Из России с любовью! (From Russia with love!)

Yesterday, I landed in Russia after a 9 hr flight and 11 hrs of being confined to my seat on the airplane. It was a rather uneventful flight where as usual I had a tough time being able to sleep. The only time I managed to really fall asleep was ironically right before takeoff when we were delayed on the runway and I dosed for about 40 min. The rest of the flight no matter how tired I felt and how restless my legs became I could not seem to fall asleep. Seeing as I was up that morning at 4:55 am for Joey’s Triathlon (he did awesome, finishing in the top 10%) which was 12:55 pm Russian time and was arriving in Russia 9:55 am the following morning it was going to be quite a battle to stay awake the rest of the day. To adjust quickly to the new time zone it would be imperative to fight passing out as best as possible.

As it turned out I flew from JFK to Moscow with 10 other additional USA track and field people (some athletes some staff). Customs in Russia was a breeze and consisted of waiting in a line rather short line and waiting for a Russian border control agent to stare you in the eye, stare at your passport, glance up at you again, look at your Visa and then stamp your migration card allowing you to proceed through. After this it was time to wait for my luggage on the carousel. There’s always that sigh of relief after all of your luggage is safely in your possession. To prepare for the worst case scenario I always pack all of my essentials in my carry-on. For a 20k race in a foreign country that means not only my uniform and racers but as much dry food as possible.

To my unpleasant surprise I found out that I was only allowed to check one bag. I had packed one large rolling suitcase weighing in at 51 pounds (technically 1 pound overweight) and a smaller duffle bag, both of which I intended to check in addition to the backpack and med size duffle bag I was carrying on. The cost for an additional checked bag was $100! I know in the past I have checked two bags for free but apparently this is no longer the case. Reluctantly I handed over my credit card feeling like I was being robbed out of $100. Now for those of you who don’t know me it may seem like 4 pieces of luggage is a bit excessive for a 13 day trip. The problem is due to my IBS/and exercise induced ischemic colitis I must be very very careful with what I eat prior to racing, especially in a foreign country where I cannot drink the water not even to brush my teeth! Therefore, I pack a hot water pot to prepare my own meals and all the food to do so in case what is provide to the athletes in not agreeable with my system.

Thankfully mine and the rest of the USA crew’s luggage had all arrived safely. It was then off to find an LOC (local organizing committee) representative to find out how we were being shuttled to the hotel. We were provided with a coach bus that looked like it was around since the 70’s with retro styled orange/yellow/brown interior that was more than gently with an AC system that consisted of opening hatches to the roof, which mind you does noting to cut the humidity. Good thing our lovely hot and humid NY summers had me prepared. The ride was just under an hour.

The hotel looked great from the outside and exceeded my expectations inside. We are currently staying at the Crowne Plaza. We were able to quickly drop our bags off in our rooms and then head straight down stairs to get a tour of the hotel and go through athlete accreditation. Upon entering the room the TV was on and playing light music with a “personalized” welcome message scrolling across the screen. How nice!

Now when I say we got a tour of the hotel I am not kidding, the place is huge with multiple restaurants, convenience stores,  jewelry stores etc. All I really needed to remember is where our meals were being provided and where our USATF athlete lounge and medical staff would be located. Accreditation was also a breeze and in addition to my ID I also received a brand new backpack which as expected Joey claimed. I guess it’s only fair for putting up with me being gone and seeing how it is Sachem East colors and the Moscow 2013 logo has a pole-vaulter on it, it couldn’t be anymore appropriate for him.

By this point it was already 1:30 in the afternoon and I had agreed to go training for a shakeout run with my newly met teammate Ashley Higginson (3000mSC). She assured me that even as a race walker I would be able to handle jogging next to her. We decided to train at 4pm as she wanted to take a short nap. I was going to fight the urge to nap so I would sleep well at night but that was a fail as I ended up falling asleep for about 40min before my roommate arrived.

My roommate is marathon runner, Jeannette Faber. That’s Jeannette with two nn’s and Faber (not Farber)!!! She currently lives in Tennessee and was a photography major back in college. She too ran for a NCAA DII school. I love getting to meet new and exciting people. Turns out she knows one of my fave distance runners, marathon runner, Camille Herron! Jeannette decided to join Ashley and I for our post flight shake out run. We ran along side a river in front of our hotel which while that may sound picturesque it was anything but that. Turns out there was a lot of construction/renovation going on in the immediate area and this was both annoying to navigate through and not pleasant to look out. Nevertheless it was safe and convenient and got the job done. After training we washed up and killed a little time before dinner at 6 pm. Only Jeannette and I were at the restaurant right at 6 pm. The food was OK, pretty bland which while boring for the palette is easier on the stomach. My only real complaint is the pasta/veggies that while claiming to be boiled sure have a lot of oil/butter. Oh well its sitting ok so far.

After dinner the majority of TeamUSA had arrived from the USATF pre-training camp in Austria. It was great to see Coach Tim and TEAMmate Miranda as well as fellow race walkers John Nunn and Erin Gray. I also saw previous teammates such as Jenny Simpson and athletic staff such as Phil Vardimin. After chit chatting I returned to my room to find Jeannette already fast asleep at only 7 pm! I resisted sleeping for an additional 1.5 hrs before totally passing out. When I woke up I looked at my watch astonished to see my watch read 10:30, wow I slept for 14 hrs straight!!!! Oh no whups, it was actually only 10:30 pm and I had only managed to sleep for 2 hrs!!! I then went back to bed again this time until 2 am, at which point then I was up til at least 4 am, and dosed on and off again from 4 am to 8 am.

In the morning I headed down to see what was for breakfast and found out that we needed to catch the 10:00 am shuttle to the track to go training at the track/park with a bike path. Due to stomach issues I cannot eat before training and was only able to grab a bowl of granola for later.

The practice track was nice, and even better was the ability to go out and walk along the river (much nicer area this time). Miranda and I had 12k to do and Erin had 50 min. I enjoyed the extra company during training and despite not such great sleep in the past 48 hrs and having flown and lugged my bags around the day before I felt pretty good.

Due to the shuttle schedule we didn’t get back to the hotel after training til 1:20 pm and headed straight to lunch. Then there was some more down time, before I found Phil for a flush out of my legs and had to report to drug testing to give blood and finally dinner. Drug testing was not the most pleasant experience since I have a great aversion to needles. I will share more later about my fear of needles and the importance of blood testing in our sport.

As for now it’s time for bed, we plan on training at a more reasonable time of 8 am and I still want to get in a Skype call with Joey.

Goodnight Russia, of more like good afternoon USA!

(For a few early photos, check me out on Facebook)