World’s Toughest Mudder is a 24-hour obstacle course race with 5 mile laps. Each lap contains about 20 obstacles, 800 feet of elevation gain, and the harsh desert conditions.
I quietly wanted to run World’s Toughest Mudder (WTM) before running my first Tough Mudder in 2014; in November of 2016, I finally did.
I met Ben through the New York City Tough Mudder Meetup. We ran at Liberty State Park together with a few others. During the race, he told me about his experiences at WTM and was getting ready for 2015.
Shortly after he returned, he sent me a promo code and I signed up without thinking twice. Throughout the next 10 months, I would question the decision quite often.
I joined a “First Timer WTM” group on Facebook that Eric Jenkins runs (thanks again!) and read a lot about training, gear, and past events. Madeleine and I decided to take the week off before for a nice West Coast road trip, but that’s for another post.
Each WTM participant gets a 10 by 10 Pit area where you can set up a tent, store changes of clothes, food, water, and anything else you might need for 24 hours. Everyone is also allowed to bring multiple Pit Crew members. Ben introduced me to Matt; the three of us and our three girlfriends would be sharing one large camp area. While Madeleine graciously volunteered to be my official pit crew, Chev and Laura were always there to help and fill in. Pictured to the right is our main tent. We had a small tent behind it for some additional supplies.
1. The first lap is the “Sprint Lap” meaning there were no obstacles for the first one hour (but a ton of dust being kicked up by the herd of runners). Pretty straightforward 5-mile lap through the desert. Generally speaking, the lap had more elevation that I’m used to with a large portion of it on mile 4. It was an easy first lap; I ran it mostly alone after losing Matt and Ben in the crowd. After the first lap (5 miles in), I stopped at the pit quick to throw on some knee pads.
2. The second lap was my first pass at the obstacles. It was a pretty normal Tough Mudder Half equivalent. I returned to the pit again after lap two . The previous year, it had been much colder. Many people who _didn’t_ put a wetsuit on after lap 2 were ended up getting some level of hypothermia and having to stop or quit. When I made it back to my tent, I considered it. Luckily, Matt was there and talked me out of it. I did put on slightly warmer clothes (pants and a long sleeve shirt). The pants ended up being more trouble than they were worth, the long sleeve shirt was nice to have as the sun started going down.
3. Matt and I teamed up to go out for our third lap. We didn’t know it at the time, but we’d be running the rest of the race together – a partnership that was necessary for both of us throughout the night.
As we were finishing up this lap (15 miles in), the sun started going down. We stopped at our pit to get some more nutrition and put on the wetsuit. Madeleine was ensuring I was eating and drinking enough each lap. The weather was right on the edge, but for me, it’s better to be warm than cold.
At this point, I also put gloves on to minimize tearing up my hands. These helped some, but I had a lot of trouble completing the more grip intensive obstacles.
4. Running in a wetsuit was pretty strange. Generally speaking, the water-intensive miles were a little cold. The less water-intensive miles were a little warm. They cause a lot of friction, so using “Body Glide” or similar is necessary to prevent chafing and rashes. They don’t block the wind – at all, but it wasn’t too windy. Wearing the wetsuit caused my hands and feet to swell quite a bit – I was worried my shoes wouldn’t fit back on. It also acted like a rubber band by snapping your legs back to a standing position. It took some getting used to, but lap 4 went well. The sunset was amazing. We just happened to be at the highest point of the course looking over Lake Las Vegas at the right time.
5-6. Here’s where it starts getting blurry. “Black Ops” or night mode starts. At this point, nearly everyone is running with a wetsuit, head lamp, and small, back strobe light on.
About 10 hours into the race, Matt and I finish our 5th lap / 25th mile. At this point, we start doing some math and decide 50 miles / 10 laps is obtainable. So we formulate a timetable and get back out there.
Somewhere throughout the night, we were on an obstacle called Pyramid Scheme. It’s the same as a normal Tough Mudder version with some ropes to make it obtainable without help. I was at the bottom – which falls off to a pit of water. While waiting to climb onto a rope, a woman started slipping down the obstacle. Being in the right place, and right time, I simply put my arms down and swooped her up. Her, spectators, and I all started laughing.
At midnight, there are a few obstacle changes including the opening of The Cliff – a 40ish foot cliff jump into water. The hard part is not losing your gear as you plunge into the water. Headlamps, emergency strobe, and anything else will fall off. If you hold them in your hand, it makes the 30 foot swim more difficult. If a lifeguard has to assist you, you’re disqualified.
7. With 30 miles complete and still on track to make 50, we took a very quick pit break and went back out for what we thought would be a slow lap. We were surprised to find ourselves running most of this lap; it ended up being one of our fastest after the first few. The later it got, the more empty the course became. There was a decent amount of people who were resting up through the night. This made group obstacles a bit more difficult, but at least there was no line.
8. Lap 8 was pretty terrible. I definitely didn’t want to go back out there. However, we were on track to have about an hour break between laps 9 and 10, and I needed that hour.
Just before hour 19 (7 AM), Matt was being interviewed for the live stream (around minute 33). I wasn’t the most talkative at this state and was getting cold since we just got out of the water and weren’t moving. It was about 10 AM back home in Scranton and my mom happened to be watching! (and wondered why I didn’t say hi).
9. Nine was just as bad as eight, but we were making great time. At this point, I was still in my wetsuit and taking most of the penalties (despite the alterations to make them more realistic) since my grip strength was gone. The important part was: we were still on track for 50. As we trudged through our 9th lap, the sun was completely up and it started getting warmer.
Worried about my legs cramping after jumping off The Cliff into the water and having to swim, I regretfully brought Matt through a long penalty.
As per our initial timetable, we had slightly less than 5 hours to complete the 10th and final lap to accomplish 50 official miles. We decided to take about an hour to rest and change into dry clothes, having just logged over 30 miles in the wetsuit. I finally checked my phone to see a flood of encouragement from so many people. After responding to a text, my mom called to check in. I also called my Casey and Chris to update them and get a few last words of encouragement before taking a quick nap.
Madeleine woke me after the allocated 20 minutes; I was struggling to continue. I changed into mostly dry clothes, put on some fresh socks and shoes, but was unable to eat much of anything. I felt and looked a bit like a zombie, but needed to go for the 10th lap/50th mile.
As I was getting ready, I put headphones in and listened to Colin’s suggested motivational youtube videos. We had about 3.5 hours to complete the final 5 miles.
We had about 3.5 hours to complete the final 5 miles. Miraculously, I was still able to run up Everest 2.0 (right side with the curved, higher top) by myself – which came in handy as many people were waiting to attempt the obstacle. I sprinted up, pulled myself over, and got ready to help Matt. He didn’t need much help and shortly after we had created more than twice the throughput.
The rest of the lap was a slow power walk – my left leg was bothering me quite a lot and running was out of the question. Between the physical pain, emotional encouragement, and knowing a somewhat ridiculous stretch goal would be accomplished, I was pretty emotional the back half of the last lap.
Upon finishing and unable to formulate a sentence, this poor guy said something along the lines of “You did it! You made it. That’s amazing!” I responded something like “Woah.. yeah.. Thanks” and walked away without any real destination. Madeleine, Laura, Ben, and Chevon were in the finisher shoot to meet Matt and I. We took some pictures, celebrated, and grabbed our well earned 50 Mile Brown race bib.