As I mentioned in my previous post, the furthest thing from my mind was doing any sort of mud run, obstacle course. But my CrossFit pal Julia recruited me as a last minute replacement for the effervescent Katie to do a Rugged Maniac.
Katie is a delightfully pleasant attractive young lady, and Julia swung the pendulum all the way in the other direction to partner with an ugly grumpy old man.
I suppose I was blessed with the last minute nature of this invitation, as it provided me with very little time to over-think the situation. There was very little that I would be able to prepare for, other than what to wear. So I asked several mud run veterans for any tips they could offer. The one tip that resonated with me was what Nicole said, “Do not wear any cotton clothing, opt for as much spandex as possible.”
So I picked up some compression running tights, and I had a long sleeve compression shirt. I wore fighter shorts over the tights. I read that wet cotton socks will bunch up and chafe, causing blisters, so I found some ankle high spandex running socks and an old pair of trainers, and that was it. I was prepared.
I didn’t sleep well, and I woke up at 4:00 a.m.. I picked up Julia at 6:00 for our two-hour drive to Southwick. We arrived at 8:00 to register and check bags. By the time we were done, we had almost an hour to wait before we ran. We were freezing in our skimpy spandex clothes and it was still 48 degrees when we arrived. So we found a place to stand in the sun to stay warm. Some runners came as a team and they had friends in their entourage who would take their sweatshirts and pants at the last minute. We wouldn’t even consider subjecting ourselves to such pampering, after all we came here to earn the moniker Rugged Maniac.
We were in the second wave of runners, leaving at 9:15. Each wave consisted of 300 runners. There were 28 waves scheduled throughout the day, scheduled at 15 minute intervals. That’s over 8 thousand runners today, oh, and they do it all again on Sunday. The first obstacle was to get into the pit to start the race. You had to jump over a 4 foot high wall. That’s OK, it was going to a lot more fun as it progressed.
As I have mentioned, my biggest fear was having to run 3 miles, when I struggle with 400m runs at the gym. When we hit the trail, the traffic was heavy enough for the first quarter mile that the pace was my speed anyway, and the soft ground was very forgiving on these ancient knees and ankles. The hills didn’t even bother me much.
As I was beginning to tire, we hit our first obstacle and the traffic was queued up in front of us, so I was able to catch my breath. This was just another four foot wall. As we continued the course, the walls grew to 5 feet, 6 feet, 8 feet, 12 feet, 16 feet. The obstacles shifted from vertical to horizontal, as we crawled through things, under things, over things. Honestly, most of the obstacles were not that difficult, even for an old coot like me.
In addition to the running, there were two other concerns I had. Being in confined spaces and anything requiring balance. I knew there was a tunnel underground, but I had a strategy to help me deal with my claustrophobia. I would simply jump into the hole and look straight ahead to the light at the other end. Just head for the light. It was going to be easy.
Julia dove in the hole and I jumped in right behind her. As we scurried forward, I looked for the light. I didn’t see any. Now there were already people behind me. I was stuck moving ahead into an abyss. Julia came to a dead end. The tunnel stopped. She felt around and said the tunnel turned 90 degrees right, we continued about 15 feet and it turned left and I could see light.
So I had overcome the running, and the claustrophobia. But what about balance? There was an obstacle that consisted of four telephone poles lined up on a berm. You had to run up the pole, at about 30 degrees, for about 25 feet. I was concerned, but I was able to do it. Imagine my dismay when I crested the berm, only to see another set of poles to descend on the other side. But I did it.
After the first half of the course the water obstacles began. There were large mud holes of varying depths. The deepest one was perhaps four feet deep, but the bottom was very greasy and my feet went out from under me. I landed on my tail, up to my neck. The woman next to me went under and came up spewing mud. I considered myself blessed.
I gotta tell you, the first water obstacle was cold. It was just over fifty degrees and we were soaked in minutes. But the next bit of running kept the chills at bay until the next round of mud or water. If you were one of the folks who got stung on the derriere by a bee, like my buddy Julia, I understand the mud was soothing.
There were over 20 obstacles and I opted out of only one. It was a wobbly plywood truss topped with a 2×4 that crossed about 25 feet across. It was over four feet of water. I was covered with mud, so the idea of being immersed in four feet of clear water wasn’t exactly unappealing. What did concern me was falling and hitting the beam on the way down. I got out about four or five feet onto the beam twice, and opted out. Wimp!
There were mud holes with earthen walls with ropes or cargo nets to climb out. There were a couple barb wire mud troughs you had to wallow in with your tail low enough to keep from getting stuck. There was a water slide, into a huge mud puddle. There was a fire jump. Fun stuff.
I must admit, I do not know if I ever would have considered a mud run obstacle course, had Julia not invited me to do it. It was a great deal of fun, and I found that I am in much better condition than I had given myself credit for. We finished the 3 mile course in just under 1:15. Julia was a great sport, she could have done this in 10 or 15 minutes less, but she hung back to run with me for the entire course.
As much fun as I had on the course, I appreciate the opportunity to chat for hours on the road, and at Starbucks, to get to know Julia outside of the gym. Thanks Julia, you’re a gem.
A funny side-benefit to all the new things I have done over the past month; every time my grandson calls me, he says. “Hey Grandpa Chuck, have you been on any new adventures?” Well, I gotta tell you Martin, some days, just getting out of bed seems like an adventure.