OTTUMWA — Clear, blue sky. About 55 degrees. Nearly 100 runners. A 5K course. Seven obstacles. Lots and lots of dirt, water and mud.
For a Survivor Challenge, it doesn't get much better than that.
The Ottumwa YMCA's first Survivor 5K Challenge Saturday at Victory Ranch was advertised as one wet, wild and messy adventure. Those who participated agreed as they crossed the finish line, put through the paces that only a specially made 5K course can.
The race began in two waves, each waiting their turn at the start gate — which was an actual farm gate since they were at Victory Ranch. The ranch helped sponsor the event, and volunteers spent more than three weeks there preparing the course for its grueling challenges.
And as the competitors finished their preparations, they were asked to thank the Wapello County Rural Fire Department for their help, too. They had been working hard to make the course as muddy and challenging as they could.
In response, the fire hose was turned on, dousing the runners as the race began. This surprise ushered them over the fields and through the woods to the seven obstacles.
Obstacle No. 1: "Are You Tired Yet?" was an 80-tire run that came right after an uphill climb.
Obstacle No. 2: "The Devil's Beard." The 30-foot cargo net had hay bales to low-crawl through.
Obstacle No. 3: "Bale Bonds." Runners had to surmount two enormous piles of hay bales.
Obstacles No. 4: "Goldilogs." In the very back corner of the ranch, a loop was set up next to a pile of cut logs. Runners could show their guts by carrying the log of their choice around the loop.
Obstacle No. 5: "Log Jammin." Fence posts were Lincoln-logged down a 5-foot-wide path, challenging runners to make it around, over and through.
Obstacle No. 6: "The Berlin Wall." The 9-foot by 16-foot wall was divided into three sections, allowing three people to go over at a time. Several foot-holds were placed in the first section, a few in the second and none in the third, giving runners the option to get some assistance or do it the hard way.
Obstacle No. 7: "The Swamp Stomp." Right before the final uphill run to the finish line, competitors had to make it across the muddy pond under the watchful eye of the kayaking lifeguard. While a couple of runners chose to skirt the pond altogether, the rest jumped right in — walking, high-stepping or swimming their way to the other side.
"It was more than I thought it would be," said Lori Miller, part of a team consisting of YMCA members and instructors. "It was just a blast. We did the whole thing as a group — it was definietly a group effort. We even crossed the finish line holding hands."
Training beforehand was a group effort, too, as team members ran hills together, did push ups and worked out together at the YMCA.
And they all agreed the hardest part was the hill before the mud pit — it was like climbing a mountain in the middle of rural Iowa.
Which is probably why it's called the Survivor Challenge.