One month to OCRWC.
This weekend I completed a local obstacle course race/mud run. Mud, Guts & Glory is a smaller local event held at the same venue as the Battlefrog I did last month. It’s also the site of the previous two world championship competitions. Of course – back before I knew it was even a thing the Worlds were in my own backyard.King’s Domain is in southern Ohio, where it actually starts to get hilly. So it’s not the flat stereotypical farmland usually associated with Ohio. It’s no Rocky Mountain getaway, but it’s not Kansas either. It gets plenty hilly and plenty muddy.
They have several permanent obstacle sites set up. There’s a giant ‘Slip n Slide’ – a black tarp water slide downhill into a muddy pool. It boasts speeds up to 20-30 miles an hour at full tilt. They have a set up known as The Gauntlet. One giant, tall vertical ladder basically, and a series of tubes through muddy water –and under-over logs also in the muddy pit. The pièce de résistance is the giant set of inclined and declined monkey bars.
First, you climb up some vertical tires to reach the starting platform for the decline monkey bars. You have to navigate down ten to twelve or so slippery metal bars, then transition back to another set of heavily inclined metal bars. Use of your feet is allowed on the bars at this event, but even with feet they take some serious grip strength to hang on.
Mud Guts also offers two distance options – the 10k and the 5k. I decided to do the ‘short course’ as Canada was only a month out and I wanted to protect (baby) my sketchy ankle as much as possible, but while still getting to do one more event. It also serves as a way to raise money to send at risk youth to summer camps for free. It’s a win-win kind of race!
I loved Mud Guts.
I parked at the off site location and had a pre-race pee in the (hopefully) less used porta-potties at that parking lot before grabbing one of the shuttles to the race area. A couple of guys got on the mini bus at the same time, one in a Tough Mudder t-shirt (he’d just done his first one). They started asking ne about the course and protective clothing.
“Have you done this course before? Do you think we need shin guards/arm guards? So are you really into these obstacle race things?”
I must have looked like I knew what I was doing Ha! Maybe it was the shoes.It was a much smaller event than the Battlefrog or any of the other runs I’ve done, but it still felt like there was a good group of people there. Check in, mandatory waivers, you get your t-shirt first along with your race packet. Timing chip, bib number, and ‘obstacle band’ were next. You kept this band by completing every obstacle – or if you fail one the penalty burpees.
They even had volunteers there to write your Bib number on you with a sharpie for you. Usually you have to do that on your own if you want. Full service station!
I found a couple of people I’d met before from the team I’d started running with – they’re a massive group of people from the Midwest area mostly. They frequently win ‘largest team’ at the races. I’ve met some of them so far. I actually signed up with two other women from that group to do the World’s Team event in October.
The race MC announced, after I wandered over to the people I recognized, that the course appears to be running longer than anticipated. As in, taking the ‘elites’ longer to finish than they thought it would. I watched some of the as they went through the obstacles near the festival area.
Why are they walking? Why do they look so tired? They’re elite they should be running! That can’t bode well for the rest of us…
I was doing the 5k though, so only half the distance as the competitive people. I’d be okay. It’s short. It’s short. It’ll be fine.
The MC also announced at each start time that if you’d run events at this venue before to throw away everything you thought you knew about it. It’s been totally re-done. You’ll run the Gauntlet backwards and the water slide is not at the finish. It was chaos! It meant little to me. I wasn’t even sure what the ‘Gauntlet’ was at the time.
I preferred the ‘ignorance is bliss’ approach anyway. I didn’t want to know what it looked like until I was on it. I didn’t want to be able to think about hills or obstacles that would be in front of me later on. Just one step at a time – I didn’t want to be able to dwell on an upcoming challenging just to psych myself out. There will be hills and there will be mud. The rest…I will deal with later.
I was dreading a few obstacles and silently hoping they wouldn’t be on the 5k course. The Weaver was one such obstacle.
At Battlefrog I fell of this one but not before getting my thighs thoroughly beaten from hanging onto the series of 2×4’s from them. The Weaver is a series of slightly inclined horizontal 2×4’s that you have to cross by going over the first one, under the second, over the 3rd, etc.
This time, though, seemed much better than the first. This time, people were also using the other perpendicular support beams for their feet or legs. I didn’t know we could use those! Maybe we weren’t – but no one said anything. So I followed flow of traffic and manage to not collapse off this one. Victory!
I fell into step with another runner after that. He seemed really fit, but new to OCR. We chatted a little along with way while carrying our tires around a small loop. I felt like I was cheating taking only one. The volunteer giving instructions said one for women and two for men. But they were small, lightweight; easily I could have carried two looking back at it.
Everyone is so friendly and amiable at these things.
“Hello Stranger, also voluntarily running through the woods with heavy objects, getting covered in dirt and mud. How are you? Excellent? Excellent!”
Another obstacle I found myself coming to with another set of strangers. It was a muddy slanted wall in the woods, and I couldn’t seem to get enough umph to get far enough up on it to grab the top. So the two other new race buddies helped boost me up so I could grab the top edge and pull myself over. Then I came back around and helped hold their feet or push their feet so they could reach the top.
Thanks strangers! Good luck to you too!
I ended up falling behind these two when I fell off another obstacle and had to do fifteen penalty burpees. That was my first set of burpees I had to do, too, and I think it was probably midway into the race.
The homestretch saw the reverse Gauntlet the announcer had mentioned. It was up the giant ladder, through the tunnels and log – water pit – and then the inclined monkey bars. You start high – are supposed to monkey your way down, then back up. At Battlefrog I had slipped off right away. This time we could use our feet – so I attempted to mimic how everyone else was using their legs. I wouldn’t have had the strength in my hands to full monkey bar my way on those this time. Too slippery.
So I hooked my legs on the rung below me and started climbing down that way. It kind of hurt the backs of my knees (and I have the bruises there now too) but I got to the bottom this time. Going back up – much more difficult. My forearms were burning. My hands were slipping. I was trying to rest in between rungs more. I was one rung away from the top when suddenly – I was falling.
I was told it was close to eighteen feet down. I think it was probably shorter – but it was enough time to register in my brain: I am falling. Where is the water I am supposed to fall into?
The fall from the monkey bars shook me up a little bit. Mostly I was surprised – and a little shocked from the fall itself and the impact into cold water. It took me a few minutes to recover but then I only had to do *ten* burpees instead of thirty, since I made it so close to the top.
I was still recovering from those monkey bars and the fall on the immediate obstacle after them. I got some sideline coaching from a helpful experienced member of the team and was able to get over the next one after all. After that, it was the final stretch! A little bit more running, a couple small obstacles, and home free! I attempted to run as much of the final leg as possible – as quickly as I could. When I rounded the last big turn it was a clear run to two slant walls and then the finish line!
There was a slight downhill grade before those two last walls. So I let go and gunned it, man. Full strides, no arresting of momentum – I hit the first wall. I latched onto the top a little quicker and a little more successfully than I anticipated. I had to wiggle around so I could jump down from the other side. Then I ran at the second one – full throttle no thinking just doing. Got over that one no problem too – which was reassuring after being intimidated by a similar obstacle at the gym. Then I continued to run with what I had left in me. It was a short sprint to the finish.
I felt great after crossing the finish line! Exhausted, yes, but happy! I’d gotten farther on a lot of the obstacles than I had before, I only did around thirty burpees total for missed obstacles, and I had a lot more energy at the end.
So I’ve qualified twice now, confirming the first wasn’t a complete fluke! Regardless of participant size, I am taking this one as a win.
When I went to check my results, I finished 2nd in my age group and 6th in women overall in the open 5k! Granted, there was a much smaller pool of people, but this was the highest I’ve placed in any race I’ve ever done! And if I hadn’t already, it would have qualified me for the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships.