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

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Postpartum depression

If I continue the idea of running a 100M compared to giving birth, it is obvious I have to go through postpartum depression. What is the surprise, there is literature proving its existence even after a marathon! The hormonal burst exchanged with sudden emptiness of adrenalin pockets, endorphin release and drop to the bottom, emotional high from anticipation, preparation, and expectation – and then nothing bordering with insanity …and best physical shape you ever had followed by exhaustion and full body depletion. Add on to it meeting with your best friends and then leaving them behind, visiting amazingly beautiful places, being away from boring everyday life when it circles around work-drive-home-dinner-bed-drive…you get the idea. Oh, and don’t forget it to be the end of the season, and not the greatest end… I am sure you know what I am talking about, may be even had it yourself.

A few notes on the run, since I hardly described it. Besides probably 3 bad climbs (2 of them been m*-f* hills), the rest is totally small rolling hills, very runnable. In fact, the winner ran the whole course without any walk breaks. Since it is September, you get more dark hours than you bargain, and better start with a light (headlamp), what I did, and used it for about 40 min or so. I ran the first 4.1 miles in 39 min, what was faster than I planned, and entering the first aid station and looking at my watch, managed to roll my ankle. It hurt for about 3 hours after that, but then I forgot all about it. I saw George at 12 miles in 2:10, exactly on schedule, and picked up my fresh bottles and backpack with extra bottle – there was a longish section and sun was coming up strong. This is where my stomach went south for the first time, and I spent some time in a creek taking care of myself (sorry if it grosses you out, but in ultras, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do). The first time I realized I have blisters coming was at about same time, what is by mile 20 (?). It was the earliest I ever had to start on it in a race, but it was insanely dusty, and even with gaiters it was coming through the upper mesh of your shoes. Since I wasn’t in a big hurry, I stooped and changed socks first time. I usually plan on 2 changes total, and that’s how many pairs of socks I bring, so if it wasn’t for George, I’d be pretty screwed on this course. Once I figured I am going to have to deal with bad feet, I slowed down deliberately to try and keep the bottom of my feet alive for as long as I could – since most of all I wanted to finish.
We entered this section to No hands Bridge – if anyone is familiar with WS100, it’s the last 3 miles in reverse. It was so much fun to see it with new eyes, fresh (as opposed to be after 97 miles, often in the dark, and dog-tired) and relatively happy. We started to see 53-mile racers coming back from turn-around, and it was a blast! One of the reasons out-and-back courses could be fun sometimes. I’ve got to say hi to a good dozen of friends and kept smiling. No Hands was actually boring to come there so early. Next was that K2 climb, with 7 false summits, first half steeper than second. My stomach continued picking up its ugly rear (or head, depending which way I wanted to part with my calories). A guy names Scott caught up with me, he is from OR coast and was doing his first 100, collecting donations for D. Farber research (yeah, he finished in 26 and change!). We talked while getting up, then jogged a bit, then I turned into walk (stomach did not like the idea of jiggling, and there were no bushes around) and he went on.
Cool Fire Station AS was a good site with a bathroom, and I also spent time changing socks and patching my blisters here. Since, again, I wasn’t going to risk to splash the content on my insides on the hot dirt road, I power-walked. But here where I got in a real groove walking – 5 miles per hour, on the spot. I had fun being on heals of some girl who didn’t like me, I sang songs and despite it been the hottest part (high sun, no shade whatsoever, boring boring scenes around) I was in a perfect mood. This is where I resolved I am going to finish and don’t care about my time. More feet care at the end of this 7 mile loop, and back to retrieve my steps.
We went to No Hands Bridge the same trail we use in WS100, and memories flooded me. Good and bad, they were so close to my heart. No matter how it went this year, WS100 has a special place for my soul. My stomach finally settled in, and I begun to jog down. I could point spots where I hit my left foot in June, where I took a tissue from Gail to wipe my tears and blow my nose from sobbing, where I lost Nick (my pacer from 2005), where I started hobbling from popped ligament in 2004…Oh, the sweet sweet last 7 miles of WS100! I got down in perfect condition, saw George, exchanged my bottles and took off renewed with energy.
My power-walk up the hill after the bridge was blasting, even though the blisters started to pop. I only realized that when I saw George at mile 44 (? – I never memorized AS at this race as I usually do). I also saw Tim Twitmeier with his dog, what a hoot! Anyhow, had another stop for feet care, saw that skin at some places moved, but plowed down the Cardiac hill and then through rolling hills like crazy, passing at least 12 people (I didn’t expect there were so many in a race!), including Catra (love this girl, just absolutely cute, crazy, tough, funny and all “self” with no lies) and Scott. I ran so hard around some little lake, I picked 35 min on the hour I lost on my schedule and began to dream about 24 hr finish. Hey, dreaming is good, right? I was thinking – I like to push. It is weird, may be, but honestly, I am not the type who happily goes to just finish, I like to fight and feel the burn inside, to give it my all, to play with the edge of time strain…I surprised George with my early arrival and took off. Thank God I picked up my headlamp!
Because very soon the darkness fell, almost suddenly. And we got to the section with much of downs, but all of it had big clunks of “break your leg” rocks sticking out, and it became a crawl for your life. This is where I stubbed my toes so many times, I was swearing out loud. It didn’t help that dust was still up, and in a light of headlamp it seemed fuzzy. Not funny, but I mentioned to someone before RDL that I never stub my feet on anything on trail…later at home I had to poke the toenails and release a gross amount of pus and blood, and it still hurts 5 days later.
I was still flirting with 24 hr finish, and talking myself into not giving up working hard. Another obstacle here was lack of course marking. We were warned that there are people unhappy with race going on and they vandalize by taking streamers off, but it is quite disheartening actually running in the middle of dark night, hitting an intersection and not being sure what trail to take (I managed to never get lost, but it was very scary to think about it). Basically, I just followed the general direction along the river and then, when we hit the residential section (with music and b-b-q smell) prayed that I am still moving where I need to.
Time was slipping away, and I kept thinking if only I come to the school (mile 67) before 9 pm, I have a good shot at 24…if only I come before 9:30…even if it’s 10 pm, and I feel ok, and Rick would kick my butt…School finally showed up, and I was there at 9:45. Can’t say I was very encouraged, but George and Rick were there, and it was a great boost. I weighed myself and found out I lost 5 lbs – suddenly, after the whole day being so proud of fueling correctly, I guess scared of loosing the right trail I stopped paying attention to it. I set down and right away some volunteers were sent to bring me soup and force me to eat. While at it, I stripped my stinky clothes and put fresh sport bra and long sleeve short on. George took my shoes off and slowly pulled bloody socks off my feet. I guess those thingies started to act, huh? I pointed to a couple of new ones between my toes, and he patched them too. I was excited to have Rick for the next section and announced that if we can make next 4 miles in 1 hr, I will push for 24, if not – I’ll just bring in the finish, hopefully rather sooner than later, as I am a cheapo, and having paid for 2 nights room stay, wanted to get a use of it. At least a good shower, not to mention all my crap was still there.
4mph didn’t happen, and that was still when I felt relatively good. I accepted the inevitable and we went on. First few hours were quite fun, having Rick just arrived and exchanging news since we last saw each other, gossips on people we knew (like Jason, yes, baby, we talked about you), general running stuff – you know, what races to run or not…things were moving along. We reached Auburn Overlook, and I was getting cold. Thanks to Rick who had a jacket that I pulled on, otherwise I could have gone hypothermic – a very easy thing to do for me with low thyroid function. I set down there and George covered me with blanket, feeding me little pieces of pizza bites. Those surprisingly worked.
We moved on over the road bridge and in and out of bike path. Marking were non-existent, but Norm said just to keep looking for arrows on the road and take turns onto trails from the paved bike path all the times. Those trails were nasty, let me tell ya! Rocks, rocks, and more rocks. Nothing in elevation change, but really bad for ruined feet. Oh, just keep moving forward, right? People had begun coming back from the tunr-around, and we got to cheer them on. Tom Riley from OR blasted by, very focused and looking down to not miss those paintings. He got to the finish in 22:30 (?), good for 6th overall! A few more people, Kyly McMurray, a gal from OR, hanging strong and pushing on (to 3rd girl in 25:44). Much later it was Catra and her pacer Kathy D’Onofrio. I have to say, when Kathy is a legend, she won WS100 some many years ago, and then after a long break came back into ultras. She holds a CR for RDL100 in 18:46 (from last year). Last 2 years she had bad problems at WS100 and finished with literally minutes to spare, but she never gave up. When she paced Catra, she sang, sweet-talked and was genuinely so positive to all around, you could hear her tiny voice carrying on for a long time.
I’ was getting very cold and very sleepy, 2 am is a bad time for me, especially with my “blasting pace”. So I asked Rick if I could take a nap at the turn-around AS at mile 83.5. George put me on a chair and propped a blanket around, and I dosed off for 15 min. At the wake the volunteers fed me with the best soup I ever tried, and we took off.
That nap was perfect. I started off so strong, we both got excited. Next AS had the weigh-in, and was now 7 lbs down. It was funny how they looked into my eyes and asked: are you ok? And I was like – are you kidding? I just woke up and feel fantastic, let me go! I think they had problem with the scale, not me.
As we moved towards the Auburn Overlook again, there was a huge amount of people just heading out to turn-around. Insane! How can they go so late, and no, they weren’t jumping with joy and energy there…would I have continued to move if I knew for sure there is no way I am making cut off at mile 83 or 90? Could they even do simple math?
Soon after Overlook the light started to come up, and I was still very perky. Last serious AS is at mile 93, almost done, right? I danced in to an AS, managed a couple of jokes to volunteers, and we walked out. A mere 2 miles later it hit me full slap in a face – I was so done. My feet were crying, the back of my legs were tight like hell, because of these two problems I was walking awkward rolling to the sides of my feet – and my shins swelled up with pain from it…I won’t repeat my description given in previous post, but yes, I sobbed. It wasn’t like I wouldn’t finish, I just lost momentum and let go. In things like that it is important to be on guard all the time, every minute. Once you let it loose – the gate opens and the flood comes out, flood of pain, tiredness and ridicule of it all. I hobbled into last AS at mile 93 and fell into George’s hug. Just a second, I though, I want to be a little girl just for a second, and then I’ll go ahead and finish this sucker…
Last 3 miles the sun was warming up, and I was still wearing my long sleeve shirt. Rick kept telling me what the future turn is bringing us, how long it is to levee, and then how long it is on top of those levees. Somewhere in the beginning of last mile the Compeed on my right foot moved aside – and it felt like the hell broke into fire. I stopped, tried to make a step, stopped again and finally got down on the ground. We took my shoe off thinking of may be fixing it, but I was too afraid to pull the sock off or do something worse that it already is. Besides, with less than a mile to go, I just needed to suck it up for another 20 min. Back on up my feet, breathe through, and hobble in.
We turn to the school yard and I see George waiting afar. Funny, I told Rick I won’t run the last step – I think it’s ridiculous to pretend I am a runner at this point, but as we see the clock, I shuffle in. Thank God, it’s over!

What would be the lessons? It’s hard to say. The usual ones, like prepare for the feat, figure out things that work for you ahead of time, and don’t start injured. That the saying “better be undertrained than overtrained” is a bunch of bull. Better be trained right amount or not go at all. That I have best possible friends and having them around makes my life so much fuller. That I enjoy running on trails, and I also enjoy picking a fight, and when I can’t fight, I loose quite some joy, even if not all. That I love the feeling of effortlessness on the run, even if I grind my teeth, it is different than been a wobbly survivor. That I need to figure out if I am a 100 miler as I used to think or may be (just may be) I should try and focus on 50 next year. I’ve had either distance runs near perfect. I don’t think I had too bad of a 50 (as I did for half of my 100s), but then again, it’s twice the distance (and trice the pain), so you’ll figure…Why is it last year I raced 24 times, my body never broke down, I had fantastic times for the most part, and this year I tried to do it right and after solid 5 months things went sour? Well, there were kind of circumstances… So what is best for me, run a little or run a lot? That is not to say, run a lot is out of question for common sense reason. I tested patience of my family last year enough to not do it again. As well as our finances. So it’s more like a rhetorical question.
I am glad it’s over for me, and, of course, I am itching thinking of other runs. Right now I’ve got too much to deal with myself. Life is a good 100 mile race. Peaks and valleys, ups and downs. Seems like I just fell into a deep well and trying to claw myself out. I won’t bore you with that, though – it is a running blog after all.


Sarah said...

I love reading all your details! Despite having only done up to a 50k so far, I think the analogy with ppd is right on. And the part about being glad its over but itching to do more. I can relate. See ya! : )

Wes said...

You are so strong and brave Olga. Even through all that you remember everything with such detail! I'm so happy that you accomplished your goal. You let nothing stand in your way. Nothing.

Mike said...

You are one tough cookie- congrats on toughing it out to the finish! That was a great report..I just can't imagine being on my feet that long- yikes!

robtherunner said...

It was good to read more of the report and you are lucky to have great people around you. I hope your feet and the rest of your body recovers soon.

Jack said...

You are inspiring as always, way to hang in there! You are very fortunate to have such a good support group. I wish you a speedy and happy recovery.

Anonymous said...

What an incredible story! and though I'm not an ultra endurance athlete like you, I can certainly relate to the "post race blues"

Thomas said...

Well, you already inspired me to try an ultra myself in a few months, even it's only a 39 miler (what can you do, it's the longest one in all of Ireland). Again and again I'm amazed by your resilience. You think you're not in shape, but how can you say that? Most of us can't even dream of running even one 100 miler, and you do it regularly.

Julie B said...

You don't bore me at all, Olga. I missed all of the details from your RDL 100 report. I'm glad you went into more detail here. You stuck in there, with the blister pain, the stiff in the back leg pain, the exploding food, everything. You rock. You are a 100 miler, that's what you are. And a damn good one too!

jas said...

as usual I love your race reports....so detailed and so much thought. Thanks for sharing and good luck with the next few months!!!!!!

backofpack said...

What a great story! Thanks for the details...you will be on my mind on Sunday. I always think of you on my long runs. And I hear your voice in my head - but it's not tiny. Nope, sometimes it roars and sometimes its soft, but it's always encouraging! Must be leftovers from hearing you coax Rob. Don't worry though, I hear Eric and Rob there too.

I love your comparison of life to a race. The thing is, it'll never be perfect. You might get one perfect race, or even a series of good ones, but you'll always have the ups and downs and the struggles. Life is just like that too. We might get a perfect day, or a string of days, but it's mostly gonna be up and down. No use waiting around for it to be perfect, just gotta enjoy the journey - and that includes the valleys. See you tomorrow!

mtnrunR said...

Great job Olga,
Hope you were able to get all that "swag" home on the plane o.k.

Travis said...

This is a great recap! I ran a 30 miler back in April and I dont remember anything in much detail except starting and finishing. Your description is what I think ultra are all about, pushing though the pain (mental and physical) to accomplish what few would even attempt.

angie's pink fuzzy said...

olga, this was a fun report to read. isn't it funny how you can go from the highest high to the lowest low so quickly in an ultra???

hoping the rest of your life is going ok... ((hugs))

Sarah Elaine said...

I always enjoy the "naked honesty" of your posts. You tell it like it is... no exaggerations... no making it sound less than it really was. That's what I like about you... You are "real".

bushwhacker said...

If the injuries get to be too much you should have a third carreer in writing. So many wonderful talents in that little body. I went around Mt Hood Saturday in 10:35 and thought about you the whole way. Heal up and be well.

rick said...

Only now did I get the chance to read the whole post...ah the memories. It was fun. Run more or run less only you can answer that question. Thankfully most ultra races give you time to make up your mind. This year with the exception of Western States, I made my final decisions 2-3 months before my events. With this upcoming 50-miler, the weekend before:) Some days are better than others, some years are better than some. After a great 04 I had a slow 05 and my 06 is a mixture of both. Sa'll good, we're doing this for fun right?

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