I looked around at the women surrounding me as we lined up to take a photo before facing the daunting hills of our half marathon and was filled with joy and gratitude. When I started blogging two years ago, I never anticipated forming friendships with so many inspiring, authentic, intelligent, and talented women as I have.
How can I even put the Rise.Run.Retreat into words? The weekend, the friendships, and the running were refreshing, inspiring, enlightening, heart-warming, encouraging, and more. I went into this retreat with high expectations, and the entire weekend exceeded those expectations.
The Rise.Run.Retreat is a women’s running retreat hosted by Sarah Canney and Jesica D’Avanza. These two amazing women created the retreat in order to bring female runners and influencers together to learn, connect, and of course run. This year’s retreat took place for four days in Waterbury, Vermont.
The attendees were Sarah (Run Far Girl), Jesica (rUnladylike), Allie (Vita Train 4 Life), Angela (Happy Fit Mama), Sandra (Organic Running Mom), Sue (This Momma Runs for Cupcakes), Natalie (Nat Runs Far), Christine (Love Life Surf), Kara (Maine Girl 2 Runs) and myself. I had gotten to know many of these women through blogging and social media, but this was the first time I would meet any of them in person.
I already had developed profound respect and admiration for these women: many of them have inspired my training throughout their own running. After meeting them, I only respect and admire them more and deeply cherish their friendships. If you don’t already read their blogs or follow them on Instagram: start now.
Sarah and Jesica truly outdid themselves in hosting this retreat. Our meals were incredibly delicious, our swag bags were extraordinarily generous, the running was fun and wonderfully hilly, the scenery was breathtaking, and most of all the friendships and bonds formed were amazing.
The retreat began on Thursday evening with a welcome dinner, which I missed because of flight delays (admittedly, I cried a bit to Ryan on the phone when I realized this). Everyone was so understanding of why I missed the dinner – the flight delays were completely beyond my control – but I was so disappointed to not get to participate in the first day of the retreat.
Our first scheduled activity of the day was a shake out run. I noted some hills while driving in during the middle of the night, but daylight revealed hills upon hills. We ran to a water reservoir, took photos, and ran back – and all learned the meaning of Sarah’s motto “Embrace the Hill.” East Seattle may be hilly, but it’s rolling hills – not steep, unrelenting climbs that extend for a mile easily.
Even though we all battled out the hills, we enjoyed conversation and the immediate connection that comes from sharing miles with others.
Afterward, we enjoyed a nourishing breakfast of Stonyfield yogurt (their Grass-fed yogurt is so creamy!) and Blissful Eats granola. I am not normally a granola person, but the Blissful Eats granola was tasty – I loved the apple cinnamon harvest flavor! My mind and body felt nourished and refueled for the busy day after enjoying some delicious Stonyfield yogurt with granola and fruit.
Our first guest speaker was Crystal Seaver of Muscles and Miles. Crystal talked about strength training for runners and demonstrated how to use Wreck Bags and resistance bands for strength training.
As many of you know, I set the goal to lift heavier weight this year – and sort of slacked on that over the past month. Crystal inspired me to get excited about strength training again with her realistic approach. She advocated bodyweight strength training and resistance bands as strength training for runners during race training.
Our second speaker was just as amazing. Jamie Sheahan from Edge Nutrition spoke to us about nutrition for female runners and covered topics including the importance of iron, eating enough, and not fearing calories or carbohydrates. She also discussed fueling before, during, and after workouts and races, which you all know I hung onto every word she said.
After Jamie’s talk, Cabot Cheese spoiled us with a beer and cheese tasting. I was this close to stuffing my suitcase full of Cabot Cheese, although I wasn’t sure how it would endure the long journey back to Seattle via Philly.
For dinner, Chef’d treated us to three meals to cook: Mediterranean pasta, chicken stir-fry, and a potato, cheese, and arugula salad that stole the show. We split into teams, although we all ended up cooking together in the same cozy kitchen.
After dinner was one of the best parts of the day: relaxing and talking with everyone. When most of your interactions take place from behind a computer screen or iPhone, you savor every moment of in-person conversation with friends like these.
Our day began with recovery yoga led by Ali Ricciardone. I wore my new Dr. Cool Cool Core shirt, courtesy of the retreat’s sponsor. After yoga, we refueled with breakfast from Pete and Gerry’s Eggs, Stonyfield and Blissful Eats.
Our first speaker of the day was Sheri Piers, an elite non-professional runner. Sheri engaged us all with her story from the moment she started speaking. She ran her first marathon in 3:47 – not too different than the 3:49 I ran for my first. Over the years, through hard work, discipline, and focus, she whittled her times down to a 2:37 and was the first American woman to finish at the 2012 Boston Marathon. And she did so while working a full-time job and raising kids!
Inside Tracker sponsored a delicious lunch. We enjoyed a meal of turkey sandwiches, sprouted bean salad, cauliflower couscous, and a kale salad while listening to a presentation from Inside Tracker. The food was delicious! I could have eaten the entire bowl of the kale salad.
In the afternoon, we all ventured out to Ben & Jerry’s, which is headquartered in Waterbury. It has been years since I had Ben & Jerry’s (the last time was in grad school!) and their ice cream tasted better than I remembered. I (and several other people) enjoyed the Chocolate Therapy – yum!!
After our ice cream adventure, we settled in for a blogging and social media influence round table. This was one of the most beneficial parts of the retreat for me. We discussed authenticity, freelance writing, working with sponsors, and building community.
Dinner on Saturday evening was out in Waterbury at a local restaurant called Blue Stone. While the pizzas looked delicious, I could not resist the pulled pork tacos with a side of sweet potato fries (carb-loading!).
On Sunday, everyone except Jes (who is 6 months pregnant with her first!) ran the Leaf Peeper Half Marathon. The race started at 11 AM, so we were all able to sleep in a bit and enjoy a leisurely breakfast and conversation before heading over to pick up our bibs.
I will recap the half marathon more in depth tomorrow, but let me just say now: running with talented, kind, authentic women made for one of the best races of my running yet. This race is up there with my half marathon PR in terms of races where I would not change a single thing about the experience.
It may have been the slowest half marathon for many of us, but that does not mean that it was a bad race. On the contrary – the course was beautiful and the company was unbeatable.
I had to leave shortly after I crossed the finish line (flying from coast to coast is a long journey!), but I savored every moment with the women who had finished the race before driving off to the Burlington airport.
As sad as it was to leave, I was also excited to see Ryan and our pups. I arrived late back in Seattle and was so excited to see them that I stayed up late to spend time with them.
I want to express my sincerest and deepest gratitude to Sarah and Jes for organizing this incredible retreat, all the amazing women I met on the retreat, our sponsors including Dr. Cool, and Ryan for being an amazing husband who cleans the house when I’m away!
Linking up with Coaches’ Corner!
Have you ever gone on a running retreat?
What’s your favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavor?
What would you like to hear more about from the Rise.Run.Retreat?