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Racers dash through dirt

Thousands of people run through long-distance obstacle course at Castaic Lake

Posted: April 16, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 16, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Michael Morgan and William Flores, of Santa Clarita, pose for a photo after finishing the race at Castaic Lake on Sunday. Michael Morgan and William Flores, of Santa Clarita, pose for a photo after finishing the race at Castaic Lake on Sunday.
Michael Morgan and William Flores, of Santa Clarita, pose for a photo after finishing the race at Castaic Lake on Sunday.
Steven Shatkin, 15, of Valencia, center, heads to the finish line. Steven Shatkin, 15, of Valencia, center, heads to the finish line.
Steven Shatkin, 15, of Valencia, center, heads to the finish line.
Participants crawl through the mud pit at The Merrell Down & Dirty National Mud and Obstacle Series held at Castaic Lake on Sunday. Participants crawl through the mud pit at The Merrell Down & Dirty National Mud and Obstacle Series held at Castaic Lake on Sunday.
Participants crawl through the mud pit at The Merrell Down & Dirty National Mud and Obstacle Series held at Castaic Lake on Sunday.
Participants climb a rope wall in the Merrell Down & Dirty National Mud and Obstacle Series. Participants climb a rope wall in the Merrell Down & Dirty National Mud and Obstacle Series.
Participants climb a rope wall in the Merrell Down & Dirty National Mud and Obstacle Series.
Collin McMenamim, of Stevenson Ranch, crawls out of a mud pit, one of the obstacles in a 10-kilometer race,  in Castaic Lake on Sunday. Collin McMenamim, of Stevenson Ranch, crawls out of a mud pit, one of the obstacles in a 10-kilometer race,  in Castaic Lake on Sunday.
Collin McMenamim, of Stevenson Ranch, crawls out of a mud pit, one of the obstacles in a 10-kilometer race, in Castaic Lake on Sunday.
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Thousands turned out at Castaic Lake Sunday to get down and dirty.

About 4,000 runners donned racing bibs for the Merrell Down & Dirty National Mud and Obstacle Series only to get their runner numbers covered with mud and barely readable.

A sunny, breezy day at the lake served as a picturesque backdrop to filth, grime, sweat and mud.

Men, women and teenagers competed. Children as young as 4 tackled "tike-sized" obstacles, and adults with gray hair, white hair or no hair shared one thing in common - mud.

"It's amazing, it's muddy, and it's fun," said Lisa Costello, of Lancaster. "I run marathons, but this is more fun because of the mud and the obstacles."

For her, and many others interviewed, the most challenging obstacle Sunday was the 15-foot vertical wall, which runners had to scale by rope ladder.

Heather Rowland, of Westchester, had so much fun getting muddy last year, she came back for more.

"The obstacles are more challenging this year," she said.

One of the biggest obstacles for participants Sunday was the traffic.

At 8 a.m., when the event officially got underway, all the lower lake parking lots had filled to capacity, as two lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic trickled into the park.

Deputies of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station directed motorists to parking lots at the top of the hill overlooking the lake.

When one of them was asked to describe parking arrangements, the deputy replied: "Not very good, but you didn't hear it from me."

Two miles from the finish line was the infamous mud pit where runners participating in either the 5-kilometer or 10-kilometer off-road courses got down and dirty.

"Make friends with the mud," runners were told by race volunteers sporting official yellow mud-splattered T-shirts.

At the mud pit, runners were forced to drop, bellies to the muck, and then crawl under ropes stretched just a foot from the sloppy wet surface.

Some plunged in - face, hair and all - emerging caked in mud.

Others, despite having signed up for one of the muddiest annual events in Southern California, tried to neatly dip just under the ropes.

Vaughn and Jill Goodin, of Merced, looked conspicuously clean emerging from the mud pit.

Asked if she was one of those people who tried not to get completely muddy, Jill said: "kind of."

"I am having a great time. This is fun," said 18-year-old mud pit volunteer Andrea Carrejo who hosed runners down with water as they emerged from the mud pit.

"This encourages them to go longer," she said, soaking mud-covered participants. "I mean, that's all they need is a little encouragement."

Her official job Sunday was to help rinse mud out of the eyes of runners temporarily blinded by layers of muck.

"Because when they get in the mud, it gets in their face," she said.

"I came here thinking I was going to stay clean. Look at me. I'm very dirty," she said. "But, it's all for a good cause."

Money raised for the Subaru-sponsored event is set aside for the charity Operation Gratitude, which sends personalized care packages to military personnel overseas.

jholt@the-signal.com

661-287-5527

 

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