An Ultra Experience

An Ultra Experience

Ryan Campbell
By: Ryan Campbell

Summary


The last 16 weeks of my life have been dedicated to preparing for one day: RACE DAY!...

The last 16 weeks of my life have been dedicated to preparing for one day: RACE DAY! On November 11th, I participated in the Tunnel Hill 50 mile Trail Run, and finished in 10 hours and 19 minutes.

It was an another experience that will forever change the way I measure my own capability. And more than that, taught me a lesson about the human condition that is as humble as it is hard.

The night before the race, I camped out in my van, mentally preparing, thinking back over the weeks of training, checking and rechecking my gear, and counting the hours until sunrise.

The next morning I woke and joined a large community of runners, representing every inch of the human spectrum. Different ages, genders, sizes and shapes. Some athletically built; others not at all. But we were all there as a unified front, ready to make tracks through the scenic landscape of Shawnee National Forest.

My goal was simply to finish. My only competition was myself. I accepted that my charge for the day was to run for 50 miles, and that today was going to be a painfully daunting exercise in delayed gratification.

Once the gun went off, I took the approach of breaking it down into bite size chunks. My first focus was getting to the next check point, then next check point, and so on. By the halfway point, I'd yet to hit "the wall" and felt excited and determined. I knew this was not a foot race. I had be mindful of how my body felt, not go out too fast, stay on top of my nutrition, and be patient. It was more important to run smart than to beat the person ahead of me.

As the day went on, the pain was real but manageable. My gazelle-like form during early miles had been reduced to a stiff-legged determined stride. Periodically, I would stop for squats and leg swings to temporarily restore my form.

One of the hardest things to teach as a trainer is how to be ok with being uncomfortable. Your body hurts, you feel a blister coming on, your hands are cold, and spells of a sour-stomach seems to come and go. You're uncomfortable, but you know you can handle it. You're going to be okay. Finding comfort in the middle of discomfort is an art form. The best remedy I found was to stay positive and shift my focus away from the pain and back to my goal.

For the last 10 miles, the biggest hurdle I faced was the one in my head. Although my pace slowed and my legs ached, my mood never faltered. I was doing this today. I couldn't stop, wouldn't stop, until I crossed the finish line.

As my friend, Polly, and I crossed the finish in the dark, cold of evening, we were exhausted, depleted and ready to get warm. But we had achieved what we had come to do. And in doing so, we had authored a small piece of immortality that will echo for the length of my lifetime.

Days later, I'm feeling recovered. And with the race now behind me, I'm left asking myself questions, putting pieces together, and making meaning of it all.

I keep thinking about the quote by Dean Karnazes, "You don't run with your legs, you run with your heart."

On race day, I saw those words in living form. The community of runners there weren't superheroes or Olympians. They were simply there to run. Like me, they had put in the training and dedicated themselves to a goal.

So that's me. Now I want to know: What's YOUR goal? Maybe it's to compete in a triathlon, run your first half marathon, or lose 50 lbs? Maybe it's just adopting a healthier lifestyle.

Whatever your goal, know that "Only you can decide what you can and can't do." ~author unknown

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Ryan Campbell

Ryan Campbell