So Erin and I went out to Kara Goucher's retreat last year and it really was incredible. So when Kara announced she was doing another one, there was no question that I would be back for more. This year had a lot to live up to – since last year was insanely amazing- just a great group of girls and exactly the type of thing you need to rejuvenate your heart and spirit. It honestly is less about running and so much more about your life/personal growth.
This year Kara opened it up to 60 girls (last year was around 45 girls) and her focus was just bringing women together to encourage and empower one another. At this retreat, she said our retreat last year was the most rewarding event of her running career. It was such a special and real time where there were zero pretenses, where no one held back, and where being vulnerable was the norm and not the exception. A no judgment zone where women encourage/support each other? Yes. Can we please make THAT the new norm?
I think something that makes this weekend so great is that that is how Kara genuinely is. And her being so open and vulnerable and empathetic means that she brings the same out of others. Oh you’re sharing your deepest fears and insecurities? Well I guess it’s not so scary to put my stuff out there too. Something super empowering and strong about putting your greatest fears and weaknesses out there- but not letting them define you.
We started the weekend off with Tracey Katona of KATONA PILATES teaching us pilates right after we got there. Geez. If only I could have her there everyday to teach me. Such a good core workout and much needed in my run heavy life. Plus she is the funniest person and you can't be mad at her for these crazy moves she is having you do when you’re cracking up.
Then we had a session with Adam Goucher & Tim Catalano. Seriously if I could have this kick in the butt/pep talk every single day- who knows what I would accomplish. These guys are hysterical and get their message across so effectively. I’m reminded with them – “am I feeding the right wolf?”- what things in my life am I adding fuel to- that’s what’s going to grow. I will feed my dreams and starve my fears. Once again, they reminded us to be saying aloud our goals and tell everyone so that we’re held accountable. Scary stuff- but you don’t accomplish big goals by being terrified to communicate them. I still have my goals written on stickies at my office, bathroom and bedroom- can't wait 'til I hit them and can replace them with new goals.
We had happy hour and dinner that night. The food this retreat was even better this year. Last year there were plenty of meals that I wasn’t able to eat because of being celiac. This year every single meal was gluten free- plus Lottie from Running on Veggies made desserts and snacks for the retreat that felt like you were cheating- but were actually super healthy for you. She’s a magician in the kitchen. (No wonder Kara asked her to create this magic consistently for her every night until Olympic Trials!)
The next day we had our first run of our stay. OH GEEZ. I have really no words for this run (mostly because I’m still out of breath from the altitude). 9500 feet above sea level is not a joke, guys. And after this weekend, I don’t know how I could have signed up for dumb Cottonwood last year as a goal race when it is 9500 feet too. Sea Level people need to stay on their level.
When we started the run someone was like yall can tack on more miles to the 4.5 miles if you want to, which I was definitely planning on doing. Please. When is 4.5 miles an actual run for me. Two miles in- after too much embarrassing huffing and puffing, I was ready for the torture to be over. When we got back to the hotel, don’t worry- I didn’t keep going to “tack on more miles.” I was lucky I arrived back without having to walk to catch my breath. Altitude, y'all.
We had a self defense session which was awesome and then we did some more stretching with Tracey. SERIOUSLY. I didn’t even know you could stretch the parts she was having us stretch. Felt amazing and terrible at the same time. Also, seriously hysterical to watch a group of runners stretch- we are definitely the most inflexible people out there.
Dr. Amy Oldenburg was our next session teaching about common injuries. Super interesting hearing about the most common injuries and treatments. Weirdly (and luckily) I tend not to get injured, just chronically fatigued.
Lottie did a nutrition session with us that reminded me again how important nutrition is to my running and how I need to be taking that time in my week to prepare good options so I am not stuck with ones that are not up to par for what my body needs to recover well. New goal is to really put that time in the kitchen to be creating more nutrient dense options so that my body is able to recover better.
Next up was Anna Pfaffel. Geez. Last year was such a powerful and emotional session and just a really bonding experience. She brought it again. Such an incredible reminder to “be brave, be kind.” And most of all to be kind and gentle to yourself. How much do we constantly need this reminder. It’s so easy to remind ourselves to be kind and patient and gentle to others- but how often do we extend the same courtesy to ourselves. Not ok. We need to change that. Life is already tough enough without the weight we put on ourselves.
Then Kara spoke next and basically gave her life story. This was it- what I needed this weekend for this season that I have been trying to survive. She spoke SO candidly about her life and success and how each success brought new pressure and anxiety to keep up. She spoke of incredible highs and devastating lows. Really she is so relatable. My highs are nothing like Kara’s (guys, there is zero possibility of any Olympics in my future unless you count spectating them, in which case- HIGHLY likely) and my lows aren’t on a world stage affecting my career, yet the rawness of her pain and disappointment were so tangible and felt so familiar. I just got it. And felt it all. And somehow hearing her verbalize things I have felt and thought made it easier to accept that the lows are fine as long as you don’t accept them as defeat and give up. This girl DOES NOT GIVE UP. She has faced huge obstacles these past few years. HUGE. Injuries, surgeries, recovery time, a tough marathon, and some media firestorm for her standing by her convictions. She is not backing down though- she is going all out for the Olympic Trials this February and I trust that I will get to go to Rio and cheer her on. I guess it’s easy to believe in yourself and your goals when you’re on a positive trajectory and when the story sounds more like a fairytale than a tragic comedy. But that’s not really life, right?! There are peaks and valleys- and learning to navigate through them and trust that you’re going to make it through, while enjoying the journey is what makes life beautiful. You can’t wish away the bad just to get back to the good. The struggle is what makes it that much more gratifying when you get through it.
Talking to the girls at the retreat was great- so many accomplished women that love running (and are fast too)- but each person is going through their own struggle too. I think what I’m really learning is that everyday we have to be our own encourager and cheerleader. There are enough things pulling at us to give up- that it’s too hard, that things are all going wrong- but daily we have to be on guard for those negative thoughts that try to sabotage our goals. I'm learning how to be my best cheerleader when I need it most.
It's been amazing seeing Kara KILL it since the retreat - she broke tape at not one, but TWO half marathons this fall so far and is just really on track to make her dream of making the team for Rio a reality. This gives me SOOOO much hope for my own goals. This girl has kept at it no matter what, and things are coming back her way- in a big way. I know with patience that my own fitness and running will start coming together again soon. I'm already looking forward to next year's Podium Retreat and definitely excited to cheer Kara on at the Olympic Trials in February and to her making another Olympic Team. She sure knows how to be brave. And I definitely feel like going out there and going after some big goals myself. ;-)