The United workout plan: gate-to-gate in 14 minutes or less #40KFaraway


WIth the 40K to Far Away challenge under way today, I had my alarm set for 5:40am and actually called the front desk for an old-fashioned wake-up call just to be sure I’d get up and pull myself together for the airport shuttle at 6:15am. The alarm and went off and phone rang and I was up and scrolling through notifications on my phone. I was…until I realized that my phone-arm was lying on the bed and my eyes were closed. I shot up to see it was 6:03 — not as bad as I feared, but I didn’t have time to play games. I brushed my teeth, got dressed, and walked out the door seconds before 6:15am to see the shuttle bus driver loading the luggage of other passengers. Sure, I could have Ubered to the airport — but I wanted to grab that shuttle. It was a close call.

I was glad to get to the airport a little extra early because my flight was departing gate C19 at Dulles International Airport and I knew that there was a Priority Pass restaurant called Chef Geoff’s at gate C14. I knew that because I stopped there for dinner on arrival on Tuesday night and had what might be the best airport burger I’ve ever had. Juicy, delicious, and cooked exactly at medium it was a pleasant surprise for the last supper. I wish I had a pic. Sadly / not sadly, I devoured it.

This morning, it was a different kind of fare: Irish cut oatmeal and fruit. The filling breakfast-of-champions healthy meal I needed to kick off a week of eating protein bars and questionable street food.

I finished up and got them to package up my fruit to go (it’s worth noting that a couple next to me on Monday had drinks at the table but ordered their meals to go despite the app saying you couldn’t use Priority Pass on to-go orders), and off I went to my gate just in time for the boarding group before mine.

Then it was off from Washington to Chicago. I felt like the 40K to Far Away challenge is the perfect opportunity for a before-and-after shot, so I grabbed a selfie on the plane. Get ready to see a lot of me in this shirt over the next week.

My layover in Chicago would be an hour and ten minutes, just enough time to tempt me to want to buy one of every type of snack I passed by in the airport, but I figured that with a long economy class journey on the docket, I could easily convince myself to stay in motion around the airport to stretch my legs, which would in turn make it impossible for me to stop and buy anything. I don’t know why I was worried.

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me mention how on Monday, I stepped off the jet bridge of a flight with 14 minutes before the United app said the boarding doors were to close for my connecting flight….at a different concourse. I flew through the airport like an maniac on fire — down the hall, down a couple sets of stairs to the train…then off the train, up at least 3 flights of stairs/escalators, down a couple more, and to the gate United still showed when I’d stepped off my flight with 14 minutes to go before doors close…and it wasn’t the right gate. During my sprint, they had moved the gate. When I got to the new gate, I found out that was because there had been a mechanical problem with our original plane and so the new gate required a different gate. As our incoming aircraft had arrived at the gate 38 minutes before I stepped off my plane, I found it curious that they couldn’t have updated the app with what turned into an hour long delay a little sooner. I know I’m out of shape and need some exercise, but my heart would be better served by a brisk walk than an injection of adrednaline and a lung capacity that felt like I was trying to drink a milkshake with a coffee stir. I was huffing and puffing way too hard to complain to anyone out loud.

So today I was looking forward to a more leisurely stroll through O’Hare as my legs are a little sore already. United had other plans.

In fairness, it wasn’t United’s fault that things turned out unideal. There was some weather around CHicago and we got put in a holding pattern. We ended up landing late. Then it was a long taxi to the gate. When we finally arrived at the gate, I had about 18 minutes before boarding doors would close on my flight to Hawaii. Once again, it was leaving from a different concourse. It’s not exactly far from C to B at O’hare, but it didn’t help that I both landed at the far end of the C concourse and was taking off from the far end of B concourse, meaning that I’d have to run the distance between gate and tunnel twice on top of the tunnel itself.

But hey, I can’t throw in the towel on day 1, right? The rest of my itinerary would collapse if I didn’t make it to Hawaii today.

Then the excitement began. As I stood up in the aisle and grabbed my backpack from the overhead compartment, someone from behind me on the plane pushed his bag into my back, saying excuse me and that they had an international flight and only had 20 minutes to catch it so he needs to get off the plane right away. Mind you, the jet bridge isn’t yet connected, the doors aren’t yet open, and I was seated in row 23 or something, so it’s not like he was just about at the door (no way you’re pushing all the way through). My connection was even tighter, I knew the people in the row in front of me were likely missing their flight as were the people sitting next to me in my row. And there was nowhere to go. I tried to politely explain to him that we were all in the same boat in that plenty of us had tight connections and that there was nowhere to move. I get that travel is stressful and I legitimately felt bad that he was en route to missing his flight — and I obviously don’t know his personal circumstances at all. But he wasn’t listening to any logic — he just got agitated and loud, including with the woman in front of me. That’s when that woman’s husband started getting upset and he mentioned “I’m telling you for the third and last time to calm down”. Uh-oh. Then the woman in front of me starts threatening to call security. Don’t tell me I’m going to get stuck between Airplane Annie and the poor guy who is as upset as I’m going to be if I miss my flight. He was being unreasonable, but not without reason. It just wasn’t fun.

By the time those in front of us disembarked and I stopped off the jet bridge, there were 13 minutes to go before doors would close on my Hawaii flight. Ugh. I had Johnny Cash playing in my head at this point. Extra points if you get the musical reference.

Last week, I bought these tactical pants from Amazon — you know, the kind that people use in Parkour videos. I tried them on and didn’t think I liked them. I put them back in the box to return them. Then, when I was re-packing on Monday night, I decided to take my warm Uniqlo pants out of my bag. I had some other things I wanted to bring and those pants, while super warm and comfortable, are bulky and not really something you could wear in a business class cabin on the way home. I put the parkour pants back on and wore them as I packed and they grew on me. I decided to switch them out and wear the tactical pants on the way to Hawaii.

I don’t know if it was before or after I ordered the pants, but I had seen their marketing video showing a some young stapping lad ambling through traffic doing backflips and sideways jumps. I figured that if they worked for him, I could maybe ride a bike with them. Little did I know they would turn me into a parkour champion. Seriously, I was the stuff of legend running through that airport, doging people on the people mover like the frogger hero I was a as a kid. Whoever makes those pants should sign me. #crossovermarketing. No, there isn’t any video to prove this story. You’ll have to take my word for it.

And then I felt the jerk on my back and heard the crash. The back zippy pouch of my backpack, which is carrying my laptop, must not have been zipped all the way. EIther that or my spider-like reflexes as I bobbed and weaved were too much for the zipper to stay together — the bag had completely fallen open. Lucky for me, there wasn’t much in that laptop bag area and there’s actually a pouch within the pouch for the laptop that had kept that from falling out — but still, I had to stop and pick up the papers and stuff that dropped. Eight more minutes to go.

By the time I hit the top of the escalator at the far end of the tunnel, I was huffing and puffing up a storm. I walked a few steps trying to collect myself as people looked on at me like I was finishing up a gig as an extra in The Walking Dead. Then I went back into jog mode figuring that a little faster is better than nothing. It wasn’t much faster.

Wouldn’t you know it: arrival at the gate 3 minutes before doors close. Again.

As I stumbled down the jetbridge, tas literally he last person to board the flight to Hawaii, coughing like a lifelong chainsmoker on the wrong side of a campfire, the people in front of me getting ready to step aboard the plane got a giggle and told me, “You made it”.

That’s right, United. Me 2, you 0. I don’t know what I did to make you hate me, but I won’t be defeated that easily. Aloha, Hawaii. Mahalo, Turkish Miles & Smiles. Next up: stepping out of my comfort zone. Keep your eye out up above.

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