Race week planning begins several weeks to months before race week, including mapping out where you are planning to stay and meals, both while travelling as well as at the event. Remember, thousands of athletes race in large events, plus spouses, children, extended family, friends, etc. That is a lot of people who all want to stay where you want to stay and eat at the same restaurant you do the night before a race!
Booking your hotel, Air BnB, or other accommodations should be started immediately following signing up for the race. I have booked a hotel for a race that did not even have registration open yet but knew that I wanted to do. You can typically book a hotel 364 days before check-in and cancel (do not do the pre-paid rate) if plans change and something prevents you from doing the race. This will help ensure that you get the accommodations you want. Hotels, rental condos, and other accommodations sell out at races and you do not want to be stuck an hour from the race site on the morning of a race. Even if you are staying with friends or family an hour from the race site, you may want to stay close the night before the race. Having to drive, get parking, and hope that you do not hit traffic are headaches that you do not want on race morning.
The next thing to think about when booking your accommodations is where you want to book. For example, do you want to be close to the start, or close to the finish? If the start and finish are not close to each other, then I say this depends on the distance you are racing. For a full Ironman distance race or a full marathon, I recommend staying closer to the finish line. You’ve just done this long race and the last thing you will want to do is walk 2 miles back to the hotel. A 2-mile walk in the morning is a warm-up, but a 2-mile walk after the race is torture!
Before you make your travel plans, make sure to read the athlete guide and review the logistics of the race. Many large races have required in-person packet pickups days in advance, and you will want to be sure of these details before you make reservations. There’s nothing worse than discovering a required packet pick-up is happening the day BEFORE your flight arrives!
For your food planning, mapping things out ahead of time and getting reservations will ensure you get what you want, at the time you want, ahead of everyone else. This is the time to do some basic research on local restaurants and access to grocery stores. Remember that a lot of bigger races are in smaller towns that do not have many restaurants to choose from. In that case, consider doing some grocery shopping and making meals where you are staying. This is vitally important if racing internationally…what we call one thing may be something totally different in another country, and surprises are bad!
There are many things to think about in planning for race week: reading the athlete guide, is there a single transition area or two, when is check-in and bike drop-off, what is the parking or shuttle situation... worrying about the weather! Planning your accommodations, travel and food ahead of time will take some stress off your plate and make the other aspects of the race more enjoyable.