Although I consider myself a competitive triathlete, triathlon is an outlet, a stress reliever and an opportunity for me to have my “me” time. Triathlon is much more than the hobby that keeps me healthy and active but it provides me with valuable life experiences. For me, one of my most favorite things about triathlon is having the opportunity to combine traveling and racing - two things that enrich my life. Traveling to a race, although a bit stressful and expensive, can be a fun and exciting experience, filling you with lots of great memories in your triathlon journey and showing you different places and faces.
When planning your next race-cation, there are a few important considerations that you need to take into consideration to help you minimize the stress and oh-$h!t situations (let's get real here, traveling is not easy-breezy).
My tips below are not requirements but rather suggestions based on our experiences as athletes and as coaches so that you can have the best race-cation experience possible and most importantly, put all your training to good use come race day.
- Don't wait to register for your race until the last minute. Not only will you risk your key race selling out but you will likely pay more for waiting until the last minute to register. The earlier you register for a race, the earlier you can start planning for you race. More so, registering for a race commits you to the upcoming journey so you can mentally and physically start preparing.
- Before you register for a race, do your research about the requirements traveling to your race venue (ex. international) as well as projected costs for flights, hotel, etc. Signing up for a race may be inexpensive but the costs can add-up quickly when you factor in the lodging and travel.
- Don't wait to book your lodging! I can't tell you how many athletes wait until a few weeks out to book a place to stay for a race that they registered for 6-12 months in advance. Not only do you risk having limited options near the race venue but you will likely overpay due to your last minute booking. Keep in mind that most places let you cancel (without losing any money) in advance so do yourself a favor and book your lodging as soon as you register for a race. This also goes for rental cars. Flights, however, may increase/decrease in price over the year so you may need to wait until ~3 months out to book an affordable flight.
- For triathletes - review the guidelines for flying with your bike and call the airline ahead of time, letting them know that you will have your bike (at least 2 weeks in advance). Be mindful of the weight limits when flying international versus domestic as well as the price fees for different airlines. Always print out the important details of flying with your special item, just in case you need to help the gate agent with your precious item (your bike is actually a special item - not a oversized item). Other options for traveling with your bike include BikeFlights and Tribike transport. If you plan to fly with your bike, make sure your rental car can accommodate your bike, luggage, you and any other people in the car.
- We all love having our support team at the race but it's important to weigh the pros and cons of traveling with your family versus traveling alone (or with a training buddy or just your significant other/spouse). Race day should be all about you and that includes the time that you need to dedicate to yourself leading up to the race, as you get in the zone and take care of what needs to get done for you to have a great race. For an athlete, the days leading up to a race include a lot of exercising, resting and eating with little time for exploring and entertaining. Post race should be all about your family so consider the best way for you to deliver yourself to a great race day performance and still show your family how much you appreciate their support.
- Traveling to a race can be costly and this brings a lot of stress. But consider the many ways that you can cut down on costs or save money for your upcoming event. Reduce the extra spending on eating out or buying alcohol or put away $50-$100 from every paycheck into your upcoming "race-cation" fund. While staying close to your race venue (within walking distance) may reduce the need to have a rental car or pay for parking, you can't put a price on a stress-free race experience. Spending a little more money on a place that meets your needs close to the race venue may provide you with a great race experience versus saving $50-$200 by staying 20-30+ minutes away. Another way to reduce stress and to cut back on extra spending is to book a place to stay with a kitchen. You can prepare all your meals in your home environment and avoid overpaying for food or eating unfamiliar food. There are many ways to reduce the costs when traveling (like sharing a big house or a hotel room) but this requires you to plan well in advance. Above all - pay for the things that will help you race better.
- Be sure to arrive early to your race. You'd be surprised how quickly the 48 hours goes before a half or full distance Ironman. Although it may feel like you are just waiting around for the race to start on the day before a race, it's important that you arrive to the race fresh and not exhausted from your travels. We suggest to give yourself at least 3-4 days to settle into your race environment so that you can take care of your workouts, food and anything else that needs to be done before the big day. Seeing that your big race was months in the making, don't put yourself at a competitive disadvantage by arriving the day or two before the race and feeling rushed, overwhelmed and exhausted.
- Keep yourself on a schedule in the 72 hours before the race. The earlier you arrive to your race, the easier it is to develop and maintain a routine leading into your race. Consider the new time zone as it relates to sleep, traveling as it relates to digestion, where you will eat, where and when you will do your pre-race workouts and anything else that needs to be on your schedule. You put a lot of work to prepare for your race so don't jeopardize your performance by trying to squeeze in too much in the 48 hours before your race.
- Avoid the freak-out moments by planning ahead. Whereas you may not run into any issues if you are traveling to a running race, a triathlon event requires a lot of gear and equipment. Always bring more than what you need and consider what could go wrong so that you have a plan B.
- Stick to what works for you. It's easy to deviate from your plan and to start changing up what worked for you - training, nutrition, gear. Avoid the impulse gear and food buys or changing up your race day nutrition in the last minute. While it's good to keep your ears open for suggestions and tips, don't assume that the advice from someone else will work for you. Trust your own plan and have confidence in what worked for you throughout your season.