If you read my previous post, you’ll know I was coming off a dank, dark and dreary week post DNS at the Scotiabank Marathon.
A few months ago I saw a post for a women’s only trail running retreat and signed up immediately. To be honest, I signed up less for the actual learning part and more to meet other runners since I’ve been attending races and running trails solo this year. Trail runner speed dating is a thing, right?
On Friday night I drove up to Blue Mountain with Carola, a super cool girl from Chile who was here for work and tacked on a weekend so she could come up to the retreat. I was very excited to spend 2 hours with her in the car because Alex and I recently booked a trip through Patagonia and I wanted to ask a million questions about the regions must-do’s and see’s. Turns out, Carola had actually been the tour guide for our tour = small world. She had recently raced the Trans Rockies Stage Race and had an upcoming 50k in November. We obviously had lots to chat about and the weekend was off to a flying start!
I’d never been to a retreat before let alone a sporty- themed one, so wasn’t sure what to expect at all. We arrived on Friday night after dinner and the tone of the weekend was immediately set by a round table airing of embarrassing running moments. I’d break the unwritten rule if I shared them here, but OMG these ladies had NO shame. My kind of girls.
Jenn Faraone hosted the clinic and is not only a super accomplished runner, but an absolute delight. She was an amazing hostess and I loved that she stressed that although there was structure to the weekend in terms of speakers, sessions and scheduled runs, there was built in down time. The bowls of gels and bars, trail magazines and hot tub were an added bonus.
Saturday started with breaky followed by a group chat with Karen Holland who is a local ultra runner and previous Instagram unicorn to me – I followed her on social media but had never met her in real life. Trail speed dating was working! She spoke about her ultra experiences, how she balances running with her sedentary career (I can totally relate re sedentary’ness) and the highs and lows of running long (long!) distances.
We then all geared up for our first group run which was a 10k’ish out and back. Mid-October can be moody and it was a rainy and chilly start. We even ended up running through our first snowfall (!!) of the season! We ran along the Pretty River Valley up to the highest point on the Bruce Trail which was extra slick from all the leaves and recent rainfall ( and now SNOW).
After lunch, Jenn led a strength training session which I SO needed a refresher on and we practiced sets of trail running/ functional exercises which I have already stated to throw into my rotation. I think it is FINALLY sinking in that strength training is such an important part of training (and the part I didn’t keep up) to stay strong and injury free.
After the strength session a few girls went out again on another run (I tried but knee was not happy and didn’t want to push it) and a few of us hot tub’d and had a glass of wine ( part of the training plan!) before heading into Blue Mountain village for dinner.
Sunday started with another delish breaky followed by an injury prevention and taping session with physio Laura. We learned some taping skills and got some tips on injury prevention and proper running form (ie lean down and into hills and don’t be a hunchback!)
We were then off on our run which was along the top of Blue Mountain. This one was a little longer (13k) with some pretty spectacular fall views.
Top takeaways from the retreat:
- Listen to your body: Know the difference between not wanting to run because you think you are too tired, and when your body needs REST. When everyone slept in/stood Jenn up for the 6am morning run, she chalked it up to the group needing extra sleep. Ha!
- “Just Tree It” – Jenn shared that sometimes on a run she’ll stop to meditate or if she needs to just a let a thought or fear GO, she’ll find a tree, hug it with forehead on trunk and consciously park whatever feelings/thoughts that she needs to let go of into the tree. Love it.
- We all have fears about this sport, and that’s ok. It might be as serious as being attacked when you’re out on a run, falling on uneven footing, or not thinking you can make it to the finish line. Be conscious of them, and figure out what will help you either face them, or prevent them from happening as much as possible.
- I learned that hip hikes are a thing and they burrnnnn.
- Women in this sport are so supportive, honest and inspiring. It was amazing being out on our runs with groups made up of super-ultra runners, mid-packers and those like me just starting their trail running journey. It was a good reminder that we can all go out and enjoy the trails together regardless of ability or experience. I was able to commiserate with others who had had to pull out of a race at the last minute after months of training and hear how they came back stronger. It’s amazing how a few hours in the forest can bring people together.
I felt 100% better on my way home Saturday about my running to date (injuries and all) and it reinforced how awesome the trail running community is and that it is full of unbelievable strong women who love the sport. I feel so lucky to have been a part of the weekend, and definitely looking forward to adventures with my new trail friends. Thanks Jenn for an amazing weekend getaway!