Last weekend was the November Project’s Summit in Madison, Wisconsin. #NPSummit was where the leaders from the 16 cities in the US and Canada met to talk about world takeover by way of free fitness and sweaty hugs. We also raced The North Face Endurance Challenge’s Trail Marathon Relay as part of the weekend.
We had a 10am flight out of Boston on September 11th. Our flight left from one of the gates where one of the hi-jacked planes left from in 2001. We were in the security line at 8:46, during the moment of silence for when the first plane hit.
After arriving in Chicago, we picked up the rental car and began exploring the downtown area. We parked and went to Frontera, a Mexican restaurant downtown. I met Heather, one of our brand ambassadors, and Agnes, one of our customers. We had an awesome lunch and then set off on a Lake/Riverboat tour which gave us a great tour of the city. We had dinner in the city and then headed towards Madison, a 3 hour drive.
We arrived in Madison at around 11:15 and settled in and went to bed. We woke up at 6am to 45 degree temperatures for the November Project Madison workout, which consisted of a 20 minute “deck of cards” workout with sprints, pushups, air squats and stair jumping, and then a 16 minute workout called #Octopus16. We ran around the capitol building, running up and down each of the sets of stairs, and then ran repeats on the last section. Madison’s record is 11 repeats. I hit 10 and started my 11th, and several others from Boston did as well.
The #raceeverything mentality was in full effect here, as I ran the second half of the workout alongside Chris and we both pushed harder together than we would have solo.
After the workout we took some photos, gave out more sweaty hugs and headed to breakfast and hung out there for a while. #MrBirdman came to breakfast too.
We left breakfast and hung out at the pool for a while before heading to the University of Madison bookstore where we bought shirts to be tagged as #GrassrootsGear. After that came lunch. Lunch provided the opportunity to start carbo-loading (aka drink Spotted Cow, a local beer) for the marathon relay the following morning. I met several people from the DC tribe, along with the team from Mission:Bars, which just launched a kickstarter for an awesome, real food based bar.
After lunch came a nap, followed by dinner right next to our hotel. I don’t normally eat dairy, but figured I couldn’t come to Wisconsin without trying cheese curds, which were delicious. After dinner we headed over to a nearby bar for a bit, and then back to the hotel bar for a while longer.
It seemed like a late wakeup the next morning when the alarm went off around 7 (CT, which felt like 8), since the entire last week had been closer to 5:30. I had a Vega meal bar and coffee around 7:30 since the hotel didn’t offer breakfast. We got to the race around 9:30 and since I still hadn’t eaten anything besides the bar, I had a serving of UCAN around 10:15 for the 11am race start. At 10:30 I had a half serving of ENERGYbits and went for a 1.25 mile warmup run, followed by full serving of ENERGYbits. I threw two servings in my pocket along with a handful of almonds since I was starting to feel hungry with not too many options left. At 11 we lined up, warmed up, and sped off.
The first mile was on the road and entirely flat. At exactly the 1 mile mark, we started to climb into the woods. It leveled out a bit, and then there was another climb right around mile 2, which turned into rolling hills.
I was pretty thankful I threw those almonds into my pocket, because at around mile 3 I started getting hungry and my legs were starting to get heavy. I didn’t eat nearly enough that morning and paid for it 3 miles in. With no water available, I pulled out my bag of ENERGYbits and put a half serving into my mouth along with 3 almonds. I was happily surprised that the almonds TOTALLY masked the taste from the Bits! When I finished the race, I still had algae in my teeth and was asked if I was ok (and not dying), since I had green all around my mouth. As soon as I chewed through the full serving, my pace dropped almost a full minute per mile for the rest of the race, including some decent climbs.
The last climb was at 4.5, and then it was a steep downhill after that. At mile 5.7 I asked the girl running next to me to confirm that it was ~6.5 miles total, which was not correct. She said it was 6.2, so I turned on the speed after that. I averaged 7:30/mile (after training at a 10:30 pace on a much easier trail) and my last mile ended up being around 6:30 as a result of overestimating the distance.
I finished my 6.26 mile leg (just over a 10k) in 46:54 which I was very happy with. Our team finished in 32nd place of about 130, and November Project teams not only swept the podium and the first 5 spots, but likely the first 10-15 as well.
We hung around watching everyone else finish, and then headed back to Madison. I met Tim and Jess of BibRave which was awesome, especially since Jess came in 4th in her 50 mile race!
That night we met outside the Union at University of Wisconsin to make sure everyone was appropriately “rehydrated” from a long day on the trails. Some people may or may not have ended up in Lake Monona, which was pretty warm for a cool evening. The quote of the night came from Brogan’s brother Dan, who has started two tribes. He was talking about how to get more people to show up, and how we should tell everyone to come, “Because you guys know, this shit is gooood!”
After hearing Brogan and Bojan (the co-founders of NP) speak about their goals for going forward we headed over to a nearby bar for the rest of the night, which made the 7am wake up to drive back to Chicago even more fun.
Between an awesome trail race, a party that lasted til 4am, new friends, friends from NP Boston/Edmonton and meeting people who I’ve only spoken to online, it was a weekend I’ll never forget.
November Project may seem like a running club, fitness group or something along those lines. When you start, maybe it is. If you stick with it, it can become something so much more than that. November Project is building a community of people who care about pushing others to be the best they can be, while also racing and getting super fit. There are 15 cities in the US where November Project exists, plus Edmonton in Canada, and many more pledge groups that will turn into actual November Project tribes in 2015. If you’re near one (see the list here) check it out and enjoy!