I usually don’t buy myself birthday gifts, but this year was different. I heard about this magical place called trail running camp and just had to be a part of it. Fleet Feet Sacramento, #theoriginal, hosted the inaugrual event at a place called Community of the Great Commission, which sounds a lot like a town in one of my daughter’s dystopia books. But, instead, it is a very cool campground that is situated above Michigan Bluff at about 4000 feet elevation. I know 4000 is not that high, but my woefully out of shape body sure told me it was while I ran up there. Peace out, and I’m sure I will see you somewhere out on the trails.
DAY ONE: My buddy Cam and I arrived at camp at 2:00 on Friday. We were given our glorious swag bag filled with all kinds of cool running stuff, then headed to our cabin to unpack and pick out our bunks. The cabins weren’t fancy, but thankfully they did have an indoor bathroom, which was very convenient at night. They had snacks and drinks set out for us in the main lodge and we chatted with the different reps that were there that weekend demoing their wares. At 3:00, we all met up for our trail safety and etiquette clinic, followed by our first trail run. Zach Bitter, who is also a rep for Altra, and Meghan Arbogast joined us for our run as well. The runs were based on time since there were so many different levels of runners at camp. This run was an hour and between 4-6 miles. I ran 5 miles and soon regretted that pre-run beer or two at about mile 2. Did I mention the run was uphill, both ways? It did provide for spectacular views at the top.
Everyone met back at the main hall for happy hour, which was between 5:00 and 6:00. However, all hours at camp were happy, especially since everyone got their own special Hoka One One drinking cup. Mine became very well used. In the main hall were kegs of beer and bottles of wine and of course snacks to go with it.
We all headed to the dining hall at 6:00 for dinner. They served tacos and burritos with salad and fruit the first night. The food was pretty good and they were able to accommodate a number of dietary restrictions. When you sign up for camp, you have to let them know of any dietary restrictions you have. They always had vegetarian and vegan alternatives available since we had quite a few in our group. They even had some cookies labeled as vegetarian. For the life of me though, I can’t remember the last time I consumed a cookie with meat in it. Eric Schranz from Ultrarunnerpodcast was with us in camp and we were able to watch him record a live show Friday after dinner. I think his goal for the weekend was to finish off the kegs of beer. By this time, Hayden Hawks had joined us in camp and it was definitely fun watching Zach, Meghan and Hayden being interviewed by Eric and hearing their stories. We also got to ask them questions during the podcast as well. After the podcast, we met up with the Nathan Rep Clarke, and he hooked us up with all kinds of sweet Nathan headlamps and running lights for our mile hike around thecamp under the stars. Did I mention that the weather was perfect? It wasn’t even cold at night. After the hike, some campers went to sit around the campfire and drink more beer and wine. As tempting as that was, I had already consumed my fill of alcohol that day and was just plain exhausted from the days activities and headed for bed.
DAY TWO: On Saturday, we had breakfast from 7:00 – 8:00 and then had an uphill & downhill running clinic with Zach, Meghan, Hayden and Magda Boulet. They compared all of their cool falling scars too, along with the stories of how that got them. Something I could certainly relate to. The run this morning started at 8:30 and the time frame was 3 hours. You have the option of doing 8-12 miles within that time, or less if you are inclined. I started out thinking I was going to do 12 and made my way down the trail to Volcano Creek. I crossed the creek and kept going and went to the farthest turn around for our group. I started making my way back and crossed the creek again and proceeded up the most horrific switchbacks that went on forever. I swear this trail went uphill for at least 4 miles. There were also workers on the trail this day busy making repairs, thank you Katy, Elke and Paulo! However, I’m sure they remember me as the strange runner spewing profanities to herself as I slowly made my way back up out of the canyon. When I finally reached an aid station that was set up for us at around mile 3.5 , I was pretty spent from all of the climbing, the heat and just being out of shape. Dusty offered me a ride back to camp, and I took it. I looked at my Garmin, which said I was at 8 miles, so I figured I did 8 the hard way. Besides, if I didn’t get back to camp soon, I was going to miss my massage appointment. I did have priorities after all.
I showered, ate lunch, and headed over to the massage tent where I got a wonderful and much needed massage. You don’t realize how tight you are until they loosen things up for you. Then I headed over to the PT tent where I experienced graston for the first time. It was either graston or cupping, so I chose graston. Graston uses stainless steel instruments to move the soft tissue around to loosen it up and encourage more blood flow. It was a very interesting experience. I then headed to a mat where I was shown specific exercises and stretches with a strap to help with my problem areas. After all of the massaging, prodding and stretching, I went into the hall to join the Addaday clinic that Magda Boulet was teaching. She basically showed us how to properly use each torture device on our muscles to force them into submission. Afterwards, my body was so loose and tired that I just needed to be horizontal for awhile. I decided to skip the yoga and afternoon seminars to go back to the cabin to nap.
Of course I made it back to the deck for happy hour where a giant Jenga was being played with, along with other games and lively conversation. After dinner, we headed to the large movie screen that had been set up in the meadow and got ready for the Trails in Motion Film Festival. The movies were great and of course we were provided with plenty of snacks and refreshments. There was also a campfire where we had all the fixings to make smore’s. I eventually made it back to my cabin and slept very well that night.
DAY THREE: We had coffee and a snack before our run. Our run was scheduled for up to 90 minutes, but you can turn around whenever you wanted. Since it was going to be a very steep incline coming back from El Dorado Creek, Ann and I decided to turn around at around 30 minutes. It was incredibly steep coming back and of course it took much longer than 30 minutes to make the return trip back to camp. The views at our turnaround point were amazing though and worth the climb back up. Afterwards, We met up in the dining hall to have a hearty last breakfast in camp and say our goodbyes. At this point, I headed back to our cabin to reluctantly pack up. I did end up leaving with more stuff than what I brought due to all of the giveaways and swag we received. I was sad that it ended so soon and I did hear a rumor that they may extend it to 4 days next year. I sure hope they do and I know I plan to be part of it again. So much fun was had by all!!
Trail Bliss!The top things I learned from trail camp:
- I need to get into better shape next year because those runs are no joke.
- Bring a pad for your bunk, the sleeping bag alone just doesn’t cut it.
- Bring ear plugs if you are a light sleeper, or drink enough alcohol to make you a heavy sleeper.
- It was really cool to hang out and pick the brains of the elite runners.
- It’s just camp, do not over pack.
By the way, I did not fall, but I did trip so hard that my hat violently flew off of my head and landed about 20 feet in front of me. I think the trails are disappoined and still looking for their pound of flesh.