Tips for a Successful Race-cation

by Brandi Gilbert

If there are two things that I love, it is traveling and running races! Over the years I have done plenty of both and have made some of the best memories! In order to have a successful race-cation, it is important to go into it prepared.  

I have had plenty of "learning experiences" from my race travels. From packing to race prep to race day, there is a lot you can do to make the weekend go well. As out of towners prepare for travel to the 2018 DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon, here are a few tips to help get the most out of your race-cation.


Layout Your Gear "Flat Runner" Style Before Packing
The night before a race, I always lay out a flat runner – and I do the same before packing my race gear in the suitcase. Not only does this allow me to photograph what I am wearing so my friends and family will be able to find me on the course or after the race, it also allows me to double check my gear. After all of my race gear is laid out, I am able to quickly identify what I might be missing. 

Once I have everything together, I charge up any devices that need it and place everything in a pile together so I can quickly get ready on race morning. This helps reduce stress on race morning. The less stress on race day, the better!

BYOF (Bring Your Own Fuel)
I have been guilty of this one before, so please listen to my advice here - NO NEW FUEL ON RACE DAY! I have taken chews from another runner, which were something new to me. Less than a mile later, I was completely sick to my stomach. I suggest packing whatever gels or chews you prefer so you know you will have what you need. While the GNC Live Well Health & Fitness Expo has a great variety of products, you cannot guarantee your particular brand or flavors will be available.

Utilize Your Carry On
DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT put your race gear in your checked bag. Sure, you may have never had a bag get lost by the airline, but do you really want the first time that happens to be on race weekend? I didn't think so. If you are traveling for a longer period of time that will require a checked bag, I recommend checking the stuff that can easily be replaced like clothes for the vacation part of your trip and putting the critical items (shoes, fuel, clothes, etc.) in a carry-on bag. Don’t forget to put those gels in your 3-1-1 liquids bag!


Know Expo and Packet Pick-Up Info
It might sound silly, but please be sure to double check the dates and times of the Expo. Also find out see if the race allows you to have someone pick up your packet on your behalf (and what information is required to do so). Nothing would be worse than not getting your race bib because you didn't read the details.

Don't Be On Your Feet All Day
While it is important to move the day before your big race, you don't want to be on your feet all day. This really comes into play when you are traveling for a race and have a long list of things you want to see and do while you are in town. Try to take it easy and avoid activities that involve you standing for long periods of time. I suggest finding the few things that you want to check out and space out the standing. For example, if you are planning on visiting two museums and a place for lunch - put lunch in the middle so you can be off your feet a bit in the middle of the day. And be sure to not stay out too late!

Stick to Your Routine
When you travel, there is a lot of temptation to try a lot of new "crazy" food. I highly suggest holding off on anything new until after you cross that finish line. If you trained by eating pasta the night before your long runs, then stick to eating pasta the night before the race. If a really cool local place catches your eye with something that might not settle too well with your stomach, save that for your celebration meal.

Ask Locals or Fellow Runners for Recommendations
When checking out places to visit or eat, don't be afraid to ask locals about their favorite places or "must-see" locations in the city. Trust me, locals LOVE to brag about their city no matter where you travel. You can also find some great recommendations from fellow runners. While it is easy to check with your hotel staff for recommendations, I prefer asking runners or volunteers at the Expo. Runners tend to understand that you are there to run, don't want to be on your feet all day and likely need a carb-based meal.

Check Out the Course Map
I always love checking out the race course before I run. Not only does this give me an idea of where exactly the course is going to take me, I also get to see possible landmarks that I will run past. I see half-marathons and marathons as a nice little 13.1 or 26.2 tour of the city by foot. 

The courses are AMAZING!  As you make your way through some of the focal points of Pittsburgh and over many of the beautiful bridges throughout the city, you go past many landmarks including all three professional sports stadiums, so keep your eyes peeled for them! Be sure to check out the UPMC Health Plan Half Marathon course map and DICK'S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon course map for where you will be heading.

Race Day

Arrive Early
You will have enough going through your mind on race day, so don't add extra stress by showing up "late" to the race. Familiarize yourself with the parking options and check for road closures that might impact your commute to the race as well. Obviously, mass transit it is always a great option (if available) but sometimes driving and parking is the only option. 

I am a firm believer of arriving early. You never know what traffic or other things beyond your control you could encounter. It is better to arrive early and have time to relax a bit before heading to the start than to be stressed out over making it to the race in time.

Enjoy the Race
There is a lot of excitement as that starting gun goes off. Between pure adrenaline and even some butterflies in your belly, it is easy to get caught up in the moment and go out too fast. Sure, you want to make it to that finish line but don’t forget to enjoy the journey. The course support is absolutely amazing along the way, so soak up those cheers and high fives. The city of Pittsburgh loves the runners - embrace it!

Take Time to Celebrate
You just conquered 13.1 or 26.2 miles - CELEBRATE IT! When you cross the finish line, there are some amazing photo opportunities right after you receive your medal, along with the finish line festival at Point State Park, Capture a few pictures and selfies with your bling and shout your accomplishments all over social media. I mean, it isn't official until it is on Facebook, right?  

You worked hard to get to this moment, so enjoy it!  Hang out in the park for a bit with fellow runners. Share stories with complete strangers about your race. Go out for a celebratory lunch with family and friends.  Whatever you choose to do, just celebrate being awesome - you deserve it!

Runners from around the world have all worked so hard to get to this point. Each runner has made their own story getting to race day, and now it is time to take your victory lap and celebrate the months of training that lead up to race week. May the wind be to your back, your legs feel light and your smile be as big as possible when you cross that finish line!  

Brandi is one of our 2018 #10YearsRunning Official Bloggers. You can follow along as she trains for the UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon on her blog Funner Runner.

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