I really didn’t feel like running MudMan. It’s miles from home and required a 5am alarm at the end of a mega week. I had been so busy at work that I just hadn’t had the time to do much running at all, let alone get out to the trails. I was this close to just not going. I am so glad I made the effort.
It was an early start and a 90 minute drive to the start line, but luckily my number one cheerleader Dayve was around to give me a lift and cheer me on. When we arrived there was lots of activity, with people is calf sleeves and buffs buzzing around looking like they knew what they were doing. I instantly felt very nervous about being disasterously underprepared. Luckily, the organisers Human Race were not underprepared – the line for bib collection was short and there were numerous toilets. Runners paradise.
There were several race options (10km and 15km runs, as well as options to do a dualthlon and also run with your dog!) and the field was quite small in each. I was running the 10km and it was our turn to line up at the start line first. In my field there was a healthy mix of people, from seasoned trail competitors to casual runners, which made me feel much more at ease. I optimistically positioned myself in the middle of the pack and waited for the starting gun. The starter warned us of a “water feature” on the course.
The minute I started running I felt calm. This happens to me at most races – a bundle of nerves until I cross the start line, where I seem to channel all my energy in to calm determination. Does this happen to anyone else?
I started picking a few people off and settled in behind a couple of other runners who seemed to be running at a similar pace to me. The course was all trail through a forest and we picked our way across rough ground and around giant puddles. About a km in the course covers about four repetitions of a long steep bank, covered in mud and littered with tree roots and branches – like hill reps on steroids. They were absolutely killer! By the time we got to the fourth one I realised it would probably be more efficient for me to power walk up and run at the summit, which seemed like a popular plan of action among the other runners too!
Once this was out of the way we set out on the course proper, which was a beautiful winding trail through the forest. The group had dispersed quite a lot and it was very calm – I really enjoyed this section. I felt strong and ended up passing the runners I had settled in behind earlier, and I didn’t see them again on the course.
About 3 or so km in we hit the “water feature” – a channel of water about 3ft deep and 100m long! I was feeling pretty hot at this point so the water was quite a welcome addition to the course! There was a photographer at the end and I look pretty happy splashing through the channel. Unfortunately I also look absolutely hideous, which is why I have refrained from sharing said photo.
The course continued before hitting the huge hills that appear to be a signature of Human Race’s trail series – Climb Hard! At WildMan we took on Climb Hard, Climb Hard II and Climb Hard with a Vengeance – all of which were long steep climbs. MudMan took it to a whole new level, with Climb Hard, Climb Hard II, Climb Hard with a Vengeance and then about 5 or so more equally tough hills! I hit the hills at the same time as another dude running, who consistently overtook me on each of the climbs, before I then overtook him on the flats. In between gasping for air we chatted a bit and he commented that he thought the hills were only there so that he could catch me – I noted that I needed to work on my hill climbing.
By this point the dog runners were out on the course and the faster runners started to overtake us. Luckily the course didn’t feel crowded and all the dogs I came across were well behaved! The staggered starts seemed to work really well.
The final part of the course covers the hill repetitions we covered at the beginning – this was mentally tough as I knew how challenging it had been at the beginning and was apprehensive about round two with tired legs! I decided to utilise the tips I picked up at WildMan and make steady progress up the uphills then make the most of the downhills. My quads were absolutely burning.
In the final km I could hear footsteps behind me – an over the shoulder check confirmed that there were two women on my tail. My competitive side kicked in and I decided that under no circumstances would I let them pass. Just the kick up the butt I needed to make good time over those hills! I made it to the top of the final hill and had managed to stay in front but it felt like the gap was closing.
At the top there’s a flat stretch of trail of about 600m to the finish line. I was absolutely beat but could still hear footsteps behind me so I picked up the pace. Another over the shoulder checked – one woman had dropped back but one was really close! Picked up the pace even more.
When the finish line came in to view I saw her shadow at my feet and knew that she was going to try for a last minute overtake. I started sprinting. She started sprinting. People started cheering! At the finish there were two options – left to continue for the 15km option and right for the 10km finish line. I automatically veered towards the left only realising last minute that I needed to go right and very narrowly avoided slamming in to the dividing barrier as I changed directions! Accident avoided I sprinted down the finish chute and beat my new opponent by about a second. Success! The lady actually approached me and said well done and we shared a nice moment.
Needless to say, I finished MudMan with a huge smile on my face. Sunshine, trails, mud, puddles, friendly competitiors and a victorious tussle for seventh lady all made for a pretty much perfect race experience! There were also pop chips in the goodybags, which nearly made up for the fact that there was no medal. I was also over the moon to find out that I had somehow placed third in my age category! This was the first (and quite feasibly only) time I’ve ever received a race prize and it felt pretty great.
My favourite things about MudMan were the friendly people and the challenging but fun course. The whole event was brilliantly organised and I will definitely go back next year for some muddy fun! My one complaint would be that the race memento is a mens t-shirt. It’s a beautiful Craft technical running shirt but only available in mens – the label says “man”! I really don’t think it’s that much effort to get women’s t-shirts as well as mens so that 50% of competitors don’t end up going home with something they can’t use.
Who else fancies joining me at the trail series next year?