Race with a twist ... and a death waiver


T.S. Eliot, the poet, once suggested that April is the cruelest month. Hah. Note to T.S.: The accountants, attorneys, engineers and other desk people working out somewhat maniacally here Saturday won't be inclined to gather daffodils and sing showtunes in May, either.

Or at least May's first weekend.

At this time next week, they will be at Mount Snow in Vermont competing in what they call a "Tough Mudder," which is, well, one tough mudder.

If you are unfamiliar with a tough mudder, here is a loose description: agony.

They are 10-12 mile obstacle courses up and down hills, 12-foot walls, in and out of water, through mud tunnels, fire and 10,000 volts of electricity. They were designed by British Special Forces to test the stamina of the mind, maybe even more than the body.

It begins rather bluntly: You sign a death waiver.

That, right there, should be enough to elicit a "check, please."

"My husband thinks I'm insane," said Sue Jones, 46, an accountant in Groton, one of about 20 eager, upbeat folks who made final preparations Saturday with personal trainer Greg Drab, co-owner of Advantage Personal Training in Mystic. (Drab still talks about last year's event, in which he was sent through a submerged tube-type contraption that was alarmingly narrow and full of icy water.)

"My boyfriend thinks I'm cracked," said Kathy Bruciati, 50, a project and resource manager at Pfizer.

But the looks of hope and wonder on their faces made them as inspiring as they were entertaining.

"Why would I do this?" Kevin Black, an engineer at Electric Boat, asked rhetorically. "Because I'm the toughest man on the planet."

(Giggles all around).

So I ask: "Kevin, doesn't the death waiver thing frighten you?"

Kevin: "It would, if I weren't the toughest man on the planet."


A look around the room Saturday indicated there weren't many people who could pinch more than an inch. Take, for example, Carrie Modon, who works for a software company in Cranston (R.I.) and once worked at Mystic Seaport. Modon is somewhat of a rock star at Advantage for her recent accomplishment.

Modon spent 79 minutes, 20 seconds and climbed 5,280 feet on Jacob's Ladder, a self-paced treadmill climber. Thirty seconds is usually enough to commence panting more than Rin Tin Tin. And to think Modon lasted nearly an hour and a half.

Modon's reason for joining the Tough Mudders: "Peer pressure," she said.

But seriously folks … If there's one theme that ran through the room like a current Saturday, it was this: It's the challenge for the mind. The challenge of intentionally leaving your comfort zone for the reward of satisfaction.

"It's a team thing, too," Jones said. "I wasn't into relying on some stranger to throw my (rear end) over a 12-foot wall. I thought, 'what if I get injured and can't go to work?' But there's so many people there to help you. People are happy to hike you up."

Bruciati said, "If your head says you can't do it, it's not going to happen."

Matt Curtiss, an attorney for the Mystic-based firm Black, Janney and Pascal, is a Tough Mudder rookie. He's seen the You Tube clips and heard the horror stories. He knows about the death waiver. And still …

"You're part of a team. And it's an excuse to get in shape," he said. "I hear the stories. But the people who finish it are so psyched."

And when they finish, they'll know, quite comfortably, they can eat and drink as much of whatever they want. It's almost as much to look forward to as the sense of accomplishment.

"I can't wait," Bruciati said. "And the beer and chicken wings are really going to taste good."

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.


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