4000 ~ That’s the number of time YHC worried about this event.
0 ~ That’s the number of times God didn’t provide all I, F3 Nation, and Speed for Need (SFN) needed.
This was the first time the chariots left the hallowed grounds of the Carolinas and it was imperative that everything go smoothly. Well, as the event drew closer, it was becoming more and more obvious that this was going to be anything but smooth. We will get to that later.
First things first: Why did Speed for Need make the voyage to Virginia? Based on all that I have learned about SFN, they are drawn to events were great individuals in need of rapid locomotion can be found. We, F3 Hampton Roads, had just such an event. The Surfer’s Healing 5K in Virginia Beach Va was held to raise awareness and support for two great organizations, Surfer’s Healing (http://surfershealingvb.org/) and the Tidewater Chapter of the Autism Society (http://www.tidewaterasa.org/). Surfer’s Healing is an organization run by professional surfers that hosts surf camps for children with autism. They introduce them to the peace and calming the ocean can bring, the calming rhythm of the waves, and will even help them ride a wave at the end of the camp.
- Great event to bring awareness and benefit to great organizations … check
- Awesome PAX ready to bring F3’s indelible mark of manly civility … check
- Helpful SFN amigo, Gypsy, to enable certain pitfall avoidance … check
- Capable Q to get this thing from ideation to the finish lane … debatable
After blistering through 60 billion electrons in texts, emails, and voice recordings, we had secured 4 chairs, contacts for race-day logistics, some hard commits and strong maybes from PAX, and track commanders to guide us along the 5K course at the Virginia Beach oceanfront. Seems seamless right, well, the week before race day, we found out we could not have the SFN tent up, all our contacts for track commanders fell through, and YHC was almost certain 4 chariots would arrive all the way from Charlotte to remain empty. With Gypsy’s reassurances though, we forged ahead.
Race day, YHC arrived at the AO early for set up and shortly thereafter the PAX started pouring out of clown cars. I, along with my F3 entourage made a race day decision, went to the race coordinators with what we thought would be a stretch request: we now had 4 chariots and 14 pax in need of track commanders. I was happily mistaken at how this was not a stretch request as this came together. The PAX were quickly introduced to coordinators for Team Hoyt and Ainsley’s Angels who met us with broad smiles when they saw the chariots emblazoned with their logos on the foot plates. The smiles got even broader (YHC was concerned about facial muscle cramping) when they saw that the chariots were empty. We got track commanders with a quickness. Jase, Jamari, Star, and one other savvy chariot occupier joined our team. (Jase and Star were siblings so we even had opportunity for sibling rivalry on the race course. Obviously this was deftly handled in mumble chatter which was not drowned out even at our near Mach speeds.) Now, I was getting excited. I organized the PAX into teams ahead of time and, again I was happily surprised that I had to reorganize everyone since more PAX arrived than we had planned. We got everyone matched up into what could only be described as Handsome Trios for each chariot and started our introductions to the track commanders and their guardians.
With that, we took some pictures with the more than 80 other chariots, track commanders, and their charioteers before heading to the start line.
It was a great day for a 5K (that rhyme was free) and there was so much energy I think we could have simply leaned forward and been propelled at least to the turn-around point on that alone. Our handsome trios were arranged according to our proposed 5K finish times and with a blaring air-horn, we were off. YHC naively sought to be in the fastest group but apparently left all of my quickness at home. For the handsome trio I was in, I was first on deck to push the chariot. It was a truly transcendental experience for me and that sentiment seemed to resonate with other PAX as well. We worked to engage with our track commanders. Even though some of them could not verbally communicate with us, we were compelled to really make this 5K about them. We bantered back and forth with our other chariots (remember sibling rivalry) and their racing teams as we deftly maneuvered the incredibly flat and straight race course. We worked to pour encouragement out to our track commanders, other track commanders, and anyone we saw along the way. There was a huge group of military personnel (50 or so) that were running with a disabled veteran at their helm. Awe inspiring. I transitioned from chariot driver to flag carrier after the first mile and then to pseudo course engineer after the second mile. This is where my handsome trio became a handsome duo … with me eating dust behind them. Still handsome, probably, but no longer with my chariot team. They turned on their afterburners and rocketed to the finish line. I teamed up with another F3 chariot to finish the race.
As the PAX came in, it was clear, they had done an incredible job of bringing this 5K to life for each track commander. There was so much joy, stinky joy but joy nonetheless, in the finisher’s corral. Each track commander and runner got a medal from the event. That was OK. Each SFN track commander got a special SFN medal and t-shirt. That was awesome! A few track commanders seemed to really light up at this. We added a bit of necessary pomp and circumstance. Honestly, YHC is convinced that every PAX was honored to have been involved with this and felt gratified to give these track commanders their SFN medals.
The chariots were packed up and the PAX decided to make a beach day out of it. This involved some general rabble rousing, cold beverages, and sand castle construction with the 2.0s. For the track commanders though, the 5K was only the first challenge. Now, they had to conquer the ocean. Luckily for them, they had professional surfers to help. YHC watched the Surfer’s Healing camp activities for a while to see how our track commanders were faring. You have never seen a smile like the ones that I saw as these kids were lifted and supported on their body board as they surfed a wave in. They got to shore, got a Surfer’s Healing medal, and literally exploded with an exuberance that I am sure they see far too little of. I don’t know what it is like to live a life with the disabilities that these kids have. I do know that on this day, surrounded by these people, these kids felt like they were the luckiest kids alive. I am truly grateful that I could be a part of bringing SFN and our PAX to be a part of their lives and can’t wait for the next opportunity to do this again.