Getting To The Starting Line
When I landed in Tel Aviv, it was 1 p.m., the sun was shining, and I felt as if someone had run me over with a Mack truck. I briefly remember the tour my gracious hosts took me on that day (it involved something very historically significant and the Bible), but all I could think about was getting to a bed and sleeping for 25 years. I collapsed in bed at 5 p.m., woke up at 12 a.m. starving, and by the time I hit the track at 6:30 a.m. I felt dizzy with jetlag. My Israeli friend saw my sad state and took pity on me, half carrying me to a coffee shop where I was introduced for the first time to very strong Israeli coffee—which to this day I still believe saved me.
Do learn how to overcome jetlag in time for your race. Everyone has their own method, and truth be told the more you travel the easier it gets, but jetlag can be bad enough to affect your race. Start adjusting to your destination’s time zone the second you step on the plane. Set your watch and try your hardest to sleep when you should be sleeping and eat when you should be eating. Keeping yourself hydrated and avoiding alcohol during your flight will help considerably. Try to stay awake once you get off the plane until at least 8 p.m. local time. If you arrive at your destination and you simply must take a nap, keep it to 30 minutes max. Head out for a run in the daylight and avoid working out indoors if possible—sunlight will help reset your internal clock. And try to get in your pre-race workouts early in the morning because jetlag tends to hit hardest in the early afternoon. The best remedy to push through it is either strong coffee or a mix of beet and tart cherry juice—I carry a few packets of antioxidant-rich Beet Boost with me because those juices can be hard to find.
Don’t book your hotel/homestay without a little reconnaissance. Get a map of your race venue or check it out online. Map out the distance from your hotel to the starting line. If you’re going to have to hail a cab anytime you want to get anywhere, the costs of a slightly cheaper hotel outside of town quickly diminish (not to mention the logistics of getting a bike into a taxi!). Being able to walk or ride to packet pickup and the start line can save you a lot of time and valuable energy.
Do take the time to check out the course. Oftentimes, races in different countries come with some “bonus” obstacles to overcome. While your local race features newly paved roads, many races in, say, Europe, can feature cobblestone streets and somewhat confusing signage. Do your homework and save some embarrassing aggravation on race day.
Don’t be shy. That loud guy standing behind you in line at the pre-race pasta party? He might be your new best friend (and he might also have some valuable course information or tips too!). Meeting new people and helping one another through the adventures of destination racing can be more rewarding—and memorable—than even the race itself.