News from Sweden: I’m not there anymore

The rumors are true. I’m back home in Boulder, as of Thursday night.

Say whaaaaat?

My Swedish adventure started out on a bad foot with me fighting a nasty cold, as you may remember. Not much changed in the following weeks, except my demeanor, which grew ever worse. Like many of you, I’m a drug addict, completely dependent on the steady flow of endorphins that my pancreas pumps out after hard climbs and long days in the saddle. I’m fairly certain that’s where endorphins come from–the pancreas. Same place as babies.

Like I said before, I’d missed out on the main race I went to Europe for in the first place, the French Loir et Cher, which translates roughly to “Big Snail Eater’s Race.” It was five days of crosswinds, crashes, and sprints and I missed out big time while being stuck in the Scandic, my depression darkening like the clouds above Uppsala. Actually, Sweden was experiencing a sort of spring heat wave, with temps in the 40s and 50s.

Shortly after Chris and Barry returned from races in the Deep South (Denmark), we moved across the street to a student dormitory. We quickly pissed off all our hallmates by stealing their pots and pans from the disgustingly dirty, tiny shared kitchen. We didn’t steal per say, since we assumed the pots and pans and forks and plates were for everyone’s use, but our blunder caused some controversy from day one. Luckily you don’t need that much cooking ware to make rice and beans, which, along with delicious bags of Swedish candy and breakfasts from the Scandic, was all I lived on. Sweden is expensive. The price of bananas at the grocery stores and even the way people dress make Boulder look like a cheap dump.

Our bedroom was tight, with all three of us crammed into a 10 x 1 square-foot room, squished and bouncing together on our air mattresses all night long. To put it politely, I got shitty, piss poor sleep when I needed it most. All of us slept horribly. When one person moved, everyone moved. That’s how tight it was. Finally when Barry’s air mattress completely gave out and sprung a leak (an even bigger leak than it already had) our manager Goran took us to Ikea for regular fabric mattresses. They were thin, but they were small and comfortable, allowing at least three feet of space between each of us in the now less-cramped room. We were ecstatic. It was one of the best days of my life I guess. Goran, you’ll never know how happy this made us. We all slept like kings that night. King of the castle, King of the castle, I have a mattress, I have a mattress!

My time in Sweden wasn’t all gloomy and cramped. I did manage to get out on a few rides. The roads in Sweden are pretty fantastic. They’re small, curvy, and meander through the woods and farmlands, splintering this way and that into infinity with almost zero car traffic. Unfortunately all the roads were flat, which left quite a bit to be desired.

I started feeling good enough to train at the end of Week Two, and set about riding the phlegm right out of my lungs for good. I’d been very conservative about when I thought I was good enough to start training again. And by Friday I felt well enough to get out for a short spin. I felt amazing. My legs were super fresh and were pumping right along like they’d been bathed in stem cells and massaged by Jesus’ hot younger sister, if he’d had a sister. My lungs were even clearing up a bit, or so it seemed. The next day I went out with Barry and Chris for a hard training ride that met way the hell out in the countryside. There, we grouped up with 25 others for two 20K circuits of smashfest. It was an all out race ride, no centerline rules applied since there was no centerlines on the tight little roads we were on. We narrowly escaped death from cars numerous times. I only did one lap and went home, figuring I’d be smart and end my day before I got tired and run down.

Sunday was a glorious day filled with sun, 65 degree weather!, and four hours of exploring gravel roads with my two teammates. I felt pretty good for the first two hours, and made sure to half wheel whoever I was on the front with. We’d been riding hard tempo, at a pace I could normally sustain for six hours no problem. Today was not the case. Being completely detrained and still sick, I began bonking at 2:15, still two hours away from home. I had one small bite of Clif bar left, having stupidly only brought two bars for the ride. In my defense I’d planned on riding slower and also shorter, but there were teammates to smash! (Or try to).

I slyly convinced Chris and Barry to stop at a small burger joint on the side of the road for water. I hoped and prayed I’d be able to wolf down 1,200 calories of soda and candy with my 17 Kronas. I was more than let down when all that bought me was a 12-ounce Coke. It was $2.50 for a Coke! We sat in the sun to enjoy our delicious brews, marveling at the amazing weather and the awesome route we’d picked out.

Then it was back on. I felt good from the Coke again so I temporarily forgot about my impending bonk, and relished the gravel roads and smashed it on the front again with Chris. Barry was not a fan of the gravel but Chris and I whooped and yelled in pure delight each time we came to a gravel sector.

Three hours in and I was feeling pretty weak, but still did my turns at the front, hoping that Barry and Chris would ask to slow down for the last hour into town. At last, Barry wanted to slow down. But it was only so he could ride three more hours on his own. Chris and I headed home as Barry split off from us. My bonk was coming on hard and I finally admitted to Chris that I was done. Defeated. WAY out of reserves. He gave me a half a Nature Valley bar and I had to draft him into town, staring intently at his rear hub as I focused on keeping my eyes from crossing. I somehow began feeling better and better as he mysteriously slowed to an easy 120 watts. He’d bonked too. Success! We limped home and immediately went to the grocery store for massive bags of sour candy. And we were happy.

I took Monday off to explore the city with Chris. I took Tuesday easy as well, wondering why I was still sick. I realized that I hadn’t actually improved at all in the past week. Aside from the three rides I’d done on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I had been resting 24/7. Or trying to. Like I said, the living situation was anything but restful. By Tuesday night I’d decided to come home early since my condition hadn’t improved and I’d been sick for three straight weeks, I would be unfit and likely still sick for the three races that were on the schedule for the next two and  a half weeks, and staying there in limbo in Sweden would jeopardize the rest of my season.

With my head hanging low from defeat before I even toed the line of a race, I flew home Thursday. My cough vanished Friday. All along I knew it was a stress cold caused from various issues, and I can guarantee I’d still be sick if I were in Sweden right now. Instead, I’m home with Adelaide, happy, finally getting in some miles, and focusing on being fast for Nationals, Philly, Saganuey, Beauce, and the rest of the summer. I was sick for so long in Sweden that I lost pretty much all of my fitness, so I’m starting up from nothing right now. Hopefully a month of hard work will set me somewhat straight. Here are some pics of the trip.

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A typical and heart-warming sight in Sweden: full bike racks! There may be hope for the world after all, though it certainly won’t be the US leading the way.

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There’s even a line up at bike lane stop lights.

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This is most likely a guy going home from work, but I’d like to think that this is just some good old fashioned Euro style taking place.

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The Staz heading through a tunnel downtown.

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We took a day to explore the city. The inside of the cathedral in the background was amazing.

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Almost as amazing as this small, local, mom and pop store. The lay out of the city was strange. One side was old and classically “Europe” while the other was full of big box stores and strip malls like the States. One was crowded with pedestrians, bikes, and happy, chatty people sitting outside sipping coffee by the river, the other was populated by cars on their way to buy STUFF.

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Some of those people buying stuff were us. Here I am with our pride and joy: beds!

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I did one training crit on Wednesday night, got dropped, and pulled out of the race after 23 minutes with my lungs emptying buckets of phlegm all over my bike, sleeves, legs and anyone within a 20 meter radius. It confirmed that I needed to go home.

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The one Swedish meal I had was at Ikea. Hi, my name is Kennett and I do tourism ruuuul good. Not.

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Chris and I stumbled upon the lottery, which picks 100 people in each postal region and gives them between 1 million and 10,000 kronas for just existing. You don’t even have to buy a ticket! Classic socialism. Keeping people down and stealing their freedom.

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The lottery also provided a tent with free ‘Fika,’ which translates from Swedish to “take a break from whatever you’re doing for a quick coffee high and delicious pastries or cookies.”

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Last and most importantly, if you ever go to Sweden make sure to spend as much money as you have in loose change, or cash in my case, on the vast array of salty and sour candies from the grocery bulk section.

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