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, February 07, 2008


Yeah, OK, I leave a comment to Rob that I am still trying to figure out a reason to post when the runs are mediocre - after all, this is s running blog to some extent - and I get email with this logo attached...funny, yesterday, our local ultra list, to add on to listserve national, got a short spur about DK and his book. You know, the usual split of opinions - one side says he brought way too much attention to ultrarunning and now the races are full and the trails are crowded, and another side says - yes, I was one of those who was inspired and I want to share some if it too. I am NOT going into Dean's dissection or talking about his book and what is or isn't true in there. I did meet him, and he did make an impression of been a nice guy, so I'll leave it at that (I am not his friend or inspired by him either). So, what happened to ultarrunning and how do we (how do I) feel about it?

To begin with, 5 years ago I was one of those who was dragged into ultrarunning, literally. I did express interest, and before I even say "boo" after my first marathon (for which I trained for a year religiously, by the way), I was signed up for a 50k and presented a gift of Ultrarunning magazine by a friend (both items, may I add). And I was welcomed. I felt welcomed, at least. And I felt I found a group of whacko’s that I can belong to. I mean, I didn't know I am this particular whacko yet, but I knew somehow I didn't belong to regular folks out there and struggled with it, so here I am, in a group of whacko’s, and they accepted me! OK, OK, yes, I liked going slow and steady, I felt no pain, and blah, blah, but the important part was the community! And the realization of the fact that I can do something insane - as in “jumps off the couch and run a 50k" sort of insane, what truly moved me into category of DK-er's to tell people "You Can Do It!" (a slogan stolen from Marathon Maniacs). It was this weird doubling inside of my brain: I was this exceptional gal who ran something long and almost dangerous, yet I was your next door neighbor with no talent and little time to train and still could task it (and sometimes not too bad, but that's in the past). So I jumped on the wagon of inviting every one and their brother to join in the forces. Why not? If I find it so exhilarating, I'd like for you to feel the adrenalin rush too, to feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement, to set a goal and go after it, to see a dream come true (I think this one is stolen from Dreamchasers and Lisa S-B, but I am not sure). Yet yes, I have my own grudges. After all, I never claimed I am perfect (oh, I am so far from it...Stephen and I watched that new reality show last night about polygraph test and answering true or false for personal questions, and I am like: why lie? everybody already knows all the crap about me, and if you have more questions - go ahead, shoot, I might be ashamed of some deeds, but I'll get over it, I hold no secrets). So, back to grudges - races are filling fast and I need to plan like almost a year ahead of time, lotteries are getting insanely hard to get in (harder than to run a 100), and hey, I don't feel special anymore! I am not one of a thousand in this world, I am now one of a hundred thousand! I can't say anymore - I ran (did) a 100 miler, it's like - OK, and that guy and another one, and his 80 years old father did it too. Time brought to ultras not only lots of people finishing the races for their own pride, it brought fast runners from marathons and cross-country teams, young runners, old runners, all mixed up...where does it leave me? Smack in the middle. How do I feel about it? And here is the million dollar question: why am I doing it?

I don't know. It's not so much a personal satisfaction or self-esteem anymore. Not a dash after a better time. I can't even say it's a mindless addiction. I love to travel and I love to meet people, and I love been in a nature setting. I could probably hike, what I did before, but running it somewhat faster (you know, to a certain extent) and there are more like-minded people involved. The finish clock gives an adrenaline rush, no question about this one. I get to hang out with friends, especially after we're all done and running "high" (who needs drugs? well, if we calculate the cost of entry fees and flights/gas/motels, drugs might be cheaper:) nah, I am too scared to abuse it, who knows what happens to my no-so-well maintained brain as it is?). Probably, because I get to spice up my ever-boring life. Admit, lives in 21st century (or the end of 20th century) is pretty darn boring, even if you are totally in love with your significant other and your job. Every day looks the same as the day before. You wake up, run (or not), go to work, come home, take care of the kids, eat and sleep. There are other activities fit in, but nothing like our ancestors where the food is running away from you and an enemy is running after you, and there might not be tomorrow, and who knows when the war starts, or whomever comes to power - what changes will he bring? We entertain ourselves with politics trying to make ourselves believe we are making a difference, but do Democrats and Republicans really differ much? Oops, sorry, no politics here. Look deep inside and tell me you never thought you're indulging in a challenge just for the heck of thrill. Along with a gazillion other reasons (as I said before, this is a country for combo meals, so every question has a good slew of answers strung together!) But then again, nothing is ever simple (so complex answers are normal...) or is it? Are we overthinking it? Was Nike commercial onto something with "Just do it"? Why think? May be that's why I like to go long on trails, I kind of stop thinking and get primal? Foot, foot, step, step, water, gulp, tree, avoid, walk, run, look, listen...
Actually, I was trying to write about a jump in ultrarunning attendance, not about why, but I guess they all inseparable. So, who did what to the community and the sport - DK or each of us? Don't ya all jump up and down when meet some curious mind and tell them how awesome this stuff is? Inviting your family, co-workers and next door neighbor is they only show a tidbit of an interest? Of course, Dean "talked" to a million of people at once, when how many did I meet on my way? But still, may be we all jump into it because we're just waiting for that guy to say "hey, why don't you join us!" while all ready for any opportunity to get your life on a new spiral? And would you ever (or want anybody ever) who is already running ultras, to be all hash-hash and "no, you can't come in"? May be I am not that exceptional anymore, but may be I allowed more people to feel so...or more people to feel normal? So if you ever see me with no smile - please kick me hard, because then I don't know why I am standing there...

Oh, and coming back to the beginning of the post (by now I have no idea what my post is about) - what makes a blog readable? What attracts others to come and check up on what you think (that is if any of that thinking is even mentioned) or what you ran yesterday (a dreadful way to ask: who cares how many miles I put on last week)? Why not only do we (some of us anyway) write (we can say - it's my diary, a way to connect to others - and emails are what? - to exchange cheering for each other...), but we also trace who reads (besides those very friends who we'd like to think they care). It is loneliness, pride, social side of human being, all of the above? And why in the world do I want to know? “Study without reflection is a waste of time; reflection without study is dangerous” Confucius (stolen from Rob's recent post). Dude is onto something (Confucius, although Rob has good thought process too). I am overanalyzing. But at least I am not telling you story about my mediocre runs:)


KendraBo said...

Olga, the biggest crux for me re blogging is whether it's taking away time spent better doing something else(lifting a dumbell? doing plyometrics?). Like this morning, I wanted to do a 2 hour run, but I ended up working on a post and could only do an hour before work. And I thought: why?

Whereas for you I know there are so many people who gain inspiration fro your posts EVEN ABOUT THE MEDIOCRE runs, trust me! So you, my dear, are caught: we depend on you for posts like this, posing all sorts of interesting questions that make us step back and think of what our running means to us.

As for population explosions both in ultra running and in places like my erstwhile sleepy hometown of Missoula. I've mentioned I'm change averse, so to me the more is not necessarily the better. But that's just me. On the other hand if someone's life was improved because they heard about DK and tried our crazy "sport," that's all good too. I certainly don't think we should be clique-ish. I'm just not a "bigger is better" believer.

Until it comes to your posts. I like the long rambly ones. Thanks for taking the time, Olga.

Donald said...

I love your musings, Olga.

Count me in the camp of those who were inspired by DK, and I'll always have a soft spot for him. However, the whole self-promotion thing seemed to get fairly out of control at some point - probably around the time of his 50/50 marathon stunt, when there was another guy doing the exact same thing ahead of him with almost no recognition. I think the flood of people to ultras was inevitable, though - so not necessarily DK's fault.

Cool award - who is it from?

Anonymous said...

Wow! Thats exactly the way I feel anymore. I tend to agree with Kendra. That I do wish it was just me out there on the trails. If however someone improved their lives as a result then hoorah.
Yeah we're one of a hundred thousand now and running an ultra isn't quite the novelty it used to be. Just remember this. There was a running boom in the late 70's and 80's. It died out in the 90's and didn't return again until DK wrote a book atleast as far as ultrarunning was concerned. Once the glitter and shine of the DK boom wears off things will return to the way they used to be. So who cares if everybody and their Grandpa can run an Ultra these days. I'll be willing to bet they can't do three or four back to back as such is the case with a stage race. I'll bet they can't set a speed record on a long trail or even try for that matter. What I guess I'm saying is this. Those of us who are able to do this not once but 6, 8 or 10 or more times a year still have an advantage over the masses. EXPIERIENCE and LONGEVITY. We've been doing it long before and we'll be doing it long after. Make races like Badwater or Desert R.A.T.S the new 100 milers and once again become one of a thousand who carry in them that unique ability to do something most cannot. Great post Olga that makes me feel better knowing I wasn't the only one who felt that way out there.

Backofpack said...

It's the running, being in nature, the challenge, the community, the spirit, the pain, the personal glory. It's all a piece of the whole - for me. I am not trying to get into any of the big, famous races, just sticking to my little patch of the world and our own little ultras - so I still feel that small, cheery, fun community. Yeah, the marathons are getting big and everybody and their brother are doing them, but I don't care. I love it and I want others to too. I wonder how many go out for a second one? I think the comment above is right about the running boom - it'll top out again.

And as for blogging. It's communication - it's a chance to share the runs whether they're great,mediocre or ugly. That's what it's all about!

Sarah said...

Yes, some ultras are more crowded. But really, ultrarunners are still a very small group of runners, let alone non-runners. This "club" is so off the radar for 99.9% of the population. But I think its hard for ultrarunners to see that since we are sooo into it. It does seem like everyone is doing it! : )

I read DK's book, but I can't remember if it was before or after I ran ultras. My inspiration is Nikki Kimball...and you...and countless others who I don't even know their names.

Oh...and I never had a runner's high until I ran my first 50k and started running 20+ miles every weekend.

P.S. Even you make your mediocre runs sound so not mediocre. Ramble on, my friend! : ) Like Kendra said, you're stuck. : )

Danni said...

I read your blog because you are linked to Kendra's blog. That is what makes a blog readable :p Oh, and I read your blog because you are an experienced ultra-runner and I am an ultra-newbie (one of the ones crowding races and making lotteries impossible) hungry for any and all knowledge and insight. And, frankly, I am net addict and waste too much time at work :p I'm interested in hearing about all your runs. I'd be perfectly happy if you just mused about past races or training or anything else.

I JUST read DK's book because people kept telling me he has a detailed report on Western States. I am not inspired by him he made me feel dirty for wanting to run 100 miles -- like it's exclusively for fringe maniacs who neglect their families and are driven by compulsion and ego.

I'm sure he's a very nice guy.

Blog on.

-- Stranger who reads your blog

bushwhacker said...

Olga, You deserve the fine comments and congrats for bringing people to Ultrarunning for the right reasons not the DK reasons.
Love ya

AnthonyP said...

Olga, I love you blog and I totally love this post. Meeting people like you at events is one of the biggest reasons I do ultras. Thanks for all you give to our small, but growing community.

robtherunner said...

I am amongst the masses of your readers who enjoy these posts greatly. I am also fortunate enough to have met you before I really got into ultrarunning and you welcomed me without judgement and inspired me with your actions. I tend to believe that if a 100 miler becomes the new 50k then we will most likely rise to the occasion as well and push our boundaries out even further. Perhaps we will be running multiple 200-300 mile races per year, or attempting to set records on long trails, or across the USA. I certainly feel I have a long ways to go before I feel like a moderately accomplished runner, but I believe that I will be there. It is hard to view yourself as inspiring, but from the outside looking in you are just that and oh so real at the same time.

Joe(runner) said...

The influx of ultra racers hasn't really made a dent in the overall trail scene. Trail runners that enjoy the social aspect of ultra running should be finding their nirvana in today's trail ultra world. For those that want piece and solitude, well there is plenty of that too. You just got to run down that trail over yonder.

Jack said...

I always enjoy reading your blog and particularily enjoy reading your post today. Life is exceptionally busy this year and I find myself trying to redefine my running as I seek to find enough time to meet my training goals. It was nice to read your thoughts.

Eudemus said...

Olga, great post; one of your best, really and well deserving of that award. I certainly understand the sentiment of feeling like ultras are getting too popular especially as someone who has been a trail runner for a long time and spent years getting myself to the point where I could run ultras. I sometimes feel like "I finally made it here and look, now everyone else is here too!"

However, as Sarah said, it really still is a very small community and in reality still numbers in the 1000's in this country. Also, I know that ultimately I do these things for my own reasons and my own satisfaction. If others find some different motivation than me why should that detract from my love of the sport. Finally, we are all just a small spec of a huge movement then how is it that two people who have only met on blogs are signed up for two of the same races this year?

I hope to see you at Miwok and Bighorn! Of course, unlike you, I am a TRUE middle of the pack runner so I will probably only see you going in the opposite direction :-)

caroline said...

Wonderful post, Olga. You beautifully expressed what I and, clearly, so many others are thinking and feeling. Though the world of ultrarunning may have expanded since I got into it about 6 years ago, the feeling of community is still as strong as ever. And my ultrarunning friends are still among the quirkiest, fun, special, and supportive people I know! Life is good.

Anonymous said...

You should listen to Bushwhacker: you are the anti-Dean. That's why I read your blog.

Don't worry about the ultra boom. It'll die off; it has to. We can't all be hot chicks with super powers like you!


angie's pink fuzzy said...

I blog to "reach out and touch someone"

I blog for inspiration

I run to clean myself out

I run ultras because I can

I tell others to run ultras because they can

I didn't start ultrarunning b/c of DK, but I had a lot of fun reading his book last year.

I love your musings :)

Carilyn said...

As always, awesome post! I love the posts by bloggers that are thought provoking AND the ones about mediocre runs. I think it's like with anything that you are really interested in - there are only so many people that care about the minute details of your interest. In the blogosphere, when we find other "wackos," we know we have found someone who is just as interested in whether you like Gu or PowerGels and knows whether it is normal to have to pee 6 times during a 100 miler. Who else wants to talk about these things? We do : So, thanks for posting all that you do, because you are an inspiration to so many of us!

Anonymous said...

Hello from Tanzania. Glad the "spill" got taken care of. There has been too much to take in here. It will take a while to sort out. I look forward to sharing more about the experience when I get back

Devon said...

olga- reading your blog has in a lot of ways helped keep me on target in the way I muse in my own. You are honesty, witty and thinking about things that spring from the distance runner as well as human mind. It is absolutely beautiful and I agree with you and Kendra...there is more to life that simply listing off mileage, though truth be told I drop it my blogs occasionally only because I still am unable to wrap my head around the distance we all go... like, "yeah I went out for a nice easy 40 miler...." Why do we blog? That is a good question. Alison and I mused on that while running the other day. I think by putting ourselves out there (as opposed to just keeping a personal diary) puts our thoughts in a new perspective. It makes us vulnerable, we think what we say through, but at the same time we proceed with reckless abandon, owning and knowing that who really cares what people think.

I agree with you that everything is sensational these days... there seems to be nothing anybody can do to really impress us. We've seen it all, we've seen something, better, strong, faster, more horrific. That said, I don't think that actually diminishes what we do. Just because someone did run 100 miles while juggling balls of fire (ok no one did, but I am exaggerating on purpose), doesn't mean running 100 miles is easy. Nor 50 miles, 50k, marathon, half,10k, 5k, mile, one freaking foot.... we do what we can do, whatever our challenge is, it is beautiful and valid. That is why, I like you run down the trail with a giant smile on my face (and like you hope someone kicks me if that goes away).

Your blogging, analyzing, musing on every and everything, even mediocre runs, bad days or anything else are valid and beautiful. You are putting something out into the world that is absolutely wonderful. and it is seen and appreciated.


JeffO said...

It's nice to know there are others whose minds wander the way mine does. My non-running friends say I'm weird for "thinking too much". Well, I'm not a chunk of wood - I can't help it. Running gives me therapy. I won't go into "Therapy for what?" Seems to be the peace I need. The rythm is like meditating, and there's both solitude and community. So many of us ultra runners are "crazy" and "maniacs". On one level we impress, but on most levels we are freaks. But I was a freak before I ever ran ultras, and I guess ultras were the only place left for me to go, by default. Ultras help me tolerate myself and have helped me find a place I belong.
Most ultrarunners are stars like DK. Maybe I'm pretty close to the "average" ultra-junky.

Bob Gentile said...

it's ur diary on ur running & life events so keep blogging all ur types of runs and trainings that keeps us coming back to ur blog.

One interesting thing Jurek said in an interview about large Ultras, they will have to start up on pavement cause trails have limits on number of entrants. avg limit 150.

Now JFK had over 1000 but that is 45 years in the making...so I think that Ultras for trails will stay small (thank goodness)but more and more RD's will pop up to add more events...which is good cause we will have more events to choose from :-) and SEE more parts of this awesome Country!

Cheers \_/ \_/ to future RDs

rick said...

I like Dean and I was inspired by him. By the time I met him I was already running ultras but before his book came out. The first time I commented on how cool his new Suunto watch looked and he promptly took it off for me to examine. I've met him several times since. How the marketing folks spin his story on the other hand, well that's another matter.

I became an ultra-runner because trail running rocks and ultra events are the best, because too much road kills my legs and people don't smile enough at road events, because doing an ultra event is like drinking a micro brew instead of a big name lite beer - you pay more but you get more.

Jon said...

YAY! You're a blog star! Now time to edge out your fellow Nuun teammate Scott Dunlap. *hee hee!* :-D

DK was one of my inspirations, but he wasn't my only one. He was apart of the gateway that led me to folks like the Marathon Maniacs and eventually to many more people who embraced this sport that still makes most folks still drop their jaws.

So my reasons for wanting to put my body through so much that I walk like a croquet hoop the next day? Well, beyond maintaining my health...it's the people just like you. Since my first 50k back in December 2006, the people that I've gotten the chance to know in this crazy super-long-distance running world have been awesome. It's one of the major things that keeps me coming back for more. :-)

meredith said...

Very well said, and well deserved award. You couldn't have said it any better...even with a book deal :)

Lisa Smith-Batchen said...

great post Olga!


lonerunman said...

Ha! I love your "primal" comment, Olga. I concur, and have always thought that ultras bring you down to a very primitive level - which is probably why they are so good at relieving the stress of our regular lives. run, eat, drink, *rock*, run, eat, drink, *stick*, drink, run, - and repeat through to the finish line.

How can such a base and low-level existence raise us to a higher plane of consciousness? Ah - I better go out for a run to figure that one out :-)

More people in the sport: I feel a contradiction here. I love introducing friends to the trails and seeing people achieve an ultra finish for the first time, but at the same time I shy away from too many people on the trail. Maybe I want them to do it, but just not when I'm out there too? :-)


Post a Comment