Warrior Dash Recap and Spartan Strong. I Mean Scared. Spartan Scared.


warrior dash pennsylvania


Oh hey.

So remember how I broke up with running?

I haven’t really run— as in, planned length/measured pace run— since the 4th of July. I run at RivFit sometimes. I run for the hell of it because it’s nice out and I feel the need to feel the sun and wind on my face, sometimes. But I haven’t been running with an eye towards improving my running because, frankly, I don’t love it and lately I don’t have enough hours in the day to waste them on things that I don’t love doing.

I did, however, commit to Warrior Dash and Spartan Race before I stopped running. So if you’re wondering how you’d fare at these obstacle races as a not-very-dedicated runner, read on 🙂


warrior dash pa


Warrior Dash Pennsylvania

I wasn’t actually terribly concerned about Warrior Dash. I know a lot of people who have completed this one, at this location, and I knew their fitness level to be somewhat comparable to mine, give or take a bit.

I rode up to the Poconos and ran with my friend Kelly and her husband Christian (I’ll be doing that again this weekend for Spartan. Thanks for chauffeuring my ass all over the Tri-State area, guys!).


warrior dash pre-run

warrior dash costumes


Want to laugh a lot to calm your nerves before a run? Walk around with a guy in a full-body ninja suit. The big question on everyone’s mind was whether he was going to be hot in that, so let me put your mind at ease. Christian didn’t complain about the costume at all. Maybe he’s just not a complainer, I don’t know him well enough to say, but he claimed to be quite cool. I thought the mud was going to weigh him down, but it seemed to roll right off the costume. So if you were waffling on whether to don a full-on unitard for your next mud run, I say go for it.

Check-in was a swift and easy process, for me at least. The ninja didn’t quite match the photo on his ID.

Runners were released every 15 minutes, and we probably had to wait about 20 before we were off. Easily not the worst wait I’ve ever experienced, just long enough to make friends and mess around with my new GoPro camera.

The first mile of the race was pretty much straight-up running, consistent with the other obstacle/mud runs I’ve done (Dirty Girl in Atlanta and Merrill Down & Dirty Philadelphia). I think this is deliberate to separate the men from the boys, or at least the people who care about their time from those who are just looking to complete the race. Those who care can forge on ahead and hit the obstacles without breaking stride (as the obstacles tend to bottleneck once the masses reach them). To give you an idea of how bad the backup can be:


warrior dash obstacle


I sort of wish I’d run that first mile harder or been more aggressive about running between obstacles (not knowing what was yet ahead, I ran flats and downhills but conserved energy on the uphills). I got stuck behind people who froze up on obstacles twice, and the last wall (pictured above) took forever due to all the people. Looking at the posted times, the vast majority of participants finished within about a two-minute window of each other, so pushing just a little bit more & shaving a minute off my time would have raised my placement by about a thousand people.

But I’m pretty eh about it since I was running with Kelly and didn’t particularly want to run ahead— for me, the event was a shared experience and now I stop to consider it I don’t care enough about my time to hoof it by myself. We ran together rather than racing alone and that’s the way it should be. For me, anyway.

It goes without saying that the WSJ and running snobs at large will bemoan my lack of competitiveness and tag me neatly as part of “The Slowest Generation,” and they can bite me. (Honey Badger don’t give a sh*t. Honey Badger Mom don’t care.) I paid good money and traveled all day to get out in the sunshine and run with friends, creating fun memories welded together with fitness and a sense of personal accomplishment, and if anyone sees fit to get all McJudgypants about it then pffffftttttt.


Run time aside, I didn’t find any of the obstacles to be terribly difficult, although climbing back down a pegged wall with coldass water shooting at me was super uncomfortable and a little scary, because it was slippery. I owned anything involving a rope and while I still have a moment of panic when swinging my leg over a wall and finding that first foothold, I think I’ve come a long way in a year, in terms of strength and confidence. Running speed and endurance? Not so much.

Here’s the video footage, if you want a firsthand look at the obstacles (Kelly and I traded off the GoPro, it was head-mounted). This was my first time using the GoPro so I’ll be upfront: it’s not the most exciting video. Jake did the editing and didn’t include half the things I asked him to, so please direct any editing complaints his way. I’ll start: what’s up with Captain America? And why so abrupt, ending? I’m old, I need to be eased into transitions.



Sadly, I totally forgot to do something interesting while jumping the fire.


warrior dash fire jump

warrior dash fire jump kelly


Kelly did better. I’m doing something weird with my face here, gritting my teeth or holding my breath or something. I’m going to stop looking at it now before I start obsessing about how often I look like this without realizing it.

I know you’re dying to know all about my fashion forward accessory there— my phone tucked into my top. I brought my phone on the course in this waterproof case I bought as a Living Social deal, and it worked like a champ. I had it on a lanyard and as you can see I tucked it into my shirt so it wasn’t banging around all the time. Once we got muddy it was pretty much useless since I couldn’t clean it off or take it out of the case with my muddy hands. Still, it was nice to have my phone with me, even though it meant my kids were able to contact me mid-race and let me know they’d somehow stopped up the sink and were in the process of mopping up some minor flooding.

On second thought maybe next time I’ll leave my phone in the checked bag.

I’d say Warrior Dash was more challenging than Dirty Girl, a little less difficult than the Down & Dirty, and a great first obstacle course run for anyone with a decent base in running or strength or both. Running it in the Poconos is a special treat, given the hills and a motley crew of rednecks in lawn chairs forming miscellaneous bands of cheering sections. The wash-off was fairly typical for an event like this, which is to say you’re going to wait a while for your turn at a trickle of freezing water from a lawn hose. Bring a change of clothes, towels for the car, shoes that breathe, and a sense of humor.


warrior dash finish line



Spartan Race

One would think a semi-successful Warrior Dash would make me feel more confident about running Spartan this weekend, but that isn’t really the case. Spartan is not kidding around. They are not all about handing out gold stars (or medals, same diff) just for showing up. The obstacles are harder, and you’re expected to do them. If you skip or can’t complete an obstacle, you’re penalized with 30 burpees.

What’s a burpee? I didn’t know until last year so here you go:

I understand the principle of the burpees— just plain skipping an obstacle would give you an unfair advantage time-wise and allow you to attack the next obstacle feeling fresh. Burpees eat up that time AND tax you physically before you can go on.

But dude, I fricking hate burpees. I have no idea how long it takes me to do 30 but it’s not fast. I can do 10 pretty easy, 15 with grunting effort, and after that it’s just sets of 2s and 3s until I can finish.

My optimistic strategy for Spartan is to complete every damn obstacle so I don’t have to do burpees, because after one set of 30 my arms and knees are gonna be toast (the hardest part of a burpee for me is jumping back up into squat, kills my knees).

Since this event is being held at Citizens Bank Park, there will be no mud involved, which means obstacles shouldn’t be slippery unless it rains (a good thing). It also probably means a decent amount of carrying heavy things up and down stadium stairs (a not so good thing).

Spartan doesn’t release the course or list of obstacles beforehand, so I can’t train for the race exactly, but I can hazard some educated guesses based on recaps I’ve read here and there.

Things I am worried about:

  • falling down the damn stadium stairs. They are steep and narrow and I tend to get nervous just walking them.
  • monkey bars.
  • rope climb (I’ve never done a fully vertical one. I’m pretty sure I can get up the rope ok. It’s getting back down combined with the prospect of falling that has me sh*tting myself.
  • the spear throw, just because I think you only get one shot or else the dreaded burpees.

Now, I’ve run a Twitter chat with Spartan through my work with FitFluential, and during that chat they really emphasized that the Spartan Sprint is doable for everybody with training. What they mean by training is, of course, open to interpretation.

With only a few days left, all I can do is eat right, sleep a lot and trust that Crossfit Riverfront has made me Spartan Strong (enough to survive). Keep your fingers crossed for me.


Have you run Spartan? Tell me Imma gonna be all right. 




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