Yesterday was finally the day that I was able to run in the Warrior Dash, and the weather could not have been better. It was 70 and sunny with a low humidity. Susan and I drove down to Jackson on Friday night and stayed with some of her parent’s friends so we wouldn’t have to get up extremely early and drive down on Saturday. I am very thankful for this option. It saved us either dropping some cash on a hotel or logging a minimum of six hours of driving time. I know a couple of people who have run a Warrior Dash before, but I was unable to speak to them prior top the event, so I was coming into this race relatively blind. I had picked up some helpful hints from various blogs, but the best learning experience was to just get out there and run the race.
Warrior Dash made it very clear that there was no on site parking, but rather you park at a designated area and get shuttled to the event site. For those of us that ran in Mississippi, it meant we parked at the Veterans Memorial Stadium (home of the Jackson State Tigers) and rode in school buses or limos to Mississippi Offroad Adventures, which was about eleven miles away. I had read on several blogs that the wait for the shuttles was terrible, but we were able to get on one almost immediately. I guess it was because we got there early (8:30 am). We also had no wait on the shuttle home, but the shuttle that left right before us broke down on the interstate. Susan and I were very happy to not be on that bus. Once we turned onto the road to the venue, I was glad not to be fighting thousands of people to go up and down this narrow gravel road. Out elven mile drive took nearly 40 minutes. They are getting us back for no wait to board the shuttles, I suppose. We were fortunate enough to be in a stretch H2 limo, or so we thought. Since we were in the limo, we had stop about a mile or so before the loading area for the buses and walk to the event. Susan was not pleased about this, especially as we passed an area were participants were being allowed to park their cars, for free (instead of the $10 we were charged). I looked at one of the cars and it said “Warrior Dash VIP Parking Pass” and I just assumed it was for race day personnel. That is, until, I saw the car owner dressed to race and putting his free t-shirt and hat into the car. I have not been able to find how to get this perk, but I’ll keep digging. I assume it has something to do with the St. Jude Warrior Program.
Once we got to the event, I saw what was going to be a recurring theme for the day, lines. Everywhere you looked, there was a line of people waiting. And this would not change for the rest of the day. The did break up check-in into male and female lines, broken into four groups each in order to expedite the process, but they didn’t have enough people manning the lines. With one person per line, it takes awhile to grab your packet with your bib and timing chip, your t-shirt, and your hat from three different boxes. And add to this that my line was literally longer than the other three male lines combined, it took me 35 minutes to get my registration materials. Once I finally got my stuff, I headed straight to the start line in hopes to make my wave time. It was then that I realized that wave times do not matter whatsoever. The guy next to me in line was registered for the 3:00 pm wave. I got in line at 10:04 am. I ran at 10:45 am. This was kind of annoying, but they had roughly 250 people running every 15 minutes versus 500 running every 30 minutes. This was a good idea to help with course traffic, but the later in the day it gets, the more congested the track becomes. I was shocked by the amount of people who walk the entire course, as well as the amount that skip nearly every obstacle. What is the point if you aren’t going to do the actual race? I passed people who left 15 minutes before me within the first two minutes of running.
The course was very muddy, with several spots of deep mud and standing water. The mud was nearly impossible to walk through and most people ran around the edges of it. There were several people falling due to the slick mud and roots. We probably ran through this for a mile before approaching the first obstacle. The following is a list of the obstacles as we approached them and my thoughts on each:
- Storming Normandy: low crawl under netting first & then barbed wire. The first half you were crawling through mulch and sticks which was terrible. Once the barbed wire started, you had to get very low, thus forcing most everybody to low crawl. This obstacle took several minutes to complete because of the amount of people freaking out about touching the barbed wire.
- Trenches: easy obstacle with no wait. There was four trenches dug in the ground covered with plywood so they would be dark. One of the four had standing water in the entire trench.
- Barrier Breakdown: not ideal for short people. The first wall was probably six feet tall, with the foot hold at four feet high. You scaled four walls, only had to under one barrier, and then slid down a board at the end. There was a moderate wait at this obstacle.
- Muddy Mounds: I honestly thought this would be an easy obstacle & I was dead wrong. You jump into a mud pit and then climb out. Climbing on 15-20 feet of mud is very hard. It is slick, and constantly moving. The wait to clear this obstacle was very long.
- Chained Up/Vicious Valleys: It wasn’t actually the website description of Chained Up, but rather a giant cargo net that led you to the Vicious Valleys. The wait was excruciatingly long just to start this obstacle. The cargo net part was easy, the valleys were not. This was another obstacle where people short was a challenge. Footholds on the valleys were more than six feet apart, so I slid down the board to each and did my best to climb. One valley used ropes going between two boards. I would guess that this was the most skipped obstacle on the course.
- Iron Crossing: another obstacle that was not as advertised on the website. It was a cargo net hanging that you scaled horizontally. No wait at this obstacle.
- Two X Fall: I am not know for my gracefulness, so I was worried about this obstacle, but I completed it without an issue. You walk on a narrow board with varying heights, clear a wall, walk on the board some more, clear another wall, and walk on the varying levels of the board some more. All this while being sprayed by water. There was no wait for this obstacle.
- Capsized Catamaran: you climb over two sets of buoys in water about five feet deep. There was no wait here.
- Giant Cliffhanger: much harder than I was anticipating. Imagine scaling a 20 foot wall covered in mud and then doing the same on the way down. Add to the wall that to reach the ropes you had to run and jump (another problem for the vertically challenged competitors). There was a very long wait for this obstacle, and the later in the day it gets, the harder it is to complete.
- Warrior Roast: jump over fire. The fire isn’t that high, it makes for a good photo, and there is no wait.
- Muddy Mayhem: last obstacle to ensure that you are filthy at the end of the race. It is a long crawl through thick mud and water. There was no wait for this obstacle.
All and all, it was a good course, and if you are able to get in the first wave, a person in moderately good shape can complete the entire course quickly. There are some things that I learned from running in the event this year and some things I will do differently. First, I had gloves, but they were not needed. Second, there is no need to duct tape your shoes. I tied mine tight and I never had an issue, even in the deep mud pits. Third, run early. The obstacles get bogged down and covered in mud as the day progresses. Fourth, put a damp wash cloth in a zip lock bag. It makes post race clean ups much easier. There was no hose to clean participants, we all just got into a pond to wash off and then changed in the porta potty area. Fifth, once home, spray your clothes down with a water hose until all the mud is gone. This makes your life a lot easier. Sixth, if you wear glasses, go ahead and wear them on the course. They will get dirty, but they will survive the race.
Course: A: I liked all the mud, the obstacles, and the layout. This was done well.
Swag: A: I like the buffalo hat, the shirt is very soft, and the medal is very functional since it is also a bottle opener.
Overall: B: The race is fun, with great obstacles, swag, and the ability to donate to St. Jude, but there are some logistical nightmares. They should enforce wave times a little more, expedite the lines by having more staff dedicated to them, and make the layout of the site a little more free-flowing. Registration should lead to gear check to the start line to avoid the congestion of people in the middle of the site. But with the sheer number of participants, there are going to be issues. I do look forward to doing this event again in the future, maybe even in Nashville in October.