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Warrior Dash 2013 – Barre, MA – Light on Upper body, but well produced.
The Warrior Dash is a perennial favorite amongst obstacle racers, many of us having “cut our teeth” at a Warrior event, myself included at Amesbury 2011, delivers a course that although not the best, lived up to its ability to entice first time runners.
My initial score 7.5 out of 10, Does it stand up after 2 days of reflection and comparison of what was promised and what was delivered?
This year’s Warrior Dash took Place on Saturday June 29th in Barre Ma. Located in North-Central Ma, most questioned the location, on a small dairy farm, almost half an hour away from any major route/city (Worcester, Springfield, Mass Pike, etc.). However, Warrior Dash had stiff competition on the 29th with Civilian Military Combine in Amesbury; they had to find an alternative venue (I see this becoming an on-going issue in New England). Having grown up just 10 miles away, I knew that they’d be able to get a decent course in, maybe lacking massive hills, but still, Warrior dash could make use of the land. My main concern, as many also voiced, was that traffic would overwhelm the area. I can say that by arriving at the venue at 8:45 and running 9:30, while leaving around 11:30 that the traffic was managed quite well for being only a single lane dual direction road. Weather called for rain but we had an overcast or sunny day with comfortable temperatures, perfect running weather.
A constant concern is the parking situation and especially when heavy rains prevailed for days in advance of the event. Warrior Dash 2011 was plagued with fields that swallowed cars, in 2013, Warrior dash was very vocal about the benefit to carpooling and using a 4WD vehicle. Parking was a reasonable $10, however, many local residents (within ¼ mile) opened their land for $20 parking, and I chose this route, parking just one house away from the venue. This choice allowed me to walk just a short distance and avoid bus issues that other events have had. From all accounts though, the buses were not an issue at Warrior Dash this year, I saw at least 4 buses picking up runners to return to the parking lot.
The festival area was recessed approximately ¼ mile from the bus drop off and main road, this allowed the organizers to be atop a hill, rather than in a small valley, making tents and the event visible at a distance. This also made the race have its own area separate from farm operations once the event had moved on. This layout afforded spectators (Free) a view of the fields and course that made up the last .3 miles of the course. This view also included the finish and the preceding 3-4 obstacles. In true fashion the obstacles visible to the public are crowd favorites. These included (not in order) The “Fire Jump” which had two consecutive jumps, a Mud Pit with barbed wire forcing competitors to crawl, and a cargo net climb, the possible 4th visible obstacle was a horizontal cargo net. The festival was well staffed by both staff and volunteers, amenities included tables for the dining and stage areas, local vendors, over 40 Portable toilets, etc. Each tent that was a part of the event was labeled very well, with high flags, each with appropriate titles, such as I.D. Check, Registration, Bag Check, Waiver etc.
Registration was smooth, I had to fill out my waiver on site, despite having been emailed the form in advance, this was my fault, but I was able to locate the tent, fill out my form and return to the registration tent with ease. Warrior Dash adequately anticipated the need for on site forms and handled the whole process well. Number packets were picked up based on last name, and there was little delay. Each runner then received their first packet of “Swag” (I left mine in its package until after the race, but it included the classic warrior hat and the free T-shirt (Note, Warrior Dash provided a Male and Female shirt). an envelope was also provided with bib, safety pins and timing chip which doubled as your free beer token. The ship was easily secured to your shoe by tying into your shoe laces. The chip design is standard to what I saw in 2011, however if I had run in my Solomon’s with the Speed Lace, I likely would’ve had to improvise attaching my chip.
ID Check was also smooth, and could be done before or after the race, I chose before so that I could place my ID in my bag at the bag check and not have to grab my bag after the event and carry around the festival. The Bag Check was free, and based on your bib number. This allowed you to easily find the row your bag would be stored in. The volunteers were very helpful, able to lift heavy bags, and advised you that even if you lost your bib, there was an easy way to get your number to retrieve your bag.
Merchandise was all high quality Reebok gear with multiple options for men and women, as well as unisex items. Items included beer mug, sweat bands, sweat shirts, Long sleeve shirts, short sleeve shirts, sleeveless shirts, yoga pants, kilt, shorts, technical (lightweight) running sweat shirts, etc. Each Item was also reasonably priced, most shirts being between $15 and 30 depending on material and cut, sweatshirts were $45-55, etc.
Saint Jude’s research hospital also had a tent, which was a VIP area of sorts, based on paying extra on registration or raising money for charity. The beer and food area was located off to one side, but were easily accessible to the stage as well. Results had their own tent which had a pillar in the middle with 4 widescreen TVs that were linked to the internet showing a scrolling list of times (delayed 15 minutes).
At any given time the festival area had 1500 to 2000 people, but at no time did I feel crowded, I felt I had adequate space and that there had been thought put into the flow of people to minimize claustrophobic feelings.
The start line was located to the left of the stage. An email Warrior Dash send in advance indicated that there would be a two corral starting system that would let waves of people go every 15 minutes, in actuality however there was only one corral. There was no heat time verification, either at registration or at the starting corral, this fact allowed me to run at 9:30AM rather than 4:30PM as I had registered for. This does bring up a Pro and Con, first, it is a major flaw of an event like this to not allow team registrations, thereby making a team spread out across the day, however, the pro is that you can just show up and because they don’t check, you can run with teammates.
The race began, and approximately 200 runners shot right for the woods. There was an instant bottleneck going through the start gate, and then into the woods, there was a small mud puddle and people attempted to avoid this, therefore causing a backup. The course was then a sprint through the woods which turned out to be more of a slow jog, the course was crudely cleared with chainsaws, leaving rough brush on a lane only 6 people wide, this is manageable but made it hard to pass other runners. Mud and rocks abounded in this section. I view this first leg as a design flaw however, you begin with an immediate bottleneck, people do run for time, the course was fairly level, but not wide, and this allowed the 200+ runners to stick together in one big ball. There was NO equalizing obstacle, nothing to thin out the crowd based on ability, as an example, Amesbury Warrior Dash in 2011 and Spartan Race in 2011 both used the dirt access road Hill Climb as an equalizer, if you were fast you got to the top and continued in a small crowd, the average runner was in a slightly bigger crowd, and the slower competitors had a thinner crowd as well. For downstream obstacles this reduced delays and allowed passing zones even when a course was 4 people wide.
The first obstacle was a short angled wall (with ropes) that you had to get up and over, directly behind it were two military hurdle walls that are 4ft high, and then a similar angled wall, only in reverse direction, causing you to slide down the back side. Most of the course was muddy, or had pockets of mud due to Mother Nature. The course was generally wide (6-8 people wide) rocky and at times on farm access roads. There were two short stretches on paved roads, but these were used just to direct you between larger fields. Much of the course was flat as well; as the course was cow farm and corn fields. Make no mistake though, there was NO disputing the fact that we were on cow farms, as the mud had very distinct scents…
Warrior dash provided 3 water stops, two on course and one at the finish. There also were at least 3 locations with professional photographers. The course came short of its oddly exact quoted distance of 3.34 miles. My GPS watch indicated 2.66 miles; however the course did have approximately 12 obstacles. the obstacles included the walls mentioned above, “Storming Normandy” which was meant to be raised barbed wire, but a net was used, a 16ft wall with rungs and ropes to get up and over, and a ladder surface on the back, ditches that were filled with water and meant to be covered by barbed wire, forcing you to duck (there was no wire), there was a hay bale climb, a balance beam over a deep pit of mud/water that had a climbing/descend section followed by a wall hop, and then another climb/descend (no mud or water in this obstacle, given the prior rain I was surprised). There were also standard obstacles such as a tire hop, short dirt mounds followed by mud/water pits and additional military hurdles. Warrior Dash did little things to break up the running sections with humor by placing signs with sayings (never distance markers) such as “this makes up for the other 364 days of the year” or immediately following the prior sign “or that time you watched Titanic”. As the course now approached the finish, you could see spectators and competitors in the festival area (at a distance). You were greeted with the final string of obstacles, a horizontal cargo net climb, like every prior obstacle; there were four lanes of travel you could choose. This obstacle was 16ft tall and had cargo nets secured at the top, but not bottom and you had to shift yourself sideways for 40 Ft, it was easier to climb to the top of this obstacle to reduce sway.
You then were in direct sight of the spectators and finish area as you climbed a traditional up and over cargo net, rounded a corner to do two fire jumps, and then a final mud crawl. This was surrounded by rolled hay bales, and was only about 2 ft. deep of thick mud. This obstacle was the only one on course (of three listed through on course signs) to actually have barbed wire. This crawl was 60ft in length with the last 20 having no barbed wire so you could stand and take an immediate right to cross the finish line with spectators all located to your left. This was this obstacle that I feel got me the muddiest, most others were dirty water, or just trail mud that didn’t get beyond my shins, Making me feel like this obstacle was more for show then difficulty.
Upon crossing the finish line you are presented with your medal, when taken off of the lanyard, it can be used as a bottle opener. I like the dual use aspect of this, it will make me think about my experience each time I use the opener. My only change to this however would be to make it a keychain as well, make it have three uses and easier to tag along to parties and you will drive the sentimental value of this medal even higher. One free beer was given to each racer over 21 upon returning their timing chip. These were 16oz Miller light cans. Each was given by a staff member wearing latex gloves to keep cleanliness at a high standard. The major negative factor of getting beer in a can was that there was no recycling option, only trash. Additional beers could be purchased, and I do not know if under 21 was given soda as an option.
Does the final score live up to my 7.5 rating, or was that just a factor of having a soft spot in my heart for Warrior Dash having been my first in 2011?
Sadly, No, Warrior dash did A LOT of things right. For example, a super detailed email sent in advance of the event describing everything that was critical to race day that was easy to read, a well laid out festival, knowledgeable volunteers and staff, cheap accessible parking, free bag check, free spectators with great views of key obstacle, quality merchandise at reasonable prices, used shoe recycling, Warrior Dash even notified local businesses and towns about the 8800 pre-registered runners and the possible impact to traffic, business sales, etc.
But ultimately the obstacles and distance variation pulled the score to a 6.
For Warrior Dash to provide a representative map and obstacle listing is nice, and not required, but this helps to attract first time runners, or people who have never run a Warrior Dash event before but maybe had run Ruckus. As a seasoned runner, I understand that obstacles can be site specific, or modified as needed to fit specific locations. However Warrior Dash missed the boat by overselling many obstacles that just weren’t at this event. Also the course would be a dream for someone unable to jump high or lacking upper body strength as obstacles were either low to the ground requiring you to duck, or were not hoisting/monkey bars/7ft+ wall climbs. There was no obstacle that couldn’t be completed by everyone who attempted it, and there was no associated consequence (see Burpees) if you skipped or failed an obstacle. And as mentioned above, the lack of a team heat really affected our ability to run together or take a true team photo as we were spread out across all heats.
- Do I feel like I got my money’s worth? Yes
- Would I run another Warrior Dash? Yes
- Would I recommend other runners experience a Warrior Dash? Yes, I feel it is a great entry level event for people new to OCR.
- If two events conflicted in schedule, would I pick Warrior Dash? It depends on the event…