TAHOE/TRUCKEE — Running 12 miles, crawling through mud-filled holes, jumping into near-freezing water and climbing over slick, near-vertical walls.
Sound like a nice Saturday?
To an increasing number of people, adding an extra level of punishment to the equivalent of a half marathon is all part of the weekend’s plan.
“It’s just fun, you know,” said Incline Village resident Tia Rancourt, who participated in last year’s Tough Mudder event at Squaw Valley. “It’s just good to challenge yourself and see what you’re made of.”
Obstacle races, or “mud runs,” like Tough Mudder, Spartan Race and Muddy Buddy have proliferated over the past decade, said Sean Sweeney, a South Shore resident who is one of the organizers of Sierra Recon, the area’s foray into the mud run phenomenon.
“This segment of the market has just blown up,” Sweeney said.
The obstacle race is scheduled for July 14 at Sierra-at-Tahoe Ski Resort and will include natural and manmade obstacles like tree stumps, truck tires, a mud pit and some of Sierra-at-Tahoe’s terrain park features. A 200- to 300-foot slip and slide is also in the works, Sweeney said.
The race also has multiple length options ranging from of 4.1 to 10.9 miles, elevation gains of 1,095 feet to 3,305 feet and anywhere from 8 to more than 20 obstacles. Sierra Recon will also include half-mile and mile-long obstacle races for kids younger than 14.
The event will differ from Tough Mudder because of the multiple distances, its spectator-friendly design and the fact that it will be a timed race, Sweeney said.
For those unable to attend, an obstacle race called MojoMan Challenge is planned for Heavenly Mountain Resort in August and is awaiting approval from the U.S. Forest Service.
Tough Mudder, which will hold dozens of events around the world this year, also returns to the area with events at Northstar California Sept. 22 and 23. Tough Mudder events are 10-12 mile obstacle courses designed to test strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie, according to organizers. It’s that last aspect that makes the physically exhausting mud runs unique, according to both Sweeney and Rancourt.
Although physically trying, marathons and triathlons don’t encourage the type of camaraderie inspired by pushing your physical capabilities — and tolerance for dirt — with hundreds of enthusiastic companions, Sweeney said.
“It was definitely challenging and a lot of fun at the same time too because of the camaraderie and everyone helps each other out,” Rancourt said of the Squaw Valley Tough Mudder.
And you might think that jumping into a trash bin filled with ice water, carrying a stump up a series of switchbacks, crawling through claustrophobic tubes filled with water and running through dangling electrical wires would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Not in Rancourt’s estimation.
“I can’t wait to do it again,” she said.