Madrid > Barcelona

Taylor Thibodeau Speaking…

Heavy-eyed through teal tint lenses, I swallow the vast landscapes of Madrid, Spain. Our high-speed train is Barcelona-bound. Mike, to my left, sifts through photos. He spreads a smile as each image tells the story of a soul-enriching memory preserved.. Josiah to my front left enjoys cool jazz through one headphone- music and earbuds courtesy of the train. Taylor directly in front of me scouts a place for us to lay our heavy heads tonight. A task not often easily achieved when we reluctantly forfeit each Euro for a new pleasure or necessity. Will it be in a high-end Barcelona Hostel? Or perhaps the old couch of a friend not yet met? Will we search for an adequate piece of land to pitch tents? Who knows. The mystery and thrill quenches my cravings for adrenaline and…newness.

Today is the 7th day on our crusade across Western Europe. As anticipated, it feels as if a month has already passed since the four of us said farewell to friends, family, and our homes. An overwhelming amount of life has been lived and stimulation absorbed in a sliver of time. Each day brings with it overloaded new challenges, adventures, friends, growth, and physical taxation. I wouldn’t change a thing. It all matters, it’s all happening, and it’s all so purely part of it. 

lugging around hefty bags through sweltering cities is a lot less romantic in actuality than I grew up believing it would be. Bruises develop, back aches, muscles I never felt before suddenly reveal their existence through sore pain. This has become a burden to the point Mike and Taylor already shipped some weight back to the states…which isn’t cheap…which says a lot, because of the limited euros in our pockets. Making navigational mistakes on foot is a lot more demoralizing with 40 pounds stupid to your back. This is really no issue for us, because navigating in a  foreign country is super easy. HAHA, no, not really…it sucks.

The Eurorail was not what we thought. ‘Hey, let’s buy a pass for month for $800. It allows you to get on any train in Europe and travel from city to city and country to country…sounds easy!’ Not quite. There are reservation fees, and in a lot of cases reservations need to be booked 7 days in advance. We realized this our second day in Lisbon when we tried booking our seats from Portugal to Spain. it was a miracle we were able to get on the train when we did. Each day we grow more and more knowledgeable and efficient.

(all day intermission)

It’s now 1:46 AM. I am sitting in the kitchen/lounge area of the hostel in Barcelona where the Wifi actually functions properly. I’m drinking one of the two beer brands here offered to my by one of the hostel owners. He’s a 29 year old American who visited Europe to study when he was 22 and just never made it back home. He’s a really rad guy who is willing to share all of his non-touristy treasured locations he’s been discovering the last 7 years. He says he doesn’t do that for most tourists. I can’t seem to remember his name…but he seems like a genuine and rad guy. Goodness, I love the people you can meet when you just put yourself out into the world.

(all night intermission)

It’s the next day, tuesday…wait? No, it’s Wednesday at 5:45 PM. 

I didn’t get much writing done, because after he downed 6 beers, Jesse (oh, his name is Jesse by the way) could not stop talking and I just didn’t want to stop listening.

Today we woke up and took a 2 mile walk to one of Barcelona’s beautiful beaches. The expedition on the way to the ocean was…absolutely life-sucking. Such intense humidity and heat. However, the reward was worthwhile. We plopped our sweaty tired asses on the sand, set up “camp”, and prepared to enjoy the water. only moments later I began to notice that about half the women not he beach were topless…thank goodness for sunglasses. Sorry, but like…how does one get used to that? The water was warm and inviting…the waves were wild and somewhat violent. we had an absolute blast body surfing. It felt like every 30 seconds a local would pop on over and ask us if we wanted beer, a massage, water, or tickets to a club. I accepted a beer a couple times…for 1 Euro, I am DOWN with that. 

mi 3 amigos are off to find a grocery store so we can cook dinner at the hostel. Saving Euros every way we can. We will rest for a bit, and then check out the nightlife. 

Documenting has been more difficult than suspected due to the hustle and bustle of each and every day. There is little down time. However, I am going to create more opportunity to post. What’s the point of doing anything if it is only to be forgotten?

Lots of photos coming soon! Thank you for reading…

Take care and have a lovely rest of your day 🙂

-Taylor Mason Thibodeau

Palumbo Perspective

Mike Here…

I’ll try to keep my fingers steady while writing this. I’m not nervous or starving or normally shaky, but I finally have some down time to write now that we’re on the train. The clunky swaying is oddly comforting, but harder to type than usual. We’ve already met some great people on the train that are on their way to Madrid as well. I have this mysterious feeling in my gut that I chalk up to be intrigue, excitement, and sadness all at once. 

Portugal was a fantastic stay. After realizing that I packed way too much crap while hiking down-hill to meet with our friend. I was a waterfall of sweat carrying everything that I had in 2 bags initially on the plane, and realized I’d have to mail some things home after almost falling over a few times. We stored our things in my friend Rita’s car. It was a life saver. We explored a local beach which was beautiful, then met her back at her car after she got out of work. She drove us through alleys and streets so insanely narrow that seems like they winded right into each-other, and at speeds that none of us could imagine going under such conditions. Well, the other guys were convinced I drive through my back roads equally as fast, but I digress. As we were driving through Sintra, I was manic with picture snapping. Everything was interesting to me, even street signs. Rita drove us by the beach near her house, which opens up under a massive cliff overlooking Praia. “You can climb that. There are stairs that go up and you can see the view up top”, Rita explained pretty nonchalantly. “Well, we’re doing that”, I thought. 

Rita, her mother, and grandmother live on the top of the hills of Sintra, overlooking a panoramic view of burnt red rooftops, pink and purple flowers, and not-so-distant mountains. There’s even a castle resting on the horizon, which I was told belongs to a baker who invented a famous “sweet” and owns a reputable shop in the area. The air feels clean and thick, fairly humid, but a steady breeze keeps it cool. We stayed in a smaller cottage mirroring their beautiful villa home in their back yard with our own bathroom, shower, sink, and just enough beds. (though one person had to take turns on the air mattress) Considering the fact that we were literally expecting a backyard that we could pitch our single-person tents in and lay on the ground, we were blown away when we walked through the place. I hadn’t realized initially that Isabel, Rita’s mom, has a steady flow of visitors come in and out of their spare rooms via air bnb. The place is revered. We were being spoiled. The first few hours there we all seemed to spend in awe. That night their family, the other guests, their friends, and us Americans sat outside underneath the orange lamps and moonlight and talked about cultural differences we’ve all noticed within one another. I was in my usual ‘camera tunnel-vision’ that I get when I’m experiencing a new and exciting place – snapping photo after photo under the low light while also trying to engage in conversation.  Taylor Thibodeau looked at me several times and said with the deepest sincerity – “I love this.” 

Rita and her family treated us like what I would expect from my own family, yet even kinder somehow. I almost felt like i was in my Nanna’s kitchen again – Food I’m not used to, copious amounts of red wine and expresso, interesting smells, and a grandmother who seems to be able to cook an entire meal, eat a huge plate of that same meal, clean the table AND do the dishes, all while you get lost in boisterous conversation and freshly grilled sardines. I’m a bit of a foodie, so I could write a whole blog on just the food, but I’ll spare you guys some pages. (It would be more for me to try to re-live the experiences than for you)

The first day we woke up very late, which we realized would be only about 8am back home. After an amazing brunch, some of the most satisfying coffee we’ve ever had, (we hadn’t had much on the trip and I think we all were feeling some withdrawals) and trying to adequately express our gratitude, we set out. Rita’s friend Stefanie, who we had met the night before, wanted to come with us to climb the cliffs near the beach. 

We get down there and start our ascent. After 50 steps or so I realized it’s not a wimpy climb, but was enjoying the burning in my thighs and kept a steady pace. I didn’t think much of it, as the top didn’t seem that out of reach, but once we get to the first outlook, I realized we were in for something special. The V shape of cliffs on either side of the stairs with the ocean crashing towards me peeled away a layer of fog in my mind. Ironically, the sky was thick with gray fog so I wasn’t expecting an amazing view, but I was very wrong. 

Every area of the cliff about 50 yards from each other was a different immaculate ocean view with thin layers of rock stacked on each other. The massive walls on certain sides even had dinosaur footprints imprinted in them. The skeptic in me wondered if that was really what I was seeing, and how the cliff slid sideways after all these years, etc. but I believed them. Some of you most likely saw some of these pictures, and there will be more to see I’m sure. 

That hike was a moment of reflection for me, and I think for all of us. I realized that out of all the hikes in New England or the west coast that I’ve done, nothing quite had this aesthetic. I realized how beautiful the creation we live in is at all times, whether we notice it or not, and just how excited I am for this journey. 

After months of processing, planning, and eagerly anticipating this trip, actually being in Europe is beyond surreal. I’m reminded of the countless times in the last few years that I felt overwhelmed by my future, stressed about work, relationships, etc. and just wanted to impulsively hop on a plane to some-where-else-ville and not look back. Years later, now that I’m out here – it’s so hard to process. The adventurer in me has been given an overdose, the home-body in me has been starved out, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Thanks for the patience guys! Over and out – until tomorrow (or very soon if not). We love you all,

-Mike 

@palumbotography

Day 1: Lisbon, Portugal

As the red sun sets behind the earth, we arrive at Logan Airport with hefty over-packed bags strapped to our soon to be aching backs–Each of us swimming in a cocktail of anxiety and excitement. We follow the tedious, yet necessary process that comes when traveling internationally. Our 6 hour flight is set to take off at 10:40 PM. This being said, we know it’s imperative to get as restful sleep as possible on a musky ‘1980’s scifi movie’ plane. That’s what the 4 whisky nips are for…4 for each of us. Gulp, gulp, gulp, gulp. (mom n’ dad, you’re LOVING this so far.) Portugal being 5 hours ahead of Massachusetts, the jet lag is going to be brutal as it is. I, in particular have an extremely difficult time sleeping in general, so I also throw a Benadryl and an Ativan down the ol’ gullet. Each of us in and out of unrestful sleep, the next 6 hours are a surreal dream-like haze.

The young lady a few seats to my left opens up the window cover allowing a disruptive bright light to shine through. Squinting through sleep-deprived eyes, I realize it’s 10 AM and we are descending into Portugal…the farthest from home I’ve ever been. Gathering up our belongings, I realize my $150 Ray-Ban shades are missing. Perfect. Too tired to care, I cut my losses and exit the plane. Things got kind of weird. Any time I’ve traveled, the plane exit is connected to the airport. Not this time. We exited the plane straight onto Portugal pavement– feeling the ferocious Lisbon sun beat down on us. Not a passenger is speaking…my comrades and I shrug our shoulders and hop on a bus 50 feet from the plane that we assume takes us to the airport. All of us too wiped to express excitement; we eventually get there.. With the exception of Mike, Taylor, Josiah, and myself, not a souls speaks English.

Airports are a dreary place as it is… it’s a lot harsher in a foreign airport where you’re the odd duck(s). I’ve never felt more invisible. First destination: water. MUST DRINK WATER. Mike being the only one of us with the forward thinking enough to have euros, he purchases a few bottles for the crew. Taylor summons an Uber and it’s off to our reservations at the Star Hostel 20 minutes away. As we drove, it becomes apparent we aren’t in Kansas…err Massachusetts anymore. Most buildings have character and color, the cars are small with thin roads to match &… the cobblestone stretches for miles and miles.

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After we checked in, it was naptime. 5 PM rolls around or should I say 17:00? I should. 17:00. Noon back home. We arise and now it’s time to eat. We meandered around our little corner of Lisbon for an embarrassing amount of time, until finally finding a place to eat. We enter a fairly cozy and almost entirely empty room. The proud elderly owner greets us warmly, thus beginning the inevitable difficulty of communication. He speaks no English. Using our hands to gesture that we are hungry, he brings us a limited menu written entirely in Portuguese. His lovely wife full of smiles is behind the counter dialing a number on her cell. She passes the phone to her husband. On the other line is their son who speaks a fair amount of English. He helps us interpret the menu. Still more difficult than one would imagine. Finally, I hear the words “chicken”. I point to a line on the menu…”chicken?” “Yes, chicken.” He replies with an extremely thick accent. “I’ll have THAT!” Mike exclaims. “Yeah, me too!” I agree. There will be plenty of opportunity to be adventurous with my cuisine, but right now I’m ravenous and I want some chicken, damn it. Josiah and Taylor choose pork. While we wait for the food to be prepared, the owner brings over olives and bread and beer. It was perfect. The restaurant owners son walks in with his wife and young son. He greets us warmly and apologizes for his English being “not very good.” Compared to what we’ve been experiencing, it was pretty damn good enough for us. Sure, he may not say words like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, but that’s not really what we need right now.

When the food is brought to our table, it becomes clear that Taylor and Josiah didn’t order simple pork, but pork liver. The two look at one another with unease. I try a bite of the liver…it was…potent. Not something any of us are really digging. The owners then presented us with 2 large sardines to sample. Delicious…and rather bony.trailing 5

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The priority of the owners is to give us an awesome experience. They have succeeded. Such kind, generous, and warm people. So grateful.

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After the wildly affordable and generous meal, we head back to the hostel. We noticed our room door is closed. I knock and open the door to find a lovely young Dutch gal laying on one of the six beds. The four of us cracked open a bottle of red wine and became better acquainted with this young lass from the Netherlands. We learn she adores travel and has been exploring Portugal on her own for weeks. She takes us to explore the center of the city night life. We walk for a couple miles through hills of cobblestone and beautiful architecture. The city is poppin’ with life. We find ourselves in small hole in the wall bar where we meet an eccentric owner known as “Jess”. His true name is impossible to pronounce for a guy like me, let alone spell. He turns on his dance lights and blasts some Sumblime in honor of his new American friends. “Hey, what’s Ginja?” I ask. He grabs six small shot glasses and pours a red drink. “Hey, unless it’s on the house, I can’t partake.” I say. As he pours, he confidently retorts, “If you don’t ask for something an it’s offered, it’s on the house.” We all laugh and knock back our shot of Ginja. “Hey, it’s not a shot! You sip it.” I look to the left to see a German gentleman educating me on the ways of drinking Ginja. After a couple Super Bock beers…one of only two beer brands in Portugal, we head back to the hostel to sleep.

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The night is filled with laughter and giggles until it becomes time to shut the lights out. To my right Mike sleeps on the top bunk and Taylor sleeps on the bottom. Josiah lays above me. The bed at my feet is Giny. She and I can’t sleep (SOMEHOW), so we spend until 4 AM talking and laughing & annoying the absolute piss out of my comrades. “Hey, I want you guys to have fun, but I also kind of want to throw you out the window”- Mike Palumbo.

At 4:15 AM I go outside to have a surreal moment alone. Soaking in my environment, I take time to feel where I am…and what it all means to me.

I am happy.

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Stay tuned for Day 2.

 

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.