Every year, for purely scientific purposes, Sunday River Team Members are tasked with testing out the Tough Mountain Challenge course before the big day on July 23. Anxious to prove myself and get wicked dirty, I signed up immediately, and coerced exactly zero colleagues from my department to join.
To give some background, I am not in Crossfit good shape. Let’s be honest, I’m barely in okay shape. I played sports growing up, but a clumsy streak and general laziness besides skiing keeps me from being what you would call athletic. And you know what? I finished the Tough Mountain Challenge last summer. I wasn’t first, but I wasn’t last. Here are my takeaways:
Make some friends.
Like I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t successful in convincing my department coworkers to sign up, so I stuck with people going my pace. I met a guy on the way who was taking it easy, but the conversation helped me to think about anything but the incline and the next obstacle. When we parted ways at a water station, I proceeded to find more and more people who weren’t in it for the glory, but just wanted to get out of the office, enjoy the hike, and get really dirty. It made the hard parts less hard, and the fun parts extra fun.
You may want to take a hike or two.
Living in Western Maine and working at a ski resort, there are plenty of hikes in the area. The month leading up to the Tough Mountain Challenge, I tried to hike at least once a week. I wouldn’t call this a very intense training plan, but the idea that I knew my body could handle hiking at least five miles in one fell swoop made me more confident going into the 4-mile course of TMC—even if there were no snowguns blasting water on me during said hikes.
Push yourself to your limits.
Contrary to popular belief, there aren’t any obstacle police forcing you to do each and every obstacle. I, for one, couldn’t get through the razor wire mud pit without getting my hair snared in its sharp blades, and since my hair generally walks on the wild side, I didn’t want to risk having an unwanted trim on the course. I squirmed my way out to the side, wiping mud out of my eyes, and continued on. For some, this may feel like you’re not getting the full experience, but it’s all about doing what’s best for you.
Know the obstacles.
For me, knowing the order of the obstacles was helpful for telling how much farther I had to go. It made me realize that I was almost done when my legs cramped and I was tired, and it helped me gear up some courage for the obstacles that I was concerned about—namely WTF. The steep pitch and ropes to help you climb WTF somehow seemed so much worse than crawling through mud and jumping over hurdles. But once it was over with, I had a newfound energy to continue on through the race.
Have fun with it.
If you’re a trail running champion who does a marathon as a warm up for another marathon, I encourage you to kick some butt on this race. If you’re a casual hiker with a love of playing in the dirt, you’ll have fun too. Obviously, it’s important to be conscious of your physical abilities, but the Tough Mountain Challenge offers the variety and the atmosphere to make it your own.
Me, clad in mud and an orange shirt, finishing the Tough Mountain Wet Run with a goofy grin.
The 2016 Tough Mountain Challenge is sold out, but to join in on the fun as a spectator, make your way to Sunday River’s slopes on July 22 for the Big Ass Bash, and July 23 for race day, plus the Mini Mountain Challenge. Registration for the 2017 Tough Mountain Challenge opens on July 24.