Posts Tagged ‘travel’
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.
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.
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).
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.
Perhaps 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!
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!
Do you have any tips on handling running with jet lag – both heading out and returning home?
How do you manage training when you are traveling – either domestically or internationally?
On top of that, what country have you not yet gone to that you’d love to race in?
Jet lag is different for me every time. One thing is for sure, it gets easier to adapt with each trip. Here are my biggest pointers for traveling successfully, and planning your training once you get there:
- Go into your trip rested (yeah right, right? It does help apparently).
- Forget where you came from: set your watch to your destination as soon as you get on the plane.
- Drink water CONSTANTLY. I’m talking 8oz every 45 minutes. I don’t care if you aren’t thirsty. Its worth peeing 17 times on the flight and missing crappy sleep on the plane. You will recover from the journey much faster if you are hydrated. Trust me on this one.
- If you can sleep on a plane, do it. Catch sleep where you can get it, but make sure you drink loads of water whenever you wake up.
- Keep the simple carbs in check. I usually sign up in advance for the gluten free or diabetic plane meal because its a bit lighter, and I bring some nuts and Picky Bars to snack on. Avoiding big meals while traveling makes it easier to get on a regular meal plan once I get there, and also prevents me from getting on a 3am poo schedule.
Once you get there:
- Stay awake when you get there until a normal bed time. This part is very hard. To kill time, I always go for a shake-out run of 20-30 minutes once I reach my destination, and then I drag out my various tasks like stretching, unpacking, etc. Then I force myself to go out to dinner even if I’m not hungry because stimulus is the only way to keep myself awake.
- More water.
- I always sleep like a champ on the first night if I do all those things, but its easy to sleep past noon if you aren’t careful. Set an alarm for a generous sleep of 10-12 hours and then get yo-self some coffee!
- Run easy the first day, (I do two short runs) and don’t think about what time it is back home. Just exist like a local (who feels like crap).
- Don’t panic if sleep gets harder: I always struggle for the next 2-3 nights to sleep all the way through the night, but I just read a book and force myself to stay in bed. No computer, no internet, nothing overly stimulating. Just good old fashioned boredom.
- Don’t expect to feel normal: For the first week I’m in a place, I just expect to feel crappy, and I run really slow.
- More water.
- Don’t do anything the first week that you don’t have to: I run normal mileage, but keep my training intensity light. I’ll maybe do a tempo and a fartlek that first week, just enough to keep the rust off, and make sure I have no idea how far or fast I’m really going.
As for the travel home? Don’t ask me for advice on that one. I always travel home the day after the post-race party of my last competition. Read: hangover, hating my life the entire way home, and swearing I’ll never do it again.
Your final question: I’d like to race in Croatia and stay an extra week and soak it all in. I’ve heard from other athletes that it is the #1 place they wish they could have stayed longer after competing.
Got any ideas of your own on this topic? Share your expertise by commenting! Thanks peeps.
Part I: Futbol
If there is one sport Coach Rowland likes more than track and field, its futbol. I was first exposed to this enthusiasm a week after he moved to town from South London. An enormous English flag was staked into the planter box of his rental house in Eugene before basic furniture made it through the doors.
“You realize you just took a job in America coaching Americans, right?” I asked.
“There’s a futbol match on tomorrow,” he stated, as if that explained everything.
Since then I’ve learned that if futbol is on TV, you watch your step around Old Rowls. For instance, you don’t talk to him, period. Its just not safe. There is a crazy button on his head that turns on if he hears a woman’s voice asking stupid futbol questions, especially if England is playing.
Lucky for me, I’m a sit-quietly-and-watch type of person. And over time I’ve managed to progress from being kicked out of the room, to being allowed to watch the World Cup Final in the same bar. To me, this represents a more dramatic improvement than my track season.
Last night, the soccer “fans” (loosely including myself) went out to dinner before heading into a bar for the game. We stumbled on a cute restaurant whose menu looked diverse enough for the four of us, and found ourselves sitting at a nicely set table with a view of the Pyrenees.
My adventurous nature, combined with my inability to speak a word of the local language, gets me into trouble when it comes to menus, and today was no exception. I’m not a very picky eater, and in nice restaurants in America this allows me to use my favorite line without consequence, “I’ll have whatever you recommend, sir. Surprise me.”
Leave the confines of the US of A and this is a very dangerous thing to say.
Part II: French Dining
My first trip ever to France was for World Cross in 2004. Determined to be independent, I arrived a few days early to adapt to the time change, several days before the rest of the US team. Armed with a French phrasebook, I managed public transportation and followed local maps to find my hotel, which was no easy task in a maze of crooked alleyways in the dark. Taking a page out of Rick Steves’ book, I combed the back alleys for a local mom and pop restaurant to get an authentic locals’ experience.
Three well-dressed couples sat among 10 well-set tables and, phrasebook in hand, I asked the wife/server to “please sit to me a table of one.” My blank, open-mouthed stare at her first inquiry prompted her to laugh genially and bring me a glass of red wine. What kind was it? I don’t know. Red. Then, in response to her next question (most likely along the lines of “how are you tonight?”) I proceeded to order “Whatever you recommend, sir. The specialty of the house, your welcome.”
She pointed to a menu du jour written in chalk on the wall, with four illegible courses, and I was thrilled to think that I’d experience the best of famous French cuisine. I felt so cultured! “I’ll have whatever you recommend, madam.”
The first course was snails. Yep, I know, should have seen that one coming. And no, they did not taste like chicken. To be fair, they were sort of…lovely, so long as I disconnected my brain from my mouth.
Suddently realizing that menu optimism has consequences in a foreign country, I waited with trepidation for the next course. Luckily for me, it was one of my all-time favorites…a real go-to if you will: brains. What the #$%!? In my wildest dreams, I didn’t see that one coming. With no dog under the table to dispose of the evidence, and interested neighbors watching me, I reluctantly swallowed every bite.
By this point, her husband/chef had been curiously poking his head out of the kitchen window to keep tabs on the developing American spectacle. I imagined him thinking, “Did she eat the brains? Ooh hoo hoo! Magnific! What can I give her next?!”
For the final course, the woman said some words and the inflection in her voice, along with the hand gestures, alerted me to the fact that she might be asking me to choose between two things. The only familiar word I picked out was “fromage,” so that’s what I repeated back to her. Imagining a delicate, famous French pastry with chocolate ganache, my sweet tooth absolutely ached with anticipation.
The rather large chef, obviously impressed with my gustatory performance thusfar, personally wheeled a large cart in my direction…and on said cart were six wheels of cheese, each as large as a small pizza. Not a pastry or cake to be found. Ah…fromage.
He waved his hand over the selections, pointed at me, and put up two fingers. What the hell. Might as well do this right. I pointed at the veiniest, moldiest, stinkiest ones on the tray, and he lobbed off a massive hunk of each and put it on my plate. And then he proceeded to stand there whilst I ate them, smiling good naturedly, with my only responses being mmmms and the occasional mime-like, wide-eyed rubbing of my tummy. After that, I paid my bill and waddled down the street to my hotel room where a food coma took me out within seconds.
French Dining, Take II
Back to French dining present day, I again ordered the Menu du Jour, but this time it said “Catalan” next to it. I don’t even know what that means, except that it has something to do with Spain. Six years later, I’m still asking for trouble with foreign cuisine, but this time I came armed with friends, including Nick Symmonds who knows enough French to read a menu, and Coach Rowland who isn’t afraid to ask English questions to a French waiter, and my husband who has enough sense to dissuade me from saying, “Sure! I’ll try the cheek of pork!” I had a lovely steak instead.
On the wander home from a pretty boring World Cup Final, while Rowland was undoubtably going over futbol plays in his head, I had a laugh thinking about how language affects your choices, and your entire personality for that matter. In America, we wouldn’t have patronized that particular bar, since it looked like it could double as a brothel, but it was the only place with seats available to watch the game so we played the ignorant foreigners and took our seats. And in America, if I want white wine, I’ll spend ten minutes pouring over the wine list to choose the appropriate varietal and vintage to match my meal and mood. But in France, when asked what I want to drink, I’m content to say simply “Vin” (wine). And when asked what kind…Oh geez, I don’t know…white! I mean blanc!”