At the beginning of the summer my sister called me up and told me I would be doing Columbia’s Muddy Buddy ride and run race with her. I didn’t argue with her (it wouldn’t have worked anyway). Besides… a six mile run and bike series with obstacles and a giant mud pit… what could be more fun than that?
The Muddy Buddy race, sponsored by Columbia Apparel, takes places in cities all across the country. We participated in the Chicago edition, which took place on Sunday, August 1 at Indian Hill Farms in Gilberts, Illinois. The race is split into divisions by combined age and gender category (men’s, women’s, and coed). My sister and I were in the 45 and under coed category.
There are five segments to the race, each a little over a mile, for a total of 5.7 miles. One team member starts off biking while the other runs. When the biker get to the first obstacle, they ditch the bike and complete the obstacle. When the runner catches up, they also complete the obstacle and then grab the bike and go. With five segments, one person ends up running three segments and biking two while their teammates bikes three segments and runs two. At the end of the race, as the last obstacle before the finish line, both teammates have to ford the giant mud pit together.
The day before the race we drove up from Champaign to South Elgin, near where the race was taking place, to pick up the bike we were renting from a local bike shop. When the picking up the bike, the gentleman who helped us asked us where the race was.
As soon as we said it was in Gilberts, he responded, “you’re not running the Muddy Buddy, are you?”
After an awkward silence, we said hesitatingly, “uh… yea, but the bike won’t get too dirty…”
“Everything get’s dirty in Muddy Buddy. There’s no way around it. People bring back bikes so muddy you can’t even see them.”
And with almost 7 inches of rain the week of the race, this was promising to be the muddiest Muddy Buddy ever.
After being explained to that there would be a $40 cleaning fee if the Bike was brought back too muddy, we said that was fine and vowed to bring the bike back spick and span.
Reassured by this, the employee wished us luck with the race and said we were in good hands with this bike… a $4,000 Specialized mountain bike.
Tip – Decorate your bike. With over 2000 teams, it’s easy to lose a bike. The race instructions tell teams to decorate the bike so teammates can find it easily in the pile of bikes. The night before the race, we went to Wal-mart and settled on a rubber frog and reflective pipe cleaners.
After a restless night in the hotel, we got up bright and early at 5:45am to get ready for the race. There was thick fog outside and you couldn’t see more than a hundred feet in any direction. When we got about a mile away from Indian Hill Farms on Randall road, the traffic slowed to a crawl. With the thick fog, it was impossible to tell how long the line was. The packet pickup closed at 6:30 and we were running out of time. We were tempted to hop out of the car and run or bike to pick up the packet in time, but we decided to wait it out. Once we had finally parked, we waded through the sea of over 4000 people, and dashed to pick up our race packet from the tent. We were in wave 7, and the only thing to do at this point was to get warmed-up and wait for our wave to go off.
At the sound of an air horn, the seventh wave was released: bikes first, then runners a minute later. The first leg of the race was mostly along the side of a small road, but ended in a rolling pasture.
Obstacle 1 – The rock wall. The rock wall was about six feet high with a rope net on the other side. Scaling the wall wasn’t too hard, but with all of the mud, the pegs in the wall were slippery. I messed up by trying to climb up the wrong side of the rock wall at first, loosing a few seconds there.
Next up was biking for me. I thought I was in for a break, but I was sorely mistaken. I found our bike with the rubber frog and hopped on it only to find the ground was too mushy to get started. After sinking into the mud and almost falling over a few times, I decided it would be faster to run with the bike than ride it. I did this for about a quarter of a mile until I found a drier area with more traction. After I got rolling, it was fairly smooth riding until the second obstacle. When I got the second obstacle, my sister had already done the second obstacle and was waiting. She immediately took the bike and began her third leg of the race while I started in on the obstacle.
Obstacle 2 – The low crawl. A series of nets were set up that we had army crawl under. This obstacle was pretty straight forward and fortunately the ground here was pretty dry here.
Glad I was back to running, I sped off to catch my sister.
Obstacle 3 – The balance beam. Six balance beams were set up parallel. We had to choose any one of the balance beams to walk across in order to proceed to the next segment. After biking and running, my leg muscles were a bit wobbly, but I managed to get across the balance beams without falling off.
Shortly after starting the fourth segment, I passed my sister. This round of biking for me wasn’t as hard as the first. With somewhat drier terrain, and having learned the bike better, I continued on my way, only having to get off the bike a few short times for big hills or extra juicy spots.
Obstacle 4 – The giant inflatable wall. A giant inflatable wall (maybe 15 feet tall) stood in the way of the fifth and final leg of the race. In order to pass the obstacle, racers had to climb up the rope ladder on one side and slide down on the other side. The trickiest part of this obstacle was dealing with other people climbing at the same time.
Running the fifth segment of the race, I was back into familiar territory with the course doubling back over the first part. Finally in the home stretch, my sister caught up to me on the bike. In the final loop, we came across a ditch of mud and water we had to run through. For a second, I thought this was the infamous mud pit, but the finish was nowhere in sight.
A voice called out, “stay to the right!”
I wondered why they wanted me to stay right, but I found out all to soon. I hit a hidden deep spot in the mud river and in less than a second everything below my neck disappear into the water. I scrambled up and pushed on, the roaring of the crowd getting closer.
However muddy I was from falling in the ditch, I was about to become much, much more muddy.
With the flag lines running across the mud pit, I had no choice but to get down and dirty in the mud. After crawling through the mud pit for what must have been nearly 100 meters, only the finish line awaited.
My sister and I, team name the Mud Diggers, finished in a time of 48:48, good for second place in our division and 97th place overall. Muddy mission accomplished.