Sunday, September 30, 2012

Facing 40: The Warrior Dash

Sigma Nu Warriors
Warrior Dash 2012
Photo by Stephanie
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

Earlier this month I started a new section on the blog called "Facing 40" where I will share experiences and other information as I approach my 40th birthday in March.  I have also publicly vowed to get into better shape and share those successes and failures with you as well.

Over the summer as I was out on a run, I thought I needed something more challenging than a 5K.  I'm not saying 5Ks aren't difficult, but as I get older, I wanted to prove that I could do more than just run something that I've done a handful of times before.  So I started seeking out other races or events that might fill that need I was having.  A couple of fraternity brothers of mine from Sigma Nu told me they were going to be doing the Warrior Dash.  I looked up the race online and was a bit intimidated by what I saw on the official website.  There was fire, mud, and high obstacles to climb during a 5K race.  This was just the something I needed.  It was a challenge I wanted to take.

I kicked up my running routine, hitting more hills and courses off the beaten path.  I also started working out more.  I do 50 pushups first thing in the morning now.  It's all a part of building that upper body strength, which is needed on a couple of the obstacles.

As I packed my bag and headed up to the race (which was about 3 hours away from where I live), I started to feel a bit anxious.  What if I wasn't ready?  What if I fell from one of the obstacles and broke a bone?  After reading the website and the waiver form these were real possibilities.  They also bring up that they're not responsible for anyone who dies during the race.  Dies?  Really?  But I quickly learned that the website's bark was much worse than it's bite.

Good as gold
Photo by Stephanie
I spent the night with a friend I've known my entire life.  My buddy Kevin grew up one street over in my subdivision.  We were in scouts together and eventually ended up at the same university and in the same fraternity.  One point about Kevin is that over the last 10 months, he's lost more than 130 pounds. I was super stoked to hear that he'd be joining the handful of other brothers running the Warrior Dash.  Anyway, on my way to the hotel that Kevin and his wife were staying, I realized I forgot my shoes at home.  I bought a cheap pair at Walmart knowing they'd get destroyed in all the mud and muck we'd be running through.

Saturday morning we met up with our other buddies, Dan, Pete, and Mark.  We discussed the race details, as Dan and Mark had participated before.  We all agreed that no matter how far apart we got during the race, we'd all finish together.  With hundreds of people lined up ready to run in our heat we took off at a relatively slow pace.  We were shoulder to shoulder for probably the first mile of the race.  At one point when in the woods, many runners had to stop and walk up the hill ahead of us because there was no room to move.  Once we reached the top, people started spreading out and the running resumed.  At nearly the mile and a half mark the first major obstacle appeared.  It was a mud pit we had to go through on our hands and knees.  I made it through pretty clean until the end when I got stuck.  The mud was caked on my hands, which was just the beginning of the mess.

Coming out of the mud
Photo by Jason
The course was filled with seven other obstacles.  There were old cars to climb over, net walls to scale across, and barbed wire to crawl under.  Once we climbed over the giant rope wall, all five of us reunited.  We ran to the next obstacle which was another net wall.  After conquering that we jumped the rows of fire ahead of us.  Then the final test, making our way through a massive pit of thick mud.  Oh yeah, and there's barbed wire over portions of the pit that we had to duck.  It was so cold, yet it was so much fun.  As we emerged from the mud it was a race to the finish.  But with all the mud and water it made for a very slick surface.  With just steps to go my feet went out from under me and a went down like a deck of cards.  My ego was the only thing that suffered an injury, although my body was kinda sore after that.

Celebrating a job well done
Photo by Stephanie
The fire department was on hand to hose us off and the five of us enjoyed a beer and the shared stories of the race with one another.  Another one of our brothers, Jason, came along to cheer us on and caught up with us as well.  It was a great way to spend part of the day, knowing that I could do something that I feared for so long.  Not only did I conquer that fear, but I also know we helped out a good cause at the same time (St. Jude Children's Research Hospital) and I got to spend part of the day with friends that I haven't seen in years.  I'm already looking forward to next year's race and hopefully with more members of our posse.

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