Last May, Fr. Victor and I were ordained to the priesthood. This past Saturday, we were completely covered from head to toe in mud after competing in our first “Warrior Dash.” The Warrior Dash is a 5K (3.1 mile) race with 12 different obstacles, most involving barbwire, water, mud, with some climbing structures. It’s not exactly the typical thing that monks and priests do on the weekend, but when Fr. Victor e-mailed me last fall asking if I was interested, my response was brief: Of course. I have always enjoyed running 5K and 10K races and competing in Sprint Triathlons, so I thought this would be another event to check-off my list.
Above: Before the race. So, excited and full of hope….
We left the monastery at 6:30am and prayed morning prayer together on the way to the event. It was already looking like it would be a very nice day. After making one wrong turn, we pulled up to the Circle S Ranch (north of Lawrence, KS) around 9:00am. Our wave of the race began at 10:00am. Race events are always fun scenes. People are genuinely happy and looking forward to fun and competition. Picking up our packets and navigating was especially easy. We could see the previous groups of runners jogging along the country side, with some walking and looking rather fatigued. Some people wore very entertaining costumes, dressing as superheroes, ninja turtles, and one guy wore a full suit.
We stretched out, and moved forward in the competitor’s corral, getting ready for the 10:00am start. We situated ourselves in the front, figuring we would be faster than most people. Our group was not a specifically “competitive” wave, those groups had already run the course. What was neat about this event is that it was all sorts of people, those very physically fit, and those whose ultimate goal was simply to survive.
The clock hit 10:00am and we took off like a herd of bison. Actually, I say that because on the property there was a herd of bison, but fortunately they were not one of the obstacles to outmaneuver. It was a “moderately hilly trail run” as the event advertised. I was out in front with three other people, with Fr. Victor somewhere close behind. We had to jump or run through a muddy shallow pool of water. It was slick, because after exiting the woman running next to me lost her footing and the last thing I heard was her slipping to the ground. Within the first quarter-mile, we were climbing up a terrible incline. I jogged up it, and was ahead of the pack. I train on the rolling hills around the Abbey, so a little elevation is not too much of a surprise. But, most people ended up walking, and I don’t blame them for doing so.
After crawling and rolling under some barbed wire, the second obstacle involved a series of three mud mounds. They had dug out a three-foot deep trench that was at least ten feet wide and filled with muddy water. I plunged into it without hesitation, but then thought, wow, I can’t believe I just did that. Now, my clothes and shoes were completely soaked, and I had to climb a steep mud mound which required looking for any kind of foothold. Now, I was both wet and muddy. After emerging from the third mud mound and beginning to get back into my running pace, I thought to myself: This is more tiring than I thought it would be.
Over the next half-mile, I was catching and passing people from the 9:45am wave. We had to climb a few wooden structures that reminded me of the jungle gym from grade school. There was the occasional creek bed that we had to run through or jump as well. These minor obstacles were treacherous as well, because one could easily lose traction. As I was about two miles into the course, I came upon a few more elaborate obstacles that required using a rope to climb. There was a little bit of a waiting line to get over it. Then, I ran through water that was thigh deep and the mud at the bottom was slippery and created a suction on your shoes. Fortunately my shoes stayed on and I was able to keep my balance.
The largest obstacle, named, “Goliath,” had a bit of a wait until you could climb. The obstacle involved climbing cargo nets and finally going down a 20 foot waterside into a mud/water pit. It was a very fast slide. After crawling out of the pit, I ensued my run, passing people from the previous heats. Then, I came upon “Alcatraz.” The signs clearly indicated that the water was too deep to wade through, and you had to swim. I skipped past the six people standing on the shore and jumped in without hesitation. I love swimming, but normally I do not swim with shoes on. It was a 15 meter swim to the floating cargo net obstacle in the middle, then a brief swim to the other side where the trail picked up again. I was completely wet again, but the mud had washed off…for now.
The last leg included yet another moderate climb up a hill and into muddy trenches where you had to duck several lines of barbed wire. Yes, real barbed wire. I know that for sure, since at one point it caught my shirt. After climbing out of the trench, the finish line was only 25 feet away. With hands and clothes covered in mud, I was given a finisher’s medal. It took me about 32 minutes to finish the course. I was able to wash off my hands, get my bag, and take pictures of Fr. Victor when he finished not long afterwards. He looked pretty exhausted (see below).
All in all, it was a good day. It would be an event to take a group of five or more friends. We drove back to the monastery recounting our experiences, with dry mud still caked to our legs.