What we do for the things we love to do… I would guess all of us have dealt with travel complications to some degree at some point in our lives. It’s the law of averages. So this story isn’t unique, just a version of travel woes and a switch in mindset I experienced late last week in an attempt to get home from Baltimore and to a race I was competing in near Orlando Saturday morning.
I will start this tale beginning last Thursday early morning as it begins the accumulation of sleep deprivation and a really bizarre launching point. I woke up at 1:00 AM sweating and my heart racing. This a result from a dream where I was being attacked by a shark. It had a grip on my lower leg and my brother, Brian, and I were trying to pull the jaw apart but we weren’t having any luck. As I saw blood filling the water I woke up. What the heck was that? I haven’t been open water swimming or watched anything with sharks on TV in quite some time…
Anyway, as I was a bit awake at this point I grabbed my phone and noticed a text from my friend, Bob, who noted he did not see my name on the participant list for the upcoming Saturday race, Cherrylake Farm Duathlon. With that news, I got up and grabbed my laptop. I checked a few things and he was right. Somehow when I thought I registered the previous weekend it didn’t finish the process. Luckily there were spots still available and I was in. With the adrenaline of the dream and the registration activity I couldn’t get back to sleep until sometime after 2:45 AM. I was then up at 4:45 to get ready for a run on the treadmill with another friend, Dan, who was in Baltimore for work as well. Was this his call to meet this early?!?! I wish I could blame him…
I thought I would make up for lost sleep on the Thursday evening flight back to Tampa so all was good. I almost always fly direct on my work trips between Tampa and Baltimore. I can’t even remember the last time I booked a connection but coming back this trip is was what I booked as I was in training all day Thursday. To get home Thursday night my only option was a connecting flight through Charlotte. I chose this option versus Friday morning as I had a couple presentations to deliver and could not find a flight to work around them. Even though the plan was to get back late Thursday night I had comfort knowing I would at least going to be in my bed and had Friday to recover a bit before heading to the race Friday evening.
Travel challenges begin…
My flight from Baltimore to Charlotte Thursday evening was delayed an hour but I was OK. I had a long layover in Charlotte so I would still make the connection… so I thought. I was coming to find out there were major weather issues in the entire eastern part of the U.S. and I was in the middle of it. When we landed in Charlotte we sat on the tarmac for sometime as the weather placed a hold on planes from moving in Charlotte. Our gate was occupied so we continued to wait.
While we were waiting I received notification my connecting flight to Tampa was canceled. I called my travel department who shared there were no further options for the evening and the earliest they could get me out was 9:00 AM Friday morning. We booked it and then spent some time finding a hotel in Charlotte as all the hotels around the airport were booked due to the travel issues. After a long wait for an Uber as they were in significant demand I got to my hotel room at 12:30 AM. I’m not a night person so at this point I was fried and edgy.
I had no energy to deal with my work schedule changes so I set my alarm for 4:45 AM to deal with that before heading to the airport. I had to move a couple appointments and gave one team a heads up that I would be giving a presentation from the Tampa Airport as soon as I landed. That’s if we didn’t get delayed… Thankfully I left early to get back to the airport assuming it would be a bit crazy with all the cancellations and it was. The security line was nuts but I got to my gate with plenty of time.
I now found myself in a pretty pissy mood. The lack of sleep from the previous two nights were definitely settling in. We received our announcement that boarding would begin shortly to only quickly be countered with a message stating our plane and flight attendants were there but the pilots were not. With all the delays and cancellations I’m sure many were over their limited hours of work. After a projected delay of 30 and then 45 minutes the flight was canceled.
I quickly called my travel department again and the next quickest option they found was an 11:15 AM flight to Tampa but it would connect through Houston. As I responded, “book it,” I was then told it disappeared. Someone had just taken the last seat. The next option was a 1:15 PM flight connecting and how ironic was this, through Baltimore to get me back in Tampa around 6:30 PM. I took that option and then confirmed with work I would make my presentation from somewhere in the Charlotte airport versus Tampa.
At this point I noticed my own internal negative attitude and it was influencing my entire morning. I hate feeling like that and I didn’t want to be around myself and I couldn’t get away. I was trapped with myself…
I then made a conscious decision about my attitude. If you know me I don’t get in pissy moods often and usually can roll with things and that’s what I decided to do. At this point it was laughable anyways. That made all the difference going forward. This was now an adventure to get me home.
So I went on a search for an area in the airport where I could get quiet for the presentation. Picture all tile floor, flooded with crowds of people in the same boat I was figuring out flight changes in addition to regular traffic. The airport had a buzz to it to say the least. I found an upstairs hallway that overlooked the food court area that was the quietest spot I could locate. As I was getting ready to sign on to the call I saw my flight from Charlotte to Baltimore was now delayed making the connection from Baltimore to Tampa in jeopardy if there were any additional delays. I thought I was in trouble and considered if I should just drive to Tampa…
After I delivered the presentation I checked the flight status and it had been canceled. It was getting close to noon and I called my travel department again. This time the lady who answered had talked to me Thursday evening. That was quite comical. The next flight option was Friday evening so I quickly said, “no,” and asked to secure a rental car. Every minute to get home at a decent hour now was critical so I grabbed a smoothie in the airport to have in the car, got my rental car, and headed out to Tampa sometime around 12:30 PM.
I was pretty tired getting started but I had relief that getting home was now in my control. That felt pretty good. Shortly after I got on the road and into South Carolina my brother, Brian, called and kept me company for a bit. Then my daughter, Morgan, called and did the same. As I passed Savannah I called a friend, Gail, who I thought was racing with our team there the next day but she quickly corrected me that it was the following weekend. That would tell you how tired I was. Later on another friend, Elia, called and followed again by Brian and Morgan checking on how I was doing. I’m such a lucky guy having friends and family checking on me as I was fighting fatigue later in the trip.
I made it back to the Tampa airport around 9:45 PM where I had to leave the rental car and pick up my car. I quickly made the transition and got home around 10:30 PM. I did a few things to get organized for morning but nothing that took full thought as I was wiped. I climbed into bed around 11:30 PM and set the alarm for 2:30 AM. When the alarm went off I snoozed once and got up. I packed my race gear and confirmed everything on my checklist. I got on the road just before 4:00 AM for the one hour and 40 minute drive to the race site. I was thinking how lucky I was to be able to make it back and race as it was certainly in jeopardy. I pulled up an inspiring podcast with 2018 Boston Marathon winner, Des Linden, that I had listened to a couple times before and it was just what I needed to get mentally prepared for the race.
I stopped for gas about half way there and when I climbed back in the car I had a warning message to watch out for potential ice on the roads. I looked at the temperature and it stated 37 degrees. I brought some cold weather gear but I didn’t expect 37 degrees. I would have been prepared for this but with all the travel complications it had been a couple days since I checked the morning forecast. It ended up not being that bad…and that comes from the person who thinks anything under 50 degrees is arctic type weather.
At this point I was feeling a bit rough but it felt like a typical race morning with a shortage of sleep and adrenaline starting to kick in. If this was a long race my body would have certainly been compromised with three days of sleep deprivation but this was a duathlon sprint consisting of a 5k run, 12 mile bike and a final 1.5 mile run…probably just over an hour of race time. The bigger impact for my body was I didn’t taper for the race. This race came off of a taper week leading into a run race last weekend so I had full volume in my legs and that would play a role in the race but I knew that going in and was part of the overall training and race plan.
I warmed up and was ready to race. Throughout warmup and at the start line I could tell this wasn’t a typical local race. There were elites all over as this race is basically in the backyard of the National Training Center hosting professionals, ex-professionals, Olympians and Olympic hopefuls.
As the horn went off we ventured up a quarter mile clay road and then went up and down beautiful farmland. It was an extremely difficult 5k run and the tired legs suffered. I finished the run near where I expected and being that it was a cross country run I wasn’t as specific with my pacing strategy as in a typical road course. As I went in and out of transition quickly I hoped my legs would respond once I got on the bike.
For the first three miles that just didn’t happen. My legs were turning but I didn’t feel like I had strength to build on. Then something switched in my legs and head. Going back to the run a gentleman passed me at about 2.25 miles of the 3.1 mile segment. He was then ahead of me about a hundred meters on the bike when I began to reel him in. Once I passed him he stuck with me however through about mile six. We then headed into a significant climb and I left him. Once I noticed he wasn’t with me it gave me a mental boost and then my legs were driving with more strength.
I continued to charge and picked off a few more cyclists coming back moving from 13th after the run to 9th. I was hoping I created enough of a gap between me and the gentleman who passed me on the first run that he would not be able to chase me down on the final run. As I transitioned back for the final run, 1.5 miles, I just thought to myself I was going to fight like heck to not drop that spot and if it happened because he out kicked me that was fine but I was all in. As I made it over the final incline heading into the downhill finish to the end I let gravity and my body do its thing and finished with a sprint to the finish line holding on to the 9th overall spot and 2nd in my Age Group.
I was really pleased with my mental effort and how I gave myself a chance after struggling physically early in the race. I gave myself that chance by fighting and then my body responded with what it had on this day. That’s all I can ask for in any race.
Afterwards I got to spend some time with good friend, Enrique, who shared with me all the incredible athletes in the race and introduced me to several. This is where appreciation hit me again. Enrique, who is just an amazing athlete and competitor could not race battling a rough ongoing knee injury, was out there cheering everyone he knew including me. Someone mentioned on Facebook later in the day he is Multi Sport’s greatest ambassador and I couldn’t agree more. He is the male version of Celia Dubey in spirit for the sport and life. He has been injured for some time now and works around his injury to participate in events he can and when he can’t he’s always at an event cheering participants. This is the community I am so proud to be a part of and I’m so thankful to be his friend.
With all the trivial challenges I faced traveling to get to compete in this race I just feel incredibly grateful I am healthy, have friends and family looking out for me, and being a part of something so spectacular.
Delays, Cancellations and Appreciation…awesome stuff.
– Add Health to Your Life