I completed my second Warrior Dash! Awesome! I did not, however, meet my goal of not skipping any obstacles. The interesting part is that I’m actually, weirdly okay with that.
I was nervous before we started, but about 20 times less nervous than last year. I wasn’t sure why I felt worried at all, though–because I’d already done it and knew basically what to expect. Knowing what’s coming always helps me feel better prepared for new things. There were going to be some different obstacles, but I figured I could handle most of whatever they could throw at us. I had been running on uneven terrain and working on my upper body strength for the past couple of months, so at the very least I was better prepared than last year. I even managed to eat breakfast this time.
When we arrived at the ranch, I had zero time for nerves: I’d had too much to drink on the two hour drive, and I speedwalked the quarter mile or so to the PortaPotties while my group parked the cars.
We lined up near the back of our wave, and started with a cannon shot and took off at a good clip. We’d discussed beforehand how we wanted to run as a group, and agreed that it was to be fun and non-stressful, so there would be lots of walking involved. Worked perfectly for me, as my “running” is really more of a run/walk medley at the best of times.
By the time we reached the area where we’d had to crawl through an incredibly deep and soft mud pit last year, though, we were disappointed to still be jogging through really soft sand. And then my brother noticed that the entire pack seemed to have gone around a muddy area where the course flags were. We had passed it by this time, but it seems like the leaders maybe went around and then everyone else, unknowingly, followed? I was pretty disappointed, because it was one of the most fun obstacles last year, even if I did experience a moment of real terror (covered with helpless laughter) when my entire leg was stuck at one point.
Whatever, we carried on and did the first few obstacles. The second was a group of walls and barbed wire, similar to one last year but with higher walls. I got over all but one without assistance, and was super impressed with myself!
Soon we hit the first big wall: the map calls it Giant Cliffhanger (here’s a video of someone going over it). I can totally do this! my brain said. So I grabbed the rope and headed up. Once at the top, though, I could not figure out how to get my body over the peak. I was still hanging on to the rope, but needed to let go. There was nowhere to brace my feet, and my mind just sort of shut down as far as figuring out a way over. I let go of the rope and grabbed the edge of the board with my hands, but that didn’t last long. Terrified I was going to just let go and fall all the way down, I grabbed the rope again and tried to back down the wall. But I couldn’t get my feet back under myself, and halfway down the wall, the rope slipped through my hands: so I slid backwards down the rest of the angled pressboard on my knees, landing with a thump at my brother’s feet.
I knew I had scraped the hell out of my shins directly below my knees, and they hurt, but mostly I was embarrassed, so inevitably, tears of frustration sprang up. I walked around the obstacle, trying to get myself under control, because the only thing I can think of more embarrassing than falling off an obstacle is crying on the course.
I’m disappointed that the same wall as last year wasn’t among the obstacles, because I’d been practicing going up and over fences. Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I think I could have tackled that straight up and down wall this year.
We continued on to a water station, where I drank some and splashed some on my wounds, which I was trying not to look at. They were scraped pretty deeply, but I figured I’d get them bandaged up when I got back and be fine. (That’s half a lie; I also spent the next half hour asking my group if they thought I was going to develop necrotizing fasciitis from swimming in dirty water and have my legs removed. I’m a hypochondriac, okay?) I was a little worried about grinding dirt, mud, and disgusting water into the scrapes, but what are you going to do?
I did as many of the rest of the obstacles as I felt capable of: crawling through mud, splashing through a lake and then a canal, a tilted balance beam obstacle with a wall in the middle and huge jets of ice cold water, climbing over cars and tires, another balance beam about six feet in the air over nothing soft, and then the final fire jumping and mud pit. Crawling through mud was a bit of a disaster: my friends and people around me kept telling me to lower my butt, but I was trying so hard to crawl on my knees while keeping my shins up, it was hard to get in the right position. Luckily I know awesome people who unstuck me from several lengths of barbed wire.
I skipped two (unless I’m forgetting something): Chained Up and Vicious Valleys.The first I skipped because I felt like I might either slip and hit my wound with a chain, or need to kneel at the top to get over. The second I skipped because it was literally INSANE. There was a 30-minute wait even to get on, and then people were falling out, quitting in the middle, etc. I think there are more footholds in the diagram here than there were on the actual obstacle, so getting up and over that many peaks was really difficult for many people.
So we finished, finally (I tried to go slow through the fire jumping, hoping it would cauterize my shins) (just kidding), received our medals, and went in search of our beer.
My mom had come to watch my brother and I–partly because I have been restricted from driving, partly because she’s fun! and, bonus, to take pictures. Also I gave her my free beer, since they (so weird!) didn’t offer a gluten-free variety.
I took my time wandering around with everyone, and taking photos, before I decided to head over to the first aid tent to see if they could clean out my scrapes. I still had a three hour drive home, and while I didn’t mind being dirty, I was worried about infection. First the medics made me walk over to try to hose myself off more, so I wouldn’t have mud streaming down into the wounds. But the giant firehose shower really didn’t help all that much–when I finally rinsed out my clothes at home it took about ten minutes for them to stop running with dirt. So I did the best I could and went back, but all they could do was dab the scrapes with water and hydrogen peroxide and instruct me that when I got home I should wash them out. I had to beg for a bandage so they’d be covered at least in the dusty walk back to the car.
Once home, I spent an hour in the bathtub (after an initial shower) trying to gingerly clean all the dirt out of my scrapes. I figured I had done an okay job, but the next day I got hypochondriacky again, and went to an urgent care clinic to see if a doctor would recommend antibiotics. Because they were just scrapes, but goddamn they looked gross. (My brother wants me to post a picture of them here, but I don’t know if you’re eating or just have a sensitive stomach, so I won’t subject you to that.)
The doctor and nurse I saw both, separately, actually gasped and asked me what I had been doing. It was a little hard to explain, even with really elaborate hand motions, the exact mechanism of the event, but in any case, they told me the wounds were undoubtedly infected. They cleaned them out much better (with the bonus perk of lidocaine, thank god), and showed me how to bandage them until they scab over, plus sent me on my way with a prescription for some hardcore antibiotics. In sum, I am glad I went, to be safe.
So other than the painful open weeping sores on my legs that keep me up nights, how was my second Warrior Dash? I give it 10 out of 10, partly because I had fun, and partly because I learned a lot.
When I was getting nervous in the week before the race, Andy said to me (paraphrased):
You’re going to do it anyway, so being nervous now is just a waste of time. You can be nervous when you’re standing in front of a scary obstacle, but there’s no point in anticipating it.
I don’t know why, because I’ve heard this advice in one form or another for years before in my quest to vanquish anxiety, but it suddenly not only clicked in my brain, but literally turned off the nerves minutes after he said it. Magic? Who knows! But incredibly useful, and I can’t wait to put it into effect for another fear.
And I think that advice and feeling is partly why I’m feeling so good about the entire thing, even though I didn’t really meet my goals. Meh. So what? I had so much fun with my people, and did something scary. It also occurred to me later that one facet of my fear around this race was hurting myself. So basically the worst (not really the worst) happened.