Warrior Dash Recap: RAWWWRRR!!! Ow…

Juliann pre-race. Obviously.

Mud, sweat, and beer. Got my do-rag and my VFF TrekSports. Let’s do this.

As Juliann and I made our way to the line for our 10am start time, I had no idea what to expect. You can check out the course online and it gives you a map of the obstacles, but other than that, I was staring into a dark, pine-filled abyss. The countdown started, the flames flashed, and we took off into the trees.

And the hills. Oy, the hills! Now let me start by saying that I live in Hillville, USA and I’m quite comfortable with hills. Some of my best friends are hills. But damn. This was some serious hillage. Declines are even harder for me than the inclines, due to some past knee issues. On ups, I try to stay light on my feet, and this is extra easy in VFFs. Rather than drive all my energy down into the ground, I kind of hop and try to capture some rebound energy to keep me moving and not slogging. But I would pass all sorts of folks heading up, only to get smoked on the downs. Such a bummer. Plus, the path was chewed up and dusty, so I could literally taste it in the air. Mmm…Warrior Dash Oregon terroir

Me and Edie pre-race. Obviously.

I also lost Jules pretty early on in the hills. Poor Arizona girl. Hard to train for hills there this time of year in the 100°+ heat. I tried to hang back a bit to find her, but ended up giving in to my homing instinct for the finish line. I hope someday she’ll forgive me for both the hills and the abandonment.

The first obstacle pulled no punches, throwing us into some seriously cold, chest-high water, in which we had to jump over floating logs. Simple enough, right? Yeah, try doing it with dozens of other people trying to do it all at once, rolling the logs the wrong way, and kicking you in the face as they scramble over. Despite this, a party atmosphere hung on and everyone seemed in a mostly good mood.

I discovered that scampering over wrecked cars is fun and tire fields (like those seen in football training) are more efficient if you step on the rims of the tires rather than in the middle of them. There were some hanging tires you had to elbow your way through and pray you didn’t get knocked over on the rebound swing. And there were numerous obstacles involving some sort of wooden wall structure you had to climb over and somehow make your way down. There were two things about these obstacles that surprised me: 1) That people would slow down considerably, sometimes causing a significant backup; and 2) That some people would completely lose their shit at the top. As I approached the obstacles, I would gauge them several steps ahead to plan my route, often heading for the margins for a clear path. I would try not to break momentum and be as efficient as possible. Sometimes this meant doing things differently than everyone else. For example, there was a serious bottleneck at an obstacle that climbed over the road we drove in on to the race and we had to climb down the other side. Well, everyone would sit down, turn onto their bellies, and then inch down all proper like. I went down the ladder crab-walk style and saved several seconds. As for the second surprise, I just kept thinking, “Did you not see the course obstacles ahead of time? What race did you think you signed up for?”

But it also paid to be humble. A woman ahead of me was carried out by two EMTs with a splint on her ankle and I knew it was probably broken if she wasn’t walking. With all the rocks, roots, and slippery mud, it really could’ve been anybody. But it wasn’t my turn that day, and I suspect the VFFs actually helped with this since I could feel the ground better and adjust my body accordingly.

About 3/4 of the way through, the hills were really getting to me. I was wasted tired. The last few obstacles were no longer fun. I had to really dig to find the energy to come into the flames with a good pace so I could give a proper jump for the photographers. But then you slide into the mud pit, crawl on your belly beneath barbed wire, and you’re done.

Me post-race. Obviously. Mmm...muddy banana.

41 minutes and 58 seconds from the start, I was muddy, tired, and elated. I looked around at all my mud people and felt so much a part of something fun-loving and life-affirming. This is not a race for those seriously interested in their time. This is not a race where the professionals get to go first and then the amateurs get their crack at it. This is an event for people who love to move, love to laugh, and love to share. With a sombrero and fake mustache on.

As for preparation, my playground workouts turned out to be the perfect training. Work on upper body stuff so you’re confident with that. Work with heights so you don’t freak out. I do something I call an Up-and-Over where I stand perpendicular to some monkey bars, jump up and grab the side bars, huck myself up and over them, then down the other side. These will build strength, agility, and the security of knowing you can get yourself down from a height. And for petessakes, work on hills! Although I’m guessing that not all Warrior Dash courses are this hilly. In fact, I’d be willing to wager that the Oregon course may be one of the hilliest in the country.

As for footwear, the VFFs were perfect. I couldn’t imagine wearing anything else. I was never in danger of losing them and traction was never compromised. The race timing chip fit just fine through the Velcro strap. Someone commented about doing one totally barefoot, and man, that’s hardcore. I’m not sure that would’ve been optimal here. There were big gravelly areas and lots of pokey twigs. I was happy knowing I had a bit of protection. The only drawback I had, and this may not be the case for everyone, was on the downhill sections, my toes tend to ram into the ends of the shoe and I may be in danger of ultimately losing some toenails. I’m not in pain and I don’t have any blisters, but I could definitely feel it at the time.

The only casualty was my left leg. For some reason, my quad is just exhausted and my knee keeps locking on that side. But the worst came AFTER the race while I was carrying my daughter back to the car. I slid down a hill in my flip-flops and scraped the heckity-heck out of my left knee. At some point the next day, I was like, “Why is my leg wet?” and it was my knee wound oozing through the band-aids and down my leg. Lovely.

On the whole, this event was professional. I’m no expert in races, having done only one 5K previously, but this one seemed really well organized. The site was perfect and there was plenty of parking. A lot of effort went into preparation and course set-up. I’m in awe of the volunteers and organizers.

I had only three gripes: 1) If you’re going to require folks to purchase “tickets” in order to procure food and drink, it would be helpful to put the ticket booth in a convenient location so tired racers don’t have to drag themselves back up a hill to get them; 2) REAL SHOWERS AFTERWARD! None of this Hop-Into-A-Muddy-Pond business. Hook up with Dr. Bronner’s and have their mobile shower unit, the All One Ark, on site. That would be awesome; and 3) If you’re not going to allow folks to bring their own food and drink, you should have decent food on site. The turkey legs are just not that great. Overly salty and tough, I don’t know if anyone actually finished one. And everything else us Paleo folks may have been able to eat, like BBQ beef or bratwurst, were pre-wrapped up in bread. Ugh. But these are seriously minor blips.

The Warrior Dash is a blast. Get some friends together and sign up for an event near you. I promise, you’ll not regret it. See, watch Jules as she makes her way in the mud! That can be you!



11 Responses to “Warrior Dash Recap: RAWWWRRR!!! Ow…”

  1. AWESOME Karen!!!!! YOU ROCKED IT GIRL!!!! Love the photo of you at the finish!

    Thank you for this very thorough post – I’m doing my first obstacle race this coming Saturday – SUPER NERVOUS!! But, now I know what I might expect…

  2. Awesome recap – sounds like a good time! I’m doing the Tough Mudder in VA in Oct and really freaking out about the hills!!!!

  3. love love love this. so want to do this with you girls soon!

    • Yeah, Jules and I were talking about it and it sounds like neither AZ or CO is going to work for us. Maybe we just have to pick a destination and go? How about New South Wales? ;)

  4. Awesome!! Great job! Just did the one in Ohio on Saturday and your three gripes apply there as well! My Vibrams (KomodoSports) held up great even though this was supposedly the muddiest Warrior Dash yet (according to one of the workers who ran 13 of them so far). Up next, the Tough Mudder next April…I’m going to have to train A LOT harder for that one seeing as I kind of just “winged” this one…I don’t think I can do that for 12 miles and something like 27 obstacles! Great post

    • Awesome, congrats on your WD! I bet it was a good warm-up for the Tough Mudder. You’ll have a pretty good idea what to expect.

      I’m glad the gripes weren’t totally off base. I was worried about including them because they really were small irritations in an otherwise awesome day.

      • No, not off base at all. Turkey was super dry but I finished mine since I was starving at that point since we sat in stop-and-go traffic for over an hour to go the last 3 miles to get to the site so we missed our heat and went later then we planned. Oh well…still good times. We ended up camping out afterwards too at the site and that wasn’t bad either.


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