World's Toughest Mudder 2015 was an epic clusterf*ck from so many different angles. And yet it was absolutely perfect; magnificent even. – Me
Can't you just taste the contradiction oozing out between each of the letters in that sentence? Good, then we're off to a flying start. Needless to say, I f*ing loved and hated just about every second of this weekend, and can't wait to do it again next year… and you should too*.
24 Hours of Glerf
I'm still at a loss for words to describe WTM2015, so I figured I'd make one up. Glerf is a perfect word for Las Vegas, it's equal parts glee and barf, and best described as the feeling of relief when you don't puke, yet realize you're still out-of-your-mind intoxicated and not sure how you're going to make it through the night. Vegas can do that to a person, so can WTM. 50-something miles with a few hundred obstacles can fill just about any athlete with a sense of glerf, (except the unsinkable Matty Gregg. Seriously, that ^%* dude smiled and laughed the whole time, something's got to be deeply wrong with him) knowing they need to keep “embracing the suck” for hour after hour to reach their self-imposed goals.
I started out on Friday with the plan of just pulling together some media coverage WTM2015, and maybe taking a lap or two. I packed my wetsuit just in case, but was still skeptical about whether I'd get a chance to use it. As I was piloting the MRG RV somewhere in Kingman, Scott Keneally and I got into a conversation while he waited to for his Vegas-bound flight, and within minutes we'd hatched a plan for me to run along and coax him through 50 miles. Looks like I'd have some use for that wetsuit after all!
Friday was a little bit nuts as about 2000 Mudders took over the first floor of the Westin at Lake Las Vegas. When I say “a little bit” I actually mean it; despite the long lines that queued from the main entrance all the way to the real ballroom folks were pretty content to stand and wait, some were even quite jovial. This is where I started to understand the Mudder mentality a little bit. When talking with Will Dean the following day, I actually understood what he meant when he explained that Tough Mudder is a community that's totally different from the rest of OCR… but we'll get to that later.
Registration was actually quick & painless once they opened the lines and rerouted the Pit Crews away from the athletes – TMHQ had to split them up like Jets and Sharks before some choreographed knife fight / dance went down. Truth be told, it was less of a “line” and much more akin to a receiving line at the end of a wedding; I got to meet hundreds of people I only knew from Facebook and spend quality time with some good friends. Hell, I even took part in some WTM ritual involving Ken Jacobus' carboard cut-out. (don't ask)
One of the great things about being “in the media” is usually not having to worry about registration much; usually I'll get a press pass or bib at the info tent on the day of and it's no big deal. Jodi Kovacs was the go-to resource for all of us media schlubs, and she was faaan-tastic. I watched her seamlessly orchestrate the interviews with Will Dean for all of us (MRG, ORM, Rise of the Sufferfests, all the international media, etc.), the parking of the MRG RV right by TMHQ, and answering every question with a smile and a confident answer. Huge thumbs-up, and I happily made her really uncomfortable by telling Will so right in front of her.
TMHQ crew & volunteers were helpful, friendly, and completely on the ball despite the thousands of bodies all anxiously awaiting their turn to pick up their bib, and buy some cool merch. Right about now I started adding check marks to my mental list of all the things Tough Mudder HQ seemed to be getting right, a list that grew as the next 2 days progressed.
I'm a sucker for special treatment, and Jodie at TMHQ set us up with a great spot for the MRG RV, and I even got to spend the night right on the WTM course completely and totally alone. A little after midnight, I wandered around the course a little bit in shorts and a t-shirt to approximate how cold it actually would be on Saturday night mid-race. The temperatures were somewhere in the high 40's so it wasn't really that bad – but of course I hadn't jumped in the 40-something degree water either.
The Lake Las Vegas WTM course is pretty similar to the landscape from a particular movie from my childhood – the desert of Tatooine. It's actually quite remarkable how the “resort section” of Lake Las Vegas has lush green colf courses replete with water fountains, finely manicured lawns wrapping the easments from hotel to hotel. As soon as you reach the cul-de-sac at the top of the hill and enter Tough Mudder land there's a dramatic shift in scenery:
Don't get me wrong, the desert was absolutely perfect for this type of race, and I can't imagine how less interesting this event was in New Jersey. Despite the fact that I remember reading that TM signed a 5-year lease on this property the rumor kept popping up throughout the weekend that 2016 would be back on the east coast, possibly at Raceway Park. I know I'm not in the minority of athletes who are hoping they stay right here for years to come.
Shit, this is turning into a race recap, and that's absolutely not what I intended to do at all. So, let's just sum it up like this:
Sandy, rocky desert w/hills, freezing f*ing cold water, and really cool obstacles followed by a jump off a 35-foot cliff into more cold water. Throw in some high winds that kicked up just after noon on Sunday and you've got yourself a WTM-style paaartaay.
Personally, I absolutely loved the course even though it completely kicked my ass. During the first lap, we got to run by all the obstacles, and get somewhat of an idea what we were in for next lap. That first “dry lap” is actually brilliant, as the WTM obstacles aren't all that wide – in some cases there was only throughput for 2-3 athletes at a time (the Cliff during high winds) and the first 5 mile loop spread the competitors out. Aside from the huge backup at the Cliff at 2pm on Sunday, the longest line I witnessed was 5-6 athletes deep on King of the Swingers.
I've done a couple of multi-lap OCR's before, and the joy of completing an obstacle is followed by either “I can't wait to do that one again” or “shit, I have to do that one again”; I found myself saying the former on every obstacle I completed – except for the water crossings. During lap 2 our crew (Daniel Villarruel, Scott Keneally, Tod Brilliant, and myself) hadn't changed into our wetsuits before the sun set, and for 2 of us it was a game-changer. There was a *lot* of cold water on the course, and way more swimming than I expected. Once the sun slipped behind the LV hills, there was no chance of getting warm in-between obstacles and many, many athletes joined Tod and I in the med tent to warm up, and were forced to donate our timing chip and call it a day.
Let me reiterate: I loved the course, and developed a raging case of FOMO while in the pits watching so many awesome athletes crush it. Once I got my core temp back up to 98.6º I really, really wanted to go back out there and play on some of the ingenious obstacles. Alas, my role had shifted into crewing and selfies with athletes.
24 Moments From WTM2015
Some of these moments are purely mine, some were shared with select athletes (who I may be betraying their trust right now), and the rest were universal to the WTM experience. And for my friends that somehow didn't make it in this list, that's purely because I had more fun hanging out with you rather than taking photos. (Trust me, that's a good thing.) Here they are in no particular order: