The Top 10 Moments of Rise.Run.Retreat. 2016
“Oh by the way, how was Vermont,” one of my best running friends asked last week after I returned from four days at Rise.Run.Retreat.
This is the question many people have asked recently – the same question I’ve been trying to figure out how to answer for more than a week.
As a writer, my job is to paint eloquent pictures with words. To verbally share experiences that make you feel as if you were right there in the moment with me – running the same miles, seeing the same sunrises, feeling the same energy. Alas, I have found myself utterly speechless. How do you adequately sum up a weekend that filled your whole heart with joy, made you love running even more than you already did (if that’s possible) and gave you the gift of lifelong friendships?
Perhaps there is no way to do it. But that certainly doesn’t mean I won’t try.
Rise.Run.Retreat. is an annual retreat that brings 10-12 female runners together for three days, typically in the northeastern part of the United States, to connect through running and friendship. This year’s retreat was presented by headline sponsor Dr. Cool. My friend Sarah and I started the retreat last year in an attempt to capture the profound passion we each felt from the relationships and strength running has brought into our lives. We plan the event single-handedly, from booking all the venues and activities to personally contacting every sponsor to managing the website and social media channels. I’m so grateful for my friendship with this remarkable woman. We are like two sides of the same brain sometimes. There were moments when our lives felt like a cruel game of Jenga this year. If we took one more thing onto our already overflowing plates, we would spontaneously self-combust. Sometimes we would ask ourselves if all the extra work was worth it.
On the first night of the retreat, as we all gathered together on the back deck of our Vermont home, Sarah and I silently looked at each from opposite sides of the space and nodded. Knowing exactly what we were thinking without saying anything. It was, and will continue to be, worth every single second of stress or sacrifice.
Just as I often try to recap big races I run, the power of this event was in the small moments, not in the play-by-play details. These were the top 10 moments of Rise.Run.Retreat. 2016.
1. Arriving in New England: The travel day from hell with the best welcome party
I arrived in New England a day before the retreat began to finalize last-minute event details with Sarah. This meant I got to fly into Portland, Maine, and spend the night with Sarah’s sweet family, including her three awesome kids who I adore.
Let’s just say my day of travel was a little bumpy. After waking up around 5:30 a.m. to sneak in a spin class and do some work, I flew from Tampa to Baltimore. My connecting flight was delayed more than two hours for mechanical issues. Upon arriving from the first leg of my flight, alarms went off throughout the airport and TSA spread out like wildfire, yelling at all of us to freeze. We stood like ice sculptures for about 10 minutes, nervously awaiting a terrorist to appear before the unknown security threat was released. All the while, I’m the pregnant lady potentially standing next to a bomb at the airport. Gulp.
Once I finally arrived in Maine, Sarah and I were so busy chatting in the car when she picked me up that she turned the wrong way on the Interstate and we drove about an hour out of the way. Did I mention it was 11 p.m.?
The crazy day was all worth it when I arrived and found this sweet note from my buddy Sophia, Sarah’s six-year-old daughter who had to go to bed since I was so much later than anticipated.
We prepared all the bags for our attendees thanks to L.L. Bean and the other tremendous sponsors who partnered with us to make the retreat possible. Then it was lights out a little after midnight.
After just a few hours of sleep, I got to run (yes, run/walk with my pregnant belly) about 3 miles on the beach as the sun rose. Silence with the exception of the crashing waves. It was perfection.
My run was followed by an incredible breakfast of donuts with Sarah’s family to celebrate her son Jack’s birthday. There is no way these donuts could not make the top 10 list. We then made the three-hour drive to Vermont to start what would be a fabulous weekend.
2. The Weather and Scenery
It’s no secret that I’m a person who does not love hot and humid weather. I guess you could consider me a genius for deciding to plant my roots in Florida, huh? If you ask me if I prefer to be on the beach or in the mountains, I almost always say the mountains. I thrive when I’m in stunning places with surroundings that inspire me, and I do my best running in colder temperatures. Vermont was exactly that. We stayed at a house in the picturesque mountains of Waterbury, Vermont, and the temperatures ranged from the high 40s to the high 60s each day. It was heaven!
Running that requires long sleeves, gloves or ear warmers is my favorite kind of running, especially with great friends. I ran/walked 5.5 hilly miles on our first morning of the retreat and was grateful that Sue stuck with me so I wasn’t alone bringing up the back of the pack.
3. “Running” the Leaf Peepers Half Marathon
A big part of Rise.Run.Retreat. this year was running a half marathon together. We (and when I say “we” I mean Sarah who lives for hills while I seek out flat races and terrain) selected the Leaf Peepers Half Marathon for our group race. The first three miles are brutal with about a 900-foot climb and another doozy during mile 11. The course includes both road and trail and is a simply beautiful course. Given that I was 26 weeks pregnant the week of the retreat, I opted to spectate. But I still got my miles in while serving as the course photographer for our attendees, catcher of all throwaway running gear and overall encourager … who looked slightly like a marshmallow out on the course.
To get to my spot at mile 6 (which also happened to be mile 10.5), I had to run nearly 3 miles from the start line along the highway to get there. It was a hilly route and I ran/walked my way as fast as I could so I wouldn’t miss the first runners. I spent the next 90 minutes cheering on all the runners, reminding them that they looked strong and were running a great pace. Each of our fantastic Rise.Run.Retreat. attendees passed me twice. Here they were in all their glory, with Allie leading the pack and finishing third in her age group.
Natalie had an 8-mile run on her training schedule, so she and Sue decided to run the first 8 miles of the race and then walk or walk/run the rest of the race. My plan was to finish the last three miles of the race with them when they came by my spectating spot for the second time. When I saw them just past the 10-mile mark, I started walking with them. We walked until we got to mile 12 and then we ran the rest of the way in and crossed the finish line together. We were one of the last people to finish the race. It was interesting to experience a race from that perspective, with almost no one around us and volunteers cheering us on telling us we can do it. We sincerely appreciated their support, but it was also somewhat of an odd feeling. Natalie is a 3:23 marathoner, and Sue and I hold our own as well, so walking slowly by choice as one pregnant lady, one healing from plantar fasciitis and one kind enough to stick with us, we already knew we could do it and have done it more times than we can count. We appreciated this perspective and being cheered in by our fellow retreat attendees as we crossed the line together. 13.1 miles for them and a total of 5.5 miles for the day for me.
4. Learning Something New about Nutrition
An important hallmark of Rise.Run.Retreat. is bringing a variety of speakers and running seminars to our attendees. This year, we had the fortune of hearing Jamie Sheahan speak about nutrition for endurance athletes, a true highlight for me as someone who is constantly hungry (no pun intended) to learn more about nutrition to maximize performance. Jamie is a registered dietitian and the director of nutrition at The Edge Sports & Fitness in South Burlington as well as a personal trainer, fitness class instructor and long distance runner. She has run 12 marathons and dozens of half marathons. Jamie specializes in sports nutrition, working with everyone from internationally ranked Ironman competitors to those looking to tackle their first half marathon.
I was thrilled to hear that Jamie’s advice aligned almost perfectly to nutritionist Kyle Pfaffenbach, a nutrition expert who has also worked closely with Brooks Running elite athletes and has been a huge help to me in transforming my own race weekend nutrition resulting in big gains. It’s awesome when two experts you respect a lot have similar views that validate each other.
The new piece of advice I learned from Jamie that I haven’t been doing is spreading out my race fuel more evenly. Typically, I swallow my GU at once and then wash it down with water. When I can see a water stop approaching, I take my GU so that once I get to the water stop, I can time my water with the GU. Jamie suggests releasing that fuel more evenly to avoid spikes and crashes, suggesting we take our GU over the course of 30 to 60 minutes, a little at a time. I will definitely experiment doing this when I’m training for a goal race next year after my baby arrives.
5. Two Words: Bacon Cheddar
One of my favorite events of the retreat was a special cheese and beer tasting that Cabot Creamery Cooperative’s director of health and wellness and registered dietitian Sara Wing hosted for us. She paired a selection of some of Cabot’s amazing cheeses with local Vermont beers (and a non-alcoholic cider for me) and walked us through the pairings. I cannot tell you how amazing and delicious this was. My favorite cheese by far is their bacon cheddar. I could eat this on crackers for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We knew it was going to be a fun session when Sara rolled up driving this minivan. Hilarious!
With all jokes aside, I truly fell in love with Cabot during the retreat. Although I’d bought and eaten their cheeses plenty of times, I had no idea how involved in the community they were, how much they value local, family owned farmers and how much they do in Vermont. Sara is a working mom of two who actually grew up in Waterbury where our retreat was located. This special, local take on the retreat location was such a special one for all of us. I am going to be a loyal Cabot customer for my cheese from now on.
6. The Food
In addition to cheese, we had some amazing food as part of this year’s retreat. Feast your eyes on these delectable dishes, and try not to work up an appetite.
We ate this delicious welcome dinner from a local caterer (Fiddleheads Cuisine) on the first evening of the retreat. It was just what the doctor ordered after a day of travel for everyone.
On the second night of the retreat, we decided to change things up and cook our own meal. We split the group up into three teams and prepared three different meals from Chef’d, a meal delivery service that delivers fresh ingredients to your door with simple instructions for cooking. We made 1. basil chili chicken stir fry, 2. Mediterranean penne with sun-dried tomatoes and parmesan zucchini and 3. arugula salad with gorgonzola vinaigrette.
Team salad (we all agreed they were the winners with the best dish of the night):
If you’re looking to make dinner a bit simpler and remove the stress of grocery shopping and meal planning, definitely check Chef’d out. I’ve had their meals delivered to me before, and it was such a treat to have them as a retreat sponsor. Here we are enjoying our feast after all our hard work.
Finally, we had an amazing lunch catered by Fiddleheads Cuisine that sponsor Inside Tracker worked closely with the chef on to create a menu optimized for female runners. Jonathan Levitt from Inside Tracker joined us for lunch to talk about how runners can optimize their performance by making changes in their diet. It was a fascinating talk, and I look forward to getting my blood work tested when I’m training again post-baby.
7. The Outtakes
As you can imagine, when 10 lady runners get together, there are lots of silly things that go on.
Like, when someone accidentally prepares hot peppers as part of the Chef’d challenge and touches their face before washing their hand and sets it on fire. Then, said person (ahem Allie) listens to my advice to rub dairy (in this case Stonyfield yogurt) on the burned area to take away the sting. This takes the concept of a milk mustache to a whole new level.
Or when you try to take a jumping photo using the self-timer and the majority of the photos turn out like this with lost heads.
Or when you teach all your friends how to “fake laugh” while taking photos (a trick my college friends and I love to employ) so pictures look more candid … and then you can’t stop fake laughing in every picture. Oye.
8. The Sponsors
Rise.Run.Retreat. would not have been as amazing and as successful (or possible) without the generosity and partnership of our incredible sponsors.
It is such an honor to work with companies who truly support the running community and want to help us forge connections to grow stronger.
Additionally, I’m pretty sure Rise.Run.Retreat. has the best swag bags you’ll get at any event anywhere. Sarah and I worked hard with all the amazing sponsors listed above, from local businesses run out of family homes to top companies in the running industry, to bring our attendees really cool apparel, gadgets and gear that would take their running to new heights. Please be sure to check these incredible companies out, and stay tuned for my Fall Runner’s Report Card later this month, where I’ll be putting some of their gear to the test.
If you’re looking for authentic companies that care about the running community, please check out all our amazing sponsors:
- Dr. Cool Recovery
- Blissful Eats
- Cabot Creamery
- DarnTough Vermont
- Eureka Balm
- Garuka Bars
- Gatorade Endurance
- Inside Tracker
- LL Bean
- Pete & Gerry’s Organic Eggs
- SlimClip – WTFactory
- Tiger Tail
9. The Flight Home that Almost Wasn’t
I suppose all good things must come to an end, and finally Rise.Run.Retreat. had to as well. We begrudgingly said our farewells as Natalie, Kara and I headed off to the airport. Our flights were late (around 7:30 p.m.) which meant several of us would be arriving home after midnight. Natalie and I were on the same first leg of our flight, so we were excited to have an extra two hours together. When I tried to check in, the man at the counter told me I would not be getting home to Tampa that night because the flight out of Vermont was on a ground delay, which would cause me to miss my connection in NYC. What!?! Mr. rUnladylike and I had been traveling for a week and hadn’t seen each other and he was leaving on another work trip the next day. I could not stay in the airport or in a hotel for another 24 hours. To make matters worse, they said I would have to pay for all my accommodations since the delay was due to weather and not something within the airline’s control.
I immediately started sobbing to Natalie and Kara. I could not believe this. They stayed with me as I rerouted my flight and changed my tickets so that I would sleep at the JFK airport in NYC and get on a 6 a.m. flight to finally get home. As we were getting our bags together, the man at the gate said the ground delay had been lifted and I might be able to make my connection. A wave of relief and hope washed over me. They pulled my bag off the other plane and got it on the original one, and Natalie and I made our way to our gate.
We landed in NYC with about 20 minutes for me to make my connection. We quickly said goodbye and I started running and speed walking to my next gate. When I got there, they hadn’t started boarding and I collapsed into a chair full of gratefulness. I was getting home tonight. No sooner did I sit down when I saw a woman gasping, completely out of breath presenting me with a smoothie. Natalie had bought me a smoothie and run at top speed through the airport carrying her bag to make sure I had something to eat before getting on the plane. She had no idea if she would actually make it, and she hadn’t even bought anything for herself because she could only carry one smoothie.
Just when I thought I could not love this woman more, my heart grew five times the size for her. Her thoughtfulness and selflessness was so amazing, not to mention she was getting very sick and was not feeling well (she wasn’t scheduled to arrive home until 3 a.m. Pacific time!).
This was a moment I will cherish from our event. When everything else is gone, these friendships and acts of kindness are what will always stand out.
10. The Friendships and Authenticity
If you haven’t sensed it already, the most meaningful part about Rise.Run.Retreat. 2016 was the authenticity of the attendees and the incredible friendships we all have because we run and because we were there. This is one of the most special groups of women I’ve ever had the honor of being part of, and my wish for all of you is that you will find the same powerful relationships through running I’ve been blessed with and have had the true joy of deepening through Rise.Run.Retreat.
If you’re interested in learning more about next year’s Rise.Run.Retreat., join our email list. Visit riserunretreat.com and scroll to the bottom of the page to sign up.
Have you ever been to a running retreat?