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Mudman race returns to Spirit Mountain this weekend

Erin Greenwalt, 9, of Duluth gets up from her fall in the muddy pool July 21, 2013, during a ropes course that was part of the 1-mile Mudman Jr. race at Spirit Mountain. File / News Tribune1 / 4
Participants in the Mudman Jr. race climb down ropes to lower themselves into a ravine along the course at Spirit Mountain on July 21, 2013. File / News Tribune2 / 4
With muddied hands, Kristi Hall holds up her medal she received after completing the 5K Mudman Extreme Obstacle Course. File / News Tribune3 / 4
Bettina Keppers of Duluth, wore a muddied tutu for her bachlorette party along the 5K Mudman Extreme Obstacle Course during last year’s event on July 21, 2013. Keppers’ wedding was last August. File / News Tribune4 / 4

There will be mud. And hills. And walls.

The Mudman obstacle course races are returning to the rugged terrain of Spirit Mountain on Saturday, a sign that its organizers, from central Minnesota, were happy with the inaugural 2013 race.

“The venue is phenomenal,” race director Larry Stracke said Monday as he stood on the ski slope and looked over the Twin Ports and Lake Superior. “It really offers a lot of natural obstacles.”

The first Mudman took place at a ski hill in Kimball in 2012, just south of St. Cloud. It’s part of a growing trend of weekend adventuring that involves obstacles. Most notable are the Tough Mudder competitions across the country.

The Mudman consists of 5- and 10-kilometer courses with military-style obstacles. There also will be a mile-long Mudman Jr. for children. Online registration is closed for the event. It offered entry fees half the cost of same-day registration. Those who still want to register should go to the chalet off Grand Avenue beginning at 5 tonight. Registration Saturday morning begins at 8 a.m. at the same site. The race begins and ends at the chalet.

The costs are $80 for the 10K, $70 for the 5K, and $45 for the junior race. Spectators are welcome.

There were 1,200 people in last year’s races. Just 600 are registered this year, a drop Stracke was at a loss to explain.

Lara Goebel of Duluth said cost was a factor. Three members of her family ran the course last year, but a price jump has them sitting out this year.

“For that cost, we could rent a cabin for week,” she said.

Not that Team Goebel didn’t enjoy the 2013 race.

“It was great,” she said. They realized quickly that the obstacles were a breeze compared to the inclines. It takes place on a downhill ski slope, after all.

The family thoroughly enjoyed the challenge, she said, but if they want to go as a group the price of entry is too steep.

“We would do it again if they brought the cost down,” Goebel said.

Spirit Mountain recently celebrated the opening of its disc golf course and mountain bike trail. The disc course will be closed while the event goes to early afternoon, said Brandy Ream, the new executive director of Spirit Mountain. One bike track will also be closed as well as the lower chalet until the races are over. Food and drink are being served outside the chalet for racers, Ream said.

While mud is the signature for the event, Spirit Mountain offers its own built-in obstacles.

Stracke said a river scramble that is part of what organizers are calling “Cussing Canyon” will also have a cargo net above it to negotiate.

And the hills separate the serious from the ambling adventurers.

The snowmaking equipment also plays a role, used to create a wind tunnel obstacle.

“We have more mud,” Stracke said in comparing tomorrow’s race with the one in 2013. If there’s one thing he’s learned from past events, you can never have enough mud, he said.

Mudman works closely with Spirit Mountain to make sure they leave the terrain as they saw it this past Sunday, when preparations began.

“They make it really easy on Spirit Mountain,” Ream said. Stracke’s team is doing the majority of the course building, she said.

Some racers are very competitive, Stracke said, while others take in the race on a whim. Some walk it. All types take part.

“People look at the videos and can say: If that person can do this, so can I,” he said.

Those who miss this year’s race still have opportunities. The Kimball version is Aug. 16, and a Mudman takes place Sept. 6 outside of Fargo, N.D.