Podium Retreats with Kara Goucher

by Denise Bryson

It was early July when I received notification of a women’s running retreat in Napa, California, hosted by the adored Olympian runner Kara Goucher. The retreat, scheduled for August 8-10, was only a month away. Registration opened July 7 and was limited to 50 people. Two of my biggest fears are flying and social interaction; however, the lure of being a part of something important in the running community, and escaping the routine of my world for a few days at a haven of running and wine was too much to resist. If I could make happen, I would.

So, I registered and got in!

The flights were not as bad as I feared. And, upon arriving in San Francisco, finding the location of the shuttle to Napa was seamless. As I stood waiting for the first shuttle to The Westin Versa, women began to congregate. We exchanged pleasantries and soon were engaged in polite conversation about where we were from and what the weekend had in store for us.

As I got to know fellow retreaters throughout the weekend, I was fascinated by how varied were the geographical origins of the attendees. Runners had come from New York, Utah, Texas, Maine, Florida, New Jersey, Washington – from all over the U.S.

Although our backgrounds varied vastly, we shared a common thread: Running and the respect for Kara Goucher. (Not to mention having the gumption to sign up for a retreat with 49 other strangers with only a month’s notice!)

My social anxiety diminished, as I was continually comforted by a sense of awe, gratitude, and just the joy of being there –in an elegant 5-star atmosphere, among beautifully talented women. Friday afternoon was spent enjoying a glass of Chardonnay at check-in and pouring over the contents of our generous swag bags. We were given some wonderful gifts from Skechers, Oiselle, Westin, Soleus, Nuun, and Zensah.


In the early evening, we gathered for a social hour (thank you Kara for the “Hello My Name is” stickers), which helped break the ice for many conversations. Kara arrived, and to the delight of us all, was most welcoming and easygoing. What I noticed and admired about Kara was her quiet confidence. Her aura of serenity and composure seemed to waft throughout the room and put us all at ease, ready to enjoy the remainder of the evening socializing and settling into Napa.

During dinner, Kara took a few moments to welcome us and was moved to tears at the realization that her long-held dream for a women’s retreat was actualizing and she was very appreciative of our attendance.


Saturday morning we gathered for a Pilates session led by the incomparable Tracey Katona. Tracey was a calm, reassuring voice guiding us through various movements, which although difficult at times, was a gentle reminder that as a runner I really need to do more of this!

Early Saturday there was an impromptu Q&A with Kara in which she generously shared information with us about her life, training, and goals.



After a light breakfast and break, we met Kara for a run!


We had our choice of a 3 or 5-mile route through the streets of Napa. At about the 1.5 mark we all gathered for a group photo and continued on our way!




Post-run, we enjoyed a snack and then gathered for more core work with Adam and Kara. We were treated to special guest speakers, which included lectures on nutrition with Lottie Bildirici, hydration with Nuun’s Arielle Knutson and Running The Edge authors Adam Goucher and Tim Catalano. After lunch, we listened to a heartfelt talk by clinical social worker and national presenter Anna Paffel. To conclude the afternoon, Skechers provided us with an assortment of shoes to try on!


After a break, we gathered for our last night at the retreat, enjoying a cocktail hour with time to mingle and chat.


Then to dinner, which included a talk by Oiselle CEO Sally Bergesen. It was a beautiful evening, as the bonds that had begun to form the day before, solidified even further. As a group we laughed, and cheered; enjoying more wine, conversation, and selfies.


Sunday morning, Kara set off early for her long run, and a little while later we all gathered in the hotel lobby to board a shuttle, which drove us through Napa to a vineyard surrounded by running trails. Everyone chose her distance and pace for what would be an hour of running before the shuttle headed back for the farewell brunch.




During brunch we spent some quality time sharing more about ourselves and uniting, not only as the “Class of 2014” retreat goers, but as women runners who understood each other, with compassion and support for one another’s dreams, desires and goals. We can do anything we set our hearts to, we WILL do it, we are unlimited!



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