Earlier this week I went to the doctor for a injured thumb that hasn't healed in over 6 months. "Doc, what's up with this hand not healing? All I did was plant some trees and since then my hand has felt like I hit it with a hammer. My thumb has felt broken. I didn't do anything to it."
X-rays showed a calcium deposit that could indicate a healing break. There is no way to know for sure what happened. So later that same day, it's 5 pm and I'm getting up from my desk to go home and exercise before the race. My left knee hurts like I've destroyed it. This is out of nowhere. I didn't hurt my knee. I was at my desk sitting on my butt all day. What is going on??
So, injured knee means I'm not going home to run. My road bike is still broken. So I pull out my mountain bike and ride that. Oh Lord, it has so many more gears than my old Bottecchia road bike and they are so much easier to use! I'm flying down the road.
After the workout I felt fine. I showered, ate, and relaxed for the rest of the evening.
Friday, I get up to go to pack my truck for the race and then drive to work. My left ankle is killing me. "WTF?? I didn't hurt my ankle! I went biking! I didn't hurt my stupid ankle!!!" I find some ibuprofen and take it. It has no effect.
At work my ankle still hurts. So does my back. OK, Wednesday I did legitimately hurt my back. It is an old injury, but I reinjured it while lifting weights. I take more Aleve. No effect.
Friday after work I drive to where I'm staying. The race is about 4 hours from my house. I'm staying nearby so I can just get up, head to the race, and go for it. Me, my ankle, my back and my seemingly broken thumb go to bed.
Saturday morning, the day of the race, I wake up. My middle finger on my left hand feels broken. But it isn't. I can't pick up anything with this hand without that finger screaming in pain. But I can grab the finger and press on it and it is fine. Just don't put any pressure on it or bend it. WTF???!!!! More Aleve, which does nothing. My ankle, meanwhile, is hurting again as if I have horribly injured it. I never did. I ignore it.
When I arrive at the race parking, which costs $20 just to park, I am quickly reassured that I did the right thing in driving my 4x4 truck to this event. It rained last night and the parking area is just a big field. After thousands of cars and trucks have driven down the specified paths, they are motorcross-worthy mud pits. Cars in front of me are struggling despite their front-wheel-drive. I drop down into 4-high and slide around a little, but keep moving forward. My back window quickly spackles over with mud splotches. I'm already having fun.
At the race, all around me are college-aged runners dressed as The Avengers (Thor ran the entire race with hammer in hand), Jesus and the Disciples plus 2 nuns, several Wonder Womans, a Tarzan, three guys in Spandex tuxedos with 2 girls in sequined uniforms, pirates, the most attractive 80s workout girl I've seen since the '80s itself, and lots and lots of tattooes everywhere I look. I'm boring. I'm just wearing a running shirt and some cotton workout shorts. And I have no tattooes. I'm dressed for a regular 5K race, which is just so wrong for so many reasons.
Last year we ran a full mile before we hit a single obstacle. This year the first half mile was filled with obstacles - out-of-shape people walking. There must have been over a hundred people who just stopped and walked the moment they crossed the STARTING LINE. They were grumbling about being out of shape. I heard one person say they hadn't run since the Warrior Dash last year. That's September of 2011. And they are surprised that they were out of shape 12 months later? People walking right in the center of the course are everywhere. Entire teams are walking and stretched all the way across the path so there is no room to pass. People are pushing through. No one fights about it or gets nasty, but it is truly annoying and selfish of them to block everyone else and not get off to the side.
I am stumbling along at my fabulously slow pace, shocked at all the ruts and holes in the path. I'm forced to look down almost all the time to see what I'm stepping into. Several times I step into a hole or rut and roll my ankle a little. Ironically, it doesn't hurt at all despite bitching at me for the past 2 days as if it were in ruins. In fact, nothing is hurting. Except my lungs. My lungs are really unhappy. It's a big pollen season right now and I have bad allergies. Ragweed and sagebrush are in full blast bloom and I'm sucking in all their toxic whatever with every breath. I feel like my lungs are going to swell shut and send me into an asthmatic fit. But other than that everything is going well.
I end up running at a steady pace behind a pretty woman in tight black shorts. We're doing the same pace and because I'm looking down so much I find myself hypnotized by her buttocks. I'm just staring non-stop at her butt. It's a nice butt. I can't look away from her butt. This is embarassing. Finally we hit an obstacle, a mud pit. Or rather, 4 mud pits in a row. They are 4 deep trenches filled with deep mud at the bottoms and you have to run down to the mud, leap over and climb up to the top of the next one. Then do it again through 4 of these pits. But there are a lot of us and we are all jammed in together. The hypnotic butt girl is ahead of me and I'm trying to make it through without running into her, or stopping and getting run into from behind. I'm going great. Then on the last mud pit, she stops short and stands there. Someone is blocking her butt. I mean, someone is blocking her and she can't get up the dirt embankment. I am already leaping across. She is in my way. I'm going to crash into her butt. I mean, I'm going to crash into her. I stop short, landing with one foot on dirt and one foot sinking up to mid-calf in pure mud.
The magnificent butt finally climbs up the embankment, making room for me. I try to pull my leg out of the mud. It pulls my shoe off and keeps it. I had that shoe double-knotted and tied tight. It didn't matter. It just came right off and is now somewhere down there deep under the mud. I can't go on without it. This is only the first obstacle and I'm not even going to consider trying to do some of the rougher ones without my shoe. So I have to step my other foot into the mud, bend down, and reach my arm as far into the mud as I can to look for my shoe. Once I find it, I have a hell of a challenge pulling it out. It really doesn't want to come out. Finally I got my shoe out, but now my sock-covered foot is in the mud and so is my other foot. It is extremely difficult to get both feet out without losing either my left sock or my right shoe in the process. I honestly don't know how I did it.
I can't tell you how difficult it is to stop running and bend down to struggle with your shoes while heaving and gasping for air. Your lungs want all your ribcage capacity available to them so they can fully expand. But when you have to bend down to struggle with a now solid-mud-covered shoe, it compresses your lungs to about half-capacity, if that. So there I am struggling with my shoe, unable to breath, about to pass out, and a race official asks me to get off the mud berm and move to the side while putting my shoe on. I'm barely conscious at this point from lack of air. I stumble to the side. Once I get my shoe back on, I am just totally out of air and energy. So I start walking on towards the next obstacle.
OK, so 1 obstacle down and I'm already muddy. And my feet are sliding around. So of course the next obstacle isnt far and involves climbing up a wooden stand, something particularly hard to do with mud-covered slippery shoes. So I'm walking, climbing very slowly, like an old lady who might cry "help! I've fallen and can't get up!" But I made it over and walked on towards the next one. At this point I was joining the legion of Warrior Walkers. There was no dash in me now. I even had to blow my nose in order to get more oxygen.
I am the only runner in any race I have ever seen who has such bad allergies that I have to carry a handkerchief in my pocket. Hence, the long cotton workout shorts with pockets. I look like a dork, but the alternative is to pass out in the middle of the race from snot-suffocation.
After awhile I got sick of walking and started trotting along again. Under normal circumstances I feel like hell for 1 mile and after that my body admits defeat and stops complaining. From that point on I get into a groove and can run for a long time. But the mud pit/shoe loss really threw me off my game. I never recovered. I spent the rest of the race trotting, climbing, walking, trotting, crawling through mud and barbed wire, walking, trotting - on like that again and again. I walked almost as much as I ran. This is unusual for me, but it is what it is. I just couldn't get my lungs to open up and let me breath and my body never got into a groove.
The obstacles weren't the same this year as last year. Some were, but there were some new ones. And there were more of them. Seeing as this race is mostly about the obstacles, that's a good thing. It makes it harder, but its the reason we're there so its fun.
At the end of the race there was a huge tower covered in a grid of rope that we had to climb up and over and down again. The up is fine. The down is fine. But the its the over and try not to fall on your head that's the real challenge. You are so tired at this point that your coordination isn't the best and you are about 3 stories high trying to get your whole body over a 2x4 while maintaining your balance and turning around backwards to get your feet down into a rope, all without falling or passing out from lack of air. A few people did have partial falls, where they slid until they became entangled and caught themselves. They hit their butts on 2x4s while falling and it clearly hurt. But they didn't die or break their necks or anything.
After the rope covered wall, you are back near the start area. People are all gathered at the fence taking pictures and cheering. Some runners stop to dance. There is a live band playing and you can hear them easily at the finish. I am a lousy dancer so I didn't stop and dance. I ran to the next obstacle, the two rows of fire. The wind was blowing towards us so before I ever reached the fire I got a face full of black smoke. I was already not breathing well so this was awesome. I'm sure I looked like an idiot, but I covered my face somewhat with my arm and ran through the smoke to the fire, jumped over it feebly, then on to the 2nd one and again over it. After that is the mud pit. The BIG mud pit.
Something I noticed while in the mud was that for the guys, being mostly taller, we could keep our shoulders and heads out of the mud. But for the girls, being mostly shorter, they had to really get down into it. They were just heads bobbing along in a river of mud, almost fully covered.
After climbing out of the mud, I tried to run for the finish line. I passed 2 people who were walking/staggering. The ground was pure mud, too, and I was sliding all over the place. I don't know why I bothered to run. I didn't even see a clock showing my time and it wouldn't have meant anything to me even if I had seen what my time was. I can't remember my time from last year. And I don't know my time from this year. I never saw what it was. But I consider myself a runner, despite my jogging and walking and patheticness, so I ran across the finish.
Here is where I discovered the hazards of wearing standard cotton workout shorts in the Warrior Dash. No matter how much water was sprayed on me, there was always more mud pouring out of my shorts. The cotton had just soaked it up like a sponge and would not come clean. My upper half was as clean as a firehose could get it, but my shorts were continuously pouring mud down my legs and into my shoes. I almost took my shorts off and stood in my tighty-whiteys just so I could hold my shorts in front of the hose and wring them out. But I thought better of it and didn't. Eventually people shoved me aside and took my spot in front of the hose. Apparently they felt that I was clean enough. I didn't agree, but I was ready to give up on cleaning my shorts.
So here's the lesson I took from the Warrior Dash, which I should have learned the first time: wear some nice nylon or otherwise plasticky running shorts to this event. Don't wear cotton. It sucks up the mud and turns you into a walking turd despite the firehoses trying to clean you off. I took the shorts home in a bag and threw them into the washer, along with my underwear, socks and shirt. I ran it as a full load even though it was only those few items. When it was all done the shorts came out with dirt still plastered to the leg and a hankerchief in the pocket that was brown and full of dirt. I'm going to try running the shorts and handkerchief threw one more time and after that I may burn them.
If you see a chance to enter a Warrior Dash near you, I say go for it! It's a wild experience that you'll never forget. Next year I'm going to splurge and order the plastic viking helmet. Several people ran in their fuzzy viking helmet, but I kept mine as a momento. I'm dorky like that, I guess.
* I don't own any of these photos. It's hard to take photos and run at the same time. Some people have lots of friends who take photos of them while they run, but I don't have that luxury. If I have borrowed your photo and you don't like it, please let me know. I have no problem with taking a photo down.