|aR @ Tough Mountain Challenge|
[L-R] Jason Massa, Dan Dion, Chris J. Dunn,
Rich Lavers, Steve Sprague
Sunday River, MAINE -- Obstacle course racing is a fairly new genre. I actually find the stunning popularity (reference 20,000 people at an event in Amesbury, MA this month) quite an interesting phenomena. And I've had long discussions during equally long car rides, without consensus, about the explanation behind it. Regardless, aR has capitalized on the novelty of the sport to carve out some measure of success winning back-to-back titles at the Hoppin' Mad Mud Run. I'll admit that 80% of the field at most of these events are groups of co-workers, sorority sisters, or weekend warriors but the task is always the same...be the fastest team to cross the finish line. And don't get me wrong, I think the whole idea of folks getting out and crawling around in the mud, hurdling walls, and running through the occasional pit of fire is a great way to promote physical activity and teamwork. It may actually be the spark (pun intended) to light a fire under the asses of some people in need of a little motivation to 're-start' or 'ramp up' their exercise programs. And without the aforementioned 80%, there would be very few (or no) opportunities for the other 20%. So with that, when the Tough Mountain Challenge came to our attention a few months back (just off our win at Hoppin') we didn't hesitate. Three of the five from the podium crew at Hoppin' (Jason Massa, Rich Lavers, and myself) would travel to Newry, ME along with newcomer Dan Dion subbing for the injured Steve Wolfe. But we weren't the only aR members racing. Steve Sprague raced as a solo with Nick Langelotti and Craig Poirier both leading duo's. The group that we had assembled to challenge for the 4-person team podium was presumably as strong any team there but because this looked like a bigger event there was no way of telling what the competition was. With a 1:20 start time we'd have a long time to sit around and anticipate the task at hand. When it was finally time to start we had full sun with temps easily in the 90's. As I said to the group before the start if some other team jumped us early on let them go but keep them in sight. The intel we had received from those who had already finished the course suggested there was plenty of climbing to do which played right to our strength. As if scripted, when the go command was given for the 1:20 start a young team of guys hammered off the line and began the first ascent. Running up a muddy ski slope through the water spraying snow cannons was tricky but felt great after baking in the sun at the starting line. By the time we finished the first 300 meter climb the group of 4 that blasted the start had become three. We easily cruised by them and began to open a gap on the rest of the field. The roughly 3-5 km course was a steady diet of up and down the mountain with obstacles like 8 ft climbing walls, spider webs, tunnels, and steep 25 meter rope-aided ravine ascents. Amazingly there were no back-ups and we took advantage of racing out front to cleanly negotiate the obstacles...for the most part. With Jason leading we ran through the first tunnel and after popping out continued to traverse the gnarly rocky ravine to the second, must smaller and sketchier, tunnel. It was only when we emerged from the second tunnel that we realized we had gone off course. After a brief discussion we scrambled back up out of the ravine in the direction we had travelled and quickly got back on course. Fortunately we had a large enough lead on our nearest competitors that our position in the heat was secure, but we all knew that there was still at least one more wave of 4-person teams to follow. We were racing the clock for sure. Excelling in the tight twisty singletrack sections we began to catch the slower teams from the 1:00 pm starting wave. We flew down the final 'slip'n slide' obstacle and ran through the finish together in 34:50.97. And in the end it turned out that even our 2:00 "extra tunnel" gaff left us enough cushion to take home the win in the 4-person category as our closest competitors finished 5:00 back. We weren't the only aR podium team however, Nick and his buddy took 2nd place in the duo category. Overall the event was extremely well designed and run. Kudos to the folks at Sunday River for putting on a great race! We'll be back in 2012 to defend our title for sure. And who says belt buckles are for sub 24 hour 100 miler finishers?!
|1st Place Buckle!|
NEXT UP: Kingman Farm Trail Race presented by GoLite Footwear