Mt. Pleasant trio tackles Mud on the Mountain

| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 9:06 p.m.

Three local women challenged themselves to complete the Mud on the Mountain event held recently at Seven Springs Mountain Resort.

Although the event wound up including snow, as well as mud, the trio still ended up crossing the finish line together.

Having dubbed themselves the “Swim Mudders,” Karen Miller, 49, and Cindy Jesso and Diane Lasko, both 48, have been friends for 12 years and all three are parents of Mt. Pleasant Area High School swim team members.

The trio has competed both together and separately in half-marathons and triathlons throughout the years.

They said they are always looking for unusual ways to stay in shape and keep things interesting, Lasko said.

The Mud on the Mountain event certainly fit the bill, they said, especially after Mother Nature added the white stuff to the mud on the seven-mile course.

To prepare, the trio frequently worked out at gyms, walked around Mt. Pleasant and biked on the Coal and Coke Trail.

“We walked up and down Three-Mile Hill,” Miller said. “Cindy set a training center up at her house with stations and hikes. It became a challenge to go on a walk and just try to climb on or under things. We had more fun than expected training.”

The group also mixed in some more unorthodox training methods, including crawling under fences, benches and railings in cemeteries and playgrounds, they said.

Such drills prepared them for crawling under the barbed wire and over barriers on the event course, they said.

They trained in rain, cold and mud, but they said they were not expecting to encounter snow on event day.

Approximately three weeks prior to the event, they climbed the slopes of Seven Springs to inspect parts of the course.

The snow and ice made the course quite treacherous, Lasko said.

The most difficult part was the 2- 12 mile, downhill trek in snow, mud and ice and the crawl up Black Diamond with the assistance of a rope due to the weather conditions, she said.

They said they agreed that some of the obstacles were dangerous, such as the water events in 20-degree temperatures.

The women added that they opted to slide down some of the hills on the course because they felt it was too dangerous to walk or run down.

Choosing what to wear was also a challenge due to the changing weather conditions, as the ladies didn't make their final wardrobe decisions until the last minute.

“When we were done and looking out the window from The Foggy Goggle, Karen said the funniest thing: “I love doing this kind of stuff, but we've got to stop upping the ante because we're going to die,'” Lasko said.

Miller, Jesso and Lasko agreed that it was a great experience and that they each felt an amazing sense of accomplishment when they crossed the finish line together.

“We laughed a lot. It was such a good feeling to accomplish this. I do know it was much harder than the sprint triathlon I did,” Jesso said.

All three agreed they would take part in the event again, but only when it is held in the spring or summer when there is no threat of ice and snow.

Vicki McClain, 42, of Normalville also participated in the event with her husband, David, 46, and their friend Maria Gemas Bowers, 42, of Pittsburgh.

Vicki McClain trains regularly and is always involved in physical activities.

The most challenging part of the course was the instability of the ground and terrain, she said.

Due to the snow, it was tricky in some spots to maintain a steady pace, she added.

“I love to do mud courses. It was a definite challenge, both physically and mentally due to the temperatures. What a great way to enjoy your friends and stay active,” she said.

Kelly Vernon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-547-5722 or

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