Visits, Scuba-Diving, and a Half-Ironman!

Happy Friday, world!

Well, well, well… Here we are again. It has been far too long since I posted on this blog, especially because there have been so many interesting things going on for us lately (well, I think they’re interesting: I’m guessing if you’re reading this blog post, you probably do find our lives at least semi-interesting. Or you really love us, one of the two). Anyway, life has been hectic. The title may be a little misleading—unless you know me, in which case you’re likely suffering under no misapprehensions that I might actually have done any kind of endurance event—but the past two weeks have been absolutely packed with everything under the sun. I had the best of intentions to post something earlier in the week, but I’m currently still on the hook for my last three uni assignments (totalling a somewhat dizzying 6500 words across them) and couldn’t sacrifice the time for it.

We had a lot of fun having James’s sister, Emma, visit us the week before last! Despite some delays at the airport, she managed to get out of Lawton (lucky her!) on Saturday the 9th to head back to Aus after a whirlwind trip through the UK (and a short hop across the ocean to see us!). Unfortunately we really felt as though we lost the weekend, since we spent all day Sunday studying because… Last week was our first ever week of scuba-diving! The course we did was through Blue Water Divers in Oklahoma City—it’s not super surprising that when given the option between a Lawton-based company and one in OKC, we chose the one in OKC! Blue Water Divers are awesome: they are incredibly professional, they have a microwave available in-store for the night you’re doing theory so that you can heat up your food, and they’re a lot of fun to learn from.

Anyway, we spent Monday night in the classroom doing some diving theory work and being tested on all the stuff we’d spent hours and hours studying, and thankfully passing! (James beat me, of course, how does he always do that?) Then it was a hike back to Lawton before doing it all over again on Tuesday—complete with some truly wild and overly-aggressive driving on the commute—for our first night in the pool! When we first started studying for diving, one of the remarks in the coursework was that ‘you’ll never forget the first breath you take underwater’, and I think James and I thought it sounded a bit ridiculous. Well, I can now confirm, that breathing underwater is badass. It is so cool to be able to hang out under the water and just keep breathing, if not like ‘normal, than pretty damn close.

Somewhat less cool than our first time ‘diving’—though if feels wrong to call it that when you’re in a community swimming pool—were the community bathrooms. They were downright weird, almost like something you’d expect in an old-school mental hospital, the kind people make movies about and still give you the shivers if you visit them years after they’ve been shut down: the ones with cages on the bathtubs and writing scribbled on the walls begging you for help. [And now I think I’ll have to write a story about something like that, because I have shivers in my bones just thinking about it]. Luckily I skedaddled out of there pretty quickly (but failed to get photos, though I doubt a photo could really capture it), circulated some sweet potato brownies amongst the masses—to much enjoyment, of course, those things rock—and we headed back to Lawton for the night. I was relieved to hear that I wasn’t the only one disconcerted by the bathrooms! James found them pretty damn weird too.

Despite having a wonderful time diving, we were both pretty relieved to not have to drive up to OKC on Wednesday night. It was nice to not have to rush training in the afternoon, especially since I had an early start for uni and wasn’t really overly keen to do anything. I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful catchup with my friend Fleur, who kindly gifted me some of the world’s tastiest cupcakes for my birthday (seriously, they were grade-A delicious).

We were back in the pool—and having to again traverse the creepy creepy bathrooms—on Thursday night, but with the added bonus of not having drive back to Lawton afterwards. Having moved into the deep end of the pool mean that we experienced the disconcerting sensation of a bunch of swimmers kicking wildly over our heads while we sat on the bottom. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if people actually knew that we were there, and lived with the continual fear of suffering a skull-kick. Of course, James and I managed to find some time to play around a bit, but one of the most challenging things about scuba diving is not being able to talk: I kept thinking of things I wanted to say and having to find some way to mimic or sign them. Luckily, we killed some time by practicing different skills as members of the class were put through their paces—I was hoping that I’d have some photos to share, as one of the other students (Dave) had brought his GoPro and taken some of us all underwater, but he hasn’t yet emailed them to James, sooooo… No photos. Boo.

Afterwards, it was a huge bonus to saddle up and drive a casual five minutes down the road to the hotel before showering and tucking into a late dinner tucked between hotel bedsheets. We had an early start on Friday morning (honestly, it feels like we’re living a life of early starts right now and I am hanging out for a weekend where we have nothing on) so that James could head to Lake Hefner for a trial swim. With his first ever half-ironman looming the following day, we tried to have a bit of a more relaxed day: fortunately, Oklahoma City has a few wonderful options for breakfast, and we found somewhere to eat something delicious—and some pastries to take away for later!—before strolling back to the hotel. James had eaten so much that he totally passed out—for about three hours!—once we got back to the hotel, which I assumed was merely good prep for the next day. There were afternoon briefings for him to attend once we woke up, and his equipment to organise at the race location, and then we headed to the airport to collect his dad, Bob, who dropped through for a flying visit on his way back to Australia after a work trip in Europe. The three of us had a truly delicious dinner at the Bricktown Brewery, which was absolutely packed with people: clearly there was something going on in the ‘big smoke’!

Then, of course, Saturday was James’s first half ironman! 

A collage of some pre-swim photos.

We were up at five to get him to the course in time to put the finishing touches on his race gear, and then had to wait until close to 8am for his heat in the water. I was blown away by how nervous I was when the time finally drew around for him to swim, but Bob and I enjoyed seeing him off (and cheering for him rather obnoxiously as he did so), and he flew through the swim in a great time. Besides, during his efforts, Bob and I got to watch some interesting shoreside events, including a woman who completed the 2km swimming towing her paralysed daughter in a small boat, and another who slipped on the wet concrete and smacked her head… Incredibly, she managed to get back on her feet to get onto the bike for the next leg!

Starting his 90km ride.

James headed off on his ride, and we headed back to the hotel. Lucky for us, we got the rare chance to see a local Oklahoman man feeding stray cats: and we all know that I LOVE cats. It was especially awesome for me, as I could see that they’d been tagged on their left ear: having learned all about TNR (trap, neuter, release) from The Kitten Lady, a wonderful DC-based animal activist who rescues kittens (and whom I strongly recommend following on social media if you love cats!), it was brilliant to see it in action. It was difficult to keep my hands to myself and not try to sneak a pat in, but the possible threat of a violent response and some kind of strange infection luckily deterred me.

One of my new best friends – there were another three hiding in the bushes to the right of the photo.

Bob and I got back just in time to see James come off his bike and start the run, as he’d been pretty damn quick! We hollered for him as he transitioned onto the run (and did some running ourselves in our efforts to get into better spots to see him and cheer from) and then settled ourselves down at a nearby restaurant conveniently located alongside the running track so we could yell at him some more. When he passed us on his second lap, we headed down to the finish line and were there to applaud and scream inappropriately loudly (mostly me) and hear his special race shout out to us as he crossed in just under six hours!

Recovering outside (with sunburn already evident) after what was no doubt the first of many races to come!

Seriously contemplating getting a shirt that says #supportcrew on it…

After a massage and some snacks, we headed back to Lawton for a quiet night in with lasagne and some TV. Bob headed off on Sunday afternoon, and we managed to drag ourselves into another week.

More cats to befriend! (There are another 2 adults cats in the tray)

We went out for dinner to Meers with Eugene, the Aussie-next-door on Monday night, and as well as feasting ourselves silly on cobbler and ice cream, got to see some feral cats digging through garbage outside the restaurant. Excited is an understatement for how I felt (It’s only about 15 months left until I can get a PET everyone, and hell yes, I am counting down). James headed off for Kansas City with work on Tuesday morning and I have spent almost every moment since powering through my final uni assignment, which I foolishly didn’t get done earlier. One of my exams was released last night, and the other is due out in a couple of days, so that is liable to consume me… but we’re off to Lake Tenkiller this evening for a weekend of scuba, and looking forward to learning all there is to learn (at this very basic level) in preparation for diving in Hawaii next year!

Hopefully I’ll be back with some more posts next week: I’m looking forward to chatting about my experience with starting my grandfather’s biography! Have a great weekend everyone.

— Ana.

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