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.

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, May 19, 2008

Hell, yeah, I am a Mountain Girl!

I been wild since I can't remember when
You seen me out most every night with a dissipated grin
All my life I been labeled loob and lout
But now I DON'T think I'm finally wearin' down.

So, back to crazy, huh? The decision itself to go run Jemez 50M in New Mexico 2 weeks after Miwok 100k, at high altitude, 12,000 feet total climb and same for descend (I actually didn’t know about it till 2 days before the race), going 3 times over 10,000 peaks, first time in this state, nobody I know…but I singed up. Then I couldn’t afford a ticket – and my friend David bought me one. Then I still wasn’t sure – and Gail signed up and said her sister-in-law Rita will meet, drive and house us. Well, now we are in business!
And when you're out there
Without care,
Yeah, I was out of touch
But it wasn't because I didn't know enough
I just knew too much

I mentioned I worked my pace – that was a pure understatement. Because as I learned during a race, when my mind is occupied with other things, I can’t add 1 plus 1 and when I thought I put a 13 hr chart – it was actually 14. That didn’t come up till mid-race. Other than that – the weekend in NM was all and more that I wished for!

To begin with, the race was supposed to be my training run, or race “C” as I call it (as opposed to race “A” at Miwok that I so wonderfully blew off). So I didn’t taper, ran all my workouts during a week, including 6x800m on Tuesday (and, by the way, took off 10-12 sec from each repeat – wonder if it’s my lower weight body carcass or absence of music, because I positively don’t work on speed all that much), and only took Friday off due to flying.

Gail and I arrived to Albuquerque, NM around 1:30pm and met Rita. What a wonderful, warm and welcoming woman! I felt like I had known her all my life from the first go! We had lunch at some Mexican place and drove to Los Alamos for a pre-race meeting and dinner.
And I hope that you are having the time of your life
But think twice, that's my only advice

Right, I didn’t know anybody…if that ever happens anymore. There was Rickie Redland, Larry King , who I haven’t seen since last year’s Zane Grey, Moogy, who I ran part of Cascade Crest 100 last August, Jeff O. from blog-wolrd, Melissa from TX, who finished Zane Grey in 2005 a few minutes in front of me and then got scared when I cried, a fellow Goat teammie Chris Boyack , and, of course, Karl Meltzer and Kyle Skaggs, the “young” and the “restless”, boys to watch out for anywhere they go. I got my customary pictures and hugs and was all glowing (as Karl put it – “Olga’s getting her luv”).

As we checked into Best Western and I unpacked, I found out that my headlamp was turned on the whole flight and ran out of batteries – and Rita went to the store and picked a new set. Thanks! I bought a few small cans of V8 juice and asked Rita (who was crewing for Gail) to have it ready for me if she sees me at aid stations.

Morning came early, 3:30am. As we fiddled to get ready, Rita asked me what am I wearing – and I said “skirt”. She didn’t believe until I put it on – yup, it’s all about looking cute and taking pictures, I exclaimed as I stuffed my camera to the very front pocket! So we drove 10 minutes to the start and waited a bit in a crowd – and day promised to be beautiful, upper 70’s and no precipitation. On the other hand, 2 days before there was 3 feet of fresh snow in the mountains…5am start came, and with flashlights we took off the first turn off the road into a narrow bottle-neck trail, 153 starters for the 50 milers.

I settled in right away, and as soon as were able to spread out, realized I am not gasping for air. That was weird, because I actually ran inclines and whatnot, thinking why in the world my heart rate is not soaring.
The views were not all that spectacular at this point, a lot of burned down forest, but first 5 miles were easy going. Then the first climb hit…and I found my heart up my throat and my ears pounding, just as expected. Gail was a few feet behind, and I snapped a picture of her, waiting that she’d catch me up, that “Uphill B*”. We climbed first peak at 8700 feet, went over a ladder (a part of the course!) and took some steep switch-backs downhill. Soon the 3rd AS came, right on the clock, and we were shown the “WAY”…up to 10,480 peak, 1800 feet of climb in 2 miles. Yikes!

I felt awesome. Pressing on, I suddenly almost walked into Karl – apparently this was out-n-back climb (would be nice to study the course, don’t you think?), and then the slew of runners followed (Kyle and Nate already gone through). I was passing some folks and wondering why, uphill is not my strength, and we hit the snow, and a lot of blow-down trees, and just plain steep sections, and I counted 8 gals in front of me – oh, good, why am I counting at mile 12? I found Melissa near the top of Caballo Mountain (elevation 10, 480 feet) and we stopped for a picture – and then we had to turn around a tree at the AS to head back. You have to admit, volunteers are angels – normal people would never in their right mind haul water up that mountain for some 300 runners!

Downhill…oh, my true love, let me fly! I was, passing some on the way, waving to those coming up, having amazing fun and trying not to break my legs. At the bottom AS a woman asked me if my bottles talked to me – and while confused I nodded. As it turned out, she mistaken me for Gail who she spoke to on the way out (folks often do that, and we have a blast about it).

Well, the course had just begun, and I had to climb another 1000 feet in just over a mile. I was gasping and panting and almost missed magnificent views near the top! Had to yell to guys around me to look over to the left – I think this was one of the best views on the course (second came at the end). Then we rolled through high country woods gently on a soft trail, and I kept up on my bottles – NUUN, Infinite, gels every 30 min. Life was good and getting better…

Until I refueled at Pipeline Rd AS at mile 17 and they pointed finger “just over that cliff”. Holly shit! Have you ever seen a 75% slope with loose dirt for half a mile? Apparently, that was where we had to go. I stopped dead, took a couple of shots (I hope the pictures would do at least some justice) and tried to scoot on my butt, on my side, searching for something to grab on and not finding, but hey, I didn’t fall and made it safe all the way! NOW I was getting an idea what this course is all about…
Come on now, who do you, who do you, who do you, who do you think you are,
Ha ha ha bless your soul
You really think you're in control

We entered some dirt road in a grassy field that rolled very nicely and ran on it for about 3 miles to Valle Grande, mile 21. This is where I did a stupid thing – yes, I am totally entitled of one stupid thing per race. I filled BOTH my water bottles with their drink Succeed, having never tried it before (and I did still have my mixed carb in my pack!). This is where I also looked at my chart (still minute-to-minute on time) and after looking at “7.8M to go, 1600 feet climb, 2400 feet down” realized I lost an hour in my calculation. Just simply didn’t add things together, because I am not THAT significantly bad in math to assume to run 8M with a climb to 10,200 feet included in 55 minutes. I just couldn’t do addition back home…Oh, well, I was told this course is a 14 hour-er.

After a mile or so cross-country grass-slopping we came to a climb…cross-country as well. Over boulder field. Through the woods foolowing the ribbons. Over another boulder field (where I was leaping with an Irish girl Helen, who lives in MN, and she is such a sweetheart!). I hope you see that both boulder rocks and woods-wandering is straight up. Rumor is (from dude Lui who I hooked up with here), this route wasn’t so sadistic last year – yup, this course got an additional 1,000 feet of climb and elongated by 2 miles. And we’re still climbing, now on double-diamond ski slope, with a couple of false summits (where Helen graciously took picture of Lui and me).

Then we hit a downhill through the woods – just as steep as the climb was. Trip over, slide in snow, hit the tree and keep upright. It wasn’t long though before it became more manageable and Helen took off on the grassy downhill. I finally realized something is wrong with me – my stomach is popped out over my waist band like I am 6 months pregnant and it hurts like hell, not to mention every idea of taking a gel as I am supposed to on 30 min clock time send me into a wave of nausea. I slow down – and this is where the downhill is just purely blissful, soft and rolling!

2 girls in front of me stopped before the fence, and we held it up for each of us, then I let them go. I was in pain and ready to puke, but decided to keep it at least till the AS. Pajarito, mile 28.7, came a whole hour (the math mistake) and 15 min (stomach stops when I was bending over) later, at 12:30pm, 7.5hrs into the run. I saw Rita for the first time here, but she forgot my tomato juice in the car – or may be wasn’t aware how fast I go through aid stations. On the way I had already made a decision to fill my bottles now with pure water to flash out my guts – but for some weird reason thought it would be a great idea to take a caffeinated gel for the first time. So I did – and as soon as I walked out and started gentle jogging, a mere 200 feet from the AS, I had a very nice fountain coming out. In bouts. 5 total. And that included likely all the liquid I consumed in the last hour or so. I very much wanted to take a picture of myself throwing up, but by the time I reached to the pocket for the camera (while still puking) – it stopped as suddenly as started (well, can you say “empty”?). So here is my picture 2 seconds after.

So I started on my next walk-a-thon section, some hill around the ridge, sucking on the water, feeling better by minute and praying for this last over-10,000 peak to be over (10,441 to be exact). About 30 min in I thought it would be nice to try and eat a gel since I am now on zero calorie, and as I take it out, I swing my arm through the thorny bush, and the gel explodes in my hand, sticking between the bottle and my hands. Wish I could have taken that picture too, but with both hands covered in gooey mess couldn’t get it out. I did lick my fingers though…

Just as I wondered if I am still on course (not to worry, the marking was outstanding!), I see a familiar silhouette. A year ago I saw this figure at mile 25 of Zane Grey sitting on the rock. Today he was walking – my buddy Larry King. So I yelled – “Don’t you let me kick your butt again!” – as I picked the distance. I was elated! There was nobody I rather be with at that moment than Larry – and boy, did we have a hoot!

And when you're out there
Without care,
Yeah, I was out of touch…

Shortly after some loly-gagging I managed to take Larry of-course by engaging poor soul into a very interesting (from my point of view) conversation and talking his ears off, then we got off just a bit again (and luckily noticed a runner going afar a different direction), and came to Townsite Lift AS, mile 32.6. Rita was here – and this time she held my tomato juice ready! I downed it and asked volunteers sheepishly if I, please, could wash my hands in the water. They were awesome and helped me get unstuck from the bottles! After this stop we hit the highlight of that climb, and we climbed, and a couple of times when we thought we are done – we had to climb again. Straight up, through cross-country, following the flags, crazy masochistic course!

Finally, there was a bench, and we took a break – yep, did I tell you it’s all about “looking cute and taking pictures”? Well, here is the prove!

Well, I think you're crazy
I think you're crazy
I think you're crazy
Just like me

And now we faced that double-diamond ski downhill!!! Whee! Ok, it wasn’t “whee” from a get go, it was at first carefully picking a spot to put the feet down, but then it was - whee!

We came to Ski Lodge, and I was on fire. Unfortunately, I had fried glycogen-depleted brain and thought it is mile 39, so I took off (after downing my tomato juice from Rita again) like mad, overtaking Betsy Kalmeyer and Kim Kreb while Larry was trying to catch up. As he matched my steps and I proudly announced I can go on “empty” for the last 11 miles, he looked at me silly and said it was mile 36. Damn! I had to slow down…I just had to, no way I can run another 14 miles on water only…

There was a little hike involved and yes, another near-10k peak to Pipeline Rd (9800 feet), and as we get in, Moogy is there, and so is Helen Lavin, my boulder-field buddy, fixing her blisters. I feel bad for these two folks, I love them, so I scream a bit (well, OK, a lot, the usual). Larry yells “This Russian chick is kicking my butt, and I am loving every minute of it” – so I had to give out a fare warning to not “fall for it” too hard, it might last a lifetime I fill my water bottles fast – I don’t spend more than 30 sec at the AS – and hike out on a jeep road hill. While Larry and Moogy trying to hassle, I pick up Charlie, and we chat a bit. This is quite a steep road, but now – it’s a homestretch for sure!!!

Larry actually runs this hill, and after taking last “posing” picture (even if still “4 months pregnant”) and getting assured I have a company, he takes off – show off! I am so happy he is fully recovered and able to run strong! It was the best of times to have those 10 miles together, thanks!

That’s it, nothing major crazy is coming up anymore, gentle downhill, some small bumps, open terrain, and finish line, I can smell it! I am trying to do my math, and it seems that somehow, somewhere I picked an hour from that 14 hr pace chart, I have no idea how and where, and I am pressed mentally to get 13 now. It’d be a push, but possible. Why, oh, why do I keep making new goals during a race? I run, and run, and enter Guaje Ridge AS at mile 42.8 at 11:23, spend a couple of minutes discussing my skirt and “men in skirt” competition at Hagg lake 50k (Bushwhacker, I was talking about you, my dear! Dude at AS wants to meet you!), and then hassle out. I need to work, baby, because I am going after 13 hrs! Charlie warned me this downhill will seem never ending – and it was. I wasn’t looking at the watch, but I was looking at the horizon, peeking out if I see a town yet.

So there it is, Rendija Canyon AS, 1.9M to go. A woman in Hawaii skirt yells “Olga, Larry says you’re tough as nails, go catch him!” as I fill one bottle with ice (now I not only don’t eat, I don’t drink either) – and I am out. You know, it really would be nice to study the course, but my printer cut the last 10M off the profile, so I was positive I will have 2 miles of flat road (don’t ask where I got this idea) – and yet I had a single track trail (what is good) with 400 feet gain and only 200 feet loss. Urgh!!! That not to mention Helen enters the AS as soon as I walk out. You know, I am totally happy for her, some people you just can’t be happier for, and she was a blast – so I KNOW she’ll gain on me, but he presence makes me move. She catches me in the tunnel, and says – “No walking in last mile” – and I wave at her smiling. Go Helen, you rock!

I recognize the trail and the turn – and this is final 100 yards on the road. So I run, see Larry snapping a picture (he finished 10 minutes ahead) as I am taking a photo of my finishing time. And I am SO DONE!!!

What a great race! To date this is the toughest 50M I had done – and now the Lake City 50M is calling my name. I change, and start hacking my lungs out and shivering (normal reaction to altitude). I am starving, but can’t eat and feel nauseous, but I do suck on beer while chatting up with Karl, Kyle, Roch Horton, Larry, Moogy (came soon after me), JeffO (finished in 12:19), Helen, Chris, Rita. Oh, man, I am on cloud nine!!! Because I forgot to tell you – I was 5th gal! And I broke all my goals and had an awesome run on a toughest bitch of a course! By my fuzzy calculations I ran negative splits here, never felt I am out of gutso, felt strong evenly through the whole run, despite only consuming 5 gels and 3 small cans of V8 juice in second half, and my quads held on perfectly fine! I took over 90 shots on the course and hope you enjoyed the story in pictures as much as I enjoyed the run itself - if you're crazy enough, put it on your list!

Even your emotions have an echo
In so much space

We were worried about Gail, she was 30 minutes behind me stable throughout, but then had slowed down in the last stretched and finished in 14:30. She looked pretty unhappy when came in, but once threw up, drove home, took a shower and put fresh clothes – said she’d do it again in a heartbeat. That’s my kind of friend!!!

Rita took us to her home, our wonderful host for the weekend, and we somewhat “slept”, too excited, to tired, with toes hurting from those insane downhills (by the way, no blisters! – I think the combo of Drymax socks, Cascadia shoes and orthotics insoles is my ticket to freedom!).

Morning came – and it was beautiful there, with the land that had no ending and air almost ready to be touched…but I was to go home, to my green Oregon, to the trees, grass and rain for 7 months out of year. There is no place like home.

Kyle broke the CR by a minute on a much harder course (that kid is a mutant!) and Karl came in second in his training run for AT assault (he passed Nate on those boulders and decided to keep going). On girl’s side it was, to no surprise, Susan Brozik
Full results. I would like to heartly thank everyone who made this weekend possible for me – RD’s for designing the mo-fo course I adored (Leland Barker would be so proud of this one!), angels-volunteers for hauling supplies up those relentless mountains and sitting at the AS’s for hours un-end, David, Gail and Rita for helping me with logistics, Mike for saying “you might surprise yourself”, Larry for spending 10 precious miles with me, all the friends I got to see and meet, and Mother Nature for providing us with this gem of a Land.

I never could've dreamed life would be so
Never could've dreamed... so rich in so many ways
Never could've imagined that I would be on this road
I'm traveling
I'm just so grateful to be here today

You think I'm foolish to follow my heart
Most people tell me it's not very smart
Still I follow my feelings and reach for the stars
Who would've known it would get me this far
I don't want to waste it...
I want to feel and know that my feelings really real
I don't want to taste it...
I gotta be doing it, doing it, doing it day and night

You think I'm crazy this life that I choose
With it's highs and it's lows I could win, I could lose
But really my friend I'm a whole lot like you
Just taking my chances and seeing things through


Chris said...

It was great to meet you! I can't believe all those pictures you took and still beat your goal - great job!! I loved your report, makes me wish I was back there right now.


Helen said...

Hi Olga - GREAT to meet you Saturday! I loved your report - and like Chris said I can't believe you took all the photos and ran such a great race. I especially love the photos of you guys on the bench on the side of the mountain!! I hope you don't mind I am going to steal some of you photos for my blog - where I will post my race report - which will take me longer to write than the race took to run!

Hope to run with you again sometime!


Bob Gentile said...

ladder- a part of the course!
hmmm Does this mean I need to ADD later training now--Geesh this Ultra Stuff is Cr"AAAA"azy :-)

Awesome Job Olga!! you so rock and way to have a Great time out there & share with us ur fun weekend!!

Thanks!! Love the pics!

Danni said...

Sounds like a blast! I really like V-8 during a long run too and I get made fun of. I'm glad to see someone else is crazy :p Way to nail it, bad math and all!!!

Sarah said...

You crack me up! : ) Doesn't matter if you know no one (not true anyway)...everyone knows you! : ) Sounds like a tough 50 mile scramble. Congrats and glad you had fun!

AnthonyP said...

That is one heck of an elevation profile.

rick said...

Your math wasn't working properly huh, must have been the altitude. Way to go on sub-13. Before I came to your blog I looked at the results that was sent out and also saw the three climbs over 10,000 feet, amazing. I've never hit 10,000 in my life, not even once. Congratulations on a good race. The picture of that runner, running on snow covered ground at the top of a climb - beautiful.

angie's pink fuzzy said...


those pics are gorGEOUS, and it sounds exACTly like an Olga course!!!

Julie B said...

Woohoo! Way to go Olga!! What a race and what a way to exceed all of your goals!!

Jon said...

Excellent work at Jemez and negative splitting! God I wish I had your intestinal fortitude. The heat messed me up so much on Saturday I bailed after just finishing over a marathon distance in a 12-hour race.

Meghan said...

Hey Olga! Great job and you look exceedingly happy in all the photos (Except the one when your belly was going nuts. :)! And you met your goal. How great on all accounts! Recover happy!


robtherunner said...

Fabulous report with a great end result as well.

I have been checking up on you, silently I guess. I have felt somewhat in an ultra shell, perhaps in a slight denial and wanting to stay away from the adventures since I cannot partake the way that I would like. Some people are able to read and live through other people's adventures, but I'm not that way. I would rather be doing than saying and I feel like I have been doing more saying than doing. Things have to change. I'm much more capable than the last two years have proven. I know what I need to do and now I need to go out and do it rather than talk too much about it.

I'll always be around, but I admit I feel a little more like an outsider peeping in than I did before.

Bret said...

Olga, Olga, Olga....what can I say. You didn't get the puke pictures...I am so disappointed.
Hell yeah....you are a mountain Girl.
Nicely done.

Larry said...

Hey Olga!!! Thanks for not puking on me! You did a fine job of kicking my butt and inspiring me to give it my best. The Catra pics came out great! Running with you wasn't like running, it was more like a fantastic adventure where all we did was play. And, I kept our promise by waiting for you at the finish. Thanks for sharing the trail with me. Stay strong. Until next time...

Sue said...

Congrats Olga. Great job! You rock!! :)

ultrastevep said...

Hey, great job, teammate! I was there the past two years, last year was the 50 mile sweep and had a blast! It is the best 50 mile trail race in the country, with SJS50 next.

Looking forward to finally meeting you at Hardrock...team club hangout is Red Mountain, where the beer will flow!


Rooster said...

Congratulations Olga! You are definately a mountain goat...I mean girl. Only a few more weeks before you get to do it again at Bighorn.

JeffO said...

Great photos! I like the night-time shot running in the notch trail. And the one after you puked! Ha!!!!! You look like you just puked! So priceless! I didn't puke until just before going to bed when I was hacking me pulmonary edema so hard I thought I was going to break several ribs and pass out, but I puked twice instead. Paul Grimm was laughing and said,"Look at us! Like this is normal - most people would be freaking out." I guess we're all crazy to do this stuff, but I still feel sorry for people who'd rather watch life on TV than live it.
So fun meeting you!
And Lui - what a guy, huh?
So fun, so fun!

Anonymous said...

So you did "Surprise Yourself". You ain't the only one that can make predictions. I love your style.


Lisa Smith-Batchen said...

yeah...great, just great:)
you go girl

George said...

Olga! Nice job out there on a super tough course. I didn't get to see anything after 17 miles becase I went down with a ankle injury that eneded up being a facture and probable ligament damage. I was suppose to go to San Juan also but I won't be seeing you there:-( Congrats to a great start to your year!!
Here is a link to my photos.

Sunshine Girl said...

I was feelin' the joy in that Race Report! You have that post-ultra-euphoric-afterglow about you! Hell yeah, you're a mountain girl...the tougher the course, the more the fun?!?


sea legs girl said...

Congrats, Olga!!! You get so many comments, how do you even find time to read them all? I love your stories of runners helping each other out and of meeting friends on the trails. You ran a great race and look so healthy! I guess tapering is overated!?

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