It is finally here…and none of us can believe it! After two years of planning, saving every penny we had, and staying focused on our impossible dream, we were finally in Hawaii, standing poolside.
James had been working for the ten days that we were in Hawaii, making phone calls, sending emails, and desperately trying to get the sponsorships, documentary film crew, and all the loose end tied up before his big day. The kids wanted to do only one thing while were in Hawaii, swim in the pool that was in the backyard of our rented AirBnB house. We felt like this was a tender mercy, they were happy, I could massage James and catch my breath (after graduating from college just days before we left), and James could focus on getting the work done before the big day.
The moment was here. The kids and I were all in disbelief as we piled into the car and drove to the pool. James had headed over earlier to prep, and I am sure because it was better than sitting at the house, letting his busy mind get the best of him. We were leaving the house at 11:30 pm, after catching just a few hours of sleep before the blast off.
The start time for the event was midnight. We were on a very tight time crunch with our logistics. Because of the time change, we had to be very strategic in our planning to make sure that we were able to get through the event in Hawaii, catch the flights necessary to land us in Alaska, the next day, early enough in the morning to start the whole process over again. It was the middle of the night, and there were around 10 people there to support the Iron Cowboy as he started this incredible adventure. People were buzzing around, I am sure speculating on how far he would make it in his journey, excited to see that clock strike 12:00 a.m.
I know that James and I were experiencing the same emotions without saying a word to each other. I hugged him, and whispered, “Are we really here? Are we at the start line of the 50/50/50????” This moment was very sacred. We know that God had gotten us here, one miracle at a time. We knew that he paved the way, with many rocks, bumps, bends and turns, but that the way was paved nonetheless. Together we had worked for this for close to a decade, one crazy turn at a time, and together we had built this dream. He and I knew that we were closer because of the last decade, and we knew that this was our destiny.
I didn’t really know what my role was, so I sat on a bench and waited with the kids, anticipating the start. I checked the clock, it was 11:55 p.m. James was ready to get started and decided to do a little warm-up. He swam to the other side of the pool, got out of the water and had a moment to himself. I felt my entire body fill with gratitude, but also a little bit of sadness knowing that no matter what we did, he was on his own; it was up to the Iron Cowboy to accomplish this task. I started to cry, tears running down my face, Dolly looked up at me, “Are you okay mom?” “Yes sweetheart. I am so grateful to Heavenly Father for helping us get here, and I am so excited we are starting!!!” She gave me a heartfelt hug, then looked at me with a big smile, “Me too mom!” James swam back to us, and he was ready to begin. What was going to happen over the next 50 days? Are we going to have everything we need? Will we know how to care for him? Will people show up for the 5k? Will we raise money for the charity? Will this whole thing really help the world, and empower others to conquer their dreams, change bad habits, and take better care of themselves? No one knew, and that is what made it so exciting. The ten second countdown began, “Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one!” The clock struck midnight, and he pushed off of the wall. For Cinderella, midnight was the end of her dream, as she raced back to her carriage. For our family, when the clock struck midnight, our dream was just beginning.
He finished the swim and ran into the men’s bathroom. We wanted to all congratulate him, but it felt kind of weird because he had only swam 2.4 miles, something he had done who knows how many times. After he changed, he came out of the locker room blinking like a horribly, decorated Christmas tree. I have never seen so much reflective gear and lights. I tried not to laugh, knowing the purpose, so I settled with a giant smile. I got a kiss on his way out to the parking lot, and me and the kids climbed into the car and headed back to the house.
I have spectated so many races, that I was relieved that I didn’t have to spectate this bike ride. It is such a long day for the kids, and I have always made an effort to shelter them from true triathlon spectating. I don’t want to ruin it for them, so I have been very strategic in how we spectate. Sitting in the hot sun for 6 hours while James bikes is not part of that strategy, and in this case, sitting in a car, chasing him around in the middle of the night wasn’t ideal for the kids either. I definitely didn’t want to sour them on the first day. I was grateful that there were helpers to do this, offering him the support he needed, so that our kids could sleep.
We climbed back into bed and my ducklings were out instantly. I laid there, praying, thinking about James out there in the middle of the night. He hadn’t slept at all that night, and was going to go all night/day long, and sleep on an airplane, only to repeat it all again tomorrow. I set my alarm, knowing that we had to checkout permanently when we left the house that morning. I knew it would take some time to get all the kids and their stuff out of the house and on our way. I had them pack up before they went to bed the night before, so the morning should go smoothly; after all, I have raised these kids and know what to expect.
We got up around 8 am. The kids were so sleepy, after not climbing into bed until 2 am after James swam. I was glad that I had them catch a few hours before the swim, or it would have been even harder for them to open their squinty, blue eyes in the morning. We were instructed by a crew member to not go and find James out on the course. I thought that seeing the family would lift his spirits, but we obliged and went on our way.
A friend of mine was living in Hawaii and had offered to host us for the day. Beverly Bouche was my youth leader when I was young, and her husband Bud was stationed there with the Air Force. She spoiled us rotten! She met us at the beach and provided us with as much love and generosity as Santa Claus. There was sandwich stuff, snacks, treats, drinks, boogie boards, sand toys, and anything else we could possibly need for a great day at the beach. I was so grateful to have an amazing day provided for my family, without me having to try to orchestrate it all. It was seriously amazing! We visited and caught up, after not seeing each other for probably 20 years, and the kids just had a blast. It was a perfect day, especially day one of the 50/50/50.
We watched the time carefully because Lucy, Lily, and Daisy wanted to run the 5k with James. We thanked Bev and packed our things up to go find James. Bev said that she planned to come meet us to see James do the run, so we gave some basic instructions and promised to text her with the specifics as we progressed through the run.
We had instructions for the ‘parking lot’ where the 5k was going to start. As we made our way there, we came upon a big group of runners…and our James! We were so excited to see them!!! We decided to leap-frog them until we got to the official 5k start. When we arrived at the parking lot, Bev and Bud were there ready to cheer. Lucy, Lily and Daisy all hopped out ready to run. We leap-frogged them all the way to the finish. Daisy jumped back in the car part-way, she had had enough of the heat.
Man, was it every HOT! The humidity was through the roof, and the temperature was just as high. My poor girls were suffering. We just kept giving them cold water, and encouraging them to finish. If they were that hot for just a 5k portion of it, James had to be roasting hot! I felt so bad for him, and offered a quick prayer, “Please don’t let it be this hot everyday through this journey.” I knew that we were at risk for some intense heat. We planned this through the summer months so that our kids could be a part of this journey; yet we knew that we were taking a HUGE risk with the temperatures, particularly when we got to the south.
The finish line was the the parking lot at the pool, where he started his day. James was throwing up (he throws up often, but the heat was just crazy so he was definitely maxed out), the kids were dying of heat, and we were all stressing a bit because we had to catch our flights. Beverly and Bud were there, with leis that she had made, for each of us. We bade them farewell, and thanked them again for their hospitality. “See you again, in 20 years,” I said and laughed as we embraced. Rebecca Morgan (whom had hosted us earlier in the week for a nice evening) had prepared an incredible spread of plant based foods for us. We graciously accepted, knowing we had no time to grab something to eat, and thanked her profusely.
We were trying to multi-task, getting James showered and changed, also get him feeling well, helping Lucy and Lily recover from their hot run, packed up all of James’ things, but keeping them separated because of the stankness, loaded people up, gathered the food, etc. It was hectic, and we were rushing. James was out of it, but we were trying to get him going because we had to catch our commercial flight! We finally got everyone and everything in order, and we took off.
We drove to the other side of the island (right next to the airport), where we had picked up our rental car. We pulled in the parking lot and saw a sign that said, “We have moved!” I said, “What is this James? Where did they move to? Where are we supposed to go?” “Oh yea, there is a new address. They told me when I picked up the car.” He pulled it out, and we were 15 min away! Ah! It was right next to the rec center, where we had just left! We drove over to their new location as quickly as we could, and unloaded as fast as everyone could move. “Mommy, I have to go potty.” “ Me too.” “Me too!” Fortunately there was a restroom in their office, “Everyone go now, QUICKLY!”
It was another 15 minutes back to the airport. I thought I was going to have a heart attack! I could not believe that we were cutting it this close, and for such a stupid reason. The rental car changing their location, and James forgetting, had added 30 minutes of unnecessary driving.
We finally made it to the airport. Our flight was LEAVING in 30 minutes and we hadn’t even checked in yet. I was stressing big time! The kids were tired, the check-in desk was outside and it was treacherously hot, and the employee was moving at a snails pace. There were all sorts of hang-ups while we checked in. James was at the counter, he kept looking back and rolling his eyes, and I was trying to keep the kids at bay. “When are we going to be on the plane mom?” We were at the counter at least 15 minutes before they even started officially checking us in. We still had to go through security!!! We finally get through, James is in a daze, still totally out of it, and we are rushing over to security. We had to dump all of our water bottles out, and everyone had to go potty again. Oh, and security decided to do a random check on my backpack. “You three, go to the bathroom while they check my backpack,” I instructed as I controlled the heart from exploding. The other two kids waited for their turn, as they check my backpack in slow motion. Finally I get through, I take the other 2 kids into the bathroom while James figures out which way to our gate. I felt like the scene from Home Alone as they are all sprinting through the airport, desperate to catch their flight. We find our get, and walk in through glass doors….AIR CONDITIONING!!!! I feel sweat running down my back, my hair is soaked, my heart rate is 200 beats and I am on the verge of a freak out! But we made it, we freaking made it!
I look around and I see the film crew and other crew members sitting there just chillin’ and enjoying the cool air. I thought to myself, “Freak, they have been here forever without any stress!” Within 5 minutes, “It is time to load the plane for the flight to Honolulu.” We got right back up, loaded the small plane and we were in the air within 10 minutes. I was still sweating and my heart was still racing…and I was envisioning doing this all over again tomorrow. I started to strategize how to make it a more pleasant experience tomorrow. We would just need to get to the airport a little earlier; today we had cut it way too close!
On our flight to Honolulu, I was able to visit with James’ friend, Craig Petty. James had worked with him and his brother for years at Copeland’s Sports. Craig was currently living in the Honolulu area, and had flown over to Kauai to do the event with James that day. Catching up with him on the flight really helped to calm my nerves. It was an enjoyable flight and I had finally stopped sweating.
When we landed in Honolulu, I was overjoyed with relief! We had about a 3 hour layover until our flight left for Anchorage, Alaska. We spread out our food that Rebecca had sent with us. We enjoyed every bite and were again so grateful that she had been so generous. Our gate was empty, probably because we were there so far ahead of the departure. There were giant windows with a mock bench underneath. The kids spent their time creating games on that window bench, playing tag, and just enjoying the time to play. There were as happy as could be.
“Will you massage my legs?” James asks through droopy eyes. “Yes my love, lay down and pull your shorts up.” 3, 2, 1, James was out cold! This would become a very common incident for the 50/50/50, falling into a deep sleep in 3 seconds. I spent the next two hours making him as comfortable as I could, while he caught a nap. I massaged his legs and his feet until the very last minute, and we had to load the plane. Eventually the gate began to fill up, the kids came and sat with me, and we prepared to board the plane. We made sure we had every, single thing was in order before we woke James up. We were the last people to board, and I tried to keep James cognitive until he was in his seat.
The kids and I sat in two rows of 3. I figured that if James was alone, he could zonk out and sleep the whole flight, without being interrupted. The kids and I took our seats, and we were sitting next to a large family. They were from Alaska, but had just spent several weeks in Hawaii. They gave us suggestions on where to go in Anchorage. They were very kind and their little kids were absolutely adorable. Eventually we were dozing off and the plane was dark.
Lucy 12, Lily 11, Daisy 9, Dolly 7, Quinn 5, and they were all trying to get comfortable on this red-eye flight to be able to sleep. I am sure that you can imagine that this wasn’t exactly the ideal situation. Lucy was on my row, was independent, and was able to fall asleep. Daisy was next to me and couldn’t get comfortable. She finally laid on my lap and fell asleep. Lily was on the row in front of us with Quinn and Dolly. Dolly eventually came back and sat on the other side of my lap, and fell asleep. I was awake all night long, as was Lily. I could hear her comfort Quinn as he tried to sleep, “It’s okay buddy, I will snuggle you.” When Dolly left, Quinn was able to lay on Lily’s lap, and fully sprawl out onto Dolly’s seat. Sweet Lily stayed up all night making sure that her baby brother was snuggly and sleeping well. Absolutely touched my heart; if she hadn’t have helped me, I don’t know what I would have done.
When the plane was preparing to land, I had to wake everyone. Dolly went back to her seat, and everyone put their seats up, checked seat belts, and they were ready for their next days adventure.