PRO TALK High Volt­age

A Strong Sup­port Net­work is Vi­tal

SkiTrax - - Contents - by Kikkan Ran­dall

It's hard to be­lieve my first sea­son as a “World Cup mom” is al­ready end­ing, and that my son is just a cou­ple weeks away from his first birth­day! This winter has been such an ad­ven­ture – full of great mem­o­ries, plenty of pa­tience and per­se­ver­ance, and many lessons learned. While it's fresh in my mind and I have a few free mo­ments (much more rare th­ese days), I want to share some of the themes that came to de­fine our year as a trav­el­ing fam­ily.

To be able to re­turn to high-level athletics af­ter hav­ing a baby, there is no doubt in my mind that the most im­por­tant thing is to have a strong sup­port net­work. I've been for­tu­nate to have an amaz­ing “team” be­hind me this sea­son. It be­gins with my hus­band, Jeff, who lov­ingly em­braced the job of “Daddy Day­care” right from the be­gin­ning, and made it pos­si­ble for the three of us to travel every­where to­gether. My par­ents and Jeff's par­ents took turns trav­el­ing with us in Europe this winter to help take care of Breck, even go­ing so far as to take him the night be­fore im­por­tant races so that I could get a full night's rest. My team has been in­cred­i­bly ac­com­mo­dat­ing – not only giv­ing me the op­por­tu­nity to come back to the World Cup fully sup­ported, but also in helping to schlep baby gear on and off buses and in be­ing adopted aunts and un­cles to Breck.

An­other thing we learned is that trav­el­ing with a tiny hu­man re­quires more gear than you can imag­ine! Last fall as I packed up, I did my best to pre­dict the min­i­mum amount of gear we would need to get through four months and many growth spurts. We brought toys, a por­ta­ble high­chair, a travel crib and enough clothes to span seven months to one year. Some items were key, such as our Thule Char­iot that carted Breck around through the snow and ice, and some items never left the bag. Turns out that Breck is just as happy to play with a pa­per-towel roll as he is with the many toys we brought! I was im­pressed with how well equipped many places in Europe were for ba­bies. Highchairs were great for feed­ing Breck as he be­came more independent, and it turns out they're great when learn­ing to walk as well!

With four “World Cup moms” re­turn­ing to com­pe­ti­tion this sea­son, it was en­cour­ag­ing to see the In­ter­na­tional Ski Fed­er­a­tion and many of the World Cup race or­ga­niz­ers pro­vide sup­port that made it eas­ier to bring our fam­i­lies on the road. It was key to have on-site “baby rooms” at race venues so that while I was fo­cused on pre­par­ing for my racing, I had peace of mind that there was a warm space for the ba­bies and their care­tak­ers for rest­ing, changing di­a­pers, feed­ing and play­ing. While many of the other “ath­lete moms” left their ba­bies at home, on the few oc­ca­sions that we got the ba­bies to­gether to play, it was fun.

The ca­ma­raderie of the World Cup moms and re­la­tion­ships with other par­ents were un­fore­seen perks of the sea­son. I had al­ways been friendly with Marit Bjo­er­gen, Katja Vis­nar and Aino-kaisa Saari­nen, but now we had an en­tirely new level of ex­pe­ri­ence to share. We traded sto­ries on de­vel­op­ment stages, baby gear and our ex­pe­ri­ences of com­ing back to com­pe­ti­tion af­ter preg­nancy. We owe credit to Aino-kaisa for con­vinc­ing us to do sleep train­ing with Breck mid-sea­son, which got him sleeping through the night.

Per­haps the best les­son learned over the sea­son was the con­fir­ma­tion that it's pos­si­ble to have a baby and come back to high-level com­pe­ti­tion. It took some pa­tience on my part early in the sea­son to reac­quaint my­self with race-hard ef­forts and to give my body a lit­tle more time to nor­mal­ize from the preg­nancy and de­liv­ery ef­fects. But each week that went by, I felt a lit­tle stronger, and by the start of World Cham­pi­onships, I was fi­nally hit­ting my stride. My daily sched­ule was dif­fer­ent than my pre-baby days, but I found a good bal­ance in man­ag­ing fam­ily time and lo­gis­tics with my train­ing and re­cov­ery needs. The best part was that no mat­ter the re­sult, I got to come back to a smil­ing baby, and that is more amaz­ing and fun than I could have ever imag­ined. Hav­ing the fam­ily on the road was def­i­nitely challenging this winter, but thanks to all the great sup­port from my fam­ily, my team and the World Cup fam­ily, it was a great ex­pe­ri­ence.

Baby Breck...trav­el­ing with a tiny hu­man re­quires more gear than you can imag­ine.

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