Monday, August 08, 2011

Michigan Warrior Dash 2011

Each Warrior Dash is different, with varying obstacles. This description will only fit for my experience.

Our friends have a membership in a camping community, so we reserved a couple cabins for the crew, planning on spending the night before and after. Friday went up and enjoyed a good evening of fishing, fires and general friendship.

Woke up to Eggs, bacon, sausage and pancakes. Saturday proved to be hot (91 degrees) without a cloud for any relief. The Dash sends off runners every 30 minutes—our time was 2:00 p.m. Had two (2) couples, plus me and my son, who just turned 14; the minimum age to run was 14 and his birthday was in June so he was either the youngest or the next to the youngest. Had about 10,000 runners on Saturday, and 9,750 on Sunday.

There were tents to buy merchandise, tents to get food (primarily huge turkey legs) and tents to get beer. The whole thing was extremely well-organized. Got our numbers, timing chips (which also turned out to be the token for free beer), and walked around for a bit, enjoying the other people in costumes.

Considering a band, beer and some testosterone—you might think this was only one step removed from a Hollywood depiction of a biker bar. It was not. Nothing seemed crazy or out of sorts.

The race itself.

It is a 5k (3.1 miles) that normally, with these types of numbers, one would expect the winners to be in the 16:30 range. Our overall winner was 22:30—giving an idea how much time the obstacles added.

We run for about ½ a mile before the first obstacle. This is good because it stretches out the runners. The first is a series of tires/junk cars. I told my son to be careful, either step within the tires or you might trip by trying to walk on the tires.

I, of course, walked on the tires (faster) and tripped on the very last one. My son found this funny. Another ½ mile run (this is really stretching out the crowd nicely) and our second obstacle. Go though a stretch of water with logs at about waist level. (Chest level for my son.) Now we will run the rest of the race soaked. Makes the shoes heavy.

Had a cargo net stretched horizontally. (Fastest way to do it is roll.) A series of over/unders where you go over a wall, and then under barbed wire. Climb a wall with ropes. This is a video tour of our course, if you interested.

They stretched a series of bungee cords in a number of criss-cross patterns. I found the fastest way was to lift up the bungees, and stoop under all of them. Some of the people stepping over the bungees I was lifting up gave out shouts of “Hey! I’m stepping over that!” I can’t help it if you are doing it the slow way. It is a race…

There were rumors of a “mystery obstacle.” As we run through the woods we hear laughs and shouts ahead. Not sounding good.

Imagine a steep ditch (normally you would go up it, using your hands) Now fill the bottom with about 3 feet of sludge/mud. It was like walking through sewage. Or so I would imagine. Alongside the ditch, there were two mud-covered logs. One would be tempted to go over the logs, to avoid the mud. I watched a number make it about ½ way and then fall in anyway. I told my son to just run through the mud.

(Even though his pace is slower than mine, I ran with him to make sure he could do the obstacles. If I had to do it again, I might not—he was fine.)

Unfortunately, the mud had a number of logs in it, which is why my shins took the beating they did.

The best bit was that at one point the mud dropped to 4 feet deep. My son went in right to his chin.

But now, crawling out, we found the real difficulty. The hill was mud covered and steep. Every step you took forward, you slid back two! There were ropes to use, but too many people, and you still had to crawl up to the rope. This was, by far, the hardest obstacle.

There was a blackout where you crawled for 30 feet in darkness. (HOT!) An up-and-down narrow wooden bridge. Wall climb with rope climb down, and then vertical cargo nets.

Two leaps over fire (small fires, nothing much to worry about.) and the mud pit. The pictures tell the story better than I.

The crowd hung around the mud pit and cheered people on. Generally they liked anything dramatic or unusual. My son came up with a great plan. We went back-to-back, took two steps, did a quick-draw and then fell in as if we shot each other. Hence the way we went in.

Our friends did a leap frog.

Sadly, on Sunday one fellow dove in too deep and became paralyzed from the chest down.

I can’t really tell you how well I did, since I did not run my normal pace. I figured I would normally have run it in about 29:00. (I run 5k in 21:30)

As DoOrDoNot’s husband is doing this, I thought I would give a few suggestions. Take a change of clothes. You will get everything dirty. They had a shoe contribution, we all contributed our shoes. You may not want to keep yours.

Bring flip-flops or sliders for after. Bring a garbage bag to put the clothes you were running in…in. You do not want these to touch anything.

Bring some wipes for your face. They have a rinsing off station, but it is not sufficient. Bring a Q-tip or two. I got dirt out of my ears for the next three days.

Have a blast. You will be addicted. I am already signed up for next year. July 28, 2012 at 1 p.m.


  1. This sounds like so much fun. I can see how it would be addictive. I have quite a bit more training to do before I'd be in shape for such an event, but I'm looking to see when and where the closest one to me is.

  2. Thanks so much for the post and the pictures! And very cool to see a photo of DagoodS himself! Looks like an exhilerating adventure. My husband sends his thanks for the description and the tips. He's even more excited now to run in the race. He sent a link to your post to his friends who'll be running. I'm glad to hear that the atmosphere is fairly tame. Our boys wanted to watch their dad run. He's actually going to compete in St. Louis in October now to accommodate a few others. It's tempting for me to sign up but I may wait. What was crawling through the dark like? I'd never seen that obstacle before. It looks like upper body strength training would be helpful, though from videos I watched there were plenty of people who appeared to be fairly out of shape who survived the race. Did your son enjoy the experience? Kudos to him for racing. My boys were fascinated by the videos and wished they were old enough to race.

  3. I had the same thought about upper body training. I think I'd need to build some upper body strength first. What was that like?

    From the post and especially that last picture it looks like DagoodS had a blast!

  4. DoOrDoNot,

    My wife was extremely concerned it was going to be a beer bash/raucous/out-of-control/free-for-all around the race. Not at all. Maybe because it was hot; maybe because they only served Budweiser and Bud Light (pretty tame beer). My daughter is 12; our friend’s daughter is 3. There was absolutely no concern or worry about their presence here.We hung around only for an hour or so, watching the people, etc. Mostly because we wanted to get back to our cabins and rinse off.

    Did I mention one gets fairly grimy in this race?

    My son enjoyed it immensely. Any 14-year-old could do it. Whether any 44-year-old can do it is a different question….

    The Blackout was very easy. They had cut slits on the hanging plastic, so as soon as you entered, you could see the end. People said it was hot; as I run in heat, I didn’t notice it was hotter than any other part of the course. The worst part was that one crawled on hands/knees—which can be a bit painful if you haven’t toughened up your knees. I haven’t.


    Upper body strength certainly would help on a few obstacles—but is not necessary. My son is not that strong (in fact, these were the greatest concerns for me), and was fine. Things like the cargo nets, you still use your legs more than your arms.

    The greatest upper body challenge was a rope climb down. But it was a knotted rope, only about 10 feet (suggestion: sit down before getting on the rope—you will be much closer to the ground and more stable getting on). For safety, they had covered the ground in about 3 feet of straw—if I had to do it again, I would have just jumped down and avoided the rope entirely, to be honest. Faster.

    Really, the best training is running. Regardless of the obstacles, you DO have to put 5k of running in. It was there that we made up the time. We passed a number of people who had started ½ hour before us; we passed some who started 1 hour before.

  5. Okay, D'Ma, we can do this. I wont make great time, but I dont think I'll be over an hour! If you haven't watched the video DagoodS linked to, you should do that and then watch a few other videos on that same site. It shows actual footage of the event. It looked like there were many walkers, and slow walkers at that.

  6. I've checked out some of those videos including the one DagoodS linked to. The closest ones to me are held in March of 2012 and May of 2012. I think I could probably handle it by then.

  7. Wow. Amazing. Is it crazy that the part of that race that makes me the most nervous is jumping over the fire:). I'm glad I have an excuse not to run for now;). My husband is actually training now for a 5k, maybe half-marathon.

  8. Like a Child,

    My son was pretty nervous about the fire. It would be the least of your concerns (if you could run.) If you can leap 2 feet forward, you could leap the fire. They made it out of those fake logs, so it wasn’t very hot, and it wasn’t very big.

    They had a professional photographer, and one of my favorite pictures is my son, making sure he didn’t fry, leaping what looks like 3 feet in the air. He could have topped a bbq grill, he was jumping so high. Made me laugh.

  9. Sounds like a riot. Did you know if the injured guy is paralyzed permanently? Or maybe you wouldn't know at this point. Hopefully he recovers.

  10. That is awful about the paralyzed man. It would be nice to have an update if you're able to get that information.

  11. Unfortunately, I understood he was permanently paralyzed. One can always hope for recovery, of course.

  12. That looks like a lot of fun. I got into triathlons this year, but there's something like that coming up in Texas, too. They call it the Mud Runner: Maybe I'll try it some day.

  13. Sam,

    toughmudder is a step up from Warrior Dash. How big of triathlons are you doing? (and I am more than a little impressed.)

  14. I started at the very beginning. My first one was a 400 m swim, 11 or so mile bike and 5k run. I've got one in September that is a 750 m swim, 16 mile bike, and 5 k run. I am really struggling with the swimming part of it, though. Still, I love going to these events. If I don't compete, I volunteer. Everybody is so upbeat, friendly, and happy. It's a great way to meet people and stay healthy.

  15. Well, well, it turns out that you DO know how to have fun. That looks awesome.

  16. Sam, we need to do this. Looks like Austin has one...

  17. Yeah, I just need to decide whether to do the race or volunteer as a zombie. Either one would be lots of fun! The one in Austin isn't until next year, though. :-(

  18. Jeez, great swimming in the muds. Nice pics, I just want to congratulate all the participants in this events for a successful one and for a great job well done. Looking forward always.

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