We had time to drive into Seaside which is the finish line and beach area overlooking the Pacific. The crowds were in force now and it was looking like a typical beach weekend except with weird cars all decorated and some 20,000 extra weird runners like us. All sweaty and exhausted, we still were in high spirits since 1. – we were done and done well, and 2. our team was well on pace for a team record time AND a possible top 3 finish in our category. Thanks to Moony who is local, he hooked it up by getting a few pizzas for the crew to take back to the house. We had about 2 hours before the Van 2 would finish, and since the house was a few miles from here, we were to go back, stretch, shower, and head back to meet up for an official team finish. It was sunny, warm, and heck, now at almost 48 hours awake, still rolling strong (another Monstoer sip). I spoke to Gina and shared the news and give her a kiss over the phone. She was following Ghost on her Facebook and was happy for all of us (she even dreamed we came in 5th).  Back at the house, we did our deal and got feedback via Facebook posts about the Kahuna 2 team. They were having some trouble but were expected to finish around 6pm. Ghost had the whole Facebook thing going sending updates every few hours which was cool to witness.

We headed back and found a spot a mile away, so more walking was in store. The beach was rocking now with music, cheers,  as everyone was celebrating. We all had our Kahuna gear on and eventually met up with the guys from Van 2 at the finish.  We all were waiting for Coach to finish his final leg and all indicators had us still on a record pace. In fact, once we got sight of Coach coming down the boardwalk, it was official. Down the chute he came, onto the sand, across the mat and into everyone’s arms. Crossing the finish line all together, we finished in a time of 21 hours, 8 minutes which was over an HOUR faster than the team time last year!!!!!!! We broke 24 of the 36 team leg records and finished 2nd in our division (which earned an automatic entry for next year) and a superb 20th overall out of the 1,023 teams. Now the celebrating would begin! Sleep??? Not for another few more hours anyway. We walked back to the vans and to the house for another round of showers, changing, high fives and hugs, etc, then back to see the second team finish. By 7pm everyone was back in the house all celebrating and trying to eat something. Everyone looked like they ran a marathon by the way they were walking and it was fun to see the smiles on everyone’s faces. Once the sun went down and the clock hit around 9:30, I felt it was time for the sofa. The eyes were heavy, the body was ready for repair, the house slowly grew quiet. With a round of Biofreeze on the legs, a few pbutter sandwiches in the system, and some prayers of thanks, I was out after 53 hours.  There were 24 happy people in that house that night.

I got up at 6:30 that Sunday morning and laced them up. I wanted to do a reflection run, a prayerful run as I had no way to attend a Mass that Sunday. I would use my hour long run to loosing things up, hear the roar of the Pacific, feel the wind in my face, and simply run and reflect. I saw Moony and his wife head out with Wonder Boy as he had an early flight home, so it was good to get to wish them well before I ran out. The streets were quiet – typical beach Sunday as only dog walkers and a few joggers were out. I just soaked it all in, making sure I took it easy and my heart rate stayed low. I prayed and was thankful at how fortunate I was to be a part of this team, this event, this experience. As with most events I compete in, I take a similar approach the day after a race and this was no different. Actually it had a deeper spiritual impact on me in that I awoke today with a layer shed like other races, but though I was still tired, I was new. This race had something different in it than a triathlon or other running races have. In the weeks prior, it had the usual anticipation, preparation, and hard training that comes with the program. On the flight over, it had the mind doubt, the re-calculating of “why am I doing this?”, ”Will I enjoy this?”, then the re-affirmation of what was to be done once I landed and met the team. The gathering of game plans, the insight from the Kahunas who have done this, who were expecting big things from us in helping them with their goal. The added pressure I like, so it eased me. It helped me focus, stay determined towards the team goals. I was relaxed.

Then the actual event – the intensity, then cool-down, cheering, staying alert, sticking to the nutrition plan, hyping everyone else up - and seeing it actually happen, doing well, and feeling great. The euphoria and energy that we fed off each other was endless and reflected in how we all endured to the finish.  All shared, all together – TEAM.  I never raced liked that since college cross-country (and maybe a sprint tri relay I did with FPC). But as I ran back to the house along the promenade overlooking the Pacific – it made life simple by definition to me. It helped confirm my role. I was Actualized again.  Amen.

We all had a group breakfast before heading down to the beach for the awards ceremony.  We all wore the gear and joined in the celebration of the other teams. One puzzling thing was Office Max – being the title sponsor –  but had no one around to represent them at the ceremony since they all “had” to catch a flight back to Chicago that morning. Yo, if I am a CEO and I shell out bucks to sponsor an event, I’m either doing that event, or I am showing up to congrats all participants and stick around for the ENTIRE event. Makes no sence and it’s happened at quite a few big events I’ve been to. But a shout to the American Cancer Society for raising half a mil$$$.  We all had the afternoon to ourselves, so I got the chance to just chill, catch up on email, and watch ESPN on the 40 inch home TV. Yo! Nothing like watching sports on West Coast time zone!  Then it was packing and a final farewell group dinner. I spoke to Gina before going to bed one last time and as I eased on the sofa one last time, it was comforting to know I would be home with her (and Holmes) soon.  

Monday I can sum up as spending all day traveling. You can always count on the USA Today to get you through a long flight and remains my favorite daily newspaper – even though I only read it on trips. Losing the time zones hurts too as I got home in LGA at 11:30pm, after leaving PDX at 11 am.  I hugged Gina with big kisses and welcomed the 80+ degree humid weather again. It wasn’t until 1am that I got to bed, but now it was a quick adjustment back to “regular” time. I resumed normal training five hours later for it helped get into the routine again and I had to get use to the humidity. That wasn’t a problem as much as catching up with work, more wedding final plans/things to do, and then getting to SJC for rounds of CPR, coaches meetings, and getting paperwork for that job done. Yes, I am helping FPC but coaching the Men’s and Women’s XC teams as he continues to spearhead the program toward NCAA Division 3 status. He also unveiled plans on an athletic facility that will break ground in March that was his big dream come true. It should be done in 2012, but seeing how the college has changed in the 3 years since I left for Charlotte is amazing, and proud for him. This was his goal some 10 years ago and it is shaping up just like his now gray head of hair.

So Gina and I will spend the holiday weekend doing everything we can to get some chores done with the mindset of using Monday maybe to jump into her sisters’ pool and use the day to regroup. It will be crazy and hectic the next 6 weeks. I am scheduled to do the Toughman Half-Ironman on Sept. 12th in White Plains of which Polar is a sponsor. The plan is to race it as a good honest workout before tapering for the Myrtle Beach Half Championships on Oct. 2nd. The season for me is coming to a peak ending and culminates with our wedding. We have done all this planning ourselves and will look forward to seeing it through with exhausted smiles on our face. Amor vincit omnia!!

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