In 2013 & 2014 I didn’t start training for the WTM until 2 months prior to the event, and by “not training” I mean that I did not run regularly for 10 months out of the year. I still stayed pretty active and did Crossfit with my friends, but wasn’t a runner. With this style of living I ran 75 miles in 2013 (newbie) and 90 miles in 2014.
In 2015 I changed my – lazy feel good plan – into a – focused train and race all year plan. This paid off by getting me an extra 5 miles (95 total) on a much more difficult course.
So what did I do?
First, I learned how to run. I read a bunch of books about running written by college track coaches, cross country coaches, and trail/ultra marathon runners. I studied up.
I learned about turning my body into a strong running machine by running consistently. I learned that running hills is the best thing in the world. Speedwork is dangerous and should be done at certain phases. I learned about peaking and taking time off. I learned how to train smarter.
Second, I needed more racing experience. In the past I only ran 1 Tough Mudder a year and the WTM for a grand total of 2 races a year. I wanted to become more obstacle proficient and gain more racing knowledge. Ryan Atkins and Junyong Pak have been racing for years. I’d only just started and I needed to dive in head first.
So I signed up for every OCR that fit my schedule. I wanted to run a BattleFrog and Spartan Race. Every race has different obstacles and I needed to learn them all. I also signed up for a 50-mile ultra marathon so I could test a new nutrition plan, it didn’t work by the way. Don’t use any soy products, I don’t recommend them.
How did the year go?
I took most of the winter off (recovery period) to Hike in Nepal, Snowboard in France, and Explore Scandanavia. In January I started to run a few times a week and raced the Tough Guy in the UK. I kept training lightly in February in preparation for the BattleFrog in late Feb. and early March in Florida. I didn’t do well in any of these races but gained a lot of obstacle experience and pre-race knowledge. I learned what not to eat before a race and when not to eat. I learned how to better traverse hanging obstacles, climb ropes, crawl/roll faster, and how to pace myself.
During the Spring I went into a strict training phase of running 50-70 miles a week while eating clean and drinking no alcohol. I shaved minutes off my running times at all distances.
Going into the summer I signed up for 10 races across the USA and set out on a road trip. I did a lot of trail running in Tahoe, Yosemite, Sequoia, Zion, Arches, Moab, Tetons, Glacier, etc. My goal was to run a lot of vertical feet. Running up mountains is good on the heart and lungs + easy on the joints. I finished top 10 in all my Spartan Races, 3rd place in my 50 miler, but had a disappointing 32nd place at the BattleFrog because I wasn’t ready for the Rig.
When the summer was over I felt ready for the WTM. I was strong as ever and injury free. But I had to wait 2.5 months.
No matter what I was going to run the race, I’d crawl the race if I had too. My best friend, sister, and brother in law were coming to pit for me. I wasn’t going to drop out. So I sucked in up and kept training. Everyday I woke up and walked a mile to workout the pain in my foot. After everything loosened up I could run again. I continued this process for the entire training phase and reached my training goals, but still feel I could have trained better had I been injury free.
During the training phase I averaged 60 miles/9 hours of running a week for 10 weeks.
Here’s a link to my plan
Gear and Food
Last year I ran 90 miles through a sand storm and finished 3rd overall wearing cotton shorts, cotton socks, shitty shoes, and a 3mm wetsuit…..so this year I was not too worried about gear. I can hack it, Imma Marine.
But to be more comfortable…… I decided to buy a neoprene swim cap to keep my head warm (they say if you are cold put on a hat) and neoprene gloves to keep my hands loose (cold hands freeze up). On top of that I started the day with compression tights, compression socks, and fancy Salomon S-lab ultra sense shoes.
At night I threw my wetsuit over everything, added glove and a cap, a windbreaker for a few laps, and I had a winning formula.
Food = carb drink, protein drink, gels, salty food, and sweet food. Easy? Not really, nutrition is the hardest part. I’m not sure if you can ever perfect it.
My goal this year was 100 miles. I didn’t care what place I came in I just wanted 100 miles. My pit crew bought tickets to the award ceremony (I didn’t) and that put a little extra pressure on me to podium, but my goal was the same, 100 miles.
To reach my goal I needed to keep each lap under 1:15. I knew I would buy some time with the sprint hour and my first 5 laps (which I usually run near the 1 hour mark). But during the night my laps can creep to a 1:30 and I couldn’t let that happen this year. I needed a quick wetsuit change and very short pit stops. I believed in myself, I could make this goal. Last year, a more out of shape me was running 1:20 laps 80+ miles in. No problem, right?
In order to keep my lap times down I wanted the best pit spot, the one closest to the entrance (this actually wasn’t necessary because I had a stellar pit crew to ran to me at the entrance with food each lap). Anyway, we got the best spot by arriving early to registration. No tricks here, no special privileges, just proper prior planning and 100+ life time miles.
The 1400 start time was a new obstacle in the race. In the past, with a 1000 start time it was easy to get 25-30 miles before Night Ops and the change into the slow moving wet suit. This year we had 2.5 hours and I only finished 3 laps……which means that I had to run 17 laps in a wetsuit to get this goal. Last year I only ran 12 or so wetsuit miles. Brady Archer is a genius!
The $100,000 cash prize was on my mind a lot leading up to this event. I wasn’t running to win the money obviously, but I wasn’t sure how TMHQ was going to play it. Would they make it an easy course so a team could win the money and make TM look like a big money race? Imagine an OCR giving away $100,000, that is big time money and would attract a butt load of new athletes + sponsors.
Would they make the course so difficult that no one would win the money or reach 100 miles and we would all go home depressed.
We all know how it turned out. Maybe Cellucor didn’t have the money :).
First thing I did race day was make a mistake. I tried a new pre race food. I ate smoked salmon with some nasty yogurt sauce on flat bread. This may have led to IBS, or it may have been the ultra sugary Tailwind. Either way I got the shits, more on this later haha.
Beyond that I did everything perfect. I ate 3 hours before start time, stayed away from caffeine, drank some electrolyte, took my pills, and warmed up a little. I felt great….at this point in time.
Plan was, I’d run the sprint hour unsupported and hopefully get 7-8 miles in before the bell was rung. I carried 4 Honey Stinger gels in a running belt and never passed an opportunity to drink water.
I got to the starting line 30 prior to the start and wiggled my way to the front then sat down (never skip a chance to sit down – Marine Corps 101).
At the gun I sprinted up the hill to get up front then settled into my pace, which I realized was too fast at a 6:40 mile. I slowed down to a 7:30ish pace and let a few people pass. I knew I was going the right pace when Ryan Atkins Team settled in behind me and we ran the first lap together. I finished lap 1 in 40:30 running in 21st place.
On lap 2 when the volunteers told me we had 10 minutes left in the sprint hour I wanted to get past operation because I figured that obstacle would kill the most time (it was actually a pretty fast obstacle later on). Once I passed that I decided I wanted to get past King of Swingers. I didn’t.
The bell went off and the first obstacle Ryan Atkins and I hit was Upper Decker (a nasty swim to rope climb to crawl through tube to roll under barb wire) and we were wet and muddy. We would remain wet and muddy for the remaining 23 hours while mother nature lowered her temperature and tried to kill us. In fact, Brady Archer and Nature were working together to kill us.
I figured Ryan Atkins team had a good chance at hitting 100 miles so I set a goal to stay in front of them the entire race. I pulled ahead during lap 2 finishing in 48:16 and moved up to 12th place.
I did a quick pit to take a quick sip of tailwind and grab more gels for the belt. I ate a gel at the aid station each lap and took in tailwind/protein shake/salty food in the pit area. This plan was perfect and gave my body fuel every 45 minutes or so.
I finished Lap 3 (my first full obstacle lap) in 57:50 and moved up to 4th place. On laps 2 and 3 I hit the bell on Swingers and used my golden carabiner on operation both times. The carabiner was a great addition to the race as an energy and time saving device but truth be told, I was cruising through the obstacles and didn’t really need it. I really enjoyed Operation, Tramp Stamp, Grease Monkey, and Gut Buster. I thought they were lots of fun and very innovative. I will say it was a tall person course though, mad respect to all you lesser people out there! I mean shorter people :).
After Lap 3 I stopped to put on a Frog skin top, headlamp, and strobe in preparation for Night Ops. The top was a waste of time and money, I missed my trusty old wetsuit from WTM 2014 so after lap 4 I pitted again to put on my full body 3mm wetsuit. The course was “too wet” to run with anything less in my opinion.
Let me also add that a good pit crew makes the world of a difference in the wetsuit change. I ran in, sat down, and my pit crew went to work changing me while I was interviewed by TMHQ. I was up and running in my wetsuit in 10 minutes. Amazing work.
I ran Lap 4 in 1:07 and Lap 5 in 1:09. My times were creeping back towards the 1:15 mark but I had moved up to 3rd place going into lap 6. I wasn’t getting placement announcements from my pit crew but when I got interviewed after lap 4 I knew I must be doing good. All I remember was TMHQ asking if I was going to catch the Spartan Athletes in front of me. I immediately knew they were talking about Chad and Killian. I was thinking “no” but I’m sure I gave some boastful remark.
Well, somehow during lap 6 I passed Killian and moved up to 2nd place running a 1:08 lap. I would remain in 2nd place the next 18 hours while my pit crew bit their tongues. I’m sure they wanted to tell me that I was in 2nd place and had a chance at first, but my dumb ass had told them “no placement updates”…looking back I shouldn’t have done this. Maybe I could have pushed harder with that motivation… but then again, I was chasing Chad Trammel.
Lap 8 1:12
Lap 9 1:08
And then it happened. The shits!….First time I peeled my wetsuit off while running and took a dump on the side of the course (out in the desert mind you). When the urge came again shortly after I said “fuck it” and shit my pants. This continued for the rest of the race (14 hours!). I couldn’t keep stopping to pooh and keep pace for 100 miles. Sorry guys but the $4,000 was worth it.
The shitty gut feeling killed my pace by only a little but it was enough to set me off course. My lap times began to fall.
Lap 10 1:17
Lap 11 1:14
Lap 12 1:17
Lap 13 1:22
I had the course down perfect and was running on cruise control. I opted to climb Everest 1.0 instead of 2.0 and take the penalty loop. This was faster than waiting for help and giving help. I would stuff my glove in my wetsuit and dust my hands for all the holding obstacles. I had an energy efficient side stroke swim technique through the water. I knew where to walk and where to run, when to eat and when to drink. I could do the whole course without any help. I was calm, breathing slowly, and speaking clearly. But my time kept falling.
Lap 14 1:18
Lap 15 1:28
When the sun came up I still had IBS but my mood had improved due to the beautiful view and Jon Copper’s Bagpipe playing. Love you Jon Copper. I was opting out of using caffeine (we still had 8 hours to run) but my pit crew slipped a 5- hour energy into my Tailwind. Maybe this is what improved my mood.
Lap 16 1:27
Lap 17 1:28
Lap 18 1:29
On my 18th lap I was “feeling it”. I was pushing the threshold. I had run 90 miles before but this course was much more difficult, this was a different kind of 90 miles. I was breaking into new territory and the constant swimming was killing me. I’m not sure if the poop in the suit was pulling me down or the fatigue, but something was trying to drown me.
When I finished lap 18 and started my 19th I had 2 choices:
1). Run this lap in under 1:30 (very possible) and start a 20th lap to put more pressure on Chad, extend the race, and to reach my 100 mile goal.
2). Walk the lap, complete it, and finish in 2nd place.
Option 1 should have been the obvious choice looking back, now that I am warm, well rested, well fed, and not full of shit haha.
But at that moment, tired as hell and feeling defeated, I didn’t think I could complete a 20th lap. I think I would have sunk and been DQ’d on one of the swims (probably the swim to Hump Chuck). I took the easy way out…..I’m pissed at myself but it only fuels my fire going into next year!
I jogged/walked my 19th lap in 1:47 to wrap up a 2nd place finish with a time of 24:17……and while I was walking up the last big hill climb I got a glimpse of my biggest competition for next year. I saw Nickademus Hollon run past me climbing the hill looking strong as ever at mile 85!
Congratulations to Amelia Boone (sorry I missed you), Chad Trammel (great to finally meet you), and Team Sinergy Sports.
Thank you Matt Luce, Jeff Locke, and Crystal Locke for pitting for me and enduring 24 hours of hell with me. Jeff Locke ran 33 miles during the event by the way!
Thank you to all the WTM community who cheered me on along the course.
Thank you to my Family and Friends who cheered me on, followed my progress, and made me the person I am today. Love you all.
I am very excited for next year. Let’s see if I can compete with Ryan Atkins, Nickademus Hollon, Jarrod Pace, and Chad Trammel!
Don’t use arm-band strobes they slide around and/or squeeze you arm. Very annoying. Just clip a strobe on your headlamp or bib.
Don’t use Tailwind if you are sensitive to sugar. I believe this is what gave me the shits. I’m sure the salmon yogurt crap didn’t help either. Stick with what you know.
Really think over the plan you make with your pit crew. Make a good plan! This is a big race and requires a solid plan. Tell them how to motivate you.
Here is a link to my Strava from the event. My Suunto died after 13 hours or so.