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WTM : One last dance in the desert.  

Eric Sirois's picture

World's Toughest Mudder (WTM) is the closing event of the racing season for the Tough Mudder series. It is also considered one of the most difficult event on the planet in terms of endurance, physical and mental strength. But it is without a doubt, one of the events that generates the most attention, questions or even fear in the world of the obstacle course racing. Let's start with the basics: the race is actually an endurance event that consists of completing the greatest number of laps over a period of 24 hours. Each of the laps is set to a distance of 5 miles (eight kilometers) and has about twenty obstacles.

The event, which was originally held in New Jersey, was established three years ago in the Lake Las Vegas area of Nevada. Not far from the city where everything is allowed and from a big international airport, the location was perfect for those who wanted to combine travel and race during their journey. Many people took advantage of the trip to discover the famous "strip" and its casinos and hotels that made it famous. The whole event takes place over three or four days depending on whether you take part in the festivities of the last day.

Friday was reserved for registration and collection of bibs. For this race, everyone is identified by a bib and timed by a chip. For this edition, there were three types of bibs for solo runners: Elite contender, contender and open. The first two categories required a qualification at a previous event while all are welcome in the open category. The only difference is mainly the position of your rest area, you’re positioning in the starting area and your eligibility for prizes. The "contender" had to have completed 25 miles in a Toughest Mudder edition (8hrs) earlier in the year while the elite "contender" had to have a top 5 at its same events ... or be a former WTM champion. In addition there was the two-person team format and the new relay team format. Add to that the pit crew, believe me, the hallways of the Westin Lake Las Vegas strangely resembled a small anthill. Even if the amount of participant was important, the registration runs like clockwork with only a few problems here and there. The visitors then had the opportunity to get the TM merchandise especially available for the big weekend. Little hitch, the queue to go to the cash register was monstrously long.

Following their registrations, the participants and their team could visit the site to set up their camp. Each location was identified by a poker chip that had to be registered and thus reserved for one person. In the camp area, there is a large tent with microwaves and other items that allow the refuelling team and the runner to heat water to have a hot meal. Once the camps were set up, the participants went back to their hotels to rest one last time before the big day.

Saturday morning is the nervousness, emotion and excitement that seize the participants. Some are on their first experience while others already have several WTM behind their back, but regardless of your status, the TM community welcomes you with open arms. An impressive number of refuelling teams are on hand to help and encourage racers who embark on an unparalleled adventure. The last preparations completed, the racers are invited to take place in the starting area where the rules and pre-race speech will be pronounced. Well, in spite of himself, the race director giving the regulations had a hard time with the microphone which was failing to work every 10 seconds. Nothing is left uncontrolled. The course is a distance of exactly 5 miles excluding penalty loops. Obstacles open on a rolling base within 3-4 hours of departure, which was considered way too long by many. The first hour is considered a sprint without obstacles. Most will opt for a quick ride to take advantage of this obstacle-free lap. Afterwards, the obstacles begin to open in turn including the penalties attached to them. Penalties are loops that must be travelled, lengthening your race considerably. The one that got her share of comments during the weekend was undoubtedly the "Funky Monkey" penalty loop that was extremely long and included the Arctic Enema obstacle, which fortunately did not include ice in her water.

In terms of obstacles, the runner was served. Apart from the "Funky Monkey", there was the "Kong infinity", a new version of the famous Kong that is normally found at the end of all TM courses. This version consisted of a large roll to which rings were fixed and which had to be grasped in order to move the so-called roll (ascending) to a descending monkey bars. A challenge because the obstacle was preceded by the "Funky Monkey" and the "Hanging tough", a series of four rings interspersed with a bungee rope that solicited a lot of upper body. Obviously, the "snot rocket" sent you an icy stream of water over your head, "Blockness monster" forced you to work in a team with your fellow mudders, "stage 5 clinger" offered two options, the most difficult being mandatory from midnight. The Pandora's Box was the only obstacle on the course including electricity. Participants had to crawl into the water making sure to stay low on the ground if they did not want to be electrocuted. Everest also offered two versions. The highest version (v2.1) allowed you to continue your way without penalty in the case of a success while version 2.0 forced you to complete a small penalty loop with a sandbag. The loop was much longer and sent you into the water in case of failure.

From midnight, the course changes a bit and introduces new obstacles. Two new water crossings are added including the Statue of Liberty where one must carry a torch to the other side, swimming and making sure that the flame is lit on the other side. The first of the big climbs is lengthened to lead to the ladder to hell. Finally, the famous cliff opens. A cliff 35-40 feet high from which runners must jump to reach the finish line. A penalty loop is available for those who prefer not to jump. This is without a doubt the legendary obstacle of WTM for the past three years.

The course itself is winding and still offers a good elevation of 8xx feet over 5 miles. The soil is quite hard since it consists of a mixture of sand and desert rocks making the crawls sometimes painful. A beautiful water station was located halfway and also offered Kill Cliff energy drinks. At the end of the course was the awards tent where participants could pick up the 25-mile "patch" as well as the 50, 75 or 100 miles bibs. Very few people will have gotten a 75-mile bib and the number of people completing 50 miles is lower than last year as it was according to many, the toughest courses that Tough Mudder has offered so far. Despite that, Ryan Atkins pushes the limits and proves once again that he is the undisputed master of the WTM by reaching the mark of 110 miles in this crazy edition. Once the race was over, the racers had the difficult task of emptying their pit. Happy were those who had a support team to help them!

The biggest problem observed during the event was not on the course, but rather in the camp area. The service tent including microwave and other services available to runners and support teams had a big generator problem limiting access to the services offered. Which obviously caused some headaches to the teams trying to be as efficient as possible for their racers. They have been patient and self-reliant to make the most of the situation. For some, completing this edition of WTM also meant the receipt of the long-awaited Grail that TM announced earlier this year. If the same runner completed a Tougher Mudder, a Toughest Mudder and WTM, he became eligible to receive the "Holy Grail" which is actually a big beer mug. Some were disappointed because they were literally expecting a real grail, the others were happy because the famous glass could be filled with beer for free at all TM events in the coming year!

Participants, who wanted had the possibility to sign up for the champion's brunch held on Monday morning. In addition to a lunch, a ceremony was presented to the registrant that allowed them to see the few novelties to come, the awarding of prizes to winners and prizes awarded to the member of the TM community. The TM community (the Mudder Nation) is one of the friendliest I have ever seen. Whether on the course, before or after the race, the mudders help each other and respect each other. Some do more than others throughout the year and were thanked by the organization and the community during this ceremony. I tip my hat to the entire TMHQ team for delivering the goods not only during this unusual event, but also throughout the year with pleasant and very well-organized events. Tough Mudder is now much more than just a company; it's a movement that drives several people into his silo.

If you are interested in the WTM adventure and experience, note that the race was held in the Lake Las Vegas desert for the last time and now travels to the Atlanta area. A completely different terrain, a different climate, a different mud awaits the mudders who will accept the challenge next year. Will you be part of it?