as originally published at Rodhe Sport
Kara was very kind to take time out of her busy travel and preparation for 2017 World Championships to give Rodhe Sport an inside look at the gear that keeps her going! Kara is the most successful and distinguished Javelin Woman in USA sport history. She currently holds the American Record and has represented the stars and bars in 3 Olympic Games!
Check out her companion video where she shows these items in action during an actual travel day in Europe.
I want to approach this list from a travel perspective. I’m currently in the middle of a two-month stay in Europe that has already taken me to five countries on two different continents, and will see me in five more countries before it’s over. I’ve honed my travel skills, as this is my ninth season as a professional, and when I’m traveling for so long, I need to feel like myself to be my most successful. Therefore, this list addresses training and competition effectiveness as well as personal comfort items!
I learned a long time ago that your throwing shoes need to be in your carry-on luggage. If I get to a meet and literally everything but my javelin spikes get lost, I can still compete in a borrowed uniform and newly-purchased socks and sports bras. No shoes, no result, though! I wear ASICS Javelin Pro spikes and bring along extra individual spikes, a wrench, and shoelaces. Great training shoes are essential as well, and really help your legs out with all of the extra walking you do when away from home. The ASICS GEL-Craze TRs are my favorite shoes of all time, and I’m traveling with ASICS Roadhawk FFs right now. I typically wear my training shoes on the plane so that I’m sure they’re with me.
- Therapy tools
Time with quality physios is precious when on the road, so you need to be able to take care of your own small issues. I always have my Triggerpoint Foam Roller and a lacrosse ball (pick one up at any sporting goods store), as well as a light bungee for rehab resistance work and KT Tape’s new strips. Keeping your body healthy is your first step to high-quality performance!
For me, this means packing a completely separate bag (more on that below). I have a RockBack case that holds four javelins. It has been to five continents with me, and I’ll cry the day it’s not usable anymore! You can’t practice without implements, and I always bring them to competitions, too (because it hasn’t been good when I chose to leave them home). Eliminate doubt and bring what you know you need to perform at your best.
- Quality luggage
My javelin bag is about 7.5 feet long, has handles in the middle, and is easily manageable on its own. Add a suitcase with all of my clothing and spare things, carry-on luggage and a backpack, and I have no free hands. My eBags EXO Hardside spinner 2.0 suitcase rolls so easily on four wheels, and is sturdy enough to tow my carry-on suitcase with a strap as well, even down cobbled European streets. The eBags TLS Mother Lode mini is perfect for my throwing shoes, extra snacks, and a few key clothing items, and functions as a backpack holder in long customs lines. An ASICS backpack transports my essentials while on the plane and my competition gear in the stadium. Travel days can be stressful enough without a luggage breakdown, so plan to manage all of your belongings in advance.
- Video equipment
I spend a lot of time training alone, so I film most of my practices. While traveling, it’s even more likely that I’ll be alone while throwing. I always have my iPad charged and memory available to record throws so I can make adjustments that I might not feel. Practice film and comparison to past clips is really helpful for me, and it’s nice (and sometimes essential to my success) to be able to share with my coach back home as well.
My iPad isn’t just my filming equipment, but the location of all of my books and TV shows for long flights and hotel down time. I bring my laptop and an external hard drive so I can blog and email more easily than on my phone, edit photos, or free up memory from various devices. I find it really helpful to do things that keep my brain engaged in all of the down time that exists on travel trips, and not just totally zone out to television (although there’s definitely a time for that!). I earned my MBA online over the last four seasons, and I loved having classes to take care of when I was on the road. It gave me purpose in a way that’s totally different from track and field, and felt like it kept me sharp. I own my nerdiness enough to say that I truly miss school! Related to this is having a portable battery to charge devices on a travel day. I spent an unexpected six and a half hours in a van in Italy last summer, and would have gone completely crazy if not for my battery and Arrow episodes ready to go on my iPad.
- Plane sleeping tools
Sleep is so important, especially on the way to a big competition in a totally different time zone. I sleep as much as possible on trans-oceanic flights, and involved in that is an excellent neck pillow, eye mask, scarf, hooded sweatshirt, ear buds under Bose noise-cancelling headphones, and compression socks. I also take my contacts out, brush my teeth, and even wash my face the best I can before passing out: Keeping my routine normal, even on an airplane, helps me get big chunks of sleep without the help of medicine while traveling. (I tried a sleeping pill once but it was a horrible, groggy, two-days-wasted experience for me.) These little details are great for super early morning flights as well, so you can hit the ground a little recovered after 4am wakeup calls.
There is something so comforting about having the same snacks you would normally eat at home on the road, and the benefits to packing them are twofold in my mind: Your nutrition stays familiar and, as you eat your snacks, your suitcase gets lighter! I’ve already lost about 2 kilos from my luggage in snacks alone on this EuroTrip. The snacks I bring are mostly based around my competition requirements, so I pack Zone bars (Chocolate Mint and Double Dark Chocolate) and fruit snacks (I like all of the varieties of the Simply Balanced brand at Target) as well as a bunch of different powdered drink mixes to pour into water bottles. I have Nuun hydration tablets, Propel, Minute Maid Iced Tea, and some iced coffee packets, as well as Emergen-C (usually for the plane).
- Great headphones
Related to number 7! I thought about purchasing noise-cancelling headphones for my entire career, and finally pulled the trigger in 2015! My Bose QuietComfort 25 headphones go all the way over my little ears and shelter me from all of the chaos of a long travel day. I usually wear my ear buds underneath these, so I can preserve the battery for noise-cancelling only and roll the cord of my smaller headphones up and stick it in my shirt to roam around the airplane. Plus, the ear buds are another layer of noise-cancellation! I sleep a ton better on the plane with my headphones on and am just generally calmer when I’m able to tune foreign auditory stimuli out for a while. Bonus: Don’t bother your roommate with whatever show you’re watching (we’ve all heard audio from too-loud ear buds before).
- Portable speaker
Music is important for my many solo stateside practices, too. My JBL Charge speaker stays home, but my JBL Clip 2 comes with me everywhere!