Racing Away

In the past few weeks, both of us have traveled out of town for races, so of course we’re now full of advice for anyone who likes “racing away”.

Traveling adds an element of excitement to any runner’s race calendar – whether you are flying to a big-city race across the country like the New York Marathon, or driving within California for a 200-person trail race. The possibilities are limitless once you broaden your horizons beyond our local community.

However, race travel requires some logistical expertise - and if you’re not careful, too many mistakes can make your trip a frustrating experience, or cause you to have a disappointing race. So here are our tips for racing away:

Save your sightseeing for afterwards. We know, it’s tempting to check out all the tourist spots or to visit three different friends when you have some free time in your destination city – especially someplace like New York or Washington DC. But the best thing you can do beforehand is to sit in your hotel room and rest your legs. Bring a few books, watch some TV, and save your energy for race day.

For long-distance travel, the best time to arrive is two days prior to the race. Go to the race expo the day before and then veg out for the rest of the day. Schedule your trip to include free time after the race, and use those days to take in the sights or indulge at all the fine restaurants in town. The bonus for doing it this way is that the walking is good for your recovery, and after finishing your marathon, you can pretty much eat whatever the heck you want.

Adjust to time changes gradually. If you’re traveling to the Eastern or Central time zones, you can start correcting for jet lag and time changes a few days before you leave. Spend a few days waking up earlier and earlier at home until you are almost in sync with your destination time zone. We know, it sounds crazy, but this actually works.

Learn the course. Most major races have websites with course descriptions such as maps and elevation profiles. Familiarize yourself to prevent surprises late in the race. This also helps you decide whether to save more energy early in the race, or how hard to press the hills when they appear.

Bring your secret weapons. Even though you may be heading to a big city, don’t assume you’ll be able to find your regular pre-race meals. Pack any special food such as snack bars, energy gels, or your preferred coffee blend that you want to have with you. This saves you the anxiety of running from store to store to find something before the race.

Check the weather. Yes, this one seems obvious, but runners sometimes overlook it in their pre-travel frenzy. Go online to check the forecast at your destination, and pack for the most probable scenarios. Sometimes you’ll be surprised – as anyone who ran the normally-cool Chicago or Twin Cities Marathons in humid 90-degree weather a couple of weeks ago can tell you.

Traveling to races is costly. If you pack properly, you’ll spare yourself the additional (and embarrassing) expense of having to buy new gear at the race because you weren’t prepared.

Check your accommodations. Figure out where your hotel room is in relation to the race. For some races, the start and finish areas are in the same location, but other courses are point-to-point. Would you rather have convenience before or after the race? Close to the start line, you may be able to sleep a little later on race morning, but close to the finish you’ll be able to crawl into bed more quickly afterward.

You may also have to take buses either to the starting line, or from the finish area. If you picked an economical hotel somewhere out in the boonies, you might end up triangulating for a few hours before getting a chance to rest.

It’s usually worth a few extra bucks to stay someplace that’s convenient to the race expo, or within walking distance of the start or finish area. Most big races have a headquarters hotel that meets these criteria – but they tend to sell out early, so plan ahead. You can also call the race hotel and ask them for nearby alternatives if they are sold out.

Sometimes at big-city races, there are a lot of cancellations before marathon day from runners who couldn’t make the trip. With a little negotiation, you might be able to upgrade your hotel location at the last minute.

Beware of your friends. Many runners opt to stay with friends in the host city. Just be careful if they want you to stay up late catching up on old times and drinking margaritas - especially if you’re counting on them to drive you 30 miles to the start at 5:00 AM the next morning. In some cases, it’s better to be anonymous in a hotel room somewhere. Remember, there’s plenty of time for socializing after the race.

Wherever you may be journeying for your goal race this fall or next season, we hope our advice helps you have a P.R. day.

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Running Annoyances

Sometimes, in a busy sports newsroom, professional journalists may dismiss minor stories in favor of reporting more mainstream topics. However, for amateur hacks like the two of us, no subject is too trivial for our column space.

That’s why we noticed a recent story about “spin class rage,” and considered the potential for something similar to happen within our local running community. But first, some background:

Last month, a Wall Street stockbroker was charged with assault after he became enraged during a cycling class at a posh Manhattan health club. During his high-intensity spin class, he apparently became so fed up by a fellow club member’s grunting and moaning, that he picked the offender off his bike and slammed him into a wall.

The attorney for the grunter called the attack "spin rage," and filed a criminal complaint, charging that the attack caused a back injury to his client. He maintains that the grunter was merely enjoying the "euphoric experience" of cycling, and making noises to increase his endorphin high.

Now, this isn’t one of our urban legends. Do you think we could make a story like that up? However, it got us to thinking about what kinds of runners might send us over the edge someday during the midst of a routine Saturday 12-miler through Pebble Beach.

In other words … is there a possibility of hearing about a “run rage” attack someday? And if so, what kind of runner would trigger such a reaction?

Honestly, it wouldn’t be a situation like the case in New York. Grunting is somewhat commonplace among a group of hard-working runners – especially during a difficult track workout. And if we were intolerant of moaning, we’d have clobbered our friend Marc Lieberman many years ago.

But we can certainly think of plenty of runner behaviors that are annoying – so many, in fact, that we’ve assembled a list below.

However, before getting to the list, we need to emphasize that we would NEVER condone a “run rage” reaction to anybody - even against cyclists (yes, we’ve learned our lesson). So let’s just call this an “annoyance” list, and hopefully if you recognize yourself in any of these descriptions, be on notice that you may be bugging the heck out of your training partners.

Here’s our list, in no particular order, of the most likely targets of “run annoyance”:
· The guy who shows up just as the group is leaving, then asks everyone to wait while he puts his shoes on
· The guy who says it’s going to be an “easy day”, then takes off at 6-minute mile pace.
· The guy who launches a lugie or snot rocket without looking, and nails your ankle while you’re beside him.
· The guy who keeps saying how terrible his training is going, even though he’s running more mileage or more days per week than you.
· The girl wearing an iPod who doesn’t hear you say, “On your left!” as you’re passing, then drifts over and collides with you, and gets upset that you startled her.
· The guy who tells the same story or joke he’s already told several times on previous runs.
· The guy who has to wait up for you at the top of a big climb, then tells you how his injuries are really bothering him today.
· The stats freak who knows the on-base and slugging percentages of every player on the Giants and A’s, and wants to make sure you know them too by the end of the run.
· The guy wearing the GPS who announces every tenth of a mile.
· The guy not wearing a GPS who keeps asking “How far have we gone now?”
· The guy who keeps telling you how fast he was 10 years ago, or how the training group where he used to live had all kinds of great runners.
· The guy who pulls off to the side for a “pit stop”, but does his business in plain sight because he’s too lazy to move completely off the road or trail.
· The walkers in lanes 1 and 2 of the track while a group of runners are trying to run interval workouts.
· The guy who speeds up when he hears another runner behind him, to avoid being passed – especially when he learns the other runner is a girl.
· The middle-aged guy in a race who puts on a furious sprint to outlean some little kid at the tape so he can finish in 642nd place instead of 643rd.
· The girl who goes on and on about all the problems associated with her “cycle” while running with a group of guys.
· The guy who speeds up to run in front of you, then breaks wind a few seconds later.
· The guy who blows his nose into his palm while running, then goes around shaking everyone’s hand after the run.
· The guy who never carries fluids, but always asks for a drink from your bottle during long runs.
· The sweaty, smelly guy who tries to chat up every cute girl running on the Monterey Rec Trail.

Do any of these items sound like anyone you know? More importantly, do they sound like YOU? If so, let this be a word of caution for you: other runners notice these things. And they don’t like them. So for all of our sakes, please try to refrain from anything on the list above.

After all, the euphoric experience of running isn’t justification to irritate the crap out of people.

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