Frankfurt, Germany

For our 2016 family vacation we visited Germany and Austria. Since there is a lot of places we visited, I will break this blog into cities that we visited. For the vacation, our friend Maria joined us. She loves traveling Europe and offered to tag along while helping to pay some of the expenses.

Our first stop was Frankfurt. We arrived early in the morning. After getting our rental car (a DSCN3378minivan with a Diesel engine) we arrived at our first Airbnb stay, which was an apartment located on the Main River. Our visit to Frankfurt was centered around me doing the Ironman race, which I will discuss in a separate blog. On our first day, we just settled into our condo and tried to get groceries. By far, one of the hardest things we had to overcome (language wise) was grocery shopping. No joke, we bought three cases of water before we got it right. We kept buying sparkling water inside of still water.

On our second day, I started the day with a practice swim at the Ironman swim start. DSC00750The water was much warmer than I expected. After the swim, I checked into the Ironman race. After I got checked into the race, we went to Heidelberg Castle. The castle was about an hour away from Frankfurt. As our first castle, we were mesmerized. It seemed everywhere we went, crews were setting up for a special event, just like they were at the castle. We weren’t able to go into the castle, so we explored the grounds.

After Heidelberg, we were suppose to visit another castle. When I planned the visit, the two castles were suppose to be close in driving distance, but once there, they were very far so we just called it a night and drove home.IMG_0228

The next day we walked to the Frankfurt Zoo. The zoo was in the center in the center and was a bit smaller than zoos we have visited in the past. After the Zoo, went to the ironman briefing, which was located at the finish line for the race.

On our fourth day, we took a boat tour of the Main River. I planned this because I didn’t DSCN3283want to do too much walking on the day before the race. The boat cruise was nice, but the weather was not cooperating. It drizzled the first half of the boat ride. After the boat ride, everyone but me went to the Werthiem Castle, which is the one we missed on the third day. While everyone else was at the castle, I took a shuttle to check my bike into where the Ironman race started. Susan and Aaron loved the castle. The castle was just ruins for DSCN3352the most part.

The fifth day was showtime for Mike. Mike did Ironman Frankfurt. During the ironman, everyone else cheered for all of the athletes at the swim and the run. The run course passed by our apartment eight times! After the Ironman, we packed up everything to depart for Berlin.

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Ironman Frankfurt

As most of you can remember, I completed Ironman Florida in 2014. After the raceThe swim was cancelled for that race. Ever since then, I have wanted to take another stab at doing a full distance triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run). I never felt like a completed a full Ironman without doing the swim.

During Summer of 2015, I decided I wanted to experience a triathlon in Germany. Germans are known for being very supportive of triathlons. I first tried to register for Challenge Roth, which is the largest long distance triathlon in the world. After not getting into that race, I registered for Ironman Frankfurt. IMG_0243Looking back, I am glad things worked out the way they did. Challenge Roth was a hotter race (I do better in cold weather) and training was already difficult enough since I had to do my long bike rides and runs in May and June in the humid Florida weather. There were times I couldn’t even complete my training runs in Florida.


The swim was held in an old rock quarry. The water was in the mid 70s, which made the race wetsuit legal for the amateur athletes but not professionals. I expected the water to be much 23_m-100743026-digital_highres-1316_044492-4907741colder than it was. The swim was 3800 meters. After swimming a 1500 meter loop, there was a short beach run, then a  2300 meter loop.

I felt pretty good the entire swim. It was uneventful. My watch measured the course at 4200 meters, but maybe I did a little drifting out of the lane. I remember thinking several times “where is the finish?” In training, I never swam that long of a block non-stop. I completed the swim in 1:15.29. This was in the neighborhood of what I expected my time to be.


39_m-100743026-digital_highres-1316_068196-4907757The bike course was amazing. We left the rock quarry (which was south of Frankfurt), headed
through Frankfurt, then went through several villages north of Frankfurt. Each village had its own personality. Many people would come out and make a day our of cheering us on. Unlike Ironman Florida, Ironman Frankfurt had several decent size hills. I found that I enjoyed the hills as it broke up the monotony of being on a bike for almost five hours. It started raining hard toward the end of the bike ride. My goal was to complete the bike course in under six hours. I finished in 5:58.48!


IMG_0256The bike portion of the race is what I was most nervous about. I was scared to death of having a mechanical issue and not be able to complete the race. I had a huge sigh of relief heading into transition two. I had a little more than seven hours to make it to the finish line. For some reasons Ironman races in Germany end after 15 hours (they are 17 hours in the U.S.). The run course was a four loop course that was along the Main River. There were tons of people everywhere cheering us on! I passed by the condo we stayed at eight times. Several times I saw people out having a beer and envied them. Maria, Susan, and Aaron were able to see me quite a bit. My goal for the run was 4:30. I knew this was aggressive, but isn’t that what goals are for?

I was on pace for my goal until about mile 18. Then the wheels fell off….lol. At that point, I went45_m-100743026-digital_highres-1316_078190-4907763 to a run/walk strategy. I would jog to each aid station, which were about a mile apart. Then I would walk through each of the aid stations. To make matters worse, my watch died around mile 22. I finished the marathon in 5:01.24. This gave me a total time of 12:26.18. Not too far off from my goal of 12 hours.

This by far was the most amazing triathlon I have done. The finish area was huge. In fact, I never was able to find Susan and Aaron after the race. I ended up riding my bike back to the condo and calling them from my iPad (Susan had my phone) to let them know I was okay. I think this will be my last iron distance triathlon. I still want to do some half ironmans or shorter distance races. It just takes so much time to train for the longer distances.

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Buffalo, New York

Our trip to Canada, started and ended in Buffalo. Flying into Buffalo was much cheaper than IMG_5518other options. We had to depart of our condo in Niagara Falls about eight hours before our plane departed Buffalo. We visited Canalside in Buffalo. While at Canalside, we went to the Naval Park and toured two military ships and a submarine. The tour was nice, but seemed to be too much. Touring three different ships in one day is actually pretty tiring. Susan gave up midway through the second ship. Aaron and I had to move pretty fast through the second ship to leave in time to not miss a famous lunch.

IMG_5520After checking out the Naval Park, we had lunch at Anchor’s Bar. The bar is the birthplace of Buffalo Wings. We shared a platter of 50 wings, hot and medium. The wings were very good. The hot weren’t as hot I am use to though.

After lunch, we headed to the airport to catch our plane. If only we knew that our plane was delayed a few hours. We did not get into New Orleans until after 1am.

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Niagara Falls, Canada Trip

On June 8, 2015, we drove from Toronto to Niagara Falls. After hearing from several people that visited the area, we decided to stay on the Canadian side of the falls. We rented a condo about IMG_2461a mile and a half from the Falls. On Monday we checked into our condo, went grocery shopping and relaxed.

Tuesday was overcast and rainy. What better day to see the Falls, right? We headed to the Falls and took the Hornblower Cruise, Voyage into the Falls. The boat ride was amazing. It started along the American Falls and then journeyed to the Canada Horseshoe Falls. The force of the falls was very impressive. I brought my GoPro and was able to take some photographs and video while on the boat. WeDCIM100GOPRO all got soaked! After the boat ride, we decided go behind the falls. The Canadians dug a very long tunnel that goes behind the horseshoe falls. The tour, Journey Behind the Falls, started with a walk to the side of the Falls. Below is a picture of us on a platform beside the falls. After we went beside the falls, we walked through the tunnel behind the falls. They had two areas cutout where you could see the falls. The tunnel went about a third of the way behind the falls.

After walking around the Falls, we walked to Clifton Hill and played a round of miniature golf. Aaron and I get pretty competitive. I was loosing by eight strokes after hole nine. I was able to come back and beat Aaron by one stroke! The little guy scared me pretty bad for a moment.

On June 10th, we rented bicycles for the day. Aaron had a cruiser and Susan IMG_5336and I shared a tandem bike. We rode from Niagara Falls to Niagara on the Lake. The views were amazing. We went by the Whirlpool, which is an area in Niagara River where a sort of “whirlpool” occurs. We passed about five wineries along the route. The bike trip was about 15 miles one way. It took us a little over an hour to make it to Niagara on the Lake.

Niagara on the Lake is a small town, which reminded us of Fairhope, AL. It started to rain as we arrived. We stopped and had lunch and then started the return trip to Niagara Falls. The way home was a lot of uphill pedaling. Aaron and I got some triathlon training in after all! Susan wasn’t too pleased with the length of the ride though.IMG_5373

Fort George was along our way. We stopped at the Fort to check it out. The Fort kind of reminded us of the Pilgrim Plantation in Boston. There were several actors in the Fort that portrayed the roles of various people. They also did a firearms demonstration as we were leaving.

After our ride home, all of us were pretty tired. We stopped by the Taps on Queen Brewhouse to eat. The brewery was having a wing special. I think the wings were 22 cents each. After we ate, we headed back to the condo to relax. We wanted to see the falls at nighttime. Strangely, it doesn’t get dark IMG_5392until almost 10 o’clock.

At night, they light the falls up with high beam lights on both sides. It is almost surreal. After taking a few photographs, we went back to Clifton Hill. Clifton Hill was lit up pretty well to. It looked like a mini Las Vegas with all of the neon lights.

On Thursday, we visited Marineland Canada. Marineland was kind of a zoo and part of a theme park. We got there shortly after the park opened. We expected a large crowd like most theme parks. Hardly anyone was there this time of year. We had a blast. We were able to ride all of the rides with little to no waiting.

The park had Beluga Whales. I think this was our first time seeing Beluga Whales. They had quite the DSCN3014personality. They would stick there heads up to watch what you were doing.

There were several feeding areas in the park. We bought some food to feed the bears. The bears were funny. They would sit and wait patiently for someone to drop them a kernel. The deer, on the other hand, were quite aggressive. There was a fenced in area where you could buy some food to feed the deer. The deer would surround you once they knew you had food. Some would even nip at your clothes or a bag you were carrying. One bumped DSCN3062my arm to try and get me to drop the food. I didn’t like the deer feeding experience at all. Susan loved it and wanted to go back.

On Thursday night, we went back to Clifton Hill and played another round of miniature golf. I won again. This time I made sure that I did not let Aaron get so close to beating me!

On Friday, it was time to leave. We checked out of our condo and departed for Buffalo, NY. We spent half a day in Buffalo, which you can read about here.

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Toronto, Canada Trip

For our 2015 trip, we decided to go to Canada. None of us have ever been to Canada before. We first stopped in New Orleans, where we would fly out of, to visit my mom. Here is mom hard at DSCN2829work cooking Susan and Aaron’s favorite dish, BBQ shrimp. On June 5, 2015, we flew to Buffalo, NY, and then drove to Toronto. We rented a condo in downtown Toronto, which was across the street from the CN Tower and the Rogers Centre.

On our first night, we just went grocery shopping and called it an early night. Saturday we started with a tour of the Ripley’s IMG_5174Aquarium. Probably the coolest part of the aquarium was a long glass tunnel that had a moving sidewalk to take you through it.

After the aquarium, we took a trip up into the CN Tower. The CN Tower is the second largest building in the world. We started going up to about 1100′. Then we went up another 400′ into the sky pod. The views were spectacular. DSCN2903Here is a photograph of Susan and Aaron looking out of the skypod windows. There was a Blue Jays game going on at the DSCN2913time. We were actually able to look down and watch the game. There was also a helicopter flying around that was lower than us.

After the tour of the CN Tower, Susan saw a small train that was going around a brewery that we wanted to tour. Susan made everyone ride it. I think we were the only ones on the train that didn’t have a small child in our group…lol. After the train ride, we tried to tour the brewery, but the tours were sold out DSCN2922for the day.

In the evening, we ate dinner at Wahlburgers. We watched the show about the restaraunt and looked forward to trying their food. Everyone ordered a burger and loved it. After dinner, we went to the Mirvish Theater to watch Titanic the Musical. The musical was very well done. It was our first musical, other than the Broadway plays we have been to. The photograph is the stage during intermission.DSCN2933

On Sunday, we went to a Blue Jays game. The Blue Jays were playing the Houston Astros. The game was very good. The Blue Jays came back in the last inning to win the game. The stadium was electric. This was probably my favorite major league baseball game that we have been to.

After the game, Susan and Aaron wanted to go back to Wahlburgers to eat one more time. After dinner we went to the Amsterdam Brewhouse for a drink. I ended up buying a growler because they were so well made. I was surprised by the number of breweries and wineries in Canada. They were everywhere.

Monday morning we woke up and left for Niagara Falls, which you can read about here.

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New Orleans Triathlon

On March 29, 2015, Aaron and I did the New Orleans Triathlon. Aaron did the sprint distance and I did the Olympic distance. I wanted to do this triathlon as a build up to Ironman 70.3 DSCN0536New Orleans, which was three weeks later. There were several people from Pensacola doing the triathlon. The photograph on the right is several people in our triathlon club.

SWIM: The swim began in a marina off of Lake Pontchartrain. The water temp was 64 degree. I swam the 1500 meters in 27:21. My goal was 30 minutes. I was really surprised on how fast I got out of the water. This was the first time I swam in my full sleeve wetsuit, a Roka Elite. I did get a little warm toward the end of the swim. Aaron swam the 400 meters in 8:50. This was also Aaron’s first time racing in his new wetsuit.

BIKE: The bike ride was difficult. The route was an out and back with the Olympic distance doing DSCN0569two laps. The route passed over two or three bridges, which added some elevation to the course. I did the two laps (24.8 miles) in 1:15:31. I was hoping to average between 20 and 21 mph. I was just shy of my goal at 19.7 mph. Aaron did his bike ride, which was 12.4 miles, in 46:37. Aaron averaged 16 mph.

RUN: The run was similar to the bike ride. The run was an out and back, with the Olympic distance doing two laps. I ran the 10k in 50:47, averaging 8:11 per mile. I actually felt a lot better than I thought I would considering how hot it was. Aaron ran the 5k in 30:21, averaging 9:47 per mile.

Aaron started the race about 30 minutes after I did. I actually finished about two minutes after Aaron did with the time delay and extra distance.

Aaron was the youngest athlete (16 years old) to complete the New Orleans Triathlon this year! He won third place in his age division.

After the triathlon, we stayed in New Orleans for a few days. The week after the triathlon was Spring Break for Susan and Aaron. Our visit helped out my mom and stepdad as they were in the midst of moving into a house they were purchasing.

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Miami Marathon

On January 25, 2015, I ran the Miami Marathon. I signed up for this event because of a discount that was offered a year ahead of time. After doing Ironman Florida and then pacing for the Pensacola ExpoMarathon in November 2014, I took about a week break from hard training. I then ramped up my training with a goal pace of 3:45 for the Miami Marathon.

Near my peak week of training, I had pain in my shins. At first, I feared I had a stress fracture. I took a week off with no running and did a lot of message therapy. I started training again and my shin felt fine. However, I felt l lost a lot of fitness. I had trouble maintaining my goal paces.

Race morning was shaping out to be nice. I felt strong. The weather cooperated and was somewhat cold (for Miami at least). I went out with the 3:45 pace group. I dropped out of the pace group after mile 17. I just could not keep IMG_2302up. I ended up finishing at 4:17. Nowhere near my goal. It was very discouraging. Looking back, I am able to see how I tried to do too much, too fast. I didn’t give my body time to recover after several hard efforts. Also, training for the ironman seemed to take a toll on my body like nothing before. Lesson learned the hard way.

I did enjoy the race. Susan and I made a mini vacation out of the marathon. We stayed at my mom’s timeshare in Surfside. We explored some more of the city and went back to one of our favorite places to relax: Bayside Marketplace.

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Christmas 2014

The best part about Christmas 2014 was that we were able to spend it with most of our family. I was actually off this year! I guess that made up for working on Thanksgiving. On Christmas Eve, Brian came over to our house to spend the night. I think he was worried DSCN0463about if Santa would find him after he has moved around so much during the previous year. Aaron lucked out and received a MacBook Pro. Susan was quite happy that she would be able to use her laptop at the house now. We gave Brian a new Motorola Andriod phone. He was pretty excited since he broke his last phone. Forrest is always confused with all of the excitement on Christmas mornings. He usually gets lost in his stocking. My mom and stepdad came in Christmas afternoon. It was nice to be able to see them for the holiday. It was a quick visit. They had to DSCN0496leave the next day, and so did we.

On the day after Christmas, we drove to Montgomery to visit Susan’s family. We stayed at her brother’s house for the weekend. We did a lot of catching up. All of the cousins were able to get together. While in Montgomery we went to a Dillard’s discount store. It was our first time in that type of Dillard’s. We also went to the Mexican restaurant that Susan’s mom loved.

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Ironman Florida 2014

Last year, Aaron and I volunteered at Ironman Florida so that I could register for Ironman Florida 2014. I spent a year training and the day was finally upon us. I started the day with a Before the racegoal of crossing the finish line in under 13 hours. I also expected this to be my first, and only, full distance triathlon. The training became very trying. There were days that I trained for seven hours. Going into this race, I had no interest in repeating the long training days required to complete an Ironman.

Since the race was the day after Halloween, Aaron decided to go all out to make sure I could see him along the course. The Ran into mom before the racephotograph on the right is Aaron and I just before the swim was cancelled.

The race forecast was not too favorable. Winds were forecasted to be 22mph sustained out of the north. It was also chilly. The temperature at the start of the race was about 48 degrees. I knew the bike portion would have difficult segments. Fifteen minutes before the start of the race, I was informed the swim was cancelled. The swim safety On the bikepersonnel were unable to get/stay into the proper positions. I was bummed. This meant my first Ironman would not be a complete Ironman.

Race officials decided to do a time trial bike start. This meant I would not begin the bike until after 9:30 (the swim was scheduled to begin at 7). I changed clothes and got ready for the bike. In the mix, I lost my family and had to turn in my morning clothes bag. This was my warm clothes. I spent two hours shivering waiting for my turn to start the bike. I would have much rather swam and started my bike ride Lisa on the bike coursearound 8:30. People were released in order, by their bib numbers. This meant a lot of the older people would start near the end. I felt bad for them. For two reasons. It meant they would spend more time waiting in the cold and also meant they would have less time to complete the bike ride. I was told that all of the cutoff times remained.

The bike ride was not as bad as I anticipated. The first 24 miles or so were brutal. It felt like I was pedaling uphill the entire way. In fact, I only averaged about 16.2 mph for the first 15 miles. Once I turned off the headwind, everything seemed so much better. There were other times I was going into a strong headwind. Around mile 75, there was a bad crash. There was a female laid out on the road waiting for an ambulance. She looked pretty bad. She was face down in the ground, not moving.

On the run courseI completed the bike in 6:06:10 and averaged 18.35 mph. My goal was sub six hours. After the wind forecast, I threw my goal out of the window and just told myself to stay within my comfort zone. At the Gulf Coast Triathlon (half iron distance), I pushed myself to make my goal of averaging 20mph or better on the bike. I paid for it dearly on the run. I wasn’t too far off of my goal. I was pleased heading into the run, I felt comfortable and knew I didn’t burn too many matches on the bike.

The run: Holy cow. I never ran more than a half marathon off of a bike. That was after only 56About mile 17 miles on the bike. I had no idea what to expect. Except the suck factor. During the start of the run, I had to work hard to keep my pace above 10 minutes per mile. I wanted to run faster. I knew I wouldn’t be able to maintain a faster pace. My goal was a 4:30 marathon. I was on track to reach my goal until mile 20. I stopped to use the bathroom. After that I could not get back into my rhythm. I ended up running a 4:39:20 marathon. I averaged a 10:39 mile. The last 10k was the toughest running I have ever done. My thighs were on fire.

After the raceI read a lot of recommendations to make sure you separated yourself near the finishing chute. As I neared the last 1/4 of mile I slowed a little to get some distance from a guy in front of me and I could not see anyone behind me. I am glad. I enjoyed the finishing chute. I saw my family near the end. My coach from my first triathlon was volunteering as a catcher. It was a nice surprise to see him. He grabbed me and got me through the finishing area.

I was so thankful to have so many friends and family out there cheering me on. Of course SusanNicole and MLA and Aaron were there to chase me around Panama City Beach. My mom and stepdad came over from New Orleans to see me. They chased me around the run course on their bikes. Lisa, Nicole, and her friend MLA drove down from Montgomery to see me. My friend Brandon also followed me around after he was done volunteering at the race. I got to see them several times during the run. They kept me motivated when times got tough.

Will I do another Ironman? I have to. I have to do a complete one! Probably sometime in 2016 though. I need some time off.

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Grandman Triathlon 2014

On May 31, 2014, Aaron completed his first triathlon. Aaron trained for about three months to get ready for this day! Aaron had no trouble picking up swimming and biking. In fact, Aaron became really good in swimming laps. I also IMG_3463did the 2014 Grandman with Aaron.

The swim start took awhile as each person had to jump off of a pier. I was racer 245 and Aaron was 665. Therefore, I was out on the bike course before Aaron even started the swim.

Aaron did very well on the swim. He actually completed the swim faster than I did! He averaged over 18 mph on the bike course. Aaron ranked 17th out of the 54 first timers. Aaron’s overall time was 1:48. Aaron loved doing the triathlon. He is already registered for the Santa Rosa Triathlon, which is October 4th.

The Grandman was my first triathlon in June 2013. Two of the guys that went through the My DSCN0309First Tri class with me returned to do the Grandman in 2014 with me. Below is a photograph of us after we finished the race. We were waiting to cheer on Aaron as he approached the finish line.

I completed the triathlon in 1:32. I had a goal of 1:30. I struggled during the swim. I wasn’t prepared when it was my turn to jump off. I actually treaded water to start my watch. I then started my swim in a sprint and paid for it. I ended up on my back so I could catch my breathe. I felt good during the bike. I averaged 20.8 mph. My bike split ended up being two seconds faster than last year. I was hoping to average 22 mph. Looking back, I think I held back because of my experience at the Gulf Coast Triathlon (where I went too hard on the bike and suffered for it during the run). The run was quite a bit faster than any of my previous triathlon runs. I averaged 8:07 per mile. This wasn’t too bad considering the brutal hills during the first half of the run. I feel like each triathlon has been a learning experience. Hopefully, I will be well prepared before Ironman Florida in November.IMG_2067

My mom came over and watched the triathlon with Susan. They spent the day chasing Aaron and I from spot to spot. They were both pretty exhausted from all of the running back and forth as well. After the race, we meet my uncles and aunt for a late breakfast at Cracker Barrel. It was nice to see John, Paula and Roy again. We haven’t seen them since the New Orleans Marathon.

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