When I first planned out my 2016 OCR schedule I was on the fence about Rugged Maniac. Having participated in this event two years in a row, I wasn’t really planning on doing it this year. However, after seeing the multiple posts in the Facebook group for MudRunFun about how many people were going, I registered two weeks prior to the race, acquiring a case of FOMO (fear of missing out) and wanting to go socialize with friends I don’t see very often. This was also the first race I did two years ago as part of the team, so it has a bit of sentimental value for me.
Upon arriving at the site, I almost got lost as I’m not used to parking at that venue in general parking. Though I’ve done several races at this site, most of the time I’m volunteering or have been a VIP member of the Savage Race event, so I parked in staff parking instead of the general admission area. I paid my $10 parking fee and made sure to document where my car was however, as the last time I did this event I got lost and had to be driven around by an employee in a golf cart looking for my car. Registration was still a bit hectic; they had huge lines waiting for same day race registration and separate tents for those of us who pre-registered, but it was disorganized and people were cutting in front of other people because there weren’t really “lines” for check in. After getting my bib and t shirt, I headed over to the MRF tents to drop my stuff off and do some pre-race socializing.
10:00 came shortly and we lined up in the start corral waiting for our wave to begin. It wasn’t long before we were off on our 3.1 mile journey. One thing I really enjoy about Rugged Maniac is they have an abundance of obstacles- we didn’t even run a 1/4 mile before we hit the first obstacle, Barricades, which were made a little more challenging this time by the addition of a wobbly pipe atop the walls. Jacob’s Ladder and Shoe Catcher came next, although I’m happy to say I didn’t lose a shoe this time as Shoe Catcher wasn’t even that muddy when we went through it! Beam Me Up and Head Scratcher were next- Head Scratcher (barbed wire crawl) was full of nasty, mucky black mud that got everywhere. Next came the Trenches and Speed Trap to round out mile 1.
A short jaunt through the woods took us to the next obstacle, Blobstacle, which reminded me forcibly of the Tough Mudder Beached Whale obstacle, except this one was covered with netting where Tough Mudder’s didn’t have anything to hang on to. I ran into Brian and Courtney volunteering at this one and gave them muddy hugs!
Claustrophobia had some great photo ops for MRF members, courtesy of Game Face photographer Luis. Then it was off through the pitch black tunnels, where most of us held on to each other so we didn’t get “lost” in the darkness! At Pack Mule, they had made things more interesting by adding small barriers we had to duck under or cross over with the wreck bag on our shoulders. There were two options- the 25 lb. bags and the 50 lb. bags. I’m a glutton for punishment so I took the 50lb. bag. Hey, it’s practice for my upcoming Battlefrog this winter!
Tipping Point is always a freaky feeling to me- once you get to the part where your weight tips the ‘seesaw’ like plank downwards, you almost have to run down it to avoid slipping. This year’s Ninja Escape didn’t feel as challenging too as the boards were closer together, making the jumps less far. Then we hit Antigravity. Last year this was the finish line obstacle; this year it was shorter, but no less fun. We hopped from trampoline to trampoline and launched ourselves onto the padded cargo net to climb over and down the other side. Napoleon Complex came next followed by Rugged’s version of the balance beam, Pipe Dreams. At Let’s Cargo, we were held up initially by slower moving racers across the top, but having been there myself, I was able to help one lady down through her fear of heights.
Frog Hop is probably my least favorite obstacle on this course; last year I fell and bruised up my shin pretty bad on one of the pads, but this year I just crawled across the whole thing. Dragnet was a nice cool change from the humidity outside; traversing through the lake and getting a short dunk left us feeling much better. This year’s Pyromaniac was really good- the fire was higher, there were three jumps instead of one or two and the logs were pretty built up and well maintained. We made it through the Gauntlet (a balance beam with large bags trying to knock you off) with little challenge and followed that up with one of my new favorite obstacles, Bang the Gong. For this one, you had to jump from a small trampoline to try and hit the gong above before falling into a pit of waist deep water. It was definitely fun!
Finally we came to the triple obstacle- the Warped Wall, Mount Maniac and the Accelerator slide. I made it up the Warped Wall on the first try with the help of the volunteers, among them Tony from MRF and then we climbed Mount Maniac together to get to the slide portion. We went in two groups as they were only letting three people at a time slide together, so I ended up sliding with Enrique and Matt. I slid sideways into Matt before hitting the water. It wasn’t deep though so we were able to climb out quite easily. The last obstacle before the finish was the Ringer- hanging rings that I have yet to be able to complete. This year I made it halfway across before slipping into the water below. Something I noticed this year is that the water was only waist deep here as well. I have a feeling that could be hazardous- with the force of people falling from the rings, someone may hurt themselves if the water isn’t deep enough.
We finished as a group, collected our medals and oranges or bananas they were handing out and made our way back to the MRF tents to hang out with friends and enjoy our finisher beers. The beers were good this year- they added a grapefruit flavored one to the lineup which I enjoyed. I didn’t get a chance to stay as long as I would have liked, so I missed several members of MRF that I wanted to catch up with, but I had to go to work later in the day. From the pictures I saw in the group, they had fun the rest of the day with the pie eating and stein hoisting competitions- even managed to win a few of them!
The Course: Rugged Maniac is one of my favorite 5k OCR events. They have a lot of obstacles for the 3.1 mile distance and they are fun obstacles. Perfect for the novice racer who isn’t sure if they enjoy obstacle racing yet. It’s also great for people who aren’t really “runners” as they have so many obstacles that you aren’t really running much in between. Next year I definitely will make sure I get in early on this one so I’m not paying more at the last minute! And I’ll take the whole day off so I can hang with my “framily.”
The Festival Area: Another good job from Rugged. They had several options for food and drink and they had a lot of extras for family and friends to play on as well. They offer fun competitions, a good DJ (although I missed the group Wobble song!) and a mechanical bull and bubble pit for spectators to enjoy as well. The one complaint I had was the check in area seemed kind of hectic and disorganized- I think Rugged should do a better job organizing check in lines so things would go more smoothly.
The Swag: I always enjoy the shirts offered by this event- they are typically soft and comfortable. It would be nice if they would pick a color other than grey as that seems to be typical of most OCR events, and I have so many grey shirts that many of my non-racing friends think that’s all I own! I also enjoy that they’ve started to give out medals- in 2014 they didn’t offer anything, but in 2015 they started giving out medals to finishers and they continued that with a new design this year.
Rugged Maniac is a very good event and is definitely a staple on many racers calendars. They have a few things they could improve on, but overall they put on a solid event with a lot of fun obstacles. I definitely recommend this event to anyone wanting to try their first OCR- and even veteran racers looking for a fun time.