Full disclosure: I don’t take part in shady blogging. Pretty Muddy gave me a free entry to the Chicago race in return for writing two posts. One leading up to the race, and one after talking about my experience. I was provided with no other compensation, referral bonuses or swag. Trust me, the sweat and frustration of running a muddy obstacle course at 270+ are all my own. Read more about my disclosure policies here.
Buckle in, ladies and gents – I’ve got a big ole race recap for you today!
Before getting started on the nitty-gritty details, I want to take a moment to talk about how amazing this race was for me on a personal/emotional level. Throughout my entire life, I’ve been active. Some people find this hard to believe, seeing that my current weight/appearance might speak otherwise. Somewhere around high school, I started to be embarrassed of being active. It was like all the fit people were looking at me thinking Who do you think you’re fooling? Why are you playing this sport? Why are you swimming laps? Why are you participating? What’s the point? Call it teenage paranoia, but when you get right down to it, it’s an emotional struggle to be overweight.
It’s incredibly hard for me to put myself out there (especially in a tank top, hellooooo chub-roll ephasizer) when it comes to physical activity. I don’t like to exercise in public, let alone wear spandex and rub mud all over my 275 lb (approx) body. Going into this race, I was scared. I was nervous. I might not have showed it – but I was secretly terrified that my body would hold me back; that I wouldn’t be able to hoist my weight over/around/under the obstacles, and I would end this race in tears.
Well, that definitely did not happen. In fact, I kinda kicked ass. ;)
The Pretty Muddy 5k – Chicago
Didn’t I have a lovely crew with me? (From L to R above: my cousin Allison, me, Kat, Sheila) We arrived shortly before 9am, picked up our registration packets, and began to get settled for the race. Pretty Muddy allows you to check one bag into their gear tent (for free), so we dropped off our bags full of clothes, towels, and personal items. The weather was pure perfection! 75 deg, slightly breezy, and partly cloudy. We walked around, listening to the music/DJ and the announcer interviewing some of the women who showed up in teams. There were some awesome outfits – including a few wearing wedding dresses!
Everyone was happily chatting as we waited for our wave to go. I was seriously impressed with the level of organization on the part of Pretty Muddy. When I did the Color Run in Des Moines last year, the start line was pure hell. Over 15,000 people showed up at the start time, and then we all waited as they released 1,000 every 15 minutes. Terrible. PM (pretty muddy) had you register for specific time slots, in an effort to space everyone out correctly. I don’t know what their cap was, but my wave seemed to be about 200 people. Perfectly sized. No long wait – just walk up to the start line and GO! :)
Gorgeous day, right?
I should note – the majority of these pictures were taken with a disposable camera. I wasn’t about to bring a “real” camera or my phone into the mud madness! I was super impressed that they all turned out! It’s a bizarre feeling taking pictures with a film camera … do you know what I mean? I had no idea what any of the pictures looked like! Even after an hour of cleaning post-race, the poor disposable camera looked like it had been through a war. ;)
I’m not sure a bubble-tunnel is really considered an “obstacle” … but it sure was fun! It was the first thing we ran through, and the last time we’d be clean for the next 3.1 miles! ;)
Pretty Muddy is an all-women fun run. Nothing is timed, and there’s basically no competitive feeling at all. Everyone was very supportive and helping each other up, over, and around each challenge! A lot of women didn’t even run. In fact, you pretty much had to walk during some parts. The runners would funnel into each obstacle, so you’d have to slow down and walk before and after each one. I didn’t mind at all – I was there to have fun, not complete a 20 min 5k. ;)
Here’s a quick run-down of all the obstacles we met. If you check over on PM’s site, they have a few videos depicting these, but each race is different.
- going over/under fallen trees
- climbing up an inflatable slide, where you slide into a mud pit
- crawling through metal tunnels
- climbing over/under 3ft blockades
- jumping through rope-grid mud pits
- carrying 5ft logs for 1/4 mile
- climbing over 10ft walls
- crawling through mud pits with wires/boards over them
- scaling a 40ft rope ladder pyramid
- did I mention mud pits? ha!
- a FINAL mud pit before the finish
I didn’t get pictures of every obstacle (mud covered hands!) but I did snap a few!
I LOVED the mudslide!
Allison and I made the executive decision to slide down on our stomachs into the mud pit. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed harder! This was the first really big obstacle, and we were already covered in mud. We did our best to run between each challenge. Despite my lack of training (I honestly haven’t ran that much in the past month), I felt great. I felt strong, fast, and determined. I was pretty surprised at my endurance level. I may not be seeing huge losses on the scale every week, but I’m obviously making steps in the right direction!
Allison snapped this photo of me between strides. Go, Emily, Go!
More obstacle pictures!
Don’t I look just gorgeous effortlessly hurdling over that pink wall? ;) ha! The taller walls were a bit scary. They don’t look that high, until you’re at the top and trying not to slip from all the mud! I actually really loved all the stops – especially the log run (not pictured). You had to carry 5ft logs for about 1/4 mile. Around this time it rained a little. Allison and I joked that we felt like GI Jane – running in mud, with giant logs on our shoulders, in the rain. It wasn’t nearly that dramatic, but everyone had a good time joking about it.
Safety was a top concern at PM, too. It was nice to see race coordinators at nearly every challenge, there just in case. PM also had two EMS employees on bikes riding the course. They were equipped with first aid kits and walkie-talkies. We probably saw them loop four times while we were on the course. There were definitely areas on the soybean farm that were more secluded. Knowing that an EMS rider would only be moments away was very reassuring.
Everything was going just fine and dandy until an epic mud pit around mile-marker two. It was then, friends, that I lost my damn shoe.
Before continuing on with that story, I should share some tips … now that I know what it’s like to run a mud race.
- disposable camera. bring one.
- wear a bandana, tied into a band. this will allow parts of it to stay dry, and be PIVOTAL when muddy sweat is dripping into your eyeballs. You will have no other clean parts. ;)
- bring wet wipes, towels, and ALL clothes. Everything will get dirty, and the cold (oh so freakin’ cold) hoses will only spray off so much.
- bring extra shoes – you will probably lose one.
Which brings me to the shoe story.
Epic mud pit. I tried to climb out. My shoe did not want to come with me.
I managed to pull it out, but there was no way that it was getting back on my foot. Believe me, I tried. I wanted to make sure I brought both my shoes to the finish line. PM donates all the unwanted shoes to homeless shelters (after cleaning them, of course). So, there was no other choice but to solider on! The last mile was pretty slow (oh my lord, the rocks!) but it wasn’t until we hit the 40 ft rope pyramid that things really got tricky. Rope climbing on a bare foot? OUCH!
You can see my serious (and slightly pained) face below as I reached the summit of the rope pyramid.
Despite the last mile being somewhat hellish – we still kept up good attitudes about the whole thing. The photos above are some of the professional pictures taken throughout the course. Check out that sweet belly-flop on my part (behind the lovely ladies in pink). Hey, go big or go home, right?
The last obstacle was “the mud bath” – and that’s exactly what it was. If you were clean until now, you weren’t going to stay that way!
Sheila and her sister Kat had finished before us, and were able to capture a few pictures as we clawed and crawled our way through the last mud pit and stumbled our way out on the slippery grass. We made it out, and I still had my shoe in my hand – VICTORY!
And suddenly, it was over!
We took our pictures and were handed our medals. LOVE a race that hands out medals, even for a 5k!
The post-race activities involved hosing off (brrrrr!), changing (they have nice tents set up for dressing), food carts (fro yo!), and an amazing all-girl band that was covering some great songs. Seriously, Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” with live saxophone? Perfection. Anyone else have dreams of being in a rock band someday? No, just me? Yeah, I’m forever 16.
It was really fun seeing the clean pre-race folks look at your mud-covered crazyness with wide eyes. YES – you really DO get that muddy!! It seemed that most people just hung around, sitting on the grass, eating food, chatting, and listening to the band. The merch was priced well – we wound up buying those little face stickers, and a few rubber bracelets. The flip-flops I had to buy (because I didn’t bring an extra pair of shoes) were outrageously priced. Smart on their part. ;)
The price of PM is generally around $60. To me, it seems pretty pricey (I was given a free entry in exchange for blogging about my experience) but I did have an amazing time. I can’t imagine when it must cost to set up obstacles like this, and the majority of the proceeds are given to charities. Chicago’s benefitted the Susan G Komen foundation, which is near and dear to my heart.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I went into this race with some serious hesitations. The title of my blog “Fit and Free” is all about freeing myself from those insecurities, those fears, those negative thoughts (depression, anxiety) that have plagued me all my life. I didn’t realize that this race would be such a changing moment for me – but, it was. It was incredibly empowering to do something you never dreamed you could do. This race gave me that feeling of Well, if I did THAT – what else can I do?
Who knows? :)