Winning at World’s Toughest Mudder can be many things to many people and at the end of 24-hours many people walk away winner, only a few might walk home with checks but others walk away winners of a different sort.
World’s Toughest Mudder has been an interesting journey for me as I recounted before the race. I knew this year would be different. While my plan was not secret it also wasn’t common knowledge and now the race has come and gone the full story is out. During the 2013 WTM race, I had a thought – wouldn’t it be awesome to have an all women’s team. Within a week after the race I had recruited 3 friends all former WTM athletes, Death Racers, Ultra Marathoners basically picking a dream team. We added Heather Cammarata to the team shortly after. She crewed for our team in 2014 and during the race she was determined to come back in 2014 as a competitor. So we had our team of 5. Then life happened this fall and people had doctorates they had to focus on, injuries came up, and financially it would be a stretch. So our team was down to 2 – Heather and I and we switched to individual.
Heather has had an incredible season this year, she has been working hard, finding her way onto podiums, and living up to her nickname – TANK. She is also a trainer, mother of two, and was the best pit crew for me in 2013 washing all the clothing, wetsuits, shoes and more after crewing for 24 hours and prepping her daughter for twinsie day at school. You mom’s are awesome! My year on the other hand has been more focused on my work projects than long weekend runs. I joke with friends I am an endurance typist these days. So shortly before Vermont I came up with an idea, it came to me and knew it was the right choice. In Vermont, I told Heather our team was disbanded, and she would run as an individual and would have my support along the way. I told her the plan was I would run the first lap with her, help her settle into the race and pace, then she would be on her own until 10pm and we would run the last 12-hours of the race together.
As the race approached we cemented the plans, and went over it again and again. She had the support of me on course and the support of Juliana Sproles from afar as well as her neighbor, racer and friend Nicole Beale as pit crew.
I had two personal goals for this race, have fun and smile. As we set up our pit area and got prepped for the race I reminded myself of Corre Libre which is permanently on my wrist. It was my race to run free and enjoy every moment. I pushed Heather near the head of the start line, surrounded by friends, gave hugs and wished everyone luck. We were off, I kept pulling Heather back on the first lap as she was ready to spring forward, we chatted strategized and saw friends on the lap. I was all smiles on this 3rd go around at WTM, Heather was focused. We finished the lap just under an hour and I set her off for the day.
Shortly after Corinne Kohlen, still rehabbing an injury she incurred at WTM 2013, finished her first lap. I strapped on my GoPro and she and I were off on our “Fun Lap” together. We had planned our walking lap about a week earlier and as we walked and chatted we were like two old ladies out in the park together all that was missing was the coffee or the two pound weights in either hand. We chatted about life, sport, random stuff, and cheered on our fellow mudders. We spent time at obstacles helping others and enjoying it all. It also helped the weather was perfect!
After the fun lap it was time for an extended break on my part. I changed into dry clothing and spent the next 8+ hours in the pit, helping to make sure Heather kept moving, helping other mudders, encouraging, cheering on friends, giving out hugs, helping change clothing, eating lots of food, and overall having a great time running around in the pit. Around 10:00 I started to prep to go back out with Heather again, and as soon as I had put them lube on my feet to ward off blisters, the wind came…
Everything was fun and games until the wind started and then the race changed! As grit was everywhere I donned by wetsuit put on my windbreaker and was ready for a long night of racing with Heather. She came in around 10:30 we gave her another layer and were back on course.
Last year I needed my team to get me through the race dealing with hip pain for most of the time. This year the roles were reversed, Heather was having some pains and her pace had slowed some (she was in 11th place most of the race). As I walked behind her during the night we (well I) sang horrible songs, told stupid stories, and pushed her ass (literally) up some of the hills. As the wind gusts turned into a full sandstorm with 50-60MPH I wrapped my arm around hers and we walked much of the course arm in arm. We were the two women in purple trudging along.
After two laps in the heart of the storm Heather started to shake, after the lap we got in the showers to warm her (I proceeded to burn myself with hot water in the out post, dumb move). She was still shaking so I told Nicole plans changed and we stripped her out of wet clothing and into dry gear to wait to go out at sunrise (2 hours away). As the two of us hunkered in our shell of a popup tent, again I made bad jokes, sang songs and kept her moving in her sleeping back to ward of the dreaded shakes.
At around 6:00am I was up and dressing again for our final lap. It would be my 5th and Heather’s 10th lap, hitting the 25 mile mark and 50 mile mark respectively. As we emerged from the sleeping bags put on our dry wetsuits I told Heather this lap would suck but it was the last one. We trudged through the last lap again me trying my best to keep it fun and light and tear free. We made our way through the obstacles. My personal highlight was completing Everest (a quarter pipe) alone on the last lap then throwing a hand down to help other Mudders including Heather.
We opted out of the cliff jump the last lap as Heather was unsure of the swim back to the surface. As we took the penalty lap and during the last swim, on the penalty lap, I looked over to see what looked like two loons on the lake (the loon being my spirit animal). I had a moment of awe and a connection knowing the job had been done and I had come full circle. Turns out they were only ducks but whatever, the moment still happened. We crossed the finish line arms in the air and the job was done, Heather would finish 15th for women in her first WTM.
Why title this How to Win World’s Toughest Mudder? After two trips to World’s Toughest Mudder and trips to regular Tough Mudders I finally get it. This year I learned the true spirit of Tough Mudder. It’s about so much more than the individual athlete. I won because I accomplished the two major goals for myself, I had fun the whole time even in the sandstorm, smiled and got Heather to the finish line of her first 24-hour race.
As I wrote on my personal Facebook wall, I finally get “it” when it comes to Tough Mudder and WTM. For a few it’s about a big check, but even the winners will say this is different than other races. If I had to title this years race I would call it “Full Circle”. I truly came full circle in my racing this weekend. I loved every moment. It renewed something in me, and it has me ready to make new goals for 2015, seek out new adventures, and of course come back and play in the desert in 2015.