Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My Top 10 Tips for Your Next Ruckus Race

Ruckus St. Louis was a lot of things—muddy, thrilling, exhausting, hot, intense, fun, and even a little scary. 

But most of all, I would say that Ruckus was a learning experience.  

Although this blogger has participated in half marathons, swim competitions, 5Ks and triathlons, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was in for when I pulled into the GCS Ballpark parking lot for Ruckus St. Louis this past weekend.  Would I get worn out?  Was I really going to get that muddy?  Was I going to enjoy the obstacles, the atmosphere and the mess? 

Yes, yes and yes.

But while I was swinging from rope-to-rope like Tarzan, climbing nets like a spider and crawling through mud Shawshank Redemption-style, I learned a lot.  And that’s why I’m writing today—to tell you the top 10 things I learned while participating in Ruckus.  Use these tips for your next Ruckus race, and you’ll be sure to enjoy yourself, stay safe and maybe drop a little time.

1.  Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

One of the biggest mistakes I made wasn’t during my Ruckus race—it was before the race even began.  I completely failed to hydrate myself the night before the race and by body seemed to suffer from lack of water.  If I could do it all over again, I would definitely drink more fluids the week before the event to ensure that I was being good to my body.

2.  Tie your shoes...tight!
During Ruckus, I noticed that a few people actually finished the race completely barefoot!  Why?  Because their shoes weren’t tied tight enough and they lost them in the mud along the way.  From the very beginning, I saw many participants literally run right out of their shoes, then have to turn around and search through the mud to find them.  My suggestion: wear the right shoes (comfortable, but old enough that if they get ruined, you can always donate them at the end of the race) and tie them extra, extra tight.

3.  Wear snug clothing
Along with tying your shoes tight, I also recommend wearing snug clothing.  I made the mistake of wearing shorts that seemed to weigh me down and a t-shirt that was extremely absorbent and loose.  My clothing definitely got in the way (not to mention, I have a gnarly burn on my legs from sliding down Mount Ruckmore!  Oh the things we do for Ruckus!).

4.  Bring your sunscreen
Even though Ruckus St. Louis took place on a beautiful early-May morning, it was over 100 degrees and the sun was definitely blazing.  No matter what time, day or city your Ruckus race is in, I suggest bringing sunscreen.  You never know when the sun will come out.

5.  Bring flip flops and a towel for the car
After completing Ruckus, I made sure to donate my old Nikes to Barrel Aid, an organization that donates shoes to benefit orphans in Haiti, Zimbabwe and Africa.  Lucky for me, I brought some flip flops to wear to walk back to the parking lot.  My boss (who participated in the run with me) wasn’t so lucky.  He had to sprint across the parking lot to avoid burning the bottoms of his feet!

In addition, I suggest bringing a towel for the car.  Although Ruckus does provide a lot of hoses to clean yourself, I guarantee that no one leaves the Ruckus obstacle course completely mud-free.  Bring a towel for your car so your seats don’t get too muddy!

6.  Gloves could help.
When I first saw some participants wearing gloves, I didn’t exactly understand.  Why would you need gloves during Ruckus?  But then I attempted the monkey bars.  The moment I grasped the first bar, my hand slipped and I fell right into the mud pit.  Gloves would have come in handy, but only for a few of the obstacles.

7.  Take the plunge!
Ruckus is full of mud pits and challenging obstacle courses.  In the beginning of the race, I thought I would be able to finish with minimal mud stains and semi-clean hair.  Boy was I wrong.  Eventually, I decided to stop avoiding the muddy areas and to just take the plunge.  I slid on my stomach and purposefully went through the muddiest parts of the course—why not? Take the plunge and get dirty.  Chances are you’ll go faster!

8.  Take it an obstacle at a time.
Although I ran the 2 mile heater, I had to take the course an obstacle at a time (and trust me, it still wore me out!).  Each obstacle was challenging, so make sure to mentally and physically prepare yourself ahead of time.  You may see an obstacle in front of you and think “there’s no way I can do this.”  Give it a shot.  You never know what you can accomplish if you don’t try.

9.  Get there early.
Ruckus recommends arriving to the course an hour before your heat—and I would agree!  It does take some time to sign in, drop your stuff off at gear check, attach your number and time chip to your clothing and make your way over to the starting line.  But if you need some time to kill before your race, I recommend watching the kids participate in the Ruckus Mini—you won’t be disappointed.

10.  Bring your friends.
Unfortunately, I was by myself throughout most of the Ruckus run.  Although I still had an amazing time and would totally do it again, I wish I had some of my friends beside me to help me stay motivated and keep me laughing.  I recommend bringing as many friends to Ruckus as possible and forming a team—the more the merrier (and the muddier!).  

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  1. Can you run the whole thing barefoot? Or, as in my case, walk the whole thing?

    1. I would not recommend barefoot for any of the ruckus races but if you where going to the kansas city race would be the best one to try, not as much rocks, or corn stalks etc etc to some of there other venues its pretty much a flat running area through a dirt trail in fields.I lost my shoe in the creek in champions heat at st louis I found it but tried to run about a 1/4 mile with it in my hand and through the corns fields it just wasnt happening so I had to stop and get it back on to be competitive still.hope this helps

      Seize the day each and everyday-Are Jay

  2. These suggestions are right on! Last year for Ruckus, I wore my Vibram Fivefingers shoes (like gloves for your feet) and they were great ... when they're wet, they don't get heavy like tennis shoes do. Snug clothing is a must. Definitely bring towels to wash yourself off after the race ... you will be total muddy mess, but that's part of the fun. And definitely bring friends ... I ran the race by myself, but this year I'll run with my partner. Fun!

  3. I did the Ruckus Pittsburgh. If you are a seasoned barefoot runner, then absolutely. If you aren't, then I'd suggest checking out the site and course map for your Ruckus to help you decide. If you have tender tootsies, then I don't recommend it.

  4. I did not really expect to run this course and have to wait at certain obstacles. We had some fun but I trained for something that was much more continuous. If the organizers are going to register soo many people then get a bigger venue.

  5. These suggestions are right on point!!! I wanted to do the one in MA this coming June - but because of a scheduled surgery I may not - lets hope there is one for October again!