Onward and Upward

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I think I speak for everybody in this picture saying that Stoke levels were high

As the San Diego Rock N’ Roll is past, I’ve done some thinking that I have begun to effectuate on. A handful of “epiphanies” have made me aware that this road race in was much more than an accumulation of mileage directed towards accomplishing a goal. My uncontained eagerness has me asking what’s next. Last weekend’s race was not just a gathering of endorphin junkies that happen to control the roads, all with the hope of crossing the finish line in the desired time. Okay, maybe it is. Anyways, what this race, and so many other races across the globe represent, are the ultimate hodgepodge of people and, of course, stories. Beach bums, doctors, students, soccer moms, professional runners and everybody in between, all toe the starting line for a multitude of reasons. There is an unspoken respect amongst those participating in almost any race. Almost all have persevered gritty training runs, more than few times, in order to solidify the thought that one might achieve a race-day goal. Thus, resulting in a spectacular post-race environment. The post-race phantasmagorical feeling of euphoria, exhaustion and a much-desired IPA,

First off, arriving in San Diego a couple of days before was absolutely ideal. Surfboards loaded and a charged GoPro ready, we were fully prepared to embrace our advantageous proximity to Mission Beach. Our “routine” consisted of: killer breakfast and coffee overlooking Mission Bay, ocean, lunch, stretch, espresso beans and more ocean followed by dinner. Needless to say, I could get used to that type of schedule.

Finally, race day arrived. It was very dark and very early. We arrived on time, took care of the anticipatory bathroom stop and lined up in our coral. After a poignant moment of silence for those in Boston followed by a powerful National Anthem, we were ready. The intensified mood under the June gloom meant that it was time. It’s always amusing to watch so many people hammer down the first few miles out of the gate. It’s hard not to rev it up and keep up, but I have made that mistake before. You pay for it later. It sucks. Sans Garmin, I found a rhythm early on and cruised the first half in the desired time. Between miles 16-20, the goal was to maintain the groove and stay patient. The gradual climb up the 168 (miles 21-22) wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t the sharp stomachache that stuck like needles in my side. Anyways, that’s part of the race. Find a groove, experience an inevitable problem (major or minor), embrace the issue at hand and move on. My pain subsided quickly after what I witnessed while grimacing up a hill at mile 23. A wheelchair participant was having trouble gathering enough momentum to reach the peak was almost stalled before the top. Without even saying anything, a marathon runner caught the wheelchair participant, and proceeded to push him 100 or so yards up the hill. Mind you, this is mile 23. Marathoners are typically always wary of the clock so that they can meet their desired goal. This individual understood that helping the man up the hill was much more significant than his result. It was extremely humbling to witness such an unselfish act that I will not forget. The crowds grew larger at each turn along with my excitement. I saw the finish near Petco Park and fed off the crowd noise to finish strong. I crossed the finish line and met up with the crew after various failed attempts at trying to find a comfortable position, whether it be sitting or standing.

We were all stoked beyond belief because the race was the perfect cap to an outstanding weekend. Rob, Brit, Erica, Cat and Huddy all crushed it! The positivity was overflowing. The excitement of being there with this crew was inspiring. The post-race pizza and IPA in Ocean Beach was the perfect recovery fuel. Hahaha.

As we cruised the gloomy coastline back to the S.L.O., the thrill of excitement remained a constant until we arrived back, ragged and stoked, and crashed out. After a week’s reflection upon the past weekend’s experience, I appreciate these endurance events because they are indicative of so much more than just a race. No matter the distance, each race embodies some degree of self-discipline, sacrifice, progression, positivity, intensity, gratitude and a zeal for living life. Enough said. It is beyond inspiring being around so many enthusiastic and driven individuals. It is a constant reminder that we should appreciate the fact that we are able to live a healthy and active lifestyle with others. When we embrace that lifestyle, we will be progressing with like-minded, enthusiastic people. I consider that to be optimal living. Onward and upward we march into the future.

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Our view of Mission Bay. Awesome.

Song of the week: Ewert and the Two Dragons – Good Man Down. Catchy jam.

 

Boston

     Chaos. Anguish. Panic. Those are not the first three words that typically come to mind when describing the finish line of a marathon. However, on Monday, tragically, those words portrayed the mayhem during Monday’s running of the Boston Marathon. Initially, I felt shock, then anger, all under an umbrella of sorrow. As a runner, the Boston Marathon is known as the mecca of all marathons. It’s rich history is filled with inspirational stories of many a runner who put in the discipline, commitment, and passion that it takes to qualify for such a race. Those grimacing faces of fatigue peering towards the finish line are what inspire so many onlookers who go to cheer and support.

     The culture of running is so pure. So Powerful. So Positive. Runners and others, cheering one another on, whether it be at the start, during, or after the race. In endurance events, there is a “we are all in this together” mentality. The shared feeling of a conquered goal with fellow runners is memorable. However, on Monday, that was all ripped away. Temporarily. Monday was much bigger than running. Monday illustrated man’s mistreatment and senselessness towards fellow man. Due to the unconscionable acts of a couple of people, innocent lives were harmed, and even lost. I can’t really conjure up anything coherent to write. I am disgusted, angry, and enraged. However, as an American, and a runner, I know that our country will press on. This act of cowardice will not split us, but rather unite us. As we carry on and march forward, let’s all remember to be sure and say a prayer for those in Boston. 

Cruising the Basque Country

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Whew! Since the sunshine has been out, it has been a busy week of traveling and exploring the outdoors.

It started Friday. I fortunate enough to go scramble up Mount Igueldo a couple of times. Mount Igueldo offers a healthy view of San Sebastian coupled with stunning Basque country with the Pyrenees as a backdrop. It has been very rewarding to get the legs churning up some steep trails. Once I reach the top, I am able to drink up the view. All five senses then become amplified as I begin to head downhill!

Destination: Biarritz, France.

As our bus cruised the French countryside, I could not help but be in awe of the magnificence of French Basque country. As the morning sun begins to shine, I look to my right and catch sight of green, rolling hills. I then look to my left and see a vast, sparkling blue ocean that rolls up to plenty of jagged cliffs. As we near closer to Biarritz, the beaches become more frequent and appear to be much bigger. Me and a few classmates had decided to take a quick one-hour bus trip to Biarritz for the day and maybe explore some other French towns. Little did we know, Biarritz is a mecca for many French folks with lots of money. That probably explains why a hamburger there costs 14 Euros. Unbelievable! However, that did not hold us back from getting a taste of French cuisine. After arriving, we sipped on espressos and ate croissants, next to a cathedral, next to the beach. Let me tell you, French croissants are all they are cracked up to be. Anyways, the rest of the day consisted of more espresso and plenty of exposure to fascinating town with many picturesque views. Also, a language that I, nor the others, could understand. That always makes things interesting. Biarritz is loaded with surfers, stunning panoramas, and curious onlookers. After failing to make our train, we eventually ended up in a much smaller town: Saint Jean de Luz (Pop:13,000). Unfortunately, due to previous railway delays, our time there was cut short. However, we did snap some pictures, scope out the town, and stroll through some shops. As the bus rolled back to Spain, the night sky reflected against the dark ocean. It was very calm and reminded me of just how big the world is that we live in. I know that I am only exploring a small piece of Europe for a brief time, but the various ways through which God reveals himself, continue to amaze me.

Sunday: Zarautz/Getaria.

On Sunday, a classmate and I took a quick trip to a few small Spanish-Basque town located thirty minutes from San Sebastian. The first town, Zarautz, is a popular summer town that experience a population swell of almost three times its’ size (20,000–> 60,000).  It was easy to see why. There is a plethora of cafes and restaurants that run parallel with a decent-sized beach. After Zarautz, we decided to take a quick walk to the next town over-Getaria (Pop: 2,600). Getaria is a charming and old Basque town that might easily be overlooked. There is one small strip of restaurants and cafes that tuck next to a Cathedral. Very small town, but once again, very scenic. The rest of this week has been very sunny, which has given me opportunities to go run in new areas and complete some beach work-outs. Along with that, I have played some futbol the last two days with some fellas from school and some others. Long story short, I have officially received an education on how to play courtesy some twelve-year olds. Hahahahaha.

Whether France or Spain, the Basque country seems to be filled with various kinds of subtle, yet extremely alluring coastal and mountainous towns. Upon touching down in Spain, the only piece of information I knew about this so-called Basque country was that San Sebastian appeared to be a cool town worthy of a visit (Considering those who had studied abroad in Spain immediately said to “Go to San Sebastian”). Two months later, I still know very little about the Basque country and its’ inhabitants, but I have grown very fond of the landscape, the pride, the people, the history, the charm, and the food. These attributes all contribute to the uniqueness of a region and culture that prides itself in carrying on an already  deep-rooted history. If you have a chance to go to Western Europe, make sure you include a stop in the Basque country. It will not be a letdown.

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Song of the Week: Years around the Sun- Miles Away. Enjoy

A Rain-Filled, Eventful Week

I completed the TEFL course in Barcelona and decided to enroll in a Spanish course out here. Financially, it is not the best decision for me. However, taking a Spanish course is a great excuse to live in a beautiful beach town. Pretty much every other individual in my course feels the same way. Breathing in the salty ocean air while strolling through lush trails is a good reminder that I made the correct choice.

Well, the forecast in San Sebastian this week has been some rain, some hail, and wind followed by some rain, some hail, and wind. Needless to say, the weather has been fierce and unrelenting. However, there are breaks in the day where the sun will peak through the dark clouds above and set upon the Bay of Biscay. It has made for some awesome sunsets. If anything, though, the freezing rain and howling wind has increasingly motivated me to go outside and explore. I write this because this evening, I went to the edge of this hillside that looks down upon a road next to the Bay. The winds were some of the strongest I have ever felt in my life. Then came the hail, followed by the rain. This aggressive combination of elements created some massive waves. It was amazing to see the ocean in such a frenzied state. Experiences like this are memorable to me because in just a matter of seconds, God will remind us how amazing He is and how He is in control.  Upon arriving back to my apartment, I was drenched. It looked as though I taken a jump in the water myself. It didn’t matter. It was totally worth it.

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Quick picture while the rain began to pour down
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The Next Morning-Strong Winds!
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View from my Balcony. Beautiful.
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Some very pleasant scenery accompanies me on my daily stroll to class

Today, a classmate and I decided to go check out the annual Carnival in Tolosa. It is a celebration of 40 days until Easter. Sunday is known as “Zaldunita”. Many towns hold carnivals, however, the locals claim that Tolosa’s Carnival is the one to be at on Sunday. I felt that the moment I entered the San Sebastian train station. It looked like Halloween. The streets were crowded with people of all ages dressed up in various costumes. Meanwhile, there is a parade that is held, with floats rolling through the streets. From an outsider’s perspective, it was very amusing. People-watching at its finest! Standing in one spot, there would be four different songs being blared full blast , with different groups dancing to each song. Complete noise pollution, but hilarious. Anyways, on our way back to the train there was a food stand that was packed with people. We decided to check it out. Basque food is excellent and if all the locals are lined up, it must be outstanding. What could have possibly caused such a long line? Answer: hand-made tortillas being freshly created on the spot. One has the option of choosing pancetta or chorizo to be put on the inside of the tortilla. “Talo” is apparently the name of this mouth-watering Basque delicacy. The sight of the people making the tortillas combined with the smell of chorizo definitely lured me. Anyways, it was one of the best snacks I have had yet. It also tasted so much better after a solid week of running and healthy eating. I am looking forward to a few more savory meals, some sunshine, and some improvements on my Spanish!

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People packed on every street and in every alley.
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Making Tolas.
Nonstop the entire time.
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Shoulder to shoulder with people dressed up.
Had to get a picture with this character.
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1-San Sebastian at night.
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2-San Sebastian at night.

Barcelona 2013

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Sunny day climb up Montjuic!

Well, time to wrap things up here in Barcelona. It’s a an enormous city with a ton of outstanding restaurants and cafes. It has gone by quickly, but now I can finally take a deep breath after finally finishing the TEFL course. Next, I am heading off to a beautiful beach town tucked away in the Basque country. San Sebastian is the name. I stayed there last weekend and relished in the laid back atmosphere and quaintness of San Sebastian. Beautiful architecture and phenomenal restaurants, all within what seems to be a couple minute walk from the beach.

Thus far, I have learned that I prefer the mellow ambiance of the ‘small town’ compared to the commotion and racket in the ‘big city’. Although, watching the amount of characters walking around town, while sipping on an espresso, has been very amusing. I have also discovered some consistent running routes that offer stunning scenery (Beach Strolls and Montjuic).  The historical sites are also pretty neat. However, I do like my space. And that is why San Sebastian will seem to be a good fit.

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Olympic Stadium. Still intact.
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Olympic Pool. Unfortunately it is a wreck, but the view rocks.
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One of Gaudi’s cathedrals. The closer you get, the more parts of it look as though they are melting. Crazy.
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El Mercado de la Boqueria. Great meats + Produce.
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End of Las Ramblas-Columbus.
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The Mosquito. Understated & Authentic Asian Cuisine. Best Pho I have ever had.
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Scoping out San Sebastian. Gnarly Winds.
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Glimpse of La Concha/San Sebastian.

 

Song/Band of the Week:

The Goat Rodeo Sessions- A collaboration of virtuosos. Stumbled upon them while listening to Nickel Creek. Very easy on the ears.