It started with vodka.
December 11, 2010. An early Christmas party at my niece’s house. I was drunk. Very drunk. And a friend of my niece was talking about some crazy-ass thing called the Warrior Dash. A 5k race in the Poconos with obstacles, mud, fire, beer, turkey drumsticks and viking hats. A light bulb went over in my head. I wanna do that!
Exactly six months later, June 11, 2011, two days after my 39th birthday, I was up before dawn, channeling my ancient Celtic ancestors in tartan, animal pelts, and woad. I joined my brother, his daughter, her new husband and their friends for The Dash. Fritz came along as photographer. A fractured heel and torn Achilles a few months back sidelined any plans he might have had to join us. While we were running around the woods being nuts, he was standing around waiting for about an hour, watching people getting carted off by medics, convinced his wife was lying in a ditch somewhere.
The running part was a snap for me. The obstacles (and bottlenecks resulting in a whole lotta people hitting the obstacles at once) broke things up nicely. Granted, running on wooded paths with felled trees was a little different for me, but I grew up running around those very woods. My family has a little cabin just two miles away. I felt like I was in my element. Like a druid.
The first obstacle wasn’t even an obstacle. It was just a castle we had to run through. Since the doors were small and there were hundreds of folks reaching them at the same time, there was time to breathe. Then there were tarps that we had to crawl under. I was mostly worried about someone stepping on my fingers, and got behind my niece’s husband, who crawls amazingly fast.
The “walk the plank” obstacle, up and down 2×6 ramps, would have been a breeze if it wasn’t wet wood. And it was a little disconcerting seeing them adding reinforcements as we were going over.
I skipped some of the 4 foot “Warrior Walls.” I went over one, and my foot slid way out from under me on top of the wall, and I didn’t want to pull something that early on in the race and not be able to finish. Being short sucks sometimes.
The “Great Warrior Wall” was genuinely scary. I’d say it was about 20 feet high, completely vertical, with 1x4s nailed to the wall for foothold and a knotted rope for climbing. I tackled that sucker, though!
More running in the woods, more mud, then wading through a pond. No obstacles there, other than uneven footing with rocks underfoot. The water was amazingly warm, though. Felt great!
Then some more running in the woods, and that’s when I fell. I swear a tree root grabbed my ankle and pulled me down. I haven’t trusted trees not to do something like that since seeing Poltergeist when I was 10 years old. Landed on my right knee, cutting it pretty good, but I didn’t know that at the time, with a fallen tree across my left ankle/shin, which I did know at the time. Got right back up and kept going. Didn’t know I was bleeding until later.
Somewhere in there was the spider web… cords strung across the path that you had to crawl under. Maybe being short doesn’t suck after all; some taller folks had to belly crawl through them.
Then was a creek with some trees fallen across that you had to climb over. That water was COLD, but felt great on my boo-boo ankle. Then more woods. I overheard people complaining about their calves and hammies on “these hills” but it didn’t feel like an incline at all to me. Then the tunnels… crawled through some, was able to duck-walk through others. Yay for shortness!
The last four obstacles were visible to spectators. The cargo net, “road rage” (junker cars and tires), the fire, and the mud pit. I had no idea my husband was taking our pictures until we got in the mud, which might be for the best, since I was just focused on staying alive, not hamming it up for the camera. It had been raining, so even if we weren’t wet and muddy from the race, the cars and tires were slick and slippery. I look so badass in the photos, but all I’m thinking is, “Don’t fall. Don’t fall. Don’t fall.”
After the tires was the moment I was waiting for! Leaping the fire! I thought Fritz would be stationed by the fire, so I hauled ass to get there as fast as possible.
Unfortunately, he was still back by the tires, trying to run as fast as he could to try to catch up with me. There was official Warrior Dash photographers here and at the finish line, so my shining moment was captured. (But yikes! Getting the photos was almost as expensive as registering for the race!)
And into the mud. This was horrible. There wasn’t enough water in the mix at the time, and it was literally wet concrete. If anyone is familiar with Pocono dirt, it’s not soil. It’s clay. We could literally not move. I had to ask the big burly guy who got in behind me if he could lift my right leg so I could get it loose! (Bless him!) Once we got the message that the going was easier at the sides, we were able to motor. On the bright side, feeling like dinosaurs stuck in La Brea Tar Pits did give Fritz a chance to get head of us again to take photos.
Then the finish line! Yay! I ran across the line clutching my kilt, which was so wet and heavy from mud, it was in danger of falling right off.
We got our Warrior Medals, and there was water and bananas to refuel. Little problem with that… we were completely coated in wet brown cement that smelled just a little too much like cowflops. Not exactly an appetite stimulant.
So before we ate, we had to get cleaned up. By getting sprayed. With a fire hose. Some say that was the most difficult obstacle of all. The water was freezing, but I didn’t notice and didn’t care. I was too worried about losing a contact lens to even notice the temperature!
The other hosing we got was when we saw how small the free beer was! Ok, so 12 ounces wasn’t much, and $4 for another dixie cup was kind of steep, but otherwise, the food was decently priced. Turkey drumsticks were $6. We got chicken breast sandwiches for $5 each, and since they didn’t have roast beef at the time, they gave us free chips. Monster was giving out free energy drinks (oh, hell yeah!) and Bear Naked was giving out granola trail mix. We ate well for just ten bucks.
Best part? The people watching. Costumes were encouraged, and people did not disappoint. We saw men in kilts, teams in tutus, Vikings, Romans, women in hula skirts, even a Captain Jack Sparrow. And… this guy. Yes, he ran like that.
All in all… Awesome. There’s no other words to describe it. It wasn’t a race, it was an adventure. It’s been a little over two months, and I still have a lump on my ankle where I hit it, and still have a scar on my knee were I cut it, but I can’t wait to do it again!