Thursday, February 3, 2011

Warrior Dash 2011

Central Florida Warrior Dash (Lake Wales) - Jan. 29-30

Quote of the Race: "I'm never doing this again!" - Jenny after crossing the finish line covered head to toe in mud.

- Triple Canopy Ranch in Lake Wales, Florida. Also in 27 other locations in North America and Australia.
Cost - $40 pre-registration ($30 if you Google search "promo code for Warrior Dash" and find one that works like we did!) or $50-$60 day of race.
Year of Running - Unknown, but I've heard of it for at least a year or two.
Sponsor/Race Directors - Red Frog Events Production
Charity - Not sure. This venue is out to make a buck. That being said, they do collect your unwanted muddy shoes after the race to be donated to a charity or recycled. I think I also saw something about volunteers and fund raising on the website.
Number of Participants - 6,394 on Saturday. 5,159 on Sunday. Total - 11,553
Available Races - 3.02-mile mud-trail run with 11 obstacles (distance varies upon location).
Course Condition - Take a sandbox and fill it with mud and water. Pack your shoes full of mud and get them soaked to the point they weight three times as much as normal. Now run, crawl and jump your way through that box of mud with 600 friends and that's your course condition.
Pace Groups - N/A
Expo - N/A Packet pickup is day of race and they recommend being an hour early.

Red Frog Productions definitely has their act together when it comes to moving as many participants as possible through this course while keeping the entertainment value at its max. It's the type of event you see, do the math in your head and say "damn I wish I was behind this money making machine!" By providing an awesome event venue mixed with alcohol and music and a moderately challenging race course to the average person they've created an excellent adventure for the weekend warrior-type. Packet pick up was easy and well organized. The only hiccup I observed was a seeming significant number of participants, including one in my group of nine, found incorrect information about themselves in their packets. My friend was placed in the wrong age division (younger) and told to go to a different tent to have it corrected. That tent happened to have the longest line anywhere (even longer than the beer tent!). We arrived 1 hour early as recommended, but didn't have time for that line so my friend ran the race in a younger age division.
The race is organized into waves starting every 30 minutes with about 600 runners each. There is adequate support with an aid station near the halfway point (mile 1.5) with water. Bananas and water are provided at the finish line.
Spectators have a blast at this race lining the course along the final two obstacles -- several rows of fire that participants jump over and a long trench of mud with real barbwire hanging only inches above the water forcing participants to practically swim through the mud. I did not investigate if spectators are allowed to venture out onto the course at any other points and I did not notice anyone along the course other than volunteers. Regardless, the party is near the finish line.
I found that the event website was very informative and that Red Frog Productions executed exactly what was described on the website.

The Central Florida event is located on a ranch near the city of Lake Wales. You definitely need a car to get here. It's about an hour south of Orlando (nearest International Airport) and was about a 2.5-hour drive from Daytona Beach, Florida. Parking was limited on the event grounds and cost $10 per car cash only, which was slightly steep and annoying. A $5 fee would have seemed more appropriate and less greedy by organizers. Upon reflection, this event is not very handicap friendly as well.

Warrior Dash gets kudos in this department. This race definitely takes the old "I'll do anything for a t-shirt" mentality to a new level by providing each participant with a "Warrior hat" that looks like a viking helmet with horns. They also give out cotton T-shirts. We found that the extra large t-shirts were better quality than all the smaller sizes. This is because they were a gray color while the others were plain white and probably more subject to shrinkage after washing. Other swag included bib numbers, timing chip and the normal various coupons and marketing material.

Now that everyone is covered in mud at the finish line it is time to party! Every finisher gets a medal (of average quality) and the opportunity to take a mass shower. I found that Muddy Buddy (a Competitor event similar to Warrior Dash) has them beat hands down in the washing off department. Warrior Dash was nothing more than a large waterfall that participants walked through like a car wash and tried to rub off the mud. Muddy Buddy provides designer shampoo and conditioner at the washing stations. Later we learned there were showers on the ranch located near the camping section, but this seemed to be a secret at the finish line. The best part of the post race party was the beer. All participants (ages 21-and-up) get one free beer. It was Budweiser or Bud Light. Not my favorite, but I guess fitting for a mud event. It still tasted good given the situation. As for food, we brought our own preferred food in coolers in our vehicles. From what I observed they were selling large turkey legs designed to really make you look like a warrior if eating off the bone while wearing the viking helmet although probably not the diet of choice for most athletes.

This was my race. Those are the words Jenny said to me as we discussed strategy in the race corral a few minutes before starting. I had talked her into this and recruited friends to run with us and she was letting me know that I should run it anyway I like. Yup, this is not her cup of tea. Eleven obstacles in only 3-miles means not much time to set a pace and cruise. Instead there will be interruptions to the pace every few hundred yards. To some that could mean more opportunity for injuries. For me, it's just plain old boyish excitement. Almost like free running or psychotic Fartlet workouts.
The start horn sounded and instead of fireworks, huge blasts of fire irrupted from the start line. As we shuffled near the start line (in true misfit fashion our entire party of 9 was at the back of the 600-person wave) three of us started the weaving and zigzagging required to pass slower runners and increase our pace. Each time we passed people we'd hear them laughing at our outfits. It was action and reaction! About a half mile into the race the first obstacle came into sight. It was a long mud pit nothing more than a jeep trail full of water. Thinking back at my southern redneck roots I automatically knew it would be deepest in the tire ruts. Sure enough, the runner in front of me falls head first into the water after stepping in the spot that the right tire would hit on a 4x4. I immediately stepped to the right and ran the edge of the water and this allowed me to pass about 20 runners. I went with this strategy for the rest of the race. Simply watch the runners in front of you approaching the obstacle and formulate a plan of attack before reaching it based on the line they take and what happens to them. After racing Muddy Buddy I knew from experience I didn't want to be held up by people in front of me rather than the obstacle itself.
After the first mile it was less crowded and I was alone with the rest of our group somewhere behind me. The obstacles start blurring together. My shoes are super heavy from being soaked and undoubtedly full of sand and mud. For only being a few minutes into a short distance race I'm feeling surprisingly winded. It's gotta be the obstacles I tell myself. They're not hard obstacles, but it's definitely different than running a race at one pace the entire time.
Of all the obstacles the funniest one occurred around the halfway point. It was an incline plank that required balance to run up to a 6-foot high wall with a rope net connecting it to another wall 20-feet or so away. Beyond the second wall was another horizontal rope net leading to a final wall with another plank sloping back down to the ground. I watched the runners in front of me. They went right so I decided to go left. As I reached the first rope net instinct told me to jump into it with my body remaining horizontal and roll across rather than trying to step on the rope and climb across. This was absolutely brilliant as I passed the two runners on the right side of the obstacle in the first rope net. When I reached the second wall I flung my body over it without regard and began rolling across it again. Now for the unexpected. . .
When I reached the bottom of the second rope net I collided with a soft mass at the deepest point. I soon realized it was a body. I was immediately confused. There had been no one ahead of me on the left side of the obstacle as I approached it seconds ago. I was sure I picked a clear line to attack. Then I realized it was a woman. It was a large (obese) woman and she was laying there as if stuck. She wasn't even trying to move! She had made this obstacle into her own personal hammock! She must have been from the wave that started before our wave.
"Oh.... I'm so sorry! I didn't see you here," I said as I was practically laying on top of her. "Are you ok?"
"Yeah," she quietly said.
Not knowing what the hell to do I decided it best to keep moving in the fastest way possible, which of course, was to keep on rolling. I rolled right across her apologizing the entire way and worked my way over the last wall and down the plank. At the base was another large woman yelling some kind of ill-received encouragement to her friend to keep moving. I ran as fast as I could to get away from that obstacle.
By the end of the race I was fairly winded. This surprised me. The obstacles take a little more out of you than you'd expect.
Jenny finished just behind me and as I went up to give her a hug you looked at me, mud dripping down all over her face, and said "I'm never doing this again, " in a disgusted tone.
It was priceless.
We all had a beer and laughed about it later. Warrior Dash is a fun event not to be taken too seriously. It's set up in a way that just about anyone can do it so it's great for groups of friends both large and small.
And by the way... I almost forgot to mention the Hooters outfits. One of my friends worked at Hooters many years ago during college (she now has an engineering degree and thinks teaching calculus if fun) and she was nice enough to allow most of our party (those willing) to wear a bunch of her old outfits. This put us into almost celebrity status amongst the crowd. I literally lost count of how many people asked to have their pictures taken with us.

Our Warrior Dash gang!

My official stats (Sunday results only):
307th out of 5,159 finishers
37th in my age division (30-34) out of 518 (top 7%)
Chip Time: 28:17
Average pace: 8:45
Central Florida Warrior Dash TallGuySurfing grade = B+

1 comment:

  1. So fun! I'm doing a "hell run" (same concept except insert KISS tribute bands and super hero capes instead of vikings) and am torn between their 10k or 5k course. I was leaning towards the longer but dang youre making me doubt myself :)