Pure Michigan Running

Over the Fourth of July, I headed to my home state, Michigan, for a quick visit. While in town, I couldn’t resist a few races. First up was the Volkslaufe. Volkslaufe (German for “the people’s race” is one of my favorite Fourth of July traditions. What started as a small, hometown race has grown over the years. This year, the race was featured in Runners World Magazine. What I love about the Volkslaufe is that, despite its growth, it hasn’t lost the hometown charm. For example, a giant tractor greeted runners at packet pick up, held in a local event hall.

Volkslaufe packet pick up

My siblings and I were able to easily pick up our packets without waiting in line, and quickly made our way through the tiny expo. The Volkslaufe includes 4 races, a 20k, 10k, 5k, and 2k children’s race. The races are all held on July 4th every year.

This year I chose the 20k, with a course that winds through some of the best Michigan farmland. The weather was perfect, about 75 degrees and sunny. I had on my Fourth of July best, and was ready to run with my sister-in-law (who raced her way to a HUGE PR, by the way).

Volkslaufe

Runners exit town almost immediately and head out past corn fields, soybean fields, and pretty much every other crop Michigan has to offer. The views are stunning and the farmhouses are well-maintained. I loved running through the countryside. The breeze was blowing, the birds were chirping, and the course was smooth. The course began to loop back towards town, over a gorgeous old bridge and along a short dirt road. About 10 miles into the 20k, the course heads back in towards town and through lovely, mature neighborhoods. Spectators were few and far between, but those that were out were enthusiastic. Running behind the classic restaurant, Zehnder’s, the course geared up for its big finish. The last mile or so is run along the Cass River, over a classic, wooden covered bridge, and into Heritage Park. The course is one of my favorites and this year was no exception. The weather was perfect, the course was pretty, and the small-town hospitality was in full effect. It was a great day for a run!

Volkslaufe 20k Elevation

Volkslaufe 20k Elevation

Race Recap: Worcester Running Festival

My running mom came to my house for my birthday. It was a great week, and we decided the best way to finish the week was with a half marathon. After doing a little research, we found the Worcester Running Festival. I communicated with the race director and determined that walkers were welcome and ensured that mom and I could finish well within the time cut off. We signed up and were looking forward to the opportunity to do a half marathon in a new area.

Race morning we got an early start to head up to Worcester. We were using the map provided by the race organizers and got to Worcester easily. Once we got to Worcester, finding parking was another story. We randomly drove around the city. The parking map didn’t include addresses for the parking lots, so we couldn’t GPS the parking lots and the map wasn’t to scale, so it was very difficult to find the parking. Add to that the massive construction zone around the race start area, closed streets, and streets with different names than the map and it was chaos. Luckily, we drove past a parking garage. We pulled in and didn’t care that we would have to pay. We had been driving for 20 minutes and hadn’t managed to find any of the free lots suggested by the organizers. Our parking garage was just feet from the race start, so it seemed like a perfect parking spot.

Wrocester Finish Line

We headed to the race start area to pick up our packets and use the bathrooms (it was a long drive). Upon arriving, we saw that the porta potty line was already ridiculously long. We were there more than an hour before race start – the volunteers were still setting up the finish line – but the line for the porta potty was wrapped around the block. There were way too few potties for the number of people. The line got long and stayed long.

Wrocester bathroom line

After waiting about a half hour, it was nearly time for the race to start. We hustled to the start to get in line. At start time, the bathroom line was still around the block. Nothing happened. Five minutes after the start, someone announced that the race would be starting in five more minutes. Ten minutes later, nothing had happened. Finally, 15 minutes after the scheduled start, announcements began. The race got underway about 20 minutes late. It wasn’t terrible considering that the temperature was good and the sun was shining, but I would have been irritated had I been warmed up and planning to race.

The race course exited Worcester proper pretty quickly and entered an area of neighborhoods with historic homes. It was lovely. The course had some rolling hills and was generally shady and quiet.

Photo credit: Cynthia T

Photo credit: Cynthia T

There were a number of walkers and we were in good company at the back of the pack. The course wound through neighborhoods and past several interesting parts of Worcester. I had not heard the most flattering things about Worcester, so I was pleasantly surprised. Mom and I enjoyed seeing the homes and parks. The volunteers were supportive and cheered wildly when we passed. After the neighborhoods, the course went out into the far reaches of the city and took a T up and down what looked like a minor highway. Though the scenery wasn’t particularly interesting, the road was mostly flat and passed a nice reservoir. We headed back into the neighborhoods, heading toward race finish. Back in town, the course went through the main part of Worcester. This was the Worcester I had heard about. Trash blew around our feet. Broken glass littered the sidewalk and houses had broken porches, bars on the windows, and long grass. Several individuals were drinking from paper bags while sitting on the streets. We drew comments from a few such individuals and hurried along. There was a lot of traffic on the main road, so we were eager for a turn off the street. It finally came, and we headed into the deserted business area. Soon, the finish line was upon us. It was well marked and the finish line announcers were upbeat and fun.

Worcester Running Festival Elevation

Worcester Running Festival Elevation

We next headed over to the main square for some food and water. The water was warm and the food selection was less than appetizing – pizza that had been sitting out for hours and warm yogurt. We passed on the food, took our water, and headed for home.

Mom had raced well and the real disappointment came when results were posted. She wasn’t listed in the results. According to the results, she didn’t cross the finish line or the start line. I immediately emailed the timing company and provided the verification – mom was in the start line video crossing the start right next to me, wearing her number, and in the finish line photos right next to me. Three days later I got an email back that said the problem I reported had been corrected. Mom still wasn’t in the results. I emailed again, and emailed the race organizers. I haven’t heard back and mom still isn’t listed in the results.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this race. The race itself was ok – the course was well-marked and the volunteers were nice. Unfortunately, the course wasn’t pretty. The start wasn’t well organized, amenities were lacking. The shirt was hideous, and medal a bit on the cheap side. And, there was nothing edible at the finish line. It wasn’t the best. I’m glad mom and I had fun together, but I won’t be back.

Beat the Heat!

As I write this post, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the mercury is climbing. It’s humid, hot, and I’m running tonight. In a futile effort to stay cool, I’ve collected some of the best hot weather running wisdom.

1. Modify your runs. First, and most importantly, modify your runs and make adjustments to accommodate the heat. Don’t expect blazing fast times on boiling hot days. Save speed work for cooler days, and cut back on your pace when running in the heat. Consider modifying your training plan to run fewer miles at slower paces for the duration of a heat wave. Be patient and allow yourself to adapt slowly to the heat.

2. Mix it up. Take your runs inside. In the worst heat, consider running on a treadmill or indoor track. Runners World magazines’ online resources include some great suggestions for excellent treadmill workouts, perfect for the hottest of days. Taking speed work inside in hot months ensures that you’re training well, and safely. Consider including more cross training with swimming, surfing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and cycling. Pool running is a great option for those with handy pool access.

3. Think shade. When the weather’s hot, run your runs in the shade and at the coolest times you can manage. Run early in the morning when the weather is the coolest, or in the evening when breezes are more likely to come up. Run on shaded paths or in neighborhood with trees. Consider plotting a route that takes you past shops or big box stores so you can duck in for a little air conditioning – or bail on the run entirely. Run on the grass or on a trail if you can.

4. Chill out. If you’re planning to run in the heat, take precautions. Wear sunglasses and sunscreen. Wear loose fitting clothing made of wicking material, and as little of it as is reasonable. Wear a hat or visor to keep sun off your face. Some evidence suggests that cooling the extremities before and during hot runs can help, so consider wetting your head, carrying a wet cloth, or even putting ice in your clothes. It’s crazy, but it works. Some runners also swear by drinking an ice cold drink just before the run.

5. Carry water. Hydrate early and often with water and, if necessary, an electrolyte replacement product. Consider your individual hydration needs and plan accordingly. Not sure how much you need to drink? A quick consultation of google will tell you everything you need to know about how to hydrate and what to avoid.

6. Consider your non-running activities carefully. Alcohol, antihistamines, and antidepressants can all have a dehydrating effect. Using them regularly, or before a run, can put you at greater risk of heat-realted illness due to dehydration. Talk with your doctor about how to take your medication, and stay safe in the heat.

Finally, protect yourself. Know the signs of heat-related illnesses and take steps to prevent problems before they start. Here are some of the basic heat-realted illnesses, including their signs and symptoms. As always, consult with your medical professional with regard to heat safety.

Heat cramps:

When dehydration leads to an electrolyte imbalance, large muscles cramp. Restore balance with good hydration and stay well hydrating during runs.

Hyponatremia:

When excessive water intake dilutes blood-sodium levels, headache, disorientation, muscle twitching can result. Emergency medical treatment is necessary. To prevent problems with hyponatremia, don’t drink more than about 32 ounces per hour and consider a sports drink over water. Talk with your medical professional about your hydration needs.

Heat exhaustion;

Dehydration can lead to an electrolyte imbalance that results in a core body temperature of 102° to 104°F. This causes headache, fatigue, profuse sweating, nausea, and clammy skin. Restore balance with good hydration and stay well hydrated during runs. Slowly cool down by applying cool water the the head and neck, seek the shade and get out of the heat.

Heat stroke:

Heat stoke occurs when exertion and dehydration prevent your body from being able to regulate core temperature. Core body temperature can exceed 104° or more. Heat stroke is usually accompanied by headache, nausea, vomiting, rapid pulse and disorientation. Seek emergency medical treatment immediately if heat stroke is suspected. Emergency personnel will cool and rehydrate the individual safely. While waiting for help, get out of the heat and cease activity.

Stay cool, my running friends.

Race Recap: Runners World Heartbreak Hill Half Festival

Mom and I always do something fun for my birthday and this year was no exception. We decided to participate in the Runners World Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon Festival (HHHalf for short). We signed up ages ago, thinking that with Runners World magazine and DMSE as hosts, it would be a great weekend. Unfortunately, like many other back-of-the-pack athletes, we didn’t have the most wonderful experience.

The pre-race communication was excellent. Mom and I were sure we had all the details and were ready to go come race day. We had booked a nice hotel on the Charles River and decided to spend the whole weekend. We got to our hotel easily and from there navigated the few short miles to Boston College, where packet pick up was held. At the pickup, we easily found our numbers and headed to the bib and shirt pick up area. There, we encountered our first problem of the weekend. I was handed two shirts, a hat, socks, a bib, four safety pins, and a race information booklet. And no bag. We were told that the bags would be handed out at gear check in the morning. That was a fine strategy, but there was no way for me to carry my goodies. Had I known, I would have brought something larger than my purse. Luckily, my hat made a handy bag and I shoved everything in as best I could. Later review of the race information booklet would note that for gear check I should use the bag I was given during packet pick up. Hmmm. We made our way around the expo, but didn’t spend much time there thanks to a tuna vendor. Both mom and I can’t stand to be around fish and the tuna smell was wafting around. We made our way to one of the suggested dinner locations – Lee’s Burgers. It was delightful.

Newton burgers

Lee’s is a tiny cafe with all the burger basics. Mom and I enjoyed our burgers, walked around Newton a bit, and headed back to the hotel for an early bed time.

Bright and early Saturday morning, mom and I prepared for the 5k. We would have the 10k later that day. We knew that we would pay for parking, but we didn’t know that there would be no re-admittance. That meant that if we wanted to stay for any speakers or other fun events, we had to wait on campus all day, without food. While we had wanted to see the speakers, that didn’t seem like fun, so we parked and planning to head back to the car after racing was over for the day. Parking was close to the race start, and we made our way to the start and got lined up. The race was mass-start, but people generally seemed to have lined up well and it went smoothly. The 5k course was well marked and wound around a nice little lake. The hills were small and the views were lovely, so we were happy. As soon as the 5k was over, we grabbed a water and bagel (no yogurt for us and the bananas were gone) and lined back up for the 10k. The 10k was a big disappointment. Mom was planning to do her first race with hills. Being from Florida, she has only ever raced flat courses. The 10k had a posted cutoff of 15 minute miles – no problem for mom. I had inquired early in the registration process about the 15 minute miles time cut off and was told that there would be a mass start and 15 minute miles counted from the gun. The printed material also noted that the 15 minutes would be counted from the gun. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a mass start. There was a wave start and the 15 minutes was counted from the start of the first wave, not the last. We started 11 minutes after the gun, effectively making the cut off 12 minute miles – and we weren’t the last wave. We were shocked. There was no way mom could do 12 minute miles with the hills. It was disappointing and unexpected. We are very careful about the races we choose and this one, given its advertised openness to back of the packers seemed like a good option. Soon enough, we were asked to move on to the sidewalk. That was fine, but what really bothered me was that the race officials were cleaning up. There wasn’t much assistance at water stops and all the signs were either gone or being removed. The course wasn’t well marked – luckily it’s pretty easy to go out and back on Commerce Avenue.

HHHalf 10k Elevation

HHHalf 10k Elevation

The course had the famous hills and was an enjoyable course. I liked that much of it was on the shady path and I liked seeing the famous Newton scenery. Overall, it was a great race – just one detail that impacted our enjoyment. At the end of the race, we got a water and a bagel. We were offered a bag of chips and a yogurt, but took neither. Both of us were hot and hungry, so we went to a local restaurant for lunch. Not wanting to pay to park again, we went back to the hotel to rest.

The next day, I ran in the HHHalf half marathon and mom cheered. I was in the midst of a major allergy attack and had taken a massive quantity of allergy medicine, so I wasn’t the happiest of runners. I felt lethargic and hot. And, that whole bit about allergy medicine plus running equals heart palpitations – totally true. Luckily, I found a nice lady from Kentucky, who I ran with most of the race. The course headed out into Newton, through some lovely neighborhoods, and up several of the famous Newton hills. When I signed up what I hadn’t thought about was that I would go OUT via the hills AND back via the hills. It was crazy hilly! It was pretty hot, so I ran a conservative pace and had a great time. I chatted with folks around me and enjoyed the camaraderie of the group of runners. It was a fun race.

HHHalf Elevation

As a long time runner, the joy of seeing all the famous Boston Marathon landmarks. I enjoyed the race and found the course well-marked and the volunteers mostly helpful. At the end, I was once again treated to a bagel, water, chips, and yogurt. As hungry as I usually am after a long run, I headed straight for BoLoco Burritos. I had seen their restaurant and recognized it from Ragnar, so we treated ourselves to a huge burrito and headed home.

All in all, it was a fun weekend. As far as the races, they were less wonderful than expected, but still a great experience.

HHHalf

Running Around the Beehive State

I love to travel, and, luckily, I get to do it a lot. I recently headed to Utah (the Beehive State) for a work meeting and got an opportunity to try some mountain fitness. Utah is a pretty cool state. I had been to Salt Lake City briefly (also check out my cool Temple pictures), but had only explored the city. This time, I stayed with a local friend and toured lots of Utah landmarks. Altitude training is no joke!

We got things off to a great start with a visit to a local gym for cycling. The Ultimate Peak Crossfit gym, owned by Coach Keena, is a great little spot. It offers a variety of classes and full triathlon training. My friend and I visited the cycling class, which included some drills, hill work, and even some interval running. Coach Keena was upbeat, and created a great workout.

Later that day, we went hiking near Sundance. The ground was dusty, but the sun was shining and the the breeze was soft. It was a gorgeous day for a hike. We went up to a waterfall and enjoyed the mountain views.

Sundance

 

 

Race Recap: Round the Lake 5k

I love small races and, living in a rural area, I get an opportunity to run a lot of small races. Just a week post marathon, I was barely back into running when a friend suggested a local 5k with a “interesting” course. I wasn’t doing anything else and the weather was expected to be wonderful, so I committed to the race. The race in question was the Marlborough Lions Club Round the Lake 5k. Honestly, had my friend not told me about the race, I might never have found it. They don’t have the best website presence and what’s there leaves a lot to be desired in terms of information (Was there race-day registration? If sure hoped so!). The race application wasn’t much more helpful. I had no idea how much the race was and wether I might even be able to register, but I knew where the starting line was and crossed my fingers on the rest.

Race day was clear and bright and I headed over to the park at Lake Terramuggus for the 5k. There were a few people mingling around, runners on the road warming up, and no lines to speak of. I didn’t wait at all to register and walked right up to the table. There was indeed race day registration and it was a bargain price of $20. I gathered my number, my much too big tshirt, and some pins and set off to warm up. The setting was lovely for a spring race – the start and finish line were on the road in front of a small park on a lake.

Blish Park

It was a lovely view, and I kept my warm up to a minimum so I could spend more time enjoying the weather and the view. This would later turn out to be a mistake, but I wasn’t planning to race a week after a marathon.

I lined up with a few hundred others on the country road near the park for the race start. It was perfect weather – 68 degrees, sunny, and breezy. The race began and immediately runners were greeted by a hill. the course featured a significant hill in the first quarter mile. Not great for those of us who hadn’t really warmed up, but excellent for the hill runners in the group. Several speedy folks shot to the top of the hill. The course leveled out and wound through the countryside. It was well marked, but sparsely populated. There were plenty of runners, but few spectators. The road was either closed to traffic or such a small country road that no traffic needed to pass by during the race. In mile two, the course started a small descent and I picked up speed. I was running well, but getting quite hot in the warm air and sun. Volunteers called out mile splits and the course went on. Near the middle of the second mile, the course turned into town and began a long, steady climb up one of the gradual hills in town. At this point, the road was open to traffic and it got a little tricky thanks to sidewalk construction in the area.

5k construction

Despite some cars and bumpy footing, the runners made their way down the road and back towards the park. The views along the way were lovely, classic New England. I enjoyed looking at the lake and the small salt box cottages. There was one small, not that well organized race stop at mile 2.6, where a nice older couple passed out water in tiny paper cups (the kind my grandmother kept in her bathroom). I did take the water, a few sips worth, and it was warm and clumsily passed. Had there been a few more volunteers, the water stop might have been more effective. The race finished on a bit of an uphill on the road. There was chip timing, so there were timing mats and a small finish line area, but nothing else. Runners had to head back down the hill to get a bottle of water and a few orange slices.

There were few amenities at this race. Runners got a bottle of water and sliced oranges. What the race lacked in post-race food, it made up for in the view. A friend and I sat on the beach until it was time for the awards. It wasn’t a particularly fast race and my slow, post-marathon legs carried me to third place in my age group.

Round the Lake Prize

Overall, I would recommend the Round the Lake 5k for the runner looking for a no-frills, low key, local race. It was a fairly ordinary 5k with a nice lake view finish, but little else in terms of race support or amenities.

Race Recap: Run for the Red Pocono Marathon

One of my greatest joys as a runner is pacing for races with MarathonPacing.com. I love helping others achieve their goals and pacing is a great way to see runners doing amazing things. This spring, I was selected to pace the 4:45 group at the Run for the Red Pocono Marathon. I was delighted to prepare for a new marathon.

The race wound through a number of Pocono towns, ending in Stroudsburg, PA. Packet pick up was at a local school. I met up with my fellow pacers at the expo. We greeted runners, handed out pace band temporary tattoos, and talked running with eager runners. It was great!

Run for Red expo

Race day was bright and clear with perfect running weather.

Run for Red flat runner

The day started cool and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I got lined up in my starting area and met my pace team. I had some great runners. Mostly new marathoners, a woman running her first marathon in anticipation of a milestone age, and brothers who had trained together. We got started running in Pocono Summit, PA along rural roads. The course began flat and roads were wide and free of traffic. The water stops were well-staffed and organized. After the first few miles, the course started to decline – as in the elevation. The course itself has a significant downhill trajectory and that started in the early miles. My pace team and I were feeling great and loving the downhills.

Run for the Red elevation profile

The roads were lovely – well paved, wide, and free of debris. The scenery was gorgeous. We ran past pine forests, deep woods, and across wooden bridges. I loved the beautiful countryside. Halfway through, the course began to roll. The hills were minor, but challenging for legs tired from the downhills. My team was great! We had fun telling stories, cheering for our fellow runners, and exploring the Pocono area. The course finally made its was into Stroudsburg and along neighborhood streets with cheering spectators. We made our way through the historic downtown and on to the school grounds. The race finished in the track stadium at the local high school.

Photo credit: Elaine Acosta, the awesome 4:30 pacer

Photo credit: Elaine Acosta, the awesome 4:30 pacer

I loved the race and would highly recommend the Run for the Red Pocono Marathon. The course was well designed, scenic, well-marked, and staffed by a great group of volunteers and staff. The race overall was well organized and supported by a strong race committee.

 

Ragnar Cape Cod 2014

No one loves an overnight relay more than this girl, so I jumped at the opportunity to run Ragnar Cape Cod this year. Most of my team from last year was back, and we were ready for fun! This year, there were some changes to the course, including a super long “Wicked Hahd” leg that I was set to run. To make things even more interesting, our team was running short a few runners, so we each had 25 miles or more to run.

We got the van packed up at our rental house and we got to decorating.

Ragnar decoratingI was in a van with three boys and lots of food. We were ready. Since we were Van 2, we had a nice leisurely morning, then got running. I had the “Wicked Hahd” leg, a 12.8 miles jaunt on the worst road ever. The first 7 miles of the leg were on sand. Not sand as in this is a sandy beach, but sand that had been pushed to the side after being used in the winter on the road. It was rocky, loose sand. My poor calves were killing me. Then, we headed uphill. The last four miles of this crazy leg went uphill. And, to make it more interesting, nearly all of it was on a very busy highway. It wasn’t my favorite leg ever. In appreciation of my efforts, the nice Ragnar people gave me a medal.

After our first runs we ate a nice dinner and prepared ourselves for our night runs. I love night runs and was thrilled with my quick, four miles that I had planned.

Night run

My night run was over quickly and we were off to the rental house for a rest. I got three luxurious hours of sleep. It was wonderful. In no time at all it was time for our third run. I was scheduled to run two legs, running through the exchange. Luckily, my runs were partly through the Cape Cod National Seashore. I was treated to gorgeous views.

Cape Cod views

At the end of my runs, I found myself on the most wonderful beach. We were almost to P-Town!

Cape Cod finish

I was having a great time. I loved being in Van 2 and loved my runs. Even though we were missing a few runners, I found the mileage manageable. Our last runner was out and we were tired, hungry, and ready to see the finish line. We pulled up to Provincetown and found our way to the finish.

Ragnar Cape Cod finish

The energy was great. There’s nothing like a Ragnar finish line – the spectators, the teams, the fun atmosphere. It’s great! We finished as a team and had a great time at the finish line party. Overall, it was another great Ragnar. I love Cape Cod and this year was no exception.

 

RRCA Annual Convention

A few weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to participate in the RRCA Annual Convention. Each year, the Road Runners Club of America hosts the convention in a different city. The convention is an opportunity for running professionals to gather, share information, and contribute to the running community. The convention features workshops on best practices, running coach continuing education, the RRCA Annual Meeting of the Membership, the National Running Awards Banquet, and super fun social networking events. I was lucky enough to be selected for a RRCA Leadership Scholarship to attend the convention. 

This year’s convention was in Spokane, Washington. I had never been to Spokane so the whole event was a new adventure. I got to Spokane on a Thursday and the festivities kicked off with a welcome reception. I enjoyed meeting fellow runners, particularly Bernard Legat! He was kind and welcoming and even posed for a photo with me.

BL photo

There were several social receptions, each with interesting people from clubs across the country. Each morning the day started with a run hosted by the Bloomsday Road Runners running club. Given that this was a running convention, there were large groups.

RRCA morning run

The first morning, we ran through a local park, across several bridges, and up some hills with great views.

RRCA bridges

Other morning runs featured Spokane sights, including Gonzaga University.

RRCA run Gonzaga

I learned a lot in education sessions related to club leadership and organization. I met leaders from other clubs who were more advanced in their process than I am as a club president and got to learn how they had made their clubs a success. The convention was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about my role as a club leader. I also took in a session of continuing education for running coaches to learn more about developing training programs. I enjoyed the educational sessions.

The highlight of the conference was the Bloomsday Road Race. The 37th running of the Lilac Bloomsday Road Race happened the Sunday after the convention and convention attendees had an opportunity to participate. This great 12k runs through the streets and parks of Spokane. The highlight of the run is the Doomsday Hill, an epic, mile long climb up the biggest hill in Spokane. It was such a worthy hill that there was a buzzard at the top waiting for those of us who were struggling.

Doomsday race

I chose a leisurely running strategy and interacted with the amazing spectators along the route. I accepted all the food offered to me, including donuts…

Bloomsday donut

Otter pops…

Bloomsday otter pop

And many other tasty treats. The spectator support was wonderful and the whole city seemed to come out to support the Bloomsday runners. I loved the course and enjoyed the opportunity to see Spokane. At the end, I got my official finisher shirt and hustled off to the airport.

Bloomsday finisher

Overall, I enjoyed the RRCA Annual Convention and the Bloomsday Road Race. Next year the events kick off April 22-26 in Des Moines and feature the Drake Relays and Hy-Vee Road Races.

How To: Travel to a Race

I love travel and I enjoy traveling to destination races. If you’re been following along, you’ll see that I run practically everywhere I go and I’ve been all across the country for races. I get a lot of questions about how to travel to a race. Specifically, what runners can and should pack to ensure race-day success is a source of confusion. Here are a few of my best travel tips for runners.

What can I carry on? Tips for air travel.

Bring a small roller or a stick. You can carry on your Stick. You might get some questions from the TSA about the Stick and it’s purpose, but you can bring it in carry on luggage. The travel size Stick is perfect. It fits in standard roll aboard bags and can be placed along the supports in the back of the bag, or on the side of the bag for limited TSA scrutiny. The TSA might ask to see it (and one agent once asked to try it), but generally, it passes without a problem. Another option is a travel sized roller, such as a the Grid travel roller by Trigger Point. The travel Grid roller fits easily in a carry on bag, and is easy to pack around. This one generally results in more questions from the TSA, but putting it in a visible spot in my carry on has resulted in easy passes through security. I use my travel roller to roll out as soon as I get to my destination and again before and after each run. Rolling helps loosen muscles that have tightened from travel.

Gels count as liquids, gels, and aerosols. If you’re flying, they’re subject to the 3-1-1 rules. This means you’ll have to put your gels in your checked baggage, or in a quart size resealable baggie in your carry on. Remember to take it out when passing through security for separate inspection. Chews, and things that are the consistency of gummy bears or jelly beans (think Clif Blocks, Sport Beans) are not a liquid, gel, or aerosol and can be carried normally, as you would any other food. They do not need to be separately inspected.

Body Glide can be carried on separately like deodorant – it isn’t a liquid, gel, or aerosol, so feel free to bring the big stick.

You’re allowed to bring food for your personal consumption. Bring your snacks, race day bars, and any food you like. As long as it doesn’t look like your important protein bars, you’ll be fine through security.

If you’re planning to bring a hydration belt or handheld bottle, make inspection easy for the TSA to speed time at security. Be sure the bottles are empty and separate them from the belt if possible. Remove the caps from the bottles so that it’s clear the bottles are empty. I bag my bottles and caps in a resealable gallon size baggie so that can just grab one bag and toss it in a bin. It also ensures that I don’t lose a cap along the way.

After the race, the easiest way to transport your medal home is around your neck. Just take it off at the security checkpoint and put it in a bin. Think that’s uncool? Wrap your medal in a napkin or sock and place it somewhere accessible in your carry on. If you’ve traveled to a big race and practically everyone in the airport is a runner, you’ll be safe to leave the medal in the carry on. The TSA will be familiar with its size and shape. If you’re traveling from a smaller race, or aren’t sure, remove the medal from the bag and place it in a bin to be separately scanned by the medal detector. Don’t be surprised if the TSA officer asks to see the medal and offers you congratulations. If you’ve earned multiple medals, like during runDisney challenges (Dopey or Goofy), keep your medals separate. A big stack of metal is going to attract TSA attention. Separate the medals into separate wrappings and lay them out in a row in the bin for xray inspection.

General packing tips.

Wear your running shoes. That way, you ensure they make it to the destination with you. Not only are they the most important, they’re also the hardest to replace on short notice in an unfamiliar area.

Before your race, experiment with different combinations of gels, hydration drinks, and  foods. You’ll be in an unfamiliar area and may find yourself without your familiar foods, gels, and drinks. If you have more than one go-to solution for fueling, you’ll be much more likely to find what you need. Believe me, it’s very difficult to find a specific flavor or a particular brand of gel at a small race expo. Know what works for you, and what will do in a pinch.

Bring Immodium or other product for digestive upset. You never know when you might need it.

Bring ear plugs, an eye mask, and a sleeping pill. All hotels aren’t equally quiet or comfortable. Be ready.

Consider wearing compression calf sleeves or socks during travel. Not only will the compression provide relief for stiff legs, but it will lessen lower leg swelling and discomfort. Some also say that wearing compression socks or calf sleeves reduces the risk of blood clots during air travel.

Pack your race day outfit together. I use two gallon resealable baggies for this. I put everything I need for my race in one baggie, label it, and zip it up. Then, I pack a second, back up baggie that includes a second full race outfit and associated accessories. Finally, a pack a third baggie that includes incidentals I might need like a rain shell, or a warmer option. I never assume the weather forecast is right and bring extras. This technique ensures that you have everything you need handy when you need it – and that you don’t have to think about it early in the morning. It’s also especially good for multiple race events, Ragnars, and other overnight relays like Hood to Coast or Reach the Beach. Once you’re done with your race, just pop the sweaty clothes back in the baggie and zip it up. Perfect to avoid contaminating the rest of your luggage.

Be sure to pack something else to wear immediately after the race. While you may use the race’s gear check, not having to sort though all your luggage to find something is a wonderful thing.

Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water during your travel. Pack your own snacks so you don’t have to rely on fatty or salty travel snacks.

If you’re traveling internationally, plan ahead for how you will use your cell phone, charge your devices, and eat your meals.

Bring hand sanitizer, wet wipes, and extra paper towels. Sanitize your hands before eating and use wet wipes to clean your travel area.

If possible, travel to the race location before the actual race. Take the route you will take before the race. Estimate and record how long it takes to get there, get organized, and get ready. Look around. Find landmarks, parking, and other important necessities.

Bring small accessories you wouldn’t mind throwing away in case it’s cooler than anticipated. I buy magic gloves (the stretchy cotton kind) in bulk and toss them once I warm up. I also like to use socks as throw away arm warmers. Get some knee high socks and cut the toes off. Instant arm warmers. Finally, a black trash bag makes a great cape/blanket/seat cover in bad weather. I always have one with me.

Finally, remember that luggage gets lost. Make sure your race day essentials are snug in the overhead bin, or in a bag near you.

Looking for a list of things to bring for a relay, race, or other endurance event? Check out my packing list.

Happy travels!