Monday, April 15, 2013

Atlanta Warrior Dash

Matt and I registered for Warrior Dash 2013 last September. A friend had encouraged our entire community group to run this race together. This sounded great, a little weekend getaway with our church community group in Mountain City, GA the weekend of May 4th. Then on December 19th, we all received emails saying the date was being moved to April 13th AND the location was also being moved, to Douglasville, GA. The new location is only an hour away, bonus.

On Thursday, we received an email giving a suggested timeline for race day and the address for where we would be parking (also noting it was $10/car). I read all the details, even about the free shuttles from parking to the race site. What I failed to do, was map where the parking was located in relation to the race site.
We arrived right at 10:00am, an hour and a half early as recommended. We parked and began our haul through a huge field to the shuttles. Turns out the shuttles were local school buses, and there was a huge line snaked around to best accommodate all the runners and spectators. While the loading process was fairly quick, the buses seemed to take forever to return. Luckily half our party was already in line so we "cut" ahead saving us at least 15-20mins in line. One friend mentioned the distance from parking to the race site was over 8mi! (And when I mapped it after returning home I came up with 11.9mi.) No wonder people were arriving much faster than they could get shuttled over. It ended up taking us an entire HOUR to arrive on site after parking. What a build up!
It was very easy to get our race numbers although the male and females separated because we got different shirts. We found a spot for a family member to camp out and leave our bags, without having to use gear check. Our race numbers got pinned on and we tied the timing chips to our shoe laces. Unlike other races, these timing chips are reusable. In order to ensure racers return these chips, they are labeled to trade after the race for a free beer.

Corrals were being sent off every 15 minutes so we did not have to wait very long before we were on our way. I do have to admit the huge pyrotechnics at the start line were pretty cool. The first mile or so was along a creek with low key obstacles. The first bigger obstacle had us swimming through a pond and I was a bit disappointed to be getting so wet and muddy so early in the course. Running in wet muddy shoes, and having muddy hands to wipe your face isn't ideal...but, hey, it's a mud run.
Muddy Mayhem, Warrior Dash Stock Photo 
It seems like each Warrior Dash event can have a variety of different obstacle depending on the event location. The amount of water obstacles depend on the race site and this site must have more than others. There were numerous stretches where we had to run through 4-6in of slippery muck, and it stunk (literally stinky smelling). Matt embraced running through the muck with huge manly gazelle strides which sent mud flying so I stayed far away from him as I walked through the less mucky portions.

One of my favorite obstacles was similar to this Giant Cliffhanger pictured below. The ropes on our obstacles were shorter, so you had to run a few steps up the incline and grab the rope before sliding down. This was the first obstacle to really cause a bottleneck since only one runner could be on each rope at a time and once you hurdled over, there was a rope to belay you down the backside (not a climb like the stock photo shows below). I saw a lot of warriors who were taller than me or looked more fit, who needed a second attempt. This psyched me out a bit but I was going to at least try, and I was surprised I did it so easily. Go me!
Giant Cliffhanger, Warrior Dash Stock Photo
I could not find a picture or name of one of my least favorite obstacles. There were giant logs, still with bark, floating in a pond but were tethered to keep them all in place. When a warrior climbed over the log, it would get submerged under the dirty pond water making it slightly dangerous. As soon as the warrior's weight was off the log, it would spring back to the surface. My legs got scraped a bit on these logs as they bobbed in the water.

The course seemed much longer than only a 5K! Maybe because it's tougher to run when you're covered in mud? Maybe because the pollen count was crazy high causing my allergies to affect my asthma so I couldn't run my best? Maybe because the sun was hot, the fields were dusty, and the water obstacles were not as refreshing as a cup of water? Speaking of, water, there were two water stops on the course and all the water was baking in the heat of the sun. Warm water is not refreshing.

When Matt and I rounded the corner where the corrals started we knew were close to the finish! It was fun running past the warriors just beginning their race, their energy and excitement infused me and I ran a bit faster up the slightly rocky hill (and a bit slippery from dripping wet warriors who have gone before us). Only two obstacles remain!
Last month, Warrior Dash tweeted a fun picture captioned "Couples who hurdle fire together stay together." I re-tweeted this pic to Matt asking if that would be us on race day, and we did! (Official race photos will not be posted until April 30th so I'll come back and post our photo in a few weeks.)

The last obstacle was rough! I was wet clay mixed with small rocks, giving it a wet cement feel to it. Barb wire was overhead so we had to stay low and it was very tough to move through. The volunteers "supervising" and "encouraging" at this obstacle described the mixture as a chunky peanut butter. It was SO thick and the bottom was slippery which made it difficult for your foot to find traction. Lots of people were using exposed roots on the sides for assistance. One of our friends lost his wedding band, and I'm sure he wasn't the only one. 

After we made our way out of this last obstacle, there was a professional photographer taking photos so we posed for a shot then proceeded on to the finish line. Matt and I got our Warrior Dash medal, which is also a beer bottle opener, and was handed water. While I still feel like a rookie runner, even with the few races I have run, finishers usually get water and some form of snack at the end of a race. Snacks usually are bananas and granola bars, but Warrior Dash had nothing. It may have been awkward for us to eat being so dirty but I would have loved something for after I cleaned up a bit. All the food on site came with a price tag, very disappointing since we were all starving and the food selections were not extensive and prices were not cheap.
Okay, so we're extremely dirty and it's time to wash off. The private showers were exclusively for Warriors for St. Jude who raised a minimum of $200 and everyone else had the pleasure of The Warrior Wash. Especially after the few obstacles with spraying water, I would have expected some type of similar "feature" for clean up. Nope, The Warrior Wash was a pond, fairly similar to a few we swam through already. The picture below is Matt after washing up a bit and changing out of his clay soaked shirt (notice the color of the water!). The men were able to take their shirts off and change easily, while the women were left to be exhibitionists or change in a port-a-potty. I decided I would change in a port-a-potty but half were out of commission as the company cleaned out the facilities mid-day, causing very long bathroom lines for the other half of the port-a-potties.
We decided to trade in our time chips and leave. The only trade option for our time chips was a large can of Miller Lite. I, myself, do not drink beer and Matt does not drink cheap domestic beer, so we ended up giving our free beers to others in line. I was again very disappointed, this was strike three for me. I was just done. We decided to leave.

We did not expect yet another line to get back to our car. We were dirty and wet and there was a bit of a breeze, I was freezing. I didn't time how long we waited but it was easily another 30mins, it didn't seem like as many buses were en route at 2pm as when we arrived at 10am. Our bus ride back was less than ideal, I overheard lots of colorful language and the bus driver was just as speedy as our earlier driver (which didn't feel safe on the narrow two lane roads and school buses do not have seat belts). Once we arrived back at the parking lot, I was completely surprised there was still a huge line of people waiting to get to the race site.

Overall, while the race itself was fun, I am very disappointed with the execution of this event as a whole. I had heard very positive reviews of The Warrior Dash Atlanta in past years. There are too many different obstacle races and mud runs to choose from to want to be highly inconvenienced with an event like this. The Warrior Dash posted to their Facebook page stating their event logistics "didn't live up to the expectations [they] set over the last several year" also promising they "will make it up to [warriors] in 2014". Warriors replied to this post, and it is not pretty...I read a bunch and it turns out conditions just continued to decline throughout the day. We must have had it pretty good in comparison, which is very sad. I'm interested to see how the organizers decide to proceed with their Atlanta event going forward, only time will tell.

In other news, remember that friend who originally encouraged us to run The Warrior Dash? Well, because of the date swap he wasn't able to participate. The Warrior Dash event date was moved to the same date he was registered for The Great Urban Race and since he & his wife placed second in 2012 they wanted a rematch. This was a great choice for Team Stovall as they placed FIRST this year! The added bonus of bragging rights is it qualifies them to compete in the National Championship in Puerto Rico. Congratulations again, we look forward to cheering for Team Stovall again in December!
Owly Images

-Have you ever participated in an race with obstacles or a mud run? Did you enjoy your experience?
-Have you ever attended an event (race or another event/concert/etc) that failed to live up to expectations or hype from others? 


Jen C said...

LOL my race chip is still zip tied to my shoe :p I was OVER it! Love your pictures! Bummed we didn't get to meet up, but hopefully in a couple of weeks :)

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