Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Days 24 - 35 Holiday

I'm back!!!!  To start, I would like to state the following:
1. Costa Rica is "the bee's knees", no doubt;
2. Running on the beach is good for the soul; and
3. Christmas rocks!


I'm back in the states and coming off a whirlwind holiday that began in Costa Rica on the 16th of December and ended on December 26 following a marathon Christmas tour through central Pennsylvania.  Good to be home but missing the sunshine, fo' sho'.
Love me some sugar.....Playa Pan De Azucar, Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a beautiful country inhabited by some of the kindest people I've had the pleasure of meeting in my life.  The country's motto or national expression is "pura vida".  Literally translated it means "pure life"; however the functional translation is more like "this is living" or "full of life" and this country is definitely full of life.  
Feliz Navidad!
My wife and I filled our honeymoon/vacation with a lot of sweet activities and a heavy dose of "beach time".  We stayed at the Sugar Beach Hotel in the Guanacaste, Costa Rica.  This secluded enclave away from the "Gringo Trail" gave us the ability to melt into Costa Rica and enjoy the country in a more natural and authentic way.  The beach itself is beautiful with a consistent 5 to 6 foot break and on big swell days, waves up to 10 to 15 feet (the size on the final day).  I hit the boogy board up a good bit; never got the surf lessons in but I didn't really care.  The boogy board gave me the ability to enjoy the awesome power of the ocean on a daily basis for many fun-filled hours.
Riding a big dog on the final day (middle of wave).
While Sugar Beach was our home base in Costa Rica, we also got out and about exploring everything this central American paradise has to offer.  We hit the zip-lines of the Congo Trail with our driver and guide, Martin'.  The drive was literally over the river (creeks) and through the woods.  While most of the roads were paved on our way to the coast, upon arrival we received a heavy dose of dirt roads and "barely there" roads.  After arriving at Congo, we put on our harnesses and hit the trees.  The longest zip line was 9 and 1/2 football fields long providing plenty of speed and a sweet view of this arid jungle.  What a ride!!!
Superman ride!
Love it!
We also worked in more casual rides as well.  My wife and I took a sunset / snorkel tour one day on a 45-foot catamaran.  It was a really wild time.  We were 1 of 2 couples on this huge boat and pretty much had it all to ourselves.  Upon heading out to the open water we passed another, similar boat stockpiled with 30 or more people and we just smiled.  
Winning
As we rolled out to our snorkeling location I was sitting in the netting on the front of the boat and noticed what looked to be a hand waving at us.  Intrigued, I moved forward and realized the person wasn't waving to say "Hi", but was waving for help.  Years of life-guarding kicked in and I alerted the Captain.  We made our way to the stranded SUP boarder and pulled her in, moments later we rescued a second boarder (brother of the first).  Wild! We were all very glad to have been at the right place at the right time to save these two kids.  Needless to say they were very thankful and we contacted their resort to come pick them up.
The two kids we rescued discussing how they got into trouble.
After the rescue, we dropped anchor and started our wild snorkel adventure.  Our guide, Emilio, was very experienced (13 years) and fearless.  He led us through the reef and provided a truly "hands-on" experience.    By "hands-on", I mean he basically caught the fish and brought them to us.  Crazy!  From the porcupine fish to puffer fish to even a 2 foot octopus (very unhappy evidenced by the number of time he blew ink all over us). Each of us got the chance to touch each of these awesome marine creatures.  Emilio was sure to treat them with great care and always released them where he picked them up.  As a huge starfish was handed to me, I explored its gritty texture and vivrant colors, then dove back to the bottom placing it gently on the sea floor.  Emilio smiled at me upon surfacing and gave me a big thumb's up!  Rad experience.  This adventure was a real blast and reminded me of why I love swimming and the ocean so much.
Recalling the days adventures...
Each day of our journey was awe-inspiring and really recharged our batteries.  From the fresh, juicy fruit served each day at breakfast to the picturesque beaches and sunsets, my wife and I really fell in love with this country.  The staff on a daily basis were helpful and during our many drives to other beach locales (Playa Conchal - amazing seashell beach to Playa Grande - real surfers beach) the locals that we met were extremely friendly and just plain happy.  Really, when you live somewhere this beautiful it must be really easy to see the beauty in life on a daily basis.
Sunsets like this every day....so beautiful.
So you might be wondering with all these activities and beauty, did I keep up with my running.....?  Well, of course I did.  Everyday, I hit the beach or back roads for a couple miles.  The one thing that each run had in common, other than the endless beauty that surrounded me, was the fact that it was H-O-T.  I can sweat with the best of them and I ended each run completely drenched.  In addition, these dirt roads that I ran on were like a roller coaster with close to 45 degree inclines that tested my pain thresholds on a daily basis.  So mission accomplished on the running project or as I have lovingly started to refer to it, "The Forrest Gump Project" (beard included). 
One view encountered during my daily runs...words just don't do it justice.
I kept the project going through our Pennsylvania holiday tour.  The move to running longer distances (I alternated 2 and 3 mile runs while on vacation) and the cooler temperatures were a welcomed change during the holidays.  I love how Christmas brings all our family and friends together, albeit for a short time.  A great time of year to reflect on all of 2011's blessings and accomplishments, as well as look forward to another awesome year in 2012. 
Wiest side of the family on Christmas Eve.
Christmas day with Mom & Dad

Prime Rib & twice-baked potatoes at the Gross's Christmas Night
All in all, I've had a great time this past week and a half.  Memories that will last a lifetime and then some.  I hope each of you had a wonderful holiday season.  Now back to work both literally and figuratively. 

Stats below:

Costa Rica Runs
Day 24 (12/16/11) - 2 miles in 19:13 (9:35 avg.)
Day 25 (12/17/11) - 3 miles in 30:10 (10:01 avg.)
Day 26 (12/18/11) - 2.55 miles in 25.05 (9:49 avg.)
Day 27 (12/19/11) - 3.13 miles in 32:00 (10:13 avg.)
Day 28 (12/20/11) - 2.01 miles in 17:31 (8:41 avg.)
Day 29 (12/21/11) - 3 miles in 30:28 (10:08 avg.)
Day 30 (12/22/11) - 2 miles in 18:53 (9:25 avg.)
Day 31 (12/23/11) - 3 miles in 26.44 (8:53 avg.)

Back in the States Runs
Day 32 (12/24/11) - 5.01 miles in 42:21 (8:26 avg.)
Day 33 (12/25/11) - 5 miles in 43:15 (8:38 avg.)
Day 34 (12/26/11) - 2 miles in 16:01 (Mile 1 - 7:44 / Mile 2 - 8:17)
Day 35 (12/27/11) - 3 miles in 24:56 (Mile 1 - 7:47 / Mile 2 - 8:45 / Mile 3 - 8:24)


December Run Totals
Until tomorrow, 


Justin

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