Running Through Fire – My First Warrior Dash

Warrior Dash Bib

I ran my first Warrior Dash about a week ago. It’s an adventure race / mud run that’s around the length of a 5k and held and locations all around the country. I got muddy as all hell, jumped over fire and pitched my startup to a cute girl during the run.

It all started from a Facebook photo.

My buddy Ted Suzman has had a great FB profile pic where he’s leaping over a wall of flames. It’s pretty awesome. To be honest, half the reason I decided to do Warrior Dash was for the chance to get a photo like this. =)

Anyway, Ted had a group of friends going to this one, in Hollister CA and I told him I wanted to tag along. I was hoping to use my own rideshare site Ridejoy to find a ride to Hollister (instead of riding with Ted’s group). I actually got two ride match emails, but they were going too late in the day for it to work for me.

So I ended up driving alone. Which kind of sucked because the cell phone reception by Warrior Dash was poor and I couldn’t reach him when I got there.

Warrior Dash is supposedly the “party one” of all the different adventure races out there (Tough Mudder, Muddy Buddy, Spartan Race) and the reputation is accurate. I’d estimate at least half of the people there were dressed up in some kind of costume. Also noteworthy – lots of cute, fit girls. My goodness.

The Race Begins

I arrived at noon for a 12:30pm start so I barely had enough time to change into my running gear (remembered my shorts this time!) check in, put on my bib and hit the portapotty before they were doing a 10 minute countdown. I walked up and down the 12:30 wave trying to find Ted but unfortunately he was nowhere in sight. I jostled my way into the group and almost trip when some girl behind me stepped on my shoe. Pre race shenanigans!

Warrior Dash 2011 Jason
The starting group for the next wave up froms up ahead.

I took off on my own. They blast flames at the starting gate as you head out. It was a hot day and about 5 minutes into the race you could really feel the heat beating down on you. I picked my way through some of the slower “fun-runners” and locked on to a girl who seemed to be moving at a pretty good clip.

There’s something funny about chasing someone. It’s almost like you’re getting pulled, instead of pushing. I just kept trying to stay pace with this girl and probably ended up running 7 minute miles for the first half of the race. [1] There was a water break about 1.5 miles in where staff actually poured water into your mouth from pitchers. It was awesome.

Obstacles Ahead!

I lost my pacer when we hit a pretty steep hill, which I walked starting halfway up. After coming down, we started hitting obstacles. There was a tighrope-like obstacle over a small pool of muddy water where you had to inch your way across on one rope with another rope above that you could hold on to for balance.

There a couple different “scale the wall” obstacles where you had to scramble up an incline or climb a rope up a wall and then ladder your way down. My favorite was the tire stepthroughs followed by climbing over and running ontop of wrecked cars. Come on – you’ve always wanted to be Hulk and jump on the hood of a car … right? Just me?

Anyway, you can see a list of all the obstacles on the Warrior Dash website.

Pitching Ridejoy MidRace

“So we meet again.”

I was a bit startled to hear someone say that as I jogged in between obstacles. (They really take the wind out of you!) I turned around to see a 20-something girl in shorts and a tank top right behind me. I realized it was the girl who had almost tripped me while we were waiting at the start.

We had a brief conversation and when I heard that she had driven from Sacramento all the way down to Hollister, I was like – “Ok, well, now I have to pitch my startup”. And so I found myself 3/4 the way through a mud race and pitching my ridesharing startup.

She was a strong runner and started to pull ahead, but I’d reel her back in when we hit an obstacle which I could usually do a lot faster. It turned out she had only started running 3 months ago – and started by training for Tough Mudder. Trying to make myself feel better I was like “You seem really fit, what sports did you do before running?”

The answer? “Oh, nothing really. I was always athletic but never training anything seriously.” Doh! And the final stake in my racing heart – “I just did the Merrell Night Mud Run for fun yesterday.” She had been racing less than 12 hours ago!

Mud and Fire!

Eventually freakishly-talented-and-cute Sacramento girl had enough conversation and blazed on. I was pretty exhausted and unsure how much farther we had to go. And then I saw the fire pit.

Went all out and gave that wall of flames my best shot. Of course, the resulting photo STILL isn’t as cool as Ted’s but I guess that’s just something I’ll have to live with.

The final obstacle was the mud pit. I was able to make pretty good progress on this just by not flailing and crawling smoothly through the mud. Climbing out is another matter. Every emerges totally brown and that mud is heavy!

My final time: 31.17 on a 3.5 mile course, putting me 88th out of 797 guys aged 25-30 competing that day.

I’m actually really happy with this time because those 9 minute miles – and given there were at least 5 minutes of energy-draining, non-distance covering obstacle stuff, this suggests my fitness is definitely better than my last 5k and had I run a regular 5k, I maybe even beaten my first 5k results at the SF Marathon.

Final Thoughts

Warrior Dash was a lot of fun. It would have been even more fun if I could have found Ted and the gang. I also had to jet right away so missed the beer and turkey legs that came after the run. Still – a good race and highly recommended!

My next race is next week – The Stanford Habitat for Humanity Home Run. I’m doing the 10k – my first ever!

Learn more about Warrior Dash:


[1] I didn’t have my iPhone on me (because of the mud) so I don’t have any analytics from RunKeeper updates.

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Jason Shen

Jason is a tech entrepreneur and advocate for Asian American men. He's written extensively and spoken all over the world about how individuals and organizations develop their competitive advantage. Follow him at @jasonshen.

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  1. Wow, that sounds like crazy fun! Congrats on the Warrior Dash. I totally want to do one of these. I looked it up and the closest to me seems to be Ohio next year. Hmm. P.S. Good luck in your first 10K!

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