Race travel can be daunting for runners. On one hand, you’ve got your strategy in place. On the other hand, there are factors you have to deal with in adapting that strategy. Generally, these start with race factors, such as weather, terrain, distance, and race support. In addition to that, you have factors such as travel. Here are some race travel trips for runners that can be universally applied to any event.
What to do beforehand. Ask yourself what kind of race this is. For example, a 50K ultra will typically be over before the sun sets. On the other hand, a 100-mile ultra will require drop bags and night gear. Therefore, it’s important to state what kind of race you’re going to be doing. Most importantly, look at the course details and study factors such as terrain, distance, aid station placement, drop bag locations, crew locations, and weather.
What to Pack. By now, you’ve determined what kind of race you’re running along with the course details. Write down what items you’ll need to take so it’s easier to check them off. Typically, this item list will include shoes, socks, specialist gear (poles, spikes), hydration vest, first aid, extra layers (windbreaker, soft shell), head lamp, and nutrition.
How to pack. Ask if it is a local race or a race that will require long-distance travel. Next, determine if you’re driving there or flying there. Driving means I’ll put my gear in crates to organize it. This includes organizing your items into drop bags for longer ultras. On the contrary, flying will likely mean checking in a bag for your gear. In fact, I’d recommend checking in all your race gear to not have to worry about airport security requirements. Lastly, I like to use ziplock bags with labels to separate gear and make it easier for myself and crew to find it.
How to sleep properly. First, get to bed on time in the week leading up to the race. Don’t deviate from your sleep schedule. Of course, if sleep is difficult to fit into your schedule, prioritize more sleep that week. Bank your sleep so you don’t have to stress about being rested the night before. I know I don’t sleep the night before a big race.
How to fuel properly. Above all, don’t eat something new leading up to a race. For example, if you typically eat potato-based meals leading up to a race, don’t eat Thai food the night before. Eat early so your body isn’t digesting food at night. Also, drink lots of water and take plenty of electrolytes. On race morning, eat a meal that works for you. Top yourself off with water and salt. It’s perfectly acceptable to gain some weight during your taper period leading up to the race. For longer distance ultras, you’ll need the extra fuel.
The last piece of advice I have is don’t leave anything for the morning of the race or the night before. That also means don’t leave anything up to chance. If there’s even a chance you might need it, take it. Of all the race travel tips for runners, that’s the biggest one.