Paul Trumble: A recap of World’s Toughest Mudder 2014
Well it is over for another year. The course was setup at Lake Las Vegas, on the eastern outskirts of Sin City. It is a funny area. There are a lot of millionaires and 5-start hotels in the area and they have collectively paid enough money to change a patch of desert into a field of green. It is the closest that I have come to seeing terra forming.
It quickly became obvious that the terrain was horrible. The course was a mix between quarry and desert. There was little consistency to the track, it went up and down with lots of rocks, cracks and gullies to turn an ankle or knee. The course map was revealed and it featured a number of new obstacles and heavy penalties for not completing any obstacles. It was 8km per lap with approximately 250m of elevation. If you did every penalty the lap grew to about 10.5km with added running, weight carrying and swimming legs.
- The obstacles were:
- Soggy bottom: a trek through mud for about 50m
- Tight fit: a series of tractor tyres were covered by a net, we crawled under the net and over the tyres
- Mud mile: a series of muddy trenches and walls to wade through and climb over
- Hit the wall: three different walls to climb over; one at a 45 degree angle, one vertical and one taller vertical one that was climbed with the aid of a rope
- Weigh too tough: grab a bucket and fill it to 25/35/45 pounds (approximately 7/11.5/16kg) with either gravel, sand or water and carry it around a loop before weighing it. If you bucket fell outside of the tolerances you had to adjust your load and carry it around the loop to weigh again.
- Birth canal: a 10m crawl under plastic that was suspended in a frame and divided into lanes. On top of the plastic there was water which pushed down upon you as you crawled/wiggled through. Your chest was pushed to the ground throughout the crawl.
- Water moccasin: a series of large floating plastic boxes to jump across
- Underwater tunnels: Three barrels to swim under
- Everest: a quarter pipe to run up
- The grappler: Throw a ball which was pierced by a rope over a cliff and into a target, then rappel up the cliff with the rope
- Crossover (x2): Run over dirt piled over some pipes, or crawl through the pipes
- The liberator: a peg wall climb where you picked up two pegs and climbed an inclined wall by putting the pegs into holes
- Island hopping: another series of large floating plastic boxes, but these ones were held together by a cargo net around them but they will moved underneath your weight
- Hump check: swim 30m and climb up a sloped plastic wall with the aid of some thin wooden ledges
- Ladder to hell: 5 large horizontal wooden planks to be climbed about 5m high
- The gamble: roll a die, if you lost you had to run/crawl through a 15m electrical trap. The odds for this constantly changed; sometimes just a 6 would put you through the electricity, sometimes a 5 or a 6. At its worst a 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 would lose.
- Swingers: climb up to a platform and step off it, grabbing the handle of a swing just before you fall. The arc of the swing would take you about 5m high above a pool of water. At the peak of the swing let go of the swing and tap a bell in the air.
- Grabbin’ shaft: A combination of monkey bars and pipes to climb above a pool
- Sewage outlet: a 5m crawl under barbwire and then a wriggle up an angled pipe. At the top of the pipe fall (ideally gracefully) into a pool, and finally
- The cliff: a 10m high cliff jump
I started the race wearing some compression pants and my bib which worked well but I lost some skin on my shoulders. The first lap was run without obstacles to give everyone an idea of the course and allow the pack to spread out. I found a comfortable pace with a mate from Michigan and we wrapped up the lap near the front of the pack. The second lap was a lot more interesting as the obstacles came into play.
Tight fit caused some problems as I kept getting caught in the net, but it was Weight too Tough that annoyed most people. For the first obstacle lap we had to fill a bucket to 25lbs/6.3kg of sand and carry it around the loop. I loaded the bucket to about 10kg and had to reduce the load and complete another lap before clearing the scales. My first experience at Birth Canal was enough to convince me that it would be unpleasant for the day. Crawling under weighted plastic is as unpleasant as it sounds. You wouldn’t believe the number of cesarean jokes that were made at this station.
I never got the hang of The Grappler. On lap two I had a few goes before accepting the penalty which considered of three walls to climb over, under and through as well as a tough hill climb. I On my fifth lap I tried a different technique and nearly got it, but some clown next to me had grabbed the end of the rope and was reeling it in. I felt slightly better when the ball hit him on the head. Swingers was the most fun to do. You couldn’t quite reach the handle of the swing from the platform, so you had to step from comfort to grab the handle. The swing took you out on a huge arch. At the peak if you had long arms like me you could reach out with one arm and tap the bell. Shorter people had to commit to letting go of the handle and hitting the bell in the air.
The final obstacle was The Cliff. This caused the most concern from participants in the lead up to the race. The course was designed so that you could see the jump as you ran up the hill which gave too much time to think about it. For my first jump I stayed about three strides back from the edge when it was my turn and took it at a walk. 10m is a long way to drop. It is enough time to let loose a profanity, come to terms with what you’re doing and anticipate the impact. Surviving it once was a big confidence booster, but it still required focus to do it on subsequent laps.
The next few laps went fairly smoothly. About half-way through my fourth lap I sprained my left knee. I was unable to run for more than 10 seconds for quite a while. Dealing with this was my first low point. As I tried to block out the pain one of the elite racers lapped me which was a kick to the soul. I limped/jogged on and finished the lap. At my tent I took a pain killer, refueled and took off again. It took about half a lap before the pain killer kicked in which made for an unpleasant lap. As it slowly came into effect, my stride improved and I finished my fifth lap just before 1700 (nearly seven hours down). I took this opportunity to change into my wetsuit and strap on lights for the night rules. During the night laps (1700 to 0600) every racer had to carry a head light and strobe light at all times. This got to a bad start when my preferred strobe light wouldn’t work. I grabbed my spare and took off.
Most of the obstacles remained operational for the night, but a few closed for safety reasons. Everyone was glad that the cliff was shut down in the dark. An interesting night time obstacle which they sprung on us was Statue of Liberty. We had to hold a torch with a flame and swim about 25m. If the flame was extinguished by wind or water you had to do a penalty swim. I finished my first night lap and found out that my spare strobe light had stopped working. I frantically went through my equipment and my main head light started flickering. I switched head lights and managed to borrow a strobe from another racer. I assume that water leaked into the lights and caused these difficulties. Considering the equipment difficulties that I was having, I’m still very grateful that I got the chance to push on.
The first two night laps were strangely relaxing. It was quite pretty to watch a series of flashing strobe lights on people in the distance and relax into a slower pace. Early during my eight lap the wind suddenly became a lot stronger. The wind picked up sand and reduced visibility, while making it incredibly hard to keep running. This served to even out the field a bit because you didn’t receive the same ROI from running that you did during the day. I got back to my tent to find that it had been bowled over and my Australian flag had been blown away. Crawling into a shower tent on its side is an interesting experience. Luckily I didn’t lose any of my equipment, but everything became filthy. The ferocity of the wind caught everyone by surprise and decimated the field. On my ninth lap I had a chat with one of the media people there (a friend from Australia flew him over to film the event for a documentary) who told me that I was coming 10th.
By chance I caught up with a friend from Geelong early during my 10th lap. We matched strides and helped each other out for a while as the wind came down even harder. Not long after we combined forces I started shivering. I pushed through this for a while, but I was slowly losing control of my limbs as I hunched into myself to try and escape the wind. I didn’t feel cold, even with the water legs, but the wind was draining me of energy. After about two hours of limping and shivering I hopped into the medical tent after my 11th lap. I spent 25 minutes (if I was in the medical tent for 30 minutes I would’ve been medically disqualified) trying to reclaim control of my limbs, while my stomach kept cramping. I limped out and tried to settle my body at an aid station. 30-odd minutes later I still couldn’t hold a cup of coffee without my shaking hands spilling it over me. I admitted defeat, resigned and made my way back to my hotel.
I came 58/1019 (those who were medically disqualified, over 150 people, weren’t included in this figure) despite only doing 2/3rds of the race. I still feel hollow and disappointed that I didn’t finish. I set myself the goal of beating my result from last year and I failed to do so. However I managed to compete at a much higher level until the conditions beat me. I am slightly consoled by a mate from Australia who won a 24h obstacle race in August withdrew at the same time for the same reasons as me. At least I was in good company while shivering and sulking.
I’m in worse shape than last year. My left knee is still swollen and very tender which has me walking with a pronounced limp. Most of my body feels quite tender. My hands are dry and sore. The good news is that I’ve reclaimed control of my limbs and aren’t shivering. Hopefully I will have physically recovered by the end of the week. It’ll take longer to get over withdrawing myself from the race.