Whether you go to California or Boston, a destination race can be an enticing escape from the monotony of winter. But prepping for a destination races combines vacation planning with frantic pre-race day rituals. With a little foresight and flexibility, you can have your best vacation and race.

Check Course Elevation
Even if you’re not going to a high-altitude spot like Colorado, do a little research on course conditions. You may be surprised by the amount of elevation in less obviously “hilly” places. If you train primarily in Chicago, your ability to actually train on hills may be limited, but at least you’ll be mentally prepared for any elevation.

Choose Carry-On Items Wisely
En route, your checked bag – with your running shoes, only sports bra or wetsuit- vanishes. To avoid that fate, pack as much irreplaceable race day gear as possible in your carry-on bags. Save room by buying common items- ie, gels- at the race expo. And if possible, budget some room for the race swag and other souvenirs you’ll bring home.

If you’re a triathlete shipping your bike to your destination, consider using a specialized bike packing company instead of entrusting it to an airline front desk representative who may not be as familiar with bike maintenance.


Stay Loose Before and During the Flight
Spending hours slumped into unnatural positions with your hips flexors tensed isn’t ideal race preparation.

Be proactive by moving before and during your trip. Before takeoff, walk around the airport in search of some mid-flight snacks. Try to stretch in the airport’s yoga room. Pack portable self-massage tools (and find some floor space) to roll out your hip flexors and hamstrings at the gate.

If you’re sitting for several hours on the flight, some stiffness is inevitable. But take the free water and plan for a few bathroom trips. By staying hydrated and loosening your muscles, you’re killing two birds with one stone. And while seated, you can still try some leg extensions and seated gluteal stretches.

Get a Ride to the Start Line
Public transportation’s stressful enough already; but navigating an unfamiliar train system to a race isn’t just mentally exhausting, it’s extra time on your feet. To ease your race morning anxiety, try to stay in a hotel within walking distance, or with shuttle service to the start line, a common option for bigger races like the Boston Marathon. If those aren’t options, consider using an Uber or cab.

Make Post-Race Lunch Plans
After pushing yourself for hours, it’s tempting to take a hot shower and collapse into the comfortable hotel bed for the day. It’s a fine post-race celebration, but if you’re in a new city, you may regret not exploring later on. Even if you don’t stay out the night after the race, a standing lunch reservation will at least keep you from wasting a vacation day on a food coma.

Plan for Next Year
Want to come back next year? Check your post-race emails for early bird registration rates or discounted registration for associated events.

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Kathleen McAuliffe is a graduate journalism student, freelance writer, distance runner and overall enthusiast. Ever since high-school cross country, she's been hooked on the high of racing; after finishing her first marathon at Fox Valley last fall, Kathleen is looking forward to another marathon this fall and a few half marathons along the way. "Running is my favorite way to meet new people and explore new places, so I'm thrilled to be an ambassador," she says.

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