7:15am, Saturday morning, I arrived at the top of a mountain in the middle of rural Pennsylvania in anticipation of an unforgettable race. I took in the small group of shivering racers who had already arrived as they pinned on their bibs, and then glanced at the dash of truck we had ridden in for the one hour drive, it taunted me by displaying an outdoor temperature of 39 degrees.
39 degrees. My goodness… I’m glad I’m a Florida girl.
I began the day by stating that I was not going to leave the car and race until the temperature outdoors reached 60 degrees, then realized that holding out for that might mean I wouldn’t race at all… so I finally took a deep breath and conquered my first challenge of the day by stepping out into the brisk air and preparing to take on a race that nearly broke me last year. Hardcore Mudd Run.
Last September I participated in the inaugural Hardcore Mudd Run. It was brutal. We encountered bone chilling temperatures, driving rain, insane elevation change, and a gauntlet of challenging obstacles. This combination of factors resulted in a nearly soul crushing event that took my team and I roughly 5 hours to complete. We finished that race feeling as though we had just conquered Mount Everest.
I can honestly say that last year’s HMR is the only race to date that I have ever come close to even considering throwing in the towel. And so last weekend, one year later, I found myself toeing the start line of this same event that had challenged my grit and resolve to finish. I was ready to take on HMR for a second time. I was ready for redemption.
One of my favorite things about this year’s HMR event was that it was vastly different from last year! Although it hosted many of their signature, challenging obstacles, the terrain and course itself was completely different! The race felt fresh and new, with a few familiar portions that reminded me of the quality and adventure that defines the HMR event.
This year’s event, hosted atop a mountain at the Midstate Airport in Philipsburg, PA, did not provide the insane amounts of elevation that we had previously encountered (whew!), but the 8 mile course was not lacking in intensity or challenge. We began at 8:00am, and not 50 feet into the race, were greeted by two grinning firemen eagerly pointing fire hoses directly into our path.
Now that’s a way to wake you up! The freezing blasts of water chilled us to the bone, propelling us forward in hopes that running would quickly warm our soaked bodies.
Over the next 8 miles we faced a gauntlet of challenges. Early on we encountered a knee deep trek through ice cold water and thick mud. With frozen limbs we then entered a trail run through the woods that included a couple of forks in the path where runners were forced to select a direction. Choose the wrong path and you would eventually happen upon a tree marked “end” and be forced to make your way back to the fork to embark on the alternate route provided (I thought this was a really neat idea being that this is an un-timed event, therefore taking the wrong fork won’t upset anyone over time or overall place!).
There were walls to scale (8, 10, & 12 feet tall), the darkest, creepiest tunnel crawl I have ever done (seriously, it was pitch black), a 1 mile 50 pound sandbag carry (yeah, you heard me, one mile.), thin balance beams suspended over water, a cargo net climb, and lots and lots of running through the bright, fall-hued woods.
As we neared the final miles of the race, the obstacles increased in intensity. We reached the top of one hill only to come face-to-face with the always dreaded (and unexpected, we had no idea this was coming!) electric shock obstacle. We stood at the entrance of the low wood frame, nervously staring at the dangling wires, wishing they would disappear so we would could happily be on our way without the threat of guaranteed shock.
No luck. After several minutes of hemming and hawing, I finally took a deep breath, counted to three, and surged forward, swearing each and every one of the 7-8 jarring shocks that I was dealt as I scurried across the muddy ground.
Once we completed our tirade of curse words following the electric shock (not a kid friendly spectator area for sure, haha!), we continued on to tackle Mission Impossible. This obstacle consists of two large walls set in a “V” shape that, upon approach, seemed to appear that it may live up to its name, impossible. Thankfully we called upon the help of a close-by spectator (the reluctant husband of my teammate), and a fellow race participant to aid in giving us a boost up and over, and then spotting us on the way back down.
One of the most difficult challenges of the day was a series of two chain link fences that we were required to crawl under. We quickly learned that we would need to work together to overcome the oppressive weight of the fencing to reach the opposite end. By the end of both sets of fencing, our arms and legs were gassed, exhausted from the struggle it required to hold the fence high enough to inch forward. This obstacle was no joke!
We completed the race with the always fun fire jump (the warmth of the fire felt amazing for those brief moments!), and we crossed the finish line at 2 hours and 25 minutes, as the 8th and 9th overall overall, and 2nd and 3rd female. Not bad!
I am so happy to have had the opportunity to give this event another try, and I loved that this year’s race hosted many of their staple obstacles within a completely different yet challenging terrain. I also have to give kudos to the HMR people for providing water stops which hosted bananas, bagels, and a variety of nutrition options for the tired participant as well.
The only real critique I feel the need to give would have to be about the post-event experience. My teammate and I crossed the finish line alone. No one was present to cheer or celebrate with us as we passed under the finish line. We had just completed something we were so proud of, and the less than exciting finish did take a bit of wind out of our sails. We walked over to get our water and HMR dog tags, and then made a point to stick around for a bit to cheer participants who finished after us along as they completed their race. Vendors were just beginning to set up as we finished, and the band had not yet arrived. We left before the band or vendor area was fully set up.
Despite that, I still hold that Hardcore Mudd Run is a quality event that provides a unique and challenging race. I am a bit concerned that registration seemed low, with final participation numbers for the weekend around 500 racers, but I’d be thrilled to see this event grow and become a success that is able to expand its reach into other areas of the country.
2014 events are yet to be scheduled, although they do have a few of their Pain Camps (which look similar to the Spartan Race Hurricane Heat style of event) coming up early next year. If HMR comes to your area, this is an event you should definitely try!
I’m a part of the Hardcore Arm (x2!), won’t you join us?