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Dragging the kids out of bed before 6 a.m. is never easy, especially when it’s to go for a run. But for the De Sena clan, the call of the wild beckons before dawn.

One Saturday morning, just after we moved to Vancouver last fall, I barged into my kids’ rooms as the clock struck 5:30. “Let’s go,” I said. “I’ve got a surprise for you.”

They seemed unimpressed. “Put on your wet suits,” I added.

Their ears perked up. Fueled by intrigue, they threw off their covers and quickly got dressed. Of course, when I told them we’d be running to our destination, intrigue turned to apprehension.

But off we went, running toward the beautiful beaches of North Vancouver. Twenty minutes into our run, the path in front of us began to slowly open up, and our strides became more laborious as we approached the bay. Finally, we reached our finish line for the morning—right where the tide hits the sand along Deep Cove.

Mist rose from the water in clouds of white and gray. In the distance, gigantic green rocks jutted straight out of the water. Except for our panting, everything was quiet and still. “Who’s that?” my kids asked, motioning to a man walking toward us wearing a giant grin.

“That’s our tour guide,” I told them.

One of the most amazing things about Spartan is the incredible community of people I’ve been lucky enough to meet. Folks like Simon Whitfield, the ten-time triathlon world champion and gold medal winner at the 2000 Summer Games. I had briefly met Simon years earlier, but as soon as we moved to Vancouver, he reached out and insisted I bring the kids out to Deep Cove for the day.

After quick introductions, we each grabbed a paddle board and waded out into the blue waters. Simon led the way, gliding effortlessly into the unknown. The farther we paddled, the quieter it became. Occasionally, we’d hear a splash as a pink salmon jumped from the water and elegantly dove back in, or a seal popped its head out to watch us on our journey. It was just us, the water, and nature as one.

As if that wasn’t magical enough, Simon began to quote authors as the sun rose, sharing poetic passages about nature and Mother Earth from writers like Steinbeck and Thoreau. He asked us what one book we would each bring if we were trapped on a deserted island. The kids and I debated our favorite stories, writers, and themes, struggling to pick just one.

Eventually, we began to make our way back to shore—taking our time and reflecting on the conversation and sights we had seen all morning. There was something so calming and meditative about just the four of us together, moving our feet and arms to the rhythm of the waves.

For me, the day was a huge wake-up call to slow down. Not only do I need to learn how to break myself away from all the noise that surrounds me every day, but my kids need me to do so too.

My mission at Spartan is to change 100 million lives. Simon is teaching me that I can’t forget about the lives of those closest to me—my family and myself. It’s not really about disconnecting. It’s not even about slowing down. It’s about making an intentional effort, every day, to be present for those you care about most.

After all, gifts can’t be appreciated if they’re never given.

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