I found out about WTM, much like OCRWC, a couple days after the Spartan World Champs. While still in Tahoe, my brother in law signed up and asked if I was also going. My schedule was free that week so I said why not. Then after looking at some videos and blogs about WTM, I started to question what I had gotten myself into?! Lucky for me I have a ton of military gear and used to surf a lot in college so began to dig equipment out of the basement: 2002 XCEL Surfing wetsuit, head lamps, camelbacks, boots, sand storm goggles, baklava, etc… The equipment list just kept growing and growing, but I finally got everything packed and flew to Vegas with the Family. However, that process probably needs a completely separate recap in itself, and I’m sure anyone who has traveled with two kids and a WTM packing list can relate.
Upon arrival at Vegas I started to link up with the numerous WTM athletes out and about at REI, Wal-Mart, and local restaurants. One thing that stands out in my mind about OCR, especially WTM, is the tight nit community out there! It’s unlike any other sport I’ve been involved with, but it’s also much like the military comradery so I feel right at home. Prerace check in was a much longer process than I thought, and I hope that’s something they improve on for next year. With my bib in hand I set off to wait in another line for the pit area. My tent was set up in no time with the use of my BOB stroller as an equipment cart and the help from a couple friends from Longmont, Jay Hay and Greg. I attended the pre race dinner at the Fiesta Casino and thanks to Jay entertaining our son, my wife and I were actually able to make a plate, eat, and relax for 10 minutes.
Race day: With all the hype and anticipation it seemed like it was taking forever to get to the 2pm start time. My pit crew, Rees and Lauren, received a quick brief about what I might need for each lap and we were ready to go. I headed to the start line about 45 minutes early to get a good position up front and before I knew it we were off. I wanted to start out with a good enough pace to get in as many laps as I could in the first hour to maximize the no obstacle rule. I quickly found myself with Chad, which I had totally expected being we were actually going to run together as a team with Ryan Kent and James Appleton to battle for the $100k team challenge. However, Ryan Kent blew out his ankle two weeks prior during our team race for the Spartan Dallas Beast so we decided last minute to run individually since neither James nor Ryan had even signed up yet. Funny thing is, he went on to do two races after that and won both, WTF Ryan??
During the Dallas race I defiantly noticed that Chad was in top running condition so I knew he would also be crushing it during WTM. We talked it out a little bit during the first two laps and decided to help each other as much as possible until one of us needed to stop. However that plan seemed to fall apart quick when we had different pit ideas and penalty loops were in effect. I was unable to hold the pace Chad was running since this was by far the longest I’ve ever run and wanted to try and pace myself as best I could. I felt great as far as energy and nutrition were concerned thanks mainly to Tailwind, and actually wasn’t getting all that cold despite the nonstop water submersion obstacles. Well again, that changed quickly. I decided to run the race in the Icebug Mist RB9X after getting them from our third place team finish at OCRWC. They were amazing for traction and water drainage, but for long term support and warmth they were greatly lacking. Around mile 40 my ankles started to hurt being I have flatter than flat feet and the support I needed for that distance wasn’t being provided by the Icebug’s. The other issue I was running into was all the water slowly draining from my wetsuit onto my feet was making them extremely cold. The Icebug’s are perfect for water drainage and hot weather conditions, but this was having a negative effect given the cold, my feet were starting to get that numb tingling sensation. At that point I had to start walking when an old knee injury from the Special Forces course was flaring up. Once I started walking, my body wasn’t working hard enough to keep me warm so again the cold set in.
My surfing wetsuit had only a neoprene layer, whereas most other triathlon wetsuits have a sealskin type layer on the outside which prevents wind from cooling off the neoprene which keeps you much warmer. Again, a major lesson learned to bring a wind jacket, once the temperature dropped and the wind picked up I was getting to the point where I was starting to shiver and knew I was in trouble. I was totally bummed out because I was feeling great on all the obstacles and my nutrition was on point. I only had to do one penalty during Operation for dropping my ring after getting a solid shock. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to hit the bell at all on the king of swingers to never got a change to skip and obstacle. However, I never found that I was too challenged by any of the obstacles with the exception of the Everest 2.0 which at night was rarely manned with other mudders to help you up, but 1.0 was easily achievable alone and had a very small penalty lap without any extra weight. My biggest obstacle was being subjected to cold water time and time and time again. I made it to the pit at mile 45 with one cliff jump and in third place. I told my pit crew that I needed to stop for a while and warm up, but I could see that they were already thinking that by the amount of shaking I was doing.
Every blog and podcast I listed to gave almost the same advice about stopping; never take off your wetsuit, take a hot shower, or get in your tent. Well I did all three of those! I ate an MRE main meal (spaghetti with meatballs) and took a short nap in my warm sleeping bag. After a couple hours I got my wetsuit on and decided to use my military combat boots for the next few laps until the sun came up since they were the only thing I had with closed fabric to keep my feet warm, despite how heavy they were, especially when wet. My new goal was 30 more miles to hit 75. I was no longer concerned with a podium finish but having as much fun as I could while helping other mudders get through the night.
I finally got to see the sun come up on my 12th lap, but again my knee and ankles were preventing me to run enough to keep me warm. I came in thinking I was done for the day with only 60 miles achieved. My pit crew and I packed up the tent and we were about to take everything to the car when my wife showed up. I had right at two hours left since it was 1:30pm and decided to use the other wetsuit I brought, a sleeveless blue seventy, to go out and get in one more lap for a strong finish. My lap prior to that took about 2hr 10 min, which at no point was I running. I knew I was going to have to move it in order for that lap to count. Once I started up the first hill I was super warm and began to get some movement back which helped me to keep a good pace. I was maintaining 15 minute mile pace and crushing obstacles. I couldn’t believe the difference in my motivation and performance just due to the warmer weather. I even crushed king of swingers and got my first gold carabineer, but decided not to use it because the obstacles left weren’t hard. I actually had a lot of fun doing tramp stamp and didn’t miss it once. Although at one point during the night only two stations were open and with the line a race official said we could just go through the water instead of waiting in line so I took that option rather than stopping to wait.
I finished up my last lap in 1 hour and 31 minutes to receive my head band and 50 mile bib. Still being very new to the sport of OCR and ultra distance running I wanted to do this race for the experience more than anything else. I feel that I now have the knowledge to properly prepare and train for this event to get my 100 mile jersey next year. I really can’t say thanks enough to all the mudders out there who helped push me through the 65 miles on course, my pit crew for nonstop support, and my family for giving me the motivation I needed to get in that last lap to finish strong! One mudder who stands out in my mind, Jonathan Green, carried the Wounded Warrior Project flag the entire time he ran, even during the cliff jump!! As a member of the military and Bravo Company I appreciate all who served and continue to serve in the US Armed Forces. See you guys next year!