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|Posted by Strength & Speed on November 12, 2018 at 5:45 PM|
The world of ultra-endurance is growing with people wanted more than a marathon (26.2 miles) or more than a century (100 mile) bike ride. My sport is Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) and is no exception. Since 2011, athletes have been tackling events like the 24 hour long World’s Toughest Mudder and as of 2017 the CBS Televised 8 hour Toughest Mudder Series. The events require going over (usually) a 5 mile strength of land with around 20 obstacles. Some involve crawling, some hanging from your hands, others strength to carry or climb over a wall and sometimes they test your fears with things like a 40 ft. cliff jump.
I’ve been competing in endurance sports since 2003 with my first marathon followed in 2004 by my first (unofficial) ultra-marathon (a 40 mile unsupported run from Baltimore to Washington D.C.) and my first iron distance triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run). However, I didn’t find my true sport until 2014 when I raced my first Ultra-OCR, the 24 hour long World’s Toughest Mudder.
The distances covered in Ultra-OCR are a little lower than of a regular running course of the same length. The uneven terrain, the obstacles, the water crossings and often the extreme conditions requiring athletes to put on a wetsuit to prevent hypothermia slow your pace. However, I would argue the stress on the body can be greater. You are not just taxing your legs but your arms, your back muscles, your grip strength and putting your body through some terrible conditions including ice baths, swim crossings and adrenaline inducing cliff jumps. In 2014, after World’s Toughest Mudder, an especially windy and cold year, I had trouble controlling my body temperature for three days afterwards.
I go to the race every year and every year the hardest part is not the terrible conditions, sleep deprivation or exhaustion, it is the walk back to the car when my feet hurt more than anything. The course designers can do whatever they want to me, but when they make me walk a half mile back to the parking lot they break my spirit every year. This year is different though because I got my first pair of OOFOS.
OOFOS recovery sandals (and now shoes) are the best post-event purchase you can make. OOFOS feel good any day of the week and they feel better after a long training day/week. However, nothing can compare to putting on OOFOS after an ultra-endurance event. The shoes literally make me change my stride from “I can barely walk” to “I’m walking almost normal”. I’ve tested a lot of products from the fitness industry and there are few where you can feel the effect immediately, OOFOS is one of these products.
I’m skeptical of all new products and I was skeptical of OOFOS too. The first time I tried them on I’ll admit I did the stereotypical “ooo” that gives OOFOS its name. They are comfortable, there is absolutely no doubt there. However, the first time I put them on after one of my endurance events, it was life changing. They are now part of my race essential kit as much as my running shoes that I use on race day.
If you don’t own a pair of OOFOS, you need to order some today. Not even my post-cheat meal feels as good as OOFOS after a long event. The best part is you don’t have to run insane distances to get this feeling. It is available to anyone that pushes their body and wants to recover faster, whether that be 10k, 10 miles, 100 miles or just someone that spends a lot of time on their feet. Do yourself a favor and stop living in the past. OOFOS are the future of post-endurance recovery and that future is now.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on November 5, 2018 at 5:25 PM|
My friends: “You’re going to do Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) for 48 hours?”
My friends: “Have you ever done that before?”
Me: “No, no one has. That’s the part of the reason I’m doing it.”
I’ve done around 20 Ultra-Obstacle Course Races (Ultra-OCRs) with around 10 podium finishes and only a handful of results outside of the top 10. I’ve also completed some pretty big Ultra-OCR challenges (OCR America and Ultra-OCR Grand Slam). From this accumulated knowledge I wrote the only book available on the topic and in a desire to push limits even further decided to do a 48 hour OCR this summer called Endure The Gauntlet. So while I had a good understanding of what I was getting myself into, there is a still a mismatch between expectations and reality.
Endure the Gauntlet involved running multiple laps of what most consider the hardest OCR series in the US, Conquer The Gauntlet. I would start on Friday at 1130 AM and stop on Sunday at 1130 AM. The goal of the event was to raise $5000 or more for the charity Folds of Honor and challenge myself with an event twice as long as any other OCR. Folds of Honor provides scholarship money for children whose parents were killed or wounded in US Military service.
1. Injury Prevention Pre-Event:
a. Expectations: Thanks to JRen Fitness’ Jared Renyer, I took some pre-event tests including a functional movement test utilizing a several hundred thousand dollar machine used to analyze movement. One of the things it confirmed was my left knee isn’t 100%.
b. Reality: Knowing this from personal experience on confirmation from the analysis, I liberally used RockSauce Fire leading up to the event and RockTape at the beginning of the event to avoid further injury. Even with a technical course, lots of climbing and 48 hours of activity, I managed to finish without any injury and I didn’t even notice any knee problems over the 48 hours.
2. Contingency Planning:
a. Expectations: With Ultra-OCR there are so many variables it can be overwhelming. External factors like terrain, weather, elevation and obstacles can make it easy to get a lot of miles or very hard. Add in all of your personal choices like shoes, clothing and gloves and the situation gets that much more complicated. It’s actually so complicated, I wrote a full book (and the only book) on the topic, which covers all aspects including training plans. I knew I would have to try and plan for every contingency that I could think of.
b. Reality: I packed a lot of clothing changes, a lot of shoes and a wide variety of nutrition. When packing, I always bring a roll of RockTape. The versatility of it is unmatched, allowing to support nagging injuries or help solve ones that pop up mid-event. My experience prepared me well and I felt I had the right tools to tackle the problems I faced. Had I not purposely over packed, I would have found myself wishing for an extra pair of dry clothes or fresh shoes.
3. Weak Points: Legs, arms, hand or all three?:
a. Expectations: Training for such a long event, I was primarily concerned with the endurance and strength of my legs. Being an experienced Ultra-OCR athlete, I had a lot of time and experience under my belt, although nothing as long as 48 hours. I was less concerned about my upper body since I have a lot of experience passing obstacles when most of my peers are failing, especially in the 2nd half of 24 hour races.
b. Reality: However, my legs would be in pretty good shape at the end of the event, it was my upper body that was the problem and more specifically my hands. The abuse my hands took during this event was unmatched. Normally during a 24 hour World’s Toughest Mudder event (a course designed for multi-lapping) I might lose a callus. In 12 hours of Conquer The Gauntlet (a course designed for one lap), I had 13 open wounds on my hands. The swelling caused by trauma to my hands was my ultimate limiting factor on obstacles. Even doing something which is easy for me like climbing an inverted wall, a slip wall with a rope or a tire wall became so painful in the second half of the event it was insurmountable. Although my back and arm muscles were severely fatigued, the tenderness in my hands was the most painful part physically. In hindsight, perhaps some RockTape could have assisted with fluid drainage in my hands.
4. The Hardest Part:
a. Expectations: These events are always mostly mental. Through a series of successively difficult challenges, I felt I was ready for this event. I had been doing endurance sports since 2003 and got involved in Ultra-OCR in 2014. In 2016, I ran OCR America, a seven day, seven venue multi-lap event where I did 8-10 hours of OCR every day for a week. I would end up running 161 miles over the week (averaging 23 miles a day), complete 1000+ obstacles and climb 31000+ feet in elevation. In 2017, I did the Ultra-OCR Grand Slam, finishing 1st or 2nd at every 24 hour OCR in the US. In 2018, this was my big event.
b. Reality: I knew the heat of August would play a factor but it turned out to be the hardest part. With temperatures that hit 96 degrees, little shade, periods of no clouds and no water on miles 2-4.5 of each lap, I was baking. Ultimately, I had to take a break to let the sun go down after almost passing out on lap 15 (mile 67.5). I had planned for this contingency by talking about putting a cooler on the 2nd half of the course with ice. I ended up not following through with the plan because there was aid stations there and it wasn’t super easy for my pit crew to get to that part of the course. With the conditions though, I don’t think it would have saved me from taking a break, but maybe it could have extended it one lap.
5. Recovery Post-Event:
a. Expectations: Having run multiple 24 hour OCRs, without any DNFs (Did Not Finish) and done well (usually in the top 10) I have finished each one with anywhere from 55-90 miles, course dependent. The mileage differences are largely determined by obstacle difficulty, obstacle density, terrain and weather. I didn’t know how many miles I would get in 48 hours but I imagined it would be in the low 100s.
b. Reality: After my first couple of laps of the course, I knew that initial estimate was too high. Regardless, I kept moving forward because the goal was to highlight endurance and strength to raise money for Folds of Honor and less about achieving a mileage goal. The tougher terrain and tougher obstacles meant lower mileage, which means my legs are recovering way faster than I expected. Endure The Gauntlet’s 91 miles is a lot in 48 hours but I’ve done other courses with easier obstacles, fewer obstacles, less challenging terrain, in nicer weather and reached 90 miles in 24 hours. In the end, the recovery has already started better than expected.
In the end I made it across the finish line still standing raising over $5000 for Folds of Honor. When I took my first break (one longer than a couple of minutes) at 26.5 hours into the event, I had already exceed the longest OCR in the world (that I know of) by over two hours. After stopping for a couple of hours to cool off, I went back out for nearly another full marathon of OCR, ultimately finishing with 20 laps total (91 miles). After having spent a cumulative time of 49 hours on the course (counting pit stops), I crossed the finish line glad to be finish line injury free minus the normal stresses of ultra-endurance racing. It’s safe to say that RockTape has a home in OCR whether you are running a one mile short course sprint or pushing the limits of human endurance. #stronger #longer #rocktape #gostrongerlonger
|Posted by Strength & Speed on October 24, 2018 at 8:00 PM|
I’m an Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) athlete whose specialty is Ultra-OCR (events that are 5+ hours in length). Ultra-OCR usually involves running a five mile loop with around 20 obstacles for a given amount of time (usually 6, 8, 12 or 24 hour). The obstacles are sometimes easy like crawling under wire and other times really hard like something you might see on ninja warrior. While I’ve had a lot of success in Ultra-OCR including a top ten finish at the 24 hour long World’s Toughest Mudder in 2016 with 90 miles, three top 10 finishes at the CBS Televised 8 hour Toughest Mudder series and a 2nd place Team finish at 2017’s World’s Toughest Mudder, I really like to push limits with my own challenges.
In 2016, I went from permanent OCR facility to permanent OCR facility across the United States for a full week and ran almost a marathon on each one. Called OCR America, the event raised $3,500+ for the charity Folds of Honor (scholarship money for children whose parents were wounded or killed in military service). By the end of the week I ran 161 miles (averaging 23 miles a day), completed 1000+ obstacles and climbed 31000+ feet of elevation.
In 2017, I took on another challenge I created called Ultra-OCR Grand Slam, where I tried to do well in every OCR in the world. I ended up finishing 1st or 2nd at every 24 hour OCR in the USA (2nd Terrain Race 24, 1st Dirt Runner Midwest Mayhem, 1st* Shale Hell 24 and 2nd Team World’s Toughest Mudder). I even flew to Australia and finished 10th at True Grit Enduro 24.
In 2018, I knew I had to go big so I created a charity event called Endure The Gauntlet. The plan was to multi-lap the hardest OCR series in the US, on their hardest course (Tulsa), in one of the hottest months (August) for not just the longest amount of time but double that of the longest race. The 48 hour event would also raise money for the charity Folds of Honor. I finished this event just recently at the end of August after pushing myself to the absolute limit both physically and mentally covering 91 miles and destroying my hands.
While my body was devastated the day after I almost looked normal walking around thanks to OOFOS. Previously I have worn the OOFOS sandal post-event, but the OOFOS shoe takes things to the next level. With feet that were swollen, bruised and had tender spots in all sorts of weird places the soft upper felt great on my foot. The sandals would have worked too, but the shoe was even better. This soft top combined with the patented OOFOAM foot-bed make this the perfect post-event recovery option.
I can’t thank OOFOS enough for their support and how their product has changed my training and performance. During periods of heavy training I wear them to speed recovery so I can train again harder. Pre-event I wear them to maximize the effects of my taper. Post-event they are speeding my recovery so I’m ready to race again sooner.
You don’t have to go for a 48 hour ultra-endurance event to get their benefit. Anyone who spends a lot of time on their feet or just wants a comfortable pair of shoes will love OOFOS. Despite being the only endurance athlete in my family, my entire family now owns a pair. Do yourself and your feet a favor and say thank you by picking up a pair of OOFOS recovery shoes.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on August 15, 2018 at 8:15 PM|
Many of our articles have started publishing through other websites. Here is a recent one off of SOFLETE "Is Quiting Genetic or Can We Control Our Destiny?" Enjoy.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on May 12, 2018 at 11:05 AM|
Chances are if you are reading this you are part of some fitness focused Facebook group that likes to do monthly challenges. Events like see who can run the most miles in a month or do a certain type of daily exercises every day for a month provide a goal for fitness enthusiasts. Although I think a larger periodized training plan will bring you better results (reference previous article 30 Day Challenges Bring 30 Day Results), I also understand that many people are simply looking to stay active and enjoy these monthly challenges as goals. If you fall into the latter, then I do think 30 day challenges might be a good option for you.
However, I think there is a better way to do these 30 day challenges than simply who logs the most miles in a month. If you are part of these groups or helping run these challenges I advise switching it to a 21 day challenge instead. This allows athletes to push hard and build fitness for three weeks and then allows for a down/deload/recovery week before starting the next month’s challenge.
Three weeks of building and one week of recovery will lead to better fitness in the long run and will help avoid overuse injuries as overzealous athletes try to reach the top of the leaderboard every month. Back to back 30 day challenges means the people in the group are never taking recovery weeks. These recovery weeks help consolidate fitness improvement, allow for minor injuries to heal and provide a much needed mental break. If you see no other reason to shorten the challenge, consider how closely your body’s ability to perform is tied to your mental strength. A down week will allow you to attack the beginning of the next challenge with renewed vigor and enthusiasm.
Be sure you challenge yourself to create growth, but let’s do it in a manner that incorporates required recovery to maximize our fitness improvement. Train hard, stay consistent, take a recovery week each month and enjoy the journey!
|Posted by Strength & Speed on April 20, 2018 at 10:45 PM|
Strength & Speed Develpoment Team Athlete Nathan Thiel takes you through instruction on how to build your own rig holds including a ball and nunchaku.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on April 7, 2018 at 10:40 AM|
Strength & Speed Develpoment Team Athlete Nathan Thiel takes you through instruction on how to build your own spear and target for practice at races like Spartan Race or Dirt Runner.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on March 28, 2018 at 7:35 AM|
As someone who has never setup, produced or run a large-scale race, it is easy to show up to an event and harshly judge the way things are done. Complaining about long lines or less than knowledgeable volunteers is easy when you are not the one that has to organize everything. Therefore, when I judge a race I try to use some common sense mixed with my opinion on how they handle problems.
In 2014, I had a history of bad luck with timing chips. At Warrior Dash World Championship my chip broke so I was listed as “Unnamed Participant” on the official site. At Obstacle Course Racing World Championship I lost my chip and bib number somewhere on the course. At World’s Toughest Mudder my timing chip started registering my laps as over 3 hours despite their actual time being about half that. Luckily, it still correctly counted my laps. At The Battlegrounds I had another chip error and my finishing time was an hour slower than it should have been. This resulted in my placing going from 3rd to around 260th.
With that being my first year of OCR, I could have easily lost hope in the quality of OCR events. It would have been easy to whine and complain about all these events, instead I look at how each of them handled the problem. In all cases, after a quick email or talk to the race director they corrected the error without any drama. At The Battlegrounds they even went above and beyond sending me a gift certificate to the winery located on site. It is actions like that, which help me judge an event.
I expect everything to run relatively smoothly and as long as there are no major problems, I realize the race organizers are doing their job the best they can. When you are trying to get volunteers to stand in the sun all day, you do not get to choose who shows up. It is really anyone that is kind enough to donate his or her time. Frankly, I am just thankful volunteers come to races that enable me to race hard and then go home to spend time with my family.
Next time you think about writing a scathing review of a race, take a moment to really think through what they did wrong. If it was something that happened to you personally (broken timing chip, misunderstanding on the course, volunteer providing poor instructions, etc.), did you tell the race director or someone of authority? If you did and he told you “sucks for you”, then by all means give an honest assessment online. However, if he did what he could within reason to fix your problem, than to me that shows better treatment of athletes than a smoothly run event.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on March 1, 2018 at 9:40 AM|
The trend in the obstacle course racing (OCR) community almost looks like a competition to see who can cram the most races into their year. If your only goal is to have fun and enjoy racing, then continue to do that. However, if your performance goals are more important than your experience at races, you may want to reconsider your schedule. Ideally, racing falls in between period of building and tapering, that is preceded by a long off season of just training. By “building and tapering”, I mean you keep applying high levels of stress to your body to create fitness adaptation, then you reduce the stress prior to your race allowing for peak performance. Instead of signing up for a race every weekend, follow these simple rules when planning your race schedule if you are looking to maximize performance.
1) Allow for base building: Your OCR schedule should not mark the start of your training, but rather create an event that allows for backwards planning. Two to four months prior to your first race should be the beginning of your serious training (plans can be found in “Strength & Speed’s Guide to Elite OCR”;). This allows you to follow a training plan that involves weeks of building along with the occasional recovery week. If you want to see real improvements in fitness, you need to build a strong aerobic base with high volume running. What is high volume? That depends on your current level of fitness, fitness history and overall goal. It may be 20 miles a week, 50 miles a week or 80 miles a week.
2) Allow for taper prior to a race: While it is cool to see posts from the top athletes the week before the Obstacle Course Racing World Championship (OCRWC) called last chance workouts, it is not the best technique to perform at your best. Doing a super hard work out the final week before a race is not tapering. If you go too hard or too close to your race, you will be standing on the start line sore. Even if you may not be physically sore, your muscles may still be weak from you maxing out two days ago. Whether you notice it or not, you are limiting your ability to peak because your muscles will still be recovering from that workout. You can still do a lactate threshold (long interval) or VO2max (short interval) workout the week before a race but it should be towards the beginning of the week and it should be a lower volume than you usually do.
3) Allow for recovery before your next race: If you race every weekend, you will constantly be recovering from races or tapering for a race, which will not allow you to build or taper to your next event. If you are racing the longer OCRs like Toughest Mudders or Spartan Ultra-Beast and not allowing your body to recover, you are not optimizing your gains and may result in injury. Depending on your fitness level, a race like a Spartan Super may also require extended recovery. The shorter races like Conquer the Gauntlet will allow for more frequent racing and the shortest races with the easiest obstacles like Warrior Dash will allow for the most racing.
4) Set appropriate goals for double race weekends: If you are planning on racing twice in one weekend by doing two races in one day or one race Saturday followed by another race Sunday, you need to set priorities. Your goal should either be to perform at your best in the first race and accept risk with the second race or perform mediocre at both races. If you are truly maxing out your effort in your first race, you will not be able to perform as well in your second race. You may be thinking, “Athletes like Ryan Atkins and Jonathan Albon, were able to excel doubling down on a weekend at OCRWC.” They did well because they are in better shape than their competitors are, so a drop in their performance is less noticeable if everyone’s performance is suffering. Hence, the ability to do things like place high on both days.
5) Pick two to three races a year as your most important race: While everyone wants to do well at every race they participate in, you should pick a couple that are your most important, sometimes called an A race. This will allow you to conduct a true fitness build and a proper taper to peak for your event. Everything else is a B race, one with a short taper or a C race, one with no taper or almost no taper.
So what should an “ideal” race schedule look like? Ideally, you have 2-4 months of building of fitness prior to your first race. Then after you start racing your races should be spaced out every 3-4 weeks. This allows for a 2-3 week build in fitness and a 1-2 week taper for each race. This does not always line up so well in a perfect world, but the concept should be there regarding building and tapering. If you are looking to just finish, race a lot and have a lot of fun, then keep signing up for races every weekend but if you are in it to win it, take a hard look at your calendar.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on February 17, 2018 at 9:35 AM|
When my friends, peers and acquaintances see that I am sponsored by Hammer Nutrition I frequently get a flood of questions. Occasionally, they see my water bottle, shirt or sticker that lists Hammer as “Endurance Fuels” and they say something like “I only run 5ks though, these products cannot possibly help me.”
This line of thinking is both faulty and inaccurate. As I trained for my first attempt at qualifying for the Boston Marathon, I noticed something strange happening. Despite almost no speed training, I was getting faster by the week. In addition to getting a personal record (PR) my marathon by around 15 minutes, I also got a PR in my 5k and 10k within a month of my Boston Qualifying Race. This high volume approach to short distance success is nothing new, but runners who are trying to improve often miss this concept.
When explaining this to the average runner, I ask them “How far do you think a professional 5k or 10k runner runs in a week? Do you think it is 20 miles like most recreational 5k runners?” Looking at an elite 5k or 10k runner, their training plans will have volume a lot closer to an advanced marathon training plans available in running magazines or books. The reason is because high volume works at building aerobic strength and running economy. Both of these enable for short fast races. Adding in high volumes with some VO2max and lactate threshold work, has allowed me to PR for 5k almost every year.
Although I usually prepare for marathons in this way, I rarely use this approach for shorter races. This year, I decided to focus on Obstacle Course Racing (OCR). Most of the OCR races are short, around 5 miles, minus a couple of really long ones that occur later in the year that are ultra-distance in length.
After four months of high volume training that was fueled by supplements from Hammer Nutrition, I have started getting great results in OCR. Over the course of 2015I walked away with 10 podium finishes. My best results came in late July when I had four podium finishes in three weeks including a 2nd place overall at 24 hours of Shale Hell, an ultra-distance OCR in Vermont. This resulted in me being on the top 20 leaderboard in the world for OCR, reaching as high as the 9th spot. I show these results to athletes that race short distances to convey the message that just because you do not do long races, does not mean you should not do some long distance training to build your aerobic base. With high volume training, nutrition becomes very important and that is where Hammer comes into the equation.
Using Hammer Nutrition products I have found that they are the perfect counterpart to this type of training. Morning runs are fueled by a bottle of Heed to ensure I have energy throughout the entire workout and to prevent a loss of electrolytes. Post-run I refuel with Recoverite to ensure my muscles are full of glycogen for my evening training session run and protein to help rebuild. In the afternoon, I typically conduct strength training and follow that session up with some more Recoverite mixed with a scoop of Whey. Prior to bed, I take REM Caps and a scoop of Whey to maximize my deep sleep and boost growth hormone. The following day the cycle repeats itself, but I allow for 1-2 rest days per week.
For those that are reading this and think endurance supplements are not valuable to the short course racer, you are wrong. The products created by Hammer Nutrition are useful for any athlete that is serious in achieving results. Whether you run 5ks, lift weights, run ultras or are an OCR athlete, Hammer provides one of the key variables in the equation for success.