I’ve Never had to Fly to a Race Before…

I *kinda* apologize that this is long, but I promise you’ll laugh at least once, so read on.

And if I had the time to just road trip across the country to other events, I’d never fly to race domestically again. This being my first race I was flying to, I expected some bumps, even some Everest-like hills to be climbed. I didn’t expect it to become the cluster it became though. Before I post my Rev3 Quassy race report(BEAUTIFUL race btw), let me explain my travel so you k ow where my head was going into race day.
My mom is staying at my grandfather’s house in Sea Island with my little brothers through June. I’ll be spending a lot of June down there too, but since I’m on the quarter system for school, I still have this week to finish before I can head down there. I had already packed, one bag with non race essential stuff, and one with my kit, shoes, ect, so after class Thursday, I headed to my parents house to ride down with my dad. (I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I believe everything happens for a reason, and that if something seems off, but you feel like you should do it anyway, just go with it. That’s why I had a race bag and a non-race bag; remember that) That was an effortless 5 hour trip, and at around 6pm we all met and headed to dinner. After dinner my mom and I bought tickets to the midnight showing of the new X-Men movie, because it’s a ritual prerace. Decent movie, late bed time (I’ll keep the time to myself because I’m sure my coach is already shaking his head that I went out that late that close to my A race), and up at 7am(really late for me) that next morning. Quick swim bike run session where I felt phenomenal, and off to the Jacksonville airport to fly into DC, then from DC to CT north of Hartford where we would then drive to the race site at Quassy. Here’s where the fun begins.

See that little tiny bottle that’s maybe a quarter filled with that white gel-like liquid… Well that bottle is First Endurance Liquid Shot, and is 5oz; not the allowed 3oz for carry-ons. Because of that, and knowing that I’d get picked for the special line and have to test all of my First Endurance powders(EFS, Ultragen, PRERACE), I decided to just check my bag. SHOULDN’T have been a big deal, but alarms should have started going off when doing the curbside check in. After dealing with a Delta guy who really didn’t enjoy his job, my bag we technically checked in, but after walking inside, and seeing my bag still sitting on the sidewalk, I knew something was off. I went back outside, and just kind of stared at the guy until he noticed that I was giving him that, “Are we forgetting something?” look, and he threw my bag down the chute. As if that did seem off enough to set off alarms in my head, the TSA check point would be.
With plenty of time to get to our gate, mom and I didn’t really mind standing in line to go through the check point. Buy after a couple of minutes, a TSA officer asked if we wanted to go through the fast line, meaning we didn’t have any questionable things like gels or bottles in our bags. We agreed, and of course I was told, with an alarm, to step into a little glass hallway after passing cleanly through the metal detector. Easy enough, I had my palms swabs for what I guess would be bomb making stuff residue? And obviously cleared to move on. I had my LAZER Tardis aero helmet clipped to my carry on, and the TSA officer asked if it was some kind of Darth Vader helmet…first off, the helmet is white. Ever seen Darth Vader?! He’s in all black… And it’s not even shaped like his helmet. Come on now. Anyway; after that, we made our way to the gate, and soon boarded our plane that was just barely bigger than a bread box. The real fun starts here!!! I’m so excited!!!
…I’m not excited. I loathe Delta. I’ve never been on time, and their stewards are always in a crappy mood. I mean I would be too crammed into a plane all day everyday, but that’s by your own choice; don’t take it out on me. To further my distaste for the airline, on Friday we took off, and 15minutes into the flight a message gets relayed over the PA system. “Folks we’re going to be landing in a few minutes back in Jacksonville. We’re STILL having some difficulties that need to be looked at. It’s not a big deal, but there will be fire trucks and emergency vehicles on the tarmac waiting for us, so don’t be alarmed.” Let me do some easy math for you. The plane floes at ~560mph; we’ve been in the air for a quarter of an hour. That means we are ~140mile away from the airport, and some 5-7000 feet in the air. You see this thing where my chest moves up and down, and the throbbing in this vein? That’s called living, and I really enjoy doing it. So let’s not screw up and get my ass back on the ground. Am I out of line saying that if there’s something wrong with a plane, and it takes 15 minutes into a flight to realize it’s a big enough deal that a u turn and landing are needed, that we probably shouldn’t have taken off to begin with? Right… So we land, get off the plane, and are assured that Delta knows what’s going on, and will get us and our baggage to our final destinations. Yeah; uh huh… 30minutes on the phone, and we walk across the terminal to board a plane to ATL, where I just rode down from, and then to CT. We’re already an hour behind schedule. I have to get my packet and check in my bike by 8. Not looking good.
Our tickets for our connecting flight from ATL to CT don’t say what gate we’re leaving from, so as soon as we get off the plane, we have to rush to the departure screen to find our flight info. We’re flying out of terminal A; we landed and docked in terminal T. If you’ve never been to Hartsfield (the ATL airport), it’s freakin huge. If it’s not the biggest and busiest airport in the country, and I’m pretty sure it is, it’s in the top 3. Terminal T and A are on opposite ends of Hartsfield; there’s less than 30minutes to take off. Even if I had been alone and had used my tri training, I’d still be pushing it to make it to the gate because the airport is so busy. This is when my mom talks me into being lazy and riding the train. That’s right; the airport is big enough that we have a train that travels the length of the building. Even riding the train, we only just made it to the gate; they were already boarding when we finally arrived. At least we’re on time for take off!
Of course that doesn’t mean that we won’t sit at the gate waiting on catering to restock…or on the runway for an hour waiting for take off. After a few outbursts, that were kept at a low volume because I’m on a plane, and really don’t want to meet the air marshal, I finally just gave up. Not gave up the way you’re probably thinking, but gave up any stress about the day. That and some prayers saying, “If you want me to race, get me there. I don’t know why you’re doing this, but I know it’s your call. I just ask you show me why later.” Learning how to give up, and not stress over things, especially those you can’t control, are some of my favorite things I picked up after my wreck. It’s really hard to get me anything more than irritated now, and that definitely helped with today’s travel. So we’re finally in the air, and I sleep most of the 2+ hour flight. All that’s left now is to grab my checked bag, pick up our car, and speed to the race site. Should be simple enough.
ABSOLUTELY NOT! My bag didn’t make it. And we’ve killed another 30minutes dealing with Delta baggage services. “Records indicate that your bag is still in Jacksonville.” (not the statement I want to hear) “He has a race in 12 hours; he needs that bag.” I stood outside of the room and let Mom deal with the lady, because let’s be real; as calm as I would have been, I would have made the bag girl cry. “There’s another flight that will land in CT from Jacksonville just past midnight, and my bag can be at the hotel around 3am IF IT MAKES THE FLIGHT…” That’s the last thing I hear from outside the room. I laugh, and turn around to stare at the baggage girl; she should  really be thanking God I don’t have psychic powers or laser vision. Baggage claim set up, Mom and I hop the shuttle to ride to the rental car office. Almost there. Almost out of time.

Notice the time at the top of the picture. Now notice the travel time. And now let me explain that this is when we first get to the rental car office, and Steve has an average speed of molasses in January in Alaska on a flat surface… After that nonsense, we get our *AHEM* very manly Hyundai Tuscon. (in all honesty; after driving it around all weekend, it’s a cool little car) We drive out of the parking lot, and we realize we’re in the red on RPMs and going maybe 20mph… Did we get a manual car? There’s no clutch, but there are these little plus and minus symbols on the shifter. So I tap the shifter forward from the passenger seat, and the RPMs drop, and we speed up. BUT THERE’S NO CLUTCH!!! My only thought is that we’re not going to make it because our transmission is going to drop out on the drive down to Quassy. That just compounds the fact that I don’t have my nutrition, and that I’m going to miss check in.
This is not a knock to the ladies, but an observation. At this point I’m going to be late, I’m screwed as far as nutrition goes, and I’m going to miss my first A race. I’m still calm, and I’m playing out all the possible outcomes in my head in hopes I can figure it out. I know more than a handful of ladies who would have had a mental breakdown at this point. I really think it’s because of the different ways our brains are wired, guys’ brains are waffles, and women’s are spaghetti (guys focus on a few things and work on it until those are done, like pouring syrup into waffle craters. And women can go from A to B to elephants in scuba gear, like a bowl of spaghetti without any real structure). Then it hits me! TRAKKERS has a Google group! I can send out an SOS!! With the title “HELP HELP HELP”, I explain my day in like 200words, and that I need nutrition for race day, and that I’m going to be late. Almost immediately teammates responded, one of which (Laura M) is almost running the volunteer stuff. At least that’s how it seemed. She tells me that she has all the First Endurance stuff at her house not far from the race site, and that my packet will be waiting for me when I get there. My team is a bunch of freakin studs. Get to the race site, and sure enough, my packet is ready and waiting for me. And to dote even more on Laura, she went and grabbed my bike from the All3Sports truck that had so graciously brought my bike up(because our sponsors kick ass), and brought it to me while I grabbed my timing chip. 5 minutes to check in dead line. Holy sweet baby Jesus; I’m going to make it.
Everything is checked in and ready, and after a short drive to the hotel, we’re finally settled. I get out all my gear in prep for the morning, and realize my SPEEDFIL is in my checked bag. I have no other bottle cages, and it isn’t like a normal bottle can fit in the SPEEDFIL cage. According to Delta, my bag should be there when promised. Excuse me for being skeptical…but I’ve got to believe that it will be there when I wake up(it was). After (finally) finding somewhere to eat, I settled into bed at around 1030-11. Not the ideal day, but I’m almost stress free, and the race is just 8hours away.
Now that you know where my head was, you’ll understand how I was able to just let go and race that next day. Maybe not a true A race, but the swim was my fault, and I’m sure I was still stressed even though I didn’t feel it. I’ll have my full race report up in a couple days. If you’re curious; the flight back was super easy. Even after 3 people in wheelchairs, a cop, a newborn, a dog, a stretcher with a man strapped down who was accompanied by 2 EMTs and another cop and police dog got off the plane from the flight to CT before we boarded. That sounds like a fun time; right? I even ended up with all these fun tickets!! Not a big fan of this whole flying to races thing, but maybe next time I’ll at least be completely ready for this nonsense.

13 thoughts on “I’ve Never had to Fly to a Race Before…

  1. So glad it all worked out… I guess any travel you do for races here on out will seem easy peasy! Glad to help!!! Rock on man!

  2. I’m sure there was some scheduling issue that prevented you from catching an earlier – like, a DAY earlier – flight. I think that tightness was the catalyst for most of your issues. I fly to most of my races and, while I’ve had some bumps and omgwhatamIgonnadonow moments, the one thing you DIDN’T have to deal with was your bike. Imagine if your bike hadn’t made it!! I never get the fantastic benefit of my bike traveling safely to a race. It is always disassembled and packed as luggage. When the travel demons rear their ugly heads, here are the 2 things I tell myself – 1) There is ALWAYS another race. This isn’t a once in a lifetime opportunity. 2) If my gear doesn’t make it but my bike does, for a little (ok, a lot) of cash, I can buy everything else at the race expo or local tri shop. Is it worth the price? See first thought before deciding.

    Don’t give up on flying to races – you’ll miss out on a lot of fantastic race venues.

    1. I’m not giving up on flying, I’ll just make sure I’m there more than a day before. I was originally doing the half, so I would have been there a day and a half before, but by the time I switched distances, travel arrangements had already been made.

  3. Doing a race with teammates is great. Just this weekend, one of the ATCers forgot his nutrition, called another ATCer (who was also racing) the night before and when he showed up at transition the next morning he had a bottle already on the bike. Sorry to hear about the flight delays and issues with traveling. Looking forward to reading your report.

  4. I can’t breathe I’m laughing so hard. It’s a lot funnier reading our adventure than living it. So what do you think we are in for going to Portland? Hahaha

  5. Did not realize it was that bad. Too funny, after the fact. I laughed and I cried. Thanks to all the others who were there for you.

  6. I hate flying anytime these days… it’s horrible! Flying with a bike… even worse! I’m glad that it worked out for you, but nothing like a little added stress right before your race! 😦

  7. Man oh man. Your adventure was horrible. So glad you had the Trakkers team and wonderful mom to keep you mostly sane. Look at it this way. Your next A race with be an A+. Way to go from your #1 fan. Ready for race day report.

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