Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Warrior Dash

Running is good exercise, and I enjoy the challenge of working toward goals for distance and pace. But running does not come easily to my body, and I can't honestly say that I just love running for the pure thrill of it. What I have discovered that I do love enthusiastically is the Adventure Race.  I happened upon the concept last summer when I ran the Tillamook Burn with my friend Sarah. It was love at first knee-deep river crossing.  I vowed to register for as many X-Dog Events (the organizer) as I could manage the following summer. Unfortunately, the timing didn't work out for any of the other events this year except the Tillamook Burn, so I only got to reprise that one awesome course (and the pre-race festivities and camp out the night before!). 

I was disappointed not to have done more of these adventure runs in the summer, so when I saw an ad for the Warrior Dash, I clicked over to their website and could hardly believe my eyes.  I was stoked about this race because it was heavy with obstacles, which is my favorite part of any non-street race.  This event was in September, and I wasn't blogging back then, but it isn't really distant enough history to be considered a "flashback." It's just a late submission. 

My very good friend Barb came all the way out to the Warrior Dash wilderness to cheer me on and take some pictures. I thought the gesture was especially generous when she still decided to come even after I informed her that it cost $10 to park (Seriously, ten bucks! And that is in addition to paying over $50 for the race itself. Sheesh.)

I had a bit of an adventure just getting to the place. First of all, my brain messed up directionally, and I took a wrong turn which forced me to double-back on the freeway, wasting precious time. Then, as I entered North Plains, I remembered about the parking fee, and realized that I did not have any cash. So I pulled into McDonald's, but they did not have an ATM (how is that possible?).  I drove across the street to a gas station. Their ATM was out of service. You've got to be kidding me. I was already short on time.  One more gas station over and I found the cash machine.  To top it off, the traffic entering the event was very thick (and could only have gotten worse as the day went on, as this event was organized into waves of runners starting every 30 minutes). So I arrived later than I wanted to, had to rush across the field of cars, get my race bib and timing chip, and check my backpack. I jogged over to the starting line just as my wave was beginning. I was the last one to start, in fact. 
I happen to love this pre-race photo because not only do I look all clean and happy before starting, but there is also a mega-line of Honey Buckets behind me. It's a perfect scene. 

Being the last to start was a huge bummer, because the trails were very narrow at the beginning, so we were forced to walk.  Very quickly I decided not to accept the congestion as a blockade, but to treat it as the first obstacle.  I proceeded to excuse myself as I weaved around the mostly stationary lines of people in running shorts and costumes.  This wasn't a checkout line, fairness did not have to be observed. 

Sorry the picture is so tiny, I pilfered it from the event photographer's website. 

The "Deadweight Drifter" was one of my favorite obstacles. As you can see, it was very crowded when I reached it, but I took the outside track and was able to make some headway. Floating in the waist- to chest-deep water was a series of large logs over which we had to clamber. My approach was a dive/slither over the top, which proved much faster than the leg-over style I saw others attempting. 

Another obstacle called "Blackout" doesn't look like much from the outside (I am exiting it above) but it was a long, pitch-black tunnel requiring hands-and-knees tactics.  At least the tunnel felt very long--once again, packed in there nose-to-ass with at least a dozen other people made for slow going. But it was inside the tunnel where I felt a sense of camaraderie with the other racers. Not only because my face touched a strangers butt more than once (it was impossible to see, remember), but because people cracked (no pun intended) jokes about the situation and we all laughed together.  

Most of the obstacles back in the woods had no photographer to capture their essence. Some of the more interesting ones include the "Junkyard Jump" in which we scramble over rusted car wreckage (it appeared that they had removed all shards of glass and sharp, twisted metal), two different cargo rope climbs--one at a vertical angle and one horizontal, and "Knee-high Hell," a web of tires on the ground that I mostly walked through because it was just before the end. Also, the muddy hills themselves were so steep that they were among the toughest obstacles.  

The "Warrior Roast" fire hurdles are possibly the most famous part of the dash, or possibly the final mud crawl. 

The mud was so thick, it definitely impeded forward momentum near the finish line.  
I just had to include this picture of my friend Bridget trying to daintily navigate under the barbed wire for the least amount of mud coverage she could manage, while her husband in front of her dove completely under. So great!

Here is my little posse of friends after everyone finished: Blair, Bridget, Jeremy, and my (Blair's wife also came and took pictures, hooray!)

All done, and all muddy. The course was about 3.3 miles. I can normally race that distance on the road in under 30 minutes. Because I was forced to walk part of the first mile, could not physically manage more than a walk on some of the lung-busting climbs, had to slow for execution of about a dozen obstacles, and genuinely did feel exhausted for the last half mile or so, I estimated that I was probably on the course for over 45 minutes. So imagine my surprise when Barb told me that the next wave (which my friends were running) had only started a few minutes before I crossed the finish line. I could not really fathom this to be accurate. 

But it was true. My official time was 32:17.45, or an average of 9:52 per mile. That isn't really very fast, but considering all the stops and walking, I was quite surprised. This pace earned me a spot in the top 100 females in my age group that day: 97th out of 602.  It's a respectable place, for me. 

There was a pond of brown water down the hill where we were allowed to "bathe" off the mud. It was kind of a social experience as well, with everyone laughing and splashing and swimming, grateful that the hard part was finished, but not yet ready to say it was over. 
Some cute guys parked next to me asked if I wanted my picture taken, which I thought was really nice of them! Of course I made a joke that I'd assumed they wanted to take one on their camera, har har. I think I resemble a frog in this picture, however. 

Warrior Dash was an incredibly fun experience, and I am especially glad that I got to share it with some cool friends. 


Amber said...

This looks fantastic! I've never really heard of the this kind of race, but I think I would really enjoy it. Too bad we don't live in Portland anymore, or else I'd join you on this one next year for sure! Also, that picture of you jumping over fire? Amazing!

KimberlyGanir said...

That looks like the most fun race ever!! I wish they would do one of those around here.

skilegap said...

Looks like a blast I did a similar race this year the Spartan Race http://www.spartanrace.com you should check it out.


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