It was a 4 1/2 hour drive to Fairhope (Mobile), Alabama. This drive was through hurricane rain and wind. The RV was being tossed all over the place, I can only imagine how hard Casey was gripping the steering wheel. The Zyto girls had started to help by driving the Subaru at night. Because of this, Casey and Aaron were able to hop into the RV together, and take turns driving. Well, they were supposed to take turns sleeping as well, but they ended up buying a headphone splitter and hanging out all night. Either way, they each had support and companionship now. From this point on, the drive became a fun part of their journey, rather than a obligation that wore them thin.
We arrived at the open water location. Imagine for a moment what the open water water looked like, after having just experienced the drive we survived. Rough water isn’t always bad, but if you are on day #20, there is no room for anything other than smooth water. That day, it was especially rough, so they decided to move the swim to a country club. This complicated things, being that people have to have a membership in order to enter the facility. Our ambassadors were members, and they had received permission for us to swim there, but not other guests. Once we got in, we were harassed the entire time that James swam. I get how a country club works, but what made it so ridiculous was that the club wasn’t open yet for us to be bothering guests, and that we had permission to go in. The club wasn’t even open yet, and luckily for us, we got out of there just before it did open.
We went out to the RV to get ready for James to start his bike. Out in the parking lot, there was around 12 people ready to ride with James that day. Fairhope is a posh little town, and the city is kept in perfect condition. The locals had informed me that it costs more to live there, and the expense goes into keeping the city in pristine condition. I overheard someone say that they cover the asphalt every year to keep it in perfect condition. Great news for a bike ride, it would be smooth and beautiful for James. He had plenty of people there to sag-wagon him, with all of his supplies as he rode for the day, meaning a down day for the Wingmen. A gentleman from Mobile had come up to see us, and brought us a delicious breakfast, nice sandwiches and plenty for everyone on the crew! He and his son were there to see and cheer on the Iron Cowboy. They had originally planned on swimming, but with it being changed to the country club, the only pool option in this town, they had to just stand outside and wait. They were in good spirits, and we appreciated so much the breakfast that they had brought us. Off on the bikes the group went for the day.
I had been contacted a day or two before by Ashlye, a local in Fairhope. She had extended an invitation for me, the kids and the Wingmen to come spend the day at her house. She offered for our laundry to be done, kids to be watched, anything we needed by her cleaning lady and nanny. I was blown away that a complete stranger would extend such an offer! I felt so blessed that she had offered and gratefully accepted. We had her address and so we made our way over after they had left on their bikes for the day. Her house was just minutes away from the 5k location, huge bonus! We pulled in, and it was tucked back in the woods. We had The Little White Mazda, so we didn’t worry about maneuvering through the trees. The house was beautiful and she showed us where to park. A woman walked out, brunette, over 6 feet tall, stunning and says in a thick southern accent, “Park right there.” Ashlye introduced herself and directed the Wingmen to the guest house to sleep. They about dropped their jaw when they realized they had a casita to shower in and sleep in, and a real bed!!! They had been given the day off, because Fairhope had provided such great support. Those boys left me their dirty laundry and they disappeared to shower and sleep.
“Just put your laundry right their and my housekeeper will come and grab it,” in the most absolutely, beautiful accent! I pulled it out of the trunk in utter disbelief! No one has ever done my laundry for me, not since I was 7 years old! She warmly took us all inside and introduced us to her two sweet kids. She showed us our bedroom for a day, and where we could shower.
Ashley took us out to her backyard and showed us her private little river. There were kayaks, a little beach, plus a deck for the kids to jump off. She had filled a cooler with food, sandwiches, drinks and anything that we could possibly think of. We made ourselves comfortable and the kids got right to it. Ashlye visited with me for a while, and the went off for a bit to teach a class. I was able to do some work while the kids enjoyed one of the best days of their lives. Her nanny eventually came out and hung out with me for a while. It was fun getting to know her, and learning a bit about Alabama. Ashlye returned later in the afternoon and we spent some time together. She and her nanny were both absolutely delightful, and I was overwhelmed with this opportunity that had come to me.
Our afternoon was unbelievable! We went inside to shower, our clean laundry was all washed and was waiting for us folded on the bed. We took our turns showering and I started to load things into the Little White Mazda. Well, to my surprise, Ashlye had purchased groceries for us at Costco. She had done that while she had been out that morning. And to take it a step further, she bought a bunch of organic, packaged foods! “I heard your fridge hasn’t been working, so none of this stuff needs to be refrigerated. It is all healthy snacks too, since I heard those were hard to come by on your journey.” I looked up at this kind and beautiful woman, with her thick, southern accent, in absolute disbelief! “Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you!” She didn’t even know us, and she went out of her way to do all of these kind things for us. I will always remember this, as long as I live.
We had to be strategic getting the laundry, kids and groceries into The Little White Mazda. The Wingmen had already gotten up and headed out, so I couldn’t put anything into their Subaru. It was insane that we were able to make all of this stuff fit into the car. Costco groceries, laundry, shower stuff, and 6 people, all in a 5 person, compact car. It was moments like these that I was in complete awe of the things that we pulled off.
We arrived at the market, and we felt lucky that we were able to get parking. The Wingmen had been watching cars leave (smaller town, narrow roads) and strategically planning a parking spot for us, and then they had to try to save it. It paid off and we had a perfect spot. When we got out of the RV and walked over to the market, the place was already buzzing. It was so exciting to see our crowds grow bigger and bigger with each state. I needed to find a place to put all of our new groceries. I did my best, and ended up leaving most of them right, smack, in the middle of the walk-way. With Aaron now in the RV, we now had one less spot for ‘stuff’ to be stored.
Ashlye introduced me to her brother Lad, from the Birmingham area, who had come to run with James. He was just as nice as she was. This family almost convinced to move to Alabama! They joined James during his run, along with a large crowd of people. We enjoyed the crowd, the kids played and I was so happy about this amazing day!
I opened my email and I had an email from David Warden. He brought to our attention what was happening on Slow Twitch, a social media site for triathletes. I had been in the triathlon industry over 10 years, and didn’t know until this email, what Slow Twitch was. Turns out, on this social media site, triathlete egos ‘socialize’ with each other. I guess it makes sense why I didn’t know what it was! People were going off about this elliptical thing that had happened the night before in Mississippi. All of these self-proclaimed experts, aka trolls, were also professional bullies behind their computer screens. David had gotten on there to sort some things out, but it didn’t matter, it was lighting up. The debates were heated, and people were going for the death. All of a sudden people were talking about the ‘rules’ of this thing. I thought to myself, “Rules? Who made rules? This is OUR thing, how could THEY implement rules that we are held to?” That is how this went, people had created THEIR OWN RULES, and they were freaking out that WE weren’t sticking to them. This got nastier and nastier. Come to find out, some of our ‘friends’ at home were knee-deep in these attacks towards James.
During 2012, when James completed a world record for the most iron-distance triathlons in a year, we lost many friends. To this day, we are not really sure why. ‘They’ just stopped talking to us, and it was never resolved. Whenever we tried to resolve it, or talk to them in general, we were shunned. It was crazy! As we tried to figure things out, like a Scooby Doo Mystery with no clues, people grew meaner and angrier towards us. People were critical of James because of the sacrifices we were making as a family. Even though he and I had been strategic, rumors were spread, and many of ‘these people’ would contribute to many of the difficulties that we would endure on this 50/50/50 journey. I have a hard time understanding how human beings can be so mean to each other. Why would you intentionally do something to hurt someone? Why would you do, what you could, to make someone fail? Why would people spread rumors that are untrue? Why does one person’s success take away from someone else’s worth or value? It shouldn’t and it doesn’t. I don’t get it, but we have dealt with that heavily for years.
After a day of rest, enjoyment and love, we are hit with hatred, resistance and suffering. Along with that, we never saw the van this day. We had a person on our crew that had created great difficulty for us, through every single state. Where was the van? Why did this person misrepresent what they would do for us, as they came along on our journey? How could they not care about the power of this journey more than their own ‘vacation’ for 50 days, yet deny that they weren’t fulfilling their commitments? We had many problems that were created based on this situation, many would linger well after the 50/50/50.
All of this happened the night in Alabama. There was much deliberation, discussion and concern for the turns that this journey was taking. It was concerning, yet solutions seemed impossible. James finished at an athletic shop. It was late, but not nearly as late as the other nights had been, around 1am. He had many people finish the whole run with him that night. Casey and Aaron turned music on their phone and ran up to meet him on his last mile, in their Speedos! When they got to the finish, James went in and showered at the shop. The supporters were emotional, as the camera crew interviewed them. We were shocked at the impact that James was having on these people; it was incredible. The kids were sleeping in the RV, so I went into the shop to see him. There was a chiropractor there, and James was out cold as he was being adjusted. I am pretty sure it traumatized every person there, as I held James’ head, as it hung off of the table, while the chiropractor would crack and turn his head! James slept through the whole thing.
We had less than an hour drive that night. Everyone was excited! The Wingmen, for obvious reasons, and James, because he could sleep in a real bed, that wasn’t moving! We figured we could quickly drive to the house in Florida, and get a good night sleep. I planned to just stay in the RV with the kids in the driveway. We also thought it would be a good chance to get our start times back on track. I had talked to David about this on the phone the night before, and how I felt that this was very important. He emphasized this with James, as they spoke that night. The goal was to be on time for tomorrows start in Florida.
After our time inside the shop, it was now much later. Our good night’s sleep was getting less ‘good’ by the minute. We weren’t going to get out of there until 2:30 am, which was not a full night’s sleep in a real bed. We hit the road! I remember waking up in a driveway, looking around, seeing the Wingmen outside through the window. I looked at my watch, it was around 4 am. I just turned to my side and went back to sleep.