Team RWB Trail Running Camp (Part Two)

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Saturday and Sunday brought a whole slew of amazing experiences!

Our first run was at 0700 but coffee was being served at 0615, so my plans of sleeping in a bit were shattered by all the stirring coffee-drinkers at 0600.  I dressed and walked down to the pavilion to chit-chat, where I ended up learning that coming between a trail runner and their coffee is a big fat no-no, as the coffee was still brewing and a mob of coffee-fiending runners was beginning to gather ominously around the brewing pots.

Glad I don’t drink coffee.

Eventually we all gathered in our respective pace groups to head out on the first of many “Focused Running Workouts” – runs where we would receive an on-the-go seminar of sorts from one of the various trail running mentors who were in charge of leading our group.  We learned a bit about trail running form on this one, namely picking up your feet and mostly some general running form that transfers over to trails.  For me personally, being instructed to focus on “quick, light feet” has always been something that has helped me immensely – it’s so easy after long distances to start plodding along.  High cadence, light feet, quick over the rocks.  Easier said than done sometimes, but it helps me out from time to time to remember that.

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Though I learned a lot of new things from the various running workout/seminars, the best part about the runs was easily Camp Eagle’s awesome terrain.  The trails are beautiful but difficult, and once you get done cursing those steep and seemingly never-ending climbs, you’re rewarded with some of the most amazing views.  We did a “Downhill Running Technique” and a “Speed Intervals” workout (two separate seminars, but we sort of combined them since they were in the same trip) later in the day that had us running repeats on a pretty steep hill 3-4 times.  Hills are easily my biggest weakness with trail running, so this was a bit of a tough time for me.  It sounds like a cliche to say the views made it all worth it, but I don’t care because they did!  It also gave me an excuse to stop at the top and be all “reflective” and whatnot (aka, catch my breath because those hills are intense!)

Nikki Kimball speaking to an enthralled crowd

Nikki Kimball speaking to an enthralled crowd

After dinner, we were treated to an amazing presentation by an amazing keynote speaker:  Nikki Kimball, three-time Western States 100 mile champion and a seriously all-around epic woman.  Nikki spoke of her struggles with depression as well as her attempt to beat the record for Vermont’s 273-mile Long Trail.  In addition to running and beating the record, she was also trying to raise funds and awareness for the organization Girls on the Run, an awesome non-profit geared towards encouraging young girls to pursue active lifestyles through running.  I’ve volunteered with GotR before and they’re an amazing organization, and it was so awesome to hear that extraordinary women like Nikki are out there supporting them.  

 

Nikki cited the pervasive problem of women being unrecognized in sports as one of her inspirations to beat the record – the women’s record at the time was seven days, while the men’s record that Nikki was shooting to beat was four and a half.  She mentioned when winning Western States, how the male’s race was front page news while her win was barely even a footnote.  As a woman, hearing how Nikki overcame crippling depression to break records and run insane distances was incredibly important for me.  People like Nikki are important to showcasing how powerful and competitive women can be in sports…I really admired her honesty and her strength in describing her struggles, as well as her will to blaze the trail for women aspiring to great things in her wake.

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The next day we started our morning with “Technical Trail Running Skills” – this was easily the most fun I had running the entire camp.  The first half of the run was a challenging uphill, but then the second half was all technical (slight) downhill, switchbacks and crazy speed!  I ran up front with some of the elites, and felt like a little bit of a big deal chit-chatting with them while we sped down the trail (probably infinitely slower than they ever normally run, but I’ll take it haha).

Highlight of this day though, was definitely the presentation by Mike Ehredt.

If you have three minutes (if you’re reading this, you have three minutes!) WATCH THIS.  Mike ran across America TWICE (from Oregon to Maine and then Minnesota to Texas) to commemorate all the military members who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He stopped every mile to plant a flag in memory of a specific soldier’s death.  Hearing him speak was completely amazing.  Mike is truly a testament to how one normal guy can do something completely extraordinary when his heart is really in it.

Later that day we did a 5k obstacle course.  After doing this, I really wish Camp Eagle would put something on like this more often!  As I’ve mentioned, the terrain is really gnarly and perfect for this kind of stuff – as someone obsessed with Spartan Race and things of that sort, coming out to Camp Eagle for an actual obstacle race would be loads of fun.  The course itself wasn’t especially challenging (except the ring crossing!  ugh!) but it was loads of fun, which was just what I was looking for.  I was feeling pretty tired by this point, so when my friend said he was going to pass on the obstacle course I almost bowed out with him.  I think Jason Bryant’s enthusiasm at the start really pumped me up to go out and have fun and not worry about my stupid legs and their stupid tiredness.  (I don’t know why they insist on getting like that…sheesh.)  By the time I returned, I was feeling pretty beat.  We had dinner and I contemplated retiring to bed, but decided to join everyone around the camp fire and socialized with some cool new people over beers.

Monday definitely started out differently, as instead of running we did WOD for Warriors.  WOD for Warriors is a CrossFit workout Team RWB does on Veteran’s and Memorial Day – for Veteran’s Day it was as follows:

9 minute AMRAP

100-meter sprint

11 sit-ups

11 air squats

100-meter sprint

22 sit-ups

22 air squats

100-meter sprint

33 sit-ups

33 air squats

 

add 11 to the sit-ups and air squats for each additional round

 

2-minute rest and reflection

then

 

9 minute AMRAP

100-meter sprint

11 pushups

11 box jumps (RX 24”/20”)

100-meter sprint

22 pushups

22 box jumps (RX 24”/20”)

100-meter sprint

33 pushups

33 box jumps (RX 24”/20”)

We did jumping lunges instead of box jumps.  It was really fun and a blast to get “back in my element” of CrossFit after spending the whole weekend being a back of the pack runner, haha.  I love trail running, but I’m no Nikki Kimball!  It was fun to talk and workout with the runners there who had never done CrossFit before.

After breakfast and the last RWB Leadership seminar, we took our leave of Camp Eagle.  I met a lot of awesome, inspiring, amazing people!  So much passion for trail running and Team RWB that it makes me smile just typing this.  I really hope that I am fortunate enough to return next year, as this was truly one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had.  A big huge thanks goes out to Liza Howard, Joe and Joyce Prusaitis, all the volunteers and mentors, and most definitely TEAM RWB for allowing this amazing experience to happen!

 

Leaving Camp Eagle, all smiles!

Leaving Camp Eagle, all smiles!

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Team RWB Trail Running Camp (Part One)

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“If a trail runner falls in the woods, does it make a sound?” – The Fabulous Meghann of Life and Fork

So, last year I found out about something amazing – a trail running camp at Camp Eagle that was lead by Team RWB and featured ultra runner amazingness such as Liza Howard.  After being overcome by an excitement akin to a 12-year old girl at a Justin Beiber concert, I took a hard blow in realizing that I was already booked to be out of town to return home to run the Pensacola half marathon with a friend on the very same weekend the camp was being held.  I am not embarrassed to admit that I experienced an intense depression as a result of this, kind of like post-race depression without the actual race.  I ran my first trail race last year (so I’m still a newb I suppose) but have been insanely passionate about this sport I instantly fell in love with ever since.  Road runners probably find this obnoxious, but I can’t say it enough times – road running is so boring compared to trail running, and the community is worlds away from the welcoming family-type atmosphere of the trail community.  Not to say that road running doesn’t have its uses – I like to check in and see how fast my 5k time is every now and again, not to mention road races are plentiful if you need something to do on a boring weekend.  My disclaimer to road runners is that if you love it, ROCK IT – but I’m also going to say you should try a trail run, because it’s amazeballs.

Anyways.

So this year I was determined to get into this camp.  The camp had slots open for veterans, active duty, and civilians alike – keeping with Team RWB’s goal of integrating veterans into their communities, which cannot be done without civilians.  I may be getting ahead of myself a little bit here, but I was absolutely floored by the amount of civilians who professed at the leadership clinics that they were passionate about RWB because it gave them a chance to serve their country by serving its veterans.  Team RWB isn’t about writing the check and then moving on, it’s about the personal connections veterans and civilians make to change the way that America treats veterans after they’ve returned home/retired from the service.

(I keep getting off track.  Even though the camp is over I’m so excited about every aspect…so sorry if this is a bit of a fangirl mess.)

The months crept up and eventually the RWB San Antonio captain, after finding out about my ridiculous excitement to get into this camp, hooked me up with a sponsorship to get into the camp for free.  I can’t even begin to describe how crazy I went at this moment.  Incredibly grateful and humbled to be chosen for such an awesome opportunity to go to this camp and represent San Antonio.

I’ll spare you all of the boring build-up details.  I got off work Friday morning (I work 2230-0630) and dutifully packed and headed to my friend and fellow RWB’er Scott’s to carpool.  The drive out to Camp Eagle in the hill country is always amazing no matter how many times I make it.  I saw a plethora of goats.  (I love goats, you guys.)  We arrived at Camp Eagle at about 1530, got our room assignments and swag bags and began to unpack.  The rooms were a dorm-type assignment, with two large rooms with three bunk beds each joined by a short hallway (it can barely even be called that) and a shared bathroom and shower.  It was a cool opportunity to get to know the people attending the camp with us.

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In the true spirit of someone who would like to renounce her attachment to physical things but can’t quite manage it, the first thing I did when returning to my room was dump my swag bag on the bed and examine the contents.  I was pretty excited to give the Ultimate Direction handheld bottle a try, since I’d read all kinds of great things about Ultimate Direction in general, but had never tried any of their products.  I also received a sample of Tailwind  from my awesome bunk-mate that I intended to try at some point during the camp as well.  (I’ll probably include my experience with these products separate from the camp recap.)

After unpacking and socializing, we were off to our first task of the camp – the first of three leadership seminars for the Team RWB camp participants.  Most people probably aren’t too excited about this part of my experience, but I’d like to briefly touch on it because something Andrew Hutchinson asked us to think about:

“How will the lives of the people I lead be affected as a result of my leadership?”

Sometimes you hear things that may not be earth shatteringly profound for most, but they affect you in a way you can’t really describe.  This was one of those things.  Being in the military, one of the things I’ve struggled with a little bit is leadership – I’m naturally introverted by nature, not incredibly big on telling people what to do, and am sometimes a bit lacking in the confidence department.  Chris (the presenter) himself expressed his belief that he also possessed some similar introvert characteristics, but definitely throughout his presentations conveyed the idea that someone doesn’t have to be an extreme extrovert to be a leader.  Which gives me confidence moving forward that I don’t have to change my personality to finally get that 5.0 on the leadership block on my eval…

By this point, I was exceeding 24 hours since the last time I slept, so after the leadership seminar I was kind of in braindead mode.  We went to dinner and were greeted by Liza Howard, who explained the gist of how things were to work for the rest of the night and the following day.  I remember at this point in the night professing to Scott (27 hours into my lack-of-sleepathon) that “Thinking is becoming quite difficult.”  I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I went back to the room straight after dinner and passed out cold after telling Scott “I’m just going to lay down for a moment.”  He later recounted how he tried to wake me up and I just rambled to him in a foreign language that he was pretty sure was made up.  (I have no recollection of this…)  So the first run of the camp (the run accompanying the instruction on headlamps) I actually slept straight through.  And I did not wake up until 0500.  Not once, for no man or super star ultrarunner (sorry Liza and company…)

So that’s day one.  I promise that day two was infinitely more exciting.

Barrio 5k for Veterans

The last week or so turned out to be much busier than I anticipated.  I was planning on last weekend being the first responsibility free weekend after months of race and volunteer filled weekends as far as I can remember.  Tuesday morning I was supposed to take my Navy PT test, so I planned to take the weekend off to rest and be fully prepared to finally reach the “outstanding” category in my mile and a half time (spoiler: I did, by more than 30 seconds).  Come Friday afternoon, someone on the Team RWB Facebook posted asking if anyone wanted to participate in a 5k that the race director was allowing 10 or so Team RWB members to participate in for free.

Before I continue here, I’m going to talk for a second about Team RWB for anyone who isn’t already familiar.  Almost inevitably when you ask a member “What is Team RWB?” they’ll give you the following response: “Team RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.”  Which is a pretty good summary of what we’re all about.  Being a member of the military – though I haven’t fought in any wars as of now – I can say that the prospect of figuring out what to do with myself if I were to get out for any reason is kind of scary.  Team RWB is a way to help integrate veterans into civilian society, helping to ease the transition from the family they may feel like they have lost their connection to since getting out of the military with a family made up of veterans, active duty, and civilians.  (Note:  There’ll be a lot more about Team RWB in the next post about the trail running camp, but in the meantime if you are interested you can join for free at teamrwb.org.)

What I’m saying is, it’s basically the bee’s knees.  So against my better judgement, I decided to run this 5k on Saturday because for some reason my brain doesn’t acknowledge that running as fast as I possibly can for only 5k can make me sore (you have to run long distance to get sore, right?  Right?).  The race started at Cisneros Elementary School and travelled through the neighborhoods (barrios!) to pass through Elmendorf Lake Park.  The part is the future site of the La Ofrenda Veterans Monument, which the race was raising money to help fund which I thought was incredibly cool.

The course itself wasn’t too bad, mostly flat with a few hills here and there.  I took off a bit faster than I would have liked due to the majority of people who started in the front being walkers (people who were walking, not zombies for all you Walking Dead folk) who forced me to do a lot of sprinting and dodging because I’m not aggressive enough to try and shove past everyone to start at the front at any race.  All I remember is looking down at my watch about a mile in and realizing that I was running about a 7 minute mile, which is one of the bigger downsides of trying not to pay attention to my watch.  My husband was kind enough to hang around to take pictures for me, but he sucks at taking pictures so I hope nobody came here looking for sweet action shots of me looking like a hot mess.  (Anyone?)

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I was dance stretching, I think? And then some post-race, post-medal ‘murica.

Turns out I got second place in my age group, and sixth place over all.  I’m not normally one to win medals or anything, so this was a pleasant surprise.  I smoked my previous 5k PR by almost a minute and a half at 25:10!  Yippeee.  Despite all this amazingness, I am going to be completely honest and say that the best part of the race was afterwards when they passed out HOMEMADE walnut banana bread at the finish line aid station.  Omgsomoist.  I’m pretty sure nothing beats that.  Small local races are the absolute best.  Almost as good, the elementary school that we started the race at had a skate park in it that got to entertain my husband while we waited for the awards ceremonies.  As much as he follows me around to races (he can’t run right now) it was nice to have something for him to be entertained by, hah!

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Don’t be fooled, that incredibly rad skateboard is in fact mine.

We followed the awards up with an awesome brunch and a trip to the downtown YMCA to pick up my medal from the Siclovia 5k, so I felt kind of big headed all day having two medals, not going to lie.  Luckily for me, it turned out that my PT test was in fact cancelled and moved back to Thursday, so I had plenty of time to recover so I could successfully kick its butt.  Though unfortunately I collapsed into the grass in a fit of post-run exhaustion and got assaulted by a bajillion fire ants, so now my left arm looks a bit like I have leprosy or something.  (TMI?)  After all that, it was time to get ready for the Team RWB trail running camp…

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Second place is apparently my thing.

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Bonus image: This sign at the home and garden store gets me.

Getting Started

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So, this is my first blog post here.  Jumping right into it quickly:  I like to run and lift weights, and I try to do way too many things.  I signed up for my first 50k trail race a few days ago, I’m training for an undetermined triathlon, I compete in CrossFit, I have ADD.  Done.  You should have the general idea that I’m a bit ridiculous by now.

So, the triathlon bug is a super recent bug I have been bitten by.  I bought a cool tri bike off Craigslist after trying my hand in the pool a couple of times (I’m in the Navy, I can’t swim – stick that in your pipe and smoke it) and took the bike out for a spin with a friend.  (Ironic note: After I bought my bike my friend gently informed me that triathlon season is in fact over, so I guess no pressure involved at this point.)

Another thing you should know about me: sometimes I fall down.  To prevent the inevitable falling down and being squashed by one of the monster trucks that are a dime a dozen here in Texas, we rode on one of the local paved trails that goes all through the city.  I’ve never ridden a bike with clipless pedals before, so I panicked and asked everyone for advice.  Everyone told me to accept my fate of falling over onto my face and move on with my life.  So boom, I fall down.  I have this sweet tri bike I can’t take out onto the street because I will fall down and go boom because getting out of clipless pedals is a witchcraft that I have yet to master.

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Those are not my manly hands, but my husbands’.

So today I decided to take the bike out for a semi-car populated adventure.  A friend is out of town and has a veritable zoo’s worth of pets that require feeding, and being that she lives only about 3 miles away, I decided to bravely venture out and bike the trip.  Every single intersection where I would be potentially forced to unclip and come to a stop was a prompt for total crazy panic in my brain.  Just total freaking the hell out.  There’s one insanely steep hill on the way up there that I tried really hard to vanquish, but halfway up I was going so slow that my mind was like “HEY YOU’RE GOING REALLY SLOW YOU’RE GOING TO FALL DOWN FALL DOWN FALL DOOOWN” so I unclipped in defeat and walked it up in shame…walking around in cycling shoes with awkward cleats is a walk of shame if I’ve ever taken one.

So that was a thing.

But I made it there and back in one piece, obeyed traffic laws like a good law-abiding cyclist, and managed to not get run down by the disgruntled motorists who were passing me by on the way back.  I barely managed to hold on to my sanity as I sped DOWN aforementioned hill – thought it was going to be fun, was treated to terror instead – but still managed to clip out and obey the stop sign in a timely fashion as I reached the bottom.  So all that, on top of not falling down, was a success.  So basically this was a long story about not falling down.  I’m hoping to fit a fair amount of cycling into my routine this fall/winter, and to hit up a few duathlons in the process.

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5k Run – 26mi Bike – 5k Run – am I ready for this?

The Natural Bridge Caverns du is December 08th, and is pretty rad because the run starts in the cavern.  So I guess I’ve been bitten by the duathlon bug instead of the triathlon bug, and judging by the amount of suffering my last brick workout (cycling followed immediately by a run for maximum jelly legs, for those of you not nerding out over triathlon training) I am probably going to love it.