Storming the Castle: Mud Endeavor’s March 7th Castle Canyon OCR Review
By Morgan Wright of Team MudRunFun
Normally there’s a rough idea of how far I’m willing to travel for an obstacle course race – two and a half hours tops and ONLY if they are offering the freshest of bananas post-race. Castle Canyon broke this “rule” by a full thirty minutes…and yet here I was, on the interstate heading north.
There were two main reasons for this, with the first being the amount of fun I had at the previous Castle Canyon race – which receives the name from an old three-story concrete block building that has been thoroughly gutted and marks the focal point for the race itself. It really does add a tangible something to the pre-race excitement, and makes an excellent photo-op backdrop.
The second reason is that Mud Endeavor as a brand is one of the few OCR’s in Florida that will let younger athletes run the adult course provided you sign the appropriate waivers and accompany your child. For those of us with active kids, it’s literally a present from the Divine. I’ve never been a huge fan of “hey kids, Dad is gonna go roll through mud, climb ropes and cargo nets, jump over trees and get super dirty – and you can’t come…sorry!”
So with the entire clan of me, my wife, my daughter and my son we were ready to storm the castle. The general first impression of any race is “can I even FIND you?” Thankfully, there was plenty of solid signage, so despite my temperamental GPS we arrived with no problems. Parking was ten bucks, but I’ve accepted that as a cost for any race. I did note that there was now a spectator fee of $5, but given that spectators must be planned for logistically (port-o-lets, food vending, venue space issues etc.) it’s understandable. Further, five bucks is dirt cheap compared to what some national races are “requesting” as a spectator fee!
Parking was painless and the walk from there to the central venue hub was maybe a two minutes (Take note of that, Warrior Dash!) and clearing registration was cake. The volunteers were cheerful efficient which helped expedite the process. Announcements via the DJ were loud enough to carry across the venue, which is quite helpful as I’m a tad hard of hearing and the morning music was great for pumping up the first wave of elite racers, where I found myself warming up.
The MC for the event was quite entertaining. While other races have gone to a “we are gonna motivate you SO hard you will need TWO scoops of pre-workout powder!” the bloke for this day was quirky, energetic and had great timing of humor. The rules for the elite wave (and subsequent times later) were articulated well, with no questions left unanswered. After a five second count-down, we were OFF!
For the first half mile or so, the main challenge consisted of going up and down the rolling hills. I appreciate when races are smart enough to have this initial space – it lets the initial rush of runners to break apart and feed into obstacles as a steady stream, rather than one massive clump where people either wait or try to elbow past (neither of which are acceptable in my book). We hit some water stretches to plod through, rocks to climb up, a “steep” hill if you’re a Floridian, culminating to the first butt-kicker of an obstacle – the monkey ropes/bars. Elites had to try to reach rope-to-rope Tarzan style, and the open waves (or an Elite if they failed twice) had the metal bar option. As a nice twist, the bars weren’t horizontal like usual monkey bars, but were vertical – so you had to go sideways.
Soon after, we hit the traverse wall which thankfully was not only of sturdy build but also had grab ropes as well for the later waves. This gave an extra grip when navigating as well as adding innovation to an otherwise staple obstacle for most races.
Ahh the hills…both awesome and terrible at the same time, there were multiple points where you either climbed up the side of a hill using a rope to pull yourself at an angle, or down while using the rope to keep from turning your run into a fall. Just before the third mile we were given a break on the hills and greeted with a large (and again, very sturdy) cargo net climb which was immediately followed by a cinder block drag. From here we hit a soul-sucker if an incline, and then raced to the last obstacle, a net crawl just before the finish. In theory, we were to “climb” the net from our backs, i.e. no “rolling, crawling allowed. In reality, while secured well, the net itself was too low to the ground and my back now looks like it’s been massaged with a cheese grater. Kudos to the race directors who later changed the way this obstacle could be completed so others could avoid this scratchy fate!
Crossing the finish line gave a definite sense of accomplishment; Mud Endeavor was clever to have it parallel to the center walk through of the venue. This gave finishers more people clapping and cheering on their victory as they came in. Speaking of coming in, the process was quite streamlined – the photographer snapped you as you finished, you immediately received a nice 3” medal, the required banana (which was SO fresh) and a bottle of water. There were other food options available on site as well, with reasonable prices (I could mention Savage and their $10 chicken, but I’ll just sit here quietly –sipping my tea, not judging). I do wish the lanyard of the medal had some flair instead of a solid black; perhaps the Mud Endeavor logo so that way it would be interchangeable from race to race? The Elite wave awards were great; a nice 4” flashy round medallion, with a logo-ed lanyard. I ended up tying for third place, which I was very happy with – a huge jump up from the ninth place last year!
Overall, Castle Canyon was a pretty huge hit in my book. There is a glut of OCR’s on the market, and many national chains have been steadily digging into the crowd that normally might support smaller venue runs. Mud Endeavor gave us, the mud-loving challenge craving crowd exactly what we wanted – a unique course (with a castle!), sturdy obstacles, solid music and a venue worth returning for, all at a reasonable price. My moose hat is off to you, and I’ll make sure to see you again next year!
Who is Morgan? Morgan is an elementary school physical education teacher, devoted husband and father, Veteran, and avid obstacle course runner with team Team MudRunFun. If you ever see a moose hat at a Florida race, it’s most likely him – don’t be shy to say hi!