Renee and Anthony Duricy have centered their lives around taking care of others both on and off the trail. From 2013 to 2015, the couple worked what can only be described as one of the most interesting “caretaker” jobs in the country: guardians of Barr Camp mountain refuge located at 10,200 feet in the remote forests on the east side of Pikes Peak in Colorado. This job includes living full-time at the camp, which sits six miles from the nearest town of Manitou Springs, has no road access and serves as a rest stop for day or overnight trail users. Hikers and runners can explore the many trail options in the area, including taking the famous Barr Trail to the summit of Pikes Peak at 14,115 feet.
Recently I caught up with Renee and Anthony about their time living and working at Barr Camp and how this experience led them on an unexpected journey to settle in the small mountain town of Salida, Colorado where they will be kick-starting their upcoming project: a mindfulness-based trail running retreat which incorporates the “awareness-through-movement” practice of Feldenkrais®.
PRO TIP: What is Feldenkrais and why is it beneficial for trail runners? Find out in Tayte’s recent article.
From Living On Pikes Peak To Settling In Salida
If you’re familiar with the Colorado-based trail running scene, you may have heard of Barr Camp as the halfway point on the ascent of Pikes Peak in the historic mountain race, The Pikes Peak Marathon (held annually since 1956). Thousands of runners ascend the mountain in both the half and full marathon distances, passing by Barr Camp, which serves as a race checkpoint and aid station. After being accepted for the Barr Camp caretaker position, Renee recalls that her first training weekend for the job happened to fall on the 2013 Pikes Peak Marathon weekend.
“We ran the aid station at Barr Camp and I remember thinking these people are crazy! At that point in my life I wasn’t a runner; I hated running actually. After living at Barr Camp for a few months the craziness soon went away. Since Barr Trail was our only way back to town from camp, we would run out of efficiency to get down faster. At some point I wondered if I could run up and pretty soon found myself running up just like those people in the race!”
Others may know of Barr Camp from renowned trail runner, Zach Miller, who took the reins as caretaker in 2015 after the Duricys. During his four-and-a-half years at Barr Camp, Miller achieved much success in the ultra-trail running scene, placing highly at several of the world’s most competitive trail races including the UTMB race in Chamonix, France. There’s certainly magic to living and running on Pikes Peak!
Despite its remote location, Renee and Anothony Duricy described their time at Barr Camp as anything but isolated. The US Forest Service estimates over 150,000 people use Barr Trail each year and the camp itself hosts 25,000 visitors and 2,500 overnight guests. In summer months, the trail sees large crowds of hikers and runners, while in winter it’s frequented only by a handful of people (see my article: How To Run Pikes Peak In Summer and Winter if you’re curious what additional challenges are involved in winter ascents of Pikes Peak!) Anthony enjoyed the ebb and flow of visitors during the different seasons,
“Things would get quiet in the winter and we’d start longing to be around people, then summer would hit and people would flow in. Then, just as we’d start to feel overwhelmed by the crowds, winter would come around and we’d enjoy the peace and quiet. It was a perfect cycle.”
Barr Camp certainly took Renee and Anthony’s lives in a new direction, but it also helped them realize their passion for connecting with others.
“It was a total departure from the trajectory that my life was on at that point.” said Renee Duricy, “I was working as a therapist at the VA, loving my job and thinking I would retire there. The opportunity came out of nowhere but the whole experience was really beyond words. We had wonderful intimate connections with people. Someone hikes up the side of the mountain and they might be struggling or having an amazing day and they share their experience with us. They walk into what is essentially our home and we get to welcome them in and give them nourishment: emotionally, physically, and spiritually. We could connect deeply with strangers in a way that most people don’t have an opportunity to do.”
In 2015, Renee and Anthony became engaged and decided it was time to part Barr Camp. They bought a sixteen-foot trailer, which they planned to use to travel the country for a year and half. The couple intended to celebrate their new future together by visiting various national parks and participating in a trail race or two along the way.
Just as this new adventure began, their lives took another unexpected turn. Less than two months into their journey, they discovered they were pregnant. Renee and Anthony Duricy adjusted their travel plans and searched for a place to settle down and start a family. In addition to focusing on family, they also wanted to find a meaningful way of life that could foster the same kind of community and connection with others that they had experienced when living at Barr Camp. This led them to experiment with various retreat-style jobs, which included working for River Orchard Place Poncha Springs Cabins – Colorado Vacations | River Orchard Place in Poncha Springs, CO and Three Otters Eco Retreat Three Otters Eco Retreat – Riverside Adventures & Education – Welcome in West Virginia.
Still searching for a place to call home, the Duricy’s lives took another turn in the summer of 2019. They agreed to travel back to Colorado to pace a friend for the High Lonesome 100 Mile trail race located near Salida, Colorado. The couple had become acquainted with this small mountain town along the Arkansas river during their travels and it always had a certain draw and “homey” feel. Renee describes her impressions of Salida,
“Salida is situated in a valley surrounded by 14,000 foot peaks. The people are ‘down-to-earth’ and it has a small town charm, but is still very hip with great restaurants, an art scene, and the Arkansas river that brings lushness and life to an otherwise dry, desert climate.”
It took coming to this race to remind themselves that Salida was somewhere they could see settling down and building a future.
“Once we visited Salida again we knew this was where our hearts were.” said Renee. “This was where we needed to be. After the race, we made a goal to move here by January of 2020 and that’s what happened. We started our own practice, combining my background in therapy work with Anthony’s background as a mindfulness coach.”
Feldenkrais Centered Trail Running Retreats
The idea to host mindfulness-based running retreats in their new hometown of Salida evolved from their experiences living at Barr Camp and their various retreat-style jobs over the past several years. Renee Duricy describes how the idea for the retreats took shape,
“It’s been years in the process. After leaving Barr Camp, one idea that was brewing about what to do next was retreats. We both loved being with people in a community setting, teaching, and sharing meaningful experiences with others. Our other retreat experiences after Barr Camp helped shape the format for what we wanted our retreat to look like. We settled on the idea to host a trail running retreat that incorporates mindfulness, using my expertise as a therapist and Anthony’s as a mindfulness coach.”
The design for the retreats developed further when Anthony was introduced to the concept of Feldenkrais. Anthony had been suffering a nagging injury and his local physical therapist, who also happened to be a licensed Feldenkrais practitioner, advised him to incorporate Feldenkrais into his life to help him move more fluidly and prevent injuries. Anthony connected instantly with the practice’s values of mindfulness and how it could be used not only in his own running but in their retreat to help runners move more efficiently,
“I had been running with tension. After practicing Feldenkrais, I was running with my whole body. It was easier to breathe, I was standing taller and a fluid motion took over. I let go of controlling the motion and my body took over and did what it was designed to do. I become more efficient. The amount of miles I was able to do without feeling the pounding in my legs went up and I became faster in my interval training without trying. My body was free to move. Running was no longer a grind.”
The Duricy’s first retreat will be held on September 12 to 18, 2021. Runners will be housed at the Tudor Rose Chalets, which offer wonderful mountain views and easy access to extensive trail systems and downtown Salida. The schedule will include individually catered meals by a professional chef, Feldenkrais based awareness through movement practices led by certified Feldenkrais practitioner, Harald Kasper, daily trail runs, and optional excursions into historic Salida to explore its restaurant, art and shopping scenes. Renee expresses her excitement for the upcoming retreat,
“We’re happy to be launching our first retreat. Every running camp has a different feel and intent. For ours, while you may gain speed and a competitive edge, the real purpose is to bring back or enhance the joy of running you already have. We will teach you how to be able to find ease when you’re running and enjoy the trails you’re on.”
See their website for more details on the retreat and how to sign up at https://elevatedretreatsco.com/