The day began crisp and cool, as steam rose off of the still ponds that hundreds of runners were about to splash through with reckless abandon. Immense structures lay in wait, standing tall in the vast fields, beckoning eager participants to take on the particular challenge they boasted. It was officially race day, and Hog Wild Mud Run was ready for us.
Being the third event that Hog Wild has hosted at this particular Plant City, Florida location, the course wound racers over nearly 4 miles of gorgeous trail, thick, sticky mud, and through some truly innovative obstacles. One thing I’ve come to love about the Hog Wild events is the creativity that a runner gets to experience by way of some truly unique obstacles. Obstacles such as the ant farm, a combination obstacle featuring an incline wall, followed by a jump down to a tunnel crawl, then a climb back up and over across the top of the wooden structure, to a final leap down to the ground via hay bales. We came across a series of large tubes, set at an incline with a web of ropes intertwined throughout the interior, forcing each runner to come up with a creative strategy to conquer the climb in hopes of maneuvering through quickly and efficiently. There was also a large structure with tires swinging at varying levels above water. Runners were to manipulate their way from tire to tire, and then along three swinging ropes without falling in the water below, as failure prescribed 10 penalty burpees to exhausted racers.
A rope climb, over unders, a fire jump, multiple mud hills to climb, an 8 foot wall (which I climbed by myself, NOT using the side support beams!), and a final death defying jump into water (okay, maybe not death defying, but jumping from heights seriously freaks me out!), also added spice to the course.
I began my adventure with the first wave of the day, as we eagerly departed at 8:20am, ready to warm our bodies from the chilly mid-40 degree weather, a temperature that makes local Floridians complain as though a blizzard has just rolled through. At the sound of the horn, we exploded forward, hoping to quickly solidify a spot near the front of the pack. I typically keep a close eye on how many females are in front of me, so as to gauge where I will place overall, but after encountering a series of dirt hills with large ditches dug in front of them, I instantly lost my frame of reference as a mass of frantic elites scrambled around each other like ants on a crumb. Once I untangled myself from the mob, I pressed forward in the hopes of a top 10 finish, not knowing who may have surpassed me in the recent clutter.
One female in particular stayed on my tail the entire race. I could hear her breathing behind me, hunting me down in hopes of surpassing me. The elite wave is always a unique experience as it truly is a battle, which can best be described, as that of the hunted and the hunter. When racing competitively, I place a target on the back of people in front of me, both male and female; these are the people I hope to surpass and finish ahead of, my goal is to defeat them, one by one. One slip up, one obstacle that makes them falter, and I’ll have them beat. But just as I put a target on the back of my competitors, I also know that there are people behind me doing the exact same thing, and due to this fact I must always keep close tabs on the gap that I have between myself and the next female behind me, knowing that she hopes to earn my place. If she does, she must earn it. I do not concede without a worthy fight.
And although many of us who run in the elite, or competitive, wave of these races are friends off of the course, we are competitors once the horn blows and we are sent out to battle. We support each other, are proud of each others accomplishments, but also vow that whoever may beat us will have to earn that right for us to earnestly congratulate them on a race well run.
I hit each obstacle with full force, knowing this venue to be notoriously flat (unlike the endless elevation changes at last weekend’s Mud Endeavor), I felt comfortable pushing my limits to maintain my lead against those behind me. And slowly but surely, I gained the lead that I coveted, finishing a solid two minutes before my adversary.
Upon arriving back, I was elated to learn that I was the third female of the day to cross the finish line! Coincidentally, the top three spots were earned by the very same three that had won last week’s event. Ashley, Sally, and myself secured the podium, and earned probably one of the most fantastic top finisher medals I’ve seen to date!
Now that I had finished, I sent my hubby off to run the race. His 7th event since he began last August, and definitely not his last. Mason and I joined him halfway through, and I watched on proudly as father and son played in the mud, tackled obstacles, and happily crossed the finish line hand-in-hand. What a great moment!
Before I finish, I must talk about one of the best things about the Hog Wild races… the after party!
One of the unique things that Hog Wild offers, is an after party which includes a DJ, free beverages (yes folks, free beer!), flip cup, giant Jenga, and other party games, dancing, and an all around great time! Runners bring tents, coolers, lounge chairs, even their dogs, and make this race an all-day event! It’s like one big family reunion as we all celebrate a great race by letting loose a bit and enjoying the company of our fellow mud run fanatics. Kids were provided with a bounce house that gave them hours of entertainment, and was a welcome distraction in a setting where parents did not have to constantly worry if their children were out of sight for a few moments (no helicopter parenting necessary!).
In addition to the party setting, an ominous American-Ninja-style Gauntlet obstacle had been set up along one side of the festival area, beckoning those who were willing to attempt the challenge to take it on. This upper body giant got the better of most who attempted it, and was a great focal point for the casual spectator to cheer, cringe, and celebrate with those who dared to undertake such a test of pure strength and skill.
Hog Wild Mud Run did not disappoint yet again, as they delivered a unique, challenging, and incredibly fun event and festival! And although there may not be another mud run in the near future, they are hosting a Beer Crawl in May that promises to be a party like none other!
So for any mud runner/adrenaline junkie/party fiend out there, please, for the love of everything that keeps your happy heart ticking, check out Hog Wild Mud Run and sign up for the next mud or fun run that they host. You can send me a thank you card later.
No race next weekend! (What?!?!?) But stay tuned for reviews of the new Reebok All Terrain shoe & X Racewear running gear! Also, my review of the Tampa Spartan Sprint was exclusively printed in the Spartan Race Magazine last week, I’d love you to check it out! Click here for a read.
Oh, and don’t forget, as the Hog Wild folks say… “Finish Filthy!”