Mud. Sweat. Beer. That’s what the sign at the entrance to the 2011 Warrior Dash- Minnesota said. The smell of turkey legs grilling wafted through the air and mud covered people were everywhere. An 80’s rock band was jammin’ in the background and we were nearly giddy with anticipation of what was promised by the event organizers to be “the craziest frickin’ day of our lives.”
|Thousands of people everywhere!|
The Warrior Dash, a brainchild of the Red Frog Events company out of Chicago, is touted as “the ultimate event for thrill-seeking athletes.” The dash is a 5k race with 10 or so obstacles tossed in for fun. On the weekend of July 22 and 23, nine warriors, myself included, from Clara City traveled to Afton Alps by Hastings, along with over 19,000 other warriors, to compete in (or at least complete) the first Warrior Dash to be held in Minnesota.
Meghan Wiebe ran on Saturday followed by the crew of Cindy Wilkens, Julie Rognlie, Merideth Mueller, and Shannon Groothuis who ran at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday. My group included Chris Wiebe, my friend Londa Burns from Montevideo, and my sons Page Hoffman and Taylor Bodin. We ran the Sunday noon race.
For our group, it all started innocently enough. A simple Facebook question posted by Chris Wiebe back in November started it all. “Anybody interested in running this (he had posted a link to the website) with me next year? Let me know.”
|Meghan Wiebe in the mud pit!|
Not having a clue what the “Warrior Dash” was I quickly looked it up and then messaged my kids. It looked like a lot of fun and we all thought, “It’s only a 5k with a few obstacles tossed in, we can do that no problem!” We signed up back in January and already the Saturday dashes (waves of 500 went every half hour) were full. At that time, over 15,000 people were predicted to race. Ultimately nearly 20,000 people signed up to be a warrior.
According to race organizers, Warrior Dashes are “held on the most demanding and unique terrain from around the world. Participants will take on intense obstacles…”
Even though we all knew this event would be tough, we didn’t expect it to actually be as physically and mentally challenging as it was. After all, how tough could this terrain be? This was a ski park in Minnesota, not the Rocky Mountains. We all learned rather quickly, never to underestimate the power of a hill, even if it is in Minnesota.
The race started off rather tamely with a short ¼ mile or so run. Then the fun began.
Ahead of us was a giant ski hill, you know, the kind that requires a chairlift to get to the top. A quick look around and already 75% of the people had quit running and were walking. Meghan Wiebe, who had already completed the race on Saturday, had warned us about the first hill but nothing really could have prepared us for the length, slope, and sheer difficulty. Rognlie remarked “The first hill was like OMG what did we do!” The only one to actually “run” the entire course was Bodin who agreed with the rest of us that the hills were definitely the worst. We all “competed” at our own level which left me way behind the bulk of the competitors including the crew I signed up but that was expected given the diverse level of fitness in our group.
After the killer first hill, the course leveled off and soon we met the first obstacle fittingly called “Road Rage.” A scramble through tires and over crushed cars- it wasn’t too bad. Then came the “Treacherous Tyhpoon,” where I discovered that it is possible to nearly drown without being submersed in water.
|Shannon Groothuis, Cindy Wilkens, Julie Rognlie, and Merideth Mueller. The 8:00 a.m. crew!|
None of us really thought water blasting out of cannons would be a big deal (which in retrospect seems odd.) All you had to do was run through it, right? Suddenly the water hits you. You can’t see. You can’t breath. And it doesn’t seem to end. A brief moment of panic sets in before you finally escape while desperately gasping for air.
After emerging from the typhoon the course headed downhill! After the grueling first hill, we figured we had to be heading back down for the rest of the race. No more hills, just the obstacles. Ahh, a feeling of euphoria rushes in! That is until you look up and realize that the course heads back uphill.
Throughout the rest of the race the course twisted and turned, up and down the slopes. Just when you thought you had to be done with the hills, there was another one and another one.
Soon, the obstacles began to pop up more frequently as there hadn’t been any since the “typhoon.” By this time in the race competitors were widely spread apart separating the fittest from the fit and the fit from the rest of us. In fact, Bodin nearly finished the race before I made it up the first hill.
One of the most physically challenging obstacles, at least for me, was a series of nearly five foot walls to go over alternated with wood and barbed wire walls that were to be crawled under. It was brutal. Luckily when I crossed this obstacle I was alone because I’m sure it wasn’t a pretty sight.
Most of the remaining obstacles weren’t too bad we all concurred. A cargo net crawl, a 15’ cargo net climb, a crawl through a dark, steamy hot tent- all were challenging for each of us in our own way.
Wilkens commented, “I made it all the way up cargo net but the person in front of me stopped and that’s when I made the mistake of looking down and down is where I needed to go! I am so afraid of heights!” She continued, “Shannon (Groothuis) rocked the cargo nets and the wall. Mar (Mueller) was great at the hills.”
For some of us , the “Warrior Wall” posed the greatest challenge. The “Wall” was a 12’ wall with a rope to climb it, a rope and inch-wide boards every few feet. The guys didn’t have a problem with it as they all said “it was easy.” A few of us though definitely did not agree.
|Some random costumed guys.|
“The wooden wall got me,” Rognlie said. “half way up and I got too far away from the wall and had to drop.” As for me? I made it but I have no idea how. I pulled with absolutely everything I had, I think every muscle in my shoulder region exploded, but I made it.
After that it was down hill, through some mud, over some teeter totters, and of course one more dash up a hill before the final three obstacles, the really fun ones.
First up was a giant slip-n-slide that went at minimum, 50’ downhill. Then was the leaps over fire and the final challenge, a mud-crawl under barbed wire. All relative “pieces of cake” compared to the rest of the course. After emerging from the mud pit, it’s only a few short feet to the finish line where your warrior medal awaits.
For our warrior-like efforts, we received a tee-shirt, warrior helmet, the medal, and a free beer. Definitely worth it. The top three competitors received actual metal swords and metal warrior helmets and of course, bragging rights.
Everyone took away a little something different home from the day. Rognlie crossed it off her bucket list (but will do it again), Chris Wiebe said it was really fun cheering on friends and family, and all of us agreed that just finishing the race was pretty awesome. Even though there were times during the race that some of us thought we couldn’t go any farther you cross the finish line, your adrenaline soars, and you are sure you could do it all again right then if you had to. Hearing my friends and family cheering as I came down the final hill was something I’ll never forget.
Incredibly, Bodin finished 20th out of nearly 19,500 competitors over the two days. Hoffman finished in the top 1000 or so and Chris Wiebe in approximately the top 3600. All noteworthy achievements. For the record, I finished in 18,956th, nearly an hour behind Bodin and the last of the Clara City nine.
Although the event wasn’t held for a specific charity, like many races are, the event company “hired” charity groups to help staff the dash where groups could make up to $1,000.00 for their work. Also, participants had the chance to donate their muddy shoes for recycling into shoes for people without, a pretty worthy cause.
|After! The Sunday noon group. Me, Chris Wiebe, Page Hoffman, Taylor Bodin and Londa Burns|
At the end of the day, we all agreed it’s something we’d do again, despite the killer hills. In fact we are already making plans for next year’s event. This time, we are planning costumes, part of the event if you want it to be and we are really going to train in an effort to make the hills a bit easier, if that is possible.
The event organizers didn’t disappoint. The Warrior Dash definitely was one of the “craziest frickin’ days of our lives.”
“It was so fun,” said Wilkens. “I thought it was going to be really hard, but it was just so much fun! This race is not about how fit you are but if you are a warrior,” she laughed. “We encouraged each other and had a lot of laughs.”
“I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good time,” concluded Meghan Wiebe.
We all definitely agree.