For the fifth year, we came. We ran. We crawled. We swam. We jumped. We climbed.
We laughed. We cried.
Over these past five WTM’s, the course has changed, the location and venue have changed, and the heart and soul of this race has changed. All in the best of ways.
Because we have grown. We have grown as a community. And we have grown in spirit and in love.
Oh, and we’ve totally grown in inappropriate butt touches as well.
[shit, I was supposed to save the sappy stuff for the end. Strike that. Reverse it. Let’s start over. ]
So…..we go to Vegas…
For the second time. And for the fifth World’s Toughest Mudder. This year, I wasn’t 8 weeks fresh off knee surgery. But I was fresh off a showing at Spartan World Championships that had somewhat shaken my faith in myself. And fresh off a move cross-country, a new job, and facing a whole lotta unknown.
So, like every other WTM I’ve walked into, I had no idea what to expect. Except probably lots of dust, water, the potential for a broken tailbone, and a high likelihood of a Dune-like sandstorm in the middle of the night. In other words, I couldn’t wait.
At 2pm on Saturday, we embarked on the sprint lap, and as soon as that airhorn went off at 3pm (Hunger Games feeling, anyone?), and we started working our way through the obstacles, it became very apparent to me: Tough Mudder had stepped up its game. Big time.
The obstacles were new. The penalties were legit. And this wasn’t going to be a nice little ultra with a few walls thrown in. It was upper body intensive, with water and mud obstacles devilishly placed (cover yourself in mud before attempting Swingers? Thanks TMHQ), and taking a penalty was going to severely impact your time over the span of 24 hours.
Need proof of how much harder this course was? I completed 75 miles, the same amount I did last year. But last year, I slowed to a limp-walk for the last 20 miles, AND spent a good hour in the showers. This year, I ran the entire freaking way. My body felt fantastic. And aside from the last lap being 2:30 hours (where I dawdled to not have to go back out for another round), I was hitting decently even splits the entire way. It was just THAT much more time intensive. Yes, I could have hit 80, probably 85 easily had I chose, but I had built enough cushion to coast in at the finish. So dawdling last lap it was. (which a crew of SUPER special folks. I love you, Four Eyes)
At the brunch the following day, Amie Booth asked me, of my three WTM victories (2012, 2014, 2015), which was the most special. It was a great question, and honestly one that is impossible to answer, because they are all special in different ways. But there was something magical about this one. Let’s examine.
- How I felt. (in other words, “not like a sack of shit”) If you were watching the race, you saw that I was trailing for the first 55 miles of the race. I don’t want to say that was planned, per se, but I wasn’t really concerned. I was feeling great, and running my race. And I made a vow to continue to run my own race, and not someone elses (I did that in Tahoe at the Spartan World Champs, trying to chase down Zuzana, and we all know how that ended up). I knew as long as I kept my body together, and was able to move quickly and without injury, I’d be fine. So, I hunted. And it worked. And now, post-race, my body feels fantastic-ish (lesson: much better to put in mileage throughout the year and not have knee surgery 8 weeks beforehand).
- The game plan. Well, I didn’t really have one. But it developed as the day/night wore on. I learned the cadence of the course – when I needed to take off the gloves, stretch out the forearms, and dry off the hands. I knew that I needed to change into a wetsuit after lap 2 before the sun went down or I’d risk getting too cold (many learned the hard way there). I ate real food and didn’t rely solely on gels which turn my stomach after awhile. And I smiled. And joked. And hugged and said huge hellos to anyone I came upon.
- I didn’t break my tailbone. This year, I learned how to jump off a Cliff. Hot damn that’s fun when you don’t sit back like a schmuck.
- A few rookie mistakes. Not lubing up behind my knees enough (hi wetsuit chafe!). Not covering my face with Aquaphor (hi painful windburn!). Not bringing my windbreaker on the final, dawdling lap (hi chills from not moving fast enough!)
- My luck on the Gamble. I swear to God I got that freakin 12 foot wall every. single. time.
- The lack of Pop-Tarts. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but aside from my pre-race pumpkin pie Pop-Tart, I didn’t each a single one. Don’t hate me. I don’t know what happened. I did eat a Krispy Kreme Doughnut though (courtesy of Pak). That shit was bananas.
- Swingers. All throughout WTM last year, and every single regular TM this year, I was perfect on Swingers. Hitting the bell was my jam. And I succeeded with ease the first lap. And then the bars turned wet and muddy and all hope was lost. Except for some epic dismounts. Those, I nailed.
- The corn chowder Kc tried to feed me. When I ask for “something with fat in it,” I should clarify “peanut butter” next time. Not corn chowder.
- Tramp Stamp. I was a big 0/15. American Ninja Warrior is not in my future. So add that and a few Operation, one Grease Monkey and one Gutbuster penalty, and I probably did an extra 7-8 miles.
- The sandstorm at the end. WHY YOU GOTTA PLAY US LIKE THAT, WEATHER?! WHY?
- This face. Hot mama. #walking dead
THE EXCELLENT (yeah, you didn’t see that turn coming, huh?)
- The community. The WTM is really like your finest cheap wine (errr…I mean…) – it only gets better with age. The more you put into the community, the more you get back. I ran more TM’s this past year, and was more involved with the community than I’ve ever been before. And that manifested in love and joy on the WTM course. I was never truly alone out there, because every few minutes, I’d come across a bib of someone I knew. I’d sing Gummi Bears with PJ. I’d take a selfie with Jim Campbell. I’d scream “SCIENCE” at Jason Rulo. Take time to get to know and love these people – it will make your WTM experience 100x better, whether you are running 10 miles or 100.
- The support. In the form of crew, in the form of volunteers, in the form of spectators and other competitors. Want a great example? Pak had to finish early because of knee issues. But he hung around, cheering people on. He sat at Tramp Stamp with me, trying to coach me through it (I fail I fail). He and Yvette gave me doughnuts and caffeine, and even helped me in and out of clothes. If that’s not a class act, and true sign of support and community, then I don’t know what is.
- The love. I love you guys. I don’t know how else to put it. I walked into this race with love and joy and a full heart, and I walked it with it even more full (if that’s possible). WTM is one of those things you really only get if you experience it first-hand – so to all of you first-timers, welcome. I hope you come back again and again. This race and this community has dramatically altered my life since 2011, and I can’t imagine it any other way.
- And this. How many people have Warrior Carried the race director?
While I come away with warm fuzzies after after WTM (yes, even those back in Jersey), it feels like things are changing. In the best kind of way. It’s an exciting time to be in OCR, and WTM is leading that revolution.