You have to be tough to live in Vermont and survive winter. You have to be even tougher to do some of the state’s most grueling events. Vermont is, after
all, the birthplace of Joe DeSena’s Spartan Races. While the ultimate challenge, the Death Race, is no longer in play, the Spartan Ultra Beast (held Sept. 16-17) takes its place. The Ultra Beast challenges participants to run, climb, carry, swim and scramble through 50 obstacles (everything from rope climbs to fire jumps to sandbag carries) over a 26-mile course in Killington. Miss an obstacle and your penalty is burpees—lots of them. If that doesn’t sound like fun try the similar Tough Mudder, mountain bike or run 50 miles on the Vermont 50; run or ride Circumburke around Burke Mountain; or cycle 40 miles of dirt and mud roads in April’s Rasputitsa gravel ride. Winner: Spartan Race. Runners Up: Tough Mudder, Vermont 50 (bike and run), Vermont 100×100, Circumburke bike/run, Rasputitsa.
As for the “wackiest” events in the state? Getting wet led the day with the Penguin Plunges, followed by pond skimming. In 1996 a few hardy souls jumped into Lake Champlain during the Burlington Winter Carnival and raised $8,000 for Special Olympics Vermont. Today, the Penguin Plunge is Special Olympics Vermont’s largest annual fundraising effort with events in Burlington (in early February) and Stratton Mountain (March 25). In 2016, 1,200 brave souls jumped into Vermont’s icy lakes raising a record breaking $474,000 to support sports training and competition for athletes with intellectual disabilities. There are, of course, lots of other icy plunges held around the state. All for a good cause, we hope. Other events that registered on the “wacko-meter:” the Stowe Derby, for the sheer insanity of skiing from Mt. Mansfield into town on skinny skis and Burlington’s Santa Run (you dress for it) and Color Run. Winner: Penguin plunge. Runners up: Pond skimming; Stowe Derby, Santa Run, Color Run
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