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Q&A With Obstacle Racing Star Deanna Blegg

The Australian athlete talks about how she trains for long-distance obstacle races.

The Australian athlete talks about how she trains for long-distance obstacle races.

Amelia Boone, three-time Death Race finisher, current Spartan world champion and Toughest Mudder champion in 2012, has one description for Deanna Blegg: “An all-around bad-ass.”

Blegg is one of the most varied and successful competitors in obstacle racing. She won the 2013 World’s Toughest Mudder event. She was an adventure racer for eight years. She’s also a mother of two. Finally, she’s lived with HIV since she was 24 and works as a peer support coordinator for people who identify as heterosexual and are living with HIV/AIDS. The disease does affect her “in so many ways,” she said, but she hasn’t let it slow her down.

How did you get into obstacle racing?

I was an adventure racer for eight years. I wasn’t looking to change my sport, however, in 2012 the Tough Mudder hit Australian shores. I knew straight away that I wanted in. I then heard about the World’s Toughest Mudder, and I thought, “I want to win that.” I thought I could: Being an adventure racer, I knew I was strong, fit and could go the distance. Over time, my love of obstacle racing has grown. This year I have chosen obstacle racing events over adventure racing.

I like the element of surprise of obstacle racing. I like the unpredictable. I like obstacles that challenge me. Most of all, I like the people and the environment. It ticks all the boxes for me.

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Do you have another job to supplement your career or are you a full-time racer?

Of course I have another job. Here in Australia, financial sponsors are hard to find. I pay my way everywhere I go. Just this year, I am sponsored in a team to World’s Toughest Mudder.  Other than that, it’s been out of my pocket. Fortunately I can win some money back, which allows me to travel. If I didn’t win some I couldn’t travel to races.

How often do you race?

Because I am playing with so many sports, there seems to be so much on. There is no hard and fast rule to my competitions. I try to slot them in around the calendar so I can race but not over-race.

What events do you do?

Adventure racing, which range from one day up to 10 days. Obstacle racing, from Sprints up to 24-hour events. I am equally as strong over all the distances and enjoy the variety. I enjoy the Spartan events immensely and the 24-hour Tough Mudders. I also really enjoy the events purely targeted at fun. I have also raced with both my mum and my daughter. We have yet to do one together but we will.

I’ve recently started CrossFit. I love it. It is very challenging for me and is continually exposing my weaknesses. I had my first CrossFit competition last weekend and loved it.

What does your training schedule look like every week?

I have no training schedule whatsoever. I do my sports for fun as well as my “training.” Being a mother of two kids, working and an active female, so many things move and change through the week. It’s easiest for me to go with the flow. On average, in the heart of adventure racing season, I do about 20-30 hours of workouts a week. Nowadays, since I’ve dropped the adventure racing, I am at about 15 hours a week of CrossFit, running and yoga. I am predominately a runner.

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You won the World’s Toughest Mudder in 2013. How do you train for a 24-hour event like that? What are things that have helped you excel at something like that?

To be honest, I have never trained for the WTM event. I just did it. Having the conditioning in my body from years of training prepped me to be able to do it. Last year before winning the WTM, the most I’d run in one hit was a 42K trail marathon in March that year. I did 138 kilometers for the WTM. It is not something I’d recommend others to do, as my body suffered. I do plan to change that this year and get a lot more running miles into my legs.

Do I do speed work and track work? About once a month. I just love running slowly. I do long, slow miles. This keeps my body injury free. It’s amazing how fast you can get running slowly. I do Bikram yoga to keep my body in balance.  I also now do CrossFit three times a week.

Things that help me excel are I never allow myself to think of failure. When I start an event like the WTM, there is no other option than to go the full distance. I don’t stop or rest other than to re-fuel. Other than that, I keep moving. I don’t think. I just do.

The 2012 WTM was my first big event. The 24 hours wasn’t an obstacle, and the obstacles weren’t an obstacle. For me, the cold was my obstacle. I have Reynaud’s disease (extremely poor peripheral circulation), so keeping my hands and feet warm was my obstacle.  I plotted and planned and home made some things, which were perfect. If anything, my hands overheated for the better part of the event.

How is the obstacle racing scene in Australia? What is it like to be from another world (almost) and do these events?

It’s funny hearing Australia being described as “another world.” There is a massive obstacle racing community in Australia that I am proud to be a part of. It has been a beautiful experience to be in the growth period of the sport. The community has also embraced me. I’d raced for years as a top-level adventure racer and was pretty much unheard of. Now with two years in the obstacle racing sport, I am proudly representing all the fellow Aussie athletes.