Tough Mountain Challenge is an awesome event, but could use a couple of small tweaks

A trio of Tough Mountain Challenge competitors round a bend and head toward a mud pit during Saturday’s race at Sunday River.

I’ve done the Tough Mountain Challenge the last three summers, as highlighted in my last blog. It’s been a blast all three years, and 2013 was no exception.

Lots of mud, meeting new friends and reacquainting with old, a few beer mugs and a post-race trip to Kezar Lake have been among the highlights. But just like every race, there are things that can be done to make the participant’s experience that much better.

Upon reading some Facebook comments regarding the race over the last couple of days, its clear some changes need to be made.

I will start by saying that the heat process is excellent, with 125 racers going off every 15 minutes. It prevents overcrowding on the course, which can be a problem in an adventure race featuring obstacles. The registration process is quick and simple as well, in terms of the fact you can select your own heat and sign up a year in advance.

As far as the race-day operations go, they should resemble that of a road race.

I’ve done thousands of running events in my life, and upon finishing your typical small-town 5K or 10K, you’ll find Gatorade, oranges, bananas, water, and even watermelons awaiting you at the finish line. The perfect recovery solutions after a tough workout.

Upon finishing Tough Mountain Challenge, me and the other hardy 2,200-plus souls who conquered Sunday River this weekend encountered two giant jugs of water.

But that was it. Gatorade? Nope. Fruit? Nada. Bottled water? Zilch.

If you wanted a bottle of water after exiting the finishing chute, it was going to cost you $2.50 at one of the beer tents. There were bananas available at one of the food tents, but it wasn’t complimentary.

I know, some are in this race purely for the free beer at the end. Nothing wrong with that, that’s one of the reasons I do this race every year. But, I would never tell my BodyPump participants to crack a can of Bud Light immediately after finishing Track 10. The body needs proper nutrients to refuel. Beer, cheeseburgers and hot dogs don’t provide those nutrients.

In future years, it wouldn’t hurt to have some small bottles of Gatorade, apples, bananas or other healthy goodies waiting for us after finishing. That, along with conquering the mountain, will make the beer and burgers all the more enjoyable.

Somebody else touched base on the fact the course wasn’t very well marked. I agreed with him, and it turns out it was a guy in my heat who took a wrong turn shortly after the WTF obstacle.

Me and another guy followed him. But there were no orange markings along the trail we were traversing. As we went downhill, we started to question our decision, but kept going. Precious minutes from our times were lost. Suffice to say I would’ve easily finished this race in under 60 minutes if not for this wrong turn.

What am I getting at? The course needs to be marked at every turn so things like this don’t happen. Imagine if that happened in a marathon and a competitor wound up running an extra 4-5 miles, or in a race like Tough Mountain Challenge if a competitor wound up getting injured and there were no volunteers to assist.

Another idea would be to scrap the concept that duos and teams must all finish together. A friend of mine from USA who did the race ran into that problem, where you’re only as fast as your teammate or slowest competitor. The basic solution would be to add the times of team members together, divide them by the amount of competitors and the average time is your team time. It may give timers headaches, but its all about the competitors.

Tough Mountain Challenge is an outstanding event that Sunday River does an excellent job with, there’s no question about it. But with slight improvements, the race could be better next year and beyond.

Ryan McLaughlin

About Ryan McLaughlin

BDN sports reporter Ryan McLaughlin grew up in Brewer and is a lifelong fan of the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins. In "The Boston Blitz" he'll be sharing his perspective with BDN readers about what's happening on the Boston professional sports scene.