Obstacle Racing Nutrition and Drive
(Ed. Note – this is the long overdue second installment to Pete’s first Interview with Chris Rutz. Apologies to Pete and Chris, but we think you will enjoy the article.)
Chris Rutz: Well yeah I mean I would say probably. I am a big advocate of the paleo nutrition which is basically eating meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds; little starch, no sugar. So basically no grains, no pastas, no breads and anything like that; no dairy either.
So it’s basically a “hunter gatherer diet” and the only modification I really make to that is immediately before and after a high level endurance activity, I will eat some sweet potatoes, like one medium size sweet potatoes, kind of a little carb loading. I guess that’s a little bit of a carb load but in some nutrition and some paleo circles that’s kind of an allowed substitute because it’s kind of hunter gatherer style.
People are like ‘Sir are you carb loading tonight’ and I’m like ‘No I don’t really carb load the way you think about it.’ I basically eat pretty much the same thing all the time, as far as the types of the foods that I eat. You know, lots of chicken – breast at least, lots of eggs, fish, shrimp, scallops – all really good lean sources of protein, lots of organic fruits and vegetable and drinking lots of water.
I drink coconut water as well, that I find really helps me recover after a race. I can tell you, after I ran the first lap for Tough Mudder at Tampa, I went back to my car, I ate a couple of sweet potatoes and chugged the pint of a coconut water and then had a little bit of meat, fruit, and vegetables. Recovered maybe an hour, went back out and ran another lap.
I don’t remember what my time was but wasn’t quick as good as the first one but it wasn’t really bad. And out on the course I’m going to eat whatever they give me a, goo packet or some clip-blocks, whatever. I’m just going to eat that and not really worry about it. Yeah, that’s more sugar than I normally would have but when you are in the pros of the competition I think you got to think a little bit differently; but as far as preparing for before and after its basically the Paleo Nutrition way of eating.
The critical thing for folks is to make sure that you are eating within 30 minutes of the end of your exercise or workout. That’s really the most critical time to get fuel back in your body, to help your muscles regenerate and to help your body keep going and sustain.
It’s interesting a lot of my friends are going on these canyoneering trips or backpacking trips and I always have my cooler in the back of my car. It has all my food in it and they’re saying, ‘Well we’ll drive back in town and we’ll eat.’ An hour later they’re eating and I already kind of refueled. So in order for me to keep going and going and going, the food is, I think, 78% of the battle.
Pete: You have a lot of strategy and preparation my man! You’re prepared and you prepare for it. Thumbs up. That answers so many questions everyone gets into like, how do you carb load and what’s the proper way, how do I do this and how do I do that; and you just pretty much eat plain. As most people would say; Paleo.
Chris Rutz: Yeah. My typical pre-race breakfast which is on my website as well is: I’ll take 6 eggs, 3 egg whites and 3 whole eggs, scramble those up and have a baked sweet potato chopped it up and put in the eggs and kind of make it scramble; add some vegetables, for that usually broccoli or spinach, topped with an avocado. That probably ends up being 800 calories or something like that. That’s my pre-race breakfast that I eat – usually about 3 hours before the competition because you want it to be settled in your stomach. You don’t want to eat too close to the race. Then about an hour before the race, I’ll eat a larabar which is kind of an on-the-go food bar that is basically fruits and nuts.
I eat that about an hour before and drink some coconut water to get my body fueled up and hydrated. I drink a lot of water, I carry a small, 1 pint disposable bottle with me and carry it to the starting line, drink that while we are waiting for the start to go and then I’m ready.
Pete: That’s awesome. I’m listening and my mouth just drops more. I’m like ‘This guy is full of awesome information right now’, you know what I mean?
Chris Rutz: I guess part of being 42 is beneficial from an experience perspective. Having done Ironman and having done road bike racing. I’ve had some coaches over time but not really a full time nutritionist or a full time coach in all aspects. But from bike racing and from researching, that’s kind of where I really began to dial in a nutrition aspect because if you are going for a 3 or 4 hour bike race at pretty high intensity, you need to be fueled up ahead of time and that’s where I really gained the experience from the fueling piece.
Pete: That’s awesome, that’s great. Before you said you don’t see yourself as a competitive person but internally it seems like you are. You are competing against yourself. I think that’s what everyone does and that’s why I think a lot of people like Spartan Race because they have their time, they know that they have something; almost like a self progression. That’s what I think it’s about; it’s about progressing.
Do you have any obstacles in your past or something that really makes you drive just as hard as you do now? Is there anything that you encountered, that was your biggest obstacle?
Chris Rutz: I’ve looked back on my life and the decisions that I’ve made and things that have come up along the way; I don’t have any big triumph. I haven’t overcome cancer, I haven’t broken a leg, I haven’t really had personal tragedies, but like I talked about earlier, I’ve always been very thoughtful in my approach to things. Sometimes I over think.
For me it’s just been a lot of good choices in life. I’ve been very, very fortunate from a career perspective, from a relationship perspective. I’ve always had a very consistent things in my personal life that have allowed me to be able to focused on my athletic career. So there weren’t really any personal tragedies, or divorces, or break ups, or job losses, or anything like that which drove me to do this.
What I attribute my success to is just making smart choices, making the choices that are the best for me. Admittedly I’m a bit of a selfish person, so that’s probably not one of the best attributes in life but I definitely recognize that in my life. I appreciate that as well and recognize that.
You got to be able to have a bit of selfishness to be able to devote as much time as you want to these sorts of pursuits. When I was biking 12 – 15 hours a week and when I’m training for these things and traveling all over the country, it’s a lot of time away from other obligations and that should be able to know that, that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to be an athlete, I wanted to have the freedom, so when I was making choices, I made the choices that I knew would be helpful to my athletic career.
Pete: That makes a ton of sense. I mean, you do have to have that kind of perspective.
Chris Rutz: You know I get a lot of people say ‘How do you do it? How can you keep the intensity going?’ Part of it is; I recognize a lot of people out there have families, have kids, have obligations associated with those and I don’t have a child or anything along those lines that I have to worry about and manage I have a good job that I’ve had for 21 years that’s been very consistent and rewarding. So it’s just been a very steady progression that’s been able to keep me focused on, again my athleticism.
Pete: Wow, you are the man! I can’t get even my voice to get so excited; I’m just like ‘Wow! This guy is pretty awesome…’ You know a lot of people do things for this purpose or that purpose or something negative and your just living the life.
Chris Rutz: I guess so. I mean honestly I really enjoy working out and I enjoy having something to work out for. Something that I’m doing this for a reason and my end goal is to be able to do well at this race or do well at that race.
And it was funny when I gave up and when I stopped bicycling. Part of the reason I gave it up was because of the competition. I was tired of always ‘Oh my god, I’m going to be at the start line. I’ve got to be ready. I’ve got my team and they are counting on me’ and all that. I kind of said ‘I need to step away from that’ and when I stepped away for a few years, something drew me back into that.
Somehow I got “suckered into it.” Are you familiar with what Ragnar is?
Pete: No, I never heard of it.
Chris Rutz: Okay, well Ragnar is a 24 hour running event that usually covers – I might be wrong in this – but at least 100 if not 150 miles and you have two teams of 6 people who each do a 6 mile loop or a 6 mile segment of the event. So it’s like a relay running event where you doing 3, I think each 6 relays – I forgot exactly the logistics of it.
But anyway I got suckered into doing that about a year ago and running and I was kind of like ‘Wow I like this running thing, this is fun’, and then followed that up with a Spartan Race, and I was like I miss the competition, I really missed pushing myself and comparing myself to others and it really helps you to focus your energy and channel your efforts to an end rather than just being out there and training for no real purpose.
Pete: For no real reason, yeah. It’s like a great gauge. I have to check this out, 150 miles you said?
Chris Rutz: Between 100 or 150, and they do them all across the country. I’ve even done one in Key West. They do one here in Arizona; they do one Vegas; and they do one somewhere else in the Northwest. I’m pretty sure they’re all over the country.
Pete: I have to check that out man! Before getting into your first Mud run, and this is what most people have a question to, do you have any fears of going into this, not knowing to what to expect or do already know what to expect?
Chris Rutz: I guess I’ll talk about my first Tough Mudder. I had done a Spartan Race in March and then I think I did a Warrior Dash out here in Arizona, I had those obstacle and then I was looking at the Tough Mudder and I said ‘Boy, I really want to do one of these just to see what it’s like.’ They make it sound very intimidating in the website and that’s how [I think] they are promoting it.
So my goal was to try to qualify for World’s Toughest and I looked up the upcoming races, looked at which one I thought I had the best chance of doing well at;and I picked Tough Mudder Wisconsin at my first choice. Colorado, I would have done but it was a little earlier in the year and I thought ‘Well maybe with the elevation, that one is my best option to do well’, so I chose Tough Mudder Wisconsin.
You know going into that race, I had some pretty big concerns; I hadn’t run 10 miles in a while. So the couple of weeks before, like I said when I was in vacation in Colorado I decided to go for another 10 mile run and finished it, had to stop a couple of times during the run but I think I was at 9000 feet elevation as well. So I had a little bit of the altitude piece as well as the distance.
But it kind of gave me self confidence and to say, ‘Hey I can go out and run 10 miles, no big deal. I will be able to handle the run’. I also knew that there would be obstacles out there, didn’t know exactly what they would be either.
There was a “hold your wood”, there’s a “quarter pipe” [known as Everest]. So again while I’m on vacation in Colorado, I’m out hiking and carrying logs around and doing anything I can do to just kind of build my body up to be ready for whatever might be thrown at me during that event.
Running through rivers and just waiting around and having fun outside. I didn’t look at it as work; I just looked at it like ‘Hey I enjoyed it. This is what I want to do; I’m having fun at it’. So I made it to Wisconsin. I think I got there on the Thursday just because of the time in Arizona. It’s a long flight and then to drive up from Chicago.
I decided on Friday night to kind of go out and walk the course.
I don’t want to give my secrets away but if the course is open, you might as well go out and take a look at it and see what’s out there to give you a sense of what you are going to be in for, if you got the time and you got the energy to do that. I went up to the first 12 foot wall or whatever it was and I’m like ‘Hmmm how am I going to get up this thing?’ As I said before as a competitive person, I can wait around for someone to help me up that wall but I’d rather get up that wall on my own and I don’t have to have somebody there to help me out.
And there were a couple of other obstacles I was just playing around with, just making sure I built up my confidence ahead of time so that I could know that I could manage. I got up there and I went running on Saturday and Sunday as well. Saturday I think I was in the mid day waves, so I don’t remember exactly how I did. There was one guy that ran in front of me and we were both back and forth, so I was the other first or second on that wave and then I woke up and I had planned to do it Saturday and Sunday. I travelled all the way there and got in and I was in the 9 AM wave on Sunday and won that wave as well, which is kind of surprising to me as well.
I’m like ‘I’m actually pretty good at this Obstacle Racing. I think, I really like this.’ But whatever you are fearing and are trying to overcome that fear; trying to either practice it ahead of time or come up with a strategy that says ‘You know what, I can get over that wall or I can get up that Everest without other people to help me out’ and knowing that and planning that in your race and in your strategy.
Same thing happened to me when I did Arizona a couple of weeks ago at a Tough Mudder Arizona. I knew from experience in Tampa that getting up Everest could be difficult if they put oil on it or if it’s wet or something like that. Sometimes I can get up on my own, sometimes I can’t. So in Arizona I got to catch – there were two or three guys in front of me. I said ‘I got to get to them before they get up Everest because I need them to help me to get up Everest’.
So it’s always strategizing during the race and always recognizing where the obstacles are and who you are going to need or if you are going to need to get over them while trying to build your strategy along the way.
I don’t want to come across that I’m not out there helping people either because I certainly am. You know when I ran along next to a guy who I think was 5’2 or 5’3, he was like ‘Can you maybe help me over the walls?’ I’m not going to leave anybody behind if they need help either as well.
Pete: They’re still going to keep up with you though.
Chris Rutz: Yeah exactly. I think I posted that one time ‘If you keep up with me I’ll help you out.’
Pete: I got your back as long as you can hang with me the entire time.
Chris Rutz: That’s the line I used on my girlfriend when I first met her. She was getting ready to go out for a bike ride and she didn’t want to go out alone and I happened to show up at the same place she was and she comes over to me and says ‘Do you mind if I ride with you?’ and I said ‘Yeah I guess if you can keep up’. She kept up. Well, okay maybe I took it a little easy on her because she was really…
Pete: Alright man, I got one more question for you. Are there any tips for any future mud runners out there that you can tell before we end up this call?
Chris Rutz: I guess I would say, just be prepared for anything. Most of the obstacles your going to, know ahead of time but don’t hesitate when doing the obstacles. If it’s going to be cold water, if there’s going to be barbwire, you are going to go and you are going to get through it. So why just sit there and look at the obstacles and say ‘Oh I’m scared’ you are going to do it, so just do it.
Don’t sit there and hesitate. Don’t sit there and guess yourself; it’s sort of the ‘not being able to swim so don’t get into the water’ sort of strategy. If you are going to do it, get up on the platform, and jump off of it. If your getting in the tube, slide through it. Pick up the spear and if you miss it you do your 30 burpees. Do your best, take your medicine and then move on.
Pete: Its aim, fire, and go wherever it is. And it’s great. I really appreciate your time today. You answered so many questions that I’m sure a lot of people have been wondering.
They see you at the races, they sit next to you sometimes and they see you fly by them and you are waving at them.
This was an awesome call for me as well, I learned so much. For all the people out there that got a lot of stuff on here, definitely check out his website www.livethetouglife.com. You’ll get some awesome work outs on there and training tips. You can keep up with him there too.
Where you are going to be heading next?
Chris Rutz: In two weeks it’s Tough Mudder Southern California, and then most of March I’m going to use this kind of recovery month and then I’ll be hitting off more Spartan Races; most likely Spartan Race Indiana, Spartan Race Colorado, Spartan Race Texas. So I’ve got a few Spartans on the agenda down the road.
And also, to anybody who’s listening to this, if you see me at the race, just come up and say hello and don’t feel intimidated, don’t feel ‘Oh he’s not going to want to talk to me’. You know I’d love to say hello and to meet you.
Ask questions on my blog anytime. I’m more than willing to share and I really enjoy that. I appreciate the opportunity you guys have given me to share my thoughts and certainly, like I said if you are out at the races and you recognize me, just come up and say hello.
Pete: We are going to say hello but then again if we’re at the starting line with you, we got to keep up with you to talk to you haha.
Chris, thank you so much for your time today. I know its Sunday; you got other things to do. I’m going to say peace out on this one, and I hope everyone has a great day. I hope you have a great day too, Chris.
Chris Rutz: Alright man, thanks!
Check out Chris on his Blog : www.livethetouglife.com TODAY!
Thanks Chris for taking the time to talk with us. I’m sure we will talk again soon.
Well I hope you all enjoyed this interview and found some great and interesting facts and options in here.
Be well and keep on Killin it!!
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