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Sunday, September 18, 2011

I am the Warrior

At the starting line - still clean and innocent...
So a few weeks ago a co-worker/friend convinced me to sign up for the Warrior Dash because there was  GroupOn for half price and "wouldn't it be fun to run it together!" I said sure, why not and bought the GroupOn deal. Her starting times got all screwed up though and I ended up being all alone in my wave - at 8:30 in the blessed morning.
Hay Fever
I quickly came to the conclusion that 8:30 was an awesome starting time because the course was still fresh and the crowds were relatively small - only a couple of thousand people rather than several thousands...

The course was in the same fields where they have Bonaroo every summer so it was well organized and staffed. Getting into parking wasn't a big deal at that time of the morning. I was able to park, check in, and hang out for a few minutes even though we only arrived a half hour early. I had spent the evening before looking at Facebook pictures of the dash and reading comments so I was a bit nervous but also better prepared by wearing gloves for all the rope climbs that would be involved.

Given that I have no "old" pairs of running shoes I didn't want to ruin my $100 pairs of shoes. I elected to wear my Teva sandals which I've worn several times before to hike and go through wet/muddy conditions. However, I have never ran in them and that turned out to be a problem as the race went on...

Barricade Breakdown
So here's the race with many borrowed pictures. I have pics of myself at the beginning and end of the race but didn't bother to bring a camera with me along the race because I didn't want to fool with it. However, many other people on Facebook and through Google images have contributed to this post.

My wave started promptly at 8:30 with about 700 people in it. Lots of people were in costumes and about 90% were there just to goof off - not to run their fastest race. I was definitely one of those 90%. The distance of the race was 5k and we ran a good 1/2 mile or more before the first obstacle.
Road Rage

The hay bales were pretty simple to climb up but were already starting to disintegrate by our wave (which was the second of the day). They had ropes to hold onto but they made it worse to climb up. So up and over - no big deal.

Then another 1/2 mile run. We came to a water stop and saw the next obstacle in front of us. First there was a big tree blocking the path with enough room to go under it or you could go over. I elected to go under. Then about 50 yards or so after that we had the next real obstacle, called the Barricade Breakdown.
Blackout Tent

The walls were about 4 feet high and then you had about 3 feet before you had to get down and crawl under the barbed wire. There were at least 6 of these walls and then wire crawls. Thankfully being a taller girl it wasn't a big deal to hike my leg up on wall and then boost myself over.
Once again, no biggie so I started to feel more relaxed about the obstacles and had some fun. We had another little bit of running before the next obstacle which was called Road Rage.
I don't know this person but it's a good pic of the
 inside of the Blackout Ten.
There were tires in front and behind. You went through the tires, football drill style, and then walked over the cars. I walked slowly through the tires because I didn't want to trip and screw up my ankles while I'm in the middle of training for the 1/2 marathon. I also watched a girl in front of me try to run through and saw her fall flat on her face so I considered her ordeal a cautionary tale. Despite my fear of falling through one of the cars it was kind of fun to walk all over a car and not worry about denting it.
Great Warrior Wall

After this one we had a longer run and I could start to feel the beginnings of a blister on my foot. I ran when I wanted to and walked when I wanted to. I wasn't tired but I also wasn't aiming for a great time.

We came up to the Blackout Tent and I hoped to God there wasn't any poison oak or ivy laying about. The tent was only 3 feet high or so and you had to crawl on your hands and knees through the whole thing (maybe 50 yards total). Once you were inside there were flaps about every 5 feet or so. After the first couple of flaps it was almost pitch black inside. You just had to crawl slowly and hope you didn't run into the person in front of you or get a foot in your face.

Rope Crawl
Shortly before entering the tent I was passed by the guy that's behind me in the first picture of this post - look for the guy in the robe holding a cup of coffee and newspaper. He was also wearing slippers and had an unlit cigar in his mouth. I really wondered what he did with his coffee cup while he was in the tent.
Right after the Blackout Tent we came up to the first obstacle that I wondered, "Am I able to do this?" The wall had little ledges to use for your feet and long ropes with knots every couple of feet. So you climbed up and over. The back side was more like a ladder to climb down. I was afraid my arm strength would be too weak for this one but I made it up without too much of a struggle. I was very happy for the gloves because it was much easier to get a solid grip on the ropes without tearing up my hands. It was more difficult to get over the top and back into a position to climb down - that's what felt precarious and awkward.
Giant Cliffhanger

After I made it over that wall I was having fun. I felt like I could at least try every obstacle - whereas at the beginning I felt sure there would be some obstacles I would just go around.

There was still a lot of running in between obstacles but at this point of my memory I can't really identify the distances between obstacles. I do remember that the obstacles were closer in the second half of the course than the first. My blister was getting worse as the race went on and I stopped even trying to run through the thick grass we were going over.

The next obstacle was the rope crawl. In some of the comments I had read people said to not crawl on your knees and that rolling was an easy option. However, there were too many people trying to go over it so there wasn't room to roll. Plus it dipped down in the middle of each section so it would have been difficult to roll UP into the next section. I positioned myself near the center plank and at first crawled crab style over it which was okay but slow and a bit awkward. Soon I got more into a spider position and went sideways and that was much better. They took official pictures right after this obstacle but those won't be available for at least another week. If I find myself in the thousands of photos I'll post them later.
I called this one ladder drop.
The next obstacle gave me a moments worry when I realized there was nothing for your feet to grip onto. But someone commented that it was okay because of the angle. Turns out they were right. I climbed up pretty quickly but got a little hung up at the top when the rope ran out.  The back was ladder like and easy to get down.

More running - more awareness of the blister on my foot.
Assassins Escape

The next one (Ladder Drop) was easy to climb up but you had to jump off the back. I did this most gracefully by hanging on for dear life and letting my body slide down like a slug until I felt more comfortable dropping (like half a foot at that point).

Shorter runs now between the obstacles and we could see the end. Also we had music to keep us going and get us psyched up.

Assassins Escape was just climbing up and sliding down the pole fireman style. I wasn't scared of it but I had fairly short shorts so I dreaded the sound of sliding down... :) But that was done without a layer of skin coming off so all was good.

Rope Tower/ Cargo Net Climb
Then the last obstacle before the finish line (rope tower). This was made more entertaining by someone singing the Spiderman Theme Song as we went over. After this one we had about a 1/4 mile run to the finish line. My foot hurt so badly at this point that I took off one sandal and hobbled over the grass. I had to put it back on when we got to a gravel portion of the road. And then we were at the finish and I could see hubby waiting for me.

At the finish line was the fire and mud.
Approaching my gazelle like leap over the fires.

I admit that I was most scared about jumping over fire. I'm not a big pyromaniac so fires tend to worry me. I knew they weren't high but I still feared tripping on something and ending up on the coals. I gave it a running start and jumped over it twice (in my mind completely gracefully and there are no pictures to prove otherwise). 
Do I have to get dirty?
And then came the mud pit. I really didn't want to get covered in mud so I gingerly got down into the pit and tried to stay as high as I could. But you did have to go under barbed wire so and the pit was a couple feet deep so there was only so much of me I could keep clean. The girls in front of me were swimming through the pit but I couldn't bring myself to that. Instead I crawled through and felt every little pebble on my knees.

My sandals were coming off of me as I crawled through so before I climbed out I spent a couple of minutes trying to get my left shoe back on. I couldn't make it work so I just took it off and climbed out. There were more "official" picture takers at this point so I tried to raise my hand in a triumphant victory pose and promptly slide/fell on my butt in a very ungraceful like pose. I can't WAIT to see those pictures. Sigh.
Graceful Exit

Then we went through the finish line, got our medal, and were offered cups of water and bananas. I really had to keep myself from being sarcastic to the nice, helpful people that were volunteering. But really, who on earth is going to pick up a banana when their hands are caked in mud?

That's my shoe in my left hand...
They said the showers were just "right in front of us" but in reality it was another 1/2 mile walk. I couldn't put my shoes back on because of the amount of mud they were covered in plus it just hurt my foot to rub that blister even more. I hobbled down to the fire hoses only to finally get down there and they ran out of water. The only thing they had was a sprinkler truck tha a hundred people were trying to use. It was as useful as a spray bottle. I got my hands somewhat clean and figured it was the best I could do. There was one gal in the crowd that was wearing a bikini top and she commented, "would anyone judge me if I took this off so I can get cleaner?" The men assured her that no one would judge... I'm not sure if she did or not.

As I was leaving the crowd was starting to use a small run off stream since it would be a half hour before the fire hoses had more water. I too used the nasty stream to clean off my shoes, gloves, and my legs as much as possible. I brought a change of clothes so I didn't care as much about my clothes getting cleaned.

I hobbled back down to the rest of the crowd and could not find my husband anywhere. At this point there were a lot more people in the crowd and finding him was like looking at a "Where's Waldo" puzzle. After a few minutes I heard the announcer say, "Judy, you're husband is waiting for you at the stage. He looks cold, hungry, and in need of a beer." I figured it was my husband and thought that was a very clever way to find me. We found each other and headed over to the porta-pots so I could change.

Finally in cleaner clothes and in a better mood I put on my Viking Hat (which I do plan to wear on a daily basis now) and posed for one last picture. We found where to get our one free beer - the timing chip was your free beer token (clever way to get those back eh?). We enjoyed our Coor's Light at 10 a.m. in the morning and eventually headed back home. It did take us a few minutes to figure out how to get out of the parking lot. Once again it was well organized and there were cops at every corner directing you back to the main road. I wore my hat all the way home. Once home, my children stole it from me and my son proclaimed that he was a moose when he wore it.

I showered and cleaned up my quarter sized blister. It hurt like hell for the rest of the day. Thankfully it's better today but I won't be doing any running today or tomorrow most likely. Hopefully it heals up quick enough that I won't be out of running for too many days. And there were no other injuries that will keep me from training so all in all it was a fun day. But it was the first and hopefully last time I'll ever run a 5k in Teva Sandals.

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