Monday, October 31, 2011

The Original Mud Run DFW

I have to start off saying this is one of my favorite "mud runs".
It might be a favorite for nostalgic reasons (it was my first)....
or maybe because the course is virtually identical each time...
or that it is a flat 10k course, which allows for me to push the pace without concern for terrain changes...
or that is has an all around good mix of challenges and obstacles....

Myself with some of DFW Mudcrew's finest! We are all braving the cold! There is a fine line between brave and crazy!

When I ran this race back in April of this year, I really had no idea what to expect. I was fairly certain that I could handle the distance part of the course. The same goes with the obstacles. But combine the two challenges, that was were it became a grey area for me. My whole game plan the first go around was to pace myself and complete the race in one piece. A friend and I ran the whole thing together. We had so much fun together and we ran at a nice "jogging" pace. We completed the course in 1hr 38m. Pleased with the time for a first timer, I knew I could do better. Again, as the title of my blog suggests, I usually don't like to settle for things...I prefer to better and outdo myself whenever possible. Looking at other previous results, my goal was to have a time in the 1h20m range, about 10-12 minutes faster than last time. I have had this October race in the back of my mind ever since completing the first one. There have been tons of other great events that I have participated in the mean time, but I couldn't wait for the "rematch" of this particular course.

Throughout all my normal training and preparation for every aspect of an event of this nature, one thing that I had really failed to consider....coldness. In Texas especially, we all can't wait for the cool days of fall and winter while being tested with consistent 100 degree days. Conversely in the winter, we anxiously await the warm days of spring and summer to get out of the house. Each somewhat extreme or opposite climate has their pro's/con's, each seem more ideal than whatever current state we are in. The first cool weather came Thursday before the race. It was a huge shock to my system and my gameplan. Now mind you, the temperature didn't drop down into the teen's or something extreme in that nature. But it did go from being 80's-90's down to the 40's and 50's. That's a pretty big swing for my body to get adjusted to with a days notice. Sweating profusely while running.... to numb and chilled limbs that are forgetting how to function. Semi-panic mode sets in for me! I need gloves, jackets, layers, ear muffs, tights, and anything else "arctic proof" NOW!! Well not quite that dramatic, but close. It wasn't just the temperature I was concerned with, it was the fact that we were going to be wet...not a maybe...a definite. That turns cool weather into very cold weather quickly.
Get down, get muddy and crawl!

So after much debating about what to wear and what not to wear I came to a decision.
-Normal running shorts, shirt, shoes (New Balance MT10) and socks
-Windbreaker vest
-Running gloves with a mitten or finger option (Brooks Adapt)
-Compression arm sleeves (Zensah)

Now to the race. Frustration I guess should be expected at all of these events, I don't really know why, but that seems to be the norm. Their timing chip system was not working properly during early packet pickup. So they had to be picked up at the race. The problem was nobody was there to hand them out when we got there. Fortunately we got them with a few minutes to spare before the race and were ready to go. Well...almost. I did not get to warm up like I intended to and mother nature decided to say 'hello' to me during the National Anthem about 2 minutes before start time. I figured I could have an hour plus stalemate with mother nature...heck, it might even make me run faster.

The race begins. The temperature is about 45 degrees, time to find out if my clothing plan will work. I had intentions of pushing the pace hard, at what I thought my body could handle for a 10k. I was looking at keeping my heart rate somewhere in the upper 160's to lower 170's, very doable. I wore my Garmin 405cx GPS watch with the heart rate monitor strap. It will tell me my current running pace, distance and HR. All of this information is only worthwhile if it can be seen. A good portion of the time the watch is covered in mud. I started off running at MY pace and focusing on a quick cadence and fast foot turnover. The HR and legs felt really good, especially without my intended warmup. About a half mile or more into the race, I realized I was only 6-7 people back from the leader. Something felt wrong, this wasn't what I was thinking would happen. I double checked my pace on my Garmin... 7 -7:30....I was doing what I was supposed to do. I kept waiting through the first few obstacles and miles for people to start passing me. Or, the people in front to take off and leave me in the dust. Neither scenario unfolded, this was how the race was going to be. After 2 miles I came to my first opportunity to pass someone. It was two guys running side by side, while passing them I decided to kick the pace back into 7min range to discourage any back and forth action that might occur. After enough distance, I kept the pace hard (for me) and eased back in the 7:30-8 range.

Under & Over. This little hole is about as deep as your shoulders. Another obstacle to refresh your memory about being wet and muddy, in case your clothes started to dry.

Now to the temperature and the real test of this race. After passing the 2 aforementioned gentlemen, I thought..."I was 6th place, I passed 2 people, now I am in ______place?" I couldn't do simple math to save my life! My brain was cold shocked. I had to break it down in terms of 'passed one guy = 5th place, passed second guy = 4th place'. This process of deduction entertained me for several minutes while running. Being in 4th place of this wave truly felt unreal...not possible. Again, this was not in the game plan. But hey, since we are here, why not shoot for Top 3?? Next target was about 50 yards ahead of me and I was at mile 3. Plenty of time to make a move, not just yet though. I followed his bright orange shirt through most every obstacle.

The obstacles at this race are just all around good and fun! They aren't really a test of personal character or feets of human strength. It's some good old fashioned muddy, cut, bruised, wet and nasty stuff. There were a few obstacles that required some nerve to do...
-A cargo net about 15-20 feet tall with numb hands, not the smartest idea in the world.
-Swimming/wading in a swamp (for lack of better words) with who knows what kind of dead and rotting things in it
-Jumping off a platform into mysterious depths of water
-My personal climbing a dirt mound...while it was being constructed!
....there was literally a bulldozer dumping dirt within 2 feet of me. Needless to say I got the hell out of there as fast as possible!!

These are tall. They are even taller when you get to the top and try to swing over. Luckily they had some crash pads to give your leg a pillow to lay on after it is broken from the fall.

The toughest challenge for me, cold wet feet. The indoctrination to this 'fun' came in the form of a swim across a river at around a mile into the race. The water temperature wasn't that bad actually, but this gave little comfort to my feet down the road. We would get another opportunity to swim at the 3.5 mile mark. And just in case my feet, clothes, hands and mind had a chance to start drying out and unthaw...there were at least half a dozen various pools of water throughout the course to resoak everything. I can't quite pinpoint when or where it occurred, but somewhere around mile 3, my feet became numb. Around mile 5, it felt like running on feet that were "asleep". I was running on instinct and habit of repetitive motion, hoping my feet would land where they were supposed to.

Do you ever wonder where your toilets flush to? I'll give you a hint...

Now to my hands. I wore my gloves with the intention of leaving them on during the running stretches and taking them off for necessary obstacles. The first obstacle that I removed them for some how coerced me to leave them in my zipper pocket for the rest of the race. My hands felt fine and didn't seem to be too affected by the cold. I think what actually happened is I forgot that I have hands. When I "remembered" that I possess hands, it was time to do the Gorilla Ropes. It's a version of monkey bars, except it is with rope instead of bars. They swing back and forth and have some give to them. This was an obstacle that I aced last time and figured today would be no different. I took pride in the fact that, according to the organizations website, very few people complete this obstacle. Well I was going to go 2 for 2 on this obstacle. So, in an attempt to recreate the previous success, I grab the first rope. Funny, I don't really feel the rope, but I see that my hand is attached to it. Swing to the next rung. Hmmmm? Signals in my brain don't seem to be translating and processing the fact that I need to grab this rope and hold on for dear life. I get some kind remarks from a race volunteer..."Wow man you are almost there! You will be the only one to make it today!" This did give me a slight boost in confidence, unfortunately being the 4th person to attempt an obstacle doesn't really say much for being the "only one so far to complete it". I continue this "drunken hand" gorilla rope traversing to about 3/4 of the way through. The next grab feels like I am trying to lasso the rope with a wet noodle (the noodle being my useless hand), this would be the end of this obstacle. Gorilla ropes and I would have to settle for a draw, I struck first, it won the 2nd time. I briefly debated thawing out my hands and giving it another try... then I remembered my current 4th place status. Let's stick with speed!

Gorilla Ropes. Traverse them carefully. Shouts of "bend your knees when you fall so you don't hit your feet at the bottom" hooraayyy!! Numb hands do not like to complete this obstacle!

At one obstacle, can't quite remember which, a race volunteer cheer's me on "You're doing great! You're in 3rd place!". I said "Really? I'm pretty sure I'm in 4th." Response "Nope, you are definitely 3rd. There is just the guy in the orange shirt. And some dude WAY up there". Now THIS is what I want to hear! Shockingly I AM in Top 3. Of course, Top 3 is great....2nd place would be EVEN better!! Now to decide when to make my move to pass "Mr. Orange".

Having previously run this course, I had a descent idea of what to expect. After a lovely mud pit and mud slide there was a good running stretch where I decided "this was it". I approached "Mr. Orange" and exchanged pleasantries with him, he was a great guy and was all smiles just like me! I kicked my pace up a few notches to create a comfortable distance between the two of us. Home free to a 2nd place finish in my heat....almost. Since I was fairly confident that the distance I had established between the two of us would suffice in 2nd place, I didn't really think I needed to make it any bigger. No sense in possibly overdoing it or going too hard this close to the end. No sooner than I had established my "personal space", what do I see in my rear view mirror...a NEW runner! He was closing the gap to me very quickly! Who was this guy? Where did he come from? Was he some sort of a "ringer"...playing it conservative until now and then switching to overdrive??  So this "new guy" was about 20ft behind me as we get to the last half mile or so. Not taking this scenario into consideration, I keep my pace and wait to see if he has more in his gas tank after getting this close to me.

Climb this carefully! It is slippery and wet. Oh, and you probably cannot feel your hands.

My race strategy had always been about a personal competition. Me vs the clock. I never even thought about dealing with other competitors, it was just about me doing my best. One of my plans from the beginning...get water at every water station. I knew it would be better to stop, or at least slow down, to get water even if it added seconds to my time. Dehydration would slow me down more than skipping water stations. So I am now in a close race with "new guy" for possible 2nd/3rd place and what shows up with probably a half to quarter mile left in the race?? A water station. I subconsciously go to the station and slow down, grab a cup, start to take a sip of water....then it dawns on me..."Hey moron, you are in the home stretch! A sip of water isn't really going to change anything at this point! You have a dude right on your tail!" Well, the next thing that happens really still has me speechless. "New guy" slows down also, waives at me and says "Come on man! Drop that water, we are almost there!"  WOW! I have to say that again....WOW! I know these types of events are for fun, but they do have a competitive element to them. Everyone, I hope, strives to do their best, at whatever level they are. So I join up with "new guy" and we keep pace to the next obstacle. He informs me that he had to skip a water crossing because he was not a good swimmer and got scared, especially because of the cold, but he tried it anyways. He had to run around the obstacle and estimated it was at least a half mile of extra running! So "new guy" was actually in front of me for a good portion of the race. This explains the discrepancy with the volunteer telling me I was in 3rd place, when I was fairly certain I was 4th place. "New guy" had to back track, catch all the way back up, and now here he was with me on the home stretch. This put me in a semi-awkward position. Could I have pushed the pace and left him...maybe. Could I have lived with myself if I did this, after he waited for me?? I don't think so.

Grab rope, hold rope, swing across mud pit.

"New guy" and I hit the last 3-4 obstacles together. We both ran hard, there was almost a subconscious understanding that when the time was right, a move could be made. This was probably one of the highlights of the race for me. He and I talked about how cold our feet where. About how much fun this CRAZY stuff was. Even though this was a competition, we respected each other for the hard work that had been put in to get us to this point. As if a bell rang in the air...the time came for the "mutual move" to occur. The final obstacle and push to the finish to fairly determine "who gets it?" "New guy" had a couple of steps on me coming out of the final crawl through mud. As I stood up, I took 2-3 deep breaths and 2-3 walking steps. Why did I walk? Was I sandbagging it? I was probably 200 yards from the finish, was I conceding the race to "new guy?" No way! I knew my heart rate was sky high at this point, I didn't even need to look at the monitor I was wearing to know this. I needed this few second pause to allow me to push hard all the way to the end.

Me crossing the mud pit with "new guy" (orange shoes) closing in on me!

Breath, calm, relax... now it's time to go for broke...100% effort. We both run hard. I know it, he knows it...this is the time. I remember thinking in this final stretch of speed..."I really cannot feel my feet at all." I push as hard as I can go, or I should say as hard as I can go without the true use of my feet. He is right there... I could grab his shirt he is so close. We cross the finish line... "new guy" 1hr10m06.3s 1hr10m06.9s.  Honestly, that was how it should have finished. This guy was a true class act. I can't say I would have done what he did, I would like to though. He earned his 2nd and I earned my 3rd.

After everything was tallied up, I came in "officially" as 4th male/5th overall. But, as I and others suspect, there appears to be a suspiciously fast female time. Not that a lady couldn't win this event, but to be 9 minutes faster than a guy who I know has a 5k PR of 16:05...stranger things have happened, doubtful. So I have taken the liberty of claiming an "official-unofficial" ranking of 4th male/ 4th overall. Does this kinda, to me! I am ecstatic to be OFFICIALLY Top 5. I honestly didn't know if my 9am heat time would hold up over the course of the day.

   We survived! This is about as still as we could get. Shivering was an understatement.                     Go DFW Mudcrew!!

After the race was finished, I ran to the car to get my camera to catch my wife in action. Silly me, I'm thinking I have 20-30 minutes at least until she gets done. I am trotting back to the course to find a good spot to wait for her and what do I see??? Her finishing up the LAST obstacle and heading to the finish!!! WOW, I knew she would be quick...but this fast?? It was when I hurriedly tried to take a picture of my Mud Queen, that I started to think my body was functioning worse than I thought. I couldn't push a button on the camera to save my life. Hugs and congratulations where exchanged, then it happened.... 5-10 minutes after the race...BOOM! Shivering uncontrollably. My jaw was chattering so hard, you could have hired me as a 'human tree shredder'. I piled on my warm pants and jacket as fast as possible and did some jumping jacks but it still took a good hour until my body stopped convulsing.

I always get so much out of these events. I meet new people. I get to revisit with old friends. I get some good pictures and better memories. I learn things about myself. I get cut, bruised, muddy and bloody. But guess who has 2 numb thumbs and can't wait for the next race.... THIS GUY!!


  1. ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS! It's like "reliving" the race and it's clear that the things that were going through your head, were going through mine...all of our minds, really! What's fun though, is you knowing you're "up there" in placement throughout the race...that makes it even MORE exciting! Good stuff Tyler...down to the detail!

  2. Sounds like I need to buy boots so we can put a competitive team together! Great write up Tyler!

  3. Nice write-up. I know this is an old post, but I just stumbled upon it via Google. I also ran in both Spring and Fall of 2011. It looks like we were actually in the same wave in the Fall (9am). I was MUCH slower, but did establish my own PR. I haven't done a mud run since, but reading this has me thinking about it...