Athlete Katie Knight has competed across multiple endurance sports and strength disciplines – from ultramarathons (2nd woman at the 50-mile Bryce Canyon Ultra) and extreme triathlons to CrossFit, Hyrox, and GoRuck (which she won this year). However, she’s best known within the OCR community for notching up 90 miles to win World’s Toughest Mudder 2021 in only her second 24-hour race. Oh, and coming third at the 2021 Spartan Ultra World Championships – her first ever Spartan race!
So how does Katie train as a hybrid athlete? I got the lowdown via this email Q&A.
You’re a hybrid athlete – tell us what this means for you in terms of events and races?
To me, a hybrid athlete means the perfect combination of strength and endurance. For hybrid events and races, it’s important for me to be strong enough to conquer any weight, but also have an engine to keep going for miles and hours if needed.
Last year you tried OCR for the first time – and went on to win some of the sport’s hardest and most prestigious races! Were there any learning curves taking on obstacles you’d never tried before in World’s Toughest Mudder?
Great question! I had never done a Tough Mudder race before, so each obstacle was a new experience. I watched lots of videos about the obstacles and race in preparation, so that helped a lot. I do a lot of strength training, so I was able to take on every obstacle, and then over 24 hours I definitely had time to practice the technique 🙂
Was there an obstacle you enjoyed the least?
The obstacle I enjoyed the least was probably ‘Fear the Beard.’ This includes a giant cargo net tied down to the ground of a very steep hill. Competitors have to go through a pit of water directly under the cargo net and make their way up the hill with this heavy net smashing them to the ground, which was loose sand and very rocky. By the end of the 24hrs, this was pretty brutal by the time you got to the top of the hill.
How do you find the sleep deprivation element of 24hr racing?
My college years prepared me for the sleep deprivation element of 24hr racing, haha. I’m definitely a night owl, so I tend to catch my stride past midnight. I try not to intake too much caffeine, so there isn’t a big crash when the sun comes up. I try to view the racing through the night as a big, long party!
You also did your first couple of Spartan races last year – again, with pretty incredible results…
I got 3rd in the Spartan Ultra World Championships in Telluride, technically I finished 2nd on course but because of a penalty added to my total time, I ended up with 3rd. At the Spartan North American Championships in Tahoe, I took 1st for the Ultra (30 miles), and this was my first ever Spartan race/Spartan Ultra.
In ultra-distance events, what keeps you going when it gets particularly tough?
It may seem pretty basic, but I tend to always catch myself saying ‘just keep going’ or ‘it’s only one day of your whole life.’ When you sign up for ultra/24hr races, you mentally prepare to keep going even when it gets tough, so for me, there’s no option or choice to quit.
You have a CrossFit background which seems to have served you well. Do you still incorporate CrossFit elements into your training?
I got into CrossFit in 2016. My mom started going and convinced my 5 siblings and myself to try it out and I’m so glad I did. I incorporate CrossFit elements and movements into my everyday strength training. It makes me stronger to lift heavy and fitter to incorporate CrossFit style metcons/workouts. I also go to my gym, Koda CrossFit, and drop into classes every once in a while, and I love going to the Competitor Class on Saturdays to throw down with all the super strong athletes.
This year, you’ve said you’re going to work more on your speed for shorter events. What will this involve?
Speed work is something I’m working on improving. I can go forever, but I’m working on building my anaerobic engine and lactate threshold. I’ve been doing a combination of interval and tempo running at the track as well as high-intensity training in the gym.
Can you share what a typical week of training looks like for you now?
It depends on where I’m at in my season and the time of year. At the beginning of the year, I’m in the gym a lot more and I’m building strength, but I’m still getting in many hours of endurance each week. This is when I’m competing in hybrid events like GoRuck Games and Hyrox. This would look like: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays include morning strength training and some type of easy run or bike later in the day. Tuesdays and Thursdays are endurance days, where I have quality runs like tempos or interval training and an easy bike or run. Saturday switches from big gym days to long-effort runs.
Then at the end of spring and into the summer (which is where I’m at right now), I’ll switch to ultra focused training. I’ll still be in the gym, but I’ll focus more on building a strong base through bodybuilding and I won’t do as much heavy lifting. I’ll spend more time focused on endurance training, so getting lots of hours each week on the bike and running. I’ll put in lots of climbing sessions on the mountain bike and trail running during the weekdays, and then get in long efforts such as 3+ hour runs or bikes on Saturdays. The goal is to get lots of time on my feet to train up for the 24hr races. I mountain bike and road bike a ton in order to stay healthy and keep too much stress off my joints from running.
What have you got planned for the rest of the year? And will we ever see you compete as a team with your friend Hunter McIntyre for any events?
I have lots of fun races coming up:
Hyrox World Championships – Mixed doubles
Broken Arrow Sky Race 52k
Point 2 Point Mountain Bike Endurance Race
Spartan Ultra World Championships
World’s Toughest Mudder
Hunter and I will team up for ÖTILLÖ, The Swimrun World Championship
What are your favourite items of kit, and who are you sponsored by right now?
My sponsors are BOA Nutrition (fast-acting, convenient, concentrated sodium replacement for athletes in training and competition to delay the onset of fatigue), RP Strength, Hydro BLDR (BCAA and Hydration drink) and GoRuck.