Today my buddy, Matt, and I did the Warrior Dash in Mountain City, Georgia. This was supposed to be pretty similar to the Rugged Maniac that I did a few weeks ago...all are basically obstacle course races that are about three miles in length and feature a fairly festive atmosphere. Events can vary pretty wildly from location to location due to the nature of what they have to work with, but I have to say, this particular event has a very interesting course. I don't think it was but a little over two miles in actual length, but the obstacles made up for that!
The course started out, somewhat ironically, with an annoying pavement and gravel road run. I think that allowed me to go out even harder than I planned and may have cost me a little. The first obstacle was simply having to jump into a lake and wade around fifty yards or so. And I should mention that it was nearly neck deep for my 6-2 frame in places, so some folks really had to swim! Oh, and it's Mountain City, Georgia, in May, which means the water was still pretty darned cold, especially at 8:30am!
It's hard to explain, but I took a slightly longer path through the water which got me closer to shore and through much more shallow water for much of it, which let me pass three people. Then we hit the tire area with the cars to climb over, which was really treacherous. They had it totally covered in mud. It was coming out of here that I noticed my legs seemed sort of non-existent. It wasn't a burn, it was more of a strange "you can ask for more, or even demand more, but there simply isn't more" kind of feeling. Can't recall having that. I don't know if it was the energy spent wading through the water or if it was being in water that cold for that long or a combination of the two, but it was odd, I know that.
Then I realized I had a shoe untied! I have no idea how the heck that happened, but I double-knot my running shoes and have for a while now, and am especially diligent about my shoe laces at races like this. But hey, these things happen, I suppose.
There were some run-of-the-mill obstacles like small walls to go over alternating with walls you had to crouch under. Then we hit the BIG wall. It had huge ropes hanging from it and some rungs that stuck out on the front, so while it was probably 12' high, I went over it quickly and easily (and passed folks here, too). Then we headed up onto the "mountain" trail, which was also very wet and muddy and had a good deal of slick climbing. There was a very annoying crawling feature in darkness (a tiny headlamp would be smart on these races, I think, but it would need to be small, waterproof, and cheap for the likely event you break it) and a huge cargo net feature that was thankfully more of a balance beam feature.
After leaving the mountain trail, you headed into the finish section. This started with a HUGE slide down a hill on plastic with running water on it. I was a little annoyed because as I approached there was nobody on it and four chutes and I was directed to the FURTHEST one away, with each runner behind me getting a closer path. SAY WHAT? I should have ignored the direction (I do not believe they would have DQ'ed anyone in this race for nearly anything) and taken the first one, but I did what I was told and ended up passed by one guy and maybe another just because they literally each had to run maybe 12 fewer steps than me! Ugh.
The proctors also yelled "no head first" as you approached. Hah! This thing was so long, fast, slick, and bumpy that it didn't matter. Go how you want, you're going to end up how IT wants you. I almost spun backward, but somehow found enough control to get my feet back forward. That was good, because the "end" simply slid you into a big area of straw that workers were constantly "fixing" with new straw as it got pushed down. So it was evident I could just put my feet down and pop up into a full stride, which is what I did. Matt said he actually did a complete 360 degree spin and did basically the same thing.
You ran through the straw and then into another water feature. It was just over knee deep with floating logs and chains of barrels to cross. That went fine until the last section of barrels. As I was crossing them, I put my hand on top of them to push over. My middle finger on my left hand slipped between two of the barrels right as they smashed together. Wow, serious pain. I jerked the finger out and it gushed blood from under the nail. And it's been seeping all day. Bye-bye, fingernail.
But I soldiered on, jumping over the row of fire and through the finish in 23:54. That was good enough for third quickest so far in the two heats of the day in my age group, but I'm sure will drop some as more waves completed. My target was to be top 5% of my age group for the entire event, and I think I probably did that. But I did not feel like I had anywhere near my best day, and I'm not entirely sure right now why. I haven't looked at the data close (I have GPS and HR data), but I will and I think I just need a day or two to let it all soak in. I definitely didn't make the same mistake as the Rugged Maniac...I paid no attention to my watch during the race!
I can say I had a lot of fun, and I hope they do that event again at that site next year. Compared with Rugged Maniac, they seem to have tougher obstacles and more of them (and way tougher than the Muddy Buddy, but that's really a different kind of race). The festival is also a little more impressive, though the medal and shirt weren't quite as good. I dunno, both were well done and I recommend both, but I'm looking forward to the Warrior Dash in Charlotte a little more now.