Monday, November 13, 2017

La Sportiva Running Camp 2017

I had the special opportunity to be a part of the 2017 La Sportive Running Camp which took place in Sonoma County, just north of Healdsburg, California over three and a half days. The retreat can best be summed up in 3 words: running, wining, and dining. What could be better?

Striding out on the Marin Headlands. PC: Tad Davis
Since August, I have been dealing with a nagging glute strain. After unsuccessfully pushing through the pain, I decided to take a month off from running and just do yoga and some hiking on the weekends.  I had to cancel my fall race plans, but my hope was to at least be well enough to start running the week before camp so that I would be able to run with my teammates. Thanks to the combined efforts of Bellingham rock stars and masters of their craft, Chris Lockwood, Keri Gustafson and Ash Goddard, I started back jogging 4 days before we left.  When we stopped at the Marin Headlands after our flight on Wednesday, I had my first pain-free run in months.  

The purpose of my involvement with the camp was to learn more about the company’s past and future, the business, the new gear, and to get to know the other ambassadors and staff. As an ambassador of the program, it’s important to have a solid understanding of the mission statement and inner-workings of La Sportiva. This allows me to better promote the company especially through social media. Being an ambassador is much more than just showing up at a race in the gear. My responsibilities include constant personal photo shoots, social media activity, blogging, and general representation of the brand.

Team Selfie. PC: Matt Trappe

The La Sportiva athletes joining me were Anton Krupicka, Meredith Edwards and Leor Pantilat. The journalists sharing the weekend with us were Lisa Jhung, Adam Chase, Allison Patillo and Brian Metzler.

Our accommodations were in a farmhouse on Rockpile Ranch, an 800+ acre vineyard. Rockpile is known for their red wines, producing premier varietals which include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Zinfandel, Primitivo, Syrah, and Petite Sirah.

Good food, good people, good conversation. PC: Matt Trappe

The drive up to the ranch was a doozy, especially in pouring rain. The fog made it feel like we were driving up and over a mountain pass in Europe. The ranch is fenced off and has multiple gates to keep the wild pigs out and prevent them from destroying the grapes and vines. We drove up to the first gate which was locked. We had no service to call and find out how to get through. Convinced we were lost, we started to turn around when another car pulled up beside us. It was Maria Clemente, our chef for the weekend. Maria had the info to open the gate and we followed her through the meandering woods to the house at the road’s end.

Maria spoiled all of us for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day making plant-based, deliciously healthy foods to satisfy and fuel the day’s adventures. I might be biased, but there’s something about Italian girls named Maria who have a passion for food.

Morning Yoga. PC: Matt Trappe
The first night we had special guests John and Lisa Medinger of Ultrarunning Magazine and RDs for the Lake Sonoma 50 for dinner. It was fun to get to meet so many people that I have only read about through the years. I was so excited when I saw John, I pulled on Tad’s sleeve and said, “look, he really does always wear a Hawaiian shirt!”

The first morning, Chris and Mari Coppinger from 2up Yoga came to the house to teach us some yoga for runners. They provided for us mats, blocks, and even straps. Pretty cool!  Unfortunately for Tad, when he was transitioning into warrior one, he caught his toe and may have broken it. Luckily, he was still able to run, but his poor little toe is black and crooked.

Skip explaining the way. PC: Matt Trappe
The runs were organized by the owner of Healdsburg Running Company, Skip Brand. He provided maps for every run and water for mid-run and after. Skip radiates positive energy and is a true ambassador of the sport.  

Wining. PC: Matt Trappe

The first run started at the Lone Rock trailhead and we ran some of the famous trails of the Lake Sonoma 50. Tad and I ran with Emma, the associate winemaker from Mauritson Vineyards. We learned so much during that run; Emma’s passion was inspiring.

Getting carried away. PC: Tad Davis
I don’t remember the rest of the day because I was drunk.

Just kidding!

We went to two wine tastings, the first at Wilson Wines and the second at Mauritson Vineyards. Both were paired with the most delicious cheese and crackers and education. I loved it.

The second day’s run was at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, a beautiful lush loop through the redwoods. Maria packed us lunch to go, which we paired with sparkling white wines from Iron Horse Vineyards.

That Zinfandel glow. PC: Jonathan Lantz

Before our last dinner, Chef Maria and I did a little talk and food demo about how to make vegetables taste good by preparing them correctly. Maria pan-friend squash and made the most delicious chimichurri sauce and I went on a couple of my nutrition rants.

The "Maria & Maria" Show. PC: Matt Trappe
The end of camp would culminate the next morning at Stinson Beach for Inside Trail Racing’s Mt. Tam Trail Run. Since my body was feeling good, albeit with little fitness, I decided to run the 10km. After looking at the course record, I believed that I could run close to the best time and wanted to go for it.

Instead of getting up at 3:30 am and driving 2+ hours from Rockpile Ranch to Stinson Beach, Tad and I got a hotel outside of Mill Valley for the night before. It’s no secret that I am high maintenance when a race is involved.

Finish line. PC: Tad Davis
After three days of rain, Saturday was a crisp sunny fall day. Joining me in the 10km was Lisa, Allison, and Corey; the rest of the gang was taking on the half marathon distance. We all started together at 7:30 am and when the gun went off, I went to the front with another girl right on my shoulder. She passed me on the first of the famous Dipsea stairs. I stayed on her, not wanting to push too hard and die for the downhill back. Once we crested the top of the 1,600-foot climb, the trail leveled out and she cruised as I sprinted to the Cardiac Hill aid station. She took a left for the half and I took a right for the 10km. For the final three miles it was a race against the clock. I ended up 4th overall and first female, besting the previous course record by 2 minutes with a time of 57:25.

Full results here.

So many people to thank for making this memorable weekend possible:

Quinn Carrasco – our fearless leader. Thank you for organizing and bringing us all together. You are truly one-of-a-kind and we are all lucky to have you.

Quinn being Quinn. PC: Tad Davis
Jonathan Lantz – president of La Sportiva North America. It was a pleasure getting to know you and it is reassuring that such a genuine person is leading our company.

Cory Lowe – the account manager of La Sportiva’s PR firm and the backbone of media.

Maria Clementi and Bird – I am so happy for the new friendship. Hopefully we can take the “Maria & Maria” show on the road sometime.  

Skip and Holly Brand from Healdsburg Running Company – thank you for your hospitality and kindness.  

Tim Stahler – Mt. Tam Trail Run race director from InsideTrail Racing. This is my third race of Tim’s and he and the volunteers never fail to put on an A+ event.

Post-race with Lisa. PC: Tad Davis
Chris and Mari Coppinger from 2up Yoga – thank you for teaching us the importance of slowing down and taking time to transition out of running and into our daily lives.

Mauritson Vineyards, Iron Horse Vineyards, Rockpile Ranch and Wilson Wines – what an experience to visit all three of these wineries and get to literally taste the passion behind each grape. Coming from a wine-making family, this was such a treat!

Lisa Jhung, Allison Patillo and Adam Chase – thank you for your interest in the company and the team, and for being a promoter of the sport through your writings, involvement and lifestyle.

Matt Trappe – mad respect for you and the way you effortlessly carry that camera with you wherever you go. Thanks for capturing all the good times.

Meredith, Anton and Leor – thanks to each of you for inspiring me and being good people on and off the trails. I’ll always be cheering for you. 

La Mia Famiglia di La Sportiva. PC: Matt Trappe

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