Professional athlete and 3-time Ironman champion

The Glamorous Lifestyle of the Pro Triathlete

I just sent an email to my very good friend, Karen Smyers. She was telling me about her most recent race which didn’t knock her socks off, so I was trying to make her feel better by telling her about my travel experience to Brazil. After writing the email, I decided it was blog worthy.....

It’s funny to me. I get, "Wow, you are a pro triathlete? That is so cool" a lot. And they are is. Mostly. But like most realities, you take the good with the bad and try not to be so freaking out about it. (that last sentence will be funny later, I promise)

So this is my tale of travel.

My trip rather sucked. Though now that it’s done, its all fine, which, when you think about it...most things that suck do. Oh, sure, I got an upgrade and all, so there was that. I got to sit in the "pointy end" as my friend JJ calls it. The pointy end is nice, but when you are on the Core Diet and can’t drink all the alcohol you want, eat the fresh baked chocolate chip cookie, or the ice cream sundae, it’s not really that spectacular. In fact, by the time they go to me to take my dinner order, my choice was gone, and all that was left was the pasta. NOT Core Diet friendly. So 2 salads, and one shrimp appetizer (literally....ONE SHRIMP) and that was my first class meal experience.

Still, I had a reasonably nice cushy seat, and managed a few winks of sleep.

Things got ugly when we landed in Sao Paulo. I got off the plane in Sao Paulo with only 90’ until my connection to Florianopolis. Should have been enough time. SHOULD have. I am at the end of the ramp and we get held by some government official saying that if you aren’t a Brazilian citizen, you have to wait. So they let all the Brazilians off our plane....and every other plane that landed between 5:30 and 6:15 AM (which, given the line at passport control, was quite a few). They were doing some crackdown on Brazilian counterfeit passports. Or so we were told.

So we stood in line for 30’ before we were even allowed to get into the passport line. By that point, every other plane had let their non-Brazilian citizens off the plane and our plane was literally last in a very long line. I tried to tell someone that I had a tight connection. They cared so much about my sob story, that they told me (literally) "You should not be so freaking out. Just wait here." I finally found an American Airlines agent who told me not to worry. That they’d confirmed me on an 11AM flight on GOL airlines, since it seemed likely I was going to miss my 7:45 TAM flight. I started to feel better and waited in line with the 40 million other people.

I got thru passport control, managed to find my luggage which was somehow spread across 4 different corners of the baggage claim area, then had to snake thru yet another queue about 87 snakes, back and forth, back and forth....with a huge suitcase, my bike box, which while it does its job, does not have the turning radius of ....well, a dime, and a wheel bag....I was sweating bullets and had knocked over every barricade stand by the time I got to the customs guy.

Finally outside customs, I was able to get a skycap guy who spoke no English, but did speak Spanish, so I got to wow him with my 3 years of high school Spanish. No wonder he looked at me funny so many times. I probably asked him to roller-skate my refrigerator to the barn instead of help me with my luggage to the ticket office.

I got to the American Airlines ticket office and re-encountered the woman who told me not to be "freaking out so much" who told me that I was no longer confirmed on the 11 am GOL flight. She said "That just happens sometimes." I told her that "confirmed" must mean different things in Brazil than it does in America. She didn’t think that was funny. Instead, she suggested I get on a city bus and go to the other airport to get on a 12:45 TAM flight because the 3:45 TAM flight was full, so that was my only hope. Of course, I thought that was hysterical....what with carrying some 200 lbs of luggage with me. I told her that I’d been mugged walking 2 blocks from a internet café to my hotel and that I thought worse things might become of me if I tried to venture on a city bus with 200 lbs of non-space efficient luggage.

She seemed to understand my predicament, and then suggested that I just spend the night in the Sao Paulo airport and try again tomorrow.

That is when I lost my sense of humor over the situation and started to be so freaking out again.

I decided to revisit the "confirmed" yet "not confirmed" issue. She told me that the GOL flight was full, but said maybe if you go and buy a ticket they will let you. I asked how I was going to buy a ticket on a full flight. She said "that’s just how it works sometimes."

And I thought airline travel in the US was FUBAR.

So I went to GOL with my Spanish speaking friend and tried to buy a new ticket on their airline. She said that there was room. Then I asked how come there is room but that they wouldn’t honor my TAM ticket when American Airlines had said that they would. She said "we just do that sometimes. We are really competitive with TAM so we don’t like to do that."

We went on like this for some time, when finally, exhausted, and starting to "freaking out" again, I just said to hell with it and bought a new ticket.

After I bought the ticket, she said, "Now wait here. I have to see if your luggage will fit."

Come again?

"Yes. Your bike box is very large. I don’t know if we can fit it on our plane."

I asked why we hadn’t had that conversation before I purchased the ticket. She smiled and said "Don’t worry."

Envisioning the city bus scenario, I wondered how much it would cost me to have my Spanish speaking Brazilian friend come with me on the city bus to help me with my luggage. Likely less than the GOL option was costing, but I had already bought the ticket, and something told me that their refund policy might be only slightly more strict than their policy of honoring fares with TAM.

She returned saying that my bicycle could fly with me. She went on to say that they weren’t going to charge me for the bicycle because American had already done that. My only "win" of the day.

I did arrive in Florianopolis and more shockingly....WITH all of my luggage. So that’s good.

I hate to be Chicken Little, or Eeyore, but stuff like this always seems to happen to me.

Just waiting for the other shoe to fall...................but that’s what makes this life so fabulous!

Persistence. Determination. Love. The Journey!

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