Race Report: Merrill Down and Dirty

Or, Check Your Ego at the Door Mud Run.

After much anticipation, I was finally able to participate in an obstacle course/mud run.  I was supposed to do one a few weeks ago but SOMEONE *cough cough* (Rogue Runner) can’t get their act together and keeps rescheduling.  I thought DnD would be my second so I chose the 10K length when I created our team.  There was a point in the corn fields when I was regretting that choice but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Registration, Packet Pickup, SWAG

Everything was super easy.  We picked up our packets on the morning of the race and I was a little worried about massive lines but it took all of 10 minutes to do mine and Little Runner’s – he was doing the 100 yd dash.  We received nice shirts (mine technical, his cotton), some Paul Mitchell stuff, Lara bars, and Merrill convertible bandana thingies (long tubes that you can wear in different ways).  Little Runner also received a Matchbox car since Matchbox sponsored the kids’ races.

Look how nice and clean we are!
Look how nice and clean we are!

Start, Course, Obstacles

At 7:45, we self-seeded ourselves in corrals for the start.  It was a worthless exercise, I think, as many don’t know their race pace much less their obstacle pace!  We were in corral 4 but finished in the bottom 1/4 so…. The corrals began every minute or so.  It was a well organized start.  We had a little jaunt through the woods, with the typical pack problems of any race, before we hit the first obstacle.  I am not sure how many obstacles there were per mile (map) but they seemed a bit spread out.

These were the obstacles (description from the Merrell website):

Low Crawl  – The Low Crawl obstacle requires athletes to get low and crawl on the stomachs under a cargo net 18″ off the ground. Athletes will also have to crawl through a pool of water the length of the obstacle.
Ladder Wall – The Ladder Wall is 10′ tall and requires racers to go up and over the top before continuing on the course.
Water Crossing – Plunge into waist deep water and wade through the water crossing. Although participants do not have to swim you will have to get wet!!
Hill Climb – Racers will have to pull themselves up the steep hill holding onto rope while still be soaking we from the water crossing.
Mud Pit – The Mud Pit obstacle requires athletes to get on their stomachs and crawl through mud the length of the obstacle. Now athletes are wet and MUDDY!
Log Leap – The Log Leap is a 5′ tall inflatable log athletes will have to run and jump over.
Inflatables – Look out for these 20′ tall inflatables. Athletes will have to climb up cargo net and then slide down the back side.
Push Ups – Drop and give us 10!
Marine Hurdles – The Marine Hurdles are three logs 5′ off the ground athletes will have to run a jump over.
5′ Walls – Athletes will have to run and jump over the series of 5′ walls.
Monkey Cross – Athletes will have to balance themselves on 2″ straps while holding onto 1″ thick rope overhead.
High Walls – Athletes will have to climb to the top of the 10′ High Wall hanging onto the rock wall holds.
Tunnels & Low Walls – Before heading to the main site athletes will have to crawl on their hands and knees through 27′ of tunnels and then up and over the 4′ tall Low Walls.
Sand Bag Carry – Athletes will have to carry a 40lb sand bag around the barn and back before continuing on the course.
Balance Beams – Athletes will have to walk across the 4″ wide beams while standing 2′, 3′, and 2′ off the ground.
Tires – Racers will have to navigate their way through 100 tires in a 10×10 box. Get your knees up before getting stuck on the double high stacked tires.
Cargo Climb – The Cargo Climb is an 8′ tall structure where athletes will have to climb to the top and back down the other side.
Trailer Cargo Climb – Get ready climb! Athletes will have to climb a 8′ tall cargo net, walk across another 8′, climb up another 7′, walk 10′ on cargo net and repeat on the other side.
Slippery Mountain – Racers have to pull themselves up using only their hands on this angled mountain. No cheating and using your feet!
Mud Pit – One last chance to get down and dirty. Racers will have to crawl through the 60′ mud pit before hitting the finish line.

Swamp People!
Swamp People!

I think I did fairly well on the obstacles.  I loved the water crossing (though there was a HUGE hidden rock at the exit and I almost went down).   I about broke my butt on the inflatable.  It was an inflatable slide with a cargo net climb up one side and a steep slide down the other.  I was still wet from the first mud pit so I went zipping down the slide and right off the end!  I’m very thankful I didn’t break something.  I also did not nail the Marine hurdles, even though I had been practicing them at our training.  I couldn’t do the high one, got the second but slammed my ribs doing it, failed the third.  I was a bit grumpy after that.  I also didn’t realize (until just now) that you weren’t supposed to use your feet on the Slippery Mountain.  I couldn’t hear the instructions so I just got myself up as quickly as possible.

I had two other “obstacles” working against me on the course.  The sun was the worst.  I would say about half of the course was in the shade but a lot was in the sun (including some jaunts through cornfields). I was feeling pretty sick on the last trip though the corn – that’s where I was cursing myself for choosing the 10K – and was very glad for the last mile in the woods, even it was a hillier trail.  My second “obstacle” was my sports glasses.  I hadn’t used them before and didn’t realize how much they would distort my vision when I looked directly down.  I had to fight quite a bit of nausea due to them and I had to really concentrate on where I was going since I had to look further ahead for tripping hazards.  I felt bad that I couldn’t interact with my team more but I really did have to focus and I couldn’t move my head too quickly.  The glasses also made the balance beams and tiered cargo climb extra interesting.

On Course Support

There were four water stops but I think there should have been more, with the heat.  Also, the water was very warm.  At least there was plenty of it!  There were crew members at all of the obstacles to tell you what to do and help if you needed it.  They guys at the Monkey Cross were a bit too helpful, though.  They kept trying to pull the rope down for me and I had to yell at them 🙂

Finish

After a final slosh through the mud pit, we were awarded our finisher medal and a bottle of water.  Of course, we were so muddy, opening the water was a challenge!  There was food at the athletes table, oranges and cookies, and Lara Bar and Naked fruit juice were handing out samples.

Kids’ Dash

Little Runner did his dash at 10:45 – about an hour after we finished.  It was hot and there was little shade except in the deep grass so he as a bit cranky.  They started the kids in waves with the older ones going earlier and that worked okay.  They had the parents run with the kids so the course was a bit crowded.  I think they needed to leave more time between waves.  His obstacles were to go under a lower wall, across a balance beam laying on the ground, over a wall, and through the big mud pit.

Up and Over!
Up and Over!

I had to hustle keep up with him, especially in the crowd.  I was glad that my friend was also doing it with us so she helped keep him in sight.  He was not a fan of the mud experience!  He made it through but the first thing he wanted to do when he finished was get his shirt OFF!

We are SO DONE!
We are SO DONE!

Even with the mud, he wants to do the 1 mile next year – you have to be 7 or older, much to his chagrin.

We went through the inflatable wash tent that looked liked a car wash/mister and then hit the hoses to try to get as much mud off as possible.  It was very crowded and I was less than successful with my own rinse since I was also trying to wrangle LR, as the bra full of mud I discovered later confirmed.  There were single sex changing tents for us to use so we grabbed a corner and tried to get us changed as discretely as possible.  A kids changing tent would have been awesome! I will say, the big blue IKEA bags are great for holding wet, muddy gear!  No fuss, no muss.

Overall

Pro:

Very organized

The crowds weren’t too difficult to navigate and no wait at the portapotties

Some interesting obstacles

Nice shirt and goodies

Hose stations and changing tents

Cons:

No shade for the waiting families

Some not-so-interesting obstacles

The medal is a bit boring (I think the road racing metals have spoiled me!)

Women who were washing their freaking hair at the hose stations! With shampoo! Rinse and move on, sister!

Overall: A-  I think this was a fun first foray into the world of mud.  I would not be against doing it again next year and I have learned some things for my next mud run.

I wore a long sleeve tech shirt that I didn’t like, sleeves removed, and painted with our team name, Champion spandex shorts, Champion socks that I didn’t mind losing, and my second to oldest pair of Sauconys.  I also made sure to use a ton of Body Glide on my feet since I wasn’t wearing wool.  A rinse with the hose and three trips through the washer was able to salvage most of it.

Oh, and since Sunday is my long run, I went home and pounded out six more miles on the treadmill 🙂

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