There’s something very primal about running an obstacle race competitively. I’ve compared it before to a hunt, or a battle, as it thrusts one into a mental place in which survival and completion is all that matters. It is an epic struggle of surpass or be surpassed, overcome or be defeated. I love the adrenaline rush, the pulse pumping ferocity, and the pure mental grit that competition brings out in us. And even though it’s uncomfortable, even though it may hurt, in that moment we don’t care. We seek victory, redemption, retribution, notoriety; we seek to earn our place as an elite. It truly is an awesome experience, and one that I crave just as much as I sometimes dread.
I have come to love being a trailblazer at each race, bursting over the starting line in the early morning hours, disturbing the dew with our frantic footsteps. The competitive wave gets to see the obstacles before they have been bloodied by hundreds (or thousands!) of mud caked shoes. We encounter calm waters, still chilled by the night air, and undisturbed by the chaos that is about to ensue. There are even times when we are fortunate enough to have the pleasure of experiencing the course alone, with only the beauty of the surrounding terrain to take in as we suck ragged breaths with each pulsing step. It’s a pleasant mixture of serenity and adrenaline
But despite my love of competing, I find that once in a while it’s refreshing to take a step back, to forego the thrill of battle, and to participate in a race just for the sheer fun of it.
So I did just that recently at Mud Slayers.
Prior to the Mud Slayers weekend, my husband and I had discussed (as we usually do) our plan of attack for race weekend. Was I running competitively? If so, when (now that I’ve sucked him into my vortex of OCR love) would he plan to run? Was there a kids race? Etc, etc. Each race is different, depending on if Mason is going to come along, if Adam is going to run, and if I’m going to race or play (or both). Once we are able to answer these questions we then formulate an idea of how we will approach the day. So when this discussion came up about Mud Slayers, we hemmed and hawed for a bit, not sure how we were going to juggle the day since we hoped that all three of us would be able to participate. Finally we came up with a brilliant idea; instead of splitting our day into three separate laps, we would join forces and run together as a family! We rationalized that since Mason has already run portions of several other races, we should give him the chance to go the full distance, figuring that if he got tired I’d just have him ride piggy back till we finished. Easy peasy. We had a plan!
Race day arrived, we rose before the sun, and headed east in search of yet another epic race weekend. Now before people freak out about the fact that we allowed our 5 year old to run a course designed for adults, I feel the need to say that I do not recommend just any parent of a 5 year old to instantly decide it is okay to throw them into an OCR. Our situation is unique in the fact that our son’s life is immersed in obstacle racing, and in his short life he’s already run multiple kids races, and he also spends the majority of his weekends playing in the mud at events. For our family, obstacle racing is a way of life. Due to this combination of factors, we were confident in his ability to complete the mileage with us, and to also make wise decisions as to his own ability to complete obstacles. He knows the obstacles he can and cannot do, and he uses caution (with us close beside him) on the obstacles he completes. This particular day was more about splashing in puddles and playing in mud for him, and not as focused on the obstacles themselves. So although my husband and I completed each obstacle, Mason was perfectly content cheering from the sidelines when an obstacle too advanced for him came along. Certain races I feel comfortable having him join in on the fun, but there are also many races that I’d never dream to let him step foot on the course for fear he’d be trampled or hurt. Each family must make these decisions wisely, with the safety of their child in mind. If there is doubt, don’t do it. Most races offer kids events that are perfect for children aged 4 to 13. My family just so happens to live and breath mud, so with this one he got to come along for the ride.
With that said, Mud Slayers proved to be an amazing family event! Upon arriving to the venue on race day, we were greeted by a myriad of bright yellow obstacles, sprawled out like a giant playground, beckoning us to come play. The approximately 4 mile course boasted over 30 obstacles, which is much more than the average course, and provided much delight to participants of all ages that day. The festival area quickly filled with energy and excitement, as children and adults alike played on a rope climb and ladder wall situated in the center of the circle. Mason and I played for a bit on the structure, as I tested out the grip on my new Reebok All-Terrain shoes on the rope and wall. We were excited to begin our event, and eagerly anticipated the announcement to approach start line.
Once on the course, we encountered a sloshy, flooded mess … which, for a fun run, made it just that much more awesome! The path led us through deep puddles and along the outskirts of several small lakes. It was a true Florida race, in all of its swampy glory (we even saw a baby alligator along the way!). Mason had an absolute blast splashing in the water and squishing through thick mud. As anticipated, he was able to complete many of the obstacles with assistance, and those that were too difficult for him we simply handed off the waterproof camera and he happily snapped photos of us (and took a few selfies) while we traversed over walls, shimmied up ropes, maneuvered over and through massive structures, and leapt over fire. He eagerly crawled through mud, carried rocks, helped me flip a tractor tire, and climbed a cargo net, proud of his accomplishments and fueled on by the encouragement of fellow racers and on course volunteers.
All-in-all, although I know that I would have enjoyed this race had I run it on my own, experiencing it with my husband and son was such an awesome way to spend the morning! I honestly would not have had it any other way! All three of us had a great time, and we crossed the finish line thrilled with each step we’d just completed in the rural Florida woods. Mason did a fantastic job, and this race proved to be an exceptionally family-friendly, full of fun, action-packed event! We made a great memory as a family, and that is something that makes events like this so incredibly amazing.
Mud Slayers was a great event, run by good people. I was very glad to be a part of such a fun day. My only critique of this event was that I know many of the runners who participated in the competitive wave were disappointed to arrive to an event that did not have chip timing or top finisher awards (as had been promised). The event organizers were sure to refund each member of the competitive wave back the additional fee they had paid for chip timing, but I can understand how arriving to a race with the anticipation of competing for time and awards, and then being told this was not the case can be upsetting. In future races if this situation occurs again, I’d recommend that event organizers notify participants prior to arrival so competitors are not left disappointed.
Despite this small snafu, this event series is one that I really enjoy. The obstacles are solid, and I love how many they incorporate into each course. It was muddy, challenging, and a ton of fun! Their next event is called Mud Titan, coming up on May 24th in Plant City, Florida. Interested in giving it a try? Use code “muddymommadiscount” for 30% off your entry! I’ll be attending, and am looking forward to another great course! Hope to see you there!
A huge thank you to Mike of Mud Slayers for allowing my family to experience the course together, we loved it! See you at the next race!