Joe’s review of the 2016 My Muddy Valentine

An early wave takes off at the 2016 running of My Muddy Valentine.

The 2016 edition of My Muddy Valentine lived up to its name, with some of the deepest and stickiest mud I’ve ever “run into” on an obstacle race. Terrapin Events’ annual adventure 5K at Lee Farms in Tualatin took place on Saturday, February 13th, featured over a dozen mildly to moderately challenging obstacles, and was a fun and lively event.

While parking was available at the race site for $10, I opted to park at Meridian Park Hospital about a mile down the road and take the convenient shuttle bus to the start. After disembarking I found the start area to be filled with convenient and easy to find amenities. I had pre-registered and picked up my packet at Road Runner Sports on Friday, but the day-of-race registration and packet pickup lines seemed quick and efficient.

After scouting out the bag check and vender tents, I made my way to the start to observe and take some photos of an earlier wave as they headed out onto the course. At first, race officials were announcing the waves by number and not by time. Since I had signed up by time (9:30a) I hadn’t checked which numbered wave I was in. Another women in the 9:40a wave had the same uncertainty and asked a volunteer, who radioed a race director. Soon they were mentioning the start times too, and put an end to any potential confusion.

The morning was overcast, but not particularly cold, so I doffed my jacket, took a “before” photo of myself, handed my bag in at the gear check tent, and wandered over to the start. Along with our race numbers, we were given a timing chip and a plastic strap to affix the chip with. However, there were no written instructions provided, so while I correctly assumed it went on the ankle, several runners had put it on their wrists and had to be told to reach down low when crossing the start and finish mats.

A course volunteer and some avian spectators at the 2016 My Muddy Valentine race.

Soon the countdown was on and we took off down the gravel and dirt road. The first half mile or so was on open road curving through the farm, before we reached our first obstacle, a muddy limbo-like romp through mud puddles and under wooden frames. Soon after that came some low walls to climb over with gooey mud in between.

The third obstacle was the hardest for me because of my shoes. I made a great choice of footwear for the mud: trail shoes with aggressive “pips” on the soles that kept me from sliding in the muck. Unfortunately, the “Pull your weight” challenge was a slanted wooden wall that was just tall enough to require at least one slippery step before you could grab the top. And my shoes with their lumpy soles were not the kind of grippy court shoe that worked in that situation.

I was afraid of slipping and whacking my chin on the boards, so I lost a couple minutes as I let other people go and plotted my strategy. Finally, after observing others’ techniques, I took a running start and scrambled my way up to the top without suffering any catastrophic injuries.

I climbed down and starting building momentum again on the dirt roads, only slightly perturbed that I had been passed by another runner in my wave. After all this was purely for fun and not a “race” in the conventional sense, right? The rest of the obstacles were pretty benign, with lots of scaling hay bales, stepping over and under tires, climbing low walls, and traversing deep and shoe-sucking mud. Lots and lots of shoe-sucking mud!

Somewhere around the 10th obstacle, I noticed I was catching up with the guy from my wave. I passed him just before the “Steps O’ Love” challenge, and felt a little less guilty about the time I’d lost on the slippery wall. This was the one time I let my competitive instincts take over in an otherwise low-key event.

One challenge I was a little concerned about, especially at a Valentine’s themed event was Syphilis Hill, until I realized it was actually Sisyphus Hill, and all we had to do was roll a large ball up a muddy slope, like the character from ancient Greek myth. Whew! That was a relief! 😉

One thing that confused me a little was a creek crossing where we simply walked over some narrow boards. The course map shows a rope swing, but I guess there are always last-minute changes necessary. I also never saw the rope-pull up a muddy slope and the big slide down the hill on black plastic, yet there are photos of both of those. I hope I didn’t miss those or cut the course somehow, but I’m not sure how that would have been possible.

The course was reasonably well marked with yellow tape, but it probably would have helped to have a few more course volunteers at some spots. Overall, My Muddy Valentine was a fun and light-spirited romp, with the emphasis on muddy. The obstacles were nowhere near as formidable as similar races like the Warrior Dash or Race The Reaper, but the mud was much more impressive than at those events.

Post-race food and drink were plentiful, and the logistics were mostly well-organized. Some of the informational aspects could be improved for next year however. It wasn’t spelled out exactly where the parking for the shuttle was located. I had to Google Legacy Meridian Park Hospital to find the address. Once I knew where it was I saw the signs, and it was very convenient though!

Where to wear the timing chip should have been made clear too, and the waves should have been announced by time, but both of these snafus were quickly identified and addressed by the announcers. A few more course volunteers, and this race would have been just about perfect.

If you like adventure races, but you’re not ready to simulate basic training in an event like Race The Reaper, My Muddy Valentine is a great choice!

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