Down & Dirty – Part 1
11am Sunday the 19th of August and here I was bunching everyone together for the classic ’before’ photo. “Dammit I forgot to brush my teeth” I said to Dean who was next to me. “Don’t worry, they’ll be covered in mud soon” he re-assured me.
The event in question was the much anticipated Western Mudd Rush, an 8km military style obstacle course guaranteed to include large amounts of mud, logs, water and whatever other horrific ideas the organisers could think of.
The start line sat on the other side of 5 black plastic tunnels knee height off the ground, a nice pre-race taster of what was to come I imagined as I crawled through. Looking around I quickly confirmed the whole team was still there. It was encouraging to know no one had made a run for it, because there certainly was no turning back now.
Following some collective jumping around to ‘doof doof’ music and chanting with the MC, the gun went off and our team along with 280 other participants made their way jogging up and down a series of small grassy hills layered with slippery plastic matting. Those who were in doubt stuck close to the edge taking advantage of the grip of the grass while the rest of us gave it legs to get up the middle. Rounding a small corner we were then offered a short lived panoramic view of the grassland before being confronted by a big sloppy runny mud pit with knee height lengths of barbed wire strung over the top.
Without hesitation the boys started belly flopping down and sliding through the mud. I tentatively decided upon a hands and knees approach keeping my head low and mouth closed for obvious reasons.
Mud fights, big logs and hurdles followed presenting little challenge for the Zoom team, with each individual making their way up, under or over anyway they could through the fences. Our team spread out a little before being stopped by a crowd waiting to tackle a rope net looped over a wooden beam about 2.5 metres high. Confidently we coordinated team members to hold the ropes out at the bottom while each person carefully climbed their way up and down again with safe foot placement until we were all on the other side. Cheers and yells rung out as we realised we’d conquered our first big wall and forward we went, perhaps even a little surprised at the success we were so far having.
Next was an army rope laid over an ankle deep muddy pit of water that took me back to my NZ primary school days of boot camp style play equipment; far from the rubber coated, bark padded playgrounds of today. I began crawling on hands and knees thinking how wussy I now was as an adult, feeling the horrible gravel embedding itself in my knee caps until one piercing stone made me hastily post to my toes. My head was now lower so I could power forward more easily allowing the rope to slide over my back. Eureka, my knees couldn’t have been happier for such a discovery!
Afterwards came a series of impossible monkey bars over water. The water was ankle deep and the bars were unusually thick so I could hardly get my hands around them. Slipping after two bars I dropped to the water and resigned to wading through followed suit by many other team mates who also found the bars to be too wide and slippery to grip.
Any earlier excitement was completely abolished as we approached a horrible looking series of tunnels. Hay bales with pieces of ply wood layered on the top offering those crawling through only small gaps to pop their head up like rabbits out of a hole. And they were low. Too low for my liking. But nevertheless with other team members coming up the rear it was time to suck it up and just do it. So belly down, using my elbows, I edged forward, hips side to side with as much efficiency as I could manage.
The smell and stuffiness of being trapped by so much hay was suffocating and I immediately wondered if anyone on our team suffered from claustrophobia before I heard familiar laughter ringing out ahead. Intrigued, I took a moment to pop my head out one of the holes to see what all the fuss was about. Sure enough in different sequences heads were popping up and down all over the place proving to be an amusing sight for those who were finished and waiting at the other end. Without wanting to be amongst the hay any longer than necessary I got back to it and found my way through.
Picking up the pace we scaled a few more logs and hurdles before yet again being stopped by another crowd. A long line 4 people wide spanned for over 1km waiting for what we were told was the Slippery Dip. 15 minutes passed and the line had hardly moved. Not surprisingly only a few participants were coming out from the other end as Chinese whispers started to circulate that someone had broken their ankle. Organisers then started directing teams past the Slippery Dip and a decision was made by most of the Zoom Team to skip the Slippery Dip too, knowing that the wait times for obstacles would enable those who did stay, the chance to catch up later.
Eager to keep moving and stay warm I took the opportunity to run ahead and then also behind the group to check how everyone was going so far. I was glad to be met by enthusiastic responses and it soon became clear that if our team did have any problems during the run that it wouldn’t be anything we couldn’t conquer with our humour and cheerfulness intact.
Faced by a long grassy straight before an angled wall with a rope, I heard a flurry of giggles as I turned just in time to see a determined Dani taking a sudden surge forward. Striding purposely and quickly with a huge smile on her face she hurried to triumphantly overtake nearby competitors, in a deliberately executed sprint placed perfectly in front of Sandra, our team photographer. Cheers and hoots reigned aloud as those around applauded Danni’s sudden gusto in getting ahead for an absolute ripper of a photo, one that will undoubtedly go straight to the hypothetical Zoom pool room!