A pit of mud. A 12-foot wooden wall. Trails that crisscrossed Stratton Mountain for 6 miles — up and down, and up again through rugged terrain on the steep Green Mountain slopes… that was the scene today at the Extreme Wolverine Challenge, an obstacle race that drew a crowd of runners, “mud race” veterans, firefighters, a group of U.S. Marines, and two editors from GearJunkie.
Fog and rain greeted the race pack at the base of the Vermont ski resort. The starting line faced a steep and rocky trail. Myself and contributing editor Sean McCoy were set to sprint hard and maneuver over obstacles, nearly 20 in all that stood scattered on the course.
We took off fast and tried to ditch the race pack on the first big climb. We ran into a wall, grabbing the fresh-cut wood and climbing up. I jumped off and dropped from head-height through the air, but the ground was soft, and within an instant McCoy and I were running again.
Stratton Mountain is steep. Its slopes climbed into the fog today. Trees closed in on the racecourse trails, which zigzagged up and across a large chunk of the lower mountain face.
“Keep your head up,” McCoy shouted. He was ducking under a net to climb through a pit of mud. I got down on hands and knees and worked forward, a swampy smell coming up from the muck.
We ran hard, maxed out as we climbed up and up. The taped course led the pack higher on Stratton Mountain, under chairlifts, across an open slope, and back to the woods again.
Before the race would end we’d run downhill fast on softball-size rocks, jump mud patches and small creeks, climb more wooden walls, balance on floating dock “pods” that half sunk into water on each step (I fell off!), and swim across a small reservoir on the hill where melt water drained.
Cattails lined the water’s edge. We swam through the weeds and then crawled onto the mud bank, the end almost in sight ahead. McCoy and I were in the lead still, and I took a glance back to see if our competition was coming.
A final sprint, two large obstacles, and a giant slip-n-slide installed on the mountain led us to the finishing chute. We crossed the line in first place, elated to win and also happy to have completed a tough course.
—Stephen Regenold is the editor of GearJunkie. He and contributing editor Sean McCoy raced as Team GearJunkie at the Extreme Wolverine Challenge. Their finishing time of 50 minutes 0 seconds netted the pair first-place overall in the obstacle-race event, held on Stratton Mountain, Vt., on July 13, 2013.