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, September 03, 2007

An event of a lifetime

Seriously, I said it there and will say it again - Grand Teton races are not simply races - they are events, and I am blessed to have been a part of it. I also tried to be a smart a@& and mentioned something like "my loss - someone's gain" - and only later did I realize it was my own gain to the fullest...

Stephen and I flew to Boise, ID early on Friday morning, where a friend of Theresa Steven picked us up and we drove to the resort site of start/finish. Steve is saint - not only he did that with smiles, he entertained us the whole way and I was useless in help as I don't drive manual cars (thank God for his EMT work and been used to sleep deprivation!). At the resort I finally met with Bob the Blogger who was my roommie - hey, he promised fun, but was scared so much of Fred's, coming from flatlands Florida into his first ever race as a 50 miler in Tetons! Well, I did have fun watching him freak out while helping to collect his drop bag:) I went to registration area and after visiting with dozen of friends told Lisa may be I can go 50...nope...may be pace...nope, she was straight forbidding me set my foot running! Oh, well, if Mama's says no, better listen. It did feel weird to be surrounded by all the runners and sense their excitement and not be able to relate complitely. But that part was gone as soon as the next day came...

What came at 4am on a beautiful morning with temps at 60F and no wind at all. What a great day to come! 100M starters scurried into the start, and Lisa and Jay kept warning them to smile, or "they'll be on the blog".

OK, I started writing it when I was just back, but felt so tired, had to take a nap and then do pre-school shopping. What meant to be a story now is going to be highlights of the weekend.

1. Of course, the biggest story was as running goes was about men’s race. Teton 100 had two favorites going in: a super-great athlete Andy JW and a first-timer at the distance yet experience endurance guy Matt Hart. Both Montrail runners, both competitive, both fast, and both awesomely nice people. More money was on Andy, but Matt promised to give him a run for that money for sure. Before the race Andy confided to me he is shooting for under-21 hr, what was a crazy goal for this course (I won’t go into description, check out the website). Matt was ready to chase.
I worked the main AS, what runners pass 3 times on each of 4 loops (clover leave style). The development was amazing to watch and participate in! After the first 25M Andy put 7 min on Matt and they were going at neck-breaking speed. As they both pass AS, I took a chair lift (with Stephen) up to the top of Fred Mountain and waited for them there.

Fred’s crew
I saw Andy coming in in style smiling and ran a bit with him, checking in on how he feels.

10 min later Matt comes in cruising, but complains on developing heal blister and that no-one in his crew knows how to patch it.

I panic and get sent down by chair lift to help out by Fred’s boys. I arrive just in time, about 5 min before he runs in, and get ready for business. This is where my own blisters helped so much! Whatever I did (I told Matt at the end it’s a big secret) held on for the full 70 miles without a single hint of rubbing off or sliding away. Yay!!! I wish I could do such good job for myself:)

Andy was crewed by his wife Shelley and their 3 boys – they have it nailed down to a “t”. His pacer was Bryon Powel from Montrail team.

Matt had his buddy Matt and Montrail runner Ty Draney to pace.

Anyway, during second 25 miles both Andy and Matt didn’t look too hot and seemed to be not holding down the food. Andy entered 3rd Fred’s climb in quite a bad shape, and I hurried up on chair lift again. Andy was walking up for the most part and set down there. Matt came later running and psyched to be in a much better shape and gained 7 minutes back – it boosted him big time! Matt gained another bunch of time by mile 70, but lost it again while coming to the base AS at mile 75. The game was one, and now it was a game strictly for time. Both boys picked up their pacers and flew away…

Bryon kept saying how he was scared to run with Andy and keep up – and he had his reasons. Andy was on fire! Ty is not only a strong and fast runner, he is in prime shape to take on Wasatch 100 following weekend – so he kicked Matt’s butt pacing!

We placed bets on Andy’s finishing time. He made last loop in 65 min and did his 100M in 19:35! Nobody had ever imagined it is possible on this course, what Andy rated as hard as AC100, harder than WS100 and not quite Wasatch100. No more a bridesmade he is! Andy is going to be unstoppable now, what a full blown confidence with this year’s WS second place, win at Vermont and now this time! Now the funny part (yep, Andy, it’s my blog, I told you nothing is sacred here): when he finished, after giving hugs and thanks he leaned over a chair, and Jay worriedly asked what’s wrong. Andy’s reply – Shelley, tell them. Shelley in a very calm voice says: when Andy finishes, he usually faints for a minute, then throws up exactly in 3 minutes, and then becomes more or less ok. We just had to laugh at that, no matter how it sounds now – what a wife! I wanted to have one like her! We set him in, put a blanket around and a garbage can near. No, he didn’t pass out, nor did he puke, but kept sipping on soup at Shelley’s request, and finally started talking. Andy praised the race and the course so much, I don’t think I ever heard that before. What a champ!

Soon we began to expect Matt to show up for his last 5M loop. Time was ticking away, and we were edgy. At a minute before 2 am we saw a light that simply blew by us without stopping. Ty picked a fresh bottle and gave a chase to his runner. My heart skipped a beat – Matt had exactly one hour to break 21 hr. Can he do it when Andy ran 65 min? Obviously, Matt is going to give it all he’s got – how much has he got at this point? So we’re sitting and chatting and biting nails a bit, but still think we have at least 5 min to get up and be ready – when a single light screams from the downhill. Expecting two of those lights (Matt and Ty), we still sit – and heck, it’s Matt, 53 min for the last 5 and in 20:53 final time!!! What a blow-away finish! As soon as we jumped to him, he mumbled – Chair – and dropped on it exhausted. Before we knew it, he opened his eyes and started to thank so profusely every single person, from Lisa and Jay, Matt and Ty (apparently, Ty lied about time to Matt to make him hassle even more), every volunteer and so on…oh, dear, our sport is blessed with most humble champions existed on this Earth.

2. Stats behind women’s race.
The 100M race had Monica Scholz and Pam Reed for the “names” and two local “Lorie’s” (Laurie and Lori). Both “Lorie’s” it was their first 100, but they had an advantage of course knowledge. Pam didn’t come to the start (circumstances). Monika…I’ll tell you a touchy-feely story right now. Monica came with her boyfriend who was entered 50M race. When she finished her first 25M loop, she saw Philip straggling entering mile 21. She turned around, went for that same 5M she just came from and then proceeded to go for the second 25M loop with him all the way, finishing when he was done and abruptly stopping her 100 miler. Is it sweet or what?!
Anyhow, our “double-L” team stayed pretty close and at about same difference as the boys for first half of the race. Laurie and Lori are such sweetheart, I was so thrilled to help them out! Each of them began a struggle-fest as the dark settled in and the distance went beyond what they had done before – yet they kept smiling and been a joy to be around. Those smiles were worth a million bucks! There was no fight here per se but a personal satisfaction for the endurance and mental strength they own now. And the whole AS cried when each of them came in…

Laurie, gal #1

Lori, gal #2

3. I think I am going to be very short and brief on 50M race – not that it is not a feat, but the night and struggles occupied so much of me from physical to emotional to mental, I remember little from the first part of the day.

I had quite a few friends entered in 50M. Meghan, Bob, Brad Mitchell, Brie Hyslop and Theresa from Montrail team. You can look up full results here. Brad came second, Brie ran strong, Bob finished his first 50M and first race of any distance since 5k 10 years ago (remember, Bob is from flat low Florida! – in a couple of days read his account in his own words, I hope he’ll stop complaining for the pain in his legs by then - LOL)...Theresa had to stop due to injury (aw, baby, I know exactly how you feel!).

Interesting to share: only this particular race I know of has no cut off’s for 50M runners – go as you pleased. Only here two wonderful ladies – Patricia DeVita and Liz Hodges – pretty good age and even better shape – were able to enter officially, go the whole course officially and have an official finish – all of their 21 hr and 42 min! I never saw more happy inspiring grandmas in my life!

3. Personal touch. There was personal touch of Lisa, Jay and Zach and their full team in every moment.

Runners never had to fill or even open the bottles, but this doesn’t amuse anybody anymore – we got spoiled. Here you also felt like part of the family, from the get go. My hugs and kisses were multiplied by many wonderful hands and smiles at every aid station! A wish of a passing by runner was read on the fly and fulfilled in seconds, all with heartfelt warmth as it possible.

Once the dark came and most of 50 milers were done, my real job began. While before it was mostly “what do you want, honey”, now it became “I know what you need, honey, now sit down, open your mouth and swallow, then cuss me later”. I lost count how many socks and shoes I’ve changed, how many blisters fixed, how many shoulders and backs massaged, legs rubbed, kisses given, hugs, tears, smiles, “get the heck out” screams, blanket covers, mouths finger-fed, face wiping…man, really, every 100M runner should volunteer at a 100M event, because our knowledge is un-replaceable. I could look into their eyes and figure out exactly where it hurt, what they low on and whether they need a pet or a kick in a butt. And I loved every moment of it!!!

4. There was little sleep for volunteers, and I consider myself a slacker for getting full 3 hrs (from 3:30 to 6:30 am). Lisa napped only an hour, Zach and Jay never left their spot. Neither did Colleen or Cathy – this woman is particularly my personal hero. Has anyone of you followed the webcast? Had you tried to compare it to WS100, Leadville, Hardrock (ok, this one was fast up, it’s just the AS were far apart) or Badwater? Did you realize we had 5M splits coming up the minute runners passed by? And all of it was single-handedly done by Cathy who was stuck with her computer screen for a full 36 hrs (and about 4 days prior). Un-believe-able!

5. I got to see the Tetons from the “other” side than usual I’ve seen many times before and also to ride an ATV thingy!

And Stephen spent hours hanging out at the pool and Jacuzzi!

More of mine and some of Augies pictures, also official race photos taken by SmokingDragon fun group – there should be thousand of them and I hope they’ll link it somehow from the race website.

6. The props:
- races of all distances (did I mention next day there was a marathon run and kid’s race too?)
- lodging at the start/finish
- one spot for crew (Shelley especially appreciated it while crewing Andy) with no driving involved – and you could either watch the race of other runners or go have fun around mountains or Lodge and come back to see your runner again. You could also take a chair lift to see your buddy coming up Fred’s and have a little 5 min drive to another section in the middle part of the loop.
- fully stocked AS’s (you know, home-made soups including) with highly trained and friendly-loving volunteers
- amazingly marked course (another point of Andy, as well as every road marathoner’s next day) – Jay doesn’t trust it to anyone and does it himself and does it the way he’d like to have when he runs
- not only ice at AS’s, but crashed ice – that was first for me and again appreciated by all
- medical personal and massage therapists, as well as Augie as PT and Steven as EMT at Fred’s (Augie also gave a stretching/balance session after the race).
- Beautiful course, challenging course, wild course!
- Did I say Lisa and Jay???!!!

7. While driving to the race, I kept entertaining the idea to run 50 miler…I tried a 20 yards jog a few times and gave up on this idea (and Lisa released her power and checked me off the list). Then I offered to pace to a couple of girls (and wasn’t allowed to do much of that either, nor, really, I was going to as I am trying very hard to be smart these days). However, when my friends Jackie came by for her last 5M section, I jumped into an opportunity to have a great chat with her…only to realize I am wearing flip-flops at this point! I quickly dug in to Lori’s (second “L”) drop bag, got her old shoes and socks (I personally changed at mile 75, that’s why I knew where to look) and ran after Jackie. She was walking…for many reasons I am not going to, and it was a perfect ending to my weekend at the race. We had an absolutely wonderful time talking, sharing stories, smiling and been simply thankful for ability to participate in it all. What a champion she is!

And ok, I am tired again and will add on as the week goes on…just one more Thank You to Teton races people, Lisa, Jay, Zach, Colleen, Cathy, Shannon, Steven and many many more involved…

Woohoo, what a ride!


Backofpack said...

What a weekend! It sounds like so much fun...

Great job helping out, I can't believe you put someone's dirty shoes and socks on to run, and this was one long report!

rick said...

Did all the top finisher's have a good time, cause they're all smiling; AJW, Matt, Laurie and Lori?

Thomas said...

Wow. Amazing. What a weekend.
I don't think I'll ever run in a race like that, but if I did I would be happy with even half of the support you just described.

Wes said...

Great write up :-) If you can't join in, the next best thing is being there. Hilarious stuff about Bob. Can't wait to read his report either. Take care!!!

cathy said...

Olga, it was great to meet you! Your energy at the Base Aid Station was astounding. You made great use of your ultra experience and endurance to help so many competitors through the night and all day Sunday. I did not realize you were riding the chair lift up to help runners at the top of Fred's too. Stephen is such a wonderful kid. It was a great to have him helping at the AS too. Tell him, thanks SO much for taking Bonnie for walks! -Cathy

Lisa Smith-Batchen said...

olga! what a joy to have you here...what a joy


Bob Gentile said...

LOLOL Olgaaaaaaaaaaa... I am still soreeeeee and my blisters suck!!!!

BUT I wouldn't change anything (umm well maybe better shoes:)

Thanks for ur awesome support & thanks for putting up with my freaking out prior to the race -haha... it was an amazing ride!

I will call u in a few days, so I can whine to ya some more:-)

Big Hugs)))))

Meredith said...

Olga- you were the best when i came in and out of the aid stations. You were so helpful and enthusiastic, even in the dead of the night. Thanks for all of your support and help through out the race. It was an honor to finally meet you!!!

Sherpa John said...

Olga - Thanks for all of your help. You made me smile and kept me motivated through the night. Loved it!

Sherpa J

Sarah said...

How could anyone not want to attend this after a write-up like that! :) Not a good time of year for me to get away but I'm still putting it on my "wish list". You are a true nurturer at heart. And yes, sometimes nurturers need to be tough. : ) Glad you had a great weekend! And they were fortunate to have your there! : )

mtnrunR said...

good write up olga. i enjoyed it.

Meghan said...


So nice to finally meet you in person this weekend!

I tell you, you were a wonderful person to run into and away from at the aid station. Your service was fast and encouraging every time. We were all so fortunate to have you there!

I saw you running a little bit, from here to there and such, and there was no limp! I'm sure you were in pain, but it didn't look like it, at all. Is recovery happening?


Journey to a Centum said...

So do we need to put you in shackles to prevent you from running before your body has healed properly? Glad you had a good time in the Tetons and glad others were watching out for you.

Thanks for the report! Incredible times!


Anonymous said...

Great report girl. I'm glad you got to go down and still volunteer even though you weren't running it. Thanks for helping out our buddy John also that kids a fighter. He makes me want to go out and run my butt off in this next race of mine. Talk to you later


Steve said...

Sometimes we need an injury to slow us down to appreciate the other sides of life. Taking on challenges keeps our lives full, but to serve others is the highest achievement. Thanks for the story and heal quickly and fully.

wendy said...

That's so great you got to share from this perspective. I told Bob that he had to get a finisher's hug from you, you're the BEST. =)

You did a great report, and the pictures are awesome. If I ever aspired to run an ultra, I would have to do this one, a 50 with no cutoff time! That's for me =)

I hope you had some great time w/ Stephen too. You sure did stay busy!

Lisa B said...

Excellent report from the other side of the race, Olga. It sure is fun to volunteer at races and be on EVERYONE'S crew, isn't it? Thanks for the great write up.

lori said...


It's Lori B and I want to thank you for putting me back together a couple of times during the nite. I quickly learned to look for you coming into Main knowing your experience in ultras kicked in for what we all needed when we couldn't tell you. And I won't soon forget you wiping me off when I was done. I hope I get to do the same to you some day. And my shoes are your shoes.
One of the Lori's

Anonymous said...

Laurie #2 here - you rock! you are a shining light and I am so grateful you shared your knowledge, your enthusiasm and your kindness during the race. You will forever stand out as a highlight of my first 100.
Thank you!

Anonymous said...


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