Rugged Maniac – September 2011
September 24th 2011
The Event: The Rugged Maniac recently held in Southwick was a 5k Adventure Run billed as being designed by the Navy SEALs and combining “the most rugged terrain and burly obstacles”. It’s also not billed as a “race” but as a “race and music festival”.
Getting There & Parking: Getting there was a breeze since it was being held at an easily Google-able race track. There weren’t any signs prior to the track, but there wasn’t much of a need for them. Parking was easy and handled well by the event organizers.
Check-in & Logistics: Check-in was as smooth as their previous event. Instead of alphabetical lines, they were done by bib number. They sent out a link to find your number earlier in the week, and they also had a large board for those people (me) that didn’t check that link. The signs were again hand-written, but at least they were discernible from a distance this time. One thing I’d recommend is have the shirts at each check-in station or at the end of the race to prevent people from having to wait in two lines right off the bat.
The Schwag: Racers got a pretty nice t-shirt at check-in. It’s simple, good quality, and not checkered with sponsors like a Nascar. You also get a free drought beer. That was it though. In my opinion, that is fine. Unless an organization goes above and beyond like providing free food or some other nice gear, I don’t mind not getting a bag full of Sunday paper type free samples.
The Race: I couldn’t help but think of my journey as I stood at the starting line. This event last year at this location was my first ever adventure run, and in reality, my first ever competitive race. I had nerves and lingering questions about my readiness for a race, but ultimately it led to the creation of this website. Now almost exactly a year later, I’m standing at the start line a veteran of many tough adventure runs, and I have a backpack full bricks and beer, and I’m carrying a 16kg kettlebell ready to get after it. My plan is to push hard and shotgun at least a beer per mile.
The starting line itself is jumping. There is a DJ counting down and getting you amped up to race with the music blasting. I met a few people who thought I was crazy and a cool dude, Priestley, who was hoping to redeem himself against his friend this year. This is the first race I’ve done where I didn’t get as close to the front as possible since I knew I would be SLOW. Before I know it, the starting horn sounds, and we’re off into the course.
The course opening was a long trail run up and down some steep hills. There was some mud and water here from the week’s rains, but it was nothing serious. Also scattered in here were a few dirt mounds to climb over. I liked this approach to the opening course. It allowed the pack to spread out with faster racers rushing ahead. This was a long stretch here leading into the first of the obstacles: a series of walls to jump over. I think the tallest was 6’ or so and they all had those helper boards to step on.
It was here I decided to pause for my first nutrient break, broke out an ice cold Coors Light, stabbed it with my knife, and commenced shotgunning that thing like I was poisoned and the beer was the antidote. It got a few laughs, and I had to laugh too. This was the first time I heard somebody yell, “Hey, you go kettlebell guy!” and it wouldn’t be the last. I smashed the can with my feet, threw it in my pocket (don’t litter, kids), and started off over the walls. After the walls was a pile of tree stumps you had to carefully pick your way over before getting to the next wall. The next wall was about 10-12‘ high and made of staggered planks of wood, so you could climb it like a ladder.
And then it’s off into a moderately long, wide trail run again. If I was legitimately racing, I would have loved this section. It really allows the pack to separate out based on speed because of the easy passing. I think this helps alleviate congestion at obstacles since huge packs of runners aren’t getting there at the same time. My arms were getting tired of carrying the kettlebell at this point, so I wasn’t going as fast as I wanted here as I burst from the trail into a steep downhill leading into the next of the obstacles, the tire barrier. This is simply just a bunch of tires hanging down from a wooden frame that you need to run through. It’s not so much an “obstacle” since anybody capable of forward motion can make it through.
The tires led into the hardest obstacle last year, the motocross track. The mud… the hills… the weight… the misery… This is where shit got real. I was having fun, moving slow but moving well, but when those muddy hills hit, I started to really slag under the heavy weight. I am used to being near the front of my wave, so it was a different experience being near the back of it. At times, it was almost like I had the course to myself. I really got a chance to cheer on my fellow racers as the folks near the back tended to have a tougher time with the obstacles. “You can do this no problem!” “Just keep putting one foot in the front of the other!” “Earn that free beer!” I really liked it.
Mixed in with the hills were a few more walls to scale. Again they all had that extra aid step, but they were a little taller this time around; maybe 7’-8’. After that, it was onto the crawling tunnels. I was actually thankful to toss the kettlebell aside and get submerged in some semi-cool water. I felt like I was cooking now. I passed some girls looking on asking why I was doing this. “Are you a firefighter?” No. “Are you in the service?” No. I’m just an idiot. That seemed to be the right answer because they all started laughing. What the hell? It’s as good a place as any. I stopped and shotgunned another beer. They cheered me on and would eventually follow me a lot of the way through the course.
Shortly after I shotgunned my second beer in 30 minutes, I got to the stump jumping obstacle. It’s where you have to jump from log stump to log stump in order to get by it. Two beers in 30 minutes is usually no problem. Hell I do that before I fly, and I’m a commercial pilot. (kidding) However two beers combined with sweating my ass off under weight is a totally different story and jumping those log stumps was a lot harder than it should have been. That lead right into a steep, muddy, rope-assisted climb and a lot more muddy hills. After the first long slide of the day, it was into the stinkiest, waist-high mud I’ve ever been in, and that’s saying something.
This finally brought me into the stands. I made my way in front of the crowds to cheers of “kettlebell guy!” and tongue in cheek comments like “you’re my hero”. I love a good ball busting as much as anybody else, so I stop in front of the crowd, drop my pack and kettlebell, take out a beer, and I shotgun in front of the stands. If I didn’t have people cheering before, they were now. It was a pretty cool experience to tell you the truth, and it re-energized me. After that, I gear up, throw my kettlebell up a hill, and climb over a wall with the help of a rope.
All amped up, I “run” (eg walk quickly) off into the muddy bowels of the motocross track. Along the way, I bumped into a girl that recognized the pack, the idiocy, or both. She yelled “GoRuck!” as she was coming up behind me. Turns out she hasn’t completed a challenge yet, but she’s in the Providence class this October. Good luck! Then, I found the first barbed wire crawl. Real barbed wire this year. Thumbs up, Rugged Maniac. They had volunteers spraying the crap out of racers with fire hoses too. Good family fun. After that, more muddy hills awaited before the second barbed wire crawl. It was a short uphill jaunt after that to the base of the second slide platform and a quick climb to the top. It was there I heard I had gained a bit more fanfare as shouts of “Go Paul!” and “Kettlebell guy!” greeted me. I took a quick breather after the climb, and I jumped on the slide. I hit the water and was nearly dragged under because of the kettlebell. Never one to disappoint, I shot out of the water standing up into a kettlebell press.
This wasn’t the end of the water obstacle though because after that was a series of pipes, which I assumed were over-unders. I ducked under some and dove over the others before climbing out of the pit. More muddy track running was waiting to kick me in the butt one last time before getting to the cargo net. I was up and over quick, but not before throwing a seriously mean face while jumping from the top. Concentration is ugly on me. What can I say? I’m actually starting to feel pretty good at this point and start picking up my pace into a real trot. I cross over what could only be the remnants of a put out fire (no fire jump I guess) and turn the corner to what I saw was the finish line.
I don’t know if I was more disappointed or more happy to see that finish line. I feel like my body had finally adjusted and was willing to put out. On the flip side, that crap wasn’t easy. In the mood to finish strong, I was running as fast as I could to the finish while doing kettlebell presses. DONE! And it only took around 1:15. Not bad considering my course time last year was 0:24. Hmmm… maybe weights do hit back.
The Verdict: This was a huge upgrade over their 2010 event. The course was much better and their already good after party got better because they had a much better drink purchase layout. This went from an event that I was not looking forward to reviewing to an event that I’d happily do again in 2012. I’m going to place it at #2 for my Sunday Stroll rankings. I feel this is a very well rounded event in terms of course quality and entertainment. However these are ultimately about the course and with a few minor adjustments like throwing in 2-3 more challenging obstacles, this could take the top spot from the current place holder. That said, adventure run rookies and veterans alike would like this type of course. If a Rugged Maniac is coming near you, I’d definitely jump on it.
I’d also like to thank all the racers and spectators that cheered me on during this race. It reminded me to have fun with it, and it really made all that extra weight seem like it wasn’t even there. My back definitely realized it was there this morning, but that’s just an excuse to shotgun more beers if you ask me. Thanks again!