10 Tips for Surviving your Flight to an OCR Race
There really isn’t anything worse than pre-OCR race nerves. Except maybe pre-OCR race nerves that have to get on a plane. Because really. The small seats? The feeling of being trapped? The line for the bathroom? The question of will be food or just water en route? These characteristics often make air travel a frustrating and nerve-wracking experience. And, in a way, they make air travel the first obstacle you’ll need to overcome in your OCR journey.
So that you arrive no worse for wear, we’ve put together 10 important tips for surviving your air travel to an OCR race. These tips won’t help with the turbulence, but at least you’ll arrive with your hydration pack. (That is, as long as you don’t bring it through TSA filled with water.)
- Don’t delay. When booking your flights, arrive the day before the event. Airlines are notorious for delaying or canceling flights. There is nothing worse than watching your flight get pushed back, and pushed back, and pushed back—to the point where you’re sweating bullets because you are in danger of missing your race start time. If you arrive the day before the event, you’ll avoid this particular stress (though not necessarily the frustration that comes with delayed flights).
- Fly early. You may not be thinking about food when you book your flight, but you should be. Flights later in the day can infringe on local restaurant hours. If you live in a metropolitan area, but the race is on a farm, don’t expect to find a 24 hr supermarket or diner. Taking an earlier flight means you’ll most likely arrive when food is readily available. It also means that you increase your ability to get to bed at a reasonable hour. (Yes, we realize we just sounded like your mom here.) If there are two death blows to any OCR race, it’s improper nutrition and insufficient sleep. Aim for a flight that leaves before 10 am so you can arrive and get to bed early with a satisfied tummy.
- Keep calm, and carry on. That wetsuit you need for World’s Toughest Mudder? The hydration pack you’ll need at Spartan? Your lucky pair of underwear? DO NOT CHECK THESE ITEMS! If you absolutely cannot race without a particular item, put it in your carryon. While many race locations will have stores to replenish your lost socks, gels, shirts, your what have you—nothing is guaranteed. So do yourself a favor and be the guy or gal that has the bulging backpack and the expanded carry on. You may get dirty looks from the flight attendants, but those looks are better than the dirt that will accumulate in your buddy’s cast-off pumas.
- BYOB. Bring your Own Bottle, that is. (And save the beer for post-race celebrations!) Bringing an empty water bottle with you ensures that you won’t need to purchase overly expensive water at the airport Starbucks. It also means you can maintain your electrolyte hydration schedule. Flying is dehydrating, so you’ll want to consume as much water as you can tolerate before, during, and after the flight. (We warn you now: get used to the bathroom line.)
- Cancel the noise. Noise cancelling headphones are a must for air travel because instead of listening to the crying baby in row 16E, you can listen to the sweet sounds of [insert your favorite band here]. By listening to your favorite band (or audiobook or even the static noise), you’re more likely to arrive at your destination well-rested, relaxed, and even dare we say, in a good mood.
- Just ZZZZZ. Most likely, if you’re flying to an OCR race, you’ve also put in the training hours to prepare for that race. So, if you find yourself nodding off during your flight, let it happen. (And here is where the noise cancelling headphones really come into play.) The extra Z’s will do more for your race than you imagine (and who wants to pay for that inflight movie anyway?).
- Brown bag it. If your training plan includes a strict or regimented diet, bring your food with you. Changing your diet up the day before race and wreak havoc on your gut. Just be sure to seal your meal in a good, tightfitting disposable container. If you’re not fond of cold meals, most restaurants in the airport have microwaves that they are willing to let you use to warm up your food. (Just make sure to check with your airline carrier to double check any restrictions on transporting food to your race destination.)
- Still much ado about food. Have you gotten the idea that food is really important? If your flight arrives close to dinnertime and you’re not bringing your own food with you, do a google search of the local restaurants near your hotel. You’ll want to factor in the time for getting your bags, the rental car, and driving. This is a process that can take upwards of 2 hours. Therefore, you may need to find food closer to the airport (en route to your hotel), rather than waiting to get to the town closest to your hotel. You really, really don’t want to arrive at your hotel room at 10 PM, try to scarf down a meal, and get to sleep at 11pm for 6 AM race start time start time. We’ve done it so you don’t have to. Trust us on this.
- Plan ahead. Did you know that many of your favorite chain stores carry different items based on their local demographic? So that CVS you go to in your hometown can carry vastly different items than the one in your race destination. Never assume that you will be able to get specialty items when you land. If you race with special socks, Jell-O shots, or any other type of specialty items, be sure to pack them (ideally in your carryon). Not only will this save you time when you land, but you won’t have to spend the entire flight wondering if you’ll be able to get your race supplies. The last thing you want to do is to try new protein powder from local store the night before race.
- Travel with friends. They say misery likes company (and you’ll all be crawling through mud or hauling heavy buckets in 24 hrs anyway) so why not be cramped in an exit row with your race buddies? At least when you land you’ll have someone to laugh with about your experience. But if you are traveling by yourself, have no fear. You can still choose to stay positive about flying. OCR races are all about the mental mind games. And, we can’t think of a better way to challenge your mental grit than to spend some time flying with the airlines.