On Saturday, June 11th I experienced and survived my first Warrior Dash in brutal 95°+ heat! I completed the Illinois Warrior Dash at Dollinger Family Farm in Channahon, IL. Get this.... Not only was this my first, but I went on to complete another lap and completed TWO Warrior Dash's because one just wasn't enough for me. My goals for this race was to be able to successfully finish my first Warrior Dash and if my body and time allowed... take on another challenge and go for 1-2 additional laps for fun.
A few days before the race, everyone received a weather alert notifying us of expected dangerous weather conditions dealing with extreme heat and high temperatures between 93°-95° with heat indexes reaching anywhere from 100°-105° during peak hours and because of that, Warrior Dash had made the smart decision to move up all waves after 2 PM for everyone's safety. I applaud them on their decision. These are dangerous conditions that shouldn't be taken lightly. First hand experience right here. Last year at a road race in July, with the same temps, I almost suffered a heat stroke and it was really scary. That was at an 8 PM evening race.
I didn't think that it affected my start time because I had mistakenly thought that hubby and I were in the 12:15 PM wave. When we got our bibs that day, turns out that we were supposed to be running at 2:15.... Ooops! Nobody made a big deal about it though. We ended up going with the 12 PM crowd anyways. Which ended up being great because that group had great energy and great people! I am so glad we were a part of that wave.
The festival area was lively! There was a band, lots of food, beer, and tables with umbrellas. I really enjoyed the festival area and I definitely would have taken more time out to enjoy the festival if I wasn't pressed for time with having to get back to Harlie Jade. It was a great family environment to hang out in. I had decided to leave the little one at home because of the heat and nobody to hang out with her during my race. Over the past year she has been enjoying the festivals and races that we are able to take her to. She loves to yell and cheer and mimics other people when she hears them doing the same thing. She is so happy and cheerful in these types of environments, which always makes me feel bad when she is not able to attend, but I had to think about her safety.
|The festival area.|
The Starting Line
The starting line was full of pumped up participants waiting for their turn to tackle the battleground. While waiting it out, we had fun with the race announcer as he made us do a crowd wave for him while he recorded us for his Instagram. The race announcer went on to tell us that a massive amount was raised for St. Jude Children's Hospital, which is the charity partner for Warrior Dash. As each group were let go from the starting corral, there were large bursts of fire as each group dashed from the starting line. We could feel the heat from the fire standing 15-20 feet away. As I got closer to starting line, I was startled by the fire and heat every time it went off, but it was pretty badass! It was a great touch to the overall feel of the event.
|Diesel Dome obstacle.|
Lap 1 - Let's do This
The first lap went smoothly. There was one obstacle in particular (Fisherman's Catch) that didn't like me. I was too short and muddy to get a good grip. Same thing happened for the 2nd lap too. I did feel a little hesitant and scared while on the Diesel Dome because I felt very unstable crawling across the top of the structure with the height and all. The second time around, Diesel Dome was a little easier, especially with less people on it. During the first lap I felt awesome. I became a little tired at certain points on the course, but it wasn't affecting me nearly as much as I thought it would, especially being as humid as it was. The water and mud along with the occasional breeze during the cloudy moments actually helped a lot and cooled us off when we really needed it.
It was easy for us to stay hydrated because Warrior Dash had extra aid stations on course, which I thought was just plain freaking awesome. You would be surprised at how many races, and large ones at that, actually lack aid stations on course even in warmer weather. Doesn't make sense. During the 2nd lap, they ran out of cups at all aid stations on course, so we were told to either drink out a pitcher of water or a bottle of Gatorade. One of the volunteers ended up telling my hubby and I to share a bottle of Gatorade instead, which was smart on their part.
Lap 2 - Here We Go Again
After we finished our first lap, we wanted to clean off, so we could go at it again with no heavy mud weighing us down. However, the lines at the Warrior Wash station were really long and we wouldn't make the last wave if we waited, so we decided to drop our medals off at gear check with our bags instead of wearing them on course - some people did that and it's not safe. We got back in for another round with the last few waves of the day. During this lap in the beginning, we constantly got a ton of praise from everyone who noticed we were all trashed and muddy at the beginning on course and doing it again. We got everything from badass to crazy. A staff member in a motorized vehicle checking the course told us we were crazy with a smile on his face as he rode passed us. One lady said in a joking tone, "they must want to torture themselves!" Yes, that's it! We love it! Well, I love it... hubby, he doesn't necessarily love it... he just deals. Ha! I've seen quite a few people throughout the day doing multiple laps. We weren't alone. :)
Shortly after that, with all of the mud and everything flopping around, I really wanted to eliminate some layers and take off my tank top. My hubby kept telling me to do it because I wanted to and said that I have worked hard for this moment. I ended up taking it off after some hesitation and I felt soooooo much better! This was truly a non scale victory for me. I mean I just couldn't believe that I was running an obstacle course race with a ton of confidence at this event in JUST a sports bra... in PUBLIC! Not even giving two craps about what other people thought. There were other women of all shapes and sizes in just a sports bra, so that also helped. With being 29 and losing 137 lbs and counting... you don't care about that type of stuff like you used to. Life is too short! Let it all out and have fun.
At this point I still had great energy, surprisingly! I wish I felt like that during all of my long distance road races. Wait for it though....
I did hit "the wall" at mile 6.... AGAIN! I started getting leg cramps during the Mud Mounds obstacle and that one was a lot harder the second time around because the mud was very slippery and thick. As much as I wanted to take my time through that obstacle and enjoy it like the first time, I just couldn't do that because the slower I went the worse the cramps got. As my hubby and I were jumping over the fire at the Warrior Roast obstacle, I got a leg cramp in mid-air and it was a b**** to deal with. Luckily, that was the last of the cramps and I was able to get through the rest of the second lap without any issues. Still a ton of energy though! With this trend... I am starting to think my body hates any distance at mile 6 and beyond, but I will never stop pushing my body to endure. With previously being overweight and living a sedentary lifestyle for a good chunk of my life and being within a normal weight range for my height for less than a month... I see where my body is coming from, or maybe it's just mental. Who knows!
While I felt that a lot of the obstacles were not very difficult for my fitness level, I did have my moments and some difficulties on a few of them. There was a good mix of obstacles with varying difficulty. For me personally, Fisherman's Catch and Mud Mounds were especially difficult but not impossible to get through. My favorite obstacles were Warrior Roast, Muddy Mayhem, Mud Mounds, and Trenches. With those selections, who couldn't tell that I am a girl who loves her mud and a muddy good time. Haha.
One of my many favorite moments of the event was standing at the finish line waiting for hubby to get some water to wash off his glasses and while waiting on him, I was watching people finish. The finish line was messy, muddy, and crowded. As soon as everyone conquered Muddy Mayhem, which was the last obstacle of the race, they were struggling to get past the finish area. I noticed how everyone was walking around a little disoriented and stumbling like zombies. Looking almost as if they were drunk. Everybody looked that way. It was a funny sight to see. I have never seen so many people at once look disoriented and confused.
|Warrior Roast and Goliath Slide.|
I thought it was a HUGE TEASE to have the Goliath Slide towards the end to clean us off a bit ONLY to have us get completely trashed and dirty again right after in Muddy Mayhem as the last obstacle. Warrior Dash, that was such a tease and I could hear others totally pissed off about that at the finish line.
BUT, I LOVED IT!! That teaser was GREAT!!!!!!!! It was pretty f****** hilarious too! Great job guys!!
|Muddy Mayhem - My FAVORITE obstacle.|
I couldn't have asked for a better course. I felt that the course catered to everyone and that it had something for everyone from beginners to the more experienced racers. The course terrain was nothing short of awesome! I enjoyed the challenge of conquering the hills, trail running in the woods, the little annoying tree roots popping out of the ground from everywhere on certain parts of the course, and the Dresden Run stream we had to navigate through with downed trees to go under and get over. Pure awesomeness! I wish I owned a waterproof action camera to capture everything on course. Maybe one day.
|Diesel Dome and Trenches.|
Photo Props and Backdrops
After we completed our last lap, we went to gear check to grab our bags and then went to get some after pictures before cleaning up. I was very disappointed to see that the Warrior Dash sign photo prop that made it's appearance at other WD events was nowhere to be found. We found the helmet that goes with it, but the rest of the setup was missing. I did enjoy the rigs and played around on those for a bit. They also made me realize that I really need to work on my pull ups. The other photo props were pretty badass too. Even though the prop I had been waiting to get photos with was not present at the event, I still had great photos ops with everything else.
Not sure what happened to the Warrior Dash sign prop, but don't forget it next year WD! :)
|I guess I need to work on those pull ups!|
The wait at the Warrior Wash station was not as bad as I thought it would be. It was a 5 minute wait. At my last mud run, I waited in line for well over an hour to get clean. I cannot speak on the wait times for earlier in the day. It may have been longer. I was very satisfied with the effectiveness of the Warrior Wash station. Even though I could have made myself cleaner for the ride home, I always have issues with feeling like I am taking up too much time at a station, so I make it quick and I get a majority of the mud off of me. The only thing I deal with is leftover dirt leaking from my clothing. Apparently, others got extremely clean and changed. You would have never known that they were covered in mud just shortly before. I do feel that everyone could greatly benefit from having a second station and could make things go much quicker during busier times throughout the day.
Tip: Car seat covers are your friend! You can get them anywhere specifically for stuff like this, or you can utilize plastic coverings, or garbage bags.
The race swag was awesome! The t-shirts are high quality, the medals rock, the free beer ticket was a nice perk even though I didn't take advantage of it, and the fuzzy helmet hats are a fun addition to the race kit. The bibs are great! I love the personal touch that was put on the bibs with the participant's name. I think it makes the bibs that much more special. I save mine regardless of what they look like, but it's always awesome to see personalized bibs.
|I salvaged my bib! YES! Trust me when I say that I keep them all. I also decided to clean one medal off to see the details and to keep the other one in it's muddy condition. I think it makes the medal look even more kick ass on my medal display.|
Overall I'd say this event was very well organized. There were no traffic issues getting in or out, they support a great foundation (St. Jude), there was outstanding service, and the fact that they cared enough about their participants to make smart decisions in regards to the weather and extreme heat made this one of the best races I've ever done! I have definitely done my share of races where it was the complete opposite. I must say I had the time of my life! It was a blast! Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be celebrating my weight loss, fitness, and mental victories by pushing and challenging myself, and also be confident enough to do events like this and in just a sports bra at that. This event will definitely be one to remember.
I am so proud to officially be a part of #WarrioNation
Thank you for a good time Warrior Dash. See you in Illinois next year, assuming everything works out scheduling-wise and I get the 'OK' from my fitness competition prep coach!
To find a Warrior Dash near you head over to https://www.warriordash.com/
Disclosure: I have received a comped entry to this event in exchange for posting about the event and post race reviews of the individual race experience. I value authenticity and honesty, all thoughts and opinions are and will always be my own.