Christina Roberts, who races with the Minneapolis-area Gear West team, says her first destination race was planned with the motto: “Minimize logistics and unknowns.”
“My first travel race was Escape From Alcatraz,” Roberts explains. “I chose that race because I have relatives who live there, so I had a place to stay, and I could use their car—two headaches eliminated right off the bat. Also, lots of people I know have done Escape From Alcatraz, so I had firsthand knowledge of the event.”
As she got the hang of tri travel, she loosened up her logistical grip. During one trip, she simply phoned a Bermudian friend on the way out to borrow their bike and crash at their place. Talk about adventure goals.
While traveling to a destination race can be a logistical challenge, “it’s a cool way to see a different part of the world, and it’s a ton of fun,” Roberts says. Her tips for first timers:
Find races that play to your strengths.
“Alcatraz’s challenging swim was an advantage to me,” Roberts says. “Hate hills? Don’t do Lake Placid.” If you’re not comfortable with waves, choose a race with a non-ocean swim. It might narrow down your choices, but it will make for a more enjoyable experience.
Give yourself the best chance of success.
“I ski during the winter, so I’m not going to be in shape for an April race,” Roberts explains. If you don’t race well in heat, look for a spring or fall event—and cross Cancun off your list.
Choose an established race brand.
“You’ll pay a little more for an Ironman race, but they have amenities that will ensure a good experience,” Roberts says. “For example, Ironman races usually have a bike mechanic on hand to help assemble your bike. Other established brands that offer lots of amenities are the Escape Series Triathlon, Life Time Tri, Rev3, and HITS.”
Choose a race in an established triathlon community.
“Places like Colorado and Bermuda are likely to have a tri-specific store, and training groups who can answer questions or provide gear you may have forgotten, as opposed to a community that touches triathlon once a year,” Roberts says.
The best first-time destination races.
- Life Time South Beach Triathlon
- 4.14.19 South Beach, FL
- Ironman Ireland, Cork
- 6.23.19 Youghal, Ireland
- HITS Hudson Valley
- 7.13.19 Hudson Valley, NY
- Rev3 Safford Sprint Triathlon
- 9.16.19 Safford, VA
- Challenge Hong Kong
- Late 2019 Hong Kong
Shipping Your Bike
The biggest logistical challenge is getting your steed to the race.
“Right after I choose a venue, I make plans for my bike,” Roberts says. She uses TriBike Transport, a service that picks up from partner bike shops and trucks them, fully assembled, to races. “All I have to do is take off the pedals,” Roberts says. This service costs $180 to $375 for delivery in the continental U.S. or Canada; $399 and up for international destinations. One downside is that delivery takes seven to 10 days, so you might need to line up a loaner bike for a week or so before the race. Also, TriBike’s fully assembled delivery is only available for certain races, mostly Ironman-brand events. For delivery from anywhere in the U.S. to any race venue, TriBike offers a Pack & Ship option—you disassemble and box your bike, bring it to a FedEx location, and TriBike gets it to the race and puts it back together.
BikeFlights is another shipping option. Generally less expensive than other services, the company will pick up and deliver, but disassembling and reassembling is all on you.
The cheapest, and most labor-intensive method is taking your bike apart, flying with it as a checked bag, and putting it back together yourself. There’s a bit of inside knowledge that can help here: Some airlines charge extra if they know it’s a bike bag, but if you pass it off as a regular checked bag it can cost less.