Last week 19 members of Oiselle team came together for a running camp at ZAP Fitness in Blowing Rock, NC. A dream that Allie Bigelow and Mary Winchester had last fall after hearing about the first annual Bird Camp in Bend, they decided that planning a smaller regional camp for their teammates would be a great experience to have as well. Allie spent a lot of time organizing the details of the camp and tells us about her experience at camp with her teammates.
By: Allie Bigelow
If you ever went to summer sleep-away camp as a child I am sure you recall those magical days when you were surrounded by friends new and old, with your only daily obligation to have as much fun as could be crammed into the long days of summer. Ah, those were the days! What if I told you that you could still, as an adult, escape the responsibilities of daily life and spend a few days surrounded by friends, enjoying the outdoors and just having fun? Well, guess what? You can!
Turns out all you need to do to recapture that bliss is go to running camp. And that is exactly what 19 members of Oiselle Team did this past weekend when we met up at ZAP Fitness in Blowing Rock, NC for the first ever Southern Regional Bird Camp. No work, no cell service, no cooking, no cleaning…just 4 blissful days of running, education, camaraderie and a whole lot of laughing, but with MUCH better looking clothes than we wore to camp as kids!
Over the course of four days the Oiselle birds not only explored a variety of gorgeous local running routes but also were treated to lectures and clinics on topics ranging from sports nutrition and mental training to the proper structure of a training plan to yoga and strength training for runners.
We learned to do speed work, drills and strides, soaked our tired legs in an ice cold creek, ate ice cream in the mid-afternoon and stayed up far too late getting to know our friends better. And when the time came to leave we all dragged our heels and threatened to stay forever but settled on the promise that we would visit one another during the year (the perks of having a regional camp!), meet up at regional races and all return to camp next summer.
But as much as the daily life of Bird Camp resembled the summer camps of our youth, as is often the case with adulthood this experience was different for one specific reason: the worries we brought along with us to camp weighed on us much more heavily than our childhood pre-camp concerns. Despite the fact that we were a wonderfully diverse group (our campers hailed from 9 states and ranged in age from 24 to 50 years old, counted amongst our ranks a professional runner, a number of women new to structured training and every level of experience in between) almost every camper arrived with similar concerns about whether or not she was a good enough, fast enough, experienced enough or serious enough runner to attend running camp. Fortunately those worries fell away as we ran together, ate together, learned together and laughed together.
By the time we said our goodbyes, the growth in confidence across the group was almost palpable. As one camper later told me: “I honestly didn't realize how much I needed this. I never ran track or did running on any sort of team. I was really hoping to find that with Oiselle…it is amazing to be with people who really love running and take it seriously, regardless of how good they are. And everyone was so endlessly supportive...I just couldn't be happier about this weekend.”
If I had to summarize the Southern Bird Camp experience I would say that we all went home having learned the following lessons:
- As camp founder and badass runner, Zika Rea said “whether you are working towards a 5 minute mile or a 12 minute mile, we are all on the same journey.” This point was reinforced by the amazing talk that our teammate Andie Cozzarelli (an up and coming pro runner and Olympic Trials qualifier) gave in which she highlighted her top 10 running tips…each of which were applicable to all of us! Andie is incredibly grounded, honest and accessible and truly embodies the truth that the pros are just like the rest of us!
- Oiselle’s clothes are flattering on every single body type. Every one. The clothes may sit differently on different women, but they always looked good. It was really fun to see so many pieces in person and on so many different body types! At one point we even noticed that we were all wearing the Roga Shorts and I promise you, those darn shorts really did look good on everyone. It is a lot easier to feel like you are “enough” of a runner when you feel good in the clothes you are wearing.
- Running camp is for everyone! Pro runner or newcomer, young or old, recreational runner or hard-core racer, elite masters 400 meter hurdler or beginning marathoner…we all had a great time and learned a ton, both from Pete, Zika and Ryan and from one another.
Many thanks to the people and companies that made this camp so incredibly special. First and foremost thank you to Oiselle, for bringing us all together as one team of runners. To Zika, Pete, Ryan and the athletes at ZAP, for providing us the setting and the structure for camp. ZAP is the best of the best; if you have ever dreamed of going to a running camp, they are the place to go. To Picky Bars, Big Spoon Roasters and Generation UCAN for the fuel and to Oiselle, Balega, Bull City Running Company and HankOrange for outfitting us from head to toe! The women of Southern Bird Camp are grateful to all of you and we cannot wait to meet up and do it all again next year!