Rugged Maniac has made a seasonal home at the Virginia Motorsports Park in Petersburg, VA in early May starting at least as early as 2012 and expanded to have a second race at the same location in October in 2014. In 2016, at least in my humble opinion, Rugged Maniac continues to improve and provide a really fun experience to newbies and experienced runners alike.
This time around, waves started at a nice casual 10 a.m. start time, unless you decided to run as a super fancy elite, providing a little extra sleeping in time. I opted for the 10 a.m. wave this time around to catch the early experience of a fresh course. This was a good choice as, at least early in the day, Rugged Maniac had their parking game on point for 2016 (bring your $10 for parking). Unlike previous years, there was no line down the street to access the parking area so I was quickly parked, grabbed my bag, and met up with my race partners to hop through a fairly speedy check-in. After everybody was registered, stretched, and ready to go we hopped the starting line wall ready to go for the 10:15 a.m. wave. Rugged gave a short starting line speech to pump up the group and the wave was off.
Rugged followed a fairly similar trail to last year’s May event. However, the constant rain of the week prior definitely changed the course experience. In prior years the first obstacle out the gate has been a soupy mud pit known as Shoe Catcher that has the suction power a vacuum would be envious of that breaks the crowd up into smaller groups to continue on. This year, that changed. Shoe Catcher now consisted of an ankle deep mud puddle with a slightly slick below-water surface that lacked its typical suctioning power. This would become somewhat of a theme of the race with several water-logged sections that could slow one down with a cautionary tale of uneven footing.
The early wave breakup occurred instead with the second obstacle, a big mud hill that had people slipping around trying to get over. My small group got up and over and continued our jog through the 5k.
From here it would get a little boring to go over all the obstacles. Many are standard OCR fare, e.g., a few different types of walls, barb wire crawls (3 in total), cargo nets, balance beam, and a fire jump. But with a total of 28 obstacles on course, Rugged Maniac definitely has a few shining stars:
- The Blobstacle: A giant inflatable structure that had a cargo net draped over it. The cargo net was basically a second skin on this day which made for a little tougher purchase to get the shoes to grip in.
- The Gauntlet 2.0: Rugged’s decision to change the footing from a solid structure to a floating rubber-ish pad was a refreshing change. A nice run across to keep footing without sinking into the water lets you run through the air-filled hanging bags to see if you can successfully cross without going down in the water.
- Bang the Gong: I’m all for any and every obstacle I have seen so far that includes trampolines. This was absolutely no different. Talking to friends that ran later in the day, it did get a little more difficult as the trampolines got muddier from the wet course. The one criticism on this obstacle was the landing pool was fairly shallow. While it may involve more of a swim a little deeper pool would probably be better to prevent potential for injury.
- Antigravity: More trampolines! If you do not enjoy an obstacle where you get to jump from one trampoline to another and then perform your best Spiderman impersonation to catch the cargo net wall, I don’t understand you as a person.
- Warped Wall/Mount Maniac/Accelerator: A quarter pipe is always fun to do and watch (for both the personal and teamwork successes and the amusing slide back down from missing). Adding in a short cargo climb to a higher purchase afterward and a slide down to the finish line is just a cherry on top. Remember though, always stop to encourage and help your fellow racers, everybody appreciates it.
Once you get past that, the course is complete and you get your medal, swag, and free Harpoon brewery beer. This year the post-race collection included a bottle of water, bananas, orange slices, and some Dude Wipes to cleanse your muddy hands before you dug in. The 2016 medal is a sharp addition and the t-shirt picked up at registration is super soft and comfy as usual. After the race there is a decent size festival area that included regular contests throughout the day (stein hoisting, pie eating, and pull-ups), room to sit down and socialize with fellow racers over food and/or beer, inflatable bouncy house structures for the kids, and the generally necessary rinsing and changing areas.
Register early on in the process and it’s a fairly inexpensive race experience that will provide plenty of fun. Hint: Right now the Virginia fall race in October is $49 plus tax without the additional processing fees that plague the rest of the OCR world. Shameless plug—ORM has a discount code posted for a better deal! Sign up and have some fun.