Mazamas Mountain Running Camp

by Amy Urban
Author, Amy Urban
taking a selfie in the
stunning beauty of Mt. Hood.

The first weekend of August brought together seventeen trail runners and four elite trail running instructors for the second annual Mazama Mountain Running Camp. The camp was targeted “for beginner to intermediate runners looking to explore running/training in the mountain environment.” For me, a slow-ish but experienced road marathoner and a long-time mountain hiker, it held promise of improving my skill and allow me to further combine two of my great loves.

On Friday afternoon, our gang assembled at the Mazama Mountaineering Center, loaded up in two vans and headed to Mazama Lodge. During the drive we got acquainted by casually comparing running resumes. There were several Boston Marathon qualifiers, an impressive road running accomplishment. Several people, like me, had recently converted from road to trail running. Others were already experienced at distances of 50-miles and beyond, and at least one was in training for a 100-mile race. And all, unsurprisingly once you get to know the personality of a trail runner, were welcoming and supportive to everyone regardless of level.

After settling in at the lodge—most of our group seeing the beautiful Mazama Lodge for the first time—we did our “get acquainted” power hike (an integral part of mountain running) up to Silcox Hut where we introduced ourselves to the group and, to break the ice, each shared an embarrassing running story. After a quick run back down, we had dinner at the lodge and then some relaxation and songs around the piano before heading to bed early knowing we’d need a good rest in preparation for the two coming days.
Instructor Yassine Diboun leads the way down from
Silcox Hut. Photo: Jacob Raab

Saturday morning started with a quick pre-breakfast run to wake us up and allow us to enjoy the beauty of Mt. Hood. After breakfast we broke into two groups, allowing us to have closer interaction with our instructors. While one group did “boot camp” exercises targeted for runners, the other group learned about mountain safety, including examples of what gear mountain runners could carry for their “10 Essentials”. When the first round was finished, we swapped and did the other session.

After lunch and a brief siesta, we headed out for hill training. Both downhill and uphill running have their secrets and tricks. For me, this part of the camp was overwhelmingly the most valuable part. Never having formal running training, each part of the instruction was entirely new for me. Hills will never be easy, but since I’ve come home from camp I’ve practiced these new techniques and found an enormous difference in what I’m able to do.

Team 2 before setting out to Ramona Falls.
Photo: Jacob Raab
Our camp coincided with the early-August 100-degree+ days in Portland. And while it was considerably cooler up at Mt Hood, it was still a hot day for running up and down the mountain. Sweaty and smiling, we piled back in the vans for a quick trip to cool off in Trillium Lake. After clearing the sweat and cooling our muscles, we gathered in the shady forest there to talk about training loads and strategies.

After a hearty dinner at Mazama Lodge, we enjoyed trail running movies, some shot by or including our instructors running around Mount St. Helens, the Columbia Gorge, and even Mt. Blanc. The main movie was Finding Traction about elite-runner Nikki Kimball’s inspirational quest for the fastest time on Vermont’s Long Trail. Post-movies, we tried out a variety of Petzl headlamps on the trails near the lodge.

Team 1 at Ramona Falls.
Sunday, our final day of camp, started early, with a fortifying breakfast before we headed up to Timberline Lodge for our 14-mile group run to Ramona Falls. Per mountain regulations, and to account for the various skill levels of our group, we split into two small groups for the day. And we ran. Mt Hood and her glaciers were glowing in all her glory. It was a beautiful run.

Sometimes people talk about trail running negatively, assuming that if you’re running through the scenery, you’re missing the beauty that brought you out in the first place. And, to be honest, I originally agreed. “Slow down and smell the flowers!” Over the course of the weekend though, I came to clearly refute this criticism. To a person, the runners in our group remarked on the beauty, stopped to take pictures, paused to take in the views…the same things that non-runners also do in the mountains. But this was also a group of people who found pleasure in running, in the physical sensation of moving exuberantly through the mountains. They weren’t running because they were in a hurry, they were running because running feels great. Feeling great in a place of great beauty, what more could you ask for?

Rebecca enjoying the hill running training. Photo: Jacob Raab
At the end of our run, we again loaded up in the vans to head back to Portland, bidding a fond farewell to our new friends, our generous instructors, Mazama Lodge and the beauty of Mt. Hood and her trails…until next year’s camp.

Learn more about the camp and get ready to sign up for 2016!

A big thank you to our sponsors: 

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