Southern Bird Camp!

Blowing Rock, NC | June 9-12, 2016 | If someone had told me a few years back that I would be attending a running camp and LOVING it I would have laughed in their faces. This was hands down one of my favorite weekends in recent memories. I joined Oiselle last July not really sure what to expect but knew I loved the company and what the stood for and hoped it would bring me more friends in the running world. Over the past year I had met a few birds, here and there, but hadn’t gotten the full experience of being on the team. 

Then came bird camp. A 4 day whirlwind of running, laughing, great food, great company, learning and so much more. I finally felt what it meant to be a part of this sisterhood. Being a part of a group that lifts women up and excepts them for who they are regardless of running level or really anything else. It was finding my people. I had the BEST time. I put faces with instagram accounts and now can cheer on teammates from afar as we work harder at bettering ourselves through this sport that we love. I learned about proper training and why I had been injured so many times and how to fix that going forward. I ate some of the best food and felt full from the quality and not quantity. I met an incredible group of fierce women who I can now call friends and sister birds. An absolutely amazing weekend that has changed my outlook on running and being a part of a team. I’ve improved in training since that weekend and while it’s taken me a bit to process everything and write this post I knew I had to put it down to share so that others will join the team and attend bird camps in the future.

Day 1: I had worked out with two of the DC birds to carpool- Leanne and Mandy. They drove to Blacksburg and then I took us the rest of the way in the focus. I had never met either of them before but conversation flowed freely and before we knew it we were arriving at camp. Upon arrival we checked in, got our room assignments and our swag bags and then headed into the lodge. My roommate was Becky from Oklahoma. Easy to remember! I quickly unpacked, we chatted about running camp anxieties, changed into gear for run #1 and then headed back downstairs. We discovered we both loved Injinji socks!! 😀

Run#1 was at Moses Cone Park, about a 20 min drive from camp so we all loaded into vans and headed that way. It was an afternoon run which is not my normal run time AT ALL and I was coming off the half marathon from the weekend before so I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. We were supposed to run ‘the Maze’ and then could do a loop around the lake if we wanted to hit 4 miles for the day. I tried to start out slow thinking surely I would be ok with the elevation. We were about 800 ft. higher than Blacksburg. Well. I discovered very quickly that I’m not good on long gradual climbs. My normal runs take me up hills but there’s always a downhill soon to follow. I swear this felt like we never stopped climbing!! But I kept moving forward and then finally got to the downhill at the end. Of course by then I was feeling ok so I went about half way around the lake to hit 3.6 for the day. Then it was time for a lesson in proper cool down. Ryan took us through a variety of exercises to stretch out all the muscles we’d just used. I’ve been doing them after every run since then!!

After we got back to Zap, I jumped in the shower and then it was Zappetizer time! Delicious snacks especially the amazing Salsa-mole. Loved it. Dinner was soon to follow with an intro to camp from our trainers and our first lecture on building a proper training plan. I got so much out of that- learning what I did wrong every other time I’ve tried to train, learning why I continue to injure myself and how to fix it all. Awesome! We closed out the night with a campfire and s’mores. Great first day!!

Day 2: Longer run on the schedule. We were up early to get ready for the day and grab a little breakfast food before it was back to Moses Cone for a longer run. We were going to run up to the Manor House (2.5 mile gradual climb) and then head down and of course you could do more laps around the lake if wanted. Ugh- that climb. Again gradual hills and I are not friends. I obviously need to work more on this in my training because I felt so unprepared to tackle them. But finally I made it to the top. We were taking a brief pause until everyone arrived so we could take some fun photos at the top. Then it was almost a mad dash back down (thanks gravity) before Mandy and I took another lap around the lake for an even 6 for the day. Cool down followed and then it was back to camp for yoga! A very nice and relaxing way to continue the cool down and then of course lunch!! Every meal we ate was planned with our activities in mind and was so filling and nutritious. I wanted to take the chef home to cook for me on a daily basis! 

After lunch we had a session about marathon training. While I’ve never run the distance I figured I would be able to apply it to my half training AND bank it for a possible future marathon. Super informative and I’ll definitely be using the planning for future races. It was time for an afternoon hike- back around the Moses Cone grounds up to his gravesite. A great way to stretch our legs out after sitting through the various sessions. I took some awesome photos at the top (one of which Oiselle ended up using in their media on bird camp- talk about excitement for the repost.) It was a beautiful hike and yet another opportunity to learn more about my teammates. There were 25 of us at camp and I got to talk to everyone at least a little bit. So great!!

Afterwards we had another session on 5K/10K training and then time for dinner!!! Afterwards we got to listen to Andie talk about her journey in running and becoming an elite. Her story was so emotional that we were all in tears at one point. So humble, nice and down to earth. I can’t believe I know someone who ran at the Olympic trials! I closed out the evening with a massage and IT. WAS. THE. BEST. SO needed. And she worked out my leg cramps. YES. (I’ve had no issues since then- Jen Pillow you rock).

Day 3: Interval day! Up again pretty early to head to Boone to tackle interval training. I’ve tried my hand (on my own) at this a few times in this last training cycle but ended up getting injured. We started out with a dynamic warmup- much more than I’ve ever done before. Leg swings, followed by lateral runs and skips, and a 12 min progressive warmup. Then finishing with a few strides. It was nice to know this really helps- my run afterwards felt great! Then we broke into groups based on our pacing (9mins FTW) and practiced doing 400s and 800s at pace. It was really nice to have people to do this with. Solo running is great but having folks to hit paces with made all the difference for me. It ended up being one of my better training runs and next time when I start incorporating that into my training I’ll be prepared. I was videotaped afterwards for analysis later. Again something I’ve never had but was super excited for.

Afterwards we stopped by a cute bakery before it was back in the vans to head back to camp. Nearby is a creek that is like an ice bath. GREAT on sore muscles. A bunch of us headed down there to relax before lunch! Then it was time for our next sessions. I had strength training afterwards and learned a bunch of core exercises for strengthening and supporting my running. THEN it was time to hang out in Blowing Rock. A few of us had been eyeing the local brewery and immediately headed there when we got to town. We hung out for a while, another group of birds joined us and laughter, hijinks and fun was had by all. Then of course we got to cram back into the van- took a quick pit stop for an awesome photo- and then back to camp. Pre-dinner session for me was video analysis. I learned I hold too much tension in my upper body and that I needed to relax my shoulders and swing my arms more. That would help immensely with my breathing. Great feedback that I’m trying to take to heart as I’ve moved forward si
nce camp. 

Dinner was quick to follow- again so good- and then I had some one on one coaching with Ryan. Yet again something I’ve never had but will hopefully be able to obtain in the future. We talked about my injuries, my goals going forward and how to get to them. He gave me a plan that I’ve been working on to get to SeaWheeze injury free BUT also try and PR. Fingers crossed everything works out this time!! After this, we all had one final session with Zika on nutrition. Great info that I’m putting into practice already. Of course then we went out for ice cream at Kilwin’s afterwards- but hey all about moderation. 🙂

Day 4: Last morning at camp :(. We had a prediction run on the schedule. Basically we wrote down what we thought our 3.2 time would be and then we went out and ran watchless. I came in third place- only :20 off my predicted time. BOOM. We took lots of photos in our singlets and enjoyed the last run with each other. Then quick showers, a closing from our trainers and it was time to head home.

A weekend like I’ve never experienced. And one that I can’t wait to repeat. Now I know 25 of my sisterbirds and I’m so excited to reconnect at races and online. Seriously one of the best weekends EVER!!

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