by Jeff Cole
Pure fun! That is how I would simply describe the atmosphere at this awesome race. Everyone was there to rally around a good cause, and it was easy to tell that everyone there was having a blast. All of the people I encountered on Sunday had smiles on their faces and were laughing and having the time of their lives out there. I’ve never seen anything like it. Even the staff and volunteers were having a great time doing their jobs. While I was grabbing my bag after the race, I came across a volunteer who was dancing and making everyone else around him laugh. I have not seen this type of pure joy at other races. Sure, a challenging race can be enjoyable, but it can also be stressful and demanding. MuckFest was neither of those. The people I raced with during my wave time were all kind and friendly. I was racing by myself for this one, so it was nice that others included me in conversations and while waiting in line for obstacles. By far this race had the most inclusive people I’ve ever run with. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience during my first MuckFest MS race.
There are two important details you should know about this race. First, MuckFest takes fundraising for multiple sclerosis very seriously. 100% of the donations that individuals and teams raise go directly to the National MS Society. Per the MuckFest MS website, this race has raised an incredible $23,492,195! At this event alone the participants raised over $600,000. This further proves the wonderful nature and giving spirit of people you’ll get to meet out there on race day. Second, people fighting MS run this race with everyone else. These people find the courage to not let MS prevent them from overcoming the challenge of an obstacle race. Anyone who answered “I have MS” during the registration process received a special bandana to wear during race day. It was inspiring to see the bravery these people had as they started the race, completed the obstacles and crossed the finish line.
Out of all the OCR events I’ve been to, this course was by far the most unique. At one point we were running through backyards of homes on the property. I’ve never done that before. The course was roughly three miles and flat, for the most part. The course wound its way through open cornfields for a majority of the race. With the heavy rain this area experienced on Friday, the course was very muddy, and it made for some tricky navigation at certain points along the way. Before starting the race, I noticed that everyone who finished was caked in mud. This was the true definition of a mud run.
I enjoyed this course because it wasn’t overly challenging, but it also had some struggle points, so I didn’t get too comfortable. I had to keep an eye on the ground so that I didn’t lose my shoes or my balance in mud. That caution paid off, because I still have two muddy shoes and no bruises from a nasty fall. Overall, it was a very organized course and allowed people to spread out if they chose to run or jog. This kept everyone moving at a decent pace, which prevented it from getting bottlenecked along the way. I only had to wait at two of the obstacles (Flying Muckers & Crash Landing). Both were well worth the short wait time.
My race season has been off to a good start when it comes to all the different obstacles I’ve encountered, and MuckFest certainly didn’t disappoint. They had some fun and challenging obstacles out there for us. For the first time this season I completed all of the obstacles. I even completed all the water obstacles that required swimming, even though I probably shouldn’t have, since I can’t swim. All of the obstacles were too good to pass up.
They took some of the normal obstacles you’ll see at any OCR and added something a little different or a small twist to each one. For example, the Spider Web obstacle, required racers to go under the first time then over the second time. The course then circled back around and ended up going over. The tricky part about going under was not getting caught on the bungee cords and ending up stuck. Unfortunately for me, my hat got caught so I couldn’t get out until I figured out how to untangle it. Going over the Spider Web proved difficult as well. Instead of a typical A-Frame cargo net obstacle, they added a flat section I had to crawl over to get to the other side. One wrong move and my leg or arm would have fallen through the cargo net hole.
My favorite obstacle was the Flying Muckers. It was a zip line over a pit of water. It was a lot of fun and pretty hilarious to watch everyone else do it. Some people would drop into the water as soon as they left the platform. Others would make it all the way across with no issues. This obstacle will definitely be a contender for my obstacle awards list after race season is finished.
MuckFest offers individual changing pods (zip-up tent structures) for everyone. What a brilliant idea! They made it so much easier and more comfortable to change. In a communal changing tent it’s usually hard to find room and keep track of your stuff at the same time. This wasn’t the case with the changing pods. I could take my time and easily keep track of all my clothes. This was such an awesome little detail that other races should consider.
MuckFest distributed a pretty nice cotton finisher t-shirt with all the event locations listed on the back. In addition to the typical race SWAG, they also gave out goodie bags with a Nature Valley bar, banana, and cookie in it. Abbvie, their National Sponsor, was offering a nice drawstring mud bag complete with plastic bags and a pretty cool headband. I love free stuff!
My girlfriend, Eve, informed me the Traveler Grapefruit Ale was delicious.
Even though my girlfriend didn’t participate in this event, all the volunteers offered her the same free stuff they offered me. I thought this was very nice of them. But, unlike me, she does not like free stuff.
In my wave time I raced with the Fight MS Now. They raised the most amount of money for the event. They reached a total of $8,000. What an amazing accomplishment for a team of only five people. They were rewarded for their efforts and got to wear GoPro cameras during the race courtesy of MuckFest. Way to go!
During the race, I met a team of 46 people, called Pace Pushers. That was pretty impressive. It’s hard enough to manage a team of five.
Registration and bag check were quick and easy. They also had the bags in a secure tent with a cover so it wouldn’t get wet.
For those participants who raised $100 or more, MuckFest rewarded them with medals for their generous contributions.
Due to expected bad weather, they made a last minute decision to use a shuttle service on Sunday instead of onsite parking. The email came out Saturday informing us of two locations we could park at to catch the shuttle. This ran extremely smoothly considering it was organized last minute.
If you want to have a great time, donate to an awesome cause, get muddy and try different obstacles then I highly recommend signing up for a MuckFest near you. This race had everything I could want in an OCR. Everyone was so nice and the event worked flawlessly. I hope MuckFest returns in 2017, because I will definitely be there.