Székesfehérvár

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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.

We made it to St Moritz!!!

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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.

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Where to Run – Mammoth Lakes

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  1. Whitmore Tubs Road and Track Loop

    • The track here is new and open to the public.
    • For an 8.8 mile loop, park at the track and run back toward the highway for about a half mile and turn right at the dirt road that heads to the airport. Keep making right turns, up an unnamed road, to Hot Creek Hatchery Road, over the hill, back to Whitmore Tubs road. There are bathrooms at the start and at the Hot Creek Geologic Site at the top of the hill.Screen Shot 2018-11-25 at 3.52.25 PM.png
    • Most of the roads in this area are unpaved. There are endless possibilities for loops and out and backs. We’ve also parked closer to Owens River Road and started there. You can make a 10-11 mile loop by going out Antelope Spring and back Forest Road 3S138.
    • For a less hilly option, you can run from the track down toward Crowley Lake. Or park across the highway along the road to Convict lake and go back toward town. These are a bit boring, but you avoid any major hills.
    • The whole area is beautiful, with incredible views of the mountains. After a run, try one of the hot springs. We went to Wild Willy’s.
  2. Runs in/near town

    • Shady Rest Park – Maze of dirt trails
    • Town Loop – 7.3 asphalt path around Mammoth Lakes. This is a rolling/hilly run.
    • Lake Mary – Loop this one for a run at almost 9000ft. It’s about two miles on Around Lake Mary Rd. And you can add another two out to Horseshoe Lake. The trees are dead up there because of geologic activity, it’s eery. This is all road running.
  3. Dirt runs farther away

    • Mono Lake – Park at Mono Lake South Tufa Area and run out Test Station Road to the Forest Road 1N44. These are wide roads with good footing. As a bonus, there’s a great scenic view of natural limestone formations (tufa) steps from the parking lot.
    • Whoa Nellie Deli is a deli in a gas station in the nearby town. It’s a popular spot for people coming in or out of Yosemite.
    • Bald Mountain Road is another dirt out-and-back run
    • Ohanas 395 is a Hawaiian food cart parked at June Lake nearby. Friends on Mammoth Track Club say it’s the best food in the area.
    • Owens River Campground is a good place for soft surface running at lower elevations.
  4. Food /Coffee in Mammoth Lakes

    • Black Velvet Coffee
    • Stellar Brew & Natural Cafe – They seem to have a bit of an issue keeping inventory (whenever we got there later in the day, they would be out of common lunch items). But it when everything was available, it was my favorite place for smoothies, bowls, and healthy breakfast options.
    • Good Life Cafe – Generic diner fare, which I always like after a long run. There are a few similar options in town, Good Life was my pick.
    • Shea Shatt’s Bakery – Good deli sandwiches, hit-and-miss service.
    • The Eatery at Mammoth Brewing – for the weekly gastropub hit
photos by Talbot Cox

Where to Run – Portland

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  1. Waterfront loop (pavement)

    • Start at Water Avenue Coffee (or anywhere near the water. I just like this as a meeting place for easy parking and river access). Go down Salmon Street to the water, a loop from the Tilikum Crossing Bridge to Steel Bridge and back is about 5 miles. This run has all the Portland sights (downtown, river, bridges, markets).
    • Just after Tilikum, the path goes along the road for a second. Follow signs for the bike lane and it will join back with the separated waterfront trail. If you want longer, continue past Tilikum Bridge and follow signs for Spring Water Corridor. You can take that all the way to the Sellwood bridge, cross the Sellwood and come back the other side. That full loop is about 10 miles.
    • East PDX Waterfront is ground zero for good food options. Produce Row Cafe and Trifecta Tavern are Portland takes on American gastropub. Afuri and Maruken are two of the best ramen places. There is a food cart pod on 12th, and a bunch of other options stretching out along Hawthorne and Burnside.
  2. Leif Erikson in Forest Park (dirt/gravel fire road)

    • Leif is the entry-level trail. It’s a fire road closed off to cars, so you get all the beauty of Forest Park (largest urban forest in the country!), without the technical aspects of the single track trails. Though mountain bikes are allowed. The trail runs a net uphill from Northwest District to Germantown Road, but it’s relatively rolling and mild from either direction. I usually do an out and back for 5-8 miles, starting at either end. But there also trails that connect up to Wildwood every few miles, if you want a more adventurous loop.
    • DragonFly Coffee and Clearing Cafe are two common starting places for group runs to Forest Park. I love DragonFly for the local flair, and their homemade chai latte with hemp milk. But the best coffee in the area is at Groundwork one block over. Or Barista isn’t far.
    • After the run, Stepping Stone is a classic diner. Kiva Cafe has smoothies and bowls. St. Honore is a local French bakery with perfect pastries (plus other food). And Kenny and Zuke’s has fresh bagel sandwiches. Olympia Provisions is my favorite brunch in the area, but it’s a few more blocks out.
    • 23rd Avenue is the local shopping street. There you’d find some iconic Portland stores (Tender Loving Empire, The Meadow) and food (Blue Star Donuts, Salt and Straw, Grassa, Pine State Biscuit).
  3. Wildwood Trail (single track trail)

    • Wildwood is a single track trail that runs the length of Forest Park. It’s almost 30 miles long, and a classic Pacific NW trail run. As you get toward the Northwest District and Pittock Mansion, the trail has a lot of elevation change (I’m a baby with this stuff). To avoid that, I prefer the section from Germantown Road back toward town, there are about 12 miles of relatively flat running.
  4. Tracks and soft surface loops in town

Photo by Jordan Beckett

My Race Travel Bag

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). 
  • Passport
  • 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).