Hell and Back (PVD)

Hell Week Design Courtesy of Adam Dau; Tag by Roger McCarthy

For the past five days, the November Project Providence community has set their alarms for approximately early-ass o’clock in order to be a part of our Second Annual Hell Week.

We use the term Hell Week in the military sense – grueling workouts in pre-dawn hours every day for a week, designed to build fitness, build reslience, and build community, all while taking in different spaces throughout our incredible city.

For the most part, we were lucky. Our weather held out, or the rain ended early, or the temperatures were a little above average for the week.

A quick synopsis of the week for everyone:

We hit the Providence version of Summit Ave – we call it Jenckes Hill. Steeper than Summit, but shorter, it was an incredibly challenging way to start the week, especially given the number of people who, the weekend before, had run half or full marathons.

Destination Deck at the new Providence Pedestrian Bridge. When they spent $22 million dollars to build this beautiful expanse across the Providence River, I could literally see Holly’s eyes light up with excitement because we’d get the chance to do a workout on it. It did not disappoint.

The Rhode Island State House, our home, and the home to the fourth largest free-standing dome on the planet (the Vatican, the Minnesota State House, and the Taj Mahal, for those of you wondering).

Yoga in the Park – kind of. We snuck into the Temple to Music at Roger Williams State Park, where our own yoga teacher, Kim Daniels led us in a practice, enduring the 30+ mph wind howling through the pillars.

Sunrise Pre-Dawn 6k, Blackstone Blvd. The perfect conclusion to the week, and the perfect example for the #RaceEverything mindset. Under the darkness of early morning, we took to the street, scared some dogs, and crushed 3.8ish miles.

I could spend a day telling you about all of this. We all know I like to talk. So instead of making you endure that, we asked some of our community to share their experiences – good, bad, and ugly – about the week.

Marissa Castelli:
Hell Week – I loved it. I am not a 5:27am morning person but, being around my November Project friends motivated me to get up and keep going. This group of people inspire me and motivate me to be active. I have made so many new friendships I would of never had If I didn’t join NP.

Ed King:
Hell week ! After the 5th day you realize it will be another year before you get to spend 5 straight days with the most energetic, motivating, fun who can change your whole day group of people.
I’m going miss it ! A little sweat more than a few laughs and bonds that carry us through.

Kate Kloss:
No one gets all that excited to set their alarm for 4:30am, especially for 5 days in a row. But, knowing that you’re going to laugh, smile and sweat with one of the greatest, most supportive, encouraging communities in Providence actually makes it pretty easy.
Wyatt & I looked forward to every workout, and we’re grateful to have experienced it together and with so many friends.

Christine Craig:
I tell anyone who will listen that November Project is the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done, both physically and emotionally. Hell Week confirmed this for me 5 days in a row. From the (rightful) intimidation of Jenckes to the joy of running farther than I have in 6 months, each workout delivered a pile of emotions, both good and bad.
For me, the struggle was not in getting up before 4 am every day. The struggle was in letting myself feel all my usual fear and self-doubt and worry, while still showing up (in every sense) for myself, my community, and my leaders. Hell Week made me laugh and cry every day, and I wish it happened more than once a year.

Meghan Couture:
Coming off the Newport Half, I was on the fence about participating in my first Hell Week, but I’m so glad I did. Sharing hugs and high fives across our beautiful city was such a great experience and something that I’m so glad I didn’t miss.
The positivity from this community, along with the sense of accomplishment of early wake-ups and fitness is something that I’ll take with me for quite sometime. Thank you, Holly and Steve for putting together an awesome week!

Kim Daniels (Our Rockstar Thursday Yoga Teacher):
The name “hell week” makes it sound intimidating, but it’s such a fun week-long experience. Waking up every day before the sunrise, seeing friends, the AMAZING grassroots gear tag, working out every day, and on Thursday teaching yoga to everyone during a “bomb cyclone” made this hell week one for the books. I ended the week feeling a little more tired and a lot more filled with joy. That’s a pretty good trade off, if you ask me.

Laura-Beth Jordan (Sunrise Pre-Dawn 6k Winner):
Hell week was great! I really enjoyed the creativity of the work along with the different locations. I don’t usually enjoy 4:30 am wake up alarms, but all week I was up and read for the challenge.
I am new to RI (as well as NP) and I love the enthusiasm this group shares for each other, and fitness. You guys do a fantastic job leading this community of dedicated people! Thanks for all your hard work. I only wish the workouts were longer!

Jill Parrett:
We had so much fun! I miss everyone already. I never imagined that after a week of waking at 4:30, I’d be disappointed to see Hell Week finish! It was sad to not be able to say “See you tomorrow!” as we all split up with hugs on Day 5.
But starting each day in the dark with so many positive, welcoming people was so worth the lack of sleep. My legs are tired, but my heart is still bouncing! Holly bounced to the Cheers theme song Monday, and it was perfect for this week. It feels freaking amazing to be part of a community like this!

Caitie Runyon:
Hell Week has yet to feel hellish. Don’t get me wrong, the alarms at the ass crack of dawn are not cute, I’ve consumed a lot more coffee this week, and the workouts have definitely taken me out of my comfort zone (cough yoga in a bomb cyclone… cough).
But starting every day of the week surrounded by the most positive, welcoming, and supportive community meant having the best damn week ever. When I thought November Project couldn’t get any better, this week came along to be like “fuck yeah it can.”

Dominic Herard:
My take-away is that the logistical challenge of participating in five consecutive days of workouts, most at 5:27 am, becomes an extraordinarily clear task given the spirit of the community and the resilience of it’s members

Ann-Marie Alexander:
It may have been called Hell Week, I may be exhausted, but this has been such an amazing week!! Lots of hi-fives, sweat, smiles and ended it all with a few miles. The support, motivation and inspiration with November Project is amazing.

Read these comments again, and think about what your feelings are about this week. About November Project. Themes emerged from these comments: friendship, motivation, and inner strength.

Community. That is our goal. We engage in free fitness in order to strengthen ourselves. But we engage in November Project to build better communities.

For me, having been in Chicago for Day 1 of Hell Week, I woke up to group photos from the morning. And gosh, I missed you humans. I can’t quantify how, on Tuesday morning, I felt seeing all of your smiling, happy faces at 5:27am. I felt like part of my soul was complete.

As Jill said, it’s going to be difficult to wake up tomorrow and not get to see you all before the sun comes up. I’m looking forward to sleeping past 3:25am, but there’s nothing quite like starting the day hugging dozens and dozens of friends. I’ll miss exploring our city with you. But I know that come mid-week, we’ll be back at it soon.

I’ll end things with this post from Allison Johnson, resident mom/nana/bubbe/rockstar:

I. Am. Tired. Happy. Proud. Amazed.   Last year I refused to go to Hell Week, “it’s too early”, “it will be dark and cold” “it’s too hard”.  This year I embraced it, along with almost 100 hundred others, and guess what – it was early, it was hard, it was dark and cold, but we got through it together and it made us stronger, and fitter, and happier. 

Allison and li’l Keeks

“We finish together” happened – every single day – with a smile and a hug and a “see you tomorrow, we got this”.  I got to do free fitness in some sweet spots in our beautiful city, make new friends, and see families making memories.  I got to see our proud hard working co-leaders grinning at the huge turnout every single day.  I finished on a high note during the Sunrise 6K this morning when I got tired halfway through, and a friend sprinted to catch me, then slowed down to stay with me until I was ok.  She probably does not even think it was unusual, but I won’t forget that kindness.  That says it all about NP, we are stronger together, we make our community better together, and we are a family that shows up for each other.  

Thank you NP and everyone that worked so hard to make every single day fun and special. I get it now, Hell Week was heavenly.  

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