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Contestants Put Their Mettle to the Test at Tough Mudder

Hundreds of men and women make their way through seven miles of grueling obstacles

Muddy, wet and weary, hundreds of men and women crossed the finish line last weekend at the Bear Valley Tough Mudder, a grueling seven-mile endurance race taking its contestants all over the ski resort’s snowless slopes.

Running up a double-black diamond ski run, ducking under barrels in 40-degree water and climbing over 12-foot walls — at high altitude — isn’t for everyone, but the Tough Mudder organization draws crowds from all over.

As the participant pledge goes, a Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge. It’s impossible to get through — or, in most cases, over — some obstacles without help, from one’s own team or strangers. Some teams were recognizable through their matching costumes — including a group from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and a group of women who were the cleverly cow-print-clad “tough udders” — and some for their ability to stay together throughout the course.

The obstacles are military-style, as the organization found help in its course designs from groups such as the British Special Air Service, and events contribute to the Wounded Warrior Project.

The events on Saturday and Sunday were graced with warm weather, which helped some overcome the hyperventilation-inducing cold of The Gauntlet — running up the mountain’s half-pipe while snow machines sprayed stinging water at them — and spending a few minutes getting through obstacles in the snowmaking pond.

Aside from some shrieked obscenities and high-pitched gasps, the hard-core men and women made their way through by clinging to another part of the pledge: “I do not whine — kids whine.”

For the ridiculously tough, the Goruck Challenge lets a few civilians join U.S. Special Forces members who do the Tough Mudder course wearing backpacks full of bricks. About 10 people carted their heavy loads through the obstacles Sunday, when most Mudders carried nothing.

Spectators were scattered around the course, most of them following their friends and family, and had few boundaries as to where they could go. A ski lift took spectators willing to pay the extra price (a spectator ticket didn’t include access to 16 of the 19 obstacles) to the top of the mountain as Mudders ran up the rocky, steep hill. An amount of toughness is required for those watching as well, since the ticket doesn’t include a return trip. Everyone from children to grandmothers scrambled down the side of the mountain, and as there were no signs, any path that looked reasonably walkable was taken.

Event staff and water stations were scattered throughout the mountain’s course, and first aid workers and emergency helicopters were on standby. The helicopter was used at least once Sunday, but most Mudders made it through mostly unharmed.

A free beer awaited age-appropriate contestants at the end, as well as the option for free tattoos and mullet or mohawk haircuts.

The next California Tough Mudder event will be May 28-29 at the Snow Valley Mountain Resort. Registration for participants and spectators is available online.

Be warned: Sunday’s start times and participation prices changed within the week before the event because of low registration rates.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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