I got back from the most amazing trip I have ever been on this past Sunday evening. I have been wrestling with what to post because I took over 1000 photos and feel like I barely scratched the surface of the experience and what it meant to me. I was blessed with the opportunity to be with Nike for almost five days and be treated like an elite athlete. I have dreamed of an experience like this since grade school. I even made my mom drive me to Portland when I was in high school so we could walk around the campus and I could dream of what if would be like to work for this great company, one which I share such a personal connection with. I have never been able to fully explore the buildings and what campus has to offer and I was not disappointed. I posted over 50 photos to my Instagram account alone over five days and am sure I could post even more! Without further ado, I am going to cover our arrival in Portland leading up to our Tour of Nike World Headquarters!
Last Wednesday started out with a town car arriving at my door to take me the 2.5 hours to the airport. That’s right, door to door service! I felt like a very important person! After arriving at the airport I checked in and waited to board my flight, the excitement ever growing! Nike left 90% of the details out of the original invite, simply saying we would be surprised. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew it was going to be EPIC! I don’t usually use the word epic, but in this case it absolutely fits the situation.
I was greeted at the airport by members of the Nike team wearing bright yellow Zoom Project t-shirts and a sign with my last name, Poole. I was shuttled off to another car with one other member of the Zoom Project and we were whisked away to our hotel, the Hotel Monaco, in downtown Portland. When I arrived at the hotel and checked in I went to my room to drop off my luggage and when I opened the door I saw my bed covered in Nike gear!
Nike literally thought of everything! Each detail was planned out and little be known to me, the weekend would just be filled with constant surprises. We received everything we needed to be prepared for the nine upcoming workouts during the weekend. I especially loved the NIKEiD kicks they made for us printed with “Pre 2014” on the tongue of the Nike Free Flyknit shoes. We were attending the Steve Prefontaine Classic Track Meet in Eugene and got shoes to commemorate the event. Amazing!
After getting past the shock and awe of the amazing gifts and hospitality received from Nike Running, I got freshened up and headed downstairs to get ready to head out to dinner on the rooftop of The Nines hotel.
When we arrived on the roof we were treated to an amazing meal of sushi and other Asian cuisine. We mingled with the other athletes in attendance, Nike Running employees and our coaches for the weekend. I was especially excited to see Sally McRae, aka YellowRunner on Instagram, at the event. I have been following her awesome trail running journey and personal training videos online and was so excited to finally meet her. Her energy and passion for trial running is contagious. I also met some runners who went on Nike Running’s last contest to Iceland. They were very inspiring and had been rooting for me to be able to go on this trip with them. I was so thankful to have met them and share the same passion for running. The Nike Running tribe is strong and even though I had only known them from Instagram, I felt like we were already friends. That is the beauty of running and one of the awesome things that this trip taught me. Runners share one passion and that passion extends across cultures and barriers. Everyone on the trip became fast friends through a shared passion, shared sweat sessions and a shared love of Nike!
During dinner we all shared a little about ourselves, our passion for running and our most epic running experience. We chatted for a few hours and then headed back to the hotel. A few of us headed to Portland’s famous donut establishment, Voodoo donuts, near our hotel and then it was off to bed before an early morning wake-up call for a run around the Portland Waterfront on Thursday Morning.
Thursday morning we were all greeted with a 6am wake-up call and after grabbing a granola bar and orange juice before the run, I laced up in my new gear and Nike Frees and we all headed out for a 4.5 mile run around the Portland Waterfront! The weather was perfect, not too hot or cold. We stopped midway for a group photo and then continued around the loop, crossing two bridges in downtown. We ended back at the hotel and were all on a runner’s high looking forward to the rest of the day. We all met for a breakfast of eggs, quinoa hash, oatmeal, yogurt and juice, then packed our bags and headed off to Nike World Headquarters! It is my Disneyland and Heaven all rolled into one. I was bursting with excitement! After piling onto the Zoom Project bus with our day bags and luggage, we were on our way.
Driving onto campus was an absolute dream come true. We all stopped to take photos near the entrance, which is a pathway surrounded by a gorgeous fountain, before heading inside to Steve Prefontaine Hall. I don’t know what I was expecting, but there was so much history in this one room it gave me chills. We first went through the double doors and were welcomed with big signs saying “Welcome Zoom Project.” We were given a brief introduction and when we turned the corner there were black lockers set up with our names on them. Can you say dream come true?!
I have a locker at Nike World Headquarters. That is simply amazing. Even more amazing was what was inside the locker. Nike provided us with full track gear. We got Zoom Project branded shorts, singlet, socks, sports bra, and track shoes. We were geared up and ready for speed!
We closed the lockers and took part in the exhibits before changing into our gear for the rest of the day. We went through a display dedicated to explaining the history of how Nike started, Steve Prefontaine’s contribution to Nike and to running, and a women’s exhibit. There was old gear and a van filled with shoe boxes to pay homage to Nike’s humble beginnings of selling shoes out of the back of their cars at track meets. Of course, I had to get a photo of elite trail runner and Nike Sponsored Athlete, Sally and I in front of the van.
Walking past the Nike van filled with old shoe boxes I walked into a display dedicated to Steve Prefontaine. His old training shoes and gear were available to see in a glass case in the center of the room. It was all surrounded by museum style wall plaques and artifacts celebrating Nike’s rise in the 70’s until now. It was impressive, inspiring and chilling. After walking around we were treated to a 30 minute storytelling of Nike’s history by none other than Nelson Farris, Nike’s longest running employee and director or corporate education. I’ve read about him, but to hear the story in person was truly inspiring.
Following the presentation and a Q & A session with Nelson, I toured the women’s training and running exhibit. This was especially inspiring to me since I have been very involved with NTC classes, the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco and Washington DC and my passion is to elevate women in sports. The photo wall was inspiring and motivating. Women are stepping up their participation in sports and Nike is a big part of this.
We had lunch following the tour outside on campus. Nike had amazing, healthy catered meals all week long. The meal was even more amazing because it was overlooking the Nike lake. The lake is in the center of campus and offers gorgeous views and photo opportunities. Just make sure you watch your step so you don’t fall in!
After lunch it was time to tour the Innovation lab for Nike Running. We got to see their design studio and future designs coming out in the next few years. It was a top secret area of campus in the Mia Hamm building and we had to surrender our phones before going in to protect trade secrets. Just trust me, the future at Nike is really bright. Innovation is what they are known for and they are constantly striving to be better. Post tour of the lab we split into three groups and began our workouts for the day. Our group started with a workout on the Michael Johnson Track at Nike World Headquarters!
We were met by legendary coach Jerry Schumacher, who is currently coaching Olympic Marathoner, Shalene Flanagan. He had a workout for us consisting of 4×400, 1×800, 4×400 & 1×800. It was tough, but so worth it! The track is gorgeous. Trees line the center of the track so you feel like you are running in a forest. Track workouts are so much fun here. I wish California had a track as beautiful as this one. Guess I’ll just have to move back to Oregon!
Post track workout we sprinted across campus to check out another secret Nike Lab, the Nike Sports Research Lab. Yes, this is the place where elite athletes test products and measure their running stride. We all were able to hop on a treadmill and be videoed while running. Post run the awesome folks at Nike analyzed our stride and recommended a pair of shoes for our feet. And guess what, surprise, we got to take that pair of shoes home with us to test. I got the Nike Zoom Elite’s and can’t wait to take them for a test run! Have you been counting, that’s four pairs of new shoes from Nike, amazing! Following testing, we sprinted over to the Nike Fuel testing center and tried out another up and coming product. It hasn’t been released to the public yet, but it may just change the way you train. Stay tuned!
After completing our whirlwind tour of campus we headed back to the Bo Jackson Health and Wellness Center to shower and change. Then we headed back to the Michael Johnson Track for a picnic supper on the lawn. Can you say amazing? Great views and more tasty food made for a killer evening. We were even greeted by another Nike elite athlete, Chris Solinsky, for a pre-supper Q&A. After supper we boarded the bus to Eugene and were on our way to our hotel for the night. Friday was the start of the Prefontaine Classic and we needed to be ready in Eugene!
When we arrived at the hotel we were amazed to see it decked out with Nike Zoom Project signage and even the elevators were welcoming! Nike thought of every detail. After an incredible and exhausting day we all headed to bed to prepare for our early morning wake-up call and run!
Nike Running had absolutely blown my mind in the first day. I could hardly wait to see what the next few days had in store. The Zoom Project was about sharing Nike’s past, present and future. Helping us learn their culture and most of all give us the tools to improve our own running and take what we learned back to our communities to share. With two more days of events still to come, I couldn’t even imagine how generous and kind they would be.
Stay tuned for my upcoming recap of the final two days of the trip on Eugene in my next post!