Monday, April 8, 2013

2013 @RuckusRun Kansas City obstacle course race review

The 2013 Kansas City Ruckus Run came and went April 6, 2013. Kansas City has seen its fair amount of snow and cold weather for a late arriving spring in 2013. That warm spring weather finally arrived the week of Ruckus Run Kansas City. Temperatures flirted with 70’s in the week leading up to the race and race day was forecasted in the mid to high 70’s. But, what racers found out April 6th was that they had to wait through clouds, wind and 50 degree weather before the heat came later in the afternoon.

For runners on the course, the cool temps were great until they hit the first of many cold water mud pits and tried to drag frozen limbs across the cross country terrain to tackle the last few obstacles to climb Mt. Ruckmore. Once up and over Mt. Ruckmore, obstacle course racers had water, t-shirts and good memories to keep them warm.

Your favorite endurance sports blogger (me, duh) ran the Ruckus Run on a complimentary entry to review the event. Read on below for the 2013 Ruckus Run review.

The early bird gets the worm.

If you got in on the early waves, you were treated with cool temps and high winds, but also prime parking for those in trucks and SUV’s or anyone willing to venture off-road to park right across from the registration tent. If not, there was a little hike involved from your car to the tent to get your chip and bib. Racers could consider that a warm up, if needed.

Something new, something old.

Grain Valley Speedway has been home to the Ruckus Run ever since they started in Kansas City in 2011. It’s a little bit of a hike from the suburbs in Johnson County on the Kansas side, but the venue gives free reign to Ruckus to basically tear the place up. Not many other sites with parking and access will let events dig 5 foot pits and fill them with water for 1000 people to run through.

They kept “Mt Ruckmore” for the finish. It consists of stacked shipping containers rigged with cargo nets and balance beams and slides. It was a nice addition from 2012 that makes the end feel like a crescendo and gives you a feeling of closure to your race.

They had some of the regular offenders for obstacles like backwards wooden ramps, lobster cage crawls and water/mud pits. The “infield” was great for spectators to run around and watch multiple areas for family and friends without interfering with the race. Access to the infield was through shipping containers under obstacles or under cargo net areas. It’s a very ingenious way to get people in and out without disrupting the race course.

For 2013, the course was completely redesigned. The start was a long stretch of cross country running to get racers warmed up before hitting the hard stuff. It was also a good call to get the blood flowing before dunking runners in 1 of several water/mud pits with less than warm water. Runners didn’t notice the cold wind as much after that since their extremities were frozen. But, that was all a part of the experience.

The mini-Ruckus for kids 13 and under was redesigned as well. It offered a lot more obstacles than the past and to the excitement of many parents and their car interiors, they created a nice mud pit for kids to run through at the end. Once entered, kids could run the course as many times as they wanted. The kids probably didn’t last as long as previous years since the obstacles were more involved and required more energy from the kids to navigate. Well done Ruckus.

Another addition was the Ruckus Rumble. This was free to spectators in the infield both old and small. Think of a 50 yard sprint obstacle course with 4 to 5 obstacles. Runners of the Ruckus Run, Mini Ruckus or spectators could all take a run at the Rumble through the entire event at no additional cost.

Registration

Ruckus offered a lot of specials. Kids could race the Mini Ruckus for free if parents signed up for the adult events. If participants signed up in October of 2012, they could get a free parking voucher (normally $10). They ran contests and were creative in many different ways to attract racers. That did cause some issues in some getting their passes and vouchers as seen on their Facebook page.

Aside from the specials, traditional registration was painless and automatic. Just hit the “register now” button their site, and you’re in. If runners did have questions, most were answered immediately on the Facebook page or directed to the information email.

The race packets with the bib and timing chip were picked up on race day, according to last name and that’s the time racers and parents of kids in the Mini Ruckus has to sign the waiver. Had people not known about the waiver, they would have had to leave the line for the timing chip and bib to fill out the waiver at another table. It was a small issue as the lines were not long, but it’s something to keep in the back of your mind for next time.

Organized chaos

With over 1000 runners, 1 course supporting two distances, a kids’ course and all the support that goes into keeping the event running smoothly, Ruckus Run has it down to a science. They have changed the course and the start locations, event layout and anything else they deemed necessary to support a quality event. The infield spectating area moved without congestion. The start area was well marked and announcements were timely and available to be heard throughout the venue. Parking was handled with multiple assistants directing traffic to keep things moving. Bib and chip pickup was divided by last named with multiple lines to ease congestion at registration.

One of the few catches might have been at the sign-up for the day of the event. The line was longer at times as anyone registering for the Challenge, Heater and Mini Ruckus had to go to one location to get hooked up.

Racers and spectators needed to pay attention for their heat announcements and other organizational issues for the event, but the event was littered with volunteers that could answer questions or find someone that knew the answers. The Mini Ruckus had 4 to 5 volunteers to monitor kids on the course, help them over obstacles or cheer them on. The Ruckus Rumble had 2 to 3 volunteers as well to keep order and peace. The Challenge and Heater course had 3 to 4 volunteers on every obstacle with the occasional medical person at turns watching racers. Volunteers were also just standing watch at turns offering encouragement and support. At no point on the course or spectating would participants feel that Ruckus personnel or staff weren’t on hand for assistance.

Port-a-potties are a subject of contention for endurance events. Nothing stresses out the GI system more than impending endurance racing. The Ruckus provided what seemed to be more than 20 port-a-potties and at no times was there a line for a potty. That fact is also assisted by waves being spaced out over time, but as the day progressed and more people loitered after their race and more people arrived to race, getting a potty was never an issue.



The course, of course

What’s an obstacle course race without a superior course? The event boasts more than 20 obstacles over 4 miles. The obstacles ranged from a water run-off creek, log walks, balance beams and 5 foot deep mud pits. The course offered obstacles scalable to non-endurance racers and on the flip side, obstacles that challenged the most seasoned endurance athletes. Every part of the course was doable and if racers needed to, they could opt to walk around each obstacle.

The beginning of the race was around three quarters of a mile of cross country running which provides warm up time and a chance to thin out the wave for the more advanced athletes to take the obstacles first, eliminating the possible wait time.

Speaking of wait time, Ruckus Kansas City 2012 had issues with lines forming at some of the obstacles. The 2013 version brought better vision in eliminating some spots of congesting and re-arranging the course to keep a smooth flow of racers. The only real congestion point was Mt. Ruckmore with a bottleneck at the cargo net climbing area.

Of course, as the day wore on, the water sections became soupy mud pits and racers were more and more dirt brown instead of just wet. Overall the course held up well and provided a challenge for any level of athlete looking for a fun run over 4 miles of cross country and obstacles.

Celebration time at the finish line

Once down the monster slide from Mt. Ruckmore, racers received their finisher’s shirt, medal and water. It was a systematic approach to keep the event moving with a chute to lead finishers off the course and back into the spectator area.

It wasn’t apparent if there were any offering such as bananas or fruit at the end, but everyone had an equal opportunity to purchase food at the concessions area. It may not be ideal to spend more money to get food after paying to race, park and spectate, but it was there. Anyone in the infield was also allowed to bring whatever they wanted. If you wanted food and didn’t want to pay for it at the event, racers and spectators did have the option to BYOB (bring your own beer) or BYOF (bring your own food).

Runners had the open space to relive the event, talk with friends and lollygag in general without being pressured to get in the car and go home.

Money talks

The Ruckus Run is affordable, if you got in early. If you took advantage a year early. you only paid $60 for the Challenge Course. Race day was $90, which is a little steeper. Add to that parking at $10 and unfortunately they did charge for spectators over 10 years old to come into the infield to spectate.

If you have a family of 4 with two adults racing and two kids hitting the Mini Ruckus, you would pay $60 for each adult and $20 for each child and $10 for parking. That would be a $170 day without buying any food at the event.

If that family of four had one adult racing, one child racing and 1 child over 10 not racing, it would be $60 entry, $10 parking, $10 for each spectator and $20 for the Mini Ruckus. That’s $110 for the day.

Now, Ruckus did offer specials for free parking, free Mini Ruckus entries and chances for reduced entries for taking surveys and other deals. If racers had to pay $90 for the Challenge course and pay full price for everything else, they needed to get online with Ruckus on Facebook and twitter. Heck, even following this Examiner would have resulted in opportunities for savings.

Overall

The Ruckus Run is a quality alternative to the standard 5k or 4 mile run event. It provides a chance for adults to be kids getting muddy and playing on an oversized jungle gym. Safety is priority number one, but it’s ultimately up to the athletes to ensure they are being safe in tackling the challenges.

Ruckus offered many options for the day. They provided the 4 mile Challenge course, 2 mile Heater course, a very intricate kids course and the free Rumble course. Any athlete of any level should have been able to find something that fit them.

The price is higher for this type of even over the standard running event, but when you truck all of the show in and build the course, it’s actually a pretty good deal. Add to that the fact that Ruckus offered several chances to get in at reduced rates, there was no reason why any racer should have paid full price for everything.

The Ruckus Run is ultimately what you make of it. You can grab some friends and have a good time getting your money’s worth by taking an hour to run the course, or you can be super competitive and red-line your heart rate for 35 minutes to see what you’re made of.

Writer’s note - Ruckus offered a complimentary entry for the Ruckus Challenge to review the course. Event organizers in no way influenced this review.

Check out the Examiner review for slideshows of more pictures.

Stay tuned for my personal recap of running the Challenge course.
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