In three seasons as a TMHQ operations manager, planning and building Tough Mudder courses, Hilary May has left literal and figurative footprints on Tough Mudder courses throughout North America. Out of dozens of venues she’s masterminded into meccas of mud-coated madness, Tall Pines ATV Park, home of Tough Mudder Upstate New York, is arguably home to more Mudder memories than any other course.
So what’s so special about Tall Pines ATV Park and the Kent family that runs it? We recently caught up with Hilary at TMHQ to find out.
In your opinion, why does Tough Mudder keep coming back to Tall Pines ATV Park?
Tall Pines has so much to offer and has every component to create a perfect Tough Mudder course. The venue itself has beautiful trails in the woods and wide open fields for us to play with. On top of that, we get the opportunity to work with the Kents, who have been amazing in helping us shape the experience of our participants and that of our team on site. We consider them part of the Tough Mudder family at this point.
What are some of your fondest memories of Tall Pines?
There are so many! The Kent Family is just as excited about Tough Mudder as we are, and I walked in on many exciting conversations between [Tall Pines owner] Joe Kent and our course and construction managers about obstacle ideas and parts of the property that we could incorporate. I remember driving the course early Friday morning before our first event at Tall Pines, seeing the sunrise in the valley below and being taken aback by how beautiful the views were and how perfect the terrain was for a Tough Mudder course. One minute you’re running through mud in the woods and the next you’re in the middle of a Christmas tree farm or running through fields of barley. I’ve never seen another venue quite like it.
What sort of benefits has the local community experienced since Tough Mudder started coming to town?
During the planning phases, we try to work with the Chamber of Commerce to identify local vendors we can use, and they’re such a helpful resource for us. We have teams on the ground about a month out from the event who are staying locally and, over the weekend of the event, the community sees hotels filling up and restaurants being visited by our participants when they’re in town.
What is it like working with the Kent family?
It’s been an amazing and heart-warming experience, and every member of our team who steps on site has been welcomed by the Kents with open arms. Joe Kent has helped our team to design one of our favorite courses and, no matter what our guys come up with, Joe is always willing to find a way to make it happen. I’ll always remember Mama Kent driving around the venue during event week in her UTV with all of her dogs crowded into the front seat, delivering batches of her cookies to our team or, after a long day, Ed Kent inviting us over to try out some of his latest home-brewed beer. Or during our planning trip in the winter the Kent’s taking us to Cartwright’s Maple Tree Inn for all-you-can-eat pancakes. During an event week at Tall Pines, I think most of us feel fortunate that we get to call this work.
What are some features of the Tall Pines course that Mudders won’t find anywhere else?
Tall Pines has some of the best trail running and mud we’ve seen. With five miles of winding and scenic trails, open fields of endless, perfectly manicured farms and beautiful countryside, the biggest problem our course designers have is how to utilize it all. The Tall Pines event has ranked ‘Top 3’ in quantity and quality of mud. The venue is also set up in a way that there are great vantage points from the tops of our highest obstacles. The course also provides great views for spectators. Overall, it ticks all of the boxes for us and doesn’t present any of the hurdles or limitations other venues do when trying to shape the participant and spectator experience.
Tough Mudder is coming back in 2015. What can Mudders expect to be different from 2014?
Our course designer has already been working with Joe Kent on some great ideas they have to utilize different features of the property and routes to really switch things up the next time around. We haven’t even had a chance to explore all corners and trails of Tall Pines, so the possibilities are endless. We also have some really exciting new obstacles in the innovation pipeline and what better place to add them to the roster than at Tall Pines?