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

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

World's Toughest Mudder 2013: and it won't change a thing?

Found this the other day
cleaning out my office. I should
really clean my office more often.

World's Toughest Mudder registration went live two weeks ago, and judging from the Facebook and social media reaction, you would have thought TMHQ had punched a baby. 

"NO qualification process?!?" seemed to be the resounding outcry. Hundreds (read, in reality: dozens) of
affronted people, worried that the race wouldn't be "elite" enough, or that the out-of-shape masses would crowd Raceway Park in New Jersey, leaving the finishers to step over frozen bodies littered around the course after 24 hours. I skimmed the new changes, and the only thing that came to mind was "meh".

Newsflash, folks: it's going to be the same, miserable race we keep going back for, year after year. It's still the undeniable pull to brave the winter New Jersey weather, just to say you did it - the worst form of voluntary torture.

What doesn't matter

Let's be honest: there was NEVER a true qualification process for WTM. You submitted a "time" on an untimed event, an event that prides itself on teamwork; magically, everyone I know that submitted a time was accepted. And even if you didn't run a Tough Mudder that year, you could be a "wildcard." And all of those people that I knew of, all got accepted. Simply, if you were stupid enough to fork over the registration fee, WTM would take you.

In 2011, a little under1000 people lined up at the start. 2012, a few hundred more. The vast majority of those quit after one lap. By late afternoon, the course was a ghost town both years. And in the middle of the night, I welcomed meeting warm bodies along the way. This year, they are capping the event at 2500. If that many people register (which I doubt), the course may be a bit crowded for the first two laps. But don't forget that the number of DNS's will be high like in past years (especially if the weather takes a turn for the worst a few days before the race).

Personally, I'm looking forward to have more people out there to help pass the time.

If only this was what the starting line could look like...

So chill out, everyone - numbers, lack of qualifications, etc. - WTM will still be the WTM we love and hate. (oddly enough, the most outspoken critics appear to be people that have never even run a WTM. I'm not even going to go there.)

But.....a Game Changer?

Of the WTM changes, the only one that bothers me is the one that no one is talking about: allowance of a pit crew.

Foraging in the tent at WTM 2011
I hate support crews. I hate the concept of them. I've always hated that the Death Race allows them (that's an entirely different and very entertaining rant). I firmly believe that (1) they get in the way; (2) they make the race less about the racer's abilities; (3) take away a key element of what makes WTM so hard: self-sufficiency and strategy.

If you have someone in your pit area prepping warm food and drink, drying out your clothes, etc., it could be a game changer. In the past, I've had to strategize how to lay out clothes, lay out nutrition, make sure that wet clothes don't freeze between laps.*

The race should be about the racer's athletic, mental, and physical wherewithal, not who can hire the best support staff. I full acknowledge that, in other races (such as ultras), crews are expected. But WTM isn't, and shouldn't become, like other races.

But even this isn't an "OH MY GOD THE WORLD IS ENDING" change. You live, you adapt. In the end, it's still going to be handful of people out there at the 23 hour mark, hurting and miserable, cold and exhausted, thinking to themselves "why the hell am I do doing this" and telling everyone who will listen "please don't ever let me do this again."

Yet we will.

*Sidebar: People complained all last year about the lack of adequate numbers of microwaves, or hot showers, etc. Personally, I'd do away with both (except for having the showers post-race. That, I can get on board with). Racers shouldn't rely on TMHQ to provide these, and if those are your biggest concerns, then it's probably worth rethinking why you are there.


  1. Agree 100%. I've always said the qualification process for WTM has been giving them money. Even the Death Race is that way. I hate crews too and have never used one, nor will I.
    The best thing a crew member could do for anyone in WTM is not let them in their own tent. "No! This is my tent! You go run laps while I play on Facebook and take naps!"

  2. TM has on there website that PIT Crews are still not allowed. You may have insider information that I'm not aware of, but the info I read over makes no mention of this change. They do discuss "Support Crew" but these people are still not allowed in the PIT. Anyway, I agree that allowing a PIT crew would drastically change the strategic part of the event so I hope this part has not changed.

  3. I agree with Jason regarding the Pit Crews. I did not take TM's comments as allowing a support team rather that your emotional support team (friends and family) would have a warm place to retire to when they froze on the course. Some of the families were knee knocking on the course in the late evening. The only place for them to get warm from standing around was their car, house or hotel. I believe this is the change TM is speaking of and not an actual support crew.

    Great work last year!

    1. hm, hopefully you and Jason are right! WTM is a shitty spectator event, so if it is really just to help out spectators while keeping them out of the racers way, I'm on board.

  4. I've never run a WTM (just regular TM's), but do enjoy following your blog and I would have to say the "elitist" attitude that flooded the site in protest of the open registration seemed to be in direct opposition to the overall idea of Tough Mudder. I understand that WTM is in fact a race, but the elitism was rather nauseating. I hope you win again, as I enjoy your perspective as well as your continued down to earth view of the OCR phenomenon.

    1. Glad to know I'm not the only one - thanks!

  5. I have run Tough Mudders, Englishtown being my "home" cours and plan to run this year, maybe, the Worlds Toughest Mudder!! Your blog has such great information, you are an inspiration! The changes I see this year didn't seem as different as other years, aside from open entry. In reality, a couple extra people at the starting line in my opinion is motivating. Maybe I'll see you out there!! Girl power and bring on the chicking!!

    1. Thank you! Hope to see you there!

  6. Hi Amelia:

    I enjoy your blog.

    I saw you briefly when you were on Lap 9 and I was on Lap 6.

    One thing that I don't see mentioned--and I'm surprised that it has not been--is the change from a winner-takes-all award structure to awarding the Top 5.
    I have a feeling this will really change the level of competition at the top, since people are less likely to give up by lap 7 or 8 if they have no shot at 1st place (as I suspect Justin Deiter basically did). You'll also have a group gunning for that fifth place finish right until the end. Given that the difference between 1st and 5th last year in pace was 3 mins/mile (Pak at 16.9 min/mile and Partridge at 20.05 min/mile), this opens up a whole new world of incentive to racers that are within shooting distance (I hope I'm in this group).
    [When I broke down the overall pace for you and Pak, I was quite worried. I am really trying to wrap my head around 17 min/mile for 90 miles, which is what I think it will take to place in 2013.]
    Last year I quit smoking 8 months out and had a broken foot two months out from the event, so I was happy overall with my finish, all award and placing talk aside--and that is the main reason I am coming again, because it's nice to learn about yourself and see where your limits lie. And to address the stuff talked about above, well this is why I think open registration is just fine--give more people that opportunity to learn about themselves.

    Re: Pit Crews, I am of the opinion that they are not allowed on site during the event as per Mike and Jason--but it doesn't hurt to just ask WTM admins. directly for resolution on the topic.

    As an aside, I want to know where your training is at at the moment, and your thoughts about training strategy. I feel like I'm getting fast, but I think until I can go 30-40 miles with a 12:00 min/mile pace (30 second obstacles worked in every .75 mile), I won't feel too confident.

    Also, do you know where I can get some beetroot juice?


  7. I'm looking forward to this November and I really hope I get to run into you late night on the course to share some laughs about the crap we are doing. You're an amazing inspiration.

  8. Hey All,

    I read this under the official rules section of the WTM page on the website

    Participants are allowed the assistance of a selected “Support Crew” to support them during competition. The “Support Crew” will not be provided by Tough Mudder, and will only be arranged by the participants themselves. Support crew will only be allowed in the pit area before 10:00pm and will not be allowed to reenter until the official end of competition on Sunday.

    The following “Support Crew” support is allowed before 10:00pm:
    Moral support
    Sleeping in the participants tent/camp site (must use only provided space, no additional space will be provided by Tough Mudder)
    Updating athlete on position of rivals
    Provision of food (no cooking in pit, can bring cooked food from elsewhere)
    Assistance changing clothing/equipment (no unauthorized equipment allowed)

    The following “Support Crew” support is strictly prohibited:
    Support crew entry to pit is prohibited after 10:00pm
    Artificially warming athlete (body heat is ok)
    Interfering or harassing other participants (this will result in immediate disqualification and removal from the site)
    Pacing of the athlete on the course
    Swapping timing chip with athlete (must not be removed at any time)