PART 1: GETTING THERE...
all this has to get in the case and weight less than 70 pounds
when you go as far as Brasil to do an Ironman, the race report is going to include a bit on how you got there.
i had a day to pack and be ready to leave by 5am the next morning for my 8am flight first to Miami. my final workout earlier that morning went south, REALLY SOUTH, to the point where i found myself and THE FUCKER at 3pm at Helen's Bike Shop begging Matt the mechanic to help me out. my extra tube had loosened and fallen INTO my cassette. although, i thought i'd cleaned it all out and started to ride again, turns out the rubber had ground all the way INTO the rear hub thereby jamming up the freewheel AND completely bending the derailleur. translation: i could ride fine, but if i coasted AT ALL, my chain would slip. at first Matt had a look of fear and dread on his face saying, "um, i don't know if i can fix this today.."
no no no no no no no. I'M LEAVING FOR IRONMAN IN LESS THAN 24 HOURS. IRONMAN BRAZIL!!!! the sorta good news what that at least this wasn't my race wheel, although i had intended to bring my regular wheel as a back up, but upon further inspection, Matt found the rubber in the hub, cleaned it all out spent another 20 minutes realigning my derailleur and checking all my gears. all that, AND he refused to charge me. MATT, YOU FRIGGIN' ROCK!!!
now back home, i knew i was behind in my schedule to pack. i'd accepted that if i was going to make it, i pretty much wasn't going to sleep before leaving for the airport. i still had to pack all the crap you see in the pic above and make sure it was under 70 pounds, so i weighed everything independently on my bathroom scale. i think i was close, who knows. then pack the suitcase which also had to be below 50 pounds. hmmm, 2 weeks of travel clothes AND all my race wear?? um, yeah, not so much. and just because i'm THAT paranoid, i carried all my race wear including my wetsuit and helmet with me in my carry-on. considering what was to come, i shoulda figured out how to get THE FUCKER in the seat next to me on the plane....
NNBL: "you doin' this bike thang too??"
me: "well it's a triathlon, but yeah, and she's telling me it's gonna be $200 but you just charged my friend $85??"
NNBL: "i know i know, he got a bike, you got a bike and y'all thank it's free, but gas ain't cheap fa nobody and they just changed the rules, but i'm gonna give y'all a deal" and she turns to the woman writing up my ticket "girrrrrrrl, we gonna have a lotta these bikes comin' through here all week, so let's just scoot 'em on out without any arguin'. 85 bucks, that's it."
then the computer jams up in the middle of printing out my ticket, and the lady tells me i'm running outta time for the luggage cutoff. i need to RUN with my suitcase to baggage screen area #2 and then SPRINT to screen area #3 for "oversized" stuff with THE FUCKER. a nice baggage handler guy comes to help me scoot along, and we get to dropping off the case. he yells out to the the screeners..
"this needs to make the 8:20 to Miami!!! CAN YOU SWING IT??"
i don't hear a word from around the corner. i'm not feeling confident, but i reluctantly hand THE FUCKER over, tip the guy 5 bucks and head to meet Oli at our gate.
Oli was knackered, hungover from three days prior!!! he said he'd had a "bit of a night out" (how very British of him) and now felt a bit fluish. what kinda training is this for a Kona contender??? finally on the first plane to Miami without much incident.
landed in Miami and that's where Oli and i would split up until we got to Sao Paulo. he booked his ticket separately from mine and had a different middle flight. his was leaving Miami and hour sooner than my flight. mine was only leaving me an hour and a half to meet up again for our final connecting flight to Floripa. i was nervous about this, and prayed that customs wouldn't tie me up too long. i've heard stories about the long-ass lines at customs in Sao Paulo. we passed another guy in the terminal carrying what i like to call the TYR "kitchen sink" transition bag, same as mine. we give the knowing "you're a triathlete too" nod. turns out he's wearin' a Team Disney hat. i ask if he knows Wedgie. of course he does!!! who doesn't know Wedgie!!! turns out we're on the next flight together in a few hours so we decide to navigate through the airport together to find food and make our way to the next terminal. first though, we gotta stop off and pick up THE FUCKER and re-check him on the next flight. yeah, don't ask. i guess with the "deal" i got from no nonsense lady, he wasn't gettin' checked all the way to Florianopolis...
so we're at the baggage claim, and we're chatting it up, talkin' about training and our teams, and soon i realize that the belt isn't moving anymore, and there's nobody from our flight left there, and nothing's come out of the "oversized" door.
so off to the lost luggage claim desk. note to self: stay calm, stay cool, don't point fingers. you piss this guy off and with one click of the keyboard, THE FUCKER GOES TO TIMBUKTU. next to me some woman is FREAKING THE FUCK OUT. i look at my claims guy and laugh..
me: "boy, you must see all kinds of folks here. this has got to be the worst gig with everybody pissed off at you."
nothing from claims guy as he continues to click away on the keyboard. then i notice that he's got a name tag and he's obviously Latino, probably Cuban...
me: "¿de donde eres??" (where are you from)
claims guy: "de Cuba"
me: "¿de quel parte?" (where in Cuba?)
claims guy: "de Matanzas"
me: "¡aaah, si! donde vives, Elian," (oh yeah, where Elian Gonzales lives)
claims guy: " ¿estas Cubana?"
me: "no, pero fui a Cuba en el año dos mil" (no, but i went to Cuba in 2000)
now depending on his politics i'm either in or he'll now send THE FUCKER to Timbuktu for sure, but it looks like it's working. he tells me it's really not lost, that i must have just missed the luggage cutoff in L.A. (what a waste of a 5 buck tip!!!). i just need to give him the hotel address and it should be delivered there about the same time i was supposed to arrive but a day later. no problem, that's why i'm getting there 5 days early, and Iron Mom Jenny had warned me that bikes would not make it along with their owners but that they work really hard to get them to you within a day. COACH had a bike on the training schedule for the next morning, but i'd just have to improvise. good thing there's still two other sports to do. but i digress. there's still two more flights to get through too....
off to Sao Paulo. 8 hours i think?? it's a super wide plan and i'm in the middle section but the flight's not full, so i end up getting an extra seat next to me to stretch out in. more people are speaking Portuguese now, and i'm trying to practice with anyone around me, but they all wanna speak English!!! the coolest part was the individual tv screen that played several different films in English with Portuguese subtitles. this is an awesome way to learn another language!!! then it's sleep time, everyone's mellowing out, and i start to hear sniffles and coughs ALL AROUND ME. oh.hell.no. time to ramp up the Emergen-C. i am not goin' out like that!!! land in Sao Paulo and we breeze through customs, no problem. i meet up with Ben and we head to the next gate, but they tell us we need to get a new boarding pass, not the one's American printed us since we're on TAM now. get to the terminal counter and the guy asks us where our luggage is. um DUH!!! it's already checked through to Floripa, our final destination. now don't get me wrong, i'm not that naive of a traveler. miss thang in L.A. said my bag was checked all the way to Floripa. i even asked her 3 times,"but what about customs when i land in Sao Paulo?? don't i have to pick them up there and go through customs??" no because you see customs is all handled here and they go all the way through. i didn't think this sounded right, but Ben said he was told the same thing. so now we have 20 minutes to go back, get our bags which may or may not still be there, if not we have to find the lost luggage office, then take them through customs and get on our last flight. i start BOOKING IT through the terminal, and Ben is hot on my trail. then things start to go screwy. i'm trying to find my bags in Portuguese. funny how when you're in crisis, all of a sudden you're fluent in a foreign language. we start running through back hall mazes, back and forth through the terminal. finally i turn back and Ben is nowhere behind me now. he's given up. he knows we're not going to make it, and he chooses to save his legs for race day. me, not so much. still running and sweating and stinking to high heaven. i tell Ben that if he keeps up with me, i promise we'll audition for The Amazing Race as the Ironman Team. but alas, i give up too and about an hour later we finally locate our bags. in the end, they bring the bags out, and we never have to walk through customs with them. go figure...
rack 'em up!! i mean, deal 'em!!
so we've missed our flight. 6 hours 'til the next one. thank god i dug Ben AND he had a deck of cards!!! we eat, we play cards, we eat more, and then i spot another triathlete. it musta been the 3 water bottles he had sticking outta all the pockets on his transition bag he was lugging. turns out it's Ben's roomy, Michael. he's shocked as shit to see us since he expected Ben to already be checked into the hotel, but nope, we were all on the same flight.
Michael and Ben and me make THREE!!!
waiting in the terminal, we meet Bertrand and Martine, a French couple who now live in New Jersey. they've done several Ironman races between them. Martine has done Brasil before, and she's excited to be back. when she finds out we're all here to do our first, she gets all excited and wells up with tears when she talks about how we're going to feel at the finish line. just then, i look out on the tarmac and low and behold, look what's sittin' on the cargo truck...
me: "THE FUCKER!!! he made it!!!"
Martinne: "excuse me, dear??"
me: "oh i'm sorry. i mean my bike made it. it was lost earlier today or yesterday or whenever. i don't really know what day it is anymore."
Martine looks at me a little awkwardly as if to say "now you, i'm not so sure about anymore..."
and now we're on our 3rd and FINAL flight. should be just over an hour now until we touch down on Florianopolis, also known as the "Magic Island."
the mother ship has landed!!!
reunited and it feels so good!!!
final touchdown. I AM HERE. THE FUCKER is here and we're all psyched to see this poster hanging in the airport.
look Ma!! we made it!!!
and so went the endurance event before the endurance event. our Endurance Sports Travel shuttles were there to pick us up, and i said my goodbyes to the boys, Bertrand and Martine as they were all staying in a different hotel. an hour later i was hugging Oli in our less than swanky 2 bedroom apartment style accommodations. i guess he freaked a little when i didn't make our flight and didn't know my status 'til he got to the hotel. i had lost most of my first day, but luckily Oli had already surveyed where the market was and where the bars were for post-race festivities. we planned that we'd sleep in until our bodies naturally wanted to wake up, and then try to go out for a ride and get the lay of the land.
going to sleep, i finally felt a sense of calm for the first time in 32 hours. this is it i guess. no turning back now...