Warrior Dash Gulf Coast 2017

Warriors are Willing to Work for It

Warrior Dash holds a special place in my heart despite its lack of EXTREME CHALLENGE.  The lack of difficulty is not a good reason to pass on the “beginners race.”  If Savage, Spartan, and Conquer the Gauntlet are super healthy foods like organically raised salmon, fresh farm raised avocados and naturally grown kale then Warrior Dash is a spinach/chicken wrap.  While it may not be on the “superior” level of the other races, it takes on an extremely important role in being the bridge for many into OCR or even into a healthy lifestyle.

Nathan Beisser

Competitor Nathan Beisser after having a great time during his run in the pro wave

 

Helping Start the Addiction

While I may not have encountered obstacles that pushed me to my brink, I did see and meet far more newcomers who were there to make an effort at slowly improving their unhealthy lifestyles than at any other race.  I also encountered more “running for a cause” teams than I have seen recently.  Warrior Dash is that beginning step that is necessary for many.  We can’t all dive head first.  Some of us have to begin with dipping one foot in at a time (not charging for parking or a bag check helps.)  This is where the average working Joe or Jill can see the potential to become greater than they thought possible.

Mud Pit

Venue

The venue of the Harrison County Fairgrounds in Gulfport, Mississippi proved to offer more challenge than most would have anticipated from a mostly flat area.  Though any sort of incline was very rarely found, running three miles in a soggy field that gave way with every step proved to take away some of the speed many competitors would have normally had on a more dry or packed terrain.  Muddy areas were easy to create and find, though they weren’t as large as I have seen before from Warrior Dash.  Even at the finish, each mud pit seemed less like a pit and more like a hole.  The trail was cleared and marked extremely well.  It would have been extremely hard to get lost.

Nets…. Nets Everywhere

The obstacles were a lot of the usual Warrior fare.  There was a lot of crawling under wire and a lot of net usage.  From normal cargo climbs to pipeline to the new (and really fun) Upslide Down I saw more cargo nets during this race than I could shake a stein at. Cargo nets serve as a great introduction to new racers as an obstacle that can burn you out.

Warrior Dash also earned positive points for its new obstacle Upslide Down.  It was a simple, fun obstacle though it could have been longer.  A flat slide lay under a cargo net.  Competitors laid on their backs and proceeded to utilize the cargo net to pull themselves down the slide.  I had a blast with this one and hope to see more like it in the future.

Pallet Jacked

Rather than placing Goliath at the end, Warrior Dash left their new obstacle “Pallet Jacked” front and center for spectators to check out.  I can rightfully say I underestimated this obstacle.   I assumed running across pallets suspended from straps wouldn’t be a problem.  However, the pallets swung and moved vertically depending on weight distribution.  I enjoyed the slight challenge of this obstacle as well as the creativity of Warrior Dash race designers in utilizing simple construction to create a very fun obstacle.  Much like a good hamburger, both of Warrior Dash’s new obstacles offered a lot of satisfaction for something so easily and affordably constructed.

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Stein Holding Competition Trophy

Party Time

Warrior Dash knows what it does well and continues to improve on it year after year by offering more after race competitions and activities than any other race series.  The push-up contests let the macho bros show off for the crowd.  The tug-of-war competition gives families and teams the opportunity to work together and have a good time.  The stein holding competition allows warriors to prove their grip strength and grit and walk away with a free stein.  Even if warriors don’t want to join in on these competitions there are rigs to play on, beer pong setups to play around with, an awesome DJ, and lots of cornholing… I mean the game with the bean bags.

Tug of War

Tug of War Competition

Warrior Dash offers many of the best beer choices and food around as well as the ability to refill your stein for a moderately steep price. A plethora of patrons seemed to be having an amazing time at the festival.  I will be surprised if Warrior Dash doesn’t return to the coast next year given the huge turnout.  Seeing so many newcomers and groups of friends discovering the joys of OCR together filled my heart with glee. I left the festival with a huge smile on my face – not for my own accomplishments, but because I saw something I loved growing and I saw people spreading fitness, love, and no hate all in one place.  That’s one of the better achievements that any of us can achieve in this lifetime.

 

Mr. Incredible

Mr. Incredible receives his newly designed Warrior Dash Medal

Warrior Dash Georgia 2015

The morning was cool, and the sun had not yet appeared over the tops of the northern Georgia Mountains. The 8:30 elite racer heat was called to the start line and after a few pictures were taken, a five-second countdown and eruptions of fire signaled the start of the race. Racers were immediately sent into the trails around the backside of Camp Blue Ridge, where they faced the toughest slopes that the race would offer. This section of the race greatly suited the strong runners of the group, as the first mile of the race only had one obstacle – “The Trenches.”

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At the start of the second mile, runners encountered the first of a string of obstacles, which was a 30-yard swim through water so cold that I had some trouble breathing. This obstacle was followed by a collection of relatively simple obstacles, such as a short barbed-wire crawl, a few small walls for racers to go over and under, the “Great Warrior Wall,” a barbed-wire crawl in a pit of muddy water, the “Diesel Dome,” and the fire-jump. This series of obstacles culminated with another water obstacle called “Alcatraz,” and then participants were sent on another run along a paved roadway and walkway until meeting the final three obstacles. First was the “Chaotic Cargo,” a tall structure covered in cargo net that the smart racers walked or rolled across when possible, while the others slowly crawled. Second to last was the “Pipeline,” or tight tunnels of cargo net that dashers had to climb up into and then through. Lastly came my favorite obstacle, the “Goliath.” This multifaceted obstacle started with a rope climb up an angled wall, and was then followed by a balance beam walk over water twenty feet below. To finish, warriors climbed up the last part of the structure, and then shot down a large (and fun) water slide into the muddy water below. After climbing up a steep muddy bank, racers were at the finish line.

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There were a few aspects that I thought could have been improved about the Warrior Dash. First, the race was shorter than the advertised 3 miles on the Warrior Dash website. Several racers tracked their path via GPS and the actual distance seemed to be around 2.5 miles. With the race being shorter than expected, I felt slighted over that half mile I did not get to run. Next, the obstacles within the race could have been better distributed. In such a short race, I and many others thought it a strange choice to have essentially a complete mile of running, after which it seemed that the obstacles were unnecessarily stacked in close proximity to each other. Lastly, and most importantly, a portion of the race was run on pavement, which I felt inappropriate for an obstacle course race. The whole point of obstacle racing is to go off in nature and climb new, innovative obstacles, run through beautiful woods, and get muddy. Everyday we can all go for a run down the street, and I, for one, don’t want any pavement in the obstacle course races for which I pay.

warrior dashAs a whole, however, there were many things that the 2015 Georgia Warrior Dash did very well. The trails that ran behind the camp were beautiful and were a pleasure to run through. Moreover, motivational quotes scattered throughout the course proved to be a nice and comedic touch. I could not have agreed more when I got to the top of the largest hill and was greeted with a poster saying, “we wish you had trained too.” The obstacles were, in general, well-constructed and fun to traverse. The aforementioned Goliath ended the race on a great note, as I’m sure the water slides put a smile onto nearly every racers face. There were more swimming elements than I initially expected, but this was a welcome surprise, especially for heats later in the day after the temperature rose. As for the non-racing aspects, the Warrior Dash was well organized overall. The staff and volunteers were friendly and helpful, the live music entertaining, and the venue adequately set up.

warrior dash 2In conclusion, the Georgia 2015 Warrior Dash was overall a successful event. I definitely enjoyed spending my day out there and felt it was worth the drive. If the race directors look to improve on the points mentioned before, I feel that next year’s Warrior Dash will be an event to which racers of all skill levels and ages can look forward.

*Photos By: Emory OCR Graduated Students

FullSizeRender-1Evan Dackowski is currently a junior enrolled at Emory University. As the Co-Founder and Co-President of the Emory Obstacle Course Racing club, he provides students with opportunities to train for and compete in obstacle course races across Georgia.

How to Win Warrior Dash

How to win Warrior Dash

In 2012, I beat nearly 17,000 other people to win a Warrior Dash – my first obstacle race ever.

I had no previous experience with any of the obstacles, I never studied the course, and I had no idea what to expect. And when I started, my only goal was just to have fun!

I didn’t do any particular exercises to get stronger (like CrossFit) or practice any of the obstacles. Today I’ll show you how to train for Warrior Dash – and potentially even win.

How to Execute Your Race Strategy

The majority of Warrior Dash courses start on a narrow trail that requires a more strategic start than road races. Start near the front of the pack – you don’t want to get caught behind the masses of runners causing bottle necks at each obstacle. Start fast and get out front to avoid that bottleneck.

Obstacle courses are almost always on technical trails or uneven grass fields. The varying terrain and footing will definitely slow you down and present challenges, so pay attention to where you put your foot.

The first rule of tackling the obstacles is to take your time; you don’t want to get cut by barbed wire or suffer a running injury from one of the obstacles. You won’t gain much time by hurrying over an obstacle, so relax and focus on completing it once without hurting yourself.

You’ll probably encounter a combination of many obstacles:

  • A three-story cargo net
  • A vertical wall with just a rope to pull yourself over the top
  • A series of enormous tires to navigate (don’t trip!)
  • Tunnels, pools of water, and other walls to cross
  • Fire, mud, and more barbed wire than a federal prison. Excited yet?

Let’s not also forget the hills – the many, many hills! Almost every obstacle course race, particularly Warrior Dash, are on rolling hills and technical terrain. In fact, many courses bill themselves as “mountainous.”

An event with these types of challenges requires a methodical, smart approach. Here’s how you can accomplish your Warrior Dash goals with the same approach.

Warrior Dash Racing & Training

There are six ways to race and train effectively for Warrior Dash:

1.  Stay healthy and don’t get injured

The obstacles are real so slow down and take your time over each one. Crawl low enough under the barbed wire, jump high enough over the fire, and go slowly over cargo nets and high walls.

If you have long hair, wear your hair low but put together so it doesn’t get caught on ropes, wires, or other obstacles. Remember: the time you gain by rushing is negated if you fall, get hurt, or have to repeat an obstacle.

2. Always start close to the front

If you start at the back of the pack you’ll be stuck behind hundreds of other runners. Get out in front of everyone else so you’re not wasting time at a bottleneck. Plus, navigating an obstacle without any other competitors is a lot easier.

3. Boost your strength

You don’t need to spend hours in the gym or join a CrossFit box. But working with relatively light weight, will make traversing all of the obstacles faster and easier.

4. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

If your goal is to run fast, you have to run fast during training. Running a variety of paces during training – including 1-2 faster workouts per week – will help you run fast between each obstacle so you can finish higher up in the field.

Since most courses are on hilly terrain, it’s also helpful to run a weekly hill workout so you’re comfortable running fast uphill.

5. Run more trails

Since most OCR’s – especially Warrior Dash – are on dirt trails, paths, grass, and other technical terrain it’s incredibly beneficial to have experience running on these surfaces. Give yourself an enormous advantage by running more trails and you’ll improve your balance, proprioception, agility, and your comfort level with running fast on uneven terrain.

6. Run more weekly mileage

The “dirty little secret” as to why I was able to win a Warrior Dash and beat almost 17,000 other competitors is that I was running more. My preparation was almost entirely endurance training – and that fact alone helped me most when I won by over a minute.

Other competitors likely had more strength, power, or speed over the obstacles. But in between each obstacle I was able to run very fast. And that’s way more important.

If you train like a runner, there’s no doubt that you’ll run faster in any obstacle race you enter.

Smarter Training = Faster Racing

Almost anyone can enter and complete a Warrior Dash. You don’t need to specifically train for a short-course obstacle race.

Here are several other ways to prepare for an OCR:

  • Enter several trail races. The hills and technical terrain will better prepare you for Warrior Dash than road racing.
  • Spend 20-30 minutes doing bodyweight strength exercises several times per week. This type of general strength approach is all you need to succeed at short-course obstacle racing.

If you’ve gotten tired of “normal” road races and need an exciting new challenge, a race like Warrior Dash presents a different way to run. Plus, it’s a lot of fun!

But always remember that those who train like runners will always be on the podium at Warrior Dash.

Have fun, train smart, and race fast!

Jason Fitzgerald is a 2:39 marathoner, USA Track & Field certified coach, and the winner of the 2012 Maryland Warrior Dash. He is the creator of Strength Running where he helps runners get faster and prevent injuries.

Warrior Dash Review- Oregon, 2014

Warrior Dash is an easier mid-level mud run that is a staple in the OCR circuit. I put it at mid-level because the obstacles are actually made out of boards and mud, and not bubbles and inflatables. But, it’s still a relatively accessible race, especially since there are no penalties for passing on an obstacle — actually, this year the race wasn’t even timed.

This race is the race that got me started three years ago when I ran with a small group from one of my gyms. I have always loved Warrior Dash. I like the venue, it always has had the best mud, and some creative challenges. Except this year, I was a little disappointed. If I had never been to a Warrior Dash before, I would have thought it was great. Unfortunately, it was not up to it’s usual standards.

One of the things I loved about this race were the unique obstacles. The first year, we were climbing over cars, sliding down poles, jumping from one purposfully wobbly platform to the next. And the mud, was excellent. Lots of thick, clay mud that would never come out of your clothes! It was the best mud.

This year, most every obstacle was some rendition of climbing over or under something. Mostly walls and nets.

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As opposed to say, last year’s lateral cargo net crossing, or maybe a balance beam or previously mentioned obstacles from earlier years. The exception was Alcatraz and the Pipeline — which was a new unique challenge that I really enjoyed.

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There was only mud in two spots. The aptly named Mud Mounds and the Muddy Mayhem mudpit at the end. There were some more interesting looking obstacles on the course map that didn’t show up in the actual race. The Mud Mounds are actually quite fun. The technique this year was to try to jump from one mound to the next, missing the thick sticky mud at the bottom completely. Because if you landed in it, you were doomed. And, you probably lost a shoe.

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The mud at the end however, was disgusting. Previously, this was always my favorite. If you hadn’t gotten muddy enough, you were guaranteed to come out coated in it after wading through the chest-high trough of icky sticky mud. Until this year. It was black, it was gritty, and it was smelly. It looked and smelled like potting soil. No one wanted to put their hands in it, most people were lamenting over the texture and the smell as they were gingerly making their way through it. This picture says it all.

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That being said, I do want to compliment them on going the extra mile to ensure the fire jump happened even though there was a burn ban in place. They had sprinklers going all around the area to make sure it safe — and I very much appreciate that. The fire jump is a quintessential ending to any good mud run.

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The race unfortunately seemed to be suffering from a lack of funding and volunteers. Many of the obstacles had a sponsor and were branded, including the rinsing pond. It was well organized for the most part, though the flow of registration left a little to be desired, requiring you to push back through the lines of registrants to get to gear check. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a fun, solid, race and you should go if you get the chance. I will definitely go again. It just used to be a little bit better. But, if you’ve never been, you wouldn’t know the difference.

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Overall though, Warrior Dash has well-built obstacles with the perfect amount of challenge for the adequately in-shape, adventurous beginner. A fun atmosphere with a big stage for the live band, that can be viewed from the grassy hill while enjoying your gigantic turkey leg after visiting the beer garden. On the way out be sure the visit the very fairly priced merch tent for some quality take-homes. Just be sure to pay close attention to where you parked. And, if you’re directionally challenged, like me, recruit your friends to help.

*Photos By: Katrina Blackwell and Warrior Dash.

Warrior Women

Warrior Dash Oregon race review

After collecting our intrepid posse of mud-goers and purchasing some last minute snacks and supplies, we wound our way down the hilly parade of cars to Horning’s Hideout in Tualatin, Oregon to run the approximately 5k Warrior Dash. Whilst parking on an absurd sideways angle, making it nearly impossible to open the heavy sedan door on the uphill side, my hubby/camera man yells out to the parking attendant, “Hey Mr. Horning!”, “Oh hey there!” he replies and waves. Fun fact of the day, my husband used to teach Mr. Horning, of Hornings Hideout, ballroom dance. How’s that for a small world. But I digress…

The one and only thing I don’t like about this venue is that the parking lot is so very far away from the race area. It’s quite the trek and it wasn’t well delineated which way to go. We generally assumed we would make like lemmings and follow the masses and we’d probably find our way. It was a bit like swimming upstream while playing Frogger with previously muddied participants making their way back down to the “rinsing pond” and back to their cars to change.

Registration was a breeze, they had the tents separated by men and women for ease of t-shirt distribution. I had failed as intrepid leader and forgotten to print my “I promise not to sue you if I get eaten by a bear” waiver, so we all split up to take care of business and agreed to meet back up “over there by the big blue dumpster”.

Next on the pre-race agenda – take a bunch of silly photos before we get covered in slime. But first, we had to find the porta-potty village. It was not where it was last time and took some searching to discover it was on the far side of the grounds past the finish line and muddy finishers. Insider tip: there are two more rows in the back, go around, don’t bother standing in line!

Oregon Warrior Dash girls

Now that the obligatory clean pics and light calisthenics had been completed we made our way to the starting chute. From experience, we made sure to be in the front of the line. We may not be the fastest, but there is nothing worse than getting stuck behind walkers on a steep hill! Momentum is the name of the game, a comfortable steady pace will get you up the first bump, but if you have to stop in traffic you’re pretty much doomed to walking the rest of it.

Camera activated, secured and adjusted, new line-friends made, emergency hair-tie replacement procured, some hootin’ and hollerin’, and we were off!

Warrior Dash Oregon runner girl

Recent rain, while calming the dust, had made the trails slippery and mildly treacherous. The side-angle foot-hold-technique was quickly implemented to gain maximum traction under our disposable-quality footwear. Par for the OCR-course, the first three-quarters of a mile was running, designed to thin the crowd before the first obstacle.

Warrior Dash Oregon runners

Around the first turn we found a pond containing Alcatraz – a floating barge of lashed-together container jugs covered in cargo nets. The signs warned of 5ft deep water requiring the ability to swim. I’m pretty sure we didn’t encounter anything over four, at the most. Though, there were steep surprise drop-offs. We made a girl-warrior train and waded our way to the “island” where we were “helped” by an overly-friendly stranger who apparently decided that: 1. We needed help and 2. our rear ends were an appropriate leverage point. I call shenanigans on our overly-gratuitous helper. Bringing up the end of our line, I made it quite obvious that I didn’t need a helping grope, er… hand, by launching myself in one pull, far clear of the water. The short jog across the top was surprisingly stable and after a hop and swim/paddle/wade we climbed out the other side.

Warrior Dash girls in the mud

Next stop Mud Mounds – These felt more like mud trenches but, none-the-less, the object was to climb up a series short of hills and slide down into 6 foot pits with knee to thigh-high gooey-thick mud. All were achievable, though the course-sanded clay was a bit abrasive on short-clad heinys on the slide down. The last hill seemed easy, until my first push whence I quickly came to discover the suction from the mud required the assistance of my compadres to overcome.

Warrior Dash mud climbers

Thoroughly coated, we slid down a hill that I am still not sure was actually an obstacle. If it was, it was poorly planned as most sliders were careening under the path-delineating safety ribbon into parked cars and other out-of-control slidees. This scene did, however, provide much amusement for us when we had later returned to our car to change. We provided helpful commentary such as, “Coming in hot!” and “Look out!” to the smiling, screaming, wave of tushy-sliding Warriors.

At the bottom of this inadvertent slip-n-slide was an inclining and declining balance beam known as Two X Fall. We each executed our own modus operandi on this one. Genessa chose the traditional walking balance technique. I had previously trained this in a practice session at a gym using the bear walk method. Meanwhile, Jaimee decided that sitting and scooting was the safest route. All equally successful as we breezed through unscathed.

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Up and over a steep bridge, we spent our time waiting at the top chatting with folks about the procedure of switching the GoPro without getting mud on the lense.

Next was a short version of the “slippery wall” seen in other OCR races but it did not have a rope. It was tall enough, and slippery enough, however, to require some strategy. In the end, a running start and two large, well-placed steps was the best method. Immediately following this was a series of 4 ft walls. Easy enough for anyone of a moderate fitness level. This was followed directly by what I can only describe as a backwards ramp. We climbed up the bracing to the top of a slick ramp. The challenge here is not so much the climb or descent, but in the landing at the bottom gracefully – a feat not accomplished by all participants. I managed to come out of it in an over-exaggerated hop that I hopefully pulled off as gracefully as my three years of ballerina school could affect.

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We next ran, crouched under some netting – Storming Normandy. Perhaps the intention was to crawl. I would have rolled. But with things like this it’s sometimes best to go with the status quo.

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After repelling down a steep slippery hill, we came across the Giant Cliff Hanger – a large angled wall with a rope and intermittent footholds. It’s interesting to see the different techniques implemented to ascend this obstacle which are telling of the experience level of the participant. To easily pass this gatekeeper, though, one must trust in physics over body strength.

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Another variant of an up-and-over wall, a horizontal cargo traverse, and a vertical cargo climb led to another OCR staple, the fire jump. Hand-in-hand we leapt the dual set of Durolog flames, the last step before a dunk in the mud. Just in case you hadn’t yet been thoroughly coated, a quick dip in the hip deep, thiiick clay mud should do the trick. Then it’s just a quick belly slide to the finish line!

Warrior Dash female heads to the finish

 

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Now that we had completed our muddy adventure we took a quick dip in the pond to rinse off, attempting to ignore the fact that the lukewarm water wasn’t much more clean or sanitary than the mud we were trying to remove. It was, however, much quicker and less painful than spraying down with freezing cold hose water. We then hiked back to the car to change and heckle jestfully the previously mention bottom-sliders.

Returning to the lower festival area we sat on the grassy hillside and proudly mowed down our Turkey legs and rocked out to the live band on the big stage before hitting the swag tent and making our way, proudly, tiredly, and triumphantly back to the car to return home sporting fuzzy horned Warrior helmets and still-muddy finisher medals which conveniently double as bottle openers.

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I like this race a lot. The first time I ran it, three years ago, it gave me the OCR bug. It’s a great starter race for those who those who want more challenge than pink inflatable slides and bubbles, but who aren’t quite brave enough or prepared for a Spartan or electrocution. As a seasoned short-OCRer this was a quick and fun race with just enough challenge to keep it interesting. I enjoyed taking my first-timer friends through and seeing them take on the challenges, and the pride and excitement they had for rest of the day after conquering the beast they had been so nervous to face in the weeks leading up to the race.