Thursday, July 14, 2011

HNT - Warrior Dash Barrie 2011 Postmortem

I completed my first Warrior Dash this past weekend with two of my buddies. It took place near Barrie at the Horseshoe Resort on July 9, 2011.

Chad, Pierre and I decided to make a weekend of the event, so we took our families up and stayed there Friday and Saturday night. That was a great decision because the kids and our wives had a great time and everybody wants to go back next year. We were able to get lots of fun family swim time in, some mini-put, as well as a BBQ, picnic lunch, pizza and plenty of time spent huddled around a cooler filled with beer.

The Warriors pre-race
Alexander hams it up with us for a pre-race picture

There was a heat every half hour from 8:00 AM until 6:30 PM, with more than 500 people in each heat. And though our race didn't start until 10:30 AM, and despite it being a late Friday night where we killed many beer (in true Warrior fashion), we were up early and wandering the grounds, enjoying the atmosphere, watching the first sets of runners come in, jumping over the flames then diving into the final mud pit and checking out things such as the axe throwing.

Careful with that axe, Eugene!

I thought Pierre had an axe to grind, not one to throw

Pierre and I had dressed in "Warrior" garb - me in my old Conan the Barbarian costume, he in a Spartan one. Chad sported a horned helmet (which he wore for most of the weekend).  Our costumes prompted a lot of people to want to get their picture with us.

The Warrior Dash is a 5K (3.23 mile) run, described as 3.24 hellish miles. It is filled with obstacles some of which might look like they're from an army training camp.  The particular obstacles for this race were called:  Arachnophobia, Blackout, Great Warrior Wall, Chaotic Crossover, Hay Fever, Road Rage, Cliffhanger, Petrifying Plunge, Cargo Climb, Warrior Roast and Muddy Mayhem.

The starting point for the race was a fun area, filled with much buzz and excitement. Francine and Alexander were there with us to cheer us on and take some pictures.

Pumped warriors waiting to start

But the narrow starting area filled to capacity rather quickly, so when we were set to start, all passing under an archway with flames shooting from the top, there were too many people in such a tight area to be able to run. So we did our best to try to walk quickly until the crowd started to thin out enough to actually begin a bit of a jog.

The race begins

Less than half a kilometer in, we encountered the first series of mud pits. The very first was small enough to leap over, but the next few you just had to step through, covering your entire foot with thick gloopy mud.

But the first real mud pit, one about twenty-five to thirty feet long (and one previous runners had warned us about), was deep, thick, and a bit of a "shoe trap" - a group of guys who'd come up from Ohio had warned us about it; one of their team had lost his left shoe there and ended up having to run the rest of the race (4.5 K) with one shoe.

This mud pit was more than knee deep and slowed everyone down significantly as they sloshed through, some people falling, others clinging to the people beside them. A female runner dressed as a "bar wench" ended up grabbing onto me to pull herself through part of the mud and I passed a guy who was struggling desperately to pull his shoe out of the thick muck. We gave a hearty warrior cheer as his shoe finally popped free.

It wasn’t long after that first big mud pit that the rolling hills began. We were running at the base of a ski-hill, and eventually heading to the top. I’ve gotten relatively decent at running, but hills are still my Achilles heel.
We ran up and down a series of hills (some of them so steep that there was no choice but to walk down or up them, grabbing onto trees to keep from pitching forward or to pull oneself up.

The first “man made” obstacle was Arachnophobia, a series of ropes tied, like a giant spider’s web, across the path. I had imagined it would be something we’d have to carefully navigate through, stepping through, ducking under, climbing over. However, to get past this one, all we needed to do was get on our hands and knees and crawl under it.  That wasn’t so bad.

More hills (need I describe the nasty upward progression?), again, some of which we had to walk, then we made it to Blackout – a long low black tarp “tent” stretched across the trail and running about 30 feet or so across. It was hot, warm, dark and dusty under that tent. Wooden boards running across meant you had to crawl low, and I was glad to get through it and out the other side.

We ran on. The hills got steeper, longer.

Then we made it to the climbing wall.  It was a wall perhaps twelve or fifteen feet high with ropes we had to pull ourselves over with. Two paramedics sat atop either side of this wall, cheering people on while preparing for the first potential injury of perhaps someone landing on the other side and twisting their ankle.

I made it over this one pretty quickly. There was a two-by-four about four and a half feet up, so it was a simple matter to pull up on the rope, place a foot on the 2X4 and then haul myself over and jump onto the other side.

At one point we ran past a sign that said 10K maximum speed. I joked to Pierre that we should slow down so we don’t get a ticket. (Because it was one of those long, windy hills, I think, at that point we were perhaps moving no faster than 3K)

The next obstacle (apart from the hills – have I mentioned them?) was a cargo net stretched across a large series of beams. It was about five feet off the ground, so you had to climb up, then go across the net, which sank slightly and rocked when you stood on it – so for the most part, you were on feet and hands to navigate across it – attempting to walk would have sent a person straight down through the holes in the net, or, worse, with one leg on either side of the rope.

Up another long and twisty path, we found ourselves to the half-way mark of the run (2.5 K) and a water station. After getting to the top it was nice to drink one of the cups and pour another one over our heads. At this point, we noticed the Zip-line from the top of the ski-hill, as well as a series of other tree-top adventure climbing activities and told ourselves we’d check it out if we survived this race.

At the top of this mountain, there wasn’t the same nice shady protection of the trees, and the sun beat down hard on us. We ran around a few paths and then down a very steep hill.  I couldn’t help but move down that one at double speed, basically continuing to thrust one foot after another in front of me to keep from tumbling down the hill ass over teakettle. At the bottom there were a couple of women in a golf cart. I called out asking them if I could borrow it and they laughed, saying I wasn’t going to like what was around the next corner.

It was another vertical climb – this one basically up a straight, steep, ski run. I think I perhaps ran the first 20 or 30 feet. Then it was a walk to the top.

Tricia, Jocelyn and the kids greet us at the top of that hill. It must have disappointing for them to see us struggling to keep stepping forward, but at that point, even if I had had the energy or strength, I'm not sure I could have run at all on the steep slope with packed down grass.

At the top was an ambulance with paramedics in it. Good place to be. I wondered how many people collapsed from exhaustion at that point.  Just past the top was Road Rage, a series of tires perhaps 50 feet on either side of a pile of wrecked cars. We had to get through the tires, climb over the cars and make our way through more tires.  

Yaaaay, a hill to go DOWN!
Perhaps a dozen yards beyond that was Hay Fever, a 20 foot high stack of hay bales. We climbed through that and practically fell down the other side which was already starting to crumble that early in the day.

Yaaaa, more downhill
Then it was around another corner and down another hill that looped down then back around to another nearby peak just above that nasty grassy ski slope we'd come up a few minutes earlier. The wives and the kids had moved over to greet us there as well. We ran down another hill past them, then up another small one, this one with boards and ropes to pull yourself up with (though it wasn't at all a steep hill)

One of the final hills (thank God it was a smaller one)
Shortly beyond that, we ran another couple of corners. I should have been delighted to learn that, since we were at the top of the mountain (with a gorgeous view of the valley, the Horseshoe Resort and finish line way down below), there were no more hills to run up. We were about 3/4 done the race at that point, and it was mostly downhill from there.

Hamming for the cameras at the top of the mountain

Pierre and I hammed for the cameras set up shortly after that. I thought it was cute to see two warriors dressed in nasty gear, pumped, sweaty and struggling at the top of the mountain while in the background of that picture there's a pair of seniors looking like they're out for a leisurely stroll.

The downhill challenge began shortly after that. When we went by the Petrifying Plunge we were routed to run around it. Near the base of that obstacle there was a guy laying on the ground in incredible pain with two paramedics working on him. He'd broken his ankle. Later that day, Pierre and I ran into a couple in the grocey store who'd raced in the 11 AM heat. She showed us the nasty scratches she'd received along her upper legs when she reached the end of the watery tarp and ended up skidding through gravel, rocks and dried grass. We were a bit relieved about skipping that particular obstacle after hearing that.

Running down the ski hill was another challenge - unless you walked carefully, picking your way down, you couldn't help but be propelled forward at break-neck speed, doing everything under your power to keep from landing on your face and tumbling down the hill like the proverbial Jack & Jill and breaking your crown.

The Cargo Climb greeted us near the bottom of that last hill. It was maybe 30 or 40 feet high and a fun challenge to climb. I paused at the very top, thrust my warrior arms in the air -- mostly so that Francine and Alexander, who were waiting near the finish line and would be looking for us, might see me.

Climbing down the other side, Chad, Pierre and I waited for each other before heading for the flames together.

Mark be nimble . . .

We then let out a warrior cry and ran toward the flames in our second final attack, leaping them as a team.

Then we hit the mud pit. Chad went ahead of me, doing a roll in the air to land on his back. I did a swan dive (at least in my mind - in reality I think it was more like a belly flop) into the mud and felt the mud splash over my face and head.

Then I proceeded to crawl under the barbed wire (which I was disturbed to see wasn't real barbed wire, but rather chain with decoration strung about a foot over the mud) and through the mud. My loin cloth and "hair" were getting really heavy under the mud as I slogged forward, and I remember wondering about what was at the bottom of this mud pit, because it felt like I was kneeling in glass shards.

Creature from the final mud pit

Then, finally, through the mud pit, I crawled out, feeling like (and very likely looking like) some creature from a 1950's horror film and sloshed my way to the finish line where someone thrust the "I Survived Warrior Dash" medal over my muddy neck. The mud-soaked clothes were sliding off of me and added perhaps 20 pounds. (Yeah, just what I needed after a 5K run - to carry around another 20 lbs)

Then we looked around for clean people to hug (for some strange reason, nobody took us up on the offer), found Francine and Alexander, posed for some pictures, then headed over to the "clean off" area where they doused us with fire hoses. Ice-cold water that I had to take a break from two times -- and the third time I went in it was completely in my underwear (loin cloth, head-dress and furs stripped off) - I mean, it's not like I wasn't already mostly naked anyway, and tons of other people were in their undies as well. (See, this post fits nicely into the Half-Nekkid Thursday spectrum)

Post-race muddy

Muddy Warrior Pose
It took perhaps two more really long showers to get all the mud out. My "run uniform" took many more front lawn soakings and sprayings and a good run through the washing machine. But I hope to wear it again next year if the Warrior Dash comes back to Ontario.

Because I didn't end up running the whole time I wasn' sore the next day. (Of course, I'm comparing it to the 10K Mud Runs I've done - while the hills aren't nearly as big, I run the whole thing and usually at the 8K point I tell myself I'll never do this again if only I could finish) My knees were in extreme pain, however, and I have really nasty cuts and scratches on both knees from the gravel at the bottom of the mud pit. (I still think that there was either crushed glass there or perhaps THAT's where they put the barbed wire) Aparently the scratched knees was a consistent ailment with all the warriors.

Overall, I came in 4713th place (out of 10,000 people, that's not bad) with a time of 45:44.15 (pretty close to what I was estimating it would take us. I normally run 5K in about 30 minutes - I figured the gigantic hills and obstacles would add fifteen minutes) In my age group (40 to 44), I came in 244th place. Again, not bad out of almost 500 people in that category)

In all, it was a grand time, a great family weekend and a fun challenge with a couple of my buddies.

Gotta love it! And can't wait to do this again!


BTExpress said...

Looks like a blast!

barbara said...

I just finished my first ever warrior dash and stumbled upon your blog looking for other's reactions! Glad you had fun!