Preparing to Travel for a Race
A lot of things can come with race day. First you'll need to get your race travel plans in line. The first thing to consider is: How far are you going to be travelling to get to your race?
Will you be going to a destination race where you will need to fly or drive for many hours? Is the race a short drive away? Or is it a local race in your hometown?
Travel plans for each situation will look different.
For a destination race planning will need to be a little more careful and detailed. Here are some things to consider when planning for a destination race.
Accommodations: For a destination race you will probably being staying in town for a couple days, so a hotel or Airbnb are a must. Things to consider when looking for a hotel are:
How much are you willing to pay?: Cost is one of the main considerations when looking for a hotel. Some people are willing to pay a little more for the convenience of being super close to the start line, but others don't mind a little bit of a drive to the race.
How close is the hotel to the race start? This is especially important come race day morning. Are you someone that likes to leave your hotel 10 minutes before the gun goes off? If that's you, you might want to make sure your hotel is close to where your race starts.
What amenities are important to you? Do you care if your hotel has a hot tub or fitness area? Personally I like being in a hotel that has a fitness center so I can do a shakeout run before the race in the morning. This is really helpful if you're uncomfortable or new to the area. Are you travelling with pets? If so, make sure your hotel allows pets! Another thing to consider is finding an Airbnb with a kitchenette so you can cook your pre-race meal.
How many nights are you going to stay? Are you going to stay for a while to site see? Or are your going to leave right after the race? Even if I'm not staying to tour the city I like to stay the night after the race as well because there is nothing worse than getting on a plane or sitting in a car for 8 hours after running a marathon...
Dinner/Pre-Race Fueling: By now you should know what foods agree with your stomach before a long run. These are the same foods you should be having before the race but because you're in a new city this might be a little more challenging. I like to look at all of the restaurants in the area on Yelp or Google before I go so I know what is on their menus. If you have any dietary restrictions it's good to make sure the restaurant you go to has food you can eat. If you're going to a larger race it's important to make sure that you make reservations in advance. Races like Boston can cause all of the restaurants to be booked for the night.
Luggage: Your luggage will be different depending if you're driving or flying to the race. If you're planning a long road trip you have less to worry about when it comes to running out of space. --> Flying: If you're flying you will have more limitations. My main piece of advice is to pack everything you plan on racing with in your carry on. Accident can happen with luggage transportation and it wouldn't be good if you lost all of your race gear right before the race.
Weather Conditions: ALWAYS check the weather conditions of a race before leaving. Even when you do check the weather before a race sometime it can still change. Because you don't have the opportunity to run back home with a destination race I like to pack something that is suitable for every weather condition. This is easiest to do when you pack in layers. For example, if I'm prepping for a spring race where it could rain or be a sunny 45 I'll bring a pair or tights, a pair of shorts, a tank, a long sleeve, and a windproof outer layer. With this I'm prepped for whatever the weather may throw at me and if it turns out to be a nice day I'll stick to the shorts and tank.
Driving Distance Race:
These races are a little easier to prepare for than destination races, but can be similar in some ways. I consider a race to be within driving distance if it's between a 1 to 3 hour drive. These races you could drive to on race day if you wanted.
Will you be staying the night? Even though these races are a reasonable driving distance I usually choose to stay the night before the race and the night after the race. Not staying the night will save you some money, but staying the night will make you more comfortable. You won't need to rush out the door at 4AM to get to the start line on time.
Will you be eating at home or at a restaurant? The benefit of not staying the night is that'll you'll be able to eat dinner at home like you usually would before a long run. If you are staying the night you'll probably need to eat at a restaurant. If you need to do that the same advice I had for destination races applies here as well.
For a local race that's within a 30 minute drive of home you'll just need to bring a bag of running essentials.
Running Essentials Bag: A running essential bag include everything you'll need after the race (assuming you're already wearing what you plan on racing in). This bag typically has thing you'd want directly after a race a can easily be stored in the truck of your car. I like to bring a snack I like and an electrolyte drink, recovery gear (comfortable sandals, compression socks), and a change of clothes (especially socks).