Well, that’s at least what my souvenir t-shirt says, and after running my first Rugged Maniac race at the Georgia International Horse Park this past weekend, I couldn’t agree more! Since my introduction into the world of OCR in September of 2015 (yes, it hasn’t even been a year yet) and eleven OCRs later, I must say that Rugged Maniac is the most fun race that I have run thus far. What made it so much fun? Well, read on and I shall explain….
Saturday, August 20 6:15 a.m. – Acworth, GA
My Garmin starts buzzing and I realize, holy cow – it’s race day! Being in the far northwest corner of the Atlanta suburbs, I’m used to waking up much earlier on race day to get to the venue. However, Rugged Maniac has some unusual later start times, especially for August in Georgia. Registration isn’t opening until 9 a.m. and we are running the second open wave at 10:15 a.m. I jump in the shower to rinse off (okay, really to shave – ladies will agree, we cannot have prickly legs when there is a chance that random men may touch our legs and ass). We get dressed and geared up, and corral the 13-year-old out of bed and out the door.
McDonald’s pit stop for hot cakes and sausage for the teenager. His carb load and it must work because he beat me. Yeah, we’ll go with that…
Receive traffic report that lanes may be closed. What? No way! Lanes closed on the highway in Atlanta? We gauge the time calculations on the proposed detour routes and decide to continue on our present heading.
8:32 a.m. – Georgia International Horse Park, Conyers, GA
We pull into the parking at the venue, and park within 20 feet of where we parked for Terrain Race. Upon getting out of the car, we hear the typical grumbling from fellow racers about the distance to walk to and from the parking to the festival area (Soapbox Alert: You are running a race people, with physical exertion. I don’t think an extra half to three-quarter of a mile on either side of a 5K is going to make, break, or kill you. If it is, then you have no idea what you have signed up for. Oh, you could have paid for VIP parking and if you chose not to, then don’t bitch!)
Standing in line at the Registration tent and it is moving surprisingly quick. OW! My ass is now stinging. I turn to see who just smacked me and I am greeted by my fellow GORMR (Georgia Obstacle Racers and Mud Runners) teammate, Wesley. He only stands about a foot and three inches taller than my 5’3” stature. “Hey honey, I just had the first guy of the day touch my ass and we haven’t even gotten into the festival area yet!” It’s going to be a good day!
Registration was quick and easy, they had a 3-ring binder to sign off on for waivers. Multiple people to a page. It is a brilliant idea and other races should take note. Finisher shirts and bibs in hand, we head to find our team tent.
We locate the GORMR tent and set up our chairs and leave the bags to go check out the festival area and the obstacles that are in close proximity. While the festival area isn’t as busy as Spartan, they did have a few different companies with booths set up, some fun activities such as Bull Riding and Knockerball, and most importantly, the beer was already flowing. Pre-race carb load!
We mingle a little bit, take some pictures, play some knockerball, drink some beer, and then decide we should start stretching and head to the starting area.
The elite wave bolts out of the starting corral and the day has officially started.
I scale the 4-foot wall placed at the entrance of the starting corral.
The first elite runner comes sliding down the Accelerator and crosses the finish line. Within the next 8 minutes, 6 more elite male and the first elite female cross the finish line. Damn, I can’t even run a normal 5K in that time, much less one with obstacles. Much appreciation for that group!
The emcee is doing his best to pump us up, “I say Rugged, you say Maniac. RUGGED….MANIAC …. RUGGED….MANIAC! GO!”
And we are off….
The trail turns softly to the left and then heads into the wooded area. We run just over a half mile on this wide trail when we come up to the first obstacle, Barricade. It’s a set of two 4’ walls with a rolling pipe sitting about 6” above the top of the wall. The key to getting over this obstacle seamlessly is not even touching the rolling pipe. Just place the hands on the top of the wall and get over. It is a bit awkward with the pipe in the way, but I am successful nonetheless. As I turn to the right to head down the trail, I see maniacs coming down the hill from the opposite direction completely covered head to toe in mud. I can’t wait to see what is in store for us around the bend!
A few hundred yards down the trail we come up to Obstacle #2, Dragnet. It is a net draped over chlorinated muddy water (a bit of an oxymoron, I know). I run through the obstacle, holding the net above my head and up the mud hill on the opposite side. I turned to my husband and son and say, “did I smell….”. “Yep, it is chlorine”, he responds quickly. “Huh,” I said, interesting concept, and I love it! Somehow, it did feel ‘cleaner’.
We turn to the left around the trees and there is Obstacle #3, Head Scratcher. It is your typical muddy crawl under barbed wire. As usual, there are ladies complaining about the amount and thickness of the mud. (Really?!?! Did you NOT know what you were coming to do? I just don’t get it….) I give a few of them some tips, like keeping your mouth shut while crawling through mud and muddy water so as to eliminate the accidental mud in mouth tragedy. Okay, so the tip was somewhat self-serving too…Back to the obstacle, I alternate from a crawl to a roll depending on the distance of the barbwire crawl. I decide to roll this entire distance. However, the only downfall to rolling is how dizzy you may be once completed. I am staggering my first few steps.
Approximately 50 yards after the Head Scratcher, we start to climb Obstacle #4, Jacobs Ladder. It is a wooden 12’ pyramid ladder. All 3 of us are up and over in no time. Looks like it may be time for a little running now.
The trail curves to the left again and we see a muddy mound leading into the Commando Crawl. Ah, this is where all the watery mud is…more complaining from the ladies in front of me. Me? I just splash right in, careful to avoid the barbed wire. As I near the end, I catch a splash of mud right in the eye. Out damn spot, Out! The last wire at the end is quite low, so I reach into my arsenal of old ‘Twister’ moves and contort myself to escape scratching the back. Up the muddy mound and we are headed down the trail again.
Down a slight hill and turning right, we see Barricade to the left and I hear one young lady say, “Look at them, I didn’t know we were going to get THAT muddy”. It made me chuckle. I turned to look at the 13-year-old and he is sporting a muddy beard. Well, at least I know what he’ll look like once facial hair starts growing.
Not even 10 feet away from Tipping Point is Ninja Escape, Rugged’s version of Ninja Warrior’s Quintuple Steps. I take my short legs and try to get high enough on the steps to avoid the muddy area in the middle. 1…2…3…..foot slips, body turns, and face plant into a plank on the ground. Yep, I am obviously trying to break something today. I try two more before succumbing to the fact that trying to one-step gracefully across these steps like Neil Craver is not going to happen today, or maybe ever.
Heading for the trail, the shade is a welcome respite from the blazing sun. As the trees open up onto a grassy area we see
Obstacle #8, Beam Me Up. It’s a 15’ ladder wall climb. I race the 13-year-old to the top, let him know to watch his grip as the top is slick with mud already, and then beat him to the bottom.
As we emerge from the trees we see Pack Mule, the 25lb Wreck Bag carry. I grab my bag, hoist it over the shoulder and start my run. It was around a grouping of trees and the shortest sandbag carry I’ve ever seen. I’m handing off my bag and see the boys walking up to get one. Damn, I didn’t realize I had left them that far back. I wait patiently as they sprint the carry course and we all go to the next obstacle together.
About 25 yards away is Bang the Gong. We each get in a line and see 3 people slip as they launch from the edge of the water trying to reach the gong. A face plant, a butt first with feet in the air, and a belly flop. I sympathize with their stinging pain. My turn. I launch off of the edge and miss the gong by what I thought was a few inches, but the mini-version of me in a boy’s body, begs to differ, saying that if the gap was any bigger, he’d need a bridge to cross it. The little smart ass.
Within 50 yards we pull a U-turn and come up to Obstacle #12, Claustrophobia. A darkened tunnel crawl. Or in my case, bent over walk. Note to self, don’t try to straighten up, you may be short, but not that short. The plywood ‘ceiling’ hurts when you bang your head. There’s no hope for me.
Directly out of claustrophobia are the Trenches. There are 4 ditches with varying widths, the last being the widest. The volunteers are warning all of us that the takeoff and landing areas are getting quite slick and to watch your footing. So we towards the side as opposed to the middle. I leap over the first, take a few running steps, and leap over the second. I continue doing the same thing and my husband seems shocked that I make it over each one in an athletic fashion, unscathed.
Another hundred yards or so of trail running and as we see the next obstacle up ahead, the mini-me trips over his own size 11.5 feet and goes knee into rock. Yep, now he’s bleeding too and there is no doubt that he is my kid. Cute and Graceful. I try hard not to laugh, but I can’t hold it in. I’m giggling as we run up to Pipe Dream. I really do love the creativity of obstacle names. Up a slight muddy hill and I go head first into a corrugated pipe into, guess what? Yep, more muddy water and barbed wire. And rocks. Lots and lots of little rocks that continued into the corrugated pipe that we had to climb up and out of with the use of a rope. By the time I crawl out of the pipe, both of my knees are bleeding. But hey, I’m sure there will be more water to rinse them off.
Straight out of Pipe Dream we begin the next obstacle, Quad Burners. A series of steep mounds of dirt and mud. I really think that Rugged Maniac likes to play with their backhoes. We are off and running again, but not too far. The next obstacle, Let’s Cargo, is waiting for us. It is an A-frame cargo net climb and decent. The net is a little slack in the middle and not pulled too terribly tight. So I stay close to one of the middle beams for a little more support. I make it to the top and debate doing the flip and crab, but I really am afraid I would kick someone. And with my luck today, well, it just wouldn’t be a good idea. I hit the ground and look up and mini-me is starting his decent. I hold out my hand for a high-five and that little turd goes running past me and doesn’t look back. Hubby makes his way down the net a few minutes later after helping someone over their fear of heights and asks where the kid is….I just pointed and laughed. He left us.
The two of us take off running and go through one last trail area, and we can start to hear the festival area. We come off the trail and turn right and there is the next obstacle, Antigravity. It’s trampolines! OMG! Trampolines! I break into a sprint because my excitement level just went through the roof. It’s the little things. I climb up the stairs and wait for the person in front of me to get up the cargo net on the opposite side. Once she was clear, I jump onto the first, bounce over the middle spacer, and with one jump on the second I bounce up and grab the cargo net about ¾ of the way up the wall. I was so tempted to go do it again, I LOVE trampolines! A flip is definitely happening next year!
The Ringer, starring Tretsch
We climb down the backside and start a little jog and make it to the next obstacle, #18, The Ringer. Just as the name suggests, it’s an upper body obstacle, a ring crossing over water. I pick a lane and grab the ring. I grab the second, the third – holy shit, I may just make it across this thing – the fourth, and I’m in the water. Damn, so close. Up and out of the water. Hubby is jealous that I’m rinsed off.
We are in the home stretch, the last cluster of obstacles. Up next, #19, The Blobstacle. It’s a large inflatable cylinder, for lack of a better term, draped with a cargo net that you must scale up and over. The more people are on it, the harder it is. It would be like trying to climb and inflatable bouncy house full of jumping kids. However, once I got my footing on the cargo net, up and over was quite easy.
Up another mud mound and down to the Frog Hop. A pool of water with lanes of floating plastic ‘lily pads’. I sprint across these without issue. Finally! I stayed on my feet. There’s only a few obstacles left until the finish line. We still have not seen my mini-me. I guess he’s still alive.
Obstacle #22, Pyromaniac is next up. It’s the classic fire jump and I get to jump it twice. But wait, where are the cameras? There’s always cameras. I leap over the first fire. Damn, that was HOT! And over the second. I think that one was even hotter. It smells really good and I start day dreaming of roasted marshmallows.
With all my bruises and scrapes, people ask me why I find this fun. I reply that it is like being a kid again. Carefree, throwing caution to the wind, conquering fears, and proving to yourself that you can. Rugged Maniac was the most fun course that I have run because the obstacles never stopped and the largest distance between them was a half mile, and that was from the starting line to the first one. Twenty-five obstacles in 3.2 miles. There were clusters and groups, some we’ve seen variations of and others that we have never seen before. Rugged Maniac is inventive with some of their obstacles, utilizes the terrain to their advantage, provides plenty of dirt and mud, but most of all, this race is really geared toward the FUN aspect of this sport. It’s a great race for a beginner or an elite, for an 8-year-old or an 80-year-old. It’s just pure, play in the mud, I’m a kid again fun. I highly recommend running this race if you have the chance (just don’t be as graceful as yours truly).
Photo Credits: Jennifer Foster, Sean Gluth, Lisa Gregorio Sands, Stacy West Pitts, Robert Tretsch, and Gameface Media