Surfer’s paradise; Mal Pais, Costa Rica

surfing buddies and babesufer’s paradise;  Mal Pais at sunset

After a splendid run near the Arenal Volcano I had several great runs at our next destination in Mal Pais; all on the beach with running shoes and shorts.  You could cover a lot more ground when the tide was out; running on flat hard packed sand.  I was spoiled with my first couple runs being with the tide out, allowing me to cover longer distances.  My next four runs all happened at high tide and that forced me to trudge through the soft dry sand.  It was slow going and made for a low impact strength workout.

warming up is overrated for surfingearly morning start/ Guillaume wins the award for style pointsGuigui le pro chewing some gum

But what stands out for our time at Mal Pais is all the surfing.  Most days we surfed twice a day starting anywhere from 7 to 9am and playing in the waves for hours.  Even early in the morning the day’s heat made a refreshing yearning for the water.  Lathered up in suntan lotion we would battle through the surf in an effort to reach the gentle giants beckoning us to come out.  The gentle giants could almost always be seen gathering momentum, darkening the water as they approached.  A rush of adrenalin spikes through the system.  Paddling into position, the peaceful, calming, power of these giants had to be respected.  Almost everyday, sometimes several times a day a wave would humble me; reminding me of its imposing might.  Others, I would seize just right, transferring its energy into graceful, pleasurable momentum.  At least, it felt this way and explains my unyielding need to spend endless hours playing in the surf.  It is an activity that always keeps me coming back for more.

Guillaume and KevHortie practicingHortie going for a big one under Patrick’s guidanceHortie, Patrick and Guillaume at play with a looming sunset developing

Hortense

Eventually, we became tired and hungry; making lunch impossible to deny.  The lunch break was a welcome reprieve from the hot sun and replenished the body for more surfing after a relaxing afternoon.

Guillaume setting himself up for a sweet ridewhooopie!Guigui staying in the green waterKev hanging onI can still feel the adrenalineGoing down in the white froth like a rag doll

The truly majestic time to surf was near sunset when the day’s inspiration came to a climatic end.  The blinding sun would yield to the perfect ambient lighting, the sky on fire with vibrancy that drew the eyes attention.  The colors formed wonderful hues of beautiful inspiration.  Looking back towards the beach from the water one would notice all the flashes going off from camera’s motivated owners.  While out there surfing, waiting for the next perfect wave, the water and air temperature luxurious with a sky reassuringly delightful; one couldn’t help but be thankful for the precious moment.  The sun would move quickly hovering just above, what looked like to the ancients, like the end of the world.  Looking for the flawless wave would take a back seat to the astounding display of colors while the sun began diving under the water.  The sun spiraling towards the ocean would morph through different shades of orange, red, pink and violet with its overwhelming brilliance turning into a pleasant glow.  Your eyes couldn’t help but linger on the last glimpse of luminosity before disappearing and surrendering to the night’s stars. 

a glowing crewLuminously striking display

With the sun’s remarkable display all but finished and the light melting away your attention turned back to finding that next wave, visualizing it appearing before you and using its energy for the most pleasurable of passages.  Ultimately, it would come and you’d zip across the water’s surface.  With darkness quickly approaching you always want to finish with that perfect ride; which always seems to be the next wave.   Often, all the surfers would disperse leaving me alone in the mighty Pacific, darkness cloaking me in the immense expanse before me.  I would settle for the next wave and the less than perfect ride, yet nourishing all the same.

last night surfingSun boils the oceangazing towards the sun almost always the last man in the waterenjoying the ambienceprecious moments; pelicans, waves, sunsets oh my

Later that night after filling my belly with Costa Rican food I would fall asleep dreaming of the Pacific, hearing its waves crashing near-by and wonder; how far out in the blue abyss is my first wave for tomorrow’s play.

Kev always waiting for the next waveThe best time to be in the waterthe sky on firesunset and waveOur last glimpse of sun in Mal Paismy last wave.

Inspired running

Cramped Car

My next run was amazingly pleasurable and a spiritual experience that left me fullfilled for weeks.

Swiss ChaletLaguna de Arenal and Swiss Chalet

We rented a car for the 6 of us and left San Jose at 6am heading north towards the Volcano de Arenal.  We had been driving and driving each of us wanting to continue ‘exploring’ when we arrived at our destination.  We finally decided we would take the scenic route around the massive Laguna de Arenal (reservoir).  It was lunch time as we pulled into this Swiss Chalet making the entire scene seem Swiss.  Everyone was ready for lunch but I wasn’t that hungry and decided that now, with the fertile landscape illustrating numerous shades of green and a storm brewing, was perfect for a run.  My compadres were already seated for lunch when I came in with my running shoes, socks and shorts on.  I told them that I was going to continue on the route we were heading until they ‘catch up’.

Steph, Remi, Patrick, and me (planning my run)My lovely wife

I fully expected to run 2 hours (my longest run is 1:35) the way most of our lunches had gone (Tico time is laid back).  As I headed out it was cool, raining steadily, and the wind was howling.  The wind was fierce and the storm around the volcano and enormous reservoir was dreamy.  Laguna de Arenal is world renowned for its wind surfing, and I would later find out that the day’s wind was unusually strong for a place that is used to strong winds. 

storm is brewingYou can see the wind blowing currents in Lac Arenal

In a matter of meters I was warm and soaked from head to toe.  The road followed close to the water and due to the low cloud cover and rain one couldn’t see across to the other side.  I felt like I was near the sea running in a lush environment more like Ireland or Iceland maybe.  The road was hilly as it snaked this way and that in a general northwest direction.  I felt effortless as I ran along getting smacked in the face by gusts of wind.  One couldn’t help but be curious, looking up to the right at trees towering as the mountain side disappeared into the clouds.  Looking down to the left was always the lake, usually a steep 5 to 15 meters below through impassible vegetation.  Again, I was the scout, encountering everything for the first time. 

The energy in the storm fueled me and it felt as though I could run forever.  My sensations were on full alert and I felt pleasure as I ran.  I felt right in my place in the universe; an uncanny calm and sense of purpose overcame me.  The combination of exploring alone, an enchanting landscape, and being in a storm in a novel environment combined to trigger a sensual experience.  It made me feel basic, human at the core, in touch with my instincts.  I was exposed to nature, feeling naked in the storm, and thriving. 

Laguna de Arenallush landscapes of Arenal

I continued along; the rain and wind gathering strength and intensity.  It was a fantastic feeling to open my mouth and have rain water hydrate me as I swallowed small amounts of the sweet tasting stuff.  I began to encounter fallen limbs, and then whole trees, and even power lines strewn about the road.  I was undeterred only a little leery of a tree falling on me or a live wire giving me a frightful jolt. 

I have said many times that I love to run in the rain.  Maybe it is because I preside in a desert where it is usually hot and dry.  Or maybe it is my love of the water.  For me it is a remarkable feeling to run in the rain, being drenched and refreshed.  It seems to have other benefits as well.  When I started the run my skin was burned, peeling, and aching.  By the end of the run, the amalgamation of sweating and rain water completely revitalized my skin. 

Running along, passing beautiful geography, excited to see what might appear next, I wanted to run, and run and run.  Alas, after only an hour and five minutes, the frenchies had managed the fastest lunch to date.  I heard the horn excitedly honk numerous times announcing the regrettable end to my run. 

One other thing to note about running in a down pour…I didn’t stink after my run.  It was like I took an hour long shower.  I’m lucky it rained otherwise I think the cramped conditions in the vehicle would have caused a mutiny, whereby the frenchies would have strapped me to the roof.

Just after my run, a roadblock.  We were the first on the sceneteamworkRoad Crew having funShe is describing the powerful men who actually moved the tree.

Charging the soul; Costa Rica

Cruising the CaribbeanCaribbean coastline

I had some memorable workouts while down in Costa Rica all of which charged my soul with sensations of fulfillment and purpose.

The first run came several days after we arrived and I was getting antsy to do some training/exploring.  We were in Puerto Viejo and the gang leisurely biked on our cruisers about an hour south towards Manzinillo.  We decided to cool off and play at the playa (beach) Cocles.  Feeling energized, I stripped down to just my bathing suit and headed off on a bare-footed run.  We were not far from the Panama boarder, so I thought I would head that direction, south along the Caribbean coastline.  My senses were elevated, being in such an unusual environment.  I felt like a scout, itemizing everything for the first time.  On my left the blue green turquoise waters of the sea crashed near shore into a white froth.  On my right the jungle fauna was thick, coming right up to the sand, the trees lunged over the sand competing for their share of sunlight.

Playa Cocles

I ran and ran, taking in the scene almost as though watching it through someone else’s eyes.  It was surreal and I was almost giddy with expectation at what would appear around each bend.  The beach was getting more and more remote as fewer and fewer people were encountered, eventually it was just me and nature.  I passed several river outlets pouring into the sea, the water cooling my feet.  Tide-pools, nestled between the sea and the sand, began to appear frequently.  Some of the waves bellowed up high, coming into view far out on the horizon.  Their water darkened by the shear mass of the wave.  Upon reaching the shallow waters, the crash seemed to resonate through the beach.

Caribbean Jungle

I was motivated to run for a long time.  I would come to a small bay and run the distance to the farthest point, turning the corner and coming to the next small bay.  I would in turn, want to get to that point eager to see the intricacies of the next bay.  Wearing no timing device allowed me to be lost in the moment, experiencing.  I crossed another bend and saw the beach meander far off towards Panama.  Suddenly, taking a mental note on how far I’d made it, the long trek back started to set in.  My senses focused on the external almost entirely switched to the internal and I began to appreciate running shorts!  I was only wearing a swimsuit, (totally feeling native), that caused a lot of chafing.  I reluctantly turned around. 

Turning around after a long exploration, it was tough to be back tracking.  The effortless, freedom of my run south, was slowed by the nagging chaffing pain as I headed north.  At some point the endorphins kicked in enough that I was back enjoying the scenery.  I was marveling at the comfortable heat and the long distance covered when the pain was beginning to be too much to ignore.  Mercifully, Hortense and Stephanie had headed out on a walk and I obliged to walk back with them.  Walking funny, like there was a coconut between my legs.  Getting back I could think of nothing more enjoyable than being in the sea.  Plunging into the refreshing ocean, I momentarily shrieked as the salt water stung me.  The pain quickly abated and the pleasures of the warm Caribbean soothed me.

Swimming in the CaribbeanPoseidon commanding his sea.