Muddy Good Fun

October 13, 2002

Men, don't do the Brooks Muddy Buddy Ride & Run because it
includes all-female teams with names like Blondes on Bikes and
Dirty Double-Ds. Don't do it just because you can get around the
course in about an hour, or because there's beer at the finish
line. Sign up for the Muddy Buddy because you know you're not
going to see That Guy.

You know That Guy. He's the mirthless, Speedo-clad aerobitron you
see at every 10K and triathlon who's always too busy checking his
heart-rate monitor and duct-taping his nipples to return your
greeting in the parking lot. His legs are shaved. When he's
finished with his GU, he drops the packet on the road, as if his
registration fee bought him the right to litter. Someone forgot
to tell him that the event is a weekend diversion, not an Olympic
qualifier.

You don't find That Guy at the Muddy Buddy, an eight-city series
of races as challenging as any out there, whose 17 rules and
regulations nonetheless end with this command: "Have fun!"
Milling around before the start of the Chicago event on Sept. 28,
I spoke to a guy whose T-shirt said, your mom is hot! Was that
his team's name? "No," he told me. "We're the Dirt Bags." Nearby
stood the members of Team Swamp Ass. (Don't ask.) There was a man
with a scuba mask and snorkel taped to his bike helmet; a man
with a video camera mounted on his hard hat; a woman in a Batgirl
outfit.

Topping them all for sublime silliness was the man in the
lime-green frog suit. This was Bob Babbitt, the owner of San
Diego-based Competitor Publications and creator of the
four-year-old Muddy Buddy, which strives to be as convivial as
it is competitive. The field consists of teams of two. Both
teammates set out on the seven-mile course at the same time, one
running, the other biking. Upon arriving at the first of five
obstacles, in this case a six-foot-high wall of hay bales, the
biker dismounts, surmounts the obstacle, then continues on foot.
The runner, arriving later, scales the wall, then sets out on
the bike, which has been left in a transition zone off to the
side. This leapfrogging continues through the impediments--such
as a course of old tires through which the competitors run and
crawl and a shallow pond--until the end of the race, which is
marked by the event's signature obstacle, the mud pit.

I teamed with my neighbor Gordon Wright. We came in 41st out of
690 teams and might well have placed higher were it not for the
Jackass-caliber endo I performed on the bike. Eager to make up
some time on the first descent, I hit a root, lost control and
went over the handlebars, abrading my right side and loosening
the seat post. For the rest of our race the saddle kept slipping
down, robbing us of both pedaling efficiency and dignity. "I felt
like Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp," complained Gordon, who was
nicked up as well: Diving into the mud pit, he skinned a knee--a
wound not serious enough to prevent him from visiting the beer
tent before seeking first aid.

Even without the wipeout we would've finished well behind Joe
and Steve Hinson, 19-year-old fraternal twins from Bloomington,
Ind. Their time of 51 minutes was all the more remarkable
because Steve raced with a prosthesis on his right leg, which
had been amputated below the knee after a lawn mower accident
when he was nine. On some uphills the foot of his prosthesis
kept slipping out of the bike pedal. "That's O.K.," he said. "I
just got off and ran it up. Every time I passed someone, they'd
say, 'Keep it up, buddy.' People tell me I'm their inspiration,
and that's my inspiration."

At the awards ceremony Babbitt draped medals around the necks of
the winners in each category: Elite, Male, Female and Beast
(teams whose total weight exceeded 400 pounds). The winners
earned entry to the Muddy Buddy championships, to be held on
Catalina Island on Dec. 6. "That entry includes," said Babbitt,
pausing dramatically, "absolutely nothing. You have to fly your
asses to L.A., and you have to fly your asses back home."

I found myself wishing that other races were a little more like
this one. I found myself eavesdropping on the frog-suited Babbitt
as he posed with a comely young blonde while her mother took
their picture.

"Once you go green," he told them, "you never go back."

The next SI Adventure will appear in the Nov. 18 issue.

COLOR PHOTO: RVP HURTIN' The author slogged to a 41st-place finish.

The leapfrogging continues until the event's signature obstacle,
the mud pit.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)