Well, I ran the Rugged Maniac yesterday and I can still feel it today! I am sore, tired, and feeling quite accomplished right now.
This all started with a friend asking if anyone wanted to run with her back in March. There was a deal on Groupon and she was looking for people to join and run with her. A friend had asked her and she agreed but wanted more people to go. I volunteered. I asked around and another good friend decided to come along as well. John and I really didn’t know what we were in for when we agreed to join with the other two but we decided it would be an adventure. We quickly learned that the Rugged Maniac is a series of adventure races that take place all over the country. The Rugged Maniac New England is held at a motocross track in western Massachusetts. You run a 5 kilometer race around the outskirts of the track and then through the track itself which is dirt hills made for launch off road motorcycles into the air, not for people running up and down them. Because that isn’t rugged enough, the race organizers also pepper the course with a few obstacles. About 25 of them according to the official course map, but more were added in as the track eroded over two days. Some of the obstacles are not that bad, three foot high walls that you jump over or muddy pits to jump into and crawl out of. Some are a little harder. There were tunnels to crawl through and a giant two story high water slide that drops you into a muddy pool. Others were significantly harder. There were two story “A Frame” climbing walls that were constructed like giant ladders where the rungs were two by fours that were just slightly out of reach so you had to stretch when you were climbing. There were 15 foot high walls with two inch boards nailed into them at five and ten feet. You had to jump and grab the boards to make it over. Then you had to scale your way down the other side. There was also barbed wire. A lot of barbed wire. There were multiple obstacles that you had to climb under the wire through muddy pits and even one where you had to slide down a drainage pipe into the muddy water below, crawl under the barbed wire through the water, then slither back up another drainage pipe to get out of the pool. Finally there were two cargo net obstacles, one two stories tall and another suspended 25 feet over the starting line so the next wave of racers could watch you try to finish the race in one piece as they were starting it.
We didn’t know this when we signed up, but we did some research and I paid attention to my sister in law’s friend’s website Wicked Muddy. Team Wicked Muddy travels all over New England going to mud runs and writes reviews of the races as well as training tips and other fitness ideas. They are a great group of people and the couple that runs the team and website are great people and truly motivational. You should check it out http://www.wickedmuddy.com. Alysha encouraged me to train and kept me from worrying too much about the race.
The best part about the Rugged Maniac is that the course forces team work by the size and complexity of the obstacles. There is no way to complete some of them alone unless you are extremely fit and willing to really push your limits. Most people needed help and ran in teams for that reason. We also had much more fun because we were working together. The best parts of the course were when team mates were cheering each other on and leaning on one another for support or a literal hand up. Even people from other teams would help you if you ran into trouble. John, Angie, and I spent time helping others over walls or catching people as they ran off the ends of balance beams just like others did for us.
There was also a great finishing festival. Your first beer is free as part of the reward for finishing the race, but there were also food and merchandise vendors as well as a live band. There was even a place to donate your ruined shoes after the race. Max Cure (www.maxcure.org) is a charity that is dedicated to fighting pediatric cancer as well as providing support for families with children suffering from cancer. For every pair of shoes they are given a dollar is donated to the fight against cancer. It was a fitting end to a pair of disgraced shoes.
I bought these shoes before Lance Armstrong’s very public fall from grace. I bought them as shoes to wear when I started cycling and I thought it fitting to support Livestrong and Lance Armstrong as I began to take my life back by getting fitter. I always knew that Armstrong had been accused of doping but I had honestly thought that he was innocent and that most of the accusations were driven by anti-American sentiment after he continued to win the Tour De France. I believed the claims that he never failed a drug test and that he was clean. Once it was obvious that was false I stopped wearing the shoes. I just couldn’t support Armstrong or Livestrong anymore. I know that his sins are not theirs, but Livestrong is forever linked to their founder. I couldn’t wear the shoes with the trademark yellow on them without feeling like I was supporting both parties even if that’s not fair to one of them. Once I decided that I was running, I was determined to wear the shoes as a symbolic dragging of Lance Armstrong through the mud, much like he dragged cycling, his charity, people that supported him, people that opposed him, and ultimately his legacy through the mud. When it all was over I would donate the shoes to charity so they could do some good as their final act.
The race was amazing and I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. I honestly didn’t really think I would be able to complete it or I thought I would have to skip obstacles. I am thrilled to say that I was able to finish the course in a somewhat respectable 1 hour 45 minutes and most importantly I completed every obstacle on the course. I couldn’t have done it without John and Angie. They were there helping and cheering every step of the way. It has been a very long time (if ever) that I thought I could ever do anything like this. I have been the fat guy for so long I forgot how amazing it can be to do something like this.
We didn’t look pretty at the end, but rest assured we will be back for Rugged Maniac 2014!