PATTERSON -- The hills are alive with the sounds of ... grunting, splashing, screaming?
After a year of planning and weeks of seemingly endless construction, one of the world's most renowned obstacle courses is ready for use.
The Tough Mudder roars to life Saturday at Diablo Grande Golf and Country Club, near Patterson. The two-day event is expected to attract as many as 17,000 visitors to the remote hills west of Interstate 5, with 13,000 participants expected to brave the course.
Given those projections, the Tough Mudder -- a race that began with three events in 2010 and has grown globally to 35 -- should join the Amgen Tour of California as one of the largest participatory events to ever hit the Central Valley.
"We're excited for a good turnout," said Daniella Stone, Tough Mudder's on-site operations manager. "We've got lots of Marines coming out; lot of volunteers from the community. We're definitely feeling the love.
"Not only is the Tough Mudder excited, but the people are excited, too. We feel like it's going to come together for the weekend."
The Tough Mudder is a grueling 10- to 12-mile trail run that will trace the boundary of Diablo Grande's Legends course, without interfering with golf operations. Although it will be closed for aerification, Tough Mudder participants can enjoy sweeping views of the Legends course ... if they pick their heads up long enough to look.
Chances are, though, they'll be busy negotiating the rugged terrain beneath their feet and the obstacles that loom ahead.
Runners, competing individually or as a team, will encounter at least 25 military-style obstacles, each built to test a participant's mettle and might. The obstacles are designed by British Special Forces and may require the assistance of another.
The challenges will be many -- and muddy.
Everest is a 15-foot quarter-pipe lathered at times in vegetable oil (yes, vegetable oil) that requires a helping hand at the top and perhaps a push from the bottom, too.
Electroshock Therapy, essentially a field of live wires, and the icy pool Arctic Enema will measure a runner's guts and threshold for pain.
"We ran as a group and a few of us were trying to cover our heads," T.J. Castle of Modesto's On The Run said of Electroshock Therapy. He and 11 others completed last weekend's Tough Mudder at Northstar, just north of Lake Tahoe.
"One guy in the front of the group got zapped (on the chin) and just took a nose dive straight down," Castle said. "It's no joke. They talk about some of these strands having up to 10,000 volts of electricity running through them. Luckily, it was the last obstacle. You could see the finish ... you just have to get through it."
And then there's the Boa Constrictor. Partially filled with water, these tubes will force the claustrophobic to face their fear of tight, dark spaces.
Anthony DeJager, owner of CrossFit Merced, won't be running this weekend's Tough Mudder -- though he wishes he was.
DeJager made the trip with 19 others to Northstar for last weekend's Tough Mudder.
"It was awesome. A lot of fun," DeJager said. "I'd recommend it to anyone."
James Burns is the Regional Sports Content Editor of The Modesto Bee and Merced Sun-Star. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2324.
TRAIL: Mudder is a 12- to 15-mile trail with more than 20 military-style obstacles designed by British Special Forces.
PARTICIPANTS: Participants are not timed. The event requires teamwork and the help of others -- 80 percent of participants complete the course as part of a team.
GOAL: Tough Mudder participants have raised nearly $4 million for the Wounded Warrior Project.
PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE: In 2010, Tough Mudder held three events. In 2011, there were 14. This year, Tough Mudder has expanded and will hold 35 events across the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. It is the organization's goal to replace Ironman as the world's ultimate endurance event.
LEARN MORE: www.toughmudder.com.