Monday, September 17, 2007

Reaching the Beach 2007

There are many kinds of athletes in this world. There are those who have all the latest gear from GPS devices to watches that sync with your iPod to heart rate monitors to items that do all of the above. They are the ones who upgrade their gadgets and love knowing their exact pace at every moment and thrive on attaining wicked efficiency with all their technology. Then there are those who just enjoy the thrill of the adventure. They go out at all times during the day and night just to feel alive and free running, riding or doing whatever gets their heart pumping. There are people who compete in events to break a personal record or be the top of their group who often forget to enjoy the experience because they are focused on their GPS watch and the fluctuations of their heartrate. And then there are people who just appreciate and enjoy the experience of going out there and willing the body to do miraculous and amazing things. I have probably filtered through all of these types at one point in my life, and there is a time and a place for all of them. I have been known as the "hard-core Ironman" with the competitive spirit and have a reputation for doing some crazy things. Reach the Beach could have easily become this challenge to be mastered and conquered with a better, more efficient time. I could have gone out recruiting for super fast runners with the competitive drive to do the event a little faster, but that is not what this race is about - at least not for me.

One of the highlights of the trip was driving toward the beach after our van had finished our last leg and coming across my good friend JD running down the street on his last leg. JD was a driver of one of our vans last year and decided that he wanted to run this year. When I saw him, we stopped the van, got out and started cheering like we hadn't cheered the whole race. Seeing JD run 15 miles as part of our team made all the effort of planning and preparing worth it. Having half my original team come back for another year to solidify already strong friendships and make yet another memory made my experience. Seeing Cameron finish his last leg of 9.3 hilly miles after 3 hours of wet sleep (thanks to the rain) and 10 miles already under his belt without looking like he was on the verge of collapse made the 5:30 am mornings and weekly group runs worth every minute. Seeing my team stand in the rain to bring in our runner, hobble around on the side of the road cheering and handing out sustenance made me smile and appreciate what this experience does for people... for friends... for life.

We all ran to the finish line together as a team, which just signifies what an incredible group effort it was. None of us could have run that 204 miles alone or even parts of it without the support of our team providing drinks, encouragement and comfort along the way. As I wandered around the finish area listening to other teams talk about their times and experience, it seems to me that some people really miss the essence of Reach the Beach. It's not really about time. It doesn't matter if we come in 35th or 235th. It doesn't matter whether our overall pace is 6:11 or 9:11. What matters is that we did it as a team. We worked hard to prepare and then we came out, gave it our all and had a good time. Twenty years from now, I am not going to remember what place we came in or how fast I did my second leg, I will remember my dad dancing in the headlights to Michael Jackson, Mike singing Whitney Houston, Nick and Marcus wearing out their index fingers faster than their legs taking pictures, Cameron shooting video and getting interviews, Adrienne's infectious enthusiasm, Starbuck's chocolate covered graham crackers at transition 1, sleeping on the grass of the elementary school, eating spaghetti at Fire 21, bathing in the river and then the lake and calling Mike 'runner' because he put his name on his shirt.

In the end, this race isn't about me and what I want. This race is for my team. This race is for my friends to know that they can run 16 miles of a 200-mile relay even if they have never done a race before. This race is for JD who started running last fall with a goal in mind and exceeded it and for Brent who hates to run but somehow finds the will to do it because he knows he can. This race is for my dad as a reminder that he is still young and that adventure never grows old. This race is for Mercedes who despite adversity and hills and rain and an extra 4 miles persevered and ended the trip happier than she started. This race is for Mike and his energy and ability to get people to come together. This race is for Jane and Adrienne for their diligence and enthusiasm and for doing something they never thought of doing. This race is for Nick who loves his gadgets and not only ran 16 miles but ran them well even when he told me he wasn't sure he could do it. This race is for Marcus who came on board a little later than everyone else but still did a great job and made everyone feel like they did too. This race is for Ann Marie who always has a smile on her face and never complains and always wants to get better at running. And this race is for Cameron who knew he could do better than last year, worked hard and let me wake him up every morning at 5:30am and supports me in all my crazy endeavors. This race is for my team.

Thanks for making it a great experience. See you next year for RTB 2008!


Kristyn said...

Congratulations Nik -- that looks like an amazing experience. You have an amazing group of friends -- thats a rare thing in this world. I'm so happy for you and still amazed at all you accomplish!

Aaron, Lindsey, and Zander said...

Sounds like so much fun!! What an awesome experience...especially to be able to share with your dad and your husband!! Congrats!

familia Bybaran said...

I love that you do this. You are amazing. Your dad too. I talked to him for a bit during church about all the cool races you guys have done. I am so so impressed. So exciting that you are going to go next year. I bet it was a blast.

Thanks for the Wednesday morning inspiration.

Doug and Dawn Hardy said...

That has got to be such a rush to accomplish something like your current race. That is really cool that you have such a close group of friends that you can do that with. I am sure you are very motivating for your team and keep them going. Congrats, that is amazing and so fun I am sure to do with Cameron and your Dad.

Kathy Burkhardt, aka. MOM said...

It sounds like you all had a wonderful time. Being a team is the most important thing and that is what you will remember. We will never know true joy without others. I am glad Jon was able to do this with you.