Moooo!!! Hello from Madison, Wisconsin!

Karel and I love to travel and we love to race.
In 2013, we planned a season of race-cations to celebrate our love of traveling and racing. 

It's been quite a season, with a lot of highs and some lows but well, that's all part of being an age-group triathlete. 

Just because you sign up for a race, it does't mean that life will be easy. If anything, life gets a bit more complicated. 
But in order to find success in both life and sports, you have to do the best you can to keep everything balanced with whatever you commit yourself to in life.

It's hard to believe but Ironman Wisconsin will be our last race-cation of the year and come Monday we will be enjoying our off-season!

We started our racing schedule in March with our first race, HITS OCALA HALF IRONMAN, as a tune-up race for the season. 

Then in May, in the end of packing up our townhome for our move to Greenville, we raced St. Croix 70.3

Then, just 6 weeks after moving to Greenville and sadly, just 3 weeks after my dad passed away from his 10-month fight with cancer, we raced Ironman Austria

So, here we are. Just 3 days away from Ironman Wisconsin. This will be my 9th Ironman and 2nd time racing IMWI and Karel's 3rd Ironman. Karel rode this course several times in the past when he was working for Trek and he would visit Trek HQ or go to Trek World. 

The hardest, most stressful part of any trip is saying see you later to our furry BFF. If I could only find a way to let him know that we WILL come back to him. Oh those 7-year old puppy eyes are so incredibly tough to leave. 
But lucky doggy (from sleeping on the streets to sleeping under comfy covers on a comfy mattress), Campy now gets to go to Charlotte every time we travel (we meet our friend half way, about an hour away). So now he is currently enjoying himself at his "camp" until we get back from Wisconsin. 

Tuesday morning I did a 90 minute ride and 10 min run with Campy and around 5:30pm I drove to Gaffney Outlets (1 hour away) to meet my friend to hand-off Campy (and all his toys). On Wednesday, I had a good 4-ish mile interval run (MS 2x's: 3 x 90sec at 7 min/mile w/ 30 sec break and then 3 min @ 8 min/mile recovery jog w/ 1 min break) and then a 1500 swim. 

After running a few last minute errands on Wed, I packed up our food bag (yum smashed fresh raspberries in my PB sandwich) and the car and we were off to the airport around 2pm (we always like to be early when it comes to checking in our bike case) for our 4:30pm flight to Madison, (planned to arrive at 8:30pm). 

After a smooth check-in with Delta, we went through our small airport of Greenville and had a good two-hours to relax before our flight. The weather looked perfect for a short flight to Atlanta, before heading to Madison.

We watched our bike case board the plane which was a good feeling. 
We have a bike case that holds both of our bikes and two wheels. Karel installed an extra front fork mount and with some expert mechanic skills, he puts both of our Trek Speed Concepts in the case. I will try to remember to take a pic before we head home to show you how he does it. We pay 1 bike fee (Delta $150) but in order to meet the weight regulations of $70 (to avoid overweight for a special item as the bike case is a special item, not regular baggage) we have to remove the seats from the case and put them in our checked luggage (which we share a luggage). Also, Karel and I both get 1 checked bag free and the bike case counts as 1 bag (even though a special item) so this is why we share a suitcase to avoid having to pay for a third piece of luggage. 

Well, a first happened for us as there was a major delay leaving Greenville. 
After boarding the plane (pictured above) with our suitcase and bike case on board, we were told there were some storms in ATL but that the pilot thought we would be fine to avoid them. When we rolled away from the gate, the pilot got word that the ATL airport shut down due to storms. With a schedule arrival of 5:30pm and a schedule depart from ATL at 7pm, we were now looking at a possible departure of 5:30pm which would have given us only 30 min for us AND our bike case to get to the next flight (if all went as planned). 
Well, after sitting on the plane for an hour, we were then told it would be 6pm that we would be leaving. By then I knew we had no chance to get to Madison that evening as I had called Delta while we were waiting to check on a possible "next flight". Sadly, we were on the only evening flight to Madison. 

Karel and I were not sure what would happen next as we had never been through this before. 
What hotel would we stay at?
Would we get our bag and bike in ATL?
How would we get to Madison the next day if the first flight out fills up?

Oh, so many questions and concerns from two athletes about to race an Ironman in 4 days!

Well, this is one of the reasons why we always try to arrive to a race venue (of an important race) with at least 4 days until the race. Traveling has it's share of unexpected events which often require time and patience. 

After spending 90 minutes on the airplane (thank goodness for the Trimarni bag of goodies!), the pilot finally drove us back to the gate so that we could depart if we wanted to. 

We departed the plane (but kept our carry on bags on board) so that we could stand in a long line to talk to the gate agent. 

I wasn't sure of our options but I knew there was a 9am flight from ATL on Thursday and a 6:05am flight from Greenville. Still not sure what would happen to our bike case and suitcase (the extremely important parts since both had our bike stuff in it even though we carried on our nutrition and race gear!) the gate agent told us we had two options.
Oh, let it be known that by 7pm (as we waited in line) we had been at the airport for 5 hours AND it was now storming in Greenville, SC.

Option 1: 
Fly to ATL (whenever the plane would leave) and spend the night in a hotel and take the first flight out in the AM to Madison. This flight arrives to Madison at 10:35am (1 hour behind EST)

Option 2:
Stay in Greenville and leave on the first flight out to Detroit, which then goes to Madison. This flight arrives to Madison at 9:05am. 

Because we would not have any access to our bike case/luggage, the easy answer was option 2 so that we could stay in our own bed and not have to deal with the craziness of the ATL airport (and pay for a hotel room). 

I got the car from the Economy lot ($4 to hang out in the airport for 6 hours) and then we made our 20 min drive home in the pouring rain. We were so exhausted that we were off to bed by 9pm for a 4:10am wake-up call. 

On a positive note, our cats were REALLY happy to see us! 

So, let's try this again. 

6:05am flight to Detroit. 
8:35 flight to Madison. 

Two smooth flights and 90 minutes to wait and hope that Delta checked the locked-up luggage for the night and made sure that our suitcase and bike case got on the first flight out of ATL to Madison. 

Well, at least we had a comfy area to wait and wait and wait. 

Thankfully, a friend of ours is a Delta Diamond member so he was able to check that our bike case was on the plane. But in this situation, it's kind of like getting a race t-shirt before you do the race and you don't want to wear it until you crossed the finish line. We didn't want to celebrate until we had visual contact with our belongings. 

Because we couldn't wait in anticipation at baggage, we stayed in the terminal area and waited by the Gate where the plane was departing people and luggage. We watched and watched and after just 5-8 suitcases, there was my Oakley suitcase!!! 
We waited a few more minutes and yippee......

We saw our bike case!!!

Oh, what a great feeling. Thank you DELTA for coming through for us and for also being so great at helping us out with all our questions. 

Funny enough, I ended up seeing one of my nutrition athletes at the airport who flew from ATL so I told her that it was a bummer we could not have flown together but she was on the same flight as our bike so it kind of counted :)

We are so incredibly lucky that we have a home away from home in Madison with one of my long-time nutrition athletes Ed P. who is not only a 2011 IMWI finisher but a prostate cancer survivor and all-around amazing guy. His wife picked us up at the airport (since Ed was volunteering at 2014 IMWI) and took us to her home where we quickly made ourselves at home. I was in the kitchen cooking up some lunch and Karel was out in the garage in his new Trimarni bike shop to assemble our bikes. 

Thankfully, no broken parts, Di2 was working and charged and in just 3 hours after making ourselves at home, we were out on our bikes to ride the course and stretch our legs (and to release some unwanted stress in our bodies). 

Oh the fun of race-cations!