My World’s Toughest Mudder (WTM) this year didn’t exactly go as planned but that doesn’t mean that I’d change a thing. This year was to be the last year at the crazy Lake Las Vegas venue that brought us the most badass obstacle in the history of obstacle course racing, The Cliff; as well as the vaunted Sandstorm. To many of the WTM participants all they know is the Vegas course. To me this was the last opportunity to crush this desert race. However, those at TMHQ had a different idea for all of those who enjoyed the easy 2016 course… Those sick bastards decided we needed a beat-down in the desert until midnight and that was followed by a repeated kick in the crotch once the night course opened. Can I just tell you how much I loved this course? It was by far their best to date! So where do I begin… hmm?
A Tale of Two Races
First off, in my opinion, WTM is a race of a different kind of race. It’s not about speed and intensity. This event is almost never decided by any one split second decision like a lot of OCRs, this race is about the grind. It’s a gut check where you have to decide to keep moving forward. Mile after mile, hour after hour, and lap after lap; no matter what happens you have to persevere to find your best. More often than not your race is going to go sideways on you whether that means hypothermia, injury, nausea, or even possibly shitting your wetsuit. We all try to come up with goals for this event but it’s when these trials and tribulations arise we find out what we are made of. This is the reason I came to WTM in 2012 and it’s one of the reasons I keep coming back. If you’ve read my blog review of previous WTM’s then you will see how much I love the community that surrounds this race. In 2012 and 2013 I was still wet behind the ears so it was the race itself that produced the greatest challenge. When the race was moved to Vegas in 2014 it was when the WTM community exploded and being around the people made the difference. Last year the race was made easier for a number of reasons and I had wondered if this event would ever really challenge me to the core again? This year was a refreshing throat punch and a wakeup call. I have never been anywhere close to the kind of shape I was in coming into this race. I had also never carried my own pit crew until this year when 4 of my Battlegrounds Battle Corps teammates would be on site to help both me and Leah Hensley take on the most brutal course ever. Needless to say, I had high hopes of topping my 70 mile PR of 2016, but it was not to be.
I had a plan of pacing that would get me to 40 miles by around 10pm which from previous data compiled by Evan Perperis, is said to be about the mileage halfway point. The race started with our normal “obstacle free lap” but then Eli Hutchison threw us a curve…. A progressive obstacle role out. “This is awesome,” I thought to myself. “I’m going to be way ahead of pace,” and I was! I ran comfortably for the first 8 hours and was about 45 minutes ahead of my schedule so I decided to slow myself down to recover a bit for the night portion of the race. However, what was about to happen I would never have seen coming. I felt pretty good but my body was about to tell me that I had overdone those first 10 hours. I came into the pit at 10:05pm having completed my 40 mile goal about 10 minutes ahead of schedule but I was, for some reason, really sleeping; like can barely keep my eyes open and starting to get a bit nauseous. I decided to make this a slow pit and put on my night gear and try to rest a bit. My planned 20-25 minute pit turned into 50 minutes before I headed off into the night. This was where my race would turn from the scheduled 80 miles to just surviving! I was basically sleepwalking even though my legs felt fine and then my nausea came on full force even though I was barely moving. Then I approached Funky Monkey 2.0 which is not even slightly difficult for me and I guess I lost focus on the second vertical wheel because as I swung my momentum dislocated my right shoulder. However, I was able to hold on and put my feet up onto the horizontal pole and make the transition. Low and behold, when I grabbed the bar with my right hand the slight outward extraction of the arm reset my shoulder. This would allow me to continue my race though Rope-A-Dope, Kong Infinity, and Funky Money would no longer be safe to attempt. My current physical state and the fact that I’d have to take that Funky Monkey penalty loop which amounted to ¾ of a mile extra each lap meant that this was going to be a long final 12 hours.
A Tale of Two Families
I always tell people who are coming to WTM for the first time that you are never alone. In this race it is #1) racers vs the himself/herself and #2) racers vs the course, and #3) racers vs racers. The other mudders out there will help get you through it. Whether that means over an obstacle or with kind words of motivation and support out in the darkness we are a family. We party together, we dine together, and we even help each other in the pit. This year I would have another family by my side for the first time. My Battlegrounds Battle Corps teammates were there to help keep me on that blistering pace at the beginning and now I was going to need them to keep me going whether it be meeting me at the head of the pit to give me what I needed for that next lap or meeting me at the halfway point on course to check on me only to watch me puke my guts out at 3am as I try to eat the rice I was carrying. They also provided me the one thing that I’ve never had at WTM they provided when I needed it most… a helping hand at load out! I have always hated it when the race ended because it meant my journey was not over yet as I had to carry all my shit out of the pit after being up for 36 hours and travelling XX number of miles. This time my group of friends that I’d raced with so many times over the years was there with the purpose of helping Leah and me. I can’t tell you what this meant. Even though I would only get to 60 miles; given the fact that I had to fight for it meant it was not a failure. I learned that following the plan is always prudent and that if my body is going to fight me that hard maybe I should stop and take a short 20 minute nap to reset everything and allow me to start a new. Even this crusty old WTM vet can learn something which makes the struggle worth every step.
A Tale of Two Cities
2017 means we close the book on Vegas and start looking to the future and the southern hospitality of Atlanta, GA. Closing the door on Vegas is kind of like ending a relationship. It means moving on from some great memories and some not so good ones. It means getting the chance to start over and build something new; charting new waters with some new people. Creating new memories and building new bonds and fostering relationships that could last a lifetime.
As we move on to the ATL there are a few things that we already know:
- There will be no Cliff Jump
- There will be no Sandstorm nor desert lung
- There is a chance it could rain
- It will likely be colder than Vegas
- Matt Davis will likely go home in the middle of the night to sleep in his own bed and then return to the course on Sunday morning
- Waffle House will likely replace In and Out Burger as the post race fueling spot
Here is what I learned at the 2017 WTM.
- This is a race where you need to stop to smell the roses… well actually those are urine soaked wetsuits but whatever. Take it all in.
- Enjoy the people who are sharing this experience with you because adversity builds the strongest bonds
- Your mind is so much stronger than you give it credit for. What your mind can conceive your body can achieve!
- No matter how bad you are struggling there are people who would give anything to be able to do what we do so give it your all.
- No matter how ready you think you are WTM will likely throw you a curve. Persevere through it. Keep moving forward because, as Sean Corvelle says, “nobody is better than your best but your best will make us all better!”
I have grown to appreciate what WTM provides me. How being around all the great people at this event makes me feel, and how much I love my Battle Corps teammates and the fact we get to spend so much time together throughout the year. It warms me to know that I will see so many of the same people again in Atlanta in 2018 just the way my Neptune and the rest of my gear kept me warm all through the night this year. Yeah you heard me. All of you who thought it was cold… I walked from midnight to the end of the race and never once got cold because this race was not a cold one. If you feel I am incorrect in this assertion then I suggest you spend 2018 taking a lot of cold showers and doing every Polar Plunge you can find because you could be in for a rude awakening next year. Hopefully Eli will “bring it” again next year with a harder course that includes plenty of penalty loops and lots of water crossings. 2017 was the slap back to reality. I am praying that TMHQ aims to once again make good on the claim “WTM is the toughest race on the planet!” I’ve already got Georgia on my mind; what about you?