by Kevin Baird, EDN
I could feel the mud envelope my body and cool my skin down as I crawled through a pit of sticky mud, the barbed-wire overhead kept me down-low in the muck. When I had reached the end of the pit and stood up to start running the mud grabbed hold of my shoe and my foot came out. I stuck my foot back into my once-silver, now-brown, Aasics and wiggled my foot until it was snug. After about five steps I took my shirt-off and threw it onto the grass beside the trail, and kept running not knowing what the next obstacle would be.
I first read about obstacle racing in an issue of Outside magazine last fall. Immediately I decided that I had to compete in an obstacle race and my research lead me to the Terrain Mud Run (TMR). Since registering in February I had clearly trained with too many cookies and donuts and not enough miles and push-ups. I had signed up for the Full Terrain run, which consists of a 5+ Mile course with 20-26 obstacles (TMR also offers 1/2 Terrain is a 3 mile course with 14 to 20 obstacles).
338 people showed up at Camp Harlow on May 12 to race. The people at TMR were smart enough to start a new wave of racers every 15 minutes from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Both the Full Terrainers and 1/2 Terrainers started and ended at the same places. However, near the one mile marker the two courses diverged.
The waves began with the boom of cannon fire, and racers followed a stony trail that ran parallel with a field of knee high crops and into an orchard. The orchard contained the first two obstacles. The first was a bunch of tires strewn and piled-up over a bend in the trail, Which tripped a few runners. The second task was to crawl under a spiderweb of ropes in the dirt for about 20 feet. A little tougher, but not hard. Next was a makeshift climbing wall, which was one of the more challenging parts of the race. It was made entirely of wood and the hand and footholds were scarce. The obstacle required a person to climb horizontally for about 25 feet. It put a few slivers in my hand that I had to dig out later that day.
I froze when I came to the monkey bars. I haven’t done them since elementary school. These monkey bars spanned a pool of freezing cold water, and each rung was higher than the other elevating upwards until the halfway point at which they de-elevated. After staring into the water for a few seconds I decided to go as fast as I could to ease the fatigue on my muscles (I’m not small). I moved quickly and watched a few people fall in the water as I was reaching the top-most rung and I was relieved to make it to the bottom under my own power.
After the monkey bars and the first mud pit the race headed into the woods for more mayhem. In this area of the course the trail got very muddy in some spots and sandy in others. Another daunting obstacle was a set of 2x4s spanning the canal. The 2x4s were built with the 2″ side up and they were covered in mud. One of the more eccentric them was dubbed “Club Mud”, which consisted of a dark-muddy crawlspace with disco balls, and club music. The frigid water cascading down from the ceiling and the low visibility inside Club Mud added to its novelty. There was also a mud pit running through a canal, that took racers through a long black culvert tube.
My favorite obstacles were the numerous walls of various heights that were set up. They were built out of plywood and most of them required the racer had to rely on his/her own strength to pull themselves up and over them. I tried doing taking these obstacles as fast as I could. The largest wall was between 15′ and 20′ high and racers had to climb it using a rope.
Towards the end of the race the trail led back out into open fields. There was another culvert-tube obstacle, but the tubes were a lot smaller. I picked up a nice cut on my back from the top of the tube when I tryed to crawl through. I had to back out and get into a prone position and pull myself through on my belly. Other obstacles near the end of the race included climbing over hay bales blindfolded and crossing an expansive cargo net. The race ended with one last mud pit and a jump over flaming wood.
For the last mile of the race I was nauseous from the fatigue and my shoulders were sore from pulling myself over so many walls. My legs didn’t want to run anymore either, but I kept going (after a breather or two or three or 6) and I finished in muddy-triumphant glory. My time: 1:12:58 placing me 255th out of 338. Unfortunately TMR did not separate the Full Terrain and 1/2 Terrain rankings. Like any other race the sense of accomplishment made the punishment worth it. But unlike any other race the obstacles added an element of fun and excitement that I’ve never experienced in a race
If you feel like you’ve missed out on a chance to run an obstacle race don’t fret. This summer a number of obstacle racing opportunities are available.
Terrain Mud Run Portland: Terrain’s next stop is in Portland on June 30th. You can either run a 3+ mile, or a 5+ mile race.
Spartan Race: Spartan sprint in Washougal, Washington on June 16. Spartan Races offer 3 different levels of race (sprint, beast, super), but the race closest to Eugene in Washougal will be 3+miles with 15+ obstacles. Watch the videos on this sight and you’ll want to make the road trip north.
Muddy Pig Run: The Muddy Pig Run will take place in Terrebonne, Oregon on July 8th. This course is 1.5 miles long and has 12 ranch and military style obstacles.
The Dirty Dash: This race will be held on July 21st at Mt. Pisgah in Eugene. This race will be close to 4 miles long and boasts a slip and slide of some sorts.