Preparing for World's Toughest Mudder can feel like a full-time job. So how do you train for the most insane event on the planet when, oh yeah, you've already got a full-time job? We asked Kris Mendoza, a dentist anesthesiologist who’s heading into World’s Toughest Mudder 2018 fresh off of a first-place finish at America’s Toughest Mudder West and looking to improve upon his 4th place finish at World’s Toughest Mudder 2017, how he balances work and mud.
How many Toughest/Tougher/Tough Mudder events have you ran this year?
Three Toughest Mudders, two Tougher Mudders, one Tough Mudder.
Take us back to your first World’s Toughest Mudder: When was it, and what was it like?
I couldn't do it [because of schedule conflicts] until 2014. They actually moved to Las Vegas that year, so I was like, "Okay. Let's do this." I just wanted to try something that was completely new and completely challenging. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
My goal was 50 miles. For me, that was the big goal. The first 25 miles went really well. I wasn't really accustomed to running and eating, so I actually had food prepared and took breaks to eat. Things were going well until night hit, and then that was the year of the sandstorm. It got really cold, and around mile 40, I got so cold that I had to just stay in the pits for hours just trying to get warm. I was shivering and apparently hallucinating and didn't know what was happening. I was able to actually go [back] out. Put my cold wetsuit back on. Went out to get that 50 miles, and I got it. It was probably one of the most miserable feelings ever during that year. I had time to go out for another lap but said, "No way." I was already in enough pain, and I was done—just done mentally, done physically. It was the farthest I'd ever ran.
Fast-forward to the next year. I decided I wanted to do it again, and I wanted to try to go for that silver bib, 75 miles. That year, I ended up hitting 80 miles, and I was like, "Wow, this is awesome."
What are your World’s Toughest Mudder 2018 goals?
I want over 100 miles but I don't know how this year in Atlanta will change things...who knows, maybe even more miles. My main focus this year is to enjoy the process of training and the race while doing the best I can.
We see you're training with Rea Kolbl...Are you and Rea close friends and regular training partners?
Yes, we have become close friends since last year's World’s Toughest Mudder. Unfortunately, she's been dealing with injuries since I moved here, so we haven't trained together as much as we would like, but we hang out a lot and go on hikes. She pretty much kills me every time we work out. She’s competitive at shorter races and the super long ones, while I have mainly been focused on the longer races, so it’s great to get to train with such an amazing athlete and person. Also, her husband, Bunsak, is a great cook, so I never skip a chance to feast with them!!
What’s been your training philosophy going into this year?
My training philosophy has completely shifted in the past year. While I’m very competitive with myself, my focus has been on enjoying the process of training instead of being so hung up on race results. Since this isn't my full-time job and more a hobby, I need to make sure I’m enjoying something I'm putting this much time into. I have really shifted my focus to longer races and have run my first official ultra-marathons this year to get used to spending a lot of time on my feet. It's been fun to branch out to ultra-marathons and try to widen my skill set.
I probably run 5-6 times a week. I'll rock climb, usually indoor bouldering, 2-3 times a week. Then, I'll also do a gym workout 2-4 times a week.
I usually start work pretty early, like at 6:00 a.m., so if we start at 6:00, we might be done by 2:00. So, I'll have a solid five hours to go get two workouts in. I try to take one day off of running a week, but I still might go biking or something else.
I also prioritize sleep. I get into this habit of just going to sleep early, waking up early, not out partying late or anything like that.
Did you move to Colorado to amp up your training for long distance events?
Training was definitely a huge part of wanted to move to Colorado. I finished my residency and had the opportunity to move, so I took it. I love the mountains and knew that Colorado would be the perfect place to explore and spend time outdoors. The culture and environment help play a huge role in wanting to train and spend time outdoors here. Luckily I found a job here after I was committed to moving here.
How do you balance real life and the grueling training schedule it takes to win?
I wouldn't say it’s balance, but more like extreme focus on two different things. It's about having priorities and committing to them. I spend most of my time working and training. Since I like spending time outdoors, most of my time spent with friends involved running, hiking, climbing, or some other physical activity. Hiking a 14er with a friend is much more fun and productive than sitting around and watching TV.
Have you had to request any special concessions from your employer? Are they supportive of your Tough Mudder endeavors?
I don't even know how, but before they hired me, they somehow found out that I ran these races and realized this is something I do seriously. They've been great with it, to be honest. They're super supportive. They talk a lot of trash on me, which is always fun, and they love to see me race and stuff.
For races, all I have to do is ask for the time off. They're usually pretty cool with it because I give them plenty of notice.
I think I set the expectation early on that, yes, I’m going to work hard, but one of the biggest reasons of me coming to Colorado was so I could train and so I could enjoy the outdoors.
What's your World's Toughest Mudder 2018 podium prediction?
I guess that depends who is going and the categories people compete in. Regardless, Atkins is always the guy to beat. Cichosz, Killian, Albon, and Azar are always strong but I'm not worried about who's competing, I'm there to throw down!
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.