Ironman San Juan – The Beginning

Ironman San Juan was an Amazing Race….literally.  On Tuesday I gave you the breakdown of trying to get home and on Wednesday I provided you with the race report.  Today I am going to tell you how I got to Puerto Rico.  This was such an adventure that CBS, Mark Burnett and Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan could have made a tremendous mini-series:  Swim, Bike, Run and then the Race.

A year ago I race 70.3 Ironman California and while in the airport received an email from WTC about Ironman San Juan and it had a discount code.  Being so giddy for having just finished my first Half-Ironman and knowing this one was taking place in Puerto Rico I signed up immediately.  I was thrilled even though I had an entire year to wait.

Fast forward through 2011 with Olympic distance races, 70.3 Austin and registering for Ironman Texas and Ironman Arizona and get to Friday March 16, 2012 and the beginnings of Swim, Bike, Run and then the Race season premiere.  I am a cheap skate when it comes to travel and so I don’t mind having layovers if it means I am going to be saving money.  When I book the flight I know I’m in for a long day and so I don’t let it bother me, and thus the story begins.


Breakfast Tacos At 2AM.....And Not Drunk

Friday March 16, 2012 and the alarm goes off at 2am.  I jump out of bed like it’s no big deal and get in the shower.  I head to the kitchen and make breakfast tacos and then wake up Karen to make sure she is awake.  Why 2am you ask?  Well the flight was at 6am and we were being picked up by my teammate Robert Swan at 4am.

After consuming said tacos and brewing some coffee the door bell rang and before I know it I was loading up our luggage for the 30 minute trip to Dallas Love Field.  This is a much smaller airport than DFW Airport and so it should be no problem getting through security…..foreshadowing.  When we got inside the terminal I pointed to the bag and told Karen that this bag was work equipment.  Being so tired I did not expand further on the explanation of what that meant.  As we crept up to the counter I had practiced my lines to avoid paying for bike handling fees.  The only thing I had was an oversized luggage carrying work equipment, and since I had it in my mind than Karen surely had it in hers right?  Wrong…..Jason needs to explain further what that means since Karen cannot mind read.

At the counter the agent asks how many bags we are checking and I say three.  The gentleman says you do know that is oversized and I say yes.  Another agent next to the one taking care of us asks what it is and I say work equipment while Karen says it’s a bike.  DOH!  The agent chooses to ignore me and focus on the work bike and immediately starts calculating the cost of shipping said bike.  We spend another 10-15 minutes there while the guys seems to be taking out an abacus to calculate costs……$100 to ship the bike to Puerto Rico.  Had I been smart enough to fully explain to Karen it was work equipment it would have cost me $50.  What can I say it was 4am and I figured that my mind could be read.

Leave the counter get through security in a jif although you practically have to walk through naked these days.  After re-assembling all of my clothes we looked for a coffee shop and being so early there wasn’t one.  We sat down and about 10 minutes later they call my name over the loud-speaker and ask me to go to the ticketing counter.  Huh?  For what?


Bike Bag = Work Equipment

As we are walking there the agent is walking toward us and says that we have some sort of gas (how did she know?  I only ate two breakfast tacos) and that TSA needs to see me?  Huh?  For what?  Get to the steel door and she opens it up and ushers us right in and then the TSA agent starts yelling that we cannot be in that room.  Confused I turn around and walk out.  The TSA agent follows us with my bike post which has my CO2 cartridges attached to it.  I explain that it is for my bike tires and this goes over the TSA agent head and now she has the confused look.  She asks me to remove them and then says I cannot take them on the plane.  So why didn’t she remove them and throw them out?  Whatever, I remove the cartridges and hand back the seat post.  I’m going to throw them out in the garbage can when she stops me again and asks that I hand them to the ticketing agents.  Fine.  As I walk away I tell her 3 times to put the bike bag back together again very neatly and carefully as it is very expensive.  THREE TIMES…..remember this.

We get to Puerto Rico and go to the rental car pick-up.  I fill out the paperwork.  Yes, I’m 25. No, I don’t want accidental insurance in case a mosquito gets caught in the windshield wiper blade.  Yes, I will fill up.  Yes, I will check out car for damage……whatever please just get me the car.  I’ve been up for 12 days straight already….thank you.  I’m standing at the counter for 15 minutes and no car.  What is going on here I ask myself and then agent says to me that she is trying to page the guy who brings the cars around.  I ask if he was sleeping or eating lunch?  She doesn’t know and walks back in the office and shows up 5 minutes later to tell me we are being upgraded because the guy really was on his lunch break……there’s only 1 person who drives the cars?

Get the car, which we walked to and did not need to be driven around and off to the hotel.  Do the athlete check-in, go to room and by now I could become an omnivore and eaten my arm.  Karen and I go out to eat at Cafe Berlin which has terrific tostones and tofu in criollo sauce.  That is exactly what Grandma and Mom used to make but instead with beef and I was all over it.  Night is over and I’m cooked.  Head back to the room and make plans with Juan to swim/ride/run the next morning.


Tofu In Criollo Sauce With Rice And Beans

After the swim and run we decide to push the bike off until after some lunch….foreshadowing.  As we are about to get going on the bike I can feel the chain slipping.  It happens at around the same point of the pedal crank and I am shaking my head in frustration.  I drop down to the small chain ring and no issues.  Since we are only riding for 30 minutes I say let’s continue and I’ll bring it in to the expo to get looked at.  On our way back the slipping doesn’t happen all the time and I am thinking it is no big deal.

Get into the expo and I’m waiting around and waiting around.  I have to check my bike into transition by 5pm and now I’m getting nervous.  I hate not being prepared and rushing.  The thought of having to run to the stadium to drop off my bike is making me nervous and a wreck.  I ask the guy if I can drop it off and head up to my room to get my wallet and he says sure.  I come back and the bike hasn’t been looked at yet.  With a nervous voice I speak in Spanish to the guy and he says No Problemo….it’s next.  Great.

He looks it over and there are issues with the chain and too much slack.  Remember what I said about the TSA agent?  Yeah they did not pack the bike up so well and I had noticed the big chain ring popping through my bag when I got to the car rental but never thought anything of it.  Now it was all coming together.  The ‘shop’ I was at did not have a chain so I ran around the expo and found one.  Purchased and bring it back and they hook it up and I’m thinking all good and start smiling for the first time in about an hour.  That is when the big bomb dropped.  The chain was loose, but the big ring had teeth that were bent and not catching the links.  WTF am I going to do now?  The repairman must have seen the look on my face and said he could try one thing but he did not have any big chain rings.


My Big Chain Ring + Dremel = Worried Jason

He disassembles it and then busts out the dremel and some pliers.  Oh boy, but then I remember my father being the MacGyver of all things and fixing stuff in the craziest ways possible.  Must be a Puerto Rican thing I’m thinking, and I’m also thinking that it skips a generation because I would have had zero clue to do this.  He starts the dremel and then bending and I can’t look.  Juan sees the look on my face and heads to other ‘shops’ there and gets a guy to sell me the chain ring off his bike that is brand new because he doesn’t have any new ones with him.  At least I got that going for me right?

I would say 10 minutes later and he is done.  He assembles everything and starts going through gear changes and everything is clicking.  No issues at all.  Changing gears is music to my ears.  I thank the guy profusely in English and Spanish.  I tell him I owe him more than he can imagine.  I offer to buy him liquor and beer and he tells me he doesn’t drink.  Neither do I so let me take you out to eat then…..anything!!!!!  He just laughs and then hands me the bill.  $50 for his work and I would have paid $5,000.  Pay the man and off to the bike check-in I go.  Let’s eat.


His Smile Is Half The Size Of My Smile

We headed back to Old San Juan for dinner of pizza and salad and walk around a bit before heading back to the hotel fully and completely exhausted.  Wasn’t I supposed to relax the day before the race?



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  1. Bob says:

    You speak Spanish… me too
    “Fixo el biko, dude o”…. hows that?
    I have three words for you….. and not in Spanish..
    Bob recently posted..Home Sweet HomeMy Profile

  2. Jen says:

    Crap dude, I would’ve been freaking the f out!!

    I had to laugh over the MacGyver thing. Clearly does skip a generation because my PR hubby isn’t so good like that but all of the elder men in Marty’s family are. His stepfather can fix anything if he has crazy glue and some string it seems. Too funny. ;)
    Jen recently posted..5 ways to move that caboose when you’re feeling stuck at the stationMy Profile

  3. misszippy says:

    wow! I think you maintained an impressive amount of calm through all that! What a PITA of a day.

    I have no TSA nightmare stories to share, but I will say, back when I used to fly my bike around we were able to curb check. I’d hand the guy a $20 and off my bike would go, no questions asked. Times have not changed for the better on that one!
    misszippy recently posted..BelieveMy Profile

  4. Tonia says:

    I’m not sure why I keep reading your posts. You are seriously freaking me out. I think I need a break until after my race.

    Right now, my #1 fear is issues with transporting/rebuilding my bike. Ugh.
    Tonia recently posted..Three Things Thursday …My Profile

  5. lindsay says:

    oh man that’s stressful. can you get any $ back from TSA? i heard airports could use other security companies now and didn’t have to use TSA (this is unrelated i know). hopefully that will help make security better now that TSA has to compete?

    anyway. stressful. but so glad they got it worked out and didn’t cost you toooo much!
    lindsay recently posted..product review + giveaway: zhip a dee doo dahMy Profile

  6. katie says:

    in two weeks I am flying with my bike for the first time ever and now I HAVE FEAR IN MY HEART.
    katie recently posted..three things thursdayMy Profile

  7. Jeff Irvin says:

    That shit sucks. Luckily it all worked out!

    Dude – I Dremel stuff all the time. Like everything. I have a smooth bit that is perfect for polishing up metal and I use in on my chainring, cassettes, Derailures — I have issues!
    Jeff Irvin recently posted..Ironman Mont-Tremblant Training Week #1My Profile

  8. B.o.B. says:

    I would have pooped my pants. And then passed out. Good job on staying calm. LOL!

  9. Maria Simone says:

    This story is insane. When we went to Cozumel, John could not relax until he has his bike all put together. I thought that was stressful enough and everything went smoothly for him. I can’t even imagine how stresssful this must have been!
    Maria Simone recently posted..Girl Power Posse Tackles the Atlantic City St. Patty’s 10 miler & 5kMy Profile

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