"The timorous may stay at home."
~ Murphy v. Steeplechase Amusement Co., 250 N.Y. 479, 483 (N.Y. 1929)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

WTM Commandments Revisited: One Year Later

You all can blame WTM 2011 for me entering into the blogosphere. It's because of that race that you feel obliged to read my unimportant and trivial ramblings. Post-WTM last year, I sat down a wrote four posts on the Ten Commandments of WTM (you can find them here, here, here, and here).

Finally had no problems
with the rings
But this year's race was a whole different animal than last year. So did these Commandments hold up? Or, now, in my infinite wisdom (after being at this for less than a year), have I committed sacrilege by violating my own commandments?

(1) Thou shall respect the power of neoprene

If you took a look at the pics of the starting line this year, it's clear that everyone obeyed this one: aside from a few weirdos in speedos (several of whom I saw in the med tent being treated for hypothermia later), we all waddled to the starting line in our wetsuits.

Drier, warmer times
I started in a 3/2 full, and nearly died of heat the first lap. I almost wanted to fail at Everest solely so I could jump in the Arctic Enema as a penalty. And for the first three laps (all before sundown), the 3/2 full was all I needed--no hood, no vest, no gloves, no socks.

I threw on the 3mm vest/hood combo and 3mm gloves the 4th lap, and then added the 3mm long john and a 5mm hood from laps 5 onward (though I delayered again the last lap, stripping the last hood). Surprisingly, I never put on neoprene socks for three reasons: (1) my feet had started to swell so much I don't think the neoprene could have fit in the shoes; (2) my feet actually stayed pretty warm with the injinji/smart wool combo; and (3) I NEVER HAD TIME. Being chased sucks.

Most other racers had similar strategies. Coupled with warmer temps, this meant I saw relatively few people shivering in the med tents. Personally, my hands only really got cold at a few points in the early morning hours, and my core never got cold. No uncontrollable shivering, no loss of feeling in the hands.

Neoprene for the win. But it's not attractive--ohmygod it's not attractive. TMHQ, let's have a warm weather WTM next year--fit shirtless men and women in sports bras and booty shorts? Marketing dream.

(2) Thou shall dry off completely between laps

Yeah...this didn't happen at all. In fact, I never changed out of my original socks or tights, and only took off my shoes once to scoop out the dirt that had caked in the end. Would I have liked to dry off? Yes. But once again, no time. The longest I pitted for was perhaps 25 minutes, in which I mixed up some hot chocolate and hid from the camera crews while stuffing peanut butter and pretzels, Snickers, and Ensure in my mouth. 

(3) Thou shall know the beauty of aid stations

True, but yet again, no time. This year, there was no hot jello (thank you), and while there was hot broth, TM volunteers were regulating it like soup nazis, monitoring how much you could take. I grabbed a small cup at a few stations during the wee morning hours, but once again, kept trucking. I'm sensing a "no time" theme...

And let's take a moment to discuss the Sharkie situation. Sharkies are hard to chew as it is. Frozen Sharkies are damn near impossible to chew. I will regret saying this, but I totally miss the sharkies in hot water of WTM 2011. 

(4) Thou shall learn how to climb tactical ladders

frozen tactical ladders. yum.
Once again, people must have done their homework. No back-ups or lines at the tac ladders on the backside of Everest (granted, they were much shorter), but the cargo net out of the water proved to be a bit of a bear. Then again, I was also ahead of the pack for most of this race, and found the only traffic jam to be on my third lap, when most people were trucking through their second.

(5) Thou shall not undestimate the power of logrolling

After logrolling for a mile and a half at the Death Race, I'm pretty sure I can handle two Kisses of Mud. Perhaps I don't have a "dizzy" switch, but I'll never understand how a 50-ft roll can get people all discombobulated.

(6) Thou shall not get wasted the night before

Can't lose my lucky beanie
I did not. I ate a massive omelette at IHOP. Joel did not. But he cramped and finished less laps than last year. So I will stick with not getting wasted the night before, but perhaps Joel should go back to the bottle.

(7) Thou shall get your ass in the water

Still applicable, but Walk the Plank was a million times less daunting this year, as we weren't jumping into the lake, but a man made hole. And it seemed to be about 10 feet shorter. But the swim back and forth across the lake was still there, and no less daunting. Tip on passing the time: chat with the lifeguards on kayaks and paddleboards. They are bored out of their minds

(8) Thou shall smile (and thank your volunteers)

Smiling the whole way
I gotta hand it to TMHQ--the volunteers were WONDERFUL. Absolutely wonderful. So much encouragement and cheering, so many words of comfort. Perhaps, at times, TOO much. (lady at mud mile during day 1--nice enthusiasm, but I was ready to get out and strangle you and your chants of "tough! mudder! tough! mudder!)

Best part of the course
Best spot for it? coming down the backside of Everest. I made a point of throwing my hands up and going "woohoo" every time I slide down that thing, meeting the cheers of volunteers and spectators standing around. I wish someone could put together a montage of those 9 photos--perspective on the slow demise of my sanity. 

(9) Thou shalt not stop for bathroom breaks

That's what wetsuits are for. And that massive sinkhole of sh*t in the woods. Though, for the love of God, I hope if you had to take a dump on the course, you stopped.  Otherwise I'm blaming you for whatever nasty eye infections I come down with.

(10) Thou shall never travel alone

 Of course, the last commandment is where I committed real sacrilege. Well, I take that back--there were cameras in my face for about 95% of the race, so I guess I was never REALLY alone. And while it was rather depressing and lonely at times to not have a running companion, it didn't mean I was the only one out there. The shouts of encouragement from other racers as I ran by kept me going, and stealing the small chats here and there with people moving at the same time. I put names to faces, and faces to names. I joked for a few moments with those around, and then shuffled on my merry way. Towards the end, I was being passed left and right by others moving faster than me. And when my strength failed me on Everest and the 12 ft walls as the night progressed, tons of people pitched in to get me through it. So while I didn't have the constant companionship like I had with Joel last year, I never felt utterly alone.

As I've said countless times before, it's the people and the fellow racers at these events that keep me coming back. And here, it was no different. I'm honored to run among all you amazing athletes, and I thank you for the help and support along the way.

 Like I've said, it's amazing the difference a year makes. And if I wrote commandments this year, they'd look a hell of a lot different than last years. So maybe I will. Just maybe I will. 


  1. I watched you do this online by watching your times while I was making toilet paper at a Kimberly Clark mill here in Kentucky. I wish I could have seen it in person . I did one TM this year and have two scheduled for next year. I am going to try and get into WTM even though I will be 60 then. You have inspired me and thousands of others to do better. JC White

  2. Great article! I agree with the warmer temperature TM event, but their headquarters are in New York City, so I bet that's why they keep the World's Toughest Mudder close by. There would be a slew of other problems with a hotter location - Dehydration, Cramping...

  3. Thanks for sharing! I was also following along on the site while in Boston for the fenway Sprint... I kept shouting updates to my friend who thought I was nuts. Especially because I was so excited and we never even met before! I just kept trying to explain to them how inspirational you were! Talking about the wetsuits....you just added on top ? so 3mm hood, and 5 on top , or you took of the 3 and switched to the 5 ? Just curious, because wetsuits are hard to put on and I can't imagine trying to layer those!

  4. I started following your blog right when it started up last year after WTM 2011. I was so happy for you when you won this year! Congrats! You're definitely a source of inspiration for me and since last year I participated in my first Tough Mudder (Toronto) which was a big accomplishment for me!

  5. A huge congrats on your win. And I apologize for annoying you. :)

  6. Hey Amelia!
    I came across your blog through Yelp funny enough! I was looking up reviews for the River North MRI center and came across your review and webpage. I understand you've experienced several injuries including stress fractures. I really hope I don't have one but I have a feeling I do. I sprained/hurt my ankle doing treadmill sprint intervals a few weeks ago and it hurts to walk. I went just today to a Sports Medicine Doc and he told me to get an MRI to be sure. I've been trying to cross train with swimming laps--which I like but--as I'm sure you can relate--I'm all about the high-intensity workouts and miss burpees!!! Before I was doing Bodyrock-type workouts and kickboxing and now all I can do is swim. The elliptical even hurts my ankle.
    I'm wondering how long did it take you to heal?
    PS: I see you're also an attorney--I recently finished law school at Depaul this past December. What type of law do you practice?
    PPS: Here's my FB page if you want to be friends--http://www.facebook.com/yaara.leve

  7. Congratulations Amelia on your performance...very impressive!! Now, was there really ever a possibility you weren't going to run?...be honest now! I think there was a better chance of me playing point guard for the Bulls than for you sitting this race out. But hey, that's just me. For whatever it's worth, I'm even more impressed that, even though you've become a bit of a racing celebrity (maybe more than a bit), you've yet to come out with your own line of clothes, trademark racing gear and Nascar type tattoos of your corporate sponsors. I like the fact that you write about something you love and make it entertaining for the rest of us to read. Long before WTM, I had decided to start a new blog that will continue my observations and experiences with obstacle racing...although my goal is to work UP to completing a Beast, as opposed to down from the Death Race. Anyway, continued success...look forward as always to the next posting. And who knows, maybe I'll see you next year in Vermont! I'll be the one the medics are trying to talk down off the course for the good of all mankind!