Merrell Down & Dirty- Atlanta 2014

Call me Tretsch. I do not have any particular interesting tale to tell of my daily madness. I am not one of those amazing people, who – perhaps wider in girth, lacking in fitness, and slower of foot – made that life changing decision to get off the couch and through enviable will power tackle OCR life. Nor am I a disabled athlete; Superheroes all, who somehow through sheer tenacity and grit, tackle and complete the same damn obstacles as everyone else. I’m just a regular dude who fell in love with OCR, hooked up with a bunch of fellow lunatics on the OCR crazy train to Mudville and decided to fully enjoy the ride.

It was by the third race that I had enough energy to pull my head up and really look at where I was going and see what I was doing. So I decided to write about the races I was doing. So join me dear reader on this adventure; there will be irreverence, there will be much self deprecating humour, there will be profanity (Advanced apologies. You have been warned), there will be obscure references, and there may even be some good information to be gleaned that may help you decide on your next race. All that strive to better themselves out there on the stinky mud fields of suffering you inspire me. I hope I can return the favor by making you laugh.

I give you;
Merrell Down&Dirty Atlanta 2014; Observations on the run:
I arrived at the Georgia International Horse Park in the dead of night (well 7:20 in the morning. But being only 50% into my 20 OZs of Dunkin Donuts pre race fuel, it sure seemed like the dead of night) and rolled effortlessly into the VIP parking lot. This shaved about a 1/4 of a mile off the walk to the festival area.
The early morning fog was thick. The festival area klieg lights bright in my eyes. The tents, ghosts in the background. The atmosphere pure Hollywood; a strong “the Military has taken over this mysterious buried object dig site. Trespassers will be shot” kind of vibe. Check-in was opened 3 minutes early and was seamless. A quick pre race ritual visit to the impressive battery of still clean port-a-potties (for journalistic reasons of course) and I was ready to lace up. I can’t emphasize enough the benefits of arriving early.
As usual mysterious GORMR (Georgia Obstacle Racers & Mud Runners) elves had the tent already set up. I stowed my gear, slipped on my creepy toe socks (according to my wife. You should see the twitching that occurs if I just say the words “toe shoes”), squeezed into my neon orange calve sleeves, fired up the GPS watch and went for a slow 1 mile warm up. I had realized 5 races into this OCR craziness that at 46 years old I needed to warm up all manners of pieces and parts on my body. My limbs didn’t like the cold call from my brain trying to get them to buy a timeshare in a lovely little A-frame with lovely views of naturalistic settings. It has improved my performance significantly. I highly recommend it.
We queued up for the 8:30 a.m. 6 mile race when the announcement was made. Here they had an interesting corral system; military and first responders first, the brick division next, followed by everyone else split into groups by their own perceived (objective I’m sure) knowledge of running pace. All groups had a 2 minute gap between release.
down and dirty fb
A beautiful soulful rendition of the National Anthem was sung, as the bright sun was rising, and then the horn wet off and it was ON!
1. Down and Dirty? More like Up & Runnin’. This was a trail runner’s course. The first 3 miles only had 5 obstacles, with the next 15 spaced out over the next 3.6 miles.
2. D&D now has surpassed Rugged Maniac in the shortest sandbag carry distance known to man. Points though for the old school bag with the twisty closed top.
3. Twenty push-ups was an unexpected surprise in the woods. My form was lacking.
4. Colossus Climb had a tinge of danger around the edges of its childish bouncy house DNA. You just weren’t too sure if you were going to shoot off the end of the slide and get the full on parking lot gravel enema. Alas, it was stickier than sliding down  a banister in shorts on a muggy day. What’s with having to take a hard 180 to approach an obs when you have a billion acres to work with? Just stupid.
5. As I am not Nadia Comaneci, the balance beams were going to prove to be a challenge to even get on until a hand shot out into my peripheral vision, and Lo!, it was my friend Shenoa. In a Ballachine worthy moment, we executed a perfect pas de deux and pulled each other up onto our respective beams. Teamwork at it’s finest and most spontaneous.
6. The marine hurdles were surprisingly tiring. It didn’t help that I spun around the second of the three and landed on my ass. Sorta like a rotisserie set on really high.
7. The tires stacked two high kept for high knees, yet it was the last single one that reached out and said “hey!” And so, I took the bronze in my age group today, but took the gold in falling on my face…..again. Not Mother Nature this time (reference Savage Race write up) but Pappa Michelin.
tire baby
A sidebar; I’m a mildly seasoned OCR runner, more jalapéno than scotch bonnet, but I’ve done well in the 10 I’ve run. I started running, trained with regularity  and podiumed my age group a few times. So it’s with a budding elite runner’s sense of bravado that I say to the trolls (most of you who are being passed by me and my older cousins, the Silver Foxes) out on the race course that make nasty comments and act generally rude to a slower, less fit, perhaps walking participant and ruin their day out on the course; fuck you! Fuck you and your special kind of stupidity! If I ever hear that when I am running by, I will call you out and shame you on social media as only a wit truly can.
Where was I?
d&d sandbag
8. So, as I’m hanging from the top of the Monster Climb with my thumb and forefinger firmly pinched between cargo netting and steel pole, I thought to myself, I REALLY need to get this flip turn thing figured out. This of course was followed by a sound best described as a cross between a preteen girl finding out all the members of One Direction are gay and two fornicating peacocks. After extracting myself, blood shot out from under my finger nails, which was nice.
9. Just like Battlefrog, I loathed running on the granite.
10. If someone had night vision goggles on they would have been laughing their ass off watching me run through the under road tunnel. Being prone to falling on my face, as it recently seems, I was high stepping through that darkness like an over emoting cat burglar.
11. Monkey Cross was one of the interesting obs highlights. As I reached for the upper rope about midway across, imagine my surprise when it magically shot up out of reach. I realized, as I was avoiding another faceplant with merely two fingers and a toe, that the rope was continuous and unsecured between the two lanes. So when one grabbed the rope and pulled down, it raised the length of the rope in the other lane. Diabolical. Make this obs twice as long and you have a good challenge.
12. Jim’s Jungle gym was the other interesting obs. Half a standard A-frame cargo net on one side but something entirely different on the approach side. A series of alternating Klee clamps up a steel pipe made for a cool way to make the climb. Make that twice as high and it would be awesomely terrifying.
13. I boulder, it’s what I do in lieu of weights. Seeing a 10 foot wall  covered in climbing holds after 6 miles made me smile.
14. A soapy, sudsy incline wall? I could just hear Madge at the top of wall screaming “you’re soaking in it!”. Needed to be 5 feet higher. And again! What’s with the 180 degree approach. Stupid.
15. So for 6 miles I kept thinking, “I’ve been down (and by down, I clearly mean falling on my face and getting dumped on my ass) but I have not been dirty. Then they hit you with the awesome mud humps/crawl right at the finish. Love it! Truth be told I’m getting tired of all the body cleansing-wedgy producing-crash into a pool of water-at the finish line slides. Mud is the true OCR patina that needs to be brought across the finish line.
16. Great festival area, weird main stage. Corporate sponsors Merrell and Subaru had some great tents. I almost got my hair did at the Paul Mitchell tent, but they recoiled in terror at my locks. The Marines were there with a pull up contest. I did not partake of the concessions but it smelled good. And I only wish I had had time to climb the portable climbing tower.
17. No beer. This is a bummer for me, but not a deal breaker. Just that that frosty adult beverage goodness tastes so damn good after a silly lark like an OCR.
18. The rinse off area was good for two reasons: the hoses had great pressure and there was a bonanza of Paul Mitchell hair shampoo. Never have I left a race with such silky smooth hair.
19. I want you all to take a look at the head band thing you got in your swag bag. Now look at the pictograms that
show the myriad ways (it’s a hat, it’s a brooch, it’s a pterodactyl!) in which it can be worn. Top row far right. A blindfold?! WTF?!
“The safe word is Larabar”….
20. Many people complained there weren’t enough obstacles, it was more of a trail run and it wasn’t challenging enough. For me, I embraced it as a chance to really see how much I could quicken my pace. I do agree on the first point, but remember OCRs are running (if you choose to do so) at its core. And as for not being challenging enough? That’s bullshit! You could have run faster, tried to do the cargo nets with one arm, carried two sandbags, jumped the military walls without touching them with your legs, done 40 push-ups, put bricks in a backpack (you guys are nuts by the way). The point is these races are as challenging as you make them whatever that may be.
21. As always it was fantastic to see and talk to so many GORMRs
climb slide
This is a good beginner race and should be on your list if you are trying to entice a friend to join our demented ranks. For the more seasoned racer its a fantastic way to see how much time you can shave off your pace. There was a complaint that the course was exactly the same as last year. This is a rarity in the OCR world and should be used to your advantage. You can actually compare apples to apples from last year and really get a good metric on fitness progress. Would I travel more than 3 hours for this race? Probably not. But, if you are in that radius, come, race, and be awesome.
*Photos By: Robert Tretsch, Gameface Media, and Merrell Down & Dirty
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Robert A. Tretsch, III, aka “Tretsch”, is a gentleman architect and founder of the Grey Berets who revels in the pursuit of mud, obstacles and the occasional podium step.
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1 comment
  1. I agree, a great beginner race at a beautiful venue. Atmosophere was quite family freindly, lots of kids running around. Nice change of pace.

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