Friday, November 25, 2011

Turkey Waddlin'

It is 3am on "Black Friday" and my girls (wife and daughter) already have about 6 hours of shopping under their belt.  Not needing anything, or planning to buy anything, they just really enjoy this adventure every year (which starts earlier every year).  The boys are all fast asleep, with more "sane" ideas of this Friday that involve sleep, breakfast and exterior Christmas light hanging once the morning chill fades.

I've been awake for about 2 hours now, as my body clock is a mess, having been sick in bed since Wednesday evening.  Feeling better, and rested, I'm unable to sleep.  Spending Thanksgiving sick is a downer, but does provide a lot more time for prayerful reflection than has been my norm for a number of years - and for that I am indeed thankful.

So in this state of returning physical health, a quiet spirit and contemplative mood, I am excited to share a few thoughts about my time on Tuesday at the annual Turkey Waddle.

Beginning with the end in mind:
It's not about me.  I'm nothing exceptional and I'm far from eloquent.  I do, however, enjoy experiencing life and sharing in a way that serves to motivate or inspire.  After the Turkey Waddle, this note from one of the moms was forwarded to me and confirmed that putting myself out there on this day was the right choice...

   "I had to get pulled out of the mud tonight.  I had both girls with me.  I jumped back into the car and said I was so muddy and gross and was freezing to the bone.  [my daughter] replied 'Can you imagine having to run 100 miles now, mom?'  Kind of put it into perspective.  Please pass along to Chuck that he was an inspiration.  [my daughter] has decided to collect rocks for each race she does now.  He touched 75+ lives in his 15 minute talk, not too shabby."

Setting the stage:
It was several weeks back, on Kacey's "birthday run", our first run together after the Run Woodstock 100 miler, where she rather casually says "you should be my Turkey Waddle guest speaker" and without giving it much thought say "sounds good".  And that was that.  We had inked the deal (without any ink, of course).

Getting ready:
As the day approached I found myself a bit nervous - speaking to adults in either small or large settings doesn't worry me, but kids, well that's a whole different thing.  For some reason, I've always been intimidated by kids.  Love 'em.  Love being with them.  Desire to pour into them.  Just that my fear of not being able to connect sometimes overrides the desire.  Just being honest here.  The Ultra was such an amazing experience and I believe I learned so many lessons worth sharing, but how do I communicate them to a 7-year old???

Having asked for and received some great last minute advice from my running friends on DM (Daily Mile) - such as story telling, using visuals and relate-able comparisons, and keeping it short -  I was ready to go speak to my friends 2nd grade class at her annual "Turkey Waddle".  This is a day of Thanksgiving related activities that are always intertwined with healthy lifestyle lessons, as that is a guiding principle for my friend Kacey.  I arrived with just a few simple props - my Run Woodstock finishers medal, age group award (toy micro-bus), the coveted belt buckle (which I was wearing for the first time, having purchased a belt while on vacation with Pam, just so it would be an option), and I was wearing my race t-shirt under my Run Woodstock hoodie.  I was a walking, talking Run Woodstock promotion :-)  Oh, and I had the oh-so-cool scrapbook!

Upon arrival I discovered I'd be speaking to all three 2nd grade classes, some 80 kids.  Ok, now I was really nervous.  How could I possibly hold the attention of 80 kids that were just a few short hours from a 5-day Thanksgiving holiday?  I made small talk with some of the parents that were in attendance, while we were waiting, and I started to relax.  The kids were ushered in and all sat Indian style and Kacey read a great Thanksgiving story before introducing me.

 I spent about 20 minutes sharing my ultra experience, but tried to relate the training and racing experience to the theme of goal setting, discipline and dedication.

In the end I do believe I made my points by keeping it light and fun and tried to describe the months of training and the mud-fest that was race day in a way they could grasp.

Starting out, I excitedly told them I had another story to tell, using "my very own book, one that my wife had made", revealing the scrapbook that Pam assembled with pictures detailing the entire training and racing experience.

Those eyes.  As I scanned the group I was so impressed with those eyes.  Expressions of wonder, and joy and excitement.  What a privilege.  What an awesome responsibility to speak into these young lives.  I got totally caught up in the moment, and completely forgot my script and just spoke from the heart.  It was a moment of pure ecstasy and revelation for me.  Ecstasy because I could see into the hearts of these kids (I was indeed connecting), and revelation because I was being reminded of what is truly important in this life.

Talking about the "why?"
Working my way to the big finish, having asked the kids about why they thought we raced (getting answers like trophies, money, etc)?  
I produced the finishers medal and put it on.  Cool huh?  But no... (you can see the ribbon in this picture).

Maybe "The brand new car!" - revealing the toy micro-bus and letting it run across the table to big laughs.  No, that's not it.

And then explaining the coveted 100 mile prize - lifting my sweatshirt for the first time to reveal the belt buckle.  No, that's not it either.

That's when I tried to explain that all those "things" were great, but only in that they represented a story that will stay with me forever.  A story of great friends and supporters.  An inspirational friend for which I raced and for which we raised money.  And ultimately for learning about ourselves - learning that when the going gets tough we don't need to quit.  And sometimes, simply not quitting is the greatest prize of all.

All of the kids had their very own race bibs.  It was now time for me to lead the kids outside where we'd run the 1 mile "Turkey Waddle".  Every single one of these kids, plus some of the parents and teachers, joined in and ran the 6 laps around the soccer field on this chilly fall day with wonderful smiles and big laughs.  Some of the girls ran holding hands and giggling.  Some boys managed to turn it into something of a competition.  In the end, I believe everyone finished feeling invigorated and inspired.

I had used a bag of 100 rocks to try to relate 100 miles (one rock was our run, 100 was the ultra). I then gave one rock to each child and asked they keep it as a reminder of what they did today, and a reminder of what was possible for them in their tomorrow.

Believe me when I say "it's not about me".  I'm just a guy who trained for and ran a race. And in that I learned something about myself, and about life.  Something that is worth sharing.  My hope is that in sharing, others will be inspired to live life a little larger, to explore a little further, to dig a little deeper.

How about you?  I'm asking myself "what's next?"  Will you join me in finding the answer, your answer, to that question?

Press on friends.


dlgowan said...

Hi, Chuck. I'm glad you shared your blog URL with me at the pool on Saturday. I enjoyed reading about your 'speaking engagement' with the kids. I love the idea of bringing a bag of 100 rocks and giving each kid one rock. Great story, thanks for sharing!

Chuck said...

Thank Debbie!

In case you didn't notice, I have pages dedicated to a number of my more significant races (links on the right), and invite you to check those out as well. Perhaps they'll provide some inspiration as you decide on your 2012 racing plans :-)

In any case, I look forward to sharing the pool on Saturday's through the winter as I try to get myself back into triathlon shape!