Monday, October 8, 2012

Warrior Princess Mud Run Race Report

I have a friend who tells me that the reason mud runs are so popular these days is because the majority of people running them are not runners, so there is a much larger audience for them. After taking part in this past weekend's Warrior Princess Mud Run at Mosquito Hill Nature Center in New London, Wisconsin, I would have to agree.  But that might be part of what makes them so fun!

So, I had never done a mud run before.  In fact, I had been rather befuddled about what all the hoopla was about.  It's not that I am prissy, well, too prissy, I don't think.  But there is just something about the idea of rolling around like a piglet in the mud, getting dirty, and actually finding that all a good thing that just hasn't meshed in my mind. With this particular event, though, the right combination of things happened to finally tip me over the edge of good sense and down the slippery, muddy slope of a mud run.

Loved the signs everywhere, reminding us what the
real reason for this run was.
When my friend A. told me that she was doing the Warrior Princess Mud Run and would I do it with her, I really didn't hesitate.  This was the mud run opportunity I had been waiting for: the chance to do it with a friend, instead of by myself; a great cause (all proceeds go to support Harbor House - a women's shelter); and location, location, location - the race was going to take place at one of my favorite nature centers not too far from home.  For all this, I figured I could handle a little mud.

Race day morning started out rather luxuriously, as I was able to wake up at a normal time.  Seriously, if you have done enough races, then you know that one of the common factors in most of them is that they seem to always have you getting up at the butt crack of dawn to make it to the start on time.  Not this one, at least not for me.  Our wave wasn't scheduled to run until 11:40 a.m.  I was already liking this whole thing.

The biggest challenge of the morning, however, proved to be deciding how to dress.  I knew the race was encouraging costumes, but since A. and I didn't get on the ball with that, we were going in plain old regular mud running attire - um, yeah, whatever that is.  Other than that friends had told me to wear stuff I didn't mind getting ruined, I really didn't know what to pull out of my closet.  Finally, I ended up with my least favorite pair of running tights, a long-sleeved cotton t-shirt and a short-sleeved cotton t-shirt, layered - both pulled out of the Goodwill/potential trash pile on my closet floor.  For fun, I pulled out both pairs of kickass socks I had received to review from (the review is coming SOON, I promise!): my knee-high Bad Ass socks with the arrows pointing towards my butt and the hot pink "Hottie" ankle socks.  It's not that I wanted to throw these gems away, anything but!  I just thought I should dress up my otherwise boring outfit.  In the potential land of costumes, I wanted to pop somehow.

So, all dressed, it was time to decide which shoes I would sacrifice to the mud gods.  I had been told that - while I may be able to salvage my clothes after the run - I should assume the shoes would be a complete loss.  That in mind, on the way out the door I decided to grab my old Nike Pegasus, which had been retired to my lawn mowing shoes this past summer.  I figured they could go on to their next life if need be.

A. and I showed up at the nature center about an hour before our scheduled start.  For parking we were directed to a field down the road from the nature center.  Packet pickup was a breeze, as the tent was located in the parking lot - easy to drop stuff off at your car if you needed to.  The volunteers were very helpful, but I didn't understand why they wrote my race number on my hand with a sharpie.  (Understanding came later when I almost tore my race bib off going through an obstacle.)  In our packets, we got a cotton long-sleeved royal purple t-shirt, a princess crown, a purple towel, and a couple of other happys along with a ton of coupons and literature for various organizations.

The walk to the nature center was entertaining.  Watching the previous waves' participants stream past in various states of muddiness provided us with a glimpse of what awaited us.  One gentleman was covered literally head to toe in mud.  For our own peace of mind, we determined he must have done that on purpose.  Right?  Also not to be overlooked was the fact that indeed a lot of people had opted for costumes: many iterations on the princess theme, fairies, superheroes.  You name it, it was there.

I felt lame compared to some of the others who really
dressed up for the occasion!  Next time!
After walking around and checking out the lay of the land, we headed inside to warm up a bit and use the bathrooms.  One thing that was not very pleasant about the race was that the high for the day was only to be 48 degrees.  Perfect if you are just running; not so good if mud is involved.

Finally it was time to head to the start.  We took a quick before picture, crammed our drop bags with our clean clothes along with our goodie bags into the huge plastic garbage bags they provided, and handed them over to the volunteers at the gear drop.  Bananas were available to grab at the gear drop, but I had just eaten an Ezekiel English muffin, so I passed.

The official before picture.  This is what I look like
in throw-away clothes.
At the start, we both made use of the porta-potties one last time and then waited for our wave to be called.  Because waves were starting every 10 minutes, the start area never seemed to get crowded.  Like us, most people seemed to be getting to the start a wave or two early and then just waiting for their wave to be called.  While waiting, a DJ kept the energy going with some good music, and the announcer was calling off team names in the waves.  When our wave was called, we headed into the start corral, cheered when our team's name was called and then toed the line.  Then we were off.

The approach to the start area.  Obstacle #1 - the Hill - is
off to the left.
Start corral right after a wave took off.
As to the race itself, I really didn't know what to expect.  I think in the end, I would say, the run part was harder than I expected, while the obstacles were easier.  The run - had it only been a 5K through the nature preserve - would have been challenging enough.  Mostly trails through the woods, it was a gorgeous course with its own challenges, not the least of which is obstacle #1 - a natural one and the first thing you tackle out of the starting gate: Queen of the Hill.  This 900-foot climb up Mosquito Hill has an average grade of 15%.  A. joked that I shouldn't have any problem with it having just tackled the Jungfrau in Switzerland (you remember, that race I didn't finish?).  I wanted to try to run up the whole way, but about halfway up decided that was dumb.  When you realize you can walk faster than you can run, it's time to walk.

For the most part, though, A. and I did run the whole 5K.  A lot of folks didn't - which is why I do believe the majority of participants were not folks you would see at your average 5K.  I could be wrong, but I think more people were in it for the obstacles and/or just the craziness of the whole idea.

So, what kind of obstacles were there? Well, after the hill, our first real muddy obstacle was a series of buckets half-filled with mud that you had to step through.  I joked that they were just trying to get our feet wet.  Pretty soon though I realized this was no joke.  I could barely get through them!  I didn't realize that mud had such sucking power, but it apparently does.  I didn't lose my shoes, but I almost did.  It took all the foot power I had to pull my feet with shoes out of those buckets.  I could understand now why some people had duck taped their shoes closed before the event - obviously that helps keep the shoes on.  Ahhh, live and learn.  Anyway, exiting the buckets and starting to run was a treat, especially since now my feet felt like they weighed two tons.

Other muddy adventures we had along the way included crawling through pipes filled with mud, army crawling under ropes through mud, and last but not least crawling under a cargo net through mud.  That  last one was the second-to-last obstacle and - given how low the net was - I can only assume the idea was that if you had somehow avoided getting too muddy up to that point, that was about to change.  Other obstacles included steeplechasing over logs, climbing an 8-foot wall, climbing over hay bales, and slip-sliding down a pumpkin-gut-and-water slide.  That one was my favorite.  In fact, I would have done it again if I could have.  Weeeeeeeeeeee!  Some of the obstacles were not that exciting - like weaving through tire trees and having volunteers throw flour (I believe) on us.  That just seemed like gratuitous dirtying to me.  And, then there was the swamp, which I believe they had technical difficulties with.  If it had worked, we would have wended our way through an ankle deep swampy morass, but somehow it didn't pan out.  I bet they fix that glitch for next year.

My favorite obstacle - No Guts, No Glory....
...otherwise known as the pumpkin guts water slide!
Having never done another mud run, I can't really compare how this stacks up to the competition.  For myself, I know I certainly expected the obstacles to be a lot harder.  I thought there might even be some I couldn't do.  With the exception of the climbing wall, however, the obstacles seemed more about getting dirty, not testing yourself physically.  Mental strength was tested for sure.  I admit that when I got to that last crawl-through-the-mud obstacle, for about a tenth of a second I almost said forget it.  With the chilly weather, I had felt frozen for most of the run, and I was not excited about getting even more down and dirty.  But I did it.

All in all, I have to say - in an amazed, almost-can't-believe-it-myself way - that I enjoyed this messy experience, and I would definitely do it again - although not on my own.  This to me is definitely a friend/team shared experience.  My understanding is that there are different degrees of mud run craziness.  I know my other friend A. put on a mud run this year that sounded good too.  While the run didn't sound quite as challenging, the obstacles sounded far more difficult.  Maybe something to try in the future.

After the race, we gathered our drop bags and rinsed off hands and arms in the homemade showers that had been set up for the event.  It was too cold for me to do anything more.  We then headed to the changing tents to finally get out of our nasty, wet clothes.  I opted to throw out my shirts and shoes, but I saved my socks and tights.  (Bagging them up, I was amazed at how heavy they were!)  I have heard that some races have spots where you can donate your shoes, but if this race did that I couldn't find it.  So, into the dumpster everything went.

Food at the end of the run included bananas, bagels, water and princess cookies.  Also, a full Snickers bar in my goodie bag was welcome too.  On hand to buy were brownies, apples and caramel, and "runaway" tacos - a bag of Fritos topped with taco fixings, as well as some other things.  I got the brownie and some coffee, and that tasted wonderful after the cold run.

Seeing as this was an inaugural event, I didn't really know what to expect from the race organization standpoint.  I needn't have worried.  Even with over 1,300 people registered, the event ran smoothly as far as I could tell.  I would certainly consider doing it again next year, if for no other reason than I would be curious to see if they change anything.  And, let's not forget, it is for a great cause.  So, the plan is if there is time and anyone wants to do this again, then I will sign up too - and cross my fingers and hope for warmer weather.

Happily ever after picture.
Happy Running!


  1. This looks SO fun! And i love that you got a crown as "swag"

    1. It was fun! And I definitely recommend it to anyone in the area. Yes, the crown was perfect and I should have gotten a picture with it. I actually did wear it after the race for an hour or so. :) Even into a gas station on the ride home - no wonder they looked at me funny....or was it the mud? lol

  2. It sounds like you had a great time and you guys definitely got muddy!

    1. Oh yes, I tried to avoid the mud as much as possible, which is why my shoulders are actually pretty clean. However, I learned that by straining to keep as much of me out of the mud as possible, I just ended up bruising my knees. lol Next time, I will just go for it. :)