One of the secret toughest parts of being a professional cross country ski racer, and traveling on the World Cup Circuit, is packing up your bags and leaving home for 4-5 months straight. The actual process of “being gone” we get used to. The first few weeks can be painful as we shift back into hotel rats, but as with anything… you can get used to it. Every new hotel room we walk into, we shift the whole room around, doing our little feng shui to make it our own. Since we always are living with roommates, the first step is to make the room big. Put the two beds parallel to the wall, which allows for an open middle space for stretching, or just feeling a little more “homey”. Second step is to put all our belongings in the drawers or closets if they exist. If that doesn’t exist, then turn our duffle bags into shelving. This allows it to feel a bit more organized and “home”, rather then clothes and belongings everywhere. And third, put up some pictures, candles, and stuffed animals… some little small trinkets that make us feel happy.
OK, so as you can see, we have found a way to survive. We may be hotel hoppers, but we have adapted to the lifestyle to make it our own. After six full years of doing this… maybe hotels are closer to home to me. But, the one part for me that I have always struggled to adapt to is the “living out of a bag”. I am a woman of things, and always have been. I struggle to wear the same shirt and same pair of pants every single day for five months. So the challenge becomes, how to give a little spark to my 50 pound allowance?
Anyone who knows me well knows that packing for the World Cup is “a thing” for me. I often start making my pile somewhere around one month out, and each day leading to my departure I add a little, take something out, look through it, think about it… make sure that come Nov. 12 when I hit the road, I am dialed. I even have “packing parties” where I bring my teammates over and ask them to tell me what to take and what to take out. 50 pounds is a small amount of belongings when you realize that it is everything I will live off of. So, in case anyone is curious what is hidden in that Mary Poppins bag of mine for five months…I will show you what:
1. Sport Nutrition Product- sport bars that I know I can eat before the race. Gummies that I know don’t give me a side ache. Drink mix that I know I like and doesn’t upset my stomach, NUUN to keep me drinking throughout the day. Almond Butter to add a little protein into a meal if it doesn’t work. And finally, some recovery drink so that I always have something quick to get into my system post race.
2. Special Treats- American gum, American coffee, gin-gins for carsick rides. I’m sorry friends, but these items are just not the same in Europe…and the real deal makes me happy!
3. Happy Lamp- The first and last month of our tour is often in the darker northern Scandinavian countries. Since we don’t always get to see the sun, our vitamin D levels and happy state can drop. This year I brought a small 1 pound 10,000 lux lamp to sit in front of during breakfast to help both happiness and jet lag. Your mind wants to know it is day out…. So why not help it out a bit?
4. Vitamins and Immunity kit- As a professional athlete, I have to be so careful about what I am putting in my body. Competing clean means being aware of any potential product that could lead to a positive doping test. Even something such as a child’s cold medication with pseudoephedrine is banned. The best way to know we are clean is to know our medicines. You never know when a cold is going to come your way, and you are going to want some zinc, vitamin C, or Tylenol. For that reason, I travel with my own little “med kit” of things such as cough drops, Cold-FX, and throat coat tea.
5. Sport layers- one thin, medium and thick long underwear layer for top and bottom as well as a gym outfit.
6. Jeans and Shirts- here is where it is the hardest for me. Sometimes we are in hotels that are warm, sometimes we hike to meals in the cold… so we have to have something for everything. So, two t-shirts, two sweaters, one long sleeve, one sweatshirt, one pair of sweat pants, and two pairs of jeans. Man, you better love those items…because is your life for the next 4.5 months.
7. Jackets- being in a winter sport means we need to have lots of options for a huge variety of weather conditions. I found out last fall I am allergic to down, so this has become extra challenging to me. Synthetic hasn’t proven to be as warm… so I end up bringing more layers to help make the warmest option. So, thin training jacket, thick training jacket, rain jacket, thin puffy, thicker podium puffy, puffy vest and training vest.
8. Skhoop Skirt- I am super excited about traveling with this new piece of clothing, called “the Sadie”. I’m pretty excited to know I will always have a cozy bum!
9. Bottom layers- puffy pants, rain pants, and two over pants.
10.Shoes- OMG shoes… another issue for me! Snow boots, casual shoes to wear inside during meals at the restaurant, running shoes, “heel less slippers” for when my heels flare up (I call these four wheel drive slippers, because they often get worn outside when I have to), “over” spikes for when it is super icy out, five pairs of ski boots (old skate and classic, new skate and classic that I am still trying to break in, and skiathlon boots).
11.Bathroom bag- you know it, you name it. All the above.
12.Hats/Gloves/Buffs- Another hard department because I need to be prepared for everything. The hot days, the wet days, the freezing cold days, and the normal days. In addition, I need two of each for gloves so I have one to warm up in, one to race in.
13.Glasses- a variety of lenses for a variety of conditions. Flat light and super sunny light!
14.Bathing suit- Because ice baths are a regular part of our post race routine.
15.Massage tools- foam roller and lacrosse ball, the basic tools to flush your muscles and arches.
16. Ear Phones- Noise canceling, training buds, and sleep buds. New this year are my sleep buds that play calming noises to help block out the loud noises that sometimes come with hotels or loud roommates.
17. Socks, Sports Bras, and Underlayers- Spare you the details, but enough to deal with only getting to do laundry every once or two weeks.
18.Technology- laptop, phone and kindle.
And that about sums it up. Sadly, I am not as powerful as Mary Poppins… and all of this actually weighs more than 50 pounds combined. But, I am pretty good at putting my heaviest items in my carry on, and eventually I make it fit!
So, now you know how it works. How I manage to live this life out of a bag, hotel hopping across the world. Even if I get homesick sometimes, or I miss my bed, I still love the heck out of this life! I like to think my semi-professional packing skills are advancing at the same rate as my professional skiing skills…. but I am not sure I can say that. So if you see me running through the airport, and you wonder why I have a goofy rolling carry on, now you know why! It is a box of bricks inside that would break my back in half if I tried to carry it.
Time to get this season started! I have spent this first week in Beitestollen Norway, where I have gotten a chance to do a ski testing camp with Fischer and my technician. By luck, the snow has been amazing here, unlike most other parts of Scandinavia. It sure is sad to see winter leaving us! Monday we head to Kuusamo where the opening World Cup races are. Sadly there is only about 2.5km of man-made snow. The hunt for winter continues!
Some beautiful skiing up above Beitostolen.
Testing camp with my tech, JP, and Scott Patterson (who JP also waxes for).
Pretty thankful to go back to having somebody help with this part! (Ophira Group photo)
My schedule for the winter is posted here for anyone that wants to follow:
Let’s get this party started!