Traveling to Race: Helpful Hints

author : Kyle Pawlaczyk
comments : 1

As a pro triathlete, my travel habits often differ from those of the triathlon population at-large, but I hope you can still learn a few things (including what NOT to do) from my travel experiences.

LODGING

What I do:

Many major races offer homestays to pro triathletes. Homestay hosts are generous people who open their homes to complete strangers with questionable hygiene habits. The homestay programs of the various races I've done have allowed me to meet some wonderful, hospitable people and save the money and hassle of booking a hotel.

If I don't get a homestay for a given race, I usually go onto hotels.com and find the cheapest possible hotel near the race venue. This typically ends up being something like the Knights Inn (the official hotel of sex offenders and third-tier pro triathletes) for $47 a night.

What you should do:

Find a place to stay that provides a balance of value, convenience, and lack of bedbugs. A hotel close to the race venue may cost you a few extra bucks, but may be worth it in terms of convenience and having your own bathroom. Seriously. The host hotel at Ironman Florida literally surrounds the transition area. As I was waiting in a long line to take my "morning constitutional" in a Port-a-John, the value of convenient race-day accommodations really hit home.

EATING ON THE ROAD

What I do:

I travel to New Orleans, a city famous for its culinary pedigree. Then I drive around for an hour looking for a Quizno's.

What you should do:

Eat somewhere that serves something familiar and agreeable to you, at least pre-race. Sure, it seems like a shame to travel somewhere new and exciting, only to eat the same boring meal you could have back at home. The real shame is succumbing to "gastrointestinal issues" during the run leg of a triathlon and having to withdraw from the race. If it sounds like I'm speaking from experience here, it's because I am (see Ironman 70.3 San Juan, March, 2012). By all means, enjoy the local cuisine, but realize that the best time to do this is after the race, when your picky triathlete GI tract will be less likely to revolt on you.

FLYING WITH YOUR BIKE

What I do:

I pick an airline that has reasonable bike fees. Keep in mind that saving a few bucks on the fare itself could easily be offset by paying a ridiculous bag fee of up to $200 each way. Southwest ($50 each way) AirTran ($79 each way) and Frontier Airlines (you just pay the checked bag fee of $20) are among the more reasonable carriers when it comes to bike fees. US Airways ($200 each way) and others are much less reasonable.

For me, one of the greatest coups of any race trip is being able to weasel out of bike fees. A couple strategies:

  • If an airline has an automated check-in kiosk, use that. Often times, you will be asked to declare any baggage when you check in at one of these things. You can declare your bike as a "normal checked bag" and pay the much lower checked-bag fee (or in some cases, no fee altogether…score!) If you do this, your bags are checked and your luggage tags are already printed out by the time you lug your bike to the counter. At this point, the airline staff usually won't bother to deal with the hassle of charging you for the bike, even if they give you a hard time about it. I like this method and have had success with it. Because my moral compass is still somewhat functional, this method allows me to get around paying bike fees without lying outright to an actual human.
     
  • If I do have to answer the "what's in the box?" question, I usually resort to some sort of half-truth and see if that works. A nebulous reply like "sports gear" or "expo stuff" works sometimes.

What you could do:

  • Try to support airlines with reasonable bike fees. This site provides a good summary of airline bike fees.
     
  • Try any of the above at check-in.
     
  • Keep your bike box and its contents under 50 pounds. Many airlines will smack you with an additional "overweight" charge if you go over this limit.
     
  • Keep your bike box as nondescript as possible. Those stickers with all the Ironman races you've been to look cool on your bike case, but they're a dead giveaway.
     
  • Lie about what's in the box. Among the many objects that will fly for less than a bike will:
      
    • Antlers
       
    • Cremains (although if you need a bike case to transport cremains, the crematorium probably didn't do a very good job)
       
    • Golf equipment
       
    • Christmas trees (normal size and weight restrictions apply, though!)
       
    • Strollers
       
    • Rifles/shotguns (needed to procure the aforementioned antlers, obviously)

Take your pick!  

REMEMBERING ALL THE CRAP THAT YOU NEED TO DO A TRIATHLON

What I do:

I gather all my tri gear into a pile on the dining room table, causing Gail to complain about the smell of my cycling shoes/running shoes/transition bag/person. I stare at the pile until I’m convinced that I have everything, then shove it all into my bag. When I arrive at the race, I find that I've forgotten my race belt, my toothpaste, and that I'm about three pairs of underwear short of what I need for the trip.

What you should do:

Make a checklist! See BT's race day checklist. You will probably need to make additions/omissions of your own, but this is a great starting point.

Getting to and from your race can be a stressful experience, but it doesn't have to be. Find what works for you on the road, and stick to it.

Travel safe!

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date: July 16, 2012

Author


Kyle Pawlaczyk

After a collegiate distance running career, Kyle Pawlaczyk began racing triathlons in 2009. Kyle recorded two top-10 finishes in the Ironman 70.3 series in 2010, his first season as a pro. He resides in Charlottesville, VA.

This column will follow Kyle as he faces the challenges associated with becoming a viable professional in the sport of triathlon.

Author

avatarKyle Pawlaczyk

After a collegiate distance running career, Kyle Pawlaczyk began racing triathlons in 2009. Kyle recorded two top-10 finishes in the Ironman 70.3 series in 2010, his first season as a pro. He resides in Charlottesville, VA.

This column will follow Kyle as he faces the challenges associated with becoming a viable professional in the sport of triathlon.

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