This week, I went to cross country camp on Whidbey Island through Seattle Pacific University. Falcon Running Camp is the oldest high school cross country camp in the nation (51 years), currently run by Erika Daligcon, the current SPU coach, and Pat Tyson, legendary Mead High School coach and current Gonzaga University coach. For years, the camp was managed by Doris Brown Heritage, pioneer of women’s distance running and incredible role model. She has since retired from SPU, but still comes to camp. A personal side-note: Doris (everyone is on a first-name basis) herself was actually the one who encouraged me to attend this camp–one of the schools in our small-school league is blessed with her coaching expertise since her retirement from SPU, and she spoke with me at a track meet.
Thus, I boarded a ferry last Sunday afternoon and began my adventure. We ran around Crockett “Lake” (we thought it looked more like a giant puddle), in Fort Casey Park, and up/along/down a shoreline bluff. We also took a ferry to Port Townsend for a day on the beach. After runs, we heard from numerous speakers about nutrition, strength and conditioning, mental preparation, muscle recovery, and other running-related topics.
Outside of running-related activities, we also had team competitions (involving rounds of common sports with strange rules) and skits. Teams allowed us to interact with more people than just those in our dorms or training groups. I did meet a lot of people–at least two in my dorm placed in the top five at state, and two others from my team did the same. Free time, though, was probably the best way to meet more people. Since I attended unaffiliated, I was in a dorm with people who, for the most part, did not know each other. Rather than having a few small groups of people who knew each other and thus did not need to extend much beyond their friends, everyone in the dorm had to reach out to each other. Free time games and social activities in the dorm created a sense of friendship and, dare I say, family. That’s really what cross country is, after all–the fastest runner and the slowest runner all face the same challenges, suffer the same defeats, rejoice in the same victories, together. I was blessed to be on a floor with two Christian women (parents of athletes in the dorm and SPU alumni–some dorms had alumni, others had students from SPU, Gonzaga, WWU, or St. Martin’s) as chaperones who were great role-models and leaders (SPU is a Christian institution, but the camp was not specifically religious). (That sentence had way too many parentheticals).
Last week has probably been the highlight of the past year. Running, dorm life, skits, anonymous “love letters”, even the less-than-great food (I ate a lot of tofu and peanut butter toast)–it was all great. But even more, perhaps, the lack of stress–no looming schoolwork, no emails to answer, no awkward social situations to resolve, no news about the national debt crisis or nuclear conflicts or nuisance tabloid gossip. One speaker (a sports medicine researcher and professor) spoke of a trial he conducted in which a group of cyclists were taken on a three week ride, increasing their weekly mileage over 300%. Surprisingly, they did not crash into overtraining syndrome or develop catastrophic injuries. Why? The theory is that removing them from the stresses of daily life (all they had to do was cycle, eat, set up a tent, and sleep) freed their bodies to perform extraordinarily well. For me, that was this week. No, I didn’t increase my mileage in any significant manner. But I did feel great, mentally, if not always physically, and I came away refreshed.
This is the end, though. I realized on the penultimate day that this camp would, most likely, be the last summer camp I will ever attend, unless I become a counselor somewhere. I’ve had amazing, good, not-so-good, and plain awful summer camp experiences. But I’ll miss it all–I really wish I could come back next year! Why do I have to grow up already? I mean…I want to be able to sign my own waivers and all, but sometimes, I just want to be a kid–sleep in, relax, eat whatever I want without worrying about getting fat, go to summer camp.