As I predicted in my previous summary of the World’s Toughest Mudder (WTM) rule changes for 2016, there is another rule change that will change the experience of the event and has had a big response on social media:
The first thing to know about WTM is that you do not need a pit crew to compete, but pit crew is very helpful. If you’re unable to recruit friends, acquaintances or people that love watching you suffer, then you can always get support from the Orphan Tent run by Traci Watson and friends. The WTM Community enjoys supporting everyone, so you will never be alone.
History of WTM Pit Crews
The brief history of pit crews is that the size of the crew has always been increasing. In 2011, pit crew wasn’t officially allowed. In 2012, pit crew was only one person and they were only allowed in the pit during daytime hours. In 2013, pit crew was allowed in the pit the full time. In 2014, the pit crew increased to two people. Now in 2016, pit crew increases to four people.
With the previous rule of two people, it was relatively easy to fill your dance ticket with the usual choices for pit crew: your closest friends, significant others and people that people that share genetic material with you (aka children, parents, brothers, sisters, etc.). Most people would somehow bribe their significant other and maybe one friend to come to Vegas for the weekend.
What the New Rule Means
What this rule change does is allow you to be less discerning about your pit crew, so that the work required per crewmember reduces. That means if you let your pit take shifts, you might not be bribing your significant other with a week long vacation in Thailand for their efforts.
However, the usual choices might not necessarily the best crewmembers. Instead, the best crew is people that know the struggle of 24-hour obstacle course races, ultramarathons or bring unique skills to the table. Physical therapists, podiatrists, masseuses, paramedics, EMTs, doctors, nurses, military medics, fire fighters and police are golden. The goal of a great crew is to anticipate the problems that you’ll have in the future and implement the changes or treatment necessary to avoid or minimize those problems. Common problems include nutrition failure, gastrointestinal distress, blisters, hypothermia, pacing errors and psychological breakdown.
Alternatively, for the people that are willing to throw in the kitchen sink and are obsessive planners, you could compile a master crew of an experienced ultramarathoner, an emergency medicine physician, a physical therapist and your psychologist. (If you know someone that is all of those things in one, bribe them well.) Together, that team could probably treat every problem that you’ll encounter but to run as far as you can in 24 hours, you want to minimize the amount of time you spend in the pit. In the immortal words of the 3am Waterfalls (2012 team winners): “If you stop, you cramp.” Your goal should be for most pit stops to be less than one minute long, with the exception of donning and doffing your wetsuit. If you’ve got a supercharged pit, it’s going to help, but the overall impact might not be huge. You only have four limbs: one per crewmember.
However, I predict that the rule will be used most by people that have too many options for crew members, and they don’t want to turn someone away. If anyone that you’re physically intimate with (girlfriend, boyfriend, friend-with-benefits, mistress, spouse, etc.) volunteers to be part of your pit, you’re going to be sleeping on the couch for a month if you say no. The difference between pit and spectator is that pit are allowed in the pit area, whereas spectators roam around the course with even less support. People that want to come to the event to watch you will want to see you when you’re willing to talk. If you’re going for maximum distance, the only time that you’ll have to talk is when you’re switching gear or downing food in the pit. That means that if anyone you’re physically intimate with is coming, you’re obligated to buy them a pit pass even if they don’t volunteer or else you’ll be sleeping on the couch for at least a week. If both your parents are coming as well, then you used to be between a rock and a hard place. Now you can please everyone!
The rationale behind why Tough Mudder made the rule change is quite clear to me. People were complaining about having to say no to some key people they wanted to be there. Other people were figuring out ways around the rule by signing up additional pit with participants that didn’t use all their pit slots. Having more pit crew doesn’t change the grueling nature of the event much at all. Larger pits are consistent with the team-based brand of Tough Mudder. The insurance cost of additional pit crew probably is very low. Pit crew pay to be there whereas spectators are free. Overall, it’s a no-brainer for why Tough Mudder chose to please their customers and respond to criticism by expanding the allowed pit size.
A Few Words of Advice About Pit Crew Etiquette:
- The participant should pay the fee for the pit crew.
- Pit crews require compensation for their efforts (aka bribes): nonmonetary favors may be accepted in special circumstances.
- The participant should be very open about race plan and expectations for what the pit will do throughout the race. If the participant expects the crew to stay up for 24 hours, they should make this very clear well before the event.
- The pit area is very small It’s enough space for a 2-person tent. If you have a big pit, they need to play well with the others around you.
If you’re looking for advice about how to make the best use of pit crew at WTM 2016, you should join the following Facebook groups: World’s Toughest Mudder Community and WTM 2016 Participants, PIT and Spectators. They’ve got some great information on there in the files and in the minds of the members. People are more than happy to help. If you’d like the multi-page outlines that I provided for my crew at WTM2014 and my recent 100-miler in Santa Barbara, I’m happy to share.
Dr Redtights Pit Crew History:
During WTM 2012, you were only allowed a single crewmember, so I brought my dad. My brother and grandfather lived around the area and wanted to watch, so they came as spectators. That was my second Tough Mudder and first attempt at an ultramarathon. I went 40+ miles in 13ish hours then dropped out from hypothermia and gastrointestinal distress in 150th place.
For WTM 2014, I shared a crew of four with a Mudder (2 per person). They included my current wife (girlfriend at the time), my parents and his girlfriend. The women stayed in the pit area to help with food preparation, foot care, gear changes and staying warm. My father went out on course to get directions from us prior to entering the pit so that everything was ready for a quick pit stop. That allowed the girlfriends to get sleep overnight in the actual hotel so that they didn’t leave us the following week (and also reduced the size of the bribe required). I was 16th male (17th overall, Amelia Boone beat me) with 75+ miles.
For WTM 2015, I initially was attending the event with my friend, Andy Soffer, to be the crew for Kris Mendoza. In dramatic fashion, I signed up last minute and Andy was crew for both of us. Andy is a fellow mudder and mathematician with multilap experience at Tough Mudder but no ultramarathon experience. I’m convinced that he’s superman because he was able to crew for both Kris and myself while sneaking in a total of 2 hours of sleep overnight. I was 12th with 75+ miles and the green bib for fastest lap and Kris was 8th with 80+ miles and was about 3 seconds behind me on the first lap.
For WTM 2016, I don’t anticipate needing to use the 4-person pit rule because I likely will be sharing pit crew with my father and Kris Mendoza. More than 6 pit crew between the three of us would be insanity. As mentioned above, each of us only has four limbs and one head.
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