Out of the 5 Ironman events I have attended/raced/booked in… 4 have/will be abroad, so it’s safe to say that I am keen to travel for races! It can be a tad more stressful and a lot more expensive, but I’m keen to travel the world and a race is a great excuse and makes the memories even more magical! This is a bit of a more practical post, and some of the not-so-great things you have to think about if you want to jet-set to your next race.
Getting your bike there
Everyone hates the packing and airport part, right!? So, as you can imagine, packing up a bike, fitting it in the car, getting it to and from the airport is all a bit of an effort. If it’s a long-haul flight, some airlines just include it with your normal luggage allowance. Most of the time for European flights and the more budget airlines, it’s an expensive extra… so that’s something to think about.
Once you have got over the cost of this, you have to think about getting your bike there safely. There are soft and hard boxes, boxes that you can keep your bike in one piece, bags that require dismantling the whole thing and wrapping each part in bubble-wrap – all of which is expensive/hard-work/a hassle.
**The time we went to IM Austria with a soft box and dismantled bike, we managed to crack the crank post when tightening it back on! This then required us to drive around the area until we found a bike shop, praying they had one to fit! VERY STRESSFUL!
There’s also the option of a bike courier service, also very pricey. Despite the cost, I think these services are fantastic. The little experience I have had (which is watching my boyfriend use it), they collected the bike from his house, delivered it to race transition (in on piece), and delivered it right back to his front door in the UK.
Finding accommodation and travel logistics
Finding an Ironman friendly hotel or Air B&B is really, really helpful and can mean saving your legs lots of un-necessary miles, and a dodgy hotel room DIY breakfast! I would always recommend booking something ASAP – the good ones sell out straight away. Ask around and find out from people who have raced, map how far it is from the swim-start (walkable is ideal), and if they do a hotel breakfast at 4am for you!
Do some research on the travel logistics of the area… it’s worth knowing if there’s a good transport system and how to work it to get to the best viewing spots (spectators).
Most people would agree that nothing helps you in those dark hours like seeing your family and friends cheering you on (even if I didn’t show it at Zurich!). Unfortunately, most people’s idea of a holiday isn’t going to watch you swim, bike and run for 9+ hours, so a bigger support team could be a sacrifice of an abroad race.
You don’t want to wind up on race-week eating a load of strange foreign cuisine that your tummy isn’t used to, so do some research and menu searching, and think about booking something in advance for the night before the race. Tummy issues is no joke, don’t tempt fate!
Racing abroad might be much more glamorous with more enjoyable scenery to distract you… but it also probably means racing in a different climate. It’s very hard to replicate to practice (a training holiday is a great option if possible), so take the extra care to think about hydration/clothing – basically the parts that are within your control!
Races are expensive no matter what! Add a flight, a week + of hotels, exchange rates and bike shipping… it can get pretty ridiculous. This is just something to be aware of if you’re tempted to book something abroad, have a good understanding of what the whole thing is going to cost before you pay entry!