Have you ever watched an episode of Iron Chef and gotten the feeling that the challenger is in way over their head? You know, it comes about 25 minutes into the show when the Iron Chef whips up something you can’t pronounce while the challenger struggles to put together some decent mac ‘n’ cheese. Well, we got that same feeling this past weekend in Vermont when Tough Mudder proved all over again that they are the Goliath of adventure challenges.
Set on Mount Snow in West Dover, VT, Tough Mudder took advantage of their surroundings to create a grueling course that doled out bruises, cramps and cuts like they were girl scout cookies. Composed of 10 miles of steep ascents, descents and the best obstacles around, TM New England was by far the most challenging adventure event we’ve covered to date. That even includes their 12 mile Tri-State event in Englishtown, NJ. Why so difficult? Well for starters, Mudders (what TM calls participants) ran themselves ragged by following a course that took them up and down the mountain more times than we could count. In fact, for the first half of the course we found ourselves yearning for a few obstacles if only to give our calves and quads a break from unrelenting climbs. Even though some would have preferred more evenly paced obstacles, this setup allowed for crowds of Mudders to dissipate, resulting in shorter lines at obstacles and aid stations.
Those that managed the first few miles of hills were promptly rewarded with over 20 obstacles ranging from their now famous Electroshock Therapy (FYI – it doesn’t get any less nerve-wracking the second time around) to the Funky Monkey bars (still haven’t made it across!). Returning obstacles came with unique and beefed up variations but, of course, the TM engineers had a few tricks up their sleeves to keep things fresh for veteran Mudders. The mystery obstacle of the day consisted of a crawl through a vat of maple syrup followed by a climb up and over wood chips. Another stellar newcomer, Glacier, found participants relying on each other to ascend a 15-foot tall icey mountain and then scrambling down a turbulent backside.
Boa Constrictor made a return appearance...albeit with a little bit of a "twist".
Of course, none of these obstacles would be half as enjoyable if it wasn’t for the atmosphere that surrounds Tough Mudder. Costumes, face paint, and teams of friends were abound to set the tone and we witnessed plenty of “no man gets left behind” moments on the course. We were also witness to one of the most memorable race moments we’ve seen to date. See, the start line is actually a short ways up the mountain and waves of Mudders go off every 20 minutes after a few safety announcements and the National Anthem. And coincidentally, mile 3 of the course has participants pass directly behind this start line. So imagine the feelings of patriotism that welled up inside of us when we turned the corner to find not just the Mudders-to-be standing still in complete silence for the National Anthem, but also the hundreds that were in the process of ripping down the steep slopes. Quite an awe-inspiring and pride inducing sight to say the least.
Glacier is new to the party, and loves to snack on frost-bitten fingers and toes.
Other significant contributions to the atmosphere actually came from the town of West Dover itself. We arrived the night before, and stayed at the Matterhorn Inn (which we highly recommend….great beers and great service), and everywhere we went we were greeted with “Good luck!” and high fives from locals. Neighborhood businesses posted signs welcoming “Tough Mudders” and bars even gave out free t-shirts to anyone running. Even the local shuttle bus system, The MOOver (which has stops all along the main road to the mountain), was running extra buses to accommodate the crowd. Speaking of crowds, rumor has it that this event was the largest one-day athletic competition in Vermont’s history. Not too shabby!
With all of these things going for it, it’s easy to see why Tough Mudder has gathered such a loyal following. It’s an incredible challenge, a feel good event, and strong reminder of what a well run endurance event can do for participants as well as the community that hosts it.
Course: A The course was stellar and the most challenging TM we’ve covered to date. Early hills hit hard and led to smaller crowds at later obstacles while the second half threw a barrage of challenges at participants that can’t be found anywhere else.
Organization: A+ Everything you might be concerned with was well attended to. Parking, packet pickup, bag drop and body marking were all a breeze. Aid stations, onsite showers and changing areas were organized and not overcrowded.
Atmosphere: A+ Countless memorable moments, rad displays of patriotism and Mudder camaraderie every step of the way. That, plus a solid after party including keg tosses and beer…what more could you ask for??
Logistics: A- It’s Vermont, so you’ll be driving. And you also won’t be able to find big brand hotels like Holiday Inn or Super 8, but that’s okay because it will give you a chance to soak in the support from the town by staying at local inns and lodges. Special thanks to Joe, James & company at the Matterhorn for making our stay extra comfortable…and for letting us take a much needed soak in their outdoor hot tub!
Overall: A Tri-State is still our fav (that course gets the nod thanks to its motocross venue), but make no mistake, Tough Mudder put together another fantastic event. And with the momentum they’ve built you’ll be hearing from a lot of people about how much of a blast these events are, and not just from those participating. After all, Tough Mudder didn’t just take over a few ski slopes in Vermont this past weekend, it took over an entire town…and maybe even a state.