This ain’t my first rodeo.

It’s kind of neat being the “experienced” participant in a novelty event where the majority of people are first timers and have their own preconceived notions of what to expect.  Still, a good company will constantly be learning from past events and making changes to improve things in the future.  And, for the most part, Red Frog Events is a good company.  And Warrior Dash is an awesome event.

Last year we did the Rockies edition, and somehow1 managed to convince ourselves to register for this year’s race despite the fact that we’re nomads who don’t ever plan that far in advance.  Needless to say, we realized earlier this summer that we would not be in Colorado come July, and that getting there would quickly get very costly.  Fortunately, despite the fact that they’re definitely a for-profit company (as so many races are these days), Red Frog was more than happy to help us with a quick change our plans to run Warrior Dash Washington instead.

And so off to North Bend, WA we went!  (Incidentally, I’ve now run races in North Bend, South Bend2 , and Bend3, and am currently researching the existence and running communities of the hypothetical East Bend, West Bend, and any other Bends there might be.  Let me know if you’ve got some info…)

Before

Last year we each ran our own race, but decided this year to have fun and run it together to culminate in a big, romantic, muddy finalé.  I’d cite “help each other on the obstacles,” but it’s not that kind of obstacle course.  With the exception of people who randomly got panic attacks atop a six foot slide, there’s no need for “assists.”  Despite not pushing the pace as much as I did last year, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons between the two events.  Some things I liked better, others not so much, but overall both races were loads of fun and I’d still endorse Warrior Dash for anyone with a glimmer of interest, even non-runners4.

  • This year’s event had about half a mile before any obstacles, which was a great way to spread people out a bit more than the 100 yard dash we had last year.  This might have been the norm last year, with adjustments necessary because of Copper Mountain being a ski resort and some obstacles not really being practical on the top of the slope, but it’s definitely better to set the first obstacle further out.
  • The tunnels from Rockies (which are apparently quite a common obstacle in several “adventure” races, presumably because they are easily disassembled and trucked around the country), were replaced this year with “The Blackout,” a short tent requiring the same basic low crawl, but lacking the severe bottleneck that the tunnels created in the midpack.  I’m definitely an anti-bottleneck person – the event should be about you and the obstacles, not waiting in line – but it also lacked the rough wood and rocks that cut up my knees last year.  Yeah, that certainly hurt less, but there’s something to be said for the hard core feeling of looking down at the mud and blood at the finish line.
  • Higher cargo net = better.
  • The “football” tires were extended much further and merged with the Road Rage (hurdle two rows of junked cars), which certainly slows the approach, spreads us out yet some more, and results in a better overall obstacle.  While I felt clever for gaining tons of ground last year being the only (or at least first) one  to not go over the middle, having everyone spread out is a much better execution5.
  • The North Bend event was held at Meadowbrook Farm6, which is, in part, an actual farm, and the majority of the course was through fallow crop fields, or, at times, just a swath through dried crops pushed down a la crop circles.  Thus, there was just about zero stable ground to run on – if there wasn’t plant debris to trip on, there were dips and ditches to step in.  While it wasn’t as cardiovascularly challenging as running up a ski slope, it was a whole new set of challenges, especially when trying to pass someone or get out of the way of someone passing you.  This, along with dirt paths through the woods that were soaked in to mud, ended up creating a challenge simply getting from obstacle to obstacle, a great innovation in making the event about the obstacles instead of just a running event.  While you could run full out in between obstacles, it’s certainly slower going.
  • The North Bend finish line was twenty yards of thick mud ranging from ankle to hip deep.  So no final sprint, kids.  My wife actually managed to fall face first across the finish line while I trudged through the muck a few feet behind.  I’m amazed that they were able to get any chip times recorded with everyone’s feet deep in mire, but it apparently works.  And ensures that everyone finishes up nice and muddy.  Since Rockies ends on the paved courtyard of Copper Mountain resort, they couldn’t do this, so I don’t know if this approach is unique to North Bend or if they do it everywhere that’s not paved.  From photos I’ve seen of others, I’m thinking some events do put you through a river rinse before the finish, but I think I’m definitely a fan of the mud approach.  Though there is a certain cool factor to leaping over fire as your final sprint to the finish.
  • Wash up hoses are apparently getting replaced with renting a local fire truck and bored firemen.  Instead of several garden hoses scattered about for people to use, a walk through “shower” rig, and a decorative fountain with official permission for people to jump in, North Bend just had an area where you could line up at a fence and wait for a brief burst of fire hose to sprinkle you.  While some people crowded the center and hogged the stream until they were “clean,” if you had any interest in enjoying the after-party before your body cools down and things get chilly, you were pretty much doing so muddy.  We rinsed our hands/arms as best we could7 and went on our way.  Definitely disappointed in this approach compared with previous experience.  We’re not looking to get squeaky clean; just to get a reasonable rinse off.
  • Finisher medals are smaller this year, presumably costing them less per unit so as to turn a better profit.  The t-shirt also looked a bit cheaper, but mostly because it’s white.  They dropped from three colors on grey to two colors on white, but I do like the 2011 design better.  If these changes mean they can keep doing the event and not raising the price (which is already pretty steep!) then I’m okay with this.  I’d rather they cut corners on swag we don’t need than on safety or insurance!

After

All in all, it was a different experience, but certainly not a worse one.  With a few exceptions, I think I liked all the changes as much, if not more than, 2010 Rockies.

Our official time was 44:518 but we weren’t pushing for a record.  My wife’s allergies were acting up, so we took it easy between obstacles and just had a great time on the course.  The folks at Red Frog Events definitely put on a good event and we hope to be able to try more of them in the future.

 

 

 

Show 8 footnotes

  1. Okay, we were drunk on endorphins and mediocre beer.
  2. Indiana; the 2010 Sunburst Marathon.
  3. Oregon; a pair of local 5ks to benefit the local track team and VFW, respectively
  4. Likewise, I’ll still try to discourage anyone from participating in a Tough Mudder, because while the event can be fun, the organizers and marketing department pretty much ruin the experience.
  5. For anyone keeping score against Tough Mudder, that’s a two-for-one obstacle in Warrior Dash, pushing them to 3.4 obstacles per mile if you count them separately versus TM’s 1.6 or 1.83, depending on whether you count “run in a straight line” as an obstacle.
  6. Not to be confused with the Meadowbrook Farm US Cellular Pavilion, of course.
  7. And then got them muddy again trying to liberate our timing chip/beer token from our shoes.
  8. Actually, my wife’s was 44:50, but I was 44:51.