5 July 2022
The alarm went off at 4:45am and I hit snooze. Not a good way to start the day. Damn it. I told myself, "Not a big deal. I have plenty of time." I slowly fed the dawgz, gathered my gear, got dressed. Then I received a text from Akim. “I’m almost there.” Crap. It was 5:30 and I was moving as if the workout was at 7am. I forgot we set it for 6am, and I still had to pick up Yovens, Reno, Benita and Smith.
Change in plans. Not picking up everyone straight away. Akim had a 6:30am client and he was showing up for one purpose - to pick up his $100 (and get in a little work if he could fit it in). Because of that client, I needed to hustle to him. He rarely joins workouts anymore because he has a lot going on. And he earned that $100 for completing the Stacking Bricks Challenge in June. The challenge for Give Team members was to complete The Give Team 15 every day before 9am for the entire month of June. Akim was the only one who did it. Rather disappointing, to be honest. But that happens in the summer. I’m proud of Akim, but I hoped we’d get at least four or five. Financially, it’s just as well since my final day with my employer was last Thursday and we need to tighten the budget. But I want the ENTIRE team to challenge themselves, and I’d welcome stretching the budget to pay off effort.
This is like every summer. Once we lose the structure and discipline of the school year, all hell breaks loose, we lose all momentum as a team. That’s why we started the challenge in June a few years ago - to try and get some momentum heading into the summer.
When I pulled behind the Center, it was still dark but slowly brightening. You could just see the lines of the graffiti art on the wall that served as the backdrop for our workouts. Akim pulled in driving a car I didn’t recognize. “Is that yours?”
“No. It’s my girl’s.” He gave me a hug, then we walked to the front of the Center where there was more light. I wanted to “interview” Akim for our YouTube channel. I wanted to know how he did it, what worked, what was the most challenging. I love Akim. He’s full of energy and smiles.
Akim left to meet his client and I headed to Pine Hills. New Image Youth Center is located in the Parramore neighborhood of Orlando, once named among America’s most dangerous communities. Ever since the soccer stadium was built, the neighborhood dynamics have changed. It’s still dangerous, but rents are going up and families are being displaced. Many are moving to Pine Hills. A lateral move from Parramore. We have three guys living in Pine Hills, and it adds about 20 minutes to the route picking everybody up. Yovens moved out of Parramore a couple years ago, just before the pandemic. Then we picked up a couple other guys from Pine Hills who live not far from Yovens. Get one, get all.
The concept of TEAM is important in life and has been a central tenet of the program from the beginning. When we started in 2015 and 2016 the idea was to do bad ass things. Bad ass physical things. Push the limits. The whole idea of an obstacle course TEAM was something I made up. What the hell is an obstacle course racing team? There is no “team event” in OCR. But we worked out together. And we found out how OCR CAN be a team event if you make it one.
In 2018 we attended our second race (a Spartan Race in Miami) after Jonathan Lopez invited us to run with Oscar Mike in Miami. Our primary mission was to run as a team and help the honoree (an injured veteran) complete the 3 mile obstacle course safely. We were also introduced to Earl Granville at that race in Miami and he challenged us to carry a cinder block in chains. The story of Cindy was shared in a previous post.
The idea of running the race as a team to conquer the course made all the sense in the world and aligns with another of my philosophies of life: Life is a team sport. DRAFT ACCORDINGLY. Look at those around you and decide whether or not they’re helping you get to your goal. If they aren’t, then either kick them off or find a place for them (since it’s tough to “kick off” a member of the family). Conversely, seek out those who have overcome challenges similar to the ones you face, or someone who’s accomplished something similar to what you want to pursue, and find a way to add value. Find a way to BE STRONG! GIVE MORE! And learn from them. Ever since that race, we’ve embraced Earl’s story about the importance of relying on a team to help address life’s challenges. And we’ve taken it further, adding that a good team can make you far stronger than if you approach life’s obstacles or carry the burden life gives you on your own.
Only Reno and Yovens were able to make it the workout with the unexpected delay. The blue sky framed the clean skyline. We arrived and got in our work before the fountain in the middle of the lake was turned on. About a quarter mile west of the north side of the lake we did The Give Team 15 on a platform that extends out over the lake. We added an extra twist: we filled our mouth with water and held it there, spitting it out at the end. This forced us to breathe through our nose and have conversations with ourselves over the 15 minutes. Afterward, we wrapped up with a run around the lake.
We talked about the lackluster showing with the Stacking Bricks Challenge and my disappointment. I’m happy to report it’s sparked interest in redoing the challenge for the last 15 days of July. We’ll work to get others in the community to sign up and participate, but more importantly we’ll get more of The Give Team to participate. And let’s see if we can expand this effort beyond Orlando.
And despite that disappointment, this is a team that brings me great pride. I'm very happy with who we've drafted, and look forward to welcoming others.