Sunday, August 28, 2011
Yesterday, I did something I didn't ever think I'd do. I competed in a Warrior Dash, which was held in Huntersville, NC. If you're not familiar with a Warrior Dash, it's a race (usually around a 5K distance) where there are 11 obstacles sprinkled throughout the course. For example, crawling through the dirt under barbed wire, jumping over dumpsters and tires, climbing ropes and rapelling, wading through mud, running through fire, etc. (go to WarriorDash.com if you're really interested in seeing all the obstacles you've got to tackle).
Believe me, I didn't go looking for this race. One of my friends from work mentioned she and her hubby were going to sign up, and she asked a few of us at work if we might be interested in joining them. And I, being the person who doesn't think through things thoroughly all the time, immediately said "Yep...I'll do it with ya!"
So, after registering, I mentally planned to hit the US National Whitewater Center a few times before the event, so that I could practice climbing the rock wall and get my upper body into the shape it needed to be in. But you know what they say about the best laid plans...so the "training" I'd planned just didn't happen. Life got in the way and all of a sudden, I realized about 3 weeks ago that I was SO not prepared. But it was what it was, and so the best I could do at that point was just to be as ready as I possibly could be. I kept repeating my newly adopted mantra to myself..."Feel it, breathe it, believe it"...and just let it go.
Thursday, as the news of Hurricane Irene started heating up, we were told that we would be getting winds up to 30 mph here in our area on the day of the event. That kind of worried me a bit, because one of the last obstacles is running through a ring of fire. So I was worried about the wind possibly making the flames be a bit out of control. I told myself that if it looked too out of control, I'd just go around it and take the disqualification....I mean, let's face it, I knew I wasn't going to win any prizes or anything. I'm so damn slow at everything I do! I just wanted to be able to complete the event...that was my only goal...so that I could say I'd done something like this. And I ended up finding out that several people I knew were doing the event, so I was excited about doing this with people I knew.
We got to the event around 12:30 p.m., as our wave wasn't scheduled to start until 2:00 p.m. We got our packets, pinned on our bibs, hydrated...we were ready to go. Someone told us it was OK for us to start early, so one of my friends and I decided to go with the 1:30 p.m. wave. We just wanted to get it over with, and it was SO hot out...we figured we'd do better to go earlier.
When the race started, I took off...it was a nice trail run for the first mile or so, not too hilly or anything. But there was no shade for that first part, and there wasn't a lot of wind, so I was sweating bullets. The first obstacle was alternating crawling through dirt under barbed wire and jumping over walls...I nailed it!
The second obstacle was also kinda cool...running through a "junk yard", where you had to jump over tires, then over dumpsters, then over tires and then over taller dumpsters. Nailed that, too! Two down, nine to go!
The third obstacle was climbing the "Warrior Wall", where you had to climb a rope up the wall, swing over, and climb down (without a rope). That was a little scary for me, because I couldn't see the footholds coming down, so I felt like I was going to fall...it was about 10 or 11 feet tall, I'd guess. But I did it. My heart was really pumping after it, though...probably because I was kind of scared...so I had to walk a bit instead of run.
Next came the "Teetering Traverse", where you basically have to cross over a "teetering" track that's about 5 feet off the ground. There was one scary section, because the board you had to cross was narrow, so I was afraid of losing my balance. But I nailed that one and felt pretty good. But I was really thirsty at that point, so I stopped at water station and downed 2 cups of water.
At that point, the trail went into the woods, so it was shaded. That felt better, but it was still pretty darn hot. Unfortunately, those 2 cups of water were too much, and I got a stitch in my side from it, so I had to walk some. Oh well...at least I was still moving.
The next obstacle was the "Blackout", a pitch dark, low-to-the-ground tent that you had to crawl through. That wasn't a hard one, but it was rough on my knees, as the dirt was really scratchy from the small rocks in it. It WAS a little scary not being able to see AT ALL. But I made it through that one successfully.
Next came the "Chaotic Crossover", where you had to crawl across nets. That one was a little tough, because the nets would swing and sway with every person's movements, and there were quite a few people on there at the same time. So I had to go slow in order to keep my balance. And I had a hard time figuring out if I'd be more successful using hands and feet, or hands and knees. I made it through successfully, but lost some time due to those things...but I was still moving, so I felt good.
Then came the "Assassins Escape", where you had to climb up steps and drop down via a fire pole. Easy! Nailed it!
Then came the "Deadweight Drifter", where you had to trudge through waist-deep water and over several logs. This was actually my favorite, because the water felt great after being so hot and sweaty! I did good on this one.
The "Horizontal Hike" was next. This one didn't look so bad at first...you had to climb up and over a wooden contraption that was sort of "arch" shaped. But there were no grips for the feet, and my shoes were wet from the previous obstacle. So my feet kept slipping...when I got the top, you had to sort of crawl straight across, only you couldn't really crawl, because it was too spaced apart for that...so you kinda needed your feet. Again, I felt like I was slipping, and then I looked down and realized it was about a 10 or 11 foot drop. That's when I actually totally started freaking out. I was dropping the "F" bomb like crazy, I started shaking, and I literally froze. I could NOT figure out how to get across without killing myself. The girl next to me was as scared as I was, so that made me feel like less of a wuss. Her boyfriend, and the guy who was manning that particular obstacle, talked the both of us down. When I finally made it to the bottom, my heart was going a mile a minute and I felt very shaky and unstable. I looked at what the next obstacle was...running through fire...and thought, "No way in H-E-Double Hockey Sticks can I do that right now!" So I stepped off to the side so that I could catch my breath, and so that I could take the opportunity to watch how others tackled running through the fire.
Once I calmed down, I decided it was time to tackle the "Warrior Roast" by hurdling over. It was basically a big circle on the ground with flames coming up from it...it wasn't too windy, so I just hurdled over twice and that was that. Success!
Finally, the last obstacle presented itself....the "Muddy Mayhem"...where you have to scramble beneath several rounds of barbed wire. It wasn't too bad, though I was completely covered in mud, of course. But that was it...I was done...I could see the finish line! Woo hoo!
As I ran through the finish line, I grabbed some water and all I wanted to do was rinse off the mud. They had some water trucks where they were hosing everyone down, so I ran over and stood there with a huge bunch of people and got hosed down warrior style. It felt great.
And I felt great. I had just done something I'd never done before, and something I didn't think I could actually do. I really did not think I would be able to do the whole thing...but I did! My time (53:35:25) wasn't great, but I respectably fell in the middle of the pack. That's cool with me...I'll take it! My friends all completed the event successfully as well. No one got injured, and everyone had a great time. We all agree that we felt completely BAD-A$$!
After I got home, I was completely exhausted. I wasn't expecting the fear that I experienced during those two obstacles...especially the "Horizontal Hike". But Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do." Those words could not have been more true than they were for me during that event. I could've stopped when the fear set in, but I didn't. I faced the fear and carried on. I hope I can continue meeting fear head on like this in other areas of my life.
I am a warrior!