It was one in the morning on a busy Friday night and we had just pulled into the city center of Klagenfurt after what can only be described as the journey of the damned. We had been traveling for over 30-hours and I was a bit loopy. My son was asleep in the back of the car, but my wife simply looked up from the map and immediately assessed the situation.
“That’s one eager prostitute,” she said. “You better step on the gas.”
My mind jumped into gear at about the same time as the car and we sped away leaving the blonde in a cloud of diesel smoke with a forlorn look on her face.
“Welcome to Klagenfurt,” I said and wondered what sort of Ironman had come to race.
We had made it but I would never recommend this journey of the damned to anyone contemplating starting an Ironman in just under 30-hours.
I knew we were in for a rough trip when we lost our passports even before the journey began. I just didn’t know how bad it would really get.
I got a good hint sitting in the plane on the runway in Philadelphia waiting to take of to Frankfurt. The captain announced, “Just to let you know we are now 128th for take off, and that means we should have you in the air in about a half hour.”
For my nine-year-old son I always like to break any long trip into sections. So this trip had 4 sections.
1) The drive from home to the airport which was punctuated by the lost passports (Click HERE to read about it)
2) The flight from Denver to Philadelphia which was uneventful
3) The Flight from Philly to Frankfurt which was now stalled on the runway
4) The drive from Frankfurt to Klagenfurt, which I had idiotically estimated, would take about six hours.
I looked out the window of the plane and I saw what looked like rush hour in New York on the tarmac. I’ve never seen so many planes snaking around the airport in a dizzying line of congestion. After another half-hour the captain came back on and announced, “Ladies and gentlemen we are now 123rd for take off, I expect to have you in the air in half hour.
Most of the Indians on my flight smiled and shook their heads approvingly. I suspect that they must be pretty used to waiting in lines in India as they seemed to really appreciate the captain’s optimistic BS.
But after the captain made this same announcement an additional three times even the Indians were getting a bit restless.
We did manage to take off before we ran out of fuel and before the crew had to be changed out, but nobody was happy…especially the crew who seemed ready to throw us our unhappy meals from the back of the plane.
But for now I was blissfully unaware that every German in Frankfurt was busy loading up his or her car for the weekend drive down to Austria.
Instead I stood looking into the gapping maw of the oversized baggage carrousel.
All the other bags had come and departed with their owners, but my bike was nowhere to be seen. This was my worst nightmare come true. I pictured myself doing the race on rented and rusty 10-year-old Mountain bike with huge fat knobby tires.
By the way, my fear was indeed pretty real as I happen to overhear a guy the day before the race on his cell phone begging a local bike shop to rent him something other than a mountain bike.
As I filled out the missing luggage forms my stomach sank to a new all time low. The desk clerk informed me that most likely the bike was still in Philadelphia (bad news) but that it would arrive on tomorrow’s flight (good news) and they would put it on the next flight to Klagenfurt (really good news) which would mean I’d have the bike on Sunday morning (really really crap news as that was race day).
My shoulders sank as I thanked him, turned around and began slowly walking out to customs. It was than that the gapping maw of the oversized baggage carrousel open, coughed, and spat out my bike. If I had left 30-seconds earlier, I would have missed my bike. They informed me that they had forgotten it on the plane. I suspect the huge size and cumbersome dimensions of the massive bike box made it really hard to find.
The car was from France with French plates, which explained two things:
1) The eagerness of the prostitute to show me her wares.
2) The navigation system only showed the topographical information on the screen. This meant that the arrow representing the car kind of just floated in space over rivers and next to lakes. I eventually checked and the car only had the street CD for France loaded in the system.
How French is that?
I can just see the selling car dealer saying, “Monsieur but why would you want to go anywhere besides France?”
The German word for traffic jam is “Stau”. I know this because for the next 13-hours I saw this sign on every autobahn in the Federal Republic. It seems that Friday afternoon is certainly not the best time to test out the top speed of your new Mercedes on Germany’s legendary speeed-limitless autobahns.
I calculated that it would take us 6 hours to go the 600 kilometers to Klagenfurt. This is after all a very conservative 100 Kilometers, or 60 mph per hour.
In fact it took us 3 hours to just get to Wurtzburg from Frankfurt which is a mere 90 Kilometers away. That meant we had averaged only 20 miles-per-hour on the autobahn the first three hours of the trip.
By the time we arrived in Klagenfurt at one in the morning my right foot hurt so much, from constantly pushing and releasing the accelerator pedal, that I would have been happy to pay the eager lady of the evening for a simple foot massage.
Next Time: IM Austria Race Report