For first-time triathlon travellers, the thought of going across country or making a trip to another continent to train or race can be a very intimidating thing. There is so much to consider before making the journey. From travelling with your bike to figuring out where to train, the potential logistical nightmares may seem like giant mountains. Take a deep breath and don’t stress! Here are 6 helpful tips to get you from A to B and back with as little hassle as possible.
1. Plan Ahead and Early
Just like your training, you don’t want to wait until the last minute to figure out the details. Think ahead to your travel and figure out all the potential troubleshooting beforehand.
If you are racing in a location that is vastly different to where you train throughout the year, make sure to arrive well ahead of time (5-7 days) and acclimatize to the race location climate and elevation.
Make specific travel and accommodation arrangements well ahead of time. Shoot to have your flight booked at least one month prior and your accommodation at least 2 months prior. If there are any changes that need to be made, you have plenty of time to do so. For busier locations and races, you don’t want to wait until the last minute to book your accommodation. There is nothing fun about trying to find some last minute accommodation in a tiny town because you waited too long. Often the best races are in small communities, and those communities’ accommodations will fill up FAST!
2. Shop Around for the Best Flight
Two very important things to consider when booking your flight are: a) finding an airline that will accommodate you travelling with your bike, and b) finding a flight that is going to keep your fresh and well-rested.
Shop around for an airline that will accommodate you travelling with your bike. Some airlines have very competitive fares for oversized baggage (your bike will fall into this category). Once you’ve found an airline that you believe will accommodate your bike, and falls within your budget, double check their bike policies on both the website and with a phone call. It is not uncommon to have an agent say something completely different than what is listed on the website. If you find an airline whose over-the-phone agents give you the exact same information as listed on the website is a very good thing. You don’t want to end up at the airport under false assumptions that the airline will take your bike.
If you are travelling to race, remember that you want to arrive at your race venue as rested and ready to race as possible. Choose a flight that has as few layovers as possible (more layovers add to travel time and increase the chance of losing your bike in commute!). If you are able, choose an emergency exit seat when checking so that you have additional leg room. You will be happy you did!
3. Adjust to the New Time Zone Before You Leave
If you are travelling more than 4-6 time zones, you may want to get onto your race time zone schedule prior to leaving. Shift your sleep and meal times back or forward in the day depending on which direction you are travelling. This will allow you to adjust quicker once you get there. I suggest shifting your sleep and eating patterns 2-3 days prior to the trip. Small shifts at first will make the biggest difference – you don’t have to switch to the new time zone instantly.
4. Choose Where You Stay Carefully
Do you want to stay close to the race venue or find a better training location? This will depend on what training facilities are available on site. What is traffic like around the race venue? Is there open water that will be sufficient for swimming nearby? If not, you may want to research areas within a reasonable distance to the venue to train for the weeks or days leading up to your event.
Some individuals prefer the hustle and bustle of the festivities leading up to a race, while others prefer to be away from all that. Kona is a great example of that. Many racers prefer to stay away from the atmosphere of the race venue and expo. Know what you want and choose a location that works for you.
5. Be Flexible with Your Diet, But Make Sure You Don’t Try Anything New
There are times when you may travel to an area where you are not as familiar with the local cuisine. It may be difficult for you to acquire your favourite pre-training session snack. Either be flexible with your diet by choosing other available alternatives that have proven to work in the past, or plan ahead and bring those nutritional items you will want.
Whatever you do, do not attempt any new cuisine prior to a race or during a training camp. If you are on vacation you can be a bit more adventurous. The purpose of a race or training camp is to race or train at your best. Your nutritional actions should support what you are travelling for. Eat smart! If you are on vacation, have fun and try new things! Most people go on vacation to experience new cultures, food and activities. Do that, but be mindful that if you going for a long ride the next day, that interesting unusual meal might not be the best option.
6. Don’t Stress About Reduced Volume During Work Trips or Family Vacations
Unfortunately many triathlete concern themselves with training volume rather than focusing on the quality over quantity. During a work trip or family vacation, you will not have unlimited time to train. These are perfect times to focus on quality over quantity. When you train, make sure it has purpose and that you are not just moving up and down your pool lane or simply spinning your legs on the bike. Shorten your training sessions, but make sure that you utilize the time you do have wisely. Get in and get out quickly, but make sure that the training session is useful.
Once again, plan ahead and if you know you have to travel in the upcoming weeks, schedule a recovery week for that time away so you can more efficiently get back to hard training upon your return.
Triathlon is fun. Travelling is fun. Combining the two should be even more fun! Follow these tips during your next trip abroad and get the most of your training, racing and leisure.