Warrior Dash Race Report

Thursday, May 24, 2012

As the largest race series in the world, not to mention one of the fastest growing,  it was only a matter of time before I participated in a Warrior Dash. Red Frog events, host of the Warrior Dash, estimated last year they had nearly 700,000 participants after only beginning in 2009. My co-workers decided to sign-up for the race last fall, and while I had expressed interest the registration fee and proximity to The North Face Ultra had deterred me. In late April a Groupon deal came along for the Carolina Warrior dash,  half the cost of the regular registration fee, I was in and persuaded Michelle to join as well promising a "memorable experience."

I mean, who wouldn't want to do a Warrior Dash. Right?
From a fitness standpoint my training has been focused on volume for The North Face Ultra in two weeks, including hill repeats on Tuesday evenings (800m), so I was avoiding any race specific upper body training which proved not to be an issue. Additionally, this was also a low pressure race for me as I only had a "I want to run to my capacity" mindset going in and simply test my fitness level. This is a good time to mention that these style of races Spartan/ Muddy Buddy/ Tough Mudder/ Warrior Dash don't attract you're typical marathon/weekend runner audience. The demographic is more along the couch-potato-drink-beer-crowd which makes for awesome people watching and made me even more comfortable with my fitness level...it's all relative right?

THE BATTLEGROUND - 3.5 Miles - 14 obstacles.

What a relief it was to wake up Saturday morning without the added stress of having a long run scheduled. Michelle and I meandered around in the morning, venturing out to Central Coffee before returning home for cereal and to prepare for the run. Fortunately Michelle read the Warrior Dash website that suggested arriving 1.5 hours before our schedule 2PM run. We left around 11:30 and made quick time on the 15 mile (30 minute) drive up to Huntersville where the race was held. The parking situation was a disaster causing a backup on the two lane road leading to the parking area. The last half mile or so before we pulled off the road and into the parking area took about a half hour, thankfully we had plenty of time before our race...others were not as fortunate.

The last 200M or so before we pulled into the parking area. Brutal.

After we parked (and paid...$10, my only complaint about the race) we headed into the area where all the action was taking place. I say all the action because the run goes on ALL DAY LONG. The first wave starts at nine Saturday morning and runs every half hour until 4 in the afternoon...and that's only Saturday. Sunday has additional races for a good portion of the day as well, this makes the waves fairly small and manageable which is necessary given all the obstacles. Inside the race area we found the packet pickup and bag check, which was awesome as everything was guaranteed to be covered in the mud by the end of the race. Bib pickup was a breeze, no line whatsoever, it was alphabetically organized which is unlike most races which are by bib number.

Entering the race area I was impressed, as this was the first time I've seen a race have signs posted with NO SMOKING!

I came across this as I was picking up my bib, pretty clever way of ensuring the receive their timing chips back. The timing chip was the token you traded in after your race for a beer...pretty sneaky.

Since we had some time to burn before the start of our run and everyone else we knew was sitting in the long line waiting to enter the park, we scoped out some areas of the race:

Starting shoot.

Stage for live music...and..um...lots of people watching.

As if they needed any more mud.

Costumes were encouraged. In the background you'll notice that fire and rescue was on site which was good in case any of the costumes decide to catch.

The shoes, which most American's would consider ruined, were donated to a charity. Awesome!

Eventually, it was time to get ready for our run. Michelle and I checked our bag and went out for a quick warm-up. It was about half a mile into our warm-up when I realized my Garmin was dead. Bummer. The real kicker was that we had already checked our bag...which had Michelle's keys...and didn't allow re-checks. I decided I would just wear it as that was the only option by that point. I headed over to the start shoot where I bobbed and weaved to about the third row from the front and waited to go. As I mentioned earlier, this isn't really about going out and running your best time and the people who were ahead of me...well...let's be nice and say they weren't in peak physical form.

Once the horn sounded, which was also synchronized with a giant fire blast, we were off and it was only a couple hundred meters before I was alone. The first mile or so was open with fast rolling hills with an overall loss of elevation, ahead of me I could see 2 other runners. After the first 3/4 we hit the first obstacle which was an elevated balance beam about 8" wide and 20' long. Nothing to worry about but if you were to fall you'd do some serious damage trying to catch yourself on the other balance beams or boards supporting them.

Over the next three and a half miles I climbed multiple walls with rope climbs, crossed rope bridges, swam through a lagoon with floating barriers, and eventually arrived at the last three obstacles. For most obstacles there was not a line, as I was ahead of all but one of the 2PM runners after the first obstacle and the people that I caught from the 1:30 heat were kind enough to move as I approached. About halfway through the run I plunged into a mud pit where my shoe immediately filled with dirt/grit/soil which I found out later did a ton of damage. The last three obstacles included a rope net traverse, two fire walls, and the mud crawl. They were a blast! At the end I was happy to enjoy the mud pit and plunged my head into the mud, which I'd later regret as I picked mud out of my ears for days after. Michelle and I had agreed to stay muddy so we could get photos together before finding the fire hose to rinse off. I retrieved my checked bag and had a spectator retrieve my phone so I could snag photos of Michelle as she went through the mud pit.

Once we felt we had enough pictures of our awesome muddiness we got in line to rinse off at the trucks on site specifically for that purpose. It took multiple times through the get most of the mud off, after which we headed back to the car for a fresh change of clothes so we could enjoy the post race festivities.  We headed back into the race area where we found TV's with overall and age group times. The process of scrolling through the 6000 or so participants took a while, so we went off to find a tasty beverage while we waited for the list to restart.

Michelle is about halfway through the mud pit at this point. Behind the girl in the blue shirt, who kicked multiple splashes of mud onto Michelles face.

"Its not that I don't love you, I'm just saying...you're not getting in my car like that."


Water was necessary to rinse all the mud out of your mouth.

Having a blast!

The pile had grown significantly by the time we finished.

We're officially warriors!

Michelle with her medal, which also needed a good wash.

The orange bag was our bag check, as it's the only thing not completely covered in mud.

Post race hose down.

The first I've participated in where race times were posted live (or updated every 30 minutes) which was pretty awesome.

When we left for the afternoon I was listed at 26th overall for the day with a time of 30:04, that would slide to 29th overall for Saturday and 45th/~10000 for the weekend.

Michelle and I had a strange bronzer glow from some of the mud that didn't wash off. The shirts and hats were given to every participant at packet pickup. A hat, shirt, and a free beer all for $35!

Knees were pretty banged up from the mud pit crawl.

The damage to my big toe. This thing was packed with dirt and sand. I panicked and poured hand sanitizer on it to clean it out, profanity ensued.

My main reservation for doing the race as I mentioned earlier was the proximity to The North Face Ultra in early June. The above photos support my hesitancy for doing this race, most of the damage on the knees has already scabbed and begun healing. My feet did take a pretty bad beating, as I wore XC spikes from my HS running days which filled with soil in grit at an early obstacle and removed a pretty good chunk of skin from my big toes. 

Poor Garmin!
The other casualty of the race. I managed to crack it going over the Warrior Wall after placing my hand on the first 2'x4' rung on the way down, my Garmin was sandwiched between the wall and my wrist. 
Warrior Wall - 1   Brett - 0

It was a really awesome run and throughout the week we've continued to discuss and relive parts of the race. I'm not sure if I'd pay the full price to do another one, but I'm sure it won't be too long before we doing something like it, whether it's Muddy Buddy, Tough Mudder, or some other adventure race!


Ready. Set. Go. Canada.

Monday, May 21, 2012

If you had asked me on Monday if I thought I'd be traveling this week or this month I'd have replied "no way."  On Tuesday my answer to the same question would have been a maybe, but by Wednesday my travel was booked and I was headed for Canada Thursday morning. That's how things roll at work.  I like that aspect of my job, fortunately Michelle was in town and willing to watch Gillie while I headed to The Great White North.

I've been told Canada can be a bit particular about letting folks into the country for business related purposes and because of the short notice I opted to fly into Montreal and drive two hours SW to the small town of Brockville to avoid any issues at the border. When I arrived in Montreal they barely even gave me a look before waving me through, to their credit they did ask "what type of work I was doing?" to which I simply replied "work related meetings."

After going through customs and picking up my bag I found the National Emerald Isle where I picked up my rental car and began the two hour drive south toward Brockville, ON. For the most part the drive was rather easy with about 100km on the same road, however getting out of Montreal where nothing on the Garmin matched the newly constructed roads and my three years of high school french was rusty at best, made reading the road signs a bit interesting but I prevailed.

I took the scenic route through town upon arriving in Brockville to become oriented, identify landmarks if I got lost, and scope out good places to run. Gray skies threatened of rain but I decided to brace the elements and head out for a run, fortunately I threw in a long sleeve pullover in my bag while packing as the temperature was just about 50 degrees. Running is one of the coolest ways to explore a new place as it allows you to take in the smells and sounds you may miss when riding in a car. While running I was disappointed I chose not to bring my phone as there were plenty of opportunities for cool photos of buildings and sights. I made up for this on my second run in Ontario retracing most of my previous run snagging photos as I went along.

First was this sign, it was in the middle of an on ramp to the interstate which required some careful traversing to get to.

I took a photo each way down the main street, I don't remember seeing a single chain store as I ran along.

Looking the other direction.

During my first run on Thursday evening I ran across what appeared to be a greenway but choose to forego exploring it as my goal was get in around 7 miles. Friday's work schedule allowed for a longer run in the evening and while I wanted to grab photos of the sights from Thursdays run, I decide to explore the trail.

The Brock Trail

The trail connected several public parks as well as wound through a mix of residential and commercial areas, most of which were along a creek.

I ran into General Brock along my run...well a different type of general.

This was something I had seen on TripAdvisor before heading to Brockville, it was right along the Brock Trail as the trail went along the perimeter of a peninsula.

Unfortunately, it was a short trip and with a long work day on Saturday there was no time for running or exploring. Sunday morning I was up early to make the trip back to Montreal to fly home. 

Bienvenue Quebec!

Run Data for those interested:
Thursday's Run

Friday's Run


Dragon Boating!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Charlotte is a great city. Any given weekend there's plenty of activities for all interests, to name a few: bike races (professional and amateur), free concerts, and there's always the professional sports teams: Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Bobcats, Charlotte Knights (Atlanta Braves farm team), and Charlotte Checkers (minor league hockey). Then you have the different events...the ones that don't fall into the categories above and seem to attract a different-smaller crowd like the Charlotte Asian and Dragon Boat Festival at Lake Norman last weekend.

I heard about the Dragon Boat Festival through a work newsletter and after speaking with a few of my colleagues decided it would be a fun event to participate in. Siemens was a corporate sponsor entering two teams and even though I had absolutely no idea what a dragon boat looked like or any of the details about the race (other then the date), I was in!

Aside from my brief rowing career in college (lasted a whole semester) I hadn't been in a boat or done much rowing/paddling since the fall of 2005. We did have one practice leading up to the big event...pretty much making us professionals, as a large majority of our team showed up unprepared and choose not to participate in one of the three arranged practices

 We arrived at Ramsey Creek Park around 8:30 Saturday morning. After registering and signing waivers we settled in and played the "hurry up and wait game." Right as the first race was about to go off a team captain came running over in a panic because their drummer for their boat was not 16, and therefore was not allowed in the boat. In a pinch, I volunteered and ran over to meet their team at the staging area before getting in a boat. I really had no idea what I was doing, but the team was friendly and were glad to have me, as I prevented them from having to scratch their first race. The team, Team Loveboat, was comprised of employees of the city including the mayors office and a few other city organizations. I think I held up my part of the bargain pretty well, I drummed, kept a rhythm, and didn't fall off the boat...a success in my opinion.

Catching the tail end of the technique presentation.

Siemens bought us awesome dry-fit shirts for the event!

Me and Team Loveboat ready to crush it!

Talking to the lead rowers about my duties as a drummer.

Pushing away from the dock, fortunately every boat had a Dragon Boat Association member to steer.

Team Loveboat during the first heat.

Eventually the first race rolled around for the Siemens Tubrinators and we were ready to crush it...unfortunately it didn't really go that way...to say the least...we left a lot of room for improvement. Didn't want to set the bar to high to start with! (We practically set the bar on the floor). It wasn't really that bad, but we missed the most crucial component, timing.

Jerry and Kylie, two of my coworkers and former EDP's, waiting to get in the boat.

Siemens Turbinators pushing away from the dock.

Post race we watched the other Siemens team, the Current Crushers, and then ventured off to find some lunch.  This was the Asian and dragon boat festival after all...read "I love food". After walking around and surveying the different options, we choose the one with the longest line which is usually a good indicator of the food, however we failed to consider how slowly the line was moving. As we approached the front of the line we were called over to race our next race - enter Michelle to save the day...again. In hindsight this worked out best; had we received our food quickly I would have rowed on a full stomach which would've ended horribly for both me and the other members of my boat.

As you walked through the festival the smells forced you to see what was on the grill!

Food wasn't the only thing the festival had to offer, this booth had some cool photography of asian cities.

The rest of the day followed the same pattern, although my duties as a drummer were cut short after the second heat for Team Loveboat, unfortunately they lost a female rower with a family emergency, and did not have enough rowers to compete. Our second heat was by far our best, we elected to have two rowers call out the strokes which helped the team function as one unit. At that point, we had posted the best time of the second heat - 1:16 for 250M.

The day dragged on into the evening and just as we were about to head out for our last heat around 5, two teams suffered disaster when a power boat ran right across the finish line causing a huge wake and capsizing their boats. About an hour later after the rowers had been rescued and boats had been bailed we headed out for our last heat. We were placed in the championship of the C Division (A-D, each division included championship and consolation) after averaging our two first race times. Although the race turned out to not be our best time of the day it was enough to win the division. The Siemens Current Crushers also won their final heat, the consolation wave of the B division.

Michelle was a real trooper spending the day with us, ordering food, and even going to get the car at the end of the day!

EDIT: Our medals finally arrived!


Exhausted we packed up our stuff and headed for the car. It was a great day of Dragon Boat racing and turned out to be a blast!

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