Despite the large and important Minnesota component on the USA's World Track and Field Championships team -- four athletes, a bronze medalist in Kara Goucher -- we couldn't help but notice someone missing in Osaka. Carrie Tollefson.
The Team USA Minnesota star, who had been a regular on USA squads competing abroad of late, has been missing for most of the 2007 season with injuries. We decided to catch up with the 2004 Olympian at 1500 meters in the wake of Osaka.
DtB: I hear you're back training again. How's that going? What was the nature of the injury?
Tollefson: I am back training but not full time running yet. I am starting workouts this week and hopefully will be back at it 100% soon. I am still doing tons of cross training but am having a blast doing it. I am in the pool, on the bike, using the reformer for 2-3 sessions a week of pilates, and strength training. It has been fun using my other muscles and rebuilding my body from what was the most painful injury I have ever had.
I fell and did the splits over a snowdrift back in January of 2004 and tore both adductors (groin) and ripped the rectus abdominis (six pack) off the bone. I had bilateral hernia repair after the 2004 Olympics but still ran with pain for 3 years and finally figured out the main problem this past April. With the help of Dr. Chris Larson, he had me seek out a specialist in Philly named, Dr. William Meyers, and he said I needed to have the surgery ASAP.
After last summer I ran fast, I set a new PR in both the Mile and the 3k but had so much pain I thought it was coming to an end. Now I know I have many years left in me and know I too belong up front where I love to run!
DtB: Are you planning on racing in the near-term or do feel you have to be extra careful in the Olympic year?
Tollefson: I will be extra careful but still plan on racing quite a bit this year. I have to get my standards for the Olympics and I hope to do that in April and May so when I go to the trials I won't have to think about that and then I won't have to put myself and the whole state of Minnesota through that crazy ordeal again like last time!
DtB: So how difficult has it been "sitting out" the World Championships? Between World Cross, World Indoor, the Olympics, you've been so much a part of USA squads recently.
Tollefson: It has been horribly difficult. I am so happy for everyone that is there competing but I know I am just as talented and deserve to be there with them. If I could explain to you how painful it has been to just live the past few years I would but I can't. The easiest way for me to explain is I no longer want to put a fist through a wall when I sneeze or laugh. I can do sit-ups again which I haven't been able to do in over 3 years.
Life is good but it feels good again and I am so thankful I took the time this year to have the surgery. It has been hard sitting out, but I know in the back of my mind if I didn't get this taken care of now, I would be cheating myself. I don't want to be 3rd or 4th or 5th, I want to WIN! So hopefully after a long layoff and some hard fall training I will put myself back in contention. Back in time to represent Minnesota and the USA in Beijing.
DtB: What was your reaction to Kara Goucher's bronze medal performance in Osaka?
Tollefson: Kara and I have been racing a long time and it was so exciting to see her run one of the smartest races I have ever seen. I am so proud of her! We have been battling since 1996 and I hope we have many more to come, but the greatest part about all of this is she is a friend.
She wore the barrette that I gave her at the World Cross Country race we ran in together [in Fukuoka, Japan] and it gave me chills to hear that. Katie [McGregor] told me she wore it because I couldn't be there. I'm not sure if that is the exact case but it is nice to know she is thinking of me during this hard time and I hope she knows I am living through her right now as I am sure she did the same when she was at home in 2004.
We have always supported one another and I hope we can continue to do that. Even though she is an Oregonian now, the whole state should be proud to say she grew up here! We have a lot to be proud of here in Minnesota and I believe great things are going to happen here next year!
Photo of Tollefson, by Victor Sailer, courtesy of Team USA Minnesota.