BEAVER CREEK — When the names of the obstacles include things like “Devils Beard,” “Boa Constrictor,” “Electric Eel” and “Electrochock Therapy,” the Tough Mudder tagline that claims the event is “probably the toughest event on the planet” seems plausible.
Tough Mudder takes over Beaver Creek this weekend with an estimated 10,000-plus participants on Saturday alone who will run through mud, crawl through confined spaces, swim through shallow water with electrically charged wires hanging above and risk terrifying themselves in countless other ways throughout the course.
The electric shock, by the way, is no joke. One zap and you feel it through your entire body — a tingling, numbing sensation that feels like it could easily be followed by a heart arrhythmia. Notice to participants with heart conditions, metal in their bodies or a history of seizures: Skip the electrically charged portions of the course.
With Beaver Creek’s rugged terrain and altitude, the Tough Mudder competitors here not only face their fears, they also face fatigue and less oxygen in the air to breathe.
Why would people do such a thing? One good reason is that the event supports the Wounded Warriors Project, a nonprofit with a mission “to foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history.” Tough Mudder has raised more than $5.6 million for Wounded Warriors to date and is on pace to raise up to $2 million more this year, said Nick Bodkins, general manager of Tough Mudder.
The money is raised in good fun. While the course — modeled after training courses designed by British Special Forces — is challenging to say the least, Tough Mudder is about more than the physical test.
“We’re a mix between challenging and fun,” Bodkins said. “The concepts the company has, which is ‘you’re bigger than you think you are,’ and ‘with team work and camaraderie, you can get through a lot more than you think you can,’ — those are sort of universal concepts. It’s not about being the first or being the best.”
With obstacles like the Berlin Walls — a 12-foot wooden wall participants must climb over — team work is absolutely necessary. Participants who show up to do Tough Mudder solo quickly make friends and find that camaraderie is a part of the game.
Another obstacle called Everest is a quarter-pipe that participants have to sprint to the top of — not an easy feat since most of them are wet and covered in mud from previous obstacles. Without a lending hand to grab onto once nearing the top, these Mudders will fall right back down to where they started.
There are plenty of obstacles in which participants are on their own, though, too. The Boa Constrictor will no doubt be a challenge for those with claustrophobia. Mudders must crawl through pipes heading downhill into a shallow pond with barbed wire hanging above. Mudders must crawl and stay low through the water. If they don’t, there will likely be blood.
If participants get bloody or someone rolls an ankle or anything worse, Beaver Creek and Tough Mudder have collaborated to provide medical care on scene. Tough Mudder uses contracted medical staff to attend to anyone who gets hurt, whatever their injuries may be.
“We’ve got a really robust medical plan,” Bodkins said.
U.S. Forest Service Ranger Don Dressler, who handles winter sports, trails and wilderness for the Eagle/Holy Cross Ranger District, reviews the safety plan to make sure everything is covered in case of emergencies. He also makes sure that any of the obstacles built on public lands are temporary and low-impact.
Watch your language
The spectator areas where children might need earplugs are at the electric courses. Perhaps the most horrifying of all the obstacles are these two because they cause participants actual pain.
Electric Eel and Electroshock Therapy combine water and electricity — 10 joules worth in one shock — with frightening scenes. In Electric Eel, Mudders have to crawl their way through water and the wires above constantly zap them. And in Electroshock Therapy, the Mudders can at least run through, however the electric wire density makes zapping practically unavoidable.
One tip learned on a Friday preview of the course is this: Stay close to other competitors since the wires will only shock one person at a time — you just might be able to get through it with minimal pain.
Otherwise, don’t think about it too much and just go for it. The longer you watch the terror in other competitors’ faces and hear them scream profanities, the more you’ll doubt yourself and question why you’d be dumb enough — or brave enough — to do this in the first place.
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-748-2983.