100k WC 2011

100k WC 2011

Gagarin Half Finish

Gagarin Half Finish
Gagarin Half Finish

Awards Gagarin Half

Awards Gagarin Half
Awards Gagarin Half

Cosmonauts give out the awards:)

Cosmonauts give out the awards:)
Cosmonauts give out the awards



Thursday, July 20, 2017

Tradition Dies Hard- Belochka

There is only one race I've done more than Humpy's/ Big Wildlife now Runfest in Anchorage and that is Belochka. I've done the marathon 6 times in Anchorage and the 49k in 2015. I'm 7 for 7 -always won. I skipped it for other races last year and this year, well, not sure I'll fly in from Tuluksak that weekend. Keep in mind flying in from Tuluksak is going to be 450$ a pop, so any racing in Anchorage at this point really has to be worth the bother. Belochka- I have done the marathon 7 times off and on since 1998. I have won 3 of 7 , but the last win was 2004! I have otherwise been 2nd or 3rd every other time. I also have opted for the 10k 5 times as well instead of the marathon.
There was a lot going on this weekend and I had eyed the 5k xc run in Zelenograd, but it was too short.....I need a 10 or longer to be competitive and even the 10 is pushing my luck. I've been deliberately racing up to the half this year so I can recover between races and get more racing in effectively since my season is so darn ridiculously short.I really wasn't planning a marathon especially since it's usually way too damn hot in the summer and they are nothing but sufferfests in the heat. I actually was leaning more toward the half in Sergiev Posad or maybe going to Gorodets for the first time since 2005 to run that marathon and see friends. Gorodets got scratched when I saw all the express trains on the return after the race had been sold out. Coach pushed me toward just doing Belochka. There was a note from the RD this yr that prize $ would be equal on the guys and gals side after last year's mess on that front. It's not been insanely hot this summer so i just figured I'd slog out a long run on a very wet and muddy course from all this rain. It POURED the day before the race just to make things more interesting. Well, since I only have one more weekend after this to race before heading back and possibly running the USATF Alaska championships and this would probably be the only marathon this year....Belochka it was.
It was muddy....very muddy on the trail sections and this being a hybrid on/off pavement course, I had to run it in my regular road racers and just suck it up on the slick muddy patches. The first 20k I had company. A lady ran with me and  3 guys as well. We just stuck together and after 15 or so, the boys began to drop behind and I just decided to sit on the lady. It was too soon to get antsy and move....yes this would probably cost me some time but not just going my pace early on and pulling away, but I decided to run for the win tactically as opposed to trying something stupid and getting caught in the final 12+k loop. I had not been doing any marathon specific training and just screwed around most of the winter running hills and mountains due to lack of racing opportunities. It was not super hot- 23-24 C but very HUMID and mostly overcast. I was drinking like a fish and actually carried salt sticks with my regular eats along the way. Leonid was waiting after each loop with my drinks too. The first loop is a quick 4k followed by 3x12 and change just under 13. I just sat with her the first 2 loops, then, she dropped back at about 20k and I was pretty much on my own the rest of the day. I passed a few other guys along the way.I just pretty much locked into a mostly even pace save for the slow mud patches that sucked time.Being ALONE, I paid damn good attention to the course markings so as to avoid another f#ck up like last week. Actually, things were well marked and I know the course which is why when back in 2011 the leaders got sent the wrong way I knew something was not right. There were arrows freshly painted on every turn and markers on the trees some even with cure squirrels on them (belochka) this time. I won this one and broke the curse of not being able to win in 13 years. At the awards, the RD even announced my first win back in 98. I now feel nice and OLD! I was 23 and just starting grad school at Moscow State....where did the years go?! Well, I'm now 4 for 8 in this marathon!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

In Between

Not wanting to lose my mountain legs-I needed to keep getting in hill workouts. Now, when I was in grad school, I lived close to the 1980 Olympic  cycling course at Krylatskoe. It's hilly as .....yup, longer runs about every9-10 days all summer over 3 months got me my Equinox Marathon PR in Fairbanks. I never lost a step when i trained on this course. Well the following weekend I did the 10.8k Adidas trail race Run High on this course (mostly off the pavement)as a workout. I was still not 100% after Moscow Trail which was expected, but I was not planning to go eyeballs out 7 days later. I was just out for the hill of it.

What I was holding back for so I could be recovered for was the White Sand 10k trail in Stupino on the 8th only 6 days later. I was going to try and podium at that one. It was supposed to be a kind of tough trail on mud and sand. Well that one was complete epic fail for half of the entire first wave (the faster runners). Over 20 of us got sent off course and ran 13k. The Fcuk Up occurred just about 4k in and I was solidly in 2nd with 3rd backing off. There was no one behind her at all. The 2 of us would have easily taken the top 3. It turned out to be a completely wasted weekend which when already running on a short season and not getting any younger one cannot afford to just blow off a race weekend like that. We were mad as hell and rightfully so. After a few days the RD did admit fault, but still when there are a half a dozen races every weekend and you pick the one with the fcuk up..... Needless to say, I'll go elsewhere next yr. 

Moscow Trail

This one needs a post of its own. After Arctic Valley, I knew I HAD to do this one again. Arctic Valley went so well felt smooth....Moscow  Trail if you do the half has just under a 700m elevation gain. If I can do Arctic Valley and feel fine, MT was on the list. Last year, I did the 30k and died in the final 8k because of the heat. This year, there was a 10k, half, and marathon. I wanted to do the marathon, but I knew it would down me at least a couple weeks and being that my season is so short now, I wanted to make the best of it. Coach told me to do the half. Also, there would only be one aid station at the end of each 10.5k loop so that the race could be used for an UTMB qualifier. This meant either get crew or carry your own. Leonid was on the loop just over midway. It was cool for the race-mid teens , overcast, and pouring rain the hour before to make the course more interesting. I took 3 pairs of shoes and decided which "weapon" to choose 20 min before the race. I went with my inov8 212s for the traction in the mud. This year's course added 2 more steep uphills and downhills in the final 1500 of each loop. This would work in my favor. The race starts straight up the ski/ snowboard slope at Sarochany/Yakhroma. I was fine after that hill and headed down the muddy trail. The bridge we crossed last yr was totally underwater this year.I'd have 4 wet crossings an out and back on each loop. I just don't get why some people were lined up on the sides trying to cross and not get wet. You'd lose a ton of time....just run through the water and move on! It was slick though-slick metal that my mud lugs were not gripping so I crossed the water slower after my first crossing nearly got me a face plant.
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I'm at 3:30


The course had fence hops and the cement wall x4. There was plenty of MUD to go around and 5 significant steep climbs and drops in each 10.5km loop. The weather was cool and I felt good, could breathe this year and ran evenly. The half was 2 loops, but I really wasn't sure of my place until the last km of loop 1 when Vladimir M from our running club told  me I was in the lead. I couldn't really see any ladies back for a ways. It wasn't until after 16k, I could see one about a minute back and knew I had to work the hills to keep the lead. Just after 18 k coach managed to YELL so that the entire hill could hear.....jeez....that she was only 200 back . I knew there were 2 good climbs before the finish and I had to use them to my advantage especially if she was a better downhiller. I had to get to the gravel road in the final 500 to the finish first and I'd be ok. She was coming on the downhill, but I had enough cushion on the up I just had to kick it in. I was not going to get caught in the final 500! I didn't! I ran even splits and she picked it up nearly 3 min in the 2nd loop. Damn that was close, she finished 25 sec behind. I won the half. After nearly collapsing last year from heat stroke, I came back and got the job done! I just had fun. I liked the course. It was definitely not boring. There were plenty of daisies too along with all that overgrown grass from the rain.
My secret- the 5.3km loop done on the daily grind after school 3-4 times a day up on Old East End Road over the hills near Homer. All that mountain running all year long when I had nothing else to do made my legs strong.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Summer Racing in Russia 2017

Tushino Half 18 June
Well, so far, this has been a nice COOL but WET summer. it's sort of the opposite of the nightmare we had in 2010. I love the cool but am a bit over the wet. I decided after Arctic Valley not to race the following weekend in Moscow and just rest. I did do a quick 1000 in Mytshi on the 14th to get my legs moving a little before the half on the 18th. I have done this race 3 of the 4 years they have put it on. I missed it to pneumonia in 2014. It's well organized and fun. There are some"hills" but to me, I'd call this mostly flat after coming out of the mountains. This one is 3 loops with some rollers on each one. The first loop , I just felt kind of bleh and sat back in 7th. It was actually hot and hit 25 degrees. Go figure, the only warm day of the summer and it's,yup, race day! About 2k into  the 2nd loop, I started gradually passing people. I felt better and my legs were responding. I had crept up to 4th and just parked there. Now Marina was way the hell up there in 3rd and I wasn't even planning on seeing her. I have not been able to catch her since I had that damn pneumonia ruin me 3 yrs ago. Well into the final loop at about 17k, I spotted her up ahead. I closed the gap on the rollers since hills are my thing. Just before 18, I passed her. I figured, she'd come back and get me on the flatter portion, but she fell back a bit. it was getting damn hot, but I knew I couldn't get lazy in the final 3k. I ended up a surprising 3rd and top masters. After the awards, I had time to grab the legendary kasha and tea they always have at the finish.

 35-49 gp

 top 6
35-49 gp top3

Checking In!

Well, I've been busy as usual. In fact, I've been too busy between  moving, traveling, racing, and taking a graduate course to renew my teacher certification to post in here! Due to cutbacks where I was teaching in Homer, I had to make the decision to transfer to the Bush for the upcoming school year in order to stay on full time. I hated to leave Homer and I actually really liked it there, but there was no way on Earth I could survive on a part time contract there given the high cost of living.

 I will be starting in August as a 6th grade teacher in Tuluksak. This is one of those remote places you can only get to by plane, boat, or snowmachine. It's 30 miles upriver from Bethel. I have no desire to ever live in the Lower 48 again nor do I care to start over at 42 and work 30 years somewhere I just do not want to be. The other alternative is to return to Moscow and work as a full time governess (possibly live in which I cannot do as I need MY LIVING QUARTERS). I'll take the Bush any day over being forced to live with some strange family. Sure, there are live out jobs, but still, I feel like I'd be more useful working with kids in the village than with the privileged ones who have probably been sheltered their whole lives. I have always had a deep respect for Native culture and would like to learn more about Yupik culture from my new students. Yeh, I'm dreading one thing- the treadmill I'll have to ship out so I can still keep in hill shape. I've never set foot on one o those damn things and would rather run outside (and have)in the -50s, but I need to keep those mountain legs and my strength. I will snowshoe, but Tuluksak is flat save for some hills I've been told of upriver.....However, the one thing I will not miss is my HEATING bill. The school district includes that with housing so I can once again heat my home above 60 degrees in the winter and not pay 500$ to do so! I spent most of this past winter in the upper 50s to 60F (15C) and that, yes, will run close to 500$ in Homer in the winter- it sucks. I only heat the room I was in too when I was in it. Nothing like coming from a 60 degree bedroom to a 47 degree toilet and living room when you have to go in the wee hours........I learned to sleep in layers and a hat under a down comforter to avoid freezing my ass off! I don't care how cold it is OUT, I can deal with it, but I hate being cold IN! I will have a flush toilet and running water, but I've been told water can be a "sometimes" thing like in Russia I guess....sooooo I'll have the ol' metal pail and immersion heater setup like I do in Moscow for those fun days. Only the school and teacher housing have running water. Yup, that means honey buckets elsewhere and having to haul water.

So April and May had me driving up to Anchorage almost every weekend to haul shit into a heated garage ...well the shit I'm not shipping to the village right away at least.....So I conveniently planned these trips to coincide with races to try and get my out of shape from not racing since October ass ready for the summer. I started out in Homer last Saturday in April with a half that Grace Ridge Brewery put on (awesome BEER). This was no results published, so I did it as a tempo run-out to the end of the Spit and back slow as molasses......but was first woman.

The following weekend on May 6, I drove the 100 miles to Sterling for the Moose River 10k- I won this one...time a bit better but still had much work to do...........I enjoyed the hills and on/off road on this course.

14 May was the Migration Run in Homer 5K. This is the point to point one on the Spit and the only somewhat flat race I'd be doing for weeks. I won this one too -thanks again Grace Ridge Brewery for the BEER! This was probably my last race in Homer :-(

20 May- Anchorage O Malley hilly XC 5k. I won this one too. The elementary school puts this on every year and did a great job.


27 May- After a 12 yr hiatus from the Glacier Half- I came back. I drove up late Friday after the last day of school to race early Saturday- ouch. Also, they take your last performance and age grade it and give you a goal time. Crap, 2017 still slow me has to beat 2005 fast me. I looked at that time and had my doubts. well 2017 me 3 age groups later beat 2005 me, but couldn't hold on for the win after pulling away midrace. I could still feel the heaviness in my legs from the slow drive up(it's now tourist season and construction season making that drive painfully slow). Next weekend I had more control of my schedule and would drive up TWO days before the race to prevent this from happening again. Also, between lifting 60some lb totes to ship to the village and hauling other shit to the garage, I managed to piss off my back twice -once in April and once 2 days before the Glacier Half so I had the joy of running through nice back pain for this one.

3 June- Arctic Valley 12.6 miler- Anchorage. I couldn't decide until race day to run the 12 or 5 miler. I hadn't run this road since winter 04-05 on SNOWSHOES! It's over 700m of vertical and then what goes up the hill, must come back down! The day before, I drove the course to the top and I was leaning toward the 12 miler because it was just so pretty. I'd still have 2 weeks to fully recover before the Tushino Half in Moscow. On my way back down, I had just gotten back into the car when Blackie came ambling across the road! Yeh BLACKIE....a black bear. Bear spray lives in my car , so it goes wherever I do especially this time of year! We just looked at each other a bit and he ambled further up the ditch. bears happen and I guess he wanted to remind me this was definitely bear country.
Race morning, I went for the 12 miler. It was overcast and cool. The sun would only come out in the 2nd half of the race, so it wasn't boiling hot. I had only found out about this race a week before when I stopped into Skinny Raven after the Glacier Half. I was going to do their 6 or 12 k , but as soon as I saw the Arctic Valley run , it was for me! I'm not into the road scene much anymore and will opt for a hardass mountain /trail course over a flat boring road race. ZZZZZZ

This race was really well organized. It's on JBER- the army/AF base just out of town. So, just before the start, we were given the Blackie warning. Yup seems, he was out ambling about around mile 4 on the way up......GREAT! I was considering running with the bear bell after yesterday's meeting with Blackie, but figured a bunch of runners would make enough noise to deter a bear......note 2 weeks after this race , a 16 yr old boy was mauled to death by a black bear during the Bird Ridge race.This is unusual for a bear to attack during a race, but unfortunately, it did. I feel for his family.

I had fun with this one. The course is beautiful and I just started out nice and easy for the first 10km UP. Bullwinkle ran out for us at the start too! As I continued to climb, I gradually caught most of the men save for 4.I passed the lead woman about 3km up but was concerned she'd get me on the down being a 2:55 marathoner. When I got to the tippee top, I felt good. Climbing was the easy part....now what goes up the hill, must come down! I don't care for songle track slick/technical downhills, but this was a nice wide dirt/gravel mountain road , so I let it go....averaging the 3:40 ish km s all the way home. My 5k PR is a cheater so I don't count it-17:25 at the Murphy dome roam (17:25-37 on that final descent over the yrs) on a similar kind of steep downhill. i could cut down Chena Ridge in Fairbanks too under 18 ...but yeh cheater downhill. The Hokas saved the day so I could just barrel down with reckless abandon and not worry about knees and quads taking a beating. The 2nd lady was just over 5 min back at the turn around so I ran that 10k down the hill eyeballs out hoping she'd not catch me. She didn't. I finished 12 minutes ahead. At the awards, a lady came up to me who had won the 18-29 age gp. She looked at me a while and asked if I used to live in Wasilla and teach at WHS. OMG- yes, I was the Russian bilingual teacher until 2005 before I had a midlife crisis and made the biggest career mistake of my life at took 2 yr leave of absence that turned TEN YR HIATUS! Of all the jobs I've had, that was the one that was  BY FAR the best match for me. Leaving was probably one of the biggest single mistakes I could have made. In short, I f#cked up! She remembered seeing me out there running every day and lived the next street over from me. She said I actually inspired her to get serious about running. She's serving in the army now and has been to Afghanistan and all over the Gulf. She's stationed at home now. I was shocked. What a cool young lady!

Next up- summer racing in Moscow

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Busy as Bee

Well, I had a hunch I'd drop off for a while.....I  tried starting this entry over Thanksgiving, but was just too busy. Fall racing season was busy busy and between the road trips and school, I just don't have the time to check in like I used to. Right after Belochka, Leonid and I came back to Alaska for the fall racing season. Sure, we've traveled to the USA many times before, but this was his first time in Alaska. The season is pretty busy until Early October, then it just drops dead as a flipping doornail til May unless you are up to the hassle of hauling to Anchorage which I am not. We raced (and won) nearly every weekend through October until the season was up. We got some damn nice prizes along the way everything from a Kenai Fjords cruise to air and ferry tickets to massage and spa treatment and many more goodies......

                    first pink moment sunset in Anchorage at Pt Woronzof. July after 11pm.Sleeping Lady is in the background. I'd told Leonid about these views for years.

Jackolof Bay 10 miler- this was an awesome hilly 10 miler from Jackolof Bay to Seldovia. We took the water taxi from Homer and the ferry back. This was very well organized and had fun prizes. The trip was worth its weight in berries we picked after the run!

 Our first race and win for both of us

 what to do with all those blueberries!
lots of berries and no bears -it was a good day!

Six days later I repeated my win at the Run For Life 5k in Soldotna and Leonid took his first win here.It was WET WET WET this yr!!!

 GO FISH! Best recovery food :-)

The following weekend I ran the Kenai Run for Women 10k again this yr.....and here is my prize- a lovely fireweed painting :-)
....And the next weekend we ran the Costume 5k in Kenai where we both won overall! This was an offroad/on road hybrid course with hills! This worked in my favor!
 Top 3 overall Leonid then me then William
 chillin after the race!

During the last weekend of August, I had a holy day off school and a 3 day weekend.The weather gods cooperated in full and we hit the road to Seward to enjoy one of the prizes we had won- A Kenai Fjords cruise :-) 
Labor Day weekend we went back to Seldovia  for the 10k and more berries! We had to make use of that ferry ride back we had won earlier this season and we decided to spend the weekend running then picking the last of the blueberries. My fridge is well stocked with jam!
The 10k was a nice dirt road/trail course -not fast(the only fast course we really did was the 5k in Soldotna) but really pretty. We managed to win this one too! It was very well organized and marked! There were plenty of blueberries saying PICK ME PICK ME after the race!

Two weeks later was the Halibut Hustle 5k. I won this one "just for the halibut" the second year in a row and Leonid won on a technicality because the leader accidentally turned around too soon. It was a very windy day on the Spit that day and WET. I was some 40 sec faster than last year, but the course was again 300m long...ah well.
Now, I had planned to run the half at the Kenai Marathon this year so I could do Run to the Altar (the vertical trail half I did six days off the marathon last yr) and not feel like unrecovered shit. Unfortunately, Run to the Altar was cancelled and is no more. This was such a fun course-very hard gnarly ass trail. So, five days before the marathon I figured I'd do it as a long run. I was again selected to represent Latvia in the 100k WC/EC in November, but unfortunately, I couldn't afford the 3-4000$ for the trip. Yes, shit like this sucks. I'm still very capable of running well at the ultras, but the cost of travel and the logistics of getting out are killing what's left of my career. I'm out of the Little Su 50 in 2017 by default because we have Saturday School that day to make up for a holy day off midweek. I could take personal leave, but I can only justify taking personal leave for a race if it's WC/EC or a commercial race where I could offset the cost of the trip by going for prizes. I can't justify personal leave for Little Su 50k. Plus, the drive is a dangerous crapshoot that's 6 hours in good weather and maybe a no go come mid Feburary. I may be out in 2018 as well because I see we have Saturday School again mid Feb. We have a couple few Saturdays a school year when we sometimes have a Russian Orthodox holy day off midweek and then make it up on Saturday. This would be nice to do to fill the black hole of no winter races in Homer(still can't figure out why the hell it's dead as a bloody doornail October- May in Homer when we have mild winters and optimal places to race/train). However, the ends really don't justify the means.
I won the Kenai River Marathon running mostly alone all day. I beat the rain to the finish!!!! Many did not!

It was ideal weather- about +2-4C overcast

Two weeks later, we came back for the 5K in Kenai out on by American Cancer Society. Once Again, we both won and lucky for me this course was much like the costume run 5k but with 2 serious climbs one just one. I beat the girl who had just finished 3rd at HS state in XC the week before and she was better than me on the downhills but couldn't stay with me on the uphills. I used this to pull away on the climbs to open a gapand she finished about 20 sec. behind me. Had it been a flat course, I think she may have gotten me.
finish on a blustery -7C day!

The last weekend in October a couple weeks later we did a fun trail mud mile on a newly opened trail just outside of Homer. The cycling club put it on and you could run or bike it . It was a fun day!

I did the Turkey Trot (damn let 3 boys beat me LOL) about 3 weeks later. I'm training through the winter for spring summer. Yes, it continues to drive me batshit that there is nothing going on here until May. I may look into some possibilities over spring break, but' I'll see how feasible the travel etc is when it gets closer to the date and whether or not it's worth the hassle. I'm still planning a summer in Russia. Race plans if any are up in the air. It's really hard to gauge my fitness and effectively prepare for that part of the season when there are NO barometer races I terribly need March-April.Sadly, I'm pretty much being forced into retirement by default and inability to get out to the big high end races that motivate me. Without a sponsor or a means to offset the travel costs, It's just not possible. This is why I actually did most of my high level international racing in my 30s as opposed to my 20s because I had the same issues then- inability to get out as easily from Fairbanks and later Wasilla. However, at least I was able to get fit for my summer racing because in both these places, the running community had stuff going on throughout the winter. The few times there are races in my neck of the woods during the season, they are often these itty bitty 5ks and that's just not me. I need the longer stuff. I enjoy that more as well. I had planned to retire once I started slowing down after 40. I'm too competitive to have it any other way. I did finally get into proper shape late summer, so the capabilities to perform are still there, I need to be ready for that by the spring though and this not racing for some six months is ridiculous and wrong.