First obstacle race of the season: check! Here in Virginia, we enjoy what I lovingly call the obstacle race vortex. Every neighboring state hosts a plethora of choices in OCRs. Maryland is inundated with all kinds of OCRs and mud runs, Georgia has a race every weekend, Florida is lucky enough to muck through the mud year round. But here in Virginia, if you’re not quick enough to get in one of the races May through September, you’re done for the year. Unless, you know about the Mad Anthony Mud Run.
Waynesboro, Virginia is just a half hour outside Charlottesville in the Blue Ridge Valley. February 22, 2014, the Mad Anthony Mud Run was put on for the third year. It has grown to double its size in the last two years. I was hesitant to show up after we were dumped on with 17 inches of snow the week before, but I woke up February 22nd to a 50-degree day with several inches of mud from the melting snow ready to race.
I wasn’t sure what I’d find in a smaller, local race like this hosted by a small town in Virginia. But, I showed up to a raucous festival with a beer truck, Buffalo Wild Wings and plenty of crazy costumed runners. The registration line was quick and efficient and anyone whose t-shirt size was no longer available could sign up to have one sent to them. The bag drop was free (HOORAY!) and surprisingly organized despite being a self-drop off.
There were 3 corrals of runners: those there to compete, those there to have fun, and those there for the beer truck! I’m not kidding, those were the categories. Do these people know us OCRers or what?! The atmosphere was fun and light and emulated that of a race much bigger than this. All 500 runners were to leave just a few minutes apart. We lined up and ropes were strung between us to separate all three corrals. Race Directors DeWayne Jones and Ben Lancastar made announcements from a megaphone at the start line, but from about 20 feet back I couldn’t hear anything he said. I could tell everyone was excited to start (particularly myself in shorts and a tank freezing my butt off!).
The elites were off and we fun runners lined up at the front. At the air horn we started up straight up a hill. I was thankful to the moon and back that I was wearing my Inov8BareGrips as I watched the people next to me slide back down the hill.
The obstacles were enjoyable and well marshaled. We hit the first one: muddy balance beams over a muddy pit. Again, thankful for the bare-claws. I was still with a thick group of runners and thought we’d hit a terrible bottleneck, but the race was too smart for that. They had multiple balance beams for the obstacle clearing the lines quickly and moving them on.
Next, we made it to a line of the largest hay bales I’ve ever seen. Granted, I don’t spend much time rolling in the hay… on the farm at least. From largest to smallest, we had to jump over each. Again, I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t hit a bottleneck here. This was also a perfect place for spectators to watch and be up close to the obstacles and they took advantage of it. It was great to have so many areas on the course spectators could be up close.
We headed off toward the backside of the course toward what would be my absolute favorite section. After wading through some calf-deep mud, I watched the line of runners in front of me disappear into darkness. I realized we were going underneath the street above into a water drain. I plunged down and as my eyes adjusted to the darkness my legs started to burn in the freezing water. We sounded like horses running in the tunnel. When we came out the other side, we hit the only part of the race I found poorly marked. No one seemed to know which way to go and we were pointed down into a stream by another runner coming back toward the tunnel the other direction.
A group of about 10 of us sloshed through the stream searching for signs, but we couldn’t find any. We finally clawed out of the stream and realized we’d been on the wrong path, but still heading the right direction. But, being certifiably insane, I wished the course actually had taken us down the river.
Throughout the course, there were trivia questions about Mad Anthony Wayne, the Revolutionary War hero after whom the race is named. They warned us to remember the answers, but being my distracted self, I was too busy making sure I was covered in mud. We hit some race marshals who tested our trivia knowledge and before I knew it I was on a penalty path carrying a cinder block over my shoulder! I would say that I’ll be careful to remember next year, but I probably won’t. Again, being certifiable, I liked the block carry. The penalty path was yet again very well organized with no bottle neck or wait time.
The obstacles on the course weren’t particularly difficult, but were all fun. We had a couple of walls to scale, 6’ and 7’ and one of my favorites: a tunnel crawl. It was like McDonalds play place for grownups…who like mud. We crawled through the tunnel throwing mud into the face of the person behind us, out, up and over other tunnels and back through another.
Just like the mental torture at the end of a Spartan race, hearing the festival but being miles away, the Mad Anthony Mud Run played their festival music just loud enough to let us know we had some pain to go. The finish line ended after several large hills- Central Virginia’s natural obstacle, for those of you who didn’t have the privilege of running the Virginia Super Spartan at Wintergreen.
The last mile was wide open and accessible to spectators so we could hear cheering for some distance back. We could also smell the chicken wings. More mental torture (note to self: good reason to be a vegetarian…?). For the last 20 yards we got to run downhill which was an awesome way to get a kick at the end before the finish line.
I crossed, got my awesome medal (for you bling whores out there, the medals were the quality kind, not the cheap ones! SHOW OFF!) and we were immediately funneled toward the festival where more food had arrived and muddy costumed teams were starting to gather. I passed two large ambulances and was impressed that the race was so prepared for safety.
I got to talk with race director/Parks and Rec director Wayne Jones after the race who told me they loved taking advantage of the fact that the winter months are obstacle race free in Virginia. They naturally get to monopolize stir-crazy runners who just can’t wait for the spring thaw. Before a few of the big boys make their way to Virginia for summer, Mad Anthony initiates runners who may be on the fence about an OCR. They’ve built a great race and the few things that I had any constructive criticism about are an easy fix: better course markings and more heats to preemptively avoid bottlenecks in the quickly growing race! They’ve stuck to what they’re good at, grown the race exponentially, never put the safety of runners at risk, and giving a great after race festival. Growing races could take a page from their book. Congrats to Waynesboro on battling the VA OCR vortex!