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Sep 252011

I had the chance to participate in the 2011 Warrior Dash in Manchester, TN. Warrior Dash is a 5K Adventure Race that promises to be the “craziest frickin’ day of your life”. Having never done anything other than non-adventure 5K’s, I did some homework before the race to get some tips from veterans. Below you’ll find a summary of those tips and things I wish I had done.

  1. Things to remember for the race:
    •  Gloves – For all the obstacles involving rope, an old pair of weightlifting gloves will be invaluable. Make sure they are gloves you don’t mind throwing away, they will get muddy!
    • Jugs of Water – We used gallon jugs of water to wash off after the race. A camp shower would have been better, but the jugs made it easy to wash a small majority of the mud off.
    • Change of clothes – Whatever change of clothes you bring, they need to be old too. You won’t be able to get all the mud off in a big field, so even your change of clothes will get dirty.
    • Money – I brought some cash for a post-race turkey leg and a collectible beer stein.
    • Double Tie Your Shoes! – If you don’t want to lose your shoes in the mud, be sure to double tie them tight. And bring a knife to cut them off later, because the mud makes that effort very difficult.
    • Wear tight clothes – Even though you stay generally mud-free the entire race, up until the mud pit at the very end, you will still want tight clothes. If you wear something loose or baggy, it will likely come off.
  2. Obstacles: The obstacles listed on the website for our location ended up changing 2-3 days before the event. Here’s the obstacles I can remember from our race and a description:
    • Hay Fever: After a little under 0.5 miles, we came to the first obstacle in the middle of a field. Hay bales stacked ~15-20 feet tall that you have to scamper over as quickly as possible. The top portion of the hay bales was already deteriorating due to the racers from previous waves (they start waves of racers in 30min increments, our wave had 750 racers in it).  The ropes that were used to keep the hay bales in their places were NOT pulled tight enough to use as foot/hand holds, so this obstacle turned into an awkward flounder/roll maneuver to get over. Still, I hit the ground on the other side with a big smile.
    • Road Rage: Just after the 0.5 mi mark we hit the next obstacle. A field of tires tied together separated us from a gridlock of old vehicles. After doing high knees through the tires, we then climbed up on top of wrecked cars and climbed across hood, roof and trunk of several cars before clearing the obstacle. Be careful here, if the ground’s wet, the metal on the car can get slick.
    • Big Tree: This actually wasn’t an advertised obstacle, just a “feature of the landscape”. A giant downed tree across the path gave you the option of vaulting over or sliding under.
    • Barricade Breakdown: This was perhaps my favorite obstacle. Barricade Breakdown consists of an alternating set of barricades, one that you have to jump over, and the next that you have to go under. The “over” barricade is a 4-5 foot wall that you roll/jump/valut over. Shortly after, you are met with an H structure, also about 4-5 feet tall, with the top portion of the H filled with barb wire. See the pic if my crappy description doesn’t do it for you. I found a two-handed plant and vault over the wall, followed by grabbing onto the cross bar portion of the barb wire obstacle and using your momentum (and the mud) to sling yourself under the barricade made for quick work of this obstacle.
    •  Blackout: I think the website’s listing of our obstacles actually ended up being incorrect. I never saw Arachnophobia, and the Blackout obstacle definitely came right before The Great Warrior Wall. When I first saw Blackout listed on the site, I was a little concerned. I had heard horror stories of a much more hardcore adventure race over in the UK where racers went into corrugated tubes partially filled with water and mud, and had to navigate the tubes with hundreds of racers behind them. If you found a dead-end, your only option was to politely ask the guy with his face in your butt if he could “be a dear” and back everyone out of the tube. So, when I saw blackout on the obstacle list, I wondered if it would be anything like the Tubes of Death in the UK race. Don’t worry, it isn’t. Blackout is just a large black tent set very low to the ground. Inside the tent, there are flaps that come down from the ceiling of the tent and touch the ground. As you enter the obstacle from one side, there’s enough light to see that a flap is in front of you. As you pass under this flap, it’s absolutely pitch black. All you have to do is crawl through the next few flaps until you’re out of the tent. No blockages, no claustrophobia, just dark and hot. I popped out next to a girl I didn’t even know was right next to me, and we kind of scared each other when we realized it.
    • The Great Warrior Wall: Here we come to the first of several “climb up, over and down” obstacles. If you’re extremely sensitive to heights, these obstacles may give you pause. Each of these obstacles features a wall roughly 15 – 20 feet tall, and a method for getting up one side and down the other. No safety harnesses or big fluffy things to fall on (hey, that’s why you sign a waiver). It can be a little nerve-wracking at the top, but I saw some pretty out-of-shape people do these obstacles, so as long as you don’t psych yourself out, there should be no problem. The first wall was at a full 90 degrees to the ground. Attached to the face of the wall were 2×4′s, and coming from the top were several knotted ropes. Racers grab a knotted rope and use the (not-very-wide) 2×4′s as steps to get up the wall. On the other side is what amounts to a big 2×4 ladder with large spaces between the “steps” that you must climb down. My one tip for these rope obstacles is WEAR GLOVES! I brought some old weight lifting gloves that saved a lot of skin from being dedicated to the nylon ropes and rough wood.
    • Chaotic Crossover: This obstacle was pretty slow and annoying because of it. Cargo nets suspended horizontally across 20 – 30 feet of an elevated platform forces you to awkwardly crawl on your hands and knees across the nets while they are bouncing around mercilessly due to the other racers. After the fact, I considered that laying down flat with your hands to your sides and rolling across the nets may have been a faster method.
    • Cliffhanger: This was another “wall and rope” obstacle. This wall was at a slope to the racer, so you grab one of the available ropes and walk your way up the slope without the use of any 2×4 steps. On the other side is a similar ladder configuration as before, except at a slope instead of straight down.
    • Satan’s Steps: This obstacle was listed on the site, but I honestly cannot remember anything like this. There isn’t a picture available online, so either my brain is failing me, or the obstacle wasn’t included.
    • Cargo Climb: This was another wall obstacle, except instead of ropes, you climbed up and over cargo nets on each side of the wall.
    • Deadman’s Drop: Another obstacle that was included in the race but not on the website. This was a wall obstacle with ropes on one side and ladder steps on the top half of the other side. The bottom half of the opposite side was just a sheet of wood. You kind of have to climb down to the top of the sheet of wood and either jump (ouch) or slide down using your feet and butt as bumpers.
    • Assassin’s Escape: Yet another obstacle not listed, Assassin’s Escape was a wall obstacle involving climbing up some cargo nets and then sliding down a fireman’s pole.
    • Warrior Roast: This was a fun obstacle where you jump over two small lines of fire.
    • Muddy Mayhem: I don’t know where they got it, but Red Frog Events found the nastiest mud for this one. In some of the videos online, it looks kinda like muddy water. Our mud was more like chili. I dove right in and got covered (ruining shoes, clothes, gloves, etc), but others were smarter than me and waded through it. There is barb-wire going over the mud every ~5 feet or so, so the people wading had to duck down way low to not get tagged by the barbs. As you can see in the pic above, I’m a mess from head-to-toe. My dad was smart and dogged most of the mud. Oh well, go big or go home.
  3. Post Race Cleaning: Post race, we had the option of going down and getting sprayed off by a big fire hose. Someone who had obviously just undergone the experience warned that it wasn’t worth it, the water was freezing and didn’t do anything for the mud. So we went back to our car to clean up without the fire-hose. This was a mistake. Take any help cleaning up that you can get, the fire hose would have at least helped a little. We brought 6 1-gallon jugs of water to shower off with. Removing articles of clothing was hard, the mud easily added 6 pounds of weight to my t-shirt and shorts. Also, BRING A KNIFE. I double-knotted my shoes to keep from losing them in the mud and spent a good 30min with a broken pencil trying to loosen the knot enough to get the chip timer (which doubles as your “free beer” token) out of my laces. The jugs of water turned out to work really well, but I was still filthy even after I got my change of clothes on. Unless you have a portable camp shower, there’s really no substitute for a shower back home. Bring some towels for whatever vehicle you decide to bring.

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