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!


  1. Ryan I think you have told a story of a person that is out to test themselves, to experience adventure and enjoy seeing how far they can go. Not of a professional athlete or someone that has science as their "go to" for how they can better themselves. Well done on putting this message out there.

  2. Thanks for this. I get a little disheartened after some races, feeling like my training is going no where. Hearing that you have been at it for 13 years makes me feel good. I did 11 laps at WTM and I've been training for 23 months. I still have a ways to go and I know it takes time, I just need some more patients.

  3. Ryan,
    I will be a first time WTM participant this year in Vegas in November. Can you help me out with specifics for gear? I see the gear list above but can you give a few brands for socks, wetsuit, etc. And if you will make any changes for Vegas this year? Thanks!