Mud Endeavor‘s gone and done it again! What’s that you ask? Simple, they created yet another beautiful, challenging, technical, yet extremely fun course for everyone from the elite to the 1st time racer to enjoy! It’s almost a shame that Mud Endeavor is only located in Florida, as this race is one that I’m sure would do very well if it spread its wings and traveled beyond the borders into new states and new terrains. The Mud Endeavor courses are always meticulously laid out, as each twist and turn of their maze-like trails leads participants on an authentic adventure, making for an unforgettable experience for runners and spectators alike. You can truly tell that an extreme amount of thought, attention, and genuine care gets poured into each race, and their most recent event further proved this point.
The Castle Canyon race was an exciting new venture, as it boasted a fresh approach to the typical Mud Endeavor. Past races have been hosted at motor cross fields, and have used the existing steep, muddy inclines and descents of the existing tracks as their ammunition against eager racers. A staple of the Mud Endeavor races are it’s spectator friendly courses, the constant hills and elevation change, and, of course, a path covered in thick, shoe-sucking mud. They are great events, and I’ve been a fan for quite a while. But with this specific event, Mud Endeavor decided to leave the motor cross field behind, to try something new, and we were led on a new adventure, out into the wilds of central Florida.
Somehow Randy, Race Director of, and mastermind behind, the Mud Endeavor events, is able to track down technical, hilly terrain in an otherwise notoriously flat state. Florida is well known for it’s flat, fast courses, as hills and valleys are extremely hard to come by, So the location of the Castle Canyon race was, in truth, a diamond in the rough. The unique location of this event lay north of Tampa, in Brooksville, and was situated on an old, overgrown rock quarry, with the eerie remnants of an old castle at the center of the property. With the right imagination, these grounds made the perfect venue to build a race.
The nearly 5 mile course was intense! Twisting and turning throughout the overgrown landscape, runners encountered steep embankments, slick slopes, mud, roots, and rocks. The hills sucked the wind right out of our lungs, and made our legs burn for relief. And for those of us who are accustomed to a typically flat course, the change of scenery was actually quite fun! It brought about a new challenge, one that tested us in different ways, all the while creating a unique experience, unlike any Florida OCR to date.
I personally approached this event with a bit of apprehension. Having just experienced a major bonk at my half marathon the week prior, combined with the fresh memory of intense struggle that I’d experienced at Extreme Nation, I found myself slightly doubting my ability to compete. Despite this, I arrived with the resolve to redeem myself. I quietly promised myself to remember to pace myself based on my own personal abilities and limitations, to push myself when I knew I had more to give, and to realize when I needed to allow myself time to recover. I resolved to do the best I could for me, and not to compare myself and my results to that of others (much easier said than done!). And so as I lined up with the other elite participants that morning, I quietly prepared myself for battle, both physically and mentally, as I felt unsure of how my body would respond to the technical race I was about to embark on.
With the deafening blast of a cannon, we were sent on our way, sprinting down a hill toward the unknown. I quickly fell into a comfortable stride, and began to steadily gain confidence as I tackled each obstacle and incline with ease. I cruised up embankments, regaining my breath on flat portions of trail and on declines, refusing to walk as I did not want to let up even the slightest bit. I was provided with excellent competition during this race, as I was aware that I was situated to finish as third place female, but had two fierce contenders breathing down my neck for much of the course, trying desperately to overcome me. At one point I found myself running side by side with Amanda, a rival and friend who I compete against regularly at local races; and then as I approached the finish line, another female came so close to beating me that she crossed the finish line just 15 seconds after I did. This intense competition helped motivate me not to let up one bit throughout the race, as I vowed that if either of them were to beat me, it would not be by me willingly giving in, they’d have to earn it.
Obstacles were the same quality as I’d expect from any Mud Endeavor event, with low crawls, multiple different style walls to maneuver, cargo net climbs, an abundance of muddy hills and valleys (some steep enough to require assistance from ropes to ascend), and a traverse wall, to name a few. Course markings and directions were excellent, providing no margin of error for any participant to become misguided, and helpful volunteers provided water at each mile marker. This event also offered newly designed medals and t-shirts, a change from prior events, and was a welcome change for dedicated Mud Endeavor fans.
I felt strong and confident through the entire race, and was thrilled to earn a final placement of 3rd overall female and top in my age group. The doubt I’d had coming into this race vanished, as I felt redeemed by my performance at this event. Upon crossing the finish line, I sent my hubby on his way to take on the course. Mason and I then joined him at the halfway point, and I looked on proudly as father and son enjoyed obstacles, climbed hills, and crossed the finish line together, each earning themselves a well deserved medal of their own.
Mud Endeavor is an event I’m happy to support, and I’m excited to see the event test out new venues this year. I’ve yet to be disappointed by this stellar organization, and I look forward to seeing all that this great series has to offer. Next up, Mud Endeavor is heading to Little Manatee River in Bradenton, FL on April 5th for an epic 5K OCR! If you are able to make it, I highly recommend participating! Those heading up this race series have truly put their heart and soul into their events, and you’ll be impressed with the quality, the organization, and the fun you’ll have! I hope to see you there!