Just like last year, Adam Campbell took third in the 2015 Hardrock 100. In the following lengthy interview, Adam talks about how he struggled more than last year, how he dealt with the lows, how his years as a competitive triathlete compliment his love for mountain ultras, why he’s loving combining running and mountaineering these days, why it’s so hard to gauge post-Hardrock fatigue, and what happened with his pacer situation. (There’s also a last-minute figurative turning around of the interview on Bryon.)
For more on how the race went down, read our 2015 Hardrock 100 results article.
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Adam Campbell Post-2015 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Adam Campbell after his third-place finish at the 2015 Hardrock 100. Congratulations, Adam.
Adam Campbell: Thanks, and congrats to you as well. Amazing accomplishment.
iRunFar: Thanks. It feels like it. You were third last year here as well. Did one race feel any better than the other?
Campbell: I think last year the day went way more smoothly for me. I was just really consistent and steady all day. I think there was no real expectations, and I think I was just in awe the whole time and wonderment about the way things were unfolding. I was really just able to stay the moment. This year, I had incredible highs and lows, probably the worse lows I’ve ever had in 100 milers.
iRunFar: When did they come?
Campbell: Actually, after Handies. I went out probably a little bit too hard running with Kilian [Jornet] to the top of Handies. You know, it was an incredible honor to be able to do that. I paid the price. The altitude really, really crushed me this year. Last year I didn’t seem to struggle quite so badly with it, whereas this year it really sapped my stomach. I just lost my legs completely. We reached deep into the bag of tricks to try to get through it.
iRunFar: Pretty early on.
Campbell: Fairly early on.
iRunFar: It didn’t feel like it at the time, but…
Campbell: The nice thing about it is you can feel bad for eight hours and still have another eight hours of running to pull yourself back.
iRunFar: That’s something people don’t realize, especially at Hardrock… or any 100 really… you can come back. But Hardrock, you can have mistakes and you can have bad spots…
Campbell: Yeah, it was a really interesting race. It was really, really dynamic. I fell back to about sixth place.
iRunFar: After you were running with Kilian in the lead?
Campbell: Yeah, I was running with Kilian in the lead and then fell back to about sixth. Then the four of us all sort of rotated through several times. It felt like a real race although you were keeping your own strategy. You were still going back and forth back there, so you could see people having highs and lows during the day.
iRunFar: How does that work? I can imagine racing 50 miles or a shorter time-wise 100, but to be out that long, did it feel like there was pressure out there all the time to mark people’s high spots?
Campbell: No, I wouldn’t put it that way. It was nice accountability to remind you to keep pushing yourself. It’s the point of races, to push a little harder than you would by yourself. I use that as accountability to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
iRunFar: You had a low spot on or after Handies…
Campbell: Oh, basically any of the long road climbs I was just having a heck of a time. I basically walked every one of the long road sections. The second we’d get back up into the alpine, I’d start getting inspired again and find my mojo, but any of those long, gradual roads, for some reason I felt so uninspired by those and really, really struggled.
iRunFar: While you were walking, were you still able to walk with purpose or…?
Campbell: No, I was walking with purpose for sure, but people like Mike Foote just sort of come vaulting by and Chris Price as well. Yeah, it’s a little… you just can’t let it get to you. You’re having your moments and they’re having their moments.
iRunFar: It’s good to remember that philosophy.
Campbell: For sure, that’s sort of what you’re here for. I like to describe it as having 100,000 emotions and thoughts in 100 miles. You have to accept those low points and accept that probably they’ll pass. In an ultra they’re going to happen; be okay with it.
iRunFar: High points?
Campbell: The high points are… that part is easy. When you hit the highs, you have to take advantage of them as well and roll with it and push a little bit at those points and just look around at the beautiful view. We were going up Oscar’s where there’s that really crazy scree slope? No, sorry, Grant-Swamp. I remember I was in the middle of it struggling up the scree slope, and I remember the moon popped out of this incredible cloud cover. It was windy and it was raining a little bit, but it was also this incredible magic moment. I had to remind myself to really take a moment and really appreciate that.
iRunFar: On the physical side of things, were there any points late in the race where didn’t expect to be like, I feel good. Let’s roll?
Campbell: The last seven miles I actually felt quite good and was able to roll down which was good because the person behind me was only two or three minutes behind me, so I was lucky to be able to find whatever motivation to get it done at the end. My quads were nice and shot for 30 or 40 miles in there from that much climbing.
iRunFar: You were on the edge of whether or not to run this race two weeks before the race. Are you glad you came?
Campbell: Absolutely, for sure I am. I find that with 100-mile races, you have to emotionally want to be there. You have to be willing to put yourself into an uncomfortable situation. If emotionally you don’t feel like doing it, it’s going to be way too much suffering for you. A few weeks ago, I just wasn’t sure if mentally and emotionally I wanted to do this to myself. I’m used to what the recovery time is going to be. I did a really fun day up in the mountains a few weeks ago, and, you know, I really love doing this stuff. I sort of found my mojo again. It was nice to come in wanting to be out there for a full day.
iRunFar: How do you think that affected you? Were you putting in adequate and consistent training through the late winter and spring?
Campbell: My training has been really, really different. I’ve probably run way less than I’ve ever run, but I’ve spent way more time in the mountains and moving through the mountains, a lot more time hiking and climbing and skiing in the mountains through the winter. So, mountain movement is a really special skill set that really suits this course. Even in a more runnable 100 miler I probably would have suffered a lot more. The second you get into anything technical up here, that’s what I spent all my time doing.
iRunFar: You were more efficient probably?
Campbell: Yes, I’d kind of move through it. It’s also what I enjoy doing.
iRunFar: It’s very much… it’s an endurance run, but so much of the course is mountaineering almost, not technical, but…
Campbell: Yeah, it is. That’s the way I’d describe it. It’s sort of an alpine-style 100-mile running. How many times in the middle of the night are you in running shorts and a light windbreaker jacket in a snowstorm on a mountain?
iRunFar: Having flashbacks of Virginius?
Campbell: It was that on top of Handies as well. It wasn’t at night, but it was a huge snowstorm. I couldn’t believe the weather patterns we went through this year. It was incredible.
iRunFar: The upper-level winds must have been blowing hard because the systems would come in and go and come back, right?
Campbell: For sure. That’s also mountain weather. That’s one of the things you come to challenge yourself with at races like this. You’ll roll through the systems. It’s incredible how your emotions and mind will change with the terrain and with the views and with the weather. You have to roll through all that.
iRunFar: Psyche has an impact on the physiological.
Campbell: Massively. It absolutely does. I find that to be a fascinating aspect of these big endurance challenges.
iRunFar: I find it fascinating that you’re coming from a triathlon-type background, super competitive, Olympic-development-type program stuff. You’re loving the mountaineering side of trail running. How do you put those two pieces together?
Campbell: I had such a long time being on a very structured training program, I enjoy the lack of structure. I’m always going to be a very physical, active person. Even when I was doing triathlon, I used to guide for Outward Bound. I’ve always had a very outdoorsy side to myself. The part I enjoyed most when I was doing triathlon was the trail runs and long runs. It’s always kind of been a part of who I am. I think that background of having the very structured training has allowed me to now be more intuitive with what I do. Years and years of highly structured, and now I can go and be a lot more free with what I do—I’m really enjoying that.
iRunFar: You have the knowledge to know that, I pushed it a few days in a row and now I should not do it.
Campbell: Absolutely. For sure, yeah, you can be a lot more free for it now. I have a much better understanding of what my body needs and what to respond to now. I also have basically 20 years of endurance training in my body.
iRunFar: That counts for something.
Campbell: It definitely counts for a lot, I’m sure.
iRunFar: What else do you have going on this year?
Campbell: In terms of racing, I haven’t really committed to anything race-wise yet, but I do have a whole bunch of personal projects I want to do around the Canmore/Banff area which is where I live now. I moved there two years ago and sort of bounced back and forth between there and Vancouver, but to me it’s some of the most beautiful mountains around in North America, and I’m really enjoying exploring in my back yard and setting new challenges in that area. Yeah, I find the mix of fitness and… I’m not doing highly overly technical mountaineering activities, but combining those two can make for some really interesting route and options. I’m looking at maps and trying to figure out new ways of linking up different stuff. I’m really enjoying that.
iRunFar: You’re inspired, aren’t you?
Campbell: Absolutely, I am for sure. I find that it’s a neat direction the sport is going. There are a lot of climbers and mountaineers who are doing speed attempts and a lot of ultrarunners who are now getting more into the mountaineering side as well. Combining those two things is a really interesting side of the sport to me.
iRunFar: Do you think you’ll try to bounce back pretty quickly to use your current fitness, or are you going to give yourself a nice little pause here?
Campbell: We’ll see how the recovery goes. I’m going for a hiking trip with my dad next week to Mount Assiniboine which will be really nice. Yeah, it’s just one of those beautiful areas I’ve never been to. We’ll be camping for a few days there. In terms of actual training, as I said, it’s a lot more intuitive to see where my body is at, see where my motivation is at. You do have to respect this. I find this race, I don’t get… last year I wasn’t quite as sore from it because you’re hiking so much, but the fatigue is really, really deep and you have to respect how much it does take out of you. I’m not Kilian. Kilian bounces back. I’m almost 36 years old, and I work a full-time job. My recovery is a little bit different because of that.
iRunFar: The difficult thing, I think, is it’s really hard to gauge that fatigue. If you have soreness or a niggle or an injury after a big 100 miler, you can respect that. It’s so hard. You can run in three or four days and kind of have that itch because you’re fit and you’re psyched. How do you control that urge?
Campbell: Last year I ran a 10k race the week after Hardrock, and it was good. Then I ran a 50k, Gary Robbins’s Squamish 50k race, four weeks later and I felt amazing in both of those. Then two weeks after I was out doing a big day in the mountains with a couple buddies, and I was about 12 hours into it, and I suddenly just… the tank was empty. I was done for the year.
iRunFar: It definitely comes from Hardrock.
Campbell: Oh, for sure. It absolutely did. I find that 10 days later, once the soreness is gone and you can start to judge a little bit whether or not you have actual injuries from the race—because sometimes they sort of stay hidden—then you’ll have a big crash. Then about six weeks later after all the muscle damage is done, that’s when that deep metabolic cost is massive. I think if you were to do a muscle biopsy after one of these things, you’d stay pretty damaged there for a long time for sure.
iRunFar: But, darn, if it ain’t worth the price.
Campbell: I know. It absolutely is for sure. You have to be really, really careful and listen to your body, but also get out—motion is lotion—and keep moving which can make a big difference. But just tone it down a little bit.
iRunFar: Can I presume that maybe you’ll put your name back in the lottery for next year?
Campbell: There’s a good chance I would, for sure. There are other races I wouldn’t mind checking out as well, but in some capacity I’ll be back here next July whether it’s volunteering, crewing, pacing, or racing.
iRunFar: It’s infectious, isn’t it?
Campbell: It really is. One of the problems is that this race kind of ruins you for any other race out there, too.
Campbell: If you like this type of terrain, some people like more runnable courses, but if you’re into big-mountain experiences and really, really big days, which I do, then this type of course really, really… then the other thing I love about it is, it doesn’t have to over-hype itself. Somethings just speak for themselves. They don’t need to play it up. It’s like, people are like… I remember going through one of the aid stations, “Yeah, you just have one more little bump to go.” You look at him… it’s a 3,000-foot bump.
iRunFar: With pitches like this on off-trail… and it’s the easiest climb on the course.
Campbell: Yeah, exactly, and over 80 miles in, and that’s exactly it. It doesn’t… you don’t need to hype it. It is what it is. The people are incredible here. It’s such a great town for it. The people that come out and watch, everybody just has so much respect for each other. I really, really enjoy that aspect of it.
iRunFar: Having previously… everyone who finishes this race, no matter what it takes or how long, is just such an awesome accomplishment. As you say, there’s not the hype from the race, but it’s almost indescribable—finishing it, not just racing it.
Campbell: Yeah, for sure. It’s so great that they acknowledge everyone that’s out there, even the people who for whatever reason are unable to finish the race that started it, the preparation just to get here is incredible. It’s the same at any race, but everyone has a story to tell who has run one of these things. I’d love for Dale [Garland], the race organizer, to write a book about the stories he’s heard. I think some of the stories from some of the middle-of-the-packers, people who are out there for 48 hours or 47:59:58, would be incredible. What do they say, You experience a lifetime in 100 miles, right? I think that would be true.
iRunFar: This is a long life.
Campbell: This is a little bit more battled and worn, but it’s definitely a very full life if you get through it.
iRunFar: What’s your favorite story from your race?
Campbell: Actually, my favorite story from yesterday was my pacer. I had this pacer, her name is Anne-Marie Madden from Vancouver, she’s an anesthesia resident, so she’s in fourth-year residency. She works an incredible schedule. She’s one of Canada’s top trail runners and just a wonderful person. Last week, she sent me a Facebook message, and she runs for Salomon, and was like, “Good luck at Hardrock. I’d love to come check it out sometime.” I was like, “Oh, it would be great to have you come out. Yeah, if you ever want to come pace, it would be awesome.” So she bought a plane ticket a week ago and flew out. I was like, “Are you serious? You’re coming out?” So she’s going to run 11 miles with me. She ran 11 miles with me to Chapman, and we were supposed to swap out pacers. We got there, and something had happened with my other pacer. I looked at her, “Do you want to keep going?” She was so psyched. She ended up running 27 miles with me.
Campbell: She was just so stoked the entire time. Her energy really helped. I think a lot of people talk about the energy of the people around you at these races and how much pacers help and your support network. That was one of those cases. Last year it was Gary Robbins and Aaron Heidt. This year it was Adam Chase and Anne-Marie who just made a really, really positive experience in my day for sure.
iRunFar: It was probably really surprising. Now you’re walking through who your pacers were… perhaps one of your pacers overslept?
Campbell: Yeah, he might have… it was also 1:00 a.m. and he’d been driving all day. Yeah, he did fall asleep. He also crewed for me and did a whole lot of other support.
iRunFar: Yeah, it was a long day.
Campbell: He was so psyched to go out and run, too, I felt gutted for him because he really wanted to go out and experience the course. Yeah, he fell asleep. Luckily, Anne-Marie got to benefit from his fatigue. Nothing like jumping out of a plane from sea level and coming out and crushing it for 27 miles unexpected in the middle of the night—you know you have a good person on your hands when that happens.
iRunFar: Congratulations on a great story-filled run.
Campbell: Yeah, thanks, and same to you. That’s a great accomplishment. You had a fantastic race. I’m really psyched for you. You put so much work into this, and it’s great to see that pay off as well.
iRunFar: It was good to be back training and racing.
Campbell: Yeah, I can imagine. You’re looking lean. What’s next for you?
iRunFar: The Ultra-Trail Gobi Race.
Campbell: Tell us a little about that.
iRunFar: 400k non-stop at the end of September-first of October.
Campbell: 400k? What’s the course profile look for something like that?
iRunFar: Incredibly flat—10,000 feet total climbing in 250 miles.
Campbell: That’s amazing. That will be a whole different experience for you.
iRunFar: I plan to take that even more casually effort-wise than Hardrock.
Campbell: I don’t think 400k can ever be taken casually.
Campbell: Best of luck with that.
iRunFar: Thank you, very much.