So after Embrunman, I had 36hrs to get out of Europe. That 4-letter word (VISA) had come up again and my 90days in Europe were up on Monday.
I had changed my flight to depart from Nice rather than Vienna as Nice is only 200km from Embrun. 200km, 24hrs. No prob. I can do that on my bike… maybe I should have! So after trying and failing to find a lift with other competitors at the race, my ever-generous coach offered to drive me to Nice. Leaving on Sunday morning though would mean he would have to drive over 12 hours on Sunday to be home in time for Monday morning swimming. So we decided to drive to Nice after the awards and stay in a hotel Saturday night. On Sunday, I would head to airport and Doc would head home to Leysin. We left Embrun at about 10pm. The drive took longer than anticipated (it was now Sunday) and we got to Nice at 2h30 in the morning and set about finding a hotel.
The first hotel was full. No prob, there are plenty around here. Driving around the crazy confusing french roads trying to get to a different hotel, we were quickly losing patience. Next hotel. Full. One more. Full. And the receptionist said all hotels are full. Sigh! One more for luck (its now 4am!). I went up the elevator to reception while Doc waited in the car. I stepped out the elevator behind one other guy. He spoke first, in french, and asked for a ‘chambre’. The reply was ‘Oui’. Thank the pope! They’re not full! The receptionist turned to me. I said I need a room too. …He said ‘Sorry, this guy just got the last one.’ …OMG! FFS! You’ve got to be kidding me! I broke the news to Doc and he took it calmly. ‘Fine by me. I’ll just sleep in the car’, he said. Okay, off to the airport for me then…
Doc dropped me and all my stuff at the door and we said our goodbyes (and I made him promise to stop and sleep and not just drive all the way home. Not sure if it worked, but I had to try…). I was standing at the airport door at 4h30 with stuff scattered everywhere. All my race stuff still wet and my bike in one piece – it doesn’t fit in a box that way! And I still hadn’t slept since finishing the toughest IM in the world… I decided to get it done and pack my bike before sleeping as then all my stuff would be in a box and not scattered in a 5 metre radius.
I started on the task. Then disaster struck. My multi-tool Allen key set was gone. It must have fallen out my saddle-bag during the race. You can’t take a bike apart without a set of Allen keys. Period. I give up. I need sleep. I shoved it all back in the box, found a bench and lay down. I slept for 2hrs constantly interupted by annoucements about H1N1 Swine Flu. (In case you didn’t know, if you have a fever over 38C, and flu-like symptoms you should contact your doctor. Don’t phone the emergency number unless it is an emergency. …Yeah, we heard you the first 300 times!!!!! )
I gave up and got up at 7am. Time to find a tool. I went to security. No joy. Asked a porter. He was really helpful and took me to about hree different places before he too gave up. Info lady was a bitch and no help at all. I gave up and decided to head to the other Terminal (I was at the wrong one, but wanted to pack before taking the shuttle). It took three trips to get all my stuff on the bus. The other passengers were not impressed. I don’t care. I am not in the mood. Leave me the f… alone.
I loaded my stuff on a trolley and walked into Terminal 2. If I can’t find a tool in the next 5mins I am
gonna scream at the top of my lungs until security comes running. They’ll find me a tool just to shut me up… …And there he was. Some guy was taking his bike apart right there in the airport. Awesome! He was from Netherlands and had ridden to Nice from somewhere. I can’t remember where, I was too tired to concentrate, but he had a tool so for that 20mins he was my best friend in the entire world, though I didn’t even know his name!
I got my bike packed and fit almost all my stuff in the box. I had to leave my trophy and a small backpack in the airport though. Actually I decided to take it outside to discard it – I didn’t want to leave it lying somewhere and then cause a bomb-scare. As entertaining as that may have been, they would probably reveiwed their video and figured out it was me who left it there. Outside was safer the way my luck was going…
So I ate some breakfast and waited for checkin. Checkin was to open at 13h10, only 3hrs to go. I cat-napped on a chair again until I got too frustrated. I went and stood in line, planning to check-in and then get some lunch, only to be told that check-in was delayed by a little while due to the computers crashing, but should only be half an hour. Sigh. Fine. Whatever. Three hours (!) later I was checked in. The plane was delayed by 2hrs due to the slow check-in and we had to rush to board once we had checked-in. I missed lunch and spent three hours in line when I REALLY needed to be sleeping.
I got on board and found I had been given an emergency exit seat. Yes… at last some luck (Sunday was almost over!). I finally ate and tried to sleep. I suck at sleeping sitting up and hardly slept. We arrived at Dubai at 2am and I only had an hour before boarding the next flight. Sleep horizontally (badly needed after being awake for almost 36hrs straight) or stretch the legs (badly needed after doing an Ironman then sitting in a plane for 7hrs)? I opted to stretch and briskly walked the length of the airport. I began to feel better and the next flight I also had an emergency exit seat. I arrived in Jo’burg at 10h30 on Monday, with one more flight to PE to go.
When I arrived in PE at 15h00 on Monday I had done the toughest IM in the world, not slept in a bed (or much at all) for over 6ohrs, eaten only junk-food and air-line food, sat in uncomfortable aeroplane seats for over 18hrs and lugged a bike box and hand luggage (that was way too heavy) half-way around the world… I collapsed in the arms of my girlfriend and slept like a baby. Home, sweet sweet home!