I registered for the 2010 San Francisco Half Marathon back in January. There are actually two half marathon routes, with the first being the most popular since it includes the road bed of the Golden Gate Bridge. Due to its popularity, the first half often sells out far in advance and this was once again the case this year.
Since I’ve made several trips recently to the Bay Area (with even more planned for later this year), I really would be traveling *just* for the race. In an effort to minimize expenses, I opted to use Delta SkyMiles for a free round-trip ticket. I also scheduled an early morning outbound flight, with a return back East on a red eye after the race, effectively giving me 48 hours end-to-end (including travel time) for my San Fran experience. Obviously, this left little room for error as I would soon find out!
I left for the airport around 4:30 AM for my scheduled 6:30 flight from Raleigh to Atlanta where I was scheduled to connect to San Francisco. Everything seemed to be in order upon arriving at the gate except for a minor delay with arrival of the inbound flight from Los Angeles. An announcement was made to expect imminent boarding once that flight had deplaned. However, this did not end up being the case. Houston, we have a problem! Apparently, due to severe weather in the Midwest the night before, there were no flight attendants available for the flight to Atlanta (they were stiuck in Detroit) and therefore the flight was canceled. Total scheduling fail! Next flight to Atlanta? 1:30 PM! This was obviously not going to get me to San Francisco in time for race packet pickup (closed at 5 PM Pacific). Once it was clear where this was headed, I immediately called Delta’s reservation line from the massive queue at the formed at the gate where everyone was now scrambling to get re-booking assistance from two agents. After multiple attempts, I finally got connected and was placed on hold for about 20 minutes. The Delta rep was very helpful in researching options once I pleaded my case. However, given limited flight options, I could see my options disappearing as the minutes ticked by. I seriously thought I may be heading home. Sure, I could get to SFO, but I had to be there by 3 PM to realistically give me enough time to get to the packet pick up venue. Finally, the Delta rep came back with the only option. I could connect through Chicago O’Hare on American, departing in 15 minutes! So, I thanked the rep graciously and sprinted to the American gate at the end of the terminal.
All good, right? Time to relax? Think again! I don’t know exactly what kind of magic wand the Delta rep had at her disposal (other than it requiring special approval), but I was given a confirmed ticket number on American. Upon arriving at the American gate, I was greeted by an all-too familiar welcome sign – ‘Oversold – Volunteers Needed’! Somehow, Delta was able to squeeze me in above other American passengers. Needless to say, while I was happy, American was not so elated. They asked me to take a seat until everyone else had boarded then finally gave me my boarding pass and said I was good to go. I still have no idea *exactly* what happened but I sincerely apologize if others were unintentionally bumped because of me.
After boarding the American flight to Chicago, it seemed that all was in order for a quick flight and connection to SFO. After only 30 minutes in the air, however, our pilot announced that due to an incredible line of storms we would need to divert around, the standard 600 mile flight path would now become over 1,100 since we would need to head west to Kansas City before turning north. As a result, we would not arrive into O’Hare until 5 minutes *after* my SFO flight was scheduled to depart. Once again, my heart sank. Would I now be stuck in the Windy City? I tried to stay optimistic. Five minutes after making the initial announcement, our pilot came back on and said that air traffic control had located a gap in the storm system allowing us to turn north sooner, over St Louis instead. As a result, we would now arrive in Chicago only 15 minutes later than our scheduled time! Yay! We were going to make it! While it wasn’t the smoothest landing coming in off Lake Michigan facing the Chicago skyline due to unstable air, we did arrive in time for me to catch my connection to SFO only a couple of gates away. As for the ORD-SFO leg (about 3.5 hrs), it was smooth the entire way. I made it into beautiful San Francisco International around 1:30 PM Pacific with plenty of time to hook up with BART, check in at my hotel, and cab over to the expo at the San Francisco Design Center for packet pick up! My journey must have been meant to be, despite the many obstacles to overcome. Much like the distance running experience itself!