Fearless Friday featuring Olympian Carrie Tollefson

Carrie Photo #2
(Photo by Anthony Quintano)
A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of interviewing 2004 Olympian (and Villanova Alum) Carrie Tollefson.  Unfortunately Carrie started Villanova the fall following my last semester, so we were never teammates.  And that stinks because she’s the kind of athlete you want on your team – super fun, super enthusiastic, super supportive and super FAST.

It’s not surprising that she’s frequently engaged to do motivational speaking and is a broadcast announcer for various running events, including Foot Locker Nationals and The New York City Marathon.  On the day I caught up with her, she’d had a speech first thing in the morning and was on her way to do a workout that afternoon. 

Carrie’s training for an outdoor track campaign and looks forward to toeing the line at the Olympic Trials this summer.  So she’s trying to stay healthy because injuries suck.  Especially in an Olympic year.  Professional athletes, scholarship athletes or any athlete that takes their pursuits very seriously, have to be careful not to do anything that might risk injury, like skiing or skydiving.    

“You don’t dare do those things…because you’re so devoted andCarrie's Runner's World Cover - October 2010 committed,” says Tollefson.  She doesn’t consider herself a daredevil, although she admitted to jumping off a cliff at Rick’s Café in Negril.  “It didn’t jeopardize my career, but I was trying to have fun and not be so serious all the time.  But the craziest is the plunge.”

The plunge she refers to is the Polar Bear Plunge, into frozen Lake Calhoun to benefit Special Olympics Minnesota.

I’d call it crazy and was freezing just watching the video.  But it’s impressive and fearless and selfless and just damned cool!  (No pun intended.)  Carrie described it as “crazy and cold and fun.  While you are doing it you think why are we doing this to ourselves, then you get out and you’re on a rush for months…It’s a daring thing that can’t jeopardize my running career.” 

This wasn’t the first time Carrie took the Plunge.  Last year was the inaugural year for Team CTolleRun, which comprised of her husband and members of the staff behind her weekly running and fitness show that airs on CTolleRun and mtecsports’s Channel on YouTube. Last year the team raised over $1,300 and this year, they were able to double that number.  Across MinnesotaimagesCA47YVO7, there are sixteen Polar Bear Plunges and according to their website, raised a total of $2.85 million for Special Olympics. 

“These athletes have the same dreams and drive and passions as we do.  It may be a different level, but it means the same to them.  For the athletes competing in the Special Olympics, it is their Olympics.  I have a voice with CTolleRun, want to bring awareness and it’s a way to give back.” 

Carrie exhibits a fearless spirit on the track too.  One of her most fearless races was the 2004 Olympic Trials 1500 meter final. She’d led most of that race and it came down to the tape, when she found one extra surge to out-lean Jen Toomey for the win and a spot on the Olympic Team hathens2004eaded to Athens.

But like most of us, she gets nervous and a little of the good-kind-of-scared.  The scared that makes you focus.  Makes you sharp, and makes you ready to do what you’ve trained for.  “The Olympic Trials is the scariest race for me because it’s one day every four years. It’s scary when you know you’re really ready and that you should make the team. In high school or college, you had another year with States or NCAA’s.”

Carrie uses nerves before workouts to prepare for races.  “Getting yourself fired up for practice days makes you good for competition. If I’m nervous for something, I’m focused and want to do something great.” 

To combat the nerves, Carrie uses a variety of techniques such as listening to music to pass the time, but she says she visualizes more than anything.  “If you get too nervous, it takes away from the joy of it.  You just have to prepare mentally and physically and try to do your best and let the outcome happen.”

But to be fearless, I think Carrie’s trademarked phrase says it best.  You just have to…

Get After It!™

Want to see Carrie and her team “Get After It?”  Here’s the video of their 2012 Polar Bear Plunge. 

Be sure to check out CTolleRun for Carrie’s training tips and for a glimpse of the life of an elite athlete.  Good Luck this season Carrie!!  We’ll be cheering you on!!

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