Losing Pride: The Battle of True Mudd: May 2016

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In the world of Obstacle Racing, every event is a battle.

Some fight to overcome addiction.

Some fight to improve our health.

Some fight to inspire others.

Some fight to celebrate milestones.

Some fight because the battle itself is a proof of life, a validation of our struggle and effort.

And for others, it’s pride.

True Mudd 2015



Entrenched History

For every obstacle racer, whether novice or elite, there’s that one race–that one venue–that affects most. Perhaps it was your first event after a physical or addictive recovery, or since you reclaimed your health. Perhaps it was the site of your greatest defeat or victory.

Or maybe it’s your first love, the first encounter with the fire, the fury, and the grit of OCR. For me, that place is the soul-sucking swamp course of True Mudd in Tabor City, NC.

True Mudd, although a relatively small venue, suckled me on the first tastes of triumph and the validation of hard training. It’s my OCR stomping grounds, my springboard into the greater world of racing, and no matter how far I traveled to fight in the races, I always returned home to the swamp.

But every romance encounters storms.

For reasons still unknown, the relationship grew cold. Communication stalled. Races fell through. Changes and the introduction of new faces inflicted wounds which ran as deep as the mud trenches of the course. Like a lover scorned, I felt betrayed and sought revenge on the field of battle, but I had underestimated my opponent.

True Mudd May Starting Line


The Combatants

One of the newest features of the True Mudd brand was the introduction of a pro-team. Admittedly my competition heretofore had not been too threatening, however I knew the battle of May 2016 would be an entirely different matter. This team had a history with OCR and training.

From the beginning of the race, even though I toed the line as a legacy athlete of True Mudd, the reality seeped into my bones that this would be the greatest fight I’d ever encountered on an OCR course. It was there, surrounded by these young lions, that the only guarantee was that whoever triumphed would have to sweat, bleed, and claw for every soggy inch. I was ready to give it all, and so were they.

The Course

Situated on a hunting preserve in the waterlogged outskirts of Tabor City, NC, True Mudd is a 5k course with a soul-wrenching magnetism which demands the utilization of every athletic skill set, and even greater resolve.

Most courses and venues–while making good use of terrain–are ultimately artificial in nature regarding obstacles. Not so with True Mudd. From the rusty ponds and trenches of mud and clay, mounds of earthworks and the screech of indigenous wildlife rise from the ground like the biological functions of some enormous golem.

True Mudd Trench

Although most 5k courses are built for speed, the water traps of True Mudd rob one of every advantage, creating an equal opportunity suffer-fest which tests each athlete in mind, body, and soul. Four of us remained in a pitched battle, never more than 25 yards apart, throughout the entire event. There was never assurance of victory, and the course withheld none of its ruthless potency.

Pride and Fall

“True Mudd is my course. I will prevail.” That was my mantra before toeing the line. Though I respected my opponents, I could not give them the slightest notion of victory. My history with True Mudd ran deeper. My affair with the the mud, the swamp, the hills and even the damn mosquitoes were personal and beyond the understanding of these fresh youth of the new marketing blitz to revive the brand.

I should have been the face of the course. I deserved that title. Their defeat would prove the point.

The Battle of the Trench

The Battle of the Trench

What arrogance, what pride.

I pulled ahead of the pack with less than 400 meters left in the race and it appeared I would have my victory. Only the warped wall and slide into the pond remained. Then, I was turned and twisted on the slide, and confusion about the swim direction sealed my fate. The three exited the pond together only seconds ahead, crawled beneath the wire, and collapsed just beyond the finish line.

“He’s exhausted,” my father-in-law observed from the crowd as I emerged from the water and looked on.

“No,” my wife countered, understanding the look in my eyes. “He’s defeated.”


I crossed the line mere seconds behind, nonplus, confounded, enraged. While I shook the hands of the other men, I harbored a wounded pride which swelled within as I walked off and sulked alone in the pond.

“How could you betray me?” I growled at the course. “We were supposed to do this, together. We were supposed to show them…”

The Aftermath

True Mudd Pier


Following the completion of the race, I honored my promise to volunteer on the course, and so made my way to the 15′ platform jump with my wife. Of course I pouted a while, but there’s just something about cheering on folks as they combat the anxiety of leaping off a 15′ platform into a rust-colored pond that improves one’s mood.

If these people can get over their fear, surely I can do the same with wounded pride.


Every athlete leaves the battlefield with new insights, fresh vantage points on their training, nutrition, strategy, etc., but I walked away from True Mudd with brand new perspective.

First, the course owes you nothing. I ran True Mudd before the others. I knew the course first, knew it “before they were cool.” Tried to help build the brand, but was turned away, but that does not bequeath me a right to victory. The course favors no one. Victors are birthed by struggle and sacrifice alone, and only the fittest of her children in mind, body, and spirit survive.

Second, victory is never assured. Their are no tyrants in OCR. Usurpers lurk in every corner, snipers poised to topple every regime. Just ask Ryan Atkins, who recently lost an undefeated record to Hobie Call in BattleFrog. OCR is a lady with many suitors, and while she never settles down, one can always do more to contend for her affections.

Third, what we want isn’t always what others need. My love and history with the True Mudd course, while creating a valid claim, does not grant me the right to represent her. I’ve sown blood, sweat, and tears into her muddy bosom, but what the course reaped is a cadre of fine youth well-suited for the task.

It’s said that true love is the desire for the good of an other, as other, with no expectation of return. By that definition can I really say that I loved True Mudd, or that I was selfish, wanting her only for myself? Looking back, I see what she can be without me, and I understand the error of my pride. Is there a place for me there? As a competitor, yes, but in the machinery of the course…that’s up to her and her attendants. For now, I can honestly look upon her and these new athletes and nod with approval, knowing that we’ll see one another soon and that the course is in good hands.




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