This is the first article in a series by Kris Freeman, brought to you by Fischer and FasterSkier. Throughout the year, Kris will share his experiences as a World Cup ski racer. Look for this series to continue throughout the winter with more articles from Kris.
I am heading to Finland on the 9th of November to start the competitive season. I finished a very hard month with over 100 hours of training on the 24th of October. Then I took a week extremely easy with less than 8 hours to make sure I was fully recovered. Now I am building my training volume back up as I prepare to travel. I want my body to be used to training a lot when I arrive in Scandinavia, but at the same time I need to be sure that I have no lingering fatigue when I get there.
I usually have race fantasies while I train but as the race season comes closer I allow them to get more realistic and intense. I have never won a race that I did not visualize winning first. I have been playing the courses I will be competing on next month over and over in my head. Every hill I crest on my roller skis is a hill in Sweden that I hope to gain a few seconds on.
My travel schedule starts by flying to Muonio Finland. I will train there for a week and compete in a 15k skate FIS race on Nov. 17th. The official start to the World Cup season begins Nov. 22nd in Gaellivare, Sweden, which will be another 15km skate race. Then it’s back to Finland and the second World Cup, in Kuusamo, a 15k classic. I had possibly the best race of my career there last year, so a lot of my focus will be on this race. After Kuusamo I will finally get to see the sun again when I travel to La Clusaz, France for a 30k skate mass start. My last race before coming home will be on the 14th of December in Davos, Switzerland. The sprinters will stay on another week to compete in Dusseldorf, Germany, but I will skip the sprint event.
The travel schedule is exhausting and there is no time for recovery if I get sick or run down. It is a fine line to be ready to race without weakening my immune system for the endless plane rides. I wash my hands until they crack and use more antibacterial hand cream than a hospital nurse. Everyone on the Ski Team has there own immune system boosting supplement. I think its all placebo but that doesn’t stop me from going through a pack of “cold-ease” lozenges a week.
Packing for a trip like this is difficult. I will be on the road over five weeks so I want to have as much gear and entertainment with me as I can. However, the stress of constantly battling check-in agents at the airport for overweight baggage is not appealing. It is also easier to pack and repack less stuff so I am constantly trying to minimize my needs on the road. Chris Grover also likes to reprimand us for bringing anything extraneous. At this point I travel with the following clothing: one pair jeans, one pair carharts, one pair sweatpants, 4 tee shirts, one sweatshirt, 5 boxers, 5 pair cotton socks. For ski clothes I take: two racing suits, three sets Craft long underwear, 2 pair wind-briefs, 3 pair wind boxers, 5 pair race socks, 2 pair gloves, one racing hat, one headband, one training hat, two sets warm-ups. There have been many debates about how many boxers and wind-briefs are necessary on the road. Trond Nystad was a great example of minimalism. He got by on one pair of wind-briefs and one pair of boxers. He said each side was good for two days so he only had to do laundry once a week. I have traveled with as many as 14 pairs of boxers and seven wind-briefs. This was far too many. I found that I eventually got them all dirty and then washed five pairs of them over and over again. Thus I was carrying nine pairs of dirty underwear everywhere I went. Oh yeah, there are no Laundromats in Europe, or at least I have never been able to find one, so when I say “do laundry” I mean “hand-wash” in the sink.
For entertainment I bring several books, which I leave at the various hotels after I finish them. They are too heavy to carry around once I have finished them so if my teammates don’t want them, they stay . I also bring my laptop, my Ipod Nano, and Bose noise-canceling headphones. I was skeptical about the Bose technology but I now find them invaluable while flying next to screaming children and sharing one-room cabins with my entire team. I use my computer to talk on Skype whenever I have wireless access. I also use it to watch movies and TV show series. I watched the Sopranos seasons 3-6 last year. This year I have a couple boxes of the show “24.”
Being a diabetic is a real pain whenever I travel for a long time because I inevitably have to haggle with my insurance company to give me more than one-month supply of my meds. Then I have to explain to many different airline security guys what the supplies are. Not to mention that they take space and add weight to my bags. Since I have started wearing a patch insulin pump on my arm, security has begun to take a special interest in me. Other passengers have too. Many people have come right up to me and asked what that “thing on my arm is.” Two of my favorite guesses are the “new ipod,” and a “nicotine patch.” I like to have a little fun and tell them, “I used to smoke 6 packs a day”, or “the music vibrates through my skin to my ears”, depending upon which guess they pick.
A new season means new skis to test. This year I have eight new pairs of Fischer skis that Zach Caldwell selected. Testing this many skis can be a lot of work but fortunately Zach will be at the first two world cups to help me. When I took 5th in Kuusamo last year, Zach was on Eurosport with me for a few minutes. Hopefully I can do something to get us on Eurosport for a little longer this year.
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Kris Freeman is a longtime member of the US Ski Team and the top-ranked distance skier in the United States.