August 16, 2009

Night Before the Marathon: Humpy’s Marathon

Bet you weren’t expecting to see that title anymore this weekend. Surprise! I’m in Anchorage.

When I last posted, I was on the subway heading back to Manhattan from JFK. Sure enough, it took about 1.5 hours to get back (normally about a 40 min or less trip) – I took advantage of the time to get pretty far along in Philippa Gregory’s latest book, The Other Queen (loving it, by the way). Coming off the subway, I called Boyfriend to let him know what was up, and even though he had been really excited about having the weekend to himself and holing up in his apartment to play games, he graciously agreed to meet me for lunch.

Stopping at my apartment to drop off my suitcase and change out of the business casual clothes in which I fly, I started to hatch a plan. I was bitterly disappointed at missing the noon flight, but maybe I could make it to Alaska after all. We only have one other flight to Seattle, leaving JFK at 7 PM with a scheduled arrival in Seattle at 10:30 PM, and originally I had assumed that was too late for me to get all the way to Alaska. But when I checked the Alaska Airlines schedule, I discovered that there was indeed a flight to Anchorage that didn’t leave till 11:45 PM. I could do it!

It was a risky plan to be sure. With only one flight (instead of the option of about eight, like I would have had with my original plan), there was a good chance that I wouldn’t make it on the plane and would be stuck in Seattle. We didn’t even have any flights going out from Seattle after 9:30 PM, so I would be stuck there until morning if my plan failed. But… it could work. Deciding to take my chances, I called Alaska Airlines to switch my flight listing, and then headed out with Boyfriend for lunch.

We opted to head to a great Indian buffet near us – only $15 for all you can eat on weekends. It’s a favorite of ours, though we hadn’t been in a while, and we were excited for a nice time. With my new plan in mind, I had the pleasure of loading up on rice and naan with my meal (I usually try to limit those) in order to carb load. It occurred to me that Indian food was probably not the safest thing for my digestion to eat the night before a race, but I decided I didn’t care. Hopefully I won’t regret that decision tomorrow!

After a nice lunch and a walk in the park, Boyfriend and I said our goodbyes and I headed back to the airport for attempt #2 at getting to Seattle. This time, I took no chances, and was leaving three hours early. Of course, the trains were running much faster this time around, so I ended up stopping in at my office and getting a bit of work done while I waited for the shuttle to JFK.

Being full on that late lunch of Indian buffet, I wasn’t too hungry at 7 while I waited to board, so I opted for one of the all-fruit smoothies at Jamba Juice (meaning no dairy or sugar added). It was pretty good, but I was shocked that even after my airport employee discount it came out to $5 for the smallest size they had. I remember going to the Orange Julius store at the mall growing up and thinking that $3 for a smoothie was pricy!

The flight to Seattle went off without a hitch. Though there were only a few seats open on the plane, I managed to get assigned an exit row window seat with an empty middle seat next to me. Nice! I knew that figuring out a good sleep pattern was going to be a challenge because of the five hour time difference between Anchorage and New York, so my plan was to stay up for the duration of the Seattle flight, then sleep on the flight from Seattle to Anchorage and continue to sleep at my hotel once arriving. However, after about an hour of reading, I found myself lulled to sleep by the rhythm of the plane. Giving in to temptation, I pulled on my eye shades and my neck pillow, wrapped myself in my travel blanket, and slept for the rest of the flight.

Unfortunately, it was not a sound sleep. When the plane took off, I found myself with the uneasy feeling that something wasn’t right – the feeling went away once we were safely at cruising altitude and I knew that takeoff had gone well. But after sleeping for some time, I was startled awake a sudden change in the sound of the engines, and a dropping feeling that indicated we were losing altitude. My first reaction was to pull down the windowshade in a panic to see what was going on (not that I would have been able to necessarily see what was wrong, but still). A cursory glance revealed nothing, but as I looked, the pilot came over the intercom to say that he apologized for the turbulence but that we should be out of it in just a few minutes. His calm voice and announcement of turbulence (instead of some sort of engine failure) was reassuring, and I drifted back to sleep thinking I’d had a little scare and would soon be fine.

But I again started having nightmares about a potential disaster. I dreamed that there was something wrong with the PA system that allows the pilots to talk to the cabin, and it was making all kinds of buzzing noises while the flight attendants banged on the ceiling near the speakers to somehow try to fix it. I kept waking up intermittently during this dream, and in drifting in and out of consciousness, I became very confused about what was real and what was a dream. When I finally woke up for good near the end of the flight, it took me a few minutes to really think about it and determine that I had just been dreaming and nothing was wrong with the plane.

What on earth is wrong with me though? I have never had any kind of fear of flying, and while it’s not keeping me from getting on a plane, I’m really surprised to find that I start to worry at some point on almost every flight I take. I would assume that a phobia is something you can’t just develop (at least, not without some sort of incident that incites the phobia), but here I am, suddenly a nervous flyer. I know perfectly well that flying is statistically safer than driving or even riding the subway, and I know a lot about specific plane crashes and why they’ve occurred and why the odds are slim-to-none that they’d happen again. So why am I suddenly having these nightmares and panic attacks? And are they going to get worse? I’m not even halfway done with my fifty state quest, and I love to travel outside that too – I don’t want to have to keep dealing with this every time I fly.

To get back to the story though… we landed quite safely in Seattle at 9:50 (forty minutes early). When the time was announced by the flight attendant, I realized that if I really hustled, I might be able to catch an earlier flight to Anchorage and not have to get in at 2:30 AM. Sure enough, glancing at the departure screens as I raced through the airport, there was a 10:30 PM flight that would get me into Anchorage at 1 AM. Score!

I headed for the C terminal (all the way at the other end of the airport) and made it to the customer service desk at 10:10, just as boarding was beginning for the 10:30 flight. The agent took a long time tap-tap-tapping at her keyboard, and I feared I wouldn’t make it and would have to sit around the airport for another hour, cooling my heels with the knowledge that I had just missed the flight, but then she said the magical words: “I can actually assign you a seat right now. Is window good?” Yes! She told me they had just announced final boarding and that I would have to run, and after grabbing my boarding pass, I dutifully sprinted for the gate, suitcase in tow. People turned to look at me as I flew past, and I heard one young child say, “mommy that girl is FAST.” Yes I am! You should see me without my rollerboard 🙂 Thinking back, I realized that you don’t really see people running through the airport anymore – it’s more of a Hollywood thing.

So now, with an ETA of 1 AM and a very late marathon start time of 8 AM, I’m left to once again ponder my sleeping patterns. Do I sleep now, when it’s my real bedtime in NYC? But what if I then can’t sleep when I get to my hotel, at the equivalent of 6 AM EST? Should I sleep now and stay up later, to keep myself on New York time, or should I try to stay up now and put myself on Alaska time?

Either way, it’s a crazy adventure. More than 12 hours of travel each way, all to spend less than 12 hours of time in Anchorage, 4.5 of which will be running the marathon and hopefully 5.5 of which will be sleeping. In and out, like a true Maniac! We’ll see if this technique works as well for me in Alaska as it did in Salt Lake City


2 thoughts on “Night Before the Marathon: Humpy’s Marathon”

  1. Gosh, how lucky to get a Captain help you out.

    Thanks for the comment on pacing. I’ll have to look into that. (I secretly have my own 50 state goal as well)

    I normally try to stay on my “local” time. It is 10:40pm Atlanta time and I just finished up dinner (I normally eat around 7pm Arizona time where I live).

    Unfortunately, I already saw the post on the “net result”. Hopefully I’ll get to it yet tonight!

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