I love obstacle course racing. It’s become one of my passions. Before Spartan Race and Tough Mudder, there was Warrior Dash… my very first OCR. I had overheard some friends talk about their experience at a Warrior Dash and I thought that it sounded both awesome & frightening at the same time. Crawling through mud pits, climbing walls, and jumping over fire? Who would pay to do that? Turns out that I would…over & over again as I am now addicted to OCR’s!
When a few of us from my gym, CKO Franklin, decided to do the Warrior Dash PA in 2012, most of us had no idea what to expect. We created a CKO team, recruited several members and decided to add “Warrior Training” classes to our workout schedule in an effort to prepare members. This training consisted basically of 20 exercises, performed for 1 minute, ranging from jump rope and other cardio stations, to pull ups and weight training.
Race day came & I was in a boot due to tendinitis in my left foot, but I still decided to head out to the Pocono Raceway and join my team. As we stood at the starting line, I noticed how I didn’t feel nervous like I normally do when I’m about to race a 5k. Sure my foot was injured, but I helped train so many of my teammates. I knew they would need my support. We were in this together and I was going to assist them through the course however I could. We were going to enjoy the day and have fun. As the countdown began, my excitement really started to build and as we started to run I felt like this was going to be a great day. The sun was hot, but not being a very fast runner, I kept my pace and figured I better run as long as my foot held out. I felt like I was running forever before we reached out first obstacle. As I made it through the first one, then the second, helping others along the way, I knew that this was something I would be doing again. There were quite a few backups at some of the obstacles, which was a little frustrating, but I wasn’t going to let that dampen my spirits. At the end, I found myself alone at the last mud pit with no one to show me how to get through it. I clearly didn’t do it correctly as I went in head first and ended up completely covered head to toe in mud. With mud in my eyes, I crossed the finish line in 0:52:22 and felt great. I then quickly found my way over to the fire hoses to help wash my face off. My daughter had her dance recital in the afternoon, so I couldn’t stay long. I turned in my timing chip & gave my free beer to a friend of mine, took a few “after” shot photos and headed off to my car. I need to get home and shower if I was going to make my daughter’s recital on time. As I drove home, I was already looking forward to my next race.
I was already an experienced obstacle course racer by the time I decided to participate in another Warrior Dash. In 2013, the date of the Pocono Raceway Warrior Dash in Pennsylvania, conflicted with my family vacation. So while a majority of my CKO team was participating in that one; I decided to do the one in Morristown, NJ instead. I created a team but other people I knew either ran at different times or were unable to run it with me for one reason or another. Fortunately, I had support from two people I train with cheering me on. Similar in fashion to last year’s Warrior Dash, this would be another first…the first OCR that I would run alone. It would be all about me. No one I knew to help with the obstacles, no one relying on me to help them, and no one to push me along if I needed the encouragement. As I stood in the starting gate, I wasn’t nervous but I felt that I needed to prove to myself that I was a stronger racer than I thought and that I could finish this alone and without anyone. This was my race to run and whatever happened, good or bad, this was all on me & me alone. Quickly after we began, we were faced with a very muddy hill. Many people in front of me fell or got stuck, but I assessed the hill & ran right up without a problem. I had done several OCR’s at this point, so I knew the importance of watching the technique of others as well as properly assessing an obstacle as I approached it. As I was running well and felt strong. For more than a mile, we were doing what I love… running on trails. Before long, I had made it to the first water station. I felt great, took a sip of water & continued to run. More trails & obstacles came my way and I took them on with little effort until I lost my shoe in a mud pit. I literally had to dig my shoe out, get as much of the mud out of it, and then try to get it back on my foot while not being trampled by other runners. After losing a little time dealing with my muddy shoe, I started to pick up my pace, passing many of the other runners. About mid-way through I approached a water obstacle. Since I had surgery a few weeks earlier, swimming the short distance was more difficult that normal and left me winded as I reached dry land. This was the only time I decided to walk as it was uphill and I needed to recover. There was a water station at the top so I walked there, got my water, caught my breath and started running again. I ran strong again and didn’t stop except to conquer an obstacle or cross the finish line. I ended up finishing this race in the top 2% of my age group (28 out of 1333) & in the top 7% overall (642 out of 8224) with a finish time of 0:52:15. I was muddy, wet and very proud of my accomplishment.
When thinking back & comparing the two races done by the same organization, I personally enjoyed the NJ race a little better than the one held in PA. NJ had trail running, which I personally love to do, and a wide variety of nature involved with the race. I felt that it was more challenging than the PA race, primarily because of flat terrain in PA, but also because it seemed to have a few more challenging obstacles in NJ this year than PA did last year. Whether you choose a Warrior Dash in PA or NJ, it’s a great race for a beginner that has never done an OCR or mud run before. It is fun, team oriented, strangers will help you if you need it along the way, and the after party is pretty cool too. They have beer, food, music, and make every effort to make you feel like you just conquered your goals. For your entry fee you get the race, a warrior hat, t-shirt, a finisher’s medal and one beer at the end of the race. Since this race is timed, you also know where you finished compared to your peers. This experience will challenge you as well as strengthening friendships and create new one.