For professional endurance athlete Hunter McIntyre, World’s Toughest Mudder (WTM) was the main focus throughout the 2016 racing season. Although the Broken Skull Ranch Champion competed in various other competitions this year, such as Obstacle Course Racing World Championships where he placed 3rd in the team contest representing Team USA, WTM 2016 never left his subconscious.
“This year, I’ve been training mainly to focus on WTM,” says McIntyre . “It’s been something that’s been in the back of my head the entire season. It was the number one goal I wrote down on my racing list for 2016.”
At 6’2” and 195 pounds, McIntyre isn’t your prototypical ultramarathon runner. In fact, he considers himself a short distance athlete. In CMT’s reality competition TV series Broken Skull Challenge, McIntyre holds the course record with 6 minutes and 3 seconds. Yet, in 2014, he covered 76 miles at WTM. In 2015, McIntyre exited WTM early after one of his Team Wolf Pack teammates suffered an injury. This year, he’s been increasing his running volume while continuing his beloved strength training all in the name of pushing his limits.
“I did SealFit to get it in my system to do events that last a couple of days and I’ve been doing 100-mile weeks of running, cold water training, and strength training,” McIntyre says. “I’ve been ready for this for a long time.”
BIG, FAST BROS
McIntyre’s teammate in the quest for the $100,000 and/or top spot is Canadian endurance athlete Austin Azar, and they paired up rather randomly. Ultra endurance athlete Travis Macy was McIntyre’s original teammate but after learning Macy was injured from the race season, he was left without a partner. Not for long. McIntyre shared this news with Azar and fellow WTM competitor Ryan Atkins at an OCR event then Atkins suggested he and Azar pair up to conquer the WTM course. Azar and McIntyre barely knew each other at first, but after living together for a week and meeting up at various races around the country, they’ve gotten to know each other well.
“I’m a big time bro and I’m all about creating the ultimate bro bond, doing insanely cool things like drinking beers and arm wrestling,” says McIntyre. “I could see from the beginning of our team’s creation that he engaged with my personality and he seemed like a fierce competitor and a fun guy. I’d rather have a good time and struggle through an event with someone like than somebody I don’t mesh with well but is just a talented athlete. Austin is not only a super talented athlete, but he and I have a good chemistry.”
The McIntyre-Azar duo might be the heaviest competitive team as Azar is also 195 pounds and 6’2”. They may also be the physically strongest. McIntyre is used to doing CrossFit about half of his training time but this year, he’s spent 75-80% of his time running in the mountains. A typical training week consists of 4-5 strength training workouts and 5-6 running session, but as WTM has grown nearer, some runs are replaced with evening hikes. At one month out, speed work is eliminated and the focus is on high-intensity full body workouts such as sled drags to ensure his legs are strong. One sample gym workout is a 10-20 minute AMRAP where the goal is to do as many deadlift sets of 2-3 reps as possible with adequate rest between sets. In this event and in life, McIntyre believes strength is a key to success.
“The strongest body is the most resilient body and by doing deadlifts, squats and kettlebell swings, I’ve built a resilient body that withstands things like climbing over a wall 100 times at night,” McIntyre says. “Strength coach Mark Rippetoe says the strongest man is the hardest man to kill and I believe in that. In the end, the toughest, not the fastest or strongest will win this fight.”
PREPARING FOR BATTLE
Many WTM obstacles involve being submerged in water or swimming, so being ready to swim and run in a wetsuit is essential. McIntyre has been training in his Orca wetsuit-doing CrossFit workouts that involve jumping into the ocean or jumping into his cold pool during workouts. One of McIntyre’s simple race tricks is to set a timer on his watch for the amount of time he’s going to walk. Even though it’s a race, McIntyre isn’t afraid of walking as long as it’s limited to the 2-10 minutes on his timer. As for nutrition strategies, McIntyre doesn’t load up on carbohydrates, since he says WTM is “more of a fat-burning event.” He suggests making sure you have copious amounts of your favorite foods, whether it’s soup, pizza, candy bars, or apple slices. His only dietary rule leading into the race is to “not drink too much booze.” One can’t really prepare for what McIntyre sees as the hardest WTM obstacle.
“The toughest obstacle is the cold but if I had to pick a man-made one, all of the sewer pipes,” McIntyre says. “Being on your hands and knees in the pipes, it tears you to shreds.”
In a team field that’s stacked with elite OCR and ultramarathon athletes, McIntyre knows that smarts will beat out in speed in a multi-faceted event like WTM. Of the Atkins+Jon Albon team, McIntyre says “Atkins is probably the most bulletproof of them all…Albon is a very fast athlete but my only worry is will he be tough enough to last the full 24-26 hours to get the 100+miles?” And about the Robert Killian/Chad Trammel tandem, McIntyre explains, “Killian has done the Best Ranger Competition for years and was a full-time Special Forces member and Trammel ran 95 miles in his first WTM.” These teams are vying for $100,000 in prize money, but for McIntyre, winning means most.
“The fact there is that huge reward, it’s not just the money that’s calling to me, it’s the competition,” says McIntyre. “All of the best athletes in the sport are now gunning for that and it’s awesome to throw yourself in a competitive ring and see who you are at the end of the day. Whether you’re first, second or third, I’m going out there for the test.”
Weight: 195 pounds
Residence: Malibu, CA
Number of Tough Mudders Completed: 5