Travel Like An Ironman Pro!

Professional Triathlete Nicole Valentine shares her survival tips to make travel to your next race go smoother than your flight!

Turning professional as a triathlete wasn’t the instant ticket to sponsors, success, glamor, or jetset travel to exotic locations that I hoped it would be. In fact, forget glamor and think gritty. It has meant a lot of sweat and sacrifice. From becoming your own agent to rethinking how you earn an income, monthly expenditures, your social calendar, and how you travel. Destination race travel is no longer a vacation, but a necessary part of the job. And to do my job well, I need to ensure the smoothest travel experience possible.

Here are my top tips for race travel: 

Plan in advance – Advance planning helps you select the cheapest flights and best itinerary. Try to get a nonstop flight or the minimum number of connections possible. This not only minimizes your chances of arriving without your luggage, but it is easier on the body. It’s important not only to plan ahead, but to handle the travel well.

Pack your nutrition – Yes, I am the girl on the flight who packed my own breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner in a massive lunchbox with a cold pack. Not only because I can no longer afford expensive airport food, but because the burger and fries from the airport grill really does not fall within my pre-race nutrition plan for optimal performance. (I know you are all secretly jealous of my burrito when having to choose between Sabarros or McDonalds in the airport!) Pack the food that you typically eat for optimum training and racing and that you know your body digests well. And then pack Pepto Bismol just in case. Montezuma’s revenge is a real thing.

Bring extra water bottles to fill up at the airport if you don’t want to purchase additional water and electrolyte drink mix as the body tends to get dehydrated from travel.  Nuun Sport and Nuun Immunity are two products I always travel with! You need to ensure you get plenty of fluids in. Coffee, soda and cocktails don’t count.

Take care of your body – stretch before getting on the flight, in the airport between flights, and make use of aisle time to loosen up legs when walking to the lavatory. Hip flexors, glutes and calves can tighten up from travel. The best way to minimize the impact is to get up and move as often as possible. Additionally, it can help to bring compression socks for the flight. Also try and get as much sleep as possible before and after the flight.

Prepare for sh*t to hit the fan – I have on a few occasions, arrived at the race destination ahead of my luggage. Make sure that you have packed and prepared for this. Carry travel size toiletries in your bag as well as swim gear and running gear. That way you can proceed as best as possible with your pre-race preparation in the event your bags arrive several days later. Also be sure you know your equipment, especially your bike, what needs to be done to reassemble it, and carry spare tubes, tires, hand pump, etc. It can be difficult, costly, and time consuming to locate bike mechanics at the race venue.

These tips have helped me weather some pretty bumpy travel experiences and still put in top notch race performances. I hope they help you as well!


Cliff’s Notes/Recap (for those with short attention spans or who need to get their swim/bike/run on):

As a professional athlete, our priority is to have our best race ever, to maximize our income potential, and advance our career. Thus, handling travel well is not only a necessity, but a critical part of our job.


Here are some key Tips for Travel: 

  • Plan in advance – air travel and accommodations
  • Pack your own nutrition
  • Know your equipment, bike, bring spare tubes, tires, hand pump, etc
  • Stretch, massage, roll
  • Stay hydrated – no that does not mean cocktails on the flight! Unless you are taking shots of Nuun
  • Get as much sleep as possible
  • Smile and be ready to roll with the punches. You are a pro at this!


Here’s What’s in my Carry-On: 

  • Pepto Bismol (don’t even think about going anywhere without this)
  • Spare water bottles to be filled up in the airport so that you have plenty of fluids to keep you hydrated
  • Nuun!
  • Packed breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks
  • Compression socks
  • Swim goggles and suit
  • Running shoes and clothes
  • Travel size toiletries
  • Neck pillow, eye mask and ear plugs

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