Friday, June 10, 2011

Warrior Dash 2011 in Hocking Hills: The real race report, and 30 lessons learned

T-shirt and medal
I kind of skimped on the previous Warrior Dash race report, so here's the no-holds-barred, nitty-gritty detail-ridden, bare-all report!!!

See results and photos here!

Warrior Evelyn
Miss Evelyn H. arrived at my apartment at about 1 p.m. last Sunday and after a brief detour to Quiznos we started the southbound journey to Hocking Hills. We stopped at a Big Lots for duct tape, face paint and band-aids. No face paint, so we settled on magic markers.

Lesson #1: If you hurriedly walk into a Big Lots, approach the clerk and ask where you can find duct tape, face paint and band-aids, you will get looks.

Warrior Beth
I finally touched base with the always-adventurous Beth O., slowly recovering from a wedding the night before. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: "Beth!!"
Beth: "I am soooooo hungover"
Me: **Laughs hysterically** "That's no excuse, you ready??"
Beth: "He77 yea"
(Boring logistical talk)

Lesson #2: A hangover is never an excuse not to run. I set my 5K PR on Jan. 1.

Warrior Jessica
We approach Hocking Hills on a long and windy road and make a pit stop at Wendy's. Very clean people sought race advice from very dirty people celebrating their muddy victories with burgers and Frosties. The consensus: "Dude, that was awesome."

Lesson #3: If you don't like port-a-pottys, stop at Wendy's on your way in to pee.

The parking lot, two miles away from the actual event, was a madhouse. Mud tracks went in both directions. Some people were tailgating. I saw some clean people walking back to their cars. "If I come out that clean I'm going to be sorely disappointed", I say. "Don't worry, you won't!" a guy replies. Then I saw the solution to their cleanliness -- a long line of people waiting to be sprayed down by a hose. The parking lot was in a very open area and I saw several people stripping down and changing, chucking their muddy clothes in the trash.

Lesson #4: This should be obvious, but bring a change of clothes!

Muddy shoe pile
We boarded a bus to get to Kaeppner Woods. Walking in we saw a mound of muddy shoes. The event was going to clean them off and donate them to charity.

With 20,000 people participating throughout the weekend I was impressed by the organization. First we had to sign a waiver, the only thing I really remember on the form was "I will not dive headfirst into the mud", beyond that I just wrote "JAs" down the line and scribbled my name at the bottom. Then we got our packets which included a shoe chip, that doubled as our free beer token, a viking hat and a shirt. Evelyn paid extra money for these cool stickers that went under the eyes.

(More after the jump. Much more. Keep reading!!) 

And now for an open letter:

The t-shirt
Dear Warrior Dash, I loved your event, but please please please give us tech shirts next time. Then I can wear them on my runs and look really cool. I have little use for cotton t-shirts, especially white ones. Sorry, but MIT  has turned me into a shirt snob. Love, Jessica.

Once we get our packets someone yells my name and I see my MIT friend Molly B., sitting in a circle with a couple others pow-wow style wrapping up their shoes in duct tape. They went in the 4:30 wave and we replaced them on the ground to wrap up our shoes.

Lesson #5: The Warrior Dash doesn't really check if you're running in the wave you signed up for. (I'm wondering if I could have gotten away with going twice!)

We took Molly's spot on the ground. We pinned on our numbers and wrapped our shoes in red duct tape. Thanks to Ann K. for suggesting it, I probably would have lost my shoes otherwise!!

It's getting close to showtime, but we weren't done getting ready. We took out the cheap-o magic markers we got at Big Lots. Beth wrote "Warrior" on one arm and "Rockstar" on my face. Evelyn wrote "marathon girl" on my other arm and "26.2" on my back. I attempted to write "Badass" on Beth's arm but my handwriting is so atrocious that it looked more like Egyptian hieroglyphics. She glared at me, took the marker and wrote "Hungover" on her other arm at my behest. Then Beth wrote "Maneater" on Evelyn's arm, and I wrote "Diva" on her back.

Lesson #6: The Warrior Dash is more fun when you decorate yourself, even though it hardly matters in the end.

Lesson #7: Take "before" pictures!
We checked our gear and made our way to the start. Loud music. Lots of energy. Cool costumes. Awesomeness. We watched some people ascend and descend the cargo nets we would meet later in the race. It was like a never-ending parade of very muddy ants cautiously making their way up and down an unstable hill, then proceeding to run to a delicious picnic.

5 minutes!

2 minutes!

45 seconds!

10 seconds!

Then really big flames went up into the air -- as if it wasn't hot enough! I'd hate to be the guy standing next to the start all day.

We took of running.

We kept running uphill.

Lesson #8: People who wear cleats, spikes or Vibrams were really smart.

The hill got really steep. Eventually it became too steep to run so we started walking. Then there was a super-sharp downhill that was kind of scary to walk down, but really easy to slide down (watch out for those rocks!)

Lesson #9: Do the race with friends. Don't worry about competing. Stick together, and have fun!

Lesson #10: You are going to get disgusting. Take the initial plunge at the beginning. Then you'll have more fun.

We approached the first obstacle, a bunch of tires hanging from a rack that we had to plow through. "We're running through this one", Beth says. "I'm on it" I reply. I pick up my speed and plow through the tires, resulting in a couple bruises on the arms. "Jessica that was the stupidest thing you've ever done!" Beth shrieks, laughing as she runs cautiously around the edge.

We meet up after the obstacle and run on our merry way. We keep going on a relative flat for awhile and then met the short walls and barbed wire. Over the wall. Under the wire. Over the wall. Under the wire. Over the wall. Back to the flat.

Then it was time to go swimming.

Before us was a pool with logs strung across it. The website billed this obstacle as waist-deep. Absolutely not! It was shoulder-deep and then some! The people in front of us jumped in without pause. So did we. Figuring out how to go over the logs was tricky at first.

Lesson #11: The more people going over the logs at the same time, the easier it will be. 

We came out of the pool soaking wet and mud-free (that was only temporary!) We rounded the corner and saw a couple of junked up cars we had to go over, then about 50 yards of tires to do knee drills through, then more cars! I jumped across the hood of the car like in an action movie.

Lesson #12: Yea, that duct tape I put on my shoes? It definitely saved me from running the second half barefoot! I highly recommend it! And don't wear anything that's not waterproof. Water wings would have been nice, too.

We hit the water stop. How could we be halfway done? We had only gone through five obstacles! But clean, cold water tasted so so so good!

Lesson #13: The craziest obstacles are at the end. Save your energy!

We did a run/walk for awhile, up a few more massive hills, and through some nasty mud puddles. We had to dash down a river, and then the obstacles came up in rapid succession, and I'm probably not putting them in the right order!

There was a long tunnel we had to crawl through. This sucked, it was basically like going under a porch. The terrain was rough, it hurt, loud cursewords echoed throughout the chamber. We emerged and regrouped.

Lesson 14: Knee pads -- not a bad idea!

We come around the bend, hear music, and see the crowd cheering. But it was a tease, we weren't nearly done yet! We joined the procession of ants going up and down the cargo nets.

Lesson 15: Not a good race for people who are scared of heights.

The next task was to walk the plank! This wouldn't have been too bad except my feet were so muddy and slimy that I had a hard time keeping my balance!

We came around another bend. The obstacles are coming in quick succession now, whereas before they were a quarter to a half mile apart. Next we had to climb up a small wall, across a cargo net and then down a wall. It was on the decent that I lost my footing, slipped off and landed on my right knee. I wasn't the only one. At first I couldn't get up. I finally did, albiet slowly. The people around us were really cool and offered to help. I hobbled to the next obstacle.

Lesson 16: I must stress this again -- Knee pads!

The next obstacle was a giant wall that you had to climb up and rappel down. My knee was throbbing. Evelyn and I went around it and watched Beth the Brave make it over.

Lesson 17: It's ok to skip an obstacle if you can't do it, nothing is worth getting injured over!

I am so buying this photo!
A guy was there cheering us on. "Ok, there's just fire, and a mud pit, and then you're done". Being done = free beer. Time to pick it up!

Warrior Roast! There were two foot high rows of fire to hurdle. I freaked out and stopped dead in my tracks. Beth wanted to kill me.

Lesson 18: The best strategy for getting over fire... pick up speed and hurdle (but very, very carefully)! And smile! They're taking your picture.

The last obstacle was a mudpit you had to go through and duck under more barbed wire. The obstacle was solely there to make sure we came out good and muddy. It was fun, except when we went in this huge guy decided to do a cannonball into the mud. It splashed everywhere, including into Evelyn's eyes and she had to go to the medical tent after to get her contacts washed out.

Lesson 19: If you are going to cannonball into the mud, make sure no one is around you. And if you wear contacts, getting mud in your eyes really hurts.

Lesson 20: Goggles also wouldn't be a bad idea.

I emerged from the mudpit and raised my arms in victory for the camera, we had reached the finish! We cross and get small black medals shaped like viking hats draped around our necks. "Warrior Dash - I survived!" they say in silver.


Nobody clean off! The first thing I needed was my camera.

Lesson 21: Put a towel or a roll of paper towels at the top of your bag. You'll want it! 

Evelyn's eyes are burning at this point so she went to the medical tent. She got them cleaned out and then was good to go.

Thanks to some lovely people nearby with clean hands we took our after pictures. There was mud everywhere, in my hair, on my face, on my underwear, in my shoes, everywhere! We're grinning.

Lesson 22: After towels, you'll want your camera handy next. I saw a few people running with waterproof disposable cameras. I'll be remembering that next time!

Muddy Warrior Jessica
Muddy Warrior Beth
Muddy Warrior Evelyn
We finally make it to the ultimate reward, the beer tent! They made it a bit confusing, we had to go to a separate table to get a bracelet first and then had to untie the chip from our nasty shoes to cash it in. They had the grand selection of Bud and Bud Lite, but still...

Lesson 23: The free beer after the Warrior Dash is the best beer you'll ever drink.

Free beer!!!
We bantered for awhile and snapped some more pictures.

Lesson 24: Bring cash! They have lots of food and gear to buy. 

Beth scoped out the official "Warrior Wash" (a guy spraying people with a hose) and said it wasn't worth it, you had to go through mud to get to and from the wash. Evelyn remembered that there was another wash station on concrete in the parking lot so we got on the shuttle. The seats and the aisles were muddier than when we got on. Who cared?

Lesson 25: If the race has a shuttle, it's pointless to change until you actually get to your car.

We get to the lot and there is a line about 100 deep for the one hose. Forget it, we'll go back dirty. Car seats can always be cleaned. I changed crouched behind my car and put the clean clothes on. It hardly mattered because my legs and arms were so dirty.

Lesson 26: Bring some kind of cover for your car seats.

Lesson 27: If you're doing a blog like this, number all the "lessons" at the end so you don't have to go back and redo them 30 times!

We were famished but decided to get back to Newark/Heath before getting food. I figured we'd hit something with a drive-thru, but by the time we got in there was only one audible word coming from the rumblings in my tummy: "Chipotle!"

After spending the last three hours covered in mud we had no shame whatsoever. Everyone knows about the Warrior Dash, so surely the lovely employees and patrons of the Chipotle in Heath would understand why we were walking in smelling like a pig farm, right?

Lesson 28: Not everyone knows what the Warrior Dash is, particularly the employees and patrons of the Chipotle in Heath on a Sunday evening. 

Everybody stared at us. Evelyn and I could not suppress the giggles. The girls working up front could barely formulate the question "What happened to you?" The guy chopping up steak in the back got a really hopeful look in his eyes.

"Are you guys mud wrestlers!!!"

No no no we just did a crazy race called the Warrior Dash.

"Oh.... What's that?" he said, looking disappointed.

Warrior bruises
We bring the delicious burritos home and finally get a shower, probably the best shower of my life. Two washes didn't get all the mud out of my hair. We assessed the damage. My knee and arm are bruised and I have scrapes all over.

Lesson 29: I showed these wounds off for days. Battle scars, wear them with pride!! 

My knee wasn't too bad. I was able to run again on Tuesday. It hurts to kneel or put any pressure on it, but it's slowly getting better. Beyond that I wasn't sore in the least Monday morning. My medal went on the rack with the others.

We were reeling for days. Photos went all over Facebook. Beth and I exchanged text after text, pondering the one simple question left: How can we top the Warrior Dash??

When Evelyn and I were driving to Hocking Hills, we saw a banner for the Tough Mudder. 12 miles. More obstacles. Designed by the British Military. We laughed and said "yea right".

Beth and I talked about it for a few days. I figured we'd both come to our senses. Then I get a frantic text from her Wednesday, "Call me now! Big news!!"

She ended up leaving me a voicemail. Tough Mudder Indiana registration is open and filling up fast! Register before Thursday to get the discounted rate!

"But Beth, I can't register until I get paid Friday".

She offered to front the registration money. I scribble out a check and drop it in the mail.

Lesson 30: Mud races are addicting.


  1. Awesome post! I'm moving to Indiana from Canada less than a week before the Indiana race. I think it might be worth taking a break from unpacking to do this!

  2. Camera flash makes a great gift and using a camera flash can immediately improve the photographer's images. There are several useful pieces of information that the gift giver needs to keep in mind: what is the photographer's camera brand, what do they tend to take pictures of, which is more important - higher power and flexibility or compact size, and lastly the preference for a camera branded flash or a secondary brand. Wholesale Dashcam Bluetooth