Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Toastmasters: The Mother of All Relays

The final speech in the first Toastmasters manual is to "inspire your audience". For this purpose, the speech should be organized in a fashion to connect with the audience - identifying a need or desire, explain how that need can be addressed - how or why the status quo can or should be changed, and lastly inspiring them by addressing how change can be brought about and how it will be beneficial. 

Having just experienced Hood to Coast when I realized I had this coming up within a few days, I decided it would be fun to treat it as giving a pep talk to a HTC team just before the event. Somewhat like my previous speech, this topic came fairly naturally and easy to think of what to say; though I kept my prepared notes by my side, I didn't hold them but merely had to glance over occasionally. My evaluator thought I could have used more movement in a larger sense (eg., miming running across the front of the room), but I did use more hand gestures, I think I slowed down my pace a great deal, and added good pauses, especially to allow for laughing at jokes.

All in all, I was impressed with myself, and my club stated they could see a great improvement over the course of my year in Toastmasters and working through this manual. 

Speech title: The Mother of All Relays

Are you ready for the best 33 hours of your life? 

I know you’ve heard stories - you’ve been told that it’s fun, but with some of the, what might be “horror” stories, is it really just “fun” - in the sense of hitting yourself because it feels so good when you stop - or truly fun? You might have concerns, now that the race is almost upon us, wondering what you’ve really gotten yourself into. 

Fortunately, it’s much too late for you to back out now. :) 

Let’s talk about what you should expect, so you can enjoy it. As you know, there’ll be six of us in each of the two vans, and we’ll basically be living out of those vans for the next couple days. Yep, the six of you in each van will be driving together, hanging out, for about 33 hours straight, hope you like each other! I’d make sure you have some music downloaded on a phone to listen to - you won’t always have cell service or even radio - to help alleviate, but by the end of the race you’ll either hate each other, or be best of friends and laughing at inside jokes like “it’s standard military protocol!”

We’ll be packing most of the food we’ll need, for meals and to sustain our running! We should have a chance to head to a restaurant while we’re coming back through Portland, but after that, no guarantees. Remember we’ll be in the middle of nowhere, basically, after coming from Mt. Hood through Portland, we’ll continue on rural roads, to head to Seaside. Not even a McDonalds to grab a quick bite, though some schools along the way sell burritos and pancakes as a fundraiser. Hopefully there’ll be time to buy something between handoffs! But bananas, peanut butter sandwiches, and chips, washed down by gatorade will be enough to sustain you if not. In the meantime you’ll also be dealing with traffic.

The team starts are fairly spread out, but as we approach the finish, they get more condensed, so you’ll be following other vans, single file, to the next exchange - the good news is it’s hard to get lost! - And have to try to find parking spots in exchanges that become fuller and fuller. If things work well, no one will have to hop out of the van and run a mile to meet our incoming runner at the exchange - but it might happen once or twice.

Of course, we’re doing this because we’re running! We’ll each have 3 legs to run, 3 ½ to 7 miles long. Everyone’s first leg will be morning or afternoon on Saturday. Van 1 will lead us into the evening with their seconds legs, with van 2 doing theirs basically middle of the night. Then van 1’s home stretch will be in the wee hours of the morning, and van 2 leads us to the beach by Saturday afternoon! During your night leg, there or may not be: sheet lightening, gravel roads with 700 feet of elevation climbing, and mountain lion roars that may or not be locals playing a prank on the runners.

Now, I mentioned running in the middle of the night - so when will you be sleeping? For about two hours. In between the second and third sets of legs, each van should have time to head to the next major exchange where they’ll eventually meet up with the other van, and get some shut eye, for a couple hours, maybe even three hours if you’re lucky and there’s not too much traffic. Van 1 gets to use the “tent city” at exchange 24, and van 2, I’m afraid your option at exchange 30 is just a designated field on which you can lay out tarps and sleeping bags. There’s also, of course, always the option of sleeping in the van - because you know, you haven’t spent enough time in it yet - which is certainly the best if say, like 2015, we have off and on torrential rain and wind gusts up to 60 mph, then staying in the van to try to sleep is probably the best option.

I can see you’re all totally pumped to do this race now! 

I won’t deny that you’ll be uncomfortable, tired, and perhaps a bit delirious. You’ll run hard for an hour - and then immediately fold into a van seat to drive to the next exchange. But driving on making progress to the destination, finishing the race, with your teammates. After a 10 hour break, you’ll run on tired legs… and after another 10 hours, get next to no sleep, and then run yet again, on even more tired legs! But you’ll come in from each leg, cheered on by your teammates, supported and handed a water bottle, appreciated for your contribution to the common goal. And there is something truly exhilarating about running on a quiet country road, in the dark, at 2 am. It’s an experience I can’t quite describe, but it’s definitely worth experiencing.

Hood to Coast is an Oregon tradition for 34 years, facilitating fundraising for good causes, and showing off our beautiful scenery.You not only get to ask of yourself something that challenging, but you get to be a part of something bigger than yourself. You’re working with 11 of your friends or coworkers to reach a goal that would be overwhelming and impossible to each of your individually. And you’re out on the road, in the middle of nowhere, with 1,050 other teams, 2,100 other vans, 12,600 other runners, working towards achieving the same thing. 

Let’s all get ready for the mother of all relays, and run our best!

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