Ultra runner Amanda Basham thrives on challenging herself which is why she chose the 2016 World’s Toughest Mudder at Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, NV as her first-ever obstacle course event. The Altra-sponsored athlete spent 2016 racking up top finishes at trail races including 1st place at the TransRockies Run (120 miles) in Colorado, 2nd place at the Gorge Waterfalls 100K in Oregon (62.1 miles), and a 4th place finish at the famed Western States Endurance Run (100 miles). Basham will be teaming up with friend and ultra runner and Altra teammate Zac Marion to compete as a co-ed team.
“Our main goal is to get top 10 because we know they get free entries to 2017 Tough Mudders,” Bashsam says. “Our really lofty goal would be to try and podium but we’re not quite sure how realistic it is to beat most of the men’s teams.”
Basham and Marion ran together at the RunRabbit 100-mile race in Steamboat Spring, CO, where Basham finished 6th, a performance she was unhappy with and contributed to an overworked racing schedule. After Western States in June, the runner and coach won the Discrete Peak Series mountain race in Utah, which equaled 7.2 miles and 2,500+ feet of elevation gain. Next up was the USATF Trail Championships 30K, where she finished 3rd, followed by the win at TransRockies. Then, Basham paced friend and ultra runner Clare Gallagher at the Leadville, CO ultramarathon and hopped on a plane the next day to crew for another runner friend at the Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc in Chamonix, France.
“I came back home and I felt like I was on my deathbed,” Basham says. “I ran myself into the ground and ran RunRabbit (100 miles) a week later.”
As charming as she is fierce, Basham performs well even after pushing her physical limits. The decision to make 2016 World’s Toughest Mudder her first obstacle course event was based on intrigue.
“An ultramarathon runner doing a 24-hour race has an advantage but you need a lot of strength too and I’m pretty strong and athletic in all sorts of ways,” Basham says. “I’m always interested in trying new things and WTM could be something that I’m really good at it. WTM plays to a lot of my strengths.”
YOUNG AND FREE
A native of Oregon, Basham played a variety of sports growing up but didn’t get into distance running until senior year of high school. She ran cross country and the 3000m and 1500m events in track and field.
“I ran in high school because I didn’t want to play volleyball and I was good at running,” says Basham. “I’m a very competitive person so whenever I’m good at something, I end up liking it.”
Basham ran for a couple of years at Pacific University in Oregon before she started running on her own and the distance continuously got longer because she wanted to keep challenging herself. These miles were being logged on roads and it wasn’t until about three years ago that Basham switched to trails, as a result of an injury sustained running on roads.
“I started running trails to be able to get back in it because it’s much safer on your joints,” Basham says. “I was instantly obsessed and I converted almost entirely to trail running.”
MORE STRENGTH, LESS RUNNING
Basham, 26, now lives in Colorado, where she’s been training to conquer her most unique test yet: World’s Toughest Mudder. To train for the extreme endurance event, Basham has been running 70-90 miles per week over the span of six days: two hard tempo runs, three recovery/endurance runs and one 25-30 mile long run. These numbers are lower than normal because she’s added a strength training program to her running routine.
“When I’m not strength training and just running, I’ll get up to 120 miles per week but I already have the endurance and have been training all season so I’ve lowered the volume on running,” Basham adds. “I’ll taper about 10 days before the race, decreasing the volume and intensity of the runs but not the frequency. The week before WTM will be half the volume I was doing and the week of WTM will be 1/3 the volume of the week before.”
Basham has added strength training on top of her running regimen to prepare for the plethora of obstacles she’ll encounter on the WTM course. Basham is a coach at Carmichael Training Systems and a fellow coach, Michael Durner, C.S.C.S., has been programming Basham’s functional strength routine which is performed for 2-3 days per week. The event-specific plan includes battling ropes, muscle ups, TRX exercises, lateral jumps, split squats, and kettlebell holds (holding a kettlebell at your side for time, taking a short rest and repeating). Basham admits that grip strength is not her strongest athletic trait.
“Grip strength is a big part of my training and I’ve been doing weight plate holds and dead hangs from a pullup bar with a towel draped over,” Basham adds.
Cold water swimming was a part of the 2015 WTM and athletes are preparing to swim again in 2016. Basham’s swimming training started a bit late, as she just received her wetsuit in late October, giving her only a couple of weeks to get used to running and swimming in it. Also in October, Basham met up with 2015 WTM individual winner Chad Trammell.
“Chad gave us some tips and he didn’t seem concerned with my training so I’m hoping it’s the right stuff to do,” Basham says. “He did suggest running in a wetsuit because it’s very different.”
As for nutrition preparation, Basham will add more carbohydrates than usual into each meal for a few days before WTM but won’t “carb-load,” trying to stuff all of those carbs into one day or meal. Basham’s go-to race-day breakfast is gluten-free pancakes with almond butter and jam with Hiball Cold Brew coffee. She’ll also drink Hiball energy drinks during races. Intra-race fuel also includes energy gels, chews, and GU Roctane powder towards the beginning of the action and nut butter and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches during the grind.
Basham and Marion train together for ultra races and Marion most recently won the Pony Express Trail Run (50 miles) in Utah in October. Marion, a Salt Lake City, UT resident, has put out a strong trail racing season which includes wins at the Speedgoat Quadbanger (15+ miles of sharp ascents and descents) and the Antelope Island Buffalo Run in Utah (50 miles). Marion is also a trainer at the Front Climbing Club in Salt Lake City.
“Zac and I are really good friends and we’re pretty similar in speed, endurance and strength,” Basham says. “He’ll do very well on the obstacles and having him as a teammate helping me on the parts I might struggle with will be very beneficial. We work well together and I think you need a partner that’s someone you can flow with.”
The mountain-loving duo are a team to watch at Lake Las Vegas and one can guess that if Basham is happy with her performance, she’ll be back for more mud sooner than later. And outside of anything tangible, Basham will gain a valuable asset: a team-building, mentally challenging experience unlike any other.
Residence: Manitou Springs, CO
Occupation: Professional runner; Coach at Carmichael Training Systems
Sponsors: Altra, Hiball Energy