Back in May I noticed that there were sign-ups for regional running camps put on by Oiselle. They’ve done a national and several other regional camps in the past few years and they all looked like a lot of fun. The closest one to me and that would work for my schedule was the California one in September. Because I’m a member of Oiselle’s Volée, and Oiselle means “bird,” we’re all “birds” and hence, Bird Camp.
It was held at a conference and retreat center in Aptos, California nestled in among enormous, beautiful trees. I showed up Friday, signed in and got my Bird Camp bag filled with all kinds of awesome swag – a Roga hat, a Hankorange headband, Stance socks, a wrap bracelet and shoelace charm from Momentum Jewelry, and Picky Bars and Nuun.
I found an open bed, settled my things and headed down to lunch to meet the other birds. We did some easy yoga that afternoon in a big open meadow and then we got to talk to Devon Yanko, an ultra runner and restauranteur, about her experiences. Then we had a happy hour put on by Sufferfest Brewing Co. They produce gluten-free beer that doesn’t taste like gluten-free beer. I was very surprised at how good it was!
The following day we had a long run before we headed to the beach. I chose to run the trails with the shorter group and had a lot of fun. The trails were so beautiful and the weather was perfect. We did about 8 miles at a pretty slow, easy pace.
The beach was kind of chilly though pretty so we hung out for about an hour and a half before half of us went to a local brewery and the rest of us went to go take naps. My running shoes had developed a hole in them so I went to Fleet Feet to see if they had the same model and debate replacing them before I got home since I knew they were long past their lifespan.
Then we had a talk with Sarah Lesko and Kate Grace about her experiences at the Olympics in Rio, and a trunk show of the new Fall Line which is out on the website already. My favorites are the Nelle shirt, the Muscle long-sleeve, and the Pintuck long-sleeve, and for bottoms the Black Widow tights and the Lux track pants. Their theme for fall is “The Warrior Within” and how putting on clothes is one of the many steps of preparation we make to go out and win and I think their line really reflects that well. It’s feminine, but strong and fierce. I am also super in love with their Lux material – it’s soft but warm and wicks so well and looks great when you’re not running, too!
Anyway, back to Bird Camp. Sunday morning some of us had registered to run a local 5K or 10K. I left my cabin late with my bunkmate and two other women and we had no idea where we were going. We started walking up a big hill (and the wrong way) and managed to flag down a woman in a van who confirmed we were going the wrong way and very nicely offered to give us a ride. We found our group a ways down the road and the woman asked us what kind of group we were and we told her “a running group” and then started laughing because of how ridiculous it was that we got a ride.
I signed up for the 10K but wished I had done the 5K. My shoes were very much toast and it was kicking up shin pains I didn’t know I could have. Fortunately it was just an out-and-back along a dirt road into the Nisene Marks State Park so I just focused on getting to the turnaround and then making it back in. I finished in about 55 minutes, which is pretty typical for my cruising pace, but we rocked that race. We finished top 3 in every category, though we may have had a slight advantage as we also had our Haute Volée with us, women who are professional runners at various distances. My roommate, who was not only incredibly nice and down-to-earth, is also an incredible marathoner and her husband used to be in the Army so we had that in common as well.
The race might have been my favorite part of camp, and I have lots of favorite parts. It reminded me so much of when I ran cross-country in college with the team aspect. Running in Alaska is so different. Although we run for PT, the distances are a lot shorter and there’s more of an emphasis on spadework because our test is only 2 miles long. When I run longer, I’m always running alone and Bird Camp reminded me of how much I really love running in a group and how much fun it is having a team. Some of the other birds who didn’t run for various reasons, set up a cowbell corner on the course and cheered for us. It was just so nice to feel the team love and really solidified for me what I love about Oiselle and the Volée.
After dominating the race, we headed back (with a quick pit stop for coffee) and did a more in-depth yoga class for additional recovery. That afternoon we had a talk and demonstration about the PHLX (pronounced “flex”) roller system and we each got one to take home. I’m a little bit of a foam roller snob and kind of particular about what I like, but I really like this system because it has multiple uses and packs up easily and nicely with a carrying bag.
Then we had a panel of our Haute Volée about nutrition and it was so fun to talk to them and hear what they eat and how they manage things in their off-season. Not everyone eats steamed broccoli and boiled chicken either – some eat whatever looks good that day for whatever their husband made.
We had our last campfire and s’mores that night.
I really can’t say enough nice things about Bird Camp. I had so much fun and met some great people and it reignited my love for running all over again. I can’t wait for next year and I hope I will be able to go to another Bird Camp then.