Saturday, June 1, 2013

Miles of Mud....But No Burgers

Today was the inaugural running of Miles of Mud, a 4-mile obstacle and mud run with about
40 obstacles. This is a two-race series, the second of which takes place in November.  The event was held at Rocky Hill Ranch, a favorite venue of mine for mountain biking. Rocky Hill hosts numerous races throughout the year including the Warrior Dash and the Iron Warrior Dash, which I participated in this past March.

Miles of Mud claims to be different than the others. This from their site:

  • We give prize money to the top two participants in each category, male and female.
  • We have a separate prize for fastest boy and girl between the ages of 14 and 16 years.
  • We randomly hand out money before, during and after the race to participants and spectators.
  • This is a 2 race series – if you enter both races you can win up to $2500.00.
  • We pride ourselves on having a minimum of  30 obstacles for each race, about half of which have mud elements.
Registration calls out their all inclusive price - which covers parking, t-shirt, hamburger and 2 drinks. More about the claims in a bit....

Rocky Hill is an easy 50-minute drive from Austin so I left the house at 6:15 am. I was meeting some friends for an 8:00 start time, but I needed to swap a registration for one of them so I wanted to leave plenty of time in case there were issues with that.

I arrived a few minutes after 7:00, Josh and Lara has just arrived and Jonathon pulled in a few minutes later. Parking was easy as well as close, about 100 yards from check-in. Check-in was relativity easy; one table to fill out the registration form another to pick up the race bib, third to pick up timing chip and a fourth for ID check (for the beer afterward). There was also gear check - always a nice amenity, but not completely necessary at this particular race since parking was so close. The early crowd was minimal so the process was easy, but if it were busier, it could have been confusing since the tables and order that you had to visit them wasn't well marked.

So we checked in and got our numbers and timing chips. The numbers are the generic type, not branded which is a bummer, if you're like me, and you like to collect them. The timing chips are on a velcro ankle strap which are much nicer that the ones that need to be laced into your shoes.

With about 10 minutes to go the organizers made an announcement through a megaphone letting everyone know that the 8:00 am heat should be getting ready to go. I'm guessing that there were about 100 people in the heat. We moved toward the start line. With two minutes to go the MC with the megaphone made a short announcement about the course and the obstacles, although he was a bit hard to understand through the megaphone as it was cutting in and out.

At 8:00 am the cannon boomed and we were off. Yes, a cannon. A small, two foot long cannon was the starting gun. It was pretty cool and thunderous.

If you've been to Rocky Hill, you understand how it got its name. There are rocks everywhere, a lot of them the size of a flattened softball, sometimes larger. There are trails here that are made up entirely of these rocks. Ankles beware. The first mile or so is consists of trails such as these and most of the uphill of the course as well. It's warm and very humid this morning. The humidity coupled with the hills and rocks made for a tough time for the first two miles.

The obstacles were numerous, I didn't count but there were probably the 30 true obstacles. Here is a link to the obstacle list from the Miles of Mud website. I'm not going to describe them all, but I'll touch on a few.

Many of the obstacles are ones I've seen in other races. The over-unders and walls that have to be climbed or hurdled were used multiple times in this event. Although on their own, they are somewhat easy, there were a few sets in the last 1/2-mile that were tougher to traverse after 40 minutes of exertion.

I would say that the shear number of obstacles made them harder than they were. But
each one on its own was a little bush-league. There are also few obstacles on the list that I wouldn't truly count as obstacles; three connected hills, five ravines and/or cliffs, foot hills-gravel mounds to run over. These are just part of the terrain and to claim them as obstacles is a little misleading. Additionally the Ice Filled Dumpster was really a dumpster with a foot of chilly water in it with a cattle gate hanging inside horizontally, assumedly to crawl under, but I'm still not clear on that.

The terrain definitely makes this race a fun one and a tougher than average course. I tackled all of the obstacles with relative ease and came away mostly unscathed. A small hole in my favorite race shirt from some barbed-wire. Thankful it missed the skin.

As I crossed the finish line I didn't hear the familiar beep from the timing pad and I noticed that the timing clock was blank. Fortunately Jonathon's mother was at the finish line and I got an approximate finish time from her. I'm not sure if the timing was working or not and at this point I'm not even sure where or when they will be posted.

So I took off my timing chip and dropped it in the metal bucket just after the finish line. I started looking for water and food. Most races this would be set up in an obvious location, usually lining one or both sides of the finish line, but not here. After I walked over to the check-in area and inquired, I found out that it's in the 'Saloon', a wooden, patio building shelter of sorts between the finish line and the parking lot. I headed over there and noticed freshwater showers - nice touch, especially since a lot of races pump brown pond water through their showers. I rinsed off and I headed into the saloon and asked for some water. I was offered grape or lemon flavored bottled water. What??? How about some plain old water. Nope, not an option. So I chose lemon, which in my opinion, was the lesser of two evils. Unfortunately, not only is it flavored, but it's sweetened. Not really a good choice for the end of the race. By the way gives these products a F...

I wandered off to catch Josh and Lara on their last 300 yards of the race. There are are 8 or 9 obstacles in the home stretch so its a great place to spectate. They finished strong and we hung out a bit watching some other racers. There was a band setting up near the saloon so we headed to the cars to change clothes, coming back to enjoy some music and the included burgers and beer.

Foiled again. Burgers aren't on the grill yet. Granted it's early, about 10:00 am at this point
but we started at 8:00 am and there are waves every half hour, so 6 waves are either done or out on the course. The food should have been ready. We decided to scrap the food. We were hungry and the lady near the grill said the burgers wouldn't be ready for another 30-45 minutes. Over to the beer counter. After overhearing the folks in front of us, the choices were Bud Light or Shock Top, but I heard that the Bud Light isn't cold yet...Shock Top it is. Thankfully they allow us to pick up two at once and since they are unopened cans we can take them with us. Two of us are driving so the beers would have to wait until later. It's close to 10:30 and still no burgers or entertainment so off we went. As we were leaving the band started some music over the sound system, poor timing.

As an aside, the organizers claim to "give away random money before, during and after the race to participants and spectators." I'm not sure if this happened or not, if it did during the 2 1/2 hours we were there, it was done with little fanfare.

Overall, we had a good time and that is the most important part but there is definitely room for improvement. I am sure it takes a lot to put on an event like this and overall this was a success, but some simple things would have make a big impact.

I will most likely participate in the fall race, hopeful that it will build and improve over today's event.


  • Great venue
  • Fun course
  • Volunteers at registration very friendly and helpful
  • Bag check
  • Plenty of clean bathrooms
  • Changing rooms
  • Freshwater showers
  • Numerous obstacles

Areas for improvement:

  • National Anthem before the race
  • PA system instead of a megaphone
  • Trash cans near registration
  • Entertainment that starts when the event does (at least music over loud speakers)
  • Water (unflavored) and food (bananas, cookies, oranges) at the finish line
  • Operational timing clock
  • Branded race numbers
  • Burgers on the grill at 8:30 instead of 10:30
  • Beer iced down first thing
  • Beef up the obstacles, make sure they are completed
  • Better signage and flow at registration/check-in

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