Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Spoiler Alert: I Qualified for World Mountain Running Championships

I qualified for World Mountain Running Championships this weekend.  I have nothing but the best of things to say about the race organization, my homestay host, and pretty much everything else about my trip, with the exception of the part involving airplanes.  That long, tiring story will come after a race update.  I would be somewhat remiss to not mention the incredible incredibleness of the volunteers and race organizers, who invite us to freeload in their homes for a few days, then put a race on for us, and proceed to thank us for the entire experience.  Sometimes the world doesn't seem to make sense in the most beautiful way possible.

Cranmore Hill Climb is an up/down mountain running course used for qualifying for the US Mountain Running Team on years when World Mountain Running Championships is up and down.  This year, Worlds is in Poland, and as such, the race is down and up as opposed to up and down.  Sometimes the Poles feel like joining in with the Pollack jokes.  As such, Cranmore was down and up this year.

It was a really nice course.  The profile made the course look deceptively easy.  It just looked like a hard course.  It turned out to be a really hard course.  I put in a move near the end of lap 2 of 3, everything was going really well, then I got really tired.  Things like that happen in mountain races.  You can go from feeling like you can run a pace forever to wondering if you will make it to the finish in far less than a minute.  I managed to hold on for fourth place.  Fore.  The race was US Mountain Running Championships.  Top 6 qualify for Poland.  Good enough.

The race was also the North American Central American Caribbean Championship.  The USA perfect scored the team score on the men's and women's side.  We had two podium sweeps.  Then we received a bunch of cheese.

But now for the story that really strikes me as interesting right now.  My flights.  I was 15 hours delayed getting home, so that kind of grabs my attention.

I had two flights out and two back.  My two flights out were both delayed by at least 45 minutes.  My flight into Boston was over an hour delayed getting in, and I was lucky to make it into Conway, where I was staying, when I did.  In fact, my flight from Grand Junction to Dallas was delayed before I even checked in, because the incoming flight the night before had arrived so late the crew needed the extra time to sleep.  Interestingly, my uncle was on the same flight a month and a half ago, and the same thing happened to him.  I joked when I checked in that they were still delayed from when my uncle flew.  Ah, the irony.

Coming back, my first flight was okay.  I was jammed into the middle seat in the back row, next to a very smelly bathroom, but compared to the rest of my trip back home, it was an excellent flight.  I arrived in Dallas to see that my flight from Dallas into Grand Junction, the last of the night, was delayed by 45 minutes.

At Penn Relays, they have so many relays that if one high school kid falls down, the entire meet is thrown off schedule with no chance to catch up.  They just have no time set aside for catching up.  This is what I have decided Dallas/Grand Junction flights are like.  I think at some point, at least a month and a half ago, they got delayed.  And they have never had time to catch up.  They're so delayed every night that in order to not have the pilot fall asleep in the cockpit, they're delayed in the morning too.  I have no evidence to counter this.  All data points toward this being the case.

Then they switched our gate.  And our flight became more delayed.  Then they switched our gate again and the flight was even more delayed.  Then they informed us that the previous flight hadn't arrived yet.  As I said, they don't have time to catch up.  Maybe they should just move the entire schedule back by an hour or two.

The flight finally arrived, but then we had to wait for maintenance.   Eventually, they informed us that maintenance had to fix two things, one of which was the windshield.  At this point, several passengers left for the bar.  Every time we looked at the monitor, we were more delayed.  The passengers who had gone to the bar came back, complaining that the bar had closed.  Just for good measure, our flight was further delayed.

Finally, they switched our gate again.  I thought this had to mean that they had found a working plane for us to fly on.  I was wrong.  They had found another broken plane for us.  We waited a bit more.  Then, they cancelled the flight.  They managed to eventually get people booked on new flights, we packed into taxis and went to a hotel.  The taxi was caught in a construction detour.  I got about two and a half hours of sleep in the hotel before I had to leave for the airport again.  Luckily, the airline had paid for my hotel room.

My taxi back was slowed down by construction, which perturbed the taxi driver that he might miss breakfast.  He drove like a taxi driver once we got out of the construction zone.  I searched the airport at length for somewhere open early for breakfast.  I was amazed how hard it was to find places that were open for early breakfast in an airport.

After that, my long stupid story looked up.  I wasn't delayed any more.  Another airline refused to even consider moving me to an earlier flight, but I was unsurprised.  Some airlines base profit margins on monetizing customer dissatisfaction.  I arrived to discover that my luggage was on a Dallas/Grand Junction flight (I was rerouted through Denver).  Of course the flight my luggage was on was delayed, but only by 10 or 15 minutes, which is probably the earliest a Dallas/Grand Junction flight has been in a few months.  Maybe there is hope.

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