To conclude my Mount Rushmore themed blog posts I will write about my four most epic adventures of 2014. This has been a year of struggles and blessings! It is a year that I will look back on for many years to come with vivid memories and defining moments of my life. Lets get started, I will write these in chronological order.
Family fun at the Beach: My mom and dad along with my aunt and uncle and their children rented a house in Mexico Beach, Florida. This was a fun and carefree adventure filled with lots of beach time, seafood and swimming in shark infested waters. Ok, I do exaggerate from time to time. Mexico Beach is half way between Panama City and Apalachicola. We would drive to Apalachicola to each seafood and shop, which is home to hundreds of shrimp boats and a healthy tourism business. It was fun just hanging out with my my cousins and the old people. One of my favorite adventures during my stay was when my cousins and me hiked St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve. We swam and chased critters around the beach. I guess the older I get the more I enjoy just getting away from the craziness of the world. For example going to Disney World would be more like work than vacation. Mexico Beach and visiting West Yellowstone, Montana is more relaxing and fulfilling than a busy vacation with a long itinerary.
Aviation Challenge Elite Mach III: This year our twelve day program seemed more special than past years. The program we developed years ago to bring our most interested and most dedicated trainees back for a more realistic adventure has really grown into a homecoming of sort. This year we had trainees whose sibling were in the original twelve day programs, not to mention our staff are alumni of this unique program. As a staff member, you have to get to know each student for the program to work. This week is a chance for even management to work directly with the trainees. It is physical, emotional, and stressful. The pinnacle of the program is an extended survival and endurance activity where we simulate what the stress of military training is like, we call it SERE. But unlike the real military SERE, our trainees get tortured by Devil Bear not a hardened SERE instructor! We push the trainees as far as we can and at the end of the day they are more resilient and self-confident than ever before. I only got to hang out for a week because of another epic adventure.
Believe: On July 31, I received a message on Facebook to call Leigh-Ann as soon as I could. The message was from the younger sister of my friend Rhonda Cox who had been in a cycling accident that morning. This started an epic adventure for Rhonda in recovery and for me a journey of several road trips and personal growth. Rhonda’s personal strength and super human recovery is most definitely founded on the power of God. Each time I visited my friend in Illinois I would see her monumental steps in recovery. In the first moments after the accident there was uncertainty and each day, each step and swim stroke has led to certainty in a mighty plan only God could conceive and put in place. Thousands of people prayed for Rhonda and encouraged her. Some days it is easy to get distracted by who really is in control. However, seeing the progress and commitment Rhonda demonstrated impacted me. Beyond the relationship I have with Rhonda, spending time with her mom and family during my four visits to Illinois from August to right before Thanksgiving was fun and adventurous. Rhonda’s perseverance and courage has inspired me to be a better person and my faith has been renewed during this year because of her friendship.
Ironman Chattanooga: I feel like each blog post this year has revolved around something to do with triathlon. So how could I leave out my 144.6 miles during the inaugural Ironman Chattanooga. As a kid, I didn’t have the resiliency to complete many of the things I wanted to do. For instance, I remember hating to run, so I quit basketball in seventh grade during track season. I had big dreams, but didn’t have the mettle it took to keep going. For me, completing an Ironman was a process of resiliency and gaining the mental fortitude to endure the training leading up to Chattanooga and the distance during the race. The best advice I received during my training was from the dad of an Aviation Challenge trainee in early August. He told me a story of an Ironman participant who stopped at an aid station at mile 16 or so during the run. He told a volunteer he couldn’t go any further and the volunteer called for the SAG vehicle. After waiting 45 minutes the participant who wanted to quit felt stronger and more confident. He approached the worker to tell them he could finish, but he couldn’t because he already declared he quit. Th moral of the story was, just don’t quit! Walk, run or crawl, if you physically can do it, finish. And that can be said with many things in life, finish in the best way humanly possible. As I rounded the corner headed to the finish line, I teared up knowing I was about to finish an epic adventure and be pronounced and Ironman.
It has been a great year! From a couch in West Yellowstone, Montana next to my dad snoring, I can’t think of any place I would rather be at this moment. But my year has been made special by spending many moments with the people I love and I am encouraged by. I feel like I have a wonderful job where my purpose is to safeguard trainees and mentor staff & youngsters. I have a great family and super terrific group of friends. I look forward to 2015. Over the next few months and weeks I hope to redesign my blog site and make it a bigger part of my daily life. I love journaling. I have noticed when I am writing blogs I am a stronger person. That is my hope for 2015: to be a stronger, better person.