Dawn of Adventure

Hello Reader, how kind of you to stop by…

It’s been more than 5 lapses round the sun since Stephen Kerr and I returned to our quiet homes after our wildly emotional & physical 5,000 mile bicycle crusade across America. For those that do not know, at the age of 19 without any training or experience, Steve and I left the North East on January 1st on our bicycles in search of whatever came our way. We then traveled to Key West Florida and then to California ultimately competing in the worlds toughest Ironman Triathlon St. George.

 

 

5 years…damn. life-change can happen in seconds, let alone 1,825 days.  Upon returning home May 10, 2012, I felt as though I had hit the conceivable peak of joy, achievement, confidence, and happiness. Being freshly 20, I foolishly believed I’d reside comfortably in that special place…wrapped up in warm euphoria until my dying days. Life was going to be easy. After conquering such grueling physical and emotional challenges, I felt I unlocked a certain profound freedom. Turns out, I unlocked profound arrogance.

Not even a year being home, a dark mystery pierced its venom-coated fangs deep into my veins. (Mellow dramatic much?) I began noticing that I was tired all the time…and all around, I wasn’t really satisfied. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed my friends, and activities…but life just wasn’t as bright and vibrant anymore. After a month of noticing this ever-present fatigue, it got a bit stronger. I would wake up each morning completely “zombie-mode”…and that feeling would remain throughout the entirety of my day, until my head hit my pillow that evening.

Initially, I suspected some form of sleeping disorder. I set up a sleep study, got my thyroid checked, ferritin levels, all the basics. Sleep study revealed I sleep just fine and all my other blood tests came back negative.

taylor sick

The fatigue and the weight of the world slowly got worse over the next handful of months, UNTIL I woke up one (ironically memorable) morning and everything escalated greatly. I couldn’t think right. I couldn’t concentrate. I felt inebriated. I felt totally disconnected. I felt as though I had no control over myself. I lost all drive and motivation. I lost a lot of confidence.  I always possessed an incredibly sharp memory. It was actually something well known about me to those in my family and friend circles. Yet, on this morning, almost all new information could not be retained. Things that happened earlier in the day, by evening, I felt they happened a day or two before. I could no longer recount the activities I took part in. This is possibly the worst of all the symptoms…the extreme short term memory.

For months I visited doctors getting tested by specialists. I visited a neurologist, infectious disease, I had an MRI, & I had about 20 different blood tests. NOTHING. My doctor literally said “I have no idea what this could be. I am beside myself” SOO reassuring! I tried altering my diet entirely to organic and all natural. I continued my workouts and ran 15 miles a week. I tried sleeping even earlier. I tried all I could think of. After a brain scan in New York City, the doctors concluded that depression was not the primary culprit. (I knew that) However, no solution or hope for solace was offered.

I’ve lived with this for more than 3 years now. It’s as much a part of me as anything else. This mysterious chronic illness has hardened me and I’m sad to admit, caused a great deal of cynicism within me.

Would I go back? Would I take it all away if I could? I don’t think so. This experience has made me wiser, less ignorant, and much more empathetic for those that suffer with toxic illogical circumstances. I’m far less critical, and forgiving. I simply don’t have the energy to carry around more burden than I already do.

 

ENOUGH OF THE HEAVY STUFF, TAYLOR!! Ok, ok…I feel you. That’s a lot. I share only to help you, the reader, understand more fully one of the characters in this upcoming story that is about to be written.

On July 25th 2017, a new adventure rises. Linking arms with 3 of my closest companions, I will embark across Europe in the hopes to open my eyes & heart to what more exists beyond our own all too familiar USA. Europe, HERE WE COME!

 

THE RAMBLERS:

Josiah Stinson

josiah

Where do I even begin with this guy? With 2 decades of life together under our belts, he’s a brother. Humble, Generous, Patient, and Kind. And insanely good looking. In many ways, this adventure is happening thanks to him. You’ve been by my side my whole life, I’m elated to share this memory with you.

Taylor Hopkins

hopkins

It was inevitable that Taylor and I would end up on an adventure together… I mean, come on, we have the same name. Quite possibly, Taylor is the friend that most truly & purely understands my wanderlust and pursuit of passions. Many people consider him a great friend, and I’m just glad he allows me to be in his life the way he does. Easy going, and up for anything, he’s the kind of guy you need around you to stay sane. Oh, and he’s insanely good looking.

Mike Palumbo

mike pal

Mike and I first crossed paths just a few weeks before my bicycle trip 5 years ago while we both were walking into Target. It wasn’t for a couple years after that we truly connected as friends, but I feel it was destiny leading to moments such as this. Good-hearted, fun, passionate, and all around sincere, Mike finds the beauty in every angle of life. He has a contagious childlike wonder about him. Oh, and he’s insanely good looking.

Yours Truly

taylor

I warmly welcome you to join us on our journey.

Stay tuned!

 

Cheers,

Taylor Mason Thibodeau

Thank You!

As the adventure of my young life comes to a pause, I have many thanks to give to many many people. Steve and I have had helping hands this entire journey from those we’ve been blessed to meet.

Mom and Dad:

I respect you and love you with all that I am. You paved this yellow brick road I walk on today. Thank you for putting your faith in me.

Sandy Kerr:

I’ve only ever felt welcomed in your presence…you’ve been such a big encouragement in my life. I’d be lost without you now.

Kelly Kerr:

Coolest,toughest, bravest chick around…nuff said.

Visgatis Family:

God sent me to you…so that we could change each others lives. I except to be close with you and watch the boys grow for years to come. Thanks for helping fund this wild adventure!

The Rest of my Family:

Thank you all so much for your initial donations, your words of encouragement and your devotion to the blog. I love you all so very much.

My Bros:

Thanks for the encouraging texts through this journey. In times of despair, I leaned on you. Love you guys.

Kim and Mike:

I fortunately got to know you a bit before the journey, but I feel as though we’ve gotten even closer in our absence. I feel a part of the group…and love it! Thank you so much

Everyone We Stayed With:

You kept us out of the cold, fed us, and kept us company…thank you so much! Sequioa, Michael, Kitty, Gayla, Levys, George and Jake, The lake house peeps, Donna and Al, Everyone from Cedar Key, Eric Allred, Desiree and ZaTch, Grandma and Grandpa Jennings, Grandma and Grandpa Fehser, Sekajipo and Sight (love), Everglades Hostel, Manhattan friends, Jordan Pihl and Kitty, Katie Kjellman, Mimi, Frog Crossing, Myrtle Beach hombres, Gabbi Mello, Joe Fiore, Grandma Idiot and Nicky Parks/Dana and the rest of you!

Mark Wessels:

Mark, you showed us true generosity. “One day it will be your turn.” I’ll never forget you said that. I can’t wait for me to return all the love you showed us! I hope we meet again.

Uncle Ben and Aunt Jen:

Staying with you guys was amazing. I had never seen mountains like that before and never changed a diaper! Thanks Ben so much for letting me use your carbon fiber masterpiece! I hope it gets back to you in the same condition. Miss you Colin!

Hitchhiking:

You could have kept driving, but you stopped to help us. Thank you forever.

Jordan and Avalon:

Your house has been the longest place I’ve stayed other than my own. You guys are the raddest people out there and I’m so glad we got to meet you. Thanks for all the great memories. You better come to Mass!

Steve Kerr:

Thank you, Steve. Thanks for being the best friend I could ever have. We did this together. I’m so proud of you, man. Here’s to our future adventures! Cheers.

The Lord:

I can always lean on you even when I don’t deserve it. Thank your for giving me the gift of life and introducing me to all of the above people…might as well have been angels.

You all are a part of the story…you all aided in the success of this chapter of my life…THANK YOU SO MUCH

*BELOW IS A POST ON THE RACE. CHECK IT OUT! COMMENT!*

Anything’s Possible.

As the orange moon begins to descend behind the red rock canyons, the sky becomes a pallet of red and yellow. “Athletes, please make your way to the swim start”, a voice booms. With green swim caps and black wet suits, an army of matching determined warriors make their way to the base of the water. Functioning off of 3 hours of sleep and a small bowl of fruit, I take a stand next to my comrade.  I take a moment to soak in my surroundings. I see thousands of determined faces. Everyone beside me has dedicated the better half of a year to this race. Blood sweat and tears. The day no one thought would come, has finally arrived.
“Athletes, please make your way into the water.” the announcer commands. With a deep exhale, Steve and I meet eyes as if to say, “let’s do what we came to do.” I clench a  tight fist and throw it toward Steve. He meets me half way and our knuckles bump. We make our way slowly into the bone cold water. 15 minutes go by of simply wading. For a moment, everything goes silent. I can hear the thumping of my heart beating violently in my chest.
 and then…
*BOOM*
the cannon explodes. Surging with energy, we swim. What started out as a calm still water, became a violent whirlpool of flailing arms and legs. blood began to flow from my lip, as a powerful leg smashed into my face. Impossible to maneuver. The water raged vigorously. Constant hands and arms hit my back, feet, and head…all I could do was deal with it.  Then, when I thought the worst was behind me, an old enemy returned. No one saw it coming. In an instant ferocious winds formed an infantry of gigantic waves that came barreling through the water. Everyone was being thrown back and forth, left and right, and off course.  This being my first open water swim, I didn’t know what level of difficulty this was. Later, I was told it was the toughest swim in the history of Ironman. I was having an absolute blast! “If it was easy, everyone would do it.” I road the waves up and down, smiling all the while. Often gulping down large quantities  of water, which caused me to gag and choke. Off to the right, I could see dozens of people hanging on to the rescue kayaks, clearly out of energy. Had the wind started before the race, the swim would have been canceled no doubt.
After about 2 miles, I was done having fun and was ready to reach the finish. I was becoming dizzy and making slow progress as the massive white caps forced me backwards. Finally, the finish was in sight, and I cut through the raging water with all my might. “Show them what your made of.”After 1 hour and 45 minutes of fighting,  I climbed up onto solid ground and nearly fell over. I was extremely dizzy, everything was blurry for a moment. The crowed was booming and smiles filled my sights. I stumbled over  to the wet suit strippers and laid down. That’s when I noticed my tracking chip had been knocked off. I knew someone had pulled  it off in the chaotic blue water. “If you lost your tracking chip, you can pick one up at the ‘bike out’ I heard announced. Hundreds of people didn’t complete the swim course. Disqualified. I got my chip, got my bike, and busted a move.
It all happened in an instant. My body didn’t have time to adjust to the bicycle. The first 5 miles were treacherous trying to adapt, but soon enough I became one with my carbon fiber chariot. Finally, I was able to think well enough to come up with a plan. “Remember, save your strength for the run”, I thought to myself as I cruised passed another cyclist. I cut through the first 20 miles of hills with ease. “Ahead is an aid station” a man shouted as I passed by. In the distance I could see dozens of people lined up along the side of the road with extended arms. As I got closer, I realized they were handing out nutrition. I was riding with only one water bottle cage, because my other ones didn’t fit. This put me at a large disadvantage. I knew I had to get as much water as possible. “Perform! GU! Banana! Water!”, the volunteers shouted. I grabbed a water bottle and a banana from their helping hands and kept on cruising. The bananas were cut in half to make them easier to consume. With the cap of the water bottle pinned between my teeth, I used one hand to steer and the other to pinch the banana out of it’s peel. That golden treat disappeared in a single bite. I then chugged the entire bottle of water and tossed it to a volunteer. The sweat dripping down my hand caused me to slip off the handle bar. I became dangerously close to going off road, but I regained control and made it a point to just get to the next aid station. Now, about 30 miles in, I was approaching the scenic 2 loop portion of the course. AKA: the hard part. The first loop was gnarly. The suns rays beat down like a fire on my tender skin. The relentless uphills and powerful headwind caused agonizing pain. “Just keep moving forward.” 15 miles later, I reached the next aid station. This time, I had to stop and relieve myself of bodily fluid. “BIKE UP!” the volunteers shouted as they took my bike from me with a  smile. “Need me to get you anything!?” I was so amazed by the willingness to help from all the volunteers. Constantly trying to aid in anyway with encouragement.  Once my bladder was empty, I filled the single bottle attached to my frame and chugged the remainder liquid. OFF I GO!
After a series of towering hills, came the toughest one of all. It’s nickname: The Wall. This is a mile steep rock face. I remembered taking this beast down in training, so I was prepared. I lifted off my seat and began to pedal hard. The taste of salt filled my mouth as sweat streaked down my face. Gritting my teeth, I began my acsent! I passed every single cylist in front of me. “That’s the way!” I heard a pro athlete shout to me as I passed him. Everything in my being wanted to stop…but I knew I couldn’t. “You rock the bike!” another athlete exclaimed searching for breath. These words of encouragement carried me the rest of the way. Once I reached the top, I was in for a break. After one more long uphill, I would have a 15 mile stretch of pure downhill relaxation. I pedaled fast through the canyons topping out at 50 mph. Still, the pros blew right past me. I was in the highest and toughest gear and couldn’t accelerate. I didn’t understand how they were. Finally, I reached another aid station and poured the water down my back. I took out some gu I was storing in the back pockets of my tri suit and gulped them down. The 1st loop was done, one more to go. “How am I ever going to do this?” I began to doubt myself. The heat and wind really began taking a toll on my brain. It was fried and I was dizzy. “Just keep pedaling.” the second loop consisted of less wind and lots of bananas! The time came when I reached “the wall” again. “I’m going to walk this time…and I’m going to be okay with that” I thought to myself. However, by the time I got to the base of the rock, I changed my mind. “Go big or go home!” As I cruised up the hill even faster than before I heard many athletes praising me once again…which was so uplifting. “Holy Sh**!”  About 600 feet from the top, I pulled off to the side. The cyclist I had just passed encouraged me, “Don’t stop! Keep going!” …It worked.
I powerhoused the last 17 miles and finally came to “Bike Finish” I stumbled off the bike and found my way into the changing tent to gear up for the run.
I sat there, on the verge of vomiting, and wondered how I was going to finish this race. All the naked old dudes changing around me certainly didn’t help my nausea. I poured several cups of ice water down my neck, for just a moment of refreshment. I dropped my head into my knees. I thought of what life would be like after the race if I failed . How could I let all my friends, family, IronMan Company, and most importantly myself down? That’s when I lifted my head, tied my shoes, stood up, and marched out into an ocean of smiling, cheering, raging spectators. It all happened in slow motion. “Failure is not an option. Push that envelope.” I knew I didn’t have to do it fast, but I DID have to do it.
Jason: You know what they call the last man to cross the finish line?
Me: What?
Jason: An Ironman.
Blinded by cameras flashing in my face, I walked through the running shoot. “Let’s go Taylor! Looking great!” I heard a voice shout. That’s when I began my slow jog. My stomach churned and my head spun wildly. I barely held my balance. “God, I know I’ve done a lot of wrong in your eyes in this life. I know I don’t deserve to beat this, but please give me just enough strength to finish this.” I pushed foreword.
“Perform! Gu! Ice Water! Wet Sponge! Pretzels! Fruit!” Thank the Lord for those aid stations. I emptied several ice waters on my face, had a few grapes, and pressed on. It was about this time that my heartburn began. “Great…this is the last thing I need.” I began to stumble and slowed to a power walk.
It was at this moment that I met the man who carried me the last 20 miles. His name is Jason. He’s a father of 5, and this was his third St. George Ironman. He’s a true inspiration. The previous year he walked the last 22 miles of the marathon due to heat stroke and a sour stomach. He was feeling lousy again, and we agreed to tackle these last 20 miles together. The hours ticked slowly by. Jason kept my spirits high and promised me we would make it to the end. “Pain is temporary. To finish is forever” The sun fell behind the mountains, and the brightest full moon of the year lit up the course. A few times I heard “Trailing The Sun” shouted at me followed by words of encouragement. It certainly helped. “Looking great!”

The hours ticked slowly on. The heartburn didn’t let up, the dizziness got worse, the churning in my stomach became chaotic. If I stood still, I couldn’t see straight. However, Jason and the rest of the spectators kept my spirits high.
Me: Hey man, it’s swim, bike, run… it’s not Swim, Bike, Run, Walk… is this really going to count?
Jason: Listen, when your body is falling apart and you have every reason to quit, and you keep moving forward you’ll have truly earned it. That’s true strength.
With one hour to midnight and still 3 miles from the finish, the pressure was on. Under other circumstances, I could bang out those miles in 20 minutes easy…but not now. Not when I was moving at 4 miles an hour and falling apart fast. We kept moving forward and made  a couple friends along the way who were also burnt out. We encouraged each other the whole way.
Then, I saw the 25 mile marker…Something inside me ignited. The last 4 and a half months flashed through my memory. leaving home a naive kid, and ending up here a man.  I felt the iron begin to pulse through my veins.  Jason reached out his hand and I grabbed hold. “Let’s finish this thing like real IronMen”, I said. “You got it” Jason and I turned on full speed and I ignored my feet littered with blisters, I ignored my melting brain, and ran toward the sound of the crowd. Before I knew it, I cut the corner and saw the flashing of hundreds of cameras and the cheerful faces of thousands. I extended my arms and slapped hands with dozens of raging fans. I raised my fists to heaven with the biggest smile anyone could make. As I crossed that line, my body exploded with iron. It was over. I did it…at long last. I defeated the toughest IronMan course of all time.
Thank you Jason…thanks for it all!
Thank you Jesus. Thank you for it all.

The Last Battle of a Climactic Ending.

124 days ago with shorter hair, lighter skin, and fresh clothes free of rips and tears, we left our humble homes in Sutton Massachusetts. Over the last four months Steve and I have waged war against our simple suburban lifestyle. Heat, Wind, Rain, Snow, Hunger, Thirst, and exhaustion are all foes we have had to face.We’ve conquered every conflict…except one. As this journey ends, we approach the last battle. The climatic ending to this cross country epic. The battle that determines the outcome of this war. The Ironman. However, this isn’t just any ironman. This is the toughest the world has ever seen. So tough, that this is the last year St George will host one. Steve and I will make history. I am the 9th youngest male competing in this race. The only thing standing between me and the finish line is 140.6 miles of physical agony. I’m determined to finish. I will use all the mental strength I have gained on this trip as a lethal weapon to this race. I will not lose. It’s gonna be one heck of a good time!

 

My first road race was the Boston Marathon, my first bike trip was 4,000 miles across the country, and my first triathlon will be the St. George Ironman. Go big or go home.

 

 

With God at my side, there is no way I will fail.

 

Stay tuned for an after race post! Send prayers and positivity our way!

 

God bless,

 

Taylor Thibodeau: future iron man.

I Can Go The Distance!

With arms raised high and a look of shock and excitement, she jumps in front of my bike. I quickly veer left and pull firmly on the breaks. The old soft very very weak breaks I might add. She says something with a smile, but I can’t tell what. I turn my head around and smile back, “what was that?” I ask.

She pulls out her headphones… “I know you!”, she exclaims. “You’re from Trailing The Sun! You’re doing the Ironman. I added you on Facebook.”

I am now in a state of shock myself. I feel like a rock star. I’ve been recognized!

After our encounter, Erin Harding, the young vampire weekend-listening mom, went on to finish her 50k (31 mile run) 

With one hand steering, I brush my hair back and readjust my earbuds. Pressing firmly and twisting until snug. I am now 30 miles into the toughest ironman course ever created. The majority of this course has been a gradual incline. I reach down and grab one of my two water bottles. Before I take a sip, I know by now the sun has surly had its way with my water. At 95 degrees in direct sunlight, it doesn’t take long for ice to melt and water to become stale. “Yup. Gross…gross, but necessary.” As I move, I find it difficult to keep my eyes on the road. Instead I place my vision to my surroundings. The red rock canyons cannot be compared to anything else. I lose myself staring at the bright orange menacing formations. I am an ant in a big big world. As I make a winding turn, I am presented with a  great challenge.

Ahead of me is a mile long accent up a winding cliff. “You’ve got to be kidding me…”I think as I increase the volume on my iPod. “Good song” Beads of sweat roll down my cheeks collecting filth as they plummet to the tar. As I drop my head forward droplets fall into my sunglasses slightly impairing my vision. More of an extreme annoyance than a real hinderance. I take notice of my thighs as they tense up and enlarge while I press my feet down on rusted pedals. As I make my way up, I remind myself of all the other climbs I’ve made on this trip. I have never once gotten off my bicycle to walk up a steep incline. Never once. “I certainly won’t do that now!” I shift my gears. click. click. click. click. Four times. I hear the chain shifting. Clank. Clank. It gets stuck for a moment, but eventually corrects itself. I’m panting heavily as I raise myself off the seat to get a more efficient climb. Slow going. “This is harder than the big climb in Steamboat Springs”, I thought to myself. This was possibly the toughest climb I’d ever done. I’d have to do it twice if I wanted to be a made of iron. “I should have taken a longer sip”

Finally, after much exhaustion, I reached the top. Steve had done the course the day before and had informed me that there was a food mart not to far after the FIRST big climb. As I raised my bottle to my lips, I took a big gulp of warm water. “I need a cold gatorade.”

A couple miles later, I was inside an air conditioned food mart. While here, I talked with many other ironman competitors as they were training on the course as well. I also had a lovely conversation with my wonderful mother!

The smile left my face as I pressed my thumb and fore finger against my back tire. “No…not now!” Sure enough, I had severe flat tire. Just ahead of me was another mile long climb. “This is going to be fun.”

I spent the rest of the brutally hot day fishtailing and swerving my way home. I did make it though. SUCCESS!

I stumble into the house and fall on the couch. I press my finger against my red arm. As I pull away, I see a pale white fingertip-sized mark return to lobster red. The suns rays burn hot  here in Santa Clara.

____________________________________________________________________________

Things are all beginning to come together.

1)My tri suit and new helmet came in today.

2)Aquasphere hooked us up with some excellent free wetsuits which we will receive in a few days.

3)Steve’s Uncle Ben is shipping me his exctremely gnarly time trial bike to ride.

4) I bought new shoes.

 I suppose that is all I have time for at this moment. Stay tuned for a post about Jordan and Avalon. They have been allowing us to stay with them and are really great. We’ve had some super cool times with them…
“A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams”-John Barrymore
I encourage you to pursue your dreams as I have. When all is done and white has taken over my head, I will look into the mirror with aged eyes and say, “I dreamt it & I did it!” How about you?
God has blessed my life.
Sincerely your friend,
Taylor