By Leah Bredemeyer | firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve always related to the tortoise more than the hair when it came to running. Slow and steady wins the race right? Oh how wrong that saying is!
I have always wanted to do a marathon, just for the bragging rights. I’m not a runner in any way, but to be able to say I completed this hellish race was so attractive. Not wanting to outdo myself for my first race (since high school), I decided to try out the Warrior Dash. In essence, this is more of a grown-up obstacle course than a marathon, but hey – you have to start somewhere, right?
So I signed up for the “race” in July. Training for a race in the middle of a Texas Summer was probably not the brightest thing for me to do. Of course, I’m used to the heat, and working in it. Growing up, I would chop cotton with my sister all summer, and later on we had athletic practice. I knew what it was like. Of course, back then I was in shape. Not the case this time.
I don’t think I’ve truly worked out since high school – almost 10 years ago. What made me think I could just get up off the couch and run three miles, I’ll never know. That first day of getting back in the saddle was probably one of the hardest days for my body. I was lucky I could crawl up the stairs to my apartment after my little “jog”. As I slowly regained consciousness on the floor, I realized growing older really sucks.
Very slowly, I began getting used to running again. I wasn’t getting winded as much, and my body didn’t ache with as much pain. And then getting the October 3D issue of Explore ready kicked me on my butt. Without someone motivating me to get out and knowing I have so much work I should be doing meant I was less inclined to go for my run. One week turned into 3 months of regressing back to no workout. Then all of a sudden the race was next week. Oh crap! Well, here goes nothing!
When I had signed up for the dash, I chose the 10:30 heat thinking that would be enough time for the day to heat up and early enough to miss most of the crowds. Miraculously, the Texas weather fairy was on our side. Other than it being ridiculously windy (which made it incredibly dusty) the day was perfect. As for it being too early for the crazies – not the case. What I had not realized was the dash was close to Austin. Those people really know how to keep it weird. I saw thing one and thing two, a couple of Waldos, many super heroes, and way too many short kilts. I saw way too much leg of some guys. Talk about things that make you go “UGH”.
One thing I have to really praise about the Warrior Dash, is they have their stuff together. Whether it was the check-in booth, or the finish line, they were impeccably organized. Seeing that there were over 5,000 runners, plus the spectators, they had to be.
With music blaring in the background and fire shooting from the banner, my heat began the race. Surprising even myself, I ran the first half mile. I kept hearing Coach Whittenburg from high school in my head as I kept putting one foot in front of the other. “Come on slow poke! You can do it!” Then just like high school, I started walking. I wasn’t alone in this slower pace though. My main thought was “Just don’t be last.” followed closely by, “Just finish!”
About a mile into the battle was our first obstacle. Luckily, we had to wait in line for there to be an opening, allowing me to really catch my breath. This lovely hurdle was literally multiple hurtles. Well, not exactly hurtles, but you had to go over a wooden thing, and then crawl under barbed wire – Seven times! Of course I was behind a showoff. Maybe if I was still in high school, where we jumped boxes almost as tall as I am, I would have been able to actually hurtle, but atlas, I couldn’t. I don’t think this guy even touched the contraption once. I decided to go with the safer option and sat myself on top and swung my legs over to safely land on the ground on the other side. First obstacle obliterated, I was off again.
At the next stop, I had to giggle. Multiple ditches had been gouged in the earth and barbed wire had been strung over them. I immediately though it looked like my fellow competitors were gophers running in their tunnels. Needless to say, this was probably the easiest obstacle for me. Growing up in the country, we had barbed wire fences everywhere. You learn real quick to get as small as you can so not to get snagged. Even though the ditch looked quite long, I was out in no time and dashing off towards the next problem – going uphill.
In high school, our running coach used to bus us out to a caliche hill which we all instantly nicknamed “Hell Hill”. The two hills we had to conquer had nothing on that high school hill. I swear they were both almost at 90 degrees (ok I’m probably exaggerating, but they were very vertical). Thankfully, there were ropes to assist in our climb. What didn’t help was the line we had to wait in to attempt the obstacle. The longer I had to look at it, the more I dreaded that I was not going to be able to climb it. As I finally worked my way to the front of the line, I took a breath and plowed my way up. With help from the rope, I somehow made it to the top, both times. Take that Hell Hill! Of course this was also when I knew the 11 o’clock heat had caught up to us, because these young whipper snappers passed me going full speed. Oh those crazy kids!
Walking up to the next obstacle to tackle, dread gathered in my gut. This was the challenge I saw when we first walked into the dusty field that I knew was going to be the worst. It was an A-frame structure you had to climb up with water splashing you from the side and above you. Of course this water couldn’t be lukewarm, oh no – it was quite chilly. My main concern was slipping off of the frame. I haven’t had the best experiences with traction from my shoes, which by now were caked with mud. With a deep breath, I began my accent. Before I knew it, I was carefully swinging my leg over and beginning my decent. I think the caked on mud helped me by sucking itself onto the wood slats. Needless to say, I was glad that was over with!
Making my way to the next challenge, all I thought about was how much harder it was now that my clothes were wet. Oh how wrong I was, for the next obstacle was going to get me much more soaked. Let me start out with the water – it was brown. Growing up, we swam in creeks and tanks all the time. Walking up to this body of water, the first though I had was “There better not be any snakes in there!” Of course this though was uncalled for, since I’m sure with all the people going through ahead of me had probably scared anything out of the water, but still – my fear was still there. Once again, this was not lukewarm water. At this point I was extremely happy the weather had cooperated that day. If it had been a normal chilly November day, I would have been frozen.
Back to the obstacle …to get through, you had to get yourself to a large rectangle buoy, crawl over one edge, swim through the inside of the rectangle, crawl over the other side and somehow get your butt out of the water and up a muddy hill. I knew being short was not going to work to my advantage this time. By the time I made it to the first side of the buoy, the water was already up to my shoulders. Then I had to somehow get myself up and over the floating contraption. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before – I have almost no upper body strength. I knew that was going to be a problem for me, seeing that I had to get my entire body, including my saturated and now heavy clothing up and over this floating device. With a deep breath, I pulled with all the strength I could muster and hauled myself up… then I laughed because I’m sure I looked like a beached whale sliding over the top of the buoy.
Dropping into the water on the other side, I got an unwelcome shock. I was expecting to hit bottom, but I never did, even after going completely under the water (which I did not appreciate). Unfortunately when that happened, I was not smart enough to not breath and inhaled some lovely brown water. Oh what fun! After having to swim my way to the next side of the rectangle (because I still couldn’t touch) I did my beached well impression over the other buoy side and somehow made it up the slick muddy hill. Race volunteers kept trying to get people to drop down and roll in the mud. Not a chance for this girl – I probably wouldn’t be able to get back up!
After a nice long walk zig zagging through horse barns and fences, I eventually came to the obstacle that gave me the worst grief. By this time I had mostly dried off (thank goodness I wore capris) and the people had thinned out around me so I was not having to wait to start the challenge. Unfortunately, I was the one who held up the people behind me. I thought it was smart to put my running number on my back so it wouldn’t get snagged on or go missing if I had to crawl on my stomach. For this obstacle, you had to crawl over tires laid flat while going under a net. The problem was the net was not pulled tight and one of my safety pins got caught in the net. Of course there was only one volunteer watching out for this challenge, and when I couldn’t unhook myself because the net was caught on my back – she yells at another competitor to help me out. Why she couldn’t get up out of her chair to help me out made me mad, but the girl who did help me out was very gracious. Luckily, I managed to clear the rest of the obstacle without any more snag ups and off I went towards where the spectators were, which was music to my ears, because that meant the finish line wasn‘t much further.
Next was a balancing act. I thanked all those years of gymnastics during this obstacle. Up one side, down a bit, across a plank, up again and then all the way down. I felt like I was speeding past many competitors (probably not in reality) because of past years practicing on the balance beam. The only thing that I didn’t like about this one was while I was on top, I could see that I had multiple obstacles to tackle before the finish line. It wasn’t as close as I thought it was!
Rope towers and me don’t mix very well. Even in elementary when it was popular to play on the rope wall, I never wanted to. I always figured with my luck, I would clothesline myself or slip through the ropes. That day, I decided to use my brain and pick the spot to go up at one of the brace bars. This way I had some stability to the rope and not as much give. Of course a guy had the same idea as me. We winded up at the top at the same time, and while I was straddling the obstacle trying to get my other leg to the down side, he decided to do the same thing – and I had to wait, of course. He had no fear of falling off, where I did. So I’m sure I looked hilarious up at the top, just sitting there. Although, if I had swung my leg over like I wanted, he would have gotten a face full of shoe mud. See, I can be considerate!
On to the next obstacle… climbing over a vertical wall with a rope. Not something I would seek out to do for fun, but surprisingly easy to do. Of course, it helped that there were slats to help with traction with your feet and knots in the rope, but I thought it was going to be more of a challenge. It also helped that for the decent, it was like a ladder. I had mastered the ladder ages ago, so I was finished in no time.
I’ve always considered myself a pyromaniac. I know it’s not a healthy habit, but I’ve always found fire fascinating. Unfortunately, I didn’t really want to deal with fire towards the end of the dash, but of course that was the second to last obstacle. Picking up speed again, I got to leap over rows of burning wood. I was also glad that I didn’t have loose fitting clothing, because it would have been just my luck to catch something of fire!
Finally, I reached the last challenge. Again, we had to crawl under barbed wire, but this time it was through mud. Not just any mud – pea soup consistency mud. I was glad I remembered to double knot my shoelaces, because this stuff could have easily sucked my shoes off my feet. While going along, I’m sure I looked really graceful as I floundered through the muck and finally reached the end. I was glad I was smart enough to hold onto my tank top as I drug myself out of the goop, because that stuff latched onto it and weighted it down. I would have easily flashed the end camera, but common sense kicked in (Thank God!).
My official time crossing the finish line ended up being 1:15:36.10 with an average of 25:07 per mile. Not too shabby considering I had almost no training to prepare. I did accomplish my goal of not being last. Out of 5014, I ended up being 4799th. Not many between me and last, but it wasn’t last! So the tortoise didn’t beat the hair, but she did cross the finish still on two legs! All in all, I quite enjoyed my first race. I have already signed up for another Dash in March, and have just completed the Graffiti Run (walk) in January. Let see how well this tortoise makes it through the many others I want to defeat!