Friday, August 5, 2011

Warrior Dash



I must have been drinking that night.

How else can I explain why I told my wife I would run the Warrior Dash with her?

What is the Warrior Dash? I should have asked the same question before I answered with a "Yes, dear."

The Warrior Dash is a 3.1-mile (5K) outdoor race in which you also must overcome 12 obstacles. The obstacles will get you soaking wet and so muddy you're hardly recognizable. These obstacles have you scaling walls, wading through muck and leaping over fire. They kicked my butt.

The event itself is geared toward the college crowd. And for the crowd like my wife, her sister Stephanie and sister-in-law Melissa, who apparently want to prove they still got it. I guess I'm in that latter crowd, too. But since I never really had "it," I don't know why I was trying to prove I still got "it." (I'm sure I'll get "it" after my wife reads this, though.)

The Warrior Dash is some smart person's money-making brainchild. There are similar races out there — Tough Mudder and Dirty Dog Dash among them — but the Warrior Dash was the one we set out to do. Each participant paid $50 to run the race. On top of that, parking was $10, and merchandise, food and beverages also were available for a small investment borrowed against your 401k. (A 30-ounce beer in a glass souvenir mug was $20; a turkey leg was $6!)

There's 33 Warrior Dash races this year all over North America. Our race was the last weekend in July at the E.A. Cummings Center in Mt. Morris, Michigan, just north of Flint. One of the Warrior Dash people told us about 24,000 people ran the race over the two days it was held in Michigan (second only to Iowa).

Doing the math: 24,000 x $50 each = $1,200,000 in entry fees alone. I'm guessing the beer sales might have doubled that.

On race day we showed up and immediately waited 20 minutes to park. The rest of our family arrived later and waited for an hour. After parking, we walked into the Warrior Dash compound, retrieved our packets and settled down in one of the few shady spots available. It was 90-plus degrees, so shade was at a premium.

Our packet contained our number bib (the thing we pinned to our shirts), a computer chip that we laced into our shoelaces (recorded our start/finish time), a T-shirt that says we "Survived the Warrior Dash" (which is very presumptuous on their part), and a Warrior helmet, which is very similar to a viking helmet.

The rest of the Warrior Dash compound consisted of several tents surrounded by snow fencing and banks of port-a-potties. The tents housed food, beverage and merchandise sales as well as a first aid station. There's also a main stage with live entertainment. When we were there the band was playing hard rock and they were all wearing kilts. They were actually pretty good.

Okay, skipping to the race now. Our "flight" left at 5:30. Flights of about 150-200 people each were taking off every 30 minutes, beginning at 8:30 a.m. both days. Some guy on a loudspeaker was egging us on, getting us pumped and counting down to the spectacular start, which was punctuated with two gas-fired burners sending flames high into the air. I don't know why we would be, but we were both surprised at how much heat those things gave off.

The first leg of the race is nothing more than running along the sandy trail for about a mile or so before you came to the first obstacle, which is called Road Rage. About 40 yards of tires were laid across the ground, and three rows of junk cars were strewn across the trail. You had to carefully step on or in the tires, then do your best Dukes of Hazard hood slide to get across the cars.

The second obstacle was only about 50 yards later. Called Deadweight Drifter, this obstacle had us wading through a lake and climbing over enormous logs. Great, we thought, only about a third of the way into the race and our shoes are soaked and will undoubtedly weigh us down.

The third obstacle also wasn't very much further down the trail. This one was called Barricade Breakdown, and we had to leap over about a 3.5-foot wall and then crawl under about a 3-foot board. There were about five or six sets of these. I did pretty good on this because I leaped over the walls like a hockey player taking to the ice on a shift change. The guy behind me even complimented me on this.

The Great Warrior Wall was the next obstacle. It was 100-200 yards from Barricade Breakdown, and this one was bit of a traffic jam. It was about 10-15 feet high. You'd pull yourself up with a rope then climb down the other side. Foot holds on both sides helped.

After another 150 yards we came to the Chaotic Crossover obstacle. This was nothing more than an enormous cargo netting about 4-5 feet in the air, horizontal to the ground. Most people crawled across it; one guy actually barrel-rolled across it. Me? Macho Man Me WALKED across it. Yes, I stood upright and simply walked across it.

The next obstacle was the Teetering Traverse. Basically, this was 2-x-6 boards laid end to end. The first one was on an incline, the next one a decline, and so on for about 40 yards or so. No biggie. No biggie at all.

So, yeah, I'm feeling pretty good about myself. We were still keeping up a jog - a slow jog, but a jog nonetheless. There may have been a few spots where we walked, but usually that was only as we were coming up to an obstacle. The obstacles had been nothing too bad, and I even nailed a few of them.

The next obstacle was probably about 2 miles into the race, and it was called the Blackout. All it was was a large tent only two feet off the ground. You had to crawl through it on your hands and knees, and you couldn;t see where you were going. On paper, this should have been no problem. But this one set me back a bit. I guess the first part of the course caught up to me on this one. I'm guessing that my training regimen of ice cream, beer and always taking the escalator whenever possible might have been unwise.

After a couple hundred yards or so we came to the next obstacle, the Arachnophobia. This might have been the easiest one on the course. It was just a maze of bungee cords strewn across the trail like a 20-yard spider's web. All it did was slow us down (and give me a rest).

The next obstacle was the worst. It doesn't have a name on their website, but I have dubbed this one Schindler's List. It was 30-yards of muddy muck that was about knee- to waist-deep, depending on where you stepped. It was the consistency of oatmeal and the smell of a port-a-potty. Even after got through the muck, it was darn near impossible pulling ourselves up the hill on the other side. We kept slipping and sliding all over the place. So why Schindler's List? Remember that one scene in the movie where the little boys hide in the bottom of the latrine? There ya go.

The final three obstacles were within sight of everyone watching us at the finish line: the Cargo Climb was simply climbing and descending cargo netting about 20 feet in the air; the Warrior Roast, in which we leaped over three rows of fire; and Muddy Mayhem, where a deeper-than-you-think mud pit forces you to crawl under several strands of barbed wire. (On a sad note, someone broke their neck and was paralyzed when they dove head first into this final obstacle.)

From there, it was a stumbling, bumbling saunter to the finish line.

Our time? 1:03 hours. The best times were in the mid-20 minutes. Goal for next year? Not to get beat by two 80-year-olds (it's true; we did get beat by a man and a woman in their 80s.)