Friday, August 23, 2013

Muddy Buddy Seattle race report

Even before I started running, I wanted to do a Muddy Buddy. I remember my climbing pal Lori Vos saying that she was flying somewhere to do one (Colorado? With her sister?) years ago.

Okay, okay, let's back up. What is this Muddy Buddy thing anyway? Muddy Buddy is -- I think -- the original adventure race. But from the outset it's been about having fun rather than being too roughy-toughy. Teams of two people -- and one bike -- travel a course together, alternating between running and biking, and completing obstacles along the way. At the start, buddy 1 rides the bike to the first obstacle, leaves the bike, and completes the obstacle. Meanwhile, buddy 2 runs to the first obstacle, picks up the bike, and then rides to obstacle #2. After completing obstacle 1, buddy 1 runs to obstacle 2 and picks up the bike. The two buddies continue leapfrogging each other throughout the course -- lather, rinse, repeat. Just before the end, the buddies meet up and crawl through a massive mud pit, crossing hte finish line together in true muddybuddyhood.

In short, I wanted in. But for years when I looked at the map of events, the nearest event was in Colorado. I even wrote a letter to Mr. Frog  once, saying, "Hey Mr. Frog -- Look at the map. Seattle needs muddy buddy!" And even though we often travel to running events, somehow the logistics of flying a bike to a destination just seemed too hard. So no Muddy Buddy for us. I think last year it might have made an appearance in Portland -- almost close enough 00 but since last year was the 40@40 project, we didn't make it.

So, joy of joys when we discovered that, finally, Muddy Buddy was coming to SEATTLE!!! I still had a little anxiety about the biking part, but I figured I could get thorugh a few miles as long as it wasn't technical mountain biking. (It's not.)

Even better news was coming, however. Seattle would also be hosting a Muddy Buddy Mud Run! Still  an obstacle race with your buddy, but no bike needed. Perfect! Oh, and the cherry on top? Competitior (which now owns Muddy Buddy and the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series) announced a "Rock 'n' Mud Challenge" -- run Seattle Rock 'n' Roll and Seattle Muddy Buddy and get a bonus medal.


Need I remind you that -- because we ran Portland RnR AND Seattle RnR we already received two other bonus medals; the Pacific Peaks and the Rock Encore Heavy Medal. Three races, ~30 miles, SIX medals. Bliss!!!

Anyway, race day finally came -- the day after the Zombie Run, which had my legs feeling a little weird, what with all the dashing and side-to-side motion.

We drove out to Issaquah and parked easily -- just a few feet from a GIANT INFLATABLE SLIDE!!! Oh, wow. I felt a mixture of excitement and terror. But I was mainly giddy to finally be at Muddy Buddy!

Muddy Buddy swag

We had picked up our packets the day before at REi -- a sweet tech tee, a ubiquitous string bag, some coffee beans (really!), and, as REI members, wristbands for a members lounge. This race just gets better and better!

So all that was left for us to do on race day was relax, look at some of the obstacles, and watch the first wave start. We had no idea what the course looked like -- I didn't even know how long it was -- but we watched the first runners race off into the woods, and they didn't come back for 15+ minutes.

When the first runners emerged, two women led. We watched them go up and down the slides before they ran out of sight again. When the leaders finally came back into view for the last view obstacles, the ladies still led. We just had enough time to see them hit the mud pit before we had to scamper off to our wave start.

To reduce congestion at the obstacles, they split each wave into a few starts. I think we were at the very back of our wave (4th of 4), but it did mean that we were only held up at the first obstacle.

We headed out on the trails in the park. It was a little crowded at first, but not bad. We splashed through part of the lake (and boy oh boy do I look GIDDY here)

A bit more running and we hit the first real obstacle -- a set of walls to climb over. We had to wait our turn for the first one, but only for a minute or so. Oddly enough, the two high walls were easier because there was a tiny ledge to brace your foot on on the way down the other side.

On the way to the next obstacle we passed a lot of other teams. But, boy, seeing the 25-foot cargo net climb made my stomach lurch. But I ran up to the net and started to climb. The scariest part? Turning at the top to come down the other side. Yikes.

I should point out that -- though I suppose I could have fallen off to top of an obstacle, I never felt they weren't super stable or well built.

Then more running, more obstacles. Every run we passed a few teams, which was really satisfying. Climbing walls? Check. Crawling tunnels? Check. Giant inflatable slides? Check. A "hugging balance beam"? CHECK!!!

One flaw -- mainly on my part -- I had no idea how long the course was, so I didn't know how much we had left to do. But suddenly we arrived back in the main park area, and splashed through another bit of lake. Coming out of the water my legs felt ridiculously heavy, but it was probably not just because of the wet shoes.

There was another rope-climbing wall, which I struggled with, and then a "slippery slope" -- but then, happily, we arrived at the mud pit.

I have to admit, the only slight disappointment with this otherwise awesome race was how little mud there was. But, oh, what a mud pit!!! Team Wil-Sun got a nice shout out AND got ourselves plenty muddy. :)

Once we climbed out of the pit, we held hands and crossed the finish. A volunteer gave us our medals, took our timing chip, and directed us to a photo booth, where we captured this classic:

After the run we picked up our Rock 'n' Mud medals (clank! clank!) and headed over to the beer garden to sample both a surprisingly tasty Cayman Jack margarita and a delicious pint of Red Hook. We also inadvertently made friends with a group of people who had a matching number in the SmartWool challenge.

See, at the SmartWool booth you could pick up a number. Find your same number and both of you get a free pair of SmartWool socks. Genius!!! Anyway, Wil and someone had the same number, so they went off to get their free socks. When they came back, they still had their number stickers... so we tried it again. All apologies to SmartWool... but I do know that the purpose of this sort of promotion is to get people to try product.... and that no vendor wants to bring stuff back. So I don't feel too bad about getting another free pair of socks. Which, btw, are AWESOME.

We also headed into the REI member lounge, where we had a slice of Veraci pizza (yum!) and some salad... though we managed to miss the Keen bag giveaway.

While we enjoyed a Red Hook I spotted a legend. I dragged Wil over to the fence and pointed. It was Bob Babbitt -- AKA Mr. Frog, founder of the Muddy Buddy series. Bless his heart, he came over to say hello, and we had a really nice chat. I told him how thrilled I was that they were in Seattle, and we talked about business, the growth and history of Muddy Buddy, using Craigs List for bikes, potentially adding a "tour pass" system, great races, and running for 10 minutes or so. I swear, it was like having a private audience with a rock star. No, really.

Overall... AWESOME. Loved the medal; the beautiful winding course, especially since each obstacle was something of a surprise; the great beer garden; the REI member lounge (I overheard someone say, "Who isn't an REI member in Seattle???"); two giant slides; efficient start; and just an incredibly fun experience.

One potential opportunity? MORE MUD!!! I admit, I struggled with the rope climbs... which made me tell Wil I wanted to learn how to climb a rope, to which he replied, "Yeah, for all of those rope-climbing events in your life." Maybe. I'd run this race any day. A+++.

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