A few years ago, a former assistant of mine helped me write an article for this series. Hank McDonald worked for me six years ago and was a great employee right out of the gate. He was a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh with a few internships under his belt before he came to me, and he was committed to strength and conditioning.

Hank left me to take a position at UTEP and then returned to his adopted home island of Oahu in Hawaii. However, we've kept in contact over the years. I recall recommending him for his current position at the University of Hawaii and speaking with his former boss (from his internship days) and his current boss Tommy Hefferman. I remember my conversation with Tommy because he was easy to talk to. We didn’t really talk about Hank as much as we did life in general. I had never spoken to Tommy before in my life, so after this, I knew that Hank and Tommy were going to do great things at Hawaii.

My Weakness

I have one big fear in life — flying. I do fly, but I'm not comfortable at all. So when I received a call from Hank in September asking if I would speak at a clinic at Hawaii, I gladly accepted and then thought about the long flight.

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Why do I tell you this? Because no man is an island. We all have our own struggles and fears in life. Knowing that this great trip would start with something so unpleasant truly motivated me. I know people fly every day and I can as well. People always ask me, "Do you hyperventilate or have a panic attack when you fly?" The answer is no. I’m just miserable.

I decided that in order to get to Hawaii, I would just meditate and control my mind for the 11 hours it took to get to Hawaii. I didn't want to take any drugs because I believe that we control our minds, and I clearly need to do a better job at controlling mine.


Island Time

After 11 hours of travel and a delay in Los Angeles of 20 hours, I made it to Oahu, Hawaii. We stayed in Waikiki, which, for those who have never been there, is a very touristy part of the island. Luckily, with Tenzing and Erica there and a rental car, we were able to see all parts of the island. For those of you interested in just the information from the other strength coaches, please feel free to skip the next part, as I'm stealing my wife's words for much of this next section. All of the following is directly taken from my wife's trip log. So to quote my wife...

Vacation 2017 – Oahu, Hawaii
Dates: Sunday, Jan. 22 – Monday, Jan. 30

Sunday, January 22: Una drove us all to the airport in our Benz SUV ("big truck," as Tenzing calls it). We had a noon flight on American Airlines leaving from Pittsburgh for Chicago. Una came over at about 8 am. Todd got up regular time and trained at Robert Morris. I did a quick workout at home - just some pull-ups, planks, explosive squat jumps, and my physical therapy along with a couple other things.

We got to the airport at 10 am. We had plenty of time to check in and make our way to the gate. Tenzing did really well, and him and Todd had fun running across the people movers or "moving sidewalks" as Tenzing called them. There was a guy with two young girls, ages three and two, who was also traveling to Chicago. The older girl was trying to talk to Tenzing, but he was being a typical boy and goofing off.

Our flight left on time. It was a smaller plane — two seats on each side of the aisle. I sat with Tenzing, who was by the window, and Todd had an aisle seat beside me. It was a little wet leaving Pittsburgh but not bad weather wise. Tenzing did great on the plane and wasn't the least bit scared or nervous. Todd, on the other hand, was pretty nervous and talked the ear off of the poor guy seated next to him.

We landed in Chicago a little behind schedule and had to run to our next gate. We got there just as they were boarding our group, so we went right on the next plane bound for Los Angeles. This plane was a bigger plane and had three seats on either side of the aisle, so we all got to sit together. We sat in the same order — Tenzing by the window, me in the middle and Todd on the aisle. The flight itself was uneventful. We hit a little turbulence but not much. Todd was still pretty nervous. Tenzing didn't seem to mind at all. This plane had the little televisions on the seat in front, so he watched some movies and cartoons.

We landed in Los Angeles at LAX about four and a half or so hours later. We already had a tight connection, but we were a little delayed getting to the gate and getting off the plane. I thought for sure we would miss our next flight, but we made it to the gate literally three minutes before they were set to close the gate. I would've loved to have some more time before flights, as we didn't get to eat anything. On the flight to LA, we bought Tenzing a cheese plate so he had something to snack on other than the cookies the airline handed out or the teddy graham crackers I had brought.

Even though we had just made it on the plane, the plane didn't take off. I guess they had been told to take off from one direction and then were told they needed to take off from another direction. So after taxiing around the runway, the plane headed back to the gate to get more fuel. Then we had to wait for the fuel truck to come. Los Angeles was also getting a lot of rain — when we landed we saw small ponds of water all over the runway. We ended up sitting on the plane for over an hour. Todd talked to the attendants and staff after they made an announcement inviting passengers to ask them any questions.

We were originally supposed to land in Honolulu at about 10:30 pm. Now, we weren't set to land until close to 11:30 pm. We had reserved a rental car with a car seat for Tenzing, but they closed at midnight. Todd was afraid that we wouldn't make it and would be stuck at the Honolulu airport, as the hotel didn't have a shuttle service. So, he had us taken off the flight and rebooked for the same flight the next day. When he told me we were getting off the plane, I was not happy at all. Our luggage was on the plane to Honolulu, and we had been forced to check the carry-on bag that had all of Tenzing's clothes and diapers in it. We had a little spat in the airport, and I was pretty unhappy about having to stay in LA and lose a day in Honolulu. I think Todd was happy to take a break while I just wanted to get there.

We located a hotel, a Holiday Inn Express, not from LAX that offered a free shuttle service so that's where we stayed for the night. We had nothing — no changes of clothes, no toiletries, nothing. Todd took a cab to a Target in Culver City to get Tenzing a shirt and shorts (his pants and shirt were covered in many different substances) and me a shirt and some lotion. He also brought us sandwiches, but both Tenzing and I had already passed out by the time he got back to the hotel.


Monday, January 23: We did a lot of nothing this day. We woke up about normal time for us and showered and got dressed. Then we headed down to the breakfast room and ate breakfast. Then we headed back to the room and pretty much hung out there watching television and playing with Tenzing until it was time to check out at 11 am. The bonus about being stuck in the hotel room all morning was it was raining outside and Tenzing was having a blast playing and bouncing all over the room and off the beds.

We took the shuttle back to the airport and hung out there until it was time to board our flight at 5 pm. It felt like a really, really long day and I was happy to finally get on the plane and out of there. This time, the plane took off on time. We had an easy flight and landed on time in Honolulu at about 10:30 pm. Todd's former assistant Hank, the one who brought him out to Hawaii for the conference, told us that it was probably best we hadn't flown there the night before. I guess they had really bad winds with gusts of up to 30-40 mph. Todd would've had a heart attack.

After landing and gathering our luggage, which was waiting for us in a little room, we made our way to the car rental company shuttle. I think we waited about 10 minutes or so for the shuttle. We got a four-door, light gray Chrysler 200. Pretty nice car. Tenzing didn't like his car seat though and refused to get it in because it "wasn't his seat." After a lot of tears, screaming and crying, we finally got him in it — probably because he was too tired to continue fighting us — but he yelled and cried almost the entire way to the hotel that it "wasn't his seat" and he "didn't like it." We tried to explain that we were borrowing it and that we "forgot" his, but he didn't want to hear it.

Tuesday, January 24: We woke up regular time, showered and got cleaned up for breakfast. Our hotel — the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel — was right in Waikiki and across the street from the beach. We were on the edge of Waikiki with the Honolulu Zoo across the street to the left of the hotel. The hotel was nice – we were on the eleventh floor. We had two queen sized beds with a small balcony, ocean view. The hotel didn’t offer breakfast, but there was a pool and restaurant (Tiki’s Grill and Bar) on the third floor, and you could check out beach towels and chairs for free by signing them in and out.

We walked down the main drag away from the hotel (Kalakaua Ave) until we saw a place that was open and looked good. We only made it maybe two blocks or so before deciding to stop at Cheeseburger in Paradise. I had the $7.99 special – two eggs, toast and tomato slices – while Todd had a cheeseburger/egg thing and Tenzing had chocolate chip pancakes. The food was good and we left happy. Tenzing did have an accident while we were there though. He peed himself and Todd had to take him into the bathroom and clean him up as best as he could while I cleaned up the pee on his chair. Luckily, there was hardly anyone in the restaurant.

We went back to the hotel, grabbed our things, and headed to Pearl Harbor. The sky was overcast and we got sprinkled on a bit while we were there. There were four separate pieces of the park – three you had to pay to get into and one you didn’t. We chose the free part, mainly because we didn’t know how long Tenzing would last. We were given tickets for the 10:15 am group. We had time to spare so we walked around the grounds a bit. The mood was obviously very somber. Everyone was pretty quiet and we had to continually remind Tenzing to be quiet. We walked around and looked at the replica missiles and monuments, and when it was close to 10:00 am, we made our way over to where we needed to be. We had to stand in a big group outside a theater, and when they were ready for us, they removed the ropes and directed us into the theater. They played a 20- to 30-minute movie that gave a brief overview of the events leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor and what happened that day. Tenzing was pretty into the movie and asked some pretty serious questions for a three-year-old when it ended. He asked why they attacked us and why they blew up the ships. We answered as best as we could.

After the movie was over, we were led outside to a boat. Everyone boarded and they ferried us over to the monument in the middle of the bay. We disembarked by heading up a ramp into the monument, which was situated over the remains of the USS Arizona. The monument was open on both sides, and at the far end, the names of the men who had lost their lives on that ship were engraved on a huge marble slab. You could still see the sheen of the leaking oil on the water, and tropical fish swam all around the remains of the ship. Before we had left on the boat for the monument, I had told Tenzing that he had to be quiet because there were about 400 men sleeping under the boat. He listened and was respectfully quiet the entire time, only occasionally asking me why they were all sleeping under there. After listening to a brief talk by a guide, we boarded the boat back to where we started. Because Tenzing was really well behaved the entire time, we got him a muffin at the snack shop before heading out.


It was close to nap time, so we decided to just do a drive to the north of the island. After a pretty drive with beautiful views of the mountains, we ended up in Haleiwa, a cute little beachy town with lots of cool shops and restaurants. We continued following Route 83 along the shore for a bit and saw some gorgeous beaches and views. Tenzing was napping in the back, so we didn’t really stop anywhere. Todd did pull over at Waimea Bay Beach Park and I jumped out to fill the water bottle and take some pictures. Then we drove to the Waimea Valley Botanical Gardens, something I had seen in one of the tourist books. Tenzing was still sleeping so I went in to see if we should bother waking him up for it. We didn’t. The entry fee was $16 per adult and $8 per child, though Tenzing may have been free. They had a restaurant there, which would’ve been nice, as well as a waterfall, but the woman at the desk was… weird. I asked her how far the walk to the waterfall was and she wouldn’t tell me. She said once we paid the admission, we would get a map with the exact distance. Yea…never mind. There was a peacock in the parking lot and the surrounding foliage seemed lush and tropical, but we decided to come back and not do it that day. So we headed back to the hotel. 

We ended up going to the beach in front of the hotel and meeting up with Megan, a strength coach from Auburn who had flown in for the conference. Tenzing played in the sand, and I tried to snorkel a little. I ended up mostly just riding the waves, which was fun. The water was nice – clear and not too cold with decent sized waves.

There was a section of the beach in front of the hotel where a cement wall had been erected about 50 feet or so from shore. It still allowed water in, as there was an opening in one corner, but it blocked the larger waves and created sort of a wading pool, so we moved over to there. It was only maybe chest to neck deep right at the inside of the wall. Tenzing loved this part of the beach because there weren’t any real waves, just really small ones. He didn’t like the waves at all when we were out there and would stay far away from the water. But on this beach, he would go to the water’s edge and eventually right in the water.

We hung out there for a bit and then got cleaned up at the hotel before meeting Hank for dinner. We met Hank and his girlfriend at the Wolfgang Puck Express, a restaurant right next to our hotel. We chose that place because it was pretty casual and inexpensive and they had mac n’ cheese, Tenzing’s favorite. We sat outside and ate. Tenzing had mac n’ cheese, of course. Todd and I split a mushroom and cheese pizza and a salad. He ended up with most of the salad because it was a little spicy for me.

Tenzing started to misbehave and jab me with his fork, so him and I left and went for a walk. Todd stayed out with Hank and Hank’s girlfriend and later went to a bar with them and had a drink. Tenzing and I walked down the main drag for a bit (Kalakaua Ave). I bought him some of those kukui nut leis — he chose brown — and then we walk over to the beach and pier to check out the water and the stars. He wanted to find “daddy” so we walked around a bit seeing if we “could find him.” I didn’t know what bar he was going to so this was an almost impossible task. I told Tenzing that daddy might be in the room, so we went back to the hotel.  


Wednesday, January 25: We got up early – 5:00 am. We got breakfast at Eggs N’ Things, a place we had seen the day before but had had a long line. They opened at 6:30 am, and by the time we got there, a line had already formed. But we realized why there was a line – you ordered first, outside, and then went in to pay and be seated. I had a veggie omelet that came with a side of three pancakes and Todd had something similar that also came with a side of three pancakes, so we gave the pancakes to Tenzing. The food was really good. They had an amazing coconut sauce for the pancakes and a yummy papaya one as well.

After breakfast, we stopped back at the hotel and got the car. We drove to Diamond Head State Monument, a huge crater that you could walk up to. It was about a 0.8 mile hike up to the top of the crater. There was a paved path for some of the way and that turned into a hard-packed dirt path that wound its way around and up the crater. You had to go through a tunnel at one point and there were lots of stairs, but overall the hike was fairly easy. Todd carried Tenzing on his shoulders almost the entire way up. The views on the way to the top were amazing. It was a beautiful, clear day and you could see for miles. On one side you could look out over the ocean and on the other side, you could look out over the landscape. Definitely worth the trip – and it was only $5.00 to get in!

After hiking Diamond Head, we headed to the Koko Crater Botanical Gardens. It was free and was a two-mile hike along a wide, dirt trail that made a loop through the bottom of the crater. We were there alone, aside from one other man we saw when we were about halfway around the loop. The foliage was neat and not what I expected in Hawaii. There were a lot of cactus and desert-like plants, and we saw a really cool tree called the sausage tree that had these long fruits hanging from vines. It was a nice walk and I’m glad we went there.

Then we went to the Byodo-in Temple, a Buddhist temple. We had never been to a temple before and the pictures of it looked beautiful, so we decided to check it out. The grounds started out as a cemetery, and we pretty much drove to the back of the cemetery. We parked and made our way to the entry. The admission was $5.00 a person. We only had a $5.00 bill and a $20.00 bill. The man in the shack collecting the fee didn't have change for a $20, so he let us in for only $5.00. We made a left away from the shack, crossed a small wooden bridge, and there in front of us was this massive, bright red temple, just like in the photos I saw. It was very peaceful. Todd and Tenzing waited in the short line to ring the dong, and then we walked over to a pagoda with a small stream beside it. There was a short path that led up a pond with Koi fish in it and a shrine of Buddha decorated in flowers. We then walked down to the main building and took our shoes off to go inside. It was rather small inside, and Todd and Tenzing lit some incense. Then we followed the paths around the rest of the ground and checked out the gift shop. We saw others feeding the birds and fish, so we bought Tenzing some food so that he could do the same. I put a small amount in my hand and had about six birds land right on my hand to eat it. Tenzing preferred feeding the fish. We walked around a little more and then made our way back to the car.

We headed back to the hotel and got cleaned up for dinner. We ate at Lulu’s, a restaurant less than a block from our hotel toward the zoo. Todd and I split a pizza and salad again, and Tenzing had grilled cheese. Todd had a mai tai and I had a pina colada. We had a nice dinner before heading back to the room and hanging out.


Thursday, January 26: We went to Koko Crater Railway Trail today. We got up early and grabbed lunch at Tucker and Bevvy, a little organic takeaway place, and ate there. Tenzing didn't really like what they had so we ended up grabbing some more stuff at the Starbucks next door. Then we headed out. We had been told to get there early because it got hot and wasn't shaded.

We got there at about 7:15ish. There was a large crowd of about 100 guys in the parking lot and tons of other cars. It was pretty unclear where the trail started, so we just got out and started walking. We could see the crater from the parking lot and we could see people heading up it. It looked really steep and we weren't sure we would be able to do it with Tenzing. We walked toward the crater and actually started up what we thought was the path. When we saw people further down, we realized it wasn't, so we came down and moved down a bit. And that's when we saw the stairs. It was just like the pictures — a railroad looking set of stairs going straight up. It didn't look as bad from this angle though, so Todd put Tenzing on his shoulders and we started up. I think Todd was trying to show off for all the CrossFitters.

It was pretty crowded, with lots of people coming down and heading up. It was a little technical but not too bad. The stairs weren't spaced evenly so you had to be sure of your footing, but it wasn't too bad. Todd did have to stop once and give his shoulders a break.

We got about halfway up and reached a point where the track had a 20-foot drop underneath it. There wasn't any way we could take Tenzing over that, so we decided that I would wait where we were with Tenzing well Todd went to the top and then we would switch. So Todd headed up. Tenzing played in the dirt. Thankfully, he had insisted on shoving a plastic shovel in Todd's backpack. At the time, it seemed silly to haul it up the crater, but now I was happy that we had let him take it. It was a lifesaver while we waited for Todd. I had him shovel dirt in all the little holes around rocks and roots. Lots of people stopped where we were on their way up to take a break, and our little break point also happened to be the way to the trail that went around the raised track.

I was also glad we had hauled extra clothes for Tenzing up the crater because he also peed while we were standing there. There wasn't any warning — just an "I'm peeing!" I didn't have any rags, but I was able to get him changed and cleaned up as best as I could.

Todd finally reached us again. It took him about 30 minutes to get to the top and back to where we were. My turn! Todd started down with Tenzing and I started up. I didn't want to cross the raised trail, so I used the side trail as a shortcut around and climbed back up to the track after I had passed the gully part. The climb definitely got steeper and more difficult at this point. But I made it to the top and quickly took some pictures before heading back down. My legs were a bit shaky on the way down and I probably should've taken a longer break, but I didn't want Todd to have to worry about dealing with Tenzing for too long while I made my way down. Going down was a bit trickier. I was a little nervous about tripping or falling, so I kind of squatted and leaned toward the side and made my way down much like I do on sections of the Rachel Carson (RC) trail. In fact, the trail reminded me a lot of portions of the RC for the steepness.

I again took the side trail around the raised portion. Once I reached the other side of that, going down was much easier, as it wasn't so steep. I could see Tenzing and Todd further down the track ahead of me and would've caught up to them, but I was behind three fairly slow women. And I had been having a conversation with the one directly in front of me about the island in general and places to see, so I wasn't too antsy about passing them.


When I finally reached the bottom though, Todd and Tenzing had only been there a few minutes. Todd was actually surprised I had made it down that fast and had anticipated having to wait for me. We were both sweaty but glad we made the climb. We headed back to the car but hit up a playground near the parking lot to let Tenzing play for a bit.  

On the way back to the hotel, we made a pit stop at Mr. Donut, one of the famous donut shops I had read about on the island. We got half a dozen — and they were good donuts — but nothing extraordinary. They had the usual types, but I think they bake theirs instead of frying them. They tasted softer. We ate them sitting outside the shop and then Tenzing needed to use the bathroom so we set off to find one. We checked at the grocery store, who directed us to a bathroom in the middle of the shopping plaza that had a key pad for patrons, but we couldn't get the pin number to work, so we headed back to the hotel.

We cleaned up a bit and went down to the beach for a little so that Tenzing could play in the sand. Then we got cleaned up for a 5 pm dinner at a restaurant called Duke’s for dinner with the conference presenters and coaches. We met some of the group at our hotel and walked the four to five blocks or so down the main drag in Waikiki to the restaurant. The restaurant sat on the beach side of Kalakaua Ave.

Two large tables had been reserved for us. We sat with a TRX salesman and his wife Veronica and another presenter and his girlfriend sat beside me. Hank sat beside Veronica and diagonal from me. Todd was at the head of the table and Tenzing was beside me and closest to Todd.

Everyone had the salad bar, which was phenomenal. They had the usual salad bar items, but then they also had all of these vegetarian dishes like quinoa mixed with kale and sweet potatoes and other dishes like that as well as muffins and bread and fruit. It was really good. Everyone else ordered a meal, but I was full from the salad bar. Also, most of the menu items weren't vegetarian. The waiter also brought out some appetizers. They were all meat or seafood dishes

After everyone ate their meal, the waiter brought out four giant slices of ice cream cake, two for each table, and we all shared those. Tenzing really liked that and ate a good portion of the one on our end of the table. The food was really good. With dinner over, we all headed back to the hotel and called it a night.

Friday, January 27: We got up early, and Todd and Tenzing made a Starbucks run to pick up some food for breakfast. We left the hotel a little after 6 am and drove to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. Based on how quickly the parking lot had filled up the day before, we wanted to get there early. Some of the coaches also went, and one of them, Adam, rode with us. Megan, Mary Kate (Adam's wife), Reagan (Megan's girlfriend) and Bobby (Adam's business partner) rode in Megan's car.

We got there without any trouble, and because we made it there before 7 am, we didn't have to pay the $7.50 per person admission fee or the $1 parking fee. The guides gave us a brief overview of the place, and then we walked down the long hill to the beach. It was still a little dark, which was neat because we watched the sun come up. It was also a little chilly, and I was happy I had my windbreaker.

Everyone rented snorkel gear, except Todd. I had my own from home. So after eating something and waiting for the sun to come up a bit, we all got in the water and snorkeled. The water was a little chilly, though not too bad once you got used to it, but I was nervous. The others went much further out than I did. I was a baby about it and stayed pretty close to shore. Because of that, I didn't see a single fish. I just couldn't relax, and then I accidentally sucked in some water and panicked. And I got nervous about touching anything or getting to close to anything. In retrospect, here I was at this beautiful beach and I was too much of a wimp to go out and see anything because I was afraid. It was still a bit dark too. I think had it been later in the day and had the water been a little clearer due to the light, I might have felt better.

Anyways, everyone got out after about 30 minutes and hung out on the beach for a bit before heading out. Adam, Bobby and Mary Kate walked over to climb the Koko Crater Railway Trail and Megan and Reagan waited for them on the beach. We decided to take off so we packed up and left. We waited and paid $5.00 to take the little golf cart tram to the top of the hill.

We headed to Manoa Falls next. It took a bit of figuring out once we got there, as the signage was a bit poor, and the parking for the trail shares parking with a restaurant, but we made it. It was a little strange getting there too because you drive through a completely residential area and start up this drive that seems like a private drive but isn't. It was worth it though. We had a gorgeous 0.8 mile hike to the falls through lush tropical foliage along a dirt trail. The trail started out very easy, but the closer we got to the falls, the rockier and trickier it got. It was still an easy hike because it was mostly flat, but it was a little muddy and slick. The trail wound along beside a stream, and at some parts, there was quite a drop off on one side. If we didn't have Tenzing with us, it would've been a piece of cake, but we had to carefully watch Tenzing near certain parts of it. The trail was pretty crowded too, with lots of folks headed to and from the falls.

The trail ended at the falls. Some people were swimming in the pool at the bottom of the falls, but there was a wooden fence as well as a large pile of boulders blocking the way to the base of the falls with signage asking you to not go beyond a certain point. Again, Todd and I could've climbed over all that and gone in the water, but things with Tenzing at three aren't as easy. So we looked at the falls, took some pictures and headed back. Tenzing was asking why we couldn't go in the water and why some people were.

It was a bit more slick on the way back, but we made it back without any trouble. We piled in the car and headed back toward the hotel. We got cleaned up and then headed to the beach in front of the hotel for a bit.

Todd had a conference dinner to attend, so we all went back to the hotel to clean up. Todd headed out with the other presenters, and after Tenzing and I got cleaned up, we went back to the Wolfgang Puck Express and had dinner there. Tenzing had the mac n' cheese again, and I had the hummus wrap. I wanted a pizza, but they told me the wait for pizzas was 25-30 minutes. I knew that wasn't going to work with Tenzing, so I just had the wrap.


Tenzing wanted to eat inside by the window, so we did. We had a good dinner. We ended up taking home half my wrap and most of Tenzing's dinner. He didn't want to walk around but wanted to go back to the room, so we did. We heard fireworks further down the strip and I tried to convince him to go back out, but he told me, "Mummi, 'member. I don't like fireworks." So instead, we hung out in the room and watched cartoons. We were both in bed asleep by the time Todd got back.

Saturday, January 28: Todd had his conference all day, so it was Tenzing and mom day. I had planned on sleeping in a bit, but Tenzing was up, so we had breakfast at Eggs n' Things with Todd. Todd didn't think he would make breakfast with us, so he had already grabbed something at Starbucks. So just I ate. I had a veggie omelet like last time with a side of pancakes for Tenzing. Then I ordered a stack of silver dollar pancakes because I thought Tenzing would eat all three from my side and I wanted at least one pancake. Tenzing ended up barely eating one silver dollar pancake so I ate my omelet as well as most of the three pancakes from my side. We took home all the other pancakes for later because it seemed a shame to waste them.

Todd headed out to his conference, and Tenzing and I went back to the room to clean up and head out ourselves. I wasn't keen on driving far but figured we were only here once. Who knows when or if we would ever come back. So we drove a little over an hour to Ka'ena Point State Park. I had read that it was a rugged piece of the island with trails suitable for kids. It was rugged and beautiful, but we never did find any trails.

The drive out was nice. I liked driving the Chrysler. Tenzing fell asleep within 30 minutes or so of leaving the hotel. It took us maybe an hour and 15 minutes to get out there, and once we got off the highway, we were definitely in a poorer section of the island. It didn't seem bad, but the shopping plazas looked much more run down and the cars much older and more beat up. I later read that we had driven past Waianae, which is a town where mostly natives to the island live. Behind one of the schools we passed, apparently there is a tent "city" of people living on the beach. We could see a little from the road, but I wasn't aware of its enormity until I read about it later. Housing is so expensive that even those with decent jobs like in construction can't afford housing, so they live in tents on the beach. The closer we got to the park, the more permanent tents we saw on the side of the road closest to the beach. But no one was unfriendly toward us and I didn't feel unsafe driving through.

We finally passed a sign that said Ka'ena Point State Park, but it was still the same road with beach on one side and the hills on the right. I had expected some sort of visitor's center or something, so I kept driving. We passed a bathroom with a small parking lot, but that was it. I kept driving, still thinking I would see something like a visitor's center, but the road just seemed to continue on and on according to my map. There were cars parked along the side of the road and people were on the beach all along the road, but it still wasn't clear that we were in the park. Tenzing was still sleeping, so I turned around and went back to the bathroom. I woke him up and went into use it. Then he and I crossed the street to check out the ocean. The waves were pretty high, higher than we had seen our entire trip, but Tenzing was scared and sat down right on the edge of the sand closest to the road and refused to go any further. I couldn't get him to walk with me further on to the beach, so we got back in the car and drove a little further down. We pulled off on the side of the road and got out again. But same thing — he refused to go anywhere near the water. So I took some pictures and videos of the waves and we got back in the car and left. No sense fighting about it. It was gorgeous though and I would've loved to explore some more. The park was a little sketchy though, so I didn't entirely mind leaving.

I later read that the park is known for car break-ins, as in they have a high rate of frequency. I didn't read anything that said there were any physical altercations, just robberies, with cars getting their windows busted out in broad daylight while the occupants hung out on the beach. Guess that was the vibe I was picking up on. Good thing we didn't stay long.

So we made the long drive back. I decided to make a stop at Moanalua Gardens. I had read there was a playground there, but when we arrived, we couldn't find one. The admission was $3.00 for me and Tenzing was free. The park reminded me a bit of the North Carolina Botanical Gardens. A lot of it was just wide open space with a lush green lawn. There were some huge trees here and there as well as a rather large Koi pond and ducks. The guy at the front desk had told me the park was very popular with Japanese tourists mainly because of the Hitachi tree, this massive monkey pod tree. It was over 7 meters at the base.

Tenzing was fine until he tripped while running and things went downhill from there. He had a complete meltdown and then got mad at me and was hitting and kicking. I walked away from him for a minute. I could still see him, but I let him cry by himself for a minute or so. It took about 20 minutes but I finally got him calmed down and we walked around the park a little. He was starting to have fun picking up this weird fruit from one of the trees and fallen leaves when he told me that his "tummy was really mad." He was hungry. He hadn't eaten much at breakfast and I forgot to bring anything. So we left and headed back to the hotel.



I felt bad that he was so hungry, so I stopped at a Safeway on the way back and we got chocolate, fruit, and pouches so he could eat something right away. Then when we got back to the hotel, he ate the rest of his mac n' cheese from the night before. We got cleaned up and fed and then went to the beach in front of the hotel. We were there for three hours! I pretty much just sat in my chair on the beach and watched him while he rolled around in the water and played in the sand. He had a blast and would've stayed longer if I had let him. But I knew he was tired because aside from the 30-minute nap on the way out to Ka'ena Point State Park, he hadn't napped.

We went back to the room and got cleaned up and then headed to Starbucks for some food. I wasn't very hungry so we ended up getting a cheese plate for him and a peanut butter jelly plate for me. We went back to the room and ate. He started watching cartoons and passed out at 6:30 pm. Todd had wanted us to try and meet him at his conference, but we were in for the night. I sat on the balcony for a little and watched the sunset and then just watched bad television. Todd got back to the room at 8:00 pm, just as I was getting ready for bed.

Sunday, January 29: Last day in Hawaii! We got up regular time, though I tried to let Tenzing sleep as long as he wanted knowing that we weren't going to bed on time tonight but instead boarding a late flight home. We had breakfast at Cheeseburger in Paradise again, and we all ended up getting the same things we got the first time. We made our way back to the hotel, and I packed everything up while Todd took Tenzing to the beach in front of the hotel. I was just about to go meet them when they came back to the hotel. We had some time to spare before we had to check out at noon, so we walked down the main drag in Waikiki a bit (Kalakaua Ave).

We didn't really have a plan, so we just walked, staying on the side of the road closest to the beach. We had driven down the main drag of Waikiki, but we hadn't really walked much further than Duke's. So we walked past that and ended up in this little mall area. There was a cool outdoor space with a small pond a water feature, lots of tropical plants and outdoor seating. Because it was the Chinese New Year, the trees were decorated with huge, red and gold lanterns and tall black lanterns, and there was a stage set up. The mall was multiple stories with outdoor skywalks and "moving stairs" as Tenzing calls them so we went inside to check it out. We ended up getting coffee as well as something to eat at Island Vintage Coffee. We got a wedge of papaya with yogurt and granola on top, which was drizzled with honey, and some blueberries and pineapple on the side. It was yummy. We did have a difficult time finding somewhere to sit as it was pretty crowded.

After eating, we headed back to the hotel because it was getting close to check-out time. We got the car, loaded it up and headed out. Goodbye Aston Beach Hotel! Todd wanted to check out a lighthouse he had heard about from someone at the conference —and one we had apparently missed by a couple miles when we were at Hanauma Bay Beach Park — so we headed in that direction.

We stopped at Leonard's Bakery first. Somehow we hadn't noticed it on Kapahulu Ave even though we had driven that way multiple times to get to the H1. I had read that they were famous for their malasadas, so we got half a dozen of the original.

We drove by Diamond Head again — and realized that when we visited there a few days prior, we had gone a super long way and that there was a much quicker way to get there from our hotel. We passed a few lookout points, so Todd stopped and we both got out and took pictures. Tenzing had, by this point (and a whopping three miles from the hotel) blacked out in the backseat. At both lookouts, it was really, really windy! I don't think I've ever experience such wind. At the second lookout, it was difficult to take pictures with my iPhone because of the wind. I had to brace myself and the camera, and the wind was still blowing me around.

We drove by the lighthouse, but the line was pretty long and the parking lot was pretty crowded, so Todd decided it wasn't worth it. Instead, we drove back up to the North Shore area. I wanted to check out Laniakea Beach, also called turtle beach because of all the sea turtles that come on shore there. So we made the hour or so drive there. It was a pretty drive again, although we did get a little lost again. I thought the town we had passed through before was called Waialus, but it wasn't. It was Haleiwa. Waialus was hardly a town. It was more farms and some unkempt shops. So we got our bearings and headed in the right direction. There was a ton of traffic. I guess everyone heads to the beaches on Sunday.

We sat in some traffic before Todd pulled off on the side of the road across from Laniakea Beach. We were conflicted over the signs though. I thought the sign meant no parking at all while Todd thought it only meant no parking in a specific area. I just didn't want us getting towed on our very last day, so I ended up just running across the street to check it out. The embankment down to the very small beach in that spot was steep, so I went back to the car and we headed the other direction back toward Haleiwa.

We found a place to park and walked down the main drag (Kamehameha Highway) past all the shops and restaurants. We stopped off at Whalers General Store Haleiwa and got some strawberries for Tenzing and an egg salad sandwich for me and Todd to split. We ate them outside on a bench in this little picnic area they had. Todd also grabbed a coffee at Island Vintage Coffee Company. We walked around a little more and went in a few of the shops before heading back to the car.


The traffic had died down (at least in one direction), so we drove back in the direction of Laniakea Beach. As we were driving by, we saw a large crowd standing pretty much where I had checked out the beach before we went to Haleiwa. They were all pointing to the water, so Todd pulled over and I jumped out to check it out. It was a sea turtle. He was bobbing around in the water. I only saw his head a few times and I wasn't able to get a picture, but I was excited that I was able to see at least one.

We drove a bit further down the road and Todd pulled off at Waimea Bay Beach Park, where we had stopped the first day on our drive to the North Shore. There wasn't any parking, so Todd just pulled over and him and Tenzing got out to use the bathroom while I waited with the car. No parking spots opened up so we hit the road again —and traffic. We sat in a little bit of traffic, but it started moving and we headed back toward the airport.    

Because it was Sunday, a lot of stuff was closed. Otherwise, I would've suggested checking out one of the botanical gardens we hadn't visited. Instead, we did a drive through downtown Honolulu, something we had yet to do. We drove past Iolani Palace and through Chinatown. Most everything was closed up though, so we couldn't tour the palace.

We headed toward the airport to return the car before realizing that we needed to fill it up, so we had to backtrack and find a gas station. Then the directions on Todd's iPhone to Dollar Rent-a-Car were a bit confusing, so we got turned around a little before we finally found it.

We returned the car and took the shuttle to the airport. We checked our bags and then spent the next long four hours sitting in the Honolulu airport until our 10:50 pm flight to LAX. The Honolulu airport is neat because it was some completely open spaces. I assume they don't have air conditioning because it is all so open. But it's a bit rundown. Entire sections were closed and a lot of the desks and podiums, although wood, were beat up looking. It certainly wasn't as modernized as the other airports on this trip.

Our flight boarded and took off on time. We had the same seating arrangement that we did coming into to Honolulu — three seats in a row with Todd on the aisle, me in the middle and Tenzing by the window. The takeoff was rough though. I didn't like it at all, and I'm pretty relaxed on planes. I guess we hit a lot of wind, but the turns felt very sharp and abrupt and there was a good bit of turbulence for the first 30 minutes or so of the flight. Tenzing slept the entire time stretched out with his head on my lap. Todd slept too. I got some sleep — about as much as a person can get with a snoring, tossing three-year-old with his head on her lap.  

Monday, January 30: We landed at LAX ahead of schedule at about 5:30 am. Our flight to Chicago didn't board until about 7:30 so we had time to grab breakfast. Todd got us egg sandwiches at some place in the airport, and we had a little time to relax and eat before we boarded our next flight. Tenzing had slept the entire way (and had been a bit of a butt getting off the plane because he was still half asleep), and he slept a little longer on me while we sat in the airport.

We boarded our flight to Chicago on time and landed there on time. It was an uneventful flight. We all slept most of it. We had the same seating we did before — three seats with Todd on the aisle, me in the middle and Tenzing by the window. We had to walk the furthest we had had to walk on this trip to get to the next gate and board our flight to Pittsburgh, but we had plenty of time and even managed to get something to eat. Our flight to Pittsburgh left Chicago on time and was uneventful as well. Again, we had the same seating that we did on the way there — Todd was on the aisle, I was on the aisle across from him and then Tenzing was beside me next to the window. We landed in Pittsburgh as scheduled and made our way to collect our bags.

Una picked us up at the airport and we were home not too long after 6 pm. We spent some time telling her about the trip, and I got everything unpacked and put away so that I could clean everything the next day. Todd had to leave for DC the next morning because Ed was having angioplasty.

We had a great vacation despite the long travel to get there!”

2017 Hawai'i strength clinic

The Conference

We had a blast in Oahu, Hawaii, although I think my son may have had even more fun than my wife and I did! With all that said, I was there for a business trip and I had to get to work.

As Erica mentioned, we had dinner with all those involved with the conference and it was great. The following day, Friday, the conference began. The first presenter was Michael Kenji and his topic was Sports Ultrasound. I was 100 percent ignorant about this topic when he started, but by the end of his presentation, I can see where sport ultrasound will work well in the future of rehabilitation services. I found it most interesting that you could actually work a muscle dynamically and see what issue the athlete had.

The only other presenter that day was Megan Young of Auburn. If you don't know Megan, you should. She has been a strength coach at Auburn for eight years and is a cancer survivor. Prior to the conference, we talked about her presentation while at the beach, and she mentioned that this was the first time she was going to present about her ordeal. The interesting part was that most of her presentation was about making an impact with your students. She is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to human interaction, and we, as a profession, should learn from her and her experience. Once she began speaking about her cancer, you could see that, understandably, she became a little emotional. Hopefully, that helped drive home her point that we aren’t here for very long, so let's make an impact today!

LISTEN: Megan Young Sets Standards High for Athletes... and Herself

On Saturday, Anthony Glass of the Ohio State University was the first presenter. I've been fortunate enough to know Anthony for a few years now, and he has always been gracious and open to me and my staff. Anthony presented on how they run things at Ohio State. I can’t lie. I had a few good one-liners when he talked about his struggles of not having enough racks. After his talk, I told him that I felt bad for him when one of his six weight rooms was taken offline.

Wade Yamasaki, a certified athletic trainer at the University of Hawaii, followed Coach Glass. Wade presented on shoulders. My take home from his talk was communicate. As strength coaches, too often we get into a bubble and put blinders on. We need to learn and borrow more from our athletic trainer friends.

Chris Kidawski was up next. He presented on prehabilitation- and rehabilitation-based movement and had some interesting points on how to improve athletes' movement. I had never met Chris before. He owned a CrossFit gym, so I made sure to tease him a little about being part of a cult (relax, it was a joke). My biggest take away from Chris's presentation was to make sure you're getting your movement/warm-up work in every day!

Lee Clark from Australia followed Chris. Remember I said that I don’t like planes? This will put into perspective how far Oahu, Hawaii is from Pittsburgh. Lee came from Sydney, Australia and spent 30 fewer minutes in the air than I did. Lee did a hands-on presentation about warm ups. It was awesome. I loved his energy, and I spent the entire hour being his test subject for the warm up. My take home points from Lee were do more warm-up activities and coach your warm ups just like you coach your sessions. It was awesome to be able to see coaches from other parts of the world working hard.

The final speaker before lunch was Dr. Keanu Sai. He led the cultural talk, which is something different they do at this clinic. Dr. Sai spoke on behalf of the Hawaiian kingdom and talked about the history of Hawaiian U.S. relations and why Hawaii is and probably always will be an occupied state by the U.S. government. Following the conference, I was able to have a beer with Dr. Sai. He's a great guy with an amazing perspective of the topic and is probably the world's expert on the Hawaiian kingdom (and Keanu Reeves is his cousin).

After lunch, it was my turn to present. My topic was getting things done with what you have. My goal was to show the high school coaches that you can make an impact no matter what type of support and equipment you have at your disposal. The only down side to my presentation was that I gave it at the same time as Adam Feit, Bobby Smith, and Mary Kate, so I wasn't able to see them present. I had been looking forward to hearing their talk. I guess I'll have to go to New Jersey next!

I gave two one-hour presentations on the same topic back to back, and I had about 75 people per session. The first talk went great, but my second one didn't go so well. The lesson I learned was that when giving the same lecture back to back, be more prepared with notes so that you're aware of what you said to each group.

Carl Kochan was the last to present. He had a great lecture on dealing with overhead athletes. It's always interesting to listen to people who have spent their careers working with professional athletes, not collegiate ones, because there are some clear parallels as well as clear differences between the two. The issues that Carl deals with are very different from the issues I deal with. Carl was very intelligent and reminded me that I need to get smarter with my anatomy.

This was my trip. I hope you enjoyed the ride, and I hope this helped you on your path. Until next time, spread the aloha!