Tuesday, August 16, 2016

CIM WEEK 2 of 18: Escape From NY (barely)

The Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. How many times have I met up with friends here for group runs or looped past it during long runs? The world may never know.

This wasn't the dumbest week ever but it was kind of close. (That distinction probably still belongs to this week.)

Grand Total: 46 total miles, all easy, + 1:00:00 strength work

    Monday 8/8: a.m. strength/p.m. karate

    Tuesday 8/9: 10 easy, destroy left calf/Achilles. Spend the rest of the evening limping around the house & trying not to panic. You can read the deets here.

    Wednesday 8/10: Rest from everything, constantly stretch & roll left calf. (Not because I think this will fix it, but because I suspect the lack of keeping up with that stuff over the last couple of months probably contributed to the strain. It's happened twice before.)

    Thursday 8/11: 8 easy.

    Monday morning I got up at the ass crack of dawn to catch a plane to NY at 7:45am, an hour which I consider completely obscene for plane catching. Fortunately, everything ran on time. Unfortunately, we ended up landing at La Guardia in a kind of scary lightening storm & learned that the rest of the airport had basically been closed down for like an hour with approximately a bajillion flights cancelled. This meant that it took me 90 minutes waiting in a taxi line in the rain in 95F & 95% humidity to get a cab to my hotel. (East Coast, what even is the point of you? Ah, right; bagels.)

    It was 10pm by the time I finished dinner, but still being on West Coast time & wide awake, I decided to jump on the treadmill & see how my leg was feeling, since it would be easy to jump right back off if I felt any pain. And, I was kind of stunned to find that it felt completely, 100% normal for six miles. In the last two I kept thinking, "Is that a twinge? I'm not sure. It might be a twinge. Maybe?" But if it was there, the pain was in the 1-1.5 out of 10 range, so I felt totally fine completing the full 8 (and then, yes, stretching it really, REALLY well).

    Friday 8/5: Travel shenanigans!!

    Here is where the fun begins.

    Sadly, though I was wide away the night before & went to sleep at a very reasonable hour relative to West Coast time, I still had to be up at 7am East Coast time, so you can do the math there. Work was fine; I'd been told I would definitely be done by 3pm so had booked my flight for 6pm just to be safe. It turned out we finished more like 1:45, so I had plenty of time for a nice, leisurely trip to the airport and a late lunch around 2:15-2:30.

    Then I got a text that my flight had been delayed. Instead of arriving in Denver at 8:40 to catch a 10pm flight to SF, I was now arriving at 9:10. This was no big deal so I pretty much ignored it.

    Then I went through security & scurried down to my gate, where I was greeted with a kind of barely-controlled bedlam. The weather was getting nasty again and several flights were getting badly delayed or cancelled. I had a bad feeling about this but I proceeded to buy myself a book and snag a prime spot near some outlets & settled in to wait for my flight four hours from now.

    Then, another text. Another delay; I'd now be landing at 9:45pm & trying to make a 10:00pm connection, which is not completely impossible but also not exactly how shall we say probable. The message on my United app: "We're so sorry that your travel plans have been compromised! Please select another itinerary if you'd like at no charge." So I promptly search for another itinerary & learn that "Sorry, there are no other itineraries available at this time."

    At this point basically everyone around me is shouting (at gate agents, bored children, each other). The customer service line is 30 people long. So, I get on the phone with customer service and am told it will be a 5-10 minute wait to speak to someone. 20 minutes later I explain my situation to a nice lady who proceeds to tell me about all kinds of fantastic options for people who are not me. ("We have a direct flight to SF leaving out of JFK in 40 minutes." Great?) Finally I accept that I am not getting out of New York tonight and next best thing is getting rebooked on a 7am direct flight out of JFK on a different airline. I tell her to do it. We are promptly disconnected.

    I call back and wait another 20 minutes. I have the same conversation with someone else. He starts to rebook me. We are disconnected.

    New text. I am now scheduled to land at 10:05pm for my 10:00pm connection.

    Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I sigh and abandon my prime spot by the outlets, dial customer service *again*, and also jump in the physical customer service line, now probably 40 people long. Will I reach an actual person on the phone before I get to the front????

    The answer is no.

    The poor gate agent at the front looks as if he is living in a war zone. I try to make things really easy for him & tell him about how two different people have tried booking me on this 7am JFK flight but we keep getting disconnected and if he could just finish it up that would be GREAT.

    He taps on the keyboard for a moment, eyes glassy and empty, and shakes his head. "Full."


    More tapping. More head-shaking. More rapid blinking of hopeless eyes that have seen too much.

    "I have a couple of seats on a direct flight at 10pm," he says finally.

    "GREAT!" #winning

    "It's out of Newark."

    "The one in New Jersey?"



    Apparently there's a shuttle bus I can take for $47, and since it's 6pm now, I *might* get there in time.

    "It's up to you," he reiterates. "All I'm saying is, if you want, I can book you on this flight."

    "DO IT," I tell him.

    The clock is now ticking so I sprint down to the ground transportation info desk & enquire about this alleged shuttle. At first I am told "No problem," but after a few minutes on the phone, the gentleman manning the desk tells me, "The shuttle is unavailable," but would I rather take the Express Shuttle instead for $27. I like the sound of 'Express' so I tell him "DO IT."

    He walks me and another woman down to where the Express Shuttle leaves from. On the way we learn that the Express Shuttle is more like the "Express" Shuttle, actually, in that, after leaving LGA, it drives all around Manhattan before reaching the spot where the Newark bus picks up.

    There is a stern-looking woman guarding the "Express" Shuttle line. "These two ladies need to get to Newark," he tells her. She looks skeptical. "When's your flight?" she asks. "10pm," I say. She nods. "You may get in the line." Then to the other woman, "When's your flight?" "8:30pm," she tells her, and the stern woman shakes her head. "You may not get in the line."

    I get in the line. "There is one leaving at 6:30 but you won't get on it," she warns me. "Just wait here. There's another one at 7."

    I wait. Another woman sells me a ticket and asks me where I'm going. I tell her. "You want the second stop," she says, enunciating carefully. "Don't get off at the first stop. You want the second one. It's called Bryant Park. Don't get off at the first stop." Careful eye contact, and again, slow, careful enunciation. "The bus driver will show you where to go to catch the Newark bus."

    I commit this to memory and it gives me a bad feeling.

    The 6:30 bus comes and goes. So does 7pm. There is no second bus. Someone comes to tell us that don't worry, it's stuck in traffic but it'll be here. I get nervous but it pulls up at 7:20pm & I jump on, thankful I have only my small overnight bag to deal with.

    We proceed to drive all over Manhattan. There's a lot of honking and shouting. We arrive at the first stop and I do not get off.

    However. I do hear a Canadian couple at the front of the bus ask, "Is this where we get off for the Newark bus, eh?"

    The porter stares at them like they have seven heads. "The what?"

    "The Newark bus," the man repeats. "For Newark airport, eh?"

    "It's called Bryant Park," adds the woman. "The stop is Bryant Park."

    "This bus doesn't go to Bryant Park!" He looks completely indignant. "Who told you it went to Bryant Park?"

    "The woman who sold us the tickets, eh."

    The porter shakes his head as if this is complete crazy talk and what kind of idiot would believe something like that. "Psh. Bryant Park."

    There is some additional conversation. I'm in the back so I don't catch it all, but I do see the three folks I know on this bus are going to Newark airport frantically making their way towards the door so I grab my bag and follow them.

    It takes me a while to get out & by the time I do they're almost a full block ahead of me, the bus driver walking with them. I have no idea what's going on but I run in my very non-running-friendly office shoes to catch up.

    We stop at a corner. "Just wait here and a bus will come," he tells us.

    We stare.

    I am acutely aware of the fact that I am now farther away from an airport than I have been for this entire trip. Geographically, this is indisputable anti-progress.

    But, against all odds, a bus DOES come, a bus clearly marked as the "Newark Airport Express," and we get on it. However this also ends up being an "Express" rather than an Express, and we're treated to another tour of Manhattan with all the same honking & shouting, just in the dark this time.

    I keep checking the time & try to relax. My phone is about to die (that sweet seat by the outlets feels like a lifetime ago) but I risk pulling up Google Maps to see how far we are from Newark Airport Terminal B. 22 minutes and it's 8:40? That'll do, pig.

    At long, long last, we pull up at Newark Airport, which you would have thought was Valhalla from my reaction. I thank the gods of air travel for TSA Pre-Check, breeze through security, & walk approximately half a mile to my gate, which is about as far as geographically possible from security.

    I have received no more United texts, but there is nothing anywhere at this gate about a plane going to San Francisco. I check the Departure boards and find that my gate has been changed (because of course it has), which would not be a big deal except that the new gate is, it turns out, about as far as it is physically possible to be from the old gate and still be in the same terminal. This time I thank the gods of marathon training for my fitness and race-walk about a mile through the terminal, finally arriving at my gate.

    San Francisco. 10pm.

    These shoes are not made for walking and my heels are now a bloody mess, but I collapse in a chair and try not to think about it.

    I grab some terrible airport sushi and wash it down with a $4 bottle of water. It's a shit show here, too; everyone around me is shouting and jockeying for position in the boarding lines. This flight has been delayed a bit further due to a personnel problem (it was originally supposed to leave at 6:40pm), but I couldn't care less. There is a plane outside and it is going to San Francisco and so help me I am getting on it.

    The rest of the trip is uneventful. I arrive at SFO at 1am, take a shuttle to long-term parking, drive home, eat something, and pass right the f#ck out.

    Saturday 8/13: 10 easy. I'm still not fully caught up on sleep so it is not the easiest run, but it is also not terrible.

    Sunday 8/14: 18 long.

    I'd debated turning this run into a trek out to the Palace of Fine Arts so I could take some sweet pictures, but I'm still not feeling 100%, so I opt instead to do nice, predictable loops of the east side of Golden Gate Park. It was cold and mizzly (mist + drizzle) and a bit on the windy side, so I was surprised that there were so many people out still. This is definitely the earliest in a marathon cycle that I've run this far, and I'm pleased to find that although I'm certainly ready to be done by the end, it doesn't feel that hard and I don't feel completely awful.

  • Do you also abhor the East Coast?
  • What is the longest taxi line you've ever waited in and was there also a lightening storm?
  • What is up with NY/La Guardia airport transit, anyway?

* * *

CIM 2016 Week 1 of 18


  1. This is why I didn't get in line for that promotion at work that involved travel. No. Never. I despise airports and all their accessories, such as "express" buses.

    1. I don't despise them exactly & enjoy having a varied work schedule, but it's hilarious to me when someone mentions how fun & cool it must be to travel for work so much. Uh, no. Not really.

  2. After my most recent trip back from the East Coast (June, where I got stuck in ATL, and almost got stuck again in SLC), I've decided never *ever* to book an indirect flight back to CA. I will gladly pay the price difference for less hassle and a direct flight!