At the spring USOCR Conference I met Jerry Foreman the owner of the Arizona based regional obstacle race series, Terrain Mud Runs. Foreman and I spoke about his obstacle race and how he operated his company. I was intrigued to see how he was able to run a regional series since 2011 getting over 1,000 – 1,500 people to almost all of his events as a smaller regional series. He invited me to come down to one of his races and it just happened to work out that race would be in his hometown of Flagstaff, AZ.
I boarded a plane on Friday morning to make the quick trip into Flagstaff airport (probably one of the smallest airports in the country). Once I arrived I was picked up by one of the owners of X Racewear, an OCR specific clothing company, and was taken over to the race venue. I love going to race venues the day before the race as it is very telling in what you might expect the next day. When I arrived almost the whole course was built, marked, and set ready to go. Foreman and his team work for a full week before race day to complete the course design and build. He told me in a later interview each race takes about 500 man hours to build and mark.
I got a quick preview of some of the course on a run with the X Racewear guys as we had a running meeting where I learned about the origins of their company. I could feel the elevation in the beginning of the run as Flagstaff is at over 7,000 feet. That would definitely be a factor for many racing. That afternoon I spoke with Foreman a little more as well as his build crew about setting up the race then went to dinner and got to bed late prior to race day. It was an early morning as I stayed at Foreman’s house and was off to breakfast and then the race course by 5:30am. This gave me deep insight into the operations of this particular race series as I was shoulder to shoulder with those in the trenches getting the work done.
It was around 8:55am that my heat (the women’s elite heat) took off. At Terrain Mud Runs that offer three different obstacle race distances for each competitor a 5K course, 10K course or 20K course (two laps on the 10K course). All three started off together and ran over half the race together before breaking off into two distinct directions, no getting lost on this course. The course itself was a mixture of traditional obstacles those in the mud run and obstacle racing world are use to, mud, walls, crawls, climbs, ropes and nets. In addition, Foreman in his design utilized a unique feature to the terrain, horse jumps. With over 20-30 different horse jumps to go over in the course there wasn’t a lot of time in the 5K course to ever get a good stride going and the intensity was high the whole time. The trails were beautiful and most of the time we were running in the tall pines.
As we approached one of the last obstacles, the sandbag carry, I asked the volunteer how many women were in front of me and to my complete surprise she said none! I was sitting in first for the women’s race without anyone in sight. My pace quickened a little and I caught up to OCR Warrior host and friend, Brett Stewart who was also running the 5K course. I managed to pass him on the a-frame monkey bars towards the finish and we raced around the barbed wire pit at the end. I crossed the finish line the first place woman in for the 5K elite heat and top 10 overall. It was a bit of a shock to me but excited at the same time to finally after years of racing achieve my first win in an obstacle race.
After the race was over there wasn’t time to celebrate but instead get interviews for my upcoming show – Obstacle and Adventure Weekly as well as help guest co-host OCR Warrior in the afternoon. Making it a very busy day at Terrain Mud Runs.
Overall, in the past I have advocated for the smaller race organizers but normally put them a couple notches below the big three, however Terrain Mud Runs showed that even a local race series can offer all and more than some of the big guys. Some of the highlights in a nutshell were:
- Course – challenging, lots of obstacles, safe, and well staffed
- Registration – organized and easy to get through
- Festival – excellent, local vendors from area gyms, running clubs, OCR training, local food trucks (including a Vegan food truck), local microbrew, as well as national brand energy protein bars and drinks.
- Swag – participants received t-shirt, bracelet, and cool finisher medal
- Location – great location with camping, hotels, and a high ropes course after the race to tackle. It gave those a reason to travel a little extra to come and play at the venue.
I have to say the way Foreman and his crew run Terrain Mud Runs should be the model for all the smaller regional races. When the minor issues on course came up his team was on top of it each time as well he created an atmosphere that welcomed racers of all ability levels meeting expectations and often exceeding them. If you are in the south western part of the US it is definitely one of the regional series to check out!
Photos from Terrain Mud Runs Facebook Page