by Christine LynchWhat better way to experience a new destination than from the seat of your beloved bicycle or with your running shoes on your feet? An open water swim in the red sea, with a view of the mountains with every bilateral breath is a magical experience. Destination races bring your triathlon experience to the next level and are entirely worth the extra steps required to have the smoothest race experience possible. I returned to NYC a few days ago, after racing Israman 113, a half distance triathlon in the majestically beautiful destination of Eilat, Israel. I’m still glowing from the trip. This is the feeling that comes to me when I soak in natural beauty, the mountains, the sea, the desert, a vast history and loving and kind human interaction. This is Israel; and this was my second trip to Eilat for the Israman Triathlon. The triathlon travel tips that I share in this article will easily translate to any destination race, although I highly recommend you consider Israman for your next triathlon adventure!My bags were packed for nearly a week before my trip to Israel. I like to start the packing process early, in case I need to purchase or fix anything last minute. I was also giddy with excitement because leaving the NYC winter for beautiful warm weather and a beach in the desert is the best, ever. I planned to fly into Tel Aviv and spend some time in the city before driving from there to Eilat a few days before the race. Last year, for the same event, I explored Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, and even spent a night at a Bedouin camp and got to ride a camel before traveling to Eilat. That was my itinerary when I first fell in love with visiting this country. This year I decided to explore more of what I hadn’t seen. What I love most about visiting Israel is the friendly and welcoming nature of everyone I come across. It’s unlike anywhere else I’ve ever traveled.
Do your homework!1. Before booking your flight, be sure you investigate additional baggage fees for travelling with your bicycle. You may find a less costly flight, then arrive at the airport to find that travel with a bicycle will double your flight expense. Few airlines will accept a bike bag/box as your free checked luggage as long as you stay within the weight limit. I pack my heavier items in my carry on and weigh my bike bag before going to the airport. You can find baggage information on each individual airline website. Once you choose your airline, print the bike policy and keep it with you for all legs of your trip.2. Research about the culture you’ll be visiting and be prepared with what to expect when interacting with the people who call your destination “home”. What percentage of people are english-speaking?3. Learn how to communicate the basics. How do you say “please” and “thank you” at the very least. When you come to an aid station during the race and volunteers are yelling words at you, have a basic understanding of “water”, “sports drink”, “gel” and “bar”. Do you have special dietary needs? Learn to communicate whether you are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, lactose-intolerant, etc.4. And speaking of dietary requirements, you’re participating in a race, research your pre-race food options in advance. Are there suitable restaurants near your hotel? Should you book a room with a mini-fridge, microwave, coffee maker, or kitchenette?
1. Now is an important time to use your triathlon packing checklist. Don’t forget sunblock, goggles, bike shoes, etc. It helps to lay everything out for race day before it goes into your luggage. See it all in front of you and imagine yourself getting ready in the morning and going through your transitions.2. Expect unexpected weather conditions and bring gloves, hat and rain cape. Expect to forget something or need something you hadn’t thought of. You’ll problem solve around the issue, likely make a purchase, and hopefully keep this to a minimum.3. You’ll need a bike case to fly with your bike and you may be able to borrow one from a friend. If you aren’t comfortable with packing your bike, you’ll need to bring your bike to your LBS to have your bike broken down and packed for you. It isn’t a terribly complicated process, if you have basic skills with a bike tool. And remember, you can’t travel on airplanes with co2 cartridges. You can buy these at the race expo.4. Print a copy of your flight itinerary and bike policy, your hotel information, rental car confirmation, and race schedule and information to carry with you. Don’t forget your passport and make sure it isn’t expired before, and won’t expire during, your trip!
1. Jet Lag Rule of Thumb is: One day of recovery for every time zone shifted. Give yourself at least three days for most travel east to Europe (ideally closer to six days) and a week or more for Asia. The more the better. To speed up the process, try adjusting mealtimes and sleep times to inch closer to the time zone you want to adjust to in the few days prior to your trip. You can also use melatonin to assist with jet lag recovery. I use 2.5 mg 30-60 minutes before bedtime when I travel. Avoid using it the night before the race, unless it is part of your normal routine.2. Expect racing to be a 3-day commitment and don’t plan too much tourism for those days. You’ll have the expo at least the day before the event, the day of the event, and the day after for recovery.3. Build your bike as early as possible so that you have time to problem solve if anything is damaged or missing. Bring all the tools you’ll need, or a multi tool, if you plan to build your own bike. If not, make sure to have located a shop ahead of time.4. Go to race meetings, really. Don't be stupid. Different countries treat racing and triathletes differently, there are different road rules and penalty rules. Be informed. It’s uncool to skip the race meeting.
Competing at Israman was incredibly exciting. The course begins with a gorgeous swim in the Red Sea. Swimming is not my strength and I usually focus on just trying not to panic. In the Red Sea, I was at ease and distracted by the beauty and experience and ended up having one of the best race swims of my career. I found a group and stayed with them and ended up finishing three minutes faster than I had expected, though I didn’t have a sense of where I ranked to start the bike.The bike course boasts a heavy dose of CLIMBING and does not dally in kicking it off within the first mile and goes on for 20k. This is my cup of tea and the desert-mountain views made it even better. I focused on riding strong and pacing myself, ignoring the urge to push too hard/too early when I was passed by a few women. I knew, and always know, I’ll catch some ladies on the run.The run starts with a screaming 10k+ downhill out of T2 and back into town (and to the Red Sea). I eased into my downhill run stride, which is more like controlled falling forward. This part is more challenging than you might expect. The trick is to relax your quads to decrease the feeling of impact as each foot, seemingly automatically, places itself on the pavement. Like a ragdoll, I flew down that mountain and passed several women. The panoramic view in the final 4k of the downhill section makes you feel as if you’ll run straight into the sea if you don’t put on the running brakes in time. As you approach the shoreline, the course is lined with more and more spectators. The run into town is packed with cheering people, after an out-and-back along the sea. I was so well fueled by this energy and crowd support that I forgot about how heavy my legs felt at this point. I finished the race as 7th female overall. I’m looking forward to heading back to Israel next year, to compete in the full distance event. The entire trip feels like a race through the pages of a history book, with you surrounded by people who welcome you with open arms to experience the desert culture.Israman: http://www.israman.co.il/Israel Ministry of Tourism: http://www.goisrael.com/Tourism_Eng/Pages/home.aspxChristine Lynch: http://liveandeatbetter.com/