The last time we saw Adam Campbell was after his third-place finish (post-race interview) at the 2014 Hardrock 100, from which he’s clearly recovered well enough to win the 2014 Squamish 50k. In the following interview, Adam talks about his Hardrock recovery and the notoriety he’s gained internationally from his close call with lightning there, how his Squamish race played out, and what is going to happen between now and his next race, The Rut 50k in September.
Be sure to check out our results article for the full story on the Squamish 50 Mile and 50k.
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Adam Campbell, 2014 Squamish 50k Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here with Adam Campbell. He’s the winner and the new course-record holder for the 2014 Squamish 50k. Congratulations!
Adam Campbell: Thanks. It’s my third time running Squamish here. Last year I ran the 50-mile race and the year before that I ran the 23k race. I’ve done the trifecta of the different courses here. It’s great. I love running in Squamish. I live in North Van [Vancouver] and it’s just 45 minutes away from us. The trails here are relentlessly technical, incredibly beautiful, and the best way to describe them is they’re almost mystical the way that the trails look. They’re really fun, but the way the forest looks is almost out of a fairytale at times. When you add in some of the bridges and stuff like that, it’s super cool.
iRunFar: Squamish is known for its mountain biking, so some of the trails take on a very mountain biking-esque quality with the tricks and jumps and bumps and curves.
Campbell: It’s five hours of play really. Some of the downhills here are viciously steep, too. The uphills are mountain-biker uphills, so they tend to be a bit more runnable, I find. They’re not really that steep. The downhills are just insanely technical, so you sort of flow with the natural terrain here. It’s incredible scenery as well.
iRunFar: This is a pretty fun festival Gary Robbins and crew put on here. It’s more than just about the running. It’s about the whole weekend, the film festival, and sort of the whole Squamish vibe which is just super mountain-culture vibe. Apparently you like that; you keep coming back.
Campbell: Yeah, you know it’s interesting. It’s got a mountain vibe but it’s also right on the ocean. You’ve got a little bit of everything.
iRunFar: It’s funny. It’s right there, but I’ve hardly seen it. Yeah, we’ve been up here in the mountains. You’re right. I forget that.
Campbell: No it is. It’s not… it’s crazy though. It’s not the big mountains that you get in the Rockies or Colorado. The mountains here—the access is really, really hard because the forest is so thick to get there. It is really, really steep. You don’t have to go that far to get some real spicy adventure back here for sure. You can do a bit of everything. You can go for an amazing trail run and then follow that up with a climb and finish the night with some slack lining or paddle boarding and get a pretty full day out of that.
iRunFar: A nice multi-sport day.
Campbell: Yeah, absolutely.
iRunFar: Awesome. The last time we saw you was after your third place finish at Hardrock 100 which was just a month ago, right?
Campbell: Yeah, that was a month ago, yeah.
iRunFar: You had an altercation with electricity there which has gained you some national and international recognition. I don’t know if that’s the right way to look into it, meaning people have sort of looked into our sport as if we are a circus of lunatics.
Campbell: I don’t know if that’s anything new.
iRunFar: How’s your recovery been the last month? Obviously okay by how today went?
Campbell: It’s been good. I definitely respected my recovery after Hardrock. I’ve become a bit of a weekend warrior. I’ve done a whole bunch of short… I did a couple 10k to 15k races on the weekends. Those were fun. Then I’ve not done too much during the week. I’ve just really listened to my body. If I felt tired, I’d take the rest. I’ve had a lot going on. I moved cities and started a new job in that time as well. I’ve had a lot of distractions as well.
iRunFar: Lots of stuff going on.
Campbell: Yeah, for sure.
iRunFar: Apparently distractions are good for you.
Campbell: Or maybe the races are a distraction from life.
iRunFar: Right. Talk a little bit about the recognition you received from your—I don’t know if we want to call it your ‘lightning glancing blow’ or your ‘lightning strike’—whatever it was that happened up on Handies.
Campbell: My scary experience up on Handies—let’s go with that.
iRunFar: Your scary experience on Handies. You received a ton of attention for that in the last month or so. Talk about that a little bit.
Campbell: Yeah, it’s been a bit funny. Obviously Kilian [Jornet] ran arguably one of the best ultra performances of all time at that race and he got a lot of recognition within the sport, but outside of it it’s kind of too bad the lightning strike or whatever you want to call it did get that much attention. I also understand why people find that to be an interesting story for sure especially considering what happened that same weekend in the same area (actually Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado) where people were killed in fairly similar circumstances. First of all I just consider myself really, really lucky that we weren’t seriously hurt. We were in a dangerous position.
iRunFar: It could have been a lot worse.
Campbell: It could have been a lot worse. First of all I’m thankful for that. Who knows when you get opportunities? So I do find some of it a little bit funny or a little bit ridiculous. At the same time, you kind of have to embrace these things when they happen. There’s been a lot of…
iRunFar: Ride the circus train.
Campbell: Yeah, you know, why not? This is the 15 minutes and it may never happen again. It’s been fun. I’ve gotten some incredible opportunities out of it. I’ve taken my time to try and embrace those and have fun with it. I’m proud of the race I ran at Hardrock. Ultimately that’s… if I have a memory of the day, it’s how I felt throughout the day, the moments I shared with Gary [Robbins] and Aaron [Heidt] out there, and just the overall experience of the race. The fact that I had to deal with some inclement weather is a part of Hardrock as well. I feel like I got a pretty good Hardrock experience overall.
iRunFar: One of the things I really appreciate in watching mainstream media react to your experience is that their instinct or inclination is to box you into the ‘crazy ultrarunner’ category, and each time I watched an interview or read something about you, you tried to steer mainstream media back into, “Actually, we’re humans; we’re not literally crazy; this is a very human act; we’re not that different from the rest of the people.” So, I really appreciated the fact that you took… people could have very easily boxed you into this little cell and you could have just sat there, but instead you humanized our sport a little bit more. I appreciate that.
Campbell: Thanks. That’s kind of you. One of the things that I think we get out of ultrarunning and spending time in the mountains is, you know, we live pretty sanitized lives. I do. I work an office job. I work a pretty sweet office job, but I still work an office job. We put ourselves in comfortable situations a lot. One of the things I appreciate about ultrarunning and time in the mountains, it removes that comfort and does put you in unpredictable circumstances. That’s one of the reasons I go out there is to see what the day is going to provide. You never know. I really appreciate those moments of uncertainty. I find that’s where you get the real experiences is from that uncertainty.
iRunFar: Let’s talk about today for a minute. Were there any moments of uncertainty? Were you pretty confident all day? How did your day progress? You basically ran off the front and led basically gun to gun, right?
Campbell: Yeah, I’m kind of known for doing that. I tend to go out pretty hard at races. That’s sort of my strategy.
iRunFar: Go out and then hold on for dear life.
Campbell: Yeah. It works out pretty well for me. I think the biggest uncertainty was just how I was going to feel at the start of the race. I have had quite a lot going on. I’ve been feeling pretty tired. I wasn’t entirely sure. I was originally signed up for the 50 miler and then decided this week that I want to do The Rut in a month. I thought the 50 miler might just be a little too much. I’d rather do the 50k and then be able to recover and still get in a good block of training. I thought the 50 miler might just punish me a little too hard. So there was that. You have tough calls to make. I feel like that was the right call for sure. Overall, I just felt pretty steady all day. I was on top of nutrition. I was by myself, so that can be a little hard mentally to keep pushing. I wasn’t really getting any splits from anyone behind me. It turned into a long, hard tempo run. But I love the trails here. Your mind can’t really wander. You have to stay really present because it’s so technical that if your mind wanders…
iRunFar: You’re flat on your face.
Campbell: You’re flat on your face, yeah, or you’re losing some teeth for sure. So it’s really, really dance-y. It’s not really a rhythm course at all. You’re going from side to side a lot. You really, really have to pay attention. You’ll never… there’s no better training than racing, really. That’s what today sort of was—a really, really hard training day for sure. I got to test myself a little bit. Gary puts on a great race. It’s fun to come out and support the local running scene as well.
iRunFar: Yeah. You had a little bit of pressure from behind. Eric Carter, last year’s 50k champion and previous course-record holder, he was a couple minutes in arrears to you for…
Campbell: I was more worried about Ellie [Greenwood] at the start, to be honest.
iRunFar: And then there was that woman. You had a little bit of pressure. There had to have been some competitive focus for awhile.
Campbell: For sure. I ran off the front and I got a couple minutes pretty early on. Then on the first climb, Eric actually ran up to me quite comfortably. I was like, Oh, okay. Wow. You’ve got to stay on this a little bit. That definitely got me to keep my finger on the throttle a little bit and reminded me that I do have to focus. Nothing is ever a given in ultrarunning. I’ve had lots of races where things change a lot in the last 10k. You still have to respect it for sure. It was a good reminder that racing is special and you do have to… you can’t let off because other people are going to challenge you.
iRunFar: You’re turning your focus now, I hear, to the Rut—the Skyrunning Ultra Series Final—in the middle of September at the Big Sky Resort.
iRunFar: This may be the most competitive 50k America has seen this year by the way things are shaping up. There’s going to be the fellow who won the 50-mile yesterday, Nick Elson, another Squamish Festival guy.
Campbell: You know, I would think Nick could do really, really well on that course. Nick is a bit of a silent gun. He’s an incredible climber (rock climber), and incredible ski mountaineer. He’s got the speed record on Rainier with Eric Carter. He climbs 5.14s. He’s a real, real mountain guy. Outside of Kilian, he’s the best technical runner I’ve seen. He’s got really good speed and he’s figuring out the ultra stuff. Last year was his first year doing ultras and he struggled a little bit. He’s one of those guys… he doesn’t spray a lot… he’s not really on social media. I’d put my money on him.
iRunFar: Watch out for him?
Campbell: I’d definitely… outside vote for sure. He’s going to be solid. He’s going to be down there getting ready at altitude, so he’ll be quite well prepped. I think he could do really well. I’m excited for him for sure. It’s great to see… there’s a whole bunch of local guys that are really starting to crank around here. It’s fun to watch everybody raising their level.
iRunFar: What about you though? What are your thoughts on the race itself? Obviously you’re going to it because you think there’s a possibility for you competitively down there. What do you think?
Campbell: Yeah, there are a few things that always excite me. I love racing against competitive fields. I love competing in beautiful areas. If the race combines the two of them, why wouldn’t you go?
iRunFar: Okay, let’s do this.
Campbell: Yeah, yeah, exactly. No, for sure. So, who knows what will happen on the day. I’ve done a lot already this season. I’m pretty content with how the year has gone. I’ve done a lot more big adventure runs this year. I’ve set a couple FKTs in the Rockies which has been a lot of fun. I really, really enjoy those personal challenges as well. If I were to end my season today, I’d be pretty content. So one more race—just go out there and have fun and see what I can do. No real expectations. It would be fun to go out there and try to push it. I’ll try to go out with the lead pack and see what happens. Not too concerned about it for sure, but it is a focus.
iRunFar: It is a focus. Watch out, world. Congrats again on your domination of the 2014 Squamish 50k. We’ll see you in a month at The Rut.
Campbell: Thanks. Excellent. Looking forward to seeing you guys down there. I’m curious to see what Mr. Powell thinks of the course today, too.
iRunFar: He should be rolling in shortly.
Campbell: Awesome. Good luck to him out there. Thanks a lot for coming down here. I really appreciate you guys checking out the course. Squamish is a wonderful, wonderful setting. I really encourage people to come and check out the trails around these parts. It’s beautiful. It’s a great place to come in the summer time. If you want to climb… there’s something for everybody to do really.
iRunFar: There seriously is.
Campbell: If your family isn’t into the big mountain stuff, there’s stuff for them to do as well—mountain biking, playing in the ocean. There’s some of the best canyoning in the world here as well… caving… it doesn’t matter. You can do it here.
iRunFar: That pretty much covers the bonus question.
Campbell: Let’s try another one.
iRunFar: Bonus question number two. There’s a very fine brewery just down the street—Howe Sound.
Campbell: There’s about three.
iRunFar: There’s three?! Shoot! I haven’t been here long enough. What is going to be the drink of choice today?
Campbell: Howe Sound… let’s go with Howe Sound because I think they helped with the race. I’m partial to darker beers. I’d probably go with… honestly, I’d probably go with some kind of porter. It’s not really a summer beer, but…
iRunFar: They have… what was their Nut Brown?
Campbell: Yeah, the Nut Brown is really, really good.
iRunFar: That was a fantastic Nut Brown.
Campbell: Yeah, I do like darker beer, so that’s probably the way I’d go for sure.
iRunFar: Okay. Sit in the shade and have a dark beer this afternoon.
Campbell: Absolutely, yeah. For sure.
iRunFar: Congrats again.
Campbell: Thank you.