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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Trek Across Maine: an infomercial

Have you ever:

Needed some time away?
Wanted to see the state of Maine up close and personal?
Liked the idea of other people feeding you constantly and telling you that you're awesome?
Wanted to do some good?
Come to know sensitive spots on your bottom you didn't know existed?

Then you must sign up for the 2017 Trek Across Maine!!

Disclaimer: all the fun shown here was true and actual fun. These are real people, not actors. Any personal discomforts on a bike seat, couple disagreements through remote parts of Maine regarding their pedaling speed (no one shall be named) or stress about actually leaving your children for 4 days on their last day of school have been omitted for two reasons. One, they were not photographed (who needs to see that?) and, two, that is real life and, let's face it, we all have plenty of that. 

It's all good when you finally get your bike and all your gear on the bus that will take you all the way over to the start line in Western Maine at Sunday River ski resort and you can just hang out in the sun and wait for it to be time to leave. 

Now, I am a big baby about the 3 hour bus ride because I don't like buses and I get really car sick. BUT, we got smart this year and downloaded a movie to the iPad, packed pillows, a blanket and some snacks and enjoyed the fact that someone else was driving. I said to Sandi, "So THIS is what it is like for our kids to travel!"

It was super fun... until I got car sick and had to take a nap. The last 30 minutes of that ride are a slow torture for me as I fight the urge to muscle the bus driver out of his seat and take the wheel.

The Trek Across Maine has raised over $22 million for the American Lung Association in its 32 years, raising over $1.2 million this year alone. The fundraising minimum is only $600 which is totally doable. There's the part where you get to feel amazing for having done some good and also have the fun of riding your bike!

Two thousand trekkers, hundreds of volunteers and endless amounts of gatorade and peanut butter and banana sandwiches to propel us the 180 miles across the state. But first, we had to get our bikes to the start.

 It is fun to see a mountain you've skied wearing its summer clothes.

Our friend, Alissa, who was one of Maya's ski guides last year with Maine Adaptive. She rides the Trek as a medic (seems she is a perpetual do-gooder and we love her for it) with trusty bags of equipment on her bike to help any cyclists in need along the way.  Just one of the hundreds of people that make this ride possible (but one of our favorite ones).

Who doesn't love a ski/bear claw chair?

Our friend Kristi took this picture from the second floor when she saw us sitting together in the lobby. Thank you Kristi!  

This year a group of Sandi's colleagues formed a Trek Team so we (sadly) left our very wonderful Gold's Gym team to join them. I love the clever name Stacey came up with, "Sleep Cycles", for a group of anesthesia providers. Sandi did a great job designing the jerseys and we got a ton of compliments on them! (Our teammate Frank was unfortunately not present for this photo.)

Sandi and I raised close to $1,500 for the American Lung Association and our brand new team raised a total of $6,500.  That is the best feeling. I can't wait to see what we can accomplish next year!

The collar of the jersey's say, "Go to sleep with the best." 
 The weather promised to be four days of perfection which was a tremendous bonus after riding in the monsoon that was day 3 of the Trek of 2015.  

We were ready to ride!

This is the part of my infomercial where I don't have to tell you, I can show you, and you realize that Maine is so freaking beautiful that you HAVE to ride the Trek.

 These notes are everywhere, including at some rest stops, on the porta potties.

 Seriously, I could use a station like this in my everyday life.
 On the road into Farmington (the end of the 70 miles of day 1) we have the pleasure of embarking on a jaunt through a town in typical Maine fashion. The town of Chesterville, ME must be shaped like a spider because we pass through it 16 different times. Or maybe only 4. It is a lot for such a small town. I like to call it is the cat and mouse game of Chesterville. Now you're in it and1 mile later you're not except...wait, here it comes again.

We have an expression in Maine, "If you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes." I feel this should apply to Chesterville. "If you think you have left Chesterville, wait 500 feet."

(I was not successful in photographing all of the signs- I'm riding a bike for goodness sake- but I did get two of them.)

Did I mention the cheering? Who doesn't love to have people cheering for you on the side of the road? Especially when they are adorable. There were even kids that had a free lemonade stand for the trekkers. 
 Day two started out cool and beautiful. There are so many friendly faces we see now that we have been doing the Trek for a few years and the camaraderie of this massive group of cyclists is so fun. Our team member Luc, who just bought a road bike 3 weeks before the Trek, was decked out in style for his ride.

 Again with the beauty.

Frank, me, Raf and Sandi all found each other at one of the rest stops.

 We got chatting with this guy, Bill, who had been doing the Trek for 20 years and has his own permanent trekker number (Sandi's lucky number, 22). Turns out he also has 9 lives, having survived being hit by a truck on his bike several years ago and surviving an IED attack while serving in the middle east. He is also a total badass who cycled the Mount Washington auto road race: 7.5 miles up the mountain on a mostly gravel road at an age somewhere north of 60 I would guess.

These are the kind of awesome people you too will meet on the Trek when you do it next year.

Like this guy who is on the side of the road cheering trekkers on donning a purple sequin beard, knee socks and a boom box. We had seen him the day before in a silver sequined beard and matching shirt that looked like thousands of diamonds when the sun hit it. 

The whole team at Colby College at the end of day 2. (I am not in my cycling gear because as soon as I get off my bike the first thing I want to do is take those clothes off.)

 Every year the person holding the question mark is my favorite. This woman listened to my tale of woe in Farmington about how there was no longer iced coffee at the finish line. After you ride 70 miles, coffee is kind of essential. She felt very badly to not know where to send us. Not ones to rest when caffienation is on the line, we finally found some on campus and went back to tell her. She was so thankful that we had figured it out so she would have the answer for other trekkers (after all she is holding the question mark).

When we got to Colby on the second day and I saw her I asked, "Where is the iced coffee?" and she laughed and said, "Where it was yesterday! In Farmington!"

 Saturday night, dinner out!

And then before you know it, you only have 56 miles to go and you head out for day 3 and find your way to the ocean hoping the day doesn't go too fast.

Our teammate Stacey and Sandi

A typical rest stop

In addition to all of the usual delights at the rest stops (trail mix, oranges, apples, fluffanutters, PBJ, PB and banana sandwiches, all manner of granola bars, etc), this year there was the addition of the totally delectable Bixby BarThe company, founded by a young Maine woman, has its factory in Rockland, Maine and their product line is a huge up and comer on the health-food market and among foodies given the unique and high quality ingredients. The Bixby Bar was the talk of the Trek. My favorite was the Bing Cherry Chipotle Peanut bar. I've never had anything like it. 

We saw this guy throughout the Trek and, although we never did learn the significance of the hot pink tutu, we wanted a picture with him. 
 The last 10 miles of the Trek for me are some of the best of the ride. The route takes us on rolling back roads and the other cyclists (at least the ones we generally ride with) are happy and playful as we take turns passing each other on tired legs. Typically we pass the men on the hills and they smoke us with their momentum on the downhill so there is a lot of banter.

I spend these miles feeling immensely grateful and wishing time would slow down so it didn't have to be over yet. That is how much I love this ride and this time with my truly amazing wife.
 Every year Sandi says, "I am going to train more next year so it will be more fun for me." And every spring life and work infer and she ends up doing only a couple of longer rides before the Trek. This year she didn't even get in the one 50 mile ride we always make sure to do. But, luckily, she is in amazing shape and can, somehow, hammer out 180 miles with a smile on her face.

I'm not sure what point I am trying to make here but as much as I wanted to delete this picture, it is too quintessential to not include it.

 My mom surprised us at the finish line! She has been there almost every year (minus last year's monsoon) but I didn't think she would come this year. She has a little bit of Trek fever I think. The finish line is such a buzz of excitement and celebration and every person that comes across it must feel like they are incredible.

You want to do it now right? You want to have all this fun and do something good? You want to meet cool people and get better acquainted with your under carriage? You don't have to be a fitness buff or even an avid cyclists. You can train to ride and take your time and be part of this truly phenomenal event. You will thank yourself.

You are going to sign up immediately and then go buy yourself a Bixby Bar to celebrate.  Right?
Iced coffee in Belfast!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

swim, bike, run (and flip)

We are trying to kind of sneak up on Maya with the introduction to her athletic prowess. She has it but she doesn't really know it. Because she is such a competitive kid she tends to shy away from doing anything where she is at risk of losing. Her determination has been better suited for individual endeavors which is why gymnastics seems to be a good fit for her. She has refused soccer, softball and basketball even though she shows promise with the skills of all of those sports.

When her drive and her skill click she will be a force. 

But peer pressure can be a good thing. Her best friend Abby was going to do the Jr. Bears kids triathlon, would she like to do it too?  She shrugged. "Sure." 
Maya might be the first person ever to do a triathlon with a full face mask.

Now to say that Maya and Abby are cut from the same cloth would be accurate but not descriptive enough. It would more fair to say that when the black hole that exploded to create the universe, Abby and Maya were racing each other to the front of the line of creation, giggling and spanking each other's bums and making crazy faces while telling everyone else the best way to proceed at the dawn of time. 

When Maya and Abigal (affectionately dubbed "Mabigal") are together, your stomach hurts from laughing, you think about things you never considered before, especially when these incredibly industrious and creative children have been quiet for any length of time (they last went in the room carrying a jar of Peanut Butter, a map, some cotton balls, a flashlight and scissors...maybe I should check on them) and you are searching for a glass of wine and some ear plugs.

While we were waiting for the race to start I took the girls into the indoor field house at the University of Maine to get some of their wiggles out. They ran to the other side of the track (because who doesn't sprint around a track 15 minutes before a race?) and I could hear them screeching with glee. I heard the distinct phrase, "Sandbox!" and looked up to see them flinging sand through the air like confetti. 

It was the long jump pit. 

Abby is Maya's first best friend and she couldn't have picked a better one. When Trish came downstairs the other day while I was making dinner she said, "Something smells good down here!" To which Abby replied, "Oh, it's probably me."

In short, Maya has found her soul mate. 

 The triathlon was two laps in the pool followed by a 1 mile bike ride and a 1/2 mile run.  Parents could help their kids set up their transition spot but that was it. No help from us during the race. We were told before the start, "Parents, it is time to let go."  I reluctantly did.

Sandi was on call and, sadly, got called into work as the National Anthem. I took videos of all three events but it was such a bummer that she had to miss it.

Maya is a speed demon in sneakers. I am not exaggerating when I say she is hard for me to beat when we race.
 And I am flat out envious of her form.

 So proud of these girls!!

Nothing like having your grandparents come and cheer you on!

 As if that weren't enough for one day, the afternoon was spent at the girls' end of year gymnastics show. Gymnastics had sort of taken over our lives this year and I have from time to time whined about it. But as I sat in the auditorium watching all the classes show their skills all the way up to the competitive team the girls are on, I was totally wowed by what they could do and how hard they had worked to get there.

My kids kind of amazed me on this day and that is great thing to experience from time to time.

More grandparents!

 When we stopped for ice cream on the way home there were some other people from the show there and they went out of their way to speak to the girls and tell the how impressed they were with their tumbling. The girls beamed, feeling like celebrities.

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