10 Lessons Learned After Completing the 2017 Warrior Dash in Austin, Texas
When the Oakheart Genuine Spiced Rum publicity team asked me if I’d be interested in attending and covering the second Warrior Dash of 2017 here in Austin, Texas, I jumped at the opportunity. Though I love to indulge my girly side with body-hugging dresses, gravity-defying heels, and a bright lip, I’m also a bit of a tomboy in as far as I love to run around outside, climb trees, watch roller derby jams, and cheer at Monster Truck events as those larger-than-life wheels crush every spray-painted car in sight. While living in New York, I’d never had the chance to participate in a mud run or any obstacle course so this felt beyond serendipitous. So, on Saturday, March 4th, I headed out to the Rusty Walnut Creek Ranch with my husband and 12-year-old son in tow and prepared to complete a 3.5K course, replete with muddy trails and obstacles like Fisherman’s Catch, in which you have to reach up and grab onto a set of metal rings, keeping your legs up while swinging from one ring to the next as if on a playground monkey bar set; the Warrior Summit, in which you use a rope to climb up a 30-foot-high pyramid; and the Pipeline, in which you climb up and through a tube made of cargo nets.
It was raining when we arrived at Rusty Walnut Creek (we’d been waiting for the rain to let up all morning and finally decided it wasn’t going to happen and that we’d just grin and bear it). At first, we thought the rain might help in that at least some of the mud would wash off our bodies but, really, it didn’t quite work in our favor as the precipitation just made the mud less packed and, therefore, way more slippery. How slippery? Well, my son estimates that I fell around 23 times in total and, while I wasn’t counting, I don’t think he’s far off. Still, falling while trekking through the mud is part of the fun. Each time, as you try to regain your balance and wind up flat on your behind, down on your knees, or breaking a full-on fall with your outstretched arms, you laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. Funny enough, as I zoomed through the Warrior Summit obstacle, one fellow racer looked at me and said, “Well, that was impressive!” and I said, “The crazy part is that the obstacles don’t seem to faze me. It’s the whole standing-upright-and-walking-through-mud aspect I can’t seem to matter.” He shrugged and laughed. It was one of those moments when you felt a sense of camaraderie with perfect strangers — all based on the experience of facing challenges and surmounting obstacles in unison.
In the end, I was covered in mud from head to toe, but I had an absolute blast! And, afterwards, I made sure to have an Oakheart Oak & Cola cocktail since, well, my husband was driving (and, hey, I earned it).
That said, there were a lot of valuable lessons I learned during my very first mud race, mainly pertaining to how I could’ve better prepared for the whole event. So, in hopes of helping you future mud race and Warrior Dash rookies, here are some pointers:
- Don’t wear too many layers — It was pretty chilly when I participated in the Warrior Dash, with temperatures in the 50s, and given that I tend to get sick whenever it rains on me or when I’m exposed to cold weather, I dressed in layers. Ever the dramatic one, I wore a LOT of layers — a pair of stretchy maxi leggings under a pair of sweatpants paired with a sports cami layered atop a sports bra, a cotton T-shirt over the sports cami, a hooded sweatshirt, and a zip-up down jacket. Seems excessive? Well, it was. Not only was I sweating under all those layers but, the more I wound up rollicking in the mud, the heavier all those outer layers became. Just 15 minutes into the race, I was regretting my decision to wear sweatpants since they were weighing me down immensely and throwing my balance off even more. Frankly, at one point, I wanted to take them off and just throw them out somewhere, but there were no trash cans and I’m not a litterbug. And so I persevered, despite my sweatpants sagging down so bad it must’ve looked like I had a poopy diaper underneath.
- Wear body-hugging workout clothes — Experienced racers knew to wear their stretchy leggings or mesh shorts and sports camis or moisture-wicking tees. And with good reason: these types of clothes won’t sop up as much mud and they’ll keep you moving fast. They’re also way easier to clean post-race.
- It’s more fun when the group stays together — Some people get really competitive, and they want to zoom ahead of the slower members of their teams but, unless that was the agreed-upon course of action, those types of attitudes just hamper the fun. See, when you tackle the race together, helping each other through the challenges and frustrations, it becomes a bonding experience. At one point, while running down a muddy slope, my son decided he wanted to plop down on his behind and just slide down. My husband, meanwhile, tried to save me from falling and, instead, wound up on the ground with me. Had we not been close together, we would’ve missed all those precious little moments.
- Bring lots of towels and a change of clothes — Even if you didn’t fall once during the race, you’ll have to crawl through trenches and muddy water canals, so you’re going to get dirty. There’s no escaping it. So when you complete the race and walk over to your car, you’ll find yourself asking, “Wait, now what?” After all, no one wants to climb into their cars looking like Swamp Monsters. Luckily, we had the foresight to bring a spare change of clothes but, even then, I wound up with mud all over my car. There were just not enough towels to clean up our muddy bodies. I can’t even imagine what we would’ve done had we not brought clean clothes!
- Pack some baby wipes and makeup remover wipes — Given that you might not find a place in which you can wash your hands, keep a pack of baby wipes in your car. That way, you can get some of the mud off your mitts before you start reaching for the wheel, the rearview mirror, and so for. Similarly, a pack of makeup remover wipes will be helpful when you want to clean off any mud on your face.
- Don’t assume showers will be available — One of our biggest mistakes was assuming that showers would be on hand — or at least some sort of hose. If there was such a clean-up spot available, we totally missed it. Had it not been for the towels we packed, we wouldn’t have had any means through which to wipe some of the mud off our bodies. Next time, I’ll also bring some jugs filled with tap water in case we need to rinse before loading into the car!
- Don’t carry phones or cameras with you unless they’re designed to withstand these conditions — I made the mistake of bringing my iPhone with me (albeit in a zippered belt bag) thinking that I’d be able to snap some pictures during the race, but there was no way to do so. My hands were covered in mud and no part of my clothing was clean or dry so there was no way for me to even clean my hands enough to reach for my phone (hence why, much to my annoyance, I couldn’t post any original photos here). During one of the final obstacles, we had to swim across a muddy pond of sorts and I became paranoid that my phone would become damaged. After the race, my phone started acting persnickety — it turned on, but enough mud had seeped into the audio output, that the device acted like headphones were being used (in actuality, there was no wire in the audio hole). I was panicking about it for hours, taking tiny Q-tips and trying to extract bits of mud out of every nook and crevice on my device. Luckily, the next day, the phone was back in working order but I learned my lesson: keep your phone in the bag you check in before the race or inside your glove compartment.
- Don’t reach for things to break your fall — Normally, when you find yourself at risk of falling, you’ll instinctively reach out to grab anything in sight. But because mud races typically happen in farms and ranches, reaching out might mean grabbing onto a barbed wire fence or a cactus plant. Falling is a better option!
- Don’t wear your wedding band or engagement ring — I was terrified of losing my rings during the race, so I left them at home, but my husband kept his wedding band on since he assumed that it wouldn’t budge given how snugly it fit on his finger. Mistake! During the last obstacle course, he felt his wedding band slipping right off. And, of course, there was no finding that bad boy. Luckily, we’d gotten it from Overstock.com, so it wasn’t a huge waste of money.
- Trail sneakers help, but not that much — You may be tempted to go out and buy an expensive pair of trail kicks with all the bells and whistles imaginable but, while they may offer a bit more tread, it won’t be enough if the mud is loose and slippery since the soil will just get every single nook on the soles of your shoes. When that happens, don’t be afraid to slow down and just walk for a bit.
Most of all, just have fun and roll with it! So what if you get dirty and fall down? So what if you’re bringing up the rear? So what if you look utterly ridiculous? It’s all part of the fun!
And, at the end, treat yourself to a nice drink and laugh about every single time you tripped, fell, slipped, and wound up with mud splashed on your hair and face.
** All photos courtesy of Harrison & Shriftman