So, this past November, I set out again to do what I'd one the year before .... Set out on an ADVENTURE of a lifetime with Project Athena Foundation.
Last year, I had the honor of being named as an Athena whereby gods and goddesses fundraised and afforded me the opportunity to experience the adventure of a lifetime. When I finished last year, I told myself that I, too, wanted to give back and pay it forward. So, I set out to raise $2,500 (ultimately raising $3,000) to give another woman the opportunity to live an adventurous dream.
It's no easy feat to travel 120 miles -- biking and kayaking -- our way across the Keys. From Key Largo to Key West, we (there were about 27 or 28 of us, I think) stated our "Be Brave" motto and put on our "Whatever it Takes" bracelets & set out face the challenge ahead of us. Thrilled, Nervous, Excited and a host of other emotions...... I was -- we were --- All that and more.
Whatttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt a Journey!
When I set out on this trek, I was well aware of what challenges I would be facing.... from weather (rain, rain stay away we hoped & it did) to camping (the raccoon chronicles are quite funny), to the bike (I tried to tell myself that I had a heavy bike **Clears throat .. that ain't all tht was a bit more heavy this year), to the kayak (I prayed that we'd have tail winds & sure enough we did).
I look forward to creating memories that will last a lifetime. The Project Athena Foundation helps to ensure that we, the participants, will always remember our adventure. It starts with the people -- the coaches, the trail angels who help to ensure we're ready and who will give us (literally) a pat on the back when needed most. The tent mates we camp with for 3 nights play an important part in creating memories. My tentmates (Erin, Irene, and Angie) were loads of fun. We snuck out the tent on the 1st night of camping about 3am together for a potty break (which by the way, I refused to do alone. They were troopers to always go with me) -- ready for warfare (well, not really) with the raccoons who refused to allow us to boss them around ..... we had a giggling fit back in the tent that I think most of the camp heard. I looooooooooooooooooooooooove embracing the UNplanned moments which turn out being some of my most fond memories. Think -- belly laughs and tears from laughing so hard ....
In the end though -- this trip comes down to what you give and take from the journey. For me, it became a series of pep talks... given or received. At the conclusion of day one, I found myself in a conversation with my tentmate, Irene. It was intended to encourage her as a former athena and my tentmate. Actually, I very much needed to absorb every word for myself as well.
In 2015, I was stronger. It was not easy. But, I managed to get through the journey with the power of my own legs, arms, and might. I remember giving as much encouragement as I could to others. This year, I struggled. It was tough, y'all. 90 miles on the bike and about 30 miles in the kayak might as well have been 900 and 300 miles.
I had one lesson after another about humility and accepting help.
-The benefit of having a team who sticks with you is that you are never alone. You may be solo on the bike or even in a kayak but you will never be alone when you have a team who seeks to achieve ONE goal....even if your head tries to tell you that you're alone!
- It's not always easy asking for help. Similarly, it's not always easy accepting help. Sometimes, you have to realize it's not just about YOU .... you have to take one for the team. Let go of pride and ego & embrace the hands that seeks to help!
-When I needed it, I was a great cheerleader for myself ..... I should try allowing her (the cheerleader) to surface more than the critic.
-It doesn't matter who's fastest - who's slowest - who's first - who's last when you're seeking to achieve like goals. It matters that you start and finish together.
-Finding inspiration around you in difficult times is important. I don't think you ever have to look too far to find something / someone to inspire you to be more - do more
-Trekking 120 miles over 3 days with strangers will bond you in ways that you can't imagine & it's all very positive. Y
All in all, I'd do it all over again. I'd take the push to the back (as I often had to do) on the bike to get me up to speed (no pun intended). I'd tandem kayak with a stronger person (thanks, Jack) to account for my weakness. More importantly, I'll take note of the lessons I learned this time & hopefully allow it to keep me humble ......
A lesson in humility starts with extinguishing pride and ego ......
Thank you Robyn Benincasa (Found of Project Athena), Coaches (Vanessa and Amanda), and Trail Angels (Blaine, Jack, and Addy), and crew (Jeff, Ernie, Randy), and staff (Melissa) for an incredible, lifetime adventure. We express our thanks in words to you. But, there really are no words to describe what you give to us. You give us life ...... for real, for real, for real!!
To my fellow PAF athenas, gods, and goddesses -- I know that I was meant to meet each one of you. It's incredible how a challenge can give you WHO and WHAT you need right when you need it most. Thanks for pouring into my spirit -- a will to finish and a reason to keep it moving.
After 120 miles - 3 days - the sun kissing our skin - raccoons trying to ambush us - tears, smiles, pep talks & more ...... we did it!
Congratulations to you & may the ADVENTURE continue to be IN and WITH you now and forever more (ha!!!)
Hugs and High 5s, CC