Stowe Running Camp Day 6 Recap (Friday)

Friday, the final day of Stowe. A day that is both exciting and a bit sad. The week, which once seemed stretched out in front of us like a vast ocean, suddenly is reduced to this final half day. Friendships have been formed, long runs endured, awkward moments have been shared and now it is all ending and you don’t get to see any of your new friends for another year. I’m getting ahead of myself though; camp is not over just yet!

Our big adventure for the final day was a journey back to the Trapp Family Lodge, the same place where camp had begun just six short days earlier, when everyone was awkwardly huddling in their groups, playing some type of orientation or name game. Now there was a much different vibe. Our final activity was a Treasure Hunt where the campers were matched up into teams and sent off to solve a series of clues. The clues ranged from the moderately easy to the insanely hard, and despite a mishap where the sheep that served as a critical place marker for a clue wandered off to take a nap, everything went smoothly. Big props to the Sprinkles squad who, despite Sierra hurting her ankle on a root, managed to complete the scavenger hunt by carrying her around the Trapp Family Lodge piggyback style. Ultimately, Coach Kevin Greene’s Squad was the first to finish due to a combination of high intellect and fast running.

The Treasure Hunt over, the kids headed back on the bus for the final time. Upon returning to the Round Hearth, the kids packed up their bags and finally got the coveted Stowe Running Camp T-Shirt, this year in an exquisite Royal Blue color. The kids filled out surveys and then we had a brief awards ceremony.  We ended with a slideshow and then a few pictures out on the front lawn and within the blink of an eye camp was over.

Thanks to all who have read this blog and a special shout-out to CIT Lilly Wells for helping to compose many of these posts! We hope to put up a few more posts in the days to come, but in the meantime please check our Facebook Page, Twitter Account, or Instagram for more info.

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Stowe Running Camp Day 5 Recap (Thursday)

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Pictured: University of New Hamsphire runner Elle Purrier addresses the camp.

On Thursday the campers awoke ready to tackle one of the bigger challenges of the week: the long run. Long runs are a staple workout of most distance runners for a variety of reasons: they increase leg strength, improve the ability of your heart to pump blood, and provide a psychological boost as running for significantly farther than the distance you are racing brings confidence. Though most of our runs at Stowe are on hilly trails, for the long run we stick to the Stowe Rec Path, which works well because it is shady, simple, and most importantly flat. Most of the runners chose distances in the 6-10 mile range, though a few of the more experienced runners opted for a 12 or 13 mile jaunt.

 

As the campers hopped on the bus to make the quick journey to the start of the rec path, there was a palpable sense of both excitement and nervousness, but the sheer energy and enthusiasm of the counselors was able to reframe the tension into a positive, can-do attitude. Campers were overheard singing together on the trail, cracking jokes, and laughing, no matter what mile they were on. Overall, the long run was a big success and the campers got to enjoy some chocolate milk and snacks at the finish followed by a refreshing dip in a nearby icy cold stream.

 

After this, everyone headed back to the Round Hearth for lunch and then got to participate in a new edition to Stowe: Stowe’s very own version of Chopped. The day was still young when Stowe Down teams were each given a tray with a variety of ingredients they must use to create a scrumptious and creative dish. The potential was high and as soon as the competition started campers got busy cutting, mixing, furnishing, and taste testing. The different ingredients consisted of jam, red pepper hummus, ritz crackers, carrots, thyme, and gum drops.  

 

The Chopped Competition was won by the Dora the Explorer Squad, who had both an interesting combination of foods and a fascinatingly detailed backstory tracing the origins of the dish to the Roman Empire. This monologue was highlighted by Nick L.’s Italian (accent) and definitely stole the show.

 

Following the Chopped competition, Harvard University XC and Track Coach Jason Saretsky spoke for the seventh straight year. The topic of Coach Saretsky’s speech was “How to Navigate a Cross Country Season” and he spoke about many of the intricacies of cross country that are often lost when you are in the middle of a busy season. For example, the importance of creating a race day ritual and practicing that ritual even on workout days is something that many high schoolers do not master and it creates a much higher level of anxiety and nervousness on race day. Coach Saretsky also discussed the importance of both creating and sharing training goals with your coaches so that both parties can work together to achieve them.

 

After Coach Saretsky’s speech, the campers were treated to an excellent cookout dinner featuring cheeseburgers, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, french fries, and a host of other excellent summer foods. This was topped off with some scrumptious ice cream before meeting our second guest speaker of the day, Vermont legend and current University of New Hampshire standout Elle Purrier. Elle was a multiple time state champion in Vermont and holds the 7th fastest mile time in the history of the NCAA indoors (4:29). This was her first year at Stowe and she both inspired and entertained the campers by relaying the story of her meteoric rise to being one of the best athletes in the country. Elle discussed the importance of building a relationship with your coach and how important nutrition is to development as an athlete. She also shared some amusing stories about her times growing up on a farm in small-town Vermont.

 

After Elle’s speech and a brief break, it was time for the lip sync competition. As always, there was a high level of passion and enthusiasm on display, with the male counselors kicking things off with a rousing version off Year 3000 by the Jonas Brothers. The CIT’s stole the show with an elaborately staged rendition of ABBA’s “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” but all of the participants should be commended for, essentially, being willing to get in front of a group of people and risk looking silly for 2-3 minutes. The lip sync was followed by a fun dance and good times were had by all.

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Stowe Running Camp Day 4 Recap (Wednesday)

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Pictured: running through the trails behind Stowe HS.

 

Hump Day at Stowe Running Camp began with a pleasant run in the trails behind Stowe High School. Though trail running— with its hills and roots and potential pitfalls—can be frustrating for some because of the relatively pedestrian pace compared to a road or track, when it is done well it is a joy that hurdling down a sidewalk cannot match. On this misty morning with the dew still settling on the grass and the harmonious sounds of nature waking up to take on the day, the runners seemed to be a part of this scene, no different than a caterpillar weaving a web or a sparrow flittering through the trees. At the conclusion of the run, the groups did some hill strides on a nice dirt hill at the entrance of the trails. Hill strides are a great way to add some variety to training and they help work on running efficiency as when running up a hill you are forced into having better form.

Though there was some fatigue given the prior day’s tempo run, the campers returned from the trails energized and ready to take on the day. After a hearty breakfast, Director Fran Cusick went over long run essentials in preparation for the Thursday long run (I know it doesn’t have the same ring to it as “the church of the Sunday long run but campers would probably be unhappy if they began their week at Stowe with a long run!). Coach Cusick also discussed some ways to boost performance, such as keeping race-day decisions to a minimum and avoiding multitasking.

That afternoon, the camp headed to the Watering Hole for an aqua jogging and strength session. The veterans (juniors and seniors) and the young guns (sophomores, freshman, 8th graders) split into two groups for this portion of the camp, with the young guns starting in the pool. Aqua jogging is an activity where the runner supports him or herself with a flotation device and then mimics the motion of running in the pool. It is a great cross training activity because you get to actually run without the pounding that running on the hard ground creates. Counselors Emily Sessa and Peyton McGovern, who have both done a great deal of aqua jogging while injured, led the campers through a rather intense session of Aqua jogging. One favorite were the “drowners/dunkers” where campers hold themselves under water, pop to the surface, and “sprint” for 10 seconds.

While one group participated in Aqua jogging, another group led by Coach Kevin Greene and counselors Palmer and Spencer and Joe, did a medicine ball strength routine and then played a rousing game of “core capture the flag.” In this format, a player who is tagged has to do core until one of their teammates can rescue them. There were a few heated games and some tricky team tactics, but a good time was had by all.

That night was our Mr. and Mrs Stowe Pageant. This year’s competition was one of the better efforts that this writer has ever seen in this contest. The level of talent was high, the wit and intellect of the contestants was top-notch, and the crowd was completely engaged throughout most of the show, despite the rather long run time. Some of the highlights (which we are hoping to upload to this blog as soon as we can!) included a medley of impressive musical numbers. Amalia M broke out the ukelele for a heart wrenching cover of Train’s “Hey Soul Sister” (a performance that was so good her own brother hugged her after), Rachel S did an impromptu spoken word rap (?) about Stowe Running Camp itself which will likely go viral if we can ever get it uploaded, Ben P. did a uproariously funny version of a song that I can no longer remember but gets big points for involving the crowd, and Lucas M. also brought the house down with a rap version that incorporated many of the counselors at Stowe and the week’s single most hysterical/annoying catchphrase (the Family Feud inspired “Good answer!”).

Eventually, after a hard fought contest, Amalia M. and Ben P were named as the Mr. and Mrs. Stowe winners for 2017, though the real winners were the audience that got to watch all this creativity on display.

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Stowe Running Camp Day 3 Recap (Tuesday)

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Pictured: The start of the famed tempo run at Stowe on the Quiet Path.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017. Tempo Tuesday. Taco Tuesday. Try to eat as much Ben and Jerry’s as you can Tuesday. Tuesday at Stowe Running Camp contains as many activities as there are alliterations involving the word Tuesday.

The day began with a brief breakfast. For some campers, a small bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch greatly benefits their tempo run times, for others a banana does the trick. Whatever the preference, campers boarded the bus ready to fulfill the Tempo ritual part of Tuesday. As much as the routine at Stowe has changed over the years, the one thing that has remained constant has been our Tuesday tempo runs. This versatile, quintessential cross country workout is as much a part of the Stowe Running Camp experience as the Round Hearth itself and though it has taken place on many different surfaces throughout the years — the hilly fields around Stowe High School, the bikepath, even Stowe’s dirt track— the workout itself has remained largely unchanged.

Instead of quieting as the bus neared the Stowe Quiet Paths where campers were to complete their run, the energy levels rose. Counselor Emily Sessa led the group in a rendition of the new SRC anthem– one side of the bus would say HEY then the other would say HOO before everyone joined together to say STOWE ON THE GO.

The effort exhibited during the tempo runs was extraordinary. Campers worked together to reach their target pace, encouraging each other on every step of the way. The reward of a cool ice bath in the nearby river helped everyone recover and cool down after a hot morning on the paths. Waiting for them back at the round hearth was a hearty lunch complete with all food groups. Many campers ate out on the lawn which by this point was sunny and warm.

The hard work continued in the afternoon with an activity new to Stowe Running Camp called strength assessment. In the past campers had the opportunity to learn many new strength and core activities however, this year campers received more individually focused instruction. During the afternoon campers went around to a variety of different stations doing everything from squats to pushups to vertical jumps. There was a counselor at each station who took notes on the camper’s form and watched for certain skills. Counselors then compiled this data and made note of several activities that each individual camper could benefit from doing. This information was sent to campers in the week after the camp.

Upon the conclusion of the strength assessment, many campers made their way down to another nearby stream for their second dip of the day in the chilly Vermont water. Others chose to get in extra mileage on the bike path.

After such a full day of work and excitement one might wonder what was left for the campers to do. However, the most exciting part was yet to come. After campers wolfed down their tacos and got dressed in their Tuesday best, they embarked on a journey to the ice cream capital of Vermont, the legendary Ben and Jerry’s factory. If you are reading this and don’t know what Ben and Jerry’s is, I instruct you to immediately dash to the nearest supermarket to find yourself a pint of the magical goodness called Ben and Jerry’s. Only after you have tasted the best ice cream in the world can you relate to the feelings of joy and happiness that campers experienced Tuesday night. One young camper even went so far as to get 4 scoops, one beyond a large. Although the cone and ice cream combined was taller than his face, he didn’t regret a single lick. Students arrived back at the Round Hearth that night with full stomachs, happy hearts, and of course the traditional picture in the cut out faces of Ben and Jerry.

The night’s festivities continued with the finale of Family Feud. Team Hannah Montana ousted the Kardashians, only to get beaten by the counselors in the next round in an impressive display of useless knowledge. The campers then went their separate ways, some exhaustedly marching to bed while others stayed downstairs to get in a couple rounds of Scattegories or one last conversation recapping the day.

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Stowe Running Camp Day 2 Recap (Monday)

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Picture: Jess Minty addresses the crew.

The dew was still hanging in the air as campers climbed out of their bunk beds and made their way onto the the Round Hearth lawn. This would be the first morning run of the week. They rubbed tired eyes and adjusted to the chilly air while walking to the trail system known as Weissner Woods. Campers’ agility and awareness were tested by the frequent roots and mud puddles that dotted the trails. They were greeted back at camp by the smell of warm pancakes and scrambled eggs.

Another Stowe Running Camp adventure began mid morning when campers boarded the bus to travel to the Stowe Motel fields. Under the watchful eye of assistant director Kevin Greene, campers performed strides across the field. Kevin’s experience as a collegiate runner and college coach himself allowed him to provide helpful recommendations to students seeking to improve their form. Assistant director, Leah Miller, led students in yoga exercises centered around breathing and focus. Upon the conclusion of the stride analysis activity, students headed back to camp for their second Stowe Talk.

Tuesday’s Stowe Talk was given by a Stowe Running Camp favorite, Jess Minty. As a collegiate and professional runner, Jess Minty offered insight to campers on tempo runs. Campers may have been nervous for the upcoming Tempo Tuesday, but after a morning of yoga and listening to the advice of a professional runner, most were at ease. Jess Minty also offered her experience as a female athlete to the women of the camp. While Jess discussed everything from nutrition to self confidence, the male counselors discussed similar topics with the male counselors.

After a morning and afternoon filled with informative activities, campers turned to fun and games for the rest of the afternoon. The Stowe Down activities continued with a air hockey and pool tournament. Campers also had the opportunity to go on another run in the afternoon. This time many chose a slightly easier terrain, the Stowe bike path.

The arrival of dinner at 6:30, once again drew all the campers together into the central dining room at the Round Hearth. Meals at the Round Hearth are signified by the ringing of a loud bell. Upon hearing the bell, campers all filed into line, eagerly awaiting the scrumptious food that cook Sue had prepared for the evening. Monday’s meal was pulled pork, greek salad, corn, a hearty vegetarian chili, and of course, chocolate cake for dessert.

After dinner, campers got the best of both worlds with an informal counselor seminar and further Stowe Down activities. Counselor Rachel Maue and camp director Fran Cusick gathered students in the lounge room to discuss race strategy and how to approach different types of courses and race distances. Campers bonded with each other by discussing and comparing stories on some of the courses they considered most challenging. Among Massachusetts kids, Gardner and Northfield were agreed to be the hardest courses, while Vermont kids advocated for the Thetford course. Connecticutians tried to compare the measly hill at Wickham park to the more challenging courses in the North. At least campers agreed on the flattest race course: the track.

The Stowe Down activities for the night consisted of a lively game of Family Feud. Campers were forced to brainstorm answers for everything from the least common things to wear in the summer to the number of pants men own to items that would be found in a wrestler’s locker room. At the end of the night two teams emerged as the top runners. The Kardashians and Hannah Montana qualified for the final round. However, campers would have to wait until the next day to see the results of the finale. Campers headed up to bed to get some rest before Tempo Tuesday arrived.

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Stowe Running Camp 2017 Day 1 (Sunday)

August is the eighth month of the year. However for Stowe Running Camp attendees, it marks the twelfth month of the year, the twelfth month since the end of the last Stowe Running Camp. On Sunday August 6th campers began to trickle in for Stowe Running Camp 2017. Smiles were abundant and many quickly made friends playing volleyball, kan jam, and the legendary Round Hearth hook game. After introductory speeches, 47 campers boarded the bus and traveled over the mountains to the Von Trapp Family Trails. With elements of the sound of music ringing in the air, campers embarked on their first run. Exploring trails with names from Owls Howl to Skater’s Waltz to Chuck’s Corkscrew, campers leaped over roots and ran around mud puddles to get in their daily run.

Upon arrival back at the Round Hearth, campers were greeted with a hearty meal of spaghetti and chicken parm. Although, as we all know, the most important element of dinner was the chocolate chip cookies for desert.

After dinner, the camp welcomed Olympian Ruben Sanca. Ruben Sanca, a marathoner, is a frequent visitor at Stowe Running Camp and campers are always excited to hear his stories, view his pictures of the olympic village, and grill him about what was his hardest workout. His admirable work ethic and friendly personality always makes him one of the camp’s favorite speakers.

As the sun continued to wane, the 2017 Stowe Down competition began inside the Round Hearth. The Stowe Down is a fun competition consisting of 8 different groups who compete in a variety of events throughout the week. Campers have the opportunity to exercise a variety of talents ranging from air hockey to bonk to a clothing relay.
The first night’s activities started with the basics: picking a team name. After last year’s theme of the Olympics, this year was based on tv shows. Each team picked a tv show and designed a poster to represent their show. However, this was not the only way teams were supposed to express themselves. The night’s activities also consisted of short skits.

After picking their show, each team came up with a short skit to perform for the camp. Counselors then guessed the show each skit was supposed to represent. The team names ranged from Scooby-Doo to SNL to Grey’s Anatomy and even Dora the Explorer. The skits were straight out hilarious. Grey’s Anatomy’s skit featured a struggling runner who ended up in the ER after static stretching before a marathon *GASP*. (All runners at Stowe learn very quickly that static stretching is never a good idea before you run.) Although all posters featured artistic talent and all skits were definitely worthy of an Emmy nomination, Grey’s Anatomy emerged as the winner of the skit contest and Team Dora the Explorer took the gold in the poster contest.

Although campers went to bed with less than a day of camp under their belt, all were excited and eager for the adventures that Monday would bring.

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Why You Should Attend Stowe Running Camp 2017, Part 2

Hello again campers, parents, potential campers, and other curious readers. This is Camp Director Fran Cusick, once again writing a blog post on my favorite topic: why you should attend Stowe Running Camp. If you’re a high school student, you’re probably in the process of catching your breath after what was surely an arduous ten months of exams, bus rides, races, school lunches, and all the amazing and horrendous things that go into being a high school student. It’s likely you’re looking forward to giving your brain some time off, sleeping in till 11 here and there, and watching a lot of Netflix while eating a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

In the midst of all that, I do want to ask you (if you’re a parent reading this; ask your son or daughter) to attend Stowe. Why, you may ask? Well, I outlined much of this in my previous blog post. But I wanted to jump onto a different road for this one. There are so many running camps out there right now, that I would imagine the decision of which one to choose is a difficult one. There are giant running camps out there with 500 plus kids. There are smaller ones with just 10-20 kids. There are camps for the most elite athletes in the country and there are camps specifically designed for beginning runners. Each and every one of these camps is run by passionate people who care about what they are doing and sincerely want the athletes they serve to get better. It would be cynical for me to suggest otherwise.

What I can tell you with certainty is that the people who work at Stowe Running Camp have a passion for both running and the camp itself. To me and to many of my colleagues, it is more than a means to an end: it is an end to itself, a wonderful place where you are free to pursue your passion, to a large extent unencumbered by the outside world. Read through some of the testimonials or talk to the people who have been at Stowe or worked at Stowe and they will tell you the same thing: it’s a special place and a special camp. Almost all of our current counselors are former campers. They continue to come back because they love the camp and what it stands for. I’m not sitting here telling you that every kid who attends will have a transformative experience. But I am telling you, as sincerely and honestly as I can, that the people who work here, myself included, believe that such a transformative experience is possible and actively work to make it happen. I’ve seen it on many occasions.

Quite frankly, we are not a camp that is out to make a lot of money. We aren’t sponsored by a giant shoe company or trying to sell you a product or teach you the “secrets” to running. If you want that, you should look elsewhere. If you want a camp where you can grow your passion for the sport with others, then Stowe Running Camp is the right place for you.

Thanks for reading, as always please contact me with any questions about the camp via email at fcusick13@gmail.com.

-Coach Cusick

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