Friday, July 28th was the third year that Luscher Farm hosted the Howl at the Moon 5K Adventure Run. It was my first-ever adventure run, and I was a little apprehensive of what to expect, but my good friend Natalie who happens to be a seasoned adventure runner, assured me it would be a great time. She was right!
Knowing that the race would be popular, we elected to arrive at 5:00, just as the course opened. Parking was not an issue, and we were lucky enough to snag a spot within walking distance of the start (about a quarter of a mile). Participants who would arrive soon after, were directed to park at one of the three designated shuttle pick-up / drop-off locations at a nearby church, high school or local park. The race course was open for participants to start at anytime between 5:00pm-8:00pm with runners and walkers starting about ten minutes apart in groups of 40. Tip: if you do this race next year, make sure to arrive at 5:00pm or just before. Waiting until later, could mean standing around longer as more runners show up. The flexibility of the open start time reduced the pressure and of arriving at the course during Friday afternoon traffic, which was great foresight and planning by the race directors. However, it would have been nice to know that racers would start every ten minutes, so that participants weren’t standing around in the heat at the start.
After our very short walk to the course start, we picked up our race packets in the farm’s barn. Participants who preregistered got a cool Howl at the Moon graphic tee, Kind Bar, dried fruit sample (that was amazing!) from Meduri World Delights, and race information in a Lu Lu Lemon bag. The packet pick up station also had a bag check, where you could drop off clean clothes and towels to change into post-race, and your keys so they wouldn’t get lost on the course. Obstacle race tip: if there is going to be mud, don’t forget to leave your jewelry at home! My rings were caked with mud which wasn’t a big deal but had I lost them, I would have been so sad. As a side note and tip: I opted to wear my trail shoes, which provided me with the traction necessary to make it through the slippery mud and balancing on logs.
As we neared the start, our very first obstacle was to jump (or hoist) oneself over a 4 fit high “wall” made up of 2×4 panels. Of course, being my ungraceful self, I pushed myself up, swung my leg over, sat on top for a second, and then brought my other leg up and over. We were off! Just a few hundred meters after the first obstacle, we came to the second: a rope tied to the top of a wall which you had to climb up and over. After running about a quarter of a mile up hill, we were greeted with a shady grove of trees, that were most welcome after standing around in the sun for 20 minutes.
Next, we ran a half-mile of switch backs that was a long path cut into the side of a hay field. That portion was HARD in the heat! As we neared the last up-hill portion of the first mile, we were given sand bags to carry. I opted to carry one, but participants could carry two if they were so inclined. It was about this point in the race that a water station was needed, but we wouldn’t get one for another half mile. As I look back on my memory of the evening, I can’t place every obstacle at the correct distance of the race, but there were old tires to run through (I tripped over the second set, showing my friend that you could get through them quickly if you “cheated” by walking on top of them), two sets of mud pits to wade through (those were SO fun!), an obstacle that you had to army crawl your way through to avoid the tightly woven bungee cord overhead, hay bales to climb up and over, more walls built out of boards to climb over and under, tires to climb through, more mud to army crawl through and the : pièce de résistance the AMAZING 250 fit water slide!! This baby was the reason I came! The slide was perfectly built with care and love by someone who knows how to build a water slide. Two course monitors waiting at the top with hoses, making sure each runner got a big push off to start the journey down to the soapy water pool at the bottom. After being helped out of the splash down pool, I was laughing so hard I could barely stand! I wanted to badly to go back and do it again, but the line at the top was building and it was time to press on and finish the course. The addition of a second water slide would be my suggestion for next year’s course.
just a half mile more on an asphalt path led us back on the loop around the farm to the finish line. Smiling ear to ear, Natalie and I went to the bag check to grab our cell phones so we could take a picture to document our mud-covered selves. Having snapped our picture, we headed to an area that was set up with a mister station that had a powerful hose so that runners could wash themselves clean. Once that was accomplished, we ventured over to the Portta Potty station to wash up with soap and to enjoy the Barn Bash. Several food carts were set up for runners to purchase gourmet hot dogs and fries, BBQ sandwiches, ice cream, soda and beer. Our one chief complaint of the post-race bash, was that our entry fee did not include a complimentary beverage like many races do. Oh well! We each grabbed a snack, found a picnic table in the nicely shaded area of the backside of the barn, and listened to the music spun by a local D.J. admiring the farm in the twilight of the setting sun. It was a perfect way to end a long work week.
All in all, this was a wonderfully put together obstacle race, and for my very first one, it was a good experience. The price point was just right, and the organization was fantastic. You can’t expect to have a fast time at a race like this, so taking time to enjoy yourself and the company you are with is what the experience is all about. If you were concerned about time, there was a clock at the start and finish for those interested. Two aid stations on course provided water, which was welcome and necessary on such a hot afternoon. It would have been nice to have one more, and for the water to be chilled, but really this was not too big a deal since I’d been hydrating all day.
In chatting with a few other individuals about their experience, the consensus reached was that the explanation of how to pick up your packet the day of race was not clear in the verbiage on the website, nor was how the race start would be conducted (would there be assigned “heats” like other obstacle races, or do you just show up and get an assigned time upon arrival?). Having that information clear on the website would be very helpful for future races.
Next year, I plan on bringing more friends to this fun and family friendly event. Kids over ten years of age can participate in the race, and anyone is welcome to cheer on their friends and family throughout the course and are invited to the post-race party. There is plenty to enjoy if you don’t want to run; walking through the community gardens, enjoying the nearby park, looking at the farm animals and just enjoying being outside on such a pleasant day added to the festiveness of the day. I am looking forward to next summer’s Howl and the Moon Adventure Race!