On Saturday, August 4th, I competed in the Warrior Dash 5.3K obstacle race. Last year it was held for the first time in B.C. at Whistler, but they switched it to Mt. Seymour for 2012.
I took a shuttle bus from the Parkgate Community Centre in North Vancouver up to the resort. They sent the competitors off in waves every half hour starting at 9 AM, with the last one, which I was in, starting at 2 PM. With about half an hour or so to go before my race, I was walking through the crowd toward the finish line when I ran into Steve Drew from work. He was with his wife Helen and their friend Chris, and they had just finished the race. They gave me some very valuable info about it, telling me to get up front because the course narrows to single track pretty quickly, and they had gotten stuck behind a bunch of people and it took forever to get through the bottleneck. Helen said not many of these people knew how to run downhill, and so they were just all lined up behind each other going at a crawl, very frustrating for the faster runners.
We talked for a bit more, it was very nice to see Steve and meet Helen, and then I went to warm up a bit (like I needed to with the unrelenting sun beating down on us). With about 10 minutes to go I went to the starting line, as Steve yelled to me that they'd probably be jockeying for position already as I ran by him. I managed to get up to the front, actually one row back, but there was a great big buy right in front of me with tree trunk legs, and another guy openly bragging about how slow he was going to run beside him. No runner's etiquette in this event! There was a young fast looking guy standing off to the right side of the line, so I joined him for the start, and we managed to blast off ahead of everyone else when the race got going.
He ran ahead of me and I was in second place for awhile, going downhill through scrub bushes on a single track, and then we came to some wet mud. I stepped in the wrong place and sank into it halfway to my knees and had to get my hands out quickly to stop myself from doing a faceplant, but I sprang up right away and began chasing the 2 guys who passed me when I went down.
Steve had told me that he'd run up the entire first uphill, but then walked the next one that was soon after, and I ended up doing the same. It was just too steep and long to bother trying to run it, and even walking I was going faster than most of the other competitors. We came to the first obstacle, which consisted of going over boards 3 feet high, and alternating this with going under ones a couple of feet from the ground. After a few of these we were off and running again, but not for long. As Steve and Helen had told me, there were a lot of ups and downs on the course, and we were soon on another uphill. Again I managed to run up this first one, but walked the next one.
I reached the next obstacle, which was an up and over about a dozen feet high with spaced boards that you climb by hauling yourself up by a rope. As a ran up to it a young buff guy with no shirt on was trying to climb up it but kept falling back down, and a volunteer guy was yelling encouragement at him. When he saw me he yelled at the guy that he'd better not let this old guy beat him, and I laughed as I was up to the top in a few seconds, and yelled that I'd already beaten him. I straddled the top and climbed down gingerly, you had to be very careful because a slip could mean a serious injury!
After a little downhill through the uneven scrub, which created a few jolts when I hit the ground wrong, there was yet another uphill before hitting an obstacle that consisted of a sheer wooden wall about 8 feet high. As Helen had told me, and a helpful young woman climbing down the other side pointed out, there was a foothold halfway up on the side that represented your best chance of getting over. It was only about an inch wide but I managed to get my foot planted on it and hauled myself up and over.
Between all the ups and downs there were several more obstacles, a pyramid with spaced boards and no rope this time, then a cargo net that you climbed up and had to go about 10 feet overtop of before going down the other side. There was also another spaced boards climb about 12 feet high, and you really had to be careful because at the top you had to climb over more spaced boards about a foot apart for about 8 feet before climbing down the other side, and a slip could mean a very dangerous fall.
After that I we ran downhill into a little valley, where we had to go low along the ground under barbed wire for about 30 feet, but the ground was dry instead of pure wet mud like last year. After I snagged my shorts on the wire a couple of times I learned to stay low, and soon we were out and running uphill again. Myself and a couple of other guys went up it slowly, but the hill wasn't that high and we were on flat ground in no time.
No sooner had we started to run again when we hit a sheer drop of about 10 feet. One guy reached it ahead of me and jumped down into the trench and I followed him. It was a soft landing in the mud and I ran across the trench and up the other side, grabbing scrub brush to haul myself up, and we were off and running again. Next we hit some sideways triangular walls that you had to climb over by bracing yourself by grabbing boards along the side. A little farther ahead we jumped over the line of fire, and finally we had to go low underneath a barrier through some muddy water. A guy volunteer was urging people to go faster to "Get a good time!", and as someone was who was trying to do this I sped up at the end and got a little more wet as a result.
This was the last obstacle and I raced through a parking lot and around the corner to the finisher's chute. There were plenty of people cheering you in, and after I crossed the line I got my finisher's medal and congratulations from a volunteer, and water from another one, and shook hands with some of the people I'd been running the race with.
In our race kits we also got the same Warrior helmet as last year, plus a cool tech shirt.
Next I went and got sprayed by the guy wielding the power hose to get some of the mud off of me. I got my bag from bag check and then went into the washrooms where myself and some of the other guys tried to cleaned up a little more. Everyone in there was much younger than me, and as we talked about the race I got some compliments for doing something like this at my age.
It was quite a festive atmosphere up there, with music blasting from the stage and hundreds of people in warrior dress still milling about. Your timing chip was also good for one free beer, and I took mine off and gave it to grateful thirsty big guy who looked like he'd appreciate another quaff.
There was a tent where we could watch the results scroll down a screen, from age group to age group, and they were slow to update them, so by the time they started the awards my time still wasn't up there. I'd just been hoping to repeat my third place finish in my age group from last year, but from the results up so far I saw I actually had a chance of winning it!
Myself and one of the few guys close to my own age stood in front of the stage, and the announcer said they were going to mail us our awards. We introduced ourselves, his name was Graham Dunne and just out of my age group at 49, and found out we knew a lot of the same people. Graham was second in his age group, and sure enough I won mine, and we congratulated each other with a high five. I told him that last year we won trophies and got to hold them up onstage and get our picture taken, and he said it was too bad they weren't doing the same thing this year, but c'est la vie.
The young folk were still partying but we decided to head out, and we'd see each other at another race. I couldn't believe it when I saw the results online, I was 36th overall out of 2242, and Graham was 16th, not bad for a couple of "old guys"! http://www.warriordash.com/results/2012_British_Columbia_Sat_OA.htm
I was 1st of 50 in my age group with a time of 32:27, and Graham was 2nd of 187 in his, with a time of 30:17.
Helen was 29 of 247 in her age group with a time of 48:54. Steve was 21st in our AG, with a time of 48:53, not bad considering he ran it with Helen, who wasn't exactly racing it. He had no choice in this matter, as Helen put it, he had to stay with her, "If he wants to stay married to me." That's pretty clear!
My next race was the next morning, the Squamish 10K at 8:30 AM.