Even the most well-traveled runners can face challenges when it comes to a destination race. Flight delays, strange food and time changes can all throw you for a loop, but if you do your research and prepare in advance, you really can make your next out-of-town race a success.
Research the Surrounding Area
Take a look at Google maps, or read the neighborhood guide for your hotel/rental house. Is there a nearby grocery store or coffee shop where you can buy breakfast? What are the hours? Is the area walker- and runner-friendly? If you want to run some pre-race shake-out miles, plan the route in advance.
Prepare for Time or Elevation Changes
Shifting time zones or heading to high altitude can be tough on the body. If you'll be traveling from west to east, begin going to bed (and waking up) a bit earlier in the week before the race. If you'll be traveling from east to west, shift your bedtime so it's a bit later.
If you live at sea level and plan to race above 4,000 feet, the smartest thing might be to arrive as close to the race as possible to minimize the effects of altitude sickness. If you're able to arrive 2two to three weeks in advance, that's ideal—you'll be able to fully acclimate your body. But since that's not feasible for many runners, arriving one or two days before the race can limit the amount of time you spend feeling uncomfortable.
Carry-on Your Essentials
If you're flying to your race destination, consider packing everything you'll need for race day in your carry-on luggage. A lost suitcase (and missing running shoes) is stress you should leave at home. And even if you keep your gear above your seat or in the trunk, have a plan in case you need to buy any last-minute gear. Can you purchase gels and sports drink at the expo? Where can you get a sports bra or extra shoelaces in a pinch?
Map out Your Pre-Race Routine
When you race close to home, the night before and the morning of a race can be comforting and predictable, but when you travel, things can go haywire. As you make your travel arrangements, think about what, where and when you'll eat. Look up how long it will take to get to the starting line. Figure out what time you'll need to wake up. Have a plan for after the race—where will you shower? Are you meeting up with friends and family for a meal? If you map out all the details in advance, you'll be able to focus on the race itself when it counts.
Save the Sightseeing Until After the Race
If you're headed to a new (and exciting!) city, you might be tempted to explore all that it has to offer, but try to save the walking tours and museum visits until after the race. It can be way too easy to spend a ton of time on your feet—not ideal if you're hoping to run a PR. If you can, plan to arrive at your destination 24 to 48 hours before the race and spend at least as much time afterward celebrating and sightseeing.
When it comes to racing in a new place, control what you can, go with the flow when you must and remember to have fun!