Now a days it isn’t uncommon to travel several hours by air or ground, before arriving in your chosen race city. Elite runners travel around the world to compete against the world’s best, and more and more recreational runners are choosing ‘destination races’ to add excitement to their training. While competing with the best, and running in beautiful places can offer opportunities of a lifetime, too often they end in disappointment due to poor travel preparation. Use the tips below to ensure a successful racing experience abroad.
Perfect Preparation Prevents Poor Performance
Sleep & Time Change
Contrary to popular belief, Jamba Juice isn’t the only place offering ‘immunity boosts’, in fact, we have a built in immune system booster—our ability to SLEEP! If your schedule allows, catch some extra zzz’s prior to your travel plans. If you are traveling to a different time zone, try your best to adjust to the time zone of your race site prior to departing.
Example: If you are an east-coaster racing in sunny California, ask your boss to come in later and work later the week prior to your race. Who knows he might be totally supportive and suggest you take a day off to better prepare! (I once asked a neighbor to borrow a corkscrew for a house warming party and they gave me a ‘welcome-to-the-neighborhood’ bottle of wine!)
Drinking fluids is uber important for athletes all day every day, but when traveling it is crucial. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, muscle cramps, and decreased performance, not to mention the life-threatening conditions associated with being dehydrated on race day. If you’re flying, pack an empty water bottle in your carry-on and fill it to the max right when you get through security. Rule of thumb: Drink till you’re in the clear!
Hold Tight to Your Race Day Essentials
Pack your race day apparel, including your racing shoes and nutrition supplements in your carry on, to avoid having a panic attack when you find out your luggage went to Baltimore instead of Boston.
Pack Your Tools
Just because you’re abroad doesn’t mean you have to change your regular race preparation and rehab routine. Pack your self-myofascial release tools (The Stick, The Muscle Trac, Foam roller) in your carry on so you can work out the kinks on your layovers or pit stops.
Depending on where you are traveling, food may or may not be an issue. To avoid eating food you aren’t comfortable with, pack lots of snacks and research nearby grocers that offer your food preferences. Do your research on the water quality in your race city and bring water treatment drops if necessary.
Travel snacks: trail mix, banana chips, granola bars, mini-rice cakes, and pretzels
To avoid inflammation in your lower legs often caused by flying, try wearing compression socks. Elite runners claim these super tight ‘tough-to-get-on’ socks do the trick. Some elites can be seen sporting these socks on race day as well.
Keep In Mind…
You could sleep 10 hours a night for weeks on end, hydrate till your pee’s transparent, and wear a full body compression suit, but frankly, you can’t control everything. When a wrench gets thrown into your perfect plans, be as a calm, cool and collected as a Hawaiian surfer dude, be flexible and stay focused on your race day objectives.
Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer sums this up nicely…
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.