Monday, November 3, 2008

Muddy Buddy Race Report

4AM the alarm goes off. Thank god for the extra hour of sleep coming off of Daylight Savings Time here in California (aka GST-8). I rolled out of bed and into a pair of black tri shorts, dark blue swimming shirt, and black cycling socks. In the bathroom I flipped on the light and was greeted by monster eyes: red, puffy, itchy, watery, stinging. What the heck? Pink eye? Great, how am I going to crawl through mud with pink eye? Well, a guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do, so I headed downstairs to mix hydration drinks and pack things up.

I opened the garage door just before 5AM and 30 seconds later my neighbor Craig (who you may remember from the Father's Day Mock Tri and the Malibu Tri) came walking up my driveway. We loaded up and into the night we drove.

First stop: Long's Drug Store where I picked-up a bottle of eye-drop anti-histamine that did the trick.

Next stop, 50 minutes later: Bonelli Park in San Dimas, this morning's home to the Muddy Buddy race series and 2,398 of our soon-to-be closest friends.

Parking wasn't nearly as bad as we had feared and was made all the more enjoyable by the site of two girls in flourescent pink tights and tops over which they had reflective silver bikini outfits. The day was looking up!

We unloaded, got our jungle-man outfits ready, and headed down to the main race area. There were guys dressed as prisoners, 6 people dressed as Crayola crayons (with different colored soccer cones on their helmets), the "Team in Trannies" guys dressed in drag, the "referree" girls, and a whole lot more. After the race announcements we all lined-up by wave, bikes in front, ready to go. Craig and I, dressed as jungle men complete with leopard print togas (our team name was "The Boys from TZ" - we live in Tarzana - get it?), were in wave 4.

Craig's a stronger mountain biker than I am so we put him on the bike first, which of course meant I was running first. The countdown hit and he was off. Two minutes later the runners were released and we started the trek up the initial hill. Thinking it was time to walk, I looked down at my watch to find that a whole 2:50 had elapsed. Wow, this was going to be a long, rainy, wet morning. I kept plugging along however.

The first psuedo-obstacle was to go around a fence that jutted out into the lake about 5 feet. So, at 1/2 mile into the 5.5 mile race, our shoes were soaked through. This made the first real obstacle, a short climbing wall with a cargo net on the other side, insanely difficult due to wet shoes sliding off the grips. The trick was to get your hands over the top and pull yourself over. Whew, 1 down!

I ran to the bike pile and found our bike in 2 seconds flat: we had attached a big mylar balloon to it. Off I went, Craig already ahead on his run of this leg.

First up was a medium hill which I rode up, passing a guy who was peeing over the edge (heretofore known as the "pee guy"). Down a hill I went, being very careful as the brakes were slipping when I caught-up to Craig, who told me the brakes were slippery. I got to the transition area and parked the bike, standing up for easier visibility and pick-up by Craig, at the second obstacle: a set of bars in a triangle shape that we had climb, weaving ourselves through and over the bars on both sides. Completing that, I was off on my second run leg.

Wow - this leg (3rd) had a lot of hills. By this point 99% of the people were walking up hills, including the bike riders. I caught up and passed the pee-guy. I ended-up walking next to a guy on a bike and his daughter (a teen) walking next to him. He was trying to reassure her that this was the last hill and that the top was "just around the next corner." I and the others around me gave him a hard time about that: we all had friends who motivated us with talk like that, and we had a great time educating his daughter about how full of it he likely was. She smiled and groaned, but trudged on with the rest of us. If it sounds like this leg felt every bit like a death march, you'd be right on.

The next obstacle was walking over a metal beam. We were allowed to use two beams (wide legs) and that proved to be the fastest way (for me at least) to get across. Miraculously I had beat Craig who was on the bike, and waited for him in the transition area. I grabbed the bike, told him to use the two-beam method, and off I went.

This leg was much easier: a bit of uphill and then a long downhill ride on a paved road. The leg ended-up in a grassy area where we had to climb a rope ladder and slide down one of those kiddy blow-up slides. Fun! Given that I knew I was way ahead of Craig, I downed the "emergency" gel in the saddle bag and availed myself of the facilities.

Having done the slide thing a few weeks earlier with my kids and suffered through "slide burn" on my elbows for a week, I threw my legs and arms up in the air as high as I could and took the plunge. Of course doing that with tri shorts and a polyester shirt meant I was nearly frictionless and I sailed through the bottom into the far side of the "landing pit." Fortunately it was padded, so I got up and hopped over and started running.

The last leg to the mud pit was short and easy with a slight uphill. As I had to wait for Craig to arrive before we could crawl through the mud (teams had to cross the finish line together), I meandered into the transition area to wait for him. It was literally a forest of upside down bikes!

Craig showed up and off we ran to the pit, first leaving sunglasses and bike gloves with the bike. We were forced to crawl under a heavy rope net and then on elbows, stomachs and knees to swish our way through 50 feet of mud, egged on by army/ROTC guys who delighted in throwing mud on our backs while yelling "get down!". We made it to the end, stood up and slogged through the last 20 feet and we were done!

The "Beer Garden" overlooked the mud pit and for $5 you got a couple of beers (at 9 in the morning!). One of the funniest parts was the crowd of people yelling "wrestle! wrestle! wrestle!" every time a pair of girls came through the mud and cheering or booing depending on the outcome. Here are some shots of the pit (not us, obviously):

After getting our picture taken we headed to the "shower area" where about 30 hoses were available (but all being used of course) to get cleaned-off.

Following that we went to the car, changed clothes, threw away our shoes and costumes, and went to take some pictures and soak-up the post-race vibe. Our final time was 1:10:55, coming in 23rd of 24 teams in our combined age group (at that point at least, we're hoping there was an extra page that wasn't posted yet) but overall, from the looks of things, we did average.

This was a great time, we'll likely do it again next year, and I encourage everyone to give it at least a try - it's really a ton of fun.

Keep in mind though that it is decently difficult: the hills are tough, the obstacles are easy, it is uncomfortable in spots, but overall it's a great deal of fun. Definitely train for a 4 mile run and a few miles of mountain biking, up and down loose/muddy hills, before attempting this. You will share the path with runners and some of the trails are relatively narrow and steep, threading through trees. We witnessed several wipe-out's, including a 3-person crash at a road/trail transition.

More pictures here

Next up: the Calabasas Classic 5K with my son then either the Turkey Tri at the end of the month or the Solvang Century ride (100 miles) in March.

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