“I would love to run beyond 100 miles and I know I’m more than capable of that,” says Hollon “My last race was a 50-miler [Twin Peaks in CA] with 13,000 feet of climbing and I finished that in 8:56. I finished Cruel Jewel in GA, which is 106 miles with 33,000 feet of climbing, in 23:57. If we translate that to obstacles, in theory, I should be able to go beyond the 100-mile mark.”
THE BARKLEY MARATHON FACTOR
Until the next American running superstar burst on the scene, Hollon will be in the history books as the youngest person to complete both the Badwater and Barkley Marathons. Hollon first competed in the 2011 Barkley Marathons, where he ran the “fun run”: three 20+ mile loops around Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee. In 2012, the documentary cameras were there filming the race, and he finished four loops. Holllon won the 2013 Barkley Marathons, finishing in 57 hours, 39 minutes and 34 seconds, becoming the 13th person to ever complete five loops of the ultramarathon. Hollon is hoping that the third time is the charm for WTM, too.
“I would love to run beyond 100 miles and I know I’m more than capable of that.”
“The third year I did Barkley Marathons I smashed and destroyed the thing and I’m hoping it’s the same deal with WTM,” Hollon says. “The only reason I’d go back to Barkley would be for the course record but it’s such a commitment, that it would take out half my year in terms of training and dedication. There are so many other races I want to do during that time.”
Hollon draws parallels between the two unique long-distance events, stating that both races play into the element of the unknown, even if you’ve them before.
“Going into Barkley Marathon, you don’t know exactly where the books are hidden [books are the only course markers] and at WTM, I don’t know exactly what the obstacles will be,” adds Hollon. “Both WTM and Barkley require the mental capacity to deal with the unknown and focus on the present.”
TOUGH MUDDER SPECIFIC TRAINING
While the exact course design is unknown, there are several things that you can prepare for at WTM, such as 5-mile loops of running, swimming a few hundred yards at a time, and specific obstacles. Although Hollon is aiming for 100+ miles, he slightly changes his training in preparation for WTM compared to an ultramarathon.
“Going into a typical 100-miler, I run anywhere from 80-100 miles per week and on top of that is cross training, swimming, biking, and strength training for a total of 25-30 training hours per week during a peak phase,” says Hollond. “For WTM, I run 60-80 miles per week and on the weekends I run a 5-mile loop in San Diego that has monkey bars and obstacles for a few laps. I’ve set up about 20 obstacles and I run though the loop wearing a wetsuit, hood gloves, and the same shoes I’ll be wearing at WTM.”
Hollon also incorporates a 100-200 meter swim in Mission Bay into the simulated obstacle course. And if things couldn’t get any more specific, Hollon has been analyzing every obstacle from WTM 2015 in terms of what primary muscles are used during the obstacle. Then, he’ll design a strength training workout to increase strength in those specific muscle groups necessary to conquer the obstacle. For example, he’ll observe the monkey bars on Funky Monkey 2.0 and King of Swingers require shoulder stabilization and activate the lats and the Blockness Monster is essentially a push press that engages the shoulders, triceps and chest.
“It’s very specific training and I’m really focusing on all of the details, eliminating any possible weaknesses that I have,” Hollon adds.
A typical training day for WTM starts with a 5:00am mobilization/stability workout for the hips, core, and feet to prevent injury and keep running economy high. Next, Hollon does dynamic stretches such as jump roping and air squats to promote muscle elasticity. Then, Hollon will run for 60-75 minutes at a light pace similar to the speed he’ll keep at WTM, so not a tempo run. In the afternoon, the Lucky Thirteen Running Coach will head to the gym and lift weights. The summer consisted of more strength-oriented goals, where Hollon did deadlifts, barbell squats, hip thrusters, glute bridges and good mornings. He reached a 5-6 rep range with 85-90% of his 1RM. Most recently, Hollon has been doing power training, focusing on speed results.
“I’ll do deadlifts but focus on the the concentric part of the moment, trying to move the bar as quickly as possible, and I also do plyometrics,” Hollon says. “Some other exercises I enjoy are box jumps, single leg box jumps, alternating jump lunges, and explosive air squats.”
NEVER OVERTRAINING, ALWAYS RECOVERING
For a 26-year-old, Hollon sure knows a lot about recovering from intense trail races. And it’s not like he studied exercise physiology either. At age 13, Hollon watched his mother run a marathon and two years later, he ran his first marathon then went on to run a 50K at age 17. The Northern Arizona University alum never joined the cross country team in college but was “always fascinated with 100-milers and things like the Death Race.” Hollon graduated with a BA in Spanish and Anthropology and has hit the running scene hard ever since. By now, Hollon has divided recovery from races into two components: adrenal and muscular.
“To watch muscle recovery, you ask yourself, ‘What hurts?’ and analyze what you could’ve doen to make that so,” says Hollon. “Epsom salts are excellent for muscular recovery and you can load up on turmeric and ginger which are natural anti-inflammatories, to decrease inflammation. Mobilizing, compression and elevating muscles to alleviate acute inflammation works and daily active daily mobilization, such as swimming in a pool or biking is ideal.”
More important to Hollon than muscular recovery is adrenal recovery. The adrenal glands are part of the endocrine system that balance and regulate hormones in the body, including cortisol and adrenaline. Hollon uses resting heart rate, amongst several other metrics, to measure his adrenal gland functionality. During recovery weeks, Hollon will measure his heart rate in the morning and if it’s abnormally high, he’ll take it easy in training, even if it’s a scheduled speed day.
“Say a racer’s resting heart rate is 40 beats per minute before a race and the next day it’s 50 beat per minute, if they go into their next race with that elevated heart rate without knowing it, it’s only going to elevate their resting heart rate more and more,” says Hollon. “Doing a hard workout when my heart rate is messed up is just going to put me more in the hole than it’s going to help me.”
GOING ALL IN
Between the specific muscle development for obstacles, running and swimming in a wetsuit and being hyperaware of his heart rate, Hollon has put all of his efforts into performing his best at World’s Toughest Mudder 2016. November 12-13 might just be another day that Hollon makes endurance sports history by becoming the first person to ever win Barkley Marathons and World’s Toughest Mudder.
“There’s what you’re willing to give, which is what you’ve done in training and everyone comes to WTM with their ‘I’ve got 50 bucks I want to throw down during this race,” Hollon says. “At WTM, it might take 100 bucks or 150 bucks. In this metaphor, I’m bringing my whole savings to the start line.”
Weight: 176 pounds
Residence: San Diego, CA
Website: www. luckythirteencoaching.blogspot.com
Occupation: Athlete and Coach at Lucky Thirteen Coaching
WTM History: 2014: 55 miles, individual;2015: 85 miles, 4th place, individual