Tips for a Rockin’ Race-cation

Sure, Rock ‘n’ Roll races give you sweet sights along the courses, but the event locations are ideal destinations for a full-fledged vacation too. Music lover? Nashville, of course. Globe trotter? Dublin, Ireland or Merida, Mexico. History buff? Check out Washington, DC. Kids? St Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle ends at the family-friendly Space Needle.

Last fall, I race-cationed myself at Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas, and below are a few things I learned about how to get some R and R with my Rock ‘n’ Roll medal.

Before You Go

A little planning and research will save time, reduce stress, and prevent surprises, especially if you are arriving with a support crew of family and friends.

Discuss with your travel companions what you need to do and not do before race day. While a vacation should be fun, too much physical activity on the days leading up to the race can sabotage months of training. Don’t be the runner who walks a half marathon sight-seeing the day before the race, making you so fatigued that you can’t run your best when it really counts.

“It’s important to taper or at least go easy before your race,” says Mia Erickson Stevens, a USA Track & Field certified coach and director for Gulf Coast Multi-Sport in Slidell, Louisiana. “Remember, less is better right before a race!”

Stevens should know –16 Gulf Coast Multi-Sport athletes competed in this year’s Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans marathon, half-marathon, 10K and 5k races.

Gulf Coast Multi-Sport coach and director Mia Erickson Stevens, third from the left, is surrounded by athletes after completing Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans.

If traveling with eager kids, see if the Rock ‘n’ Roll weekend you’re traveling to offers a KiDS ROCK, a one-mile fun run for children in kindergarten to 7th grade, held before the longer events. It is a terrific way for a child to feel part of their parent’s big race and develop an early interest in running.

Plan how you will get from the airport or train station to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Health & Fitness Expo (and know the hours) and then to your hotel or rental accommodation. Find out what equipment is available at the fitness center or if there is access to local gyms.

Locate a nearby grocery store to stock up on bottled water and nutritious foods, particularly for race day morning. When I travel, I always Google the distance to the nearest cafe for a legit Americano. Also, find a few restaurants near your lodging so that you are not stuck with fast food when you arrive.

And you may need two packing lists: one for the race, the other for the vacation. You do not want to unpack and find board shorts but not your favorite visor. Since Vegas is a night run in November, I added a thin windbreaker alongside my lucky casino shirt. (Rock ‘n’ Roll compiles extensive travel tips and packing lists on its website.)

Friday: Arrive

Whether by car, plane or train, traveling can leave your mind stressed and body stiff. Stevens recommends loosening up as soon as possible with dynamic stretching and short runs. Also, travel with a water bottle to stay hydrated.

Once you arrive at the race destination, your first stop should be the Rock ‘n’ Roll Health & Fitness Expo. Here, you will take care of race business – formally checking in, getting your race bib, solving any registration issues and receiving your official Rock ‘n’ Roll race bag and swag. You will also learn about any adjustments to the schedule or course.

The Expo is where you can soak up the race excitement while exploring different booths showcasing the latest running technology, gear and nutrition and filling your swag bag with samples and purchases. As an incentive to register for another race, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Expo included a large display exhibiting all of the medals from past races and series.

Saturday: 1 Day to Race

“On the day before the race, it’s important to stay hydrated, stay rested, and eat foods that you know agree with you,” says Stevens. “I know it’s fun to try different kinds of foods and drinks on a race-cation but save it for after the race.”

In places like New Orleans there are many temptations, so plan how you will handle them. “I talked to several athletes at the end of the race,” says Stevens, “and their races were sabotaged by drinking their way through the French Quarter. They were not looking very good on the morning of the race.”

Instead, know the locations of water and nutrition stations, review the Rock ‘n’ Roll course map one more time, pick spots where your family and friends can cheer you and determine a place to meet after the race. And be sure you know where to park and enter the race. Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans, for example, starts and finishes in different locations.

Organize your race-day gear, remembering to pack clothes for after the race in your drop-off bag. Do this early in the day so that if anything is missing, there is time to go to the Expo. Also, confirm breakfast plans for race day.

Now’s the time to choose a restaurant for post-run celebration so that you can properly thank your support crew. Be sure to check the Rock ‘n” Roll race website for special meal discounts at local and hotel restaurants.

Sunday: Race!

Rested and ready, you’ve got this! As we recommend in 7 Race Day Tips, nothing new on race day.

When I crossed the finish line in Las Vegas at night, I was so happy and tired that post-race was a blur: Get photo with medal! Bananas! Stretch! Ow. Do I smell? Pick up bag! Dry clothes are the best! Shower! Just a little nap! Dinner! Wine! Turn off the light!

Monday: Recover

Proper recovery after the race repairs your body and relaxes your mind so that you are ready for the next round of training. For the runners of Gulf Coast Multi-Sport, that means cross-training. “We recover the following week by swimming, water walking and cycling. It’s important to get your legs moving without pounding the pavement,” Stevens says. The morning after Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas, I woke up with anxious legs and headed to the hotel fitness center for stretching and a quick treadmill run.

And perhaps there is no better recovery than a vacation with family and friends after a satisfying run.

“Enjoy the sights and sounds of visiting new locations and take in the culture every new region,” says Stevens. “And remember to have fun!”