Warrior Dash Washington 2017 Race Review

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Overview

Warrior Dash is one of the oldest companies putting on obstacle course races in the US and have been running events in Washington State since 2011!  With all of those years under their belt, a certain level of polish can be expected and Warrior Dash delivered on those expectations.

Taking place about a 1-hour drive south of downtown Seattle, the Kelley Farm venue provided a mostly flat, wide open area for everything to be set up.  Unlike some other races, both parking and the bag drop were included in the price of admission which made for a smooth experience from beginning to end.

Parking was very close to the check-in and festival area, so no shuttle was required.  Waiver signing and packet pickup were quick, but it certainly didn’t hurt that I showed up early to run in the first heat of the day.  After picking up the participant shirt and fuzzy helmet before the race, everything was loaded into a bag and dropped off at Bag Drop before heading over to the starting line.

The Competitive Heat

Warrior Dash marks their first wave of the day as the Competitive Heat and it acts as a qualifier for the OCR World Championships taking place in Canada this year.  While there is no official timing of the race, someone was actively monitoring the finish line to record the top 10 finishers of each gender.

Top 3 qualifies you for the Pro Heat, while Top 10 qualifies you for the Age Group competition at the OCR World Championships.

This opening wave was an interesting mix of people containing some determined (very fit looking) people vying for those top spots and several others just excited to get out on the open course and push themselves to their own limits.

The top 3 male and female runners were announced and invited on stage to receive OCRWC Qualifier t-shirts.

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The Course

After a brief delay to get word from the medical team that everyone was in place and ready to go, the start line was counted down and we were sent off as flame shot into the air above us.

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The very beginning of the course took advantage of a small hill off to our right which we climbed up right off the bat.  After zig-zagging back and forth a few times over small rolling hills, we returned to the level surface that the rest of the race was run on and our first obstacle, a small set of tall, spaced out wooden stairs.

After that was a fun obstacle called Upslide Down where we laid on our backs and pulled ourselves along using acargoe net above us.  Next was a short balance beam before we crawled down into some very long, muddy trenches.

A water station was located at the half-way point of the 5k distance and soon afterwards the course turned into a winding single-track run through a large set of trees that led us to a rather tall barb wire crawl.

Next we ascended a steep wall with the assistance of a rope, navigated through a pipeline made of cargo nets, and balanced our way across a set of pallets suspended over water.  The finish line was within sight, but we still had to navigate through a tricky obstacle where you could balance your way across a cargo net, with or without using a variety of hand holds suspended above you.

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After a quick fire jump, we conquered the largest obstacle on the course, Goliath, which consisted of of ~2 story cargo net climb followed by a steep slide down into a deep pool of water.  Despite the water mostly cleaning us off, the final obstacle made sure everyone finished with a thick layer of mud on them.

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This final obstacle took place in a deep pit of thick mud that also had barb wire suspended above.  Impossible to move through quickly or with any grace meant everyone came across the finish line ready for an epic post-race picture of their muddy adventure.

After crossing the finish line, we were given a very unique finishers “medal” consisting of a cube with a something different on each of the six sides.  It’s even numbered if you want to use it at your next board game night!

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Verdict

Overall, Warrior Dash remains the perfect gateway event into the world of obstacle course racing.  The 5k distance combined with a modest number of non-intimidating obstacles makes for a very fun time that doesn’t require a strict regimen of training leading up to the event.

The Competitive Wave was handled very professionally for everyone seeking to challenge themselves and others during the run and the festival grounds made for a great place to relax after the event and sip on the free post-race beer (even if it was 9 in the morning!).

Whether you are a seasoned OCR pro or someone thinking about trying their first ever OCR race, it’s worth checking out the next Warrior Dash near you.

Warrior Dash Obstacle Collapse Investigation – Red Frog Responds

This morning, Louisiana based “The Advocate” released information regarding an investigation concerning the failure of an obstacle at last year’s Warrior Dash near Baton Rouge, LA. The obstacle named “Diesel Dome” collapsed at a race on October 8, 2016 and sent at least 11 people to a local hospital with various injuries.

The event and the investigation that followed has led to unprecedented actions in the OCR industry.

Local authorities who have issued arrest warrants on 5 workers connected to the event. According to The Advocate article:

“The warrants accuse the contractors of negligent injuring, and the employees of both negligent injury and engaging in business of contracting without authority.”

There have been at least 3 OCR related deaths dating back to 2011, the most famous being the 2013 drowning of Avi Sengupta at a Tough Mudder obstacle. However, there have never been warrants issued or criminal charges filed against anyone in association with these deaths. Nor have their been been criminal charges that have occurred following any injuries at any obstacle races.

We reached out to Red Frog, Warrior Dash’s parent company, as soon as possible for a statement. They told us:

“Our understanding from local authorities is that summons may be issued but there are no arrest warrants against Red Frog employees.  We’ve worked closely with the fire marshal’s office and investigators since the accident that occurred at Warrior Dash on October 8, 2016 and nothing we saw, read or heard during that investigation would warrant criminal charges. One of the employees being charged was not even at the event or involved with the planning of the event.  Therefore, we are eager to see the fire marshal’s report.  Since we have not seen the report, we cannot comment on it or the nature of any allegations against specific individuals”

ORM also reached out to several other race companies for a quote and/or their thoughts on how this may affect the OCR industry. Spartan Race CEO Joe DeSena told us “An incident like this is unfortunate and shines a spotlight on the how imperative build standards are for the Obstacle Racing industry”. At press time, no other race series chose to comment.

Below is a video from a 2016 Warrior Dash event with the Diesel Dome obstacle functioning properly.

Warrior Dash Maryland 2017

The Location

I recently participated in Warrior Dash Maryland, which was a very fun and challenging experience. The event took place at the legendary Budds Creek Motocross Park, which is a world class venue known for its many popular motocross events. This location has also become well known for a variety of the top OCR events over the past few racing seasons also.

The Obstacles

The race length was around 3.2 miles and involved over 12 obstacles that were placed throughout the muddy terrain.

The challenging obstacles included:

  1. Trenches
  2. Under the Wire
  3. Goliath
  4. Muddy Mayhem
  5. Pipeline
  6. Warrior Roast
  7. Fisherman’s Catch
  8. Bridge The Gap
  9. Upslide Down
  10. Magic Carpet Ride
  11. Pallet Jacked
  12. Mud Mounds

Some personal favorites from the obstacles included:

Goliath involved climbing two stories and then going down a 30-foot slide feet first. This was a fun obstacle because it was not only a great view of the course, but it was also an adrenaline rush sliding down into the cool water.

Warrior Summit was a great upper body workout that involved climbing up a 30-foot incline with the help of a rope and then climbing down the other side. Strength, quick feet, and balanced coordination helped to get up and over this obstacle efficiently.

Muddy Mayhem was the final obstacle in the event, and it included an army crawl under barbed wire across a 100-foot mudpit. I have a background in competitive swimming, and this experience was unique because it felt like a combination of both swimming and floating in slow motion through the thick mud. Definitely a great obstacle to finish out the event.

The Experience

As soon as the event began, there was a nice amount of distance to get the heart rate up and the blood circulating throughout the arms and legs. With the distance of the race being 3.2 miles, the rugged and hilly terrain added that extra degree of difficulty, especially on the steep hills and drops that are used in the motocross circuit. Some hills had such an incline, that it was a team effort with the other athletes to get to the top.

Slow and careful steps back down the hills were also critical. For this reason, I’m very glad that I put some extra time over the past few months into my trail running abilities because it helped in the ascending and descending throughout the course. A pair of shoes with an adequate amount of grip is also recommended for added stability, not just in the obstacles, but also on the trail sections.

For this reason, I’m very glad that I put some extra time over the past few months into my trail running abilities because it helped in the ascending and descending throughout the course. A pair of shoes with an adequate amount of grip is also recommended for added stability, not just in the obstacles, but also on the trail sections.

There was a fair share of obstacles that involved crawling through mud and under barbed wire throughout the course, so core workouts and preparation for crawling in tight spaces are helpful.

Warrior Dash Culture

The atmosphere at the athlete area, as well as throughout the course, was friendly, fun, and motivational. Everyone was cheering for each other throughout the various obstacles, and even though I ran the event by myself, there was definitely a strong support system among all the participants.

One of the other things that I liked about the Warrior Dash was that there were no additional costs for parking or spectators. Race medals were awesome too!

Overall, an event I highly recommend for any experience level.

Photo Credit: Author and Warrior Dash

Train Like a Pro: Robert Killian

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Success came early in Robert Killian’s Spartan career. In his fourth Spartan event, he won the 2015 Spartan World Championship. Most of his success from that race can be traced back to his first event, a Spartan Beast he ran four months earlier in Breckenridge, Colorado, where he placed 3rd overall. Breckenridge is known for having a high elevation gain and being one of Spartan’s toughest races.  “When I did that race, I kind of was like, ‘Okay, this must be what all the races are like. This is how I have to prepare,’” he recalls.  Because of Breckenridge, Killian immediately began running more mountains, carrying everything from sandbags to logs, and increasing his grip strength.

Although, at the time, he’d only run in four Spartan races, that doesn’t mean he was inexperienced. Before ever attempting a Spartan race, Killian had already won numerous triathlons, competed internationally on the Army Biathlon team, and won both the individual and team categories of the military division at the Ironman World Championships in Kona. He was also named 2010 Army Athlete of the Year. 

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Killian has served in the United States military for about fifteen years. During that time, he was able to participate in numerous competitions, gaining experience moving through obstacles. Though they were urban obstacles, Killian had to learn how to properly navigate terrain, move through windows and tunnels, repel, and even climb chain ladders. “It just kind of became second nature,” he explains. “We’d do it so much that once I was introduced to OCR on a normal course, it was just a combination of all the running and orienteering that I had done in the military.” 

After winning the World Championship, Killian joined the Spartan Pro Team and was able to use 2016 as the first year he could dedicate to being a professional athlete. In the inaugural Spartan U.S. Championship series, he finished 2nd overall and never finished worse than 3rd in any of the five series races. When it came to the 2016 Spartan World Championship race, he narrowly missed defending his title, placing 3rd, under three minutes behind winner Hobie Call. Six weeks later, Killian and partner, Chad Trammell, placed 2nd at World’s Toughest Mudder, completing a remarkable 100 miles in 24hrs. Outside of OCR, Capt. Killian won the 2016 Best Ranger Competition with partner, Staff Sgt. Erich Friedlein, becoming the first National Guard duo to do so. 

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To maintain such a high level of performance, Killian continues to focus on cycling, swimming, mountain running and cross training. Many days, he does what he refers to as “power hours.” “Every hour I take five or ten minutes just to do one OCR task,” he explains. This includes carrying a sandbag, spending time on his rig, and climbing his rock wall. In order to help prevent over-training, Killian sticks to workouts that involve what he would see in a race.

The below workout is one that Killian includes in his training program on LeaderBoard. He uses it to practice throwing the spear and performing heavy sandbag carries during stressed effort levels. You will want a station set up for the spear with two or three spears and a 40-pound sandbag (or bucket) ready to go. For more information on LeaderBoard, stick around at the end of the article.


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WARM UP

  • 5-minute progressive warm up jog. Start easy and build up to a moderate pace.
  • Dynamic Drills (10-15 minutes)
    • Two or Three 50-Meter Strides – Run just shy of max speed for the allotted distance.
    • High Knees – Concentrate on ensuring your knees are getting at least as high as your waist. Make sure that you stay on the balls of your feet.
    • Butt Kicks – While keeping your upper body straight, run while bringing your ankles up to touch your butt. Try to keep from kicking your whole leg back. Your knees shouldn’t pass behind your body.
    • Skips – Like high knees, try to get your knee to come up to your waist. While one knee is up, the other foot should “skip” off the ground. Alternate between left and right legs.
    • Walking Lunges – Step out with one foot, keeping the knee at a 90-degree angle. Try not to let your opposite knee touch the ground. Bring the back foot forward so that leg is now the front leg, again, keeping your knee at 90-degrees. Don’t let it pass in front of your toes.
    • Karaoke – Move side to side, crossing your trailing foot in front of the other, then behind it. Allow your hips to twist as you go. Alternate going to the left and then to the right.
    • Progression Sprints for 100 Meters – Slowly build up speed until you are running at almost a full sprint.
    • Jumping Jacks – Start with your feet together and hands at your sides. Bend slightly at the knees and jump a couple inches off the ground, bringing arms up above your head and your legs out to the side. Jump again and bring your arms and legs back to the starting position.
    • Side to Side Ski Hops – Stand feet together, bend at the knees and bring your hips back so that your torso is at about a 45-degree angle. Bend your arms like you would if you were holding ski poles. Jump up and to the left. As you’re jumping, allow your arms to come up, bringing them back down when you land. Repeat to the right.

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MAIN SET

800 meter runs should be performed at a 10k race pace. Do 10 penalty burpees for each missed spear throw.

  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw followed by a 200-meter sandbag carry.
  • Rest two minutes.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw followed by a 200-meter sandbag carry.
  • Rest two minutes.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw followed by a 200-meter sandbag carry.
  • Rest two minutes.

Writer’s Tip: Try to maintain the 10k pace, especially early on. You may be tempted to run the first couple 800m at a quick pace.

COOL DOWN

  • 5-10 minute light jog or walk. Then stretch the major muscle groups.
  • Go for an easy one-mile run.

 

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Writer’s Note: Thank you to Robert for providing this workout. You can follow him on Instagram and Facebook.

Check out past Train Like a Pro articles:

LeaderBoard is where Killian and fellow Spartan Pro Team member, Brakken Kraker, coach elite athletes. Anyone can sign up for a free LeaderBoard Takeoff, to get an idea of how the program works. During the two-week Takeoff, athletes will complete five “Benchmark” tests. After completing a few of these tests, the athlete will be invited to a one-on-one chat with either Kraker or Killian in order to personalize his or her training.

After the Takeoff is complete, you can book a free seven day trial of either one’s program, plus a discount after the trial is up. The full program is personalized and includes a community chat, so you can communicate with other athletes or the coaches at any time. For more information, go to www.leaderboardfit.com.

For those just getting into OCR, or looking to take the next step beyond an open heat, Killian recently introduced his 12-week SGX program on LeaderBoard. Included in the program are detailed workouts, instructional videos, plus technique and pacing tips. Athletes also receive discounts on gear, nutrition products and non-elite wave races. To sign up go to https://leaderboardfit.com/signup-sgx/.

Photo Credit: Robert Killian, Spartan Race, NBC

Warrior Dash Indiana: Grabbing Life by the Horns

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The 2016 Indiana Warrior Dash was a hit for many.  I must hand it to Warrior Dash, they put on a great show, and had some incredible sponsors, as well as offering a fun race for all abilities.  This year’s race took place on September 10, 2016, right outside of Crawfordsville, Indiana.  Racers were met by a friendly staff of volunteers into a FREE parking area, as well as FREE bag check, and a FREE beer from Shock Top.  Check in was smooth and easy, and races started off on time with the classic Warrior Torches!

The first heat was the competitive heat where racers, took off for a chance to earn a podium place as well as a spot at the OCR World Championships.

Despite the rainy, sometimes downpour at times, people showed up and filled the festival area and course with smiles and a great, friendly atmosphere.  The obstacles were not too difficult and they were spaced out over the 3.9 mile course, several water stations were also set up.

The first obstacle encountered was the Shocktop Unfiltered.  It was a series of over-under walls, as well as a crawl under a tarp.  The walls weren’t too high and the crawl was pretty easy, especially for the vertically challenged crowd.  Next, was the Diesel Dome, which was a 30x50ft dome, which racers climbed over, definitely a challenge for those afraid of heights!  This was followed by Trenches, another tarp crawl through mud, then Risky Business, a balance beam placed in water.  Finally, Warrior Summit, which was a slip wall with ropes at a much easier angle than most OCR races.

After the Warrior Summit, racers approached the Mud Mounds, Pipeline, Fisherman’s Catch, and then the Warrior Roast.  The Fisherman’s Catch was definitely the most difficult of all the obstacles using entire upper body, swinging from ring to ring.  Many open heat racers, just crawled over the cargo net, rather than using the rings.

The final 3 obstacles in the last 400 meters of the race, were Alcatraz, Goliath, and Muddy Mayhem.  Alcatraz was a nice swim to rafts in the middle of a lake, followed by Goliath, an epic giant slide.  Goliath got racers all nice and cleaned off, but of course it’s not a true Warrior Dash if you come out clean!  So the race finished with its last obstacle, Muddy Mayhem, where racers were doused in thick clay-like mud, before receiving their medals at the finish line.

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Overall, it was a great race, people enjoyed themselves, and all levels were present.  I talked to many people who had never done obstacle course racing before, and they were satisfied with their experience.  I believe the Indiana Warrior Dash recruited some new racers into the world of OCR at this particular race.

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I must highlight that Warrior Dash is one of the few races that offer a charity option in partnership with St. Jude.  For racers that choose to run for this charity, they had to raise donations, which based on the amount they raised, were given some awesome incentive prizes.  For example, those who raised at least $300 gained access to the St. Jude tent at the race.  The tent included private showers, complimentary gear check, non-alcoholic beverages, and their own hangout area within the festival.  There were also incentive prizes for those who hit the $100 mark as well as $500 and $1000.

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Several top sponsors also included Shock Top Beer, which racers 21 and over enjoyed a free beer following the race, and only $5 a beer after.  Delta Faucets was another sponsor and they provided a whole stage equipped with their shower heads for clean up after the race.  There was also a karaoke set up on that same stage where people were showering!  What a party in the shower!!!  The other sponsor that stood out was Rockin Fuel, which provided protein shakes at the finish that nobody could open with muddy hands.  But it’s all good, lots of clean people to help racers out.

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Overall, excellent show, great sponsors, staff was friendly, and racers were happy.  With that being said, Warrior Dash is not up to par with more competitive race companies in terms of true obstacle course racing such as Spartan Race and Savage Race.  However, I don’t think it needs to be.  Warrior Dash is a fun way to get new people introduced to the sport in a non-competitive, not heavily difficult nature.  I would recommend this race for anyone, all levels!  Bring the family for a day of fun!

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Photo Credit: Luis Salamanca 

Warrior Dash Wisconsin

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I personally specialize in ultra-Obstacle Course Racing (OCR), things like the ~8 hour BattleFrog Xtreme or the 24 hour World’s Toughest Mudder.  When not training for the ultra-OCR, I also like to race shorter races with harder obstacles, like Conquer The Gauntlet.  So you might have a guess as to what I am going to say about the only Warrior Dash I raced in 2016, Warrior Dash Wisconsin….but you would be wrong.  I actually love Warrior Dash, despite it playing to my weaknesses (short, fast and easier obstacles) and here is why…

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TERRAIN:  The event took place in a park with 3.1 miles of pretty well-groomed trails or parts on grass going in and out of the woods.  They even incorporated some decent elevation gain for such a short course taking advantage of the hill in the middle of the park.  In fact, it is the only time during a Warrior Dash I have ever had to walk (actually, power hiked up the hill).

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OBSTACLES:  Warrior Dash continues to make small changes to their obstacles year after year to keep things fresh.  With the usual array of things like over, under walls, low nets that require crawling, a fire jump, trenches and a thick mud pit, it provides a good array of obstacles.  What was new to me was their version of a rig, Fisherman’s Catch.  Unlike other courses, their rig is over water and there is a net underneath.  So if you fall, I guess you are just supposed to cross the net (even in the competitive wave…I think?).  What was surprising was the multiple lanes the rig had including one with all rings, some with a mix of rings, nunchakus and ropes and even one with all nunchakus.  I think there was about 8 different holds total all spaced fairly close together.  Overall, it is a nice addition to their event and for future events, I plan on taking a second lap to play on some of the other lanes.

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FESTIVAL:  Not surprising, Warrior Dash hits a home run with their festival.  With beer, food, several photo areas (giant mug, giant helmet, before/after backdrops, a version of a rig people can play on), a DJ and contests, there is fun for the whole family.  While I personally do not need this awesome festival area for a good race, it is a nice touch that makes Warrior Dash an awesome event for families.  Not even the rain could stop the positive atmosphere.  Shortly after the first couple of racers finished from the competitive wave, a light drizzle started but things continued as normal.

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COMPLAINTS:  My experience was nearly flawless.  With very close parking to the event, the competitive wave going off on time, the course marked well and volunteers present at key points, I had a great time.  As I was leaving, I noticed that cars were backed up pretty far for new racers coming into the festival.  Not sure if this negatively affected their experiences or not, but the parking situation was definitely looking a little rough for those racing later in the afternoon.

I could see people getting upset at the lack of timing chips (they just write down your name as you cross the line), but I did not think that was a big deal.  Although, I kind of wish there was for this specific race because the top three finishers were still in a pack with about three obstacles and about 50m of course left before the end.  Timing chips would have reflected the closeness of the race to those who were not present.

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OVERALL:  Although not my normal OCR, I do love throwing down at a Warrior Dash at least once a year.  The company offers a season pass at a price that is a steal ($125 for the full year of races), which should put it on your list if there is an event in your area.   I am not 100% sure why I still enjoy Warrior Dash events, maybe it is because Warrior Dash KY was my first OCR, maybe it is seeing all the new participants experiencing our sport for the first time, maybe it is the festival or maybe it is because they just do a good job with all aspects of the event.  Either way, I will continue to race Warrior Dash events as long as they keep that competitive heat.

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Photo Credit: Amy Perperis of Strength & Speed