Back in the winter, Hubie Cushman messaged me with a huge opportunity. He wanted me to cover his Indian Mud Run event which occurred just two Saturdays ago. While fellow MRG blogger Keven Parrish got the scoop out in Conshocton, OH, I was wrapping up a family vacation scheduled nearly a year earlier. One of the highlights of the race, and the reason for my invite, was Larry Cooper and his Destroyer. It turns out, Indian Mud Run was a whole lot more than a playground race.
Larry and I live real close. The other thing we have in common is our love of backyard tinkering on building new obstacles. While Larry has made a fine business of it, I prefer to keep mine to myself for training. In fact, my two favorite training places are my backyard and the five playgrounds in my town.
Two of the playgrounds are at elementary schools. Two are on beaches at some of the more than twenty lakes in town. The last one is at a sports field. The bonus at each of these locations is a giant wood cabana with big roof beams and support poles. All of this adds up to a six-mile loop of OCR training facilities.
I start or finish in my backyard. Right now it has a pullup bar with a campus board on the rear. I installed the latter back in the winter so I could train to beat the Destroyer. Previously, I had an adjustable military wall. But I tore it apart and transformed it into an inverse wall. It can also be a rope wall.
Out on the playgrounds, I have just about everything I need. The rest is in the trunk of my car. I hang climbing ropes from baseball backstops. Or I tie two of them together then string them between posts on the equipment for a Tyrolean Traverse. My trunk supplies include a 40# sandbell, a 50# Wreck Bag, a 75# log, a 5-gallon bucket, a weight vest, a spear, and a tire.
The course I set up this past weekend included twenty-two obstacles. The race started with a two lap tire drag around a sugar sand loop about 0.15 miles. There were three of us but only two of the tires were outfitted for dragging. The third tire was for pushing across the soft sand to whoever the unlucky person was coming in last.
I tacked the course on the cabana pole. While children played on the equipment and parents gawked, we made that playground a 3-mile course of pure adrenaline. No lakes or running the town loop today. Everything was right here in a small, compact area. But it was no joke. This playground has monkey bars, parallel bars, huge tires, weaver poles, and all kinds of stuff limited only by my imagination.
After all, that’s what playgrounds are for. This is where kids go to play, have fun, and let their imaginations run wild. We’re just big kids at heart. After a few obstacles, we settled into a rhythm. Do an obstacle, drag a tire for a lap. The whole purpose was to train for Palmerton. The tire drag through that soft sand was perfect for simulating the long uphills over the loose terrain of Blue Mountain. Because the course was so compact, we had no recovery time between drags. Just right over to an obstacle, execute, and right back to the tire. I’ve done Palmerton three times so I know what to expect. My two trainees have never been there. For John, it’s just two weeks away. For Megan, she has a bit longer until the NJ Super in November. For me, I have the CBP Stadium Sprint in October. I will be way over-trained for that. But it’s for John that I’m doing all this. He’ll be so much better trained for Palmerton than I ever was.
Imagine getting all that from a playground. Those swingsets you see in front of the course map are really 30-feet of traverse. We swing sideways, straight-armed, like orangutans from one end to the other. With the right momentum technique in the lower core, it takes a lot of pressure off the shoulders. Otherwise, it’s a real burner.
The tire swings way in the background are much shorter. But with the swing attached right in the middle, it makes for a very technical barrier to get around when traversing upside down. We got to do them twice. The six-inch diameter poles were very difficult to grip as the sweat just poured on this 90-degree morning.
That helped me to reinforce another Palmerton tip to my friend. Take a moment to dry off. That race is very wet, very muddy. Do whatever you can to dry your hands. It’s worth the time. Better than the time it would take for thirty burpees if you fail. Sure enough, John slipped from the pole because his hands were too slick. Palmerton does not care.
The cabana is perfect for more technical traversing of thick wood beams high off the ground. The Ape Hanger is a loose version of this. Both require intense core work and concentration. Other times I’ll use the cabana beams for pullups. My next goal is to affix a rig along the beams. I have the rings, balls, and nunchucks all set to go.
Meanwhile, back on the sand, I laid down a fifty-foot low crawl. I hammered in a bunch of stakes and tied jute cord between them. This was the next to last obstacle. Covered in sweat, we emerged from this with sand now covering our bodies and clothes. Perfect for heading over to the rope climb at the end. I hung the rope from a backstop.
First we practiced a few minutes to show Megan, our newcomer, how to do the S-wrap. She struggled with it. Not unusual. Then she bagged it and just went up using the monkey wrap. No problem. I went up with just arms. That’s because Hunter McIntyre said so in his OCR 101 featured two weeks ago on MRG. No more S-wrap for me. Arms only is fast.
And so was I. Despite taking pictures along the way, taking time-outs to give training tips, and drying my hands before lots of obstacles, I ended up “winning” our little training race that morning. Call it home field advantage. No matter. If you have a playground near you, save the gym money for recovery drinks. Because like me, you can turn that free playground into a beast for training.