Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Mud Ninja 2013

JL Parker Farm, Greenfield, Ohio - July 27, 2013

The Mud Ninja outdid himself this year.  I didn’t think it would be possible but I’m pretty sure he somehow got more hills into the course this year.  At least there was before they had to start shutting down some areas.

Let me start by giving big shouts out to the volunteers.  Many people from Crazy Mudder Muckers, Corn Fed Spartans and Team Ninja donated their time to help make this event possible.  I need to selfishly give a BIG shout out to my sons who I dragged out to the Ninja course Friday night to camp and then fed them to the Ninja Saturday morning who put them to work.  All of the volunteers on Saturday endured cold rain for at least 4 hours while just standing there at their respective watch.  Great job everyone.  More big props go to Seth Rich who got up in the wee hours of the morning to pick-up a new teammate, travelling from Chicago to run the Ninja, at the Cincinnati bus terminal at 5:00 a.m. on Saturday and drive him to the Ninja 2 hours away when Rich wasn’t even supposed to be there until Sunday.  That’s a supportive family!

OK.  In typical fashion, the Mud Ninja had lots of mud and Mother Nature made extra sure of that on Saturday.  A welcome change this year was the start line.  They added chip readers at the start line which was located next to this year’s big new obstacle, The American Ninja Warrior, more later on that one.  After the start there was a typical mud pond and running up/down slick wooded hills but then you came upon a ‘water slide’.  You first had to climb a near 60 degree incline to get to the top of a very large tarp that went downhill.  Water slides are typically added to courses as a ‘fun’ obstacle and not so much a true obstacle, except this one.  This slide was actually scary and difficult.  The slope made you go down so fast that you were completely out of control and the terrain was so rough that you got beat up on the way down.  The small water pit at the bottom was more like a crash landing.  I loved this slide.  Unfortunately, so many people were getting hurt on it that they shut it down after the first hour but not until at least 2 people from Crazy Mudder Muckers were injured, heal quickly Mandy and Cheryl.  After that more and more hills and rocky terrain and then about half way up the big hill there is the Snake Pit.  I’ve never seen anything like this on any other course.  If you were a Vietnam Veteran it might give flashbacks of crawling through rat holes in the jungle.  Several twisted grooves scraped along the surface of the ground just deep enough for a human body, filled with water and then covered with a tarp.  For fun they added a bunch of rubber snakes just to freak you out.  This obstacle is very difficult to traverse as you must crawl through the entire thing on your belly in the dark with your head just out of the water.  Not for the claustrophobic.  You then complete the climb up the first big hill to the ‘festival’ plateau and are greeted by The American Ninja Warrior, several springboards lined up in front of a 8’ wide water/mud pit.  Across the pit was a cargo net and ropes hanging off a 10’ high platform.  The object was to ‘spring’ across the pit, grab the net and pull yourself up and you were only given 60 seconds to complete this.  If you didn’t get a good leap across the pit or a good hold on the ropes, you were in the drink which is where I ended up.  It would have been much easier to grab the net because trying to pull yourself up the rope out of that pit and all the way up to the platform was NOT easy.  Immediately after that was another new obstacle, I don’t remember the name but it was a traverse wall.  Not like the dreaded Spartan traverse wall, much worse.  This one used the fake rock holds from climbing walls only the really small ones.  There were 4 across the top area for your hands and only 3 across the bottom for your feet and the total span was about 12’ and all of this was over a water/mud pit.  Very difficult but I did it.  This was another one they had to shut down after the holds just got too muddy.  Then the ever-popular Autism Speaks Wall.  What I love about this wall is it is totally impossible to traverse by yourself.  If you aren’t running with a teammate, the person next to you just became your best buddy.  A minimum of 3 people are required to get over this beast but it usually takes 4.  After that were some more additions to this year with the ropes over pits.  Consecutively you had to go down into a mud pit, rope climb out of that pit up a hill, hand-over-hand (no feet) cross a 30’ mud pit hanging from a rope, up and down a hill into a pit and back up another hill then another rope crossing across a pit but this time you can also use your feet on the rope, then down into an 8’ deep mud pit that’s impossible to get out without help.  You’re fairly exhausted after, but wait, you need to go back down the other side of the mountain now;  UGH!  The worst part of this ‘hill’ is the ascent back up the other side.  The angle is typically no less than 45 deg. and there are parts that you have to get on your hands and knees to get up long distances in slippery rock.  About 1/3 of the way up is Spider Web roping strung between trees for about 30’ on a slipper steep incline.  About 2/3 of the way up you meet the Widow Maker, a mean nasty bitch of a hill that’s around 75 degrees straight up for at least 20 yards in fine, shale gravel and mud.  This was the 3rd obstacle to be closed down after the rains and too many injuries.  I’m glad it was after I got tame this bitch.  I heard tell of a lady falling back down the hill to a broken knee.  Finally back at the top of the hill you are greeted by a series of trenches and mud piles that became more and more treacherous throughout the day.  When I went through, I was able to jump across each pit but not so much in the afternoon on the second trip around.  After that was the nastiest, smelliest farm animal pond you would ever NOT want to go in, but you had to this time.  The most impoverished country in the world wouldn’t even consider this a good watering or bathing hole.  I’m pretty sure this isn’t even good for most livestock, but we survived, MRSA results still not in.  This was quickly followed by a climbing wall and then the piece de resistance, a little stretch I like to refer to as the Gauntlet.  The finish is a series of mud pits and hills that are near impossible to get in and out of.  About 3 pits in is my one of my favorite parts of the course, an extremely deep pit with a very tall mound on the backside and a rope to climb up and out.  It doesn't take long for this to become such a slick gooey mess that the ropes are nearly impossible to use.  Again, these pits and hills require assistance and everybody is your friend.  These pits are finished off with a crawl through a mud pit to the finish line and the sweetest finisher's medal out there, a Ninja throwing star.

I set out this year with 2 goals; not get hurt (broke my ass last year) and come in under 1 hour.  I accomplished both with a run of 59:11.  What I didn't know was I would be only be 8 minutes away from one of the top finisher's Ninja swords.  Next year, that baby is mine.  The good news is, several people in our groups got swords, congrats everyone.  One of the best parts of this years event was I wasn't running it alone.  There were many people from the groups of Crazy Mudder Muckers, Corn Fed Spartans and Team Ninja there and we had a blast together.

To close this long review I want to give an extra shout out to my youngest son, who endured the entire morning in the cold rain volunteering one of the obstacles and decided that he wanted that bling so bad that he would do whatever it took.  So I went a second lap with him all the way and watched him trudge through everything the Ninja threw at him, even after blowing a hole in the side of his shoe about 1/3 of the way through.  He got the Gauntlet area, took his shoes off and finished the course barefoot.  Way to go buddy, I'm proud of you.

Until next year Ninja .. Sayonara

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