I kicked off my last weekend bright and early at the Dirty Girl mud run, arriving before 6am to lend a hand on the first volunteer shift of the morning. As the first volunteer on site, I received the exciting job of checking in the rest of the volunteers, which meant I got to meet everyone right away! As usual, the people who offer their time for events like this are fabulous, interesting, supportive, creative, energetic people, and we quickly formed a lively team. Ironically, the second person to show up was also an Amanda, so we made the volunteer coordinator an honorary Amanda, then later added yet another. I spent the majority of the morning with these lovely gals, checking in helpers, managing the participant check in crowds, and popping around to wherever help was needed.
By the start of the second shift, it was clear there were not going to be enough volunteers, so I gladly hung around to keep helping. I didn't do quite as much in the afternoon (there were far fewer participants coming in after a certain point) but I held down the volunteer tent and was ready for action just in case, which helped put the event staff at ease knowing they had spare hands at the ready. I made some great connections with the Dirty Girl staff, including the event director, and was constantly impressed with everything I saw throughout the day! Hardworking, dedicated people who know what real fun looks like - made the long day (I ended up being on site for almost 12 hours) pass by in a flash!
Eventually it was time for me to tackle the course. Volunteers from the early shifts receive a free entry into the event, which is a fantastic reward for having fun and helping for a few hours. By the time I got to the start line, there were only a couple start waves left in the day, and the course was almost empty, but my wave had about a dozen women, most of whom had been volunteers at my side! It was fitting to run with them, to enjoy the fruits of our labors together.
With our later-day start time, we had high heat but no lines at the obstacles. Fortunately, dealing with the heat during a mud run is as easy as, well, diving into the mud! A couple early obstacles featured knee-deep mud pits to get us dirty right from the start, but there were plenty of climbing obstacles in the middle of the course that needed a reliable grip. The middle-course mud was sparse, apart from a couple squishy tracts of trail, but the obstacles were challenging, especially the giant cargo net or the bouncy pyramid - but I got to the top with no problems!
The end of the course brought ALL THE MUD. First, there was the slide. Straight down into a huge mud pit, there was no way one could escape this station without getting really, really dirty. There was also apparently a huge risk of swallowing the mud, and I spent a few minutes after exiting the pool trying to spit out whatever got in my mouth. GROSS, but my own fault. The next obstacle was another massive mud pit, this time with a heavy net under which we had to crawl to get to the other side. I got a little tangled, but this was definitely an obstacle where teamwork came in handy, and my fellow volunteers helped me get out! The camera man was at the ready for me on this one, to capture me in all my filthy glory.
The last bit of the course was just a pool of mud to slog through. The gals in front of us were throwing down, mud wrestling style, but we were already dirty enough! We waded through the pool, slowly climbed up the slippery incline, then crossed the finish line for our medals! I loved that there was a camera man and a nice backdrop at the end, too, so you could get a picture right away before rushing to rinse. And, because our bib numbers were invisible under all the mud, the photogs were kind enough to tell us the time at which they snapped our photos, since Gameface Media allows you to search photos by clock time and location. So it was easy to find all of my glamour shots!
After the race, there were dozens of hoses to rinse, and the line moved surprisingly quickly. The downside was that the water pressure to feed into these hoses was incredibly high, making the streams of very cold water shoot out very hard. It hurt to wash! With the amount of mud everywhere, it was very difficult to actually get clean; normally I'd be prepared after a mud run with lots of towels and sheets to cover my car, but this time I had focused more on the volunteering part than on the post-run preparation. I had to get as clean as I could without knowing what I might have in the car for the ride home. Luckily I did find one sheet and one towel, so I managed to get home with minimal car mess. Before I left, I had time for one more photo, inspired by the Dirty Girl jumper logo, which is easily my favorite shot of the day!
Organization: I might be a little biased on this one, but I think the race was put on magnificently. I have a soft spot for Human Movement Managment anyway, since it was their superb Zombie Run Extreme that got me hooked on racing just over a year ago, but working directly with their team all day just confirmed their awesomeness. Not only did I get to see first hand some of the problem solving and customer service they offered on site, but I also got to be a part of some of the solutions. Volunteers received quick trainings and the area staff members were always accessible for questions or special cases. The course itself was properly staffed, and the people stationed at each obstacle were proactive and helpful, especially when it came to timid participants. Wave starts were executed on time, services moved quickly - just a well oiled machine all around!
The Course: Some mud runs I've done just didn't have much... mud. Not a problem here! There were plenty of obstacles, plenty of mud, and lots of places to have fun! I believe the course was a full 5k, too; even though it's not a timed event, it's still nice to have an accurate distance. For the most part, the obstacles were well-spaced along the distance, though there was a particular stretch from the first aid station at mile one to the obstacle just before the second aid station, which marked mile two, that had nothing but heat. With the layout of the area, having that mile long stretch was essential to keeping the course distance accurate, and there weren't many places to stick obstacles along the way, but it did get a little dull towards the end of that mile. That was probably my only complaint about the entire event, and it's a relatively small issue consindering how many obstacles were packed into the other two miles! Apart from that one problem, the obstacles were interesting and diverse, well-managed and safe, and tons of fun.
The Swag: So, volunteers don't actually get the normal race swag with our free entries, but we do get a really cool shirt of our own, and anyone who completes the course gets the big pink medal, too. Not bad for a freebie run! Participants who pay for their entries get a pink t-shirt, a black drawstring bag, some hair care samples, and a cute pendant with the Dirty Girl logo, along with the finisher medal. I heard some people commenting on the "lack of stuff" while I was wandering around the race festival... Here's what I have to say to that: LOOK AROUND. Yes, you may have paid more than you'd pay for a road race, and you got items similar to what some of the higher end road races provide, but this isn't a road race. This is a huge production. Every one of those obstacles costs money to purchase and maintain for safety. With the level of danger inherent in a mud run, insurance costs are higher than a road race. Transport of obstacles adds up. Permits, tents, water bills, all of these things contribute to the cost of putting on this race! Your money went to more than just your t-shirt. In fact, if you'd really like to find your value, look no further than your FREE PHOTOS. That's right, every Gameface Media photo on this page was free of charge. Touched up, with logos added, all free. My suggestion to those who balk at the price of mud runs: register early when it's very cheap, and appreciate the scope of what your money provides!
The Bottom Line: This was one heck of a day! I highly recommend the volunteer experience, but even if you'd rather have the "real" race swag and want to pay for the run, you'll get an amazing day full of dirty fun. Try to remember to bring a change of clothes and some towels, and as many friends as you can convince to join you! It's all about having fun, and Dirty Girl is just about as much fun as you CAN have with a mud run!
Have you participated in mud runs before? What obstacles challenge you the most, and what are your favorites? What incentives would get you out on the course as a volunteer?