Just before OCRWC, I found out I was one of a few lucky people from around the world to attend Under Armour's Run Camp in Death Valley. For two days, they put you in the worst desert conditions possible, and you are forced out of your comfort zone to push your limits. The only piece of information that was given to me was my flight itinerary and where to get picked up. We were instructed not to even bring any clothing as everything would be provided. For someone who likes to know what's going on at all times, this was incredibly hard for me. Yes, even underwear was provided and let me tell you, Under Armour has some of the comfiest underwear I have worn. I had no idea where we were staying, when we were running or what kind of food I was going to be eating.
They picked us up and we were transported to a nearby hotel in Las Vegas. It was there where I met the other people I would be spending the next couple days with. After dinner and introductions, they gave us a card, informing us that our wake up call was 3:00 AM... I was reading this as I was crawling into bed at 10:45 that night and a long day of travel. I knew I was really in for something at that point. A couple hours later we scramble into vans with our designated teams. I quickly made friends with people from Panama, Germany and Canada. The "leader" on our team was Kyle Dietz, an ex MMA fighter who has become a professional trail runner for Under Armour.
Of course, we had no idea where we were headed, because the element of surprise was everything at Run Camp. After driving for quite a few hours, and miles of dirt roads later, we appear at an old mining town in the middle of Death Valley. I realized then we would have no cell service for the weekend. It was something I really enjoyed because it caused everyone to interact with each other and stay present in the moment.
We were greeted by a run coach and many cameras. We were informed to fill our water packs up and to start running "that way". Again, we had NO idea how many miles we were running, or where the next aid station was. We were followed by a film crew as we ran through miles of winding curves, not knowing when this run would be over. As the sun rise over the peaks of the canyon, the heat really became a factor.
One of the greatest things about our "team" that was formed was the respect we had for each other., On that first run regardless of everyone's ability, we all stuck together. It would have been easy for the guys to run ahead or for people to break off and do their own thing, but for us, Run Camp was so much more. It was the ability to run with people from across the world who share the same passion: Running.
We finished out run about 12 miles later, and were mysteriously greeted with the same van that dropped us off. Crazy logistics right here! We were greeted with a large box of all kinds of food. Later it became the joke of the trip about how much peanut butter I eat on a daily basis. Lets just say every time they put us in that van, I sat directly in front of the magical snack bin. We got transported to Jeeps, where we got a tour to see how "beautiful" Death Valley is. There was something kind of magical about a place that is so bare and dry.
Sitting back next to my bag of snacks, they took us down and long dirt road that felt like it was literally in the middle of no where. When we got out, the van quickly left and we were greeted with tents, sleeping bags and some food. Camping, running and no showers? I'm in!
We were left to "figure out" what to do. As camp was being set up, we were met with a survival expert. He taught us crucial skills on how to find water (even in a place like Death Valley) start a fire, and create shelter. It was incredibly informative and I even learned how to signal for help! As he left and the sun began to set, our group went from being too hot to freezing cold in a matter of minutes. Luckily we were given clothing to keep us warm through the night. We "somehow" were able to transport Fireball to the campsite, so seeing some of people have it for the first time was quite hilarious.
After all of us ate our freeze dried macaroni, we decided to take a walk to visit some of our other friends at Run Camp down the road. Later that night we would all eventually find our way into our tents after many laughs. At 4:30 the next morning our van had somehow appeared and we were instructed to eat breakfast because we had a yoga class to attend to. For someone who loves yoga I was excited, but not at all surprised we were awoken at such an odd hour. By this point I gave up on asking questions and really embraced "not knowing what's next". We were taken to the highest peak in Death Valley and were instructed by an incredible yoga teacher while watching the sun rise. It was one of the most incredible yoga classes I have ever been a part of and will never forget it.
After this calming morning, the spirits were high, and so was the body odor. Back in the van, and spoonful's of peanut butter later, we were instructed to clean our campsite and they took us to another "drop point" for us to run. When we arrived, we saw all the other "teams" and were lead for some more group stretching before heading out to tackle this long run.
Again, we had no idea how long we were running, or where an aid station would be for water. Our group started this process together, so going into this run, we knew we were going to finish it together no matter what it took. After a few miles in, we were trying to determine how to keep a pace that would work for everyone. A few more miles in, we decided on the word "pineapple". Anyone in our group would say it, and that would tell all of us to slow down a bit, ensuring that we all ran together. We even started running with other people who wanted to get into our game of pineapple. Let me tell you, when you don't know how long your going to be running for, you start to make things up to pass the time, like this Pineapple song below:
For some of our teammates, the heat completely took its toll on them. Vowing to all finish together, everyone encouraged everyone to push through. At the end we ran in with linked arms. Finishing that run meant so much more to me than just "getting a workout in". It was about coming together to encourage other people and knowing that everyone on that run was going though the same struggles. It wasn't about pace, it was about perseverance. It wasn't about "winning", but about all experiencing the same emotional rollercoaster we all went though for 17 miles, and finishing the journey we all started together.
Clearly this was early into our run, as I'm still smiling
17 hot, sweaty miles later, we were greeted with massages, a food buffet, but most importantly: Showers! After stuffing our faces with food that night, we had a dance party. It was so fun to be doing an activity that didn't make you sweat. As the party died down and most went to bed, a few of us took a night dip in the pool, but the security guard didn't think it was that fun.. Eventually I made my way back to bed. The next morning I got in the van one last time, packed some more snacks for the flight home and said goodbye to many of my new friends.
UA Run Camp is something I will always remember. When things are getting tough in my training, I think back to that weekend. I still stay in touch with people from Run Camp and seeing their progress inspires me to push harder. I am forever grateful to be given this opportunity and look forward for more to come.