Monday, October 10, 2011

Here Is Mud In Your Eye! (And Everywhere Else!)

(this is the one official picture of me that I can find. I love that I look like The Living Dead. Braaaaiiins!)

So last Sunday was the New York Merrell Down & Dirty Mud Run in Orchard Beach. Along with tennis lessons, the mud run was the new physical challenge set for myself for 2011. It's your basic 10k race with an extra abundance of mud and several physical challenges along the way. It was great! Here is my recap of the event.

It started with a ride out to Pelham Bay Park on the 6 train. It didn't take as long as you might think considering it's the last stop in the Bronx. From here, shuttle bus service was provided by the race to Orchard Beach. "Shuttle bus service" turned out to be one school bus going back and forth in a loop picking up hundreds if not thousands of people. The line to wait for the bus was a long one. Luckily I left with plenty of time as a buffer. When I finally got on the bus , the driver claimed there were two buses doing the loop, but it sure didn't seem like it.

(me at almost the front of the line to get on the bus. I started waiting where the line currently ends. You can see it went on and on behind me.)

The set up at Orchard Beach was very nice. There were lots of stations set up with different sponsors and they gave out bananas and oranges and cookies pre-race so the runners had a little bit of extra fuel. There were military tests of strength, places you could buy race-themed gear and a well organized baggage area away from (most of) the mud. Race organizers played fun music by the race corrals and there was also live music by the lunch area. It was a very festive atmosphere. I thought it was very well-designed. The end of the race finished right in this main meeting area, which added to the excitement. You could see the finishers from the earlier 5K races making their way through the final mud pits.

It was warm and sunny that day, but it had rained the day before which meant the field itself was naturally muddy in some places and it was funny to watch runners who had not yet raced, delicately trying to step around the puddles and not mess up their shoes, while those who had already completed the course just stamped around regardless of what the ground was like. It just seemed funny that we were about to dive headfirst into mud, but beforehand, we tried to stay as neat and clean as possible.:)

The course went like this: 

(Course Map! Click to embiggen!)

They started the race in waves a few minutes apart. I was lucky enough to wind up in Wave 8 with my co-worker Fabby and a theater buddy T.Caine. We were right at the front of our wave when the start gun went off, and though we put ourselves in the 10-minute/mile range, we all took off much faster. T.Caine especially shot out like a bullet. The first leg of the race was right on the boardwalk along the beachfront. It was such a nice view to take in, but we couldn't lose focus that we were off and running!

The obstacles went: ladder wall, tube tunnels, military hurdles, low crawl (under netting, no barbed wire was on hand. A relief!), more tube tunnels, cargo climb, mini-mud pit, low walls, hay bales, climbing wall, water run, slippery wall, and then the main mud pit for the grand finale. In between all those obstacles were some really beautiful (and muddy) trails through the woods around Orchard Beach. It was a unique kind of race for me for a couple reasons. For one, it was an entirely new course. All of my longer races have been on paved roads and mostly in Central Park and this course one is definitely not like that. You have to be a lot more aware of what's ahead of you and where your feet are landing. It reminded me a lot of my days in junior high and high school running cross country. It would be very easy to roll your ankle out there if you spaced out. Another big difference between this race and others was that due to all the mud and the obstacles, I couldn't run with my ipod. This meant running without music, which I pretty much never do. So it was an interesting challenge to do the run without any uptempo beats pushing me along.

(The Slipper Wall was one of the last obstacles on the course which you could also see from the Welcome Area. The dude climbing while standing up is not following directions. You're supposed to do it on your knees or your stomach so you don't slip and kill yourself. I found it was really painful climbing on my knees so I had to pull myself up with just my arms. I'm so strong!)

ALSO, there were no mile markers or clocks along the course, so nobody really knew where they were in terms of distance or pace as we were running along. All the obstacles were staffed with workers to make sure no one got hurt and to help people along, and supply water, but no one seemed to know how far into the race they were posted or at least they refrained from telling us when questioned. I figured that by the time I got to the mini-mud pit I was halfway through, but it was tricky to pace my energy without knowing for sure. Also a lot of the second half of the race seemed to be running uphill which was killer!

From the very first obstacle I realized I didn't have any problem climbing things, but getting over them gracefully was more difficult for me. I had a tendency to get to the top and then fling my leg over the side with a bit too much momentum, thus launching myself over without a way to really stop myself from toppling off the other side. This was most evident on the military hurdles, the first of which I totally fell off of going over. Luckily I just landed on my butt and quickly got up with an "i'm okay! i'm okay!" (note: no one around me was concerned at all. I was talking to myself.) and launched myself over the next one and got through it fine.

(Post-race. Still attractive. I used the bottle of water they gave me after the race to try and wash off my hands so I could get into my bag. Still it was a really messy endeavor.)

So obviously, from the pics you can tell I got very very muddy. The run advertised that there would be rinse off stations on-site. In my head I pictured... I don't know, showers? Not like they would create some spa out in the woods... but I don't know. What we got instead were a bunch of hoses with minimal water pressure hooked up to ice cold tanks of water. Trying to rinse off this way was more of a challenge than anything faced on the run. It would've taken me hours to try and rinse off in this fashion. Plus it was FREEZING. After trying for about 10 minutes and getting nowhere, I realized most people were abandoning this method to just walk back up the beach and rinse off in Pelham Bay. This was much more effective and the water temp was much more tolerable.Oh, and did I mention that even though I picked a giant bag worth of clothes to change into, I forgot to pack a towel? Yeah, that was really not good planning on my part. It made drying off a very creative process. Thank goodness it was an unseasonably warm October day. 

(nice and clean after my swim! I had to use my clean shirt as a towel, so I'm just wearing my wind breaker without a shirt underneath. Just like Rafa after a tennis match! Vamos!)

I have to give props to the race for their delicious hamburger lunch provided after the race. It was a decent sized burger with fresh, lettuce tomato and cheese along with a bottle of water and assorted bags of chips. They tasted great. The whole atmosphere of the event was really a lot of fun. It was also very nice that Very Pregnant Co-Worker Suki who lives close to Orchard Beach stopped by to cheer on me and Fabby. How I refrained from giving her a big muddy hug, I'll never know! Even if I mentioned a few negatives here, overall it was a fantastic day and I'm happy I took this physical challenge. The obstacles were fun. The company was great. I would definitely run through the mud again!

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