If you are a runner, you probably do a big chunk of your racing out of town. While it would make life so much easier if every race we wanted to do was just out our front door, it would also make our racing life very boring. One of the best parts of running for me is the opportunity to see and experience new places. I’ve seen much of the US, and the world, because of my running. Frankly, that is how I justify all the time I spend doing it – “See, Hubz! Who’d have ever thought you would be eating dried monkey brains on the North Korean border if it wasn’t for my running! Just ignore the soldiers with AK-47s. They’re part of the charm. Aren’t you a lucky man!”
As we are about to depart for the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland in a few short hours, I thought it was a good time to update my travel guidelines that have helped me get through many a stressful running trip (including flooding, tornadoes, lost passports, serious illness and accidents, and general chaos).
1. Make copies of all your travel documents (passports, itineraries, contact info., etc.) and e-mail it to yourself. If you lose anything while traveling, you will have copies of everything you need. Trust me, nothing ruins a race more quickly than finding out you are stuck in Uzbekistan for an extra 2 weeks because you lost your passport and you can’t get back into the US.
2. While flying, make sure you hydrate. Flying is very dehydrating. You don’t want to go into a race already dehydrated, so make sure you drink adequate water while you are traveling.
3. Get up and walk during flight. If you follow number 2 above, this shouldn’t be a problem because you will have to pee a lot. It’s important to keep moving while flying to prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis, as well as just to stay loose.
4. Don’t drink alcohol. Alcohol, while seeming like a great idea (especially if you are afraid of flying) will actually keep you from truly resting on the flight. While initially relaxing you, it can cause more anxiety and wakefulness later. Plus, alcohol will add to your dehydration. Wait and have that beer when you land – it will probably taste better anyway.
5. Limit caffeine. Caffeine can definitely cause anxiety, something you don’t need on top of the stress of traveling. While every airport in the world seems to have a Starbuck’s in it, avoid the temptation to grab a Grande Latte before boarding. Caffeine also causes dehydration, so you’ll just be stressed AND thirsty!
6. While en route, wash your hands often. There are a lot of cooties on planes, and you want to do everything possible to avoid catching something before your race. This will also force you to walk around a lot (see, we’re multi-tasking here).
7. Try to arrive well before your race (a couple of weeks), or right before. If altitude or time zone issues are a factor in your traveling, you are better off giving yourself enough time to adjust, or simply arrive right before the race before the altitude or jet lag become factors. Think of this as a good excuse to squeeze a little extra vacation out of your 100 miler.
8. When you arrive at your destination, go for a run. While tapering is SUPER important, getting in an easy run before a race is equally important. As runners, we are used to moving. A lot. If you have been traveling, your body is tight – all of it (inside and out). You need to get out and get moving.
9. Eat well. This applies to before, during and after travel. While it is tempting to just eat whatever is available while traveling, make a conscious effort to get enough protein, carbs and fiber. You are already putting your body under stress, don’t add to the problem by not getting enough nutrients and fiber.
10. Wear compression tights. After a race, it is a good idea to travel home in compression tights. Not only will the tights help with your recovery, they can help reduce the chances of Deep Vein Thrombosis by increasing circulation. Fly home in tights under your sweats and no one will even notice.
Traveling for races can be fun, especially if you arrive rested, hydrated and healthy. Don’t let the stress of traveling overshadow a great experience in a new place or country. The weird food should be the only thing you have to worry about!