Friday, June 14, 2013

I’m Chubby But I’m Tough

Or maybe that title should read, “I’m Chubby and I’m Tough.” Chubbiness does not preclude toughness.

In case you missed the billion photos of me covered in mud that I posted all over Social Mediaville last weekend, I thought I’d let you know that last Saturday, I ran Run Amuck, which is a mud obstacle course put on by the Marine Corps Marathon people and which takes place on the Marine Corps base at Quantico. Also, in case you’re wondering—and even though I have Marine Corps blood passed down from my father—I am nowhere near badass enough to be a Marine.



So. Run Amuck. I’ll be telling you about this in detail, because I like to remember details from races like this. This race (and I use the term “race” loosely because it was untimed—and any event where you have to wait politely in lines to reach an obstacle can’t fairly be called a race) was one of the most fun things I have ever done. In case you’re wondering, read the “Obstacles” section on the Run Amuck course page for a rough idea of what we ran through.

Or you could look here. Click to enbiggen.
For a more specific idea, read on here.

The race started with an inflatable obstacle course. In other words, a moonbounce. But this moonbounce said “semper fidelis” on it and featured the Marine Corps logo. I really enjoyed that. I did not, however, enjoy the moonbounce itself as one of its features was an inflatable wall that you had to hurl yourself over, but it was impossible to climb because it and my feet were wet. I mean, it was impossible for me—there were plenty of people who managed to get over quite well. I don’t feel too bad though because I watched a lot of really fit people not be able to get over as well.

My failure here worried me for the only other obstacle that I was worried about, which were the monkey bars. It’s funny that the only obstacles I couldn’t hack were those that are common on children’s playgrounds.

I’ll have to do some thinking about that.

After my failure right off the bat in front of gathered crowds, I hurried away to the next obstacle, the slip ‘n’ slide. Huh. Maybe this race wouldn’t be so tough after all.

Of course, immediately after that fun experience, they made us do a stair climb out of the stadium we’d just slipped and slid into and then run through a tire course, which is more awkward that I had imagined. From there, it was a fun rappel down a steep hill back into the stadium.

The “great” thing about this race is that, in addition to the obstacles, there were also stations where Marines yelled at you to do various quick exercises. The first was a set of crunches. Which I ROCKED, by the way.

Then we had another stair climb back up out of the stadium, but not up stairs this time; rather we had to climb the seating benches, meaning that each stair was 2-3 times the height of a regular stair. I think I surprised the Marine at the top of the stairs when I ran up those bad boys like a pro. I actually really love running stairs. (See also: chubby but tough.) I did stop to stare incredulously at the guy when he told me to run faster, but when I got to the top he said that I did such a good job that he wouldn’t yell at me for stopping for a second.

From there we ran under a firehose that was pouring water onto the road. It was less of an obstacle and more of a quick, intense shower with your clothes on. It was also the last section of the course that took place on pavement.

We headed off onto a muddy trail that presented us with a series of fun little obstacles, such as an A-frame wall, a hay bale jump, a flutter kick station, more tires to run through, and a pipe crawl. Piece of cake, baby.

I like this photo. I think I look jaunty.
I’ve taken enough unflattering race photos to learn that you always smile when there is a dude in a fluorescent vest with a camera near you—even if you are trying to run through tires that are far too wide for a normal stride.
After all of that, we arrived at a water station. They were hydrating us before they tried to kill us.

At this point, I should mention something. It had rained for, like, an entire two days prior to this race. This took a situation where the race creators had planned a route, added extra mud (seriously), then the rain made it even worse. From this point, which was about one and a half miles in, to the end of the race, we ran up and down a series of steep hills that were thick with the slipperiest mud I have ever attempted to stand on.

One highlight of this hilly section was the mud crawl, which consisted of trenches full of muddy water. To get into the water, you had to duck under a tarp, which had the result of making sure you submerged entirely in the water. Then after trudging through the sludge, you had to climb out using a cargo net.

It was…messy.
Then hills. More hills. Lots more hills.

You know how in cartoons, characters try to run really fast and their legs run and run and run but their bodies stay in the same place? It was like that. I had to trample on the greenery on the side of the path to get traction in order to prevent myself from walking in place.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Or, rather, stumble, summit, sigh deeply when you see the next hill.

Along this stretch was a rope spiderweb to pick your way through, jumping jacks, an ammo can carry, and what they referred to as the “low crawl.” The low crawl was a long stretch with ropes crisscrossing the trail a couple of feet above the ground that you had to crawl under. It was not that big of a deal, even in the mud, but for the fact that the dirt was populated by hundreds of tiny, sharp rocks. I’m still scabbed.

At one point, I realized that the thicker the mud, the more cushion there was between me and the rocks, leading me to deliberately crawl through the deepest mud puddles. I then ran the rest of the race with a nice set of mud gloves.

Next up were the monkey bars. The monkey bars were the thing I was most worried about in the whole race. See, no matter how steep the hill, I can get up it. No matter how gross the mud, I can slog through it. No matter how many rocks on the ground, I can crawl over them. If I fall, I’ll stand back up. But monkey bars? With muddy hands? No way in hell.

Fortunately, there were three sets of monkey bars and there were hay bales under one of them that made it so I could just walk across the hay and reach the monkey bars without having to use any arm strength at all. I didn’t feel bad about it one single bit.

Well, I felt a little bad about it when the Marine standing there looked at me and said, “Cheater.”

But whatever.

It was somewhere in this stretch that I started to fall down a lot. With good reason (slippery, remember?), but still. It also started to rain. I have never been less concerned about being rained on in my life. We ran through a mud pit and had to use a cargo net to CRAWL up another hill.

There was a push-up section as well, which I mention only because the sign said, “5 push-ups,” but the Marine there was all, “We are doing 5 two-count push-ups, which is basically the same as 10 push-ups, so do 10 push-ups.” Then he told us that he wished he could make us do four-count push-ups, but “they” wouldn’t let him.

Now, I don’t know what a four-count push-up is, but I know enough not to argue with a Marine, even if what he is saying is in direct contradiction to the sign posted RIGHT THERE. Ten push-ups later, I was on my way.

The most bizarre obstacle was the one they called wrecking balls but that was really just hippity hop balls hanging from more monkey bars. The last obstacle was another low mud crawl, which was more of a mud roll to get under the ropes.

Then it was just down a few more slippery hills and recovering from a few more falls and near-falls and I was across the finish line.

There is NOTHING more flattering than wet clothing adhered to all the contours of your body.
Run Amuck was challenging. I was for sure sore for a couple of days afterward. The thing is, I think almost any of you could have completed that course too. It was definitely hard, but if you have stamina, you could do it.

And you should. Because it was so. much. fun.

There are a lot of gimmick races out there these days. I’ve done a couple of them now and I have learned that I am far more interested in straight running races. That said, I know I will keep doing certain mud/obstacle races because they are just such a blast.

Also, I am going to start working on my monkey bar skills because next year, I am not going to cheat. I am going to be less chubby and more tough.  I am determined.

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