I survived the Warrior Dash….
I spent the entire weekend in the Poconos with my family and friends hanging out on the lake, drinking beer and cooking BBQ. It was great that we were able to turn my desire to run the Warrior Dash into a really fun filled weekend. It was just what I needed to put myself in the right frame of mind and to help me remember why I was doing the race in the first place. After two days of “carbo loading” with my teammates, it was time to run the race.
My two teammates and I arrived at the Pocono Raceway at 9 AM on Sunday morning. We were in the first group of the day that was taking off at 10 o’clock. Our families would be joining us shortly to cheer for us. I stood in the middle of the festival area and just looked around. At the one end of the area was a large stage with a rock band playing 80′s rock. The other end had two fire trucks with hoses pulled out ready to wash off the mud after the race. In between was beer, food, a giant pile of dirty sneakers and people. Many strange people… I saw guys wearing grass skirts and coconuts. I saw a group of women in bikinis who had painted their entire bodies red. There were serious looking athletes and there were folks in giant bunny costumes. There was even a big, bearded guy with a baby doll in a front facing child pack who looked like the guy from the movie The Hang Over!
As I approached the starting line with my life-long best friend, Jason Fralick and my newer great friend and all-around “tough mother” Jeannette Browne, I felt really anxious. Was I going to be able to do this? What if I couldn’t do this? I decided right then and there that the only way I wouldn’t be finishing this race was because I was strapped to a gurney in the back of an ambulance. What ever happened, I would keep pushing. I know what real pain feels like and I was sure this couldn’t possibly come close…
As we ran through the starting line, fire shot into the air surrounding us in warmth. Our group of 200+ runners took off toward our first obstacle. About 800 yards later we arrived. Our group was still pretty packed together and the line backed up as racers tried to walk up a 2×6 plank that took them 6 feet in the air and then across a 2×4 that was about 10 feet long and back down the other side. As I would come to learn, waiting at obstacles allowed the blood to circulate back out of my left leg, bringing much-needed oxygen to my muscles. We proceeded to run through mud and scale 20 foot high walls via a rope. We crawled under nets, downed trees and barbed wire. We climbed ladders and crawled along four-inch ledges. I climbed across, up and down nets. That was the hardest obstacle for me. The ropes would give when you stepped on them and because I can’t feel my left foot, it was hard to be sure I had good footing. At the end of our 3.5 mile run, we jumped over burning logs and crawled on our bellies through mud while avoiding barbed wire over head. Jason and Jeannette stayed with me even though they could have easily gone much faster. We crossed the finish line, arms wrapped around each other, mud coating every square inch of our bodies. It was awesome! After we crossed the finish line, we got our medals and some water and went to meet our families. Needless to say not one was looking to give us a hug! We posed for more photos together and talked to our families about the race. What happened next, I can only describe as a combination of water boarding and a wet t-shirt contest! We entered a corral with the 200+ other runners and proceeded to beg to be sprayed with fire hoses to wash the mud out of every crack and or crevice in our bodies. It reminded me of sponge baths in the nursing home which sound like a lot more fun than they were…
The race was everything I wanted it to be. It was challenging, but I was prepared for it. Running on the uneven terrain was the most difficult part. It appears that running will always be a challenge for me which is why I liked this race so much. Running was only half of the challenge. Adventure/Obstacle racing may be the best way for me to find joy in running now. There is only one way to be sure… I just signed up for another obstacle race. On July 14th I will be running the Spartan Race. It appears to be a little more challenging and slightly longer. We will see if I am up to the challenge!
Running the Warrior Dash was a great way to spend Father’s Day. As I drove home that day thinking about the race, I was reminded why I even care about doing crazy things like this race. I do it to prove I am alive and I do it as a sign of my commitment to my family, that I will not let the accident ruin our lives. But I also do it out of fear. Fear that on one December 1st, I will look back over the past year and I will not have gotten better than I was the previous year. Making progress gives me hope. I can’t see progress day-to-day, but when I do things like the Warrior Dash, there is no question if I am getting better. I am pretty sure no one ever thought I could or would do anything like this four years ago.