‘Triathlon on steroids’
June 15, 2013
BEAVER CREEK — Tough Mudder Wes Smith describes the event as a "triathlon on steroids."
"Tough Mudder has three key components: You have to have the endurance, you have to have the strength for the obstacles and you have to have the agility," said Smith, 48, of Denver.
Smith challenged himself to his fourth Tough Mudder event on Saturday in Beaver Creek as one of an estimated 10,000 competitors. It's easily Beaver Creek's busiest day of the year, with Tough Mudder participants — affectionately referred to as "Mudders" — coming from all over the country to torture themselves through 10 miles of physically and mentally demanding obstacles.
Obstacles like the Arctic Enema, which forces Mudders to jump into a giant ice bath where they must swim through the ice and under a wooden plank, test a Mudder's so-called mental grit. The object of this obstacle: Don't get hypothermia or drown.
And folks with heart conditions need not get electrocuted in the two electrically charged obstacles: Electroshock Therapy and Electric Eel.
The good news for Mudders, though, is that there are aid stations everywhere, and especially at the Arctic Enema.
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"Every time you felt like, 'Oh, I wish I had a drink,' there was sure enough an aid station right there with snacks and drinks," said Tasha Clatterbaugh, 36, who competed in her second Beaver Creek Tough Mudder on Saturday.
Clatterbaugh and friend Ivy Coryell, both from Meeker, did Tough Mudder together and loved it. They looked tired after crossing the finish line of the more than three-hour course, but they were still smiling.
"It was insane, but awesome," Coryell said. "You're just hot, cold, hot, cold — all day."
The Mudders were also up and down all day. Spencer Kontnik, of Denver, called it much more deceptive this year than last year's Beaver Creek Tough Mudder.
"Last year, you'd run all the way up and then it was all downhill right to the end. This year, it kind of weaved around and you think you're almost there and then it has you looping around, and up and then down again," Kontnik, 25, said.
Kontnik and his buddy Justin Miller, also 25, did Saturday's Tough Mudder in honor of Kontnik's stepbrother who recently died of leukemia. Last year, they did the course for Miller's mother, who had just beaten cancer.
Just because a Mudder has done a course before, though, doesn't make it any easier.
"The British special ops guys have a way of getting you wet and then the moment you think you're dry and warm and comfortable, you're soaking through again and freezing," Miller said. "It's a battle of body temperature, too."
Repeating Tough Mudder events does have its advantages, too. Smith and friend Ted Schleisman, 25, of Portland, Ore., have gotten the hang of several of the obstacles.
"There's technique to the obstacles and there's a sharp learning curve," Smith said. "The Everest (obstacle) — you see it and it's so big, but once you do it, it's about timing and how to do it more efficiently. You just get more dialed in."
Schleisman has finished eight Tough Mudder events now and said he does it for the personal challenge. The Beaver Creek event, though, is one of the toughest.
"This one kind of singularly is a huge test of fitness," he said.
Coming from flat land, Schleisman spent two days in Denver before heading up to Beaver Creek. He ran up the stairs at the Red Rocks Amphitheater and knew the altitude wasn't something to mess with when he reached the top.
"I was wheezing and gasping," Schleisman said, adding that he and his sister, who also finished Tough Mudder Saturday, decided to walk quickly through the course rather than run. If they ran, they knew they wouldn't have much left for the obstacles.
"We kept a good, brisk walking pace," he said. "We weren't going to push it. We knew our strategy coming in."
It's fitting that Tough Mudder, which has raised more than $5.6 million for the Wounded Warriors Project, a nonprofit that helps veterans, is a patriotic event. There are countless veterans and family members of veterans who endure these courses in the name of freedom. Every person has donated money to the Wounded Warriors Project cause just through registering for the event. Some participants go above and beyond and raise as much as they can.
Jeff Gruidel, of Denver, was convinced by some friends to compete in Tough Mudder this weekend. After he saw what the event was all about and after finishing the course, he knew he wanted to be a part of it again.
"I think the Wounded Warrior Project is great. We'll try to up the ante next year to do something for charity," he said.