When I got the email sometime late last year mentioning the possibly of a Oiselle Team running camp in August, I never could have imagined that Bird Camp (as it was coined sometime in the planning process) would be as amazing as it was. To sum it up, 100ish Oiselle Team runners convened in the spectacular outdoor paradise that is Bend, Oregon for five days of trail running, hiking, yoga, clinics & group discussions with every moment in between filled with fellowship and food. I can’t even begin to thank Sally, Lesko, Lauren, Kate, the wonderful women from Jasyoga, and every other person who put together this outstanding experience. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience (that I hope to experience more than once in a lifetime!).
Oiselle Teammate Sarah & I coordinated our flights so we could make the long trek from Southern California to Bend together and left out of Orange County, using our 3 hour layover to get an early taste of Oregon craft beer. Upon arrival at the airport, we were enthusiastically greeted by some of our teammates and whisked away to Seven Mountain Resort. That evening was spent getting to know our new roommates (the rooms were condos with multiple beds and rooms) and as many fellow teammates as possible. I shared a room with Amy, who I hadn’t met prior to camp and we became fast friends and spent a lot of the weekend together. Cindi, a hilarious Oiselle Rep from the Chicago area, and Sun, a stylish & incredibly sincere woman from Wisconsin.
At one point we took over the hotel bar, a sea of excited voices wearing matching Bird Camp sweatshirts. Dinner was followed by welcome speeches, a special talk with pro triathlete Linsey Corbin and an icebreaker activity in small groups. It was fun to finally meet teammates whose blogs I read or who I regularly tweet with or follow on Instagram and equally as great to meet completely new teammates, all of us from different places with different reasons for running but brought together thanks to Oiselle.
Thursday’s main activity was the evening 5k at Deschutes Brewery, but the morning was still busy! We started with an optional 15 minute meditation led by the Jas Yoga ladies and then the Oiselle Team professional runners (aka Little Bird) led us through their warm-up activation exercises (which for many of us seemed like a mini-workout!). Despite the impending evening 5k, I still decided to go out with most of the women and do an easy trail run on the river trail right near the resort. The views were spectacular even on our short 3 mile jog – trails just don’t look like this in coastal San Diego!
After the run we were in for a morning of learning, starting with Jay Dicharry who spoke about physical therapy and led us through exercises we can do on our own to strengthen and stabilize our muscles for running (this also seemed like a workout at times!). Jay’s presentation was followed by Steph Howe, the recent women’s winner of the 2014 Western States 100 mile trail run. Steph is a nutritionist and spoke about nutrition requirements for runners – thinking about what she must eat during a 100 mile race was pretty entertaining!
That night we all boarded buses and headed down to downtown Bend for the Deschutes 5k. We were all wearing our brand new 2014-2015 season singlets and the air was thick with excitement. The vibe on the bus was pretty incredible and to steal an analogy from Sarah, it felt like we were all high school teammates headed to an out of town game. The race itself probably deserves its own race report but to sum it up – it was tough but rewarding. It was an incredible feeling to finish with so many teammates cheering my name. The post party (free delicious craft beer!) was a great reward for all of our hard work.
When I woke up Friday I remember thinking that I couldn’t believe we still had 2 1/2 days left of camp! It was all so incredible so far and I didn’t know how Thursday could be topped. The views from the previous days running were easily surpassed when we arrived at Smith Rock. We broke into three groups – a flatter, medium distance run along the river, a 4 mile, steep hike up the mountain and a 7 mile loop called the Burma Trail with a 1.5 mile steep climb with rewarding views. Most headed for the hike but I wanted to take the challenge of the harder loop as well as experience the epic views.
I broke off with a group of about 8 girls in total, and 6 of us stayed together for most of the run. The girls I was running with were definitely faster than me but they stayed back and we took long enough breaks that it didn’t seem like I held them back too much! Not to mention, most of us weren’t trying to break any land speed records the day after a 5k on a hilly trail. During the later part of the run I got to know Susie, a Great Britain native who now resides in Hawaii. As often happened on the trip, we only realized after our run while we were eating our picnic lunch that we already followed each other on Instagram and Twitter (despite having our Twitter handles on our name tags).
Shortly after returning to the resort, we had the privilege of a 45 minute restorative yoga session with Jasyoga. The yoga was gentle and focused primarily on stretching and breathing and was the perfect post-race and post-trail run recovery. My roommates Amy and Jun and I headed to the pool with a large group of other women after yoga for an hour of sun-soaking and chatting. I got to spend a bit more time with the women who make it all happen at headquarters and that the highlight for me (plus seeing all the new Oiselle swim suits in person was pretty awesome).
As if we needed more exercise, we headed out at 4 p.m. to the field for Lesko’s famous “The Dozen” workout which consists of 12 core/strength exercises done in succession. The final move is a descending set of pushups, starting with 10 and working down to 1 with 20 seconds rest between. Brutal! As soon as the Dozen was over, Lauren Fleshman and Kate Grace led us through various form drills. We had the wonderful privilege of witnessing Fast Kate’s gorgeous stride up close!
That evening we had a make your own burger bar (and later S’mores!) and Q&A with the elite runners – Kate, Lauren Steph and even Kara Groucher via Skype! I absolutely loved hearing things from their perspective. Throughout the weekend I had the chance to talk to each of these incredible athletes in person and I was so happy to learn that they are normal, down to earth women who are *almost* just like us (just a lot faster….). I got the impression from all of the pro athletes as well as from Sally, Lesko, & Kristin that they would love to have real friendships with us – at one point early in the weekend Lauren said, ‘don’t be afraid to say hi!’ and later when I introduced myself she even told me she knew who I was! Another point in the weekend Lesko named off each of the names of a group of 10 of us who were wading in the river with her. These women care about each and every one of the runners on the team and it was extremely evident in their attitude as well as the thought and hard work they put into putting together this weekend for us.
Saturday morning was the grand finale – the long run! We broke up naturally into groups and headed out on the trail that runs along the Deschutes River, just outside our resort. There were two landmarks suggested as turnaround points – a waterfall/water stop about 5 miles in and a waterfall about 7.5/8 miles in. I decided to go for the longer route. For the first 5 miles I ran with a group of about 10ish women who all just fell into place running together. We chatted and stopped for photos and enjoyed each other’s company. I was shocked at how great my legs felt despite the previous days’ mileage and climbing.
Around mile 5, the large portion of the group turned back and Holly and I continued on. Luckily it was shortly after that we met up with three more ladies (Robyn, Julia and Jenna) who I had previously talked about going the long route with but had gotten separated from. Oddly enough, we were all wearing the same shade of blue top and the “Blue Birds” as we nicknamed ourselves, ran the remaining miles together, alternating who led the 5 bird pack every 10 minutes. The time flew by as we chatted, ran, and took in the gorgeous scenery. It was one of those long runs that completely reconfirms why you’re a runner (and also why I blog – it brought me these people!).
Post run we had a little bit of time to eat lunch and shower before our final Jasyoga season – this time only 30 minutes and again, very, very focused on recovery and stretching. It was the perfect way to recover from the last few days of running. Shortly after, we were all boarding buses and heading into downtown Bend for a free afternoon until our final group dinner and event. A group of us headed to 10 Barrel Brewing company for beer, food and more fun.
The nighttime event was a great event held at Crows Feet Commons, a cycling & outdoor adventure store that also houses a coffee house, tap room, and wine bar. The river-front outdoor portion of the store regularly hosts events and we were lucky to enjoy tacos, donuts, and beverages at sunset. There were speeches, awards and finally, a live band which quickly prompted a dance party. The dance party then moved to the nearby bar for more shenanigans.
Sunday morning wrapped up the weekend with an optional run (I ran just about 4.5 miles with Amy and Kim) and brunch. A lot of the women were already gone or on their way out while we ate brunch. As I reflected on the weekend, the overarching theme of my thoughts was gratitude. I am so thankful to be a part of this amazing group of women and so happy that I was able to make it to Bend for the first (annual?) Bird Camp. My experience far exceeded my expectations and I’ve come out of camp not only more prepared to grow as a runner, but with a group of women I can call my Oiselle Family with certainty.