Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Hillsborough River State Park Swamp Stomp Mud Run - August 20th - 21st 2016


Our campsite for the weekend!
On Saturday August 20th and Sunday August 21st Hillsborough River State Park hosted their very first Obstacle Course Race (OCR), Hillsborough River Swamp Stomp Mud Run!  This event was the first OCR of its kind to be funded and hosted by a State Park in Florida.  I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of this weekend of muddy memories.  One of the bonuses about hosting a mud run within State Park boundaries is the ability to camp and enjoy all of the Florida’s natural wonders.  I was fortunate enough to have a large group of friends from MudRunFun and other participants who decided to take over the camp ground for the weekend.  This provided me with several bonuses which I rarely get on race days! Bonus number one was that I didn’t have to wake up super early to drive across the state to then get out of the car, warm up, run, then get back in the car, cramp up, and drive home!  Bonus number two was that all my friends were camping as well and we were able to hang out, enjoy ourselves, plan a pot luck meal, and all the kids played together making their own wilderness memories.  As a side note, camping…in August…in Florida, was probably not the most comfortable idea in the world however we got through the heat by staying hydrated and complaining to one another about how hot it was at least three times, every five minutes, which is what every Floridian does when air conditioning isn’t an option.

Me having fun while at my Volunteer
Station!
The first day of the run I decided to volunteer and watch my fellow team mates, friends and runners complete this brand new course.  I was stationed at the last obstacle which was the “Surprise” obstacle.  It consisted of an approximate 15 foot mildly slanted wall with 4 black tube slides at the top which slid you down into a bunch of hay.  The easier option was a 15 foot climbing wall which had foot grips allowing participants to climb up the side as necessary.  This obstacle was also the last one on the course which allowed me to talk to participants about how the run was and what they liked about it.  On most OCRs the last obstacle is known to be the most challenging.  From my observation, Swamp Stomp definitely abided by this common practice.  I witnessed elites having to try this obstacle several times before mastering the slanted wall.  I had the advantage to watch athletes techniques, get their opinions of the course, and cheer people on who were attempting the wall over and over again.  Many racers were surprised there was not a small rope at the top which allowed climbers to grab onto to pull themselves over to the top, but isn’t that what an OCR is about?  With all that was said, the obstacle was strongly built, in great shape, and had an easier option for those who were vertically challenged!

This ended up being a fun filled day of volunteering.  The Volunteer Coordinator checked in plenty of times and gave us race snacks to take with us to the obstacle. When our shift was up, we were able to get one free beer, a yummy grilled lunch, and the option to run the course that day or wait till Sunday morning. Because of the Florida mid-day heat I decided to wait until Sunday morning to run in order to take full advantage of the course while well rested and somewhat cooler temperatures.

The "Surprise" Obstacle
with slanted wall.
This mini-volunteer Corey
gave runners high fives
after conquering the
obstacle shown!
During my volunteer shift the number one comment made to me, from racers, was that this was definitely a “runners” course.  What does this mean in OCR terminology?  This means the obstacles are farther apart, and there may not be as many man-made obstacles such as walls, rigs, and cargo climbs which we call “obstacle heavy” races.  Some racers view this as a positive, others a negative.  For me, I love both types of courses because I love the challenge each one offers.  After hearing this comment from the previous day runners I was excited to run the course the next morning.

On race day my first observation from Swamp Stomp was the Finish Line and Start Line were in two different places within the park.  As a State Park race I can see the reason behind this unique concept.  There is limited open spaces for the festival area, limited parking, and isn’t the point of a State Park run to actually walk around the State Park!?  The two locations were in walking distance from each other however you definitely needed a map and/or clear directions to find the finish if you weren’t running.  This would generally be a huge inconvenience for runners who bring items with them such as bags, after race fuel, or even car keys.  Swamp Stomp eased the pain of this hassle by providing FREE bag check to its participants.  Runners were able to check their bags in, next to registration, and have their bag meet them in the Finish Line festival area!  This was an excellent feature which allowed me to pack a bag with a change of clothes, extra water, and a towel for after the race.

Fire Jump Obstacle!
Hot Hot Hot!
On Sunday morning I ended up running the first wave of Hillsborough River Swamp Stomp Mud Run.  I love running in the first wave because this allows me to get a “fresh” view of the course before many other runners are able to step foot on it.  As the horn blew for us to begin we were led through the parking lot, onto a sidewalk, and before I knew it, this race gave you an obstacle in which I had never seen at an OCR race before, the parks swimming pool! Racers had to run through the shallow end, then jump in the deep end to do over/unders, then get back outside the pool, and then back in the shallow end to run out of the pool area.  This was an immediate cool off to the hot summer day which was quickly approaching.  I have to admit this was super fun and I loved it.  A safety bonus to myself and runners was the fact there were life guards stationed around the pool just in case there was an emergency.   Once the pool was cleared, the course led you into the woods.  Scenic nature was everywhere and some of the obstacles were natural obstacles like fallen trees, knee high swamp water, creeks, and even more mud!  Man-made obstacles were placed at appropriate points and included many of the standard obstacle course type structures.
Monkey Bars.
There were monkey bars, an inverted wall, see-saw tubes, balance beams, wall climb, walls, hay bale climbs, a tire carry, and wall climb.  For a brand new mud run all of the obstacles were very well made and the volunteer staff were appropriately spread out to accommodate and cheer on runners.  I counted three water stations around the course to help runners hydrate while partaking in the event and stationed at each location there were an abundance of volunteers encouraging you, cheering you on, and giving you high fives.  It began getting super hot mid-way through the 4 miles and to take my mind off the heat I looked to the scenery around me.  There were open fields, forest, swamp areas, and small creatures everywhere.  I even spotted a few deer during the run scampering away.

As I grabbed my large finishers medal I ventured to go grab my bag, from bag check, and take a look around the festival area.  It was a smaller area than what I was used to but it had picnic tables set up to enjoy food (They had TURKEY LEGS) and one of my favorite local
brewery’s Cigar City Brewery serving up beverages!  There was also music and a very large area with hoses to wash the mud off of yourself.
Just me, rolling around in dirt.

I will be totally honest!  I was skeptical going into this race only because I know the challenges first time races take on.  My level of expectation was also pretty low because this was funded by the State Park itself and I was not counting on having high caliber obstacles.  After participating in volunteering, camping, and then running I have to say this by far exceeded all of my prior judgements.  This race was challenging!  The obstacles were very solid and the fact it was in a State Park made the trail run absolutely gorgeous.  I even heard a few stories of families camping in the camp ground with no intention of running this race, or any mud run, and then signing up to run on the spot!  This race was an awesome race to run with the family.  Kids were encouraged to go with their parents and everyone helped each other as the day progressed.  As someone who does a lot of races the one thing I love is to see is young people out on the course.  This race provided the opportunity for adults, teens, and children to try out a new sport, in a safe environment, with the help and encouragement of others.

Brian Pinson, Park Ranger
Showcasing the Medal
If you have ever wanted to try a mud run but have been intimated by some of the larger names out in Hillsborough River Swamp Stomp Mud Run on April 22, 2017.  I know I can expect more obstacles the second time around and twice the fun!  Great job Hillsborough River State Park for your successful event!
the OCR world this is one of the best to begin your journey!  Not only that, but I recommend taking the full advantage of the Hillsborough River State Park while you are there.  Come early, camp out, hike, canoe, and enjoy time out in the wilderness.  I am planning on being at the Second Annual


Tips for new runners who want to participate in the next one!
1) Don’t be scared, just register! Everyone motivates and helps each other out.  If you can walk then you can do this race.
2) Bring a change of clothes for the finish.
3) Bring a towel to sit on in your car for after the race.
4) Bring a bucket or trash bag to pack up your dirty clothes in.
5) Don’t wear ANY jewelry or have anything important on you when you race.
6) Sunscreen – Bring it and use it.
7) Bug Spray – Bring it, use it, spray, spray again and consider it your new perfume for the day.
8) Wear clothes you won’t mind getting stained and are breathable through the heat.
9) Make your camping reservations early to secure a spot if you want to stay the night.
10) Bring cash for parking, food vendors, and BEER!
11) Warm up your hands by giving as many high fives as you can.
12) Make sure you have a Positive Attitude!

Register for the next Hillsborough River Swamp Stomp by clicking HERE!

Want to camp that weekend!?  Visit Reserve America to make reservations today.
My MudRunFun camping group!
Memories were made and stories will be told
about this weekend!




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