Warrior Dash World Championship

Not my best race… but far from the worst.

It was very much a runners course and I began to realize the caliber of runners that showed up long before the gun went off while they were warming up. After watching a bunch of sleek muscular girls sprinting back and forth between zero-gravity, zero-bounce drills I gave up any hope for a top ten spot today.

Top twenty in this crowd would be A-OK for a slow-twitch loper like myself.

I think the three or four fast twitch muscles in my body were freaking out at this point. “Lady, we have not got this.”

That first mile-long grinder wasn’t half as bad as I’d imagined. I ended up getting a little left behind on that first flat since many of the ladies absolutely ripped out of the gate and then died with the same curt enthusiasm.

1 mile
The first mile sign

To my surprise, I was passing like crazy on the hills, which are usually not my strength.

That next knocker was pretty much just straight up a gnarly slope. The elite males charged up it but everyone within my site was power hiking with their hands on their knees – or crawling.

steep hill
This is at the course walk the day before. I did not actually race with my three-year-old and in flip flops

The first obstacle was a barb wire pit on a downhill without any internal obstacles like bales or ruts. This made for a perfect speed roll – and phenomenal dizziness – and a great difficulty running straight for at least 200m. I’d volunteer at that pit any time. Probably just to raze everyone with drunk jokes.

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Mud mounds

After the incline-rope-wall there was a bunch of cars you had to climb over and and a bunch of tires you had to run through. Running on the rims is super easy if you step on two tires at once and look for the beefier ones. I accidentally stepped on the flipped up glove box door thinking it was sturdier plastic. It wasn’t terrible but it sure shot my heart rate up a few notches.

After a steep drop came the first set of mud mounds, I jumped as far as I could and muscled up on each and that strategy seemed to pay out much better than running through the whole thing and then hopelessly clawing at the slippery edge like a rat in a water pail.

Next up was a wall, into tubes, to a bigger wall. The toe kicks were super big so you could even scamper up by clutching on. This also came at 2 miles which was a happy moment for me.

After the gully and up the hill to the latter wall, and cresting… the finish area came into sight. Of course, there were a pile of obstacles in the way: a tube made out of netting, a traverse wall with a toe kick on the bottom and a rope on the top, a wall with climbing holds, a mud pit trench, cargo netted A frame.

top wall
Latter wall

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Traverse wall

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Wall with climbing holds

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A-frame cargo net

trench
Trench – barbed wire later added

Goliath was the last of the non-mud obstacles. You climb a cargo net, walk across a balance beam high in the air whilst getting blasted in the eyes with water and then bomb down a slide into a mud pit. You’d think the balance beam with it’s very real danger would have been an issue. Nope. I hesitated for moment and then flung myself down the slide. Which terrified me beyond all terror. I had spent the morning trying not to look at it on my warmup jog so as not to totally freak myself out before the race and had to miss the male elites coming in.

goliath
Goliath.

And it wasn’t so bad. I think the slide at the Spartan Pacific NW scarred me a little on the inside. Phew no panic attacks this time ’round.

At this point, I was starting to give up an settle into a somewhere-in-the-top-twenty spot. This running 5k thing hurts.

And then things got interesting.

I worked out a solid strategy that involved leaping as far as I could just before sliding into the pit. I didn’t get the whole way… but I had to only take one step before muscling up and out of the pit which gave me more energy to scramble up and over the pile.

rolling mud
Rolling mud pits with Coach Ama advising at the Course Walk

When I came up to the last pit before the finish, it was like a scene from the Walking Dead. There were a handful of girls lodged in the mud on the right-side of the pit. And I do mean lodged. I took the left-side. It was so deep I had to swim but I feel like I had it easy.

I passed the an amazing athlete (who placed second at the Spartan World Championship.) She was one of the very lodged. I urged her on – but truthfully, I’m sure it was me passing her as she fought her way out of the mud that spurred her forward. We got out at more or less the same time. I had sandy mud in my eyes so I couldn’t really open them. I had to sprint to the finish line covered in heavy mud – and blind. Luckily it was a narrow shoot. That and the fact that my shirt had ballooned up with mud… must have added to the spectator entertainment for the day. I’ve never had that happen before, it was like happens in a hot tub only heavy mud. I guess that speaks to the level of mud in that pit. Can’t wait to see those finish line picks.

I can’t say much about how I feel about the race. I was two minutes or so from a top 5 finish but I held my own at a distance that I am neither bred or trained for. I can be OK with that.

cried
I didn’t cry. For the record.

One thing’s for sure, Warrior Dash did a great job on this one.

My only suggestions would be to have a loud speaker announcing top finishers and times – and to have a few porta-potties at the start. That and post live results already. 50 person charity races have been doing it for ten years.

Warrior Dash World Championship preview

That was a first. A course walk through at a major OCR event.

If anyone was going to do it, I’m not surprised Warrior Dash did.

They’re like a hip version of your crazy uncle Larry. Complete with wrecking of beer and being all about cheesy hats.

Warrior Dash really seems to go it’s own path… undaunted by the choices of it’s big brothers, Tough Mudder and Spartan Race.

And It was my very first OCR.

To be honest, initially, I didn’t love Warrior Dash. Then again, I don’t love being repeatedly sprayed in the face with cold water. But now that I’ve been dunked in ice, carried impossibly heavy things, and raked my knees and elbows over razor sharp rocks in the cold muck, being sprayed in the face just don’t seem so bad. Go ahead uncle Larry, one more noggie…

In fact, I’ve really started to like what Warrior Dash is doing.

1. Achievable obstacles. Ok, I know. But not only are they beginner friendly… you can crush the course really fast, which is fun.

2, No spectator fees. Spectator fees are greedy and good for no one. Really? People have to pay to get up at some ungodly hour, drive to some ungodly place, pay some ungodly amount to park in a cow field, and stand in some very probably ungodly weather – for the privilege of waiting somewhere between half an hour and 24 hours to clap for me as I charge through the finish line, unable to recognize then or anyone else. Thanks Warrior Dash for making the right choice and charging the racers. Spectators should get hugs and free coffee.

3. They seem to play nice with the others. In fact, I think they were one of the few to embrace the nonpartisan OCRWC.

Back to the walk through.

The course was well marked and a good mix of flat and runnable – and steep and crawlable.

To start things off, there was a flat section leading into a big old never-ending style climb to get you through the first mile.

The elite course charges right up the side of the mountain after descending. It looked like the open course had a flatter track back to rejoin.

I’ll write about the obstacles in more detail in my race post. They are pretty standard fare and even posted with video links on their website.

Looks like it’s going to be a fun event and very well put on. Plus the swag bags had a technical tee, a technical thick long sleeve, a hoodie, a bag and no junk!

Pretty sweet so far and it’s not even race day.

Washington Warrior Dash race report

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For some reason I wasn’t my usual pre-race nerve wreck of a self at the start line. My mood was more, “tea and snuggles” than it normally is – even before an easy run. Only the reality of the situation was that I was an overly-caffeinated and overly-competitive runner standing at the start line of the Warrior Dash with a bunch of spandex clad elite athletes foaming at the bit to run away from me with all manner of physical and mental challenge on route. So, no cuddles.

Usually when the gun goes off, I blast out of the gate as fast as my little legs can muster and sink into a pace that probably won’t blow my heart up. Today, I leisurely jogged out… and up the steep little hill to the sand track that separated the boys from the men so early on.

I entertained myself by trying to find some footing that didn’t sink when I stepped on it. Sometimes the hard pack was on the side of the path, sometimes in the middle on the tractor rut. But every time, the footing gave way to a deep enough sand that would not let you run with any sort of power or grace.

“Wait, is that guy wearing jean shorts?”

Time to get moving.

When the sand turned to grass on a long flat section, I made a strategic decision to get ahead of said guy in jean shorts (and whoever else I could) so I wouldn’t get stuck behind at the obstacles. It would have been interesting to see how tight wet jean shorts worked out for him but alas…

The obstacles were good and fast – not too technical: walls with ropes, cargo net climbs, trail running on a rooty little trail. Easy enough.

I had a solid enough lead, was comfortable and hadn’t even let one mom curse word out.

I did take the pyramid climb a little fast and sloppy. Being the “obstacle clutz” as my husband calls me, I slipped and nearly came off at the top. I’m pretty used to slipping and as such, normally just catch myself and move on… like it was all part of the plan. I’m pretty sure the poor man beside me was thoroughly terrified though… if I’m to judge by the primal noise that came out of him when he saw me nearly slip off head first.

I then ran into a series of dug outs with dirt piled up between. Maybe more accurately, I fell into a series of dug outs with dirt piled between. Having “done this one before”, I thought the water would be about knee deep, give or take. In reflection, this is usually where my OC races go very very wrong: when I think I’m stepping into a shallow pit.

As I swam across and started trying to claw my way up the slippery mud pile, a herd of people (including the two much smarter ladies behind me) leapt across and scampered up. See ya later sucka.

Slew of mommy curse words ensue. Well, fudge it all, so much for not cursing out Ned Flanders style for once.

That’s the thing about OCRs. Things can (and so often do) change fast. In road racing, it’s unlikely that you’ll fall into a giant hole of mud or water and get stuck.

That’s the best and worst part about OCRs. The unknown. Just about anything could happen out there. All you can control is how you react to what comes at you. And you can never be sure how you’ll place until you cross that finish line.

I finally managed to haul myself up the crumbly dirt bank after a number of unsuccessful strategies and one barely successful one.

There were more walls, climbs and crawls. There was more running. There was a neat circular tube net that you had to drag yourself through which was a lot of fun once I realized that one should be upside down and really propelling with their legs.

As soon as I saw the Warrior Roast (fire jump), I knew the end was near. They never just throw a random fire jump in midway. No, it’s near quittin’ time.

The barb wire crawl was really more water than mud… so more swim than crawl. It was hard up figure out exactly what was the fastest way. A lady behind me even got up to run since the barb wire was really spaced out. That definitely would have been the fastest way.

At this point I realized that she was really close, and that being passed would knock me off the podium and my shot at the World Championships.

The last obstacle was a net climb up and a plank walk over a large drop with ropes on either side. The plank was much wider than my foot and didn’t require much in the way of balance… but it was slippery (and more to the point) a really long way down. I ran the rope through my hands as I crossed – just in case.

The last part to that obstacle was flying down a giant slide. You wouldn’t have guessed that I have a childhood fear of slides the way I hurled myself down. Seeing the slide pre-race, John and I discussed various methods of desensitizing myself to slides. I think I may have found a new style of therapy that consists of being seconds from a finish line with fourth place seconds behind you. You man up pretty fast.

All this followed by a really ugly sprint out of the water from the slide pool to the finish. I’m not a good looking sprinter as it is – and through water with someone chasing me does not flatter my form. It may not have been pretty, but I got it done.

It was boat loads easier than the Edmonton Spartan I raced a few weeks ago and I think I might have actually been smiling after I crossed the finish line. Hey, who cares if you’re sprinting like the first ape that fell out of a tree if you’re smiling right?

I also earned that spot at the Warrior Dash World Championships – so now we get look forward to a road trip to California in the fall… and another battle in the mud.

Is OCR what Marathon running was in the good old days?

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Years ago runners were considered masocistic lunatics who put themselves through senseless torture for reasons the mainstream simply could not understand.

Sound familiar?

I think obstacle course racing now occupies that realm… ad well, let’s just call it misunderstood.

In the 70s, all runners were hardcore. They ran through otherwise quiet, normal neighbourhoods in very short shorts doing something most people had never seen: running for the sake of it. It just wasn’t something people did. No one’s boss ran 10k for charity, no kids held signs for their moms tenth marathon finish. Nobody jogged to loose that last ten pounds.

And of course, no one really even knew how to train to run long distances… they were just out there gutting it out day after day. Every run.

Flash forward to the era of OCR. “You what? Electrocute yourself? Dive into icy water? Crawl in the mud and rocks under barb wire?”

Let’s face it. No one would do it for fitness or camaraderie alone. There is something else in us. Something most people don’t understand. The same thing those pioneer runners had in their blood: love of a kick-ass challenge and a unwavering desire to push their minds and body through hell.

Most elite races could easily be likened to a modern day Frank Shorter or Bill Rogers. I’m sure most of our neighbors have said similar things (or at very least given similar looks) about our training-induced behaviour… like running around the block at 5 am dragging a tire in very tight shorts.

And just like running in the 70s, there’s no “one” training plan. Mostly, we’re not even sure what we’re training for. Nowadays you can google a training plan to run 100 miles. You’ll get some variety, but the same guts in terms of periodized well-tested training.

Most OCR training plans involve bear crawls, pull-ups, burpees and other general strength exercises. But we also know strength alone isn’t going to cut it when it comes to making it over Everest alone, crossing Funky Monkey sans ice bath or traversing a balance beam without a burpee chaser. So we end up doing wacky arse stuff. And usually in the streets… in plain site of awestruck onlookers. Just like the good ol’ days of marathoning, eh?

I love being involved in a sport growing so strongly on the fringes of what people assumed humans were capable of. I have to say, when I first heard about this crazy new sport, my initial reaction was typical.

Is that even legal?

Race report from the Vancouver Spartan Sprint, 2013

Race Report from the Vancouver Spartan Sprint, 2013

This race was a last minute decision for me. When the race had to be moved to June 1st, I was heart broken. Same day as the Whistler Half. What to do.

I’ve hardly trained this year outside of running in races. My foot has been engaged in a nonstop cramp all the way up to my hip since March… which makes running difficult.

A bunch of friends were going, and I felt like 5k is a whole lot more manageable than 21.1 given my current shape. Plus, a guaranteed super fun time. Or something.

Spartan puts on a great race. You can tell they care more about the experience than the profits. They had shuttle buses to the top despite fairly ample parking, lots of washrooms, and a course that would be very difficult to get lost on. This is a big contrast to the competitor event that went on in the same location last year. I spent the whole time lost and frustrated. Obstacle races must be hard to mark, of course, but Spartan always does a bang up job. And the people who run it seem like a terrific bunch of people who love mud racing. If you do one mud race, I’d say do Spartan.

It’s definitely a little more nerve wracking not knowing what’s going to be out there. You know you’re in for 5k. But 5k of what? Turns out the “what” today was what bad dreams are made of. You know that one where you’re running up a mountain in knee deep snow. That was my morning.

The race director advised that we get out in front to the first obstacle. This is advice I often give. Although “get out front” and “sprint 200m uphill through slush to suffer the rest of the mountain climb gasping with the taste of blood in your mouth” probably wasn’t what he meant in hindsight. This was the only time in the race I lost my lead. And I told myself, “you will not loose the lead.”

The first real obstacle was pulling a “tractor” or cement block. Wow, way harder in snow. First off, you’re slipping. Second, the block isn’t. It plows up a little mound of snow in front of it. About halfway through I realized taking the rope over your shoulder helped immensely.

More uphill. Lots more snow.

I still haven’t decided if running through the deep slush was better or running along the crusty sides with the surprise fall throughs. I’m thinking as the day went on, after the trail had been broken it may have gotten easier. But that depends on the answer to my earlier consideration.

Bombing down the hill on the backside of the mountain was fun… being a kid fun. I didn’t realize until after I hit flat, snowless ground that my feet were in fact, frozen solid. That and I was very tired.

Their were also two girls hot on my heels. The typical runability of the Spartan course was buried under two-feet of snow. I usually can loose runners on the run portion to give myself a little extra time in the final obstacles. Not today. Better keep moving and avoid burpees at all costs.

The monkey bars were slick. I had to wrap my thumb around to stay on, and switch from doubles to singles near the end. I dropped one girl here. She was right on me so at least I could breathe a little now.

The board wall is made a whole lot easier with my New Balance Minimus. And by now my feet had been pounded back into flexing a little.

The last few climbs would have been fairly easy obstacles had I any feeling in my body. Normally I love a final rope climb but this one was tough. The knots in the rope kept on catching my feet (ok maybe my feet kept on catching them.)

The mud pit before the climb was also extra cold, extra long and contained extra sharp bits.

I missed my spear throw. Like always. This is where I did my first and only set of burpees. Good thing I’m a vegetarian, lest I ever need to catch dinner in the woods.

I finished in 44:31. My slowest 10k time ever… and it was only 5k! But I took the win and a nice little cheque home with me. And I have to say, I feel like I earned every cent.