Although I do like road races, they are becoming less interesting and (for me) more about timing/PB’s than anything else. The Colonel By/Queen Elizabeth Drive course is becoming so familiar that I know every curve, and even most homes/buildings.
Last year, P and I heard about the Warrior Dash – a trial race that features some intense obstacles in addition to running a very hilly course. Because I was pregnant, I did not get to run the race because it is a little dangerous compared to a typical 5K. I saw that Ontario would have a race, and we quickly signed up.
The race was great and I believe that if the scheduling allows for it – we will run it again next year (or the Spartan Race which is very similar).
Here is my review of the race:
Getting to the Race
The race was just a few minutes from Barrie. We stayed at my parents house and planned to travel up Saturday morning. Wanting to be there for 12:30pm, we left at 10am, giving us more than enough time to make the trek to Barrie (usually a 1 hour drive). We got stuck in traffic.
It ended up taking us 2.5 hours to get to the site, getting us there a mere 45 minutes before race time. Problem with that? We needed to park off-site, get our race packs and eat something.
It was a bit tight, but we made it. We managed to park and get our race kits, but eating did not happen. The Warrior Dash people did say that we could race in another wave if we didn’t make it, but that would have complicated things in terms of Max (who was at my parents house). Luckily the ride to the location and the race kit pick-up took only a few minutes and we managed to get to the start line with approximately 15 minutes to spare.
Funny thing – on the way home, it only took us 1 hour and 10 minutes……
The Race Course
You want to run this race? Do lots of hill training. I am not talking about the type of training that you might do over an overpass, or running up Green’s Creek in Ottawa (tobaggon hill by highway 174). I am talking about ski hills, big hills, steep hills. The hills were intense! Obstacles? Not so much.
The race started and we were introduced to a bit of trail running. Apparently they start the race with about 1 mile of straight running to try and break up the pack a bit. There were a few muddy sections where people lost their shoes, but nothing too major. We went up and down for a bit before we hit our first big hill in the trees. Once the hill appeared, many people started walking, including myself. Because of my knee issue last week and the fact that I am in the middle of training for a half-marathon, I chose to take it easy on the hills. However, some of the hills were so steep that even if I was being competitive, I would have had to walk up the hill. Even the downhills required some walking! Just before the first obstacle was one little downhill section that had people hanging on to neighbouring trees.
The obstacles that were listed on the official website were not the same ones that appeared on the course. Not sure why, but it didn’t really matter. However, my memory of the obstacles may be a bit off.
The first obstacle was a series of wooden platforms that you needed to climb over. They were similar to those steeple chase hurdles. They were not too bad, but the last couple were really high. We ran for a bit more and then had to go under some barbed wire (fun!) this required you to either army crawl or go on your hands and knees, so again no running at this point. There was some more trial running with some brutal hills. The last hill before the first water break was intense. At this point P said he needed to slow down a bit because he was over-heating. Looking behind me at several points, I could see a bunch of tired-looking people who were walking up the hills (I was walking too).
At the water break, I took an actual break (meaning I stopped) and waited for P. The big reason for this is the next section of the hill to the top of the ski lift was right in the sun and fairly steep. So, a break was taken and it helped me get up that hill. Once at the top, it was time to go down. By going down, I mean quite literally going down the ski hill. All I can say is thank goodness it wasn’t wet! A bunch of us were sliding down the hill and it was fairly tricky. There was absolutely no way that I was going to run down this hill unless I wanted to be like those cheese rolling runners at Cooper’s Hill. No, thanks!
The next obstacle after that was the ‘teetering traverse’ which P attempted first. That part made him a bit nervous or something because it took him awhile to get across. At first I charged up, but then realized the wood was a little woobly, so I slowed down. I got to the top and then stopped and said “well how the hell am I supposed to get down?” as it was like a slide. So, on my bum I went! It worked.
I believe the next obstacle was going under logs and barbed wire, which I did slow because of the knees. After that was one heck of a hill, followed by another water break. Once the break was down, the ground covering was fairly flat so I started running again. Next obstacle was a climb up a wall with aided by a rope. It wasn’t too bad. This was followed by a rope crossing that I saw lots of people having difficulty with. This one I charged through.
After I think one more hill, there was someone at the top saying that it was downhill for the rest. So I started booking it. The next obstacle was some sort of garbage bag slip n’ slide? Not sure what it was, but I just walked through it? This was followed by another climb up a ladder (easy), a cargo net (easy) and then the last two obstacles. The second last obstacle was a fire jump which was fun – I may have ‘hurdled’ it. The last stage was the famous mud pit with barbed wire overhead. The mud was thick! It was definitely the best obstacle in my mind! It wasn’t easy and it was really hard to stay upright! You also have no choice but to get muddy!
The mud pit is essentially at the finish line. Just get out, cross the ‘mats’ (I think they were there – was kinda hard to tell under all the mud) and boom done. I waited for P who came in about a minute and a half later.
All in all – the hills were brutal, but the obstacles were not. Not sure if the drought conditions had anything to do with it, but I felt that the obstacles were not hard at all, just fun. I was joking that the race should be called the ‘Warrior Hike’, since at the 1.5 mile mark it seemed that everyone was walking. Another thing I would like to add is that unlike road races in the city, this race was pretty quiet. I am not used to hearing everyone’s panting and heavy breathing. Also, because of the way the race is set up, you only race with a ‘handful’ of people (compared to 5000+ for big road races). It was a bit more fun to have a bunch of ‘buddies’ take part in the race.
I honestly thought I did shitty. I was hungry, hot and really not prepared for the hills. When the results were posted, I automatically looked at the bottom. When I couldn’t find my name easily, I hit the ‘find’ button. Surprisngly I came in 625/1265 for my age/sex category and 3757/6609 overall. My time was 53:21. For comparison purposes, the top time was 23:38 for a male runner. Usually for road races, the top runner is under 16 minutes (and I know I am under-estimating). Not bad for my first time! I think I can definitely go faster next time and probably hit the 45 minute mark.
After the race we needed food badly. We got a free beer (Coors light tall-boy) for finishing (bonus!), but still needed some eats. We got a turkey leg, sausage and corn on the cob. My Dad’s company supplied the bananas at the finish line (almost 100 cases) and the corn on the cob. We were very lucky and got the last two pieces of corn! The food hit the spot for sure. The turkey leg was really good but super big for me.
There was lots of music provided and it seemed that many people were making a day of it. I think that we want to spend more time next year at the race and just bring Max with us. We could easily sign up for different waves so that one of us could sit with Max.
I think that I will do this race again, but put a bit more effort in. Like many of my ‘racing firsts’ I took a cautious route and played it safe. Now that I know how the race is designed I can visualize it a bit better which will mean training a bit more differently for it. I also think I need to book it more during the flatter parts and not sit around the water cooler (ha!).
Other than the $20 parking fee and lack of Corn on the Cob, the Warrior Dash people had a great event. I strongly suggest that if you like to run and get muddy – to try this race!
Now some pictures!