Spring in Austin

Austin BluebonnetBlue bonnet austinSpring is in full swing here in Austin! The past three weeks bluebonnets have been dotting the highways and pretty much anywhere with a spot of grass. We’ve seen loads of mini vans pulled over on the highway and families getting their pictures taken on the surrounding hills. I’ve been told that the locals have pictures with bluebonnets from every year of their lives.
spring in texasI was a little sad about missing all the snow on the East Coast this past year, but it is hard to be too disappointed in the perfect weather we’ve had since moving to Texas in January. I didn’t think Austin could get any prettier and then the bluebonnets showed up. Spencer and I stumbled on this meadow just as the sun was setting one Sunday evening. Fingers crossed that the flowers and weather last all year:)

Bluebonnet Texas


9/11 Part 1: Flight 93 National Memorial

Flight 93 Memorial

Visiting the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, PA wasn’t originally part of the plan, but while in Pittsburgh we saw it on Olivia and Brian’s date idea list on their fridge and realized it wasn’t too far out of our way. We were originally planning to hop out of the car for 15 minutes, but ended up spending about two hours at the site. Although small, the memorial is well presented, free (unlike the Museum in NYC), and has just barely opened after a few years in construction. We visited the NYC 9/11 memorial and museum a few days later and I couldn’t help but reflect back on our time in Shanksville. The NYC museum covers almost everything that the Shanksville memorial does, but Flight 93 and subsequent investigation get lost (or at least you are already desensitized by the time you get to it) in the NYC museum.  It’s too bad that thousands, or even millions of people will visit the 9/11 memorials in Washington, DC and NYC, but significantly fewer people will make it out to Shanksville because it is in the middle of nowhere. But then again, that is what makes Shanksville so powerful. The actions of the passengers and crew on board Flight 93 that crashed in the middle of nowhere saved the lives of countless others.

I’ve thought a lot about what to say about the inside of the visitor center and memorial, but in the end the visitor center is really just something that you have to go and experience. The displays do a great job of pointing out little details/miracles that put the crew and passengers in a better position to fight back. These are the Americans heroes that should be studied in history class: People from all walks of life who came together to do something that they knew was going to be really hard, but was also the right thing to do. There is a small section where you can choose to listen to the last voicemails that some of the people on board left their loved ones. You hear the raw emotion and determination in their voices. And it will leave you feeling thankful for their sacrifice and in tears.

Flight 93 National MemorialShanksville, PAshanksville, PA

A Weekend in Pittsburgh

We stopped by Pittsburgh to visit friends from college, Olivia and Brian, who now live in Portugal. The city surprised us with its beauty and vitality. Here are a few of my favorite parts:

1. We stumbled on the best way to enter the city. In my opinion, all first-timers should have to enter the city from I-376. You start by driving through the rolling hills of Ohio/Pennsylvania (and really what feels like West Virginia). The hills get progressively bigger until instead of driving over them, you drive through a tunnel. The tunnel is a little longer than expected, and just when you decide the thrill of a tunnel has worn out and daylight would be nice BAM! You’re on a bridge, looking out over Pittsburgh’s skyline. The sun is just about to set, and the warm light bounces off of the twinkling, glass buildings. As Brian pointed out, the only thing that could make this better was if the city had a radio channel you could tune into as you enter the tunnel, so that majestic music could crescendo just as you burst out of the tunnel.

Pittsburgh, PA skyline

A close second to this experience, if you have to fly in or take another road, is the Duquesne Incline. The cable car was a little rickety for me, but people use it to commute into the city every day and it offers one of the best views of the three rivers.


2. Downtown ice skating in the middle of a very reflective square. Everyone around us was really good and it took me awhile to decide they had all probably grown up in Pittsburgh and thus had more practice. Our weekend in Pittsburgh was the coldest it will get for us in a few years. We’d packed away most of our winter stuff, so thank you Livia to sending us hand-knit hats from Canada just in time! We love them!

olive oil on tap

3. Pittsburgh is a foodie city. This post won’t do that justice. Our favorite little store in the Pittsburgh Public Market had at least a hundred different olive oil flavors to try.

4. A “Pittsburgh left”. (As soon as the light turns green, the first vehicle turning left goes before any of the vehicles driving straight through the intersection).

Suzuki Cathedral of Learning

5. The Cathedral of Learning and all the nationality rooms. Also, that the great hall looks like it came straight out of Harry Potter and was filled with Christmas music by these tiny violinists. After running around all day, this was the perfect place to eat our Iranian Rose dessert from the Conflict Kitchen (tasted like soap) and a Belgian waffle.

Ironman 101: Panama City Beach Race Day

We’ve moved from Cincinnati, and visited Pittsburgh, New York City, upstate New York, Washington, DC, and Florida. Now we’re getting settled in Texas and it’s time to catch up.
First, the Ironman race recap:

Ironman swim start

Waiting at the start. About 3,000 people crossed this line in just over 15 minutes. When Spencer first considered doing a triathlon of this distance, most of the people that we talked to recommended doing a brand name Ironman because the race support staff/volunteers are so prepared and efficient. This was so true. Throughout the day, the race was incredibly organized. It was easier to send Spencer off know that there were plenty of aid stations/boats/medical personnel if needed.

Ironman Florida swim start

And they’re off! The waves were a little more choppy than expected. A few people struggled to make it over the surf. One lady in particular tried to start swimming several times, only to be thrown back on shore by the surf. Also, about two hours before the start time, it was announced that the water was too warm for wet suits. Besides helping to retain warmth, a wet suit is slightly buoyant – helping you to maintain good form and swim faster, so the announcement was quite the mental hurdle. Several people opted to still wear a wet suit and disqualify themselves from being listed as “official” Ironman finishers.

Ironman Panama City Swim

About half way through the swim. This was one of the few times in the day when I worried. Spencer’s tracker didn’t register him as having crossed the half-way point until about 45 minutes after I was expecting. We later found out that the live feed was just slow in updating, but watching the sea of arms and legs those 45 minutes was a little nerve wracking. Turns out that besides getting stung in the face by a jellyfish, kicked by other people, and having a slower time than he would have liked, Spencer was fine.

photo cred: finisherpix

photo cred: finisherpix

ironman panama city bike

Onto the bike!

ironman panama city

About 40 miles into the bike. From my perspective, he was coming in much faster than he had trained for, and I was a little worried that he would burn out later. From his perspective, he was feeling great and was going to keep going at this speed until he stopped feeling good. Apparently that never happened, so he kept going the entire 5 hrs 25 min and finished about 35 minutes faster than planned.

unicity ironman

A last minute decision to use disposable bottles (and grab new ones from volunteers throughout the race) was one of the best choices of the day. Another major player during the bike portion of the race was the fact that the Ironman does not allow drafting on the bike. (If you enter the space 5 bike lengths behind another racer, you must close the remaining distance and pass within 20 seconds or face a drafting penalty) Spencer used the 20 seconds to push himself and slingshot past in preparation of pursuing the next rider. And he passed 900+ people on the bike portion of the race.

spencer reynolds ironman

The start of the marathon. When he first got off the bike, Spencer stumbled a step or two and wasn’t sure he was going to be able to finish the marathon. This led to a slower transition (10 min), but by the time he went through this shoot he was feeling good and looking strong again.

ironman run Florida

Just before the halfway point. I love this picture because look who else made it into the shot. Spencer’s parents! They were such great sports to leave the house with us a 3:30 am that morning so that we could sleep in the back seat of the car and then spend the full day cheering with me. Spencer’s dad would go a little ahead of us on the race course, and then call us so that we knew when Spencer would be coming and I could get the camera ready.

unicity ironman

I had watched Spencer train all summer, so once he finished the swim I was fairly certain that he was going to complete the race. It was just a question of how fast he could do it. That said, from this point on a lot of the participants were visibly in pain. When the Ironman website showed that Spencer had crossed the final tracker and was headed towards us and the finish line, Spencer’s mom turned and told the stranger next to her “My son’s going to make it. He’s coming home!”.

ironman run

This picture of Spencer and his new friend, Fred, was taken earlier in the race where they ran together for a few miles until Spencer eventually pulled ahead. Fast forward to mile 17. Spencer got a little injured earlier in the summer, so before race day the farthest he’d run at one time was 15 miles. At mile 17 he was in the unknown part of the race and his right hamstring started cramping to the point where he had to stop and hobble along. Fred caught up to Spencer, gave him some salt pills and encouragement, and was able to get him running again. (photocred: finisherpix)

Ironman finish unicity

Wait, is that Spencer?

ironman finisher

You are an Ironman


Ironman Florida 2015 with a final time of 12 hrs 11 mins 44 secs. I finished 11th in my age group, 487th of all men, and 570th overall out of nearly 3000 competitors.

Ironman Florida 2015 with a final time of 12 hrs 11 mins 44 secs. 11th in his age group, 486th of all men, and 569th overall out of nearly 3000 competitors. (photo cred: finisherpix)


Ironman metal

Home. Exhausted and thrilled. Special thank you to everyone who followed along during the day and to Unicity for empowering people to achieve their individual dreams!

Birthday Party

birthday 12

We arrived in DC in time for this cute girl’s birthday. A few pictures from Family Home Evening and her party below.

birthday 6birthday 2birthday 4birthday 5

birthday 7

birthday 9

Cake by the favorite brother-in-law.

birthday 10

birthday 11

This picture makes me laugh because sometimes it is hard to blow out candles. Good thing she has two older siblings who were willing to help and this mood only lasted about 5 seconds.

birthday 1Happy Birthday to the one of the happiest little girls!

Behind the Scenes: Transtibial Prosthetic Hero Mod

spencer reynolds

Sketching over a SolidWorks CAD model to figure out the final aesthetic.

Spencer Reynolds hero prosthetic mod

3-D printing

CNC milling

CNC milling and gluing a life size foot.

spencer hero mod prosthetic limb

Testing size and (not pictured) sanding printed parts… Hours and hours and hours of sanding.

Spencer Reynolds prosthetic hero mod

More CNC milling, laser cutting, acrylic bending, and more sanding.

Spencer Reynolds

Priming and painting.

IMG_2014Spencer Reynoldstranstibial prosthetic hero mod

Spencer’s Senior Project. Check out the final product on Spencer’s website.