Ok, I’m a smart guy who can be very stupid at times. This is particularly true when it comes to physical limits. I know, for example, that enrolling in the ProAM Bull Riding contest would be a serious mistake. I know that. It would have been a serious mistake 20 years ago and there’s no reason to think it might be a good idea now. I know that El Capitan is not in my future unless they build an escalator. I’ve figured that out…
So, of course, I made a wise crack to a guy 20 some years younger than I that the Mojave Free Press ought to enter a team for the Barstow Mud Run. Figured a leisurely job across the desert, splash through some forgiving water obstacles and then pick up a T-shirt at the worst case. At the best case, he’d laugh and say no thanks, he had to cover it for the paper. How hard could it be? What could go wrong?
Well, the principal architect of that electronic fish wrapper is a guy named Charles Waybright. He’s a nice guy, but he either has a sense of humor more twisted than mine or he’s very stupid. Charles thought it was a great idea.
So, there we were, Charles, Bruce Klein and me, surrounded by 1000 or so of like-minded lunatics set to take off across the desert to benefit the Barstow Veterans Home and the Barstow Kiwanis. Both of which are worthy of support for their services to this community which really needs it and more of it. Oh, the guys who bailed on the run so that Charles had to recruit Bruce but volunteered to video the thing and provide coverage for the paper, also bailed. Charles had his lovely wife worried that I might not show or be found and that she would have to pick up the banner. She was prescient enough to be glad to see me.
Drove up there from my home. This being primarily a fund raiser for the Vets Home there were lots of guys and gals there who were former Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who were volunteering, and of course, in charge. One of the nice things about people with military experience is that if someone needs to be in charge of something, and no one else will do it, they’ll step up. At the same time, a lot of times they’ll take charge because they need to be in charge. Of something, anything, doesn’t matter what. I work very hard at not being like that – it’s less tiring. Still, I can understand the tendency. Six to twelve of these guys were directing traffic. Guy who directed me into my parking space and made certain that I was parked on-line with the rest of the cars must have been an Aviation Bosun’s Mate in the Navy, because a couple of those folks shared with me that their primary function underway was to serve as a valet parking lot attendant for airplanes. Deviance from the line was not to be tolerated…
I kind of regretted that this guy wasn’t organizing the start. It gets hot in Barstow, in the sun, in May, and there was limited shade. Like almost none – the crowd mulled around, and the start was in heats. Somehow Charles and Bruce found me, and I pinned up my number, tied my timing chip to my shoe and we muddled our way through. One reason for running as a team – in our case, Old and Fat! – was to support each other, but somehow we all wandered into different heats. Now, back in the day, I was a distance runner. Then my back went to hell or wherever things go when they decide not to work anymore, and I don’t run. I was figuring the high intensity workouts I do in the gym would cover me. I wasn’t planning on setting records. I may have…probably was the slowest finisher. Hit the first water obstacle and found
myself running through water and mud but only up to just below the knees. Climb out, over a birm and head for the next obstacle…which was slightly deeper, and had tires that had embedded themselves in the mud at this point. If you are light on your feet, long legged and run with a high knee lift, this isn’t a problem. If you’ve just turned 61, have always had a squatty body, lift weights for sport and have short legs, this is not going to work. Step, spash, fall, get caught in the mud, pull boots out of mud and repeat. This turned into an ordeal. Got out, shook my head, and started slowly jogging toward the next obstacle. More tires and a birm on each end…you get through the first one, and over it and then there’s another one, just like the other one… Crashed on the next one, which may have involved piranha but did involve a water truck raining on you as you fought you way through the mud, tires and so on. Got through, got out and started walking…got to the first water stop, and stood there drinking warm water out of a cup, which frankly didn’t help all that much. I started to feel less bad when I realized that two college girls were there, both wearing women’s cross country team t-shirts, and one of them had just had an exercise induced asthma attack. She probably weighed about 100 pounds. So, on I slogged.
Skipped an obstacle, continued to slog. Got to the water slide thing…slide down the slide into the water, what could go wrong. Well, a lot…as I found out when I landed and slammed my leg into some immovable object –heap of dead bodies? Left-over rocks? Railroad ties? – pinning my leg back. Guy manning the thing in the pond pulled me out of the way, and I realized that I was now golden – I had a low calf/high ankle strain and could hobble through the rest of the course but couldn’t go through any more obstacles. Yeah, buddy – of course, I’m soaking wet, my Palladium BUDS course boots are full of desert and water as well, my ankle is not swelling that much because it is encased in a muddy, tied running boot, but it hurts like hell, and I have a mile or so of desert to cross. And, so I did. Bumped into Charles who was having problems seeing, because he had listened to someone talking jive and decided he had to splash him, primarily splashing himself. Muddy water in the eyes…hot…dirt…he told me that I had mud on my teeth and looked like a caveman in a rugby game jersey. Didn’t see Bruce…I hope it wasn’t him dead in the mud at the water slide….
OK, I can see the attraction of this event. I think it’s important not to over- or under-think the obstacles – one tire obstacle with several non-tire obstacles before the next tire obstacle one for example would be better – more aid teams and watering spots, and more attention to safety would be helpful, and if you decide to run one of these crazy things, I strongly recommend making certain that they are in fact paying a lot of attention to safety. I heard about a couple of broken bones, and the MEDEVAC chopper taking off from near the finishing line was, well, troubling.
But, this is a budding sport similar in a lot of ways to Cross-Fitness – it’s simple, it’s cheap and anyone can play. Even 61 year old men with bad backs and a smart mouth. There were a lot of kids and families which I thought was great. I was particularly taken by the number of kids running with their moms and dads, although I did see more than a few groups where the kids who appeared to be about 9 were waiting for Mom or Dad to catch up. I saw a few people I used to work with who were volunteering and having fun. Interestingly, one guy who used to work for me and resembles Mr. Clean physically and a wimpy weasel spiritually but who always had to be taking time off to take care of his two very athletic boys was there with the boys. He was dry and clean and I overheard him say, “Oh yeah, they did good…”
Well, I didn’t but I still feel good about it. Don’t know if I’ll ever do one again…whom I kidding, no way! Put this on your reverse bucket list along with spending time in a North Korean Labor Camp, using a do it yourself appendectomy kit or, hell, bull riding! But, if you feel the need, look around. I’m sure’ll you’ll find one. And, in order for there to be a “There I was, me, myself and I, alone, surrounded,” you have to be there first.
Charles asked me if it was fun when we finished. I laughed and said it was more fun after it was over than while I was doing it. Ain’t that the truth?