Professional athlete and 3-time Ironman champion

Can't Sleep on Planes


It stinks not being able to sleep on an airplane.  Especially when you are so tired, you feel like you are bleeding from your eyeballs.

But my suffering is for your benefit, oh faithful blog reader (and by that I mean the single one of you out there!) because I have some time for an update.

I am flying home from competing at Syracuse 70.3 this past weekend.  In short?  I got my money’s worth on that course.

But let’s back up a little.

Due to …..well, the way my life’s been going lately, I hadn’t gotten the chance to race much lately.  And when I did?  I haven’t always made it to the finish line.  So heading into the weekend, my goal was “no drama”.

I left Boulder on Thursday and flew to Syracuse.  My luggage did not.  So much for no drama.

Because I’ve been flying more than most airline pilots these past couple years, I have the luxury of occasionally being upgraded.  This had been one of those times.  Only real benefits of the upgrade?  Your carry on is guaranteed a spot, your checked bag (in this case, my bike) receives “Priority handling”, …..oh, and warm, roasted nuts as a snack.

So when I arrived in Syracuse and my luggage….um, didn’t….I made my way to the luggage office, which is also the ticket counter (God bless small airports).

When I got to the front, I handed the woman my luggage stickers and said “My bag didn’t make it.” 

She didn’t smile.  She didn’t apologize.  In fact, she didn’t even speak.  She took my tags, scowled at her computer, beat on its keyboard some, grabbed a piece of paper, scribbled 6 letters on it and said, gruffly, “This is your case file.  When we have an update on your bag, you can call us, or log into and get an update.”

“Um, but how will I know when you have an update?” I asked, I thought, innocently enough.

She barked back, “We won’t know anything until the bag is logged into the system.”

“So, you don’t know if the bag is in Denver or in Chicago?”

“We don’t know anything until it’s logged into the system.”

“Just one more question…does the bright orange tag that says “Priority” mean anything?  Will my bag get preferential treatment to be loaded on the next available flight?”


Super then.  13 years and 689,436 miles later, and I got nuthin’.  Some “loyalty” program.

Some 24 hours, several circular conversations, much Twitter shaming to @AmericanAir and just a few terse words later, my luggage arrived.  I’d known it would all along…or at least I strongly suspected it would.  I was more frustrated by the circular arguments I got from the airline about the whereabouts, the process and the (lack of) loyalty program.  But no sense reasoning with the unreasonable.  I shouldn’t try to be so logical when the process I’m confronted with just…..isn’t.

I put my bike together and went for a ride.

The bike course in Syracuse is nothing short of spectacular.   Farmland, dairy farms, lakes, old barns..and the best news of all?  There are so many damn hills on the course, you are going nice and slow and can really appreciate all of the beauty!

After a quick ride, I raced back to my hotel because my DaveyG had arrived!  Syracuse being a mere 5 hour drive from Boston, it’s as close as we were gonna get for a while, so he made the trip out for the weekend.  So happy to see him!

We went about business the next day; some pre-race training, pro meeting, then back to the hotel for some mindless TV.  My new favorite show may well be MTV’s “Girl Code”.   Don’t judge. 

After reasonable enough sleep, race morning arrived.  There were no dramas.

I got my stuff sorted and was ready to roll.

ready to roll

I said hi to a few friends, and my final goodbyes to DaveyG and got in a little swim warm up.


During the actual “in water” part of my swim warm up, I was attacked by what I can only assume was a fresh water piranha. 


Think I’m being overly dramatic?  Just ask Joe Gambles.  He was there.  He saw it.  (and between you and me, I think he screamed louder than I did).

On to the race.

In short, nothing came easy.

I was fortunate enough to have some Silver medal feet to chase in the swim (Olympic Silver medalist Lisa Norden raced and I was pretty pleased to stay on her feet for the swim….though that’s the last I’d see of her!).


I exited the water with Lisa, and got on my Blue Triad to tackle one of the toughest 70.3 bike courses I’ve done.  You climb for the first 15 miles or so, and according to WTC’s “Mickey Mouse topography map”, it’s all downhill from there.


Sorry, but I just didn’t see it that way.

Maybe it was the wind direction…..maybe it was just being a bit rusty, but after the climb, I just never felt like we got it back in kind.

I’d made some changed to my mental preparations for this race and had some very specific things I’d let myself think about.  How awful I felt and how much I felt like I was struggling weren’t supposed to me on that list of things, so I filed those thoughts away in the trash and got back on course mentally. 


Physically?  Not so much.

I entered T2, still in 2nd, though by that time, I think better than half the pro men’s field was running as 2nd place female as well.  Well done, Lisa Norden.

If the bike course in Syracuse was challenging, the run was derived from the mind of Satan himself.  Add to that temperatures in the 90s with relative humidity in the 70s (that means “Oppressive” according to the weather man), it made for a long day.

I knew Lisa was gone.  I set about to hold position and run my best 13.1 miles.

Thanks to fellow pro Pat Wheeler’s wife, Courney, I knew I still had roughly 4 minutes on 3rd at about mile 8.  That made me feel pretty good. 

Then, I went thru, what we in the business call “a bad patch”.  At about mile 9, DaveyG told me “1:15 to 3rd, 1:45 to 4th and 2:15 to 5th”.  About 200 meters later at the final turnaround, there they were….all 3 of them.

In about a blink of an eye, I went from 2nd to 5th

I stayed with my mental plan and had tunnel vision to the finish.  Today wasn’t about me vs them (well, it was….but …), it was more about me vs me.  No drama.  No med tents, no ambulance, no anaphylactic shock, no nasty poo water.  Just me and a race course; start to finish.

I made that finish, and while I am not thrilled with the day?  I was in the hunt.  And that feels good.

In retrospect, I think I still have a lot of work to do to get to be where I want.  I also think not racing, but once in nearly a year showed.  I’m rusty as hell.  But with a little bit of elbow grease?  That rust will fade.

Oh and pre-race, I got some advice from my good friend Maik Twelsiek.  He said “Good luck.  Show them your butt.”

Well Maik…I did!  To the entire “Syracuse Post Standard” readership!  Next time, hopefully I’ll do so a little more literally and a little less figuratively!



Thanks to my support team; Roka Sports (first race in this AMAZING suit!), Saucony, Blue Competition Cycles, INFINIT Nutrition, The University Club of Boston, Cobb Cycling, XLAB, Norma Tec and of course my coach Siri and my irreplaceable DaveyG!


Persistence. Determination. Love. The Journey!

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