Wednesday, October 28, 2015

My weekend as a Runner's World Influencer

Disclaimer: I received lodging for the Runner's World Influencer events however all opinions are completely my own. 

When Runner's World contacted me over the summer to be an influencer, I was beyond thrilled as you can read in my post about being selected.  However, at the same time, there's a big part of me that kept thinking "why me??"  I had stalked a few of the influencers from last year that were coming back this year and they are all way out of my league.  They have thousands upon thousands of followers and god knows how many pageviews on their blogs.  Meanwhile, I over here am lucky to get a few hundred overall on a good post.  I definitely went into the influencer events feeling way under qualified.  But on the other hand, I have attended every festival since the beginning in 2012, run every race at each festival and am an Altra ambassador so at least I felt I had that going for me ;-)

When I arrived at the influencer hotel Thursday afternoon, I was handed a huge Runner's World tote bag full of swag.  I think that's the first time it hit me "wow you are one of THOSE people at this event."  I relished every second going through that bag because let's face it, who knows if this will ever happen to me again.
Influencer swag: tons of stuff from Altra, balega socks, KT tape, Intima, sun maid, tuna and Runner's World cook book and The runner brain
Around 5, I met up with David (our fearless leader) and the other influencers.  We boarded our special little party bus for a trip to Rodale, home of Runner's World.  During the ride, David had us each introduce ourselves.  I was just amazed by everyone, they all seemed so much more qualified to be there than me.  But to their credit, none of them ever acted that way.  They are all down to earth people who were genuinely happy to support each other and me.
dinner time!

Golden helping bloggers with shoes

Amby Burfoot talking about his new book

Bart was eager to greet us as we got off the bus at Rodale.  He seriously amazes me.  He always is so happy to see everyone and so full of energy and enthusiasm.  You can't help but smile whenever you are around him.  We enjoyed a delicious meal from the Runner's World cookbook, made some s'mores and got fitted in our new Altras by founder Golden Harper.  I was given the impulses which I was pretty excited by.  This is one of their models that I have not tried yet.  I will have a full review of them in the near future.  After that Bart took us on a personal tour of the Rodale offices. What a unique work place!  If I had to work in an office at a desk, this would be where I want to work.  Maybe they need an office Physical Therapist???  Then it was time to head back to the hotel.  I hung out with some of the other bloggers to have a drink and get to know them better.  They were more than happy to share how they have made their blogs so big with so many readers.  I was a little overwhelmed but I learned a lot and had fun.
My new impulses!

the more Altras the better

yes that's Deena having s'mores with us

Bart showing us around

how the magazine gets put together

Bart's office including the 10-mile marker from the Antartica Marathon

The next morning was an early wakeup as we had to meet Bart at the trail at 6:45.  I didn't mind though because I'm a total dirtbag trail runner and was so excited to do a little course preview with Bart and the folks from Altra.  It was a little chilly so it wasn't long before we took off on a little run.  I soaked up every second running alongside Bart. 

We stopped in the middle to let the rest of the group catch up and also so Golden, Colleen, Brian and Jeremy from Altra could show us some new gear they will have coming out in 2016.  I really liked all of it but the one jacket is AMAZING, seriously, I cannot wait to get it.  It's so true what they said about running at night during an ultra.  You get cold, then hot, then cold all night long.  This jacket is the perfect solution (raising hand to be a tester). 
Jeremy's amazing demonstration

After the demonstration we ran a bit more until we got to the finish line for the race.  Beautiful view overlooking Bethlehem.  Bart knows what he's doing.
view at the finish line
We had some time to kill in between the trail preview and our first session with Altra back at the steel stacks, so Bart said follow me.  We loaded into the vans and ended up at Bart's Starbucks that he frequents regularly.  After we caffeinated up, we got back in the vans.  I think we all thought we were just driving back to the Steel Stacks.  We pulled up in front of an old, stone house.  I had seen Bart's house before on social media so immediately I said "That's Bart's house!"  We all got out and were snapping photos thinking wow this is cool.  Next thing you know, Bart says, "you wanna come in?"  Umm of course!  We all poured into his house, snapping photos left and right.  His house is so interesting, so Bart.  It's a very old, historical house with many of the original features including the kitchen floor.  And of course Bart has added his own flavor throughout.


my lone peaks on the origanl kitchen floor

At this point, I was thinking "today can really not get any better than this!"  And yet it did.  The morning consisted of sessions with Altra founders Gold Harper and Brian Beckstead and a session with Budd Coates.  Even though I'm an Altra ambassador and have heard how Altra began more than once, it never gets old to hear Golden tell the story and to watch other people hearing it for the first time.  I'm just always so impressed with the reasoning behind the zero drop and how Golden explains it just makes so much sense.  He is just so knowledgeable in general about running technique and shoes, I'm certain he could give a multi-day seminar. 

Brian explained more of the current Altra shoes on the market and the new IQ shoe that will be coming out.  This will give real time feedback on your running including on your technique, this will be the first of its kind. 
look inside the IQ shoe
Budd explained the theory behind his book about breathing and running.  He also had us try a few exercises with breathing patterns. 
Budd Coates
Then Golden took us outside to go over some more running techniques.  As we practiced them, I was amazed at what a difference these skills make and I tried to use them in my races over the weekend and I'm still thinking about them and trying to incorporate them.  That's how much of an impression that morning made on me.

At this point, I was starving!  Thank goodness there was delicious spread of more recipes from the Runner's World cook book.  My favorite dish of the day being the avocado pasta.  I try to cook up something interesting or different on my days off of work since I have a bit more time so I'm excited to have the cook book as a new reference instead of my google search. 

Deena Kastor was joining us for lunch.  She was asked to get up and talk to us a bit, for which she was not prepared (her words).  Within seconds, she had everyone memorized and not just because of all her amazing accomplishments that we all know about, it was her frankness and honesty with us.   She is probably one of the most excellent speakers I've ever listened to.  She had so much insight and wisdom that she did not hesitate to share with us.  At one point, she actually broke down in tears talking about her struggle with being a new mom and returning to being an elite runner.  She also talked about picking out 3-4 positive things to tell yourself before a race rather than focusing on the negative for example don't focus on that you missed an important workout instead think of all the great ones you had that cycle.  I can't even put into words everything that I took from her talk, it was so inspiring and something I will treasure forever.  Even though I'm no where near an elite, Deena made everything so relate-able and realistic.  We all have the same struggles regardless of our speed or talent. 

It really would have been hard to top Deena so after that it was time to head to the hotel to get ready for the trail race.   And my recap of the 4 races you can read here.

I want to thank Runner's World for including me in this incredible event.  I still have no idea how or why I was chosen to be in this special group, but I will always remember my experience and be grateful that I was a part of it.  I also want to thank all the other bloggers.  Thank you for not making me feel out of place even though I clearly am not part of your world.  Most of you make blogging, coaching and fitness your careers which is amazing and I have so much respect for all that you do and how hard you work.  But it's not my career, which at first after seeing all the great things you guys do, I felt bad about not doing as much blogging(I couldn't believe how fast and how many posts you all did after the event!) or having nearly as many followers.  Then last week I worked the rare 5 day week since my job share partner is on vacation, I usually work 3.  I have many different patients each day that I work but last week I had one special patient for all 5 days.  She's an avid triathlete who was hit by a car while out for a ride on her bike.  She suffered multiple fracture including one in her spine.  We got to know each other pretty well despite the fact that I generally only get about 30 minutes per day with a patient (nature of PT in the acute hospital setting).  By our last session on Friday she was able to get out of the wheelchair herself, walk with the walker around our gym and even climb a few stairs and was on her way out the door to intense inpatient rehab.  I always take pride in seeing such progress but in this case, it was really her words that got to me.  I had told her about attending the Runner's World event and she was saying how impressed she was with my running and that I blog too. I related to her how my tiny blog and running are really and how they are nothing compared to the amazing people I met over the weekend.  She said that she was sure that wasn't true but also reminded me of how important my work as a PT is and how I had impacted her that week.  I don't often talk or write about my work other than the really crazy stories that can only come from working in North Philly but my patient was right.  My work is truly important to me and I am able to make a small impact on some of my patients.  I always wanted to help people as my job ever since I can remember and that's what I do.  In the end it all came full circle for me the last couple weeks.  Having the Runner's World experience and being able to include it in my work to help motivate my patient was what I needed.  I likely will never have the thousands of pageviews or followers but I'm ok with that.  I love my work and I love my tiny blog. 
great group of people!!

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