It has now come to the time that TMHQ has released the first set of rules for WTM 2017! In true TMHQ fashion, they always reserve the right to change anything and everything to their hearts content up until the day of competition. When we sign up for an OCR, we're asking to be surprised and challenged. The rules of the race are not well defined when we sign up, so as much as we might love or hate the decisions they make, we put our trust in them to create an event that will challenge and inspire us. Here's a quick summary of what TMHQ just announced:
Start: 12pm Saturday
Last Lap Start: 12pm Sunday
Final Cutoff: 1:30pm Sunday
2. Eligibility for 24h headband & prize eligibility
Must complete a lap ending between 8am-1:30pm on Sunday. Must pick up the headband after 12pm Sunday.
3. The elevation map!
More on this below. There will be one major hill that anyone familiar with the previous Vegas WTM course will be familiar with, and one moderate hill.
4. The drama: more money to National Teams, no money to Toughest Couples
Also more on this all the way at the bottom.
5. Also, as of writing this, TMHQ provided a link to the official rules that doesn't actually link to the rules. The full rule book link is here:
Here's the more detailed version:
The timing from WTM will be exactly the same as last year in terms of what time buffer you need to complete your last lap. You can expect a re-publication and re-analysis of pacing by me prior to the event.
Enough said. Get off the course when they tell you that you can't do more laps. Not before, not after. If you crawl a30-minutee mile, you can do another lap in only 2h:30m. If you spend 2h:30m in the pit, then you cheated yourself out of a lap.
3. The elevation map tells us what the course is.
Let me expound on this. The gigantic hill in the middle is the one where Ladder to Hell was in many previous years. It's on the back side of the course with the cliff. That little uphill you see on the tail end of that incline is the back road that eventually leads by the cliff. As someone who ran the course a lot last year, I remember flying down that hill then hitting a small uphill portion before flying down another section.
For anyone who ran TM Vegas 2016, they may fear the moderate hill in the second half of the course. I think there are two options here. It could be the hill the started off the course in 2014 where we climbed up and crawled under the cargo net with tires in the way. I think that hill isn't steep enough for the incline we see on that elevation map. Instead, I think you keep running to the other side of the lake and then climb up a super steep and sandy hill that leads to the road around the lake. In TM Vegas 2016, this crushed people's souls by how steep it was. TMHQ loves to crush souls. I'm convinced that they crush hopes and dreams as a warm up.
Other than those two hills, the course is super flat. Read that as super fast. Most obstacles will probably be in the first half of the course, with maybe a couple ones after the final hill. That'll probably help spectators and pit see their athletes more. For athletes, it means that if you're used to taking it easy on the flat portions of the course, you need to change your mindset. It's too flat for too long to walk all the flats. You have to at least jog.
4. The drama
As always, there must be drama! Some people thrive on drama like Kim Kardashian and others are incessantly frustrated by it to the extent that they give up entirely. I'm closer to the latter than the former. As a detail-oriented mathematician, I appreciate being told the rules clearly and then painting within the lines. Sometimes we paint very close to the lines, but the lines are always to be respected.
The basics: the national team category involves having 4+ team members where the full team runs the first and last lap, but greater than or equal to 50% of the rest of the team runs each intermediary lap. The 2+ team category, that I call Toughest Couples (no one else calls it this), involves the 2+ person team crossing every timing mat within 1 minute of each other for the entire race.
First of all, this only affects the pro's of upper level amateurs so there will be a lot of people outraged about the idea of the change, but not actually affected by it. The main reason for the drama is that the rules for team were hyped and clearly defined early in the year, then changed less than a month out from the event. For pro or sponsored athletes that have set up sponsor deals and other support around getting exposure through placing high and maybe sharing in some prize money. For a 24h event, even pro athletes like Miguel Medina need to structure their entire post-season around being able to perform in mid-November. When you change that in mid-October, it doesn't give professional the opportunity to arrange other support and promotion deals to garner the same attention both for yourself and the product(s) that you're supporting. The only hope that the pro's now have is that TMHQ will still celebrate the accomplishments of the Toughest Couples. If they still hype and are excited about the Toughest Couples, then the benefit of running is reduced because of the loss of the payout, but the other longer term benefits of performing well are maintained.
Given the loss of purse, the only fear real fear that Toughest Couples have is that TMHQ will do away with the category all together. That's a possibility, but right now only a doomsday possibility.
The interesting part of all of this is that TMHQ says that they moved the money because they had a good response in terms of the number of the teams signing up for the team category. In doing so, they're supposing that they don't have a similarly good response for the Toughest Couples category. I recently learned that the Toughest Couples don't have a way to declare themselves as Toughest Couples yet, so TMHQ can only speculate that the division isn't going to be as exciting to watch, competitive, or deserving of prize money. The speculation about who is going couple can further increase the hype going into the event and cause little murmurs to ripple through the community about who might be making the jump to team and who is aiming to repeat podium as a team. By my knowledge, I know of one or two declared Toughest Couples but I know some power couples are likely lurking in the dark. As the month passes by, I'm still excited to see the couples emerge from the shadows to declare themselves.
What this lack of money ensures is that the Toughest Couples won't be out there for the money. They'll be out there for the love of the event, the love of the grind, and the special challenge of being directly accountable every second of the race. The runner will be challenged to have perfect obstacle completion whereas the obstacle specialist will get his legs tested. This really puts the idea of teamwork and camaraderie to the test. Are we really Tougher Together?