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.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The 1000 miles journey that wasn't

The first 4 words of the post name was what I kept thinking about going into this race. I had started 10 100M races yet finished 9 (DNF'd at Leadville in 2005). I planned to suck it up here no matter what and get my 1000 miles finish...

Gail and Maura picked me up and drove to Cle Elum near the start where we slept in a local hotel. This 10 am start gave us a chance to get almost 8 hrs of sleep for the night - don't remember when this happened last time! The morning for me was as usual filled with nervous energy up until I said all my "Hi" to friends at the start and hugged everyone around. That seems to always relax me. The most unbelievable thing happened during a pre-race meeting when my Team of Gail, Maura, Adam and Rob called me in and I - very slowly - realized they made t-shirts to wear as my crew! It completely shocked me, first because I never had anything done like that for me, second because it was a complete surprise! Are they THE BEST or what? The front said "Go Olga Go" in Russian script (Wow!) and the back had my blog link! How can I ever not get through the race with a Team like that???

Finallyy we lined up and waitied for the start.

First mile went on flat dirt road, then we made a turn and shortly began to climb, dirt road (at the end of which was a small AS with Krissy Moehl and John Pearch) and then up and up on single track trail. Beautiful!!

I had the old pace chart I made for Rob in 2005, and while I thought it was for 27 hrs, it turned out for 26:30. I didn't care much, I ran very comfortable and made every single AS exactly on time. Coming to local race is a hoot! Everybody screams your name, and it gives an amazing boost. First time I saw my super-Team was Tacoma Pass at 23 miles. I ran in happy and chatty, got my bottle exchange and mentioned I am exactly 200 calories behind on fueling - I miscalculated gels and was 2 less than planned. Gail shoved a gel in me and Maura gave me a piece of potato. Then I mentioned I have "hot spots" on my feet from gravel road downhill and may be should fix it next time I see them - and here Maura took charge and put me on a chair. I changed my socks, patch the hot spots and lubed my feet. It was a great decision and my feet felt happy through many many miles. However when I set on a chair, the way it situated on a slope, I fell off it when tended to my feet. I caught myself quickly though and was fine.

I left Tacoma and continued running effortlessly. My energy was high, my calories were on track, my mood was perfect, my stomach was acting great, and my feet sang songs...when we entered a nice single-track downhill and I realized a sharp pain in my right hip joint and that I am unable to run well. I went on anyway, pushing it a bit and hoping it would work itself out. When I reached Stampede Pass at mile 33, I was in pain, and after hauling and smiling to all around, turned to my crew and exhaled - I am in so much pain, I scream out loud on trail. Gail rubbed my leg with Biofreeze, although I already knew it is not a muscle/tendon origin, and seemed to be reminding me of a labrum tear (cartilage in hip joint). I popped Advil and promised to go on no matter what, even if it ruins the rest of my season and my leg falls off.

As I was leaving, the rain started, I left my i-Pod and camera with the guys and pulled on a Patagonia jacket. The rain poured seriously, and soon we all were soaked wet, especially considering the overgrown trail and lots of almost bushwhacking through - my body, my feet, my legs. But I was moving pretty strong and never was chilled too much. I got to Medow Mt. AS (mile 41) with only 10 min back, took a picture with Chipping Fu from CA, swallowed a cup of tomato soup (yummy!) and moved on. On this section I worked pretty darn hard for the first couple of miles to gain 10 min back, and even passed 4 people on a nice downhill, but then the gnarliest rockiest section came, and the pain became insane. I kept walking over those rocks, lifting and swinging my leg over and yelling from pain periodically. The thought of it been an idiotic idea entered my mind, but I couldn't disappoint my Team! I came to Olallie Medows (mile 47) limping, over an hour behind the pace, but smiling, and said I intend to go on and will need a full change out of wet clothes and shoes at Hyak. Maura picked me up here for pacing duties, and it was a great boost!

Scoot McCourby (AS capt'n) warned us there is a turn to "rope section" that is mis-marked and many lead runners went wandering for awhile. We reached the section in question, stood there for 5 min, got caught by those 4 people I passed before and decided we're moving in the correct direction. After a bit we met Rob (who was a capt'n of Hyak and was radio'd on duty to re-mark the trail) and he pointed us to the ropes. Maura lead me down (glad I wore gloves for that!) and soon we entered the tunnel. It is a 2.2M underground tunnel, dark and creepy as they get, but flat and even. I tried to shuffle a few times, but soon figured I get more pain this way, and if I just keep power-walking, I get in a groove and have a nice pace going. Nobody caught us here, and we made it in exactly 30 min - not bad at all! I got hyped about it and very optimistic and powered through the last mile of road into Hyak.

As I walked in, Adam and Gail were ready for me with my stuff. They stuffed me with soup and something else while I, as usual, announced I am about to strip and those modest better turn around. People always laugh here:) I am not going to hide when I am at the race, I do what I have to do right here and now. I did a complete change, picked up Gail and we turned for next 6M. Gail even made me run for about 10 min while the road was flat! But as soon as the incline started, I could not swing my leg forward and up at the same time. This was the beginning of the end...

I was popping Advile every 3 hrs, but at this point it only worked for about 30 min or so. We slowed down tremendously yet made it a mere 10 min over the predicted chart time. I was hoping for soup (I can't drink carb mixes once the night falls), but their power was gone. Tony C. was there dropping, and I told him - man, you have nothing to prove to anybody, I am only going for my crew. We left and soon a 7 mile downhill dirt road begun. I shuffled for about 20 min straight, while tuning in to what my stomach says. It felt heavy. I drank a double-espresso at the AS and I should have known nothing milk-related sits well during a race. Soon I had to stop and my insides turned out - the stomach was empty and it felt like the lining of my stomach coming out of my throat. However, after a rather loud and painful experience I felt much better. But - I couldn't shuffle anymore, everything hurt, all the groups working to over-compensate for the injury, got blown out of proportion with pain, and now not only hip joint, but right knee, ITB, quad were screaming, along with left shin and developing deep blisters due to stomping hard. The slightest curve on a road caused me to side-walk like a crab to the middle of the road to even out my lef position. Maura came up on us from an AS, and we walked slowly down...

It was getting worse, and no pills worked even for a bit. I had to come around a decision, one that I thought I never have to make. With about half a mile to go I told the girl: we will need to sit down and think, "trail of hell" and "needles" are next, and even though I have plenty of time (still on 29 hr pace with 32 hr cut off), if the smooth road makes me miserable, what happens there? They looked at me and almost simultaneously answered: we've decided a long time ago, we've been waiting for you to come to it. that was it. I cried as I limped in and gave Rob a hug - Rob was waiting for me to pace through the rest of the course. I set down at AS, and Kendall (a good friend) asked me if I need time to re-think. It was nothing to re-think, really. I wasn't able to walk at all. I cried some more, but was content with my decision, the only one available. We made it to the car and drove to the motel room for a couple of hours to snooze...

Adam waited for me at the next AS, and we couldn't get a hold of him, but soon he realized it is late (or rather early morning) and asked the AS at Mineral Creek about me, where he learned I dropped. He came by our room and said many many good words, offering to crew and pace next year, or whatever year I decide to come back. I felt blessed to have met him, when he simply emailed me some time ago and said that he'd like to be a part of my team at CC100.

We stopped at the start/finish around 10 am and learned of top 10 finishers, thanked profusely Charlie Chrissman for a job awesomely done, gave more hugs and congrats or condolences depending on outcome and made it home.

I can't walk without pain. My Grand Teton 100 is out of question, and a great chance is so is the Bear 100. I need to heal and re-coup, as well as tend to things happening in my family life. God has its way to turn attention, even though I am not religious.

Thanks to all for well wishes. My biggest love to my crew for bearing with me and helping me to make the right choice. If it wasn't this sudden development, I felt great and ready to tackle what I set out to do. There will be other times to try and challenge myself. I will be OK.

p.s. Eric finished in under 29 hrs. Rob went ahead and paced his friend Shawn who he is planning to run at Plain 100 with, also under 29. Those two pairs left AS as I came in. Local Jamie Gifford won the race in 20:51. Darcy Africa, after been lost for a big amount of time, came second and 1st female in 21:09. I'll link the results once they are available.Full results