Friday, April 14, 2006


Bay Islands ITU
Roatan, Honduras
March 25, 2006

After emailing back and forth, the race director finally gets in contact with TACA Airlines, one of the sponsors of the race, and a free airline ticket is reserved in my name.
West End Town
Racing for close to 10 years now this is the first time that I’ve gotten a free airline ticket anywhere! I was leaving on Wednesday midnight out of San Francisco, or so I thought. With 20 minutes before driving up to the city, I check my email one last time to get directions to my home stay and good thing I checked as there was an email from the race director. I open it and it says that I need to call the TACA Call Center, as the “free” tickets aren’t really free. I need to pay $113 for taxes apparently. I call the 800 number and finally get a live person who tries to explain that my reservation has been cancelled because I didn’t pay the fee 24 hours before my flight was to depart. I proceed to tell her that this airline is the sponsor of the race, that this is a sponsorship ticket and that I am a professional who must be at this international race to compete. She puts me on hold and after waiting for some time I get disconnected! So, I dial the number again and get a different person. I tell him my problem and he looks up my information and tells me that I only had a reservation and because I didn’t pay the fee that my reservation was cancelled and that I could make a new reservation for the following day; same flight times, numbers, etc. just on Thursday. So, I end up making new reservations for the following midnight and he told me to call the next morning and pay the fee and that will confirm me on the flights.

It’s now Thursday night and my dad drives me up to SF airport and drops me off. I stand in a line for about 40 minutes and when I get up to the counter to check my bags in and get my boarding passes, I find that I am there for another 45 minutes! I’m not exactly sure what is going on, but it seems as they are trying to make sure
The inside of the plane to Roatan

that I’m on this flight. The woman behind the counter then gives me my boarding pass from SFO to El Salvador and then from El Salvador to San Pedro Sula, Honduras. She then tells me that I am on standby from El Salvador to San Pedro Sula and then when I get to San Pedro that I’ll get my boarding pass to Roatan. I arrive in El Salvador and go to the counter to make sure I get my boarding pass. The person behind the counter seems to not know what he is doing and says that someone else will help me. I wait a while longer and another person comes up and says don’t worry come back in a while. I ask if there are seats available and he says yes, don’t worry. So I go and sit and wait.
Did I mention that my flight from SFO left at 12:40am and I arrived in El Salvador at ~ 6:30am. I didn’t get much sleep and I just wanted to get to Roatan. It’s now Friday morning and I am supposed to arrive in Roatan at 11am. Just prior to boarding the flight, I go up to the counter to see about getting my seat



assignment and I finally get one. I boarded the plain and was glad to be on my way. I arrived in San Pedro and had to go through immigration and by the time I got down to the ticket counter and asked about my boarding pass. After talking to a few different people it was finally told to
The outside of the square plane.

me that I apparently didn’t buy a ticket from San Pedro to Roatan! I exhausted, I speak very little Spanish (just enough to barely get by) and the person behind the counter says I don’t have a ticket, but I can buy one for two hundred and something dollars!! I again run through my explanation that TACA is a sponsor of the race and that I called the TACA Call Center and made sure that everything was in order as far as my ticket was concerned, etc., etc, etc. but they wouldn’t listen. So I missed my 9:55am flight and the only other flight to Roatan was at 4:30pm. I went to call the race director to see if she could help and she didn’t answer her phone. I used a phone service at the airport because I couldn’t remember how to dial to the U.S. I even tried dialing my father’s 1-800 number but that didn’t work either. A very helpful woman let me borrow her calling card to call my dad and he didn’t answer but after I left a message he called my phone and I was able to receive phone calls. I thanked the woman and she said she’s been in my shoes before and knows how it feels.
I told dad what was going on through tears in my eyes and a runny nose. It has been one of those extremely stressful journeys and all I wanted to do was be on Roatan relaxing. He called the race director’s cell number and office number and again she never returned his phone calls. After a while I went back to the ticket counter and tried to talk to them again. I asked how my bags could’ve gone to Roatan (I had my claim tickets that were tagged to Roatan) and not me??? It didn’t make any sense. I ended up asking another airline if they had flights to Roatan and it was $112. I finally ate a sandwich that I had brought with me and read my book until I decided to go back to the ticket counter yet again.




Part of the bike course…can you tell it’s steep???

I'm sure by this time they were sick of seeing me there. I spoke with a woman who was still trying to tell me that I had not purchased a ticket and I had finally had it and broke down crying saying that I needed to get to the island for a race. She finally said that she would charge me $12 for a ticket and that I could get on the last flight to Roatan. I thanked her profusely and got my boarding ticket and waited a few more hours before boarding. I still think they tried to scam me; I’ve never had anything like that happen before.
I spent a total of 7 hours in the airport of San Pedro, exhausted, stressed out and irritated. I boarded the square plane bound for Roatan and was happy to notice another professional triathlete on the plane. We introduced ourselves and she is Ana from Brazil. The flight was about 45 minutes, which included a stop on La Ceiba. We landed in Roatan at 5:30pm and I had to find someone to help me locate my luggage, which should have arrived at 11am! After wondering around the airport and asking about 5 different airport employees, non of whom knew what the heck was going on, I finally found a woman who yelled across the small airport to a TACA employee who opened a door and there sitting on the floor was my bike box and my clothing bag! This is a first, where my luggage actually makes it to my final destination before I do, go figure.

I go outside and find Ana sitting in a shuttle bound for the Mayan Princess Hotel where the mandatory pro meeting has already finished! Both of us needed to pick up our race packets there and we had agreed on asking the race director about staying at the host hotel as it was getting dark and we weren’t about to wonder the streets looking for my home stay with a bike box the night before the race.
As we were driving to the hotel I again started to feel sick. I believe it was again exhaustion and stress. We finally arrived at the hotel at 6:30pm; found the race director who pointed us in the direction of registration. We filled out some paperwork and got our bags and then proceeded to chase the race director around (she was on her phone) to see about staying at the hotel. We finally found someone who tried to help us get a room, but as it were they had no rooms available. I was really feeling ill by this time and so Ana said for me to wait in the lobby while she went to look for the race director.

As I was waiting, I saw Susan Williams and her sister Lisa and I said hi. Susan came and sat with me and in the course of our brief chat she found out I had just got in and wasn’t feeling well and didn’t really have a place to stay, so she graciously offered for me to stay with her and her sister in their place in the host hotel. I accepted and off we were to her place. I also saw Branden Rakita there and I was supposed to stay near him, but he was about to leave and I still had to put my bike together. Lunch after the race with the girls.

The first thing I did was start putting the bike together. I was is such bad shape though that as I was putting it piece by piece I was hoping that I was putting the saddle on correctly or the handlebars on tight enough. I honestly could’ve cared less about the race the next morning. I didn’t even bother to put on aerobars. I was almost finished putting it together when this horrible feeling came over me; I dropped what I was doing, ran to the bathroom and vomited my sandwich that I had earlier. Needless to say I won’t ever eat that sandwich again. (It’s too bad because the first time it was good) That’s pretty disgusting isn’t it??? Sorry, but you wanted the whole account, right?

While I was doing this, Susan and Lisa had made up the coach for me. Actually they pulled the mattress down on the floor and made up a nice cushioned bed for me. I thanked them very much before they went to grab some dinner.

I went back out and finished the bike and was trying to get some things organized when again I ran to the bathroom…I’ll leave it at that as it was the same as before! Disgusting.

I wasn’t hungry, so no dinner for me. All I wanted was to sleep. Dad had called me and I spoke to him, mom and Jay and he told me the number to dial out. We hung up, I tried it and it worked! We talked briefly again and then said goodnight. I was asleep just after 8:30pm.

RACE DAY

I was up at 5:30am and feeling 100% better. I rechecked my bike making sure that bolts were on tight and straight and even put on my aerobars. After doing the usual prep in transition, I rode my bike on the gravel road to make sure it would be okay and then headed down to the ocean for a quick pre-swim. I asked a few of the girls which direction we were swimming, as I had no idea. The men started a few minutes before we did. There were 12 women on the start line and I was hoping to do well. Although it was humid out, there was cloud cover that kept the sun at bay. It could’ve been extremely hot here, but thank goodness it wasn’t.
The gun sounded off and we were in the water. There seemed to be a strong current and it was difficult to get out. (there weren’t big waves though, so I’m not sure why it seemed hard). I hung with the pack for a while but noticed that I was putting in more effort than I think I needed to and not going anywhere. Before we reached the first buoy I was already trailing in last place. I tried even harder to catch someone in front of me, but nothing. I got around another buoy and couldn’t see the women at all. There were now a few good-size swells coming in and if you weren’t on the top you couldn’t see where you were going. I actually had to ask a guy on a surfboard which direction I needed to go! Yeah, I’m a professional triathlete??? I did happen to pass a few professional men in the water though, that made my day! As I rounded the last buoy and headed towards the finish of the swim, I saw a girl just ahead of me. I again tried to pick it up and at least get on her feet, but it didn’t happen; I exited the water about 5 seconds behind her but ended up running past her in transition. She was right behind me though as we started the first horrendous climb on the bike.

I’m so glad I put my 12-25 cassette on because as it was I had to weave across the hill to make sure I’d make it up! This wasn’t a good sign…”I can’t even climb up this hill?” I thought to myself. My legs must be really tired! I did see about 3 other women ahead of me and I set my sights on them; I had to catch them, I would catch them.
I made it up and soon caught two girls. They hung with me for a while, but I was on a mission to catch as many women as possible. The entire bike course would be considered rolling hills except for the first hill and one of the last climbs…those were steep hills. The middle section of the course was comprised of two loops before heading back towards transition. Before we completed the first loop I was in a pack of 6 women with 4 women ahead of us. The bike course wasn’t marked clearly and there were no volunteers on the course our first loop. I was leading the pack at the time and say one of the male pros just ahead. I thought we were supposed to make a U-turn at one point and do the loop for the second time, but the male pro kept on riding straight so I followed him, but slowing down just a bit and looking behind me I saw Maliaka make the turn around, I yelled to turn and the few girls that were behind me and myself included turned around. We didn’t miss the turn around by too much and in no time at all I was leading again, this time faster to


make up the few seconds that we lost. As we were about to finish the second loop we caught the 4th place women and had also dropped a girl or two on the way. With about 5k go to I saw Maggie carrying her bike and walking towards transition, I thought maybe she had gotten a flat.

West End Town

Come to find out she had crashed. After the race I was told she was okay, bruised and sore, but okay. You never like to see someone go down.

On one of the last climbs I broke away and one girl came with me. We worked together for a while before I dropped her and headed into T2 in 3rd place. I headed out on the run and felt heavy and sluggish, but

hoped that I would soon feel much better. The run was half of grass and gravel and half of pavement; also a hilly run! It was a Popsicle shaped run where you head out, run three loops and then return pretty much the same way except for the final 800 meters to the finish. (I’ll explain in a minute).
I thought I had a pretty good lead heading out, but didn’t want to look back, I would have time to see who was behind me when I made the turn around loop at the far end of the run. After the first loop I was indeed in 3rd, trailing Lauren Groves and Susan Williams, 1st and 2nd respectively. At the turn around of my second loop I noticed that a girl was catching up to me. I picked it up a bit, but still wasn’t feeling as good as I hoped. After I started my third and final loop the girl had caught me, but she didn’t pass me. She stayed just behind me on my left shoulder. I picked up the pace a bit and she hung with me. I was starting to feel better and picked up the pace again and she stayed. I was surprised that she didn’t pass me; I guess she was content to let me set the pace and that was fine with me. We passed the last aid station and she slowed to get water, I figured this was my time to put the


hurt on, so I picked it up and headed back through the grassy field towards the finish. I eventually got onto the graveled road and as I made the last left hand turn I looked back and didn’t see her. I was now on a dirt road that headed straight for the beach. There was only the right hand turn onto the beach and a 400m stretch on the sand to the finish. As I rounded the right hand turn I again looked back and there she was, I was a bit startled and laid it out again and I sprinted on the sand as fast as I could to finish in 3rd. There was no way I was going to give up third place after what I had gone through to get here, especially in the last 400m! I bested her by 10 seconds!


After the race there was complimentary lunch for all the participants and a small podium ceremony were top 3 male and female finishers were recognized. In the evening there was complimentary dinner and the full awards ceremony. I didn’t stay out too late and was in bed by 10pm.

My flight wasn’t until 4pm on Sunday afternoon. Most of the athletes had early flights and I was left to wonder about the small island alone. (That sounds pathetic doesn’t it???) I left Roatan bound for El Salvador again and once there I had to go to the ticket counter, as my ticket back to SFO was again standby. I was extremely nervous, as this was the last flight to SFO and I wanted to go home. I kept checking and rechecking at the counter to see if I was going to get a seat assignment. Once they started boarding, I counted every single person that went on the plane. I knew there were 150 seats on the flight home and I had counted 125 people on board and it was now slowing down. I again went to the ticket counter and pleaded my case yet again to get home. Finally the woman behind the counter wrote down my seat number and I practically ran onto the plane. I was the last one on. I was there for about 5 minutes or so, when one of the male agents came on board and said that he was sorry but I had to get off the plane! I said that I was given a seat and that I had to get home. He said that he spoke with his supervisor and he’s sorry but there is a weight limit and with me on the plane it makes it too heavy. I kept pleading my case as the man in the aisle seat got up slowly and so did the woman in the middle seat and I at the window seat reluctantly started to stand and grab my backpack. I told the guy that I had nowhere to stay in El Salvador and he said that they would help me, but I still just wanted to get home. When I stood in the aisle, the agent had disappeared and I saw coming towards me a male flight attendant you was hurrying me back into my seat saying, “sit down, sit down.” Tears were now gushing from my eyes, as I just wanted to go home and get out of this place. “Not again,” I was thinking to myself, not with all these empty seats are they going to make me get off this plane and stay the night in El Salvador! I had so many problems on the way over and I didn’t want to go through that again. (Even though I sort of was already!) I quickly sat back down and waited for what was going to happen next. Two women seated in front of me were saying “You poor thing, that’s horrible.” And believe me it was a scene on the plane. I didn’t want to be dragged off the plane by security and thrown in some prison down there, but I really didn’t want to get off that plane either.
Another minute or so went by and a woman flight attendant come by with a huge smile on her face and said that she was sorry for that and the captain has made an exception and I can stay on the plane. I was still crying and very upset but thankful that I was able to stay on and get home! One of the women in front of me handed me a handkerchief and we ended up talking a bit later and I filled her in on the entire story of what happened!


I must say I’m not sure if I’ll ever go down there again. It was almost too much of a problem. I’m very proud of my race though and it seems I’m off to a great start this season.

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Ed Nobis said...

Alexis,
I enjoy your blog--thanks for taking the time to write

Anonymous said...

despite of all problems that you encountered, your story sounds great. I too went through the same thing; stanby!! it's horrible I now that for sure. But here's the deal, I'm an employee therefore I know there are rules we have to follow of course that doesn't mean we have to mistreat our passengers. I'm terribly sorry about what you went through with us. I don't think I can give you valid excuse since it seems you had problems with every agent you spoke to. Let me tell you something, if it happens again with us or any other airline just try to be calm and speak to a supervisor and then just wait. What happens is (and i learned this the hard way)you must be in control, keep calm because the more noise you make it's gonna make it worse. Tha's maybe what happened in your case but anyways I'm also glad you made back to the US as I did!