Monday, August 31, 2015

Runners Connect retreat at Zap Fitness Camp

Hello! I swear that I did not drop off the face of the Earth, I've just been busy! I just got back last night from my running retreat in North Carolina. After a 4 hour layover, and a 40 minute delay, I finally got home safely at 10pm last night. After a weekend of running, and very little sleep, I'm pretty tuckered out.

So what's a running retreat, you ask? Well, it's like an adult summer camp filled with....running! But also, lots of great educational sessions on things like marathon nutrition, mental strength, stretching, and a form analysis. Plus plenty of time to veg out, get to know your fellow campers, and some really great food!

The camp I went to was at Zap Fitness Camp near Blowing Rock, North Carolina. This is actually a training facility for professional athletes who are aspiring to some pretty cool things. In the dining room, they had goal boards up for each athlete. A few of them had "2016 Olympics" on their boards. The cool thing is that those goals are not a stretch or overambitious. One of our RC coaches, Sarah Crouch, is a ZAP athlete and is currently training for the upcoming Olympic trials.

Here's Sarah doing one of her workouts at the park we ran at. 
 The camp itself is comprised of 2 buildings: the athlete house and the guest house. The athletes host these camps to help pay for their training and travel. So basically, I had a potential Olympian picking up my plates after meals. Kind of surreal.

Athlete house, including gym & dining room.

Guest house
 If you know me, you know I don't camp. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that the accommodations were quite nice. I had a single room, and shared a bathroom with another double room. There were about 20 or so of us campers, plus 3 of our coaches.

Each day we would go into Blowing Rock to run at Moses Cone Park, named after Moses Cone who invented wearable denim. Or the process...I'm not sure. Because Zap is actually in kind of in a valley in the mountains, most of the roads are kind of twisty and steep, which is why we went to the park to run. The park is filled with carriage trails, and has a lovely lake at the base with a mile long trail around it. Most of the trails include some good climbs, but the lake trail is pretty flat.

Bass Lake
Most of us stuck to the lake trail to do our workouts. After running a steady state run on Friday around the lake, I thought I'd try my hand at going up to the Cone Manor House, and even farther to the Fire Tower at the top of one of the mountains in the park. I had to do 16 miles total, and the climb to the tower is 5 miles. So I thought it would be great to do the 5 miles up and back for a total of 10 miles, and then just have 6 loops around the lake to finish out my run.

Except I'm not a mountain climber. Reality check! The climb to the Manor House was not exactly hard per se...but it was a workout. About halfway there, I decided there was no way I was getting all the way up to the tower.

Manor House

View from the Manor House. Really, it's up there. 
By the time I got back to the lake, I had only done 5.5 miles and I was exhausted. The idea of still having to run 10.5 miles was really not appealing at all. Thankfully, there were a few other runners from our group still at the lake, as well as one of our coaches. They all helped to bolster my spirits, and I toughed it out for the rest of the run. I took a few walk breaks, but I got it done! One of the coaches said later that because GPS isn't exactly accurate in the mountains, I probably did closer to 18 miles. Whew!

Toughest run of my life.

Back at camp, there's a lovely little stream that flows along the property. Great for doing an impromptu ice bath.

Plus, the facility has a full gym with lots of foam rollers and other things to help with workouts and recovery. I didn't get into the hot tub, but that would have been pretty nice too!

Of course, after everyone's long runs on Saturday (most 14-16 miles, but 2 overachievers hit 19 & 20 miles!), we were ready to kick back and relax. The chef is amazing, and made us a delicious lasagna that night, plus a vegetarian ratatouille that was out of this world. There was also plenty of this stuff....

With a brewery and wine shop in Blowing Rock, there were plenty of opportunities to share a beverage with my new friends.

Overall, it was a really great trip. A little out of my comfort zone, but I'm so glad that I went. Talking with the other runners, and having a private chat with one of the coaches gave me a lot of confidence going forward with my running.

I know I've mentioned it before, but if you haven't checked out RunnersConnect yet, please do. It is such a great site not only for race training, but also includes a wealth of knowledge on all things running related. The community there and the support they offer is invaluable, as well. I'm so glad I signed up!

Would you go to a running retreat by yourself? Have you heard of Zap Fitness?


  1. You were in my neck of the woods this weekend :) I live in Virginia, but in the same mountain range as the ones in Blowing Rock. Did y'all get a chance to go over to Grandfather Mountain? This sounds like a great weekend! I'm not sure if I would go to a retreat by myself - I think I would want to have at least one person I knew go with me. I have heard of ZAP Fitness and it's such a neat group. I'm glad you had a great time - thank goodness they were there to help encourage you and get you through those 16 miles!

    1. We didn't go to Grandfather Mountain, but I went there once as a kid. I love the mountains, and I imagine that I'd be a much stronger runner if I lived there full time!

  2. Looks like an awesome trip!! I love that it serves as a way to support athletes looking to achieve their goal of being in the Olympics!! So fun!

    1. Yes! I was kind of confused on that aspect until we got there and I could actually see the other athletes and what they were doing. Then it all clicked. I definitely recommend going!

  3. So awesome! I'm glad you went out of your comfort zone a bit. I think it would be fun to do something like this just to get to hang out with other runners and such. Lovely location!

    1. It was nice to talk about running all weekend and know that I wasn't annoying anyone!