Yesterday I drove north for three hours in my gas-guzzling Jeep Wrangler, to participate in the Lake Wales, Florida, 2011 Warrior Dash, a “mud crawling, fire leaping extreme run from hell.”
Today, I am sitting here, back on my couch, wearing my furry Warrior Helmet with the two horns sticking out of it, to say this: it wasn’t a Warrior Dash; it was an Idiot Mud Jog. I basically paid $60, not including gas & parking, to run three miles through a muddy field out in the middle of nowhere. Way to go, self.
I’ve done some stupid events before. For example, on New Year’s Day, I pitched myself into Pittsburgh’s freezing cold Monongahela River with the Polar Bear Club. That was really dumb. But at least it was free; at least I didn’t have to pay for that moment of idiocy.
But, I have to hand it to the Warrior Dash Marketing Department: those guys are genius. The website features a fiercely-determined hot guy, crawling through a river of mud on his belly, and a course map that makes you think you’re about to experience Armageddon. They promise that this will be the craziest frickin’ day of your life, and then throw in a “free” warrior helmet just to seal the deal. I love extreme challenges and pushing myself beyond my (rather limited) limits. I want to be tough and cool like the muddy guy on the website. I want to leap through fire, and escape by the skin of my teeth. And, I want a cool Viking helmet. Sign me up!
And, they sure know how to run an event. I’ve been to a lot of events, and this one was extremely well run. Everything was logically laid out and self-explanatory. There were thousands of people there, but every heat went off as scheduled, without a hitch. No delays; just a well-oiled machine. The only problem I have is this: just because an event is well run, it doesn’t mean that the event should actually be run. Some events are stupid and pointless, and just shouldn’t exist. This was one of them.
Here I will explain and debunk, compare and contrast what the Warrior’s claimed on their website, and the actual truth.
After tying a chip to your sneaker so they could record your time, you run through a fire-breathing starting gate. Seriously. The starting gate blows great big blasts of probably propane into the sky, like a fire-breathing dragon, to highlight the power of the moment. A lot of people were dressed up in costumes (one girl was wearing her actual wedding gown, with the words, “DIVORCED AND LOVING IT” scribbled across it in pink magic marker) and everyone was screaming and waving their arms around in the air. I was standing there uncomfortably, embarrassed by (and for) humanity, mostly worried that the heat from the propane blasts would singe off my eyebrows.
You then run a twisty half mile through a field, before finally coming to the first “obstacle,” which you hear before you actually see: the sound of a hundred people splashing through mud. If you hate having mud splattered onto you by other people, this is a terrible sound.(That was mistake #1: they make you wait too long for the first obstacle. When you run a half mile through a field, you have a lot of time to ponder the fact that you have just paid $60 to run through a field, which you could have done at home, for free.)
This first obstacle, according to the website, is “Alligator Alley: sludge your way through this murky water.” They even had a picture of an alligator. First of all, not an alligator in sight. Not even a snake. Just a knee-deep 100-yard stretch of muddy water. At this point, everyone was still fresh, so everyone ran through it. I would have preferred to walk and carefully pick my way through the mud, but because everyone else was running, it was either run and outrun the splashers, or walk and be splashed by the splashers. Splash or be splashed. I splashed.
After that, I was pretty much over it. I’d had enough, I’d seen enough. I didn’t need to be here any longer, didn’t need to get any muddier. I hate running; why did I think adding mud to it would make it any more fun? Running is running. I need to stop going to events where the primary activity is running.
Then came Obstacle 2: “Rio Run: Dash down the river.” This was just another knee-deep stretch of muddy water. No different from #1. Most people were walking through it at this point, including me.
Obstacle 3: “Knee High Hell: speed step through hundreds of tires.” I have a bad knee. I didn’t speed step through anything. I walked. One person merely went around the tires. But at least there wasn’t any mud.
Obstacle 4: “Slithering Swamp: venture into unknown murky waters.” Another muddy hole to run, or walk, through. Exactly the same as 1 and 2, except a couple of people lost their shoes in the mire, and had to go back and dig them out. If it was “old” after Obstacle 1, by now, it was ancient. Between the obstacles, many people had slowed to a walk. I used this opportunity to surge past a few seniors dressed in camoflague.
Obstacle 5: “Palmetto Prison: scale your way through the thick palmettos.” Contrary to expectations, I didn’t need my machete for this. “Thick palmettos” were little shrubs you could hop over, or if you didn’t feel like hopping, you could just stay on the trail, and avoid them altogether.
Obstacle 6: “Hay Fever: hustle up and over giant straw bales.” On the website, it looked like there was going to be a mile-high pile of huge barrel-shaped straw bales. In reality, they’d just thrown a bunch of regular run-of-the-mill square hay bales along the pathway, maybe 50 yards of them, and you just had to run over them. I walked, because I didn’t want to fall through any cracks and break an ankle on the ground.
Obstacle 7: “Cargo climb: Manuever over the cargo nets.” There were actually 2 cargo obstacles, one at this stage in the game, and one right before the Warrior Roast, which they hadn’t mentioned in the course map. This one was like a big hammock for a giant that you had to crawl over; the other was more of a vertical climb. Gotta give credit where credit was due. These were legitimate obstacles. I went kind of slow because my shoes were all muddy and I didn’t want to slip through the holes. Two fat guys wearing pink ballerina tutus overtook me.
Obstacle 8: “Deadweight Drifter: trudge through the waist deep water and over the logs.” The picture on the website shows three logs. You’d think there’d be many more. In reality, there were four logs. Basically, this was just another muddy puddle, with four logs in it, that you had to hop over.
Obstacle 9: “Treacherous Typhoon: fight your way through the water and gale force winds.” What? Gale force winds? Seriously? Did someone forget to turn on the wind turbine? There wasn’t a stitch of wind in sight. This was just another knee-high muddy puddle to run through, and if you stayed on the perimeter, it was just a couple of inches of mud.
(It was at this point on the map that I mentally renamed the Warrior Dash the Idiot Run. I didn’t see any Warriors in sight. My jaunty competitors who had dressed themselves up in warrior costumes, or hot sexy costumes, now looked more like muddy Grapes of Wrath refugees who’d been Halloweening at the exact moment when the Great Depression hit. And, although I certainly felt like an idiot for falling for the “warrior” scam, at least I wasn’t wearing a costume.)
Obstacle 10: “Hell’s Hill: sprint to the summit.” Again, what? I must have missed this one. We were in a flat field. I don’t remember scaling any hills. But I do remember a lot of mud.
Obstacle 11: “Warrior’s Roast: Leap over the warrior fires.” Okay, this was a little daunting. I’m deathly afraid of matches and catching fire, and also, it’s near the finish line so there are hundreds of people lined up alongside to watch, and I didn’t want to catch fire while any of them were watching. The Warrior Roast was basically a bunch of logs laid across the pathway … maybe one to two feet high … that were lit on fire. You had to hurdle them, like a horse, which can be a bit challenging when each of your shoes is weighted down by about 5 pounds of accumulated mud. The lumpy spandex-clad girl with tiny Princess Leah pigtails in front of me “refused” the fence and had to trot back, gather her wits, and try it again. I channeled my inner pony, cantered toward it, and leapt into the air, praying that the mud and water streaming from my body would protect me from bursting into flames.
Obstacle 12: “Muddy Mayhem: scramble beneath barbed wire as you near the finish.” This was just another watery mud puddle, but with low-strung barbed wire stretched across it, so instead of walking or running through it, you had to get down on your belly and crawl under the barbed wire. It was especially humiliating because this obstacle was also lined with spectators and cameramen, all watching you grovel your way towards the finish line. It was the final insult, having strangers watch you slosh through mud on your stomach. I really did not need that last little bit of humiliation, but I could hear people behind me gaining on me, so I just hunkered down and told myself to “Scramble on, little pig!”
(One of the obstacles the map forgot to mention was the Muddy Poop Hut. This was the bottleneck, because only 2 people could go in at a time, so you had to wait in line to do it. It was basically a long, low muddy hut with tarps thrown over it. It reminded me of the scene in Schindler’s List where the boys are hiding in the latrines. You have to wade the length of the hut, through thick sludge-like mud. It was warm and claustrophobic and as someone remarked, I’m glad we’re not doing this in the summer. If you had to crap yourself in the middle of the race, this would have been a good time to do it. Defecating on the course was illegal, but I don’t know how they could have caught you in the Muddy Poop Hut.)
And then that was it. You cross the finish line, covered in mud, and they hand you an Olympic-Style Medal and tell you to move along, get out of the way, so other people could finish the course. There was an outdoor “Warrior Wash” where you could try to clean yourself, but my clothes were so filled with mud that showering just made me dirtier. I hightailed it back to my jeep and tried as best I could to clean myself with about 50 wet wipes, and then I got into my car and drove home, filled with an intense desire to go shopping in civilized society.
If that was the craziest frickin day of my life, I feel sorry for myself. But at least I got my warrior helmet!