June 26, 2012

Planes, Trains, Automobiles and Lost Luggage

My experience this past weekend traveling to DC for a fun sprint race with my sister and her husband can be filed under "you can't make this shit up." Normally I go to DC by train or car, but this time I opted to fly because Delta tempted me with an unbelievably cheap ticket and medallion qualifying miles so I decided to fly and rent a bike. Sounds easy and stress free, no?

Easy and stress free are about the only things I didn't get this weekend. After my heinous experience Friday I never dreamed it could get worse, but then Monday rolled around and I seriously started wondering if I'd wronged someone and was victim of Karmic retribution. Here is how the travel hell unfolded.

  • 6am - Woke up early to finish packing and was feeling good. I hadn't done a tri since IMWI so I spent a little extra time getting the odds and ends together.
  • 12pm - Left nice and early to catch the AirTrain and save a few bucks. Was feeling so proud of myself for getting to the airport with zero stress.
  • 1:20pm - Sailed through security and settled in at the Delta Sky Club to enjoy free cheap wine and snacks. Life was good.
  • 2:15pm - Headed to the gate, boarding was just getting started.
  • 2:20pm - Boarding was abruptly halted due to a ground stop. A nasty thunderstorm had started. They said we'd board at 3:00 so I went back to the Sky Club. I wasn't even phased.
  • 2:45pm - The Sky Club started looking like a refugee camp. Flights were being canceled left and right and travelers were starting to get nasty. I had another wine and was still optimistic.
  • 3pm - I went back to the gate at the time boarding was supposed to start. Instead we got another 30 minute ground hold so I decided to wait and start a movie on my iPad.
  • 4pm - 3:30 came and went but just before 4:00 we boarded. I was tucked into my first class seat with another bad wine and continued my movie. Things were looking up.
  • 4:12pm - The boarding door closed and we pushed off. We had a 40 minute taxi and 48 minute flight. I'd still make it to happy hour.
  • 5pm - Another ground stop. We pulled out of the taxi line and parked. I continued my movie and had two packets of peanuts. Happy hour was looking out of reach.
  • 6:30pm - The pilot announced we might have to go back to the gate. There is a 3-hour rule and we were nearing that point so they had to let passengers get off if they wished. I secretly wanted to beat those wishing to get off the plane to a pulp. Couldn't we just stick it out and hope?
  • 7pm - We drove back to the gate, but of course at NYC's crappy airports there is never a gate so they sent out a bus. People started fleeing in the pouring rain. I finished my movie.
  • 7:15pm - The flight was finally canceled. I spent my afternoon on a plane going nowhere and now had no way to get to DC in time for the race. The best Delta could do was a 9pm flight Saturday night.
  • 7:45pm - I sprinted to the Sky Club for wifi and an outlet to charge my dead phone and desperately tried to get an Amtrak ticket along with 400 other stranded passengers. After three attempts I was booked on the 6:45am train Saturday for a price higher than my round trip flight. Ugh.
  • 8:15pm - I was informed they couldn't remove the bags from the plane because the airport was too busy. Everything I needed for the race was checked. I started to break down.
  • 8:30pm - After not eating since 11am and going through hell, I was on the AirTrain heading for the Long Island Railroad to go home and left my handbag on a train. I've been a New Yorker for 14 years and have never done something so utterly stupid. I officially broke down. But thankfully went into solution mode immediately and had security meet the train at the next station and had my bag back within 10 minutes. My spirit was crushed.
  • 10pm - I arrived home 10 hours after I left and a shell of my former self. I packed a very small back up bag with my second pair of cycling shoes, an extra tri suit, goggles and back up running shoes. I figured if the bag went MIA I could piece the race together with a shoestring and some luck.
  • 5am - Up and ready for the train. I tossed on clothes and headed out the door. I decided to rely on NYC transit to get me to Penn Station. This choice saved me tons of money but nearly cost me an ulcer. 
  • 6:30am - I boarded Amtrak and went to sleep. I didn't wake up until we rolled into Baltimore.
  • 9:30am - Called Delta and was informed my bags didn't fly out in the morning as promised but would arrive at 10:35pm. So convenient the night before a triathlon! I finally unleashed on Delta and demanded they fix it. I know the weather isn't their fault, but they had total control over when to send my bag. After being on hold forever, they informed me they made a mistake and my bag was already at DCA.
  • 10:15am - After 22 hours of hell I finally arrived in DC. Just when I didn't think I could be happier, we went to the airport and I immediately found my bags. Things were looking up.

After all the madness the weekend was really fun and the race was just perfect. I was poorly trained (I like to think I've been tapering since March), but just like Rock 'n' Roll San Diego, I felt great and had a good race. It was also my brother-in-law's first triathlon so sharing that experience was priceless. I'll post a full report on the race in the coming days.


Just when I thought the tough times were behind me another storm rolled in and ruined my Monday. My original flight was at 6am into JFK and I received an automated message Sunday night from Delta saying it was canceled. They immediately rebooked me on a 7:59am shuttle to LaGuardia instead. Good solution.

But then Monday morning the weather in NYC was atrocious and upon arriving at the gate at 7:20 we were informed there was a ground hold. Seriously!?!? I patiently went back to the Sky Club and drank four cappuccinos while waiting for updates. They delayed it up to 9:15 and stopped bothering to provide updates after that. Delta assured me all LaGuardia flights were being canceled and recommended I secure a spot on an afternoon flight so I rebooked, boarded the metro and headed back to my sister's house to work and have lunch.

I arrived back at the airport around 1:00 and parked myself in the Sky Club, I was a regular by then. The 2pm flight boarded a bit late and there was a brief ground stop on the tarmac, but we finally took off and landed around 3:30pm in New York. Home sweet home.

Of course my bags went to LaGuardia that morning and I had to sprint to catch the train, but I was so happy to be home. When the train arrived in Brooklyn there was a monsoon and I had no umbrella, but after what I'd been through I just dashed out in the rain, laughing as I ran down the street getting soaked and splashing through puddles. I took a short subway ride and was finally home after another 12 hours of travel. My bag arrived shortly after midnight and ended my Celebrating Heroes Sprint Triathlon saga.

The moral of the story? Drive. Traffic may suck but this experience was far worse. It made me realize how badly I wanted to race and at least I was able to pull it off. It definitely got me thinking about what's next so it was totally worth it.


  1. I sat on the JFK runway for hours on Monday morning but they didn't de-plane us, perhaps because it was an international flight. Luckily this trip is just business so I didn't have all my tri stuff. Beware of weather on Friday as that's when I'm supposed to land in NY.

    Good thing your race was good!

  2. TheReluctantTriathlete aka PhilJune 28, 2012 at 7:18 AM

    One the bright side, you did get another Wagshall's dog for lunch on Monday. It was great to run into you at the last swim buoy! Glad we were all able to do one together!

  3. Whoa. What a travel nightmare! I would have gone crazy at the airport / on the plane. LOL at the moral of the story. Glad you were safe throughout and that in the end you got all your stuff back, eventually.



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