She’s Back to Writing!

Wow! I can’t believe we are almost 2 weeks into the New Year.  Time sure flies when you’re having fun and getting recognized (more on that in a bit.) Well, for the few of you that followed us this summer, thank you. It was so encouraging to have the feedback. For those of you that have been patiently waiting, I have officially decided to reinstate the blog. I took a break from writing for a while for several reasons. First, after the trip I was not sure the direction of the blog.  There was so much material in that concentrated 5 week span it was easy and effortless to write. And of course the more I reminisced about the trip, the more I missed our grand adventure.  I can honestly say, I would be okay with selling our house, getting a motorhome and travelling the country.  Yes, the broken window caused some angst for a couple of days last summer, but really the unknown, freedom and adventure that was around each bend filled my soul like no other.  But without the Tetons, Glacier and Yosemite, what would this blog look like?

Secondly, I had to shift gears.  We got back in July and one week later was Age Group State for swimming, then USAT Youth and Junior Nationals in Westchester, OH. We took 8 athletes and had a roaring good time with our small but quickly growing triathlon team, securing 9th place overall in the country as a club with several podium finishes and a National Champion. We may be small, but we are mighty! The next day, it was onto formal training for XC season. We then quickly moved to the start of school; Hy-Vee Nationals in Des Moines, IA; Aquathlon Nationals in Oklahoma City-an amazing story that I will share at some point. It was literally non-stop. Oh, and I forgot to mention watching my moms’ dogs for almost 14 days while she was in London….yes, two weeks! I am not exactly sure what I was thinking to add them into the mix with our two dogs, three cats and Viv’s hedgehog. I can confidently tell you that I turned down the opportunity to watch them again when she travelled to Russia a month later. Her dogs and my cats just never quite became friends but after my dad was so generous in watching our dogs last summer for 5 weeks, I thought I could help my mom out for just two weeks. I was wrong. Maybe it had something to do with our unbeknownst to us, newly pregnant, semi-feral cat Black Mamba, affectionately named for the reminiscent strikes and hisses seen on Animal Planet. Truly I thought she would be gone by the time we returned from the trip last summer, but apparently she decided to call us family and was so overjoyed by our return, decided to create one of her on. Of course, that’s all we needed!

Yes, a week before Halloween we welcomed five beautiful kittens under our California king bed at 6am. So much for all the Youtube videos promising you will know when your cat goes into labor because our furry little friend showed none of the signs. No nesting, no mood or behavior changes, (though that would have been welcomed), and no reduction in appetite. She pigged out the night before just like any other night, so the obvious signs of “reduced eating” were not applicable. Now, in all fairness, I did not go to the extreme of taking her rectal temperature as I guess I just was not that concerned. I love animals, but I’m not a breeder. I was more freaked out by the thought that they all might not make it and to handle them with kid gloves. But if I had, perhaps I would have noticed a decrease in her temperature. So much for the great set up in the master bathroom in preparation for the little squirts. Not exactly how I expected to start that Thursday morning, but after ripping apart the Sleep Number bed, I extracted the brood and placed them in the appropriate box and cleaned the mess. It was actually quite beautiful to witness. Black Mamba, the once moody hissy, pissy kitty, had almost instantaneously become the sweetest little cat, loving on her babies as if she were the warmest, most nurturing and loving cat ever even allowing all of us to lavish attention and love on them. I guess it is true what they say that motherhood changes us all….even the four legged creatures. It has been a joy to watch them grow literally in front of our eyes, but as of a week before Christmas-Rosemary, Licorice aka Toothless, Cilantro, and Basil all went to a new foster family. But you count only 4 names and earlier I said five? That’s right, we decided to keep Sage, a fearless fluff ball, whose personality melted all of our hearts and helped soften the blow after Orvis went missing the first part of December. Our other cat, Buttercup has been with me before marriage and is weeks, maybe days away from the end of her life. The thought of losing two cats so close together left such a huge whole in my heart, that I knew God had put those little babies in my world as a distraction, a comfort, and lesson that life does carry on. He ALWAYS goes before us even when we do not know or see the plans.

Then……. our daughter, our eldest, our “Guinea Pig child” as she often reminds us, was asked to join a group of up and coming draft legal female racers to attend a select only training camp in Colorado Springs in November which was good for so many reasons most importantly to see if I could clip the umbilical cord. You see there are no direct flights to Colorado Springs and in order that she not miss a lot of school, required at least one plane transition through Atlanta. Kenzi is smart bright and most capable but I was struggling with all the “what if” scenarios as she had never flown by herself. For a brief moment I truly was considering flying out with her and staying with an old college friend in Denver and driving her down to the OTC. But the more I prayed and sought wise counsel and prayed, I realized I had an enormous opportunity (for both of us) to grow up. It’s going to happen sooner or later and with impending International competition just around the bend, I had better get use to it.

Needless to say, it all went great other than the thing I worried about the most did come to fruition. When she left Colorado early Tuesday morning at 5am it was snowing and her flight was delayed about 45 minutes which then made the Atlanta transition tricky. As we were watching the flight pattern (via computer) there not only was a gate change but a terminal change in Atlanta and it was departing to Indy on time, leaving less than 10 minutes to get her to her flight. So glad transitions is the 4th element of triathlon because she understood the importance of quick turnover. Still, for a 15year old who is just finding her voice in one of the largest airports in the world, I was just praying she would make it and not have to deal with any additional consequences or should I say her father and I deal with them. And of course she made it. I don’t know why I still wear worry like it’s my favorite sweater but she did later inform me that they closed the door right behind her and the people on the flight did not look too pleased. I reassured her that is just the face of the American traveler and not to take it personally as most likely it will happen again.

Andto continue our busy fall season, a week later, Scott and I drove by ourselves, without kids, for our first time alone in forever to Lexington to have a romantic weekend…..I mean to get our Level 1 USAT Coaching certifications. Well one came dream! First day was twelve hours in one of the coldest conference rooms I have ever been in and yes it was on purpose and yes it kept us awake. I welcomed the opportunity to get up and move during the strength training clinic and the scheduled and unscheduled bathroom breaks to warm up and relieve my bursting bladder from the copious amounts of hot tea I was drinking. But two weeks later after a long and intense final exam, we were both notified that we passed with flying colors so our romance with USAT had begun.

To end our year and further the adventure, we welcomed the news that our club, Elite Multisport, were 1 of 13 recipients of the Gwen Jorgenson scholarship fund which was incredible honor but we had lots of work to still do in order to set the club up for a successful 2015. Then, the first part of the year, about a week ago, we learned that we have been designated as a High Performance Team for 2015 which is a three year financial commitment to help recognized clubs gain some momentum for these young athletes. Again, huge momentum for the club but it comes with some enormous responsibility. And then as we finish one application and start another, we received word that we both were both accepted into an Elite Mentoring Coaching Program which will take both of us out to Colorado Springs for a three day training with some very notable trainers/coaches within USAT.

So as you can see, the blog has definitely had to take a back seat…..on a school bus. Add to that, my first priority and primary responsibility is to God, husband, and kids, trying to keep the later fed often. Add bible study facilitator on Wednesday mornings where went through Max Lucado’s The Story (essentially the entire bible) in 4 months last fall, video trainings, certification for Safe Sport, CPR certification, periodization tables, tests, learning to cook gluten free and the list goes on. I use to say I had no idea where my kids got there limitless energy and insatiable drive and work ethic but as I write the last six months of my life, I see that my genetic lineage is in their somewhere.

So here I am at the beginning of the year will a huge desire to write (in my spare time) but as I really have been listening and praying, I am seeing the direction of the blog unfold at least for the moment. It is a little overwhelming to think about how to honor this time, but God has placed extraordinary opportunities, growth, life lessons, humor, tragedy, tears, joy, connections and a desire to share. Life has definitely not been easy for the Wilson family and though the last six months may look like a very busy dream, the last 15 years has had its share of heartache. My ambitious goal, is to write at least three posts a week. Again I said ambitious but I will claim Ephesians 3:20- “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” I am still balancing numerous responsibilities, so I am going to have to execute some extreme discipline. I hope you al enjoy and can plug in when you can. Again, thank you for your past support and continual encouragement to write. This year is going to be great as we all just trithisout.

She’s Back to Writing!

Day 32: The Final Day

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I woke up feeling a bit nostalgic this morning. This wonderful journey was coming to an end and the five weeks flew by. By the end of the day, we would be heading back home to Indiana and though I was looking forward to seeing our friends, family and beloved pets, I had mixed reactions of being back home and on a routine. I loved that I had no expectations. I loved that every day afforded me an opportunity to see something new, truly new. This trip has been good for my soul. To connect with God, nature, and my family. To face challenges, obstacles and come out smiling. To appreciate even the subtlest of expressions in my children’s faces as the gaze upon an interesting rock formation or piece of moss nestled into a cliffs edge. It definitely was not always easy travelling for extensive periods of time. There were many days it was physically demanding but somehow we all figured out how to support, love and get along with one another….most of the time. I have absolutely loved the opportunity to see so many different parts of the country with my family. And though it was on a very high level and there were many trailheads and lakes unexplored, I can no sit in front of the Travel Channel wishing to see such wonders. Even the tired, cold and rainy moments will be missed. It was beautiful, all of it and I would not trade those memories for anything but the day needed to start and I could not stay in this state of reflection forever unfortunately.

Due to the high humidity in Des Moines, Scott and I had decided not to attend the Women’s Junior (16-19) race in the early morning, and let the kids sleep in and stay out of the temps as long as possible. Though it would have been fun to watch and we knew Kenzi would want to be there, we made the executive decision to keep them protected in air conditioning as long as possible. If the temps yesterday were any indication of what today would hold, we were in for a hot one.

We arrived at the park with time to spare as most unusually they were running almost 25 minutes behind schedule with the Junior Men’s race.   The kids had been on pins and needles that we would be late and in their defense, we were running a little tighter than normal as we had decided that morning to pack up and not extend the hotel check out time. Both like to run the course at least once but today would not allow Kenzi that opportunity. We claimed our shaded spot and called it camp as Kenzi and Scott went to athlete check in. Jay, the head USAT referee, shared in the race meeting the day before that there would be two bike lines in the morning-those with standard and Zipp wheels and then everyone else. Both Kenzi and Zach currently ride on ITU compliant aero wheels, Kenzi using Profile Design and Zach using Forza Cirrus Pro wheel. As sponsors become more available, we will see what they stay in, but currently both are happy with their set ups.

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The lines moved quickly and Kenzi was able to get set up minus shoe powder which I ran back to the car to get. Unfortunately transition was closed when I returned but having never used before, it did not bother her. I was more bothered as I knew with the high humidity, shoe change may prove more challenging, but these are all things to continue modifying as we progress in the sport.

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The races somehow managed to get back on the correct start time and the girls were being called to the water. As the sun was beating down and melting everyone, I tried to semi successfully shade her with a large beach towel. From years of outdoor swimming, I knew the sun was an energy magnet and I was trying my best to protect her until the last few seconds. Once called, she took her place. Like Monroe, the youth men’s start was FAST…really fast. From my opinion, I was not even sure the athletes were set and Scott and I felt terrible for not helping Kenzi train for such a start. We have worked on many things and tweaked different elements in each of the disciplines, but had not foreseen that there would be a repeat performance as in Monroe.

 

Kenzi looked strong in the water, though it hurt her not getting out in front. Her goal was to be out with the lead pack but that was not going to happen today. Her transitions were smooth but she ended up carrying a young rider the entire bike portion, tapping her legs and energy, until the young rider eventually feel off at the end. Later the coach, father and athlete came up to Kenzi to thank her for pulling her along and Kenzi graciously acknowledged them but quietly frustrated with her performance. Again, all learning lessons in preparation for Nationals. She finished fifteenth overall which was obviously not where she had planned, but goes into Nationals ranked fourth in the women’s youth elite category and knows what needs to be accomplished for future races. We strongly support all athletes to experience as many race venues as possible. It is not in the training, though crucial for success, but in the race where the preparation of mind, body and course collaborate to hopefully produce the results one has trained for. You can plan and prepare and give your best effort and sometimes things fall into place; others times they do not and it is in both the wins and losses that character, perseverance, courage, strength and fortitude are cultivated, and today was no different.

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While we were finishing up with Kenzi and getting her in an ice bath, Zach was headed to the lake. Kenzi soon followed to share her experience and help with line placement. Zach benefitted greatly from Kenzi’s guidance. A stronger swimmer than his sister at the moment, he had the advantage of getting out and swimming in “clean” water after he broke through the elbows and shoulders. Fearless and determined, he does not concern himself with bumping body parts with his fellow competitors as he maneuvers his small frame through the sea of testosterone filled flesh. Zach finished third out of the water and quickly transitioned to the bike, but the other 15year olds had a good ten second lead, though he made an admirably attempt to hang with the big dogs.

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Speaking of dogs, what was I thinking??? After complaining of neck issues the last couple of nights, I was not sure why I approached the 14 week old lab puppy after I lost sight of Zach during the bike course. As innocent and cute as that pile of black fur appeared, the audible crack when he bounced up on me and under my chin made me rethink my decision to approach. Instantly I knew from the ringing in my ear and pain in my jaw, I had completely thrown out my neck. I rubbed it out as best as I could and headed to the penalty box to look for potential violations. I did not have time to concern myself with pain. The race would soon be over and I knew eventually it would work itself out as these things typically do.

Finishing with a strong run, Zach placed 5th overall, with the top of the field being two years his senior. He would have to wait until Nationals for hardware. With no podium acceptances, we headed to the car and out of town but not before stopping at Chipotle for lunch. In seven hours, we would be home and back to a normal routine complete with regular training, summer physicals and preparation for state swimming and hopefully a pain free jaw. If lucky, perhaps we will find some time to sleep before switching gears.

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Day 32: The Final Day

Day 31: Viv still “Tri” ing

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It was a beautiful morning.  After a light rain the night before, the sun greeted us with great anticipation of shining all day and quickly dried the remaining dark patches on the street.  It was definitely going to be a hot and humid one in Des Moines. However, Viv was not quite as eager as the sun to rise and woke up in a rather cantankerous mood complaining of being tired. Apparently, the king bed which Scott and I freely gave up so the kids could enjoy a good night’s sleep before the race, housed one too many kids and Viv felt the older two were up late talking. Scott and I did not hear a thing in the other room so I am not sure how much of that was valid. There were also complaints of a tummy ache, sore big toe, bruised knee, eyeball popping out (not really) but a whole list of excuses and issues. I knew it was nerves as this was not the first time to hear a laundry list of reasons she might not be able to perform. We informed her that if she didn’t want to race, she did not have too, but as soon as that option was mentioned she was providing another hundred reasons why she could even though her body was falling apart.

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After laboriously pulling together our race bag, suit, and water bottle, we scurried down to breakfast and the kids once again devoured their food. I don’t know if we will ever be able to keep up with their appetite levels as they always seem hungry, but I was thankful to have such a great breakfast spread. As I have mentioned before, we have stayed in many different establishments throughout this journey.  Though our views were not that of the Tetons, the Marriott and the free upgraded suite complete with made to order omelets, was a nice start to the final leg of our trip.

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Unfortunately, when we arrived at the course, Viv’s mood had changed from bad to worse as she was on the verge of full dramatic combustion and it appeared coaching from her sister or I were helping matters. Now there were issues with her brakes and her tire and her googles and her head. We explained we could get all that fixed but her attitude was up to her and that if she could not pull it together, we were pulling her from the race. Of course, that was not an option in her mind and after we explained this was only a race for fun and that she had already qualified for Nationals, it seem to diffuse some of the anxiety. As Scott took her bike to the onsite mechanic, I helped her get situated in transition. Once that was complete, the Viv we know and love was back on track ready to do a warm up and race strong.

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This by far was the largest HyVee youth tri they have had with over 350 athletes participating across the six age groups with kids from as far away as Florida. Viv aged up this year and though she just had a birthday two weeks ago, she has been competing in the 9-11 year old group. HyVee for years has been such a strong supporter of triathlon and they know how to encourage and support this sport, both youth and adult, even issuing pretty spectacular hardware for each age and gender. So even though you compete with kids potentially two years your senior, you can be awarded a medallion that Mr. T would be proud to wear.

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Viv was in the final ten youth to race as we had not signed her up until two days prior. First, she had already qualified for Nationals and second, the weather report indicated a strong possibility of showers over West Des Moines for the weekend, so we were waiting to complete registration. Vivian has since informed us that she would prefer an earlier registration as to move her up in the line and in the water instead of waiting around which contributes to her nerves. Dually noted, we have registered her for both HyVee and USAT nationals.

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After many practice starts the day before, she looked like a pro entering the water, complete with a butterfly arm pull to propel her further out into the lake. Her swim looked much stronger than earlier in the season and a lot had to do with the numerous practices she completed with her siblings during this trip. Though she in no way can complete the yardage of her older siblings, she was able to train beside them in a lane and I think that really pushed her to another level.

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Strong in the water, strong on the bike and a strong run, she finished as the second nine year old securing a silver medal on the podium. The girl who beat her in Sioux Falls still beat her today, but she was gaining ground and for that she was thrilled! She has big goals on securing gold at HyVee Nationals and with a little more hard work and some faster transitions, she may just be able to accomplish that.

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The rest of the day brought course training for the older two, lunch, pre-race meeting and several beach starts with a team out of Texas. The water entry was very shallow and it took the kids some getting use to, especially Kenzi who now tours over Zach and needed to find her arm counts.

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With a full day underneath us, Scott picked up noodles again and we called it a lazy night watching TV. I hooked my back and neck up to the Compex (thank you Lukas Verzbicas for the recommendation) as it has finally given out on me from the nights of crumpled sleep in the car,  hikes carrying 20 lb packs up steep inclines and trying to keep up with training and  just being mom. I am surprised it has taken this long before acting up but I had definitely pushed my neck past its comfort zone and will look forward to sleeping in my own bed soon.

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Day 31: Viv still “Tri” ing

Day 30: Woke Up Slow and Felt the Need For Speed

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After my youngest cousin graciously offered to house our brood last night, Scott picked up an assortment of pastries at Baked in Kansas City, with a special interest in almond and chocolate croissants a Wilson favorite. I tried to get caught up on the blog as Lulu took Severa and the kids to the park for one last play session before hitting the road. While out, Scott managed to break and fix her internet connection as he was poking around trying to learn more about Goggle Fiber. Perhaps he has been away from work too long. Thank goodness it happened though, as she had a loose connection that he was able to fix. Before we finally made it out the door just before noon, she asked for some pointers for her bike set up for an upcoming triathlon that she and her two sisters will be competing in in about 10 days. With our bikes fixed, it was nice to spend some a little down time with her.

 

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So to keep things on an even playing field, today was apparently Scott’s special day to enjoy a conversation with a Missouri officer. How have we gone this entire trip and now we manage to get two tickets in two days? The Midwest does not apparently like us and perhaps we should turn around and move out west. Actually, I think it was very good for the kids to see us handle and interact with the police as neither time we were in the wrong and felt a bit targeted. Zach who is always concerned about fairness and justice was up in arms again and we had another important life lesson about “life was not fair and in the big schema of things, does it really matter?” We could contest it, but they know we won’t as it was obvious we were travelling, and by the direction, we were heading home. We will pay the extra fee and just be done with it as it will not affect our insurance as both of us have clean driving records. It was the same situation where the cop was traveling one direction and caught us in the far side of the highway. I am not going to let a ticket or two, especially when we were not in the wrong, dampen the last few moments of this trip. As we explained to Zach, who was still struggling with the concept, when he most seriously stated, “You know, maybe that guy was having a bad day and needed to take it out on someone. Maybe the truck that should have been pulled over would have lost his license or job if the cop would have caught him.”

Absolutely, God knew we could handle this and He showed grace and favor to someone else yesterday and today. How many times had God showered His grace on me and you? We have gone and grown too far, to let this bother us. Perhaps we would take a different tune if money was really tight (which it has in the past) or we wanted to cultivate a spirit of anger. We were done with that. We cannot always get our way, even when we were in the right. We present the facts and whether a race official, a friend, or a police officer choses to respond in our favor, only God knows. What we can control is our character and our response…period.

We have been so blessed this entire summer. We have seen God’s creation at its finest. We have seen brokenness and we have seen suffering. We have worked together, laughed together, trained together, slept together, loved one another and have forgiven together when necessary. This was a part of life and whether we agreed or not, what was done was done and we moved on down the road.

We arrived in West Des Moines early afternoon and for the very first time this trip we checked in at a hotel at a responsible hour. More important, we will stay in the same place two nights in a row. Yeah, no packing, unpacking, checking out, checking in, at least for a day or so. Well, I spoke to soon. As Scott was unloading luggage in the room they called and upgraded us to a suite after a mistake with hotels.com. Hmmm, I wonder if karma was paying us back for being “FLEXIBLE” and taking life in stride. As a family we have not always done this well, and I am so thankful for this trip as we all have learned this lesson as well as may others.

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We drove Viv to the course for sign up and then took the older kids to the YMCA for a final training session, the same Y that we had signed up at the beginning of the trip. As I went back to finish the last few loads of laundry, Scott picked up an early dinner at z’mariks noodle café, think Noodles & Company with more options, and with tummies filled we all went to bed.

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Day 30: Woke Up Slow and Felt the Need For Speed

Day 29: Driving, Diners and A Famous Triathlete?

 

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After getting a not so comfy sleep in the car, I was ready to start the day and woke Scott to see if I could drive for a bit making a little headway early in the morning. It was overcast and my fear was that we would be driving into more rain which would make the drive long and would not be good for the bikes. It would also give Scott further rights to question the additional hundred thirty miles. But after about half an hour, the sun made its debut through the dark skyline and very quickly gained momentum as I continued to heading East towards Kansas City.

The speed limit was 75 and I was not use to the cars and big trucks moving at such as clip as Scott has done most of the driving. There was a steady wind blowing through Kansas and any time I moved towards 80 to keep with traffic, the top of the carrier would bounce and jiggle and cause a noisy racket. At some point it woke Scott and he stated he would check it out the next stop for gas.

Confirming there was nothing wrong, we continued on our journey trying to decide where would be a good place to swim as there were several smaller cities to choose from with open lap swimming hours. I wish we had had as many options in Denver, as all of our choices were a bust midday, but the kids had managed to train in the other disciplines, so it was not a wasted day. Today however, they needed to get in a swim and it was a priority to find a location to do so.

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The sun was up and I was enjoying the bright sun and fast moving clouds. The kids slowly started to wake and get situated for the day. Scott and I had been in discussion of the day’s activities and schedules and most importantly swim training and where we would get bikes cleaned and tuned up. No sooner than we had made a plan, I noticed blue and red lights behind me and immediately alerted Scott. Great, what have I done? The plate was off the trailer, but was conveniently located in the side door panel and easily accessed if needed. But the officer stated he clocked me at 90mph. What?? There was no way. I could not go over 80 without the top of the car sounding like a herd of elephants, so I confidently knew he was in the wrong. I tried to explain that there were truckers passing me going far greater and literally blowing my car of the road. As he stumbled around, he was not concerned with my comments and he was not going to admit his mistake, and acted like he could not hear me with the large trucks passing. I left with a ticket, knowing confidently I was not in the wrong. The car physically could not push those numbers with the carrier but I relinquished my driving responsibility for the day to Scott not wanting to drive anymore. We have gone this entire trip without a ticket or issue outside of the window mishap, and I was not going to let this officer frustrate me. I was more worried about insurance but Scott assured me that I could pay an additional fee and drive for six months clean and it would be fine. It was the principal that I was still chewing on. How can people in authority take advantage of a situation? Sometimes life was not fair. And though at first I wanted to fight it, I realized perhaps there was something bigger going on. I knew absolutely, 100% I was not in the wrong unless the speedometer was now broken, so I had to let it go. It was time to move on and help Scott organize the tune ups and workouts.

 

Day 29: Driving, Diners and A Famous Triathlete?

After getting a not so comfy sleep in the car, I was ready to start the day and woke Scott to see if I could drive for a bit making a little headway early in the morning. It was overcast and my fear was that we would be driving into more rain which would make the drive long and would not be good for the bikes. It would also give Scott further rights to question the additional hundred thirty miles. But after about half an hour, the sun made its debut through the dark skyline and very quickly gained momentum as I continued to heading East towards Kansas City.

The speed limit was 75 and I was not use to the cars and big trucks moving at such as clip as Scott has done most of the driving. There was a steady wind blowing through Kansas and any time I moved towards 80 to keep with traffic, the top of the carrier would bounce and jiggle and cause a noisy racket. At some point it woke Scott and he stated he would check it out the next stop for gas.

Confirming there was nothing wrong, we continued on our journey trying to decide where would be a good place to swim as there were several smaller cities to choose from with open lap swimming hours. I wish we had had as many options in Denver, as all of our choices were a bust midday, but the kids had managed to train in the other disciplines, so it was not a wasted day. Today however, they needed to get in a swim and it was a priority to find a location to do so.

The sun was up and I was enjoying the bright sun and fast moving clouds. The kids slowly started to wake and get situated for the day. Scott and I had been in discussion of the day’s activities and schedules and most importantly swim training and where we would get bikes cleaned and tuned up. No sooner than we had made a plan, I noticed blue and red lights behind me and immediately alerted Scott. Great, what have I done? The plate was off the trailer, but was conveniently located in the side door panel and easily accessed if needed. But the officer stated he clocked me at 90mph. What?? There was no way. I could not go over 80 without the top of the car sounding like a herd of elephants, so I confidently knew he was in the wrong. I tried to explain that there were truckers passing me going far greater and literally blowing my car of the road. As he stumbled around, he was not concerned with my comments and he was not going to admit his mistake, and acted like he could not hear me with the large trucks passing. I left with a ticket, knowing confidently I was not in the wrong. The car physically could not push those numbers with the carrier but I relinquished my driving responsibility for the day to Scott not wanting to drive anymore. We have gone this entire trip without a ticket or issue outside of the window mishap, and I was not going to let this officer frustrate me. I was more worried about insurance but Scott assured me that I could pay an additional fee and drive for six months clean and it would be fine. It was the principal that I was still chewing on. How can people in authority take advantage of a situation? Sometimes life was not fair. And though at first I wanted to fight it, I realized perhaps there was something bigger going on. I knew absolutely, 100% I was not in the wrong unless the speedometer was now broken, so I had to let it go. It was time to move on and help Scott organize the tune ups and workouts.

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It took more time than originally thought to secure bike tune ups as apparently most of the bike shops in Des Moines were two weeks out due to an upcoming bike race in the next couple of weeks. Immediately, we had to change our plans and secure a shop in Kansas City. Finding a couple of options, we secured a friendly and competent shop in Parkville called Cycle City which happened to be a block away from a YMCA. After we dropped off the bikes early afternoon, the kids managed to get a run in the hot humid sun and then swim almost 5000 meters. We had earlier in the day hoped to meet my cousin at the museum for a tour, but the bikes took longer than expected, so it would not be until later in the evening before we would connect. She recommended a wonderful BBQ restaurant called Oklahoma Joe’s that apparently by the wait was a huge deal. Connected to a gas station and convenience store, it did not look like much. But having lived in Chicago for almost eight years some of the best food comes out of dives and this was no different. The smell was infectious as we waited in the fast moving line entertaining ourselves with the numerous articles that filled the walls praising the small shop. “Thirteen Places To Eat Places Before You Die” caught Scott’s eye and we knew Lora had set us up for a wonderful meal.

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We finished our two slaps, three sides and twelve pieces of toast in record time with only a small doggie bag to carry out. With another recommendation from Lora aka Lulu we headed to Glace, an ice cream shop that again had people pouring out and onto the streets. As we parked up the street from the shop allowing some time to digest, several couples stopped to inquire about our bikes and hitch. This was not the first time on lookers were intrigued by the set up and we were happy to share our story.

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Tonight however, shortly after Lulu arrived, we had Ben Schloegel approach us. Not knowing at first who he was, Scott and the kids enjoyed a lively conversation about the triathlon and biking for almost 45 minutes as I tried to connect with Lulu and Ben’s significant other on the side of the road. After leaving, Zach googled his name only to realize the impressive credentials of the humble former pro triathlete. Check out his stuff if interested at http://www.firefighterathlete.com   Wow, another very cool opportunity along this trip that we had not expected.

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It was getting late and the kids really wanted to stay at Lulu’s. I knew it was not her plan to have the five of us stay with her, but she opened her home which she shares with a large Akita Husky mix named Severa and a lovely roommate named Willow. After an additional run with the dog in the evening, the kids made her floor their bed for the night. It’s not often we get to see her and so the little time we had was super precious and the kids could not have been more thrilled. Lora is this extraordinary Mary Poppins like character and you would like nothing better than to find a few moments with her. Thank you my friend.

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Day 29: Driving, Diners and A Famous Triathlete?

Day 28: OTC Here We Come

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The morning greeted us with a bright sun and after putting the events from last night behind us, we were all looking forward to a great day morning at the OTC. Through a wonderful and very supportive contact with USAT, Scott had coordinated a private behind the scenes tour of the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, complete with breakfast with athletes and a tour with the head coach of the ETA-Elite Triathlon Academy. The kids were thrilled. We arrived at 7:00am to watch the training practice, where we saw the small but exclusive group train. We then had breakfast in the athletes dining hall where athletes from all disciplines came to dine when on campus. It just so happened that among the athletes training, was our good friend Hunter Kemper. Not really friends, but one incredible triathlete that we continue to run into throughout our travels. We spent almost four hours at the center before driving back into Denver to finally have the car window replaced, an almost equally exciting event for me. Not really, but I was looking forward to having the window repaired.

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Not much to tell regarding the rest of the day as we spent almost five hours at the Infiniti dealership replacing window, cutting an extra key and replacing brake pads. They were wonderful to work with and even gave the outside of the car an extra special cleaning. As they car was getting its makeover, the kids managed to run and bike. We left late in the evening after a dinner at Panera and we were on the road headed to Kansas City to see my cousin Lora, before our final leg to Des Moines. Our detour would take us an additional hundred and thirty miles off our planned itinerary, but at this point it made little difference as we have already logged 7500+ in the last five weeks. I longed to catch up with her and see her life as the Curator of Education at the National World War I Museum. It was going to be a ten hour drive and we were going to at least try and get a few hours down the road but shortly after we turned onto interstate 70 heading East, the ominous skies greeted us with heat lightning that quickly turned into a massive storm that lit up the sky with incredible bolts of energy. Three of us tried to capture the impressive bolts with Kenzi being the only successful photographer. We made it just inside the Kansas state line, where we pulled off and called it a night at a local rest area, the cleanest thus far.

Day 28: OTC Here We Come

Day 27: Moab and Arches National Park

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I was not as hot as I thought as a cool breeze blew through the tent a good portion of the evening and when I woke I needed the provided blanket to wrap around my arms. The sunrise was spectacular peeking through with vivid shades of deep purple, fuchsia and golden orange temporarily distracting me from the urine odor. We can say that we now have officially “glamped,” though I think the experience was a little overrated or perhaps I prefer to keep them separated. If I wanted a nice hotel, I’d stay there. If I want to camp, I want all the efforts and smells that entails. As expected, Kenzi had a hard time going to sleep with the heat but finally settled in as the temperatures dropped sometime during the night.

After coffee and toast over the camp stove, the older two and I went for a ten mile ride towards Moab where we met Scott and Viv outside of Arches National Park. I was glad we were biking toward town and not out, as part of the ride had a nice 7% grade in our favor. Per a recommendation, we hiked to Delicate Arch, which was a little more strenuous that I had prepared for. Collectively the group thought Angels was tougher, but this particular hike was mostly in the sun. Even the 70spf we have been repeatedly applying, seemed like no match to the hot rays as I could feel the sun penetrate my arms. IT has been interesting to watch people and their choice of clothing during many of the hikes.

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I was glad we chose to do it earlier in the day, but had I known, I would have suggested a sunrise a hike. With the steep and less than forgiving rock face, I might have skipped the morning ride with the kids as they show no mercy and I always give my best attempt at not embarrassing myself too badly. So needless to say, I was not operating on a full tank. At some point during the trip, the kids and I had apparently developed hooves and climbed effortlessly up and down the hills and off trail like mountain goats. Kenzi has mentioned several times an interest in picking up rock climbing though I am not sure when we would fit that activity in. However, I completely understand the motivation behind her desire. There was definitely something to be said about being one with a rock and using your own body weight and strength to pull up and around to the next flat surface (off trail version). We all have lived in our Keens for a good portion of the trip and though not rock climbing shoes, they have been able to provide enough tread to support my climbing activities and they have worked very well for traversing rock cliffs and steep inclines. I am not saying I will not be sore tomorrow as Delicate Arch was a strenuous trail, but I have been able to stay up with the two older kids and even carried Viv down the mountain on my back without slipping and sliding. Scott did his share with Viv patrol as we descended the unsteady incline as she had at some point developed a blister that was causing her a bit of grief.

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Once done, I immediately downed an icy cold beer from the night before. Without complaint, I had given my water resources to the kids and though the gum alleviated my parched mouth, I was thirsty…..really thirsty. The sign posted at the beginning of the trail stated that it was strongly advised that each person carry at least 1L of water and though I was taking small sips from my surrendered bottle, it was almost not enough.

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From the beginning of this trip through now, I cannot stress the importance of the signs and the location of the postings. I think in the Midwest we take for granted the signs like “Deer Crossing” because maybe you will, maybe you won’t see one and we become cavalier about them. But out west, they have life-saving significance because you see “Falling Rock” there was falling rock. “Bear” means you’ll see bear. The “Turn off your car to avoid over heating” sign in Death Valley meant, we obeyed as we did not want to experience a car stuck in 134 temps as had heard travelers talking about over heated engines.

Needing a little break, we headed to the Visitor’s Center to learn a little more about the statuesque formations and enjoy some much needed AC. I think it was in the high 80s and I was tired. Viv filled out her paperwork to become junior ranger, the fourth of the trip, after we sat through a short presentation on Arches. Though a bit repetitive, it was fascinating to learn a little about the formation of the unique sculptures due to time, weather and gravity. When we get back home, I will contact NPS and secure the booklets from the parks that we did not do early on in our trip. They are crammed full of interesting information unique to the parks for both old and young alike and Viv gets a kick out of the whole “swearing in” process and receiving her plastic badge which she proudly displays on her hat.

Still wanting to get a swim in, we headed into town to the rec pool where the kids had the choice of swimming indoors at 84 degree water or outside with 82. Not sure why they keep their pools so warm out west, but the kids still are not digging the bathwater temperatures. Unfortunately, lap swimming ended about an hour after we arrived, so the kids could not get their full work out in, but it did allow them the opportunity to just be kids and go off the high dive and corkscrew waterslide. Not exactly what they wanted to do, but I think I noticed a slight smile after a couple of jumps and twirls. Sometimes it’s good just to be a kid! As they swam, Scott and I once again repacked the car for our final leg of the journey as there will be no more camping, and hopefully no more laundry, but the second will depend on the stink.

We ate a late lunch (barely) as most places in downtown Moab were closing around three but managed to devour sandwiches and fresh cherries within record time. We were then off to Colorado Springs via 128 out of Moab. Between the heat and the noisy racket of vinyl, there was really no winning choice, I choose to endure the heat to compliment the bright red rocks as we drove alongside the Colorado River out of town.

The drive across 70 just west of Fruita, CO was once again a welcomed surprise as we traveled alongside the Colorado River where it slowly changed from a reddish brown to a murky greenish blue to eventually white rapids and clear rumbling streams of fish laden waters. It was a nice break from the dry arid desert land that changed appearance with the landscape at ever bend. When we got to Gypsum, the mighty Colorado River wound North, and we picked up a charming tributary called Eagle River, which continued to keep us company along I-70 until Edwardsville. Dotted with rapids, pines and the occasional fisherman casting along the shadows of the early evening light, I was briefly transported to world far away. We have seen some beautiful places throughout this journey, but Colorado might just have the best of all things me. With a great love of the outdoors and trout fishing, my only regret in life was that I never made it to this place to fish with my grandfather who instilled a great passion and love for all things outdoors including trout fishing, but knew he was with me in spirit. In fact, both of my grandparents have been with me this entire journey. So many life lessons learned through them, and for a moment found reminiscing those who were dearly loved and deeply missed.

No sooner than the river ended, Scott and the kids noticed a bike trail along the road and followed it along the highway for over seventy-five miles. There have been so many incredible bike trails both used and seen and it has been one of my favorite memories thus far on the trip. As we rounded yet another bend, we were at 11,162 elevation, the highest of our journey thus far. We then saw the first signs for a huge 1.8 mile tunnel ahead complete with heavier traffic. With great anticipation, we entered the east bound Johnson tunnel while the Eisenhower transported cars westward in equal distance. Nothing beats a nice long dark tunnel and if you ask kids, we have seen quite a few this trip. I think we have passed through about eight to ten tunnels throughout the trip, Zion being the favorite. We have seen six rainbows, including a double outside of Denver; twelve cargo trains, sixty deep at least and more wildlife than anyone expected. There have been so many different, not necessarily unique, but perfectly timed experiences for us on our journey and we feel incredibly blessed.

But as the day closed after a long afternoon of driving, my threshold and tolerance level started to wane. I tried to find my happy place, as I had had my fill of all ranges of bodily functions, slapping sounds of vinyl, banana slug jokes, battles between which movie was better, Ratatouille or Frozen, the endless laughing of Kenzi through it all, the lack of WIFI for Drivers Ed class, “It’s so hot” complaints, and on and on . When we arrived at Chipolte, the dinner place of choice, everyone but Viv was happy. It was enough to send me over the edge and I did not respond well. Unfortunately, Viv took the brunt of my frustration as I let the entire car and parking lot know that I was done! Actually, five hours ago I was done but tried to desperately to enjoy the beauty as it would be fleeting. Everyone has been extraordinarily good on this trip and not once have we heard “Are we there yet?” but we all were getting slap happy, tired, and increasingly loud to drown out the noise from the broken window and I lost it and for that I was very, very sorry.

When we arrived at the hotel, after an hour of silence, the kids went immediately to bed as the pool was already closed for the evening and no one wanted to complain about another thing. I definitely took care of that in my tirade. After Scott and I coordinate placement of the car in the parking lot with the front desk, we made to our room which was across the hotel only to find the kids all sleeping in the same queen bed. Apparently, my episode was enough to afford me my own bed with Scott and though I felt guilty how it came to be, I was thankful to get a good night’s sleep without someone rolling, kicking and sleeping on top of me.

Day 27: Moab and Arches National Park