This past weekend, I ran – no really, I ran – in the fall installment of the Rugged Maniac in Phoenix. The event was held at Camelback Ranch where the White Sox and the back-to-back World Series losers L.A. Dodgers have their Spring Training facilities.
This is the fifth or sixth time doing a Rugged Maniac and despite all hype surrounding Spartan Race and Tough Mudder, Rugged Maniac sits atop the list of my favorite obstacle course races (OCR). The obstacles, festival area, crowds, prices, etc. make for an all around enjoyable time.
Let me say this: volunteering at these events can be a wonderful experience. Yeah, yeah – I get a free race registration which, being completely honest, would be the top reason for doing so. Yet every time, volunteering just seems to become more special (if that’s the right word) and I look forward to it almost as much as the race itself.
From the buff elites to the still-trying-to-get-in-good-shape weekend warriors (to put in nicely), races like this appeal to, literally, all shapes and sizes of athletes.
There were first time racers, experienced runners, families, couples, co-workers, one racer who was 73-years old and kids as young as 12 (although I’d guess a few skirted the rules and were even younger than that.)
In any case, everyone that day went through the same race and had to do the same obstacles. And whether you smiled as you crossed the finish line or cursed at the growing bruise on your forearm, everyone earned the same finisher medal.
On Saturday, I volunteered at Full Tilt; which is essentially monkey bars but with a drop. To start, the monkey bars tilt at an incline but as racers reach the half-way point, they drop to a downward angle. Most people handled this pretty well, though the sudden drop caused more than a few to lose their grip and fall.
There were those who simply knew their limitations and chose to bypass Full Tilt. Yet there were others who tried over and over (and over) again, determined to get across those bars. I did my best to encourage everyone on and to provide any tips that became known.
It’s such a great feeling to witness someone who might have doubts, or might even be scared to try, work their ass off and get through it.
At one point, a pair of firemen in full gear (helmets, coats, pants, air-tanks, boots) approached the obstacle. I’m not sure what impressed me more: them doing the entire race in full gear or the ease of which they completed Full Tilt and moved on to the barbed-wire crawl.
Maybe they were raising awareness for a cause or were perhaps just showing the world that firemen can be bad-asses. Either way, they earned an awful lot of respect.
My Rugged Maniac experience
Just like Natalie Imbruglia before me, I’m Torn. Torn between making this about others versus allowing a little of the spotlight to shine upon myself.
Then again, a primary purpose of the internet, social media and blogging is ego-driven, shameless, self-promotion. So here we are…
Saturday’s Rugged Maniac was one my better efforts in an OCR in while. No doubt the flat, short, course played a role in that. My overall time was 55:05 – which comes to about a 17:46 per mile pace. Throw in a few short bottlenecks at obstacles, a stiff back, sore calves, bad running form and other age-related aches and pains – I’m pretty happy with that effort.
At the same time, Saturday marked the first time I completed the monkey bars since I started doing these races back in 2011 (though there was no doubt watching the success and failures of others for about four hours helped.)
I did, however, miss running with my wife. When she did her first Rugged Maniac two years ago, we were both caked with mud (and perhaps a little horse dung) but were all smiles afterwards hanging out with friends. At least that’s how I’ll always remember it. Having her and/or the Terror Twins on course provides an even added level of enjoyment.
So what else can I say? It was the second Rugged Maniac of the year and the sixth event of 2018. I’m not sure yet what next year will bring other than a Spartan Sprint and Tough Mudder already on the docket. There’ll be more, though. There has to be. This is too addictive of a sport.
Besides, as I recently quipped on Instagram, I’ve done worse things for a free beer.