Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Worlds Toughest Mudder training

Several people asked me what I did for training for the WTM this year. Its hard to put it down in words and even harder to remember since I don't log or write any of my training down, but I will try.

Before we start, I will talk about my training philosophy.
Most of my training is done when I feel like it, at a pace that I feel like going. I do very few "focused" training sessions. I do however, do lots of racing. I love racing, and I love the competition it brings. I love how my body changes states on the start line, and the single goal becomes crossing the finish line in first. I average approximately 16-18 hours of "training" (or having fun!) per week, however, there is a massive variance. For example, I did a week of nearly 60 hours this year, as well as a week of about 4 hours.
Also, I think that training isn't something you do for 3 or 4 months before an event. It is a life philosophy. You can get "ripped" in that time frame, but I don't think you can even approach your fitness potential. I've been partaking in explosive power, and endurance sports, in one form or another since I was about 13. That's 13 years of development, in a time-frame during which activity is well absorbed. I'm saying this, because I think that very few people will do what I did for training, and accomplish the type of fitness gains they are expecting. Its a journey, a life path. enjoy it, and don't rush!

Doing the "simba" with our pup. He's a great training partner.

2013 in review:

January: I started out the year, by going for a 2 week hiking trip, with my friend, on the AT. Looking back, it was great "LSD" training, but at the time, it was just fun. Putting in 10-12 hours per day of hiking up and down steep trails. After this, I got back home, and starting doing lots of nordic skiing. I also did a snowshoe orienteering race, which me and a friend won.
Winter Hiking
February: I kept skiing, and raced in the "Gatineau Loppet", finishing third, in the 50km, skate. It was a great race, and a result that I wasn't fully expecting. I also did the "Fisher Loppet" which I won.

March: I kept skiing until the snow was melted. During this time frame, I started riding my bike more, mixing in the odd outdoor ride. My room mates are all elite mountain biker racers, so they motivate me to ride a lot. I also went on a solo snowshoe/camping/orienteering trip. It was in really deep snow, and on questionable ice over the lakes. This was incredibly taxing.

April: Almost all riding outside now. Doing more mountain biking, and working outside a lot. This means physical labour! Also, always keeping up with about 3-4 runs per week.

May: Getting into the mountain bike race season. Things didn't go as well as I had hoped, with the highlights being a 3 place finish at an Ontario Cup race, and the low-lights being that I was running more than biking, and the legs were feeling it!

June: Working for Mud Hero, doing course building. This involved 10 days straight of very physical labour, and usually running for 1-2 hours after work. I rode in a 24 hour mountain bike race (super last minute). It is called 24 hours of Summer Solstice. Its a great event, and I won the solo. This was the catalyst to sign up for WTM. I felt so powerful after 24 hours of racing, that I knew I had the ability to race at a high intensity for the whole time, and still have some matches left!

July: Still working for Mud Hero. Unable to bike, due to a lack of bike at events! I would usually run the course at least 6 times during the time we were there. I like to test the course to make sure its perfect for the competitors. I did my first "real" adventure race. It was called "Wilderness Traverse", and was a 24 hours mountain bike race. I love it, and my team won! I also raced Canadian Mountain bike Nationals. I think I finished 20th. It was my second time on a bike in over a month. It hurt like heck, and I felt terrible, but I was fine with it, and had lots of fun.

August: Mud Hero, and lots of running. I spent 4 days in Canmore, AB, running mountains. I did one day involving 6.5 hours, and over 4000m of ascent, with 40 km of running. Probably my favorite thing to do. I got some biking in here as well. I think I raced a few mountain bike races in here as well.

September: I really started increasing my run training, and did a few 14-15km trail run races. I finished them in about 52-54 minutes, and won them. My favourite was a local race called "Chase the Coyote". Great fun! I started to increase my strength training as well. Usually this involved stopping on my runs, and doing push ups, or pull ups, then continuing. I usually mix it into an interval, so, run 1k at 3:30 on trail, stop hammer out 60 pushups, and then run another km, in roughly the same time. Lots of fun! I also went to California for 8 days, and did tons of running, and a little biking. I think I did 125 miles of running, and 6 hours of biking while I was there. Mostly on trails.

Peak of Mt. Whitney. What a day!
October: Now things were getting real.  I started to purchase supplies for WTM. I used a 3mm full length wetsuit. It was a cheap one, I got for $99, but it fit really nicely. I started doing a few runs in the wetsuit. I would usually run beside a river, and every 10 minutes, I would jump in, and swim around, then keep going. Starting on october 13th, I would run about 50km every weekend. I did a 50 km race in ottawa, which I won (in gnarly conditions!), as well as did a 9 hour run on the Vermont long trail. Every weekend was pretty big volume, which I would back up with speed work, and rest during the week.

November: I did a 30km orienteering race the weekend before WTM, and then I pretty much shut down the training for the whole week prior to WTM. I rode my mountain bike 3 times during the week, but no more than 2 hours, and at a chill pace. I slept 10 hours the last 3 nights before the event, and made lists. I checked, and re-checked every piece of gear, and made sure I was prepared to everything. The event day was very tough, but manageable. In  hindsight, I started too fast.

End notes: I broke down the event into all the 'knowns' and 'unknowns' that I could come up with. I came up with solutions to every problem,that I came up with. and example would be blisters/wet feet: I used a neoprene sock, with body glide, and did all my running in the last month before the event in the set-up that I wanted to use. I would also make sure I hit every puddle and stream during my runs, to keep my feet wet all the time.

I determined that it would take between 90 and 120 miles to win the event. I don't think I could have done 120 miles, but I'm confident that I could have done 110-115 miles if I needed to.

Gear list:
Head lamp x4
Strobe lights x5
tent: Mec Tarn3
sleeping bag: down, -12 rating
hand and footwarmers : brought, didn't use
towels x5
socks x6. All the same, my favourite ones
neoprene socks. MEC x2
hooded base layer, x2 in hindsight, the hood was useless
tights x3 (used as a base layer)
VBL socks, shirt, pants, gloves. In case I got really cold. Never needed.
wetsuit 3mm
wetsuit pants: not needed
neoprene shirt: used in day times
neoprene hood. useful if swimming
neoprene gloves: 2mm, 3mm, and 5mm (didn't use 5mm)
camelback: didn't use
Shoes: first 7 laps New Balance MT1210, remainder of laps, Brooks Pure Grit

I hope this helps everyone out there!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Worlds Toughest Mudder Race Recap

On the car ride down from Toronto, to New Jersey, we were asked by the border patrol, where we were going, and what we doing. My Girlfriend was driving at the moment, and she said "We're going to New Jersey. One of us, Ryan, is doing an event called the Worlds Toughest Mudder!" He replied saying that he already had several people cross tonight who were doing that event. She replied by saying "Yeah, but you haven't had the winner come through yet, have you?". I have the best, most supportive girlfriend ever!

Taking a post race pic with all the Tough Mudder employees. They were all so nice.

Self belief, confidence, and cockiness shouldn't be confused. I had 100% focus coming into this event, 100% belief in myself, and although there was a ton of uncertainty, I had come for a purpose.

We drove the 8 hours down on Friday, and ate at the Olive Garden. I had raviolis, and pumpkin cheesecake. Even though I had rested for 1 full day, and had a very low-key week leading up to the event, I was super hungry, and just mowed down. We got 2 for 1 meals, and I decided I would take my extra meal for the race. After we got to the Hotel, me and my friends all fell asleep.

Just after the first lap. I look like
i'm in a Powerade poster!
We arrived at the venue at 7:00 am. Perfect timing. I got signed in, got my tent set up, and then got all set-up, and ready to rock. From then, until the start, we just hung out, and chatted. My support person, Kelsey Krushel was totally ready. He knew all the gear I brought, were it was, and what to do with it. Kelsey, my girlfriend Lindsay, and my other roommate, Matt, all have the ability to rock a top 10 finish at this event, so having such a great athletes there to run ideas by, was invaluable. I arrived at the start line in an ideal mental state, and then just chatted with some other Mudders. The start went off, and boom. I went.

The first lap was foolish. I ran it pretty fast. I pulled through the pit after doing the first 5 miles in 30:20. This was a little bit reckless, but I was only running at about 70%, and really trying to dial the excitement down. After this, I pitted for about 30 seconds, grabbed a drink, and headed out for lap 2. I think this one was 42 minutes. I really tried to "feel" the pace, on the pavement, and dial it in, to a speed that I would be able to maintain for the next 23 hours, and 29 minutes.

After this I just kept going. I got to run with Knut. He seemed really nice, once I finally got him to talk to me (which took a few laps). The one thing that I wasn't impressed with, was his lack of "Mudder" mentality. To me, it seemed like was just "in it to win it". I kept catching him on all the running sections, then he would push by other Mudders, when going through obstacles, never helping out, and butting in line, in front of others. I knew it was a long race, and I couldn't keep this yo-yo-ing all day long, so I let the gap go on lap 7. I believe it was on lap 9 that I learned that he had hurt himself. As bad as it seemed, I felt like there was some Mudder karma being dished out, but I felt terrible for his misfortune. I think I was down about 5-10 minutes when he pulled out, and from then on, I would sit in first place.
Being the funkiest of all monkeys

I think it was also on lap 7, that I was interviewed by Matt Davis, from Obstacle Racing Media. He asked me if I knew that I was in second. I said yes. He hinted that I was going too fast. I said that I was running "my pace" and that I felt "really good". It honestly felt like I was running on a cloud. Each step was pure pleasure, and I was in that place where everything flows. He asked if I knew the caliber of the athletes that were behind me. I did. I had one person on my mind the whole time... Junyong Pak. I had prepared myself for the logistics, and physical requirements, by watching videos, and reading all about Junyong, so I had put up on a pretty high pedestal. He is an obstacle racing demi-god. He is an amazing athlete, and I knew this. But somehow, I still believed in myself. It seemed like the only other 3 people who also believed in me, in all of New Jersey, were my three friends. That was all that I needed. It made me feel like I wasn't crazy, for thinking I could possibly out pace this Tough Mudder machine.

From then on, my laps slowly got slower. I took breaks of approximately 2-4 minutes each lap, and then I would follow this, by walking the next 1/4 mile. After that, I would always run. Run to the obstacles. Run between them. Run after. Run through the woods. Just keep running. I kept thinking of "Finding Nemo"... where the blue fish sings "just keep swimming". Starting on lap 4 almost every lap was about 1 minute slower than the previous, and this trend held almost perfectly true, until my last lap of 1:15. I kept getting splits, and I kept running. My friends ran around the spectator route, and gave me cheers all night long. Once the sun came up, I knew I had it. My lap had grown to 2 laps, and I still felt good enough to keep running. I finally got to meet Mr. Pak. I told him that I had so much respect for him, and his performances. I also felt like he was a ninja, because I only saw him on my 18th lap. It was about time! He must have been in stealth mode all race long.

I don't like getting shocked... Shocking!
For some reason, I thought that when the Tough Mudder site said that you had to stay on course all 24 hours to be a finisher, that Mudders had to finish after 10:00 am. So, my second last lap involved a lot of walking, trying to kill time. Halfway through my last lap, the race official came up to me, and asked me if I had any questions. I told him that I was confused about when I could finish. He said that I can finish whenever I want! So, I started running, again, and ran the rest of the last lap. I ran in with 100 miles, and 20 laps complete (maybe slightly over, if you count penalty obstacles) in 23:02. Average pace of 13:49/mi, or 8:35/km. I had a few moments of worry, that I would have to run another lap, but after some quick math, I realized that to force a 21st lap, Pak would have to run two laps in 45 minutes. So, with that knowledge, I went to my tent, and got out of my wet-suit.

Overall, Worlds Toughest Mudder was a great experience. I would like to thank my Girlfriend, Lindsay Webster, and my two roommates/best friends Kelsey Krushel, and Matt Farquharson. Everyone was super nice, and the whole event was run so smoothly, and well, that I was really blown away. Tough Mudder Staff was AWESOME! Also, all the volunteers were incredible. Junyong Pak, and Olaf Dallner were really well spoken, great guys, and it was a privilege to race with them, and meet them. If anyone wants to learn about my training, leave a comment.

take care, and HOO-RAH!