I became a runner in 2008. I laced up some old shoes that I had purchased at the local JcPenny’s, threw my hair in a ponytail, jogged to the end of the block, and that was it – I was hooked. After years of associating running with pain and misery, I discovered it’s actually pretty awesome. And while there are still times I may question my sanity when I’m pulling my running shoes out at 4:45am…10 years later, running still has my heart. And it’s weekends like the one I just had in GORGEOUS Seattle that makes me even prouder and excited to be a runner and be a part of this amazing community. <3
I wore my first pair of Brooks in 2009. They were Glycerin 7s and they were my first pair of “real” running shoes. It was love at first run, in fact, I still wear in the Glycerins today (only now they’re the 15s!). So while I consider myself part of the Brooks family since 2009, it was actually 2012 when I received the email of lifetime from my now-friend Rachel inviting me to join the Brooks Running Run Happy Ambassador team. Of course I said yes, and now here we are 6 years later and I’m just as honored as day 1 to be a part of such an incredible team.
This past weekend was our annual Run Happy Ambassador Trip. This trip is always one of my favorites. From running a race, to experiencing the Olympic Trials in Eugene, and even joining the Brooks Beasts in New Mexico for Altitude Camp… they never disappoint. Especially when the weekend involves some of my favorite people with my favorite shoes. This weekend we were invited back to Brooks HQ in Seattle, where the goal of the weekend was to tour HQ, learn a little bit about their upcoming Fall 2018 line, and celebrate the amazing athletes of the Special Olympics USA Games – of which, Brooks is a proud supporter and sponsor.
I arrived for the weekend a day early. Traveling cross-county is always tough, so coming in a day early allowed me to score a direct flight right after work AND a chance to spend some quality time with my friend Emily and her gorgeous growing family.
I met Emily YEARS ago through blogging. In fact, I still remember reading about her training for Flying Pig leading up to her wedding from my old desk job in Orlando. I ended up running Flying Pig years later (the race is still my full PR!), mostly due to the love she had for her hometown race. It was great having the opportunity to catch-up with her, as it’s been a couple of years since we last saw each other. As with any great friends, it felt as if no time had past and the conversation flowed effortlessly the minute I walked into the door. It was also fun to see how much her oldest boys have grown, I was challenged to card games and chess – all of which they crushed me on.
Friday afternoon Emily and I made our way to Brooks HQ to officially kick-off the Run Happy weekend.
This was my second visit to Brooks HQ and it never stops impressing me. Up top you have an incredible view, all of the “desk” jobs, and a delicious cafeteria. And then down below you have the trailhead store (which is open to the public) and the testing lab.
The lab is where the biomechanic engineers tear shoes apart and then build them back up from the foundation. From durability testing, to wear testing, to figuring out the uniqueness that makes every runner move… it’s all tested and re-tested in house.
Learning about Fall 2018, there’s a few things to note:
- The Levitate 2 is launching on 9/1. The updated shoe features a completely refreshed upper, new sock collar, and the same fit knit that we all fell in love with in the original launch. I ran in the original Levitate 1s last year and am really excited for the new launch. Brook’s “most energizing shoe” really is an enjoyable little shoe that packs a lot of punch. They’re great for quick runs and speed workouts.
2. The Bedlam is also launching 9/1. It’s a brand new shoe to the Brooks’ lineup that will launch as part of the Energize Me series. We’re told to think of it as a Levitate with a guiderail, which will be perfect for runners who need a little extra support.
3. Finally the Ricochet is another shoe Brooks will be launching in the fall. Another Energize shoes, the Ricochet falls somewhere between the Levitate and the Launch. It’s a great introduction to the DNA Amp experience (the core of what makes the shoes so energizing) with a dialed down fit knit and a little less dramatic of features. It also comes in a lower price point.
That night we had dinner at Westward on the water.
My roomie for the weekend, Ashley, is another friend that I met through the wonderful world of blogging and had been a rock in my life for the last 9 years. While we may not connect with each other as much as we would like, it was amazing to spend a full weekend with my beautiful friend. I love Ashley because she’s not afraid to call me out on my crap and has a freaking heart of gold. <3 <3
Saturday morning we took a shuttle to the other side of the city for a run on the Burke-Gillman Trail with some Brooks Beasts. Now, I was a little bit nervous about running with such an established group of runner. My running philosophy has changed so much in the last few years and I’ve definitely adapted more of a run/walk running style at a much, much slower pace than a majority of my fellow Run Happy Ambassadors. We were instructed upon arrival that we had two distance options: 5 miles or 3 miles. Both were turn arounds and we were pretty much on our own on when that turn around point would be.
I left with an open mind. With all of the Run Happy spirit in the air, I tricked myself into believing I could keep up with these speedsters for the full 5 miles. And for the first mile I did. It was awesome. I didn’t walk, I felt strong, it was so amazing to be running with friends again, and this Florida runner was OBSESSING over the cool temps and lock of humidity. And then that initial high wore off and my brain began to tell me no. These hills are too tough, you’re going too fast, what are you doing?!?!
Looking back, I wonder if my decision to hang back was more of a mental thing or a physical thing. Could I have finished the 5 miles with the group? Or have I just not pushed myself for so long that I lost the pull to so? Either way, I dropped back. I have ZERO regrets about dropping back, but I’m sure there will always be that “what if” in the back of my mind.
I ended up dropping back and running with Kristen, who is currently recovering from an injury and quite honestly one of the most bad ass women I know. I loved having her as a running buddy and appreciated the company. We turned around around the 1.66 mark and were thrilled to finish our 5K not feeling like death.
After our run, we broke up into groups and the Brooks Beasts led us through a portion of their strength training routine.
We got to know Brooks Beasts at Altitude Training Camp in New Mexico last year, and there’s never a doubt to how hard these athletes train and work. I was told we should receive a copy of the training workout they walked us through to share with you – it was a good one. A lot of the moves can be recreated at home with minimal equipment, which I look forward to trying.
We had 4 hours of free time and decided to spend the time exploring the city at our leisure, playing catch-up on life.
When we received our itineraries last week, one of the things I was most looking forward to was the Dinner Cruise on Lake Union. There’s something about being out on the water with 20 of your closest friends that brings out all the warm and fuzzies. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that had everyone grinning from ear to ear the entire time.
We also lucked out with weather. While it was still a little chilly for this Florida girl, the drizzle of rain had stopped right before we boarded and it ended up being a beautiful, cloudy Saturday night on the water.
For our final morning, a handful of us opted for a cross training workout in our hotel gym led by Coach Ashley.
And then, the absolute highlight of the weekend, was heading to the University of Washington to cheer on the athletes of for the Special Olympics USA Games heading to their opening ceremony.
Inspirational Athletes from across the nation are in Seattle this week competing in the Special Olympics USA Games, and it was honor to cheer them on as they made the two-mile trek to the stadium. Brooks is a proud sponsor of this year’s games and has two of their own athletes competing in Track & Field Events. The whole company was on the cheer line Sunday Morning high-living every athlete that passed. It hard not to get caught up in the emotional experience and it was truly an honor to wish every athlete luck as they each made their way one-step closer to their dream of reaching the podium.
I look forward to watching the rest of the coverage of the Special Olympics USA Games this week. If you’d like to play a small part in supporting the sport, a portion of all of Brooks’ Special Olympic USA Games gear will go directly to support the athletes. Brooks will donate $10 per purchase of limited edition USA Games Ghost 10 and $5 per USA Games apparel and accessories, up to $50,000, until July 31, 2018. Shop now.
And that was it. I headed straight to the airport from the cheer line and started my journey home. It was another amazing adventure and I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to be a part of it.
Thank you Brooks Running and my Run Happy Ambassador family for an awesome weekend. 🙂