As promised, here is a recap of the 2012 Tough Mudder Vermont (aka the Tough Mudder New England #1). Grab some popcorn and sit back, this is going to be a long one.
The Tough Mudder event took place at the Mount Snow ski resort in West Dover, Vermont. The course ran up and down the ski slopes and was 10 miles long but it was so hilly that (word on the street) it felt like 16+. We followed the Tough Mudder instructions and got there 2 hours before Justin’s noon start time. There were parking lots full of Tough Mudder cars along the main road that led to Mount Snow with folks trekking along towards the event, but we figured that the $10 parking fee was worth it to be able to hop right in the car and scoot out of there when Justin was done – he had to work on Saturday night, so we had to boogie right after he finished.
I would have to imagine that the lots closest to the event filled up eventually but they had shuttles running pretty frequently that would pick people up at the overflow parking lots and bring them to the mountain. We grabbed a parking spot and got a sneak peak of a few of the obstacles while we waited for a shuttle that would bring us a few lots over to the registration area; I admire Justin for not bolting when he saw the snow guns covering one of the steep trails and the early Tough Mudders struggling on up.
The event was really well-organized; the registration booths were marked alphabetically and as long as you had printed all of your paperwork out beforehand as instructed, the sign-in process was a breeze. They give you a bib with your number on it and then also write your number on your forehead and on either an arm or leg in permanent marker (I think Justin is still working on getting it off of his leg – luckily the forehead mark washed off easily…might have been a rough night at work otherwise). You had the option to store a bag for the duration of the race but since I was a spectator instead of a participator, I just held onto Justin’s belongings.
One gripe that I do have with the event is how quick they are to make a buck. They’ve got great options, but they’ll cost you. You can store your bag while you run (yay!) for $10 (boo). Spectators are welcome (yay!) but they have to pay $20 for a spectator ticket (or $40 if you wait until the day of the event – boo!). Spectators can take a ski lift ride up the mountain to see more of the obstacles (yay!) but it costs $10 (boo). They offer showers to participants once they’re done running (yay!) but the hot showers cost $5 (boo). And so on and so forth. You get the picture. TM does organize a fundraising program for the Wounded Warrior Project, but the money doesn’t come from the entry fees or any of the additional fees. It would be nice if they donated a portion of the fees to the Project.
Back to the fun stuff. Justin was suited up and ready to roll.
We were done signing in by about 10:30 so we watched a few waves of people start. There didn’t seem to be any check-in process to get up to the starting line so Justin sort of broke the rules and hopped in with the 11am wave. I don’t think that it’s encouraged (in fact, I’m pretty sure it’s discouraged) but it happened. And it’s a good thing that he did because he made it to work that night by the skin of his teeth.
It’s pretty obvious right off the bat that this event isn’t messing around. To get to the starting line you have to slop through a bunch of mud and climb up and over a wall. I’m not sure how tall it is (maybe 7 feet?) but it’s a good way for them to let people know what they’re in for!
There goes Justin, up and over, never to be seen or heard from again.
Just kidding, he came back eventually.
It is also apparent at this point that the event is a group effort; according to the TM website, “Tough Mudders are team players who make sure no one gets left behind. To that end, all Mudders are expected to uphold our ideals and exhibit teamwork and camaraderie both on the course and off it.” Folks were helping each other up and over the wall and, according to Justin, that theme continued throughout the rest of the course.
After a round of the Tough Mudder Pledge and the National Anthem, the Mudders were off! The course started off with a muddy hill, followed by another muddy hill, and then they were out of sight.
As a spectator, I was able to hike around and take pictures of some of the obstacles but I lost Justin after the 2nd or 3rd one, so unfortunately he’s not in many of them. A full list of the obstacles can be found here (although it’s not completely accurate – pretty sure the order is different than it was on Saturday); below is a list of a few of the the obstacles, their descriptions and Justin’s take on them in italics. Please note that the order of the obstacles probably isn’t correct as I failed to take a map of the course because I’m smart and I plan ahead.
Arctic Enema – Jump into a dumpster-sized container of water and ice, swim underneath a submerged barrier and climb out the other side. It was cold. I jumped in legs first and just tried to get it over with. There was ice floating around, it was pretty uncomfortable – not enough to make you lose your breath but enough to make your muscles pretty stiff.
Walk the Plank – jump into a cold pond from a height of 15 feet. Hated it. One of my least favorite obstacles. I didn’t expect it to be that cold. After I jumped in the cold is so shocking that it put me in a panic state, it made me anxious and made it difficult to swim.
Berlin Walls – Scale over a series of 12-foot walls. Those were pretty easy for me [note from the editor: “for me” being the operative part of that sentence – Justin is tall, so shorties like myself might have a little more trouble]. I jumped up and grabbed it and pulled myself over but people were helping other people over if they couldn’t make it. Everyone is willing to help out on these courses.
Ropes over the water (I don’t remember the name of this obstacle) – shimmy along a rope to cross a freezing pond. If you fall in, start swimmin’. This one wasn’t bad. All you had to do is just keep pulling with your arms and your legs will slide along. People were trying to use their legs too much and that was slowing them down. Once you hit the water, drop your legs and float while you pull with your arms until you hit a point where you can just walk to the end. One of the kayak guys fell off his kayak, so that was pretty funny. He wasn’t even rescuing anyone, just floating.
Kiss of Mud (and another one but I can’t remember the name) – Crawl through the mud underneath barbed wire and underneath electrified hanging wires. The electric wires tense up your muscle for a second but I didn’t feel any kind of pain. More of a cramp for a second. The tough part is crawling under the barbed wire – you’re army crawling over rocks so you get really scraped up.
Cliff Hanger – Run up a rocky and muddy black-diamond ski run. First of all, you do not run up that slope. No one was running up that slope. You’re better off getting on all fours and crawling up. My legs started cramping up but you couldn’t stand up straight because it was so steep – you felt like you would fall backwards.
Funky Monkey – Monkey bars were easy when you were five, but you’ll need to hold on extra tight to these. Some of them have been greased with butter and you’ll get a shock when you fall into an ice cold lake. You need upper body strength for this one. The bars are slippery so it helps if you have gloves. A lot of people fell off; I think because people had mud on their hands and then it got wet, it made it even harder.
Hold your Wood – Make like a lumberjack and drag a log up a ski slope and then try to keep your footing on the way back down. This was wasn’t bad but it seemed kind of dangerous. You had to run down a hill and then run back up; if you dropped your log it would have gone flying back down the hill at everyone. I saw one guy slip and fall onto his back and I thought the log was going to crush him. [note from the editor: To say that this particular obstacle was dangerous as opposed to the others made me chuckle and cry a little.]
Spider’s Web – Fight your way up and over not one but two cargo nets. Go up near the sides of the net; the sides move a lot less than the middle.
Boa Constrictor – crawl through a series of pipes that may force you into freezing, muddy water. One of my least favorite obstacles. This one isn’t a great one if you’re claustrophobic and I realized that I am once I was down there. There was one point where I thought I wouldn’t be able to fit my shoulders through the tunnel and you didn’t know how fast the people in front of you were moving. If someone in front of you panicked, you would have to just stay in there until they got out.
Everest – Run up a slippery quarter pipe. Keep on running even when it seems like you should jump. If you’re small, look for people who are reaching down to help and grab their hands, they will pull you up.
Electroshock Therapy – Run through a field of live wires, some of which carry a 10,000-volt shock, while hurdling rows of hay bales. I didn’t get shocked on this. I don’t know if the electricity was off or what but it was fine. [note from the editor: I hung out by the finish line for awhile and this one seemed really hit or miss – either people got nailed and you could hear it shock them or they ran through unscathed. No real rhyme or reason that I noticed.]
General comments from Justin: The most challenging part for me was the hills. They were just constant. Upper body strength is important for the obstacles, but you definitely need endurance for the hills. If I were doing it again, which I would, I would work on strengthening my calves and quads. Do more squats. And more hill training.
I would recommend wearing tighter-fitting pants or running tights or something to protect your knees and shins when you’re crawling over rocks and so that they won’t get weighed down by the mud. I would also recommend wearing gloves. TM does a great job of getting people motivated to get in shape for the event. Do the training that they send you or that they post on their website. For people who don’t have exercises that they usually do, just follow their training – it’s a great way to get ready for the event.
Do the event with a group if you can; doing it individually was fine but it would be more fun with a group (and try to do it with a group that is on the same level of fitness as you). At the event itself: Great local vendors, the food was really good. They did a good job with the after-party, I would have liked to have stayed for a few hours.
Just know that you’re going to get dirty. At first you don’t want to get muddy, it was instinctual to want to avoid it. Once you got over that it was fun to jump in the mud.
[note from the editor: spectators get muddy, too]
There’s a ton of free crap at the end of the event and its pretty good stuff. Grab the t-shirt at the finish line, they’re not selling them, they’re free. Also, don’t get a Tough Mudder tattoo even though its cheap, you’ll regret it. Also, wear sunblock. Overall, a really fun event.