Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Trip 32: Warrior Dash

State Parks visited: 29

Sometime last year, Chris showed Rob a website for an endurance obstacle challenge called Tough Mudder.  It's designed by former military servicemembers, set in mud, and billed as the toughest endurance race on the planet.  What makes it unique is that the concept of not leaving any fallen brethren behind is the standard throughout, from taking an oath at the starting line to helping your friends through the obstacles and all the way to the finish line.  It isn't so much a race as it is a personal challenge.

I was intrigued at the idea and soon learned that Tough Mudder isn't the only event of its type.  Names kept springing up out of nowhere: Muddy Buddy, Champions MudBash, Spartan Race, Warrior Dash.  Other similar events came to light, too, minus the mud:  BeachPalooza and the Great Urban Race. 

I'll admit, I've never been afraid to get a little dirty in the name of fun.  And this past year has been a year of firsts for my family...first camping trip, first kayaking trip, etc.  Why not add first mud run to that list?  So began the research, and I determined that the nearest mud run was in the city of Lake Wales:  Warrior Dash.

But hold on a second.....there was a major event going on at the Speedway that weekend, and Rob and Chris had to work.  Was I going to let their inability to take part in Warrior Dash keep me from participating as well?  Granted, I did have Olivia to see to, but thankfully I have great parents.  And with their help, and the support of the rest of my wonderful family and friends, I set to prove to everyone...especially myself...that I have it in me to complete a 3 mile mud/obstacle course. 

Because I registered for the 10:30 wave on Sunday of this two-day event, my parents...who watched Olivia while I raced...suggested we drive down to Lake Wales on Saturday.  We got into our hotel after a nice dinner at the Outback Steakhouse.  At check-in we found out that several other Warriors were staying in the hotel.  My excitement peaked the next morning when we were waiting for the elevator and a guy walked up with a race t-shirt on.  It was really happening!!

We showed up at the event location, Triple Canopy Ranch, a little before 9:30. There weren't very many people around at that point, but I knew it would just be a matter of time.  The first wave was scheduled to start at 10:00.  I checked in, got my race packet, tied the chip timer onto my shoe and put on my race bib.  I also put on the souvenir hat that came with my registration:

Yeah, Viking girls are hot!

Speaking of hot, we stood around and people-watched for a little while when something caught our attention:

That's right, smoke.  Smoke comes from fire.  I knew there would be some kind of fire obstacle at the end of the race, but this was where I realized just what I had gotten myself into.  Closer inspection revealed...

Yep, that's all 5'2" of me standing next to those built-up, triple-stacked Duraflame fire logs.  Oh yeah, and there were two different fire obstacles set up.  Great!

Let me just add that this is where Olivia got really scared.  It took lots of hugs and some really cool souvenirs, but eventually she realized that mommy wasn't in any real danger.  Right??

So, the first wave of people lined up and that's when we first saw the crowds.  We also started seeing lots of people in costumes.  Yep...costumes are highly encouraged for this event!  There were some pretty funny ones:

I'll let you figure that one out.

And you can figure that math out, too.  Sunday's event went from 10:00-4:00, with waves starting every half hour.  Multiply that by the sold-out crowd of six hundred people PER WAVE, and then double that for the exact same amount on Saturday.  Wow.  And just to add a little good karma to the mix, Warriors were encouraged to donate their dirty post-race shoes to a charity group (whose name I've since forgotten...sorry!!) that cleans them up and gives them to the less fortunate.  There were so many shoes left that they required special equipment to move them:

Those 30 minutes after the first wave of Warriors began were some of the longest of my life.  I spent the majority of my time questioning my sanity and my capabilities.  But then I started thinking of Rob and the encouraging emails he sent me.  Chris, too, had surprised me with an early-morning text wishing me good luck and lots of fun.  Several friends posted encouragement on my Facebook page.  And eventually, each and every one of those thoughts brought a smile to my face and added another brick to my wall of confidence.  I could do it!  Of course I could!!

And with that, we were off.

I got to about the point in this picture when I realized something:  I am not a runner.  I never have been.  And then I realized something else:  If I was going to practically kill myself to complete each of the obstacles, I surely didn't want to kill myself getting to each of them.  That was the point when I realized I would be better suited walking the remainder of the course. 

That was also the point when I started noticing pieces of people's costumes, abandoned and thrown by the wayside.  Shoes, too.

The first obstable was a mud pit.  Nothing too serious, just a knee-deep stretch to prepare us for things to come.  I should mention that, even though it was the last weekend in January, the weather was close to 70 degrees and blissfully sunny.

The obstacles had scary sounding names like Alligator Alley and Deadweight Drifter.  I was looking forward to them, and I'll admit...they were a lot of fun!  Aside from the first mud pit...and the mud pit between each other obstacle on the course, were hay bales we had to climb over, a huge M-shaped balance beam, a couple of different types of cargo nets, over/under walls and fences, fallen trees over mud pits to climb over, wrecked cars and a tire maze to get through...whew! 

We were just past the halfway point when the next wave started.  I was getting off the first cargo net when I got passed by one of those runners.  A man wearing a dress, of all things.

I had managed to keep company with a couple of men, and it was fun having someone to banter with and cheer on while going through the obstacles.  We climbed over the final cargo net, and I knew what was coming.  One final mud pit...a hill...and then....FIRE.

Remember, up until here I had been walking.  When it comes to leaping over fire that's 7 stories tall, walking won't do.  I was mentally psyching myself up for the task ahead when several runners passed me, shouting encouragement.  It certainly helped!  With a smile on my face I began to jog closer...and closer...

Two things became apparent.  One...the fire had died down a little bit and wasn't nearly as tall as when they first lit it, and B...there was space between the stacks of logs.  My practical side won out in my great mental battle, and I leaped through the fire at an opening between the logs.

There, I said it.  I took the easy way out.  Twice.

But you know what?  I still DID IT.  I leaped over fire twice after completing the other obstacles.  And I wasn't done yet!  After the fire came the final mud pit:

It looks so calm and peaceful, right?  Wrong.  Immediately after jumping in...hello, what else are you supposed to do??...I sank.  The mud up until here had been knee, maybe waist, high.  This mud was quite a bit deeper.  It also had barbwire strands hanging over it, so we all had no choice but to dig in and go for it.  I did well until I was almost all the way through.  The next-to-the-last strand of barbwire got caught in my hair.  Instinctively, I reached up to free it.  My hand started burning, but I ignored the pain and focused on the finish line ahead.  That's when I saw my family and started waving.  That's when they saw this:

Yep, that's me.  That's me, crossing the finish line.  That's me, crossing the finish line after a 3 mile mud/obstacle course.  I did it!!  As we crossed the finish line we were given medals and bananas.  My mom had the camera and got a picture:

Those two girls on the right are too clean.  The looks on their faces tell me they realized just how dirty they were going to get.

At this point I realized my hand was covered in blood, and that's when I noticed that I'd cut it on the barbwire.  There was blood everywhere, so we made our way over to the medical tent.  The medics cleaned it up the best they could but recommended I go get a stitch because it was somewhat deep.  I proudly told them I laugh at pain, and we moved on with a bandaid instead.

I actually managed to dry off and, because I'm amazing, managed to change clothes in a porta-potty.  I'm amazing because this was the second day of crazy use for the porta-potties and they were in horrible condition, and yet I managed to change without touching anything disgusting or getting sick.  Hellz yeah!

After my changing act, we made our way to the refreshments.  And by 'refreshments', I mean 'beer.'  My entry to the event included one free beer, and I collected!

I'm sure you'll noticed my arms (and my legs, too) were still caked with black mud.  That didn't come off until two showers and a hot bubble bath later.  In the meantime I unwound as best as I could.  I finished my beer and we decided to head back toward home. 

I spent the drive thinking about my morning.  Had that really just happened?!?  Did I really just complete that course?  Indeed I did, in 59:56.  It was amazing and fun, and I am unbelievably proud of myself for accomplishing it.  Now I'm looking forward to the next mud run I can do, wherever it may be, and with whoever wants to join me.  Want to know why?

Because I'm a badass.  That's why.

W A R R I O R!!!!!!


  1. Hell yeah, you are! (A badass, that is!)
    Paula, I love, love, LOVE this! I am so proud of you and impressed with how you literally attacked the course and finished triumphant!
    Thank you so much for the wonderful descriptions and play by play - I felt like I was right there with you! I have always admired how you "just do it" - how you just go for things and have all these great experiences! In my career as a runner, I've encountered a lot of obstacles (hay bales, logs, mad dogs, etc.) but I have never encountered fire. After reading this, I want to leap over some fire!!!
    Fantastic job, Paula! As always, thank you so much for posting this and sharing it!

  2. I really wanted to do this, but my back is about as brittle as a saltine cracker. Beer..mud. How can you go wrong?

  3. Thank You to the both of you! Warrior Dash was a great experience all the way around, and I would wholeheartedly do it again right now. TFB, sorry about your back. I was sore for a couple of days afterward, so I can't imagine going through it with back issues.

    Holly, there is a SoCal Warrior Dash. Just sayin'....

    After SpeedWeeks are over, we have some fun things planned! I'm really looking forward to sharing our experiences with you. :)

  4. Oh, and I meant to add the greatest part in all of this...Olivia is extremely proud of me. For several days she excitedly told people, "My mom jumped through fire!" They'd look at me and I'd hold up my fingers. "Twice." Then we'd talk about Warrior Dash and how much fun it was, which was awesome. I'm glad I could be a role model for my little girl, you know?