World’s Toughest Mudder is one of the most hotly anticipated events on the globe. It demands much from its participants, crew and the media, providing a focal point that the obstacle racing community is hooked on for a whole 24 hours. Lucky for us, we had Scott Seefeldt on the ground, experiencing it all first hand and working for some guy called Jon Albon as pit crew. Here, he recounts his weekend in the desert, starting with a very interesting metaphor…
Last dances can go one of two ways: either you find the one you love and end up spending the rest of your life with them... Or when the lights come on, you realise with horror that you have been snogging something that looks like an extra from planet of the apes.
This year’s sojourn to World’s Toughest Mudder in Las Vegas provided equal measure of both.
The main focus of my time there was to support Jon and Beth Albon as 'pit crew', but I also had a media pass that allowed me access to the course and to run laps, so a few days before the race, Graham (Jon's dad), Beth, Jon and I all set off for Las Vegas.
In the lead up to the event, Jon's preparation had been going pretty well, taking the form of being a total badass and winning every OCR he competed in. Unfortunately, he had suffered from food poisoning a few weeks prior, and therefore wasn't coming into the event at 100%. The extent of his illness resulted in a weight loss of around 3kg.
Beth had only decided to compete the week before the event, so again, other than being super head strong and simply being an Albon, she hadn't done any specific preparation. That, however, wouldn't stop Beth pulling out an impressive result.
For some context: this was to be Jon’s third year competing in WTM, and the second for Graham, Beth and me. We jointly supported Jon and Ryan Atkins last year as they completed 105 miles together, not only winning the team event but the additional prize pot for going over 100 miles. In the previous two years Jon had competed as part of a four-man team (2015) and a two-man team (2016). This year was about competing as an individual, going head to head with the likes of Ryan Atkins and Robert Killian.
The aim was simple, to win. All he had to do was complete 110 miles (22 laps). Simple indeed.
In the lead up to the start, things were running smoothly; though once we had set up our 'pit area' it became apparent that we had quite probably the worst pit in the desert! We had no tent or gazebo and only a small mat and two camping chairs along with a few duffle bags stuffed with... Stuff. But in true British style, we were going to make this work. The one thing we were sure of was that we definitely had enough Pedialyte.
As I later sorted through my event photographs, it was evident that Jon wasn't at full health going into this race, but when you travel alongside Jon and see his consistency, I guess you just take it for granted that no matter what happens, Jon will smash it! So it understandably came as a bit of a shock to see him coming in after his third lap looking worse for wear. I had never seen Jon like that before and I knew it wasn't a good sign.
It was around half past two in the afternoon that the temperature was around 30 degrees Celsius. We were sweating under the unforgiving sun in the pit area, but Jon was cold, not only was he cold, but he had also been sick on the course, and wasn't moving fast. This was not ideal, and it led to Jon putting on his wetsuit for lap 4, making him the first competitor to do so. Back out on the course, he was moving faster, but nowhere near a competitive pace, allowing the front pack to add to an healthy lead from the obstacle free laps.
Meanwhile, Beth was beasting her way through the course, and except for a longer pit stop to briefly check on Jon, her transitions were slick. Unlike Jon, Beth was reluctant to put on her wetsuit, and it wasn't until around half eleven at night before Beth relented and turned to neoprene. She was moving well and the lap times, once all the obstacles opened, were fairly consistent, making it pretty easy to provide a half decent and timely pit service.
In a pre-race interview with CBS, Beth cited a target of 75 miles (15 laps). That number was stuck firmly in our minds, and we were actively encouraging Beth to keep going to achieve this goal. For the most part, all was going to plan, but as with every WTM journey, there were a few wobbly laps, especially in the early hours of the morning, a lap or two before the sun rose. Even with those wobbles Beth kept pushing, her morale boosted by Lindt Lindor chocolates, cookies, and the occasional lukewarm soup. It also helped that Jon was up and around for every stop. Having had two successful runs at WTM, he knew a thing or two about a proficient pit stop.
Beth hit the 65 mile mark at around eight thirty in the morning, leaving two laps to go to attain the hallowed 75 mile silver bib. Due to the way the WTM works, this meant that Beth had to start her final lap before half past eleven and finish before half past one. Her lap times were, on average, two and half hours, so ideally that final lap had to be started before eleven to be on the safe side.
For the penultimate lap, Jon donned his dry wetsuit and headed out onto the course to encourage, support, (and push if necessary), Beth through the 70 mile mark. Then it was the last lap, and my turn to get out on the course, so the three of us headed off to see her hit the 75 miles. It eventually transpired that Beth probably ran in excess of 80 miles due to the penalty loops applied for failing an obstacle on the course, but as we crossed the line together, we had accrued 23 laps between us; fifteen laps for Beth, six for Jon and two for me.
This outstanding performance from Beth saw her placed as top British competitor, 7th female, 26th overall, and one of only a few females to hit 75 official miles, which is an astonishing achievement.
As for Jon’s race, it is hard not to be sad about the outcome, had Jon been 100% it would have been an epic battle for first place. His reaching 110 miles would have been the stuff of legend for years to come, and perhaps it would have made a more exiting article (!) Alas it was not to be, and although Robert Killian put in a solid performance to take second place and scratch 105 miles, Ryan maintained his sizeable lead and finished comfortably ahead.
And so ended the last dance in the desert of Las Vegas, for 2018 Worlds Toughest Mudder is now heading to Atlanta, Georgia on the East Coast. This is to be a course with a more 'British' feel: lots of green and lots of mud. What we don’t know yet, is what the epic prize pot will actually be for, and whether Jon will decide to compete for it.
As for us mere mortals, we have to look forward to a series of competitive waves at all full distance Tough Mudders in the UK and two Toughest Mudder events (8 hours overnight), one in Scotland and one in England. More details can be found here.
Until then, stay safe and move fast.
[All photographs courtesy of Scott Seefeldt]