Nothing to Want

Ever had a day you can point to as the ultimate, most fabulous, personally satisfying experience?

I’m lucky to have one of those days every few months. Yesterday was one.

It started in Southwick, Mass. with a crazy, silly, grueling race called the Rugged Maniac. Just 5K long, it felt more like 50K due to the conditions, which included lots of mud, at least a dozen obstacles, and unexpectedly challenging terrain. Set on a motocross track of short, steep, sandy hills, it looked like this:

Rugged Maniacs trying to get through 5K of mud, hills, and more mud on a motocross track

I was happy to find that among the racers were plenty of other people who weren’t taking the whole thing too seriously. I mean, there were a bunch of men in pink shirts emblazoned with “Whiny Little Girls,” Gilligan got off his island to run it with a group called the Dirty Divas, and there were more who were less easily identified.

mud stuck 'em together

can you name that character? I'm surprised the costumes stayed intact on the course

The race seemed to be as much fun to construct as to run. I could imagine a bunch of entrepreneurial friends sitting down with a few beers trying to think of semi-torturous obstacles for runners. Scoot through a 36-inch-diameter tube? Check. Crawl 10 feet under ropes in a huge mud puddle? Check. Climb an 8-foot wall, then three more? Check. Navigate tires on the ground, then more swinging at head level? Check. Even the easier obstacles (narrow bridges over yet more mud puddles) were challenging when a runner’s quads were hammered by the steep hills. Here’s how they mapped it:

the concept of this course proved pretty close to reality

My partner in grime and I were veterans of such races, so we peeled off the muddy shoes, cashed in our beer coupons, and were off to the next destination by lunchtime.

old sneakers still serve a purpose... disposable if necessary!

quaffing our race apertif

After all, why drive two hours just to turn around and go home? There’s so much of Western Mass. to explore.

Next stop was up I-91 to Greenfield and Rocky Mountain Park, site of the Poet’s Seat. It was a clear, cool day perfect for mountain biking, so we took advantage of it. Although Singletracks.com had a review that said there’s 30 miles of singletrack in the area, we didn’t find that quantity. Still, the quality of the trails was amazing. On a high ridge above the Connecticut River, we zoomed through the trees and were even paced by a huge, silent owl that glided along nearby for a moment.

Temple Woods trail hugs the Poets Seat ridge above the Connecticut River

After running the race our legs weren’t functioning at peak levels… and neither were our brains, or we might have parked at the bottom of the hill rather than the top (forgetting that we’d have to ride back up to our cars at the end of the day).

We couldn't pass up an opportunity to bike in Greenfield

Aside from screaming quads that wanted to go home and an aching need for a 3-hour bath to scrub the dirt off, the trip was reward in itself, with spectacular views of Greenfield and Turners Falls from the Poet’s Seat tower.

Even without peak foliage colors, the views from the Poet's Seat tower were breathtaking

Go there.

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