Cynthia has had quite the interesting career within the OCR community. She started her journey in 2012 and has since tackled many OCR and running events, letting no perceived fears get in her way. Initially, as I started to learn more about her, I was intrigued. Not only is she a mom, but she was able to in 2014 at the Spartan Sprint in Toronto chase down Helene Dumais (and we all know that is a feat within itself). She has also overcome many obstacles in her personal life including injuries and is still able to balance life, work and refusing to be defined by her age. I truly believe that the OCR community is full of women of all ages, shapes, and sizes and Cynthia has quite the story to tell.
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I’ve been active my whole life but always in individual sports (gymnastics, swimming, karate, wrestling, etc.), but around the age of 20 I discovered running and fell in love (or so I thought). My running journey has brought me from my very first race (an 8k event in my hometown that I ran with my Dad…and finished dead last!) to triathlons, multiple 10kms, half & full marathons (including the Boston Marathon 2014 & 2016) and even recently some ultramarathons.
In 2012, I entered my first OCR with a friend & her team (Toronto Spartan Sprint open wave), having little to no idea as to what I was getting myself into. What happened at that race changed my future! I found my niche!! I LOVED every scary minute of it. The mud and running and heavy hoist (I still recall doing the men’s Hercules hoist by mistake – LOL)…I am afraid of heights (ladders even make me cringe) that I went up and over those A-frames as fast as I could…and after that race I felt the most accomplished I ever had in any athletic event. The following year I entered the Toronto Spartan Sprint elite heat and surprised myself by coming in as 2nd overall female. OCR was new to me, and I didn’t know of many other races to enter so it wasn’t until 2014 season that I found some consistency and podiumed in every race I entered. I was beyond in love with the sport – I was hooked!!
Some special highlights for me in OCR have been:
- Toronto Spartan Sprint 2014 chasing the infamous Helene Dumais and finishing 2nd Then returning to the hill the next morning (body in full out pain and wondering how I was going to endure the Super) and taking the top spot in the Toronto Spartan Super ahead of Helene. WOW!
- Ottawa Spartan Beast 2014 – finishing my first Trifecta and chasing the equally infamous Clou Godbout on that mountain and finishing 2nd Super WOW!
- Halifax Spartan Sprint 2015 with my Mom seeing her first ever OCR and finishing 1st female
- OCRWC 2015 in Ohio…battling through an early season injury which left me in poor running shape but allowed me time to build upper body strength! I raced in age group (40-44) and made it through all obstacles with minimal attempts to finish 3rd overall in my first World Championship!
- OCRWC 2016 in Toronto…racing on a 10-day old sprained ankle and once again not having my best run game….but so proud of myself to be out there on that mountain, rocking all the obstacles and finishing 5th.
- Outside of OCR, I continue to race in road & trail races. 2 years ago I ran my first 50k trail race and came 1st! That felt good! I have my first 50 miler planned for this spring!
What is your proudest achievement to date in your sport?
I think the one thing I am most proud of in my OCR career to date would be keeping with it! Having raced against very young, fit & strong women for the last few years, I would find myself questioning my abilities now and then. After a significant fall in June 2015, I was left feeling sort of “broken” and not able to compete the same way I had the season prior. I was running slower but also racing with more caution than I ever had. I was worried that I would never see a podium again. Being cautious does not go well with success in OCRs.
It took me a while to remember what I loved about OCR in the first place. It’s not about the finish, the results, or the podium (if you get there)…it’s about the camaraderie, the shared struggle, and the sense of accomplishment for just doing it. Every race is an opportunity to feel disappointed with yourself…if that’s your mindset. I refuse to do this! I also refuse to be defined by my age! I am going to enjoy every part of this sport, from the grueling training days to the sunny, mountainous climbs that lie ahead! It’s during these times that I feel the most youthful & alive!
When someone says to you Obstacle Race or Obstacle Course race, what does this bring to mind for you?
JOY! I most likely smile and probably squeak gleefully!! I love talking about OCR and encouraging others to take part. There’s nothing that I’ve found that compares to the enjoyment I get out of training for and racing in OCRs. It is such a unique community of inclusivity & friendship. Everyone supports everyone!
We all have our strengths and our personal challenges. Please tell us about one strength that speaks to who you are and one challenge that you are working to overcome:
Wow -another tough one. I guess I would say my “strength” would be that I “walk the walk and talk the talk.” I know that one doesn’t translate into a character trait. I don’t know how to articulate it other than I believe I have an obligation to be a role model for others…for my children and for those students that I teach. I want to model physical strength & well-being. Talking about living a healthy, active lifestyle doesn’t make it happen. I work hard. I find the time to train. I set goals and put the effort in to achieve them. I try to eat well, get enough sleep and also enjoy life’s pleasures (like Reese Peanut Butter cups).
On the other side of this work ethic, however, lies my challenge…and that is to FIND BALANCE! As a mom of 3 very active kids, with a full-time job, a husband, coaching duties, and leadership roles at work, I have a busy schedule. I often remind myself that I can’t do it all. There will be workouts I have to miss or races that I can’t do…family occasions that I might miss out on. Finding a balance that keeps everyone happy & me healthy is a challenge for me.
If you could be any flavor of ice cream what would it be and why?
This is a funny question! I don’t eat ice cream…but if I could be any flavor I would have to say bubble gum. It’s my children’s favorite, it’s colorful, and you get to enjoy the gum part even when the ice cream is gone. LOL!
Is there an event/competition that you would never do?
Hmmm…I think my “I’d never do that” comments re races are usually more like “I could never do that, ” and it’s the practical me speaking. Racing costs! OCRs cost money (and the farther away they are, the more $ is needed) and they cost time away from my family. I’d love to go to Europe or Australia to race. Heck, I’d love to go to WTM in Vegas!! But my work schedule and family commitment doesn’t allow it.
There was a time that I said I’d never do a Tough Mudder, for 2 reasons: 1. Because they weren’t competitive and 2. Because they use electric shock as an obstacle. BUT this past summer I ran Toronto’s TM with a team of 30 amazing people and had such a fun time!! Even the electricity was “fun”…okay, it wasn’t at all but I’m proud of myself for doing it!
What quote inspires you?
“Live the life you love, love the life you live”. This speaks to me on a few levels – creating your pathway through your choices, decisions, and actions; and appreciating that life you have chosen. Living in the present moment and being thankful for what you have is so important.
I know we all have our own training plans / schedules / goals – tell us a bit about yours:
Balancing OCR training and ultramarathon training isn’t easy for me. I like to be strong but also desire to be fast & have great endurance. My training right now is focusing on improving my running ability so I can manage my first 50 mile race in May. I am running 5 days/week right now and gradually building weekly mileage to 80km. At the same time, I try to maintain some upper body strength with 2-3 workouts/week with emphasis on grip strength & pull ups. As the OCR season nears, I will add more exercises such as heavy carries, sled pushes, box jumps, and burpees.
Please name one guilty pleasure you have?
Red wine and Reese Peanut Butter Cups. I will likely never say no to either even though I know they truly don’t make me a better athlete…but there are times when they make me a better mom! LOL!
If someone wants to reach out to you on social media, how do they find you?
Facebook Page Cynthia Campanaro