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Tough Mudder New England at Mount Snow

A team endurance challenge like no other, Tough Mudder has been called “probably the toughest event on the planet,” putting participants through an experience that is equal parts torture and badge of honor.

Over 10 miles running, (sometimes walking) up and down the rugged flanks of Mt.Snow tested endurance, while more than 20 Tough Mudder man-made obstacles, like underground mud tunnels that made you feel more swamp creature than human, tested spirit and will.

Putting the “mud” in Tough Mudder.

I am sure that anyone who has competed in or witnessed a Tough Mudder event, has wished: “Why didn’t I think of this first?” Is there a more ingenious way to use an off season ski mountain than to strew obstacles across its massive flanks, making each obstacle a sort of “Braveheart” meets “Jackass”, thus luring thousands of men and women of all ages who want to prove to themselves, to friends, to the world really, that they can finish. That they have the stuff to endure: frigid water, slimy tunnels, seemingly insurmountable walls, and, oh yes, a few instances of electric stingers, as if bees had flown down their shorts. And for these moments of “pleasure” they would pay. Anywhere from $60 to over $100 (depending on when they signed up) —and then gladly sign up again. There may be a more ingenious way to use mud, with the promise of being stretched to the limits, but I don’t know of anyone who knows the alchemy of turning mud into gold better than the folks at Tough Mudder. Or of converting part of that gold into a more meaningful cause than their reportedly $3 million donated so far to the Wounded Warrior Project.

Two weekends ago (May 5 – 6), beneath a gray Vermont sky, the snow melted slopes of Mt.Snow, famous in winter for its bumps and steeps and cruisers, hosted its second year of this most popular and successful entry in the sudden explosion of “if you think an Ironman or triathlon is challenging wait ‘till you try this.” Less extreme than the admittedly somewhat bizarre and at times downright sadistically nutty Death Race, also in Vermont,
the broad appeal of Tough Mudder (now spreading like kudzu across the country and overseas) is you don’t really win. It’s not about competition, except with your own will and desire, strength, endurance and ability to work with others to get through.

A hardcore “racer” who just busts through each of the over 20 obstacles may make it in two hours—but time that is not the draw. Most of the nearly 20,000 participants (spread across two days, with staggered start times) were happy to push through in four hours, give or take. It’s the ultimate “I dare you to do this” event. Think jumping into pools of water filled with blocks of ice, so cold you’d warm up by swimming on the Maine coast; or crawling through underground tunnels from which you emerge looking more swamp creature than human. Think 12 foot high walls, or a small pond like structure with tendrils of electric wires dangling so close to the surface, the slightest head twitch will send a current happily down your neck.

Making their way through a pool lined with strands of electric wires, participants would shout warnings to each other, and wince in sympathy when a someone yelped.

Smiling despite the threat of an electric shock.

Teamwork meant watching a group carrying an American flag through the entire course, handing it off to team members so it never touched the ground.

Teams were easily identified by matching outfits. One team competed to raise funds for 27- year- old Pete Frates, from Beverly, MA, a former baseball star at Boston College, who copes with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease.) http://petefrates.com/

Teamwork also meant supporting each other when the going got heavy.

Slabs of heavy wood needed to be carried up an incline. One man fell to the ground, his leg painfully cramped. Others helped him up, and he carried on.

Even though natural snow had long melted, a mixture of manmade snow and crusty ice welcomed Mudders towards the end of their day’s jaunt.

Most Mudders opted to make themselves human sleds—often to their regret. Crusted snow burns on bare skin.

Once down the snow hill, one of the most physically challenging obstacles awaited.

The monkey bars, perched above a pool of frigid water, were slick and daunting. To cross required maximum focus and strength from already tired muscles.

If you have ice you must have fire.

You had to run through flaming hay bales, the thick smoke carrying over the mountain. Every now and then you’d hear a yelp from a runner, too tired to jump over the strip of fire

Finally the finish line.

The rewards are simply a head band, some bananas, and a free beer. But the headband meant their journey through miles of rugged landscape, through dirt and cold and sweat, had merged with their promise to themselves to finish, if they could.

Deep mud prints remained long after the Mudders left. You could hear them shouting to each other, they’d be back.

The next Tough Mudder New England at Mount Snow is July14 – 15.  Register today and earn a lifetime of bragging rights when you finish.

Please Note: This article was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Mel Allen

Author:

Mel Allen

Biography:

Mel is the fifth editor of Yankee Magazine since its beginning in 1935. His career at Yankee spans more than three decades, during which he has edited and written for every section of the magazine, including home, food, and travel. In his pursuit of stories, he has raced a sled dog team, crawled into the dens of black bears, fished with the legendary Ted Williams, picked potatoes in Aroostook County, and stood beneath a battleship before it was launched. Mel teaches magazine writing at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and is author of A Coach’s Letter to His Son. His column, “Here in New England,” is a 2012 National City and Regional Magazine Awards Finalist for the category Column.
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