Hopefully, you read Part I of my Summit experience which gives you a little bit of context on how I ended up here. In my last post, I wrapped up writing as we landed at Pearson airport. I was honestly a little surprised that I stayed awake on the flight since I had dragged my sorry ass out of bed at the ungodly hour of 3am. Clearly, I enjoy writing. The following is a little more about November Project and my experience at NP Summit 4.0.
OK, I feel like I need to tell you about the shirts. As with any new endeavor, it is easy to feel a little bit like a fish out of water so I had wanted to do what I could to feel a little less out of place. If you've been, you know about the shirts. If you haven't been you will quickly know once you get there. There are a multitude of people wearing "tagged" workout shirts. I assumed these were something you bought. Now that I was committed to going to #npsummit I asked Steven where I could get one. He explained that they only do "tagging" once a month and I had missed the last one. It was then that I realized that the shirts were simply spray painted tees. What a cool idea. Continuing to build on, and give me a greater sense of the community that NP is, Steven sent me a text "We usually tag the shirts once a month and you probably missed the last session... but I have many extra and would be happy to give you one".
True to his word, Steven brought me an amazing version of a NP t-shirt at his art show a few nights before we flew out to Toronto. He also told me that he had spoken to tribe leader Nadim and if I brought a couple of shirts to the workout in the morning Nadim would take them home, tag them, and bring them to Toronto for me. What a great effort to make me feel like a part of the family. I cannot tell you how much I appreciated the gesture. It's funny, I am comfortable on stage speaking in front of 500 people but sometimes I feel a little socially awkward in a smaller setting with a new group of people. This would certainly go a long way to making me a little more serene in the untrodden setting that I would soon be inhabiting. I now had one shirt in hand and two more on order destined to arrive in Toronto the same time I did.
You may not be surprised to learn that I wore the recent addition to my wardrobe for the plane ride to #npsummit 4.0.
Welcome to Ontario!
When we arrived, two of the the three of us had checked bags, so Daniel, who did not, went to pick up the rental car. After snatching our luggage from the carousel we made our way out to find Daniel and the rental car. We arrived to find Daniel hovering around a tiny VW Golf. I'm not sure what Steven was thinking but I know I wondered how we would fit everything in. We circled around to arrivals again to await one other tribe member who did not have any means of transportation to get out to Blue Mountain, which was about two hours away. Fortunately my new friends and driving mates were avid coffee enthusiasts so we loaded up while we eagerly awaited the arrival of our tribe mate Dayle, crossing our fingers that her luggage would fit in our small VW Golf rental car. The comfort and camaraderie of new friends ensured that the long drive lapsed effortlessly. Save for a quick stop at Mr. Sub for a lunch wrap, we powered right through to Collingwood/Blue Mountain. As I mentioned previously my accommodations had come together quite last minute so I was setup at the Blue Mountain Inn for the night and the rest of our group at two other locations. Since I was still really only a passenger on this trip I was happily resigned to going where the ride went. We dropped off Dayle at her house then came back to my hotel where I checked in while the guys sorted out their accommodation. After a quick trip to town for booze and groceries we headed over to the "Canada House", a rental house that was hosting about 20 of our tribe members for a BBQ. I was somewhat overwhelmed by both the hospitality of my new friends and the daunting task of matching 30 new faces with 30 new names.
After a fabulous burger, some drinks, badminton and oh yeah... my 22 push-up challenge! I headed back to my hotel for the night, get a good night sleep and be well rested for the Friday morning workout. The workout was scheduled for a 6:15 start to the warm up and a 6:30 start for the workout. I decided to aim to arrive around 6am to allow for any delays finding the location of the workout. According to Google maps I should have only about a 10 minute walk at best to get there.
As I left the hotel at about 5:50am, and stepped out to cross the parking lot I ran straight into a group of four who were getting themselves organized out of the back of the vehicle and quite obviously with November Project. They saw me and asked if I were headed to the workout which I replied I was. After a brief introduction and the obligatory NP hugs all around, I learned that they had just driven in from Philadelphia that night and had driven all the way through. I waited while they got organized and we all walked to the designated meeting place for the morning workout.
The meeting spot was the parking lot of the Blue Mountain village and I am assuming the organizers had either had noise complaints or been asked to be conscious of the noise in the village as they made sure they asked everyone to keep the noise down. I wondered how this crew were likely to get a workout in quietly. It seemed substantially out of character for the group.
Soon we were ushered quietly through the village and much to my horror I soon realized we were being paraded directly up the mountain for our workout. Know I'm not entirely sure what I expected for the workout but I can assure you that since we had a marathon relay to run up the mountain tomorrow I certainly was not expecting to be climbing the fucking mountain for our workout! Anyhow, it wasn't as bad as it sounded. We walked up the hill to the first plateau and then did a few relay drills to kill time while we waited for the rest of the crew to arrive. It was a beautiful sunny summer morning. There was definitely a festive mood percolating throughout the crowd, which made for an exceptionally exuberant "Bounce" to kick off the workout once every one had arrived. Oh, right, WTF is a "Bounce"? Well it is a little hard to describe in text and really something you need to experience for yourself at least once in your life. The workout leader starts by calling everyone in close insisting that you need to get "your front, up against the back of the person in front of you." Once everyone is settled in they will then say something like "Now that you are right tight against your neighbor take 4 more steps in." Another brief pause to let everyone settle then the inevitable call "Now take two more steps in". Once the entire tribe is jammed together tighter than the best goth fans in the mosh pit at a Marilyn Manson concert, the leader will start with a little bounce. This one started with a low hum, which got increasingly louder as the leader raised their arms. There were a few rounds of oscillating the volume of the chant to the level of Bojans arms. The last round building louder and louder, climaxing with an abrupt halt signaled by a spirited wave of the arms like an umpire signalling SAFE at home plate.
the loud rejoinder from the rest of the tribe to follow
Bojan "Y'ALL GOOD?!?"
Tribe in unison "FUCK YEAH!".
I'm fairly certain the that if there was anyone sleeping in the village far below the level of vibration put out by our tribe must certainly have aroused them. "Wakey, wakey. eggs and bacy". Time for a little workout! Although the workout in hindsight is a bit of a blur of adrenaline and excitement for me, I'm fairly certain we started by sprinting up the hill to the next plateau. Seeing the pictures now of us all lined up across the entire width of the ski run is certainly and impressive sight and one that brings back the flood of electric energy that the tribe shared. A short dash, a moment to catch our breath and some quick instructions to "Find someone you did not know when you woke up this morning" had us pair up for whatever the workout to come was. One of the pair was to run concurrent laps of a small diamond, then a larger diamond, demarcated by some of the tribe leaders and, as I had recently learned reading the November Project book, a few of the original tribe members. This included the very first member after Brogan and Bojan. I thought this was a really neat touch adding to the mythology and legend of the NP origins. The organizers had gone above and beyond to instill a sense of belonging that was evident even to this rookie on only his third NP workout.
While partner 1, Jaime from Philly, in my case, ran the diamond partner 2 was charged with a four set workout which included a set of burpees, plank jacks, squats and donkey kicks until partner 1 came back and tagged you for your turn to run the diamond. Now this would be interesting. Finding your partner that you had only met 30 seconds ago in a crowd of several hundred NP'ers running amok would certainly be a challenge. The first 'tag' proved to be the most cumbersome and I'm sure we spent more time looking for each other than we had exercising, but subsequent rounds became easier and more efficient as my new friend Jaime and I, learned to recognize landmarks to locate each other.
After the workout wound down we gathered for a group photo (and hugs of course). Once again the sense of belonging strong. As a lifelong student of leadership I found this whole movement fascinating. I was thrilled to be able to be a part of it all.
That morning I had to be out of my hotel and make the transition to my new found NP foster family. Nonnie and Ian had graciously made room for me in their rental house shuffling their son from bedroom to couch (thanks Thomas!). Holding true to the community spirit of the weekend, regardless of the fact that I did not have a vehicle the tribe made sure I found my way to the house. I was impressed to find a much more spacious abode than I had expected. The tree lined back yard proferred a gorgeous venue for the welcoming hot tub on the back deck. Soon the rest of the family arrived. I got to meet mom and dad as well as sister and brother in law. Now it would have been easy to feel like an imposition in such circumstance but the whole family made me feel extremely welcome and I did not once feel out of place. There truly is a strange magic to the enveloping warmth of family love and I was honored to be surrounded by it.
Another block BBQ back by the "Canada House" that evening set the stage for more commiserating with new friends. The flow of energy was vast and I found the dynamic incredibly intriguing. I ended up engaged in conversation with a young woman named Mikaela (same spelling as my daughter), from Fort Collins who had an abundance of enthusiasm and a will to share. We talked about her efforts to pledge a new NP tribe in her city, her school work and ultimately her dream job. It was inspiring to see her youthful exuberance, yet to be jaded by some of the realities of life. It made me realize that as much wisdom as I might have to impart on her as someone twice her age, she could also teach me about what motivated her and her generation. Imagine if we had a similar forum to NP where we could connect jaded wisdom with naive enthusiasm? What kind of explosive growth could happen on both sides should both parties join with an open heart and an open mind. Hmmmmm.... that sounds like a project to park for a later date. Ian soon let me know it was time to head home and rest up for the big race in the morning. Right, I may have been remiss in mentioning that the whole reason that I was in Blue Mountain was to run a leg of a marathon relay trail race up and down Blue Mountain. Off to bed we went.
Today was the big day and honestly a bit of a blur. I was running on a team with Nonnie, Joanne and Ian and really had no idea what to expect. This was my first trail race and although it was only 10km I was unsure what kind of beast the trail and hills might transform this familiar distance into. It was decided that I would run the last leg of the race which meant there would be a whole lot of sitting around cheering for several hours before my turn to run. Once again the atmosphere was electric. While this may have primarily been a North Face Endurance Challenge series race it was definitely a secondary focus on the NP summit and our horde. The announcer explained a little but about all the t-shirts and what they represented. For the warm up? You guessed it. The Bounce! They handed control over to Dan Graham, the brother of one of the NP founders. Tall, strong and unrivaled in sheer volume he took control and brought everyone in tight where he proceeded to lead the ritualistic practice. It struck me what this site must look like to the uninitiated spectators that had come to cheer on friends or family that were mere 'regular folk'.
The Bounce done, it was time to head to the start line and get the show on the road. It was quite the spectacle. A myriad of unique individuals all sporting unique outfits, some outright costumes, lined up, energy levels bursting at the seams. The gun goes and well, I'll let you see it for yourself.
They were off! Some of our Edmonton crew had the foresight to setup camp along the race fence by the start/finish line complete with chairs and all. I was grateful for the comfort since I would be last to leave the transition area necessitating several hours at 'home base'. There is certainly something special about a race environment. Cow bells ringing, fans screaming, participants decked out in costume, buzzing with the nervous anticipation that comes right before their leg of the race. Minutes rolled over to hours and before I knew it it was time to start thinking about keeping an eye out for Ian coming back into transition.
The nerves started to kick in and I think I went for a pee about 3 times in the 10 minutes before heading into the transition coral. I made some nervous chatter with a couple of guys in front of me awaiting their turn to run. They looked extremely fit and fast. I reminded them that this wasn't a race, and that they should conserve their energy for the after party and not to pass me on the trail. Far before I was ready for him, Ian showed up completing his leg and handing over the timing chip to me and off I went high fiving some of our crew on the way out.
I could likely pen another several thousand words describing the race itself. I won't. I can assure you though that was the longest 10 KM I have ever run. I caught up to Erin, one of the other Edmonton NP'ers, as we started our mountain ascent. Erin had left the transition corral shortly before me launching her second assault on the arduous course. I'll leave the bulk race to your imagination but picture steadily inclining, tree shrouded single track, culminating in a majestic view of Collingwood and the lake. The summit affording a slight reprieve from the incline and allowing a marginal surge of pace as I traversed the top, snaking along the mountain trail. An aid station that presented itself at about the 4 and 8km mark offered sweet respite from the trials of the mountain trail. It's second showing providing the much needed mental nourishment of knowing that I was on the home stretch. The descent proved to be as much a challenge as the ascent since the course took us straight down the mountainside, no switchbacks to offer relief to the knees and quads.
As with most races I like to come in 'hot'. I am always so invigorated by the accomplishments of the day, both mine and those of friends and teammates. I was thrilled to be able to run the last 100 meters with my three teammates, whooping and hollering with an energy that can only be procured by the realization of a limits pushed to the maximum. I'm sure my team mates thought I must have found some alcohol on course given the raucous way I crossed the finish line.
In the end there is really little that can compare to the high of a goal completed. The palpable euphoria that a race procures once complete is worth every second of anguish during training days and on course on race day.
The After Party
What kind of Summit would it be without a post race after party. The organizers certainly did not disappoint. The NP Olympics had been scheduled well in advance. Teams of 8-10 were assembled with a variety of crazy costumes, team names and fictional countries represented. The Olympics featured many epic events such as a gummy bear toss, sack race, and of course Twister just to name a few. More than a few beers were drank and everyone had a fabulous time with friends old and new. The sense of camaraderie and sense of accomplishment from the days events rippled through the crowd like a perpetual wave, pulsing and pounding through the rhythm of the music the DJ laid over the audience. As the night wound down, I stood with our designated driver, playfully scrutinizing the late night debauchery that was ensuing. What a fabulous end to a great event.
The next morning, Sunday, I packed up to leave Ian, Nonnie and family, new bonds created. I would be driving back with Steven, Daniel and Rachel. Late flights for Steven, Daniel and I afforded us the opportunity to make the three plus hour trek to Niagara Falls to enjoy a bite to eat and take in the views. We dropped Rachel at the airport for her earlier flight and made our way south to visit one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The drive was certainly worth the view. I had been to the falls a few times but never in such stunning weather. We had just enough time to take in the falls and grab a bite to eat on a patio overlooking the majesty of the 168,000 cubic meters of water that flowed over the falls every minute. Absolutely breathtaking!
After dinner we piled back in the car and made the 90 minute drive back to Pearson airport and awaited our Airbus for the final push home. As you can tell, this was an experience that I will not soon forget. A wellness lifestyle in common created new friendships and some memories I will hold on to for a lifetime.
Once again, I would encourage you to say "Yes" to opportunity when it presents itself. Hopefully I will see you at an NP workout soon.