Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I am a warrior! ... well, sort of

Like most road race regulars, I typically weigh a variety of factors when determining what events to sign up for.

These are factors that have evolved over time. I used to think about pretty basic points of a race -- cost, location and challenge -- when it came time to fill out the registration forms. All I really cared about was pushing myself physically and trying to see how good I could get at running.

As a result, I signed up for a lot of races (final tally in 2009 alone: five 5Ks, a 10K, a half marathon, a full marathon and three triathlons) and got into better shape than the lethargic, asthmatic version of me from my youth could ever imagine being in.

I still take those aspects into account and I still love the thrill I get from racing. But lately, they haven't been as important to me. There's really only been two factors going through my
head during recent race website surfing: Camaraderie and uniqueness.

The uniqueness factor shouldn't come as a surprise to my regular readers. As I've mentioned in the past, there's only so many run-of-the-mill 5Ks you can race in for before they all start to feel the same. Once the novelty of being able to finish a race wears off, it's only natural to look for events with more quirks and challenges.

Camaraderie is something I haven't written about as much. With a few notable exceptions, most of the races I've signed up for have been solo affairs. While I enjoy my independence and take pride in not being a needy person, I know that the best experiences in life are shared experiences. It's the reason why I still reminisce about club rowing in college, even though three years and a countless number of road races have occurred since then.

So when my friend Justin approached me about racing in the Warrior Dash, let's just say I didn't need much convincing.

The Warrior Dash is a 3-mile obstacle course race going on this weekend (both Saturday and Sunday) at Afton Alps in Hastings. Instead of focusing on mile splits and elevation changes, runners get to worry about things like rappelling down a steep ravine, scaling cargo nets and leaping over a fire pit. And at the end of the race, participants get to unwind with live music and a free beer.

Because it typically draws several thousand participants, the Warrior Dash is done in wave timing. What this means is that runners sign up for specific race times and are sent out with a wave of a few hundred other participants. The wave times go in half-hour increments and range from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. In case anybody's wondering, I'm signed up for the 3:30 p.m. wave on Sunday.

Needless to say, this is quite a bit different from the races I normally sign up for. I'm actually a little nervous about it. Most other races are pretty straightforward to prepare for; just log quality training miles and the rest will take care of itself.

That's definitely not the case here. How do you prepare for crawling through the mud under a barbed wire fence? Or jumping over a fire pit? Those aren't exactly settings on a YMCA treadmill.

In a way though, that's what makes this race so exciting; the great unknown. I don't have a target time in mind, nor do I have the slightest idea about how the race will go. I know I'm in good enough shape to rip off three miles at a pretty decent clip, but that could all change if one of the obstacles gives me trouble.

Whatever the case, I'm sure it'll be a lot of fun.

I'll try to post pictures after the race. The group I'm running with is called the Warrior Wolf Pack, which of course makes most people think immediately of this.

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