INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS RUTZ: Part 1
Introduction to one of the Top in the Game
Pete Isip: Alright guys, what’s going on? This is Pete from HowToTrainForMudRuns.com. We are here with an awesome Mud Runner; I know you guys have probably started with him at the beginning. He’s a monster on the obstacle course.
He has done numerous runs from Spartan Races and Tough Mudders, – you keep going down the line, I’m sure he has done them. He’s got a lot of experience so you guys would really benefit from this. This is Mr. Chris Rutz from Southern Arizona. Say hello!
Chris Rutz: Hey guys, how are you doing?
Pete Isip: Chris is a monster out there and I’m sure you guys are getting a lot of information off him, especially in this interrogation. It’s awesome to have you here. Give us a little background info about yourself, like how did you get into this, what made you start doing these obstacle races?
Chris Rutz: The way I started out – I just kind of looked around on the internet, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. I had been doing Crossfit for about 3 or 4 years; stopped that after awhile. I was a bike racer, mainly a road bike racer but I kind of got burned out on the competition, but then I found Spartan Race and it kicked my interest.
Pete Isip: So Spartan Race was your first run?
Chris Rutz: Yeah, I did Spartan Race back in March of 2011, out here in Arizona. I think that was one of their first races as well and I just went out there, kind of didn’t really know what to expect; didn’t really know how I would do in comparison to other folks – I hadn’t been running much; didn’t really practice either. I ended up, I think I was 18th overall in that competition and won the 40 plus category.
So it was kind of like, ‘Hey this might be something I want to take a little more seriously’.
Pete Isip: Yeah and you look like you never looked back from then, you just won every week. What I’ve seen in your blog [his blog is awesome, guys!]. His website is www.livethetoughlife.com, definitely check it out.
Lots of information on there from his eating habits, his work out of the day, what he does, and what he’s up to. It’s a really great website, so you guys got to check it out for more information.
Your 42 now, am I correct?
Chris Rutz: Yeah. I’m 42, kind of in the middle of being 42. My birthday is in July, so I’ll be aging up a little bit later this year.
Pete Isip: That’s awesome.
A lot of people that always hit me with emails ask questions like: I don’t know if I am old enough for this and do you think I’m too old to do this thing. What would you say to those people?
Chris Rutz: I think a lot of it is based upon what your background is and what your experiences are. I hear a lot of high school kids that want to get into it. I have a nephew who I think just turned 16 and wants to really get into it but he’s a little too young to do some of the Tough Mudder Races.
I love the people that come to me, who are in there 40s ask ‘Am I too old?’ I’m like, ‘Well do you want to hold off on dying out?’ They then find out how old I am and they’re like ‘Really?’
It’s funny actually.
At the Tampa Tough Mudder, I think you were there at the finish line, I was the first one that crossed the finish line and couple of girls ran up to me and they were like ‘Oh you did so awesome. You are amazing. How old are you?’ and I’m like ‘I’m 42’. Age isn’t a limit.
I know there are folks out there who did the Arizona Race with me yesterday; a couple ladies that I know who were in their late 50s did it too.
I don’t think age or gender should be a limit to go out and do one of these races. Just make sure that you are prepared for what’s going to be out there.
Pete Isip: Definitely. It’s called putting your mind to it and it seems like when I’m reading your stuff you really do inspire or try to inspire a lot of people no matter what age, or what handicap or whatever they have – you really push people towards that.
Chris Rutz: Yeah, thats kind of what I wanted when I started doing www.livethetoughlife.com and my Facebook page as well – Tough Training.
I was on vacation in Colorado last July and was getting ready to do my first Tough Mudder in Wisconsin. I was like ‘This Tough Mudder thing seems to be really popular’ and I knew a lot of people that I was talking to – a lot of my friends are like ‘How are you training, what are you doing, how do you eat, how do you sleep, how do you fit it all into your schedule’ and not to say that I got tired of telling everybody what I was doing; but I thought, not only could I reach more people but I could have a catalogue of information that people can access to, see what I’m doing, how I’m training, have a lot of those typical things you hear from trainers; a little bit of conventional info on how I train but not totally conventional.
Chris Rutz: I just want to first emphasize my history and my background which is that of a really strong endurance background. I’ve done Forman races, Ironman in Hawaii – I haven’t ever done a marathon – I’ve done long distance bike racing, multiple day speed races. So I always had a strong endurance background but I never really had any upper body strength and that’s kind of, about 5 years ago, when I started doing Crossfit.
I really wanted to develop my upper body. So I did that a lot while really cutting back on the running. People think they need to go out and run but you need to be able to make sure that you can get through that sort of distance. My weekly mileage running is not a lot.
I do races a lot so that’s really good training and really good mileage but I do a lot of quick 20, 30 minute high intensity runs. I really don’t waste any time by doing a bunch of miles or anything like that.
Pete: Really intense, short-time workout, whether it be your strength training and or your running?
Chris Rutz: Exactly. Crossfit will do 400 meter repeats, 4 times or 4400, or something like that once a week, maybe doing 800. I’ll do a race on the weekend and maybe one other longer run/hike type thing out here in Arizona where we’ve got some good hills to climb. With that I can get a great workout in 20 to 40 minutes.
Pete: That’s awesome. Endurance-wise, how long have you been doing endurance stuff? Did you do a lot of endurance races?
Chris Rutz: Yeah, my Triathlon days really started out in the early 90s I guess, right when I graduated from college and got my first job. I did my very first year out from an endurance perspective, I said ‘Hey I want to do a Triathlon’ and went out and did a Sprint Triathlon and then at the end of that year I ended up kind of getting suckered into doing a full Ironman.
I was set up to do as a relay team with a couple other guys and the guy who was going to do the run hurt his leg. I’m like, ‘Well I’m going to do the bike. I guess I could maybe do the run too’. I’m like ‘If I’m going to do the bike and the run, I might as well do the whole thing.’ So my first year out of doing triathlon I ended up doing a smaller Ironman race in Florida; that’s where I grew up.
And like I said, I did Triathlon Racing for about 4 years before I got to Arizona; I moved out here and a whole new world opened up to me. Having grown up in Florida, it was all flat roads – not a lot of trails, not a lot of interest things to do other than have fun doing triathlons which I love. I moved out here and it opened up a world of trail running, mountain biking, canyoneering, rock climbing – kind of all the adventure sports as well. And there’s not a lot of water for triathlon in Arizona; there’s a little bit but kind of not, same as in Florida.
So I kind of turned my attention to mountain bike racing and road bike racing. I did that on and off for a number of years. That’s kind of what I was doing most. I mean I love biking, you know whenever we’re doing something that we love we’re like ‘I’m going to do this for the rest of my life.’
I actually haven’t been biking for about 8 months now. My focus has definitely changed to obstacle racing.
Pete: Your first thing was a triathlon – most people start off like half marathon, just running. You actually went straight to the triathlon, that’s pretty intense.
Chris Rutz: Yeah, I like the mixture. Running – it’s kind of funny but I’m going to say this. Running to me is really pretty boring. And even when I was doing triathlons, I never really ran too many road races. I might have done an occasional 5K but I tell this to everybody, everybody is probably like ‘You are crazy’, but I don’t consider myself to be a runner.
I mean I can’t go out and run – I think my best 5K ever was maybe sub 19 minutes. I’m just not a fast runner. I guess the thing what I like about Obstacle Racing is it doesn’t reward the runner. Yeah, you have to be a good runner but you don’t have to be the best runner because there are a lot of different things that occur during that race that you’ve got to be prepared to tackle and take on.
Pete: That’s so true. It seems like their run is just a sprint to get to the next obstacle, like ‘Get this over with so I could see what’s next’.
Chris Rutz: Right.
Pete: It seems like with all the stuff that you are doing, you have a huge strive for success and you are constantly competing with this thing. It seems like you do a lot more Spartan races and you really enjoy those the most because their clocked in time. What’s your drive for that, like is there an internal drive or is it from your background?
Chris Rutz: You know it’s funny; I guess I’ll first talk a little bit about it – I was doing mainly a Tough Mudders last year. I did 11 Tough Mudders which was really in preparation for me doing World’s Toughest Mudder because I wanted to make sure that I was comfortable with the obstacles that would be presented and it was running the course to New Jersey where I knew the race was going to be, so I did that one in advance.
I did Tough Mudder and camped with my brother. There were a lot of reasons I was doing Tough Mudder last year, and I kind of like the concept of not being timed. That is more relaxed and that sort of thing. But I found that when I got to the starting line of those events, we say the pledge that tough mudder is not a race but a challenge, but for all of us right at the starting line, it’s a race.
I guess a lot of people think/wish that event was timed. I was at Spartan Race yesterday and you get your results immediately.
You know how you did in your age group, how you compared to other people and then hearing people say ‘Hey I was fifth in my age group, that’s awesome. Next time I’m going to try to improve’
You know there were just a lot of people that like to see the results and like to see how they did in comparison to other people. I think it’s just a human nature sort of thing. More people do Tough Mudders than Spartan, I might be wrong in that but for me, competition is funny because I don’t necessarily consider myself a competitive person in life.
I guess I would say I don’t consider myself a competitive person and I don’t try to one-up people and in my career. I don’t try to be better than my neighbor, that sort of thing but I guess my outlet tends to be the athleticism.
Yeah I work hard, I train hard. I put a lot of energy and time into doing the competition; and yeah I like to see the rewards of doing well. I’d like to be in the Top 10 finishes, the Top 5 finishes. Sometimes when I’m in front and people yell ‘Hey, you are number one!’ Yeah, that’s pretty motivating. That keeps me going. And it’s just a good feeling to do well, whether you are comparing against the whole group or whether you’re comparing yourself to your friends or just your people in your age group to give you a sense of how you are doing.
Pete: Yeah. I remember people, like I said when I spoke to you earlier in the week; when I first saw you in Tampa and I saw you were breezing by people. We are all waiting for the number one, who will be the number one? We are all waiting and sitting there and saw you come flying by, rip the funky monkey like nothing, and you just continue to fly by. I’m like ‘I got to get this guy on the phone, I got to talk to him. I got to see and I got to know what goes on in his brain for him to just fly right through this while everyone else was about half an hour behind.
You know what I’m trying to say? It was really impressive. To be honest I’m waiting on the guy. We’re going to see some kid come out and he’s going to be blowing by, we were all looking at the 18 years old and all of a sudden you were there and I’m like ‘I don’t know what age he is but he is showing everyone up right now.’ People are like ‘You are number 1!’ They are screaming at you. It must have been a really cool and gratifying feeling just to know.
Chris Rutz: I mean, it’s not that often that you are out in front. You know while I’m out there doing well and winning races, I certainly don’t think I’m the best athlete out there. I have been pretty consistent in my performances and I do a lot of races and I think that doing a lot of races helps you be prepared for all of those races.
Being able to manage the obstacles, being able to think quick as you are approaching an obstacle and figure out what’s the best way to get through it, what’s the best way to manage it. In my mind it’s more than just being a good runner; you’ve also got to be able to think on your feet, strategize and figure out how you are going to get to the obstacle the easiest way possible and be able to hop out of it or get through it and then continue on running down the course.
Pete: It’s awesome, it’s cool. You said before that you did 11 Tough Mudders for the Worlds’ Toughest Mudder. Do you mind brushing up on that at all, like what was your experience with that one? I know it was pretty rough.
Chris Rutz: The World’s Toughest Mudder in particular? Yeah. The way I do things in my life is I ask a lot of questions, do a lot of research, get as prepared as possible as I can. That’s what I did for World’s Toughest. I knew that it was going to be cold. I knew that I wanted to run that course and be familiar with that terrain before I got there. So I did the Tough Mudder Tri-state, I think in Mid-October.
So I knew it was going to be cold, I knew we were going to be in water for a long time. The terrain was relatively flat, so I wasn’t too worried about that and I just did a lot of research and I do a lot of canyoneering out here in Arizona. For those of you who don’t know what canyoneering is – it’s basically going through a canyon that is very narrow that requires basically off trail, that might require some rope work, like repelling to get down because of some steep drop-off and stuff like that. And usually a lot of water is involved in canyoneering as well.
If you’ve ever seen the movie 27 Hours where the guy cuts his arm off in a canyon, I do a lot of that stuff out here in Arizona. Not the cutting off of my arms of course, but the canyoneering. And having getting in and out of cold water, through that and having to negotiate a lot of obstacles along the way and being able to manage. That was really good preparation forward; I had appropriate wetsuits, foot gear and gloves, and all that kind of stuff which I knew worked for me. So I brought that. I brought double and triplicates of a lot of clothing and gear.
And from a training perspective, like when you saw me in Tampa, I ran the first wave that day, went back to my car. Refill a little bit, and ran another lap and then ran again. And I got up Sunday and ran again with my brother. So I did Tampa, 3 times basically on that week and that was two weeks before World, so it was all part of my training to be prepared for World.
Did that just blow you away?
Pete: Yeah, my mouth just dropped. I was going to say something and I was like, wait a minute! While everyone else is out and just happy they finish the first time; you geared up and went again, and then did it again?
Check out Chris on his Blog : www.livethetoughlife.com TODAY!
Be well everyone!!!