I am not quite sure what compelled me to suggest to my BFF and neighbor, Josh, that we do the Muddy Buddy Ride and Run together but for some reason I did and for some reason he said yes. Josh is a biker, not a runner; I am a runner, not a biker, but we figured, “Hey, no problem! This will be easy!” (We must have been drunk at the time.)
I’ll save you the suspense- it was fun, yes, but easy? NO.
Muddy Buddy took place exactly one week before my first marathon so I figured it would be a good taper event, I could get my cross training in, blast through the obstacles, crawl through some mud, earn another medal- good times.
I’ll save you the suspense again- good times, yes, but a taper event? NO.
Similar to the Rock n’ Roll half marathon, we were required to pick up our packets the day prior to the race, so the 6 of us (myself, Hubby, and our 2 kids, Josh, and his wife and my running buddy Andrea) trekked down to San Jose, got our packets at REI and checked in to our neat suite at the Hampton Inn.
When we got the hotel, I figured it would be a good idea to get some practice on the bike since I hadn’t been on one in over 6 years, so I put on my biking shorts, running shoes, and helmet and took her for a spin in the parking lot. Once I got over my uneasiness, I was riding around like a champ, yelling to Josh, “Hey! Look at me! I’m riding a bike! Woo hoo! This is FUN!” Similar to running, however, you can’t train on a flat, paved road then expect a trail race to feel the same. So riding around for a half hour in the parking lot did not, in any way shape or form, prepare me for the trail experience that is Muddy Buddy.
On race morning, we arrived to the Joseph D. Grant Regional Park, parked, and started suiting up. Seeing the hundreds of bikers looking so much more well-prepared than me, I immediately got nervous. I was excited for the challenge, but very nervous about riding that bike. I tried to ride around while we waited for the start, fell over a few times, and figured that was quite enough of that, I’ll save my energy and gravitational issues for the actual race.
There were 5 legs of riding and running, so I took 3 running legs and 2 biking legs, Josh then biked 3 and ran 2 (although, if you ask him, Josh will say that he biked 3 legs and then cried for 2- he hates running). At the start of the race, the bikers go first and then, after about 10 minutes, the runners take off. Once the biker gets to the first obstacle, s/he drops the bike, does the obstacle, then takes off running to the second obstacle. The runner gets through the first obstacle, then finds the bike and rides to the second obstacle. That ride-run-leap-frogging continues to the end of the race where you meet back up with your teammate and crawl through the final obstacle, the mud pit, together.
The race began, Josh took off on the bike and I took off running. I had run 8 miles the day prior so my legs were immediately tired once I hit that trail and first hill. And then there was another hill. And then another. And then, whadya know, yet another hill so I panted and finally walked up it. There were a lot of people around me also walking, and I caught up to Josh for a brief moment before he rode off to the first obstacle. The first obstacle was a wall climb, about 8 feet, I easily got over the sucker and very carefully climbed the cargo net back down, found our bike, and that is when the trouble started.
If only I could just get on the bike and go straight. Nope. More like, I get on the bike, swivel all over the place, fall off, then get back on the bike, swivel again, and “ride” until I reached any of the following:
1) a down hill,
2) lots of other bikers/runners,
3) huge rocks, and/or
4) pain in the crotch area.
I got a lot of comments from the people passing me whenever I would get off the bike and run with it. Some of my favorites:
Them: “You earned that downhill! Take it!”
Them: “GET ON THE DAMN BIKE!”
Them: “Are you okay?”
Me: “Yes, I am just a sissy.”
Them: “You got this! You can do it!”
Me: “Oh, I really don’t think so, but thank you!”
Them: “It will take half as much time if you ride that bike instead of run with it!”
Me: “Yeah, you’re probably right about that! Oh well!”
Sheer will got me to the second obstacle where I ecstatically dropped the bike and climbed over, I think 4 different types of vertical obstacles of increasing heights- first was a hurdle-type thing, then a wooden wall, a brick wall, and then a very shaky chain link fence. Got over them all and happily began running again towards obstacle number three and my last dreaded leg with that damn bike.
The third obstacle was a very large inflated type of thing that you had to go under-over-under. This was very hard! In order to get through the first “under”, I had to shove my helmeted head through the very small space and crawl through, ripping my bib in the process. The “over” was a vertical climb- again- just a little shorter than me with no handles so I bounced up and down until I had enough momentum to fling my body over it. (Graceful, I’m sure.) Then under a net, out and back to the bike.
Got on the bike, swiveled all the way to the left, took out 3 runners, and fell over. So, after apologizing profusely, I ran with the bike until I got to a clearing and then got on again. I had a little more confidence the second ride but not enough- Josh, running, beat me to the fourth obstacle. The fourth obstacle was a 14 foot slide that you had to climb up a cargo net to get to. I slid down and wanted to do it again- so fun!
For the last leg, Josh got the bike back and we walked and chatted for a while (as we were both pretty tired at this point) until I said, “Alright, let’s finish this fricker.” and started running again. Josh met me at the finish and there was yet ONE MORE climb- a rope climb- then high knees through tires, one more small wall climb and then, finally, the namesake: The Mud Pit.
Despite my problems with the bike, I really had fun at this race! I enjoyed the whole teammate experience as well as the obstacles- made me feel hard core to successfully climb and crawl through it all. The race was very well-organized, there was good music and the finish festivities were great too- Josh and I assisted the kids through their mud crawl and they got their own medals, shirt, and goody bag.
I would do this event again only if I could get enough time to get familiar with riding a mountain bike on actual mountains as well as in a race with actual people. I think that most of the folks that did this race were really bikers willing to take on running, not the other way around. The trail was challenging and very intimidating when crowded with real cyclists who are just flying without, seemingly, any concern for their personal safety. I wish I had that kind of confidence on a bike… maybe I should actually train for this one next time and try harder!
In the meantime, I shall happily remain a on-two-feet-kinda-athlete.