Our Smash-Dimond pro Nicole Valentine shares her travel survival tips here, to make your next flight go as smooth as your race! And she must know what she's talking about, since she just took third at Ironman France.
Turning professional as a triathlete wasn’t the instant ticket to sponsors, success, glamor, or jet-setting exotic travel that I hoped it would be. In fact, forget glamor and think gritty. Racing pro has meant a lot of sweat and sacrifice: from becoming your own agent to rethinking your social calendar, how you earn an income, deal with monthly expenditures, 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.
Here are the top tips I’ve learned so far for seamless race travel:
Plan in advance – Planning helps you select the cheapest flights and best itinerary. Try to get a nonstop flight or the fewest connections possible. This not only minimizes your chances of arriving without your luggage, but it’s 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 also because the burger and fries from the airport grill really does not fall within my pre-race nutrition plan for optimal performance. (I know you are all secretly jealous of my burrito, when you had to choose between Sbarro or McDonald’s in the airport!) Pack the food that you typically eat for optimum training and racing and that 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 pack electrolyte drink mix, as the body tends to get dehydrated from travel. You need to ensure you get plenty of fluids in. 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. 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. Additionally, it can help to bring compression socks for the flight. And 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 swimming 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. Carry spare tubes, tires, a 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!
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