As many runners know, destination races, or “runcations,” are a fun and exciting way to see a new place while participating in a favorite athletic activity. However, traveling a long distance over the course of many hours before a strenuous undertaking like a long distance race poses a few challenges. Whether your race day begins with a 4AM car ride or with a leisurely hotel breakfast, it’s important to stay in tip-top shape while you travel in order to avoid race-day woes. Here are 7 tips to consider while traveling to your next destination race:
Stay hydrated- Running while insufficiently hydrated can lead to faster fatigue and leg cramps. Don’t hold out on drinking water in the hours leading up to the race in an effort to avoid pulling over at a rest stop or using an airplane bathroom. Stay hydrated; your body will thank you.
Stop to stretch- Traveling while seated in a confined space for hours on end can cause muscle cramps and stiffness. Take a few minutes to stretch out your legs and the rest of your body with every opportunity that presents itself. Yoga poses, like tree pose, are easy to do without looking silly if you’re self-conscious about onlookers.
Pack nutritious snacks- It’s easy to eat not-so-healthy food on the road, especially if you’re looking for something fast and convenient. Poor eating before a race can lead to problems, so bring snacks with you that you trust and enjoy. Resist the urge to try new foods until after the race. I like to keep Quest Bars in my purse for a convenient source of protein, as well as mixed nuts to stay satisfied. If traveling by car, I pack lunch in a cooler, and I always include fresh fruits and vegetables, too.
Support your immune system*- While staying in hotels, using mass transit systems, and sharing public spaces with throngs of other travelers, be sure to support your immune system with a dose of Vitamin C or Echinacea in the days leading up to the event, and on the day of the race, too.*
Get enough sleep- Although it can be tempting to stay up late exploring a new city and socializing with other runners, especially if it’s your first time there, hit the hay early so you can get rested before setting that new personal record. Starting a race wondering if you’re too tired to actually finish is never a good feeling (Yes, it happened to me! Yikes!). Save the sightseeing for after the race.
Plan for time- Another potential roadblock when traveling to a race includes timing. Wondering if you’ll make it to packet pickup in time to get your bib can cause a great deal of unnecessary stress. Always know the time and location of registration before leaving, and give yourself plenty of time to comfortably arrive. Also, be aware of alternative bib pickup times, just to be safe.
Pack race day food- Food is fuel, especially for distance runners. Always pack your go-to race day meal and have it available on the morning of the race. Don’t assume that the continental breakfast at your hotel will have the bananas that you depend on before races; I made this mistake once and was left without my morning potassium boost! Since then my race bag has never been without bananas and a single serving of oatmeal.
With careful preparation and planning, you can run your best race and still enjoy what the destination has to offer.