I've Got Your Back obstacle at Mudderella

Mudderella: All Guts, No Glory

June 9, 2015 by Michelle

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Mudderella. I received complimentary admission to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation. Course photos are courtesy Mudderella.
Mudderella - thinking about competing in this fun mud filled obstacle course? It's aimed at women and not timed, which makes it fun though challenging

As three friends and I crossed the finish line of Mudderella in Chicago, one of them came close to tears. They were tears of joy. She was so proud of herself for not just completing the 5.5 mile course in some tough conditions but in doing every single obstacle along the way. That, right there, is exactly what Mudderella is about.

When I started casting about my friends to see who might want to join me for Mudderella in Chicago, I got varying reactions. The amazing women who immediately jumped at the chance had some initial reservations, but an event like this is exactly what they were looking for. One friends is a veteran runner (and the next day was doing a mentoring 10K run – yikes!), but as soon as I confirmed that Mudderella is aimed at women and that the only men running were invited by female team captains, she relaxed. She did not want overly competitive and testosterone laden men (as she put it) pushing past her or becoming frustrated on obstacles. Another friend didn’t want to hold us up because this was her first event like this ever. Mudderella isn’t competitive. It isn’t timed, and it’s meant to challenge each individual rather than pitting one person against another. And, of course, the concern that we had to do every obstacle? We were told upfront before registering that we could skip any obstacle we wanted. We didn’t end up skipping any, but knowing we could if we needed to was a weight off our minds.

The Day of Mudderella

The day of the event was not pleasant – welcome to spring in Chicago – but we knew that going in and were so grateful for jeans and sweatshirts at the end. We were in the very first wave to kick off at 8am, and the temperature was a mild 65 degrees though cloudy, and it had been raining most of the prior week. We were among the first 50 to 100 finishers (based on photos), and it took us just over two hours to cover the course due to the incredibly thick and slick (it varied) mud throughout the course. By the time we finished, it was raining and windy and temperatures had dropped significantly. My car temperature showed 51 degrees by that point, and my team repeatedly thanked me for going in the first wave as we ran.

Or rather, as we walked. Unfortunately, the thick mud in the fields the course ran through coupled with slick mud on many of the tracks we followed meant that we ran much less of the course than we had intended. There were many places where we didn’t feel safe running, especially given that some of the course was rutted due to its use the remainder of the year. This is where a non-timed event came in handy.

The obstacles were my favorite part. While I run, I don’t love running because it’s too repetitive for me. Throw in some obstacles and other items to challenge my balance (my biggest failing point), my strength, my agility, and my endurance? That’s where I shine. I love the challenge of having to think through some of the obstacles and the variety of the fun.

We started out with Down to the Wire, where we crawled, army style through a pit of mud. We all laughed as we finished it, realizing that our different styles meant we all had a different level of dirt. Though my front was covered in dirt, I kept most of my body out of the pit, apparently in a vain attempt to stay clean, while my veteran runner friend was covered in mud up to and including the back of her head.

Down to the Wire Mudderella obstacle

Many of the obstacles involved slogging through pits of mud. I believe we had four where we clambered down into a stream or pit filled with water and mud and had to scramble up the other side. Due to the rain all week, even as early as we were, it was a challenge to find anything stable to use. Fortunately, other Mudderellas kept in the spirit of the event and would exit an obstacle then turn around of offer a helping hand. And we often needed those helping hands to get out of a slick mud pit.

Some obstacles were harder than others. There were two wall climbing obstacles, and apparently some of my strength training paid off. I was able to get up and over both the obstacle where you simply climbed it and one without handholds that required you using a rope to boost yourself. Those are the obstacles I was most proud of myself for completing. Unfortunately, there weren’t photographers at most of the obstacles, so I missed seeing my successful completion of these two (among others). That was one of my bigger disappointments since we couldn’t bring cameras on course to capture our own memories.

My most challenging obstacle was the balance beam. It was completely mind over matter – or in my case, mind under matter! Rather than being a flat surface on top of the beam, Balancing Act had a couple inches flat in the middle then angled down on both side, leaving less stable room than you would expect. I was able to do most of it, but after repeatedly falling in one spot, I’ll admit that I skipped out on the rest of it since my team had long since made it across the beams. My friend who was worried she’d hold us back? She was the one who scampered across the beam like it was nothing. I was so impressed!

Hire Wire act obstacle at Mudderella

I am somewhat claustrophobic, so I was leery of obstacles that involved closed spaces. Some courses have obstacles where you crawl underground through a tunnel, and I knew that wouldn’t work form me. Mudderella Chicago did not have an obstacle like this (though I didn’t know it until I was on the course, as there were no course maps available or any information about what we would be facing). The closest we came was a tube where we slide downhill into a shallow mud pit. That I – and my other claustrophobic friend – were able to handle.

The obstacle we had the hardest time with that we were surprised by was the tire swings. We had to stand on the tires and swing to the next one, stepping from tire swing to tire swing. Unfortunately, the way it was set up, one tire on each line was far enough apart that you had to jump to reach it (even swinging high didn’t get you quite far enough), and none of us were talented enough to stick that landing. It definitely reminded me of games kids play on the playground with tire swings, and I was bummed my feet touched down three-quarters of the way through.

Tire swing obstacle at Mudderella

One of the more fun “obstacles” was I’ve Got Your Back where teammates carried each other piggyback across a set distance. The idea was that you were supposed to switch who carried who halfway across, but the friend who carried me refused to let me down and trundled the entire distance with me weighing her down. The rest of my team accused me of cheating, of course, since they switched up the way they were supposed to, but I can’t control it if my friend wanted to keep going, right?

I've Got Your Back obstacle at Mudderella

We did get muddy and filthy throughout the course, though not as much as I had expected along the way. There were a lot of obstacles that had water in or near them that washed us off, but they also chilled us. I don’t sweat so maintained my heat during the best of my teammates, but two of my friends couldn’t make fists near the end of the course because they were so cold and therefore couldn’t do the rope wall climb because they couldn’t grab the rope.

The last two obstacles cleaned us off, too, which made me a little bit sad. I had hoped to cross the finish line filled with mud and have a true before and after photo. When we finished, there were no photographers capturing the end of the event, so I wouldn’t have gotten that shot anyway as the four of us held hands and ran across that line. The second to last obstacle had us crawling through a large tunnel filled with soap bubbles. The bubbles felt so warm by the time we got there, and we held onto them as long as possible. From there, it was a climb up a cargo net to the hat trick where we slide down a really steep slide into a water filled pit that washed off much of our mud and gunk, which is why we ended up our experience so clean.

Hat Trick obstacle at Mudderella

At the end of the course, there were showers and a changing area. Unfortunately, this is where I wish Mudderella had changed a few things up. Again, we were one of the first finishers, which made things easy for us because there weren’t crowds anywhere.

While we were still muddy, we were handed a colored hair binder without being told why. One friend almost refused hers, which would have been a shame because you only received your event t-shirt when turning in your binder. Needless to say, in addition to all my Mudderella worn clothing going straight into the washing machine when I got home, my t-shirt and headband did, too, since they got muddy when I touched them.

To get clean, we had to walk across the entire pre-event area to get to bag check and pick up our bags. Then we had to walk past the finish line area and beyond to get to the showers where we had 2 minutes in blissfully hot water to rinse off before walking to the tent to change into dry clothes. The showers should have been next to the bag check and right by the bus pickup to take us to our cars. Instead, we had to walk across deep mud – twice – that pulled our shoes from our feet after we were clean. One friend also pointed out that there were two same size tents for changing – the men had equal space to women and the women’s tent wasn’t that big though fortunately we found a hay covered corner to change and avoid getting too muddy before we headed home.

Given the location of Mudderella, I understand why were were bussed from offsite parking. We were lucky to get on a bus almost immediately after finishing changing (again, no crowds since we finished so early and didn’t stick around because we were freezing). The field we parked in was muddy and slick, and I was grateful that I’d driven my 4 wheel drive SUV because even pulling in, I was worried about getting stuck. Fortunately, I got out just fine, and we quickly headed to a restaurant to warm up with some coffee.

As we sat chatting in the restaurant after Mudderella, all four of us agreed that we would do it again. Hands down we would go for the early time slot again. Even if the weather were hot, we still would have wanted to go early to minimize the effect of the heat. One smart friend also pointed out that the obstacles are likely to be in the best shape first thing in the morning, as well. There were plenty of things we would love to see Mudderella do differently next year in Chicago, and I would like to think they’re listening.

In addition to finding a more secure place to park than a farmer’s field and having the shower/changing room setup different, we’d really love to see more photographers on the course. Of the 12 obstacles, only four had any photographers capturing images. We’d love to see heat lamps when weather is cold like this and misting fans when it’s hot. A course map would be  great keepsake, and as muddy as the water tanks were when we stopped for water on the course so early in the day, I wish water had been placed in cups for us the way energy bars were, among other changes.

But with all that, we had fun. It wasn’t easy, and we didn’t enjoy every part of the course, but the feelings we had when we finished buoyed us. All four of us would do this again, and we’re already talking about next year – again with an 8am start time!

Group Photo Post Mudderella

Think you might want to do a Mudderella of your own? They don’t just happen in Chicago. Right now, there are Mudderella events scheduled in 9 US cities and 2 Canadian locations for 2015 with more locations potentially being added. You can always check the schedule to see if there’s one coming near you.

NorCal June 27, 2015 – Vallejo, CA
Toronto July 11, 2015 – Kitchener, ON Canada
Capital Region July 25, 2015 – Clarksburg, MD
Colorado August 22, 2015 – Snowmass Village, CO
Pittsburgh September 12, 2015 – Slippery Rock, PA
Whistler September 26, 2015 – Blackcomb Mountain, Whistler, BC Canada
New England October 3, 2015 – Thompson, CT

And if you do another one this year, the good news is that you’re highly unlikely to run into the rain and cold we had in Chicago. You can thank us for taking all the bad weather for all the events in one day. It’s fun. It’s social, and wow did I have a blast with my friends. These are the kinds of events I love for the same reason that I enjoy doing classes at the gym rather than working out by myself. See you next year? Just make sure you do some training to make the obstacles and course easier. Mudderella has a great training program listed on their website. Though I didn’t follow it exactly (it’s a little daunting), it was a huge help!

I fell a little bit in love with the idea of mud runs after Mudderella. What’s your favorite?


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