As Chelsey Brooks of Santa Rosa ran through drainage pipes, slogged through knee-deep mud and scrambled under low-slung nets, she wondered just how dirty was the dirt she immersed in.
"The mud was surprisingly clean," she said, grinning ear to ear after finishing Sunday's MudMan obstacle course-footrace, where the race was second to the wild, muddy fun.
The only parts of Brooks' body not covered in mud after she completed the 3.5-mile short course were her teeth.
"It was amazing," she said. "I'm going to sign up for another one as soon as I get home."
The race, staged at the Coast Guard Training Center at Two Rock, was the first one of its type put on by the team that puts on the annual Vineman triathlon series in Sonoma County. About 1,000 runners competed in a 6.1-mile, 3.5-mile or 1-mile children's course Sunday.
Catherine Dubay of Santa Rosa was the fastest finisher overall on the short course, while Andy Bunnell of Graton posted the top time in the longer race.
"I had a lot of anxiety about the obstacles, but they weren't as scary as I thought," Dubay said.
Racers were funneled up the steep climb dubbed "Texas Hill," after which they carried logs, dove into a soap-soaked slip-'n'-slide, toted tires while being sprayed by a hose, crawled under various nets, ran through a drainage pipe, danced over a balance beam, swung on monkey bars and dove into a massive mud pit, where they were forced to keep low by rows of flags strung across the murky water.
The final challenge? Enduring an onslaught of taunts and shouts from volunteers who stood alongside the pit and "encouraged" the participants to slog through a little faster.
"A straggler son is trying to catch his mom and sister," one announcer called out. "Dude, don't get dropped by your sister!"
Those who showed the most brass in their flop into the pit were rewarded with rousing cheers.
"That's how you get it done!" was shouted when one competitor did an enormous belly flop into the murk.
Volunteer Victor Giglietta wielded a hose just before the finishing stretch. His job? To spray runners with water as they slogged by carrying tires.
"Face the horror!" he grinned as racers ran by.
While some runners raced for speed, most of the racers cracked jokes, waited for friends to catch up and grinned through the whole ordeal.
Andrea Faivre of Windsor slid down the 20-yard slip-'n'-slide with such glee that her race number ripped off her shirt.
Steve Rahmn of Santa Rosa tore down the slide, then turned around and trudged back up the hill so he could do it again.
Tiffany Ehrmantraut of Rohnert Park registered her son, Connor, 13, and daughter, Bella, 10, so she figured she'd give it a go as well.
"I assumed there would be some mud," she said, smiling under the weight of a thick mud mask. "But I had no clue that I had to carry a tire and carry a log around."
Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. She can be reached at 526-8671, kerry.benefield @pressdemocrat.com or on Twitter @benefield.