BreakingModern — Hitting the road in unfamiliar territory is both daunting and exciting. On one hand it’s an excuse to visit a place you’ve never been before. On the other hand you can face a new climate or different elevation that takes some getting used to, especially when you’re there for a race.
I’m a novice runner, so let’s be clear that there are so many people who have more experience under their belts than me, but I want to provide general observations and lessons I learned in my races. What affects me might affect you, too. That said, these tips might not apply to everyone. Some people are awesome and can run under any condition and, if that’s the case, kudos (and curses) to you.
Choose a Destination
Pick a place, then look for a race. Or vice versa. My first destination race was a 5k in Montreal, which is roughly a six-hour drive from Toronto (longer depending on the weekend, what’s happening, and good ol’ traffic). Pick a place you’d like to visit for the weekend and see if there are any races that pique your interest. Likewise, if you hear about a fun race, plan a trip around the race.
Make sure you know what time your race starts and how long it will take you to get there from where you’re staying. I like to get to my races early so I can scope out the layout, meet new people, take a last-minute hydration or bathroom break and just relax in the environment. Resting up also means getting a decent amount of sleep — whatever you require to run your best.
Don’t Forget to Hydrate
Water, thou have never tasted sweeter. Most people don’t realize that in order to be hydrated for the next day you need to drink up the night before. It’s like a hangover: You feel it the next day because it’s still lingering in your system from last night. If you’re racing during the summer months, you may need to drink more water to keep up with the heat and humidity, even if it does result in multiple bathroom breaks.
Maintain Your Diet
I mean don’t pig out on local delicacies right before the race — in my case, poutine (a scrumptious Canadian delicacy of fries lathered in cheese curds and gravy) and croissants. Unless you have a stomach of steel, sudden change in food, and copious amounts of it, will not sit well.
Look Up the Weather and Research the Altitude …
… and look up the course. It may not sound like much, but if the destination of the race is in a place that is more humid or colder than your norm, your training may not prepare you for the change. Montreal, for example, is surprisingly humid during the summer months. It also has a lot of elevation changes and hills, especially considering my race was only a 5k, and I would have been wiped without preparation. Even if it’s just mental preparation, your body will thank you.
Team Up and Find Friends
Road trips are always more fun with friends. Whether it’s an actual road trip with the cooler loaded up with junk– uh, healthy food, or you have actual plans to board a plane to attend a race, having familiar faces along for the ride makes the race itself easier. Even if they’re only there for the food and moral support.
Like I mentioned in my previous article, don’t forget to keep challenging yourself. If you’re gearing up for a longer race, make this destination race a mid-point or slightly longer race than previous runs. It’s always a different environment when you have people cheering you on than when you’re actually scheduled for a running session. There is extra adrenaline pumping, excitement in the air and there’s a stronger driver to keep pushing that’s sometimes missing from a regular run.
Most importantly, as with all races, have fun! Don’t get too caught up with setting a personal best that you forget to enjoy the atmosphere and the reason you signed up in the first place.
Image credits: Cassandra Chin