Warrior Dash Minnesota 2011

It. Was. Awesome.

Seriously, the Warrior Dash was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. My official finishing time was 56:50.

The started out rainy and stormy, so the day didn’t look too promising. Luckily, the wave I was in was 3:00 pm, so there was hope the weather would clear up before our turn. A friend of mine ran in the 9:00 am wave and didn’t get to do two of the obstacles due to lightning; they were the two obstacles I was fearing the most.

As the afternoon approached, the weather cleared and the sun came out. It got warm, but I was nervous and excited at the same time. I dressed in my leopard print spandex pants, a pink tank top, moisture-wicking undergarments and a pair of old tennis shoes I planned on throwing away after the event. I was ready.

The "before" picture

Because my wave was in the afternoon, the first parking facility was full and we had to part in the overflow facility. This means we had to take a tractor-drawn hay ride to the first facility to catch the bus to the location of the race.

As we approached the buses, people were emerging from them covered in mud, some wearing their warrior hats. Some yelled, “Don’t do it!” and “It was worse than you could ever imagine.” Others were yelling, “It was awesome!” and “Good luck!”. When we got on the buses, all of the seats and floor were covered in dirt and mud. It was an indicator of things to come.

The bus dropped us at the entrance to the festivities. The throng of people was unbelievable! Those who had already run were covered in thick black mud. Those who were preparing for mud were stretching, jumping around and looking nervous and/or excited. Pictures were being snapped everywhere. My group picked up our packets, attacked our number bibs and tied on our timing chips. We then had a few hours to mill around and check out the band, drink some water, watch those at both the start and finish lines, snap pictures and use the restrooms.

People were friendly and chatty all around as we lined up for our wave. All was great when our wave was released with a burst of flame above the start line…until we realized the starting hill up the ski slope seemed never-ending. We all knew we started with a run uphill but I don’t think many were prepared for just how LONG the hill was. Half way up the first hill was when most slowed to a walk and the conversations started. Two women around me told me that half marathons were easier than this hill!

Finally, when we reached the top of the hill, we were greeted by the junkyard obstacle, where we had to run/hop through old tires surrounding the junk cars we had to climb over. Immediately following that was the “gale force winds and water” which were created by machines typically used for making snow on the slopes in the winter. The water and wind was welcome after the hot, difficult climb up the hill.

After the first two obstacles, we would down hill for a bit, only to be quickly greeted by another uphill portion. Thankfully, this was also the location of the first water station. I drank one cup of water and poured another over my head to cool off.

Soon, after another downhill and winding through a wooded section, it was time for the hurdles, which consisted of tall hurdles that we had to climb over, then duck under strings of barbed wire fencing…there were four or five of these to make our way through. This obstacle proved to be fairly easy, other than the bruise on my stomach that developed later from hoisting myself over the walls.

The next obstacle was a cargo net stretched over a trapezoid shaped frame. This was my slowest obstacle, mostly because the tension on the net changed so much based on how many others were on it at each second and their movements.

Next up was the water station, where one of the attendants was splashing water on the participants. It was very welcome and we were informed that we were 2/3 through. Already? I was amazed.

We headed up hill again until we go to the tent of darkness. I don’t recall the official name, but it was a black tent draped over trusses. We had to crawl on our hands and knees through the dark to the other side. I flew through this one, but now have the bruises on my knees to show for it. The ground was hard and lumpy!

At the end of the crawl was a man with a misting bottle, offering to spray the runners down, but I didn’t have time for it. I saw the paved path and was happy for a smooth running surface for a short time. I rounded a corner and ran down the hill to the cargo net that stretch over an A frame and was approximately 16’ tall. I had to focus on everything except the height, but I zoomed up. It took some figuring to find the appropriate foot placement to get over the top and down the other side safely, but everyone was so friendly and accommodating at this obstacle. People were encouraging each other and waiting to others had room to make their movements safely.

Next was a downhill run, which included a sandy area, to the approximately 15’ tall military wall. This was the obstacle I feared most both when I signed up for the event and going into the day. Surprisingly, this one was my fastest and the one I enjoyed the most. I dominated that thing!

Then was a windy jog through ankle deep mud to the plants. They were narrow balance beam type boards that we had to walk up, walk down, walk across and then go up and down once more. Up next, was another hill but this one led to the final three obstacles. Woo hoo!

At the top of the final hill (finally!), I had to stopped and wait a few minutes because the course volunteers were resetting the hay bales that caught participants at the bottom of the slide (think HUGE slip in slide down the side of a hill!). The slide had a giant sprinkler at top that sprayed water onto the slide. The sprinkler had some serious pressure, but the cold water felt good anyway. After zooming down the slide, I had to jump up fast and run down the rest of the hill and jump over two lines of fire. I don’t think anyone caught pictures, but I think my jump was rather graceful.

Entering the mud pit

Lastly, was the mud pit. Without hesitating, I jumped in and made my way under the barbed wire fencing on my belly. I worst part was getting mud in my mouth! Eww. When I emerged, I had about two inches of silt in my sports bra, my shoes were filled with water and sand and my entire body was covered in black mud. At least the mud was cool!

All that was left was a quick sprint to the finish line, where we were greeted with water (one to drink and one to wash out my eye and mouth!) and bananas. Within a few minutes both my sister and boyfriend also made their ways across the finish line.

The "after" picture

I'm coming after you again next year, Warrior Dash!

Once we all caught our breath, we made our way to the Warrior Wash, which consisted of two more snow machines that were blasting dirty warriors with cold water to rinse off the mud. We then emptied the mud out of our shoes and removed our timing chips; these were to be turned in to claim our free Shocktop beers!

After getting our beers and bottles of water, we made our way to the line for the bus because it had started lightning around the entire valley we were in. It even rained for a little while. The bus ride back was quick, with everyone on the bus sharing stories of their warrior adventure.

It was an amazing experience that I’m so glad I did. As I said before, it is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. It almost brings me to tears thinking about how in less than two years I’ve gone from being over 200 lbs and hating exercise to being 177 lbs, running races and physically challenging myself. It’s still unreal sometimes.

I’m also super proud of my sister and boyfriend for completing the Warrior Dash. Neither was very excited about me signing them up, but both finished within a few minutes of me and completed all obstacles. My boyfriend is pumped up to do another one and we have more friends and family who are now thinking about joining us next year!

Showing off our swag!

Also, I’m very impressed by the handful of 70+ year old participants. Most of them beat my time, even! They’re all amazing and should have been given awards. They’ve given me the new life goal of staying active and fit enough to complete an adventure race at 80 years old. Yes, there were about ten 80 year olds that complete the race…they were faster than me, too!!

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