It's Thursday morning, July 14, 2016. When I say morning, I mean EARLY morning. I mean 3:05am kinda morning. Usually for me this means that the night got a little out of hand. Not the case this time. Why you ask? Why the heck would you be up at 3:05am on a Thursday morning? It's November Project Summit 4.0 at Blue Mountain Ontario! That's why. I have a 6am flight and had to stop and pick up two of my new NP friends on the way to the airport. I'm not sure I thought this through very well when I forwarded the guys itinerary to my assistant and said "See if you can get me on the same flights." It might have been smarter to book my own later flight and figure it out on the other end. Oh well, here we are.
So how did I end up here and what the heck is November Project Summit 4.0? Honestly, I'm not entirely sure. As I have written previously I have adopted a "default to yes" mentality so when I went to my first November Project group just a week ago I should have known it would lead somewhere.
What is November Project?
"November Project™ is a FREE fitness movement that was born in Boston as a way to stay in shape during cold New England months. Now present in multiple cities in across four time zones in North America, the movement is using a simple sense of accountability (verbal) to motivate and encourage people of all ages, shapes, sizes and fitness levels to get out of their beds and get moving. Our members vary from Olympic medalists, professional athletes, marathoners, triathletes, current and former collegiate athletes all the way to complete fitness rookies and recent couch potatoes just looking to kickstart their healthy life choices. If you think that you’re not fit enough to join the group, stop thinking and come see what the fuss is all about."
I had been introduced to the concept a number of months ago by a friend in the fitness business. She had asked if I would be interested in trying to start a 'tribe" in Sherwood Park. At that time I told her I simply could not commit the time to organizing anything new to me. After doing a little bit of research, I learned that in Edmonton NP meets 3 times per week. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday as follows:
Monday – #Destinationdeck (locations vary – check social media announcements every Friday afternoon for details).
Wednesday – Commonwealth Stadium (Gate 2)
Friday – Walterdale Hill
I had met a local artist, Steven Csorba, about a month ago at a fundraising dinner and hit it off instantly. Steve's passion for life and art was infectious. I took an immediate liking to him after sharing a bit of our respective stories. I've said it often, "The quality of your life is directly proportionate the the quality of your relationships." I was certain Steve and I would get together at a later date. I was not wrong. Last week we connected for a coffee and were able to dive a little deeper into each others narratives. We discussed his involvement in, and love of, November Project. Steve said "You'll love it. You can come be an energy vampire and suck just a little bit from every one and totally fill your tank". I loved it. My energy had been noticeably off the last few days. This was exactly the type of medicine that I needed. Now that I had somebody to be accountable to, the likelihood of me showing up had skyrocketed (I think there is a lesson here). Our coffee meeting was on Tuesday so I committed to coming out Wednesday morning to do stairs at Commonwealth Stadium. As per my typical M.O. I showed up nice and early and was pleased to find that there were already people streaming into Gate 2 of the stadium. When it is your first time out at anything you are always a little bit nervous. Where should I go? What should I bring? I made a point of having a look at the stadium and getting the lay of the land as people started streaming in to the stadium. Soon I saw Steve and made my way over to say hello.
He smiled and wrapped me in a big hug. Yes, I am totally a hugger so it is always welcome, but little did I know that this is a 'thing' at NP. Steve made a point of introducing me around to a number of other participants, all of which greeted me with a hug not a handshake. One of the last introductions was to a very fit looking young man who I extended my had to shake which of course was ignored and he came in for a hug. In the exchange I missed his name so I asked him again what it was. "Andrew" he said. I stepped back and took a look. Damn, did I feel like an idiot. This was Andrew Ferrence. A Sherwood Park boy, my current resident city, and the Oilers, NHL'er that had brought NP to Edmonton.
I looked around as Andrew and another fellow who I learned later was Nadim Chin, a November Project leader, started to get the crowd that had poured in organized. I was absolutely blown away by the 200+ people that had somehow magically appeared in the 20 minutes I had been there. Young, old, fit, not so fit, an unbelievably diverse group of individuals with one thing in common; they had all come to feed off the tribe's vitality and get a workout in. The energy level was incredible and it was only 5:58am!! Nadim indicated that "Jen" wasn't there today so they really had no idea what to do that morning. They asked a young boy who stood beside them what he thought the group should do that morning. The boy replied simply "Stairs". That was it. "Sign a waiver if you haven't already and 'do whatever'". I followed Steven and the crowd down to the lower bowl and proceeded to snake our way up and down the stairs of the lower bowl, making our way around the stadium like a some kind of awkward heart rate monitor. Down the stairs, over a section, sprint back up, do it again. Holy mother was this ever a workout! I caught myself doing some mental math in my head. What was the old formula? 220 - age = maximum heart rate? I knew they had made some changes to that line of thinking but all I could think about was that I must certainly be pushing closer to that 220 number than I had in a long while. There must be a paramedic or a doctor here participating somewhere right?
I'm happy to say that I survived. I was pretty pleased that I made it through the entire lower bowl in the alloted 30 minutes. Once the workout was complete they herded everyone up to the upper deck for a massive group photo. More hugging ensued. I have to say that I felt pretty spectacular at that moment. It is hard not to when feeding off the energy of 200+ like minded fitness enthusiasts. This was exactly what I needed to turn the tide on my waning energy. Steve was right, sometimes you just need to be an energy vampire and feed off those around you.
A few of the the gang were headed for coffee at Credo on 104 street and I decided to tag along. It was there that they started talking about the upcoming NP summit. A relay marathon event up and down Blue Mountain in Toronto. It sounded amazing! Representatives from a number of different tribes internationally were expected to be present with events throughout the entire weekend leading up to the race on Saturday morning. Somewhere along the way our conversation turned to discussion of someone who had had to bow out last minute. Steve turned to me and said "Do you want to go to summit and fill in?".
I found my immediate reaction somewhat interesting. Some time ago I made the decision to practice defaulting to a 'yes' mentality. So it was a little surprising then that I started thinking about all the reasons I could not go. I said "I'd love to but can't." Insert any number of 'valid' reasons, aka excuses here. As I drove back home I started thinking "WTF Mike?" You are supposed to be the yes man. You have committed to relentlessly pursuing new experiences. Why would you turn down and opportunity like this? Fear not. Not all hope was lost. I could resolve this folly. I messaged Steve. "Were you serious about needing a spare?" I said. "Yes!!!" he replied. I decided to make it work, and committed.
A whirlwind of activity ensued thereafter. A group chat to someone I didn't know introducing me and talking about me coming to summit. An invite to a NP Summit Facebook group. Another text that the spot that I had volunteered to fill was no longer needed but not to worry "We'll find you a spot." A post to the FB group introducing me and asking if anyone had a need for a team member. Some banter with a few that said unequivocally "Yes!!", followed by some private messages and it was confirmed. I was on a team! Now I just had to find a place to stay. After a fair bit more back and forth the group that I was racing with made some adjustments to their sleeping arrangements and offered me a room in the house they had rented. Slight challenge though. The house they had was only for Friday and Saturday night. I was coming in on Thursday. After some more conversations with a few in the Edmonton Tribe I decided to take matters into my own hands and found a hotel room on Blue Mountain for myself on the Thursday night. I was thrilled to get it at a reasonable price.
It is now 9am Edmonton time and I've been awake for 6 hours. We are about to descend into Toronto and the adventure will continue. I'm very much looking forward to the entire experience and will do my best to update you once we have finished. I fully expect some new friendships to blossom out of this experience all the while having a little bit of fitness fun along the way.