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.
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!)
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.
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
11 air squats
22 air squats
33 air squats
add 11 to the sit-ups and air squats for each additional round
2-minute rest and reflection
9 minute AMRAP
11 box jumps (RX 24”/20”)
22 box jumps (RX 24”/20”)
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!