our poor poor kids, they didn’t choose their parents…

The first mile and half was steep, but shaded and nice footing. Soon we see a couple of guys running down the trail, and my first thought – I must know them, only local ultrafolks could be those insane people. Sure enough, it is Sean Meissner and his friend Rob doing “recovery” run after 3 hard days on road! (Sean’s next race is Lake Tahoe 72 mile road race, and he is a 4-times champion on Lake Tahoe Triple Marathon). We chatted a few minutes (Sean said he wondered who it was wearing Montrail shirt – yes, I do wear team t-shirts as they are great and breathable for any kinds of exercise), and parted our ways.

After that first hit of trails you get to enjoy some almost flat terrain on a wide-ish path for another mile and half or so, but it would have been better not to have this rest. Because we still need to climb 5,000 feet in 6 miles, and it means that next 3 miles will be vertical. And they were, covered with scree, dust, volcano sand, tallus, loose rocks and God knows what. Walking forward and sliding back was the definition of our hike. My butt hurt of this unusual movement, and at some point, taking a break, we contemplated turning back. But we are stubborn. Oleg hooked Stephen up for the last 0.5M (that gained 1000 feet) to his backpack, and we crawled on. Even that last push happened to be not “last” – we still needed to go around the crater to touch the highest point! Shoot, crazy!

Going down was even less fun – I constantly was worried to slide down and with sudden move re-injure so far healing hamstring. So I was the last in line up until we got to the flat part. Stephen was such a trooper! I can’t believe what we subject our children to, and they actually make it. If you think I was tired, and I am (somewhat) trained athlete, how did he feel? He was quiet the last mile, and I wanted so badly to pick him up and carry him…only he is not a baby weight anymore, and I can hardly lift him for a moment. He got to the car and after well deserved shake in Bend fell asleep all the way home )where we got at midnight).

I have a very special family, each and every one of my boys. How often do I look at them in regular life and not notice it, not appreciate it. I think this weekend showed a few things more up-close and personal, and I cherish every moment of it.


robtherunner said...

Sounds wonderful! You are grooming Stephen for bigger things in the future and I know when he talks about his parents at school he definitely has bragging rights.

And you are absolutely right about climbing. There is a sense of danger and impending doom there that I do not think we have as ultrarunners.

Anonymous said...

What a great weekend. Thanks for sharing the pictures along with the post about your weekend. It's funny how in the process of making personal changes and new self discoveries how we also come to rediscover those closest to us. I told you the other day that you are blessed. And you are.

Sarah said...

What an awesome fun-filled weekend! Your boys are so lucky to have you as parents. Stephen is going to grow up with the attitude that he can do anything! That's a great gift you are giving as parents.

Jessica Deline said...

Looks like an amazingly wonderful and beautiful vacation! Love the pictures too :)

backofpack said...

Olga, what a great weekend! And great pictures. I bet Stephen had a blast and wouldn't trade it for the world. Just knowing that his parents had that kind of confidence in him will do wonders for him. You sure know how to make the most of your weekends!

Wes said...

Holy crap! Olga! I didn't realize you were doing the 100M so soon. I'm already nervous! And tell your husband I think he's nuts, LOL. Walls like that are made for throwing things down, not climbing :-) You guys are very, very brave!!

TryAthlete said...

Rock Stars!

Thomas said...

Love the pictures, especially the last one.

I'm sure Stephen will follow in his parents' footsteps and will become a rather tough athlete, though if he'll choose mountain climbing, trail running or something completely different I can't say.

Julie B said...

What a wonderful vacation and how nice of Stan and Maura! I miss them. Maura worked the aid station during the 100 a few years ago. We all miss them. I'm glad your run went well. RDL will be just fine!

Julie B said...

The 100 at Superior. Guess I forgot to state the race.

Kim said...

What great pics and a wonderful weekend!
That Monkey Face is just completely petrifying!! Tell Oleg he is crazy!!!

Ironayla said...

I loved your photos and reading about your weekend! Wow, you rock climb! You are much braver than I.

Ryan said...

Outdoor bonanza!! Amazing, I didn't think it was possible to cram that many adventures into one weekend...wow...run 26 miles, rock climb and then climb a 5,000 footer! That's a perfect way to spend the long weekend. Thanks for the great pics and post!

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