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, May 13, 2012

Quadrock 50 - a run to remember.

I used to be good at this kind of stuff. I used to pride myself on being a mountain runner, one who thrives on long climbs where power-hiking is a way to go, and long steep tricky descends where huge quads and long leaps are something you can't do without. What can I say - I am officially a flatlander. My ass was handed to me on a plate with blue rim, and I was humbled, while in owe of beauty and fighting stubbornly.

But lets re-trace a bit and have Larry and I arrive to Denver, CO, to a weather of 50F with sudden snow as we drove to Estes Park and visited Rocky Mountain National park for a bit. No shit! Snow! And we are not prepared!

But we were there, and we were about to embark on a trail race, I - 50M with 11,000 feet of GAIN and Larry - half of each (distance and gain). Friday evening ended up not being much fun for reasons that don't belong here, which also left me with little to no sleep and too many thoughts for the run. I declared I am taking a camera for the first loop and plan to enjoy my run.

Let me share that Quadrock is a first year event put on by a great guy Nick Clarck. Nick is not only a great guy in general (even if Brit:)), he is also an amazing ultrarunner (who doesn't shy away from shorter distances or roads either). He knows what he was doing. And the whole race was an absolutely top-notch, no flick, perfectly executed thing, with marking the way you want to get lost - you couldn't, with fantastic course lay out of a 25M loop run backwards for the second time in a 50 miler, with well-stacked aid stations, both fuel and volunteers, and he ordered a rain a couple of days prior to beat down the dust and low temps on a day of the race...if we only had gloves...

5 am start was great as we only needed lights for 15 minutes. At some point I looked back and ahead and all I saw was a lo-o-ong snake of headlamps along a single-track making their way into the foothills. It was beautiful, peaceful and awesome...

AS at 2.2M, with Krissy Moehl, where we dropped our lamps and I left a shirt behind.

Smooth single track in foothills - not same as trails higher in the  mountains.

Of course the breathing was labored (it wasn't THAT high, but still, 5,000-7,000 feet IS altitude when you come from Austin, TX). I was locked in a good spot of a grid-lock of runners and quite contempt. We finally got on a dirt road up, and spread out, and I got to talk to lots of people, meet some old friends, chat with new trail runners, and enjoy.

You know, this race doesn't need my justice in describing the beauty in the mist and fog, the difficulty of climbs and twisting descends, so I'll put a couple of pictures below. I was working hard, amazingly too early, my stomach did not feel good and exploded from mile 3 to about to pop a baby, I couldn't feel my hands for the whole first loop from the temps, my eyeballs occasionally would get a fuzzy vision as they go through their own temperature adjustment, and I felt that my 0.5M hill repeats do nothing at all to the training for the real mountain race. But with the air full of love for the mountains and with runners around me and with old friends suddenly popping as AS volunteers you can't be anything but happy...well, may be a little worried about second loop, but still happy.

Trails up in the mountains.
And lots of stairs.
This is what it looks like climbing up those stairs.

Snow dust on top ridges. In May.
JT Brownie, whom I caught at mile 15? first time).
Scott Jurek serves AS.
Walter Edwards there as well.
Nice single track in places.

All the smiles you saw - the last I had for the day. I came to the end of the loop in 5:20, so exactly on predicted time, it wasn't even funny. BUT - a huge BUT - there was NO WAY I was going to get through the second loop in anything less than 6.5 hrs! I was done, toast, fried. And - I counted the girls on washing-machine loop coming up at me as I was going down, and I was 10th. A dream, and a very bad spot to be in. This dream required a fight, and I had no fight left.

I replaced gels from my drop bag, saw Larry who finished his 25M race in 4:58 (sub-5 as planned!), gave him a camera, and went back up, before my mind changed. When the run is hard, it is imperative to not linger - and the work has begun.

First climb was actually pretty good as I got to cheer on - be cheered by - all those who were coming down from the first loop behind me. JT caught me as he RAN up, and I wished him well. As we crested the top, finally, after some 5 miles ups, we went down for a couple of miles, and I was extremely surprised to see JT as the AS. I yelled at him to go away - I don't belong to be around (he is an extremely fast runner, even if his choice of carbs before, during and after is PBR). I also had started to eat a piece of banana and a small cup of coke at AS's as I figured I had (as usual) under-estimated my need in gels (or over-estimated my ability to run a certain time). I still passed Brownie and figured I'll see what happens later. Pretty soon I was pooped to climb (and climb...and deal with my tummy...and keep peeing since it's an altitude and cold air...and climb). My glutes were dead, my quads were dead, and that freaking sub-4 mile climb took the life out of me, hands on knees, tongue out, step by inch. Just before the top - a girl comes from behind, and she is RUNNING up that 15% grade uphill! I wished her well, lost my 10th, and deflated even more, if it was possible...

AS was quick, I filled my water, had my banana, and went rolling on the ridge for some time, then finally a downhill on technical trail (stairs from first loop? now down!), and popped on the dirt road for some nice time. I tried my best to maintain some turn over, and gained on some folks, but to me it was pathetic, even if all those very folks later remarked how great my downhill was. Great? It was CRAWLING! 
I felt exactly how I looked - and looked exactly how I felt.
Larry was there, unexpectedly, and I couldn't even smile. I also saw a girl leaving an AS, and knowing myself, it meant I am about to haunt, whether or not I want it in my mind, and that meant work - work I couldn't produce if you put a gun to my head.

Mind over matter. Larry gave me my tomato juice, and sent me out with a slap on my butt. I came onto the girl very soon, and told her "Holly shit, that's all I got to say". My expression and tone of voice shouldn't have fooled her either, and if I was trying to impress, that was lame. But I moved past her, and as long as I did, I tried to extend the distance, not allowing myself to look back. There was a half mile down, and I took advantage of it. Help me God. I prayed. I ran. As soon as we turned to climb, again, for the next 2.5M, I worked. On a sheer will power, nothing else. Sucking gels on every 20 minutes, often thinking that reaching into a pocket, opening it, squeezing and swallowing takes as much energy as it gives me, so why bother? But I did. I had no thoughts, no desires, I just worked. I wanted to sob a couple of times, but had no energy for this either. At last, that last AS at Towers came, and the guys saw my face and said: "Don't hate us, hate the climb". I couldn't respond. Last piece of banana (no coke!), and the last 7.4M "home", mostly down.
Somewhere on the course, photo by Eric J. Lee

I prayed to my legs. My quads were trashed beyond believe, and that says a lot since it's my pride, they NEVER get trashed. My only hope was that since they are HUGE, I still have some muscle fibers inside that are alive, and they will keep it together, for the last pitch, and won't let my legs collapse. Please. Lets run.

Math wasn't my priority, but I was figuring I should be done in 11:20 total. That would have been awesome. And if I don't get passed. I picked 2 more guys, and ran. The dirt road was over, trail came, some small ups, single track, foothills, "flat inclines and  declines", work, work, last AS, glance at the watch, giving myself 30 minutes for the last 2.2, run, walk, run, make myself run, a guy behind in red shirt keeps distance, work, push, and I see finish, can't believe it, not really, under 20 minutes for the section, really?

My 7 months pregnant belly crossed the finish line in 11:03:26. Then came the rest of me.

I cried a little, then hid in Larry's arms. And then, just like that - I was OK. Happy. Relieved. Thrilled. Plain happy. Tired. Pained. Amazed. Told Nick it was probably my most difficult 50 miler - not because it was THE most difficult (I had worse), but due to how unprepared I was for this particular course. Apparently, somewhere I also passed one more woman and ended up being 9th female. Goals achieved. All of them. I beat JT as well!!! I am living it, baby! (After he was done, he, told Larry, with bewilderment in his voice, that he couldn't match my donwhill ability. What downhill? You should have seen me when I had it, sweetheart). When folks who finished behind and ahead came  to chat and asked wow on being from flat lands - I put a finger to my head: "It's all up here". Honestly, I have no clue. I am in disbelief. How in a world did I make second loop only 20 minutes longer I will never understand myself. Enjoy the pictures, check out results (did you see all of them are from CO, a few from NM, and only Paul Terranova and I are from no-hills state?), browse the official website, photos by Eric J Lee. It's a gem. I might get a second love here (first being Zane Grey 50). Go and try it for yourself. You will not be disappointed. Even if you ass will be handed to you on a plate with blue rim:)

p.s. I'd like to give a shout-out to Drymax socks that kept my feet comfy and blister-free for all of the last 5 years or so, and to Ink n Burn running wear that stepped in to support me as my clothing sponsor. Thanks, guys! It all worked great!


Julie said...

Great race recap..I felt like I was there fighting out that second loop right along with you. This sounds like a great race and one I'll definitely have to try to run someday. It looks just beautiful in the pictures and running in snow in May would be awesome! (with gloves though!)

Anonymous said...

Congrats. I am way to wimpy to run these types of courses anymore, so I am extra impressed. Great job, especially for a flatlander! Don't you just love Rocky Mountain national park?

Olga said...

L0VED RMP! We plan to retire in Fort Collins now! And I can't believe I have Pocatello 50 in 3 weeks...what was I thinking??

Olga said...

I can only [picture the beauty once the fog lifts off. Felt so jealous of all the locals who got it in their backyards! Training and living and just, you know, suckers, hard life, ya know?

Danni said...

That is awesome. You're joking about being pregnant, right? You look far from 7 months pregnant. In fact, you don't look like you could be pregnant. Good luck at Pocatello.

Olga said...

I meant the size of my expanding belly. I am done with pregnant, but I live a life of one every time I eat gluten or travel to altitude:)

Sarah said...

Never, ever, ever, ever count Olga out! That's all I have to say about that. :-) Except congrats!

meredith said...

Congrats Olga!!! Paul can't stop yelling, "HEAVY SQUATS!" That's the advice you gave him early on :) Also, great splits! I was running with a girl who said the 2nd loop was much harder than the first!

mtnrunner2 said...

Way to go on the race finish. 7 months? And they didn't give you a few extra race places for that? :)

Sorry you didn't get typically great CO weather, but maybe cool air was better for racing. And it sounds like you enjoyed it.

Olga said...

Thanks, Sarah, I wouldn't say it with that much conviction, but when the race day comes, I hope to give my best.

Olga said...

Mer, congrats on a fine 25M race, and to Paul on an awesome 50 - he was smiling when I saw him! I guess those heavy squats worked:)

Olga said...

No special treatment, imagine that! :) It was a great day, absolutely, I love me a good sufferfest.

Carilyn said...

Love this report, as always! Way to hang tough, Olga!

Rick Gaston said...

I laughed out loud with this, "My ass was handed to me on a plate with blue rim, and I was humbled, while in owe of beauty and fighting stubbornly." That is the Olga I know. Always fighting while enjoying the beauty of a run.

So you are saying that it doesn't snow in Austin? Haha, I was ambushed sun the moment I got off the plane from London and deep down I said "oh shit, the sun". Ah Walter, I miss that dude. His stay here in the Bay Area was too brief.

"When the run is hard, it is imperative not to linger", amen to that. I can see myself quoting this sometime soon, maybe to myself at San Diego.

The elevation profile looks like animal teeth, way to fight like one and finish. The last photo is a keeper.

Olga said...

Hey, man, you surely out of many know the most of me gritting my teeth! Last photo is awesome, indeed, but I actually love the ugly one, because I always tend to at least look happy (even if really not) when taken picture of. Here, I had none of that. A real crack of a world, a memory to cherish.

Olga said...

Can't wait to read your 100k adventure!

Ronda said...

What a great report. Congratulations on getting your mountain girl on! Funny how fast things go..like downhill quads. That course looks incredibly tough. Great job!

Olga said...

Ronda this is right on - "mountain girl on", LOL! We phase out as we age, but we fight it to the bitter end! I think I am just refusing to believe it's going away:)

Jenny said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences here on your blog.

ALM said...

Great job Olga! I just love the way you describe things, I felt as if I was in the race with you. Sounds like an awesome and brutal course, possibly one I might want to try next year. Happy Recovery! I love your photos too, way to give it you all!