Tough Mudder New England (VT) - May 2011
May 7th 2011
Mt Snow, VT
The Event: By now everybody into Adventure Running has heard of the Tough Mudder. It is essentially the event by which all other events are measured. It combines long distance, strenuous courses with some of the best obstacles that anybody is offering.
I’m not sure about their tagline of being possibly “the toughest one day event on the planet”, but they are tough and challenging. Most importantly, they are fun.
Getting There & Parking: Finally! Signs! I’ve done a few of these events including a past Tough Mudder, and I had never seen much in the way of signs. This event had a nice sign pointing the way at a junction of 2 major routes and again at the mountain entrance. There was ample parking and parking attendants to direct you to your spot.
Check-in & Logistics: I have to be honest here. Tough Mudder screwed me a little bit. I initially registered for a preferred 9:20 start time because 9:00 was full. A couple weeks later, I get an email announcing the addition of hundreds of spots to each start time. I immediately respond within minutes saying I’d like to move my time to 9:00 grabbing a now open spot. I didn’t get anything back. I sent a follow up mail a week later only to be told all the spots were again filled. I responded saying they weren’t filled when I sent my initial email and even attached the email to the message. I got no more responses. I was polite the whole time.
When I got to the mountain, I found out my time was actually 9:40 now. Not only did I not get a spot at 9:00, but they pushed me back. I’m not sure if it was done intentionally, but that was pretty disappointing. Unfortunately from the stories on their Facebook wall over the course of the year, I guess that’s to be expected from their customer service. If you register, make sure you have everything 100% right because if you need service to resolve the issue for you, it’s very hit and miss. I missed. Other than that, check-in was smooth enough.
The Schwag: Schwag is for finishers! Same as last event except the t-shirt changed a bit. It’s almost like a concert t-shirt in that all the “tour dates” are listed on the back. I preferred the old one. You’re already enough of a walking billboard wearing it. Do you really need to have the dates of events on there too?
With that said, that’s just a stylistic difference. No big deal. The thing that made me roll my eyes a little was the addition of the sponsor logo on the back. I mean come on. Tough Mudder is far and away the most expensive event like this that I’ve done and nobody else needs to do that. We pay enough to get into the event. They shouldn’t need sponsor money to give participants t-shirts. Thumbs down on that one.
You also get the orange finisher headband, which many Mudders were proudly displaying after the race. They are kind enough to give the customary protein drinks and bars as well as a free beer after. The drinks and bars are good for post-race recovery, and the beer, which was waiting for you at the finish line, helped dull the pain... a little. Every bit counts at that point though.
The Race: Finally down to the reason why we all run these events... The course. That brings up one HUGE lol @ me. Having done Tough Mudder Tri-State, I thought I knew what to expect. I finished that 12+ mile in under 2 hours, so I was planning on finishing this 10+ mile course in 1:45 or faster. Everybody has a plan until they get hit, and I got hit hard... for a little over 3 grueling hours, 7,000’ of climbing, and 14,000’ of total elevation change. Really. Hats off to Tough Mudder here. This course was brutal.
The race starts off on the top of the bunny slope at Mount Snow with the MC psyching everybody up for the event, and he did an awesome job of it. Singing “Nananana Goodbye” to an Osama picture and his whole act really gets you fired up to race. The smoke starts, the horn sounds, and you’re off for a short run down the bunny slope, and then your climb to hell to begins. This wasn’t really a running race as it was a climbing race, and that starts right off the bat.
It was hill after hill after hill. By the time you hit the mile 1 marker, your spirit is already getting crushed a little bit because you are worn out. Once you finally get a chance to descend, you do it right into Killa Gorilla which has you running up and down the same damn slope a bunch of times. It’s basically TM giving you the middle finger. You get a short breather going through Devil’s Beard and on your way down to the Boa Constrictor. Their new take on this classic was to have two pipes angling into a pool of water. The last couple feet on the first pipe and the first couple of the second pipe only had a few inches of breathing room. If you are claustrophobic, then this would be real challenging.
Having no mercy on you at all you are once again headed up steep slopes to Tired Yet to hustle up the slope over tires and then right into Tree Hugger which has you rock hopping up yet another steep slope. Finally you get to flat ground! Oh sorry. Now it’s time for a dunk in freezing cold mountain lake water in Ball Shrinker while getting blasted with snow makers and hoses.
After literally having your balls shrunk in Ball Shrinker, you are off into the woods. I’m not sure if it was here or before, but at the mile 3 point you hit a “Warrior Dash Finish Line” banner. Nice touch, and it almost makes you wish you did a Warrior Dash instead. You run and crawl through a couple mud obstacles on your way to Hold Your Wood. This was a real spirit crusher. You are totally sapped from all the hills and obstacles and now you pick a heavy ass peice of wood (not sure how heavy but a #2 pencil would have felt heavy at this point) and lug it up and down a steep, snow-covered slope.
You run down slope for a bit now jumping over hay bails, a half pipe, and a cargo net in some of TM’s easier “obstacles”. Unfortunately for me, my legs had already called it quits. I’m not sure if I hadn’t hydrated enough or it was waking up at 5am, driving 3 hours, and then racing, but my legs started cramping something fierce. Never in my life had that happened before, and it wasn’t fun. Battling cramps and stopping occasionally to stretch, it was up to the mystery obstacle Fish and Chips. You had to crawl through maple syrup and over wood chips.
This brought you to Walk the Plank, which is a 15’ plunge into ice cold water. Now in my first TM, I had thought they were a little sadistic making you jump into ice cold water right at the beginning of the race on a cold November day in Jersey. It tightened everything up. Now I realize they were having mercy on you. The jump into ice cold when you’re already spent is much, much worse. It was basically instant leg cramps the second you hit the water. If you retain enough motor control to swim to the other side, you get a nice mylar heat blanket as a parting gift.
By this time, I was only going on mile 7, and I was 2 hours in. I would have been finished in Jersey by now... Ugh. I knew I was in for it. After Walk the Plank, you run downhill to Glacier which was a tall wall of ice that you needed help to get over. The cold didn’t help much, but like a good Mudder, you had to linger and help fellow Mudders up like you were helped up. Then come the last real, soul-crushing climbs of the day. One is through the Gauntlet, which includes climbs over hay bails while being pelted by snow makers and a deranged man in an executioners mask dousing your cramping legs with a fire hose. Despite the pain, I had to smile. My smile quickly vanished when I saw Cliff Hanger awaiting. It was the steepest climb of the day, and it came at the worse possible time.
After that, it was down the mountain to get dunked in more ice cold water. At least this time there was dye in the water, so if you were blue nobody knew it was because you were freezing. Then it was over the monkey bars, which I successfully cleared this time. They were the only thing I couldn’t do last time, and that pissed me off for the past 5 months. Later I saw people actually walking on top of them to get past. I still can’t decide whether that is horrible cheating or remarkably brilliant. Following those were 4 12’ high walls dubbed the Berlin Walls, which were difficult to get over solo at this point, but I somehow managed.
Then you were in the home stretch. You had to hurdle a mind-numbing, leg cramping series of downed chairlift towers before hitting TM’s signature obstacle Fire Walker. That was even a little pleasant because it warmed you up for a bit. Then you made your way over the nicely named Turds Nest, which was a cargo net spread between two platforms. Then it was down a giant slip-and-slide to get you nice and wet before running through Electro-Shock Therapy. At this point, you don’t care though because the finish line is only feet away. You get crowned with your orange finisher’s headband, and you don’t whether the cheer or cry... at least I didn’t. That was one tough course. Tough Mudder truly lived up to their name with this one. I’ve been crying myself to sleep into my pillow ever since.
This will be my first 5-star course rating. That doesn’t mean it can’t be topped, but I have to give credit where it’s do. TM is in a class all their own right now with course design.
The Verdict: With all the registration snafus and poor customer service aside, this was an awesome event. The course was very challenging, and the after party rocked. Tough Mudder will be tough to beat when it comes to race day execution in this regard. Right now if you could only do a single Adventure Running event, I’d recommend it be Tough Mudder. Too bad their score on this event will suffer from the registration problems and their weird decision with the shirts.
I’ll stick to my previous suggestion that it would also be nice to have some sort of timing added to these events. I don’t think it would take away from the spirit of camaraderie that permeates the event even a little. It’d be nice to see how you stacked up and to make sure nobody undeserving gets into the championship. Lying is lame, but if competing in submission grappling taught me anything, it’s that people lie to “sandbag” their way to wins. Heck, I saw plenty of competent Mudders skipping obstacles and taking short cuts through woods. It’d be lamer for an undeserving person to get a spot over a deserving one.
For Tough Mudder events near you, check their website.
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