So four or so years off the race circuit, it was time to get back to it. I recognized the growing popularity of these mud runs, had some friends who expressed some interest in it and knowing that it was only a 5k, I said , “Let’s do it”. I figured the training couldn’t be that hard and I wouldn’t have to spend much time out on the roads getting my aerobic fitness up. It also provided a bit of a challenge, something I really needed to give my training a bit of a spark.
So my training leading up to the race was mainly spent in the gym. I continued with my normal strength training routines, would finish up the strength work with some sort of conditioning, did one day a week of Prowler pushes or 400 meter runs and went out for a 2-2.5 mile run once a week. I figured others may have the edge on me with their aerobic fitness, but I would have the edge on getting through, over or under the obstacles. But honestly, I didn’t know what to expect.
So race day rolls around and that morning it is absolutely pouring. Luckily my wave wasn’t starting until 2pm. The rain had stopped late that morning so I figured it would give the course some time to dry out a bit plus I wouldn’t have to deal with pelting rain in my face the entire time. The only downside could be that the course was going to be pretty beat up by then.
I get to the course and all you can really see is the start and the finish. The start is about a 100 yard climb up a dirt hill then disappears into the woods. Ok, not too bad I thought. Kind of what I expected. The finish is about a 20 ft climb up and over cargo nets, then a run or slide on your ass down hill, whatever option you wanted to chose. A little bit more running on flat land and then crawling through another series of cargo nets. Again, not bad I thought.
I get to the start. No warm up. No one was warming up and I didn’t want to look the fitness pro going through his dynamic warm up. I’m in the first couple of rows of the starting line so I can make a quick climb up that starting hill without having to weave through a bunch of stragglers.
The gun goes off and up I go. Remember it’s only a 100yard climb or so and I’m going up at a pretty good pace. I get to the top and when I do my legs are already feeling it. Damn. Ok, no problem. The next part of the race is downhill, but it turns out to be a downhill like I never could have imagined. A downhill run through 1-2 feet of mud, leaping tree stumps, falling on my ass, falling on my face, avoiding branches, avoiding helpless others. And then it goes back up hill much the same way. Then downhill. This goes on for a good mile and a half. My legs are already shot. I’m sucking wind like I haven’t in a long time. I’m close to falling on my face every five feet. Every minute I’m thinking, “When do we get out of the woods? When is the next obstacle? What the hells is this?”. I see people start walking and I start walking. Bad move and not any easier because I’m still trying to prevent myself from sliding down from one side of the trail to the other. And then finally the first obstacle. A series of four foot walls to get over followed by crawling underneath some ropes. Then back to the crappy trail running and this god awful hill that just seemed to go up and around forever. More walking.
The hill is done and leads out to this open field. “Nice”, I thought. Wrong again. The entire trail through the field was sloped so there was never any flat ground. Again fighting to stay on my feet. And this trail seemed to meander forever. The other side of this field seemed so close yet it was so far away. Now I’m looking forward to the obstacles because I can actually give my legs a bit of a break. Next obstacle is about a 15 foot rope climb over a wall. Piece of cake. Then back to more slogging through these trails, but I can hear some music in the background so I know that the finish has got to be near. By this time I have so much mud in my eyes I can barely see and I can’t wipe it out because every piece of me is covered in mud.
A quick leap over a fire pit and now I can see the finish. I’m actually feeling better now. Another climb this time over a 20 foot cargo net wall and the rest of the run is downhill. Except I chose to do what every other person is doing. Go down the hill on my ass. Much quicker except for trying to untangle from the pile of bodies at the bottom. A bit more of a run. A climb through some elevated cargo netting and done. Forty minutes later.
What was three grueling miles was actually a lot of fun. I did underestimate how difficult this thing was going to be though. I didn’t realize I would have to run through two feet of mud for a mile and a half. That was easily the worst part of the race. My legs were cooked early and never really recovered. I thought my upper body strength would serve me well and it really didn’t.
I plan on doing races like these in the future and now that I kind of know what to expect I think I would switch up my training a bit differently. I would:
- Do more hill running and lengthen the distance of my Prowler sprints to build up strength endurance in my legs and get myself used to feeling that uncomfortable burning in my legs
- More metabolic circuit training with an emphasis on the lower body.
- Run in anything besides Nike Free’s. A great shoe to work out in at the gym. A terrible shoe to run through the mud with. I felt like I was on ice skates the entire time.
- Hold back a little in the beginning of the race not knowing what is looming ahead.
All in all it was a great day day. I had lots of fun with my friends and family. The beer tasted delicious at the end. And I look forward to doing it again.