ROUND 1 : World Champs 70.3

This is Part One in a 2 part journal for our final race event of 2009 – Ironman World Championships 70.3
You can track me on Saturday, Nov 14th at www.ironman.com as my bib# is 859.
Please refer to the journal posted last week to get a preview to this journal. Thanks all!!
I started the week by getting dropped off by Gina for an early AM flight to Austin. I was heading to the Running Event Conference which is sponsored by the Independent Running Retailers Association. It’s a great conference held each November and loads of information from talks, lectures, and a great way to meet vendors (and get some cool gear).
Scott was already out there for a few days and it was welcoming to have no hastles with the airlines where I could get there with time to drop everything and go for a run at the nearby trails. Austin is way more biker/runner friendly than Charlotte and has a good handle on a transportation system. It also is growing based on the number of construction going on. The weather helps too as it was in the 70-80 range and humid.
The rest of the afternoon was all conferences. They do a great job taking care of you and scheduling things to the tee, but by the end of the 4+ hours I had great notes and insight, but looked forward only to the plush bed of the Hilton. Since I was only staying aother morning, I didn’t do much other than have some dinner, shower, and watch some ESPN. I nodded off quickly.
I got up early to get another longer run in and it was certainly what I needed. Getting updates from Gina back home, Hurricane IDA was now a storm moving through Charlotte and causing some serious rain. It was going to be a long day.
After three more hours of talks, I packed all the snacks and goodies I could into my tupperware and had to leave for the airport at 2pm. From there it was actually a no-hastle flight back to Charlotte, though into a rain which I have to give the pilot props at Continental for a smooth landing on a wet, windy slick runway. I also enjoyed my conversation with an octogenarian seated next to me who told me AFTER we landed that it was her first flight since having heart/lung surgery a few months ago. Give her cred though, she’s flyin’.

Gina was there all in full pre–travel nervous mode and was very cautious driving home. I tried ease the situation and joke a bit but it was late and we still had some last minute things to do. I switched bags and passed out about midnight.
G didn’t sleep much and was up by 3. I got up and 4 and we had the continuation of the rain that Gina left our loving stray/home cat Holmes in the house to stay. She skillfully eased the drive to the airport (someone in Charlotte please put lights on the highway streets leading to the port!) and found a spot in long term right by the bus gate.
Everything went smooth with check-in and we were set. By the time we boarded our AirTran flight at 6am we felt it was going to be another easy trip. Not so.
Once everyone was on the plane the pilot mentioned a “mechanical problem” and was awaiting a mechanic. Everyone on board remained there for 45 minutes before the dude even came! No one was offered water or a snack. Several people knew that their connecting flights would be missed so opted to leave. It wasn’t until 7:45, a full hour+ that they decided the problem could not be fixed and the plane was out of service.
Gina was starting to get riled, more so by what continued to transpire. They needed a part inn ATLANTA to be flown here to fix it. Then it would be 2 hours before we could re-board. What the $$(*?? No back up plane?? People wanted refunds annd were bailing out, others tried to get booked on another flight or carrier. Not happening. Then the confusion continued while AirTran tried to sort things out.
G and I simply took note and just waited it out. We walked around and had some snack – none provided by AirTran either. We people-watched and laughed things off. Someone tell me why at 10:30 in the morning that the lines for Asian Wok and BBQ Pit are longer than Cinnabon? And ladies, if you can’t walk in high heels, why bother?
Eventually we got booked on a flight at 11:30 that didn’t leave until 12. Gina and I both were preparing our complaint letter to AirTran when it was announced that we were all getting free round trip tickets for our wait. NICE!!!!!!!! Wonder what the fine print would read on that one, but we’ll take it.

We both also wondered why the airlines continue¬† to let people carry on their luggage? Hey, if you can’t left it over your head (and some have almost leveled others doing this) and it won’t fit in the bin – charge them!! Make it double too cause you delay the boarding and leaving times. Unreal! One free check-in bag, reduce the size of the carry-on folks!
We land in the ATL by 1:30 and our connection didn’t leave until
4. We walked some more, surfed, snack, and tried to relax. One more stop. No glitches and we were off to Tampa. We finally landed at 5:30 and Gina had arranged for a SuperShuttle to the hotel. It was misty rain, but warm and the sun was setting. We used this group several tBy 6 we were all set and on our way to the hotel. Mmmm, not yet.
So the driver does a U-turn in the lot and is trying to manage both a cell phone that is sending him text messages while he is looking at his GPS. We then proceed to go back to 3 different parking levels and pick up 4 more passengers!! He dropped them off first and extended what we thought would be a 20 minute ride into a 2 hr stop-go. The last guy got dropped off across the street from our hotel and we just got off and walked it. Gina dissed the tip and was in f-mode. Yeah!

After 15 hours from the time we left the house, we got to the Holiday Inn! Just like when we were in Japan, walking through those doors was a relief for us both. Connie took care of us and made sure we settled in. Our room was now a suite (granite counter, stainless steel kitchen apps, flat screen, balcony, the whole nine!) We got 2 comp drinks at the hotel restaurant, and 2 free coffees at the morning java joint). My bike was there thanks to the manager Stacey and summed up the reason why we always stay at an HInn.
Fittingly enough, we unpacked, strected, showered, and proceeded to the restaurant to dine and celebrate our 3rd anniversary! Yes, this day 11/11 at this race in this city, we got engaged. And sure enough our day was spent the way we’ve been able to strengthen our relationship and as a team – handling the travel, fiasco, and people in a roac/race trip. We won again and celebrated in a loving setting. Try us. Test us. Gotcha’ beat homey.
One last tas was to put the Black Widow together before a pass out on a spankin’ comfy bed. Gina beat me to that one (pick your type of pillow too at HInn!) Soon it will be time for some business.

We woke to the sounds of the ocean out the door and proceeded to start our vacation. I ran and did some biking to test things out while Gina did her walk. It was very, very windy and overcast. Cool in the 50′s and in some parts of my ride I had to hold on tight to avoid getting blown over. The area hasn’t changed much. Same shops, same layout, and quiet. Lots of other athletes were doing their deal and Gina loves to goat the serious ones and their attitudes.
We had a nice breakfast in the room with our staples and then walked to the check-in area. Got all settled, signed plenty of waivers, and thanked the volunteers who were doing all this outdoors. Tanita had the weigh-in and I registered 129 pounds and 5% body fat. Gina saw this too and promptly almost grounded me.
Today we will relax some more and I type this sitting on our balcony catching some rays that finally broke through the clouds. We might go for a dip later and figure out our game plan over dinner. Gotta also find our¬† way to Rita’s for the pre-race hydration on Friday. We will hit our favorite Thai place tonight for a quiet dinner and the Wilson’s from Texas are to be arriving today too, so it will be good to see them. But for now and this week, it’s OUR time.

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