This week, I travel to my 12th marathon (The Wineglass Marathon in Corning, NY). Of the 12 marathons, I’ve reached nine by plane, and three via a long car drive. I choose certain races because of the destination (oh, and race), and try to make the most of both. Big Sur, California was my most recent destination race, and it was amazing! And, with these 12 marathons, I’ve learned some race travel mistakes to avoid.
Yet, just as training for a race requires planning and coordination, traveling for a race does, too! Travel alone is stressful. Throw in a race you’ve trained months for, and it can be a bit overwhelming. Good prep and planning ensures you enjoy both the destination, AND the race.
Given that, 10 mistakes to avoid with race travel:
1)Don’t allow enough time. You should allow enough time to rest prior to the race, shop the expo, purchase any last minute items, and ENJOY the area you’re visiting. If possible, arrive two days prior to a race, especially if a time zone change is part of the equation (and the distance is a half-marathon or more).
~ This also applies to race morning. Races have very specific requirements about bus pick-up times, access to start line area, and more. Be sure you know those logistics, and allow sufficient time to get to start line area!
2) Eat exotically, and forget your normal diet. When traveling, we eat differently than at home. That is part of the fun of travel. But, if a race is looming, don’t veer too far from a diet plan that your body can tolerate. If anything, stick to your pre-race plan up to race day, and post race, expand your food horizons (and waistline?). Pack your go-to “safe” foods, and bring snacks for travel. This can be a tough mistake to avoid with travel, but if you have healthy snacks with you, it’ll curb your temptation.
3) Assume what you need is at expo, or a nearby store. Do not wait to purchase your most favorite or needed things for when you arrive. On race day, something new is a BAD idea. Review your packing list, and make sure you have the critical things before you leave. For example: on course nutrition, your race day breakfast, your favorite type of socks, etc. Look at that list the weekend before you travel and try to get those things that weekend.
Other Race Travel Errors
4) Pack ONE clothing option (ensemble) for race day. Weather forecasts change; and often do. Or, with a marathon, the temps/conditions can change a lot over a few hours. For cooler temperatures, plan on layers. Purchase a throwaway (Salvation Army) if the weather’s cold/cool on race day. For races that have events over multiple days (runDisney Dopey Challenge), the variance is often significant, so plan accordingly.
5) Check your race day gear vs. carrying on your gear. Luggage gets lost. I once wore a sleeveless denim shirt to a corporate training class because the airline lost my luggage. Seriously though, at minimum, pack in your carry-on: your race day attire, breakfast, running shoes, socks, running watch, sports bra, chargers, etc. Essentially, any race day essentials should be in your carry-on.
6) Try new things on race day (or day prior). Yes, change is good. But, it is unpredictable, and that is NOT what’s needed on race day. This means… pack the running clothes you know are comfortable, the nutrition that works for you on course (and breakfast before). Intestinal distress, chafing, etc. is not a welcome surprise at mile 12 (or any mile!).
~ You don’t want months of training and commitment to be derailed by something that could have been avoided on the course. The race website (plus race email updates) will advise what nutrition will be on course, and where. If the race is serving Gatorade Endurance Formula, and you’ve never tried it, then try it before race day, or make alternate plans!
7) You haven’t read the race communication/website before traveling. Some races now have banned hydration vests on course, or bringing a backpack to gear check. A more common occurrence is banning head/ear phones. I’ve done several (ok, many) RunDisney races, and running in “costumes” is fairly common. However, there are restrictions, and you don’t want to end up in your undergarments at the start line.
Keep Reading, Three More Errors
8) Under hydrate. A big mistake to avoid with race travel! When on the go, we often drink less. And, airplane humidity levels are 20%, 10 points below our body’s requirement. That is not a great way to start your race travel journey. Carry a water bottle, and fill it often. Consider having some electrolyte tablets/capsules to consume with your water. Being well hydrated helps curb digestion issues pre and during race, and ensures you’re properly hydrated at the start line.
9) Log miles on your feet the day(s) prior to your race. Keep moving, but don’t overdo it. It’s tempting when visiting to be active, see the sights, etc. But just like on race day, pace yourself! Plan your site seeing post run, and inform your family you’ll be putting your feet up some pre-race day. At the expo, have a plan of action & wear comfortable shoes.
10) Second guess your training and race day readiness. The training is done, your workouts are complete. Don’t use idle travel time to worry about whether you’re prepared. Have a book, magazine, that is non running related to distract yourself. Or, listen to music, watch a movie, you get the idea!