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CC’s Outdoor Journal; Tough Mountain Challenge; Run, slide, crawl, climb
NEWRY- Driving up to the mountain on Friday evening to check in for Saturday’s Tough Mountain Challenge, seeing the ski trails rising out from behind the trees, I was second guessing as to what I had signed up for. What was I thinking? Could I really accomplish this challenge?
I decided early on that I wasn’t competing in this challenge against anyone other than myself and had set the goal, with my friend and partner in crime, Lisa Smith, to enjoy ourselves, do the best we could and finish with a smile in less than two hours. After all, it was just a 3.1-mile endurance hike with a few obstacles thrown in, right? Sure.
Needless to say, there was a lot of self talk Saturday morning, along with the constant reminder to one another to breathe. We were smiling, but in all honesty, we were really nervous. After all, we were both a little freaked out by all those teaser photos put out on the TMC’s website, Facebook page and those blasted emails from Kate Crooker (race organizer) were of no help to ease the nerves. Job well done on freakout factor!
We were members of the elite 10:45 a.m. heat and had arrived about the time the 9:30 heat was jumping up and down chanting their countdown. Lisa’s face was stark white at this point and I know there were some interesting thoughts going through her mind. I was more worried that I didn’t have a hat to cover my morning do. Really, I was.
Being joined by my husband, Andy, our friends, Sue Lajoie, Sue Dunn, Pauline from Paris, and our personal photographer, Barb Rajaniemi and her husband, Donnie, we had quite a cheering squad that helped distract us from our thoughts.
In no time it was our turn to head up to the start line. With smiles spreading across our faces, high fives out of the way, and our sneakers tied up tight, Team Rumford Falls Times was ready to roll! We jumped up and down with our 123 heat members, counted down with them, and we were off!
With a mud pit 20 yards from the start line we managed our way through it and around a young lady searching for her lost sneaker, then it was up the hill through the snow guns shooting a fine mist of water our way. And, I was worried about my hair, why? It was all behind me now.
With smiles stretched across our faces, the challenge was on. In between obstacles is kind of a blur, now, but I know I felt great and was never more happy that I had enlisted Dawson Walton at the Greater Rumford Community Center for his help in getting me tough mountain ready.
Lisa was such a trooper. She and I crawled under barbed wire in the mud, balanced on water pipes over water, ran through the woods with biting bugs hot on our heels, swam through muddy water under beams, ran very slippery slopes of grass and mud, crawled through culverts small and large, and jumped over man-made ditches while water washed away the dirt beneath our feet.
It was an absolute high that we were doing it. We were doing a great job climbing this mountain and working our way through the obstacles. Then we looked up. Yes. There it was. The much-talked about, highly-feared, WTF. No, I’m not being vulgar. That is the name of the obstacle.
A steep (very steep) slope of ledge and wet grass under the chair lift with ropes anchored in the steeper sections for you to grab onto for help up over. Standing at the bottom, I encouraged Lisa to just look at her feet, but like a small child, she looked up and began laughing, even offered the volunteer on the four-wheeler 20 bucks for a ride (of course she had no money to give). We now understood where the obstacle got its name.
This was it, this was the ultimate obstacle of the entire course. We were going to get to the top.
It wasn’t until much later, after we conquered the subterranean dance club, the lily pads, the climbing walls and the water slide, that we realized WTF was the most difficult challenge of all.
Looking back, I kept a couple people ahead of Lisa the whole way up WTF, listening to Dawson’s voice in my head, “This mountain has nothing on you!” It totally worked. Lisa and I exchanged motivational cheers the entire way and finally made it. What a feeling!
As we crossed the finish line, our cheerleaders all around, we were elated that team 609 had completed the course in 1:31:31. We did it. We exceeded our time goal and we were still smiling! And, yes, we had fun.
With registration for the 2014 event being $10 cheaper for that weekend only, Team Rumford Falls Times enlisted. But, this time there will be four of us on that mountain.
Looking back, I’m so grateful to have gotten in the shape I did before attempting this challenge, but I’m so much more grateful for the toughness that Lisa showed in completing this course with me. It’s amazing what a person can do when they are motivated to succeed.
The Tough Mountain Challenge, in its third year, had 3,000 participants and have already planned to add 500 more slots for 2014, with heats beginning at 8 a.m. Registration is now open, but sign up soon, because the popularity of this event is staggering. Will you join me on the mountain next summer?