Ok - hunker down and you may want to consider getting a snack – this is a long one!
So this was the plan. My mom and dad were supposed to fly in from Houston at 1:00pm on Thursday, May 1st. My sister Megan and her friend Beulah were supposed to fly in from Dallas at 1:30pm, via Chicago, on Friday, May 2nd. We were going to have some friends over for dinner on Friday evening, have a leisurely Saturday morning, and then head to Cincinnati about noon.
This is what actually happened. Megan's flight from Dallas made it into Chicago on time, but because of bad weather across the mid-west, they were unable to land. Since they were unable to land, they had to circle the airport. Since they had to circle the airport, their fuel supply began to run low and they were re-routed to Milwaukee to get fuel. Once they landed there and re-fueled, there was no place for them to go. There were no open gates at the Milwaukee airport, so they weren't even able to get off the plane. I think they were physically on the plane from about 8:00am to around 3:00 or 4:00pm -- ridiculous! Finally, they got the go ahead to fly back to O'Hare. At this point, they had obviously missed their connection to Lexington, but were able to book an 8:00pm flight from Chicago to Lexington that landed at 10:20. About 8:00pm, the text messages from Megan started rolling in. The flight was delayed 20 minutes, then 40 minutes, then an hour, etc.
Finally, they boarded the plane to Lexington. They were on the plane for a few minutes when the pilot came over the radio. "Sorry folks - I've got some bad news," he said. They were canceling the flight because the pilots had reached their max amount of hours for the day - having to fly more than originally scheduled during the day because of all the re-routing around O'Hare. So - everyone got off the plane. They were not able to get their luggage - they were told it would be on the next flight to Lexington and that is when they could get their bags. Until then, it would be in a locked room in the airport that apparently no airport employee had access to.
The airlines gave them a green voucher for 50% off of a room at the Motel 6...10 miles away. So Megan called Motel 6 while Beulah tried in vain to get their bags. Motel 6 said the room would be $120, but Megan would only have to pay $60 with her pink voucher from the airline. Well, she had a green voucher - and Motel 6 would only take pink ones on the weekend. So, the Motel 6 would be full price. At this point, Megan called and was crying and was asking what she should do. I calmly mentioned that they might want to look into flying directly into Cincinnati the next morning and Megan screamed "don't say another word about Cincinnati!" and then cried some more and hung up on me. She was in a pretty fragile state at that point. My parents called her back and told her to get a hotel room at the Hilton that was located in the airport - no matter what the cost - just so that they could get some sleep. They ended up taking a shuttle to an Embassy Suites nearby. They are seeking to be reimbursed for the expenses by American Airlines, as they should be.
So, they got to the hotel, sans luggage, and were able to get a decent night's sleep. The next morning they got up and headed back to O'Hare for a late morning flight to Lexington. The plan was now for us to pick them up from the airport and head directly to Cincinnati.
After a quick stop at Starbucks to settle our nerves, we got to the airport baggage claim area in the airport. There are only two claim areas in the Lexington airport and one said "Chicago --1:25pm" – plus the monitors showed that the flight was on time for a 1:25pm landing. We asked someone who got off of the plane if they were on the Chicago flight and she said "Yes – it only took us 26 gours!" So, we were like great, this is their flight. Well, we waited and waited – and waited some more and there was no sign of Megan or Beulah coming down the escalator. We looked over to the luggage carousel – all the bags had been claimed. At this point, my mom put her head in her hands, leaned against a support column and began to sob. It was also at this time that I realized they were most likely caught in the Bermuda Triangle and we were destined to never see them again. My dad – being the most level headed of our group at this point – went to the American Airlines counter to ask about the status of the flight. They told him that the flight was still in the air, but scheduled to land at 2:00pm. By this point, it was about 1:50pm so we didn’t have much longer to wait in the agonizing suspense. We still don’t know what the girl was smoking who told us that she had just gotten off the flight from Chicago.
Thankfully, the flight from Chicago landed as promised at 2:00pm– and Megan, Beulah and their luggage all arrived safely. Since they had been without their luggage for about 30 hours at this point, they went to the bathroom and brushed their teeth, washed their faces and changed clothes. Megan was also finally able to take her anti-seizure medication that she had been without for the past day.
We left the airport and began our journey to “Cincy.” We stopped for a quick lunch at the delicious Chipotle. Carbo-loading” should technically include tortilla chips and cilantro-lime rice, but it probably wasn’t the best pre-marathon lunch. But, I’m an emotional eater and damnit, I wanted Chipotle! I kept telling Megan that she didn’t have to run the next day in the marathon. She was exhausted, dehydrated, and even quite dizzy at times.
So we get on the road to Cincinnati and miraculously made it there in one piece. The directions said to exit on 5th Street, so we exited on 5th Street and begin looking for the expo center. Unfortunately, we were on 5th Street in Covington, KY - and we needed to be on 5th Street in Cincinnati, OH. So we get back on I-75 to go a few more miles into Cincinnati, and I accidentally took the I-71 exit instead of I-75. So we go down I-71 a few miles until we can find a turnaround point. Finally, we found one and got going in the right direction (and in the right city) for the expo. We got to the expo and everything went pretty smoothly (other than my mother almost being crushed to death by an elevator door in a parking garage). The expo was really nice – there were a lot of giveaways – Crest toothpaste and mouthwash, Clif bars, Smuckers peanut butter and jelly, etc, and the runner premiums were really great. A snazzy duffle bag, a nice poster, and a somewhat hideously designed t-shirt. But it’s an Asics technical t-shirt, so I am going to modify it a bit(the cap sleeves must go – my sister and I put the shirts on and the cut of the shirt made us resemble Peanut M&M’s more than anything). And I did buy a really cool Asics/Headsweats Flying Pig hat that I’m in love with.
After leaving the expo, we decided to go to the hotel and get checked in. The hotel was about 1.5 miles from the race start and abuzz with other runners. After settling in for a few minutes, my dad and I worked out a race day strategy as to where we would meet my parents and Beulah along the course. We decided to meet them just after the water stop at Mile 25. At this point, the plan was for my mom to pass me my cell phone -- just in case we had trouble meeting up with them in the finish area.
Once that was decided, we headed to Pompilio’s, a local Italian restaurant in Northern Kentucky, for some true carbo-loading. We followed the directions and ended up at 6th and Washington – right where the restaurant was supposed to be located. However, all we saw were empty parking lots and homes. Blast! Once again, we were in the wrong city! So we pulled into a Shell gas station to ask for directions, and the only parking spot available was a handicapped space. We thought – well, Dad only has to run in for a second – what are the odds someone will pull up. My dad gets out to ask directions and sure enough – an Expedition with a handicapped parking tag pulls right up behind us. My dad offered to move, but the guy was really nice and said it was ok. So, my dad went inside to ask directions and the people at the gas station had no idea where the restaurant was, but ironically the man in the handicapped vehicle knew right were it was and was so nice to tell my dad how to get there. So, we finally get to Pompilios and it is about 8:15(that’s about 11:00pm in Mere-Maw time) and lo and behold, there is a two-hour wait. I had called on Friday afternoon to make reservations, but they didn’t take reservations at all. So, some people who were also in line for a table pointed us in the general direction of "Newport on the Levee” – a place just down the road with a lot of shops and restaurants.
We made our way there, decided to go to Arnie’s on the Levee, and all settled into a booth. Megan, my mom and I all got spaghetti and meatballs and Beulah and my dad each got a pizza. The food was really pretty excellent, and we had some good conversations and lots of laughs reminiscing over my mom’s short-lived stint as a puppeteer.
With full bellies, we headed back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.
**Check back soon for part two -- “During the Race”