This is Part 9 in a series of posts about training and preparation for the World Masters Cross Country Skiing Championships in Klosters Switzerland in early March 2017. See Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 for an overview, specific training plans, strength training, an evaluation of the required pace to podium in the M07 and F06 age classes, critical assessment of the efficacy of Block Periodization, fleet evaluation, racing weight, and race course profile analysis, and peaking.
Packing for an international ski trip to compete against some of the best age group skiers in the world is no easy task. Skiing both classic and skate only adds to the complexity. Add the modern ultra-complex waxing needed to have fast skis and, on the surface, the exercise can be overwhelming. In such instances, it is often a good strategy to break down the process into the functional areas that each need to be addressed. There are many approaches to this but the following is how I break it down:
- skis and related equipment
- wax and related equipment
- comments on traveling with others
How one proceeds with each of these packing/travel categories is specific to personal details but there are overriding general approaches that will work well for most travelers. The following is what I do- there may be some information here that will be of use to others.
skis and related equipment
As a competitive skier that participates in both classic and skate technique races, one will find that there will be many skis that would be possible “race day” skis during an international trip. For the Masters skier, it is generally not possible for one to bring an entire fleet ( due to expense and other travel issues), not to mention somehow managing to get numerous pairs waxed and ready for race day testing and a final decision. So it is important to make informed choices for which of the skis in the fleet will be the most likely skis to be used during the competitions. This can be accomplished by ensuring that you have good and current testing data on all of your skis combined with the best reports that you can get on the conditions at the race site prior to, and those predicted for, race day. Fortunately there are reasonably detailed and reliable weather and snow conditions reports available via various websites for many ski race venues. Klosters has a few although the information is fairly limited, particularly as it relates to snow conditions on the Nordic trails. A call to a local ski shop can often give the best information and it is recommended that one contact such a local shop to ensure that you have the best information possible for decision-making. Note that, although skis do make a difference, your training leading up to the races is by far the most important. So I suggest that one not get too “strung out” about ski selection and have confidence in your training program to deliver on race day.
Race site webcams can also be quite useful. here are a couple from Klosters in the area of the start finish the last few days.
We have gathered as much information as we can (and we will continue to monitor the situation right up until we leave for the airport) and mapped the expected conditions onto the ski fleet specifics. The Klosters Valley area has about 14″ of snow depth as of today 24 Feb (assuming that the new fallen snow compacts into the base). However, it has been warm and fairly dry for the last few weeks and other than the snow that fell in the last day there is no appreciable snow in the forecast for the World Masters period. This means that what snow there is will likely be old, dirty in places, and quite granular. The expected high temperatures are continuing on the warm side (above freezing) with lows getting down to about 20F (-7C) but averaging 25F (-4C ). In general the highs will be above freezing and the lows just below freezing, a typical freeze-thaw scenario for which there are well established approaches for waxing and structure.
Since ski flex is the most important variable in choosing a ski for a given race condition, it is important to know what the deck conditions are. Right now the decks in Klosters are fairly soft and it is expected that they will stay soft or get softer prior to the first races at World Masters due to the just-below-freeezing overnight low temperatures. So softer skis are a likely choice at this point although under certain circumstances in such general conditions a slightly stiffer ski may run better.
The next task is determining the right grind selection. The expected warm daily high temperatures and the not so cold overnight lows will favor “wetter” grinds that are focused on water management. However, if a dry front comes through during the week-long competition entirely different grinds are likely to be running faster. So it is best to hedge and bring along both a softer ski and a stiffer ski with a “dryer” grind just in case. These “hedge” skis could also serve as a warm-up and training skis as well.
Ok, now double that thought process if you are also doing classic races and think about classic ski choices in soft conditions with slushy to dry-slushy snow. This could mean difficult waxing and possibly zeros if it snows.
The most important part of this selection process is to know and understand your skis and how they each perform in various conditions. This information can only come from rational, repeatable testing. Typically this is done by “zeroing” out the fleet by waxing all of the skis with the same (usually non-flouro) wax and then sequentially skiing each pair on a 1-2km loop of varying terrain (ups, downs, and flats). Use the same effort level for each loop and record your time and note any particular “feel”- like if a pair are “slippery” or if a pair feels “slow”. Skiing “feel” is your best tool for getting a good understanding of the ski fleet although the lap times will help solidify your observations. If you have this testing information then your ski choices for those to take on an international trip will be fairly straightforward.
Boots are the one piece of equipment that are very difficult to replace if lost, stolen, or misplaced. So it is highly recommended that you take your boots with you in your carry-on luggage. They take up a lot of space but you can stuff them with clothing or other items to maximize the content of the carry-on. Finding a boot that fits properly once on the ground at your destination is a low probability occurrence. So keep your boots close and protected!
wax and wax related equipment
This is the “bogeyman” of a trip to an international event. Packing, lugging around, setting-up, taking down, and keeping track of all of the paraphernalia associated with modern cross country ski waxing is not a simple task. When traveling to an international ski race it is highly recommended that you arrange for a waxing service at the race venue. This will allow one to truly enjoy the challenge of the race, without stressing over wax. Sure you may not get the very best waxing, but your training will be much more important than the waxing, particularly as a Masters skier. With a few exceptions, the waxing services are usually quite good, if not very good. Team Bumble Bee has combined with a small group of skiers to bring the “ski whisperer” to do waxing for us at the World Masters- it’s fairly expensive but when viewed in within the context of the total cost of the trip and having the cost spread over a small group, it will be well worth the expense to have an expert ski wax guru preparing and testing skis for race day. We can now concentrate on being ready at the start line!
Do take a few basic tools however, just in case. A travel ski profile (like the 3-part one from Swix), a scraper, a couple of brushes, and small selection of waxes. Hotels at the Worlds should all have wax rooms available with benches and some sort of iron. These tools will give independence from your guru (who may be quite busy just when you need to wax your skis for training) and others who have brought a full suite of equipment. It is another stress reliever and every bit of stress you can eliminate will only have positive effects on your performance.
comments on traveling with others
Traveling, on it’s own, is stressful and traveling with others can be very stressful. This is because it’s one thing to have to deal with your own schedule, priorities, and peculiarities but it is altogether another thing to have multiple such things to coordinate among a group of travelers. In addition each individual has their own unique way of handling these travel stresses. So it can be difficult to try to proceed through a long and sometimes complex travel itinerary with others. I suggest that unless you like to or, as in the case of most of my now-gleefully distant Corporate travel, have to travel with others, don’t. Traveling with a group will always involve some compromise, additional stress, and may end up delaying your schedule.
Managing stress is a very important part of the pre-race period of your training.
If you do travel with others, try to establish some boundaries about how you might (or might not) respond to certain situations should they develop. If you are traveling to an “A” race the shorter the travel and the fewer the variables (and other co-travelers) the less will be the stress. Managing stress is a very important part of the pre-race period of your training.
Remember that a travel day is equivalent to a hard training day and a two day travel itinerary is equivalent to three hard training days. Adjust accordingly, do not minimize the impact of the travel, and make sure you get sufficient rest and some deliberate relaxation.
An international trip to an “A” race should be an enjoyable experience, particularly for a masters competitor. So make sure you have some fun along the way and when you get there. Being overly-serious will likely detract from your overall experience and could adversely affect your performance. Being relaxed and ready at the start line to give everything you have trained so hard for is the ultimate goal. A bit of forethought, planning, and a positive and focused demeanor will serve you well!