How to Prepare for an Out of Town Race: Tested and True Advice

luggage full and ready to travel

My running season is almost over folks!  I only have one more weekend of racing and I’ve made sure to make it EXTRA masochistic by making it a double hitter!  Yup, thats right! My sister Georgette and I are going to do TWO half marathons in one weekend in Orlando. Best Damn Race, March 1st and Swamp House Orlando, March 2nd!  Bring it, baby!

Since the races will require me to travel out of my home-town, I thought it would be a perfect time to share with you my tips on how to prepare for races you need to travel to:

Last year was the first time I ever raced out of my hometown, let alone out of state. The first race I’d ever had to spend the night at a hotel room for was the Miami Beach Allstate 13.1 last March. The commute from my home in Palm Beach County would have taken over an hour and the parking would have been a nightmare so I decided to spend a night on Ocean Drive and walked leisurely to the start line from our hotel room the morning of the race.

Although staying in a hotel the night before saved me from the panic of not getting to the starting line on time the morning of the race, it did pose some challenges of its own, namely sleeping, hydrating and fueling when you’re not in the comfort on your own home and remembering to pack everything you’ll need (because if you forget something you’re S.O.L.)

Sleeping:

Ocean Drive was an especially loud and obnoxious place to try to rest the night before running 13.1 miles. There’s nothing like the deep, pounding base of late-night club music accented by yelling drag queens and drunken snow birds to lull you to sleep, right? Since then, no other place I’ve stayed at in Miami, Chicago or Boston has been so challenging. Even the quietest of hotel rooms can be difficult, however, because you’re not in your own bed. Here are the only words of advice I can give you on the topic.

1. Go to bed early. If 9pm sounds ridiculous to you, trust me, its not. Allowing your body to lie in bed (even if you aren’t sleeping yet and have the tv on in the background) will help you rest and recharge, even if you aren’t officially knocked out.

2. Set your alarm for earlier than you think. There is nothing worse than not being able to truly rest because you keep questioning whether or not you will have enough time to get ready in the morning.

3. If possible, request a room that is nowhere near the elevator. You don’t need people walking by your room door at 4am after a night on the town.

Hydrating:

This is one that I have mastered after some trial and error. Its especially hard if you have to fly into a new city the day before a race because you will be unable to take any liquids with you from home but, it can be done.

1. Start hydrating early, one to two days before. This may mean having to buy a couple of $5 bottles of water at the airport while you wait for your plane but, what can you do?… You’re spending all this money to race out of town, what’s an extra $10?

2. Drink both water AND sports drinks/ coconut water. Miami International is probably the only airport that sells coconut water at the kiosks but, if you can get ahold of some, drink it.

3. Pack powered sports drink mix. You never know if you will be able to make a trip to the drug store for some Gatorade or Powerade when you get into your new city so, bring a few of these individual powered mixes. You can mix it up with bottled water from the hotel room or, in desperate times, tap water.

Fueling:

Nobody wants to get E.D. (Explosive Diarrhea) during any race. This is especially true for races out of town. It’s hard to eat a safe pre-race dinner at a restaurant, let alone a restaurant you may not know so well. It can also be said that it’s difficult to get enough good-quality calories to fuel you if you’ve been traveling most of the day before the race and your only options were Starbucks scones and airplane sandwiches. Here are some tips.

1. Snack/ graze lightly whenever possible on your trip into town. Eat small meals throughout the day as opportunities arise. Eat something quick before you leave the house. If they’re selling sandwiches on the plane, buy one and eat it. Don’t decide you’re going to “wait to eat a full meal once we get there.” You probably won’t have time and will end up skipping the meal entirely.

2. Plan on getting into town early enough to have a leisurely, early dinner. This will give you time to choose a place you like and be seated at a reasonable hour. You don’t want to eat too late at night and still be digesting your food the morning of the race.

3. While eating dinner, make safe choices. Nothing too greasy, cheesy, spicy or saucy. Think plain and starchy. Although it sounds counter-intuitive, sometimes its best to avoid eating pastas at restaurants because their sauces have so much fat and cream. The best restaurant meal I’ve eaten before a race was grilled salmon and jasmine rice at Legal sea foods when we went to Boston.

4. Avoid Alcohol.

5. Pack granola bars, Powerbars, Cliff Bars or your choice thereof. If the opportunity to snack does not present itself to you, you can eat one of these. If you eat dinner early you’re going to want to snack on one at night. Also, you’ll probably want to eat one the morning of the race.

Packing:

“Yes, I know that I’m a neurotic mess. But that’s why you love me.” Sincere statement I’ve made to my sister and friends before running races.

I’ve dreamt more than once that I forgot my running shoes at home or had to race in my push-up bra (don’t laugh). I am so neurotic, however, that I make sure to check and double check that I’ve paced everything I could possibly need. I won’t list the opposite but, here are some things that often get forgotten at home.

1. Charger for your watch.
2. Vaseline for your feet
3. First aid kit for blisters, etc.
4. Imodium, Pepto-Bismol or whatever you like to use to settle your stomach.
5. Advil and (as a natural alternative) turmeric for anti-inflammatory purposes.
6. Bio-freeze or Bengay
7. Sandals and dry cotton shirt for bag check. (You’ll want to change into these afterwards.)
8. Those granola bars and sports drink packets we spoke about.
9. Armband phone carrier (You’ll want to take photos with your phone and those carriers are a nifty place to hold your hotel room keys and I.D. as well.)

Extra tips on stuff you may not have thought of:

1. Ask the hotel if they’re offering special transportation to the starting line for racers. You probably won’t be the only one at the hotel participating.
2. Request a late check out if you plan on going back the afternoon of the race. You’ll want to shower and nap before you head back to the airport.
3. DON’T FORGET TO HAVE FUN!!!

What are your race day tips? What were your favorite destination race memories?

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