As I hunkered down into my sloppy run today, a thought crossed my mind. With all the traveling Bryan and I did for races this past year, a handful of memories flicker across my mind. I hope these lessons learned in 2014 will serve as valuable reminders as we make our way through 2015:
1. Never take for granted the value of your race support. From near or afar, appreciate the Facebook notes of encouragement, or the phone calls and text messages that flood your inbox. I remember returning back to the hotel room after a race and feeling awash with gratitude when I read text messages from friends and family. On the same note, don't forget to reciprocate and offer the same support to your friends.
2. Thank your sherpa. It's not until you race and travel without him/her/them that you understand how valuable he/she/they are in your race day. Don't be afraid to specify your needs in advance of the race when his/her/their support is offered.
3. If you AND your travel companion are racing, understand each other's pre-race routines. Respect those of your companion, and make known your own requirements. Plan out how the weekend will look. Even if it's down to the hour.
4. On the same note, scope out the bathrooms. I don't mean this just at the race start or in the transition area, but upon arriving at your hotel. Who reading here understands how imperative that pre-race poop is to the quality of your race experience? If your luck is as bad as mine (your travel companion needs an ungodly amount of time to coax it out), you'll understand when I recount how, at one venue, I had to race to the hotel lobby restroom when "my turn" infringed upon "his turn." On another occasion--one in which I neglected to do my homework--I had to find reprieve using the room's garbage can. It was lined, mind you.
5. Pack what food you can. If you're driving to your destination, the task is easier. Pack snacks, pre made meals, and beverages. Crossing the border to Canada with a cooler-full of food proved easier than what we originally imagined, but it required I do my research first. On other occasions, utilizing the airlines made traveling with food a bit more of a challenge, if not impossible. When we flew to Mont Tremblant, our saving grace involved hitting the IGA before we drove into the smaller resort town. We found far more reasonable food prices there.
6. Perhaps you pack most of your meals, but Bryan and I always splurged either pre-race or post-race for dinner. Our "thing" is pizza. Thankfully, pizza and a beer seems to settle just as well pre-race as it tastes post-race.
7. If you're flying with a bike box, know the weight limitations and rules each airline has set for their use. Weight restrictions differ, size matters, and fees are always ridiculous. From this year's experiences, I'll never fly Delta again. If given the chance, fly Southwest. Despite their bike box fee going up recently to $75, it doesn't even compare to those established by other airlines. The weight restrictions are manageable, too.
8. Pack extras: socks, HR monitors, tubes, CO2 cartridges (unless you're flying), and race day nutrition.
9. Because I travel with an extreme coffee drinker, we no longer rely on the coffee makers provided by the hotel. Just pack your own. In Bryan's case, it has to be a particular kind of coffee, specific kind of sugar, and yada yada yada.
10. If prices seem comparable, even if you don't need that extra queen bed, use the room with two beds rather than the rooms with one king or queen. Even with that extra bed in the room, there seems to exist far more room for a cooler, two bike boxes, two bikes, luggage, and two stressed-out individuals.
11. When looking for accommodations, don't discount renting a home instead of reserving a hotel room. Especially in the resort towns we visited, renting a home (or in our case, a cute, cottage-style ski chalet) saved us a significant amount of money (like, $800). Before I look at hotels, I check out Vacasa Rentals and Homeaway.
12. Just rent the larger minivan. In Las Vegas last year, Bryan and I tried to save money by using a crossover SUV. Even when I was the only one racing, we still lacked enough room to travel comfortably. Oddly enough, we've been really impressed by the ride and space of the ever-trendy minivan. Just do it. You won't regret it.
13. Start saving a year (or more) in advance. After a full year of racing, I estimated my expenses topped about $4000 to race the way I did. It helps to travel with someone else (or multiple people) in an effort to share some of the expenses. It also helps to do your homework and see if lodging opportunities exist with friends or family you may know close to the race venue. Take inventory from this year and see how you can put money aside each month to make next year a little more feasible.
14. On that note, race local. You'll eliminate many of the costs associated with using the airlines, flying with your bike, renting a car, and lodging.
15. Use races as your excuse to travel. Bryan and I visited some pretty impressive places this year we likely never would have explored had it not been for the race that drew us there. For instance, we'll likely never visit Mont Tremblant again, but we feel blessed to have had the opportunity to do so. Signing up for Leadman meant Bryan and I got to visit Bend, Oregon for the first time. We're inspired to go back and explore surrounding areas.
16. Race for a team. I drew upon so many positive experiences by racing with Chris McDonald's Team Big Sexy Racing this year, in addition to enjoying the camaraderie of those in my local triathlon club, TriFusion. There seems to exist something inspiring about coming across others wearing your same race kit out on the course, and on more than one occasion, I felt accountable to my teammates to do my best to represent them well. This doesn't just include performance, but sportsmanship and appropriate race behavior as well.
17. Invest in a coach. I will never discount the benefits I've reaped from sharing my year with Derek Garcia of DG Multisports. Initially, I felt fairly confident that because of my strong work ethic and attention to detail, I didn't need to pay someone to tell me to do what I already knew I needed to do. Wrong. Derek outlines my weekly training schedule, makes adjustments as needed, and checks in regularly to ensure I'm feeling well and holding up under his challenging, but quality workouts. For the first year, I enjoyed training and racing injury-free. That's saying a lot when, since 2004, I've struggled with left knee pain that I've not successfully shaken off up until this year.
Seventeen lessons learned means I have a different approach to 2015. First, I'm using this next year to race local (relatively speaking) so I can save for an ultra distance triathlon in 2016. There will be no dipping into the "Emergency Fund" to pay for a spur-of-the-moment endeavor. Second, I hope to volunteer at some events in order to earn comp entries into others. I hope that I can benefit race directors in two important ways by not only supplying them with an entry fee, but also giving them time where it's needed. Finally, even with these efforts, it's no joke that this hobby is an expensive one. Despite these efforts to save money here and there, it's oftentimes not quite enough. Therefore, I'm going to reach out and look for sponsorship opportunities (partnerships, if you will) that will help me to reach my goals in 2015 and beyond.
Please contact me if you have any ideas!
Now, I have a trainer ride to enjoy with the Seahawks football game in the background...