Thursday, June 18, 2009

My Brooks tapering camp: Day 1

A tapering camp?? Did I catch your attention...? A few months ago, Brooks invited the Inspire Daily members to fly to Seattle, WA, for a 4-day running camp. I knew this would fall right in my 2-week Western States tapering, but I did not want to miss this opportunity to meet other ID’ers and learn more about Brooks, the Company, its employees and the products. All that at the foot of Mt. Rainier! That seemed to good to be true and, sure enough, like in the most popular ultras nowadays, there were more candidates than available spots. And, like Western States 2 years ago or Miwok this year, I was lucky enough to make it through the lottery!

I flew out of SFO this Thursday morning and we landed in SeaTac one hour and 40 minutes later, a nice flight above the chain of volcanoes through Oregon: Crater Lake, The Three Sisters, Mount Jefferson, Mount Hood. Finally, after an unusual weather so far in June, the sky was clear above the Bay Area. In Washington the plane crossed three layers of clouds, something which I’m not familiar with. The amount and size of clouds surely explains how green this State is. Green like Brooks, which pushed sustainable development to the next level through environment-friendly products and processes (more later on this topic).
A shuttle brought us to the Brooks Headquarters in Bothell, North of Seattle. Compared to the other major running and sport companies Brooks is actually an amazingly small company when you see the broad reach of the Brooks products and the number of models. What helps them standing out of the crowd though is the focus on running (shoes and apparel). The small size of the company makes it nimble, agile and hyper focused on customer satisfaction. The Brooks customer support team has been rated the best in the industry for the past seven years. All the employees are very active and most (90%) are runners which brings an amazing energy and source of innovation, as well as intimacy with the running ecosystem. Picture from Brooks' website:
Our journey up to Crystal Mountain hit the late afternoon traffic of all the Microsoft and Boeing employees commuting South. Our bus driver provided useful comments as we crossed the Indian Reserve East of Auburn; we then entered the Mt. Rainier National Forest and its winding road (Enumclaw Chinook). An amazing density of conifers. Again, green, green, green. Except for some recently logged sections showing a heavy usage of this forest.
We reached the Crystal Mountain around 6:30 and quickly met for dinner as many members of our group had flown from the East Coast early this morning and were starting feeling the pain of jet lag. We then had a pitch from the Brooks Marketing team, led by Dave. Although I have been running in Brooks for 10 years now (since April 1999 to be precise!), I learned a great deal about the company. Here are some random notes:
  • Mission statement: "To inspire others to run and be active" (and, as an ID'er, daily...)
  • Our group at the camp consists in 65 participants from 30 states; 60% are coaches (College, high school, middle school, club);
  • I learned that, among 8 consumer segments, I belong to the Alpha Runners, the ones who defined themselves as... runners. And that Dabblers denote the occasional runners.
  • We watched some of the many videos Brooks is making available on sites like:, or
  • And Dave told us that we'll "hear" more about the Green Silence tomorrow...
Scott (yes, Jurek!) came last to conclude the evening, and the timing was not ideal as some were really getting tired at 1am on their biological clock, or not much into ultra running (yet!). For the others, it was a joy to see Scott again and listen to his personal stories about Badwater, Western States, Hardrock, Tour du Mont Blanc, Spartathlon or the Copper Canyon (I'm reading Born To Run and will share more about that in a book review after Western States). Before he publishes a book on vegetarian cuisine, which he promised he was actively working on, Scott shared his 10-step recipe for ultra success:
  1. Embrace the pain. The "good" pain, the discomfort which makes you progress and push the envelope. Don't try to resist to it. By the way, it applies for any distance. Learn to come back from the lows.
  2. Listen to your body. Hyper important especially in ultra running not to get injured.
  3. Get specific. Set precisely your goals, what to want to achieve. And design the corresponding training to achieve your goal.
  4. Cross train. Not necessarily another sport, but other activities (e.g. weight lifting, core training, yoga).
  5. Stay balanced. Incorporate all the other aspects of your life, all the pieces making the running possible. Personal/family life, work life, and nutrition too.
  6. Seek the satisfaction. Visualize and keep your best finishes in mind (e.g. for Scott, Spartathlon, Hardrock)
  7. Never give up.
  8. Give back! Help others (pacing, crewing), man aid stations at ultra events, do trail maintenance.
  9. Stay motivated. After 15 years of ultra competition at the top level, Scott admits that it's not always easy to get out in the cold, the rain, and train hard. His advice: run and train with friends. And find new great places which motivate you.
  10. Keep it fun. Scott shared his personal encounter with Giorgio last summer on the UTMB course near Courmayeur, a 63-old ultra runner who "lived his life to its fullest" (he died a few months ago, while running). Giorgio had run the 6 editions of UTMB, after having two hip replacements and still smoking (literally) while running ultras. And always smiling.
Before taking a few questions, Scott concluded his multi-media presentation with a few motivational quotes including this one, acknowledging that many of us, ultra runners, are wandering...
Not all those who wander are lost.
J.R.R. Tolkien
It's now time to go to bed; I must be the last one still up as we approach midnight... We are scheduled for a run at 7 am tomorrow morning, with Scott, before he leaves us to fly for a press conference in Auburn (California, not Washington!) on Saturday. I gave him a copy of the poem I had written for his 10th Miwok in May, hoping to see him back there next year... You see, I am a true RunningSuperFan! Talk to you tomorrow then, after Day 2.

PS: more pictures from Day 1 in my Picasa photo album.


StephB said...

Cool! Thanks for sharing about ID camp - hope you have a great time and get to talk more to Jurek.

Travis said...

thanks for sharing. this looks like a great time. Best of luck at WS!! I just finished "Born to Run" what a great book!

h2focus said...

Thank you for sharing and giving us a glimpse. Very interesting and I hope you had a great time!

Unknown said...

Very cool, Jean. I'll see you, my fellow Brooks IDer and ultraholic, in Squaw next week!