World’s Toughest Mudder 2016 – Race Recap
Every year, Tough Mudder closes out their regular race season with their pinnacle event, World’s Toughest Mudder. However, unlike the standard 10 mile, 20 obstacle Tough Mudders most have experienced, World’s Toughest Mudder is a 24-hour event that asked its 1280 participants for more. More of what you ask? Well, more of everything. More miles, more obstacles, more time, simply put: more. So registering for this event is not something to be done without some serious thought. But if you do commit to it, I promise you, you will find yourself immersed in one of the best, strongest, most committed communities of obstacle course racing. World’s Toughest Mudder (WTM) is by far one of the best OCR events on the market. (And, true to their claim–probably one of the toughest events on the planet.)
Tough Mudder goes big at this event. Not only do they pull out all the stops and make every participant feel like a celebrity, they also bring out the big guns for their biggest fans. What this means is that many of the familiar obstacles you see at a “normal” Tough Mudder event are present, just on a grander scale. And, because this WTM, they also introduce numerous new, never-before-seen that (will) eventually find their way into the next season’s regular events. But more than simply being new, WTM obstacles are BIG. For example, introduced this year was Kong, an obstacle that suspended rings easily 25 feet off the ground and asked the participant to swing through thin air King Kong style. (You were suspended so high it was surprising no airplains flew by.)
This year, Tough Mudder challenged even themselves when they asked the question, can King of Swingers be even harder? Challenge accepted. Tough Mudder produced what is now known as the Double Rainbow. (With King of Swingers, you jumped from a platform some 15 feet from the ground out to T-bar. Once you grabbed the bar, you swung through the air only be to be forced to let go at the end and ring a bell. Whether you succeeded or failed, you had a 20-foot drop into the water awaiting you.) With Double Rainbow, however, Tough Mudder removed the bell and inserted another swinging T-bar. To be successful at this obstacle, you had to grab the first T-bar, let go at the right time, grab the second T-bar and deposit yourself safely on the crash pad at the opposite side from whence you started. (We did say big, right?!)
But, WTM is more than big obstacles. It’s also about hosting one the most welcoming communities in obstacle course racing. Because this event is 24 hours long, everybody relies on each other for support, motivation, and even a little humor (because at 3 AM everybody needs a laugh–even if it comes at your own expense). Community is built into the event by the recommended pit crew. The pit crew is crucial to keeping an athlete out on the course, but they also provide an aspect of social fun that other OCR events don’t foster. (Overheard this year was that World’s Toughest Mudder is like the Burning Man of OCR events. It’s kinda true.) Unlike many competitions, WTM has managed to continually bring out the best in (most) people–even those that have been running, walking, or pitting for 24 hrs. So even if doing obstacles for 24 hours isn’t your cup of tea, you should try it to simply partake in the amazing WTM community.
This year, like the previous two years, World’s Toughest Mudder was held at Lake Las Vegas in Henderson Nevada. This venue has proven to be surprisingly challenging and catches most people off guard. The course (considered a lap) is approximately 5 miles in length and carries you across moon-like-terrain with a gain of approximately 900 feet per lap. The terrain snakes its way around the lake and travels up and down offering wonderful views of the course and the lake.
This twisting and turning, as well as the subtle hill climbing, adds up quickly. As the laps add up so does the mileage and the elevation catching most athletes off guard. People also often mistake the desert for always being warm. Not so. While by day the desert sun provides an opportunity at warmth, the desert is anything but warm at night. As such most athletes clock most of the nighttime miles in wetsuits in order to stay warm. Fortunately, this year proved to be the warmest on record for World’s Toughest Mudder. Previous years have seen temperatures in the 30s and one year a windstorm that brought gusts near 80 miles an hour. As a result of these warmer temperatures, it was easier to complete more mileage this year as you spent less time hindered by heavy layers and restrictive wetsuits.
However, while the warm temperature may have made accruing more miles easier, Tough Mudder upped the ante for obstacle completion. Meaning that for every obstacle failed, there was a penalty loop that was required. Sometimes this loop was accompanied by sandbag or cinder-block. Regardless, every extra step was just that an extra step because penalty mileage did not go towards your official mileage (or laps). This year, if you failed the 13 mandatory obstacles, your five-mile lap would look something more like 7 miles (2.05 miles in penalties.) While World’s Toughest Mudder has always had penalty loops for failed obstacles, this is the first year so many obstacles had a mandatory completion. As your hands and body fatigued, so did the failure of even the easiest of obstacles–and thus up went your mileage, and down went your hopes of finishing the 24 hrs.
Tough Mudder kept this fatigue in mind and provided another innovation for this year. As night ops came into play (after 5 PM,) some of the more technically challenging obstacles were modified to make them more able to be completed. For example, on Kong the rings were replaced with horizontal pipes and a slack line. On Funky Monkey – The Revolution, a balance beam was placed under the monkey bar portion of the obstacle. So while your body and grip strength was failing Tough Mudder provided you with a little assistance but not enough to take the challenge away.
This was my fifth World’s Toughest Mudder, and I would say it was by far the biggest success for Tough Mudder on the whole. They pulled off a mostly seamless event, and a completely grand scale, while providing a worthy challenge to professional and amatuer athletes alike, all the while staying true to their original principles of fostering a spirit that no Mudder would get left behind. They’ve set the bar pretty high for themselves, and athletes are already chomping at the bit for more information about next year’s World’s Toughest Mudder.
One thing to keep in mind if you are thinking of participating in next year’s event is that starting in 2017, Tough Mudder will require you to qualify through one of their 8-hr Tough Mudders (in the United States, these are called America’s Toughest Mudder (ATM). While the details on the uniqueness of this event compared to World’s Toughest or your standard Tough Mudder are still unclear, it’s bound to be an enjoyable and challenging event–and definitely a great training opportunity for next year’s World’s Toughest Mudder. So do you have what it takes? Only one way to find out…
About the author: Mike King is an elite OCR athlete who trains and races your round for OCR races around the country. This was Mike King’s fifth World’s Toughest Mudder event to date.