August 9, 2013

Brooks Coaches Retreat

I was lucky enough to be invited by my sponsor, Brooks Sports, to a high school and college coaches retreat in Seattle. I had such a good time in 2011, that it was really important to me to go back, even though it was terrible for my schedule in terms of school starting, wedding planning, and XC season. BUT...

I happily few out to Seattle Monday. Our hotel was very trendy and pretty, and also a block from the temporary Brooks HQ! Monday night's opening dinner was delicious- salmon, chicken, salad, and quinoa. We had some small yummy desserts, plus some adult beverages. Steve D, who is over Brooks ID and the retreat, gave a short opening talk, but the rest of the evening was all about socializing with the 55-60ish coaches there. It was fun to meet some people that I had already connected with through the Brooks ID FB page and to see coaches that I had met at the 2011 coaches' retreat. When I got to my room Monday night, I was greeted with the most amazing swag bag! Obviously, I love free Brooks stuff, but I was super impressed with how much thought and time had gone into our things. We each got a jacket and hat, screened with our last name and school's name. The girls got a pair of the Glycerin 11s, but in hot yellow, a color not offered on the website. They are AWESOME looking! (And they feel good, too. I wore them as a casual shoe while at the retreat, and I ran 10 in them this morning.) We also got RUN shirt!

Tuesday morning, I met a few other runners to get in a few miles before the big group run. (I knew the group would do 5-7 miles and wanted more like 10.) Forgive my stupidity, but I really don't know WHERE we ran, except we followed a bike path to the top of this huge hill with a REAL sundial. We stopped long enough up there for me to check it out. I had never seen a real, functioning sundial; so I was super intrigued with this! The view was also amazing. We ran back and met the group, which led us on a different trail around a lake. This was also really pretty. Parts were muddy, and I was happy I hadn't worn my new shoes. And on the way back, Sue and I wanted to extend the run, which we REALLY did. Ha, we ended up getting lost and at the University. After running nearly all over the place, a kind cyclist finally gave us very specific directions to our hotel. It was pretty funny, but I think we were both a little stressed that we wouldn't make it back in time to shower and eat before our first session that morning.

We got to tour the temporary Brooks HQ Tues. morning. (On Wed, we saw the construction site of the new Brooks HQ, which is right down the road.) Being that we are all HUGE fans of Brooks shoes, it was really cool to see where it all happens! Here are a few pics from the HQ.

 Pasta Man to the left. Brooks shoe timeline above.

  Desi's shoes for the Olympics to the left.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
Desi's Boston Marathon shoes to the left.                                      

 Brian Sell's shoes. :)
 Scott Jurek's shoes and trophy to the left, Fashionista track heels below. :)

One of the cool things seen at the HQ were all the "oops" shoes. The "oops" shoes are shoes that are designed but never actually sold. For example, we saw a few models of Pure Connect 2s that never were sold. Based on wear testing or review, these shoes were sent back for improvement. We also saw some pretty cool color combinations that were never sold.

In our first session, we learned about the history of Brooks Sports and how the shoes are designed and made. It was really neat to learn about the process the shoes go through, 18 months from design to store! That means we also got to see some shoe sneaks that won't hit stores (or the website) until 2015. All I have to say, people, is that the Launch 2 is AWESOME!!!!! After our session and lunch, we got into groups to design our own Brooks shoe. My group made one called The Dorothy. It was rainbow colored with a pot of gold (BeDazzle) on the heel. The Brooks symbol was also gold BeDazzle. The coolest part of The Dorothy was that the sole was red BeDazzle. :) Unfortunately, our group did not win the contest, though.

After the contest, we heard from a super coach about how to improve our track meets (ones that we host). My mind was pretty blown at this point, considering I've never worked at a school with a civilized track. Therefore, I've never been able to host a meet. Later we had the Amazing Race. The girls were put together for this, which added extra challenge. (There were roughly 10 lady coaches and about 50 male coaches at the retreat.) There were 6 tasks with running between tasks. Your group traveled together, but only one or two had to do each specific thing.

1. Eat this monster double patty hamburger. This was pretty nasty, and I'm not even the one who ate it. I totally would've taken it for the team, but knew that given my track record, I would've most definitely thrown up. Amy did this, and bless her heart, she struggled. Total props, though, because that thing was big and greasy. (I actually cheated a bit here, and while she was stuffing it in her mouth was pulling pieces of the bun off and throwing them down. Ha!) We started off in last place, but we're all fairly fast girls, so able to catch up to the other groups quickly.
2. Eat a donut. Easy breezy. We were off to #3.
3. We had a choice between some golf thing or 2 people running sub 1:30 400 on the track. Easy choice for us- we chose the running! 
4. At a weird hobby store, choose something to wear, something to freshen up with, and something to eat. Then we had to make a mad lib out of it. "Coach _______ eats _________ while wearing _______ and freshens up with ________." We chose a dog collar, fortune cookie, and bacon chapstick! Which leads to why I was running around downtown Seattle wearing a pink sparkle dog collar....
5. Eat a spicy chocolate bar. Thank goodness I didn't have to do this...
6. Pound a pint of beer. There were only 2 of us left that hadn't eaten anything; so I took this one.
And then we were done!

That evening we were treated to a dinner cruise on the sound. The night was very clear, and we were able to see Mt. Rainer! It was a lot of fun. Steve and Jesse also gave out awards from our daily games- the shoe design award, fastest 400 award, and fastest beer pounding. LOL, I'll just say it was someone TOTALLY unlikely that won the beer pounding! The overall team of the Amazing Race scored some pretty sweet Brooks credit, and the last place team (not us, thank goodness), got "ass trophies." Literally, the trophies had butts on them. HA!

Wed. morning was another run. This time our small group ran through the college (on purpose today). The big group met and ran back to the sundial and to the new Brooks HQ that is still under construction. And of course, in totally Rebecca style, I step on some bottle on the way back, getting glass stuck in my shoe and nasty hot sauce all over my leg, hands, shirt, and shorts.

The Wednesday morning session was my favorite "talk" of the retreat. We heard from Coach Mackey that coaches the Brooks elites. He was very open about the training philosophies and plans he uses with the athletes and made himself available for our questions, like how to apply what he explained to high school athletes and lots of "what ifs." In fact, I took 4 pages of notes during his talk, but the talk was organized into these main points-
*Why (purpose for training)
*Reason for each session
*Let athletes drive decisions
*Check in with athletes regularly
*Consult experts, if needed
*Enjoy the process
Our next session was about nutrition. I'm embarrassed to say that I had never really taken the time to learn what exactly is happening with your body during a workout/race regarding fueling. I have just used my own trial & error to find what works for me (and recently what my coach tells me to try). I probably could've saved myself a LOT of pukes if I would've taken the time to educate myself on what was going on inside my body. Thanks to this particular session, I got it now!

Wednesday afternoon, we had lunch on our own and free time downtown. This is where I could really write a novel. (Um, like I haven't already.) One of the most powerful takeaways from this retreat is what I learned from other coaches. Frankly, not just where I live, but the entire STATE of Alabama is LIGHT YEARS away from everywhere else in terms of running. I met coaches that have over 200 on their track teams!?! Some coaches have won multiple State titles, one coach with like 14!?! The things they do with their programs are absolutely mind blowing. On top of that, my particular region is in such a low socioeconomic area that sports, especially running, are last on anyone's priority list. So for me, I got so much out of just sitting and listening to other coaches talk about their experiences. It would be easy for me to be discouraged about what I'm missing out on, or what I'm NOT accomplishing with my team, but I prefer to see how BLESSED I was to be placed with these coaches. And the very first speaker reminded us that even though we come from many different situations, we all share the love of running and the love of kids. In that aspect, I am very much the same as that coach with multiple titles and 200 plus athletes. One speaker told us, "Your job is to build fans of running. Grow lifetime participants." YES! The most powerful thing for me is that I now have a vision of what high school running can be. I'm thinking about stuff that never even occurred to me before. And yes, it will take YEARS to even come close to what I have in my head, but it's still there, like a little bean that I plan to grow, all thanks to these coaches.

The other huge takeaway is what I got from building relationships with other female coaches. It's a lonely world for me around here as a female coach. So it was GREAT to build friendships with other females. I did a lot of running with Erica, a girl that missed the OT by less than a minute in the marathon, also one of the Top 10 Inspiring Coaches. We talked a LOT about balancing training with coaching, and then balancing training, coaching, AND kids. (Granted, I don't have kids yet, but it's something that I want to plan for in my very near, hopefully immediate, future.) Brooks Inspiring Coach of 2011, Amy and I spent a lot of time together. We talked a lot about balancing being a successful teacher, a mom, and a coach. She has a LOT of responsibilities, and I'm so impressed with all of her accomplishments. She's also from the south; so she understands the struggle with sexism in the workplace. (Not that this can't happen in the north, but I think it's more frequent in the south.) We talked about body image, and how to curb our own body image issues and to project a positive light onto our own female athletes, how to help them to see that STRONG is better than skinny. Weight is just a number, and performance is everything. These women inspire me so much because they aren't just coaches. They are teachers, runners, moms, AND coaches. Not only that, but they are GOOD at them all! I don't get those connections here in Alabama. I look forward to keeping in touch with them as lifelong friends. :)

Wednesday night, we went to a local museum for a VERY nice dinner. All the coaches dressed up in semi-formal wear. We ate fancy appetizers and drank cocktails. They had the largest screen in America there and it had a pic of the nightlights downtown with Brooks plastered across it.

We got to learn about each of the 10 finalists, all super inspiring coaches. They showed a short video about each one, highlighting their coaching careers. I heard CEO Mr. Jim Weber speak, and I got to meet and talk with him! Just like every Brooks employee, he was so gracious, humble, and REAL. He spoke very highly of coaches, made us feel special and important to the sport of running and as people. And Wednesday night concluded with some shenanigans that involved me losing my debit card and getting 2 hours of sleep, but like the high schoolers say, YOLO! (I actually don't like that term because it implies that life decisions don't have consequences, but I do think it's fine to blow off responsibility occasionally and act a fool, assuming you aren't harming yourself or anyone else. Ha!)
And LAWD, if you have stuck with this novel until the end, you deserve a medal! In conclusion, I feel extremely honored and blessed that Brooks would feel that I'm deserving enough to mingle among who I consider the best coaches in the country, put up by the best company. Brooks did their absolute best to make us feel like complete rock stars the past few days. It's why I will always promote and consider them the very best brand. (Well, their products really ARE the best, but that's beside the point I'm trying to make.) The people that make this company are genuine GOOD people that are out to inspire runners and to build the sport to its absolute best. Not only was this weekend a complete blast, but I left with so much knowledge and FIRE for our sport. And I know that I will be able to use that with the athletes I coach and in my personal relationships.
Thank you, Steve, and Brooks Sports for an AMAZING experience. I feel so fortunate.
Run Happy! :)


  1. Wow! What a fantastic opportunity. It sounds like you took away a great deal more than swag!

  2. Sounds like a well-deserved incredible trip. :)

  3. Lately I've rolled my eyes a little at some of Brooks' marketing choices (although I really don't care as long as I like the shoe lol!) but this kind of event is something a really dedicated running company puts on. Good for them - and sounds like you had fun, beer pounding and all!

  4. Lucky?! You totally earned your spot at that retreat with all your hard work as a coach!

    Looks like an amazing trip with even better memories. YOLO!

  5. Your positive attitude & work you do with your athletes is why you were at this retreat, not because you are LUCKY. You are making such positive impacts on their lives.

    Hope wedding planning is going well! Coming up so soon!

  6. Big companies, what fun, I've only every been involved with small companies. looks like you had fun

  7. That is so incredible!! What an amazing experience and opportunity for you. Those shoes Desi wore for the pretty. I want them.