This was the second year in a row that I was able to participate in this event. Last year it was cold, muddy, and rained for a good part of the race. I was freezing after the race while waiting around for the awards ceremony.
Thankfully, this year was quite different! It was still cold, but it was sunny, and the wind died down quite a bit leading up to the race. Overall, the conditions were just about perfect for a nice local mud run in February.
The event changed things around a bit this year (for the better). Just some nice little tweaks here and there that made things more efficient. They also moved to digital results which was pretty cool. Everything was organized very efficiently and I didn't notice a single hiccup all day long. This was the 9th time they'd held the race, so it runs like a finely-tuned machine at this point.
While the course covered the exact same terrain as last year's course, they did change up some obstacles. Most notably was the addition of a sand bag carry. You had to pick up a sand bag that weighed (I'm guessing) about 40lbs and carry it along an 8ish foot balance beam, and then hop off of that beam and onto another beam before returning the bag. While it wasn't at all challenging, it was a cool new option. Remember, this is a local Mud Run...not a $400,000.00 production.
The start was a bit anti-climatic. Each year they have someone fire off an old musket to start the race, but there was a malfunction after the countdown was completed, and all of the racers kinda just paused...unsure if we should go, or wait. Thankfully, the gun went off after about 3 seconds, and so the race began. (Note - one of the event staff had an air horn that they were about to blow just in case there was an issue with the musket...so they were prepared either way).
The race started up a short, but steep, hill. I hate sprinting up hills at the start of races, but when a course is only 4.7 miles, every step matters. To stay upfront I had to essentially sprint up the hill with the other competitors.
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The first obstacle was a bunch of tires you had to step through (like a military obstacle course). From there, it was around a field, through a muddy ditch, across another field, under "barb wire" in the mud, more running across fields, over a wooden wall to the sand bag balance beam obstacle, down a little way, over and under several hurdles, and then into the woods.
The athlete who placed 2nd at last year's event wasn't at the race this year. Instead, there was another athlete who was breathing down my neck for the first 3/4's of the race. Occasionally he'd pass me and get ahead a few feet, and then I'd immediately push a bit harder to pass him again and keep him behind me. There is a certain excitement to being "hunted"...but it's also kind of annoying. I generally prefer to be hunting, but each race is different and I decided I needed the lead as much as possible for this one.
We ran through a tunnel under the highway, went up and around on a trail, went back through the other side of the tunnel, and continued on down the trail, eventually crossing a small creek. On that side of the creek we only had 1 obstacle where you crawl under a net. After that, it was back across the creek and up a hill to a cinder block carry. Myself and the other athlete ran up the hill side by side. I train on mountains for a large portion of my work, so I knew going up hill wasn't where I was going to lose a race on small rolling hills.
I'd noticed that I was gaining a lot of ground going down hills up to this point in the race. If it came down to the last 100ft of the race, I was confident I'd win because it was running back down the hill we'd sprinted up to start the race.
After the cinder block carry we ran across a field, and I finally pulled away because there was a short, but very steep hill that I flew down. I heard the 2nd place athlete yell out, a bit surprised by how steep it was. After that hill, it was just about a mile to the finish line, and I booked it. I picked up my cadence and made sure I didn't ease off the gas at all. I think there is no worse feeling than having a lead and losing it because you slacked.
There were some monkey bars, a short A-frame cargo net, some tubes to crawl through and jump over, another wooded wall, and finally 3 hay bails before the finish line.
Since the course wasn't nearly as muddy as the previous year, my pace was faster, and I finished in 33:20 (chip time) for an average pace of 7:02.
Honestly, I was pretty gassed. I wasn't feeling AWESOME before the race. I wasn't feeling especially bad, I just wasn't feeling great, so I wasn't sure what would happen and I didn't know what level the other athletes were at or how hard they'd work. The 2nd place athlete worked very hard and pushed me hard for 3/4's of the race. While our finishing times were about 40 seconds apart (last year was just 15 seconds between 1st and 2nd), he and I were closer together for much more of this race than I was with 2nd place the previous year.
My wife ran the race as well. I went to catch up with her after I finished, but I couldn't find her for a while because she was way further ahead this year compared to last. Despite some calf cramping at the very end that slowed her down, she finished the race this year almost 15 minutes faster than in 2019.
Overall, it was a great event, fun course, and successful racing! Thank God, it was also not super cold after the race and I wasn't freezing for over an hour while waiting for awards like last year. I'm not a big fan of freezing...
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Joel Hayes (Coach & Article Author)
Luke Hayes (Coach)