Thursday, March 29, 2012

KSGF 2012 Rocked!

This past weekend was the 2nd Annual Kyle Shewfelt Gymnastics Festival and it was a huge success. We had more than 800 participants of all ages and levels strut their stuff at the U of C and it was beyond magical. 

It's a lot of work - I'd say it's the most time consuming and intense project I'm currently involved in. Sometimes in the lead up I asked myself, "Why am I spending 14 hours a day working on this?!". But on the weekend when I looked around and saw all of the little details that were created, it was extremely rewarding. 

My role during the weekend is an absolute gong show. I am running from here to there and everywhere shaking hands, signing autographs, opening sessions, closing sessions, handing out awards, having dance parties in the audience, giving away free stuff, checking in on sponsors, thanking volunteers, fist bumping gymnasts, putting out logistical fires, hosting media guests and VIPs, writing scripts and so much more! It's exhausting and amazing all at the same time! 

When the Festival started in 2011, I created a mandate for myself that I would high five every participant. We're two years in now and I am proud to say that I've delivered on that promise! I also want to hand out as many of the awards as possible because it's super important to me to have as much interaction with the gymnasts as possible. I found that there were a few instances this year where I literally needed to be in 3 places at once. It was bit stressful, I've got to admit, but we made it work! Next year, I've already put it in my notes that we MUST adjust the schedule so that I am able to present awards to every session. No if's, and's or but's. 

The weekend was full of highlights. Some of my favourite moments were:

1. The Big Show - I love breaking the mould and creating a fun and interactive experience for the audience. This session is all about the kids who are watching. I also love having all of my Olympian buddies join in on the fun as celeb judges. 
2. Having DJ's at each session -  music definitely brings aliveness and energy to the event! 
3. The Gymnaestrada performances are awesome. They are really creative and I love how the groups work together!
4. Watching the kids dance after march in. I ask the kids to show the audience their best dance moves and it always makes my heart smile to see them let loose and have fun!
5. The KSGF Cheer - I love the energy of an entire group screaming the same words, "KSGF Rocks!".
6. Having the Aussies there - The Aussie lads are some of the nicest I've met and it was an honour to host them.
7. Seeing all of the volunteers busting their tails and feeding off the adrenaline of the event. I have a pretty amazing team…
8. Watching the action on the big screen. More so, watching the reaction of the kids and their families when their mugs hit the big screen!
9. Meeting so many people and hearing super positive feedback about the event.
10. Looking up at the Right To Play banner and knowing that we were going to  make an impact beyond the gymnastics floor. 
11. Seeing the electronic scoring system work after months of finger crossing!

After 2 years of KSGF, our entire team now has a clear vision of what's possible. I think it's safe to say that KSGF has officially exploded and is the GO TO meet of the season.

Thanks to everyone who was involved! It was an incredible edition and 2013 is going to be even more awesome. Dates for 2013 will be announced soon - Stay tuned!

Below are some photos from the event courtesy of Dave Holland. Please visit our website, Facebook page, Twitter, Youtube and Flickr to re-live all of the action. 



Monday, March 19, 2012

26kms of hell

It was Saturday evening. I was in Stettler speaking at an event on behalf of Kidsport when the ice rain started to shatter down. It was thick and heavy and I knew that I would be spending an unexpected night in small town Alberta…I didn't even have a toothbrush!

I had planned to meet up with Martin again at 8:30am on Sunday to venture out on a 26km training run. Sadly, because of the weather, I wouldn’t make it back into Calgary until nearly noon the next day. Even more sadly, I had to embark on the long running adventure by myself.

When I finally arrived home twelve hours later than I planned, I felt a lot of resistance. Going out on your longest run ever is a little intimidating - especially when you know that you will be your only company. I was also worried that sitting in the car for 6 hours over the course of the past 14 hours would have an adverse affect on my running ability. Your legs don't have the same skip when they feel like concrete bricks.

I was trying my best to stay positive, but I could feel the negative voice getting loud. I decided I was going to stop thinking about it and just do it, so I ate a quick bagel, filled up my handheld water bottle, packed a bag of craisins, kissed Kristin and Cooper goodbye and headed out the door – knowing that sometimes the hardest part is the starting part.

Once out the door, I located the satellite on my Garmin and started on my trek. I felt a bit heavy. My legs were stiff from the drive and my right foot felt a bit tight in the arch. Nothing I couldn’t warm up and brush off though, I thought. I also felt my mind was jumping everywhere – maybe two long drives and one long run was going to be a few too many hours inside my own head!

After 5km's, I got into a groove. My back started to sweat and I could feel the warmth of the blood running through my veins. I was listening to an "iprocrastinate" podcast, trying to gain some new tools to combat my evil little procrastination demon when he rears his ugly head. At that point, life was good…except the tightness in my right foot wasn't going away. "Meh", I thought, "maybe it needs a little more time to warm up".  

The next 8K started to grind on me and I wasn't in my top mental space. I was succumbing to weakness and started to feel pretty sorry for myself. At the 13km mark (halfway), I was a mess. It was a gradual decent and I can't really identify the tipping point. All I know is that my right foot had severely cramped, I had run out of water and all I could think of was how desperately I wished I was more than half way done. It felt like I was torturing myself and all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and feel sorry for poor little me. My foot was aching, I was tired, thirsty and alone. My podcast began annoying me. I was choking on my craisins. Not a good place to be when you still have 13km's to run! Someone needed to call the Wah-mbulance! 

At this point, I had a conversation with myself. I knew that I needed to push through and that although the option of giving up was present, I just couldn't accept that as my fate for today. This was going to be one of those rare moments in life where my choice would play a distinct role in defining my character and sense of self respect. 

And this was the exact reason why I decided to train for this marathon – I wanted to show myself courage in the face of adversity and push through when things were difficult. I wanted to show myself strength and the ability to persist. I wanted to overcome the negative self-talk that sometimes clouds my mind. I didn’t decide to take on this challenge so I could give up and not give a shit. I decided to take it on because it was going to help me grow and find new thresholds for my life.

I focused in and charged on, but I've got to admit that those last 13km’s were a nearly unbearable battle between good and evil. There were some pretty graphic phrases going through my mind and I was nearly in tears for the final 6km’s because I just wanted it to be over. On multiple occasions, I was holding on by a thread, dangling on the verge of giving up. My willpower and character were being deeply tested and it was very interesting to hold up the mirror and see what I was made of. Happily, there was a part of me that just wouldn't give in. I was going to find a way and that gave me great strength. 

When the run was over, I felt relief like I had never felt in my life. It was as if I had been running from a bear and finally it decided to stop chasing me. I felt proud that I pushed through. I've got to admit, it was very hard to focus on the accomplishment of running my furthest distance yet because the arch in my foot felt like it might combust. A part of me felt like a 6 year old who didn’t get their way in the grocery store. I wanted to wail and have everyone around me take notice that I just suffered. I wanted my hero cookie with extra icing and sprinkles on top. But then I realized that there wasn’t going to be a parade. There would be no procession and no fan mail. There would be no applause from an audience of admirers. This was not one of those victories that would be noticed by anyone else. This was completely a personal victory - the value was held in my acknowledging and knowing it within myself. 

We often face these moments in our lives where giving up is an option. We always have a choice of whether we push through or we call it a day. It takes strength and courage to reach deep inside of ourselves and to find a way to continue. And I am firm believer that each time we do this, we add fuel to our fire. I am also a firm believer that we need to have a reason to endure. If we don’t have a goal and we don’t have respect for ourselves, then giving up is easy. The repercussions of this are minimal and manageable. So what?! You didn’t pull through. That's OK because it doesn’t really affect anything. But when you are deeply dedicated to a goal, especially a physical one, and you skip a training session or you leave some of your effort on the sidelines, then you can be faced with the horrible glaring stare of “what if”. On game day, on race day, on whatever day, you never want to look back and know that on that one day when you made the choice to give in, that that day could have been the day that made all the difference.

I pushed through 26km’s and it sucked. It sucked more than almost any other physical challenge I've ever faced in my life has sucked. But what pushing through did for me was it gave me a sense of respect and confidence in myself. It added fuel to my fire and gave me new character. It was 26km's of hell, but I survived. And I feel like I grew because of it. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

23kms with a pro

My buddy Martin and I ran 23kms last Sunday. This was the first time I've exceeded the 21.1km distance in my life and it felt really empowering to reach a new threshold. It also hurt a little bit at the end!

Martin is an incredible inspiration to me. He ran 250 marathons in one year to raise more than $250,000.00 for Right To Play. He is 57 years young and lives life to the fullest. He told me that if a challenge doesn't have a 50% chance of failure, then he won't take it on! I love that approach.

He gave me some really intelligent advice about how to approach my first marathon.

1. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. 

I'm bad when it comes to hydration. I don't really drink that much when I run. I don't get thirsty until after a long run is done...and then my lips get dry and I can guzzle glass after glass after glass.

Every chance you get, take a sip. You might not think you need it, but do it anyways. I told Martin that I can run a half without an ounce of liquid and he told me that I would die if I tried to do that in a full. Your body starts to break down at a rapid rate when you hit 32km's, so a good amount of hydration in the lead up can help you survive.

I currently have a dinky little handheld water bottle (as pictured above). I definitely need to up my hardcore factor, so I've decided I am going to invest in either a camel back or a 4 bottle system. I'm thinking camel back as I have always envied those runners on the pathway who have them. They just look like they are game for anything, anytime, anyplace. Bring it.

2. Start out slow and aim for a faster second half. 

Marathons are not fun when you feel like you might combust or fall apart during the last 18km's. When you start out slow, it gives your body a chance to warm up and it can add a tremendous amount of motivation when you notice your split times are getting shorter and shorter. There's a lot of people who get excited and go out too fast, only to fade away in the last parts of a race and crawl across the finish line in a heap of cramping pain. I don't want to be one of these people…

3. Walk for at least 30 seconds at every water station. 

I always had this misconception that in order to be a true marathoner, you had to run full out from beginning to end. If you took a break to walk, then you had failed and you were weak.

My way of thinking has changed.

42.2km's is a long distance (especially in your first journey towards it). Your body only has the capacity for so much.

When you walk, you use different muscles than when you run. If you walk for thirty seconds to one minute every water station, you can actually finish the race faster. It gives you time to swallow your drink, reset your body/mind and psych yourself up for the next round.  Knowing that you get a small break from the running motion can play a significant role in keeping you sane during the long, arduous and agonizing race.  

It's awesome how much you can learn in 2.5 hours on the trails with a seasoned veteran. Thanks for a great run Martin. I look forward to our next adventure!


Sunday, March 11, 2012

O.O.C Party

Kristin and I have a saying that we use when things get a little crazy in our lives or at a get together - O.O.C Party. That's code for Out Of Control Party.  

My life has been a bit of an O.O.C party as of late. It's been full of great things, just a little more hectic and reactive than I tend to enjoy. There's so many tasks to be accomplished and sadly, visiting my blog has dropped to low on the priority list. 

But here I am. Yahooo!

I am here because I have been feeling a tremendous amount of guilt around not updating. And not because I feel like I am letting all of my followers down (because I know they are awesome and forgiving), but because there is so much going on and documenting the journey always allows for a greater sense of foundation and direction. Guilt is a horrible emotion to harbour and I don't want it to exist in my life. So, with courage and urgency, I have come up with a strategy of how to combat it in this instance. I am going to write about it, stare it in the face and give a quick point form update of some things that have been happening. Then it will be captured and I can tell that little voice inside my head to STFU and enjoy the ride!

So, here's what's been going on with me:

1. I went to my friend Dave's competition in Idaho called the Great West Gym Fest. It was rad and inspired me for Kyle Shewfelt Gym Fest! I hung with my fellow Olympians Mohini Bhardwaj, Terin Humphrey and Daniella Silivas. Daniella has always been on a very high pedestal in my eyes and it was the first time I've ever met her. Meeting and connecting with one of your role models is a pretty uplifting experience! And, of course, Mo and Terin are totally sweet and we had a blast…did you know that Terin is a police officer now? I thought that was incredibly cool and ballsy (for those of you who don't know her, Terin won 2 silver medals at the 2004 Olympics for team USA).

2. Kyle Shewfelt Gym Fest is consuming nearly every spare second of my life. It's a HUGE undertaking, but I am really excited about this years event. I have realized that I am a total perfectionist and a details freak and it can drive me (and my colleagues) a little crazy. My mom is probably thinking, "You JUST realized this?". What can I say, it's a large part of who I am and it's played a large role in my life victories to date so I guess I have to accept it and fuel it. Event management is something I'm starting to feel I need more of in my life... 

This year we have nearly 800 participants registered so it's going to be a GONG SHOW! But we have worked so hard to make sure it's going to be awesome and innovative. The event takes place March 22-25 in Calgary and I will give some more updates as it comes closer…once this little update is over :)

3. I travelled to New York City at the beginning of March for the AT&T American Cup gymnastics. I extended my trip for a couple of days and packed them full of New York awesomeness. I went to MOMA. Avenue Q, ran in central park (twice!) and pretended I was a local in Greenwich Village and SoHo. I always thought that I was destined to live there, but I realized that although it's incredible, it's just too busy and bustling for me.  

4. I have been running like a mad man. I am going to put together a few individual running posts, but the short version is: I hate running on treadmills, I am now running the Calgary marathon on May 27th, I have ran with some pretty rad folks and having a goal and a plan makes my life more complete!

5. My dog rules. Seriously, he is the best dude ever. He's going through this really weird teenage phase where he's testing his mama and papa by trying to get into everything, but when he's good it makes my heart melt. I am so proud of him when he is well behaved and my friends and family comment on how nice he is. He also makes my life more complete!

6. My preparation for my role with CTV this summer is officially ON! I have been dedicating some solid time to researching and garnering some really rich language. With 5 months to go, I am going to have to kick it into high gear starting beginning of April and I am so excited about the pace picking up and the Games coming closer. 

7. I have noticed that when my plate is full, I tend to try and multi-task more. This doesn't work! I end up having 10 half done projects sitting on my computer, all of them staring at me and saying, "which one are you going to finish first?". It's been a real challenge for me to finish what I've started in this past little while and I feel it's important to delve a little deeper into this pattern. One strategy that I've been using this past couple of weeks to combat it is to carry a notebook with me whenever I am focused on something (like right now) and anytime a new project or task comes up in my mind, I capture it in the notebook and revisit it after I'm done. It takes a lot of discipline, but it seems to be working. It's amazing how easily habits can form and how hard it can be to break them.

8. Writing my book is a "start and stop" kind of process. I was doing SO well for a few weeks in a row. One day I wrote more than 7000 words and the stories were just flowing, but then things got busy and I couldn't create the space to write. It's a work in progress and I'm going to have to be OK with that. I trust that I will get another surge of dedication to this project and someday soon I will be writing about the launch of the book on this very blog. That will be a very proud day! 

And with that, I am done. I'm breathing a sigh of relief that I was able to come to my page and write with no distractions. It felt good and I am going to do more of it.