Monday, January 02, 2012

New Year.... New Beginnings

So it's that time of year again. You know what I'm referring to. Yup, New Years resolution(s) time. I honestly can't say that I have any this year. Well outside of being more committed to my training regime this year. I also plan on reading more. Oh and to shoot more photography. Oh and to focus on a more minimalistic lifestyle. And to ... awww crap!! So I mentioned that I wanted to be more committed to the workout regime. Well that actually started back in November. At the start of November I created my first Annual Training Plan, as described in the Joe Friel's The Triathlete's Training Bible. It was created to lead me to a couple of "peak" weeks. Peak weeks are weeks in which your trying to perform at your absolute best. They are associated with your "A" races, the races where time is most important to you. Most "age groupers" like myself may have 1 or 2, at most 3, of these a year. More than that and, as I've discovered, your just going to burn yourself out. So what are my "A" races this year. It wouldn't be a race season without the now annual trip to Trinona in Winona MN. By far my favorite race of the season. My other "A" race this year is the Square Lake 1/2 Ironman. I intended to this one this past September, however, a number of changes at work made keeping to the training schedule virtually impossible. I think I've worked through those changes now and should be able to get back to that dedication. I have signed up to do another full marathon. We'll see if I can beat my time. I do plan on doing Warrior Dash again this year and a couple 5/10Ks as well. So what do I plan to do with the blog this year? Well, I want to hold myself accountable to the training schedule. So I intend to publish a set of weekly numbers. Certainly I want to post my race experiences. And most importantly, I intend to talk a bit smack. My primary rival (@TheBiggTree on Twitter) seems to be getting his act together. We'll need to remind him of exactly how many races he beat me at last year.... oh wait, there wasn't one. Ooops. Ok moving on. So yeah, its that time of year again. Time to start taking things serious.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Warrior Dash Race Report

Post Race

Yesterday I did Warrior Dash up at Afton Alps. I'm not a skier so this was my first time there. Pretty cool place with some nice scenery. My wave/heat started at ten and they suggested getting there an hour and a half ahead of your wave, which I think was about right. Having never driven there my caravan left at 7:30. This was plenty of time to get there (note to self Google Maps and Map quest generally over estimate time). 

Parking was smooth. There is however no parking at Afton Alps.  There are three massive fields (think Renaissance Festival) they use for parking  and they are locate about 3 miles away from the event. Each one is progressively farther away. The closest one is obviously where the shuttle picks up (I was able to park in this lot and it was only 1/2 full when I got there around 8:30-8:45). When we went back to the car it appeared that the other 2 lots had to either walk from them to the shuttle, or ride wagon to the far end of the first lot and walk from there. So definitely a plus in being in that first lot.  They had plenty of school buses running so the line moved extremely fast, barely had to wait.

Packet pick up went pretty quick to (once I found it - The sign for the Turkey Legs was bigger than the one for registration!!). They did the usual breakout by last name.  The nice thing is the swag bag wasn't filed with all the crap ads and fluff. Just your number, chip, t-shirt, and warrior helmet. One thing here, they don't give you zip ties or a strap for your timing chip. They do give you safety pins for your number. So you'll might want to bring something if you don't want to mess with your shoe laces. The timing chip doesn't have to be returned but if you go to the beer tent, they'll give you a free beer for it.

Your gonna get messed up on this course so there is a "gear check" service. On your bib is a tag that you can attach to a bag. There was only a limited number of safety pins available for attaching this however. So again you might want to bring something. The tag has your bib number on and is your "key" to getting your stuff back. So don't toss your bib right after the race. One other tip. Whatever bag you bring, make sure it closes all the way. Don't rely on the swag bag they give you, which is just a simple plastic shopping bag. Reason I say this is they just toss your bag on/under a series of tables grouped by bib number. I didn't see it happen but I could see where stuff could get lost pretty easy.  In my bag I packed a towel, change of shorts, socks, shoes, t-shirt, my wallet, and iPhone. Compression shorts under the shorts stayed relatively "clean" and kept the mud out of unwanted places. 

Ok, registration is done and gear is checked. One thing before we get into the goods. The course on the web site didn't exactly match race day. The repel wasn't there and the order of some of the obstacles was different. I also heard a rumor that one of the obstacles (hurdle with barb wire) had to be shutdown as the footing wasn't too secure and people where actually getting into the barbwire!

The race. When you sign up you pick the wave/heat you want to start in.  I don't know for sure how many people they had per heat, but it was pretty good size. The "corral" they stage you in was probably 60ft wide by 30yrds deep. You could get a lot people in it. If your in fairly decent shape  I recommend working your way to the front of the corral. Talking to some people afterwards, some of the obstacles got a little crowded, so your going to want to be running towards the front. The start line is marked with a big metal arch with the Warrior Dash logo and gas torches on either side. The DJ at the start line does a pretty good job of getting you all whipped up into angry mob of warriors just before sending you out. It also didn't hurt that at my start time, mother nature was supplying one heck of a lighting and thunder show. It was right out of the second Lord of the Rings the know scene where the orcs/goblins are trying to invade the castle as the rain starts to fall. It was crazy, but anywho...So they send you out and its a short little run before you hit the first hill. I mentioned this was at Afton Alps right. Ski Resort. So when I say hill I mean MOUNTAIN! Ouch. Oh and it did have a false summit about 2/3rds the way up. Double ouch. Once on top its a short 100-200yrd sprint to the first obstacle. A junk yard/tire drill. Theres a series of tires laid out in front of a line of partially crushed cars that form a hurdle. That pattern repeats 4 times.  How you get across is entirely up to you.  After that is a short 50yrd sprint to the next obstacle -- The Terrible Typhoon. Tip here, wear sunglasses! What they do is they line up 3 or 4 of the snow machines on the right/left sides of a 20yrd wide shoot and turn them on full bore. Run fast and hard... straight ahead. The footing was/is pretty solid. Ok, now your soaked and your feet are wet. Your on top of the hill. Can you guess whats next? Yup. You get to go straight down the opposite side of that hill you just came up and its about the same slope. Can you say NOOOOO traction. Somehow I made it down without ending up on my rear. A lot of people didn't though. At the bottom there is a bend to the right and then guess what.... Yup up another hill. 1/2 way up is a photographer, make sure to smile. If you can!  2/3rds the way up is a water stop and at the top is the next obstacle. Its a 4.5ft hurdle followed by a barbwire fence. BTW when I say barbwire. I'm not referring to the stuff farmers use for cattle. Nooooo, I'm talking about the stuff that law enforcement and the military use. Nice, good, and sharp.  At any rate that pattern repeats 4 times. Back to running... Down the hill you just came up. Again the footing is pretty slick. At the bottom is a little valley you run through, and the mud begins to make an appearance. Its pretty easily avoided. Which I recommend. You'll have plenty opportunity to get mud covered later. Opposite end of the valley is yet another hill. I admit it, this one cracked me. 1/2 way up I had to walk. ~2/3rds the way up is the next obstacle. Its a low crawl through a tent. Its not much of an obstacle, but going from daylight into pitch black created by the tent, results in little to no vision until your almost through. Inside the tent are just a series of wood barriers that make sure you crawl. Get out of the tent and its back to climbing the hill. At the top of the hill is a cargo net climb. Its probably 25ft tall. One heck of a view from the top! So up and over, pretty straight forward. Then back to running. Down the opposite side of the hill. This time its a much longer decent. If your in a early morning heat and there is dew on the hills, this one could be bad. At the bottom of the hill is a pretty significant sandy area. The sand is really deep so it does a good job of breaking forward momentum. Make the turn  to the left and the next obstacle is in sight. A 12-16ft high rope wall. This thing is made a lot easier by the 2x4 strips nailed across the wall. Up and Over (back side has a ladder).  Back to running. Now the mud is getting more frequent as your going through this marshy area. It won't be possible to avoid the mud but do the best you can as at the opposite end is a narrow beam obstacle. This thing is a ramp about 4in wide and peaks at about 5ft off the ground. Footing is tricky with mud covered shoes. On the other end is the last freakin hill of the course. This one isn't nearly as long or steep but at the base of this thing is about ankle deep mud. Nothing like turning your old/used  super lightweight running shoes into 5lbs ankle weights! At the top of the hill is a 30-40ft water slide. Take a running start at it though if you going for time. You need a little ummph to avoid getting stuck. Keep your head on swivel too. I had a guy come down right behind me and just about take me out.  About 50yrds later is the last timed obstacle. The fire pit. This is actually a line of logs set on fire. Logs are good size though so you do have to jump over them (one guy did flip/summersault!). Get across and the timing mats are right below the photographer. Next, up is the signature obstacle of Warrior Dash. A mud pit that is covered with barbwire, through which you must low crawl.  YOU WILL BE COVERED IN MUD, HEAD TO TOE. How much of your head gets mud covered is up to you. But it is something of a badge of honor to go "whole hog" if you know what I mean. This thing was maybe 3ft deep and a good 10yrds long. At the end of the pit is a photographer. Smile! Out of the mud pit and its a muddy trek to the finish line (10-15yrds).  When you cross, they'll hang your medal around your neck. Water and Bananas are right there too (good luck eating a banana with mud covered hands).

So your covered head to toe in mud. Now what?!? You head over the clean up area. This really amounts to 1 of 2 options. Standing in front of a snow machine on full bore or a honest to God fire house. Both of which were ICE COLD!! I was shaking and my teeth were chattering by the time I was done. Be prepared to spend some time here. First your doing this with 40 of your new best friends so it takes a while to get to the front. Second, the mud takes a long time to get off. Especially, if you stood around taking pictures while it hardens (as I did, oops!). The mud is now relatively off you but your still soaked. You could change clothes in the porta poties. But other people are doing this too, so by the time I got there, the inside is coated in mud. My recommendation, bring a big towel and wrap it around you and just discretely change under it.  Compression shorts (and bras for you laddies) helps with the modesty factor here. Lets just say everyone is pretty understanding about the situation your in. I'd also recommend washable sandals as your footwear post race. Yeah, the post race fun is away from the mud. But you won't exactly want your sunday bests either. There is a place were you can donate your race sneakers. Trust me, after the race your not gonna want to tote those bad boys home. One last thing, at this point re-apply your sunscreen too. There isn't much if any shade at the post race party. 

Post-race festivities. All the food and beer is run off a ticket system. 1 ticket is equal to a dollar. So you need to purchase those before you can get anything to eat (outside of the free beer associated with your timing chip). How much cash do you need? Well, a turkey leg (again think renaissance festival) is 6 tickets. A grilled chicken breast is 5, brat is 4, soda/water are 2. Beers were also 6. One thing of note. They say outside food/beverage is banned, but I didn't see that enforced. Basically, if you don't tote in a cooler I think you could get away with it.  As for whats to do after the race. There are live bands and a DJ, a large 20ft screen showing people in the mud pit, and the people watching is just crazy!! Some of the costumes and outfits where pretty nuts. Along those lines, I don't think I would consider this a "family" affair. There isn't anything for the little kids to do. So they'll get bored. There were also a number of people who were quite proud of the physiques. So if your on the prudish side of the fence you might wanna steer clear too.  That being said, the crowd was pretty tame and easy going. No real loud mouth jerks or anything like that.

Overall, you can probably tell I had a blast and that I'd recommend it if it comes around again next year. Yeah, there were a a couple of things that could have been improved on, but the race lives up to its billing. "The craziest fricken day of your life".