Running Camp and the Passion Paradox

Stowe Blog Pic

Greetings! This is camp director Fran Cusick. The spring season is upon us and I want to wish everyone reading—parents, prospective campers, friends of the camp, enemies of the camp perhaps—the best of luck this outdoor season. If you’re reading this, you are most likely from the northeast region of the country, and if so I hope you are enjoying manageable weather.

On to the blog post (does anyone actually use the word blog anymore? It it outdated? Am I getting old?) at hand. The fact that we are in mid-spring season means that summer vacation is peaking around the corner. Before we know it, the school day grind we all know and love will be replaced with…whatever it is you people do over the summer. Presumably vacations, trips to overcrowded beaches, scalding hot car seats that burn your leg when you sit on them, gutting through a 10:30 long run because you decided to sleep in, etc.. It is a glorious time of year where possibility and promise are as common as sweat and awkward tan lines. For me, the feather in the cap of the summer season for the last eight years has been Stowe Running Camp. I’m hoping that after reading this post, I can explain why and motivate you to sign up for a week long trip to Vermont that could make a significantly better runner and person.

One of the best books I’ve read this year is called The Passion Paradox by Steve Magness and Brad Stulberg. I HIGHLY recommend you check it out, as it completely remade the way I think about the concept passion. In the book, Brad and Steve talk about both the positive and negative aspects of this oft-used word. Going all in on something you love, spending most of your time obsessing over it, working hard, are generally considered positive attributes. But clearly there is a dark side to this, a point where enjoying an activity crosses that thin line into obsession, where love for the activity turns into love for the results that spring from said activity. This line is wildly apparent in the running world. For a light hearted take on what happens when a passion becomes an obsession, check out our video “Don’t Be A MIleage Maniac” on what happens when GPS watch usefulness turns into a nightmarish hellscape of Garmin-induced paranoia.

There are plenty of other examples of this. I’ve seen athletes throw temper tantrums when they don’t PR, despite running great tactical races. I’ve seen coaches berating kids for not executing their race plan and costing the team a few points. I’ve seen and heard parents yelling at coaches for not running their athlete in a certain event or not training them properly. All of these things spring from what is fundamentally a positive place: the desire to perform well. However, it can be a dangerous path.

Running camps have a tendency to exacerbate this problem. For kids who really care about running, being placed at a camp where, ostensibly at least, their sole purpose is to run can lead to some issues. It’s not a shocker that many double or triple their average weekly mileage while at camp, or that recovery and shakeout run turn into epic hammer fests with each kid trying to “win.”  At Stowe Running Camp, we are very aware of the problems associated with this mindset and we do absolutely everything we can to foster the exact opposite of that. We want to grow athletes’ passions, but in a healthy, positive way, one that leaves the athlete with a more positive view of the running community than the often cutthroat one that can be engendered. We have found that one of the best ways to create life-long runners is by fostering a community of like-minded individuals. Because ultimately, when you look at back at your running career, it is unlikely you will remember what pace you ran for your tempo run on August 7th or how long your long run was or how many miles you averaged in your senior year of cross country. What you will remember is the people that helped you, the teammates you endured with you, and the friendships you made along the way. At Stowe, you will leave the camp a better runner and with a better network of people to draw support from, so when you cross paths with a Stowe alum on the trails or  tracks of this region, you’ll know that they  will be rooting you on.

Thanks for reading, please visit our website here to sign up for Stowe Running Camp on August 4th to 9th. If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to contact me at fcusick13@gmail.com.

Happy running.

-Camp Director Fran Cusick

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Stowe Running Camp 2019: Why You Should Attend!

stowe running camp funny

Hello everyone, this is Stowe Running Camp director Fran Cusick. I hope you are all enjoying a wonderful winter season. By now, this past summer is a distant memory and the summer to come seems very far away, yet I wanted to share a few words on Stowe Running Camp 2019. If you’re an interested camper, a parent of a student-athlete thinking about attending SRC, a former camper wondering whether you should return, or just a random person who stumbled across this article while procrastinating from some important project, I hope you will read this and consider making Stowe your running camp destination this summer.

“Why Stowe?” you might be thinking. “There are so many running camps out there….what’s so special about this one?” It’s a good question. The running camp market, particularly in New England, has exploded over the last several years. Like a harried grocery shopper sifting through thousands of different cereal choices, information overload can make it hard for any one camp to stand out amongst all the others. In this short blog-post, I want to make the case for why Stowe Running Camp rises above our competitors.

What I mostly want to talk about in this space is something that is going to sound cliche and banal: community. The community at Stowe is an incredibly special one. It’s a place where, to quote Cheers, everyone knows your name. It’s a place where you can come and feel like you’re a part of a community, like a large cross country team, not a place where you’re one small fish in an ocean of thousands. One of my favorite experiences is that amazing feeling at the end of the camp, where different groups of people are coalescing together. Kids who just a few days ago didn’t know each other at all are now practically inseparable. And this extends to all types of runners, not just phenoms. We’ve had state champions, high level Division I athletes, and even an Olympian (!) come through our camp. But what I really love about Stowe is that, regardless of whether you are the defending State champion or a kid who has never run a 5k before, you can find a place at here.

To close, put Stowe on your list of potential summer camps! If you’re looking for a place where you can get faster and grow your love of the sport alongside a similar cast of characters, this is the place for you.

Got questions? Shoot me an email at fcusick13@gmail.com. See you soon!

-Coach Cusick

stowe 2012 counselors

P.S. Here is a throwback picture to our staff in 2012 before the volleyball game!

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SRC 2018 Day 6: Unwritten Rules and Tearful Departures

Ah, Friday. The final day at Stowe Running Camp. A day jam-packed with activity and yet over in the blink of an eye. Before we know it the campers are packed up and whisked out the doors of the Round Heart for the final time, back into their own lives. It is one of the great paradoxes of camp: just when you feel like you’re getting the hang of it, the whole thing is over and you are left only with memories, a few photographs hurriedly taken on your phone, and a countdown clock in your head until next year when the process will be renewed. It always goes by in a blur. It is such an unexpected departure and there never seems to be enough time to say a proper goodbye. Friendships that have been forged quickly are now put on hiatus for a year. The experience of being at running camp is certainly a strange one: you spend every waking moment with a group of people every day for six days, and then suddenly it’s over and you don’t see them again for quite some time.

On this day, the campers rose at 7 AM for a pancake breakfast. It was a tough wake-up: lingering soreness and exhaustion the previous day’s long run and dance/lip sync, combined with the relatively relaxed bedtime of the previous night, not to mention the accumulated fatigue of six days spent at the Round Hearth, all conspired to make the campers very reticent to leave the warmth of their beds. Nevertheless, they trudged down for their last meal at the Round Hearth then jumped on the bus to the Trapp Family Lodge. Once on the bus, the tiredness and bleary eyes of the early morning were forgotten and the campers were soon laughing and signing excitedly as we headed to our final group activity.

Over the years, SRC has tried various final day activities. The true culminating event of the week, at least in this author’s opinion, is the long run. But on Friday, we have always sought out a fun way to end things. In past years, we have tried the “Hit Your Pace” game we did mid-week this year and the last couple years we have done scavenger hunts, but this year we decided to try something different. First, we played a series of field-day-esque games. We started with a potentially disastrous game: a three legged race. We used the ropes that were given out earlier in the week for Coach Saretsky’s presentation on Active Isolated Stretching and prayed that no one would sprain an ankle. Thankfully, no one did and Josh and Avery walked away the winners. Next, we did a wheelbarrow race, followed by a crab walk relay and a water balloon toss. Finally, we wrapped up this portion of the day with a tug of war tournament.

Next up, we gave the students a unique challenge: film and edit a movie representing an unwritten “rule” of running. The genesis of this idea came for a planned but ultimately scrapped speech by camp director Fran Cusick called “The 12 Rules of Running.” The counselors had been furtively filming a video called “Don’t Be a Mileage Maniac” all week and thought it’d be fun to get the campers in on the action. Though they had limited time to tackle this task, the kids took it on with aplomb and came up with some very creative videos that were shown later at the awards ceremony. The kids spread out all over the Round Hearth and even recruited some of the other guests at the Trapp Family lodge to take part in their videos.


Once time was up, some campers elected to run back to the Round Hearth while others jumped onto the bus. The return to the Round Hearth saw some quick showers and frantic packing. The campers were given their Stowe Running Camp t-shirts (this year’s color was green) and before we knew it we were on to the awards ceremony. Director Fran Cusick addressed the camp, pointing out how lucky we were that the predicted rain never really came to fruition and addressing how close-knit this group had become. Then we began watching the videos from earlier in the day. Some of the highlights included a hysterical “Why you should wear short-shorts” video put together by Ricky, Bobby, Avery, Devyn, and Amanda. Then, the counselors handed out several paper plate awards for campers that stood out over the week for both running and non-running activities.

Then, we showed the rest of the videos and headed out to the lawn to take every iteration of pictures possible and say our final goodbyes. And just like that, everyone was in cars driving back home. Hard to believe the week ended so fast, but we will be back next year.

Stay tuned for more blog posts, videos, pictures, and information about next year’s camp!

Written by: Fran Cusick, Lilly Wells

P.S.: Here is the counselor’s video, called “Don’t Be a Mileage Maniac”

Video

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SRC 2018 Day 5: Thursday Long Run

Long Run 1

Above: The campers quench their first mid-long run.

Thursday is a day of a mixed emotions here at Stowe Running Camp. The camp is entering its finale and much like watching the last episode of your favorite television show, you approach it with a mixture of both excitement and apprehension, knowing that the end is just around the corner. The long run is a microsom of the day itself…the miles stretch, much like the week seemed to stretch on during the halcyon days of Sunday…yet before you know it, the long run is over and the camp is reaching its conclusion. The morning minutes preceding the long run is also a mixture of excitement and fear. The short bus ride to the start of the Stowe rec path is typically a quiet, somber one, with the runners and counselors contemplating the task which lies ahead.

We were very lucky this year to get the best weather imaginable for such an endeavor: 70 degrees and slightly overcast, with intermittent rain acting as a de-facto sprinkler and popping up at precisely the right time over the course of the five to fourteen miles traversed by the Stowe Running campers. Partly because of this weather and partly because of the grit and toughness of the athletes, the long run was smashing success. Everyone was able to complete their run in one piece and other than an early bee sting, there were no injuries to speak of. The runners finished back at the bike path with a triumphant and elated look in their eye that only comes from accomplishing a challenging task.

Chocolate milk, granola bars, and fruit snacks were consumed with ferocity at the finish line, though this created two controversies. The first was a debate which had raged all week over whether Welch’s or Mott’s could lay claim to the title of best fruit snack at camp. In this author’s opinion, the answer is clear: Welch’s is the superior form of fruit snack, at least for those of us who prefer not having fruit snack remnant stuck in our teeth for hours post-snacking. Nevertheless, this debate had polarized the camp, recalling the similarly charged “pencil-lead debate” of 2017. (FYI: the correct answer on that one is: 0.7mm). The other controversy that erupted was when the 13 mile group got back, anticipating chocolate milk, only to discover that the chocolate syrup had been pilfered by the earlier groups. Though such a devastating occurrence may have felled a weaker group, the guys and girls of this hearty contingent handled it with aplomb, not letting the lack of the sweet, syrupy milk damper their enthusiasm.

Post-long run, the group jumped in a nearby stream for an ice-bath and some good conversation, then walked back to the Round Hearth to take on the rest of the day. The happy campers headed back to the Round Hearth to grab some lunch and gather their energy for the remainder of the day. Next was the Nuke Em’ tournament. For those of you reading who are not familiar with this dangerous sounding game, it has become a Stowe Running Camp classic over the years. To this day, no one knows who brought the game to camp or when it started, but whoever did is responsible for one of the great compromises in camp history. Here’s the reality…volleyball is a great game, but it requires a degree of skill and athleticism that necessarily precludes the great majority of people from participation, particularly runners known for lack of hand eye coordination. Also, only six people at most can play on a team. Thus a volleyball game thus often descends into a Key-Stone Kops esque comedy of errors, with no momentum and a lot of ball chasing and frustration. Nuke Em’ on the other hand, requires a low level of skill, can be played with massive amounts of people, and promotes team spirit and group bonding. Thus, the change a few years ago from a volleyball tourney to a Nuke Em tourney.

Next up, we had a very popular second season of our version of the show Chopped. This proved to be very popular last year…for those who do not know, contestants are given a limited number of ingredients and must use their creativity and artistic flair to create the best possible dish in the limited time they have. This year, the ingredients were a glazed donut, grapes, maple syrup, sliced cheese, cucumbers, and dried mint. The real award for this competition should go to the judges, for they had to sample every dish despite seemingly conflicting flavor combinations.

After Chopped, we had a quick turnaround to a speech by Jason Saretsky, the head coach of track and field and cross country at Harvard University. Coach Saretsky has been speaking at Stowe on and off for the past 8 years, and after discussing “critical non-essentials” with us he took the group out to the lawn and put them through an active isolated stretching routine using ropes cut just a little too short by Kevin Greene. The campers were allowed to keep their ropes and head home with a good start on a way to warm up for runs and races.

After Coach Saretsky was the annual cookout and ice cream…which was followed up by the highly anticipated lip-sync. In what was maybe the best lip sync we have ever seen at Stowe, the CIT’s won for their rendition of “I Will Survive.” I must say, I have observed all of the lip syncs since we first started doing them and they range from creative and fun to excruciatingly awkward. This year, for the first time ever,  all of them were in the former category and none were in the latter! Special shout-out here goes to the Janie/Callista/Malinn/Sierra/Stephanie group who performed a Spice Girls songs and brought costumes from home in accordance to their plan they’d been working on for about a year.

The lip sync wrapped up and we were on to the dance, an event which I stay far away from! But the kids seemed to have a great time and before we knew it, it was over. Bed time on the final day is always a little relaxed, and the kids spent their last night playing games and chatting with new found friends for what we hope is not the final time. One of the highlights of this few hour period was a controversial Scattegories game, eventually won by the dynamic team of Lilly and Peyton, though under controversial circumstances (soy sauce is a health food?).

Chopped 1

Sophie E, Lucas, and Sophie C survey their options in the early stages of the Chopped competition.

Active Isolated Stretching 5Coach Saretsky demonstrates some of the Active Isolated Stretching techniques.

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SRC 2018 Day 4: Wednesday Workouts

SRC 2018 Blog Day 4: Trail and Pool Running

Wednesday is not only the consummate middle day of Stowe Running Camp, sandwiched in between the tempo run and the long run, but also National Happiness Happens Day. And while happiness happens every day at Stowe Running Camp, this day was something special. This August 8th took campers from the trails to the pool to their very own pageant.

On this hump day, it would be natural to expect a slight flagging of enthusiasm, as campers are getting a little less sleep than usual due to the new living quarters and the excitement of talking with friends. You would never have known from this hardy group that it was mid-week though, as they attacked the day with enthusiasm and vigor. We jumped right on the bus from the gun and took a short trip to the trails behind Stowe High School. We have done a number of different things on this day in the past; this year we decided to bring back an old favorite: the “Hit Your Pace” game. The premise of this is simple: you and a group of friends select a pace that you think you can run for a mile. Then you run a mile, without any watches at all. The team that gets closest to their pace wins.

In this case, the winning team featured a strong group of older guys, but even their years of experience didn’t allow them to get closer than 37 seconds to their target time. Everyone else was way off as well. The working theory is that the fact that the loop was a hilly trail must have thrown people off. Nonetheless, it was a fun activity and a good team bonding experience. Those who needed more mileage ran back to the Round Hearth while the rest of the campers got back on the bus.

Post-breakfast, Tewksbury HS coach Peter Molloy gave a rousing speech highlighting some less well-known elements of success. Coach Molloy specifically went into detail on sleep and nutrition, two topics that are often mentioned but rarely focused on in many high school distance programs. After his talk, we finished a Bonk Tournament and then broke the guys and girls up for two separate seminar discussions. Coach Cusick discussed the value of the long run with both groups, while the guys and girls had separate gender-based talks surrounding the challenges that each face as distance runners.

A light lunch followed and before we knew it we were back on the bus heading to The Swimming Hole, a local pool in Stowe. Again, the groups split into two, this time by age, with the younger athletes hitting up the pool and the older ones going to a local field to do hip mobility exercises and then engage in a rousing game of Capture the Flag. Aqua jogging is a valuable cross-training activity for both injured runners and those looking to add additional aerobic activity without the pounding of running….Capture the Flag is just straight up fun. All of the campers came away from these two activities both having had a great deal of fun and having learned a little bit.

We got back around 5:30, had a little bit of time to shower and relax, and then dinner was served. Post-dinner, the highlight was the annual Mr. and Mrs. Stowe Competition. This probably deserves its own blog post as this years was one of the most dynamic and exciting competitions yet. Early on, a controversial double-disqualification was called on Bobby C and Devyn V during the scavenger hunt portion of the event. Contestants were asked to come up with a running outfit, a talent, a counselor impersonation, and an answer to why they would like to be Mr. or Mrs. Stowe. This year’s group was evidently quite a musical one and during the talent section, contestants captured the judges with everything from acapella to ukulele to trumpet to singing along to the periodic table of elements song. Amalia wowed the crowd with a stirring, ukulele-backed rendition of a Lady Gaga song, Lucas M. tricked the audience into believing he was an actual magician despite the fact he’d learned his card tricks just a mere three hours before, Stephanie transported the audience to the local woods with her bird sounds, Devyn tap danced, Alisa played the trumpet,  Neil sang an a-cappella Bruno Mars song, Emma paid homage to the past with her recitation of Shakespeare…the talents just went on and on. Ultimately, Riley C and Neil A were crowned champions, but each contestant deserves royalty status for providing such an entertaining night for their fellow campers and counselors.

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All of the contestants lined up in their running outfits!

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Silas has his game face on!

4D11BE48-7655-4AD0-88D9-30F2144C3C06Hmm we might have finally found someone taller than Kevin!

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SRC 2018 Day 3: Tuesday Stars, Stripes, and Tempos

SRC 2018 Day 3: Tuesday Stars, Stripes, and Tempos

Tempo Run 1

Campers woke up bright and early and were treated to a light breakfast of cereal and fruit in preparation for their tempo run. For today, campers picked a pace about forty-five seconds to a minute slower than race pace to run consistently for two to four miles. At the Quiet Path campers did dynamic stretching and warmups for a grueling and humid workout. Unbeknownst to the campers the boys color coordinated their short shorts and singlets. Ricky rocked some galaxy shorts and an American flag singlet while Mike and Josh represented the USA with some America shorts. Overall everybody had a great workout! And of course, no Stowe tempo run is complete without taking a cool ice bath in the West Branch River that runs through Stowe. The only slight let-down was that there was no Harvey Keitel sighting this year!

Once back at the Round Hearth Campers were treated with a hearty lunch of B.L.T.S. At lunch counselor Kevin Greene and guest speaker, Kourtney Bonsey Head Coach of Cross Country and Track at Regis College, arrive. Kourtney gave a wonderful speech on the college recruiting process while guest speaker Elle Purrier, 2018 NCAA women’s mile champion and newly hired professional runner for New Balance, inspired the campers and counselors with her story about how she became interest in running and her journey to an NCAA title (holding the second fastest collegiate time ever) for the University of New Hampshire. The campers also got to watch Elle’s mile victory on the projector, and even though the outcome was already known, it was a lot of fun to watch this race with the victor there watching it.

During free time, tired campers were hyped up by the start of the Stowe Games tournaments. Blaine defeated Neil in the Air Hockey championships, while other campers tried their hand at the Can Jam, Cornhole and Bonk tournaments. At last the campers went on the long-awaited Ben and Jerry’s trip. Devyn, Sophie, Alisa, Riley, McKenzie, Meghan, Bobby, and Lily all teamed up and took on the Vermonster. That’s twenty scoops of ice cream plus toppings of your choice! In wake of the sugary treats, the bus ride home consisted of singing along to some classic American songs. However, the obvious sugar rush did not last long and all the campers crashed and succumbed to lactic acid buildup and slept soundlessly through the night.

Blog Post Written By: CITs.

 

Tempo Run 2

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SRC 2018 Day 2: Monday Stretching, Strides, and Socializing

It’s been 24 hours since campers have been able to access the internet, and kids are learning how to have fun outside! The campers as well as the counselors got a big game of nukem’ (type of volleyball game) and were estatic about it. (CITeam went undefeated) There were plenty of other activities to keep the campers occupied as well. Our first morning run was a little down to earth in the trails of Vermont, only one person fell! Delicious blueberry pancakes awaited the campers, who devoured them completely, after their morning run.

Around midday, campers were bused down to a field where they were split into two groups an did two activities. One of which was strides with a focus on form. Gate analysis was given to campers with counselor Palmer recording each stride. Each camper went through a series of different types of strides displaying different types of running forms. On the other hand, half of the campers were taken with Leah (Sarge) and were shown yoga poses to work on strength. After the workout campers were bussed down to a natural, ice cold watering hole where they all swam and took ice baths.

To end off the day campers competed in a challenge game show called Minute to Win It. The campers went through a series of different activities where they fought for points. Some examples of what the campers did were getting a cookie from their forehead to their mouth without using their hands as well as using balloons to blow cups off a table. Group forest gump took home the W for the minute to win it challenge. The campers enjoyed the game and had a fantastic end to night #2 at Stowe Running Camp.

In other news, we have been posting pictures to our Facebook and Instagram accounts, so please head over to those pages to check it out!

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