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We are Warriors! My first (and definitely not last) Warrior Dash

I’m still trying to figure out why I did it, but I definitely want to do it again.

On June 1, I completed a Warrior Dash.

What’s a Warrior Dash, you ask? Oh, it’s just a 5K race with obstacles. Like super steep ski resort hills. And mud, barbed wire and fire. And more mud. And walls. And lots of cargo nets.

And did I mention the hills? Because my legs still hurt from the hills.

Thankfully, I didn’t do it alone. Like my other races, this was a team effort — with my husband, siblings and a couple friends. We all committed to the race several months ago, but I don’t think anyone was prepared for what we would encounter.

The Warrior Dash series takes place at venues all across the country, but ours was in Butler, Ohio, which isn’t far from Mansfield.
Before the race, after the race, and after our rinse in the pond

Now, I promise I passed state history in school, but apparently my knowledge of Ohio geography is a bit lax. I knew the area would be hilly, but it never occurred to me — or anyone else in my group — that the site was an actual ski resort, with hills that we would never find in northwest Ohio.

We didn’t put two and two together until we pulled up on the shuttle bus and saw racers running down the first giant slope.

Yes, I said first. I can’t really remember how many ski slopes were on our course, but let’s just say my knees still remember.

We got to the race before our scheduled 6 p.m. start time, and we took in the atmosphere. A Warrior Dash is definitely not your average 5K. The start/finish area is basically one giant party, with music, food, drinks and mud. From the spectator area, we could see the first big hill of the course as well as the two final obstacles: Racers must leap across fire twice before sliding into an 80-feet-long mud pit covered in barbed wire that they must crawl through to reach the finish line.

What we couldn’t see were the walls we would climb, the mud pits we would fall into, the cargo nets we’d have to scale and the long, hilly trail that by the end of the day was completely ravaged by the near 8,000 people who had already gone before us.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew going into the race that it would be intense. What I didn’t realize was no amount of running could train me for that day.

We took off early, in the 5:30 p.m. slot, before anyone got the jitters and decided to punk out. OK, before I decided to punk out.

After hiking the first hill, we were finally able to run for a bit before we hit our first set of obstacles. There was water, mud, climbing and wire, but I can’t remember the order because it all came so fast. I do remember, however, that I had to walk around two 5-foot walls because there were no foot holds and my shoes were sinking in the mud, making it hard to get a running start.

Racers can walk around any obstacle, but it just disqualifies them from awards. I knew I wasn’t competing for a medal, so I don’t regret my decision to skip one. For the record, however, it was the only one I skipped for the duration.

The only other obstacle that worried me was a 15-foot wall. Unlike the smaller walls, it at least had footholds and rope, but I knew it would require a lot of upper-body strength — something I don’t have.

But, as I turned the corner from a muddy trench and looked at the wall, I told myself I had to try. I couldn’t just walk around without knowing that I gave it my best shot.

I grabbed the rope and just pulled, pulled, pulled until I realized I was near the top. My arms started shaking, but I realized the only way down at that point was a 12-foot fall to the ground. So, I had nowhere to go but up and over.

As I muttered a few obscenities and swore at my middle school gym teacher, I actually pulled myself to the top and over the other side. Kyle, who is afraid of heights and decided the wall would be his one skip, was on the ground waiting for me. He gave me a fist bump of pride and we continued on.

We didn’t get halfway through the course before running turned into walking, or mostly hiking, due to the hills and slippery mud. But I’d say a good third or even half of the competitors also walked most of the way, so we weren’t alone.

When I could finally hear the music coming from the finish line, I picked up my pace. Wanting to finish strong, I sprinted through the fire leaps and crawled as fast as I could through the final mud pit. Holding hands with our entire group, we crossed the finish together, in 1 hour, 16 minutes.

You may think that’s slow, but I actually placed 5,181st out of 8,271 Warriors that day. And, I was 665th in my age group. Not bad for a rookie Warrior, in my opinion.

At the end of the race, we danced in the mud and celebrated with our one free beer — it was the best I had ever tasted. Because it tasted like pride.

You see, I did get more from the race than sore muscles, scraped knees and bruised shins. I got a sense of accomplishment, knowing that I challenged myself. I looked my fear right in the eyes and climbed over my insecurities — quite literally.

I’ll never forget what it felt like to dig deep within myself for the strength to climb that wall, and I’ll never forget what it felt like to leap over fire like it didn’t even burn.

I’ll also never forget how good it felt to rinse off in a pond afterward, or how good my cheeseburger tasted a few hours later.

Hopefully, however, I will forget my sore muscles and aching joints in time for next year’s dash.

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