Monday, November 17, 2014

2014 World's Toughest Mudder (WTM) CREW

Outside Las Vegas, November 14-16, 2014. I helped crew my brother Pat and his buddy Jeff for the 2014 World's Toughest Mudder. Pat had done a few TM's, Spartan races, and other mud/obstacle events (Jeff had too), but neither had done anything like this before. Having set a goal (good or bad) for 50 miles would require traversing the 5 mile loop course (with ~23 obstacles each loop) 10 times. You had to start your final lap within 24 hrs, and were given a 2 hour window (for 26 total hours) to finish.
We all got there Friday afternoon and after doing some shopping, went to secure their 'pit' area and set up much of their stuff. We checked out some of the visible obstacles (rappelling, Berlin Walls, some good, short/steep hills, some electric wires, some new and old obstacles. We checked into the nearby host hotel, rested, I ran an errand, and we ate dinner with the other participants and got some clues on the course. With a 10am start on Saturday and a long weekend ahead of us, we all went to sleep early.  
Pre-Event: We got the pit all set up, walked around, checked out the 35foot high jumping platform over the lake that would be the last obstacle of each loop. Stopped for a nice photo op with Amelia Boone. (It's worth it - go check her out!) 
My goals were to see them (in the daylight) as much as possible on the course, be ready with whatever food and information they needed each lap, help them in any way possible to get their 50 miles. 
The lead up to the race start was lengthy with the motivational speech of Sean Corvair, National Anthem, and other standard pre-event info. But at 10am, with the expected leaders (including Nick Hollan, Ryan Atkins, etc) up front - they started!
Long conga line to start and I got quite a few photos before they headed out away from the pits. I went back to camp. This first lap had no obstacles - but the leaders were still crawling thru the pipes before it was corrected. Saw P&J head up a short steep hill by the pit entry and I went back to wait for them at camp.

So, for most of the daytime - I went back and forth from camp to various points on the course - to see them and take photos. I think 'Tight Fit' was the only obstacle I did not see. I stayed moving constantly - sometimes second-guessing myself where they would be.

Random notes from the day on the obstacles:
Saw them about 1.5-2 miles Weigh Too Much
They had to put the correct weight (plus or minus a certain amount) of either sand/gravel or concrete (I think) as directed, and walk a short loop. If the weight was off - had to try again - re-load and walk and weigh. Some people weren't even putting the right stuff in their buckets...
Birth Canal...sliding underneath a pool of water. Some lines were much longer than others.  
Grappler - going to the dinner the night before and hearing how to do this really helped. Not 100% - but the idea of it helped. Some (Amelia) just bypassed it without even trying at times. Didn't lose too much time either (with Berlin Walls and some extra distance).
Swingers - Started out allowing people to ring the bell with their feet, then changed it (too easy I guess) that it had to be your hands.

I waited for them two times at the Cliff and somehow missed them go by. Once - just assumed I missed them and ran back to the camp and there they were; the other time, I saw Jeff had posted something. Ooops! Not a good pit crew move.
Camp time with them was mostly getting stuff they needed - food/sandwiches, drinks, clothes, etc. Breaks seemed kind of long to me, but it seemed to all be going well on their end. I knew I had a good 20-30 minutes at camp after each loop to prep for the next break before I could get to where I could see them on course. Even got out to mud mile once.
Once night came, obstacles and the course changed slightly. I know it would be difficult to see them on the course, so there was more time in camp to prep. I think it was 11pm or 12 before I really sat down and rested for a few minutes. At some point, Jeff had to get a new timing band so that made for some extra work/worry.
The wind was starting to pick up around 1am. They were out on lap 6. I had everything settled in the canopy and actually got into the small tent to close my eyes for a bit. The wind kept whipping the flaps and it was getting louder and harder. I got out and saw one neighbors tent/canopy start to blow away. I helped them for a bit before our own canopy was in a fight with the wind/sand. I had some help too and it was tough to just lower it down to half its height. It had already bent the metal at that point, I stood couching under the center just holding it down so it wouldn't blow away for about 30 minutes...other neighbors were in the same mess.
I eventually had the canopy dismantled and it was in shambles. I tossed it over to the side in no-mans land and gathered our stuff that was now spread around. I was still finding written stuff the next morning across the way...
(Swingers got shut down; Ladder to Hell was lowered)
I stuffed whatever I could into bags and grouped them together, About this time, Pat and Jeff came back. Once they realized I was ok and there wasn’t much they could do, they just went back out for another lap. Needless to say - they had no reason to stay long. One of their shorter pit stops.
I did manage to get things in some order and the small tent was fine. So after Lap 7, they took an 'extended' break. It was 2:45am or something, they needed just three more laps. I knew Jeff was ready to go, but Pat was almost done. I am not sure I ever got to sleep, but I prodded them awake and between some white lies and some persistence (do one more lap, THEN take a break), they got up and back on the course at 5am (?). They moved fine and once they left out on Lap #8 after just a 5 minute break, I knew they had it. I spent a good deal of time with them on lap 8 and 9. Didn't talk too much, just kept with them.
There was practically no break after Lap 9 and they were right back out there, I packed up the tent and bags, took much of it in just 2 trips to the entrance. Ran for the car and parked it closer. Filled it and then parked it again and hustled back to the pit. I did make it to the Cliff for one last jump and got them as they finished at about 10:20am, after 24 hrs 20 minutes and 50 miles of WTM 2014!
Couldn't be more proud of those two and all they accomplished - and doing it side by side every step of the way (except penalty things of course!). I was honored to have helped them reach their goal.
(I started this a month after the event and finished it up with many details still missing almost 1 year later! I'll do better all around next month!)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

2014 Paris Mountain 16k Trail Race Report

Greenville Track Club (and John Lehman) hosted this event again on November 1st, 2014, but this was my first time running it as a 16k since it changed from a 15k (by adding switchbacks down Sulphur Springs). It was 3 weeks after The Bourbon Chase relay, but I had put in some good miles and I wasn't looking to do too much with this race. The 15k I ran in May 2010 in 1:46, a week Before my 1st 50k at Chattooga,
I showed up early and helped set up the start/finish line and helped with registration until only about 10 minutes before the start. That made me a little rushed as I got to the start line, but did warm me up a bit after being cold in the 34° temps standing still for an hour. There were snow showers overnight  and some wind, but the trail was a bit wet but clear.  
So - we started off, I laid back just a bit as we went down the road, letting others go ahead and got comfortably behind a group on the trail. Not alot of room to pass of course, but I wasn't in any hurry. I was cautious not to push too hard, but still sped up and passed a few. That is, until we got to the steep section of Sulphur Springs. I knew the 'train' would go slowly, they'd run, then have to stop and wait/walk. I planned it well and walked so much of that section, even well before it got really steep. I knew with my walking speed, i would catch them soon enough, so I'd let them get a good bit ahead and sure enough, I'd catch them as they got bunched up. My heart-rate never went up, so at the top, I was good to go. Cruised up Firetower and then pushed a good bit going down to the lake. There was one point where a chunk of ice fell off a tree and almost got me. That would have hurt, but luckily I didn't have any trouble.
I did fade some after the downhill on Sulphur Springs, but picked it up more toward the end of Mountain Creek. I knew my times were decent on each section (except the downhill, which I hadn't run that much), and it helped that I mostly followed someone the whole way. A female was just ahead of me most of the race, just out of reach, but close enough to 'chase'. I ended up beating my 15k time by 10 minutes, in 1:36:09! A very satisfying result!