How Charlie Ledford raced his approach to restoration and a better life.
It was a chilly day in the mountains in November of 2012, once I gathered up all the medicine and alcohol I had grown dependent on, and actually threw them within the trash. I was so mad that I couldn’t appear to reside without them. That they had grow to be such part of my life that I didn’t actually know who I used to be or what to do if I wasn’t numb. After that day, certainly one of my greatest pals began driving from Atlanta each weekend to help, by choosing me up and going backpacking each weekend for in all probability a yr or extra. I’ve all the time liked nature, however these weekend adventures in the peaceful setting of the NC mountains have been precisely what I needed.
After a while, strolling the paths on the backpacking journeys simply wasn’t challenging enough anymore. I started trail operating everyday. I used to be slowly changing all the power I had as soon as used in the direction of my habit, into something productive and constructive. Throughout this time I additionally went back to high school and received a degree in Wildlife Administration.
In the future I decided that I needed to take my operating to the subsequent degree, so I enlisted the assistance of a Coach. I had heard a few coach in Franklin who was helping the highest runners get better and quicker. I received his number by means of a pal, and gave him a hoop. I informed him that I needed to train for The Naturalist, a super-tough 50Okay in Franklin, NC put on by Outside 76. I also informed him that I didn’t simply need to run it, I needed to win it. On the opposite finish of the telephone, Coach Byrd type of chuckled and stated “So, you want to be a runner, huh?”. He additionally advised me that before he would agree to coach me, he needed to see if I used to be critical, and in addition to see where I was bodily. He informed me to go to the native highschool monitor, which happened to be the high school I graduated from, and run a 5k and name him with the time once I was finished.
The subsequent day, I went to Franklin Excessive Faculty and ran the fastest 5K I might. I referred to as Coach Byrd back with my time of 18 minutes or so, and he agreed to start out teaching me. After that day, I began speaking to him virtually everyday and we began happening runs together. Our relationship shortly grew into more than simply Coach-Athlete. He turned not solely my Coach, but my mentor and father determine.
I competed in The Naturalist 50Okay that yr, and completed in second place. Coach Byrd stored coaching me, and thru a number of hours on the monitor and trails, I turned on the top runners in the area. After a number of years of specializing in operating, I was feeling somewhat unhappy. Behind my thoughts, I had all the time thought that the last word aim for an athlete was to compete in an Ironman race, and ultimately make it to the World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. Speak about an ultra- endurance race. Swimming 2.four miles, biking 112 miles, and ending it out with a 26.2 mile run. I had a problem although…I didn’t know find out how to swim. And greater than not figuring out how one can swim, it was one thing I was deathly afraid of.
After months of contemplation about learning a new sport, I finally bit the bullet and went to the Highlands Recreation pool to provide it shot. That first day within the 25-yard pool, I didn’t even make it half-way throughout without having to stop tread water. I felt like I used to be drowning the entire time. I was tremendous annoyed, but decided.
Swimming was my nemesis, but I needed to get better. Throughout those first few months, I went day-after-day of the week. I was targeted on just studying how you can breathe and never feel like I used to be in a continuing state of wrestle. It was the toughest factor I had ever tried to do.
Through the spring of 2017, I made a decision it was time to join my first triathlon. It was an Worldwide distance: 1500-meter swim, 24-mile bike, and 6.2-mile run. When the gun went off at Lake Logan that morning to start out the race, it was an experience like none other I had gone by way of. Arms have been flailing, ft have been kicking alarmingly near my face, and I was making an attempt to do something that was still utterly overseas to me. I made it about 200-yards earlier than I had to flip over on my again and just attempt to stay afloat. I used to be already exhausted and out of breath. I needed to give up. Perhaps I ought to just keep on with land sports activities I assumed. This wasn’t even enjoyable.
But, my frustration was willpower, and I completed that swim. I used to be in 107th place popping out of the water that day. I used to be more than simply drained after 38-minutes of swimming, however now I acquired to do the things I beloved. I obtained on my bike and sped by means of the course, passing greater than half the individuals in entrance of me . Then, I passed a slew of people on the run, where I felt most snug. I crossed the end line in 29th place that day. I was formally a triathlete, but I knew I could possibly be higher.
After that race, I acquired more targeted within the training, however specifically on the swim. One of many swim coaches on the Highlands Rec Pool began to note that I was coming round rather a lot. He would watch me from afar and tell me one or two things to give attention to after each swim. As I might implement his ideas, he would give me a pair more. I feel he knew that too much directly would overwhelm me at that point.
I slowly received higher. I might make it across the pool with little drawback, and even began working towards in open water on the close by lakes on a weekly basis. If I might maintain making progress, I knew I might ultimately finish an Ironman. I elevated my mileage within the swim, bike, and run to organize. Later that yr I competed in an Ironman 70.Three event in Raleigh, and gained first place at the Lake Logan Half Ironman in Canton, NC.
One summer time afternoon in 2018, I headed out on what started as a traditional training experience. I was driving off the mountain in the direction of Cashiers on my street bike. I was on a reasonably steep downhill section when hastily a truck slammed on it’s brakes to make a left hand turn, but failed to provide a signal. I couldn’t cease in time to avoid smashing into the back of the tailgate. I sailed off the street towards the guardrail, narrowly lacking it.
As I laid on the aspect of the street, still clicked into my pedals, I did a quick scan of my physique to ensure I wasn’t injured. My adrenaline was by means of the roof from the incident, however I was fairly positive I used to be okay. I jumped as much as verify with the driving force of the truck to ensure the whole lot with him was okay, but he was gone.
After my heart stopped pounding in my ears, and my adrenaline got here right down to a semi-normal range, I hesitantly obtained again on my bike and headed house. I was scared. How had I been so lucky to haven’t gotten harm? I might’ve easily gotten a critical damage from what had just occurred. In reality, one among my greatest pals hadn’t been so lucky. A couple of years ago, a car hit him whereas he was on a journey and it shattered his leg. Although he is now capable of experience, he has so many pins and rods in his leg from the accident, he was advised not to run anymore. That would’ve been me, I assumed.
Worry could be so baffling. Behind my mind, I knew that if I didn’t get again in the saddle pretty shortly, it might be even more troublesome later. However, I simply couldn’t make myself do it. I was
grateful I hadn’t been harm, however so fearful that if I received again on the bike, my entire life might instantly change. Someday handed without driving. Then another. And, pretty soon I bought my bikes and determined I was completed. It was too dangerous. I might simply persist with an occasional run.
After a number of months of barely coaching, I discovered myself in a funk. I didn’t absolutely feel like myself. I wasn’t as pleased. My fiancé on the time, and now spouse Jessica, advised that perhaps I should begin training again. In truth, she advised me that I used to be driving her nuts due to all the unharnessed power I was carrying round, and lovingly nudged me to find a better approach. In any case, I was not a quitter. So, together, we determined that perhaps off-road sports activities have been a greater various. I instantly started training again after a 6-month hiatus.
The second on the bike that day might’ve gone a variety of alternative ways. Fortunately, I’m nonetheless right here to tell about it, and am extremely grateful that I walked away unscathed. Though on the time I assumed it was a adverse, at the moment I see the positivity in that encounter. It took me back to my roots, and my true love, which is being within the woods and immersed by nature.
Which brings us to April 2019 once I competed in my first Xterra Off-Street Triathlon in Myrtle Seashore, SC. I completed third general, and first in my age group. Throughout my first off-road race I knew that this was it. I absolutely liked racing via the woods on bike and on foot. I’ll admit that swimming continues to be not my favorite, but I do take pleasure in it now, and am persevering with to make improvements.
On Might 18th, I competed within the Xterra Triathlon at Oak Mountain in Pelham, Alabama. This was a Nationwide Championship race during which prime rivals from throughout the nation competed for a “golden ticket” to the World Championships in Kapalua, Hawaii in October 2019. Going into the race, I actually had no concept the place I might stack up, but I felt if I might put collectively a strong day, I might have a shot at qualifying.
I came out of water in 44th place, but with my greatest competitive swim up to now. The mountain bike course was extremely technical and hilly, but was a lot fun. It jogged my memory of the trails here in WNC, so I made up some floor in the course of the 1 hour 45 minute experience. The run was 6.2 miles on the rocky trails across the lake. With over 400 individuals competing within the race, including 15 or so skilled racers, I actually had no concept what place I was in coming down the house stretch. I needed to finish in the top-Three of my age group, or general, to safe a spot.
As I entered the final couple of miles of the run, the temperature had reached 87 degrees, and I used to be beginning to “bonk” (a term for hitting the wall). I crossed the finish line in 2:50:28 and knew I had given it my all, physically, mentally, emotionally.
Jessica and Charlie crossing the “starting line” at their wedding ceremony on April 27th 2019
I made my option to the closest shaded space to catch my breath as Jessica checked the leaderboard to see the place I stood in the rankings. I used to be sitting underneath a stream of chilly mist with another athletes who had simply completed when Jessica came to the tent and stated “You did it babe! You finished first in your age group and second amateur!”. I’d wish to say it was sweat, however I’ll admit it was tears that came streaming down my face as I tried to completely grasp what had just occurred.
A pair hours after I crossed the end line, I was referred to as to the rostrum to obtain a medal or finishing 1st in my age group, and 2nd general newbie (12th including professionals) and claimed a qualifying spot for the Xterra World Championships. Although my power tank was on empty, my heart was filled with gratitude.
I can’t even describe in phrases what it means to me to have the chance to turn my dream into reality. By way of this journey to date, as mine is way from over, I’ve been
helped by so many individuals in so many ways. I’ve met rivals which have turn out to be greatest associates, and have had Coaches who have turn into family.
Coming from all-time low to where I am right now has been beyond my wildest goals. However, what continues to inspire and encourage me is to be an inspiration to others who could also be scuffling with some facet of their life, whether or not it’s habit or something else. Everybody has their own battles, and if I might help someone else beat this thing or improve their life, every impediment I’ve and can encounter is value it. I need to present individuals if I can do it, they will too.
I’m really overwhelmed with joy and excitement to have the opportunity to compete in a World Championship competition by which 46 nations will probably be represented. I am honored to be able to pursue this dream of mine, as well as symbolize Macon County, NC.