It's time to head to Europe for eight-time and reigning US cyclo-cross champion Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective). Like all pro cyclo-cross racers, Compton has to deal with travel to and from races and the impact it has on her body. And that impact is intensified when she travels to Europe. In the third installment of Road to Worlds With Katie Compton, she shares her tips of dealing with travel and jet lag.
After amassing wins early in the season in Europe and the United States, putting her in the lead of the World Cup and second in the UCI Rankings, Compton will be staying in Belgium for the rest of the cyclo-cross season to accomplish her goal of winning the World Cup overall.
"I head to Belgium on Wednesday and then I'm going to spend the rest of the season in Belgium so I can hit the World Cup schedule and then stay in one spot. So I'll fly back for Nationals and back over for the last World Cup and then back over for Worlds. It's not ideal but I think that the preparation, staying in spot and staying in Europe is the way to go." Compton stated after sweeping the USGP Derby City Cup in Louisville, KY.
Travel is difficult for everyone, especially for elite athletes who rely on their bodies – and mind – functioning at their highest level. For elite 'cross racers in the United States, air travel is part of the job, flying from two to six hours to and fro races almost every weekend.
How does Compton minimize the impact? "The travel is hard and it's definitely not a rest day by any means. In order to reduce the fatigue, we try to travel on Monday after a race weekend and choose a later flight so I can sleep in after a hard weekend of racing. Monday isn't a very productive day for us anyway so flying home and taking it easy so I can recover for the week's training or the next race weekend is important. I also wear compression tights and ride rollers and/or do yoga on travel days so I feel better."
And then there is nutrition. "I try to bring healthy snacks so I don't have to eat crappy airport food. When I fly from home I'll usually cook a sweet potato, make a sandwich, bring cut veggies, some mixed nuts and fruit with me so I am set for the day. If I don't bring food then I'll buy some greek yogurt at the airport or find a salad and grab some fruit/veggies from the lounges. If we fly through certain airports, I know where I can find the healthiest food and if Mark wants sushi in Chicago then we'll get that. The Euro lounges are always good for food so we can count on that for international flights."
Jet lag - a difference of eight hours between her home in Colorado and Belgium - is also a concern. Though she has found that it is different every time, some trips are just better than others.
"I try to fly to Europe rested with some good nights of sleep behind me so I can afford to be a little tired and sleepy when I arrive. I've tried to get on the time change fast and make myself get up in the morning, but this year I'm going to take a new approach and not fight the jet lag. Since I don't race till 1:30pm anyway, I plan to sleep as long as I need and just make sure I have enough daylight to get my training in for the day."
Then she makes sure to spin the legs when she arrives. "I always ride when I get to Belgium whether that is outside or on the rollers if it's raining. I need to spin my legs to help with the edema from travel. I run on adrenaline for the first 4 days in Europe so the lack of good sleep doesn't catch up with me till day 5-7. I know those days aren't good for me so I avoid doing technical training or going hard on those days since I end up having bad rides anyway."
"Flying west is pretty easy since I can go to bed as soon as we get home and waking early in the morning just makes me more productive. The only thing I've learned over the years is that jet lag is different with every trip and once you think you have it dialed, your body's response changes yet again. So jet lag is pretty much consistently unpredictable."
And what is the one non-bike related thing that Compton must always pack when she travels? You guessed it, coffee.
"A Coffee press or cone and filters so I can have a good cup of coffee no matter where I am. I'll bring beans with me if I'm going to a place where I'm not sure if I can find good ones."
Though she is leaving before Thanksgiving, she along with her husband, mechanic and manager Mark Legg did have a chance to enjoy a meal with friends.
"We did celebrate Thanksgiving this year for the first time in many, and it was great! My friend decided we needed to have Friendsgiving before leaving so we had ours on Saturday and made a turkey with all the trimmings. It was a great evening and perfect time to catch up with friends who've been busy traveling and racing all season too."
Read previous installments of Road to Worlds with Katie Compton:
- Road to Worlds With Katie Compton #1 - on goals and schedule
- Road to Worlds With Katie Compton #2 - on favorite training rides in Belgium and Colorado, and training during racing season