This has been a learning process on my part. I am one of those people who generally decides to do everything as balls-to-the-wall as possible, which does not always make for Fun and Happy times when it comes to getting home after a race weekend feeling like you’ve been repeatedly hit by a car. Avoid making my mistakes.
(Welcome to the Race Car Survival Guide, a new series where we outline all the tips and tricks that will help you make it through a race weekend intact. Whether you’re heading to your first race and are totally lost or are a veteran just checking out how other race fans do it, this is for you.)
Take the Next Day Off
It’s exceptionally tempting to take as little time off work as possible to pull off your race weekend feats, but friends, this is not the way to go! I drove fourteen hours back home from the Rolex 24 immediately post-race to make it to class and it was genuinely one of the worst experiences of my life. I was exhausted, grumpy, hungover, and just generally sad—which ended up marring all the fun I had at the race itself.
Do yourself a favor and just take the damn day off. Take your time traveling home. Relax all day long. Re-watch the race. Soak in the weekend. Take care of all the items on this list. Give yourself a chance to feel like you’re actually kind of alive again before you jump back into the real world. It’s worth it for that alone, but also cuts you slack for a race rescheduled for rain or a plane delayed.
Rehydrate Frequently and Immediately
If you think you’ve probably drank enough water, you’re wrong. Find another bottle and drink some more!
Make sure you’re prepared with lots of water, Pedialyte, Gatorade, or even those little electrolyte packets you can dump into other drinks. You remember that day off I told you about above? You’re gonna need that day just so no one questions why you’re knocking back a gallon of water every two hours and running the equivalent of a marathon between your desk and the bathroom.
I generally come home sunburnt and bruised to hell. Depending on the amount of yelling I do and/or the level of drunk I get where I decide my pneumonia-prone ass should definitely smoke a cigarette, my throat will probably hurt, too. Once I get home, the last thing I really want to do is get up and go to the store for aloe or lemon tea.
Aloe, eyedrops, hot/cool pads, muscle soothers, anti-inflammatories, antibiotic cream, hot teas, cold medicine, Pedialyte, etc etc. If you’re one of those hippie-dippie types like myself, tea tree essential oils: Have that shit in the cupboard ready to go.
I used to come home from every single trip and say to myself, “I don’t feel like unpacking right now. I’ll do it tomorrow.” Then tomorrow would come, and I’d think about unpacking, and I’d just end up putting it off again. Next thing you know, a month has passed, and now the reason I’m not cracking open the suitcase is because of the foul stench I’m sure my sweaty clothes have acquired during their time in captivity.
Unpacking when I get home is honestly game changing in terms of making me feel physically and mentally ready to return to the real world.
(Sidenote: it really really helps if you clean house before you leave. It’s so much easier to motivate yourself to unpack if the only mess you have to clean up is what comes out of your luggage.)
Get Some Movement
When I get home, I love to do some real slow yoga. (Helpful video here!) No crazy poses, no pushing myself—I mostly just try to stretch out my back, hips, legs, and anything else that bothered me while I was at the track. You’re probably going to be a little sore no matter what, but it definitely helps to let your joints know that you’re home now, so you can stop being so damn tense.
Eat Healthy Food
The last time I was at Watkins Glen for the Six Hours of the Glen, the only thing I ate was hot dogs and potato chips. The human body cannot subsist solely on hot dogs and potato chips. My body rejected this after day three in a rather spectacular session of 3 AM projectile vomiting. Eat a real meal!
It helps to have healthy snacks at the track itself (do not listen to anyone who makes fun of you for eating carrots instead of greasy French fries), but if that plan fails, eat healthy as soon as you’re out of the track’s gates. Do your guts a favor and get a salad or some chicken noodle soup for the next few days.
Your body has earned it.
Got any good ideas Race Car Survival Guide? If you have any tips of your own or an idea you’d like to see on the site, let us know in the comments or email me at ewerth [at] jalopnik [dot] com!