Look at my pictures above. Now look at my stats below. Think about this: There is no magic bullet, no short cut, and no secret butt blaster 5,000. My year over year performance improvements were achieved with a significant increase in specific training volume, listening to an absurd amount of podcasts (listening intently to elite athletes and over analyzing simple comments), and accepting the fact that I know nothing about endurance training by hiring a coach.
In this article I am going to tell you EXACTLY how I went from 35 miles at WTM 2016 to 80 miles and Eighth Place at WTM 2018.
|Metric||2016||2017||2018 (48 weeks)|
|Total Workout Time:||76:39:19||443:55:37||380:18:47|
|Avg. Weekly Workouts:||3||7.5||8.5|
|Avg. Weekly Training Time:||1:28:32||8:32:13||7:55:23|
2016: My primary focus was powerlifting, I could squat 315 pounds, bench 275, deadlift 450, and overhead press 185. How did this help prepare me for World’s Toughest Mudder 2016? In no absolute way. With power lifting the name of the game is low volume, heavy weight and what I needed to be doing is lower weight higher volume. I did just enough running to get by, averaging 3 miles a week. For some reason I thought moving heavy weight translated into aerobic endurance performance. I did a couple of double lap tough mudders but not nearly enough running volume. I did not prepare my legs for a 24 hour event at what was arguably the easiest WTM and I came in at a mere 35 miles.
Fast forward to 2017, I ran a Spartan UB (Age Group Division) in April and placed nearly dead last at the event. I had set an unrealistic expectation of “well I ran WTM, how hard can this really be I’ll be done in 6 hours” and I failed miserably, finishing as a broken mess. I have more on expectations later.
After this failure I acknowledged the fact that I knew nothing about training or endurance events, and hired a coach through Complete Human Performance. Their pitch “you can concurrently train strength and endurance running” I didn’t want to lose my hard earned powerlifting stats so I thought “perfect”.
Running Volume: Increased significantly by 87% from 2016 -2017/18. Depending on the month and race coming up the volume fluctuates, aka peaking, increase mileage 4-6 weeks out before a race and then reduce it by 50% the week before. My training consisted of 6x/week of, recovery run, speed work, hill work, tempo runs, long runs…etc.
Strength Volume: This also increased from 3x, high weight, low volume, to 4x/week low weight high volume. Anything to prepare your lower body for the impact of running endurance events like, front squats, rfess, lunges (millions of lunges), etc… and lots of upper body pull work.
Fast forward, yet again, to 2018. I can attribute my success in 2018 to two things: Aerobic base and running economy. My coach Alec Blennis (aka Silent God) and I started working on building an aerobic base in May of 2017 with running volume. I was able to build that base and was able to run for what feels like forever in an aerobic zone. That “Running Economy” is what I attribute my successful 2018 WTM performance to.
Running Economy: Energy utilization while running in an aerobic intensity
- 2016: I burned 210 calories per mile
- 2017: 110 calories per mile
This is something that is developed over time in training, and gets better as you age (if you’re continuously training). Look at the below top ten finishers of the MOAB 240 this year and their respective age. The Moab 240 is a 240 mile race in Moab, Utah.
Overall there were only eight finishers under age 30 and the first finisher under 30 years old finished in 22nd place.
When I was a mere child I sprained my ankle horsing around. My mom never found out about this because she taught me never to complain about anything. So I guess you can say that “mental training” is something that has been ingrained in me since I was a child. There are a couple of things you can do however to prepare you for an event like this.
- Have you ever been to a dentist or doctor’s office and just waited in the lobby, never knowing when you’re going to be attended? Have you had the same experience and someone says “the expected wait time is x”? The latter puts you in the mindset of “I’m going to have to wait” the former makes you anxious, restless and frustrated.
- Accept the fact that this event is going to hurt, it’s going to suck, and you’re going to want to quit, and that is perfectly OK. Accepting this prior to it happening makes it easier to deal with and when the eventuality becomes a reality you will welcome it like: “Hello Darkness, my old friennddddd”.
- I hate doing laundry and folding clothes, so I have a tendency of leaving piles of clothes on my bed. When I get to work or am driving home I get distracted by the thought that I’m going to have to address it at some point.
- Make sure that your life outside of OCR and THIS Event is in order. When the eventuality of the “suck” kicks in you’ll utilize your poor life decisions outside of this event as an excuse. “Oh I left my dishes in the dishwasher, I can’t continue this race”. Then you make the good ole reliable “I was hypothermic” excuse. Unless you’re medically deemed to be in a state of hypothermia by a medically trained professional.
- I will often open my fridge, close it, and then re-open my fridge hoping there’s a peanut butter jelly sandwich in there. Knowing full well that I never made one.
- Be realistic about your race goals. Ask yourself, have I put in the work? If the answer is no, well…”you’re going to have a bad time” – Thumper, The Super-Cool Ski Instructor, South Park
Dedication and Motivation aka Hunger for Success
Let’s quickly talk about dedication. Since I started working with my coach, I have missed a total of zero training sessions in 2 years. I went down to Florida after Hurricane Michael hit to help with the disaster relief. Since they had placed the city on a curfew because of the looting, I would walk 15 miles a day inside of the hospital. I was physically tired and emotionally drained from speaking with people that had lost everything.
This could have been the perfect excuse to not complete a strength training session, or go running. Did I use that excuse? No. There was no squat rack to do my front squats…oh look a 50 pound compressed air cylinder…bet I can front squat that. No pull up bar? There are plenty of door jambs I can hang from. Weighted lunges? Oh look at all that medical equipment I can use as weight. But there’s a curfew and you can’t be outside Javier! No worries let me befriend the cops, firemen, and federal agents within a 2 mile radius. (Thank you Deputy Paul for dispatching out a call not to shoot the guy running with a headlamp and blue/green strobe.) I PR’d a half marathon in the midst of working 16 hour days. What’s your excuse?
*I’m not a nutritionist, personal trainer, or psychologist. But I am certified cray,cray.
Another unpopular opinion: Food is just a primary source of fuel, not a source of pleasure. My diet is as follows:
- Breakfast: Peanut Butter Jelly Sandwich
- Snack: Banana/Peanut Butter
- Lunch: Chicken, white rice, and broccoli
- Dinner: Ground turkey, egg whites, cheese and two pieces of toast
- Sleep: Oatmeal/Peanut Butter (occasionally banana)
I ate this menu, with variations in the carbs/fats, for eight months straight leading up to this event with some “cheat meals” incorporated every 4-6 weeks. Why? Because it’s simple to mass produce this on Sunday and scale it down/up depending on volume. I also cut out alcohol leading up to World’s Toughest because I’m one of those people that is either full throttle on or off. If I drink, I continue to drink without limitations. Some people have more control, but that is not me so I just decided to cut it out entirely.
This was all with a goal of going from 180 pounds (January 2018) down to 158 (November 2018). Why? What Is easier? To carry, pull, and push 180 pounds or 158? Reality check: The secret to grip strength is not grip strength training. You’re just overweight. But that’s a lie. Dead hangs and so forth are important.
During World’s Toughest Mudder I focused on consuming real foods vs. engineered foods after a bad experience with Tailwind in Toughest NorCal. My primary source of fuel for the event was…..Donuts. Glazed Donuts, Chocolate Donuts, Chocolate Covered Pretzels, Pizza Rolls, etc. Your body just wants fuel. If you can stomach it then just incorporate that into your training runs.
There is a difference between good and great. It is often just an inch of correction in your dedication and planning. Everything that happens out on the course is YOUR FAULT and no one else’s. Your pit crew sucks? No you suck because you didn’t prepare them, or because you decided on which people to have on race day. Your performance sucked? Well you didn’t put in nearly enough work. I make it a habit of blaming myself for everything that goes wrong because on race day you’re in control of who you bring, what you bring and your mental state. #I’mNotHypothermicIJustSuckedThatDay
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