Friday, March 26, 2010

Will Not Start - Baggage

Yesterday I was on Continental Flight 602 from Newark to Los Angeles. On that flight a 70 year old man had a heart attack and we had to make an emergency landing to ensure that individual's health. While the flight attendants will tell you they are trained for your safety in flight – do not believe them. The flight attendants had no idea what the protocol was to stabilize this individual when he had the heart attack and thankfully there were passengers who were doctors aboard. At one point a woman passenger who was a doctor or nurse screamed at the flight attendenant for the epihinedrin because the man had no pulse.

We landed at 4-corners air field in Farmington, NM. This airfield serves local pilots on mainly non-commercial flights; after we landed and the man was brought to safety the workers at this airfield were snapping pictures of themselves next to the plane most likely because they had never seen a plane so large before. The manager at the airfield said to the press that while the plane could land at the field safely, taking off was not safe. All the bags and cargo needed to be removed from the plane for the plane to be able to take off safely again.

During the emergency landing the pilot rushed through turbulence; let me tell you those jets can go through hell and back and stay together, it essentially felt like we were in a nose dive. We came onto the runway steeply and at a very fast speed – everyone was thrust completely forward in their seats when the pilot slammed on the breaks as soon as we hit the run way. It then took the EMTs about 20 minutes to figure out how to get the sick man off the plane – Albuquerque, New Mexico with a full commercial airport and safe runways was just over 120 miles away from the air field we landed at; a flight time of less than 15 minutes.

I have no way of knowing if landing at that air field saved the individual's life or not, I do know that by landing at that airfield the pilot risked the lives of the 185 individuals who remained on board when we took off again. I do know that Continental has handled this entire situation awfully; we were grounded in New Mexico for 3 hours yesterday as the brains that be at Continental tried to figure out the physics behind taking off again. To do that we needed to lose 3,000 lbs – or the luggage and cargo. With the amount of time Continental spent figuring out the physics behind taking off again one would think they were advancing the thought of string-theory. One would think with all the time they spent doing that math they would have figured out a way for our luggage to get from New Meixco to California in less than 36 hours – it is a 17 hour drive (I google mapped it from the runway).

My bags will not arrive in Los Angeles until 5am tomorrow morning. My bags contain my wet suit, race nutrition, bike pedals, bike shoes, triathlon kit, fuel belt, running shoes, heart rate monitor, sun glasses and race hat. My bags contain everything I need to race tomorrow; the only thing not in my bags is my bike helmet. I am unable to race tomorrow because Continental could not figure out the logistics of getting the passenger's bags from New Mexico to California in less than 36 hours. Oceanside is about 2 hours from LA, the earliest I could have my bags tomorrow would be 7 am, after I get my bags I need an hour and ½ for pre-race nutrition prep, the earliest I could start would be 8:30 am; I will not race tomorrow.

I am at the end of my rope when it comes to facing adversity and persevering. I am mentally and emotionally drained and have nothing left to give. Before I continue, let me clarify, my heart and prayers go out to the man who had the heart attack and his family; I want no one to confuse me being emotionally drained for that – it is the adversity after that incident and the way Continental handled the incident and aftermath that has me spent. I have yet to do a triathlon which has gone off smoothly. Sure people face flat tires, injuries and obstacles everyday in triathlon; but I have poured my heart and soul into this sport, I have sacrificed so much, have given so much for a cause and I feel like the wall is just getting too big to scale any longer.

I had never worked so hard for a single athletic event before. I had believed I finally overcame the mental hurdle of just going out to have fun in triathlon, just seeing what happens and just letting the day come to me. This weekend cost me close to $1500 between flights, shipping my bike on tri bike transport, rental cars, the hotel, and the race fee – that is $1.5k that stretches my student budget about as far as it goes. Last year the crash in the Patriots Triathlon cost me $2000 to replace my bike; this sport has me essentially broke in my last semester at grad school. I give up nights with my friends for this sport, have had many sleepless nights so I could look for my post-MBA employment while training for triathlon, have spent weekends traveling just to find dry roads to bike and run on. I have nothing more to give. I don't know if I have the strength to keep scaling these walls, I'm a fighter but I don't know how much fight I have left.

In 14 years of football I don't ever recall having to face adversity like this to compete in a sport. I don't ever recall circumstances outside of my control completely breaking my heart. I pour all that I am into my workouts each day. I finally had believed I was at a place to really have fun with it tomorrow. I finally believed I was ready to just be me out on the course. After I crashed and had an awful run at the Patriots Triathlon last September I considered giving up the sport. My performance at South Carolina re-energized me. But now what? I just don't know if I have enough left in me to smile through this one and roll with it – missing this race hurts, with everything I have poured into preparing for this race over the past 5 months I just don't know how I'm going to find that spark again to challenge myself day in and day out until IMCDA. I just can't deal with anymore adversity – I've had enough.


Anonymous said...

Look at the bright side.
You're alive!
There'll be next year for the race.

jpnairn said...

There probably isn't anything I can say to make it easier, but I hope writing this all down has helped for you.
It's too bad that this happened, it is terrible that you will miss this race. But this race is just this race. If it helps, pretend you rocked it like you know you would have.
Do a full tri workout that approaches the race experience if you think that would help.
You were never in it for just one race, not the one in September, not this one, not the next one, not the one after that.
This is one tragedy in a long line of an athletic career. There are going to be successes, like your training for this race was a success, and catastrophes, like the travel to this race.
Grieve for this weekend, then move on.
Best wishes for more success in the future.

Anne said...

Ed!!! I am sooo sorry!! :(

jpnairn said...

Hi, Ed,
There is a column on the USAT web site that has to do with not forgetting your purpose while trying to reach your goals.

I found it helpful for me.
Congrats again on a great race!

Scott K. Johnson said...

Oh man. What a mess. I don't blame you one bit for feeling so frustrated.