I’m just tired. I was expecting more of an easy weekend rather than what I actually got. I figured running camp, run easy, fewer miles, etc. Instead I, like usual, ran three runs a day, couple miles each, over rough terrain and now I’m spent. The three times through the obstacle course yesterday probably didn’t help, but how could I resist, it was so much fun.
That’s the nature of the RWB (Team Red, White, and Blue) Trail Running Camp. It’s set up so that vets and other trail running enthusiasts will have fun, learn from experienced runners, and experience trail running at some of it’s most rugged and scenic best. The camp was held this past weekend for the second time in as many years at Camp Eagle outside (way outside) San Antonio on some of the most unforgiving, skin taking, cactus riddled, rock strewn terra firma I’ve ever seen. I thought the basalt lava rock in Central Oregon was bad (and it is) but this land is covered by sharp rock from river bank to highest peak with cactus thrown in for good measure. It was just rough.
Camp Eagle is a 1400acre retreat camp used for everything from sporting events to church camps and we happened to fall somewhere in between. The past 4 years that Team RWB has been around the founder, Mike Erwin, has gone from a few t-shirts given out to a full-on non-profit group that supports hundreds if not thousands of veterans from every branch of the armed forces from every generation. This was the second year of the trail running camp held at Camp Eagle and it roughly doubled in size this year to include 84 vets, about 50 civilians (cus they like to trail run too), and 50 camp staff such as mentors like myself.
We gathered for two full days and three nights to share our knowledge and experiences with those that are both new to the sport of trail running and those that were there to experience a fun trail running environment. With such a wide variety of folks tailoring specific knowledge to each individual is a big key to helping people learn the basics or the intricacies of a simple but often complicated sport. I won’t bore you with the structure of daily activities but to say we accomplished a lot by separating athletes into four groups ranging from first time trail runners to trail running veterans looking for that extra knowledge that would help them improve their performance. The mentors Liza Howard and crew had assembled would later lead to the most competitive race between ultrarunners in November with Sage Canaday, Jason Schlarb, Dominic “Unicorn” Grossman, Dave James, and Jason Bryant. Also there were Meghan Arbogast, Pam Smith, Liza, Nikki Kimball, Katie DeSplinter and many more.
I had amazing time at camp and it is exactly the thing that I need from time to time to reinstill my faith in the human spirit. Luckily runners tend to be a rather upbeat crowd which is exactly why I surround myself with them but at running camp everyone just seems a bit more relaxed and at ease with themselves. Even though I go as a coach or mentor to try to help others, usually it is I that comes away with more than I came with.
Take for example two of my favorite people at camp this week; Karen and Eduard. Karen was a Olympic Trials marathon qualifier with a bright future in professional running when she was derailed by an accident in the military to where she can no longer feel sensation in her legs. She can move them and she’s still a 3hr marathoner but I can’t imagine not being able to feel your feet when running but despite that she’s getting into ultrarunning and trail running with a little healthy fear and an indomitable spirit. To see her running over technical rocky terrain and knowing she had a broken bone in her foot (that she couldn’t feel) really amazed me.
Then there’s Edward who I first met on the bus ride out to Camp Eagle. He was limping out of the gas station stop so I thought he had an injury, turns out he did, he’d lost his whole leg up to his hip, one of the worst amputations because usually people end up just sitting around and not trying to do anything. Turns out though that there isn’t much (if anything) that is going to stop Edward. Throughout the weekend he ran the technical trails using his leg to bound up steep technical terrain while using his prosthetic running leg to land and pivot on to get back to his good leg. He participated in each run never slowing anyone down and refusing help when we asked if he needed any. Then he went and did this: the last event of the weekend was an obstacle race. He did the whole thing and when I saw him on course he was working his prosthetic through a tire hung between two trees about 4ft off the ground that is one of the hardest things for people with two good legs to do. He made it through to my amazement. Kid is tough as nails. And he’s funny too, he said he had a little tightness in his calf too when I was saying something about one of my injuries, but he was talking about his prosthetic leg.
To say the least, these two and the other hundred or more at camp have my respect. And in four short years Mike Erwin, RWB Founder, has created something that for many will be an important part of the recovery process for these vets and for others just an awesome running camp to come to, be inspired, and learn a lot about trail running. Look for more camps next year including this camp at Camp Eagle. It’s open to all trail runners and tailored to the huge range of abilities that we have in the sport. Hopefully I’ll see you there at one of them.
A mason jar of Apple Pie Moonshine, a cigar, some smores, a long run in the hills, and a wrestling match with “the Unicorn” himself capped off the weekend and sent me home quite wasted (not from the moonshine, really) and in need of a few days of recovery.