My first obstacle race, in the books. Before I go on about the race, a few things first.
The Warrior Dash partners with St. Jude’s to raise money for them. When you register for the race, they ask if you’d like to become a St. Jude’s Warrior, and raise money on your own for them. Being the big sappy lover of children that I am, of course I agreed. I can barely get through a St. Jude’s commercial on tv and we are monthly donors because of my inability(and my husband’s) to turn that charity down. I set my goal to $300 and am proud to say, thanks to so many generous people, that I was able to exceed that amount. I raised enough for access to the St. Jude’s VIP tent, and you’ll find out later how this really helped me out.
Now, onto the race. I wasn’t too terribly nervous until the day of the race. I can run, I do some strength training, but was starting to get a bit scared at not making it over some of the bigger climbing obstacles. Luckily I really wouldn’t have enough time to worry about things, and it turns out the climbing obstacles would be the least of my problems.
I registered for the race with my Marti Estes 5k partner Jessica, and a friend of hers, Kathryn. The first wave of the race started at 9 am but by the time we signed up, the only times that had left were from 1:30 pm until 6:00 pm. We signed up for the 1:30 wave. Waves left in two groups, every 15 minutes, every 30 minutes. Picking 1:30 pm was not a very well thought out plan, living in the south, in what might as well be summer.
I met up with Jess and Kat to ride with them to the race site. All of the emails we got said to arrive 1 hour before your wave time. Packet pick-up was on site, which I absolutely hate. This process only confirmed why I hate it so much. We arrived an hour early, like we were supposed to. We paid our $10 to park in a large field, and I got out, ready to race. Turns out I was just ready to wait.
We should have arrived a few hours early. I went to the St. Jude’s tent to check in and get my VIP wristband while the other girls stood in line to pick up our bibs and packets. I stepped in for a minute to check it out, found they had sunscreen(which I’d forgotten to put on) and sprayed myself down. Grabbed a cold drink and I met back up with them after getting my wristband, and they were still very far back in the obscenely long line. We stood, and inched forward. The sun blazed overhead and the closer we got to the front, the more packed in an unorganized people became. Packing people close together, just before 1 pm, in the summer, is not fun. What the folks at Warrior Dash failed to tell the people standing in line for 45 minutes was that pick-up was arranged by males and females and alphabetically by last name. Nobody knew this until you got much closer to the front, leading to a cramped and furious shuffle when this information was discovered. Finally, after about an hour in line, we had our packets and bibs. We checked all of our things in the St. Jude’s tent, so we had no idea what time it actually was, and we wandered to the starting line, thinking our time had to be soon.
Soon was actually now, last call. As we got closer, we heard them announce that it was the last call for the 1:30 wave. Not wanting to wait around for the 2:00 wave, we dashed closer. Last call actually meant “If you are going, start running.” Jess figured this out first, and started running. Kathryn and I went after her, barely making it across the starting line before the closed it off.
I was expecting a bit different, but the first part of the race is all running. For over the first mile, there was not one single obstacle. We were running around fields and on trails, there was absolutely no shade, with the temperature close to 90 degrees. It was rough. I had hydrated very well in preparation, taken my EnergyBits, and while I was hot, I was feeling good. Kathryn, after drinking her pot of coffee and not eating that morning, dashed well ahead of us, I’m not sure how. Jess started to fade fast, and I tried to encourage her, but I didn’t want to push her too hard in the heat. I was not wearing my Garmin and had no clue how fast we were going or how far we had gone. It was awful. I am not a “by feel” runner by any means. We came to the first obstacle, which was crawling under barbed wire. Not too difficult and I was pumped from managing to crawl on the ground.
We kept running, and came to other obstacles, climbing structures, including a very tall wall that you climb using a rope. I was intimidated by this one but found it pretty east to climb up. Still feeling pretty good and after close to 2 miles, we ended up in the woods. We’d done some walking by then. We did more walking in the woods. Twisted tree roots and rocks popped up all over the place. Thank goodness for hyper-mobility in my joints because I imagine I’d be typing with a broken ankle without that blessing. We went through a few obstacles in the woods, including a tight rope walk over a ravine, which I thought for sure would mean a fall to my death. A fall of a whole 5 feet. I made it across with no problem. Shortly before hitting mile 3, we came out of the woods and to the 3rd to the last obstacle, a set of rope “tubes” that were very deceiving. I figured they’d be a breeze to get through but I quickly got tangled and ended up with a few rope burns. Next up was jumping over fire. Two rows of it, it smelled and it burned my eyes but I made easy work of it. I got through it and knew the last obstacle, the mud pit right before the finish line, waited for me.
The mud pit was what I worried about the least. Oh, it would be so fun to crawl through the mud and get all dirty I thought. But I completely ignored the fact that I hate getting dirty. I don’t like walking barefoot outside and I don’t like digging in my own garden and getting dirt on my hands. Mud covering my whole body should have thrown up a red flag but for some reason it didn’t. I got closer to the mud with excitement, and I got right up to it. That excitement faded. This wasn’t the watery mud you see in the picture above, that is 6 inches deep. This was thick sludge that was a few feet deep. With great hesitation, I got in. You have to climb under barbed wire, and the mud was so thick and so deep, it became increasingly hard to move. I got past the last row of barbed wire and I couldn’t move. The more I tried, the more I bent and the more stuck I became. I had two guys come by and they asked if I was stuck. I was, and so was the girl next to me. One of them worked on me. He dug deep, trying to dislodge the leg that was stuck. My foot was pointed down and he couldn’t get to it. He crawled in front of me and told me to grab on to him and he would try to pull. I still wasn’t budging. I started to panic a bit. I don’t like tight spaces and while it was just my legs that were stuck, it was an awful feeling. After several minutes of no movement, we had to wave to the men on the side to help me. I wasn’t going anywhere. First they helped the other girl who was stuck, luckily she was closer to the side and was easier to get out. Then they threw the rope to me. At first just one of the two men pulled, but he couldn’t get me, so it took both grown men pulling the rope to finally get me to the edge to where I could climb out on my own. I was worn out. All of the running didn’t do me in, fighting to mud pit was what did it. I had mud in my eye, and couldn’t wipe it out because my hands were covered in mud. Everything from my chin down was covered in mud.
I tried to wipe off the several pounds of mud before trudging my way, like some kind of swamp monster, across the finish line. At this point, any hope of finishing with a remotely decent time was long gone. I grabbed my medal and water and met up with the other girls who were finished and waiting for me.
They decided to wait to get hosed off while I made my way to the St. Jude’s tent, as my VIP access came with hot showers. I waited for another 45 minutes for the volunteer to hose me off(you had to be somewhat free of mud to get in to the showers). I gave that man quite the show. I had mud in places mud should never be. At that point, I wasn’t ashamed of him using the hose to spray down my sports bra and in other areas. The young men behind me commented that they needed to volunteer next year to get a job like that. Yay me I guess. I got into the shower and attempted to quickly rinse mud out of my nether regions, I was able to change clothes and shoes. Sadly, my running shoes were so caked in mud, they were deemed a lost cause and I threw them to the muddy donate pile.
It took me awhile to find the other girls, but I was quite glad to get going once I did.
Some wrap up thoughts on today’s race. I’m glad I got the experience, but I’m not 100% sure I would do something like this again. I am almost certain I will not do another Warrior Dash again. They were extremely unorganized. Pre-race packet pick-up would have saved them, and us, a lot of time and trouble. They didn’t let people in line know what they were standing in line for, and a few signs and some caution tape could have really gone a long way. The course was ok, but the mud obstacle was awful. I imagined crawling through a bit of watery mud, not fighting my way through feet of thick mud. I’m not sure if they meant for it to be like that but I’m thinking no, based on other pictures I’ve seen online from other locations. I’ve talked to people who have done other obstacle/mud races, and the girls I ran with today did a different race like this, and they all agree that this was pretty bad.
I’m just glad that it’s over, I’m sitting here nice and clean, and I have a new appreciation for a hot shower.