Ugly Mudder in Yellow: Race Report

I don’t know what it is but the Goofy got me into the back to back racing thing or I just don’t know when to call it a day.  Either way, when I was looking for races on Races2Run I saw this race the day after the Frostbite 5 Miler called the Ugly Mudder.  Now, my man Dave has gotten on me and nagged me and extolled the virtues of trail running and racing.  I have kind of stayed away from them with all of my road running aspirations ahead I did not want to risk getting injured.  I have already been injured and that recovery was tough enough.  I knew I was not going to avoid it forever but I figured I could do it on my terms.  Well there was the Ugly Mudder staring at me and it was the day after another race.  I thought about it and thought it would be a nice easy run.  It was on a Sunday (Long Run Day) so it would be more like a short long run at just 7.25 miles.  Easy was the best way to describe the drive into Reading, PA not the run.  There was nothing easy about this.

So there I was.  I woke up nice and early on Sunday and was considering going into Philly for a nice 20 miler for a training run.  It was about that time for a good long run around the river.  I sort of sat around waiting.  The Ugly Mudder did not start till 11 and I was not sure I would do it.  A training run was looking appealing.  Yeah, that’s right I thought a 20 mile run is more appealing than a 7.25 mile run.  Why are you looking so funny at me like that. 

Time wore on and Rachael finally woke up and I decided to I should grow a set and run this race.  I got myself ready and we were off.  The best part is that I didn’t actually know how far Reading was from home.  It is a good haul.  Either way, we get through the obscure directions:

Go 3 miles until road splits at Wachovia Bank.  300 yds later, JUST PAST Arners Restaurant, take right onto Glen Rd (sign missing, look for “Stokesay Castle” sign visible at last moment).  At end of Glen, turn right and then take your next right just 50 yards ahead.  Or follow the signs to Stokesay, the Liederkrantz driveway is right next to it.  

See what I mean.  It was messy and they parking was actually right next to the start line but the registration was a half mile up the road.  I mean UP!  All good.  I even got a cool shirt with a witch on the front.  I pin the number and leave my deposit at the little runners room and then head for the start line.  There are a bunch of us milling about waiting for things to start.  No matter, some guy who I assume to be someone in chargestarts yelling into the crowd a set of instructions.  Most has to do with if you get injure you are on your own.  Don’t stop to help any injured because they belong to the woods now and that kind of stuff.  He says to follow the orange flags that are posted every 15 feet to quarter mile apart.  He says that there will some aid station with water and at miles 4.25 and 5.75 there will be aid stations with alternative refreshment for those trying to kick that nasty water habit. 

Well, more babble/instructions that I cannot hear because the runner have turned into a bunch of kids waiting in Homeroom.  No big deal.  I am sure I will just follow and make my way through everything.  At this point is starting to snow.  What a treat.  It snows in the mountains of Pennsylvania and I am just beaming. 

We start and the first part is actually paved.  About a half mile up hill.  Nothing bad but a good way to start.  I am actually getting a little winded which is weird.  Maybe it is from racing yesterday and going out fast now.  I had no reason to be winded at this point and I had no need to go fast either.  We then turned to the trail and stopped.  Welcome to technical single track with lots of people.  The fact that they called this a trail was ludicrous because many of us went around to another “trail” to get around the back up and it was just as undefined. 

We were tredging up this very uneven path with way to many people.  What we were doing could hardly be called running as much as fast paces hiking and climbing.  When a few of us tried to go around a back up we tended to end up right back where we were in the first place behind the same people.  Then it came.  It was a hill and it was for climbing.  There was footing probably 30 minutes ago but now it was trampled down.  As I climbed to the top, a volunteer at the top said, “don’t worry, the leader had to walk here too.” 

This is when I thought and said, “What was I thinking I am a Road Racer.”  This gave everybody a much needed chuckle.  I was brought back to just the day before when I was complaining to myself about some weak ass frozen mud path.  I soon started to run down the hill I had just climbed. I was interesting to have trees come flying by and branches offering there help to stabilize me as I place one foot over one uneven surface after another.  This is when my next mistake was noticed.  I had my glasses on and they were fogged.  I was not going fast enough to keep them clear and the snow was just going to stick and keep them fogged.  Well, an added level of complexity and I was still going.  Down, down and further down.  The trees were a big help as I needed some stability at times and some thing to help with the brakes as I momentum rose. 

Then the crowd in front was stopping again.  We had come to a road but it was 6 feet down.  I grabbed a flexible tree trunk and rode it down to the road.  Aw, road my good friend where have you been.  I missed you so.  Then 15 feet later we left my Happy Place and back to the trail.  It was a little easier at this point so we were all running but it was not to last.  Lets face it this was a race designed by sadists for masochists.  Turn to the right and turn to the up.  Rocks, trees, orange flags and not much that could have been defines as more than deer tracks. 

My ankles were in total pain, my calves were tense and starting to cramp and the down hill had already hammered my quads but no matter the race went on.  And it was getting fun.  At this point I grabbed onto a fallen tree branch and it snapped off.  How fortunate because it was the perfect hiking stick.  I used it to help at some climbing points and when we hit another flat I kept it.  Then it came into sight.  I am in Reading, PA of all the things I was expecting to see a Pagoda was the last on that list.  Okay, Angelina Jolie was a tie as well but there it was the Reading Pagoda.  A freak’in pagoda in the middle of nowhere PA on top of a mountain overlooking the Lehigh Valley.  How awesome.  I ran under it and around and back out.  At this point I thought that carrying a 5.5 foot stick may be comber some so I pitched. 

No runners where harmed in the previous pitching but two cyclists, four deer, a volunteer and a Buick sought medical attention from the incident.

I crossed anther friendly road and back to the trails I went.  There was a day care to the left at one point.  It was Sunday and no kids were present.  A good thing I am sure that some of us were hungry enough to eat a small child at that point.  Any how, I saw a sign that said this is where the runners of last years course would see the unfamiliar.  It was all a surprise to me so keep the signs out of my sight.  I need to be looking down except for mile markers. 

Wait, where were the mile markers.  Oh this is trail race and mile markers are for road races.  How silly of me.  A much needed aid station with water came into view and I learned that running trails with water has got to be funny from a second or third person point of view.

I never realized what a fuss going over fallen trees was till this day.  The old question of “If a tree falls in a wood and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” was answered. 

The answer:  Who cares because now there is place to put a new trail race path. 

I swear the orange tags were weaving to hit every fallen tree in the area and not at a right angle.  You had to hit them at a turn and go for the next like slalom.  I love these guys for the separation of men and boys.  I was a boy going in.  I may become a crying girl by the end. 

And just as I was wondering where we might be in regards to the finish line I saw a mile marker.  Actually, it was the 4.25 miler marker.  I was getting closer to an aid station and I saw many cup and one was shoved into my had and I was told “It’s made from natural ingredients.”  I looked down at the beer in my hand and then grabbed a water from the next person. I tasted the water and it was okay.  I threw the rest to ground and proceeded to down the beer.  Yum.  My very first beer during a race or any run.   I then proceeded to run down hill over very uneven rocks and stumps.  It really helped that I had an empty stomach, was slightly dehydrated and my glasses were fogged up.  One of my smartest moves. I then realized that I saw other runners going on the other side of the aid station picking up beverages of choice.  That was the 4.25/5.75 mile aid station. That meant I had a least another mile to get back to the aid station.

Well, for the first time is little while we started to bunch up again.  There was a 4 foot diameter fallen tree in the way.  There was enough room to crawl under which some people were doing or you could climb over.  And I mean climb.  This is when I said out loud again, “I am a road racer”  More laughs then there ten steps later there was a rock wall maybe 3 feet high.  Over that and were actually running up hill again.  We hit another hill and this time hands hit ground as we scraped our way up.  A few breaths and we were running again.

Now to this point nothing bad had happened.  A few stumbles and ankles twisted with the terrain but no falling.  I was following close behind the person in front of me and I did not see him go over the rock in the path.  I did not exactly step over it as much as try to run my foot through it.  As my upper body momentum continued my lower body came to a dead stop.  As I reach out to brace the fall I caught the guy in front of me.  Needless to say he got and Ass full of hand.  His ass had saved me and I thanked him by complimenting him and confirming that he must work out.  After a few seconds of uncomfortable silence I told there was no reason for it to get weird.  But as affairs like these go it always gets weird and a couple of minutes later he started to pick up the pace.  Well, thanks anyway and yes it was good for me. 

Beer glorious beer.  Sure I really needed some water and i got some but then came the beer.  Oh how tasty and the way it sloshed around in my stomach made things extra special. 

We started heading up hill some more and that was when I realized I was running through this fantastic scenery and had seen none of it.  What a waste.  Well, the path 3 feet in front of me was beautiful in an abstract art kind of way.  You could tell the pain the artist was going through when he came up with it.  I hit the top of the hill actually running when I turned down the hill to see a sign something to the effect of “The path of fallen trees.”  They weren’t kidding.  It was mine field of fallen trees then the next sign said “And runners too.”  Bastards!!!  Shuffle, shuffle, step over, step over, find footing, for the love of god don’t step on a tree they are slippery.  Then more running down hill.  I don’t know if I had a single solid footing.  It was just step and find the next step quick before the last one fails. 

Then over or was it through and actual ditch and we were on road.  The road actually extended about 200 meters.  What joy.  I took off.  I can handle road with my eyes closed.  Then all of a sudden the runners I was about to pass swerved right in front of me.  The two doberman pinschers in the yard to the right were heading for us at full speed.  Then the turned away.  I love invisible fences.  We took off again and hit a dirt trail and then came my one and only twisted ankle.  I couldn’t believe it as I screamed in agony but kept the pace up.  I slowed down as I saw the start line across the pond and quickly realized it was not the finish line.

The course took us down a cliff of a grass hill, jumping off of a two foot rock wall across the road to another flat path.  I saw something in the distance and realized it was a bunch of cheertators at the top of a hill.  Not a hill but a 30 foot accent with in about 5 feet length.  But first I had to negotiate the ditch in front of me. 

As anybody should I attacked the accent and damn near bounced off of it.  Clawing hands and feet I got my self steady and went.  At the mid point I saw a better path to the right quickly crab walked there and proceed on up.  The words of encouragement were flying my way driving me forward.  I knew the finish had to be up here.  If it wasn’t… well there was that possibility. 

The top offered no actual path out to the open.  I had to crawl under some branches and some yelled that the finish was just down the row of cars.  It was as I turned to the finish my legs were jelly but I started running.  I saw Space and Rachael there and the clock that said 1:31 something.  I was stunned.  It could have been 3 hours for all I knew.

I hit the finish line and yelled, “A new PR.”  and it was.  I had never run a 7.25 mile race before and it was an instant PR.  There I was finished in 1:32:09 in a 12:33 pace.  I have run through blizzards, on sheets of ice, injured through the second half of marathon, a marathon the day after a half marathon, dehydrated, on big hills and the list goes on but I have never been tested like I was at the Ugly Mudder.  I said earlier that my ankles, calves, and quads were in pain but at this point nothing hurt.  Sure I was sore but I had just the most amazing experience and so much fun.  Sure I am a road racer but I now understand the trail bug.  I got it.  I cannot wait for next year or even the next trail race.

The finish was amazing as well, I got some powdered eggs and pancakes with liquefied sugar then we went into the restaurant/bar to listen to some blue grass band.  They played  a cover of Nirvana’s All Apologies.  It was amazing and a perfect tribute on the weekend of Kurt’s birthday.  Rest in peace Kurt, you life was awesome let you death be more so.  They wouldn’t play Free-birdbut nothing is perfect.  Then I looked up at stage left and there was fucking Bart Yasso.  Yes, you heard it, the Chief Running Officer of Runners World was there pimping his book.  The man who got me through Physical Therapy was chatting it up.  What an awesome day and I still had to drive back to Delaware and go swimming with the Rachael.

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