THE BACKGROUND AND TRIP TO STOCKHOLM
Last winter my dad emailed me from Stockholm, Sweden, where he was spending several days working. He told me that his Ironman finish came up with Calle, one of his business associates there. Apparently it also came up that I am an endurance coach and own my own training company. Dad wrote that Calle immediately insisted that he bring me out to Stockholm in August and race when the ITU Vattenfall Triathlon Stockholm was to take place. It was December or January (I can’t remember) and summer was so far off I didn’t think of anything other than “HECK YAH LETS GO RACE IN EUROPE!”.
Fast forward to a few months later and this race is staring me in the face. I was excited but also nervous because I’d only ever been to Europe 1 time in my life. For some reason the memories of my Show Choir “world tour” really didn’t pump me up as that trip was miserable (I was also a teenage a-hole to be honest but whatever, the past is the past). So, I finally realize that I’m putting Nate in a total bind with the kids and leaving early to go to a friends wedding the weekend before we leave. The whole “family contract thing” kinda got screwed on this one – but c’mon its a trip to Europe!!! Nate was a trooper and knew that this trip was more than just a chance to visit a new country but a great opportunity for me to spend quality time with my dad, alone, for more than a day. We’ve only spent 3 days together alone when we fished at Three Forks Ranch in Colorado and that was years ago! What would we talk about? Would he be fun? Would he be working all the time?
My father has traveled for work as long as I can remember. He has more frequent flyer miles than I probably could ever go through in a lifetime, and the man STILL has found time to train for triathlon. #unreal. The fun thing about traveling with him through the airport in Detroit and then in Amsterdam was that he gave me some awesome traveling advice. I think the biggest take away is ALWAYS wear your noise canceling ear buds -kids annoying people, everything is much more tolerable when its muted.
Skip through the traveling – needless to say it was a long trip. We arrived in Stockholm in the late afternoon and a car drove us about 30-40 minutes into the city. We arrived at Hotel Berns and unloaded our 2 bikes and 2 giant suitcases. (Dad was so excited to check a bag – apparently he always does carry on). The hotel lobby was the size of our foyer in Ohio. Tiny! I had to wrangle the bikes up these tile stairs to the check in desk and get through a hallway the size of my closet. I’m sure everyone was wondering what was in the cases. We checked in and got to our rooms. As I remembered from Spain – yup, pretty tiny arse rooms. Dad’s room was slightly bigger so we put the bike cases in his room (once I put them both together of course which was hysterical given the limited space we had).
We showered, got dressed, and decided to go walk around the city for a bit and then settled on dinner at a small restaurant. We sat outside and ironically, there was a table of loud, obnoxious, Americans sitting near us. They were from LA/Hollywood apparently and they also thought they were huge deals. Dad and I had a blast just listening to their conversation about how “Jessica Alba is so fat right now.” Um I believe she has 2 little kids, give her a break dudes!
The next morning we woke up and went for a ride. Stockholm is basically made up of all these tiny island/key like pieces of land. It is so cool to see a city with so much water AND a city that is so clean on top of it. We rode out to Djurgarden which has some beautiful scenery and some nice quieter roads (once you get away from the theme park!).
Dad and I looped around the island several times until we hit about 2 hours. We got back to the hotel and then shopped the rest of the afternoon. The next day we did a boat tour (yes, Lauren AND Larry both did something tourista-ish, OMG) but it was actually a wonderful way to see the city from a different point of view. The tour ended at the Palace where the
ITU Race was being held on Saturday and Sunday…now on to the triathlon details…
HOW THE SWEDES DO IT…TRIATHLON
The ‘village’ was pretty similar to any other triathlon I’ve done where there are a row of tents/vendors/sponsors that you can peruse as you head to register. Normally registration takes forever and you need like nine forms of ID plus your USAT card to get your goodies. Dad and I popped in line and 5 minutes later, boom – done. Registered. WHAT? Ok, that was easy.
Saturday was the Women’s ITU race. I’ve you don’t know, ITU racing is different than traditional ‘triathlon’ that an American age grouper would participate in. These are draft-legal style races that are more similar to an all out spring in the water, a crit type bike ride in the middle, and then a cross country race at the end. The racers do several loops that passed the grandstands on the bike and on the run. We were also provided VIP passes by Calle so we got to be right up in the action before the race started. I got to see USA athlete Sarah Groff and USA athlete Gwen Jorgensen warm up and then line up. I made eye contact with Sarah and said GO GIRL! (I felt pretty cool, she was probably wondering why the hell an American was in Sweden watching this race)!. The women’s race was so cool to watch and dad and I had a blast – especially when Gwen Jorgensen WON! The men’s race was after our race on Sunday but I’ll just write about it here since I think that makes sense.
The Brownlee brothers are UNREAL. They are Brits and they also look like they are all of 15 years old They are super nice and they were having so much fun right before the race when they were in the swim queue. I stood right next to Javier Gomez and holy-sh!t can you say INTENSE! I whispered to dad that this was going to be an AWESOME race! We saw the guys do their swim then we hustled up to the grand stands where we would watch the rest of the race. To make a long story short Ali Brownlee just tore it up from start to finish but the amount of testosterone in the race was palpable. I can’t believe that these guys can race THAT fast. That’s obviously why they are pros! I could write more about the races but I’ll upload a little video of the footage I took.
ITU VATTENFALL WORLD TRIATHLON STOCKHOLM – the regular people…
Nearly 4,000 participants were expected to race on Sunday. That’s huge! I was getting visions of how the Chicago Triathlon works where you have to be done in transition by 5 am and then wait around until your wave starts at 10 am. Dad’s wave was to go off at 9:10 am and mine was 10:10 am. I emailed the race director because no where in the athlete packet did it say when transition CLOSED. Well my American friends….TRANSITION DID NOT CLOSE. IT WAS AWESOME!!! They had security check points and you could only get in with your # and your bike but they didn’t close transition which mean you didn’t have to get there nine hours before your wave started. How did it work? Well it was pretty simple, even though transition was huge, they had it set up so the earlier racers were closer to the swim exit and then as the waves got later you got closer to bike out. When athletes came through racing in transiton they had volunteers yelling to get out of the way – and amazingly – everyone got out of the way.
I walked with dad to his swim warm up and gave him a big hug. I told him he had an hour lead and my goal was to try to catch him – this was an Olympic race so that was a definite goal for each of us – Dad do not let me catch you! I saw his group start and he was one of 2 guys with sleeveless wetsuits so I believe I saw him get to the first buoy. He did great! Now I sat around did my warm up and got into the queue when it was time. A girl in the wave before me didn’t have goggles and I had an extra pair as I was putting my wetsuit on, seriously! How does that even happen. Either way I think that was my good karma for the day!
The swim was a little chilly but nothing super noteworthy. It was a rectangle and it really seemed long. like way long. like I swam a 25:00 long…Anyway I got out and headed out through the ridiculously long transition area and started my ride. The bike course is a 3 loop course on narrow Swedish roads and had like 20 turns some super sharp. There was no way to get into any rhythm so I just said go hard when you can and be smart – don’t get hurt – you got a bigger race coming up :). So I had a blast racing my butt off bc I had free reign to race however I wanted. I knew that I wouldn’t be PRing the bike on this course bc of the technical nature of it and that was fine, I just had fun seeing all the people racing on mountain bikes, commuters (complete with panniers), and other wonky bikes I’ve never seen before. I finished the bike ran it alllllll the way back through transition then headed on the run. The run was crazy – and one word describes it – cobblestones. We ran to the palace which was about 3/4 of a mile I believe, then ran up the big arse hill the pros were running up yesterday. At the top of the hill marked the start of the 1st loop of 3. So we essentially ran the hill 4 times. The loops were fun, it made it more entertaining to race because it was wall to wall spectators and I’m sure it was much more fun/easier to watch a spectator. Take some hints US race directors. The loop was not flat by any means – parts of it were, but for the most part we were either going up or down. All of the sudden I see my dad at one of the out and back sections in front of me. I yell that I am going to come get him! As the universe works, I ended up passing him RIGHT in front of a photographer so we stopped and took a photo together on the run. It was by far one of the coolest moments aside from him finishing Ironman. I told him to hurry up and kept on going. I finished and knew I had to have been one of the top women because I saw no other women near me during the bike (I was in the last women’s wave so knew anyone I passed I was beating). I didn’t really care so much what my result was just that dad and I had a good time (oookay you got me of course I wanted to do well). I asked the race staff who was in the finish chute if I could go back out and finish with my dad they said of course as long as my race chip was off my ankle. So I ran back to find dad and we finished together. Needless to say we were tired, but we walked to get our shirts and head to get our bikes etc. The shirts were strangely sized and the guy said just take two we have plenty. WHAT!? Seriously??? Um ok, that was pretty nice. I’ve never been to a race where I can swap shirts…boom. Sweden. Boom.
We went back to the hotel, changed, got lunch (French food in Sweden, pretty good actually, I also had frogs legs for the first time, sorry vegan friends, they were pretty good). We then headed back to watch the ITU Men’s race. Dad and I had a blast cheering on the Brits (the Brownlee’s to be exact). We were pumped that they both placed and more importantly we were pumped that we were now done and could relax ( and drink)!
The last day Dad had to go to some meetings so I walked around the city by myself looking for the lady who had the licorice cart so I could bring home some goodies for the boys. I couldn’t find her I think its probably better, I doubt the candy would have made it back to the states!
THINGS I LEARNED ON THE TRIP ABOUT EUROPEANS AND SWEDES
- They love pickled herring
- No one is obese. Very few people are overweight. The orb like body shapes we see in the US are not in Sweden
- The coffee (even Starbucks) is way better in Sweden
- Everyone looks well put together, yoga pants are not proper attire for anyone
- Women will ride their bikes in a skirt AND heels and not give a hoot if you can see their underwear
- Smoking is still cool
- Triathlon is for fun, drinking is a sport
- There is no better place in the summer than Stockholm but no rougher place in the winter
- They are super funny
- One word has like 8 syllables
- Soda water/sparkling water is a totally acceptable beverage and actually preferred (good cuz I’m sick of waitresses in the USA looking at me like I’m a brat)
- Tack means thank you
- Hej! means HEY!