Home: Adventure Racing: Extreme Fitness


extreme fitnessWhat does it mean to be have extreme fitness?

Able to run a marathon?


Able to bench press 300 pounds?

Able to do a 360 on your snowboard?

Is it how you look or how you feel?

What about working out 30 hours per week as my friend Bill did as a pro adventure racer.

What about running 100 miles per week as Scott Jurekk the ultra-runner does or doing 50 marathons in a row as Dean Karnases did.

Being extremely fit, means different things for different people. It depends on your sport.

I was extremely fit for soccer, but I could not do adventure racing like I do now.

In fact I played soccer right before I was leaving for the 2007 Michigan Expedition Race. I was not used to sprinting. I was sucking air, and pulled a muscle, though I was ready to race for 5 days in adventure racing.

You need extreme fitness personalized for your sport. We are going to look at extreme fitness for the outdoor world, tailored to the toughest races on earth, expedition adventure racing.

Extreme Fitness Expedition Training

extreme fitnessWhat should a racer be physically able to do prior to an expedition race?

This was the question I struggled with the most, when I wanted to break into expedition racing.

How do I train for extreme fitness?

When first wanting to transition to expedition racing, I found one book that told me I needed to be able to run 2-3 hours. OK, I could do that.

I asked another Primal Quest Tahoe finisher how she trained for extreme fitness. She told me she worked up to running one hour. One hour! I had been running one hour for years.

I researched triathlon books and adventure racing books.There was good advice, but nothing I thought that taught you how to really really prepare to do an expedition length race. I guess they prepared you to finish, but not "race" in the event.

I then did a race with former, pro racer Bill Lovelace. Going in to the 52-hour race I could run 7 miles and cycle 30 miles. I remember telling him this and he was quite shocked, that was all I did.

He said there was nothing I could do about it at this point and just to keep it up. There was about a month before the race, so I was surprised. I am guessing now he thought it was hopeless as I found out what he does for extreme fitness training.

extreme fitnessWe met at the race and we immediately got along. I drilled Bill for hours about racing. You see I wanted to be an expedition racer at this point and didn’t know how. Bill was just retiring from Team Intrepid (yes we took over the name) and was eager to help.

I really wanted to know what it was going to take. So I asked later through many e-mails

What will it take to do an expedition race ?

If you can do 100 mile road rides with ease and regularity, and can run/walk marathons with ease and regularity, I'd say you could pick your race and time table. A simple example is a marathon...racers divide the event in half...the first 20 miles and the last 6 miles...the simple point is that these races get exponentially more difficult as the length of them gets bigger.

Finally I had the real answer. It was a little overwhelming but I did have an answer.

Next I asked him...

When you were racing professionally, what was your workout schedule like?

He refers to his iron man-days and adventure racing workouts.

I was running about 8 marathons a year...running about 80 miles a week, cycling a ton and working out all day Saturday and Sunday mixing in roller blading, hiking, kayaking and so on.

Triathlon days were a hard 50 mile ride Wednesday afternoon, and a hard 20 mile run Saturday morning followed by a hard 50 mile ride (same as Wednesday cycle). Then we'd ride 120 miles every Sunday on the bike followed by a short run.

We swam about 6 miles a week, ran 80 miles a week and total cycling was around 300 miles a week...adventure racing just dove tailed off triathlon training. We didn't as much overall as in triathlon because we had to throw in paddling, climbing skills, white water skills plus navigation and long hikes.

extreme fitnessTHE OBSESSION

This became my obsession, to follow Bill’s workout week. Now you have to understand I had only been distance training for a few months, but was adamant I’d do the next Primal Quest, which was in 2006, it was now June of 2005.

I started putting in 20-hour weeks and doing big miles. In 7 months I was riding 70 miles and running 20 miles.

Then it hit me. I got so sick, I was restricted to 1 hour per day of training. I went to Austin to see Dr. Bob Marshall where he broke it to me, Primal Quest was not in the cards for me. I was crushed this had become my life. Ironically it didn’t bother me how sick I was, just that I couldn’t do PQ. I had to tell the team I had planned on racing with that I could not go.

Well Dr. Marshall did end up getting me better quickly, in three months time I was ready to go. Eight weeks before the race I got a call asking me to race. I now felt good, but I was in no shape to race. I was running around 7 miles and riding 30 again. I told the captain this and see he wanted me to try, as they needed another women.

So in 6 weeks I went from running 7 miles to 20 miles. In cycling I went from riding 30 miles to 70 miles. I was ready!


extreme fitnessThis was my extreme fitness training plan for my first expedition race.


Treadmill on full incline 30 minutes then Run 60 minutes

Ride Hill Repeats by Home 45 minutes

Row 1500 strokes on rowing machine


Treadmill on full incline 30 minutes

Run 60 minutes

Ride Hilly Route by Home 45 minutes

Row 1500 strokes on rowing machine


Treadmill on full incline 30 minutes

Run 60 minutes

Ride Hilly Route by Home 45 minutes

Row 1500 strokes on rowing machine

extreme fitnessThursday

Treadmill on full incline 30 minutes

Run 60 minutes

Ride Hilly Route by Home 45 minutes

Row 1500 strokes on rowing machine


Paddle 2 hours

Ride Bike 3-4 hours


Run 20 miles

Bike 1 hour


What I didn’t prepare for was the sand and the trails. My feet were not trail ready though my body was physically ready. You cannot do extreme fitness training for an adventure race like a triathlon and be ready.

This time around I am working on my feet and climbing, climbing, climbing. The above extreme fitness training plan was actually good and could be followed again, with more time spent on the trail.

I had a great race but I should have added speed work. that was lacking and I felt it.


extreme fitnessI trained a new way for Primal Quest Montana. I did much less volume and it helped keep me healthy. Since I do not come from an endurance background I still felt the speed lacking.

Now I have changed what I do again. I do more work, but less training time. I did Cross Fit and with it doing Cross Fit Endurance. I change them up a bit to fit adventure racing.

The program requires you to go all out almost every day. This is why the days are shorter, but the work is just as much as in a LSD program.

I do time trials two times per week. One time trial will be shorter to work on speed and one will be very long to prepare my feet and body for the rigors of racing.

This was taking from one of my extreme fitness training weeks with 20 weeks to go until Primal Quest:


Complete as many rounds in 20 minutes as you can of:

Run 400 meters

Max rep Pull-ups

Rowing Machine: 5 min on/5 min off, 4 min on/4 min off, 3 min on/3 min off, 2 min on/2 min off, 1 min on/1 min off


Five rounds for time of:

30 Glute-ham sit-ups

25 Back extensions

Run: Do 20:10 x Distance Until Completion. 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off. Complete stop/rest on the 10 second rest period for 2 miles.


10 rounds for time of:

10 Pull-ups

10 Ring dips

Bike: Time Trial on Trail

30min @ 95% RPE 17-18

extreme fitnessThursday

Three rounds for time of:

21 L-Pull-ups

15 ft. L-rope climb, 3 ascents

Bike: 40:20x5 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off for 5 rounds. All out Efforts, Terrain and Incline are your choice.


Five rounds for time of:

400 meter run

95 pound Overhead squat, 15 reps

Rowing Machine: 2 X 1200m with 2 min recoveries... NO PENALTIES. All out sprints


Bike 1 loop at trail about 7 miles for technical work.

Run 3-6 hours.

On the Opposite Saturday it would be:

Run 1 loop about 7 miles

Ride 3-6 hours.

I also do a warm up that is short. I'll add some long paddle days as well. I also use races to get some more long distance work and will do about two 24 hour races leading up to Primal Quest the Badlands.


With 13 weeks to go this is what my training looks like.

CF stands for crossfit and CFE is crossfit endurance.



CFE Bike

Treadmill on Full Incline 18 % grade for 45’

Row Machine 45’



CFE Running

Treadmill on Full Incline 18 % grade for 45’

Bike Hill Route 40'



CFE Rowing Machine

Treadmill on Full Incline 18 % grade for 45’

Bike Hill Route 40'



CFE Bike

Treadmill on Full Incline 18 % grade for 45'

Row 40'



CFE Rowing Machine

Treadmill on Full Incline 18 % grade for 45'

Bike Hill Route 40'

Saturday will be on the trail doing one or a combo of these things:

Bike 70-100 miles

Run 20-40 miles

Row 6 hours


extreme fitnessExperts say to start slow and not add more than 10% each week. How many times did I hear this!

I ignored this, but it also got me sick. You have to listen to your body if you are going to attempt more.

I personally think this is individual. If you were previously an athlete, I think you can handle more.

If you have never done athletics, then 10% would be a good rule. Adventure racing becomes mental at some point and science is out the window. There is no timing your miles or staying in a certain heart rate zone when doing 100,000 foot of climbing as we did in Montana.

One great rule is to take your heart rate in the morning. If it is 5 beats above your normal heart rate within 24 hours you will have an infection. It can also mean you over-trained the previous day. You can still workout that today, but keep it aerobic and do not go anaerobic.

extreme fitness


The above books are great resources for getting ready for a race, but just average for how to train.

extreme fitnessStrength is often neglected, which was true for myself.

But when I raced Primal Quest Badlands I was CrossFitting which is strength based, and carrying a boat, pulling my body weight and just being stronger really helped.

I still train to expedition race daily, though I will not do long distance work until close to a race. You can follow along at our CrossFit Workout Page. This is really the workout my buddies and I do weekly.


Six years after beginning adventure racing I have changed training yet again. I personally cannot sustain the Cross Fit workouts and stay healthy. I can do some of them if I add rest.

I have moved to a more laid back schedule. I spend more time just doing the sport, getting better at them, and playing.

Learning technical aspects goes a long ways. I would have never spent a day rock climbing a few years ago, but do so now as training. I hit about one really long workout a month, one sprint work out a week, one strength workout a week, and the rest I work on skills and playing.

I am happy and having much more fun. Though I do enjoy working out hard. The days I train are very hard, and I need a week or so to recover if I do it right.

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