Thursday, December 31, 2009


2009 was a busy and life-changing year for me and my family. Weddings, babies, anniversaries, war and Ironman kept us pretty busy. Hope everyone had a great 2009 and hope you have an even better 2010. Here's my top 10 list for the year from my blog. These are edited versions. The dates of the original posts are listed if you want to read the entire piece.

1) 30 years married to my soul mate:Blog Date March 14, 2009
This is the big event of my life this year. Karen and my 30th wedding anniversary.
Trying to come up with a title for this post has proven to be difficult. The title has ranged from "Just Kids," to "Remember When," after the song that is playing (if you have your volume turned up). In the end I went with what it is, "Notes on a Marriage."

I've been planning on writing something along these lines for months in honor of our 30th wedding anniversary, and it has taken me that long to try to figure out how to write it. But how do you comprise 30 years of marriage into a short blog entry? How personal do you get? Do you just focus on the funny things? The romantic moments? Or maybe just list all the embarrassing times, such as when the cop knocked on our car door window, pointed to the ground and asked, "Is that your underwear?" Well, maybe I'll leave out the embarrassing moments.

So I started jotting down notes and this is what flowed out. Of course it doesn't tell the whole story, but like the title says, it's notes on our lives together.

On April 8, Karen and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. Thirty years. Wow! How we have changed. How we have grown up. We were just kids when we met. Just kids when we ran off to Reno to get married. We were just kids when we had to come back home (unmarried, because we weren’t old enough to get married) to face her dad.

We were just kids when we finally did get married. Just kids when we had baby Number 1 ... and baby Number 2. We were just kids when we lost baby Number 3. And still just kids when we had baby Number 4.

We were just kids when we took baby Number 1 to Shriners Hospital where she would spend much of her first few years. We did a lot of growing up in those years. But we were still just kids all the while Karen stood next to the hospital bed and nursed baby Number 1 while she was in traction for weeks. We were just kids learning to be parents while baby Number 1 had more than 40 surgeries, including a leg amputated, her spine fused and had to spend a week in ICU, intubated, scared and confused. We were just scared kids then. All of this drew us closer together, but matured us beyond our years.

We were just kids when we adopted our two youngest babies to complete our family. We were just kids with kids until we weren’t. Somewhere along the way we grew up -- emotionally and physically. I’m not sure when, but looking back we went from carefree youths to worry-some parents overnight. We were teens when we were married. Teens when we had babies. All the odds said we wouldn’t last and, a few times, we almost didn’t. We were told before (and after) we were married that most teen marriages don’t last more than five years, so we made it our goal to last at least five years. It was rough at times, but five years came and went. Babies raising babies. Karen learned to cook and do the shopping, and I learned to go to work everyday.

The early years were hard. But without them we wouldn't be who we are today. Year 7 was a hard year, as was year 9. The odd years always were harder for some reason. The years flew by. We lived and loved. We fought with each other, and for each other. We grew close and we grew apart. But mostly we grew up. Then year 19 happened ...

2) Aaron and Grace marry: Blog date August 21, 2009
Our son, Aaron, is getting married today (Friday) in the philippines. Aaron's soon-to-be wife, Grace, is from the Philippines and out of courtesy for her family they chose to get married there. They are planning a second wedding here for Aaron's family and friends, however.

My thoughts will be with Aaron and Grace as I'm out on my bike today. Six hours on a bike provides lots of thinking time. In honor of Aaron and Grace's wedding today, and out of necessity, I'm going to have something borrowed and something blue on my bike.

For my 100-mile bike ride I will literally be on borrowed tires. Last night while getting my bike ready for my ride I noticed my front tire had a big slice in it and that it probably wouldn't last for that long of a ride. And with the bike stores already closed my only option was to "borrow" the tires off Karen's bike. Her blue tires off her blue bike.

So for six hours or so I'll be thinking of our son and his new wife and wedding traditions, romance and newly weds, and borrowed blue tires on my white and black bike and all the while wondering if Karen will notice when she goes to ride her bike to work that there are no blue tires on her blue bike ...

I haven't blogged about this until now. Our daughter, Rachael, and her husband, Josh, are expecting their first baby - due in May. Which makes Karen and I expectant grandparents. So congratulations to Rachael and Josh. Josh is in the Army and will be deployed to the Philippines in a few weeks and will miss the birth of their daughter. Did I mention Karen is going to be one sexy grandma?

4) Our baby goes to war: Blog date Dec. 4, 2009 and Nov. 11, 2009
Daniel became a US Marine right out of high school a couple of years ago. After boot camp in San Diego he was stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina with the 2nd Marines, 2nd Battalion, Easy Company. They were deployed to the Helmand Province in Southern Afghanistan in October. It's hard watching the baby of the family go off to war.

We finally received a letter from Daniel, or should I say Lance Cpl. Wrighthouse. Mail to and from Afghanistan is shipped on a slow boat to China I think. We've mailed Daniel many letters and a package and he has yet to receive any. Daniel says he has mailed us several letters and we finally received this one. (You can read his letter if you go to this blog entry).

The Marine Corps also has an e-mail program that is supposed to be faster than using the US Postal service but We'll have to wait and see. I know, there's a war going on and mail is an after thought for the military, but it is frustrating as a parent to not be able to communicate with your child, I mean Marine, in a timely manner.

Each month the Marines send out a newsletter to the families of those who are serving. This is our first newsletter since Daniel has been deployed. It's a little unnerving especially when the commander admits it's dangerous and scary but it is what it is. If you want to write Daniel while he is deployed his address is:

lcpl wrighthouse, James D.
2/2 E Co unit 73070
FPO AE 09510-3070

It's OK if you don't know him personally. Just write to say hi and tell him what's happening in the world. Remember, he and the rest of Easy Company are cut off from the news of the rest of the world. The postage is the same as if it were being mailed within the US. Thanks and here's the newsletter if you care to read it ...

5) A perfect day: Blog date Oct. 15, 2009
This was a fun post to write. i got to relive my Ironman experience and share it with everyone else. The most memorable part of doing Ironman is definitely running down Alii Drive at the end of the race and entering the finishing chute so that's where I started my story - at the end.
Up until two years ago I spent the past 30 years as a couch potato. The extent of my activities involved eating and watching TV. I lived a very pedestrian life. But two years ago I decided to compete in a triathlon. I was 30 pounds over weight, couldn't swim and couldn't run a mile without walking most of it. Through hard work, self-discipline and a lot of encouragement from family and friends I somehow managed to qualify for the biggest triathlon event in the world: The Ford Ironman World Championship. I still can't believe I was a part of it this year.

Here's how race day went for me.
Turning the corner onto Alii Drive a flood of emotions poured over me. Running in the darkness through hundreds of spectators lining the street cheering me on, I couldn't stop smiling. Even after enduring 140 miles in under 13 hours I felt no more pain and no more exhaustion. Friends and strangers were calling out my name, patting me on the back and congratulating me. Oliver Kiel, owner of Cycle Station, ran out of the crowd and placed a lei on my neck.

A little girl about 3 or 4 years old was standing with her father on the side of the road clapping. When I ran by them the girl yelled out "You're an Ironman!" Her words were still hanging in the air when I turned the corner and saw the spot lights at the finish line. With just a couple of hundred yards to go I finally allowed myself to believe I was really going to be an Ironman. ...

6) Marked for life: Blog date Oct. 20, 2009
How often does an event so affect your life that you have to do something fanatical to mark the occasion?
Just like getting married and having children, Ironman was a life-changing event for me. The full effects are still hidden from me but I feel differently and I think differently than I did before Ironman.

There's a saying around Ironman: "Anything is possible!" And it is. I have attained a goal that two years ago was an impossibility for me. Since I've completed Ironman I feel as if I can do whatever I set my mind to.

You probably know my story: Two years ago I couldn't swim, couldn't run a mile without walking but I fantasized about participating in the Ironman World Championship. An event where everyone who participates in it has to qualify for. You can't just pay your money and enter. You have to earn your way there and two years ago that was impossible for me. ...

... The new Iron Me includes my new Ironman tattoo. I'm still trying to decide which hurt more; doing Ironman or getting the tattoo. Yeah, I know, branding my body with a corporate symbol is selling out to the man, but I figure this brand means more to me than just a corporate symbol.

To me this tat represents the day I conquered fear and came face-to-face with who I really am. The day I fought a few inner demons for 12 hours and 42 minutes and won. It represents the day I swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles then ran a marathon. The day I became an Ironman. It was a good day. Can you hear it? Life is calling.

7) Karen does Lavaman Triathlon: Blog date March 30, 2009
This is from Karen's blog dated March 30, 2009 and you can see photos and read the entire post here You'll need to scroll down to find it.
Whew! It's finally over. I had a blast and am so glad I did it.
I wasn't really too nervous until we went to the pre-race meeting the night before. Just hearing all the rules and having so many competitors packed into the ballroom where we met, got my nerves racing. My heart started beating fast, I felt sick to my stomach, and I really, really didn't want to do the race.
Sunday morning came early, after not sleeping too well, and we got out to Waikaloa about 5:30am. When we got there, the wind was blowing so hard and I was pretty disappointed. I was hoping for no wind. But by 6:30 the wind was completely gone. What a relief!
The swim had five different wave starts, three minutes apart, mine being the last. I was kind of bummed that I was starting last, but thankful that I wasn't first where 900 people would be climbing over me.
My swim went good, for me. I felt strong, passed a lot of people from earlier waves, and felt great coming out of the water.
The bike was also going great. I felt really strong, I passed a lot of riders, the hills didn't phase me. Usually I dread them. At the turn around, my bike average was higher than it ever has been for that ride and I still felt strong.
But then the wind came. I don't know why it couldn't have held off until everyone was done with the bike part of the triathlon, but it came hard. A brutal headwind that got worse each mile closer to the end. It totally zapped all the energy I had been feeling ...

8) The youth of old age: Blog date April 29, 2009
THis is from Karen's blog as well. Click here to read it and see some funny photos. You'll need to scroll down to April 29.
Happy birthday Randy!
Wow!!! 50 years old today!
I can't believe you're 50; 49 maybe, but not 50!

Here's something, Randy, to let you know what 50 is going to be like.

*You first forget names,
then you forget faces,
then you forget to pull your zipper up,
then you forget to pull your zipper down.
*Your back goes out more than you do.
*Your cardiologist gives you this special diet:
If it tastes good, spit it out.
*Your narrow waist and a broad mind begin to change places.
*You can finally afford the rings you want, but you'd rather no one noticed your hands.
*You wear black socks with sandals.
*Your idea of a night out is sitting on the patio.
*All you want for your birthday is to not be reminded of your age.
*Your idea of weight lifting is standing up.
*Your address book has mostly names that start with Dr.
*You sit in a rocking chair and can't get it going.
*Getting "lucky" means you found your car in the parking lot.
*You can remember when motorcycles were dangerous and sex was safe!
*You've seen it all, done it all, but can't remember most of it.
*You no longer have to worry about avoiding temptation because it now avoids you.
*According to your best recollection, you don't remember.
*You buy a compass for the dash of your pickup
*You smile all the time because you can't hear a thing anyone is saying.
*You are not grouchy, you just don't like traffic, waiting, crowds, loud music, kids, and some other things you can't seem to remember right now.
*You're still able to recall where you left your keys, but not what they unlock.

9) Family
Living out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it can be difficult, and expensive, for family to come and visit or to visit family on the mainland. Ths year was a treat. First, our son Jonathan and his girl friend, Janelle, came to visit and watch me compete at Ironman. It has been two years since I last saw him so it was a great treat and made Ironman mean so much more to me by having him here. In June, our Danish daughter, Camilla and her fiance, Alan came to visit from Denmark. They were here to cheer me on for the Ironman 70.3 race - the race I qualified for Ironman at. Camilla was our exchange student in Oregon about 4 years ago and we just sort of adopted her unofficially.

10) On the small screen: Blog date Dec. 24, 2009
Here's my spot on NBC's Ironman show that aired Dec. 19. This kind of puts a ribbon on a day that was very special for me. It was nice of NBC to use my segment since I'm just a typical triathlete, nothing special, no disabilities or previous fame. Just one of the masses.

When I first saw Ironman a few years ago I was so impressed by the age groupers finishing late at night. Their determination, their drive, and the joy of accomplishing something so amazinig, it inspired me so much so that it got me off the couch, made me learn to swim just so I could participate in a triathlon. Who knew I would eventually become one of those insane Ironmen. I just hope I can inspire someone to get off the couch the way I was inspired. You don't have to be special, athletic or be at your ideal weight. You just need to have an overpowering desire to push yourself beyond what you think you can do and have an unwavering believe that anything is possible. And it is. Look at me. I did it and two years ago it was totally impossible for me to even think I could become an Ironman, or so I thought.

Well, that's my list of the top 10 events of 2009 in my life. Fortunately, nothing tragic or heartbreaking appears on the list. All in all it was a great year filled with adventure and self-discovery.

Happy New Year everyone.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Below is a description of Operation PAL, a group that encourages citizens to pray for and write to injured Marines. This is from the Web site: Below this post is the address to send your cards and letters as well as a link for names of some of the injured Marines you can pray for and write to. Thanks for keeping them in your prayers.

Our injured Marines need your support through Prayers and Letters. We invite you to participate in this project as an individual or as an organization to send much needed prayers, letters and cards to the Marines who have been injured or become ill while serving in combat zones, as well as Marines that have recently served, and then been injured or become ill.
Support for these outstanding Marines from the public is paramount to recovery. Each journey can be long and is often painful. You can help make a difference in the lives of these young men and women. Send a “Thank You” today.

Family, friends, Marines and military personnel are encouraged to notify Operation PAL™ of injured or ill Marines and Navy Corpsmen to request support through the program.

How the Project Works
Click here for photo journal of a "send day"

Over 10,000 cards and letters were delivered to Marines and Navy Corpsmen in the first year of the all-volunteer operation. To assure privacy, your letters and cards are addressed to the first name of each Marine and then mailed to a address. Volunteers then sort the cards and letters and mail them in packets to each individual Marine. Volunteers work daily to add Marines and update their status toward recovery on the public web site.

We need you to send each of these Marines a card or letter and add them to your prayer lists. The list of Marine names and status updates are available on the web site. Please check the list frequently for additions and names that have been removed.

Send your cards and letters to our Georgia-based office. Cards should be addressed as follows:

Marine’s Name and Company
c/o Operation PAL™
PO Box 670328
Marietta, GA 30066


Thursday, December 24, 2009


Here's my spot on NBC's Ironman show that aired Dec. 19. This kind of puts a ribbon on a day that was very special for me. It was nice of NBC to use my segment since I'm just a typical triathlete, nothing special, no disabilities or previous fame. Just one of the masses. Anyhow, here's my story edited down. And as usual, if you are reading this on Facebook, you'll have to go to my blog to see the video:

Monday, December 21, 2009


The Wrighthouse Racing Clan!

Sunday was a great day. Myself, Karen, Rebecca and Aaron all ran in the 5th annual Jingle Bells Run in Kona. It was a 5K (3.1 miles) run from the pier and then along Alii Drive. It was great weather for the run - mild, in the 70s, and sunny. This was the first local event that Aaron has done and he did great, finishing the race in 29 minutes. Not bad for not running for the past 11 years.

Karen and I ran together and pushed Rebecca in her wheelchair. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be and it actually helped me run through my injury (Plantar Fasciitis). It gave me something to lean on if I needed to. Karen, Rebecca and I finished in a blazing (haha) time of 39 minutes. But we had fun and I love doing those races as a family.

Next weekend is another Peaman event, a half-mile swim and 3.9 mile run. Aaron says he'll do the run and Karen may do both, the swim and the run.

After the race and during the awards ceremony it started getting a little windy. That's when we noticed a funnel cloud out over the ocean. Several more were reported here and there.

(Here's the front page photo and story in West Hawaii Today the next day on the waterspouts. Awesome foto. And yes there is a type-O in the headline (I didn't do it ... this time!)

Before the awards were finished the rains came. By the time we got home this is what the weather was doing: See the video:

The temps dropped into the 60s and Hail was reported just a few feet higher than where we live, which is really rare. The thunderstorm did last too long, however. Lots of thunder and lightning, wind and rain. Fortunately it didn't start during the race although that would have made it much more interesting ...

Oh, I almost forgot. I made the Ironman World Championship broadcast on NBC last Saturday! It was only a couple of minutes but how often does just an average guy get on national TV? And I'm grateful they didn't air most of the lame-o remarks I made during the race. I'll post my segment on here in a day or so so all you family members, (and anyone else who cares to,) who missed it can get a second chance to see me scared to death during the biggest race of my life.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Here's a few photos from the weekend. We finally finished putting lights up at our house. It's always a challenge since I have an extreme fear of heights and climbing that ladder to put up the lights is terrifying for me. But I mustered everything I could, including reminding myself that I AM AN IRONMAN! so I can do anything, and that includes climbing a tall ladder.

(Our house)

There are also photos by Karen of the Christmas parade along Alii Drive.

Merry Christmas all.

Friday, December 11, 2009


We've been getting phone calls from Daniel about every 10 days now. The first phone call, about two weeks after he arrived in Afghanistan, he sounded a bit nervous and understandably so. Being in a foreign country where people you don't know are shooting at you, who wouldn't be nervous? He had yet to receive any mail and asked us to send warm boot socks.

The second phone call Daniel sounded more at ease. He was adapting to his environment, getting to know the area and the people. He had been out on several night patrols, heard some gun fire but nothing too close. He said he had mailed us a few letters and he still hadn't received any mail yet. And to please send warm boot socks.

The third phone call he was pretty chipper. He had just gotten back from a patrol where they had been shot at. He was sounding like a real war veteran now. Talking about how another company had gotten "lit up" and how his company was going to help them out. A Marine in his company had been shot in the face, but lived. He still hadn't received any letters or packages and that he still wanted warm boot socks. We had received one of his letters by now.

Early Thursday morning, 2 a.m., we got Daniel's fourth call. He always calls around 2 a.m. This time Daniel sounded a little bit nervous. By now they had been in contact with the enemy a few times and were in the thick of it. He said that his unit had been hit by an IED (improvised explosive device - the big killer of U.S. troops, other than car bombs) but no one was injured. Only a big hole in the ground. He said it had rained hard and that they were in mud up to their necks. He talked about maybe renting a boat and going fishing when he comes home and that he only had five months left of deployment. He said a truck came and brought a big load of mail, included our package we mailed him. The boot socks were nice: send coffee!

Thanks for all your prayers and thoughts for Daniel and his squad and platoon: 3rd platoon, 3rd squad. Check the post below this one if you want to write Daniel. The address is listed there as well as an e-mail address for moto mail.

Take care

Monday, December 7, 2009


Below is the monthly newsletter from Capt. Gorman - The Marine in charge of Daniel's Company. Take a minute and read it. It's a little different news than what you read in the papers since it's written for family and friends of the Marines in Easy Company.

Easy Company Newsletter - December 2009
Capt Gorman

Dear Easy Company Families and Friends,
December 4, 2009
Your Marines and Sailors continue to amaze me on a daily basis with their dedication, drive, and esprit de corps. Our job here is a difficult and dangerous one, but your husbands, sons, brothers, and fathers put on their gear everyday and face the challenges in order to keep America’s enemy on its heels and help the people of Afghanistan rebound from 30 years of terror and devastation. The Marines and Sailors are simply some of the bravest and most caring men I have known. Their dedication to the team and our mission is resilient, despite terrain, weather, and difficult missions. With that being said, congratulations to the following Marines on a well deserved promotion this month:

Staff Sergeant Abudayeh
Corporal McNeil (Meritorious)
Corporal Miller


The Marines and Sailors of Easy Company are helping the people of Afghanistan on a daily basis with children’s school supplies, blankets for the winter, reconstruction projects, and establishing a safe environment to raise their children. Easy Company has partnered with the Afghan National Army (ANA) to build a unified security force. Training and mentoring is going well, with Marines working daily to support the ANA as they provide security throughout the countryside, and in the villages. It is this partnership that will lead to ultimate success in this country.

Although your Marines are sometimes tired and cold, they have shown a level of motivation to accomplish the mission that makes me proud every day. As we go into the winter months and remain apart from families and friends over the holidays, it is important for the men to receive support from home. Many people back home have spent countless hours preparing care packages and support packages for the Marines and Sailors. I want to personally thank every one of you for the selfless dedication, and time consuming work placed into caring for the guys. It does not go unnoticed by anyone out here.

Before I close, I also wanted to publicy congratulate the Wingate family on the new addition to their family, Dominic Wingate born on November 20th.

Please continue to reinforce their spirits with your support and dedication.

Semper Fidelis,
Capt Gorman

Friday, December 4, 2009


We finally received a letter from Daniel, or should I say Lance Cpl. Wrighthouse. Mail to and from Afghanistan is shipped on a slow boat to China I think. We've mailed Daniel many letters and a package and he has yet to receive any. Daniel says he has mailed us several letters and we finally received this one.

The Marine Corps also has an e-mail program that is supposed to be faster than using the US Postal service but We'll have to wait and see. I know, there's a war going on and mail is an after thought for the military, but it is frustrating as a parent to not be able to communicate with your child, I mean Marine, in a timely manner.

If you are interested in using the e-mail program, it's called "moto mail," here is the web address:

You'll need to create an account (it's free) and you don't even need to use a stamp so click on new Moto Mail account and go from there. You can also send photos with your e-mail.

Here's Daniel's info that you will need:
LCPL Wrighthouse, James, D.
2/2 E Company
Unit 73070
FPO AE 09510-3070

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


"Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is my off season from training for triathlons. I plan on hitting next year hard and fast. Yes, I have a lot of hopes for the upcoming season. I’m trying to forget my limitations that I reached this year and go well beyond them. 

Sometimes when we know what our limits are it can be difficult to stretch them. Sometimes we have to stare our limits square in the eye, challenge them and then, if all else fails, beat them to a pulp, at least in our minds, before we are able to move beyond them. 

It's much easier to do this physically than it is mentally. We can up our training, work on technique and simply get stronger to improve. But in order to go beyond, to reach that territory where we haven't pushed ourselves before, or at least in a long time (if  you are old like me), it all comes down to the mental toughness. 

For instance, in high school I could run a 4:20-something-minute mile. This year my fasted mile was 7-something. Last year it was 9-something. I know my body, even at my age, is capable of reaching at least a 5-something-minute mile, I just can't break through that mental barrier to get there, yet. 

But that's what I'm going to work on - breaking my mental barriers. I'm in the best shape I've been in since school so I just have to get the mental side of me in shape and convince myself that I am able to do what my body knows it can do. Sounds easy, but I know it's going to take a lot of work. I'm working on next year's training plan and designing it for speed and mental toughness, at least for the first four months.  

Even though it's my off season, I’m going to try to face my limits and figure out how to stretch them. That's what I like about swimming. I don't really have a past with swimming since I'm still just learning how to swim. It's been two years and I'm still learning technique and still improving. 

There are no walls, boundaries or limitations for me with swimming and I like that. Like the 41-year-old Olympic swimmer Dara Torres says, “(Your dreams) may become harder to achieve, but your dreams can't stop because you've hit a certain age or you've had a child. The water doesn't know what age you are when you jump in ...” Now that's cool.


What do you do when you don't have time to go out on location to do urban sketching? My time is very limited and I often don't have ...