Merrell Down & Dirty Fun

It seems that as endurance sports like triathlon continue to grow in popularity and participation, more and more alternative events seem to pop up. Events like Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder, and Merrell Down & Dirty give the ability to race, as well as give a little vacation from standard events. A couple weeks ago I raced Atlanta’s Merrell Down & Dirty event, and learned a few things. And gained a few blisters, cuts, bruises, ect. Tons of fun!

So the original plan was for myself and Davis, my oldest little brother, to run the 5k course together. He watched my race Warrior Dash last year, and decided that he wanted to do an event like that, so he jumped at this race. Well apparently being 11 and playing football is more stressful that I remember, so he bailed out on the event the night before. While I thought it would be cool to get him through the course and continue integrating him into endurance sports (yeah; this counts), his absence at the race allowed me to actually race it. Which is good since I was relatively sure my competitive nature would win out, and Davis would end up thrown over my shoulder as I sprinted through the course. As the count down to race start ebbed closed to 00:00, I set myself up at the front of the corral next to three kids who were obviously cross county runners. Maybe I’d have to work a little harder than I originally expected.

*GO* boomed through the speakers, and myself and the three mentioned earlier sprinted out of the chute. We all stayed within arms length of each other the ~mile to the first obstacle, up and over the cargo net, and then we started to spread out a little. I was now in 2nd thanks to the net. Going down a cargo net isn’t as easy as I though, so the guy in front put a little time on me. About a half mile after the net, there were low walls. Easy enough obstacle when you’ve hopped your share of fences, mostly due to being to lazy to actually walking to the gate, so there remained about 30 yards between myself and the leader. This is where it starts getting really fun, and where my lack of trail running began to bite me.

The last mile+ became more and more technical, with the last of the obstacles grouped pretty close together. The other two runners who had started with the leader and I had fallen back, but a new guy had come up and was running side by side with me. He knew how to run trails, the numerous water crossings, and downhill(my Achilles heel) well, so it became time to make up as much time on the obstacles as possible. The plan worked on the remaining obstacles, especially with the Marines yelling at us. (Side note-favorite part of the day was the waist-deep water crossing where you have to pull yourself up onto a hill that’s nothing but slippery Georgia red clay. Why? Because the Marines were yelling, “Not so easy getting out is it” *monkey jumps out* “Oh…and he’s an ironman” +winning+) Everything went great until the last obstacle, the 2nd low crawl under nets though 8inches of water and mud. That is no joke, especially when you’ve been red-lining it the last 25 minutes(before your math kicks in, it was longer than 5k). And yeah; I know I was going full out because I did wear my Garmin and HRM…I like data, what can I say? Anyway, with mud covering me from head to toe, I crawl my way though the pit, 3rd in my wave, ending up 6th OA.

Fun kind of vacation from normal events and training, and it taught me a few things. One being that I would have gotten in a lot of trouble had I gone through with joining the Marines. During the mud pit at the end, I let my hips lift up so that I could crawl faster. A Marine promptly ran over and shoved them back down while yelling something incoherent. Reflex kicks in, and I immediately begin to roll and throw my elbow at the kid; I stopped just before I hit him, but I’m sure you can see how I would have gotten into trouble at boot camp. Number two being that I’m even more of a tri-geek than I originally thought. Who wears their Garmin and HRM through a obstacle course? And three, all the swimming has definitely given me more upper back strength, shown by pulling myself up the Slippery Wall(think Slip-N-Slide with shampoo on a 75* wall with a rope) in only two yanks. Fun event, capped off with a 90min zone2 run around the park right after. And yes; I did sleep very well that night.

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