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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Grandpa ran the Warrior Dash

Yes, Grandpa ran another mudder. 5K. 14 obstacles. They called this one the Warrior Dash. (Recall that last month it was Rugged Maniac.) This time, I ran the entire distance and engaged all the obstacles. This was much better than last month, and I'm closer than I was, but I'm still not ready for Tough Mudder. Fortunately, I have five months remaining to get ready.

This race seemed easier, and I believe there were three reasons for that. First, I spent last week at the beach getting my mileage up. Being able to run the distance made a huge difference, as you might expect. Second, the obstacles were far more “in your head.” Not that any were trivial. It's just to say that it was easy to think the one in front of you might be too much, and I saw several runners fall into that trap. Third, this was not my first time, and that was likely as important as the first two.

My attire was better this time around. I dressed in UnderArmour HeatGear compression, top and bottom, long sleeved and long legged. Socks too. The only cotton I wore was my t-shirt. I wore the same minimalist shoes as last time. Although I'm convinced that the Five Fingers would have been superior for most of the run, I still worry about losing them in the deep mud.

I had registered as a member of the team from the LGBT Center in Raleigh, and spoke of the event as “Running with the Homos.” However, there had not been much organizational activity, at least the I noticed, and as the wave gathered, I held to the back. No need to be trampled by all the other runners. Along the way, I recognized several team members by their t-shirts, but as I didn't know any of them, my introverted self saw little reason for an introduction on the course. Besides, if I needed help along the way, it'd be just as easy to call upon someone nearby. Camaraderie and esprit de corps are generally high in such events. This world could use more of those things. As it turned out, the obstacles didn't require much team effort, not like that last event, and probably not like Tough Mudder.

Well, I did make one exception in the introduction to the LGBT Center's team. Early on in the run, I caught up with Leah. I remember that name because (1) she had to say it twice for me, and (2) A Miss Leah used to get her hair done at my mother's beauty shop. Leah quickly introduced me to someone else, maybe Nick, but within those few moments, I discovered that the pace needed to stay with them was not at my natural gate, and so I left them to their own devices. I saw them again milling about the finish line with big smiles on their faces. 

There were no tunnels in this event. I can't say this absence upset me, even if I was ready for them. The first obstacle appeared at the end of the first mile. It was scaffolding. A ramp up. Two or three lengths horizontal and maybe 10 feet off the ground. Then a ramp down. I paused briefly after starting, and then realized that was a mistake. My mantra became, then, just walk. Just keep walking. I did, and there were no problems.

Several obstacles involved ropes, and I was glad I remembered the gloves this time. Ropes up a long muddy incline. Ropes up a wooden incline. Ropes up a vertical wall. Ropes down an incline. The ropes were not an issue, though I did slip on the one where we had to scale a vertical 15-foot wall. After the eye-popping slip, I recomposed and went up like you're supposed to. One of the walls involved the small grips and footholds you see on rock climbing walls. That was not much of a problem. Neither was the next wall with the cargo netting. In both cases, the trick, at least for me, was to realize that the next best step was not necessarily the next step forward. The sparring footwork came back quickly.

One of those walls had a variation on the get-down side: fire poles. Fire poles just a few inches away to be completely comfortable. There was a 40-something woman facing the poles, and she was afraid. She was also very vocal about it. I suggested she had to reach out and just do it, like everything else, but my sagacity was lost on this peep. A ranger arrived behind me, and gave her a quick lesson that didn't really take. I finally moved on. Reach. Grab. Slide. It's a lightly controlled fall. I looked back about 100 feet out and saw that she had finally made it. We all clapped.

The most difficult obstacle involved square containers tied and floating in 6-feet of water. I didn't try to go under the barrels, mostly because the water was thick with mud and water grass. That left me crawling up on the barrels using the short lengths of yellow ropes available. Lacking sufficient grip and upper body strength to pull myself completely, I had to use frog kicks to push myself up. To my knowledge, I didn't injure anyone with those kicks. There were three sets of barrels, and the water was too deep to walk easily, leaving us to swim the 15 feet between them.

The fire was just like last time. Logs burning on the trail. Jump. Keep running.

Oh yes, much of the trail was through the woods and creeks with plenty of roots to serve as impromptu obstacles. I managed to miss all of those special delights this time, though I did take a tumble approaching the water slide that was not slippery. After seeing that, I stood up and jogged down the incline.

The last obstacle was the mud, deep, red, slick as goose shit on a wet dock, very slippery mud. Yes, with barbed wire over it. I started that section on my belly, but I quickly realized that I had sufficient clearance to get on my hands and knees. I cleared that one quickly. With 20 feet to go, I was about to run to the finish line, but then I noticed the surface was 30 feet of more slick red mud. Running seemed imprudent, and I walked out.

Note 1: Most of these events involved getting extremely dirty. That appears to be a large part of the selling point. There are usually some manner of showers available, but not enough to be worth the trouble. We had a man with a fire hose spraying a large crowd. You should prepare your car with thick seat covers because the mud will not wash out easily.

Note 2: Most of these events have an ancillary fund raising arm. This event was affiliated with St. Jude's Hospital, and if you collected enough money, you could make use of the Jude's facilities. These included a bag drop and some showers. The bag drop was fine, and the line was short than the main bag drop. The showers might have been fine, but I didn't go in. I was sixth or so in line, and it was painfully obvious that I'd be an hour or more in that line. I went home dirty. I do not begrudge St. Jude the money, but I did make a note to not believe further claims of clean up facilities. Instead, just make sure the car seats are wrapped well, and maybe have some minor cleaning supplies in the trunk.

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