10 years ago I spent a summer living in the mountains around CO Springs, helping repair trails and learning about local ecology with a program through Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI). Now I’m back in the Springs, a few miles from the RMFI office, training at the US Olympic Training Center.
I’m probably not summiting any 14ers on this trip, but I’m aiming towards other mountains. South Colony Lakes Basin is still my happy place. It’s part of my meditation before every race. I loved that time, and I love this one. Life is a ride, and I’m here for it.
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.