Take me back to Oiselle #birdcamp

I spent my big vacation this year with nearly dozens of women I’d never met before.

Sure, I’d chatted with a few fellow campers via social media and text. I’d even had the pleasure of meeting several Oiselle team members at recent races – like the New York City Marathon and Nike Women’s half. And I KNEW one of the ladies – the lovely Jen Bigham!

The first-ever team retreat, dubbed “bird camp” early in the planning process, was held by Oiselle, a small Seattle-based women’s running clothing company founded in 2007. The women who lead and run for the company shared their knowledge, home and dreams with 96 women from across North America.

Oiselle_-20Oiselle team at the Deschutes Twilight 5K. Pic by Thomas and Velo Photography 

We spent five days in Bend, Oregon, which sits at 3,623 feet near the Cascade mountains, about three hours southwest of Portland. Having never spent time in Oregon before, and having never attended an overnight camp as a kid, I had no clue what to expect.

I quickly fell in love with Bend and am already itching to go back.

We ran, (well duh) we hiked, we swam, we chatted, we ate, we drank, we raced, we meditated, we stretched. We experienced so much in such a few days.

Pro athletes Lauren Fleshman, Kate Grace, Stephanie Howe and (via skype) Kara Goucher shared advice, stories and fielded questions. They even hiked and worked out with us, along with the Oiselle’s CEO Sally Bergesen, team manager Kristin Metcalf and camp organizer/all around superwoman Sarah Lesko.

We talked about health, nutrition, training and goal setting. We spoke of our dreams – we admitted our challenges – and we leaned on each other for advice.

Oiselle_-17Stretching & meditating. Pic by Thomas and Velo Photography 

We hiked at nearby Smith Rock State Park and played in the picturesque town of Bend. We ate, we drank, and we floated in tubes on the Deschutes River.

For me, the experiences and the people made the trip.

I was finally able to meet Kelly in person after we’d first chatted online last fall. Hands down, she’s among my favorite people. We ran off, skipping a yoga session one afternoon and swam laps at a nearby outdoor pool.

camp11After the swim

It may not sound like much to others, but I loved our 3,200-meter workout. I hadn’t been in a pool in months and was thrilled to be able to hang in with Kelly for as long as I did. After more than a decade as a competitive swimmer, I loathe having to swim fast. (Been there, done that.) But its a whole different story when I want to do my best.

I’m also so thankful for my roommates Stacey and Suzie. I couldn’t have been with two more supportive, inspirational and fantastic women as you both.

stacsuzStacey, me and Suzie – a great trio!

And of course I loved spending time with my fun friends in our carpool van, dubbed the #vanbytheriver

camp1The Oiselle bird, drawn by me

camp2Decorating the van before our roadtrip

Oiselle_-31The whole gang: Front row (from left): Ashley, Kerry, Steph, Jessica. Back row: Becky, Kelly, me. Pic by  Thomas and Velo Photography

 I loved racing with such a large team at a smaller 5K race. We were literally about a fifth of the field of the evening 5K. I pushed myself a bit harder than I expected – especially since it was my second run of the day. I loved seen so many blue Oiselle singlets as I ran along the hilly course.

Even better was seeing a slew of ladies cheering one another on as I sprinted to the finish.

cheering birdsCheering birds! Pic by Kelly Burns Gallagher

DSC_3366Me, Kelly and Stacey at the 5K. Pic by Thomas and Velo Photography

Hiking with new friends at Smith Rock State Park was amazing. I love to hike, though I remain terrified of getting too close to the edge of a mountain and tumbling off a cliff. Smith Rock is stunning and I implore anyone in Bend to check it out.

camp5Stunning Smith Rock

camp12Up we go!

Oiselle_-59Hiking Misery Ridge Trail at Smith Rock. Pic by Thomas and Velo Photography 

camp10Near the summit with Kate

camphikeLoved the views (but not the snake!)

Also LOVED relaxing as we floated on tubes on the crystal clear Deschutes River. If I could do that every week, life would be perfect.

camp7With Jill and Kelly in Oiselle Rizzo before tubing

Much of what I loved about the experience was meeting so many incredible women, who find a way to balance work, their relationships, motherhood and running. These women reminded me that it’s good to dream big, and that it is possible to balance it all.

camp8With Lauren at the closing party

At a midweek session, Lauren spoke of goal-setting, and reminded us that it’s ok to let a dream go and focus on reality. But she also stressed the importance of setting meaningful goals – ones that mean something to YOU personally over an obvious goal, like running a best time or a specific distance.

“The best gift you can give yourself is to disregard what other people see as success and name it for yourself,” Lauren said. “You have to set your own definition for success.”

She couldn’t be more right.

Teamcheer~Oiselle_-2Team cheer Pic by Thomas and Velo Photography 

Have you ever been to Oregon? A sports team camp (as a kid or an adult?) Where’s your favorite hiking spot? And fellow birds – what was your favorite part of camp? Tell me in the comments!