Sunday, August 2, 2015

Packing for the "what-ifs"

Packing for a race that requires flying requires some planning. When I travel in my beloved Mobile Transition Vehicle (a.k.a. minivan), I can take all kinds of stuff and it's all under my control. With flying, you are at the mercy of the airlines and the TSA. So I try to plan for the "what-ifs" just a bit, like what IF the airline loses my checked bag?

There are three bags/boxes going, each with varying levels of control and potential "groping" of contents by others:
  1. Carry on bag - only bag somewhat in my control, minimal to no groping expected
  2. Checked bag - hopefully going along in the planes I am in, could be groped
  3. Bike box - going FedEx straight to hotel, no groping

I don't know how other people pack, but this is my "what-if" thought process:

Carry-on bag: CRITICAL items. 
This contains everything (but the bike) needed to race that can't be easily or cheaply replaced: tri kit, cycling shoes, helmet, wetsuit, swimsuit for practice swim, goggles, and essential toiletries (I will wear my running shoes on the plane). If bags/boxes #2 and #3 don't arrive, I would hope/pray I could find/borrow a bike and still race. I would have no extra clothes, but that's what stores are for. Or I could make clothes from the hotel curtains like in the Sound of Music. 

Checked bag: Things that would be quite helpful to have but not essential for racing. 
These are things that I'd sure like to have, but I'd survive without or could easily replace: clothes, breakfast food, extra just-in-case-but-not-critical things like rain jacket. These are things that TSA can't really mess up if they open and grope the suitcase.

Bike box: Things I don't want anyone else messing with 
I can't stand watching helplessly as TSA opens my bike box at the airport and attempts to put it back together. Key to the integrity of the box is that the straps remain very snug and on more than a few occasions I've picked up the box post-flight and found them disturbingly loose. This is why I like sending my bike and bike accessories via BikeFlights - FedExing it to and from the hotel. In the box I stash bottles, nutrition, tools, pump, transition mat, and CO2 cartridges that you can't send on a plane. Plus this way I don't have to lug that monstrosity through the airport or drag it into or out of the hotel. It's also 1/3 the cost it would be for me to check the box onto the plane. 

That's my packing rationale! I plan the best I can, then after that it's out of my hands, as is the case for all of us.

I listened to a recent podcast with tri pro Alicia Kaye and she recounted a flight from h*ll this year trying to get to Mt. Tremblant - delays, cancelled flight, a day behind getting to the race, and then no bike when she landed. She still managed to finish third despite a very rough journey and very little sleep.

All part of the adventure I suppose!