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With Vegas playing host to World’s Toughest Mudder for the first time ever this year, the stage is set for one daring desert dash. But the course temperature isn’t the only thing heating up this year at Lake Las Vegas. WTM 2014 will see the past two women’s champions, Deanna Blegg of Australia, the reigning WTM champion, and Amelia Boone of Chicago, the 2012 WTM champion, compete for a chance to become the first ever two-time female World’s Toughest Mudder.
With just a few months of training left before Tough Mudder’s Sin City showdown, we caught up with Amelia to talk preparation, motivation and why she’ll be showing up to WTM solo this year.
How did you get your start as an obstacle course racer?
I actually had a co-worker come up to me and show me a Tough Mudder promo video back in early 2011 and say, "We should do that." I was in shape, but I'd never even run a half-marathon before, so I had no idea if I could do it or what to expect. Several co-workers and I ran Tough Mudder Wisconsin back in July 2011, and I was immediately hooked.
As one of the most storied and successful obstacle course racers in the world, do people ever recognize you in public?
Ha! It's happened once or twice, but only when I've been in a gym setting or in obstacle racing gear. There’s no need to throw elbows at the paparazzi just yet. While OCR people are diehards, we are still quite a small part of the general population.
WTM is just over three months away. How does your training change as the event nears?
Honestly, it doesn't. I've never had overarching training plans. I've never had a coach, and I really just kind of make things up as I go. I have several longer races in the months leading up to WTM, so that should be good prep. Of most concern is actually reining it in in the weeks leading up, so I don't overtrain and can go into it fresh. Given how much I race and that WTM is at the end of the season, injury prevention is always on my mind.
You have to adjust to getting stuff done with very little sleep. It's about prioritizing and learning where you can make sacrifices.
Due to their complexity, so many WTM obstacles can’t be replicated in training. How do you best prepare yourself for these obstacles?
You mean most people don't have a full-sized Everest or Funky Monkey in their backyard? Most obstacles are a test of body control and grip strength. So any movements you can do to work on these will be key. Personally, I mainly train using CrossFit, which I've found very effective for obstacles.
Of the 24 hours of a WTM, which hours tend to be the most mentally exhausting?
It's always darkest before the dawn. Those wee hours will break you. The sun coming up gives you another life.
How do you pace yourself for a 24-hour endurance race? Is it more about time or what other leading racers are doing?
I try to just listen to my body. If I'm feeling good, I'll push the pace. If not, I'll back off, but the key is to keep moving. Since every WTM is different, don't over-think or over-strategize. You can't try to time this out before it even begins. You have to adjust on the fly and keep track of where others are.
During your championship year (2012), how long was your longest rest period? What did you do during that time?
My longest rest period was probably about 25-30 minutes between laps four and five. Due to the cold, I added on an extra wetsuit. I hid in my tent to get away from the cameras and people trying to talk to me, and I made a cup of hot chocolate.
A vast majority of WTM racers are men. What reaction do men have when they notice you blowing by them on course?
Well, when covered in a wetsuit, it's hard to tell that I’m a woman. Most dudes were like, "Keep it going, bro!" I'd turn around and be like, “Thanks! I'm a girl!” There are always a few that hate getting "chicked," but most guys are really supportive now. One of my favorite parts of WTM is interacting with the other racers. You meet so many cool people out there.
When do you start your pre-race diet, and what do you eat leading up to the startline?
Typically two days out I cut fiber and other foods that could be problematic for digestion. On the morning of, I'm a coffee and Pop Tarts kinda gal. Breakfast of champions.
Who will be in your pit crew this year?
I don't believe in pit crews. I don't necessarily mind that other people have them, I just function better solo. And since it's ultimately a solo race, I don't want to have to worry about how my pit crew is holding up or if they are miserable.
What is the key to balancing training for an extreme event like WTM and living a normal working life?
You have to adjust to getting stuff done with very little sleep. It's about prioritizing and learning where you can make sacrifices. Everyone thinks that you really can "have it all," but there has to be some give and take if you want to be successful on multiple levels. Some days, training isn't going to happen because your professional life gets in the way. The only thing to do is adapt, roll with it, and make the best of the situation. And above all, you have to remember that we do this for fun. It should be a release of stress, not added stress.
What else are you going to do in Vegas besides WTM?
Sleep? I'm actually not a Vegas fan. I'd much prefer a dive bar, a good beer, and conversation. Plenty of people have grandiose plans to hit up the Vegas scene post-WTM. More power to them, but if you do WTM right, you shouldn't be able to walk the next day.
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