See what our campers are saying about their time at the Boulder Running Camps.
The following letter is from a female camper, who attended camp between her sophomore and junior year of high school. She’s a kind athlete with an amazing intellect and we’re fortunate she took the time to write this:
I’ve had a hard time writing about camp. Why, you ask? Well, every time I try to describe camp, it seems as though I’m exaggerating, because there’s no way a running camp could possibly be that awesome.
See? There I go again. It sounds like I’m exaggerating, doesn’t it?
You’re probably rolling your eyes by now, and wondering when I’m going to get to the point, so I might as well introduce myself. I’m from Tucson, Arizona, land of blazing heat and lots of things with spines that you do not want to fall into while running. I was going into my Junior year when I went to camp, and didn’t know anyone else attending. I (unfortunately) am not a spectacularly fast runner. I’m not a state or district champion, or anything impressive like that. I’m not even the top runner on my team. So why was I at Boulder Running Camp?
Because it’s just that awesome.
Okay, I am being facetious here. I didn’t know exactly how awesome Boulder Running Camp would be before I went. I went because I love running. Sadly, loving running does not mean I leap joyfully at the thought of every hill workout or set of mile repeats, but I do run them, because I want to become a better runner. And that led me to running camp.
So what’s so great about Boulder Running Camp? Well, first of all — for me, not being a top runner, I was able to run with a group and not have to kill myself to keep up. Boulder Running Camp is not about who’s won the most races or has the fastest PR. Regardless of talent, everyone is welcome and can participate fully. That’s all very well and good, you’re probably thinking, but that can’t be what makes Boulder Running Camp so “awesome,” right?
And there you’ll have hit upon the next point. Boulder Running Camp. Even if you forget all the stuff about training at elevation (where else can you run at 9000 feet?), Boulder is an incredible place. In Tucson, we’re surrounded by mountains, but they don’t really compare to the Flatirons in Boulder. They’re hard to describe. Okay, have you learned about plate tectonics in science? How you have one big chunk of land, and it can slam into another big chunk of land, and they push upward to form big huge mountain ranges, like the Himalayas? Alright, freeze that picture in your head, just a bit after they’ve smashed together. Shrink the scale a bit, and tilt the picture at a crazy angle. That’s kind of what the Flatirons look like.
Okay, so you could probably have gotten a better picture from Google Images. Even if you do look at pictures, the mountains themselves are even more impressive up close. Like, really up close. As in, when you’re hiking up said mountains, and your legs are burning from the constant steep uphill. Or, say, when you’re standing at the top of said mountain and looking at the tiny little orangey roofs that are the University of Colorado campus. Or maybe looking in the other direction, where you can see snow capped mountains beyond the Flatirons that are even taller — the freakin’ continental divide!
By now, some have you have obviously realized I am not discussing a hypothetical situation here, and this is something we actually do at camp. This is the Green Mountain hike. It’s one of the hardest, if not the hardest thing you’ll do at camp, but is definitely one of the most amazing things as well, if only for being able to point to it in pictures when you get home and say, “Oh, by the way, I climbed to the top of that mountain.”
But other than bragging rights, what makes Boulder Running Camp awesome? If you look at the schedule, you can get a sense of it, but the schedule can’t really capture how very busy you’ll be. Or how much fun you’ll be having. Take the first day, Wednesday. You would expect ‘check in’ to just be something you’d want to get over with, but it’s not. Why? Because the counselors running it are all really friendly and interesting. You can feel free to ask them questions about where they’re from and where they go to school – many of them are still college students who have been to the camp before — in some cases, many times!
The next day you’ll get a chance to head out in the evening, and, among other things, go bowling. What’s so great about bowling, you ask? Well, first of all, I should say I am horrible at bowling. I’d be laughed off any bowling league. Fortunately at camp, we’re a bunch of runners, and not a bowling league. Very few of the people are particularly good bowlers, but it gives everyone a chance to relax and goof off – including some of the counselors, which is fun to watch. Trust me on this one.
So what else? Well, the next day is probably the most intense day of all of camp. It has the Green Mountain hike that I mentioned before, plus a fartlek workout before that. And then… Skit Night! I’ve never been a huge fan of performing in front of people. Before I came to camp, I was somewhat dreading skit night. But it turned out to be some of the most fun I had at camp, even when I had to act. Skit Night is hysterical, and no one really cares if you mess up a line or have to ad-lib. Just be enthusiastic and have fun laughing at all the skits.
Then a blessed day of rest. After Green Mountain and every thing else, you will need it. It doesn’t mean you get to take off running, but the running that day will be pretty relaxed. You don’t want to push the pace this day, especially since tomorrow is Mags.
Saturday is also the day for Pearl Street Mall! If you aren’t familiar with the place (which I wasn’t before I went) it is definitely not your typical mall. It’s more of a section of street – well, not exactly a street when you get there, because there are no cars – lined with various quirky artsy-type stores and artists’ stalls, as well as some street performers. It’s a place where a bunch of teenage guys from a running camp can make two and a half dollars in change just by making human pyramids. No, I’m not kidding.
Since this is running camp, I should probably get to talking about a run, shouldn’t I? That would be Sunday’s Magnolia Road, or “Mags” if you’ve read Running with the Buffaloes. Magnolia Road is at 9000 feet, up in the mountains above Boulder, and as the counselors will tell you, is very hilly. It is also amazing. This is the only run where you’re allowed to ‘compete’ and your group doesn’t stay as a pack – at least, on the way back. This is really one of the most rewarding parts of camp – especially when you finish and know you can take the next day off!
Speaking of Running with the Buffaloes, if you haven’t read it, I would recommend it. Not only is it a good running book (especially compared to those that only focus on races) but it’s neat to recognize the some of the places and the people from the book at camp, and it especially gives significance to the run on Magnolia Road. But, as Coach Jay will tell you, take it with a grain of salt.
I should also mention the people who run the camp. As I mentioned already, everyone is very friendly, and they will probably learn your name before you learn theirs (which is amazing, considering how many ‘campers’ there are)! In addition, they’re all runners, so you can be sure they care about the sport as much as you do, and they know what they’re talking about. By this, I don’t mean that armchair coach who tells you about the school records s/he broke in high school forty years ago, but who clearly hasn’t run a day since then. Most of the counselors are college runners, and, even though the camp administrators are no longer on a team, they still run and many work with other runners regularly as part of their job.
Take Coach Jay. Not only is he a runner himself (during the week I was there, he and a few others went on a run partway up Green Mountain. Trust me, after you’ve hiked it, you will realize how very amazing this is) his job consists of coaching runners. Translation: When he goes up and starts drawing on the chalk board, he knows what he’s talking about. Even if he misspells stuff occasionally. Thanks to Coach Jay for running (please forgive the pun) such an awesome camp, and to Helene and the rest of the counselors. You all rock!
You want more details?
The first thing to do at camp is check in. There, you will first receive your room key. This is very important — don’t lose it. If you do, you can get a replacement, but it’s time consuming and a pain, especially if you’re in a hurry. You have a lanyard on which to carry the key, and you can leave it with your water bottle before runs. Next, you will need to give your recent weekly mileage and mile PR, in order to help determine which group you will be in. Running wise, the groups won’t be set in stone; if you feel misplaced after the first run you can talk to your counselor about switching. Everything is well organized and the counselors running the check-in are very friendly and talkative. Personally, I was a bit nervous going in to camp, but the orderly check-in and the friendliness of the counselors really set my mind at ease.
The rooms are very comfortable, other than being warm at night (Boulder had near-record heat the week I was there). Most likely, you will share your room with another member of camp. There are two beds (with sheets and pillows), as well as two desks, a refrigerator and a microwave. There are also two set of drawers and two closets for clothes and towels. There’s a restroom in each hallway, with stalls for showering, so all the living conditions are very comfortable.
The dining hall is just a short walk away, and the food is actually not bad. You use your room card to get lunch, and the food is served buffet style. The hall is fairly big, so there’s always some place to sit. You will usually have enough time to eat if you don’t dawdle, but it’s good to keep an eye on your watch. The line can be pretty long, but usually only at the very beginning of lunch. Breakfast, on the other hand, is served in the same building as the dorms, with food brought by the counselors – usually an assortment of cereals and bagels. You’ll usually be running shortly afterward, but you will have some transit time, as well as a possible presentation in the lecture hall, to digest.
The lecture hall is a bit of a walk from the dorms, but you’ll always be with the group from camp. You’ll learn a lot about training, although it can get a bit technical if you aren’t a science person. The information is very useful in understanding the elements of a successful training plan, or for crafting your own if you happen to be in that situation.
For training during camp, when you’re not running nearby – on campus or a short walk away at Boulder Creek Path – you’ll be taking buses to your running location. The buses are fairly comfortable, although if you have a large group at camp they may be a little crowded. The running groups are usually up to ten people, including the counselor. During most runs they will try to keep you roughly together so no one gets lost or left behind, but it can spread out. You’ll usually have the chance to add on more running if you want.
Advice for camp:
Stuff to bring:
- First off, you’ll want to take everything that’s on the list that comes with the schedule, and all the other obvious stuff that you need (clothes, toiletries, etc).
- Bring a fan! This is already on the list, but you should definitely remember to bring one if you can. You will want to have it. It can get hot in the dorms (although the week before I was there, it was 20-30 degrees cooler in Boulder).
- Bring earplugs (or an ipod, whatever you usually use to get to sleep). Occasionally there will be noise outside the dorm when you’re trying to get to sleep, so it’s good to have something to block it out.
- Pain medicine, such as tylenol or whatever you use for general soreness. You don’t want to be so sore from the day’s workout that you can’t sleep and recover for the next day.
- A watch. This should be comfortable enough that you can wear it during workouts and throughout the day. Also, something that you know how to work, so that you can set it to Boulder time and use it to time during workouts. You’ll need it to make sure you are on time – and trust me, you are going to want to be on time.
- A copy of the schedule. They will probably be posted all over the dorm, but it’s good to have so you can glance over it in the morning or evening and get a sense of the upcoming day.
- Hydrate! Bring a water bottle (or two) and keep it filled. If you usually drink sports drinks, bring some with you, either bottles or powders you can mix with water. You’ll probably get Gatorade from the counselors at the beginning, and there is a vending machine downstairs that also sells Gatorade.
- Bring snacks. You’ll definitely want some on the hike, and they’re good to have if you’re still hungry in the evening before bed, which is likely. You’ll have a refrigerator in the room, so any stuff that needs to be kept cold is okay.
- Bring a small backpack for the hike. This will let you carry your water and snacks while keeping your hands free for the scrambling you will be doing.
- Spending money! This will probably already be on the list, but it deserves to be repeated, because you will definitely want it, for sports drinks from the vending machine, for the bookstore at CU, or for Pearl Street Mall.
- Be on time! Most importantly, it helps to make sure everything flows smoothly and means that nobody has to go look for you, but also, you really don’t want to have to dance in front of a crowd.
How to do this (be on time, not dance):
Have a copy of the schedule, and check it when you have a breaking point, or look at those posted. Also, listen for when you are going to meet — there may be adjustments to the schedule.
Try to get to meeting points five minutes early. Although it’s likely you won’t leave on the dot, it’s always best to be on the safe side. It also gives you a chance to chat with the new people you will meet.
Wear your watch! This is useful for workouts as well.
- Run smart; don’t try to kill yourself on the early days, and in particular take it easy on the recovery day – you’ll need it. Also, while you should be working hard and getting a good workout on the fartlek day, you don’t want to completely wipe yourself out. Green Mountain, later that same day, is probably the hardest part of camp. Bottom line: You want to avoid injury/burnout. You should be pushing yourself, but when in doubt, err on the side of caution.
- Speaking of injury, while you should expect to be sore, if you’re feeling any specific pain or something that feels close to injury, let your counselor know. They probably know a particular stretch or exercise that can help, and they can help you decide if you should back off on a particular run. The counselors are really nice people, and they have all been running for a long time.
- Be prepared for the elevation, especially if you’re from sea level. You’ll probably be running a bit slower and a bit shorter distance wise than you would in a normal week at home, which is okay. You can add on if it’s okay with your counselor, but again, make sure to run smart.
- Go with the flow. Follow the schedule, but don’t worry too much if things aren’t moving exactly on the clock. Just relax and enjoy yourself.