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What a week I have had! From a major-life-changing real-estate purchase on Monday,  to a child with appendicitis requiring emergent surgery (Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday)- it has truly been one of the more stressful weeks in recent memory…. in other words… Toobabalooza happened just when I needed it to! I am going to ramble a bit before I make with the race review…so bear with me….

It’s been a while (too-long-if-you-ask-me)since I have had the chance to compete in an obstacle course race…. I was starting to forget why they call me Muddy J!…but now I am back on track!

As you know, Redemption Racing was kind enough to contribute a free entry to Toobabalooza in the recent MuddyJ.com giveaway! The drawing, powered by random.org via rafflecopter.com was done on Wednesday, June 5th. I contacted the winner and she informed me that she would not be able to attend, could I please re-draw and give the prize to someone else?…. I thanked her for her prompt response and drew again, this time catching my close friend and fellow ultra-runner/marathoner/obstacle course racer Amanda “The Beast” Reyes! You all may remember her from the 2013 Austin Mudder recap, as well as the SARR Prickly Pear 50k… she is a very close friend and an excellent runner, so I was extremely happy that rafflecopter drew her name next-and so was she!

I spent Tuesday-Thursday of  the week in the hospital with Thing #3. I took her to the doctor with a tummy-ache that turned out to be an early on-set of appendicitis. She is a little trooper and made it through surgery easily and is quickly recovering… a week later you can hardly tell that there was ever anything wrong. To all those who knew and prayed, I give you my heart-felt thanks.

Don’t get me wrong… I am so 100%happy my little girl is healthy and healing, but the time spent in the hospital with her put a serious cramp in our moving schedule! I went from having a full week to paint the new house, to having a weekend (in which there was a race) to get it done! I got all my supplies on Friday, and Mrs MuddyJ and the Things’ Three headed off to visit some family nearby in Houston for the weekend.

Have you ever tried to paint a house with three small children running around?!… I nearly had a heart attack doing some trim, so them leaving for the weekend was A GOOD THING!

Saturday morning I began painting… I plugged in my Jawbone JamBOX speaker and streamed some music through my phone to it.. and then I painted…

and painted… and painted… and painted…

I had brought the clothing and shoes I had planned to wear for my race with me, as Amanda and I had planned to carpool to the event together… she showed up at my house around 0545 on Sunday morning to find me just finishing up the largest of the painting projects.

For those keeping score: this means I didn’t sleep for more then 24 hours before headed off into the jaws of an adventure race! Its no secret that I have done more then my fair share of obstacle races, and it feels like it’s been far too long since I have reviewed a race in which I got head-to-toe-muddy….I needed this and a lack of sleep wasn’t putting me off!

Being that I have been to this venue before, it wasn’t hard to find the Rockin’ R River Rides facility in Gruene, TX …after all, I did just compete in the Rockin ‘R Kayak Tri there, finishing mere moments off of the podium!

We picked up our packet and got our numbers marked on us. We had to choose a team name, and since we are both Barefoot/Minimalist runners, we became the “Barefoot Muddy Buddies” …complete with a “B M B” battle cry!

Redemption Racing always tri’s to have a little something for everyone, and Toobabalooza was no exception! There were two race options:

1:Mud, Sweat, & Toobs

Single, 2-person, and 5-person teams.
Race starts with a 72′ inflatable obstacle course.  Then you grab a toob and head for the river.  Team will tie their toobs together.  Float the river course, and then run to the other side of the Rockin R’ property for the lake, obstacles, and mud!  You must keep your toob with you the entire race.  Teams must stay together and finish together.

2:Mud, Gluts, & Glory

Race starts with a 72′ inflatable obstacle course.  Then head for the river, grab a toob, and float the river course.  Drop stack the toob after you exit the river, and then run to the other side of the Rockin R’ property for the lake, obstacles, and mud!  When you get to the lake course, you will grab another toob; stacking it again when you finish the lake.  Teams must stay and finish together.

As is the standard, a pre-race briefing was held moments before the first wave was to start. Brian, the MC and race director of RRP cackled with glee as he told us all about the course he and his team had so skillfully constructed…. and of course, leaving ever-so-much out…oh… that Brian…what a funny guy….

We bowed our heads in prayer, and got in line. Since the first part of the race was through/over/up/down a 72 foot long inflatable obstacle, we would be starting in two person waves. Amanda and I lined up next to each other, and in short order, it was our turn to start the misery fun that would be known as Toobabalooza.

We received the ‘all-clear’ to start, and we both ran straight at the inflatable and dove headfirst through the first wall… I made it to the third of three obstacles on my first jump and scuttled through the last one. I stood up to vault the next small wall, but as soon as I put my hands on it, it crumpled enough to halt the upward momentum generated by my arms- a new strategy was in order! I shifted my weight down as hard and as quickly as I could, and then used the rebound to clear the wall-it worked all too well, and I was quickly settling into the tube I was to crawl through next…

Wouldn’t you know, that tube tried to steal my Recon Wrap! I grabbed it as I continued, and clambered up the final soft wall. I got to the top and turned, expecting my team mate to be right beside me, but she wasn’t. In short order she made her way through the tube, and I reached down to help her up. Once I was satisfied that she would make the top without trouble, I shifted forward to ride down the slide…AND GOT THE WEDGIE OF MY LIFE!!!!——the inflatable was made out of–well whatever inflatables are made out of… and the humidity of the Texas morning, coupled with my running shorts… well let’s just say I was picking before I got off the obstacle to spare onlookers the horror show!

Once off the obstacle, I quickly located our shoes and sat down to work my toes into their individual pockets…Amanda was right on my heels and we were off and running to the Toob pick-up area.

We quickly grabbed two Toobs, and as we walked down to the water, Amanda set about tying them together…we were moving like a well oiled machine!

We charged into the water without hesitation, (which was near to a “wetsuit legal” temperature) and set about paddling as fast as we could. I tried wearing mine around my waist and swimming, but a course marshal on the shore informed me I was cheating, as I was required to be on top of the toob…I quickly corrected myself-thinking I should have paid closer attention at the pre-race briefing. As I tried to get on top of my toob, I overshot the jump and wound up flipping over and submerging head first in the icy water with my legs akimbo. I surfaced to everyone around me laughing, and I couldn’t help but chuckle myself when I thought of how ridiculous I must have looked!

Amanda and I are both experienced and strong swimmers, and we quickly developed a passable working rhythm that we could maintain, but we didn’t think it would tire us out-after all, the race was just starting. We paddled along at that pace, enjoying the cool water and cracking jokes, and before we knew it, we hit the turnaround and paddled back.

We got out of the water, and started running. This is where Amanda really showed her stuff! She can rock a 5k like nobody’s there, so as we shouldered our toobs and ran side by side, I tried to keep up, but I am not embarrassed to admit she pulled me along at her pace!

The run started across the parking lot on pavement, and quickly turned onto a field. By the time we got to the first obstacle, I was feeling my lack of sleep, but because of Amanda’s unrelenting breakneck pace we had passed all but one of the other two-man teams ahead of us. The first obstacle (on the course) was a small hill with a muddy trench out the backside…I was completely gassed by the time we crested the hill, but as soon as I got muddy, all my exhaustion left me in an incredible shot of adrenalin….oh how I have missed this feeling…

We exited the trench to continue on course, making good time and I was now pulling Amanda, when she suddenly pulled up short, hopping up and down on one foot and screaming as if the bones of her foot had reconfigured themselves into an internal taser (Thanks to Christopher McDougall for that line!) She reached down and pulled a large thorn from between her toes, and took a few tentative steps…she could go on, with no pain, and we were off and running again.

We next encountered another small hill, but upon cresting this one, we were graced with a preview of the course before us… we outwardly whooped and hollered (even while we were inwardly gulping!) and charged ever onward into the fray.

The next few obstacles were conquered with little fuss, save the problems inherent in conquering obstacles while carrying two inflatable inner toobs that have been lashed together with paracord. We went up and over a-frames and small walls. We crawled under short walls and through toobs.The obstacles themselves were well constructed and sturdy-kudos on obstacle construction to the carpentry team….we barely broke momentum, or didn’t even slow at all, for most of the obstacles. Amanda got a firm grip on her fear of heights and strangled it to death with the first few climbs, and we kept a solid pace throughout.

…and at every single opportunity to get muddy….well, let’s just say I lived up to my name…

The course was laid out in a small area, so it wound back on itself quite a few times, giving us a preview of our lead, the competition, and all of the other muddy-soaking wet-but-still-smiling runners on the course. We hit the water station, downed a few cups of H2O and hit the next wall head-on…errr…well, feet first actually…. up and over and then into a the actual over-under obstacle…not too easy to do when you’re slogging along with two toobs…but ever such a fun challenge! We paused at the end of it for a snapshot then ran on through the next few obstacles to hit the second toobing portion of the course….the lake toob!

Down a hill we ran and entered the water, this time ever so thankful for its cool temperature…after all, we had been running a tough pace while carrying huge inner-toobs and conquering obstacles.

The lake portion was longer then the river portion (or so it seemed) but Amanda and I paddled onward as fast as we could…thankful for our triathlon/mudder strong legs and our swimmers shoulders. We exited the lake on the opposite shore, scrambled up the hill and hit the final section of the obstacle course. By the time we hit the final obstacle, we were laughing out loud and nearly delirious with exhaustion…

During the pre-race briefing, Brian had mentioned we were supposed to ROLL UNDER the final obstacle so we would get nice and muddy for the final sprint to the finish.

Yeah right… like simply rolling around in mud would get the one and only Muddy J muddy enough for a final sprint…

Amanda and I low-crawled under the ropes…then we laid down on our backs, caring naught about time or placement, and we made MUD-ANGELS! Thoroughly coating ourselves in an extra thick layer of the stuff in the process.

That pause did two things for us:

  1. It let me slow down long enough to remember I was completely physically exhausted from not sleeping.
  2. It let Amanda get a good look down the field of competitors to get scared enough to attempt to kill me with her pace on the final sprint.

We set off for the final run leg and Amanda took off like a shot from a gun. I gave up trying to stick her pace and instead settled for hopping as high as I could with each stride to maximize my hang time as she set herself into the final run and pulled me along as if I wasn’t even there. Have I mentioned that this chick can RUN!?

We crossed the finish and collected our hard-earned finisher’s medals. We were thoroughly spent, covered in mud and had more than a few bruises, but most importantly we had an incredible amount of FUN! We carried our toobs back down to the river, even taking the time (and setting a trend) to clean the mud off of our toobs (and ourselves) before re-stacking them.

After a quick change into clean(er) clothes (we changed into our Toobabalooza shirts) and Amanda and I headed over to get some Kiolbasa Sausage wraps…another one of those wonderful things you can count on at every RRP event! We rehydrated and made small talk with other runners, and I got a chance to see my daughter’s ER nurse (who was quite wonderful at her job) and again thank her profusely for her help in making my little girl more comfortable during our time under her care.

"hail the conquering heroes..."

“hail the conquering heroes…”

With our bellies full and our thirst for mud and mayhem well slaked, Amanda and I said our goodbyes and headed off to start our respective days… after all.. I still had more painting to do….

(btw: I did get the painting finished..then I laid down on the carpet on an empty house and took a well deserved nap)

What’s next?

The “Gator Bait” Tri at beautiful Boerne Lake… I hear-tell about this incredibly hard hill climb that’s lovingly referred to as “Heartbreak Hill”….

Gatorbait_2013_logoFollowed shortly thereafter by my first Olympic Distance Tri, The “Tri for Old Glory” a few weeks later!


That’s all for now!

Stay Muddy My Friends!