By Walter F Hendrick (OCRSandy)
At this point, finding new obstacle course races that I have yet to run and are worth traveling for are becoming harder and harder to find. Mud Ninja happens to be one of those races. I had heard only great feedback and I was also aware they had a really sweet Ninja throwing star finisher medal, so I decided that even though I was going to be in Montreal, Canada for the Spartan Canada Beast on Sunday I wanted to first drive to Ohio (from NY) and run Mud Ninja on Saturday.
- Registration and Festival:
Registration was broken down by sections of the alphabet and all the lines (at least while I was near them) moved smooth and quick.
The festival area was set up with several of the Mud Ninja signature obstacles within a very short walking distance which was cool and I noticed a great deal of racers being cheered on my family and friends at most of these obstacles. I don’t race often in the Midwest, but it was impressive to see how many spectators were around these obstacles cheering racers on.
- The Course:
The course started out a little different than I am typically used to, racers got in a roped off line and would be sent out every few minutes. The course started out by entering the woods and leaving the festival area and it didn’t take long to realize that hidden in the woods was some pretty tough hills to go both down and then back up. The majority of the obstacles in the deep woods were natural terrain obstacles, but that by no means is meant to suggest that they were easy. One thing I noticed about some of the harder terrain climbs was they used a very thin rope that, on a wet and muddy day, was not easy to grip and use to climb up the hills.
The course eventually made its way back to the festival area and it was time to attempt some of the harder and more challenging obstacles. Some of the obstacles in this section of the course were a very tough and challenging warped wall, which by the time I got to it had a decent amount of mud on it that only made it harder. Another cool and challenging obstacle was a leap off these launch ramps over water and attempting to grab a rope net and then climb up to the top of the obstacle. If you missed the rope net, you would land in the water and could attempt to climb a rope up to the above mentioned rope nets. This obstacle was no joke and racers really need to have no fear and commit to the leap to the rope net. Another obstacle just next to these two was what I am going to call sliced tire monkey rings to traverse across without again falling in the water.
The course included several crawls, one being a mud crawl, another was black drainage pipes to crawl through and also worth mentioning was a black tarp crawl through mud, which had some rubber snakes tossed in it to mess with racers minds. Other obstacles also not far from the festival area were a large metal pipe that required assistance to climb up and then a fun small water slide into water that was about knee deep and a version of monkey bars called Gorilla Bars that had PVC pipes that rotated, so instead of gripping the PVC sections racers gripped the side structure sections to travers across.
After the above mentioned warped wall, I had what I like to call an ORC induced brain fart and I took a wrong turn and actually re-ran about a 1/2K of the beginning of the course again before I figured out I went the wrong way, so I had to back track my way back and ended up adding about 1K more to the course. Once back on the course, I made my way back into the woods and had to go down and back up several times, these sections of the course were pretty cool because it took us to a very steep and tough climb and at the top was someone playing drums which could be heard throughout the entire section of the valley that the course ran through. The climb, called ‘Widow Maker’ wasn’t as bad as it looked, but again, they used a very thin rope that was hard to grip and also concerned some racers that it may break. I made the mistake to tell the people I was climbing next to that I am a Michigan Wolverine fan, so if the rope broke, I was going to go all the way down the climb for sure (lol).
Other obstacles on the course worth mentioning were a challenging rope traverse that unfortunately had a little delay, but that is to be expected with a rope traverse. Another cool looking and very challenging obstacle was a very high wall to climb (typically with help) up and then back down. I liked this wall a lot because it had in big words “Autism Speaks” on it. The venue also hosts motor bike races, so some of the terrain has been set up for dual use and they made for some hard core crawls both into and out of thick, deep mud pools, it was common to need assistance getting out of some of these deep mud sections as it was thick mud and really hard to get a good grip and climb out. The course also had a wooden ladder wall climb to climb up and back down that was fun.
The course eventually made its way back up to the festival area and finished with a crossing across a rope with the assistance of hanging ropes and then last but not least, one a series of mud mounds to labor through (I was exhausted at this point) and finished with a crawl.
- The Bling:
The bling included a really awesome Ninja throwing star which I can’t lie, was a major factor in why I wanted to do this race, and a white (my shirt didn’t stay white long) finisher shirt. I love the finisher medal and made sure to show it off at the Canada Spartan Beast the next day! I didn’t get one, but the top podium finishers in all age groups also receive a real Ninja sword which are just awesome!
- Overall Feelings and Event Rating:
I drove a long way for this race (over 600 miles) and I have no regrets, the course included several obstacles I haven’t seen before and the terrain and hills were no joke and made the 5K course fun but challenging.
The volunteers and staff were all awesome and helped make for an even better time. The bling is top notch, and provides one of the cooler and unique finisher medals in the sport (I was actually concerned about bringing it to Canada). Some of the obstacles were unique and made for a touch challenge, but I could see racers getting injured on a few, so I suggest using caution if you run the course next year. I am rating the course/event a 4.8 out of 5 stars.
- Pay It Forward:
I hate to close with a negative and this has nothing to do with the race, but I did notice a lot of racers that didn’t always pay it forward. What I mean is they would gladly take a hand to get up or out of an obstacle, but they would didn’t seem to way to do the same for others and would take off, leaving the person that helped them either still stuck in mud or sitting on the top of an obstacle helping a great deal of racers because no one offered to take over for them. I have raced very little in the Midwest, so I am not familiar with how things work, but with a course like Mud Ninja that has several obstacles designed to require assistance/team work, I would have liked to see more racers paying it forward and offering a hand to other racers. With that said, several of the obstacles did have volunteers stationed at them to help/assist racers. Maybe the lure of getting a sword (wish I got one) causes some racers to get tunnel vision and only worry about themselves?