Ryan Atkins – Back In The Saddle Again

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Ryan Atkins - America's Toughest Mudder West

Last weekend, Ryan Atkins came from behind to win the first ever “Toughest Mudder”. On today’s show, Ryan talks to Matt about how he did it, and covers some other random stuff you may find interesting.
Todays Podcast is sponsored by:

Orange Mud – Check out their “no bounce, ultra light hydration packs”.

Health IQ – If you do at least 2 OCR’s this year, you can save money on life insurance.

Show Notes:

Toughest Mudder West 2017 Results

Listen using the player below or the iTunes/Stitcher links at the top of this page. 

Train Like A Pro: Ryan Atkins

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Few athletes dominate their sports the way Ryan Atkins has dominated OCR in recent years. He has emerged victorious at World’s Toughest Mudder four years running, most recently completing 105 miles with partner Jon Albon, and Atkins also finished on top in the first ever Spartan U.S. Championship Series.

At the Spartan World Championships, he has finished in second place three years in a row, missing first place by just 00:27 in 2016. The fourth main event in the sport, OCR World Championships, hasn’t slowed him down either. He won the 3k short course this year and finished second in the 15k Classic.

Ryan-Atkins-and-Suunto-in-the-snow

If you follow him on social media, you may not be surprised at all of the accolades. Atkins is an avid climber, runner, mountain biker and skier, not to mention proud Alaskan Malamute owner. A typical winter day for him includes a morning ski, fatbike ride and even a snowshoe hike or run for up to three hours. That’s usually followed by an afternoon climb or workout.

Below is one of those afternoon workouts, with climbing included. Atkins will generally warm up with four or five easy bouldering routes. 

Ryan-Atkins-in-Yosemite

Do part one followed by part two and repeat four times.

PART ONE

BOULDERING 

Boulder near your limit for approximately 20 minutes. If you are unable to find a place to climb, perform the following six exercises as a circuit, doing 30 seconds of work followed by 30 seconds of rest. Repeat four times:

Dead hang – Plank – Pinch-plate carries – Kettlebell swings – Pull-ups – Wall sit

Pro Tip: Try to avoid using chalk to make previously easy routes seem harder, or to simulate wet hands in a race. After you have warmed up, go hard for the bouldering session. You’ll want to rest about one minute between difficult routes.

Writer’s Note: I don’t normally have easy access to a rock wall or mountain, so I opted to do the 30/30 circuit. I also used my homemade hang board, at times, to feel a little more like I was actually climbing. To mimic bouldering, I placed a chair a bit behind the board so that my toes were the only part of my feet touching. I then worked back and forth on the board, sometimes moving my feet from the left side to right side of the chair. Because I added this in, I did the circuit three times as not to over-exhaust my muscles and increase injury risk. 

Ryan-Atkins-Palmerton-Crawl

PART TWO

WEIGHT ROOM CIRCUIT

  • Wall Balls (20 reps): Stand in front of a wall and assume a squat position. When you come up, throw a medicine ball up in the air towards a target above you on the wall. As you catch the ball, return to the squat position. Atkins uses a 35-lb medicine ball.
  • Mountain Climbers (40 reps): Get into a pushup position. Bring one knee towards your chest and tap your toe on the ground. As that foot returns to its original position, bring the opposite foot up and tap that toe. That is one rep. Be sure your butt does not stick up. Your body should form a straight line from head to toe.
  • Side Planks (2 minutes per side): Lay on the ground facing sideways, with your hand, forearm and elbow on the ground. Your elbow should be under your shoulder. The only other part of your body touching the ground will be your bottom foot. Raise your body up so that you form a straight line and hold that position. Your free hand can either be on your hip or in the air. Focus on not allowing your hip to dip down toward the ground. 
    • Writer’s Tip: Use a yoga mat to make it more comfortable for your supporting arm.
  • Toes To Bar (8 reps): Grab a bar with an overhand grip, your hands shoulder-width apart. Engage your core and bring your toes to the bar. Be sure to perform each rep slow and controlled. Your body shouldn’t swing at all when you come into the lower position.
  • Weighted BOSU Ball Lunge Squat (20 reps per leg): With a BOSU ball under each leg, stand in a lunge position. Hold weights at each side or at your shoulders. Lower until your back knee almost touches the ground, making sure your front knee doesn’t pass over the toes. Return to the starting position. Atkins uses 20 lbs. 
    • Writer’s Tip: If you struggle too much to have a BOSU under each foot, start off with one and work your way up. 
  • Weighted Goblet Squat (20 reps): Hold a kettlebell or one end of a dumbbell at your chest, with your palms facing in. Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart. Squat down, retaining a straight back, and return up to the start position. Atkins uses 30 lbs.
  • Calf Raises (30 reps per leg): Stand on one leg, either flat on the ground or on a step with only the toes and ball of the foot touching. Raise your heel up, then lower it back into the starting position. 

Pro Purpose: Part two is a great way to allow your arms to recover from climbing. It also gives you some good leg and core strength training.

Pro Tip: Pace yourself during the strength section. The main purpose is to rest your arms and build functional, injury-free fitness.

Ryan-Atkins-Log-Hop

Writer’s Note: Thank you to Ryan for sharing this workout. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram. For more workouts from Ryan, check out his Obstacle Course Training (a joint venture with Jon Albon and Matt Murphy): they are offering 20% off for the holidays.

Photo Credit: Ryan Atkins, Spartan Race, the author

Check out past Train Like A Pro articles:

Tough Mudder Colorado: Uphill, All Stars, Dogs, and Da Goat

Tough Mudder returned to Colorado this past weekend, and for the third year in a row, the beautiful community of Snowmass was the host. With a base elevation of 8,100 feet and a course that seemed to go uphill the entire time, the only things burning brighter than the sun were your lungs and calves.  This was my first trip ever to the Centennial State, and it certainly did not disappoint. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the highlights from the event.

THE COURSE:
The base altitude alone was enough to slow you down, but this course had a handful of brutal climbs and some fun single track trekking through forested areas. Depending on whose GPS you believe, the course distance was right around 12 miles, with an elevation gain of about 3,000 feet. The first mile or so brought you through the Snowmass Village and downhill along the parking area. After that, it was pretty much all uphill…or at least it certainly seemed like it.

TM Colorado Map  

ALL STAR ATTENDEES:
Runners in the first wave on Saturday morning shared the start corral with some of the biggest names in OCR. Three-time World’s Toughest Mudder champion Ryan Atkins (and his dog Suunto) was there, accompanied by his new bride (and 2016 Spartan U.S. Championship Series winner) Lindsay Webster. Alongside them was Broken Skull Champion (and self-proclaimed Macho Man) Hunter McIntyre, and current American Ninja Warrior and former Spartan Race Pro Rose Wetzel (watch for our interview with the woman who loves to challenge herself).  They all shared the start with Jim “Da Goat” Campbell, who was in CO to run his 100th Tough Mudder (but this story is coming soon).

NEW (TO ME AT LEAST) OBSTACLES:
Paying homage to the gold rush history of Colorado was an entertaining obstacle called Mine Shafted. The obstacle required participants to crawl down a sewage tube, which would drop them into  and 8-foot deep pit that had knee-deep muddy water. The pit itself is covered with dark screen, which blocked out a good portion of the sunlight. After trudging across the pit, there was an 8-foot wall that needed to be scaled in order to get out. The wall got muddy and slippery in a hurry and required a good amount of teamwork to get out.

TM Colorado Mine Shafted

FOUR LEGGED ATTENDEES:
Of all the venues that I’ve been to, Snowmass is easily the most dog-friendly Mudder that I’ve ever attended. Whether it was in the hotel, or in the village, or on the course…there were dogs of all shapes and sizes everywhere. As if I needed a reason to run slower, it was very difficult to resist running off course for the opportunity to give a healthy ear rubbing to these warm and fuzzy spectators.

Suunto

MOTHER NATURE:
Colorado is right up there with Lake Tahoe and Whistler as the most visually spectacular venues that I’ve ever attended. At almost any point along the course, you could look up and your eyes would be treated to absolutely wonderful views. Mountains, streams, Aspen trees, annoying thistle things that get stuck in your socks, there’s just so much scenery to feast upon up there. There was also plenty of deer and fox sightings. It’s truly an amazingly beautiful place to hold an event.

Dude, where’s my shirt?
On a slightly negative note, not that merchandise is considered a major part of an event…but if you’re going to have it, please make sure that you have an ample supply. The first wave on Saturday launched at 8am. According to the merchandise employees, the Tough Mudder Colorado specific t-shirts were sold out by 9am.  There were even instances in the afternoon where people were offering cash to buy the shirts off the backs of people who had purchased them earlier. I’m not sure how you gauge merch demand so poorly, but Tough Mudder has been doing this for a while now, and this kind of a thing just shouldn’t happen. At least not on the first day of your event.

Despite my lack of event shirt, I’m happy to report that Tough Mudder Colorado was still a wonderful experience. A demanding course with fun and creative obstacles, spectacular views, and lively festival area. Throw in a few OCR All-Stars (and dogs….don’t forget the dogs!), and you’ve got one of the best events that TMHQ has put on this year.

TM Colorado Dogs

 

Photo Credits: Matty Gregg (Suunto) and GameFace Media for Tough Mudder

Spartan Race U.S. Championship Series: Ryan Atkins Takes The Crown

Atkins Breckenridge

This weekend was the final race in the inaugural Spartan Race U.S. Championship Series. The USCS is a five race series to determine which male and female Spartan Race athletes will hold the title of U.S. Champion. The series is televised on the NBCSN network.

Each athletes final score is determined by the cumulative number of points they earned across each of the five races. The lowest individual point score is dropped leaving each racer with their four best races counting toward their final score. A first place finish is worth 300 points, a second place finish is worth 299 points and so on down the line. A perfect score with 4 (or 5) wins in the series is worth 1,200 points.

As the series began, Ryan Atkins looked unstoppable. He rattled off three quick wins in the first three races. In the fourth race at Asheville, North Carolina, Atkins finally came up against an opponent he couldn’t beat: The Spartan Race officials.  Atkins was disqualified for failing the rope climb and not completing the required penalty of 30 burpees. In an interview afterward with ORM’s Matt B. Davis, Atkins told how the first rope he grabbed was coated in clay and unclimbable. Atkins described what happened next.

I guess I’m used to racing mandatory obstacle completion races where if you screw something up you just find a lane that works as fast as you can and get it done. I had never failed an obstacle at Spartan. So I went and I climbed a different rope.

The controversy of Atkin’s disqualification was magnified by a similar situation with Robert Killian on the Multi-Rig obstacle. As Killian neared the end of the obstacle he appeared to touch the ground with his foot, causing him to fail the obstacle. The Spartan official at the obstacle did not penalize him and Killian continued. After viewing video of the incident Killian offered to “self-DQ”, but Spartan declined and said the decision of the official would stand.

Going into the final race this weekend, Atkins could secure the series win with a third place finish or better. A fourth place finish for Atkins combined with a first place for Hunter McIntyre would allow McIntyre to tie Atkins for first place in the series. A fifth place finish at Breckenridge for Atkins combined with a win by defending Spartan Race World Champion Robert Killian would mean a tie for first between Atkins and Killian.

Atkins made it interesting by finishing in fifth place at Breckenridge. McIntyre could have claimed the title with a win but ultimately finished in fourth place. McIntyre was 24 seconds in front of Atkins and six minutes and 42 seconds behind the winner.

Atkins’ surprising finish also gave Robert Killian a chance to claim first place in the series. With a win at Breckenridge and Atkins finishing in fifth place, Killian and Atkins would have been tied in series points and Killian would have won the tiebreaker by virtue of a better finish at Breckenridge.

Killian fell just short with a second-place finish that was three minutes and 33 seconds behind the winner – Cody Moat.

Stop for a minute. Imagine the controversy that would have resulted from Killian winning the championship on a tiebreaker after the disqualification incidents at Asheville. Spartan is extremely lucky that did not happen. Joe DeSena should thank Cody Moat and take him out for a nice lunch at Zaxby’s.

“The Summit” Results – Breckenridge Beast Elite Men’s Results

2016 Breckenridge Men's Elite Top 10

Ryan Atkins finished the 2016 U.S. Championship Series in first place with 1196 points. Robert Killian finished in second with 1195 points and Hunter McIntyre finished in third with 1194 points. Congratulations to everyone who raced in the Spartan USCS, but especially to these men.

2016 Spartan U.S.C.S. Men's Final Point Totals

In a few weeks,  Spartan will crown their “World Champion” with it’s annual Spartan World Championship Race in Squaw Valley (Tahoe), California.

2016 Spartan Race U.S. Championship Series: Atkins, McIntyre, and Killian fight for first

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 11.48.41 PM
This weekend is the fifth and final race in the Spartan Race U.S. Championship Series. “The Summit” is a Beast-length course with 13+ miles and 30+ obstacles and the course is on the mountains in Breckenridge, Colorado.

There are three men with a legitimate chance to claim the series win, but Ryan Atkins controls his own destiny. Hunter McIntyre and Robert Killian both have a shot, but they need a little help to get there.

At the end of the five-race series, each runner’s lowest individual race score is dropped. By removing each runner’s lowest current score we can see where they stand against each other. A first place finish is worth 300 points, a second place is worth 299 and so on. Atkins has three 1st place finishes for 900 points. McIntyre has one 1st, one 2nd, and one 3rd, for 897 points. Killian has two 2nds and one 3rd for 896 points.

  • If Atkins finishes in 3rd place or better he will be the 2016 Spartan U.S. Champion.
  • If McIntyre finishes in 1st, AND Atkins finishes in 5th place or worse, McIntyre will win the championship.
  • If Killian finishes in 1st, AND Atkins finishes in 6th place or worse, AND McIntyre finishes in 3rd or worse, Killian will win the title.

There are also several ways Spartan could end up with a tie for first place. Here are a few:

  • Atkins and McIntyre tied for first place overall: McIntyre wins, Atkins finishes in 4th.
  • Atkins and Killian tied for first place overall: Killian wins, Atkins finishes in 5th.
  • McIntyre and Killian tied for first place overall: Killian wins, McIntyre finishes in 2nd, Atkins finishes 6th or worse.
  • Three Way Tie for first place overall: Killian wins, McIntyre finishes in 2nd, Atkins finishes in 5th.

Any one of those scenarios could easily happen. Ryan Atkins could save Spartan from doing a lot of math (although honestly, we already did it for them. We’re happy to show our work Joe) by winning his fourth series race in five outings.

For our analysis of the Women’s U.S. Championship Series, read here.

For all the results as they happen this Saturday, follow ORM on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

Facebook.com/obstaclemediaTwitter.com/obstaclemedia Instagram.com/obstacleracingmediaobstaclemedia1

Photo Credits: Spartan Race and Screengrab NBCSN

Ryan Atkins On The State Of Spartan Race

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Editor’s Note – Ryan Atkins reached out to Obstacle Racing Media with a request to let Spartan Race and the OCR community as a whole know his thoughts. We agreed, and other than adding photos/links, and editing for grammar, have not changed any verbiage.

I don’t consider myself a negative person. I always try to see the best in people, look at things from their perspective and be the best version of myself that I can be. With that being said and as a “figure” in this sport I felt that the thoughts that have been plaguing my psyche for the last few weeks needed to come out. So, I wanted to step up with some instances of what the Juggernaut of OCR is doing right and wrong.

  • Great Marketing campaign. The NBC producers have been doing a great job of consistently making good TV shows that catch the personality and passion behind the sport. Everyone associates with brand and it is slowly becoming the “IronMan” of OCR. Good job.
  • Terrain. The courses make a habit of using big vertical gain and a great mixture of technical running and less technical double track. This has been forcing the athletes to become better runners and gets people off trails, exploring their backyards. I love that. I think Norm Koch and Richard have a lot to do with this.
  • Coming up with a “Championship Series”. Until this year, the Spartan series were very mysterious and no one really cared about them. By using a cool name and some great graphics they were able to incite some stoke about participants focusing on a more prestigious tier of racing. Most big sports do this, and its a step in the right direction.

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  • Solid obstacles. They aren’t particularly tough or big, but you know what you are going to get. They don’t collapse and they go along with the “look” of Spartan. WTG.

Most issues that I see in this instance come down to the lack of money spent on the actual race. Given the amount of traction that the “elite” and “competitive” waves get, there is no excuse not to have this issues ironed out.

Having trained, paid referees at all the obstacles.  This is about 10 obstacles per race. These people need to know how to look for methods of failure and be prepared to call people out on their penalties. Self-policing doesn’t work. Trained volunteers at other obstacles should be sufficient. In Ashville, they didn’t check my bucket… no one was watching me at the rope climb (even though an employee was present, he wasn’t paying attention) and the ref WATCHING 2nd place didn’t notice his foot hitting the ground. 3 instances in the top 3, in a single race. I’m sure there were dozens more.

Lack of Drug testing. Aside from a very suspicious and last minute decision to test the Female world Champion at last years World Championship, I haven’t heard of anyone ever being tested at a Spartan Race. EVER. They should have independent Drug testing at every Championship Series, and World Championship race. Random testing at other events would be great too. Blood AND pee testing. C’mon people. This is the biggest example of Spartan putting more emphasis and care on making money than an iota of care on the future of the sport.

The philosophy of “random obstacles”. I was told by a Spartan employee that they strive to have randomized obstacles. I stood there incredulous. Really? For a sport that wants to put in a serious bid to be a part of the Olympics, this is crazy. Imagine a world where one athlete had to jump over hurdles that were 6 inches higher that the rest of the field. Or maybe we make Michael Phelps swim 51 meters, against a field who swims 50 meters. The comparisons are endless. Ultimately some measure of care needs to be taken to ensure obstacles lanes to be as similar as possible. I realize that we live in a natural world, where nothing will ever be identical, but it needs to be close. please.

Elite fields are too big. In any big sporting event at the “pro” level there is a qualifying process to be able to race. In triathlon its called a Pro card. In cycling its a pro license. Regardless, you can’t just show up, pay money and race. Id love to see this happen in OCR. If you can’t complete the race within 15% of the winners time, you shouldn’t be in the Pro category. In every Spartan race I’ve done, the Elite category has been filled up, weeks/months before the race. I’ve then had to get special permission to get into the race. For the top racers they should have no problems getting into the race if they belong there. I don’t want to seem like I’m putting others down by saying this, but the elite field needs to be much smaller. I’d like to see a max of 50-70 people in these categories.

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Burpees. The fact that they still have burpees and spear throws for the elite/pro field is surprising. It makes a farce of what could be a legitimate sport. Penalty loops on failable obstacles seem like the easiest answer, or Mandatory obstacle completion. Ditch the spear. Replace it with balance and agility based obstacles. Every other aspect of the race is repeatable challenging and awesome. Ditch these two.

Water stations. In Asheville, there was a 5 km stretch, up high on the mountain with no water station. This is dangerous and shows a lack of care was taken for the whole field. In hot climates and steep terrain, there NEEDS to be more water. This is a safety issue. Also, the volunteers should be filling the cups up.

I wrote this article not because I wanted to seem whiny, but because I really love this sport. What Spartan has done (ripping millions of people off the couch) is so awesome. I have spent thousands of hours and dedicated myself to be the best I can possibly be, because I believe in OCR. I think that the sport is at a tipping point where it’s either going to become a worldwide legitimized sport or fizzle out. Hopefully these sticking points can bring not only Spartan, but OCR as a whole to the next level.

Ryan Atkins
Caledon, Ontario