Volunteers meet you at the airport and escort you to the hotel (thanks Maria!)

Volunteers meet you at the airport and escort you to the hotel (thanks Maria!)

Five weeks ago I finished 8th at the USA Championships in 15:31, and it was HARD!  I’ve spent the last four weeks at 6000 feet in the Pyrennes trying to get myself in better form, and finally…FINALLY I get to put it out there on the track tonight in the 5k at Stockholm’s DN Galan, and then eight days later, again at the Crystal Palace Diamond League in London.

Last year, I was here as a rabbit for a 5k world record attempt, got to hang out with Sweden’s most famous athlete Carolina Kluft, and was more of a tourist by nature of the fact that I didn’t have my own race to think about.  Sounds great right?  Well, I much prefer being here on real business of my own.

Pre-race workout crew

Pre-race workout crew

The last two days I’ve been enjoying meals in the dining hall with all the other elite athletes.  I’ve seen a lot of familiar faces, but its been particularly nice catching up with my hometown girl Alysia Montano (AJaM as I like to call her) and her new husband Louis, Alice Schmidt (who I think the world of) and her hubby James, Sally Kipyego (SKip) and OTC high jumper extraordinaire (and surprisingly humble dude for someone so easy on the eyes) Jesse Williams.

would you give these glasses up?

Would you give these glasses up if you were him? I mean, dude. Those are amazing.

I could go on for pages and pages about how awesome AJaM is, but suffice it to say she is so much more than an amazing runner.  Having someone from my home town here, someone that really knows me, makes all the difference in the world.  Plus, watching her try to trade her sunglasses with our awesome volunteer shuttle driver (thanks Vincent) will be a lasting memory (she failed).

Old Town Stockholm

Exibit A (left) hot Swedish girl. Exibit B (right) tourist's reaction to Exibit A.

I cruised around Old Town Stockholm just to pass some time yesterday, but a part of me has remained disconnected from my environment this trip.  After salvaging an altogether lost season before USA’s, and a month of total focused training, all I really want to do is go race.  When jogging the bike path yesterday, the riverfront was alive with Stockholm residents going about their life, enjoying summer.  I passed people barbecuing, sunbathing, laughing, cycling, and yet I felt somehow removed from it all, like I was running in a video game world.  I would pass local joggers going the other direction, and if we hadn’t brushed shoulders, I would have a hard time believing the other person was real.  At one point, I was approaching a young woman with her dog, sitting on the waters edge staring at the sunset.  I was overwhelmed with the desire to run up to her and touch her on the shoulder.  Introduce myself, to hear her voice and see her see me…to know I was really in this place, and that I existed in the same world that she did.

Stockholm with Louis and AlysiaPerhaps I feel this way because I really could be anywhere in the world right now and be focused on the exact same task, so my environment really doesn’t matter.  All I want is to run 12.5 laps in a stadium, any stadium, and get into the rhythm I’ve practiced so diligently and see what happens.  The result doesn’t even matter.  Any goal I have is completely visceral.

For those of you who want to follow the races, check out this pre-race recap by letsrun. You can find results here, and if you are smarter than I am, you can find a live stream online.  You should know that there is a world record attempt scheduled, and it is one of the best 5k fields I’ve ever seen assembled.  I could have a very good personal result even if I’m near the back, so please no condolences on my facebook page if I run a season best but get last!  The field is so stacked that I will truly need to be focused on my own race, and my own personal progression.

Now I just have to kill 10 hours until my race goes off at 9:25pm! That’s enough time for the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Not a bad idea, actually…

For those of you who are self-professed track geeks, see if you can pick out some big names on our massage sign up sheets. Nobody can pass up a Swedish massage in Sweden!

massage

Everyone needs to get the wiggles out before competing.

massage 2

I squeezed in for the last one. Phew!

Photos…

old town view

Another killer Old Town Stockholm view

licorice

It looks good, but it tastes like dirty rubber sneakers.

Feel free to share this post with lovers of running, travel, and black licorice that tastes like death, and comment away!  Closest guess to my 5k time tonight (comments posted before the race of course) gets a postcard from Stockholm!