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!


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