On Saturday, I did the Northern California Warrior Dash
, a 5K race with obstacles. Most of which involve mud or barbed wire.
The night before the race, I packed a duffel bag with all the necessities: 2 plastic garbage bags (for transporting muddy clothes), clean clothes to change into after the race, water, a couple of protein bars, a couple of bandaids, a bandana, and a CD with a carefully selected playlist of heavy metal songs designed to turn the drive to Hollister into a motivational experience. (If you have Spotify, you can hear the playlist here: http://open.spotify.com/user/1252395671/playlist/5fkg1vM4Uej55zD1rRxj8f
When you arrive at a Warrior Dash, it looks more like a fairground than a typical 5K race. There's music playing, tents selling beer and food, people wandering around in costume. (Best costume I saw was a guy dressed as Conan the Barbarian, complete with an inflatable muscle suit. I don't know if he ran the race dressed like that.) And, of course, a steady trickle of dazed-looking muddy people coming off the finish line.
I found my friend, Dario, who was the only person crazy enough to be talked into doing this race with me. We posed for a few pre-race photos taken by Dario's wife Linda, and made our way to the starting line.
The race started with about 0.5 mile of straightforward running, with no obstacles other than holes in the ground and cow pats. The first obstacle consists of three pits of thick, clay-like mud - you have to wade in and then scramble up the muddy bank on the other side. I nearly got stuck in pit number two, when I sank up to my ankles in mud and was unable to get any traction on the muddy lip of the pit. Dario pulled me out while a kind stranger shoved me from below.
I'll admit that I was a bit discouraged by this less-than-dignified performance. Not to mention the prospect of completing the race with what felt like 10 pounds of mud still clinging to my shoes. However, things rapidly got more fun.
I think it would probably be tedious if I described every obstacle, so I'll just hit the highlights:Most Fun Obstacle: Hard Rain.
You wade into a pit of muddy water, then climb up a wooden wall with horizontal slats on it while cold muddy water is sprayed down on you. Then you grab a rope and climb down the smooth and slanted opposite side of the wall. (In theory you climb down. In practice, I did a kind of graceless slide.) This obstacle is also very effective at ensuring that absolutely nothing you are carrying or wearing on your person is either clean or dry. This is awkward if you are wearing glasses - I managed to find not too filthy corner of my headband to use to wipe them down enough so that I could see.Obstacle I Wish I'd Prepared Better For: Storming Normandy.
This was basically a long crawl under barbed wire. I'd practiced bear crawling (on hands and feet) a bit before the event, but soon found that I could get lower and move faster crawling on knees and elbows. By the end of the crawl, my knees hurt, and I have giant bruises on them today. I'm pretty sure that if I practiced more, I could learn to scamper along on hands and feet quite close to the ground.Obstacle With the Steepest Learning Curve: Chaotic Crossover.
This involved crawling across a cargo net suspended off the ground. The trickiest part of this is that the tension and position of the ropes is constantly changing as you and your fellow racers move around on it. When I was about a third of the way across, I decided to see if I could move faster by just flopping down and rolling across the ropes. The answer turned out to be no, at least for me, so then I had to figure out how to get my hands and feet under me again. Obstacle that Seemed Scariest on Paper that Really Wasn't: Warrior Roast.
Jumping over two lines of flames. I don't know what they burn for this, but it isn't super-hot. Leaping the flames was actually quite fun.
The final obstacle was a nice long mud pit with barbed wire strung over the top of it, forcing you to crawl/swim through the mud. The stuff had enough buoyancy that I did a modified breaststroke (keeping my head above the surface!) for most of the way.
Then it was just a matter of squelching across the finish line, collecting a medal that read "I survived Warrior Dash 2012", and trying to clean up. Scores of us crowded around a truck that was pumping out a shower of water. This didn't make too much of an impression on the thick coat of mud we were all covered in. After a while, I gave up, and changed into the clean clothes I'd brought with me, which quickly became mud-smeared in their own right, but were at least dry.
It really was a blast. The cameraderie and the sheer sense of fun were great, and the obstacles added variety and challenge without being too difficult or scary. I will definitely do another obstacle run.
When I got home, I took my muddy clothes out into the back yard, tossed everything that wasn't salvageable into the trash bin, and hosed down everything else. Then I bundled those clothes and the ones I'd changed into into the washing machine, and myself into a long hot shower.
A day later, I feel pretty great, although I have a variety of exciting-looking bruises from crawling and falling awkwardly on the cargo net. Maybe I should wear long sleeves for the next couple of days to avoid awkward assumptions.