The Warrior Dash is billed as “The World’s Largest Running Series”. Not sure what type of process they had to go thru for this “certification”. The race is 3.2 miles of running & obstacles (swimming, climbing over shit, crawling thru mud with some glass & hypodermic needles thrown in [I may have made that last part up], and running thru hot fiyah). My colleague, Jeff, talked me into doing this and after reviewing the information and “obstacles” listed on the website, I wasn’t all that worried. I’m training for a marathon so this couldn’t be that hard, right? WRONG. See me in the picture there on the left? Looking all clean and smiling because I didn’t know that I would have to run thru the bowels of hell? Yeah, I miss her. I think I lost her at mile 1.5.
The race was being held in north Georgia (close to the South Carolina state line) in Mountain City. I picked up Jeff and we headed north to meet up with Glenn, another work colleague. Which…I’m just going to put this out there. Clearly all 3 of us don’t have good decision-making abilities. But, I digress. Jeff is worried that the paramedics will have to airlift him to a hospital during the race. I laugh (or Old Nikki in the photo above laughed…she’s dead now). I had studied the obstacle course (which I have provided for your viewing pleasure) like it was a treasure map. I was confident in what to expect. Like I had read What To Expect When You are Expecting (To Run an Obstacle Course). I figured that it wouldn’t be that difficult. I mean, it’s only 3.2 miles and 13 obstacles. I even had a strategy. I know! I thought I was prepared. Spoiler alert — I was not.
On our way to the race, Jeff and I speculate about how many other people of color we would see. His response? “I think I’m looking at it.” Now, normally you don’t see black folks crawling in mud and trudging across a lake for sport…there needs to be a good reason (like life or death). That’s not what we do. But, it’s 2012. Obama is POTUS. Anything is possible, people. Change we can believe in, y’all. I held out hope that I wouldn’t be the only brown person there. Luckily, I saw a few others. There weren’t many…but change starts small. See? I’m spreading the word now. So to my black people…go out and do this race! Don’t worry about the title and how I said I died. You may live!
After we park, there is a shuttle that takes you to the actual event. Once we arrive at the venue, we notice an ambulance speeding away with sirens blaring (Clue #1). As we are walking up a hill (Clue #2 because I hadn’t even considered hills would be involved) we pass people who had completed the race and they looked a hot, sizzling mess (Clue #3). Before we get to the registration desk, we see a girl laid out on a freaking STRETCHER and she WAS.NOT.MOVING. (Clue #4). By this time, Jeff has started providing statistics of our chances of getting injured (which did not calm me one bit). I tried to divert our attention by looking at the costumes. Because most folks dressed up as something. We saw Sesame Street characters, Borat (and trust me that a man running in a thong is not cute), a lady wearing a wedding gown…pretty much everything you could think of. Which should have been Clue #5 but I didn’t realize it at the time. That lulled me into a sense of calm…like it couldn’t be that bad. I’m looking at crazy but I don’t recognize the crazy. I’m part of it.
Before I get into the details of actually running this race, I do need to give Leap Frog Events some praise. They had the Warrior Dash event organized like a well-oiled machine (except for when it came time to claim my free beer but I’m not going to deal with that now). The race starts in 30 minute waves. But, while you may register for a 4pm wave, it seemed like you could run in any wave throughout the day. Registration was fast and easy. Race swag includes a cotton t-shirt, medal, 1 free beer and a fuzzy warrior helmet (I will be wearing it this winter so get ready). There is also a huge party at the finish line (complete with a DJ and folks doing the “Wobble”…I kid you not). It was awesome.
We line up towards the back of the wave so we don’t have to deal with the Bruce Jenners trying to actually race. It starts out with a pretty easy 1/2 mile run slightly uphill. Now, my strategy was based on the obstacle course map above where the water obstacles were at the end. In my mind, this was great because I wouldn’t have to run in water-logged shoes. I should’ve known that made too much sense to be real.
So, when I see the first obstacle is crossing a muddy LAKE by either walking (in water that at some points is higher than me) or swimming, I immediately was like, “this wasn’t in the marketing materials!” I end up behind some guys dressed as KISS (and using their inflatable guitars as flotation devices…genius. I’m totally going as Prince next year). We finally make it across the lake (all while I’m praying there aren’t any flesh-eating bacteria in there). And as soon as we exit the lake, we have to crawl through mud (and what I am going to assume was mixed with glass because my elbows and knees are scraped to hell) under barbed wire for a bit, then go thru some mesh. Then it’s time to run some more. It’s an easy run (which I knew was too good to last).
Another freaking lake? WTF? Why the hell wasn’t this on the map? I walk out to the pier, jump into the lake, sink to the bottom to my death (then back up to the top to my resurrection which I am sure will be short-lived). We had to swim out to a floating obstacle…with shoes weighing you down. This is where things get dicey. I realize that my upper body strength training didn’t work a damn as I couldn’t get my big ass on that buoy. So, Jeff has to pull me up while some poor soul is either helping me by lifting my ass or just copping a feel (which…really? Don’t you see I’m in a life or death situation?). After crossing over the floating obstacles, we have to jump right back into the muddy lake and swim to shore. I got water in my nose and what I thought was my lungs. I’m running and snorting water thinking “I now have water cancer.” Don’t judge me…that could be real. Then it’s time for a new obstacle.
Rope climbing. This obstacle was actually on the map and I was dreading it. Now that I know that I have the upper strength of a toddler (or that my arms can’t handle the weight from my hips and thighs…there really isn’t a comforting answer to any of this), I just drop my head. But I’m not a quitter. My Mom read The Little Engine That Could to me when I was little. But I’m pretty sure that Little Engine never had to climb ropes. He only had to climb a mountain and he had the help of an engine so I call cheating. Aaaannnyyyway, I square my shoulders, grab the rope and start climbing…then stop. WTF? Why am I so freaking heavy? And why are other folks climbing over this wall like monkeys? Is my rope defective? So I climb down and try a new one (water cancer causes dementia). Same thing. After what feels like 45 minutes, I finally make it to the top. But now it’s time to actually go over the wall. And The Count from Sesame Street is trying to get on the rope. I’m not finished, buddy. Count the seconds until you see me hit the ground. Finally, I make it over and climb down. Then it’s time to run thru a MUDDY FOREST! Over snakes and tree trunks. Lord help me. This goes on for another 1/2 mile.
I don’t even know what this obstacle is called. You have to climb a wall where the little ledges are spaced about 6 feet apart. It was at this point that I seriously considered skipping it like so many others that had bypassed obstacles that looked too hard. But I refused to quit (and I knew I’d never hear the end of it from my colleagues). Instead, I made a call. It went like this, “Are you there God? It’s me, Nikki. Um, help please?” Somehow, someway, I made it to the top only to find out that I would have to slide down a pole (which was a good distance from the wall). WTH?? The race attendant had to talk me down like I was suicidal. Our conversation went a little like this:
Me: “WTF is this, John?” (I don’t know if that was his name but water cancer makes you want to re-name folks…it also makes you have anger management issues).
John?: “Just lean forward and wrap your legs around the pole.”
Me: “Do I look like a stripper? I don’t know how to do this!”
John?: “Just lean into the pole, it will be okay.”
Me: “This doesn’t look safe. Has this obstacle been certified by a safety inspector?”
John?: *blank stare*
Me: “If I die, I’m totally coming back to haunt your ass.”
I did as he instructed, made it down the pole and promptly hurt my hip because I landed too fast. John, you mutherfucker! This is going to worsen my water cancer. I think I’m now Stage 3 at this point. And as it’s time to run again, I see a mile marker sign that says “1.5 miles completed.” MUTHERFUCKER! I’m not even halfway done with this yet? OMG! That’s when Old Nikki died. Right there at the 1.5 mile marker. Apparently, the water cancer was more aggressive than I first thought. Out of her ashes, New Nikki arose. And she was PISSED that she had to run 1.7 more miles of obstacles.
Obstacles…I don’t even care
Seriously? I climbed over waist-high walls, under more barbed wire, slid down a water slide made of trash bags, climbed over crashed up cars, hurdled over some hot fire and crawled thru mud under more barbed wire (seriously with the barbed wire? Are they a sponsor or something?). Finally, there is the finish line…I almost thought it was another obstacle. Like, “PSYCHE! YOU AIN’T DONE YET. THAT WAS ANOTHER OBSTACLE…A MENTAL ONE. GET TO RUNNING, BITCH!” But, it turned out to be real. And as soon as I was done, I proclaimed that I would NEVA EVA do that again.
Then, as we are listening to The Humpty Dance (yes, you read that right), we decided to put together a team to do Tough Mudder. Which is almost the same except it’s 12 miles instead of 3.2 and the barbed wire is electrified with 10,000 volts of electricity. You know you want to do this too! Clearly I suffer from some sort of mental illness…maybe the water cancer is back?
After we pick up our items from bag check, I ask the lady where the showers are (as I know there has to be a place to wash all the mud off). She points in a vague direction and says, “you just wash off in the lake.” I gave her the side-eye then trudged to the lake (my 3rd of the day) to wash up like my name is Laura Ingalls and this creek is my way of getting clean before Pa asks me why I flipped Almonzo off at the 2 mile marker while yelling “WHY THE HELL DID YOU LET ME DO THIS?”
Overall, this race was actually awesome. I know I complained (and died of water cancer)…it’s hard! But, it was also fun. And, the after party is a riot. It was a good time. If you read this, then you should now be prepared to be a warrior. So, register (and then join me for Tough Mudder in 2013)!
P.S. I had to fly to Oregon on business the next freaking day. I travel ALL THE TIME and never forget to pack major items. But, when I start to get dressed for work the next morning, I realized that I had forgotten to pack my bras. Not only am I apparently out of water cancer remission, I now suffer from Warrior Dash PTSD. Lord help me.