About Kevin McGongial

I am a Equipment Specialist with Patterson Dental in Western, MA and VT. I've been with Patterson for 5 years and spent my 1st 3 years selling CEREC technology. I have a wife, a daughter, a dog, and a mortgage.

Tri-State Tough Mudder Review

Pirate’s Booty

I took on the Tri-State Tough Mudder at Raceway Park in NJ this past weekend, and had a great time. I didn’t do much research on the event and didn’t really know what to expect. I checked out a few of the obstacles the week before and thought it could go either way. Some looked challenging while others looked routine. Tough Mudder bills itself as a “Hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle course designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie.” I think they hit the mark on some of these elements and missed on others. Overall, it was a fun race event with some great obstacles. Anyone who can run a few miles, should finish this course.

The Hits

The Event was very well organized. The parking was offsite, which sounds like a nightmare, but it was fine. We didn’t have to wait for buses on the way in or out. It was convenient, easy, and free (4 in a car). Registration was fast and efficient. The atmosphere inside was fun. Costume contest, band, mohawks, and all the usual pre-race goodies.

The course was well laid out, but I noticed there were signs that posted potential wait times of up to 30 minutes for some obstacles. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait more than a minute or two throughout the course.  This does signal, however, that the organizers see this as a potential problem, and that would be a deal breaker for me.  We started at 10am with several waves in front of us.  I wonder how the runners starting later in the day made out.

Arctic Enema

The obstacles were very well done and were more about overcoming fear than strength. Getting wet is not my thing, and many of the obstacles had you in cold water. The first obstacle of the day, Arctic Enema, required you to jump in a dumpster of ice water. It was a crazy situation that I never imagined myself in. If that ever happens in real life, you don’t have long to get out. It was quite a shock to the system.

Smoke Chute

One of my favorite obstacles, Smoke Chute, has you climb up to a platform maybe 15′ high where you have your own chute that resembles an air duct. You have to just jump in and trust that you won’t smash your head on the way down.  Of course, it dumps you out in a mud pond.

Two other highlights were Boa Constrictor and Trench Warfare.  Each feature crawling through tight spaces with rising water or complete darkness.  These was the only obstacle where I saw people bail once they got a close look.

The course was very unique. The Tri-State Mudder was at Raceway Park. It was cool to have a Monster truck lead us out, and to spend the afternoon on the dirt track without the dirt bike.

The Misses

Chain Gang

It’s a participation event. This may work for some people and I get that, but you can’t claim to be the “Toughest Event on the Planet” and not offer a competitive option. They could add a competitive wave for singles and teams. Imagine obstacles that require teamwork and strategy. Think log carry or river crossing. How would you get all 4 teammates over the 12′ wall? Could you get yourself over without any help? I understand this is where the camaraderie comes in, but I imagine most of the participants are competitive people and would like to compare themselves to the field.

Ladder to Hell

There wasn’t much of a strength component beyond the running. The rings and bars require some upper body and grip strength, but the climbing was fairly easy with knotted ropes and steps on the walls. Balance and fear of heights was more at play here. Most of the obstacles put you in unfamiliar situations but they aren’t overly difficult to complete.

If you are looking for a fun way to get dirty with your friends, you’ll love this event.  My complaints are mostly personal.  If you are a serious competitor looking for the toughest event on the planet, this probably isn’t for you. At $150, I’m not sure I need to do it again.



After getting back from VT, the plan was to take off from August 6 to Sept 1.  I made it until August 17 without doing much of anything.  I just couldn’t sit around anymore.  I did gain ten pounds and my feet are finally healed up so that’s good.  Officially my next training program started on Sunday, but I’ve been back at the gym for about a month.  Since then I’ve been putting together my next training plan and getting myself ready to start a new cycle.  I’ve also been working out the details on a few BIG ideas.  I’m 90% committed to another fundraising endurance event next summer and I’ve built my 40 week training plan around that goal.  I’ll be breaking it up into three sections as I did last year.  Here is a brief summary of what lies ahead.  You can see more details here and here.

Phase 1 is all about building my strength back up.  I’m spending 12 weeks on the Wendler Strength Program.  I’ve had success with this in the past when I first started at Crossfit.  I feel myself getting stronger with each lift.  Deadlifts and squats have done more for my running than I would have ever imagined.  I feel like I’m finally able to pull myself along with my hamstrings.   I’m mixing in some short tempo runs and 1 long run on the weekend.  In phase 2, I’ll transition back to the MetCon style workouts while adding in more miles.  Phase 3 will be about stretching out my long runs to get ready for what is sure to be a very difficult challenge.

It’s good to be back.  40 weeks is a long time, but in the end I’ll know it will be worth it.  Stay tuned for some exciting news about this event.

The Long Trail: Epilogue

It was back to work today after a shave and a haircut.  This experience was truly amazing, and I’m so thankful to have shared it with so many people.

I want to first thank my wife Amy.  Without her, none of this would have been possible.  She’s been standing by my side, and helping me “Go” since long before we ever headed to VT.  She always gives her best, and she is an inspiration.  We often talk about letting each other be “All the Kevin or Amy we can be”, and that often means putting yourself second.  She’s way better at it than I am, and I am so lucky to have her.

To all my friends and family, your constant support and encouragement played a big part in this run.  It’s a great feeling to know that people are rooting for you.  It’s humbling to have a cheering section, and I thrived on every message that you sent.  Your words meant so much, and I want to thank you for everything you did and continue to do.  I don’t think I would have made it without your help.  Besides supporting me, you also helped us raise $6,300 for a great cause.  Each of the three dental clinics in VT will be receiving $2100.  That is an amazing contribution and I know they are going to be floored.  I hope your generosity brings a big smile to your face.

So what did I learn?

Everything worthwhile is hard.  This is not a new thought, but it’s also not something you can just read and understand.  It’s OK if running or strenuous activity isn’t your thing.  If  there is something out there that you really want, and you are willing to work for it, then it is within reach.  The only thing stopping you, is you.  I’ve been successful in other areas of my life, but this was different.  I didn’t have to do this, and could have stopped at any time without much recourse.  There is something very powerful about setting a goal and giving it everything you have, win or lose.  I don’t think I’ve ever done that before.  Feeling the pure joy of pushing beyond perceived limits is something I’ll continue to chase.

The grass is not greener on the other side.  Like a lot of people, I complain about work and dream of greener pastures.  We’ve all heard the saying, “If you do something you’re passionate about, you’ll never work a day in your life.”  I don’t think it’s true.  If you are giving your time and energy to a task, it’s going to be work, it’s going to be hard, and it’s not always going to be fun.  I realized this after 40 hours of running, 40 hours of doing what I’ve been daydreaming about for a year, 40 hours of doing what I’m passionate about (right now at least).  I turned to Amy and said, “This isn’t any better than being at the office, I could certainly find things to complain about, and there are problems, just different ones.”  Enjoy what you have and take chances to enjoy other things, but try not to spend your life wishing you were in someone else’s.  That life is full of it’s own issues.

Facing adversity breeds confidence which breeds responsibility.  I’ll take from this run not only more confidence in my running ability, but also confidence in being able to go after what I want.  It’s a wonderful feeling to be on the other side of the threshold that separates being good enough and being great.  With that comes the responsibility to give that effort in everything that I do.  Why bother with any task if you’re not going to give it your all?  I’m as guilty of this as anyone, and one accomplishment doesn’t make me a life expert, but knowledge is power.  I know that sense of pride can exist in everything that you put your heart into.

I may not have finished all 272 miles of The Long Trail, but I had nothing else to give and nothing left in the tank.  Technically, I fell short of my goal, but I did my very best, which is all anyone ever asks for.

Day 10: Kevin’s Version

Finally, after 9 long days and over 180 miles we arrived at the final drop zone. Yesterday was long and painful. I was in bad shape when we went to bed last night and I was nervous about finishing. I woke up feeling surprisingly OK. I think the adrenaline was already going. Vanessa had had enough early wake up calls and was nearly unconscious when we got started. The first stretch was 11 miles to the final road crossing before the MA/VT border. It would be 3 more to the border, and then a soul crushing 3 back to the bus.

I started off feeling OK and then a few miles in I ran into a pack of scouts. Their leader called for them to move left to make room for me. Unprompted, and as if they knew what I was on the verge of accomplishing, they started cheering me on. I ran past in a full stride, high-fiving all the way down the line. Their shouts echoed behind me as I flew past with a big smile on my face. Cool.

I made it to the Seth Warner Shelter, and the reality of 17 miles on sore, blistered feet had set it. I was pretty much on fumes as I climbed the final hill to the sign. I looked around, snapped a pic, leaned over, and turned back. The skies opened up for my 3 mile “cool down” and I thanked my lucky stars I didn’t have to run in the famous VT mud.

Amy and Vanessa were waiting at the bus with Chariots of Fire playing and a nice sign. I almost fell with 20 yards to go, but made it safely to my girls.

I promised myself (and Amy) I’d take off the rest of August, anyone think I can?



Day 9: Kevin’s Version

If you’re a runner or have heard runners talk about hitting the wall, that was today. About a half mile into a 22.6 straight shot, I crashed and had nothing left to give. The result was seven more hours of torture. There wasn’t much to look at, it wasn’t exciting, and it wasn’t fun. Today hurt worse than any of the previous days. I’m breaking down and the pain is searching for new, deeper areas to affect. I’m nervous about being able to finish the last 17 tomorrow.




Day 9: Vanessa’s Version

I felt so bad to see my daddy have to go up mountains for 8 hours with no break. I didn’t want him to go but I knew he had to.

In the meantime my day consisted of painting pieces of cardboard and watching mini salamanders swim around. That was fun but I had a painting accident. The cup of paint was on the cardboard and the wind blew it all over my shirt. But lucky for me, Amy is an expert at a lot of things, so she got it out. A few minutes later a lady walked up and was like, “Can I see what your painting?” So Amy said sure. She came over, blah blah. Then she goes, “Did you rent this RV?” (our RV says 1-800-RV4rent in big red letters on the side) Haha. Good times.

When dad came back he limped up the path and I knew it wasn’t fun for him. I asked him to describe in three words how today felt. Long, pain, torture. He sat on the stairs and Amy and I kinda stared at him while he ate a peach. It made funny noises.

The rest if the day was quiet until we came up with disposable underwear. They are called Dispose-a-Pair, so daddy looked it up and found out that they already exist. They are called Onederwear. Bummer.

Day 8: Kevin’s Story

Yesterday my parents and Vanessa Came up to join our adventure. It was a huge mental boost to have my family come up and support us, and Vanessa’s constant running commentary is a great distraction. I had to explain to her this morning the theory of grease lightning where I cover myself in Vermont’s own Bag Balm, in order to reduce friction on areas likely to chafe and blister. She’s fun to have on the bus.

Today however, was about unlikely heroes. Whenever a championship team makes a deep run in the playoffs, there is always an unsung hero who steps up big in a clutch spot. Sometimes it’s an unknown bench player, or maybe it’s a crafty veteran. Either way, they are in it for the team and prepared to sacrifice anything for a chance at glory. After a quick 5 mile section this morning, my blisters on my Achilles had had enough. Every step was torture, and I thought the last 60 miles would be in doubt without a solution.

One of the last items I loaded onto the RV before we left was the shoes I trained in. They were put into service back in April and got me through my 1st ultra. They carried me over 400 miles and served me well, but had seen better days. They were considered past their prime and didn’t expect to see any action on this trip but they had all the experience, and they remained ready down at the end of the bench should they get the call.

Wouldn’t you know it, after 130+ miles in two pairs of new shoes, that call finally came in. Before a 17 mile afternoon session, I called down to the bullpen and at the same time called for the scissors. I handed both to Doc (Amy) and told her to make them work. Doc sliced open the backs and cut away enough space for my blisters to breathe. I laced them up and took them for a quick spin. I felt like Lt. Dan when he got his new legs! The afternoon session up and over Stratton mountain went well and I can smell the finish.