Despite my clear preference for being water-bourne, this is not a story about paddling. Rather it is about getting outside and reminding yourself what it is like to truly challenge yourself and importantly, to LIVE. A crazy event from the USA called Warrior Dash branched out to stage its first international event here in Australia, on a plot of land a good hour’s drive north of the city. The event bills itself as “The craziest fricken’ day of your life”, and very much lived up to its claim. The event website describes it as follows:
Warrior Dash is a mud-crawling, fire-leaping, extreme run from hell. This fierce running series is held on the most challenging and rugged terrain across the globe. Warriors conquer extreme obstacles, push their limits and celebrate with kick-ass music, beer and warrior helmets.
For someone like me with pretty substantial injuries, this was going to be extremely difficult, and I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d be able to complete it. Which is what made it all the more attractive… especially with the promise of beer and roast turkey legs at the end!
So Team Fat Paddler arrived. Alan (Kayak for Kids 2010), Gelo (Hawkesbury Classic 2010) and myself kitted up with custom tshirts and Mexican Wrestling Masks to give ourselves that warrior edge. Then packed in with hundreds of other warriors, we counted down to the start and with a gutteral warrior cheer, we were off, running off into the forest to take on the 5.3km of hell that awaited us.
The first half of the race was literally a run up and down hills through the forest. For me, this was excrutiating agony, as I hadn’t been able to run since my last accident in 2005. I alternated between jogging and walking, with Gelo staying back with me to escort me throughout the race. Alan had taken off as is his style, looking to push himself hard in search of a decent race time, so we werent to see him again until later in the race.
The first Danger sign signified a definite change in race dynamic. Our first obstacle was a series of 4 foot walls to climb over and two foot bars to climb under. We hammed this one up, launching over the walls and death-rolling under the bars, laughing our heads off as we did so. The next obstacle however was a whole lot worse. Before us stretched a never-ending pool of mud, with hundreds of warriors desperately wading through the waist-deep muck, or searching for lost shoes, or trying in vain to swim through it. Gelo and I plunged into the foul muck with a warrior shout, before promptly becoming stuck.
The mud was clearly designed with one goal in mind – eating shoes. All around us warriors were searching for shoes pulled off their feet by the squelchy mess. Within minutes one of my shoes was taken, with only a desperate search some two feet down managing to retrieve it. Gelo lost both shoes but managed to recover one.. the other lost forever. I in turn removed my second shoe, tied them together, and carried them around my neck as I continued barefoot, wading and wallowing in the mud hoping that it would soon end.
When we finally emerged from the pit we were exhausted. Fortunately the half way mark appeared and were able to down some water, wash some of the mud off and continue on our way. But shortly after we encountered a new mud and water pit, which required us to literally swim through it. Then a few hundred metres further we came to the double rope bridge across a small river… a task that proved extremely difficult as we shimmied our way across.
And so the tasks continued. More river crossings and climbs up steep banks. Climbing through spider-web like structures in the forest. Sliding across narrow balance beams and climbing up rope cargo nets. Climbing over car wrecks and running across tires. And somewhere along the line we were rejoined by Alan, who’d finished and then come back to finish again with the team.
The best challenges were left for last. A couple of decent-sized flaming fire pits to jump over (I was genuinely worried about this one!), and then the final challenge – a 30 metre pit of mud and water with barbed wire strung a foot or so above the surface at regular intervals. With a *sploosh* we dived into the muck and swam our way to the finish line, avoided the wire and ending with a three-way yelling mosh session to celebrate our successful finish.
Despite being utterly spent, we were all on a huge high having finished such a ridiculously fun event. In fact Gelo and Alan we so excited, they decided to jump in and do it again, this time at speed. As I head off to a local river to try to scrub some of the mud off, they head back to the starting line to go around a second time.
Of course, going a second time was inviting trouble. As I drank my beer and danced to rock music with my little girls (who had come to watch), Alan and Gelo struggled around a second time before disaster struck. Gelo, attempting an athletic slide across the finish line, went arse-up and fell on one arm, popping it out of his shoulder socket. Now in serious pain with his shoulder well dislocated, he had no choice but to get on the morphine and await the ambulance.
And with that the day was done – if you dont include waiting in hospital for Gelo’s discharge and the long drive home from Gosford to Sydney!! Needless to say that despite Gelo’s injury, and despite the agony I’d be in for the next few days, we all agreed it was one of craziest and most fun events we’d ever taken on. Can’t wait to do it all again next year! Cheers – FP