I approached Saturday’s multi-lap effort at my local OCR, the BG Gauntlet Mud Run in Bowling Green, KY, with a number of themes for writing this review in mind. I will be covering my experience with this race in a two-part series. Today’s article, like most of our crew’s recaps, covers the event itself. I recognize that only 2-3 of our faithful readers actually participated in this event; as such, this recap frames the Gauntlet in comparison to a larger regional race because, honestly, this local is up to the task.
Course Venue & Pre-Race Activities:
The host location, Phil Moore Park, is a large county park situated just outside the Bowling Green city limits. It is split into two halves by the highway, though the Gauntlet planning team only utilized the plainer half situated by the creek. While this design did not offer much in the way of varied terrain, elevation, or scenery, the decision to keep the course on the creekside was a smart decision, essential in a number of functions at the event (more details to come).
When it comes to the pre-race part, let us remember to give a big round of applause to any event, local or national, that does the following:
- Free & accessible parking: Parking was super easy for any type of vehicle, which is always a consideration for my low riding Mazda 3. Convenient parking made bag check unnecessary, though I was able to stash my bucket at the command center with no issues. No hidden fees here!
- Seamless & speedy check-in: If a race gives swag prior to the run, timing is essential and the crew at The Gauntlet had it down. Competitors had plenty of time to check-in, bib up, and stash their goodies before the race.
- Festival fun & activities: In the event of delays or for spectators, it is nice to have some activities near the start/finish lines. The festival featured a pull-up contest at the Marines booth, shopping from Livesore Louisville, eats from the Ladybugs Fritters and Fries, and even samples from The 30 Bird, a local Whole30 based shop. The media sponsor for the event offered an experienced MC, which was a nice touch to make the event feel personal yet greater than local-scale.
I mentioned in a previous review that one great challenge of organizing a local event is finding the balance in keeping the event accessible to all. Often, a local race trades difficulty for mud in hopes of attracting large numbers to the event. The Gauntlet course design challenges that very notion by delivering significant challenges with less reliance on the sloppy shtick. As a racer who very openly competes for the obstacles and does not consider the mud itself a draw to these events, The Gauntlet speaks to my weekend warrior. The planning committee makes it a point to add at least one new obstacle each year while manipulating others so that the course evolves with current OCR trends. It is clear in the design that one of the main partners, Crossfit Old School, did the homework to make this course enough of a challenge for anyone going it Rx.
There were several outstanding obstacles, from well-built climbs and barbed wire crawls, to a surprising ice bath at the finish, but the following are the standouts:
- Monkey Bar Mega Set: Craftsmanship of a set of monkey bars is tough. This race includes a huge set punctuated with short platforms at every 7-8 bars. It is accessible for those new to OCR, yet still a challenge for the veterans to power through with no rest.
- Pole Leap Series: The newest obstacle this year looked like a rugged Ninja Warrior implement, tasking racers with a long single footed leap between a set of five poles secured in the ground. While the height of the poles posed no serious danger, it was still intimidating enough that some of the late-day racers opted to skip entirely.
- Floating Walls 2.0: New this year was an expansion and enhancement to the floating walls, doubling the 3-set and raising the boards from the ground significantly from previous years. This appeared directly following a very thick muddy crawl, making the traverse a bit more treacherous but manageable for most.
- Inverted Traverse: While no one officially tracked the pass rate for any obstacle, I would venture to guess that this one saw the lowest success rate. Covering a skinny rope with a slender rubber tube was a stellar design decision, and one I feel many branded series should adopt to reduce unnecessary rope friction. This obstacle perplexed most of the newbie racers, though veterans in the competitive heat seemed right at home. I loved it.
- Cliff Climb to Jump: The most talked about obstacle of the day utilized the setting to its fullest to implement a mind-over-matter task that an overwhelming majority of local races lacks. Wading out to the rope and then the climb itself up the ravine was tough, though the view from the top was quite daunting given the height and anticipated shallow waters given the proximity to the entry point. The water at the jump site was plenty deep and very safe, so it made for an amazing mid-race feat which re-energized racers both physically and mentally for the 2nd half of the race.
The above obstacles were notable also for causing a bottleneck starting from the first competitive heat. Though many of these obstacles had multiple lanes, competitive racers faced time-extending lines. Unfortunately, the wait only grew more extensive as the day went on and more heats released.
As much as I enjoyed the race, it would be a disservice to casual racers not to address the resounding gripe—it simply was not muddy enough. Since Mother Nature refused to shower the course with the gift of grime the night before as promised, mucking up the course became a task entirely for a crew of volunteer firefighters. Even after delaying the first waves, time ran short for the crew who fervently attempted to fill the pits adequately. Most course opportunities built for muddy escapades dried long before runners took to the course; the lack of water even caused one obstacle to close after a couple of heats due to minor injuries sustained. Still, volunteers tried their best with the time they had, and this is something I plan to dig deeper into in part two of this Race Local series.
Overall, I had a blast. Even after running a number of bigger events, the BG Gauntlet Mud Run stands among the best delivering a challenge while remaining accessible to the casual racer. It was the perfect event to benefit The Ethan Foundation, a local nonprofit with the mission of promoting healthy lifestyles among area youth. I, for one, plan to return year after year to support that worthy cause.
Stick around in the coming weeks for part two of the Race Local series where I reflect on my discussions with the race organizers along with the trials and tribulations of executing a successful fundraising OCR event.
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This author is part of the Mud Run Crew and received a free race entry in return for an independent review. All opinions are those of the author and were not influenced by the race sponsor or Mud Run Guide.