Ryan Atkins surprised the Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) world last November by dethroning two time World Toughest Mudder Junyong Pak with his 100 mile (160km) performance while completing 440 obstacles. He then followed up that accomplishment by winning the Winter Death Race just two months later. gain some insight with Ryan to find gain some insights into his experience at those races along with his training and future race plans.
A: What is your racing background?
R: I played sports in high school, and competed heavily in trails unicycling as a teenager, winning multiple world championship titles. I then raced mountain bikes while I was in university, progressing to race a few world cup level events.
A: Trails unicycling you say! What are those races like? How long are they and how often do you fall?
R: Trials Unicycling… basically it involves traversing the most technical terrain possible, but on a unicycle. Kind of like obstacle racing, but on a unicycle, and speed doesn’t matter… only being able to complete the obstacle matters. The competitions would usually last around 2 hours, and falling is pretty much a constant!
A: Which of those is your favorite?
R: My favorite event is probably the one that I’m doing right now, because I love competing, and I love being constantly challenged.
A: What distance, and terrain do you feel most comfortable with?
R: I feel the most comfortable on super steep, rocky, technical terrain, running about 3 to 30 hours. (30-200 km)
A: What made you decide to compete in Obstacle Course Races?
R: I started competing in obstacle course racing, because my friends are the organizers of Mud Hero, and I was introduced to the sport through their events. I liked them, and so I started doing more of them.
A: How many laps of a Mud Hero course will you do in training after a day of building obstacles?
R: Typically After working a full day at Mud Hero (10-14 hours of hard labour, I would run 1-2 laps, or just go for a run that would last about 60-90 minutes. Of course some days are “rest” days.
A: Legend has it that your girlfriend told the border crossing agent that you were going to win World’s Toughest Mudder when you crossed into the USA for the race in 2013. Were you as confident?
R: I was just as confident as my girlfriend, while going to WTM 2013. I had prepared to the event, and I was ready for it, and super excited to run the event, and do my best.
A: What was your least favorite task at the Winter Death Race?
A: What does it feel like to race around the 20 hour mark? Did the electric shocks at WTM hurt more or less as the race progressed? How many times do you think you got shocked that night?
R: Around the 20 hour mark at a 24 hour race is the easy part. The end is in sight at that point. The hardest is the 8-10 hour mark… At that point you know you aren’t even halfway, and you are already feeling tired and sore. I’m sure I got shocked at least 10 times at WTM last year. Each shock was equally painful, and sucky. They never get any better.
A: Do you have a fancy carbon fiber axe or a dirty old rusty axe that you keep in the backyard?
R: I’ve got a Gransfors Bruk axe. They are wooden and steel, hand forged in Sweden. Pretty much the most badass axe one can buy I love it
A: In what races have you competed in during the first half of 2014?
R: During the first half of 2014, I’ve done the winter death race (1st place), every mud hero event, Untamed New England a 3day expedition race in Maine, multiple mountain bike races, Canadian mountain running championships (7th place), Toronto young street 10k (0:32:09) and both Toronto Spartan races (1st place, 1st place).
A: What is your race schedule looking like for the second half of 2014?
R: My schedule for the second half will be very busy, especially in the fall, when I plan on racing all 4 OCR championships (Spartan Beast World Championships Sept 20, Warrior Dash World Championship Oct 18, OCR World Championships Oct 25, World’s Toughest Mudder Nov 15).
What is you’re “A” race and why?
My goal event is Spartan WC in Vermont, as well as WTM 2014. I’m super stoked about both!
You can catch up with Ryan at any Mud Hero event. He usually works the registration tent, does the course sweep and is very approachable.