‘A giant phenomenon’ | VailDaily.com

‘A giant phenomenon’

Lauren Glendenning
Vail CO Colorado
CVR Tough Mudder KA 6-25-11

BEAVER CREEK, Colorado – They crawled through mud, ran uphill on black diamond ski runs, swam through near-freezing water and suffered electric shock – it’s safe to say that Beaver Creek’s “Not Exactly Roughing It” motto isn’t true during Tough Mudder weekend.

Thousands of participants and spectators were at Beaver Creek on Saturday for the event that supports the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring and empowering wounded American soldiers. Beaver Creek Resort Co. Executive Director Tim Baker said there were more than 6,500 participants Saturday, with 1,750 registered spectators and thousands more spectating throughout the course.

The cause is what compelled so many of Saturday’s Tough Mudder participants to put themselves through 10 miles of obstacles designed by the British Special Forces. It’s a cause that hits home – a cause that makes electric shock seem like no big deal.

Derek Rogers, a colonel with the Kansas Air National Guard, traveled to Beaver Creek from Lawrence, Kan., to compete with 12 of his fellow guardsmen. He gets choked up when he talks about why the team is competing.

“We’ve lost a few Kansas guards,” Rogers said.

Rogers stumbled upon Tough Mudder when the Kansas Air National Guard decided it wanted to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project. When he saw that Tough Mudder was a way to do just that, he said he couldn’t pass it up.

But as the event neared, Rogers began asking himself if he was really up for it.

He finished Saturday with a smile on his face, and he wasn’t even covered in too much mud compared to other finishers.

“The biggest challenge was swimming under the barrels in the cold water,” Rogers said. “You’re just weak. You’re thinking, ‘OK, backstroke, don’t drown.'”

Team work

Tough Mudder might feel like a race or competition, but the point of the event is team work and camaraderie. It’s a personal challenge to overcome, not a race against a clock or other participants.

Aubree Dietrich, 18, of Fort Collins, felt that camaraderie as she raced through the 10-mile course at Beaver Creek that also covers more than 4,000 vertical feet in elevation changes. Dietrich was supposed to have a friend do the event with her, but her friend couldn’t make it.

So she did it by herself, and found our quickly that she was not really alone.

“Everybody was so awesome,” Dietrich said.

The energy among the participants is also what helped Dietrich push on, even after she nearly went into shock when her body touched the ice cold water in the Underwater Tunnels obstacle. She had to sit outside of the lake with a blanket to warm up for about five minutes before she could attempt the swim again.

“I ended up doing it anyway,” Dietrich said.

The cold water is also what competitor Ryan Sutter, a Vail firefighter and competitive athlete, found to be the most challenging. Sutter said the water felt like it was about 33 degrees.

“Your muscles just freeze up in there,” Sutter said.

Sutter said Tough Mudder might be the most fun he’s ever had in a race. Just the atmosphere at the event was enough to have a good time, he said.

“I had never even heard of it and then you come up here and it’s some sort of giant phenomenon,” Sutter said. “There’s a million people that do (Tough Mudder events) apparently. I can see why – it really is fun.”

People like Kiel Pickett, 19, who goes to the University of Wyoming in Laramie, added to that light-hearted, fun atmosphere. He showed up for the event wearing nothing more than a fluorescent green thong.

“I have no self shame,” Pickett said.

His costume, inspired by Party Boy from the TV series and movie “Jackass,” left little to the imagination.

“I’m doing this for a good cause, that’s why I’m doing it,” he said. “I just want to have a great time.”

Another team from Wyoming, Team Scott Miller, was in it for the cause, too. Scott Miller was a good friend who died while serving in Iraq. Teammate Candace Brown’s brother is also currently serving in Afghanistan, and teammate Bill Lovelace is a U.S. Marine.

Their strategy for the day was nothing more than team work.

And that was the point, event announcer Brian Goldrich told each wave of 500 competitors at the start of the course.

“The point is you came as a team, so you want to finish as a team, if you can, as a team,” Goldrich said.

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or lglendenning@vaildaily.com.

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