Professional Triathlete Nicole Valentine shares her survival tips to make traveling to your next race smoother than your flight!
Turning professional as a triathlete wasn’t the instant ticket to sponsors, success, glamour, or jet-set travel to exotic locations that I hoped it would be. In fact, forget glamour and think gritty. It has meant a lot of sweat and sacrifice. From becoming your own agent to rethinking how you earn an income, monthly expenditures, your social calendar, and how you travel. Destination race travel is no longer a vacation, but a necessary part of the job. And to do my job well, I need to ensure the smoothest travel experience possible.
As a professional athlete, my priority is to have my best race ever, to maximize my income potential, and advance my career. Thus, handling travel well is not only a necessity, but a critical part of my job. Here are my top tips for race travel.
Plan in advance – Advance planning helps you select the cheapest flights and best itinerary. Try to get a nonstop flight or the minimum number of connections possible. This not only minimizes your chances of arriving without your luggage, but it is easier on the body. It’s important not only to plan ahead, but to handle the travel well.
Pack your nutrition – Yes, I am the girl on the flight who packed my own breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner in a massive lunchbox with a cold pack. Not only because I can no longer afford expensive airport food, but because the burger and fries from the airport grill really do not fall within my pre-race nutrition plan for optimal performance. (I know you are all secretly jealous of my burrito when having to choose between Sabarro’s or McDonald’s in the airport!) Pack the food that you typically eat for optimum training and racing—what you know your body digests well. And then pack Pepto-Bismol just in case. Montezuma’s revenge is a real thing.
Bring extra water bottles to fill up at the airport if you don’t want to purchase additional water and electrolyte drink mix as the body tends to get dehydrated from travel. You need to ensure you get plenty of fluids. Coffee, soda and cocktails don’t count.
Take care of your body – Stretch before getting on the flight, in the airport between flights, and make use of aisle time to loosen up legs when walking to the lavatory. Come on, you know you are the one wearing the visor and carrying an Ironman backpack. There’s no need to be embarrassed or feel awkward about getting your stretching on! Hip flexors, glutes and calves can tighten up from travel. The best way to minimize the impact is to get up and move as often as possible. It can also help to wear compression socks for the flight. It helps even more if they match your visor. Additionally, try and get as much sleep as possible before and after the flight.
Prepare for sh*t to hit the fan – I have, on a few occasions, arrived at the race destination ahead of my luggage. Make sure that you have packed and prepared for this. Carry travel size toiletries in your bag as well as swim gear and running gear. That way you can proceed as best as possible with your pre-race preparation in the event your bags arrive several days later. Also, be sure you know your equipment, especially your bike and what needs to be done to reassemble it; and carry spare tubes, tires, hand pump, etc. It can be difficult, costly, and time consuming to locate bike mechanics at the race venue.
These tips have helped me weather some pretty bumpy travel experiences and still put in top notch race performances. I hope they help you as well!
Tips for Travel:
- Plan in advance – air travel and accommodations
- Pack your own nutrition
- Know your equipment, bike, bring spare tubes, tires, hand pump, etc
- Stretch, massage, roll
- Stay hydrated – no that does not mean cocktails on the flight! (unless you are taking shots of EFS)
- Get as much sleep as possible
- Smile and be ready to roll with the punches. You are now a pro!
What’s in My Carry-on:
- Pepto-Bismol (don’t even think about going anywhere without this)
- Spare water bottles to be filled up in the airport so that you have plenty of fluids to keep you hydrated
- Electrolyte drink mix
- Packed breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks
- Compression socks
- Swim goggles and suit
- Running shoes and clothes
- Travel size toiletries
- Neck pillow, eye mask and ear plugs