My first race is a mile in Budapest. Or, I thought it was Budapest. It’s actually in a town called Székesfehérvár. I learn this the day before I arrive. My mom is meeting me in Hungary. This will be the only race she has seen me run on non-US soil, aside from Olympics and World Champs. The plan was to spend time in Budapest, but instead we find ourselves renting a car to drive an hour into the countryside. The Diamond League is the world’s premiere track circuit, but there are other meets in Europe throughout the summer, and this is one of them. Luckily she loves me, and doesn’t care where I take her (she says). I think she even found a cross fit gym near the hotel.
This was supposed to be a “rust buster”. That means a low-key race that allows for practice with tactics, and flushing the legs after long travel and time change. I didn’t know that a world record holder and Olympic medalist would be in the race. But when I see the heat sheet with the list of competitors, there is Genzebe Dibaba.
The plan was to stay in the back because we thought she would chart a crazy-fast pace. But her pace was just normal-fast, and our chase pack was 4-5 seconds behind that. In the middle of the race, I see the clock and realize that I should be closer to the front. But this girl next to me is messing with my juju. She’s jerky in her running, and keeps pulling wide when I try to go around. She starts but then slows as I come next to her, and then tuck in behind. In that situation, the last thing I want is to expend energy with every acceleration as we vie for position. One option is to make a decisive move past her. Instead, I stay back and wait for the break. But shit, she gets there first! I respond and we both kick down the home stretch, I end up following her to the finish. I’m pissed that I wasn’t more assertive earlier in the race. We were battling for second and third, while Dibaba won in a time that’s slower than my PB.
It’s a good lesson to not be too intimidated by the accolades of other racers. I could have gone out with Dibaba and been just fine. You never know what’s going on behind the scenes. Race the athlete in front of you, not their past self.
This is my first time in the Swiss mountain town. St Moritz has a reputation as a ritzy resort destination with stunning natural beauty. I learn that town is split between upper and lower sections. All of the resorts and nice shops are along the hillside. Family-friendly houses dot the river valley.
Our apartment is across from a track. Athletes from all over Europe base here during the summer. I’ll look out my window and regardless of time of day or evening there always seems to be someone doing a workout.
The training setup is pretty perfect. Trails start out our backdoor, and go for miles in either direction. The town is small enough that we can walk to whatever we need. We live at 6000 ft but can drive one hour down the mountain to the town of Chiavenna (Italy!) for a track session at lower elevation.
Space is tight, so I share a room with Marielle. I don’t mind a bunk mate, after years of pairing with my sister, I find it comforting.
The routine here is no different from the other altitude camps, except with espresso instead of coffee. We run, we lift, we workout on the track, and we wait for races.
We travel frequently for races, training camps, and team or sponsor functions. To make packing easier, I have this all set out in a small bag (quart-size zip lock. Not the most stylish…), always ready to throw in a suitcase.
- Earplugs – Macks Ultra Soft Foam. Yes, you can find generic versions in drugstores, no, I don’t think they are the same. The foam in these is better. (I prefer foam, I don’t like that my hair gets caught in wax).
- Eye mask – Temper-Pedic The Sleep Mask was my all time favorite. But I lost it, so the one I’m using right now is a slightly cheaper version. And for quick overnights I’ll just use a generic thin one.
- Alcohol wipes – for the planes and hotels
- Bamboo Travel Utensils – To-Go Ware Set. My mom re-gifted these to me years ago, and I’ve used them more than any recent purchase.
- Quick supplies – lint roller, pen, chapstick
- Sentimental/grounding keepsakes – Necklace, rock, crystal
International race additions
- International Adapter – Universal USB Travel Power Adapter-EPICKA. I thought this was a recommendation from The Wirecutter, but it looks they have a different one up there. I like that it’s all in one, no loose parts (less stuff to misplace).
- Neck Pillow – bought in an airport store four years ago.
- For long international or altitude trips, I also bring a medicine bag of sorts: ibuprofen, naproxen, generic Midol, loratadine, bandaids, thermometer, Neosporin, alcohol swaps, eye drops, diphenhydramine (Benadryl, for sleeping on flights).