Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The day where running through fire was the least of my worries...

Or.... the strangest Birthday present my mom has ever asked for.

I realize I'm a slacker blogger. I have excuses, but even I don't want to hear them.  This particular post was requested by several people, so here I am blogging again and stepping outside the boundaries of my original challenge, but what the hell... enjoy!

About a month and a half ago, I had a conversation or two with my mother that went something like this:
Mom: Kate, I want to do this thing that people from work told me about called Warrior Dash, do you and Jackson want to do it with me?
Me: Um, warrior dash?
Mom: Yeah, it sounds like fun! You run through these difficult obstacles like climbing walls, sliding through mud and jumping over fire.
Me: Fire?
Mom: I'm a little worried about that myself, but people love it. I think we should do it. Ask Jackson.

Of course my husband decided he was on board with my mother's suggestion. After a little more planning and registration we had, for my mom's 51st birthday, signed the three of us up for the Warrior Dash and recruited 2 other people.

For the following month and a half I thought about training. I really did.  My friend Amanda, an unbelievably fit 24ish year-old, told me she was training. It was obvious from the facebook posts that others were training, but me... I kept procrastinating.  I had really great conversations about the training I was planning on doing.  Example:
Mom: I did two classes at the gym today and ran 3 miles yesterday. I've got to get ready for Warrior Dash.
Me: I'm planning on going to the gym and I think maybe I'll try rock wall climbing.
Mom: Great. We'll be in perfect shape for the race.
Me: Yup.

Truth be told, I made it to the gym or out running maybe 5 times in the last month. I did make it to the rock wall once.  I will blog about it soon, but know this, indoor rock climbing can give those with a fear of heights a false sense of accomplishment/courage.  This will be important later.

Alright, enough of a preview, on to race day!

So, the Warrior Dash is set-up like so...
From 8am -7pm waves of 600 people race around the 3.02 mile course encountering around 8 obstacles in 30 minute intervals (ie. 600 people dash at 10am 600 more leave at 11am and so on).  When you finish you get a free beer (well not free since you registered) and join a party of other warriors, don your new warrior dash t-shirt and warrior helmet you received at registration. Everyone is happy. Sure.

We had the last run at 6:30pm, but being the planner I am, our group (which included Mom, Dad (spectator), Jackson, Lauren, Mike, Paran (Spectator), and me) arrived around 4:30. We were told by dashers earlier in the day that parking was terrible because the rain the week before made the lot a mess. Cars were getting stuck and people were missing their waves. Luckily by the time we arrived, they had opened a new parking lot. We boarded school buses and were delivered to the venue.  It's a zoo. There are people everyone, but honestly the only thing all of us racing can look at is the hill (called the Summit) that we are about to run up and the mud slide that ends the dash.  It's about this time I think about backing out.

We make our way to registration, get our hats, t-shirts and shoe lace tracker things (the way the figure out results), and regroup - this takes less than half an hour.  We then realize we have an hour and a half to wait. This does not sit well in my flip-flopping stomach.  We get a brilliant idea: There are 10,000 people here, who will know if we jump in an earlier wave.  We go to run for the 5pm, but Jackson decides he doesn't want to join the end of the crowd, but begin at the front. So we all agree to wait for the 5:30.  We leave our stuff with our groupies and line up behind the red tape. At this point my flip-flopping stomach is doing back-flips and the tango all at once, fearing both the race and getting caught for being in the wrong wave. Oh, my Catholic guilt.

The conversation in the line went something like this:
Me (to everyone): I'm really scared. I don't run that fast. I should be in the back. I'm going to fall and get trampled.
Mom: I'm so nervous.
Jackson: *looks unaffected*
Lauren:(laughs) I'm more nervous about this than my marathon
Mike:*looks sympathetically at all of us with a reassuring smile*
Me: I mean, I'm really really scared. Can we move back?
Everyone: nope.

They finally sound the horn and all 600 people attempt to take off. We are some of the first 20 people crossing the line. I sprinted up the hill (as much as I can sprint), my mom is a few paces behind me. I've lost Lauren and Mike and I'm about 15 steps in when I see Jackson reach the top of the hill -I was briefly contemplating divorce.  Three quarters of the way up the hill, my legs are tired I feel like all 550 people are gaining on me (picture the stampede from Jumanji) and I'm trying to remember what you are supposed to do in a mob... tuck your arms and legs up and let the crowd take you. As my mind wanders, I forget to dodge one of the several slippery patches on the course and face plant.  I'm not kidding. I went down, as predicted. On the bright side, I jumped up like someone lit a fire under me. My mother was right behind me and after making sure I was okay, we both dash to the top.

At this point, my legs are jello, I can't breath, I think I might die, but the optimist buried deep inside me whispers "at least it is down hill from here." I smile a little as I attempt to trudge along. My mother is not far and I'm struggling to keep up with her and keep upright. Then I see it.... and honestly, I thought about trudging back down the steep hill to the start.

Mud. Tons of mud.  The same type of mud that rendered the parking lot useless. Thus, my mother and I began 1 mile of slipping down hill.  This mud was gross. Everyone was grabbing at trees to try to keep from falling, only to have someone else fall into you.  Tree roots that were once buried in the ground were now something you had to hop over. Your sneakers were nearly lost in the muddy mess with each step you took.

As I gingerly made my way down the path, I was walking quickly at this point -running wasn't an option without breaking my neck- Lauren and Mike passed us. We waved a hello and those fit bastards kept running. Just kidding. I love them. Mom and I decided we'd have to walk the course to preserve our limbs and catch out breath. Which was fine by me - I knew I wasn't winning this thing. At this point I wanted to finish and not have to be removed on a stretcher.

About half way through the "run," we encountered a new type of mud. This was half water/half mud that could go from ankle deep to thigh deep with no notice. Awesome.  If you tried to run around it, you chanced slipping on the slick slope (say that 3 times fast) and falling into what I could only assume were beds of poison ivy knowing my luck. It was under these conditions we met our first real obstacle.  I think they call it the spider web, an elastic-y rope woven through tree limbs in the fashion of it's name sake.  It wasn't much of an obstacle because the mud was so deep you could just duck under the rope.

My timeline gets a little hazy after that.  I know we had a water station (which was appreciated) and 2 more obstacles, the order of which escapes me.  One of them involved a set of planks (ala chicken coop) and walking across a muddy balance beam. It was more complicated than that and much more treacherous, but 4 attempts at describing it leaves me aggravated and moving on, just know that I slid down the wooden plank with rivets rather than fall to my doom.  The other was something called muddy mayhem.. ha!  First you hurdled a wooden wall about 4 feet high then you crawled under barbed wire (which had a beam at the bottom so there was no terrible danger - you followed this pattern 3 times before you finished.  Arguably one of the easier obstacles. OH! I missed one. I guess originally we were supposed to do something called "knee high hell" and run through a field of tires, but because of the mud they attached ropes to the tires and we had to run through a "jungle of swinging tires." Not bad.  I suspect if you were running through with 30 other people it would be difficult -or with Lauren, who admits to trying to be "warrior-like" and smashing into a swinging tire to shove it out of her way only to have it fling back and hit her boyfriend.  Nice...

We did some more "running" after that.  It was less of the deep mud and back to the slippery kind.  Picture an adult learning to ice skate and that is what 90% of us looked like trying to make it around this portion of the course.  At the end of this run we encountered the wall. Well, the first wall, but this is the wall that counts.

Some back story... I hate heights. I am terrified. I can't even watch people climbing or working on roofs.  I get anxious.  As we approached the wall, I nearly fainted. Let me attempt to describe this. The wall was about 25-30 feet high.  There were thin wooden beams every 4 feet or so (I am really awful at gauging height so I could be off) and a rope to help you steady yourself.  I took a deep breath and made it quickly up the first side.  Until I got to the last beam and realized that there was no way on earth I was going to be able to flip to the other side.  I froze. I may have teared up and I looked down.  My hands we shaking. My mother was telling me it was okay, Lauren and Mike were encouraging me, random warriors were cheering me on and a safety guard was speaking calmly to me as if I were about to jump.  It took some coercing, but somehow I managed to swing my leg over and straddle the wall. Unfortunately, my anxious self did not see this as an improvement.  In my defense, the wood and rope was coated with mud. It was slippery and I'm a clumsy person as it is. So 25 feet from the ground on a muddy wall = me tempting fate. It took some time, but I managed to try to reach the beam on the other side, unfortunately I couldn't grab any rope, because there wasn't any on that side. Super.   Mike, the saint that he is, ended up climbing up to help me place my foot on the beam and from there I was able to climb down.  When I finally reached the ground I wanted to vomit or do a jig, but mostly vomit.  After a brief moment of thanks, we started jogging again.

We could hear the music from the finish line party, so we knew we were close to the end.  We finally met the 2 fire pits, but honestly, at that point, I had survived the wall so the fire didn't phase me. So we cleared the dangerous flames and made it to the second wall. Yeah, I'm not kidding. Luckily, this wall was lined with cargo nets.  I made it over without issue, surprisingly. From there you had to slip and slide down a mud hill.  It was actually quite fun.  My mom bruised a little, taking a running jump before her slide, but we all made it.  We reached the final obstacle - this cargo net thing that crossed a pool of mud.  The four of us scrambled across, passing other warriors in our final push for the finish.  We all crossed the finish line in the same second and the smile on my face was the only thing that told me I was still actually alive.

Sadly, this is not the end.  When you finish warrior dash, you are covered from head to toe in mud. They provide this handy "shower" area that consists of large fans spraying freezing water at you.  Standing in front of these fans feels like being stabbed by a million tiny knives while suffocating. It takes about 20 minutes in front of the fan to get all the mud off.  We gave up after 7.

Most of us donated our disgustingly muddy sneakers to a charity that the Warrior Dash supports that reuses soles of shoes, which was nice for two reasons: helping others and not having to deal with gross shoes. After we dried off and put on clean shirts, we enjoyed our "free" beer and listened to some live music before boarding the bus to go home.

Just some things that were left out.
1. I'm sure the people in the beginning of the day had a different experience.  By the time we ran, the track was awful, so if you are considering trying this, go for an early time.  With that said, I bet Sunday sucked.
2. Jackson's time was 40 minutes.  My chivalrous husband abandoned me and my mother, but who needs him anyway. Our overall time was 1 hour 4 minutes and some amount of seconds.
3.Costumes are a must. Honestly, if you are going to do this - go big or go home.  If I do this again next year, the group is planning on themed costumes.  There's a prize for the best ones too.
4.Bus drivers are saints. The ride back to our cars was worse than a 1st grade field trip. Drunken 30 -something men were being obnoxious as possible. It was amusing for a minute, but got old quickly.
5. Here are the pictures you've been waiting for (these are all on facebook)!!!

 So that's the story!! Enjoy!!

Until next time!