It is not often you can lace up your sneakers and run side by side with a World Champion but at Team RWB’s Trail Running Camp veterans who have attended the first two years have had that opportunity. Last Veterans Day weekend Camp Directors, Liza Howard, Joe P. , & Jason and Allison Bryant pulled in an all star line up of elite runners to mentor the RWB veterans. World 24 Hour Running Champion and American Record Holder Mike Morton, himself a veteran, headlined the group. The inaugural camp was a tremendous success as this video portrays. How would the 2013 camp live up to the expectations? Well they brought in a King!
There are only a handful of runners in this world that I am in awe of. Sure there are a bunch more that have, can, and will beat me but in 2010 when I was in the lead of the USATF 50K National Championships in Bend, Oregon I met the true King of the trails as he powered past me up a hill in his kingdom. Max King was the first to reach the finish of the Flagline 50K that day but he didn’t cross the line to claim a National Championship. He waited. A race volunteer had realized how much trail fun Eric Skaggs, myself, and my former INOV8 teammate Yassine Diboun , were having and accidentally sent us out for some extra miles. Max knew the correct route and ran that course but he would not cross the line first. He knew Eric beat him so he waited. Max is a King with a big heart. When Max and Sage Canaday signed on to help as mentors for RWB’s http://trailrunningcamp.org I knew big things were happening! They both skipped the USATF 50K Trail National Championships, their speciality, to serve the veterans.
Sunday afternoon as the groups headed into their respective seminars, Max, Sage, and I went out for a run. Mentors Jason Schlarb and Dominic Grossman didn’t join us as we all ran with the elites women that morning. Zach Bitter had to leave camp early and Jason Bryant had other obligations. Matt Hart and Paul Terranova were not to be found either so I found myself with two of the World’s best MUT (Mountain, Ultra, Trail Runners). I tried to hide my nervous excitement as we began our run. I don’t run with my Polar much but Max activated his GPS Polar as Sage finished his banana. An easy run for them is a borderline tempo workout for me. We ran and talked. To run with the future legends of our sport is humbling, but very fun. Less than 48 hours previous after arriving at Camp Eagle I had the chance to run with another up and coming superstar, Zach. Zach just lost his USATF 50 Mile Road National Championship to Salomon’s Matt Flatherty a month ago but followed it up with one of the fast 50 Mile times ever in Chicago only thirteen days later! Zach and I discussed our interest in chasing a fast hundred mile time in the near future.
There are numerous other fun stories from this weekend I can tell about my interaction with the other elites at the camp but the true heros are the men and women who we were there to serve who served our country. Men and women like Roy P. himself a veteran and the other 100 Team RWB members. The weekend was incredible. It was an inspiration. An honor. Fun. It was also hard emotional work leading numerous runs a day with a picture of my father, a Navy veteran, in my pocket. Group C Leader and my good friend from Arizona Jay Danek had lost his father a few years back but had used that loss to jump start his life into a healthy inspiration for others. Now a best selling author, Jay knew I needed a hug and some “alone me” time during the weekend to properly mourn my father’s passing.
The Unicorn and AC100 Champion Dominic Grossman had also recently lost his dad but neither one of us talked about it to each other until he boarded the bus Monday and we hugged. Dom adding the phrase we will both join Jay in living our lives by now: ” honor the memory.”
The weekend had so many other fun times on the trails, in the kids camp style mess halls, and by the camp fire. Meredith Terranova oversaw a healthy hearty menu the kept the close to 200 participants fueled. Sunday’s evening obstacle course again proved to be the highlight of fun and laughter. I again kept the waters of the Neuces River at Camp Eagle safe as I served as a lifeguard.
The men and women who attended the camp were not all veterans. Some like my good buddy Kino from NYC represent the excitement of trail running community RWB was looking to involve it’s veterans in. Others like my good amigo Todd, himself a Navy vet, from Seattle were there to support, learn, and follow a passion for the outdoors. From San Francisco, to Fort Hood, to Nebraska, to West Point, Danbury, and Phoenix over 27 chapters of RWB’s sixty nation wide were represented!
As I found out a month ago when my father died and ten years ago when I lost my fiancée we won’t live forever but there are things we can do in this world that will carry on long past our time here. Team RWB Trail Running Camp will be one of those endeavors that I will forever be proud to be associated with as I move on to my future adventures.
As I board another flight for Costa Rica’s La Ruta and my own race Saturday I truly am inspired, honored, and nervous to say that I will probably not be at Team RWB Trail Running Camp in 2014. Liza Howard and her crew will replace me with another worthy mentor as I have been challenged by founder Team RWB Mike Erwin to help take part in another mission to serve our nation’s veterans. I am going to call on all of you who read this to help support us next year as we undertake RWB’s journey to move one American flag from Coast to Coast. It might be joining us for a mile if you live on the course, it might be spreading the word if you are far away, or it might be running through the night with me sometimes so that we can reach the most veterans in the time we have. As we carry the stars and strips from sea to shining sea in the Old Glory Coast to Coast Relay we are going to spread the mission of RWB throughout this amazing country that our Veterans have kept free for us.