8/21/12

Traveling to a race: avoid the FREAK OUT

2006 Boston Marathon

Over the past 6 years, I have had the privilege of traveling to races (or racing to travel) to many exciting venues. Of course, even though I did the training, it wasn't without the help of my travel agent (aka "MOM") to help me stay stress free as I prepared my body and mind for my races. My parents have supported me since I started my journey of endurance racing and I suppose they understand that this is a hobby.....so be it, a very, very, very expensive one.
Luckily, I met Karel on a group ride - so, I guess he "gets it" as well. However, as a cyclist turned triathlete, he is now realizing that cycling races are super cheap. Sure, no t-shirt or medal when you finish but with prize money and an inexpensive race fee, but the logistics of signing up and participating in a cycling race is nothing compared to a triathlete.
I suppose any sport that has  a bag specific to "transitions" is a sport that requires more than just a few accessories.

Speaking of hobby, for most of us, training and racing is a passion, a form of exercise and a way to use your body and mind. Whether you want to collect stamps, watch old movies, read novels or do Suduko, a hobby is something that interests you, is something you are passionate about, keeps you entertained and most of all, makes you happy. It should not disrupt normal daily activities of living and it should simply enhance your life because it is something that can be shared with others (in some way or another).

Having said that, racing triathlons or running events can be pricey. Not mentioning the cost it takes to properly train for a race (clothing, coach/team, massage, gear, nutrition, equipment, etc.), race fees, traveling, logistics, food, etc. every athlete must understand that although you can cut corners to save some money here or there, your race day experience should be even better than all the months (or years) you dedicated to training in order to prepare for that one special day. Knowing that we have just one body and that quality ranks much higher than quantity, I believe there are many areas in training for tri's or running races that are "worth the cost" to make sure you do it right the first time or accomplish your goals without taking too many risks.


When I speak about traveling to a race, I could suggest.....

traveling w/ your bike mechanic (aka my hubby)

making sure your family is entertained - underpants run Kona 2011

and doing the tourist thing - IMKY 2009

to give yourself a better race day experience.

But I'd rather make a few suggestions to athletes who are traveling to a race and want to avoid the freak out.

Here's what to expect:

1) Plan ahead:
Expect delays, bring empty bottles to fill with water in the airport, pack your own food and be sure to have plenty of your own foods with you as you are traveling (or in your room). Consider what helped you out in your training and plan to have those things with you on race week.

2) Stay relaxed:
Wear compression (don't worry - everyone does it, you will fit in just fine), don't be rushed with travel, feel comfortable in your housing arrangements, rest/sleep when you can (or shut your eyes for a power nap) and focus on yourself. Consider any time spent in lines, traveling or waiting for somehing - as something that may stress you out.

3) Do your race research:
Review course maps, race day itinerary/schedule, packet pick-up, transition area, read forums to better understand logistics/timing of race week to-do's, parking, things for your family to do on race day or where they can see you. Consider travels on race day morning (from your hotel) as well as leaving the race.

4) Do your travel research:
Plan early (but accept cancellation fees), consider on or off-sight depending on your comfort/travel, consider rooming/hotel, rental cars, flying/traveling w/ your bike, parking food and time of the year, read forums to bettter understand logistics/timing of traveling to your location. Be sure to review the event website so you don't miss any important check-in's or meetings.

5) Check, re-check and double check:
Review all travel arrangements in the months and weeks leading up the race, review race website, review forums related to the race, pack early and always have a second option.



Over the past few years, my mom has helped me out tremendously in terms of making exceptional travel arrangements for me, Karel and my family. Although my credit card gets a little hot at times, it is sure nice to have someone like my mom, to help me out when it comes to researching everything that goes into a race. With a budget in mind, we have managed to luck-out when it comes to traveling to and staying in places like IMFL, IMKY, KONA, IMWI and Boston (as my "big" races). Certainly, with the time, effort and money that it takes to train for an endurance event, my #1 goal on race week  is to remain focused on my race day performance and to enjoy the entire racing experience - and not freak out about travel arragements.

With two big races on our horizon, I have taken the responsibility from my mom and I have become my own travel agent. As a coach, I help my athletes think about these "traveling" tips well before their race, but I think we all desire different things when it comes to remaining stress-free (as much as possible) while traveling to a race. I have always enjoyed traveling w/ Karel because he keeps me calm and he ensures my bike is race ready. He gives me confidence when I have low points and he makes me laugh when I need it. Pehaps I should bookmark this page for our first season of racing endurance event together - but I have a feeling, we will be just fine racing together. We both need each other in different ways and although we have similar personalities, I know we do better when we are together.

In 5 weeks, Karel and I will be traveling to the midwest to race Branson 70.3.
We are flying out of Orlando because we can save $400 round trip for both of us. We will be flying with our bikes, but traveling on an airline that only asks $75 per bike, each way. We will be taking a rental care from the Branson airport to our hotel (discount code on the Ironman Branson website for Enterprise) and we will be staying about a mile from downtown Branson/finish line (instead of the host hotel at swim start) because there are two seperate transition areas and we would like to be closer to downtown since we are using this as a race-cation.

Next year we will be doing our first IM together - Ironman Lake Placid. Certainly, I wish I could say we will spare no expense to have the best possible experience, but I still must consider the cost of two Ironman athletes training and racing for the same event. Right now, with the price of lodging (booked our cottage ~3 miles from downtown - on the run course), bike travel and flights (considering Tri-bike transport depending on airline prices + what airline we fly, will check in early winter) and race fees (paid), we are at ~$4000.  
Yep - a very costly hobby but I wouldn't want it any other way.


Life is all about making memories. Train smart and the journey will be worth "it".