Surviving the Survivor Mud Run

I’ve been training to run the Mud Run since mid January. And I guess I have to call it “training” because 90% of it wasn’t really the sort of fun that going on an aimless biking ride that happens to go up a mountain or two is. And I recognize that becoming the sort of person who trains for an organized run is an odd and strange thing considering who I was.

One important point: If you are an out-of-shape, overweight, person who wants to make a change… I’d very much suggest cycling over running, swimming, or pumping weights. See, it’s something like this. If you were to buy your gear tomorrow… well, you could splash around a pool for a while but not get too much real exercise. You could lift weights, but when I tried that it was mostly a choice between finding a trainer to go through all of the exercises over and over and over again or being worried that I was doing everything wrong the whole time and also not seeing much interesting results. Or you could go running and you would probably make it a half-a-mile before you had to stop. And if you start at home so you don’t have that motivation-sapping drive, you will run a fairly boring set of roads or sidewalks repeatedly. Which really doesn’t feel like progress.

Alternatively, you harden up and run through the pain… and then end up with a hairline fracture in your metatarsals.

Or you can bike… which will probably have you at least five miles from home and make you feel a lot less like the out-of-shape person you are so the whole process of slowly ramping up mileage doesn’t seem so depressing. At least, that’s how it worked for me.

The only thing that made me get through training, where I ran the same fairly small section of road until right before the mud run, was knowing that I’ve done this before and I can totally go from nothing to awesome and it’ll be great.

Oh, and I should note that I did the majority of the running fully barefoot instead of in Vibrams. There’s a huge risk of getting a hairline fracture in your metatarsal if you don’t take it easy starting out.

Two weeks before the race, I finally got somewhere actually interesting and I had a better feeling of accomplishment. Granted, it’s an easy bike ride from home, but it felt an accomplishment to actually run until I’m no longer in my immediate neighborhood. And then a week before the race, I drove to a trailhead instead of starting from home and got pleasantly deep into the wilderness. And thanked myself for doing so, because I realized that I needed to strengthen the muscles that stabilized my side-to-side foot wobble. So I knew that I’d probably hurt afterwards, but I could do it.

So.. the morning of the race, I got dropped off by my wife at Joy and Priti’s place and met up with two of Priti’s friends and we all carpooled out to the site of the race. Joy wasn’t running, so that made four of us running. And we drove to the start point, got parked, and got ready to go. We actually ended up sitting around for a bit because they had clearly organized it better than some of the blogs from last year were complaining about.

I pretty much wore my race clothes there and had a bag with my change of clothes into it. It was my oldest and gnastiest pair of synthetic fiber pants, wicking underwear, and a t-shirt.

So, starting out, I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with Priti and the other runners.. because she’s a much better runner than I. And also I was scared about the monkey bars, about how well I’d do it. And one thing I’ve noticed is that I don’t have the full endurance… I could run miles, but only if I stopped to take a break. But we agreed that we weren’t trying to set any records, so we just stuck together as a pack, so we could talk and laugh at how silly we looked.

The first section was just gravel, up and down hill. The rest of the course was fairly flat. And you did get muddy. It wasn’t far before we encountered the first obstacles. Some were clearly just there to get you wet, like sliding down a wet water slide. Some were agility drills, like walking through a webbing of cords. There were a bunch of ditches, which I’d realized that the best way to cross was just jump as hard as I could.

I was looking forward to climbing the cargo net, but that was a little bit tricky because people were really lined up. It was kind of a problem because some people were actually afraid of it and so they were climbing very slowly.

The biggest advantage to the Vibram shoes was that they are really securely connected to your foot. So when we got into the mud-pit that had sticky sloshy mud that tended to pull your shoes off, I was fine. The mud pit was another one of those hard-to-pass obstacles on account of the line.

I did run into a guy who was running it barefoot. He said that it did work out pretty well for him, except for the gravel section at the beginning.

The obstacles were about perfectly placed. See, I am not in proper running form. My natural speed of running is fairly fast; it’s actually a little hard for me to run at a slow pace. So I’d run at my normal pace and then eventually get a bit winded and want to slow down and walk for a bit, and then I’d hit the next obstacle. By the time I’d passed it, I was back and ready to run. And we were not allowed to bring food or water, but they had a water stop in the middle. Really, it’s not nearly long enough to require any sort of replenishment, but it was nice to have the water anyway.

At some point along the way, Priti mentioned that I looked like I had the most fun out of everybody because of how muddy I got. And it wasn’t so much that I actively tried to get muddy… it’s just that I didn’t actively try to stay clean. The only real problem was that I’d get a bit of mud around my eyes and really didn’t want to have all that in my eyeballs. But we then decided that Priti was not nearly dirty enough, which meant that in the part where you crawled through the mud, we all dripped some on her.

Eventually, we reached the obstacle I feared the most: The monkey bars. Way I figured it, my goal was to not skip any of the obstacles. And, doing the monkey bars, I realized that if I let go and had to do it again, it would be really hard. Because it hurt. But I pretty much kept going and hoped that my arms wouldn’t give out. Which they didn’t. It was totally mind-over-matter.

They had staffers to watch for unsafe conditions throughout, but there was a doctor yelling questions at people, just in case you were suffering from an electrolyte imbalance or cardiac problems from the run towards the end.

The best costume, I think, was the guy who did it in a suit. Jacket, tie, pants, everything. It was even better than the tutus and matching shirts and other stuff. One of my running companions was wearing a polo shirt, and he got comments… but the suit was even better.

There was a stair-climbing section, which I found especially funny because that uses my biking-up-mountain muscles and I can climb stairs FAST these days.

The final part was a last blast of mud and climbing through a tunnel that was barely wide enough to fit you, and then a sprint to the finish. And they handed us some coconut water and bananas.

There was a changing room and an outdoor shower. It ends up that you really didn’t get completely and utterly clean right away, so I kinda figured that the clothes I’d changed into would also be a bit dirty. And we got coupons for beer afterwards.

There was a pile of rejected clothing, which I thought was unnecessarily wasteful. I tossed it all in the wash and all of the mud came out.

It was fun. I wouldn’t call it the sort of thing that you had to be in perfect shape for.. in fact my coworker who is in really really good running form caught up with the previous wave and got the #6 time.