Red Bull X-Alps

Gavin McClurg’s Red Bull X-Alps bootcamp

Adventurer Gavin McClurg had never run a marathon or done an endurance race in his life before Red Bull X-Alps 2015. He also has dodgy knees. So how did he become the first American to make it to Monaco in the Red Bull X-Alps 2015? Commitment.

Ben Abruzzo holds the US flag beside Gavin McClurg. © zooom/Kelvin Trautman

Personal trainer Ben Abruzzo knows a committed badass when he sees one, which is why he was willing to train Gavin McClurg for Red Bull X-Alps 2015 and be his supporter on the ground during the race.

The 36-year-old retired U.S. Army Captain and Special Forcer trainer (incl. Navy Seals and ParaRescue) has trained mountain and endurance athletes, competed in the Death Race, finished ultra and ski mountaineering races as well as owning a cross-fit gym for five years where he was head coach. He goes hard so he expects his athletes to do the same.

“People talk a lot and say they want to be a badass so you say here's the way and then they don't do it,” he says. “It takes hard work and commitment.” 
McClurg caught up with Abruzzo recently to interview him about the training programme they developed for Red Bull X-Alps because fans were asking for information about it.

They began the training programme nine months and five days out from the race. Having a coach was crucial for McClurg because otherwise he says he would have trained too hard.

When he first set out to prepare for Red Bull X-Alps, McClurg wasn’t sure he could do what Abruzzo asked of him. For the last 20 years he’s been living with knee pain from ski racing earlier in life. Abruzzo describes McClurg’s knees as “a cartilage wasteland”. To test how they would respond, the training began with McClurg walking between five and 10 km without a pack.
“My knees hurt and I was really scared,” McClurg said. “But we gave it a month to see how the knees felt by the end of it. I didn't have any pain after that.”

From there, the training gradually became more intense as McClurg’s base fitness and strength increased. He recorded all his workouts with a sport watch so Abruzzo could analyse his statistics and prepare each training week accordingly. 

He eventually worked himself up to doing some truly staggering race simulation days. These started with two-day simulations and moved up to five days back-to-back of McClurg rising at 05:30, hiking and flying, doing gym work, and crashing at 23:00. 

“Those days were always massive psychological boons for me,” McClurg says. “They provided a real gauge of where I was at.”

For the full lowdown on McClurg’s training programme, listen to his interview with Ben Abruzzo here.