Monday, January 6, 2014

Home away from home

It's laundry day which sure sounds like nothing exciting to write home about but when you live out of a duffel bag for 5 months of year as an organized migration, rambling from one ski area and hotel to the next in a caravan of rental vehicles, it's a BIG deal.  Clean clothes, which were not simply washed in a sink and hung to slowly dry in a bathroom which was likely recently flooded by an odd European shower system lacking any walls or curtains to contain the water, become a rare commodity and a comfort in this winter long road trip far from home.  Lately I have lucked out and had plenty of opportunities for clean clothes and have easily found that sense of a familiar routine while still being many miles away from what I normally call home. Davos, Switzerland has become my home away from home.

I have spent the last few weeks living at the Hotel Kulm in Davos, taking a winter training block before the next period of World Cup races.  I opted to skip the Tour de Ski which was a difficult decision especially after low snow conditions in Oberhof, Germany led to the addition of a second sprint into the race program.  My love of this lifestyle stems from the excitement found in the travels to each new race venue and the opportunity to lay it all out on the snow and race as hard as I can each and every time I step up to the start line.  Each race and each day are a new challenge.  It's the reason we train hard, setting goals and chasing crazy dreams.  So it's really hard to sit on the sidelines but sometimes that is the best choice.  We have a LONG season starting in November and continuing through March so it's impossible to race week in and week out without taking a break.  In order to prevent a plateau or an early peak, you have to create some variation in the training plan allowing your body to recover and then rebuild for racing at an even higher level.  We all love to race or else we wouldn't be doing this but it takes patience to plan for the long run and look forward to top performances not just in this moment but later in the season when the stakes are raised.

The Hotel Kulm! The US Ski Team has been staying here for year and Heinz Kessler and the rest of the staff are some of the most wonderful people.  They have taken such good care of me during my stay!
After great races in Asiago, I was confident in my fitness so it was hard to not continue racing.  But with beautiful sunny weather and perfect ski conditions in Davos, it was also easy to transition into training mode and set my sights on races at the end of January and February.  Most of our team was starting the Tour so I had over a wekk ofalone time in Davos, which was a huge change from normal life on the road where our lives are so closely intertwined that we happily share everything from the smallest European beds to hugs to a rainbow of emotions to stuffed animals to clothes to hand sanitizer to training plans and every insignificant or monumental daily occurrence in between.  As an intorvert, the first 24 hours were refreshing and relaxing but then I quickly began to miss my winter family.  With a solo week ahead, I challenged myself to make each and every day exciting, to make this time energizing and different from the normal race routine, and to take full advantage of being in such a wonderful place.

I soon found the time actually flying by and it felt great to train a lot, ski kilometer after kilometer while also relaxing in one place and taking a break from the long van rides and plane flights which litter a normal week in Europe.
So much snow and sun! The valleys were groomed with perfect tracks day in and day out.
The ski conditions couldn’t have been better.  I was a little worried to be responsible for all my waxing as I am usually spoiled by a hard working group of wax techs taking great care of all my skis.  But luckily every day was extra blue skiing and Swix LF6 so I could easily handle that.  When we race a lot there isn’t always a chance to ski very much, focusing instead on intensity and recovering to race fast.   I loved being able to go out on long cruises and explore the valleys and trails of Davos.

Without a vehicle, I memorized the public transportation system and even with very very minimal German skills felt like a champ choosing which trains would stop at my hotel and which ones would continue on toward Zurich, or timing my afternoon ski perfectly to catch the last bus.  At home in rural VT having a car is a necessity so it was really nice to easily get around in a more sustainable way.

I powered through my book list and enjoyed the time to read uninterrupted.  Some of my teammates had given me the book A House in the Sky for Christmas.  I think they simply thought it was the memoir of a Canadian woman in her mid-twenties who loved to travel solo which would have been the perfect book for this time.  The meat of the story, though, was actually recounting the true story of her abduction while travelling in Somalia and the year she spent in captivity being raped, tortured, and abused.  Her inner strength and will to survive created an incredible and fast paced story but I continually had to think of a happy place and remind myself that Switzerland was very far from Somalia and that there are lots of kind people in the world.  I can laugh at the irony now that my teammates accidentally gave me this boo to read while I was alone in a foreign country.

In Europe skiing and other snow sports are a big deal and broadcasted live on television so I had lots of races to watch on tv and enjoyed yelling at the screen for my teammates and other friends, being inspired by their impressive performances.  Simi won his first World Cup and the Americans had a slew of top ten finishes in the Tour de Ski!

Kikkan was staying in an apartment in town so I can’t actually say I was alone in Davos.  We met up almost daily for training sessions or to hang out.  She celebrated her golden birthday turning 31 on the 31st and I set up a birthday scavenger hunt for her which would lead her around the ski trails and eventually to CafĂ© Klatsch in town where I would be waiting for her for a lunch date.  The hunt turned into an epic fail though when she couldn’t find the last couple clues.  Her two hour workout almost doubled in length while I waited at the Klatsch trying to guard her seat during the lunch rush on the busiest day of the year, feeling more and more stood up as each minute passed.  We both gave up at about the same time and returned to her apartment to compare stories and laugh.

Kikkan getting her pump on at the beginning of the scavenger hunt
I have really appreciated the extra time for the chance to catch up with friends and family at home.  I’ve connected via phone, Skype, and email with so many people back at in the US and it is great to hear all the stories so keep them coming!  All of the support and encouragement makes a huge difference for me and the rest of our team.  We love to be connected to our communities and the cheers from the ski world back home keep us going! 

A wonderful card from my Friends at Vermont Coffee Company
And the best part of this training block is that my excitement level for the next races is now through the roof!  My stoke level is super high so watch out!  On Wednesday I will drive to Nove Mesto, Czech Republic for the next World Cups with a freestyle sprint and a classic team sprint this weekend.  Can’t wait!

Inner fire burning strong (Lynn Jennings photo)


  1. I've really enjoyed your blog posts. The Caledonian-Record would like me to do a story on you ASAP in advance of the Olympics. I have done my homework so the number of "stupid questions" should be few. I need about 10 or 15 minutes unless you elect you to make it longer. We could also friend each other on Facebook and I could ask you the questions in a chat. Whatever is easiest for you. My number is 336-543-3575. There are a zillion Jim Fullers on Facebook, but I think you can find me through my Awowfinish Facebook page.

    All the best,

    Jim Fuller

    1. Please friend me on Facebook or email me the questions. Thank you!


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