For a few years, my sister, Melissa, has been running the Warrior Dash. I’ve always thought it looked so fun, you know, for people who actually run and wouldn’t die in the middle of it. It almost made me want to take up running, just so I could do this with my sister and participate in all those Survivor-like challenges. We love Survivor in this family.
Every year, Melissa would participate in the Warrior Dash and then ask me if I wanted to sign up to do it with her next time. My answer was always, “Maybe. We’ll see.” I never did sign up. Then came last winter. I decided to give up laziness for Lent. I decided to accomplish this by downloading the Couch to 5K app and working my way through it.
Surprisingly, I came to somewhat enjoy running and I continued running beyond Easter. One day, back in May, I ran 3.1 miles – the full distance of a 5K – for the first time. To celebrate, Melissa and I signed up for the Warrior Dash in St. Francisville scheduled for October 3rd. I had nearly five months to get it together, right? All I had to do was keep up my running routine. Then came summer in Louisiana. It was hot and sticky and not any fun for running. I slacked to the point of usually running once a week. Every so often I would run twice in a week. I’ve lost my endurance. One mile is standard for me on a regular running day. Two miles just isn’t going to happen. Two miles is too much to ask.
October 3rd came creeping up on me. As it got closer and closer, I got more and more nervous. What was I thinking? I had never even run a 5K race at all, much less one full of obstacles. I had barely run at all throughout the summer. What made me think I could handle 3.24 miles plus 12 obstacles. Really?! Oh, I was going to regret this.
I was having flashbacks to things that were supposed to be fun that I did not find fun. Several years ago, I let Melissa convince me to go snowboarding with her. Snowboarding is fun, right? Wrong. It is not fun. Snowboarding is awful. I did not snowboard. Sure, there was a snowboard strapped to my feet, but no snowboarding was accomplished. I fell down repeatedly. I tried and tried and tried. And I fell and fell and fell. Eventually, I watched a child who was approximately four years old remain upright and snowboard past me and I decided I’d had enough. I took that stupid board off my feet and started walking down the mountain. I didn’t care how long it took to reach the bottom. I could walk, but I could not snowboard, so walking was what I would do. Thankfully someone who worked at the resort told me I could catch a ride back down the mountain via ski-lift type thing and not have to walk, so I did that. But I hated it. HATED it. It was awful and I was incredibly disappointed and frustrated that I couldn’t do it.
I also thought about the day in second grade when my mom took Melissa and me out to LSU-Shreveport for a “Jump Rope For Heart” event. A lot of my friends and classmates were there and we jumped rope all day to raise money for some organization, which I can only assume was the American Heart Association. I was roughly seven or eight years old. I kept messing up while trying to do something (double-dutch, maybe) and I started giggling about it. One of the adults leading the event fussed at me for laughing. So, of course, I went from laughing to crying. I was so sad and embarrassed. Jumping rope was supposed to be fun. It was no longer fun. Looking back I find it pretty sad that an adult would berate a child over something like jumping rope, but it happened, and it hurt my little seven year old heart. I still remember sitting up against the cinderblock wall, crying and wishing Mama would show up soon to take us home.
I was so nervous the Warrior Dash would be a similar experience. I thought I wouldn’t be able to accomplish these challenges. I would fail. History has shown that I’m not a big fan of failure when I fail at things that are supposed to be fun. It just makes me mad and I don’t even want to be around myself at that point. I literally was praying to God that I would keep a good attitude – that even if there was a challenge I couldn’t complete, I would keep a good attitude and not allow this to become a miserable experience. I know myself. I know how I respond to that. I wanted to have fun with this. I really really did.
Saturday came along. My sister and I packed our bags, loaded up my car, and headed to St. Francisville. On the drive down, we stopped in Natchez for a bathroom break and it was freezing outside. The sun was completely hidden behind the clouds and I was shivering on the walk to and from the car. Also, the first challenge on this Warrior Dash route was called Alcatraz, where you had to swim out to a floating structure, climb over it, and swim back to shore. (In my nervousness, I had studied the course map. I wanted to be prepared for what I was going to encounter.) Shivering while completely dry had me a little worried about how cold I would be after swimming. This was not a good sign. But it’s better than heat, right?! I’d much rather run in the cold weather than the stifling heat. Give me snow any running day over 95 degrees with 100% humidity.
We got to the site of the race an hour later than we were supposed to, which put us an hour behind on running the race. No big deal. We just would run the next heat. As we were checking in, I was feeling pretty excited about it – more excitement than dread. (God was answering my prayer to have a good attitude.) We headed to the starting chute and watched the clock, counting down until 12:15 when we would officially start the race.
We took a few pre-race photos before it started:
In this next one, Melissa suggested that we try to look fierce, but then she just kept laughing.
The route was so much fun – it was very hilly and wound through the woods on a (mostly) dirt path. It was mostly shaded since it was in the woods. We had to run a while before we reached the first challenge – Alcatraz. I’m not the strongest swimmer and I saw a sign that the water was 6 to 9 feet deep. I just went for it. It wasn’t a far distance to swim and I can swim well enough to handle what was ahead of me. The water weighed my shoes down a good bit – I’m not used to swimming in Brooks running shoes – so I swam to the side and held on to a rope until the crowd thinned enough that I could climb on the structure and cross to the other side. It felt great to have the first of twelve challenges in the books!
We continued on and reached the next challenge where we had to climb two walls that were probably about five feet high, crawl under a big tarp (boot camp style crawling), and then climb two more walls. It was at this challenge when Melissa saw that I really came to play. I wasn’t going to just walk up to the wall and see what would happen. I ran full speed and scaled them pretty quickly. I mentioned my family loves Survivor, so as we were crawling under the tarp, Melissa jokingly said to me, “For immunity!” I immediately picked up the pace and hustled as fast as I could. We were cracking ourselves up.
At another obstacle, I had climbed over and was making my way down. Melissa had already finished and was waiting on me. Again referencing Survivor, Melissa said, “For love letters from home!” At this, I full on sprinted toward her for a few seconds. I’m sure other people wondered what in the world we were talking about, but again, we cracked ourselves up.
Along the course, there were funny signs. At a wall climbing challenge, a sign said, “Danger – Butts Ahead!” Another sign along the way said, “We wish you had trained for this, too.” Another one, which was probably the first one where you’d really get muddy, read – “You came here to get muddy.” And boy did we get muddy. I felt like a toddler with a loaded diaper at one point. Coming right out of the mud, your feet would slip and slide everywhere until you got to more solid ground. It was fun. It was stinking fun. It really was stinking at some of the mud-centered challenges. And it was so much fun.
When it came time for our fire jump, we were ready. Some people were tired and would simply clear the flames by an inch or two and keep moving. Melissa and I wanted a fun fire picture. We’ve talked about having a fun fire picture ever since she first started trying to talk me into running the Warrior Dash with her. We wanted to be in the air at the same time. Since we planned it out, we allowed the people in front of us enough time to jump over the fire and get several feet ahead. Then on the count of three we ran and jumped. The photographer gave us a thumbs up once our feet were back on the ground so that was a good sign. We got a sequence of three photos and this is my favorite:
After the fire came the most intimidating challenge of all – Goliath. You had to climb a wall, walk across an elevated balance beam, and then go down a 30 foot slide into a giant pool of muddy water. This one was the hardest for me. I climbed the wall pretty quickly, but the distance between the last foothold and the top of the wall was taller than me. I was having trouble trying to pull myself over. Plus, the lady literally lying on top of the wall in utter exhaustion was not helping, because I felt sure I would kick her in the head. I knew that if I didn’t pull myself over, I would have to go to the bottom and start over because I would need some momentum once I got to the top. I dug deep and pulled myself over. I even inched a little to my left in the process so I didn’t kick the lady in the head. (You’re welcome, lady!) That moment felt like the greatest accomplishment of the whole course to me. The balance beam was the most nerve wracking part and I did not allow myself to look down. My heart was pounding when I made it safely to the other side. Also, apparently there was a photographer around that I didn’t see, because I ended up with this photo:
At the end of Goliath was the 30 foot slide.
I’ve heard too many stories about brain eating amoebas in Louisiana waters this year, so I was ready to pinch my nose shut from 30 feet up. Not today, brain eating amoeba. Not today. From the force of the entry into the water at the bottom of the slide, Melissa and I both lost our St. Jude buffs in the process. We both came up with big eyes patting the tops of our heads. One of them floated up, so Melissa grabbed it and let me keep it. It wasn’t even mine to begin with. They were both hers. But she kindly let me keep it as a souvenir of my first Warrior Dash.
The last challenge was Muddy Mayhem, where you’re forced to get as muddy as possible unless you want to encounter some real barbed wire. I prefer mud to blood and scars, so I stayed down. My poor sister ended up with mud in her eye, so she was having problems seeing at the end. This was our photo at the finish line:
Afterward, Melissa was able to take a shower because she raised a lot of money for St. Jude and it was one of her perks. I hosed off as well as I could. Once Melissa was truly clean and I was moderately clean, we took a photo with our fuzzy Warrior hats.
Then we got in line for some food. Melissa also had some food vouchers as part of her St. Jude perks. We had our hearts set on turkey legs, but they were out, so we snacked on french fries & corn on the cob. A drunk guy came to our picnic table and chatted up my sister. He offered her a sip of his oversized beer and assured her he didn’t have any diseases. (That’s what they all say, Meat Head!) She declined. She and I texted back and forth a little bit about Meat Head as he talked about how he had gained thirty pounds by going to the gym so much. He looked down and admired his defined chest. I kept my eyes averted and didn’t look directly at my sister until he finally walked away because my face would have told it all. However, if my sister had taken a sip of Meat Head’s beer, I wouldn’t have been able to control my face. No worries. She’s too smart for that.
Once we left, we headed to the Airbnb we were staying for the night in St. Francisville. I took one of the most glorious showers of my life. I never obey bath product labels that instruct me to “lather, rinse, repeat”. I just lather and rinse. On this day, I obeyed. Lather, rinse, repeat. Repeat was necessary. Also, once we had finished the race, my clothes were wet and it was a cool day, so I stayed cold to the point of occasionally shivering. I was so happy to be taking a hot shower. I actually hung my head in sadness once I finally decided I’d used enough hot water and shut it off.
Melissa and I went into St. Francisville – wearing our Warrior Dash medals with pride, of course – and ate supper at the Magnolia Cafe. (Melissa even put on her Warrior hat to order her food but didn’t get a reaction at the moment. Tough crowd.) One of the restaurant managers went to Tech, so we talked Tech football with him and showed him highlight videos our dad was sending us during the game. When we left, we realized it was still pretty early – probably around 7:00 or 7:30 – and there’s really not much to do in St. Francisville once the sun goes down. Also, there was no TV in the Airbnb where we stayed. We had a conversation that went something like this:
Me – “I wish we had thought to bring some decks of cards or something.”
Melissa – “Yeah, me too. OH! I have an idea!”
Me – “What?!”
Melissa – “We can go back to our room and do crossword puzzles!!!!”
Me – “Crossword puzzles?! That doesn’t sound fun!”
Melissa – “No, it’s this fun app on my iPad!”
Me – “Crossword puzzles are boring.”
Melissa – “Oh wait! Not CROSSWORD puzzles. JIGSAW puzzles! With our own pictures!”
Me – “OOOH! That does sound fun! Let’s put on pajamas first!”
Melissa – “Okay! Pajamas and jigsaw puzzles!”
Me – “Yes!”
Melissa – “Wow, we sound like grandmas.”
Me – “What?! We are not grandmas! We ran the Warrior Dash!”
Well, let me just say we did at least two hours worth of Warrior Dash photo jigsaw puzzles as well as a precious Sayid jigsaw puzzle and now I officially want an iPad. Something has finally come along to make me want an iPad. Jigsaw puzzles.
The next morning we woke up – yes, I was sore especially across the arms and shoulders – and our Airbnb host served us breakfast on her patio before we headed home.
This was fun. It was just as fun as Melissa always made it out to be. No, it was even more fun. I absolutely loved it. I left St. Francisville with sore muscles, multiple bruises, and a few battle wounds on my arms and legs. It was totally worth it. These grandmas are getting ready to sign up for Warrior Dash 2016.