With the terrible events that occurred at Monday’s Boston Marathon, it has been hard to think about races, both past and future. Running communities across the country are doing so much to show support for the victims, their families, and the city, and it is truly inspiring. I ran 4 miles for Boston on Tuesday and 3 miles today, and each time I feel my feet moving beneath me, I am so grateful for the ability to do so. Check out CNN iReport’s #runforboston page and make your pledge today!
There is so very much to say about last weekend’s 2013 Georgia Warrior Dash. This was my first mud/obstacle run and while I had a blast running the race, overall it was a bit of a let down. Sure, we got nice & muddy but the overall experience was a bit tainted, thanks to some massive fails in race logistics. Consider yourself warned.
Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?
Mitch, myself, my mom, and our friend Kelly all signed up for the 1:30 start wave back in December when registration was only $45. This year’s race was moved from the previous location of Mountain City to the Douglasville; it was only 45 minutes from our house, so after gassing up the car and grabbing some Gatorade & energy bars, we headed out around 11:00 a.m.
After paying $10 to park in a giant field 9 miles away from the actual race site, we waited in line for 30 minutes to catch the shuttle to the race – the first of many long waits of the day. An e-mail sent out by the race organizers earlier in the week recommended getting to the race an hour before your registered wave, but I was so glad we left extra early or else we probably would have missed our wave.
After a 10 minute bus ride, we arrived at the Foxhall Resort & Sporting Club, the actual site of the race. Once we walked in, there was no real sense of direction and nothing was marked. Volunteers were shouting for men to check in at one line, women to check in at another – signs might have been helpful. We grabbed our race bibs & timing chips (which doubled as free beer tickets) and sat down to get all our things in order.
Gear check was equally unorganized and a tad stressful, thanks to some seriously insane lines. We stood in the back of an unmoving line for 10 minutes before a volunteer came by yelling, “If you are dropping off, head to the front of the line!” Again – signs would have been helpful.
After using the Port-a-Pottys, we got in line for our wave. A previous e-mail had said that waves would be further broken up into two 15-minute waves to prevent obstacle backups, but we all filed into two corrals that went at the same time which wasn’t really a big deal because the waves weren’t huge and I never felt crowded. We counted down from 10 and ran across the start line as fire burst from above – nice touch!
It felt like we ran quite a long time – almost a mile – before getting to our first obstacle, where we climbed up, over, and down five barricades, scooting under barbed wire in between. After passing through the first water station, we then reached two back-to-back obstacles that immediately introduced us to why it’s called a mud run. We all slid into a muddy pond, jumped (or rolled if you were me) over multiple floating logs, climbed up a muddy embankment, and then climbed up and down narrow, muddy beams while muddy water rained down on us.
There seemed to be a lot of “filler mud” – stretches in between the obstacles that were just muddy for no reason. After slipping and sliding while trying to run through a couple of these, I decided to gingerly walk, lest I fall or, worse, tweak my knee; this happened to a girl in front of me, and it was not pretty. Both of my knees got pretty banged up over the next few obstacles, but I can handle scratches over pain any day. Crawling over tires while crouched under a net and crawling through muddy trenches under barbed wire were not best done in shorts, that is for sure. I was so happy after getting out from the trenches obstacle that I grabbed Mitch and gave him a muddy smooch on camera.
As we were running the race, I kept trying to pinpoint what would be my most difficult obstacle; I knew it would be one involving two of my weakest points: upper body strength and heights. Riding the bus into the race, you could see the next obstacle from the road – a big wall with ropes to climb up and rappel down (the top right picture below) – and I’ll be honest: it terrified me. Before we reached it, I kept telling my husband that he had to go first so he could help me over. When we reached the wall, the only free rope was frayed and bless his heart, Mitch couldn’t reach it, so I powered forward, ran up the wall, grabbed the rope with my freakishly long arms, and climbed up first. Hello, bad ass alert! Be gone, fear of heights!
After getting rest of our group climbed over the wall, we dipped back into yet another pond for an obstacle that required us to climb up and over floating rafts (the bottom left in the above picture). We swam out of the pond, ran up a hill and reached the Warrior Roast – three rows of fiery coals that you had to jump over. This was the best photo op of the whole race, in my opinion, so I grabbed Mitch’s hand and we launched over the coals together. Normally, I don’t buy my race pictures but I was willing to shill out the money for this amazingness. We look like superheroes! Definitely one to show the grandkids.
At this point, I thought we were nearly finished, and I was a little disappointed that most of the mud on my person was gone. Never fear: we quickly rounded a corner and saw the final obstacle: Muddy Mayhem. With the finish line in sight, we slid into a giant mud pit with barbed wire above. We started out army-crawling through the thickest mud I have ever been in in my life, dodging orphaned shoes that people had lost in the process. Towards the end, the mud was up to your thighs and it felt like quicksand; I didn’t think we were ever going to get out. Finally, we escaped and made our way across the finish line; Mitch slid his way in but I opted to just trot across; we finished in 1:16:49, an average of a 24:47 minute mile – ha! After getting our medals (which double as bottle openers), we headed back to the field where we started.
After such a fun race, I was really surprised that the hours following were such a hot mess. For starters, the water station at the finish line was unmanned, so your muddy hands were forced to fumble with cups and get your own water, getting mud EVERYWHERE in the process. Then we waited for almost an hour to get our belongings from the disastrously unorganized gear check – bags strewn everywhere in no real order with volunteers searching for bags based on descriptions. For a small race, this might have been okay, but for a race with over 7,000 runners – really?!
We finally picked up our bags, took our photo with the Warrior Dash sign, and went in search of a place to rinse off and change into our clean clothes that we packed. The rinse-off station that had been advertised? Yeah, it was another muddy pond. I was so happy that our friend Kelly had packed damp towels in ziploc bags – smartest move of the day!
After rinsing off as best we could and changing into clean clothes and flip flops, we were finally able to spread out in the field and enjoy our free beers – 16 oz. Miller Lite in a can never tasted so good. Can I still call myself a feminist if I love that the (super soft) race shirts are different for male & female warriors?
After finishing our beers, we reluctantly got up to go stand in the monstrous bus line (which was unsurprisingly unmarked) for nearly two hours in the hot sun with no water. The sunscreen that I had applied at 10:30 in the morning was long gone and the back of my neck paid for it dearly. Luckily, the strangers behind us in line were super friendly so we chatted with them to pass the time.
As you can see, by the time we left, the race site was trashed. There were not nearly enough trash cans, there was no recycling in site (seriously? it’s 2013), and people threw their muddy shoes everywhere because the only place to donate your shoes was at the entrance/exit to the race site.
The highlight of the afternoon was our awesome bus driver on the way back. One of our line buddies gave him his fuzzy warrior helmet, and he spent the whole ride saying, “You can’t tell me nothing — I’mma shake my horns at you!” His laugh made the ride so enjoyable.
We finally made it back home around 7:30 where I blissfully savored a pizza, a Lazy Magnolia, and a shower (in that order).
Obviously, the race organizers must have received an insane amount of complaints because they posted this late Saturday night and have since sent multiple e-mails and apologies.
While I appreciate the multiple apologies, it still all kind of feels like an excuse. I mean, this wasn’t exactly the Warrior Dash’s first rodeo, and I’m not sure if most of the problems can be blamed on staffing issues. I honestly don’t know if I will run the 2014 race unless some major changes occur. I will, however, continue to enjoy our medals.
While the post-Dash hours left a bad taste in my mouth, I do want to emphasize how much much fun I had actually running the race. I have never experienced the sense of teamwork among strangers like I did at this race. There were multiple times where I had to work with the person next to me to push a log down or squeeze under the barbed wire simultaneously, and I even found myself coaching a few people down the obstacle that made me the most nervous. For most of the race, we ran with two guys who shouted encouragement at each other along the way: “You told me you were going to RUN this race with me! Your words, not mine! Now run!” How’s that for bonus motivation?
Have you ever run a mud run – Warrior Dash, Savage Race, Tough Mudder? What did you like and/or dislike about the race(s)?