Recently I was offered the amazing opportunity to fly to Ohio and participate in the inaugural Mud, Guts, & Glory race, which is a new permanent obstacle course built at the King’s Domain Camp outside of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Upon first hearing about this new event, I had jumped at the chance to experience a race in a location I’ve never had the opportunity to run in. Since I do tend to stay within Florida for the majority of my races, I was excited to see what a Midwest race would be like, and happily accepted the offer.
As details about the race were revealed, excitement grew. The race looked like a great challenge. Photos of obstacles and steep hills teased us, and MGG social media began slowly revealing plans for an epic first race. Not only was I being given an awesome opportunity to experience a new race first hand, but I would be joining several elite athletes who are very well known in the OCR world. I was to be racing with the likes of Amelia Boone & Junyong Pak, two of the fastest & most talented runners currently in the OCR world. Brad Kloha of Run To Remember, who has committed to running 100 races in 52 weeks to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s. Dan Krueger, who is a social media consultant for Spartan Race. Heather Ganoe of Relentless Forward Commotion. Rob Butler, who owns the Shale Hill Adventure Farm in Vermont. Jeff Cain of On My Way To Sparta. And of course, Mr. B Davis himself of Obstacle Racing Media.
Sounds like a great crowd of people right? Well wait, it gets better.
An already cool opportunity had just become insanely awesome.
So this past Friday I eagerly arrived in Cincinnati, prepared for a once-in-lifetime racing experience. And I can honestly say now that nothing about this weekend was less than amazing.
Most of us arrived at King’s Domain mid-afternoon Friday, and were immediately impressed with the beauty of the sprawling 120-acres which boasts ample hills, streams, and forests. The camp itself is located about an hour outside of Cincinnati, and is committed to helping at-risk kids with a retreat away from the inner-city. They provide lodging, food, activities, and mentoring for kids who rarely experience any stability or support in their daily lives. Upon arrival we checked in, were shown to our adorable on-site cottages that were provided us as lodging for the weekend, and immediately prepared to get out on the grounds and check out the course.
It was great to have the advantage of being given a sneak peak of the course pre-race. We were able to check out obstacles, ask questions, and get a true feel for what was in store for us the following morning. And as we progressed through our tour of the course, we quickly realized that this race would be no-easy task. Since this course was built to be a permanent fixture on the camp’s grounds, obstacles were extremely sturdy, and many were constructed from the natural resources of their property. Large logs and tree trunks created the perfect material for challenging obstacles, as vines, branches, and logs marked the boundaries of the trail we were to run.
We made a point to stop and test out a few of the more difficult obstacles during our preview. There was Sternum Checker, which required a leap of faith from one parallel log to another higher log. The Weaver, a series of beams that racers were expected to alternate going over then under each beam without touching the ground. And Monkey Business, which has got to be the most insane monkey bar challenge I’ve seen at a race to date! It was fun to give them a test, and to get an exclusive peek at portions of the event prior to racing.
Friday evening we sat down with the race directors and owners of King’s Domain, and through our discussions were moved by the true passion that is the driving force behind this event. This race was not created for the sole purpose of financial gain, prosperity, or fame. The race was created as a way to raise funds for the camp in hopes that they are able to successfully continue to grow, and in turn positively effect more kids each year. The genuine love for the camp, the kids, and the passion for their mission was evident, and so inspiring. It truly made supporting this race an incredible honor and a privilege.
The next morning we gathered for breakfast as a team, met Dhani, participated in a few pre-race interviews, and prepared to run.
And finally, at 8:30am, as we stood at the base of a steep incline that would lead us into the woods and well on our way through a myriad of challenges, the enthusiastic announcer shouted, “Mud! Guts! Glory! GO!!” And off we went.
Speaking of hills, they happened to be a constant challenge throughout the 5.2 miles of the race. I quickly realized that living in an area that provides no elevation change resulted in a race experience that I found myself quite unprepared for. Granted, I started out much too quickly, as I excitedly tried to position myself near the front of the pack in hopes of a competitive finish. The first two miles went great, and I felt strong as I pushed ahead. But after each climb up the steep, slick embankments and tall hills, I slowly but surely ran out of steam. Being used to flat, fast courses, the hills showed me where my weakness is, and although I completed obstacles with ease, each climb became more and more labored as I progressed. The final hill, aptly named The Pinnacle, almost did me in as I found myself on several occasions grasping the rope provided for dear life, and struggling to will my muscles to push me ahead to the summit.
My initial completion goal changed quite quickly, and I no longer had a desire to prove to everyone that I could finish in the top percentage, but simply to push through each remaining challenge, to complete it to the best of my ability, and to be proud of that finish.
This race was a great reminder to me about why I love obstacle racing as much as I do. I consider myself to have reached a place where I am in good enough physical shape to approach each race well prepared for most challenges that come my way. But any good race also provides obstacles or terrain that forces its participants out of our comfort zone, and that pushes us to our limits. We face our fears, we overcome our weakness, we are strong when we feel like we can no longer continue, and we finish proud, knowing that we have just won a battle of mind over matter. If there was no challenge, then why do it?
There were many points of this event where I felt weak. Where each approaching hill created a brief moment of dread, followed by a deep resolve that I must push ahead despite my brain screaming at me that another climb would do me in. And although this race offers a spot to opt-out at each mile before continuing on to the next stage, that was not an option for me as I knew that no matter how difficult the hills were, and no matter how long it took me, I would finish.
To be honest, there is a small part of me that wishes I could report my moments of strength and accomplishment during this race, but at the same time I think it is so important for those reading to know that experiencing those moments of weakness are okay as well. I truly believe its those moments of weakness that teach us so much about our own personal strength and tenacity, and looking back I would not change a thing about my own performance at this event. I climbed those crazy hills, I completed each obstacle to the best of my ability, I sweated, I struggled, and I finished so incredibly proud of myself. As long as I never give up, I have run a race worthy of feeling I’ve accomplished something great.
Mud, Guts, & Glory is a quality event coordinated by a wonderful group of passionate and genuine individuals. It supports a great cause, provides a challenge fit for both the elite and everyday athlete, and is a course I would be honored to run again. I highly recommend that anyone interested should visit King’s Domain to run this course (there’s a great family course for parents and kids to run as well!).
The next MGG event is November 2nd! Don’t miss out!
*A HUGE thank you to the race directors and staff who provided this opportunity. Each of you inspired me! Your race, your volunteers, your generosity, and your passion astounded me. This is definitely going to be one of my favorite races of all time! Thanks!!*
**To the team of amazing racers that were a part of this event, you all rock! It was a pleasure to meet each one of you, and I hope to run with all of you again soon!**
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