Need an afternoon in mud, trudging up steep and slippery slopes with the likelihood of accumulating numerous scratches and bruises? Who doesn’t!?
Myself, Melanie, Jarret, and Hanne setup camp at Charles Mill Lake in Mansfield, OH Friday night in preparation for Saturday morning’s Warrior Dash 5K in nearby Butler, OH. The idea was to get one with the universe next to a roaring fire and ample supplies of meat like the viking warriors of over a thousand years past. This would be my second Warrior Dash, and this go-around was for time.
We awoke around 6 a.m. after an evening of barbecue chicken and whiskey. Perhaps not the Jillian Michaels recommended diet, but it suited us just fine.
Jarret and myself opted to run in the first heat for time, promising our female companions (who had some apprehensions about spending money on what may amount to a truly shitty day) that we would return to run the race a second time by their side. The great thing about Warrior Dash is that you really can go through the course as much as you want. Heat times are more like guidelines.
We politely weaved our way to the front of the heat, remembering the bottleneck that occurred last year as racers approached the beginning trail run. I myself was stuck hiking the start of my race last year, and I wasn’t about to let it happen again. Despite my whiskey-induced headache, I had my competitive hat on that morning.
The Warrior Dash flames went off shortly after 8 a.m., sending us off to the first obstacle less than a tenth of a mile away — an uphill run that had me wishing I had the excuse of a bottlenecked crowd so I could just hike the damn thing. No excuses this year, so I pounded along the winding trail, working my way up a seemingly never-ending slope. Our relief? An obstacle the folks at Warrior Dash refer to as “Hard Rain.”
Surprising enough, this actually was a relief. The cool “rain” was welcomed after the uphill climb that can only be described as Hell by any rational person. But the remainder of the race would be challenging enough, mixing obstacles in between further ascents uphill. Any downhill break was too steep to qualify as a break, forcing racers to hit the brakes the entire descent.
What Warrior Dash does well is making the average Joe (no pun intended, but the description certainly applies to me) feel like a badass. The rope climbing, army crawling, and wall bounding left me feeling like a true warrior without, y’know, ever actually being in real danger.
I finished the race alone, the heat spread thin at this point, diving head first into the Muddy Mayhem obstacle finale. The water was colder than I remember last year’s, leaving more sensitive regions of the body questioning the motive behind taking part in such an endeavor.
Nonetheless, I slugged through and finished sixth in my heat. It sounds awesome on paper, but I can only imagine how far I’ve since dropped as the two-day mud extravaganza continued. So let’s go with sixth place!
Then after being donned by my medal — a Warrior Dash bottle opener (far more useful than a typical road race medal, by the way) — I caught my breath, a drink of water, and set off on round two. The second trip proved to be far muddier and more slippery throughout. So if you want a relatively sturdy run, head out early.
Warrior Dash is an event race done right. Unlike the painful inanity of Color Vibe, Warrior Dash isn’t an event you can throw in your own backyard.
They advertise themselves as the world’s largest obstacle race series. I don’t know if that’s true, but I don’t doubt the assertion with races all across Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand, and even Japan on top of North America. Plus they’ve raised over $6 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and that’s pretty damn cool.
After finishing the second round, we washed off in a nearby lake, grabbed our celebratory (and complimentary) beer, and bid a tired cheers to a successful weekend of Warrior Dashing. At home, the bruises and scratches started to reveal themselves. Passersby wonder why you would pay to have this done to your body. But you know their apprehension is a weakness you dont’ have, and you’re feeling too badass to care what they think. You are, after all, a warrior now.