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If you are unfamiliar with Warrior Dash, simply close your eyes and picture Race for the Cure as hosted by Ozzy Osbourne. That will give you a good idea of what to expect. There are mud pits, flames, huge walls, barbed wire, and thousands of people in . It’s definitely not your parents’ 5k. The crowd more closely resembles that of a Metallica tour stop than that of any charity walk/run I’ve ever seen. From sunrise through mid-afternoon, endless waves of 500 participants race across this 3 mile obstacle course. Some in costumes, some in , some in those ridiculous New Balance , all of them working their asses off to conquer the 12 obstacles that face them. My own experience at the Dash was a mixture of highs and lows. Ok, a whole bunch of highs and one big low. I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.
First and foremost, I almost didn’t make it to the race site or “Battleground” as the WD website called it. Blackberry Maps decided to have some fun with me and turned a straightforward hour-long drive into a two hour excursion through rural Missouri. I think I may have been on several of the roads they filmed in Twister. Once I actually got to where I was supposed to be going, the scenery was quite beautiful. Rolling hills, green hay fields, and blue sky as far as the eye could see. That is, if your view wasn’t obstructed by a rotund shirtless man in war paint or a lanky girl in a Gumby costume. As I walked from my car, I could hear music coming from the start line.
“Down, down, do your dance, do your dance”
My only thought was, “It’s way too early for the ‘Cupid Shuffle’”. The DJ must have heard me telepathically because he followed it up with the “Cha Cha Slide”. At that point, I knew I was in for a long day. As I walked up to the registration booth, I could see the Warrior Wash. A fire truck was hosing down 20 or 30 people covered in mud from head to toe. From their screams, the water was quite cold; another ill omen. After I checked in, got my timing chip, race bib, Warrior Dash t-shirt, and , I walked back to my car to change. On my way through the parking lot I saw two guys dressed up in costumes that could only be described as strip club DJ, but if the strip club was also an old school roller rink. I secretly hoped they were in my wave. My lovely wife , and I wasn’t stupid enough to keep my keys in my pocket, so I left my car unlocked and the keys . As I put all of my stuff in the trunk, this overwhelming feeling that I was forgetting something crucial came over me. I did the Austin Powers’ “Spectacles, testicles, wallet, and watch” routine several times to make sure I had everything I needed. I closed my trunk and followed Wolverine and Wonder Woman back towards the starting line.
After the preceding wave launched to the musical masterpiece that is “Eye of the Tiger”, I lined up in the starting chute because I knew nobody at this thing and had nothing better to do for the next 30 minutes. Other eager racers joined me at the front of the line, and we started to chat. One couple expounded on the virtue of those silly New Balance shoes and told me about a similar race they did called Tough Mudder. Apparently Tough Mudder challenges are upwards of 10 miles long and have “more extreme” obstacles like running through a field of hanging . They tell me this as if it’s not a big deal. I internally question their sanity. Who would want to do that? Seriously? Another girl wore a bikini. It was apparently supposed to be a Native American warrior princess costume. I wasn’t buying it. To me, she just looked like a girl in a bikini. She spoke passionately about the technological wonder that is double sided carpet tape and implied that she was plastered with it above and . I could only think, “Ouch.” There’s absolutely no way that’s worth it.
The DJ us a 2 minute warning and blasts the theme from Rocky. I secretly wish he was playing , but I don’t tell anyone. I do a final check to make sure everything is squared away. Drawstring tied, both shoes double-knotted, wedding ring…still on my damn finger. What the hell was I thinking not taking it off? My wife will kill me if I scratch it. I briefly consider tying it to my shoe, but nix that idea because the ring will definitely get dirty. I decide to just make really sure it stays on my finger and deal with dirt and scratches .
And we’re off. Me, bikini girl, the crazy couple who like to get shocked, and 500 of my closest friends jogging briskly down a dirt road into a hunting preserve in Middle of Nowhere, Missouri. Yeah there’s no way this can go badly. All we need is a young Burt Reynolds, and we could film Deliverance II: Dash with the Devil. These are the things I’m thinking about instead of focusing on running. I kick a decent sized rock ahead of me, squarely into the ankle of a guy wearing those footie things. He calls me a . I tell him he looks ridiculous. We agree to disagree.
I’m feeling good as I pass the 1 mile mark and grab some water at the water station. The cups are unusually large, and I fail in my attempt to toss the whole thing back in one gulp. I pour the rest on my head as I have seen runners do on TV many a time. “.” It’s 60ish degrees outside and the water is FREEZING cold. Now I’ve got a brain freeze like a fat kid at Dairy Queen, which doesn’t make it very easy to run in a straight line. I stagger from side to side like I’m running on boat in stormy weather. People seem to be giving me a wide berth. I may look more winded and sweaty than I thought.
As I’m approaching the first obstacle I think to myself, “This is freaking Missouri, where did all these hills come from?” I looked all over St Louis trying to find a decent hill to use for training purposes. The best I could find was a freeway on-ramp, which I decided against for . Already in this race, I’ve climbed and descended at least 300 vertical feet. No it’s not the freakin’ Rockies, but when you’ve done no incline training, it’ll stiffen up your muscles like John Travolta stabbing you in the heart with The first obstacle is a series of walls to hurdle and barbed wire to crawl under. By the time I get through it, I feel like I just finished the marathon. I’m officially beat, and possibly starting to . 1 down, 11 to go.
The next obstacle calls for racers to crawl across several cargo nets. I miss a handhold and end up looking suspiciously like a whale caught in a fishing net. This is why I only eat dolphin safe tuna. Obstacle number three is apparently called the “Assassin’s Escape”. I think it should be termed “Lose All My Hand Skin while Sliding My Fat Ass Down a Fireman’s ”. After two more challenging, but comically uninteresting obstacles, I reached number 6, “Storming Normandy”. When I saw that sign, I was sure the obstacle would be exactly like the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan. I was convinced I would end up being the guy looking for his arm on the beach or scooping his guts back into his abdomen. Instead, I just had to crawl on my hands and knees for about 50 yards. The crawling itself wasn’t funny; it was just slow and humiliating. What was funny was the photographer beckoning me to strike a pose on the far side of the obstacle. I haven’t seen the picture yet, but I’m sure I look like an asshole. I ran just far enough to get past his camera, and nearly collapsed. I needed the next water station soon, or they were gonna have to me out of there. Luckily it was just around the bend. 2 miles down, miles to go.
After two large cups of water and an inclined wall obstacle, I see a fairy flitting across the road right in front of me. I run after her, convinced she will bring me good luck in the race. As it turns out, it wasn’t a fairy. Or a chick. Just a huge dude in costume wings and a wig, who wasn’t too keen on me trying to touch him. I begin to question my judgment as I enter the next obstacle. The aptly named “” is a series of flimsy plywood sheets centered on wooden pillars. It doesn’t seem all that daunting, except for that of the six lanes of plywood “steps”, two have been completely shattered already. I step up on top of the first, and nearly make that number three. I leap from the center of one, to the center of the next, trying not to be “that guy” who breaks the obstacle. As I near the end, the EMT stationed there rises out of her chair and begins walking toward me. Whether she saw the fear in my eyes or the bend I put into the wood is unclear. I make it through unscathed, but thoroughly committed to a . I round the next bend and can see the finish line a little over a away. I take note of the people around me and commit myself to beating them. We have Pink Shirt Guy, Clearly Been Drinking Since 9 am , and Freakishly Tiny . We’re all moving at a pretty good clip, sensing the end of the race. We reach the cargo net wall. After a brief flashback to my earlier experience, I man up and get over the wall quickly. Right with me is Pink Shirt Guy. We’re followed closely by Drinking Since 9 am Guy who got to the top of the cargo net, threw his legs over the other side, and jumped off. He is apparently too drunk to realize he just blew out both his ankles. I can see the commercial now.
“Welcome to my world, the world of Red Bull…and Vodka.”
Polly Pocket, for all her obvious gusto, had no chance of summiting the net with her stubby arms and legs. So it’s down to Pink Shirt, the Gaucho, and me. We make the final turn and head for the . Pink Shirt guy slows down as he approaches the flames, while the Gaucho and I head straight for them at full speed. We jump over both sets of in sync and head for the mud pit. There are streamers strung across the pit to prevent people from getting caught on the barbed wire. I slide under them and into the pit which is cold and unforgiving like an ex-girlfriend when you sell her stuff. The Gaucho takes a head first dive towards the pit and catches the first streamer with his face. It slingshots him over backward into a pretzel shape and out of the running. The thickness of the mud allows me to float and paddle my way to victory. I rise out of the muck and cross the finish line with my arms held high.
Happy to be finished and thinking mostly of my free beer, I casually feel my ring finger. Empty like my bank account. Shit. I briefly weigh my options.
- Become a Warrior Dash roadie and travel the country.
- Lie down in the mud pit and begin the fossilization process.
- Escape to
- Steal someone else’s wedding ring then accuse my wife of being an alcoholic when she questions me about it.
- Tell my wife and make up a bed in the dog house.
I took a long hard look at #1 before I made the call. She was PISSED. But ultimately she forgave me. Unintentionally, by giving her the terrible news over the phone instead of face to face, I gave her an hour or so to stew in her own hatred before I got home. This softened the blow. We went and ordered a new ring that same day, and so as long as she doesn’t kill me before it gets here, everything should be fine.
All in all, Warrior Dash was a blast, and I would recommend it to anyone who has little concern for personal safety or health. I learned some incredible lessons while I was there.Bikini Girl taught me you have to secure what’s most important to you by any means necessary.
The Gaucho taught me that sometimes you have to dive in face first.
Pink shirt guy taught me that real men don’t wear pink shirts.
And finally, my still sore body taught me I have to get my fat ass to the gym.
Thanks for reading you guys. I hope you enjoyed it. I know I did.
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