Train Like a Pro: Robert Killian

Robert-Killian-2017-Spartan-Pro-Card

Success came early in Robert Killian’s Spartan career. In his fourth Spartan event, he won the 2015 Spartan World Championship. Most of his success from that race can be traced back to his first event, a Spartan Beast he ran four months earlier in Breckenridge, Colorado, where he placed 3rd overall. Breckenridge is known for having a high elevation gain and being one of Spartan’s toughest races.  “When I did that race, I kind of was like, ‘Okay, this must be what all the races are like. This is how I have to prepare,’” he recalls.  Because of Breckenridge, Killian immediately began running more mountains, carrying everything from sandbags to logs, and increasing his grip strength.

Although, at the time, he’d only run in four Spartan races, that doesn’t mean he was inexperienced. Before ever attempting a Spartan race, Killian had already won numerous triathlons, competed internationally on the Army Biathlon team, and won both the individual and team categories of the military division at the Ironman World Championships in Kona. He was also named 2010 Army Athlete of the Year. 

Robert-Killian-Obstacle-In-Fatigues

Killian has served in the United States military for about fifteen years. During that time, he was able to participate in numerous competitions, gaining experience moving through obstacles. Though they were urban obstacles, Killian had to learn how to properly navigate terrain, move through windows and tunnels, repel, and even climb chain ladders. “It just kind of became second nature,” he explains. “We’d do it so much that once I was introduced to OCR on a normal course, it was just a combination of all the running and orienteering that I had done in the military.” 

After winning the World Championship, Killian joined the Spartan Pro Team and was able to use 2016 as the first year he could dedicate to being a professional athlete. In the inaugural Spartan U.S. Championship series, he finished 2nd overall and never finished worse than 3rd in any of the five series races. When it came to the 2016 Spartan World Championship race, he narrowly missed defending his title, placing 3rd, under three minutes behind winner Hobie Call. Six weeks later, Killian and partner, Chad Trammell, placed 2nd at World’s Toughest Mudder, completing a remarkable 100 miles in 24hrs. Outside of OCR, Capt. Killian won the 2016 Best Ranger Competition with partner, Staff Sgt. Erich Friedlein, becoming the first National Guard duo to do so. 

Robert-Killian-Cycling

To maintain such a high level of performance, Killian continues to focus on cycling, swimming, mountain running and cross training. Many days, he does what he refers to as “power hours.” “Every hour I take five or ten minutes just to do one OCR task,” he explains. This includes carrying a sandbag, spending time on his rig, and climbing his rock wall. In order to help prevent over-training, Killian sticks to workouts that involve what he would see in a race.

The below workout is one that Killian includes in his training program on LeaderBoard. He uses it to practice throwing the spear and performing heavy sandbag carries during stressed effort levels. You will want a station set up for the spear with two or three spears and a 40-pound sandbag (or bucket) ready to go. For more information on LeaderBoard, stick around at the end of the article.


Robert-Killian-Spear-Throw

WARM UP

  • 5-minute progressive warm up jog. Start easy and build up to a moderate pace.
  • Dynamic Drills (10-15 minutes)
    • Two or Three 50-Meter Strides – Run just shy of max speed for the allotted distance.
    • High Knees – Concentrate on ensuring your knees are getting at least as high as your waist. Make sure that you stay on the balls of your feet.
    • Butt Kicks – While keeping your upper body straight, run while bringing your ankles up to touch your butt. Try to keep from kicking your whole leg back. Your knees shouldn’t pass behind your body.
    • Skips – Like high knees, try to get your knee to come up to your waist. While one knee is up, the other foot should “skip” off the ground. Alternate between left and right legs.
    • Walking Lunges – Step out with one foot, keeping the knee at a 90-degree angle. Try not to let your opposite knee touch the ground. Bring the back foot forward so that leg is now the front leg, again, keeping your knee at 90-degrees. Don’t let it pass in front of your toes.
    • Karaoke – Move side to side, crossing your trailing foot in front of the other, then behind it. Allow your hips to twist as you go. Alternate going to the left and then to the right.
    • Progression Sprints for 100 Meters – Slowly build up speed until you are running at almost a full sprint.
    • Jumping Jacks – Start with your feet together and hands at your sides. Bend slightly at the knees and jump a couple inches off the ground, bringing arms up above your head and your legs out to the side. Jump again and bring your arms and legs back to the starting position.
    • Side to Side Ski Hops – Stand feet together, bend at the knees and bring your hips back so that your torso is at about a 45-degree angle. Bend your arms like you would if you were holding ski poles. Jump up and to the left. As you’re jumping, allow your arms to come up, bringing them back down when you land. Repeat to the right.

Robert-Killian-Sandbag-Carry

MAIN SET

800 meter runs should be performed at a 10k race pace. Do 10 penalty burpees for each missed spear throw.

  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw followed by a 200-meter sandbag carry.
  • Rest two minutes.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw followed by a 200-meter sandbag carry.
  • Rest two minutes.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw followed by a 200-meter sandbag carry.
  • Rest two minutes.

Writer’s Tip: Try to maintain the 10k pace, especially early on. You may be tempted to run the first couple 800m at a quick pace.

COOL DOWN

  • 5-10 minute light jog or walk. Then stretch the major muscle groups.
  • Go for an easy one-mile run.

 

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Writer’s Note: Thank you to Robert for providing this workout. You can follow him on Instagram and Facebook.

Check out past Train Like a Pro articles:

LeaderBoard is where Killian and fellow Spartan Pro Team member, Brakken Kraker, coach elite athletes. Anyone can sign up for a free LeaderBoard Takeoff, to get an idea of how the program works. During the two-week Takeoff, athletes will complete five “Benchmark” tests. After completing a few of these tests, the athlete will be invited to a one-on-one chat with either Kraker or Killian in order to personalize his or her training.

After the Takeoff is complete, you can book a free seven day trial of either one’s program, plus a discount after the trial is up. The full program is personalized and includes a community chat, so you can communicate with other athletes or the coaches at any time. For more information, go to www.leaderboardfit.com.

For those just getting into OCR, or looking to take the next step beyond an open heat, Killian recently introduced his 12-week SGX program on LeaderBoard. Included in the program are detailed workouts, instructional videos, plus technique and pacing tips. Athletes also receive discounts on gear, nutrition products and non-elite wave races. To sign up go to https://leaderboardfit.com/signup-sgx/.

Photo Credit: Robert Killian, Spartan Race, NBC

WTM 2016 – Drop it Like it’s Hot!

World's Toughest Mudder 2016 - Start

The 2016 World’s Toughest Mudder at Lake Las Vegas was epic! By showcasing to the world many new obstacles along with improving a few from the past, Tough Mudder was able to utilize the same Lake Las Vegas track while making the course feel new and even more exciting and challenging than 2015. The weather cooperated in 2016: minimal wind and this year’s mean temperature was almost 10 degrees warmer, with the lowest temp during the night 50 vs. 39 in 2015, a huge difference for WTM 2016!

Winners

OCR popularity continues to climb, and thanks to world class events like WTM continuing to push the obstacle limits, more and more competitors are getting into the races.  This year was no exception and the competition was fierce.   While everyone who tackled this event should be proud of stepping up to the plate, the winners really busted tail.  The winners of the team competition were “Team Goat Tough”, Ryan Atkins and Jonathon Albon, who logged 105 miles with “Team America”, 2015’s individual male winner Chad Trammell and Robert Killian, Jr.,  just behind logging 100 miles.  Trevor Cichosz won the individual male competition with 105 miles, while Austin Azar (2nd) and Kristopher Mendoza (3rd) each logged 100 miles.  Stephanie Bishop won the individual female competition with 85 miles followed by Susanne Kraus with 80 and Morgan McKay with 80, a mere 6 minutes behind Susanne!  There were some all female teams, although the team competition doesn’t differentiate, and “Lions, Tigers, Bears, Oh My!” logged 50 miles and “Bounce Squad 55” logged 50 miles a mere 10 minutes behind!

2016 saw 6 racers achieve the magic 100 mile mark…an honor that, until now, was held solely by Ryan Atkins.

Obstacles

World's Toughest Mudder 2016-Double Rainbow

Compared to only a year ago, this year’s WTM had a slew of new and absolutely E.P.I.C obstacles including Stage 5 Clinger, Funky Monkey Revolution, Double Rainbow (the new rendition of King of Swingers), and Kong. You can listen to Matt B. Davis’ podcast with Eli Hutchison of TMHQ here: Obstacle Podcast

World's Toughest Mudder 2016-Kong

If you completed those on every lap you should have come away with some uber extra satisfaction.  Those afraid of falling or heights had a hard time with these and all required solid grip strength and mental fortitude.  The Cliff was again the final obstacle, opening at Midnight.  Roughly the same height as last year, about a 1.5 second free fall, water just as soft for the landing (or hard depending on your technique).  Change this year was if you didn’t have a 50-mile bib on the final lap you were not allowed to make the final jump (which alleviated the back-up seen last year).

World's Toughest Mudder 2016-Funky Monkey Revolution

Only a few obstacle snafu’s that this author heard about while on the course.  Twinkle Toes was shut down in the early AM due to low water levels for safety reasons, so when you fell (and this author did a few times) you felt it where you didn’t need to.  Second, during nighttime ops, they changed Kong to overhead pipes and a slack line.  Apparently, someone jettisoned themselves off the slack line a bit too close to the edge of the crash pad so they took the slack lines away (which made the obstacle challenging again).  And third, grips.  Difficult to keep the bars dry but TM make a good attempt to do so on Double Rainbow by adding sticky tape – unfortunately, the tape came off of most of the bars throughout the event.  Not a big deal and to be expected.

WTM Experience 2016 vs. 2015

As a second year participant in WTM, this year was quite a different experience than last.  For one, last year I had no idea what to expect and was able to “just get out to Vegas and get it done”. This year, knowing what I went through last year, I was able to think about what I was about to undergo.  This “thinking” started shortly after Labor Day and occupied more and more of my thoughts up until Saturday.  Thoughts like “will I land wrong on The Cliff”, “will I be able to suck it up through the cold”, and “will my tent be in a good place” began to take up more and more of my thoughts.

There have not been many things in my life that have caused me so much anxiety.   Checking the Henderson temps on a daily basis somewhat dissipated my hypothermia fear, but The Cliff kept coming back.  Turns out, the only thing that really bothered me this year was the cold, and if I’m honest with myself that was mostly mental.  The obstacles, and The Cliff, after completing each one each lap, reminded me that people can overcome their fears if they just give themselves the opportunity.  One of the things I really love about OCR is, like life, once you get on the course, you can be amazed at what you can do if you JUST TRY.

Final Perspective

Few things I’ll likely do different next year (yes, I’m already committing to WTM 2017): 1) bring a pit crew, 2) not change my wetsuit/shoes/socks (if it’s working, why did I change? – bad idea), and 3) train a bit for long distance as my body this year didn’t handle it as well as last year.  I’ll also not sweat it as much as the WTM 2017 draws nearer.

This year’s WTM was a huge success and better than last year (although last year was darn good as well).  The camaraderie among the participants was exceptional, the pit crews seemed as awesome as ever, and the bagpipes kept spirits lifted throughout the event!

World's Toughest Mudder 2016-Bagpipes

Overcoming obstacles is something we all have an opportunity to do every day.  Most of the time, overcoming obstacles is easier than we think!

Tough Mudder Half – Northeast: A Tough Mudder Virgin No More

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Back in November of 2015, Tough Mudder announced the creation of the ‘Tough Mudder Half’. As described on the Tough Mudder website, the Half is “designed to test teamwork and grit on a 5-mile obstacle course without fire, ice or electricity. It’s all the mud with half the distance and the first step to joining a community of 2 million strong around the world.” Tough Mudder understands that there is a segment of racers out there that may not be ready for a full 10 – 12 mile event and thus, the Half was born – and it’s Northeast debut is where I found myself this past Saturday morning.

Until this summer, I was a Tough Mudder virgin. I’ve been running OCR’s since the summer of 2012, but in full disclosure, the thought of electrocuting myself, willingly, wasn’t quite as appealing as jumping over walls or conquering a rope climb. Over time however, I began to see the appeal – overcoming your fears in an effort to explore the true appreciation of the life we live. My only regret is that it took me this long to jump on the Tough Mudder bandwagon.

Tough Mudder isn’t concerned with how long it takes you to finish, but it is made very clear that they care that you DO finish.

For those who have not experienced Tough Mudder, it is difficult to describe the appeal of this event, but I think it can be narrowed down to a few simple things: teamwork. camaraderie. conquering your fears, and of course, physical achievement. Tough Mudder isn’t a Spartan Race. It’s not a Savage Race or Battle Frog. There is no timing chip.   Other races would rather see you defeated (See my Montreal Ultra Beast review);  however, Tough Mudder wants to see you succeed. I’m guessing the brass at Tough Mudder doesn’t care about saving a few bucks on swag that they don’t have to issue out for folks that DNF. Quite the opposite. Tough Mudder has you swimming in swag from the moment you enter the festival area.TM NE Full and HalfCheck in is simple. Show your confirmation code, email, or phone number and you’re assigned a bib on the spot. No packets to be stuffed, no bib numbers to look up. Bag check is a very affordable $5 USD, which comes with a huge covered, secured tent that is manned all day by members of “Mudder Nation”. Your path to the start line isn’t without encouragement, that’s for sure. You’re given the choice of pre-workout drinks by Cellucor, one of Tough Mudder’s premier sponsors, and another sponsor, Merrell, is also onsite in case you pull a “me” and forget your shoes on race day. You’re taken then into a starting corral where you’re warmed up by the Tough Mudder deejay – a good way to get your blood flowing and get yourself amped up for an awesome day of conquering obstacles.

From the shoot of Tough Mudder Northeast, you were met with a few simple flats to get the nerves out, before heading into a few mud crawls and inverted walls. Again, the main theme of Tough Mudder being teamwork ensures you’re not going to run into many “hotshots” who want to blow past you in order to hurdle an obstacle with speed and precision. I’d consider it more a “You go, I go” mindset. I quickly learned that, before I got myself over any obstacle, it was my duty as a newly indoctrinated Mudder to get someone else over the obstacle first. It started simple with 10-fingers at the walls, to letting folks stand on my shoulder to get over the Mud Mile. It got better and better as the course went on. Tough Mudder’s obstacles are amazing enough to conquer solo but even more rewarding when you see others do them by your side. At one point, I found myself hanging upside down, my feet being held by two girls I had never met before, just so I could help one Matt B. Davis get up Pyramid Scheme – a slick wall requiring teamwork in order to scale its face. That favor was then returned as other Mudders helped haul my ass up Everest 2.0 – a signature obstacle for Tough Mudder. It was shortly after Everest that the Half course broke off onto its own track towards the finish line. You had a real sense of achievement in the obstacles you conquered during the Half without having to completely overcome those fears that may have kept you from registering for a Full – however, I can’t imagine anyone finishing this race and not immediately wanting to sign up for another event, especially since they tease you with views of Electroshock Therapy and other great obstacles as you cross the finish line.

Tough Mudder Great Northeast Pyramid Scheme with Josh Chase

I had the chance to interview finishers of the Half, and the common theme was quite prevalent: “Awesome.”, “So much fun!”, “The camaraderie on the course was amazing!” Look for the video here on ORM, coming soon but don’t wait that long to register for the next Tough Mudder Half in your area – the list of upcoming events can be found here.

If you’re still on the fence, know this: Tough Mudder takes care of its racers. There was never a concern that I would be without hydration on the course. Five to six water stops were intelligently placed throughout the Half and Full courses, complete with huge buckets of water that could easily serve 12 – 15 racers simultaneously. If you needed energy to continue, there was also Cellucor Aminos, bananas and fit bars to get you through to your complimentary beer the end. Other events could stand to take a few pages out of Tough Mudder’s book when it comes to on-course nutrition and hydration.
SUMMARY
Overall, the Tough Mudder Half Northeast was an amazing race. The racers I spoke with on Saturday shared in my enthusiasm for this particular event, and Tough Mudder as a series. I’ll absolutely be back.

To hear more on my Tough Mudder experience, check out the New England Spahtens Show podcast, where myself, Paul Jones and 21-time Mudder finisher Sandy Rhee discuss this weekend’s race and all things OCR.

World’s Toughest Podcast 2015 Part II

Episode 158

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On today’s show we bring your the 2nd installment of audio coverage from World’s Toughest Mudder.

We begin with a Thanksgiving leftover that should have been on Part One as we talked to Joshua “Cox” Cox and Carlo(s) Piscitello prior to the race beginning.

We then dive deep into the race already in progress as we follow:

Team WolfPack
Yancy Culp
April Hartwig
Trevor Cichosz
Allison Tai
Chad Trammell
Team 4 Eyes
Robert Killian
Ashley Seeger
Team Getting Tough
Morgan McKay
Sara Knight
Junyong Pak
Miguel Medina

Today’s episode is sponsored by Mad Anthony Mud Run. 5th year for this awesome race. Price is only $40 right now.

It is also sponsored by Obstacle Guard – Get 5% and Free U.S Shipping when you use code ORM.

We are also sponsored by Savage Race. Get in now for early 2016 pricing. Code ORM gets you an additional 10% off.

Click here to listen or press the large red button below.

You can also find this and all past episodes on iTunes and Stitcher or wherever you like to listen.

 

Show Notes

Google any of today’s athletes for a rockin’ good time.

My WTM 2014 Saga – Part One

Start Line Sean Doing His Thing

I was down on one knee listening to “Start Line Sean” Corvelle’s pre WTM speech. I have heard his “pump up” speech many, many times since my first Tough Mudder back in 2012, and, to be honest, I was beginning to tune it out. My mind was starting to drift off as I had already stood there for almost 30 minutes listening to the “safety speech” and the “rules speech”. Now I had to listen to Sean do his thing. On top of that, these were not ideal conditions. When 1100 people crouch down at once in the desert, lots of dust gets kicked up. I was wiping dirt from my eyes, and pulling rocks out of my knees, trying to get comfortable. “Let’s get this over already”, I thought.

Then, he said it…

“When was the last time, you did something for the first time?”

This woke me up.

Then, he said it again.

“When was the last time, you did something for the first time?”

All of a sudden, I was present and in the moment. And what a moment it was. I knew I was about to do something I had never done before. I was going to try to run for 24 hours straight with a bunch of bad ass obstacles in my way including a 35 foot drop straight to hell.  I looked at all the competitors around me and felt that camaraderie one only gets at the start line of something epic. You give each other that look and they give it right back to you along with a high-five or a hug or a fist bump.

I looked around to the left and to the right of the starting line area and saw families and blue bibbed crew members everywhere cheering us on.

I had stood where those families and friends stood in 2012 and 2013 in Raceway Park, NJ. I always was wowed at how brave and cool those athletes were for taking on an event like WTM, and here I was, finally one of them, ready to do battle along side them.

A sea of blue bibs watches us start

(Side note: Awesome move on TM’s part to give those blue bibs out. As the event went on, those bibs went on to become “ask me for help'” sign to those that did not have crews. I witnessed Blue Bibs helping anyone nearby, many times without being asked).

My long time OCR and travel buddy David Moore (D-Mo) and I had a plan for WTM, sort of. I met D-Mo in Sept of 2012. We had bonded as we began the 2nd lap together at The first Ultra Beast in Vermont. It was also the first DNF for both of us. Back then, we were just two guys trying to survive the suck and beat the clock. We have traveled a long OCR road together since at many races and have both found a way to make this sport our way to make a living. ORM is my baby and David is now the Creative Director for Battlefrog.

Anyhow, our sort-of plan in the weeks leading up to WTM was to stick together as long as we could.  Come the morning of, I could tell David had a different way of looking at WTM. We had learned there were several penalty laps involved which could slow you down and add mileage. Knowing my grip strength needs some work, I asked if David  if he would stick with me if I had penalties that he didn’t have. He was afraid to say no, but I could tell he did not want to be slowed down. I knew there was no way I was going to survive 24 hours alone so I needed to find running mates, fast.

Ryan Meade has made GoPro videos over the years that attract thousands of views. While many athletes record their race and show all the obstacles through a shaky camera with some horrible music track playing over, Ryan outshines them in a big way. Through his amazing, patented, Hockey-Stick-GoPro-View, Ryan shows some amazing angles, and along with interesting graphics and notes, make the videos really enjoyable. One fellow Mudder would say to Ryan later in the day. “All the races I don’t get to, I feel like I was there through your videos”. Ryan and I were going to be in the same tent at WTM, but we didn’t really talk about running together. When I realized D-Mo was going to do his own thing, I asked Ryan if he’d stay with me. He said “Sure” and let me know that he planned on taking his time, especially in the early going to get good video, and this relaxed me a great deal.

As Start Line Sean asked us to high five and hug our fellow Mudders, Ryan and I spotted Dr. James Hale (Doc). Doc and I met briefly last year in New Jersey, and had become Twitter buddies. The three of us took off together having no idea we would stay together for the next 24 hours.

Lap One of no obstacles came and went, as we saw our buddy D-MO take off ahead of us never to look back. We commented on this new terrain, and talked about what it might be like to jump off The Cliff that silently, yet overwhelmingly waited for us. As we crossed the “finish” line, I came in to my tent area and saw all the food I had set up, including sandwiches made by my crew of J.D. Allen and Gail Barman (who also doubled as ORM’s media team). I was so happy they pre-made me sandwiches, and was equally thrilled that I was over-prepared with lots of water, gatorade, and cans of soup all laid out ready for consumption. I may have even let myself had the foolish notion of ” That was a piece of cake, run a lap, come back here, get some food. How hard can this be anyway?”

kyoulcha

Part Two coming soon…

Photos courtesy of Tough Mudder (top photo), J.D. Allen (middle photo), Kyoul Cha (bottom photo)

Episode 76 2013 World’s Toughest Mudder Part IV

 

Episode 4

The first episode of 2014 is the last episode on the 2013 World’s Toughest Mudder.

Matt had phone conversations with Male winner Ryan Atkins and 2nd place female Maggi Thorne. We get their thoughts a few days after the event was over and they had some time to reflect on their accomplishments.

This episode is sponsored by Kimbia Racing.

Please click here to listen or press the large play button below.

You can also download on iTunes or Stitcher.

Happy 2014!