When planning for any race, of course you must pay your entry fees and train long and hard. I paid my entry fees and trained really hard for a few weeks and then got hurt. Then you must make sure that you have your airfare, car and hotel reservations made prior to the trip. NEVER just show up at a destination airport hoping to rent a car on the spot. We had no problems with airfare, but there are a couple BIG things I must mention about car and hotel:
- Make sure that when you make car reservations, you are renting a minivan of some sort. I really like the Town and Country because it allows both sliding doors and the trunk to open hands free. What's more, the rear seat and the captains chairs each stow and go, preventing little mishaps like what happened in this photo of Brina when she got stuck searching for something behind the rear seats. Also, not only does having the extra space make storing baggage really easy, but if it is really cold, you can crank the heat in the vehicle and use the extra floor space for post race stretching, sleeping or wine drinking (while waiting for your friends to finish).
- Make sure that your car reservations actually have you picking up and dropping your car off at the appropriate places before you get there. We made our car arrangements through one of the online rental places, and arrived in MT to find that our car was not to be picked up at the airport but instead down the road in town, and that it was to be returned to the same location in Billings, MT instead of at Denver International Airport where Seth was flying home from. This made for some confusion and concern as the car rental company was not being flexible and wanted us to drive the car back to MT from NE, then get a different rental car to take from MT to CO. Did you follow that? If not, that's fine. It took me days to figure out what was going on with the car, and I am still not sure I get it.
- On the point of driving from place to place, it makes more sense to map out your route of travel before you even leave home and not rely on your GPS. GPS is great, however you never know what kind of cell service is in your destination area which may render your smart phone just as useless as my dumbphone.
- On hotels, while nobody likes to go from hotel to hotel during a trip, if your travel time to a race on race morning is more than 1 hour, it might be easier to get a hotel closer to the start of the race, rather than using a base hotel and driving longer distances to and from. On day 2 of our trip, the race started about 2 hours away from the start and while (at home planning the trip) 2 hours didn't seem so bad, that can really be exhausting for the driver when you are pulling multiple days of getting up at 3am. It wasn't so bad for us, but for the future, this might be something we consider.
- And finally, while driving around, we saw a lot of signs that specifically advertised that hotels had free wi-fi and were clean. We thought this a little peculiar but we reminded ourselves that the local culture was very different than what we were used to in a large city. I'm not saying that you should lower your standards, just that you may want to be flexible about what is important and what is not. Wifi, not so important. Maybe you only have a shower instead of a tub, or a small bathroom area, or no coffee maker... these are always things you can compromise on, but NEVER compromise on Cleanliness. This really hit home for us when we found out during the middle of the week that some of our other friends had found bedbugs in their hotel up the street. I cannot emphasize this enough... KNOW where you are staying, and KNOW how to check for bedbugs and other hotel calamities. I really don't want to talk more about this because I am grossing myself out already.
- Before my trip, a friend taught me about the plastic bag method of packing. I vaguely remember my mother packing me for sleepaway summer camp like this where she would lay out entire outfits including socks and underwear, then pack each outfit in a separate bag. I had never thought to do this for an adult trip, but in terms of running clothes, it made it very easy. Because I was running for 6 consecutive days and didn't know what my access to laundry would be like, I laid out 6 individual outfits including socks, bras, panties, and compression sleeves. I tightly packed each outfit into a gallon sized ziploc and labeled the outside with a description of the shirt.
- Packing this way allowed me to really make the most of the real estate on the inside of my luggage, and kept things all in one place. Then at our 3am wakeup calls in the hotel, I could just reach into my bag, grab an outfit and run to the bathroom to pee and change without getting into the way of my roommates. Easy Peasy.
- I also packed one bag with just my fuels and electrolyte tabs (which I seriously wound up not needing on this trip), one for all of my non-running underwear, one for my bras, and one for socks. This left PJs, Dresses and Shirts as the only loose clothing in my bag. We had 3 adults in our hotel room, and packing this way left me feeling super organized, it made packing and unpacking really easy and cut down on hotel room sprawl. As a side note, If I do this again, I might pack some different essentials to make sure I was well prepared for both the 30F days as well as the 80F days.
- Always make sure you have jackets and tanks, pants and shorts, a warm winter hat and sunscreen. Don't forget your body glide, your foam roller/stick, your camera charger, or your flexible attitude.
And finally, ALWAYS make sure that you have enough room to stand comfortably in your ice buckets. These buckets will be invaluable to you in filling your cooler from the hotel ice machine, but also in ensuring that you ice your achy limbs while on long drives from location to location.
Now that you know how to pack... please place your seatbacks and tray tables to the full, upright and locked position and prepare for takeoff. It might be a bumpy ride, but you can do it!