This would be my first back-to-back race in one weekend that I have done and furthermore, this 5K race makes it just my 5th overall. My previous race took place in Arizona the day before. I had a really good race in Arizona and finished with a 36:45 time. I was worried with all the driving and then sitting on a plane from Phoenix to Dallas that my body would be tired and sore. This was not the case!
The morning of the race we headed out early so that we could find our parking spot and get all our registration out of the way. I wanted to get a proper warm up and some stretching in before my 8:30am start time. The weather that morning was a bit overcast, around 75 degrees and it was calling for light rain.
Approaching the Cedar Hill State Park we found wonderful signage pointing in the right direction. I will have to say that parking was tough once you got close to the venue area. We got lucky and found a spot about 1/4 mile away but cars had to park on both sides of the road. This was my first time taking in a Merrell event that is sponsored by Subaru. Walking towards the festival area from up on a hill it gave me a great view of the entire area. You could see a wonderful setup that included all vendors, registration, starting line, finish line, kids course and of course a few of the fun obstacles that we would be facing.
Check in was a breeze at the registration table, we got everything in one location and the bag even included some cool swag. I'm not sure but I think they were running a bit behind but nothing that was frustrating. After the national anthem they started their military division runners and then onto the brick runners. These individuals were doing a 5k race with I believe a 40 pound back pack to carry. Following those they had staggered waves for the 8:00am runners and then followed the 8:30am division. Just before the start of my heat the light rain started to come down. I'm not big on running in rain but this felt nice.
Looking at the course map that morning I did see the layout of the course and obstacles I would be facing. The terrain looked to be mostly flat but I did see there was a few minor hills nothing I was to concerned about. At the start of our wave I felt good and got out to a good start with in my group. We did enjoy about 3/4 of a mile run before we encountered our first obstacle a ladder wall. I did see some backlog here so I went to the far right and went right over it fairly easy. After this, the course opened up a bit and allowed me to pick up my pace. The rain was still coming down but it was refreshing. I will have to say that I did encounter a lot of people on this course that were walking or jogging. However, being in this beautiful park offered very wide trails which made passing people easy.
Across the grassy field in the distance I could see a large obstacle called the Monster Climb and from my distance I saw what appeared to be a very big backlog and people walking up to it to wait their turn. Personally I did not stop running I ran right up to it and found a nice opening. This obstacle featured a tiered climb of cargo netting. After that a short distance up the path we had to stop and do 20 pushups. That had a volunteer monitoring it which was nice. Thus far the obstacles for me were very easy and my pace was right where I wanted it until I hit the Colossus Climb. An inflatable slide that you had to climb up and slide down very easy right. Well this obstacle (which there was two of them) only had 3 people at a time going up on each slide. I slowly made my way around people waiting to the front of the line and again found a nice opening so I could get over this faster.
For what seemed like a 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile I was on a flat trail running and making up some time from a few of the previous obstacles. That is part of OCR racing and not starting early you are going to encounter runners and backlogs. The rain was still coming down and a bit harder now. For me this was great as it kept me cooler and my IT band issues did not flare up. As I approached the next obstacle called the Low Crawl again I came up to it fast and got right into the cool water and under the cargo netting they had over it. Low crawling through the water and light mud was fun and challenging I really liked this one. Like a bullet I shot out of this obstacle and really picked up the pace.
As the trail narrowed on this stretch I had to now weave through other runners to make my way down a steep hill onto the Heavy Hoist. Here you just had to pull up a 60lb cement block about 40 feet up and back down.
I know my 5k distance was nearing the end so I decided to push extra hard. The next obstacle is one of my favorites and it can be exhausting for most. A waist deep Water Crossing for about 100 yards. The cool water felt nice and the surface bottom was soft and easy to walk on. After completing this obstacle we had a short distance of trail running as we made our way back towards the festival area and the finish line. What we still had to get through was a few more challenging obstacles meant for all the family and friends watching.
What is an obstacle race without some sort of slippery wall near the end. Well Merrell did not let me down and their's was called Slippery Mountain. You had to get on your belly and use the rope to pull yourself way to the top. This was a lot of fun and I do have good upper body strength so I easily got over this.
Right behind this obstacle was, you guessed it, a big old Mud Pit filled with a very fine quality mud to get you completely muddy for the finish line. First we had to go through another short Water Crossing before climbing under a low net and into the pool of mud. I do have to say this was some of the softest mud I've encountered and the very low lines we had to go under left you with no option but to get your full body and face covered in mud. Crossing the finish line I had a big smile on my face I knew I had just run a very good race and probably my best time thus far. Got a very nice dog tag finisher medal and a few photos from the staff photographers and it was off to get cleaned up. The rinse off station was nice and the hoses they had were perfect for getting all the mud and gunk off you. A cool feature that I liked was they even had Paul Mitchell shampoo for everyone to help with the cleanup process.
After cleaning up we walked around and took in some of the vendors, watched the little kids do their race and waited for the results. As they posted the results I found my age division (40-44) and was just looking to see if my time improved from racing yesterday.
I would of been happy with it being consistent with the quick back-to-back turn around. Well not only did I improve and post my best 5k OCR time thus far of 28:41, it also gave me 1st place in my age group and 4th overall. I was super excited to see those numbers. One thing that Merrell does is it gives out awards to the top 3 finishers in each division. Well that was me and I was very honored that I got to receive my 1st place gold finisher’s medal along with a $110 Merrell gift card.
In closing I will say that I'm grateful that I finished well and receive some recognition for it. But at this
location for the Merrell Down & Dirty series I will have to say that the 5k distance was pretty easy for me and the obstacles were semi-challenging. Everything ran smoothly, I liked their setup, location, vendors, announcers, volunteers and how organized everything was. Also just the enthusiasm from everyone I encountered was superb and I will definitely do this race series again and recommend it to my friends.
I would give this race a 4 out of 5 stars.
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