November 13th was met with great anticipation. I strain to recall another morning where I’ve woken up as eagerly. I was making oatmeal and packing my things at 9:05am as my mind raced, attempting to find the proper disposition and to dredge the cobwebs of sleep. I ate about half of a bowl of oatmeal and gathered my things. I was dressed and walking out the door at 9:30. The drive was pleasant and within 45-minutes’ time I was at the event. As I pulled in I was able to see a few runners trudging through the course, but I was not able to make out any helpful details from my vantage point. I parked, sifted through a few things, made myself an Endurance mix and choked it down. I felt rushed and uncomfortable, but overly determined. I had a positive attitude and I meant to bring it to bear on the course.
I left the car with the majority of my things not knowing if there would be a place to store them during the race. It turns out that there was a Gear Check. Peter, a friend I met at the Shawnee Peak Challenge, picked me out of the Registration line and had already checked himself in. I numbly bumbled my way through the check-in procedure and talked to Peter for a while. We walked around, stretched, I used the bathroom and we were soon in line at the Start. We made our way up as close to the gate as we could since this greatly benefited me in the SPC. The wait for the beginning of the race was tense. Some guy mentioned to his friend that he should take his gloves off since he would slip on the monkey bars or the commando pole. Peter and I were having none of that claptrap and defiantly left ours on. We shook, flailed and extended our limbs as the final seconds counted down. We went off with the siren.
Peter and I were running together for a stretch before the first obstacle. We were met with barbed wire precariously suspended above our backs as we shimmied underneath. This proved to be something of a choke point for the runners out in front. Peter and I made our way through rather quickly, and ran around a corner and through a small area with trees. I came up closely behind Peter, pacing myself with him as we crossed a small bridge. As we made our way out of the trees and around the next corner we were affronted by the next obstacle: the Trenches.
The Trenches are just as they sound. Large holes in the ground with the unearthed dirt from the holes piled up behind them. The holes are conveniently filled with freezing muddy water. Being as though Peter and I were competing in the 11am wave the Trenches were worn in, meaning that the mud was matted down, slick in parts, and didn’t let go easily. As I approached the Trenches I was confounded at first. “Am I meant to jump over the hole?” is a conscious thought I recall. I heard one of the attendants shout “Go in and out!” And so I did. The shock of the cold water on my calves was a delight, and climbing up the dirt hill after pulling myself out of the water was just bliss. There were about five of them; I certainly made no effort to count. This obstacle put me far ahead of most of the other runners who were close before. Having conquered the last Trench’s dirt hill I began running again and noticed that my shoes were full of water, rocks and mud which effectively made them twice as heavy and incalculably less comfortable. I turned the corner and the next obstacle came into view.
This was simply a low-hanging camouflaged net under which one has to crawl or move in a quadrupedal fashion. This went by easily enough, but the following obstacle was directly behind it. There was a giant, horrible pit of muddy water which had two logs supported horizontally about a foot over the surface. Attendants screamed: “Go over or under the logs!”, “Do NOT dive!” So my hopes of diving were shot. I trudged through and went under the logs, climbing out at the end and reveling in how fun it was to run with soaked feet. The next section was simply a mind-numbing run back and forth until you reached a few buildings. Thus ends “Zone Foxtrot”.
The next few obstacles were placed in between the buildings. The first set was a sequence of barrier walls of alternating height. I flew through these, passing one guy. I turned a corner around the first building to find my beloved Normandy Walls. The attendants stipulate that you have to do this obstacle with your hands behind your head for some reason, so I complied and jumped into it. They are placed so close together, however, that running through and jumping over each wall with any discernible rhythm is essentially impossible so I was forced to slow my pace to walking speed and simply step over them. This change in pace was devastating, and I think had a huge effect on my stamina. I finished the Normandy Walls and turned the next corner. More barrier walls. The same set. Joy. I vaulted these just as the set before and had a decent intuition as to the next obstacle. Well whaddya know? Another set of Normandy Walls. I walked through these, stepping over them, and finished with “Zone Zulu”.
We ran from the end of the previous Zone up to the main Fairgrounds along a rather lengthy track and passed through “Zone Delta” to reach “Zone Uniform”. The first obstacle in this Zone was the Uneven Fences.
I found these more challenging than they were at SPC since we had to run uphill to the walls at SPC and at Ruckus they were simply on flat ground. I was pretty beat by the time I reached the Fences, but made my way over each one easily. As I finished the last fence I suddenly realized that I couldn’t run anymore. I was spent and somehow had no motivation. I slowed to a shameful walk, and went about half of the way between the Uneven Fences and the next obstacle, the Ranger Bars. The idea here is to pull yourself up to a single suspended pole and to make your way across to the other side by any means necessary. Some people shimmied across hanging upside down from their hands and knees/ankles. Some people went with just their arms. I chose the latter and it seemed to work well. There was no designated end point for this obstacle other than the end of the bar, but we did have two men who seemed like Marines yelling outrageous things at us, which was cool.
The end of “Zone Uniform” was marked by more camo nets, and I made my way easily through those, but I was reeling at this point from a side cramp. I began walking again, but only briefly, in an effort to breathe deeply and remove the cramp. It seemed to work a little bit, and I was passed by a guy who asked if I was all right. This rallied my spirit and I began to run again. It hurt.
“Zone Delta” is a long, winding path located in the middle of the fairgrounds. There was a lot of running back and forth. One eight-foot wall affronted us as the first real obstacle. One side had a rope, the other didn’t. Guess which side I chose. I was up an over in an instant, and hit the ground running – literally.
We ran in another loop before coming around to a sequence of concrete barriers which seemed like they were thrown in as an afterthought. I hurdled them, passing someone who was vaulting them more slowly. I turned the corner, exhausted, and began to walk briefly again before mentally reprimanding myself. I ran again, making my way around another corner to the next obstacle. A group of tires were lying on the ground and I approached them, about to place my foot inside and run through. An attendant corrected me, saying that we’re meant to “bear crawl” on the outer rim of the tires. I complied, and was quickly on the other side.
We then transitioned into “Zone Sierra” which began with a system of large concrete tubes which were arranged to follow a path from one end to the other. Occasionally two pipes would converge on one which led to me cutting a guy off while inside the pipes. I felt fine going through them but did notice that it was working my calves and tearing the skin on my knees. Once outside the tubes we were quickly met with the next obstacle: the Sea of Tires. People didn’t know what to do with these; step in the tires or on them, but it didn’t seem to matter. I almost toppled a column of tires as I lost my balance, but I escaped this obstacle uninjured. I made my way around some more snaking trails and turned a corner to finally meet the Monkey Bars. I clambered up the wooden ladder to the bars and was somewhat disappointed to see that there was no mud pit below the bars as there was at the SPC. There were actually a bunch of hay bales which is about as unextreme as it gets. I took my time to get a grip on the first bar, found it to be secured and a bit easier than it was at SPC, and I assumed a great rhythm, making my way across in no time. We ran straight from the Monkey Bars behind the announcer’s location and came around the other side to reach the final Zone.
There was another set of camo nets, but they were decrepit by the time I reached them.
I went in the side that was in the best shape, but I still got caught and nearly strangled halfway through. I finished the camo net and was affronted by a large, steep dirt hill. There were apparently ropes to help competitors to climb the hill but I either didn’t notice them or didn’t care and I was up and over in a heartbeat (or, more accurately, likely a dozen or so heartbeats judging by how winded I was at the time). I ran from the bottom of the hill and was guided back towards it for a second up-and-over, this time there were definitely no ropes. Again, no problem. I turned another corner and there was a final set of barbed wire to be avoided. I moved through deftly, but felt that the open cuts and scrapes on my knees and shins were definitely being coated with mud and sand. I looked up once I finished the final barbed wire to see the last leg of the hill which was somewhat steeper than the other sections.
I powered up the first side and carefully made my way down, discovering that I was at the finish already. I might have moved a bit faster in the preceding obstacles had I known. I was overcome with euphoria and noticed, to my delight, that there was a large mud puddle right before the Finish line. I jumped high with my arms out to my sides while making a crazy face and came down hard into the mud, splashing it everywhere. I looked up to see a photographer for Brightroom who exclaimed “Yeah! Awesome!” I really hope that she got a good shot of that moment. The Brightroom pictures from the SPC were pretty poor.
I numbly walked out of the event area, accepted my medal from some overly-enthusiastic girls, picked up a bottle of water and two half-bananas and nearly vomited at the thought of eating some potato chips that they were offering. I sat down and watched a few of the other competitors as they ran, waiting for Peter. He showed up eventually, looking like hell and covered in mud. I really wish I had pictures of how we both looked right after running the event. The bananas were not ripe, and I spit out the bite that I had taken. I could barely drink my water and was generally disgruntled and disagreeable about everything else. I eventually regained some semblance of a personality and suggested that Peter and I walk around a bit to see what the vendors were selling and to keep our bodies moving. We tried some lackluster “Code Blue” recovery drink which we threw out and headed over to check our results.
My time for Ruckus is better than the one for Shawnee, but only by about 40 seconds. We looked at some of the top finisher’s times and they were just outstanding. The first finisher for my wave had a time of 25:36, which I believe is within reach for me. Had I done less walking I would have finished much, much sooner. The best time for the regular event was 23:15, and the best time in the Champion’s Heat ended up being 21:58. I placed 62nd overall out of 897 participants, and 11th in my wave. I am happy with my result, but I am anxious to find another event before Tough Mudder because I feel like I can do much better. From what Peter and I could tell by the results page that they posted I didn't qualify to run in the Champion's Heat, but I'm not really sure why. Perhaps I did but the results were incomplete when we checked them. At any rate I wouldn't have wanted to run it again.
Laments aside I thoroughly enjoyed this event. I’m not sure I enjoyed it as much as Shawnee; the two are difficult to compare, curiously enough. As I mentioned after the event, but as Peter rephrased more eloquently, Shawnee was more anaerobic while Ruckus is more aerobic.
I felt fairly strong for the most part. If I had the chance to go back and change something about my training I would have doubled the amount of short distance Elliptical running.