CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Before we begin, we offer this important training tip for Mud Run aspirants: Just because you mix Gatorade with vodka, doesn’t mean you’re hydrated.
Hungover, out of shape and unprepared, Team Limoncello completed the World Famous Marine Corps Mud Run in 1 hour, 34 minutes and 59 seconds Sunday at Camp Pendleton. In their maiden Mud Run, team captain Kellee “Goat” Stooks, team sherpa Patrick “Mud” Bertinelli, team orthopedic surgeon Jeff “Jeffro / The Ringer” Martin, team personal injury attorney Roger “Our Hero” Martin and I, team bartender and official scribe Stacy “Toes” Bertinelli, finished in 202nd place overall – 94th in the Mixed Team division.
But we can say we were the fastest hungover team in our age group – and we did beat 99 other teams, and even whipped 386 individuals who started the run 15 minutes ahead of the teams… though we cannot vouch for their blood-alcohol content.
Here is our triumphant Team Limoncello victory photo…
Now, before you start complaining that “Hey, these’s guys don’t look too muddy,” please note that both Patrick (left) and Roger (far right) were wearing white T-shirts when we started the race… and this was after we’d been blasted by fire hoses. Click here to read more and find out whether you’d like to be one of us, the few, the proud, the Team Limoncello Mud Runners…
Though the Mud Run officially started at 9:15 AM under cool and cloudy skies last Sunday, the real story began Friday when Jeffro’s friend Zoran canceled his team membership card THE NIGHT BEFORE WE WERE LEAVING FOR SAN DIEGO. Panicked, Jeffro called his brother / Our Hero / San Diego resident, Roger, to enlist him in the Limoncello cause.
“I don’t know, Jeff – I’m not really in very good shape… I haven’t been running in a long time.”
“It’s OK,” Jeffro replied. “You haven’t seen who we’re running with.”
And since we HAD to have five people to be a team, Our Hero relented, figuring he’d probably have a good time… until he arrived at the hotel at 7 Sunday morning and saw the aftermath of Saturday night.
In a nutshell: The Pat and Stacy Mobile Cocktail Party resulted in one maimed mermaid sand sculpture; a pair of wet jeans; two birthday kisses for a 52-year-old with Pippy Longstocking braids in his beard; three episodes of bonfirus-interruptus; a gastronomic adventure with Mexican food from a hole in the wall recommended by said braided-bearded birthday boy; two cardboard Burger King crowns; a bucket of sand; a molested crab trap; one loud rendering of Jane’s Addiction’s Superhero and half a bag of sunflower seeds, culminating in an interior cleansing / acid bath for the X3 by Arnold’s Mobile Detailing Service back in Scottsdale on Tuesday.
“You guys don’t look so good,” Roger said, surveying the carnage.
“You’re right,” I replied. “I think I’m still drunk.”
In the parking lot, we boarded a white school bus and sat silently like green recruits trundling off to boot camp. Squinting at the trails that laced the broad-shouldered hills of Camp Pendleton, Kellee pointed to a particularly sadistic incline and said, “I wonder if that’s Suicide Hill?”
There was not enough time to answer, as a drill sergeant boarded the bus and began barking commands: “WELCOME TO THE WORLD FAMOUS MARINE CORPS MUD RUN. THIS IS THE BLUE PARKING SHUTTLE BUS. WHEN YOU’RE DONE WITH THE RACE, REMEMBER BLUE. YOU WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO BOARD THE BUS IF YOU’RE MUDDY. YOU WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO BOARD THE BUS WITH BEER. YOU WILL HAVE TO CHUG IT OR CHUNK IT – AND NO ONE ON MY BUS IS GONNA CHUNK IT. HAVE A GOOD TIME AND REMEMBER: NO CHUNKING.”
At which point Jeffro made the first of seven visits to the Port-A-Potty.
Standing amid 3,500 motivated hard bodies that were stretching and doing jumping jacks and running in place, we marveled that everyone except us seemed sober and fit and strangely inclined to wrap their shoes in duct tape.
“We should take a picture of that for Duct Tape,” Goat said, referring to Team Limoncello founder Kristi “Duct Tape” Olson. “And we should remember that for next year: Bring duct tape… and maybe a towel.”
“That’s implying we’ll be here next year,” Mud said.
The duct tape, we learned, was to keep your shoes from becoming permanent artifacts along the trail, and so Our Hero, Roger, commandeered spare tape from a team of 12 in matching T-shirts. Unlike the other 300 teams in the Mixed division, we did not have matching T-shirts… nor did we have towels… or duct tape… or a waterproof camera… or sunscreen… or flip-flops… or dry clothes, if your last name was Martin.
No, all we had were the Brothers Martin: An Ironman Triathlete / Ringer (Jeffro) and his not-hungover, but very fit brother Roger (Our Hero) whose mission, since they chose to accept it, was to schlep my and Pat’s fat asses around that 6.2-mile course and make sure no (wo)man was left behind: A team’s finish is based on that of its slowest member (me) and ALL TEAMS ARE REQUIRED TO FINISH TOGETHER.
With the grim brand of fatalism that only accompanies being woefully unprepared and terminally out-of-shape, we started at a Stacy-friendly walking pace behind our 2,995 fellow competitors as we all grunted up a chute of single-track, around a bend and into a blinding spray of fire hoses. That’s when we started running.
So here’s the race in a nutshell: 6.2 miles of off-road adventure. The first part of the course features some stream crossings designed to triple the weight of your shoes in preparation for a soul-crushing, 571-foot ascent stretched over four grueling miles. Then, when you’re really exhausted, you “get” to complete the obstacles strewn amid the bodies scattered across the final two miles.
An example: At the lung-searing crest of the first major climb, you “get” to hurdle six hay bales. Then with your quadriceps burning like your un-sunscreened skin, you “get” to “run” up a second, even-steeper hill past Combat Town, where real Marines train for urban warfare and where they clearly enjoy inflicting psychological warfare on Mud Run participants because this was, in fact, the aptly named SUICIDE HILL.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: I’d watch Goat, Jeffro and Our Hero trot into the distance. A step or two behind, Pat would look back over his shoulder to check on me. Then I’d jog / trudge / stumble to the next water stop and find Goat, Jeffro, Our Hero and Pat chatting breezily about the bacon they planned to eat after the race. They’d see that I had enough motor skills to grasp the paper cup of water that the handsome young Marine was pressing into my hands, and they’d take off.
“Now that’s not entirely true,” Mud says. “I would hang back with you and run the uphills when you were sucking wind, and then hang back with Kellee on the downhills when her knee was acting up. I was running sweep.”
He said that because he had to…
So anyway, thusly swept, we arrived apex of the four-mile death march. Legs quaking from forcing my cement shoes uphill, I “got” to stomp through a tire obstacle, as Jeffro, Goat, Our Hero and Mud cheered from the other side.
“Wow, you’re not as far back as I thought you’d be,” Jeffro said, as they took off again.
We paid for this privilege, you know – and it does benefit Marine Corps families whose Moms and Dads are serving our country. But I was not thinking warm thoughts at this time. Instead, I was delighted at the opportunity to reintroduce myself to my friend, gravity. If you’ve read any previous posts, you’ll know that I’m an “Athena” athlete, meaning I’m top-heavy and I go downhill with relative ease, and friends, I flat-out flew down the backside of that mountain. Granted, if I’d even tried to stop, I probably would have bowling-balled my way through about 60 competitors, but for the first time all day, my teammates were looking at my backside, and to me, it was a beautiful thing.
That is, until we got to the first mud pit / 5-foot wall climb. Now, Goat and I had actually trained for wall climbs to mixed results during our non-alcohol-related preparations back in May. But those walls weren’t prefaced or aftermathed by two 20-foot-long, thigh-deep mud pits… nor did they have Marines.
God Bless the Marines! Those extremely motivated young men squatted in the mud with their backs to the slimy walls, allowing us to use their extremely firm thighs as stepstools to hoist ourselves over said walls. Dodging flailing feet and falling bodies, the Marines wanted to ensure all competitors enjoyed the fullest extent of the Mud Run’s offerings:
“NO WIMP WALLS TODAY, MA’AM!” one of the Marines shouted at a cluster of mudders who crept toward a 3-foot half-wall at the edge of the second pit. Chagrined, Pat pretended he was just helping another competitor and got back in line.
Splattered with pebbles, grime and mud and laughing hysterically, we emerged from wall-climb No. 1, and rounded a bend to find a giant river… which we had to cross… in chest-high water.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Mud said.
And like a riverfront revival, we entered the cool water and waded across what was truly the most refreshing and cleanest part of the day… until you hit the warm pockets. This, of course, was followed by a second wall-climb and a raucous adventure in scooting hands-and-knees through the tunnel crawl and wiping out like I’d been thrown into a blender sideways. From there we “enjoyed” more fire hoses as we ran past the glorious 5-mile mark and into a chocolate-pudding slagheap that farted and burped and tested the bonds of duct tape as we stomped our way to SLIPPERY HILL.
Imagine a black-diamond ski run: Now, cover it in banana-peel clay and point a fire hose at it. Now, ask 3,500 people to climb it at the same time… and ponder the traction control of duct-tape.
With a half-mile to go, it had come to this, a steep descent down the bone-dry back side of SLIPPERY HILL. During the obstacle segments, the five of us had been keeping roughly the same pace, encouraging each other along, anticipating a cold beer at the finish line and perhaps even starting to enjoy ourselves, and that was precisely when Goat’s knee locked up, preventing her from making it down the hill.
“Actually, Jeffro, I think this is why you’re on the team,” I said. “You owe her a carry.”
He may not be an officer, but he is foremost a gentleman: The Ringer hoisted Kellee on his back and piggybacked her down the side of the mountain, as Marines, fellow competitors and teammates high-fived him and somewhere Joe Cocker got misty-eyed. Pat ran blithely past me and said, “Don’t even think about it.”
The final obstacle resembles the Marine Corps recruitment films where you watch the gritty young man belly-crawling his way beneath strings of barbed wire. Yeah, we did that – only we had to crawl on our bellies through a 30-foot slough of murky brown water18-inches deep beneath, not barbed wire, but a taunting display of Coors Light flags… oh, and if you’re Goat, you had to complete this challenge while Jeffro was holding on to your ankles as payback for the piggyback. No man left behind, indeed.
Spitting grit from our mouths and wiping mud from our eyes – “You know, we’ve probably been running through our fair share of fecal matter all day,” Jeffro joked – we linked arms and crossed the finish line together, heading straight toward the beer line to bask in the hoppy goodness of our outstandingly motivated accomplishment… and maybe catch a shower. Except that the shower lines were an hour long – which is what happens when 2,619 people have finished the race in front of you… and you don’t have a towel.
Lying on the grass in the sun to dry the mud on our skin so we could dust it off with … a wet muddy T-shirt? … Team Limoncello pondered the many epiphanies that had revealed themselves to us over the course of the race:
The Ringer: “You know, this is the first race I’ve ever done where I wasn’t trying to win or beat people… and this was kind of fun.”
Mud: “This is the funnest time I’ve ever had exercising in my life.”
Goat: “I have rocks in my jog bra. Quit staring.”
Our Hero: “I seriously did not think I would have this much fun – especially when got to the hotel this morning. But this was a blast. Count me in for next year.”
Toes: “Yeah, next year when we bring towels and duct tape and clean clothes and flip flops… and maybe next year we’ll skip the vodka and Mexican food… or not.”
The Army used to have a cool recruitment slogan: It was the toughest job you’ll ever love… Mixing metaphors (and likely offending the inter-force rivalries of any Marine readers out there), we all agreed: The World Famous Marine Corps Mud Run is truly the “funnest jog you’ll ever tough out.”
Team Limoncello is taking sign-ups for next year via email – and we hope you’ll join us.