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The Baker's Dirty Dozen
By Sarah Demerly

Competitors wait for their run up the cargo net and glissade down the slide as one of the obstacles at Muddy Buddy.

Saturday, May 9th, 2009 was a record setting day. It was the morning of the Muddy Buddy multi sport event in Orlando, Florida. There were an astonishing 3500 competitors at the start line. This number is significant because it speaks to the growth of multisport events on a multitude of competitive levels from novice to professional. In addition, the Muddy Buddy event itself has grown considerably with 2009 being the 10th anniversary year for the series. With a struggling US economy versus the cost of travel and racing, these numbers are staggering.

Kelly Kowalski and I prior to getting grimy.

Muddy Buddy is a Formula 1 style, trail duathlon with a bit of a twist. At the mud laden event, competitors race in teams of 2 and use only one bicycle. Each team concocts a zany team name and corresponding team uniforms. Every bicycle is adorned with decorations exclusive to each team, making the bike recognizable for easy retrieval. The format of the race is especially unique being that the athletes switch between running and riding each segment of the race. When asked about the event, Denso employee, Kelly Kowalski mentioned, “I'm very excited and a little nervous. It's my first multisport event.” Fortunately, she did very well and I had the pleasure and privilege of racing with Kelly as my partner.

Each leg is approximately 1.2-1.5 miles in length and at the end of each section, the competitors must complete an obstacle. Obstacles include, but are not limited to, river crossings, cargo net climbs, rock walls, monkey bars, balance beams and last but not least, the infamous mud pit where the event fittingly receives it’s name.

When the running member of the team reaches and completes the obstacle, they find the team bicycle and begin riding. The rider of the last segment drops the bike, completes the obstacle and then begins running for the next segment . A brainy team would use the stronger runner the first leg of the race because that athlete would complete 3 running segments and only 2 riding and the weaker runner of the team only 2 running segments and 3 riding.

The holding area before the teams enter the mudpit.

The teams switch back and forth in this manner until they reach the holding area for what awaits them before the finish line. The holding area, somewhat of a bicycle graveyard, where the faster of the partners (usually the cyclist in most cases), will drop their bike for the last time and wait in anticipation of the their running partner. When both members are joined together, still in cleanly bliss, they take a short run over to a cargo net, crawl under, and complete the last obstacle together; the mud pit.

An intimidating sight competitors see
before writhing in the mud.

Two participants on their way
to finishing the race.

Each team must crawl on their hands and knees under a series of lowered flags in order for their trek through the muck to qualify as the last obstacle. After the pit, the teams cross the finish line together arm in arm, absolutely filthy as only partners in grime can do.

Muddy Buddy racing is followed with hoses for showering off, a fantastic post race picnic and some of the best awards in the sport. The top 5 teams in each age category are awarded medals and a podium finisher photo. Prizes are also awarded for the best costumes in the event.

The aftermath.

Participation levels in Orlando were unmatched in comparison with previous years. That said, of all the multisport racing that exists, the Muddy Buddy series offers a more cost-effective opportunity for athletes of all abilities. Packet pick up is well organized and runs smoothly the day before the event and volunteers are just around the corner to answer questions. According to Debbie, a race volunteer in Orlando, "We're happy to help. This is a fun event for all of us."

The creativity of Muddy Buddy competitors shines on.

Between the race and the awards ceremony, Paul Mitchell hair products, sponsors a mini Muddy Buddy for the children of race participants. The mini race is a short run through 2 obstacles and a chance to writhe around in the mud pit. Kids under 12 are welcome to participate and will cross the pit. The assistance of a parent may be used if necessary.

In true competitive fashion, the younger competitors
await their start and race up the wall before getting dirty.

Providing events in 13 locations across the country, finding a race close to home is easy. And, the fact that only one bicycle is used and the course is on a trail, tuning up the old mountain bike in the garage isn’t as farfetched as one might imagine.

Although I wasn’t able to catch up with Muddy Buddy founder Bob Babbitt in Orlando, the writing was on the wall…or website…literally. With some helpful hints and tips my teammate Kelly and I were able to place 4th out of over 60 teams in our group. Some tips we found helpful include:

An interesting approach to the balance beam obstacle.

  1. Decide who the faster runner/rider is and proceed accordingly so that the faster in each discipline does more of their strength.
  2. Agree on a mutual resting place for the bike at each obstacle making it easier for your partner to locate.
  3. Make sure to have 2 helmets. You’ll both need to wear them throughout the entire event.
  4. Toe cages or platform pedals are a must. No clipless pedals. There are no transitions at Muddy Buddy so you’ll have to wear running shoes for faster obstacle completion and for the running segments of the race.
  5. Most importantly, HAVE FUN!

Scaling the rock wall in the adult edition of the race.

Although the Muddy Buddy series is over for 2009, join Bob Babbitt and the rest of the crew at a location near you for the 2010 season. Whether you're a pro or a novice, Muddy Buddy is sure to please.

© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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