NEWRY — One thousand runners from across the country tested their mettle Saturday in the second annual Tough Mountain Challenge by flinging their bodies through obstacles on a 3-mile course.
Sunday River Ski Resort's “boot camp” experience quickly separated those in shape for such a grueling grind from athletes who were reduced to walking after getting blasted by water from snow-making guns on the initial Hurricane Alley obstacle hill.
The race was done in waves of 75 runners with 20 minutes separating each wave.
Bethel's Dan Crooker, who celebrated his 40th birthday on Saturday, won the Men's Solo Class, posting a time of 28 minutes and 46.6 seconds.
Crooker is the resort's director of weddings and conference sales.
“He is pretty pumped,” resort spokeswoman Darcy Morse said.
Jay Fletcher of Brunswick, who finished in 153rd place in the men's race, said that first uphill sprint through Hurricane Alley was a killer.
“You start up a very steep hill and you're going strong and all of a sudden you realize about a tenth of a mile in that you're already tired,” he said.
The best part, Fletcher said, was the last obstacle — the Slip, Slide and Die, which featured a long slide down a canola-oil-slicked tarp that emptied racers into the Widowmaker Pit. The pit was a muddy waterhole under a log.
Runners emerging from the waterhole, after ducking under the log, then had to climb over a mound of dirt damming the water, sprint uphill and down a long, uneven grassy slope to the finish line.
Fletcher said other than obstacles, the only problem he encountered was getting rocks in his shoes.
Ryan Means of York, who was covered head to toe in canola oil, said he enjoyed the course. He finished the Men's Solo Class in 40th place with a time of 39 minutes and 5.6 seconds.
“It was awesome!” Means said. “I'd do it again right now if I wouldn't die.”
He said the second obstacle — Park, Pipes and Pain — forced him to change his pace. That was a bunch of up, over and through terrain park pipes, ramps and rails.
“That second (obstacle), I jogged up and then I started walking up the hills,” Means said. “If you save yourself going up the hills, you can just cruise going down the hills.”
He said mud pits right before the hills were the toughest parts of the course.
“Each of my feet weighed 10 pounds; they were full of mud,” Means said.
When the first wave took the course, temperatures were in the low 70s with overcast skies that quickly cleared. For most of the day, however, runners faced a stiff headwind when trying to dash up hills, but caught the tailwind on the way down.
"We could not have asked for a better race day,” Morse said.
“The racers were excited and the energy surrounding the event was contagious. All in all, it was a complete success," she said.
Greg Goodhue of Sidney took second place with a time of 29 minutes and 18.8 seconds, and Mike Kane of Alfred took third place, posting a time of 29 minutes and 20.6 seconds.
Danielle Lorusso of Orono won the Women's Solo Class with a time of 33 minutes and 7.5 seconds. Vanessa Whiting of Bath finished second at 37 minutes and 12.7 seconds and Patricia Craig of Dedham won third place at 38 minutes and 56 seconds.
The duo competition was won by Alex Chase, who posted a time of 30 minutes and 4.8 seconds while his partner, Amanda Caron, finished in 36 minutes and 39.4 seconds.
Chris Dunn and Renee Chalou-Ennis won the team race, with Dunn finishing in 34 minutes and 50.9 seconds and Chalou-Ennis at 42 minutes and 5.6 seconds.