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

Warrior Dash NY -The Heart of the Open Heat

I ran the Warrior Dash New York event this past weekend and I had a fun time.

For any experienced OCR athlete the words Warrior Dash and Fun should be synonymous at this point. But like any OCR it is what you make it and should be tempered by expectations.

Pre race excitement: photo courtesy Victoria Rose Skiff Pre Race Excitement: Photo Courtesy Victoria Rose Skiff

This was a shuttle parking event which sometimes deter me from doing an event all together but this was smooth and effortless. The volunteers kept the flow of cars into the parking field moving at a nice pace and the school buses used to shuttle were in abundance and constantly moving. After a 5 minute ride to the venue, it was time to check-in. Packet pickup was by last name and not bib number, which may have caused some delays for those whose last name began with an R/S. That particular line was massive where other letter lines were empty. Luckily an “N” wasn’t an overly popular last name when I checked in.

Warrior Dash has started a new registration this year which I personally was in favor of where others took issue. When you register, your fees include parking and bag check. So there was no stopping to pay for parking and bag check was expedited without having to pay on site. The now included fees is a debatable topic but I was personally a big fan of. Just don’t bring valuables as your bag really wasn’t secure in any way. I was able to freely walk into bag check after each lap to locate and utilize my bag without any volunteer to check that it was, in fact, my bag I was rummaging through.

Muddy Warriors Post Race: Photo Courtesy Meghann Kinsella Muddy Warriors Post Race: Photo Courtesy Meghann Kinsella

I ran 3 laps of their wooded, hilly course and in each lap had the opportunity to witness first hand, the heart and soul of OCR. After running the PA Warrior dash and multiple NJ warrior dash venues in previous years, this was my first run of their NY event. I was very pleasantly surprised with the terrain and venue itself. The PA/NJ locations were always generally flat and open area locations, containing minimal trail and elevation. The New York venue sent you uphill at several different points in the woods forcing you to actually slow your pace from the normal sprint of a warrior dash.

Participant coming down slide Participant Coming Down Slide: Photo Courtesy Gameface Media

The obstacles themselves were very do-able for anyone that has ever ran a Spartan Race, Savage Race, Battlefrog or any of the other big boys in the sport. When it came to the target audience of a Warrior Dash these obstacles could pose some challenges. One of the first obstacles(Fishermans Catch) encountered was a square wooden structure, with 5 or so lanes, each with varying overhead grip challenges. One lane contained all metal rings to traverse. Another lane was hanging ropes. A third option was a combination of rings,ropes, and slick straight bars. What made this obstacle even more interesting was the water spraying upwards from the base in all different directions with a rope netting underneath to maneuver across if you opted not to test your grip. Something like this was easily completed for the average OCR athlete but again, for open heat racers this posed a challenge, and a fun one at that.

There was wide balance beams with water shooting from the base, mud mounds that required assistance later in the day when the mounds were slick and wet. Multiple wooden climbing structures and a newer obstacle introduced last year called Pipeline which is an enclosed circular rope obstacle that requires most to lay down on their stomach or back and navigate through, being too narrow to stand and maneuver. It reminds me of a Chinese finger trap, in that you can’t apply pressure solely to the center of the roping as it would tighten around you.

Warrior-Dash-New-York-Pipline Obstacle “Pipeline“:  Photo Courtesy Gameface Media

At previous events the most popular obstacle, Goliath, would have a balance beam several feet in the air with water spraying up from underneath you, followed by a short climb up to the slide into a water pit(my favorite part). They seemed to of broken this up a bit having the balance beam with spraying water(mentioned earlier) in the beginning of the course, leaving Goliath a wooden beam climb up to the slides. Usually the most highly anticipated obstacle by all attendees. By my third lap the climbing section to get to the slides was blocked off. The volunteer redirecting racers stated the water level at the base of the slides became too low and they needed to fill it up. Goliath is the last obstacle prior to crossing the finish and without direction to go directly to the finish, participants were going around the slide, to the water pit, jumping in and making their way through the pit to the finish. Of course ,monkey see, monkey do, I jumped in and enjoyed being sprayed with 3 high pressure hoses as I made my way through a waist deep water pit. (I later saw unconfirmed reports that the low water level resulted in multiple lower body injuries to ankles and legs resulting in the closure of the slide). After doing the slide 2x already this was a fun change up to end the race.

image Muddy Love: Photo Courtesy Steve Longo

Throughout the day I witnessed many people with fitness levels not comparable to what you’d normally find at a Spartan Race or Battlefrog. It was very refreshing to witness large groups of people not in a rush, smiling, laughing and having fun. There were no egos and no sound of an “Aroo”. One woman whom I assisted in completing the mud mounds, if I had to guess in her mid 40’s and later told me this was her first race of this type, was so grateful for a helping hand and a encouragement that she referred to me as her “saving grace”. She was so happy, and so proud to accomplish a feat many reading this would find basic. Every time I run a Warrior Dash it reinforces the belief that the heart of this sport is in the open heat. This was a truly fun event and I look forward to running many more.

image Warrior Dash Medal Table: Photo Courtesy Gameface Media


 

Warrior Dash Atlanta: Race Review

When you’re only minutes away from arriving at a race venue, your phone rings, and you see it’s someone on your team calling, you immediately ask yourself two questions, “What’s wrong?” and “Are we still running?”. The answer to the first was “We may be lost…” and fortunately within the hour the answer to the second was “Yes”. Back in February, I received an email from the folks at Warrior Dash informing me there had been a location change due to “some changes with the venue”. As expected, this message included the address for the new location, however, navigating to said location using Waze or Google Maps brings you here:
Livestock at the Googled Warrior Dash LocationI’ve encountered an ass or two at races over the past year but never one that looked like this. I found the rest of my team along with quite a few other warriors on the side of the road all checking related web pages, forums, and Facebook groups in an attempt to find out how far off we all were. It was slightly comforting to know we weren’t the only team lacking navigational fortitude. Thankfully, a good samaritan drove by with windows down telling those of us suffering from spatial unawareness, as well as anyone in the general vicinity, the entrance was less than a mile down the road in the opposite direction. I understand this venue was Plan B for the folks who run Warrior Dash, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that someone could have put a few makeshift signs out on Monroe Jersey Rd. that morning. Surely, between February and April, someone had checked Google Maps and noted the discrepancy between the actual geographic waypoint and mailing address. Out of curiosity, I just checked and interestingly enough, Mapquest, which I didn’t know was still a thing, nailed the location.Alternate Location for Warrior Dash AtlantaMy first impression of the festival area was that, while all the mainstays were there (beer tent, bag check, merch shop), it felt like it had all been jammed into a slightly smaller space than intended. The length of the bag check line was ridiculous; so immediately after checking in and picking up my race packet, I went right back to the car and dropped my bag there. Smaller event space = closer parking = awesome. The hose off and changing areas were quite close as well; so we had that going for us, which was nice, Unfortunately, the bathroom facilities were entirely too close to everything else too. This seemed benign until it became an issue later in the morning when some sort of malfunction occurred. I didn’t investigate further, but let’s just say it was evident. I suppose when dealing with a backup venue scenario, you have to make adjustments to the plan on the fly, so it’s difficult to fault Warrior Dash for any shortcomings like this. Overall, the vast majority of the event layout was perfectly fine despite these ‘proximity flubs’. The only other thing I happened to notice was that the Shocktop tent didn’t appear to be serving the Twisted Pretzel Wheat Ale. I prayed I just wasn’t seeing it as that is one of my very favorite brews.Warrior Dash Atlanta Starting LineOnto the race!

Now, my race history thus far has consisted of challenging myself and testing my limits with intense events in the vein of Spartan, Savage, and Battle Frog. Each has been a unique experience and valuable lesson in what I can do, what I can’t do, and most importantly what I need to work on. I’d been looking forward to Warrior Dash because I knew it was the ‘fun run’ of the obstacle race community. It’s the one John Q. Public comes out to run with his buddies for something enjoyable and different to do on the weekend or with his co-workers as a team building activity or to raise money for St. Jude. For me, there was nothing by which to be intimidated this time. I’d finished much more difficult mud runs and was really excited to attack it without worrying about specific obstacles. While I wasn’t in a competitive wave, I promised myself I’d run for time for the first time to see what I could do.

The corral was small and we were right up front. Due to the navigation issues discussed previously, we missed our wave time by a few minutes. I was pleased to find out no one was really checking assigned times or seemed to care. I imagine I could’ve run the course a few times without anyone taking notice. I was also pleased to hear the laid back demeanor of the race starter. I don’t care how pumped I am to begin a race, sometimes those guys are a bit over the top and downright obnoxious early in the morning. After a few of his appropriate “Warrior!” cries, answered by our “Dash!” responses, we were off. I immediately felt a blast of heat and it threw me off for a second because I couldn’t figure out where it came from. Later after I finished the race, I saw the pyrotechnic fireballs that accompanied the starters. Very cool effect and much less of an odor than colored smoke bombs.

Within a minute or so of starting, I encountered my first obstacle. It was a pond. Nothing flashy or intimidating; just a pond. As I mentioned, I was running for time and I started at the head of the pack so at this point so early in the wave, there wasn’t anyone to follow and I thought for a moment that I’d already lost the trail. Nope. They wanted us to run the entire course drenched or at a bare minimum with soaked shoes. It was difficult to tell how deep it got. This particular body of water only rose to knee level, but it wasn’t the last.Warrior Dash Atlanta Pond ObstacleSoon after skirting the edge of the pond, I came upon something called the Diesel Dome, which is odd because it’d be more aptly referred to as an arch and from what I can tell had no connection with fuel whatsoever. It was constructed with smaller, more flexible lumber than I’m used to seeing in similar structures on other courses. Other than that, it was pretty unremarkable and easy to negotiate. It struck me as nothing more than makeshift playground equipment, but at least it got the ball rolling in the obstacle department which up until this point had consisted of a pond.Warrior Dash Atlanta Diesel DomeNext came the mounds of mud. There were three deep valleys separated by three high mounds of the earth that created them. I liked this particular obstacle a lot because the mounds were steep enough to be challenging but dry enough to avoid the frustration of constant slipping. Any slippage was due to loose dirt as opposed to slick, wet mud. I passed without any notable difficulty though I did notice a few racers in the vicinity had some trouble with the steep incline from valley to peak. Maybe I am getting better at this mud run business after all.
Following the mounds came the first impressive man-made structure of the day. The Warrior Dash pipeline wasn’t difficult to climb up and through but it was most certainly a sight to see for anyone who’s built a deck, a treehouse, or something similar. The cargo net tubes were a bit rough on the knees and I was about half way across when I discovered I was small enough to bear crawl keeping the soles of my shoes on the rope instead of my knees and shins. Lesson learned.Warrior Dash Atlanta PipelineSo, approaching the next obstacle called Shocktop Unfiltered will briefly lead one to believe they are nearing the festival area again due to the copious Shocktop logos and signage. In actuality, this obstacle is a series of barriers in line with one another and laid out almost like a small obstacle course within the obstacle course of which you’re already in the middle. It’s a series of ramps, low walls to alternately go over and under, and a nice size cloth covering under which to crawl. Each piece had Shocktop logos emblazoned on it that could likely have been seen from space. Frankly, I think the inclusion of this obstacle is really more of a way to get the sponsor logo on the course than anything. Like most of the course, it was great fun, but not particularly challenging. That said, this one is unique to Warrior Dash and I love the signature obstacles you can only find at one event.Shocktop Unfiltered at Warrior Dash AtlantaWhen the advertising blitz was over, it was back in the water. Alcatraz was calling my name and that made for two signature obstacles in a row. This obstacle is simple enough on paper, but somewhat awkward to attempt as you have to start climbing a cargo net while you’re still in the water. The structure itself is made of hollow plastic pieces lashed together, then covered will cargo netting that drapes over each end into the water. I swam out without issue, crawled out of the water and rolled onto Alcatraz pretty quickly. I only had a problem on the backside when I jumped back in the lake to head back to shore. The depth on the back side seemed much deeper than the front side. I dropped in thinking the water level would be at my chest or chin when in fact I went a few feet under. For making such an inaccurate assumption, I was rewarded with a gnarly mouth full of lake water and subsequently rinsed and spit at both water stops thereafter.Alcatraz at Warrior Dash AtlantaI’ll take this opportunity to interrupt play-by-play to make note of something I really like about Warrior Dash because this is the point in the race it made an impression on me. Humorous signs are peppered throughout the course for no other reason than to entertain the runners. I liked this one in particular, but in fairness, mid-stride I thought it read, “If you lived here, you’d be home by now… you’d also buy a beer.” Is there any question about my motivation to complete these events?Warrior Dash Trail SignBack to the race. Right about the time most of the excess water from the lake had left my clothing, Warrior Summit made its appearance. This was simply an A-Frame with knotted ropes hanging down either side from its peak. Climb up one side, then rappel down the other. No problem. While my Achilles heel is still a vertical, unknotted rope climb (and thankfully Warrior Dash has none), I can traverse obstacles like this pretty easily now. Similar obstacles at other races have been challenging for me due to the need to really use your body weight against the obstacle in combination with a tight grip on the rope to succeed. Here, the angle wasn’t bad at all and it seemed like it was over before it began which in terms of a race is a good thing I suppose, however, I feel like obstacles with climbing ropes should present a little more difficulty. Then again, this is Warrior Dash and I did see some folks struggling. In hindsight, this may very well have been another indicator that my OCR skill set is improving.Warrior Dash SummitOne obstacle about which I was aware but had forgotten about until I came upon it was the trenches. Once again, not a hard obstacle, but more of a mental challenge especially for those participants who’ve ever felt claustrophobic or had a fear of being buried alive. Fortunately, the covering strung across the trenches let in the natural light; this would have been a bear to accomplish in the dark. So, the only real issue I had here was that the soil was quite rocky. Crawling through was extraordinarily rough on bare knees.Warrior Dash TrenchesI’m neither sure what was so risky about Risky Business nor could I figure out a connection between the obstacle and the movie of the same name. The objective was to cross a balance beam while overhead water jets attempted to throw you off balance. Much like the Warrior Summit, this obstacle barely factored into my race day experience.Risky Business at Warrior DashAnother skill on which I need to improve is crossing monkey bars, hanging rings, rigs, and the like. I just don’t have the upper body strength or control to go end to end on these things yet, but I’m getting there. When I ran up on Fisherman’s Catch, I saw the hanging rings and was sure I’d finally come to a Warrior Dash obstacle I couldn’t finish. When I got closer, I saw they were in reach of a cargo net at the bottom of the apparatus. I could walk right across without ever touching a ring. It almost felt like cheating to have it there. Again, there were jets of water in play to distract you, though I found them to be more of an annoyance than anything. My few seconds of self-doubt were quickly out of mind and I was able to proceed without using any upper body strength or any delay.Warrior Dash Fisherman's CatchGoliath is a big waterslide. I’m not sure what else there is to say about it. It was fun like most waterslides tend to be and the volunteer at the top was probably the friendliest and most encouraging volunteer I’ve ever encountered at a race. Make no mistake, this was tame in comparison to anything like Savage Race’s Colossus. I would’ve preferred something taller and a bit more intense.

Warrior Dash Goliath SlideIt was time for everyone’s favorite obstacle race photo opportunity, the fire jump. It’s standard fare at most races; here referred to as Warrior Roast. I will say one thing I thought was notable. Whoever was feeding the fire was doing a great job as there was a good line of tall, bright flames. I have quite a few photos of myself doing this at other races in which I appear to be jumping over blackened logs that were smoldering at best which isn’t too impressive after the fact. I imagine the weather, natural light, shade, wood, fuel, and likely a few other dynamic conditions play a part in that, so I lucked out at Warrior Dash. Immediately after the “roast”, was the deepest, stickiest mud pit I’ve entered in any race. Muddy Mayhem was just that. Many struggled to get out to reach the finish line and the thing absolutely painted people brown from head to toe to ensure a good photo as well as a nasty hug for the otherwise clean volunteers.Warrior Dash Muddy Mayhem and Finish LineAnd just like that, I was done. I’d run for time and I didn’t disappoint myself. Passing every obstacle and not taking any breaks to walk was a first for me and resulted in a time of 41 minutes. I was very pleased. While I didn’t find this race particularly challenging, I had a fantastic time running it and that’s what’s most important for me personally. I’m not an elite athlete and have yet to register for a competitive wave anywhere, so my primary objective is to have fun. I certainly achieved it at Warrior Dash. I would recommend it to anyone looking for their first obstacle race experience….unfortunately, it’s not for those looking to have a cold Shocktop Twisted Wheat Ale. As I suspected after first walking around the event area, the good stuff was nowhere to be found. Fortunately, one can survive on Belgian White variety in a pinch.Warrior Dash Atlanta Finish Line and Medals

Becoming a Warrior

Warrior Dash. Almost anyone in the OCR community has heard of this race. I myself, being fairly new to obstacle course racing, had heard of the event and was excited to attempt it. I went into the day only knowing what I had heard through word of mouth. I was expecting a challenge. A struggle. A personal test. A memorable day.

Unfortunately, I left the event that day slightly disappointed. I feel that this disappointment may have arisen simply from the idea I had set beforehand. Maybe I had only listened to positive things participants had to say. Maybe I built up competitors views in my mind and was looking for so much more. Either way, I had established these expectations for Warrior Dash that it was not ready to fulfill.

I participated in the Florida event February 6, 2016. It was a chilly and rainy day, most would see this as ideal mud weather but as a Floridian I was hoping for warmer weather. The check in process went smooth and I was almost immediately headed to the starting line. The emcee was doing a great job building up the crowd, getting everyone excited, lifting the spirits of those who second-guessed signing up for this event. I can’t lie; he made me feel this sense of thrill and an eagerness to see what awaited me on the course. It is regrettable now to see that I was just getting more worked up to feel left unsatisfied.

photo by Fredy Quintero

The course was definitely a family friendly course. I now know that Warrior Dash is a great event to go to if you are going with children or if this is to be your first experience in the OCR community. This was not an event that excited me. I was expecting big structures and flashy obstacles and new things to try. Instead I was presented with an icy lake swim, a few balance beams, and an extra large slide. Prior to participating in Warrior Dash, I thought that I was going to have moments of struggle and pain. Now that I have seen what it has to offer, I wish I had brought my son with me, and he is almost four.

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This is not to be an overall complaint or critique of the event, but instead I hope to change how it is viewed to newcomers. This is not the race for the adrenaline junkie. This is not for the person looking to scale numerous walls and jump from cliffs and feel like they have conquered the world. This is for someone who wants to enjoy the community around them. This is for people who are not only looking for a helping hand, but who are willing to lend one themselves. This is for those who do not care about race time but instead care about the experience. Warrior Dash is where you can arrive without a team and leave with one. It is impossible for you to not make friends on the course.

Photo by Page Barningham

At the end of the day, I had completed an enjoyable 3.1 miles of a new course and ended up with some sweet gear. Finishers earned themselves a shirt, a furry red hat, and an awesome bottle-opener medal. I will say that the hat is a little tacky and cheap, but it does make for some silly finisher photos. I feel that the shirt could have been more original and I heard that it ran uncomfortably small for others, but I do not do events for the shirt so I didn’t mind. The medal is pretty neat though, I definitely liked hanging it on my wall with my others.

Photo by Felix Cruz

Overall, I can see why people have a love for this race. It is clear that it is more about the community than the event itself. People love making each other smile and building one another up. I would gladly bring my family on this course again if I was seeking a bonding experience with them. If I was looking to thrill seek and have an adventure with some of my friends, I will hunt down a different event. I have earned my horns, but one set is enough for me.