I got quite a few questions when I requested them in my Instagram story (thanks, guys!), so in the spirit of more concise and frequent blogs, I’m turning this one into a travel question-and-answer instead of my typical freeform! I’ll also take this opportunity to direct you to a guest blog I did last summer for Rodhe Sport. I’ve embedded the companion video to that blog at the bottom of this blog, but you’ll have to head over to Justin’s website to get the description!
Dos and don’ts when traveling with javelins? Do you travel with your javelins or do they provide them at the meet?
DO bring them. One of very few times I decided to leave mine home because I got to see a rare list of provided implements, those implements weren’t actually there! Cue stress. If you are worried about having something to throw when it comes to the meet, bring your own stuff.
DON’T stress about them. Things happen. Javelins are pretty darn interchangeable (even if they’re not, for you, mentally, but that’s a different conversation), and you can’t help it if they get lost and miss a competition. As long as you find them again, it’s not worth your diminished performance to worry about when that will happen.
The key to staying calm when there’s a javelin snafu is to be your own advocate. I spent a lot of years being too passive and apologetic about stuff (and I think, regardless of loud reputation, this is kind of an American attitude). As long as you’re respectful and sportsmanlike, the javelins are all fair game once they hit the competition rack. Don’t rip an implement out of a competitor’s hand, but be brave.
DO leave yourself extra time to check your luggage at the airport or get on a train or bus. People will stare at you as you tote a long ski-like bag and maneuver it in tight spaces, but they will not give you extra space or consideration for the most part. There are different fees for oversize luggage for different airlines, and finding a place to stow a large bag on a train takes extra patience. Find your platform or stop early, and either decide to be first or last to board, as negotiating around people just makes an already-cumbersome task more frustrating.
DON’T hit people with them. I only did this one time, on a crowded bus many years ago. I had an extremely close call with a child’s face in the Stuttgart train station the other day, and am so glad my fast twitch fibers were operational in that moment. Constant vigilance.
Coolest place you’ve competed?
I love Australia so much, but likely because of the country itself and not necessarily the competition venues? Finland was super fun last year (Lappeenranta) because of their understanding of the event and watching Tero Pitkamaki throw far in his home country. The Hallesche Werfertage is great because of the crowd’s proximity. The Berlin Olympic Stadium is one of my favorites in the world because of the history there and just how impressive the structure is. Luzern, Switzerland’s views from the track are epic. Lausanne as well. Same for the Monaco stadium and Rovereto, Italy. I won my first international competition way back in Kawasaki, Japan in 2009, and Japan remains one of my favorite countries in the whole world. I can’t believe I’m saying this though, not only because I tore my ACL there but because it feels so cliché, but there really is nothing like an excellent throw at Historic Hayward Field. I’ve been lucky to have a couple like that in my career, and I’ll miss it.
Is Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check worth it?
YES!! These things don’t really help you when traveling internationally (from foreign country to foreign country or with customs lines upon arrival in Europe), but when I’m at the end of a long trip and am almost home, it’s incredibly gratifying to soar through Global Entry and run into Russ’s arms quickly instead of standing in a line some more. Speeding through the security process at the beginning of a long trip is so nice as well, since it leaves you time to eat food you like one more time, re-organize your carry-ons maybe, get water, and relax a bit before boarding. Highly, highly recommend.
Do you bring snacks and fuel for competition day from the USA that you are familiar with, or do you just find local stuff when you arrive?
I bring snacks!! I have pretty specific competition day snack needs (see the Rodhe Sport blog for description), and for this current trip specifically, I’m so glad I brought some breakfast stuff too! I do enjoy buying local food also (especially because I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Germany and know what I like here), but I arrived in Offenburg on a Saturday in the late afternoon. Grocery stores were closed on Sunday, and Monday was a German holiday, meaning those stores (and bakeries and cafes) were still closed! I could walk down the hill for an early dinner each night, but I wouldn’t have had any breakfast if I hadn’t brought oatmeal packets, dried fruit, almond butter, protein powder and instant coffee (the real MVP).
Traveling in Germany? Europe? Or just travel tips in general?
This is a big question, so I’ll just say that you should do your research before arrival. Being very aware of what your phone plan is is important, too! I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit sitting on curbs and crying in foreign cities, but that was mostly before international data plans were common. Mostly. These days, it’s easy to do a little research on what public transportation is available wherever you’re going, download the app for that train line or bus system or what have you before you leave, and be on your way. That being said, yesterday I walked literally an hour to practice because I didn’t have the correct bus stop name entered in my DB app, and I didn’t want to bike because I’m sore from biking.
Point number two! Slow down. Take a deep breath, listen, and just be sure of where you’re going before you take off. It’s easy to get caught up in the schedule you may have previously laid out for yourself, but getting rushed is when disaster strikes for me, and the stress that comes with it doesn’t help my body when it comes to training and performance.
On my way to Europe for this trip, I missed my international connection and had to be rescheduled due to delay. I hadn’t previously purchased a train ticket to Offenburg from Stuttgart for precisely this reason, but by the time I got to the Stuttgart airport, it was getting kind of late and I was feeling pressure to get to my AirBnB and not keep the hostess waiting. So when I purchased my train ticket, in my rush, I left my debit card in the machine!! Didn’t notice for 24 hours. Can’t believe my account wasn’t touched. Feel so dumb. I also stood on the platform for approximately 15 minutes before the train came, so there was no reason at all to be in such a hurry.
My biggest tip is to let the good outweigh the not-so-good. My Mom is amazing at this. In 2011, she got pickpocketed in Paris and then spent days and days and days incredibly sick on the shores of Lake Como with my Dad. European travel can be difficult, but only because it’s different from your normal life (if you’re American and reading this), and while that trip was clearly awful for her, she talks about how beautiful it was and what they saw rather than the bad stuff. I bike over cobblestones and my butt is sore to get to the laundromat, but there’s a gorgeous church outside that’s 200 years old. I have a lot of those kinds of stories, but I usually have to work hard to remember the bad parts. (Thanks for gifting me your positive attitude, Mom!)
What’s it like being on the road and continuing training?
This can be a challenge! A big part of being a professional track and field athlete is adaptability. It’s already fairly common to adapt your training at home, say, if a body part hurts or you have a family obligation or something, and the same things (along a little different lines sometimes) have to happen while traveling. I was scheduled to have a ball session the Monday after I arrived (that German holiday), but did a body weight circuit at my apartment instead because a) I don’t do so well with international travel and quickly adopting new time zones and b) it was a holiday! On Tuesday, I had a miscommunication with the coach here and biked all over town doing laundry, getting keys, and finally lifting at 6:30pm. At home, I’ve been swimming a little after throwing sessions because it helps decompress my back and also I love it. I hadn’t been in the pool since I’d been here, so yesterday I made my way by bus to the public one. When I walked in, it didn’t look like there would be a lane for me, I didn’t know how much it would cost, and I wasn’t totally sure of the bus schedule, so I walked right out again. After brief reflection, I decided just splashing around would be good for me (it’s hot here!), so went back in, paid, and found a perfectly good lane just beyond my line of sight from the lobby for a lovely swim. I got stuck upon exiting, sure, but I'm glad I stuck around.
In a nutshell, even getting to training can be more difficult when traveling, and knowing when to push yourself in training vs. when to back off because of those extra difficulties takes time. Having fabulous sounding boards at home helps a lot…
How do you organize your training during traveling because your coach isn’t always with you? Is she?
Dana is not currently traveling with me, no (but hopefully later this summer!), but the person who actually writes my programming is my other coach, my strength coach since 2009 and now the guy who tells me what to do every day (joking, but he is writing all of my stuff now), Jamie Myers! To answer this question, communication. I’ve been texting and emailing with both Jamie and Dana pretty much every other day or more since I’ve been in Germany, sharing video and double-checking if an adaptation for something is a good idea. After I biked all around the town on Tuesday, my lift was lighter that night, as confirmed with Jamie. I added a competition this weekend in Offenburg that I hadn’t planned on when I left home, so my overall training schedule has been redone through email discussion, and we’ve already talked about what I’ll do when I get home in the short time before USATF National Championships. But that might change! I listen to my body, communicate with my people, and try to make good decisions about what will make training great, while enjoying my trip at the same time.
Can you mention in your blog how you keep from getting too fatigued/tight while traveling?
Firstly, sleep!! Adapt to whatever time zone you’re in as quickly as you can if you’ll be there for a while, and don’t stress too much if jet lag hits you. Coffee is my friend. After that statement, hydrate like crazy. I sweat profusely in Europe, and forget what that’s like as a Coloradan of 5 years. Staying hydrated, as we all know, helps keep your muscles fluid instead of bound up!
During an actual travel day, I'm never shy about stretching in a corner away from people or lying down on the floor of any airport. I am committed to never outgrowing this willingness. Stay loose and as comfortable as possible when you have room to move!
The self-therapy tools that I brought with me are a little foam roller, lacrosse ball, a circular band (for clamshells or monster walks or what have you) and a regular bungee. I get down on the floor of my apartment at least twice a day and do some rolling, and while I’m down there, some stretching too. I especially emphasize this right after I get back from something, be it the grocery store or practice, because I’m biking or walking everywhere. I do an ab circuit every day that has really been helping my thoracic spine (it includes twisting motions) stay limber in a way that it hasn’t been for the last few years, so I’m pumped about that!
Recovery is super important when traveling, too. The bike can destroy your legs real fast if you’re not careful. I will likely take the bus tomorrow (Friday) instead of biking so that my legs can be fresh for Saturday’s competition. I do not at all plan to leave my apartment today (Thursday), my off day. I like to enjoy the places that I travel to, but there are days here and there that I can tell I’ve done too much (this happens to me domestically, too), and the last two have been big ones, so I’m jealously guarding my down time today! This will of course still include some therapy and core time, but there will be a lot of reading and binge-watching in there as well (Arrow Season 6 is making me really sad. I look forward to a new season every one of my competition seasons, but I’m sorely disappointed.).
Thanks for your questions, everyone!! This one got long…old habits…