The Macon Mud Run’s competitive 7k wave starts at a civilized 10:30 AM. In the OCR first wave world that may as well be happy hour the next day. Having completely brain farted the math on the trip time from the ATL, I arrived a full 2 hours early. And what did I receive for my mathematical mix-up? A parking space 25 feet from the starting line. This race is on the grounds of the Hephzibah Children’s Home (and fully benefitting this great organization) so there is plenty of parking for the mathematically challenged and anyone else arriving up to a half hour after the festival area officially opened at 9:00 AM. After that, there is remote parking, whether by foot (much closer than at GA. Int’l Horse Park) or by shuttle (definitely not close to approaching Warrior Dash distances). I was able to roam around and check out some of the obvious additions/improvements to last year’s course. It looked pretty damn awesome. This was my first repeat race since starting this OCR madness in March of MM14, so I was eager to start.
Observations on the run:
1. As I stood with my back to the maniac with the inch and a quarter attack fire hose blasting us with icy water, my nipples becoming potential weapons, I reflected on the awesomeness of standing in a 100 foot long mud pit that was the starting corral. Divided into thirds by large humps, the official starting line was at the end of the first third. You had to walk from the end of the entire pit, in squelchy mud and knee deep water to get there. I quickly noted if I stood too long without moving my feet I would be stuck. There is no waiting for mud at this race!
2. Thankfully the horn went off, I got a quick start over the hump and into the first pit we went. And…..it was ankle deep. Sweet! A quick exit was to be had! Then the bottom dropped out. Hidden in the murkiness of the muddy water was a deeper pit. Its greedy maw taking out a few people right at the get go. I managed to stay on my feet (a surprise to be sure given my clumsiness) and got out of the pit first. The complexity continued with a fairly tight dog leg right on a pretty steep hill. This would prove very slippery on the second lap.
3. Over/Unders are pretty standard but using large wooden cable spools makes it more interesting. Those things do not have the ground clearance you would think; the scratches on my man boobs can attest. Hey dude in front of me! You were supposed to go under the first set! Oh well, the arrows were a bit faded. Time for some new and brighter paint.
4. Having run last year I knew the turn coming up meant the spur (creating the 7K from the main 5k course) was about to start, and I was pumped for “Don’t look down”. Three tree falls 8 feet above/across a creek. Mildly terrifying since it is not a nice man made water filled hole that one could reasonably feel good about falling into. With visions of last year’s tumble into the water running through my brain, I took a deep breath and glided across. My new grippy La Sportivas proved their worth. Editor’s note: I have it on authority that the portion of creek under the trees has been cleared to relative smoothness.
5. The trail running is beautiful. The forest gloriously green in Spring splendor. The ups and downs of mini ravines already making the legs complain.
6. Hey look! Boards strung between trees! I love ladder obstacles, and in the middle of the woods, even better. They needed to be twice as tall.
7. Wait a second! What is this? Why is there a tiny little steel pipe spanning this creek and a limp noodle of a rope “handrail” next to it? Damn pipe can’t be more than 2” in diameter. I’m by myself (though feeling the heat of a couple of guys behind me pushing the pace),so there’s no one else crossing that I might steal some “beta” off of. This is some circus high wire type shit here! I mean I’m no Philippe Petit. I step on and lean too heavily on the rope that has wayyyy too much slack in it. Somehow I manage not to fall, and quickly realize I need to push into the rope towards the direction I’m going. Pleased this was not any longer of a traverse. LOVEd it!
8. More trail running. Some creek swimming/wading (always a good thing) and the classic rope climb appears. No knots, but dry. An easy 12 foot climb. These classic OCR obstacles always take on a different more primal feel when they are plunked down in the middle of the woods. Somehow they feel more right in these locations.
9. More leg crushing ravine drops and climbs.
10. There is this fantastic stretch in the woods where all the ground cover and low limbs/branches have been cleared and it’s nothing but hundreds of 1”-3” diameter saplings between the course marking tape. It was like riding in the trees on a great powder day. You pick a line and just go. Very peaceful, if it weren’t for the sound of the freight train that was my heart. What the hell, Tretsch? You need to get your breathing in check!
11. I have absolutely no grace going over the log hurdles (logs strung between trees at chest height). I’m a bug’s push away from falling flat on my face at any moment, plus I lose precious seconds with my form that has no form. I need some ups.
12. There it is, Major Mud and Mud Mountain! The 7K spur is done and it’s time to get my legs chewed up by hundreds of mud pits and the mounds of dirt that used to occupy those voids.
13. “The Graveyard” is a brobdingnagian checkerboard straight out of Wonderland consisting of 21 pits and 25 mounds and I am confused on what to do given some barriers at the beginning. I drop in and cross this madness like a draughts master on a game winning jumping binge.
14. Ugh! A hill climb. Oh and a wire (no barbed wire here) crawl! That’s new. I see a couple of nice barn buildings at the top of the hill and some paddocks. A picturesque scene. Then it’s a first class ticket to cruiserville on the downhill with more pits and mounds.
15. Hey sweet volunteers at the first water station, how many people ahead me?
Girl #1; “6 maybe 7”
Girl #2; “6!”
Girl #3; “about 20”………..huh?! WTF?
16. I know what’s coming around that bend. A long fucking hill……….
17. Hey look a quick detour down into a deep ravine. That ought to give the legs a rest. Oh! I have to climb back out……..
18. Back to the same fucking hill.
19. Finally I drop back into the woods. I quickly start to feel like a fresh faced doughboy on his first day at the Western Front, as I bounce in and out of trenches. The legs are holding up though….the lungs, not so much.
20. With the warm weather we had prior to the race, the Polar Vortex #1 is more like a tepid eddy. Still a welcome swim/wade across the pond.
21. Still feeling the presence of a couple of guys pushing the pace. Not quite at my heels but definitely a concern.
22. Coming out of the woods and there are those barn buildings!
23. I jump up on the first stump of “Stump Hopper” without stopping. Bad move, I lose my balance on the first and second try! Tricky; all different diameters, but none bigger than 6” and all different heights. Damnit! Two guys are passing me. I get control of my breathing and cruise through on the third try.
24. More pits and tall mounds on a twisty course through the open meadow allow me to regain on one of the guys who passed me.
25. Holy shit! look at the size of those tires! ALL of them at least 3 feet in diameter. I’ve punctured a tire, changed a tire, hell I’ve even cleaned a few tires, but I have never flipped a tire in my life. I pick the pink one. My mind wanders thinking why I would do that. I lean down, grab a hold, and……..nothing. Fuck! This thing is heavy and filled with water. I’ve committed to this pink tire, so I just get into all contorted types of positions as I flip this thing towards the opposite side of the paddock. Dammit! My struggles put me behind the original two guys who passed me plus and additional guy! I ruminate on how there are not smaller tires for the ladies.
26. I race out of the paddock and turn the corner to see the three cruising downhill on the shoulder of the road and then disappear around the corner. Shit!
27. And then salvation! A Traverse wall; a new obstacle for the Macon Mud Run, it appears under the shadows of a large picnic pavilion. All three who passed me are struggling. This obstacle is my peanut butter and jam and I get a glimmer of hope. I step up onto the picnic table to access the wall. Whoa! 3 feet off the ground, the hard…packed…dirt ground! This needs to be addressed next year. No need to put a traverse wall (if not over a water pit) more than a few inches off the ground. Every hand hold and foothold is of a different shape and size, including triangles! THIS is an awesome innovation on an OCR standard. Well played, MMR….well played. I cruise through leaving behind 2 of the three who had passed me, and race towards the second pond crossing. I can see “the kid” 2/3s of the way across doing leisurely back strokes.
28. I run up on the dock, with the voice of a volunteer telling me not to dive, and dive in. A very shallow racing dive to be sure (the second lap would of course be a cannonball…..because duh, it’s a dock and a pond and that’s how it’s supposed to be done) ‘cuz I have ground to make up. I use the rope to pull myself across as quickly as possible. This proves difficult with the pool noodles wrapped around the rope.
29. I’m able to keep “the kid” in my sites as we run along the road, but my legs just won’t shift into a higher gear. Damn all those glorious trenches, ravines, mud pits and mud mounds. You did a job on my legs!
30. I “sprint” across a 30 foot+ telephone. One of three spanning a muddy, murky pit. I love how long these things are! And they have a bit of bounce once you get to the middle!
31. As I finish up another creek crawl (I LOVE creeks!) A sweet, girl volunteer pelts me with mud as she says, “you’re not muddy enough!” I love the enthusiasm…….I nail her with a mud ball on my second lap.
32. I see “the kid” in front of me at the top of the hill climbing a serious mud mountain with huge 2 foot tall steps. I am losing ground and this fucking hill does not help. And as I drop into yet another mud pit, along Zebulon road on the way to the mud stairs, one of the dudes who had been nipping at my heels ever since I had retaken him, passes me. Damnit! I can now tell the tank is starting to empty.
33. We drop back into the woods for a short jaunt and then around the bend appears the highlight of the race; a cornucopia of clay, a profusion of pits, a myriad of mounds, and an absolute bedlam of begrimery. TWO huge mountains dominate the middle of a maze of course ribbon. Each one carved with huge steps on the approach side, a smooth hill on backside and pierced with plastic culvert pipes near their apices. A tortuous, circuitous route of mud pits and mounds leads to each one. And because you double back on each one (thus going THROUGH the mountains via the culvert pipes) at one point I was literally on top of the dude who passed me. Frustrating.
34. Two deep trenches covered with a construction of wood framing and steel mesh, meant a trip on my back pulling myself along. With only my nose, mouth and forehead above the waterline all the external sounds faded away and I was left with my moment of zen; listening to my breathing (which was now under control) and that unique aural experience you only get when your ears are underwater. And then it was over and it was back ON baby!
35. I had lost the kid and the dude around the corner. Knowing where I was on the course because of my experience last year, and given the state of my legs, it was an unfortunate reality that I was not going to catch either of them.
36. Back into the woods and then out of the woods and boom! There was the festival area and a throng of enthusiastic spectators and volunteers. And I was pumped for what was coming next.
37. Having wandered around earlier I was able to review MMR’s classic end game before the finish line; an 8’-9’ quarter pipe literally carved into the side of the hill. A skater’s jam wrought in Georgia clay. This was followed by the classic downhill slippery slide to mud pit denouement. BUT…. MMR had added three diabolical twists.
a. They built yet another high stepping mud mound fifty feet in front of the quarter pipe. Great! I get a nice downhill running start. Ahhhhh, not so fast young grasshopper.
b. At the bottom of this slope they had dug a firepit! What the what?!
c. The quarter pipe had no ropes.
38. I lumbered up the steps, took no pause, and raced down the backside of this last fucking mud mound. I jumped over the fire pit (and YET again, I am denied the righteous flames of OCR badassery and merely chew on some thick oaky smoke) and hit the pipe at full speed. The calves cooperate and I am up and out with no issue.
39. I run half way down the slip and slide before I remember to….you know, slide.
40. A cool medal, a bottle of water and some yummy Clif bars and I am done! That was awesome. A good burn on the legs and lungs.
41. I wait for Richie to cross the finish line and we decide to do a second lap. This becomes a goofball affair of mud ball slinging, wallering in the mud pits like fat summer hogs, yucking it up, helping people out who are struggling, and generally just acting like children……..playing in the mud.
This race is a fantastic way to experience a mud race, still do some obstacles and definitely get in some good training for you competitive types all while contributing to a good cause. As an added bonus to all you OCR families out there, within the festival area is a children’s zone with three huge bouncy houses/slides and carnival games. This is where you can drop your child off (you and your child get matching wrist bands for obvious reasons), for free, in the care of volunteers from Stone Edge Church, while you can go and race. Let me repeat that; FREE! So, you haven’t paid for parking, you haven’t paid for spectating and now you get to race while your children go bananas in the bouncy houses…..for free.
Put this race on your calendar. Do it. Tretsch says so.