The morning was cool, and the sun had not yet appeared over the tops of the northern Georgia Mountains. The 8:30 elite racer heat was called to the start line and after a few pictures were taken, a five-second countdown and eruptions of fire signaled the start of the race. Racers were immediately sent into the trails around the backside of Camp Blue Ridge, where they faced the toughest slopes that the race would offer. This section of the race greatly suited the strong runners of the group, as the first mile of the race only had one obstacle – “The Trenches.”
At the start of the second mile, runners encountered the first of a string of obstacles, which was a 30-yard swim through water so cold that I had some trouble breathing. This obstacle was followed by a collection of relatively simple obstacles, such as a short barbed-wire crawl, a few small walls for racers to go over and under, the “Great Warrior Wall,” a barbed-wire crawl in a pit of muddy water, the “Diesel Dome,” and the fire-jump. This series of obstacles culminated with another water obstacle called “Alcatraz,” and then participants were sent on another run along a paved roadway and walkway until meeting the final three obstacles. First was the “Chaotic Cargo,” a tall structure covered in cargo net that the smart racers walked or rolled across when possible, while the others slowly crawled. Second to last was the “Pipeline,” or tight tunnels of cargo net that dashers had to climb up into and then through. Lastly came my favorite obstacle, the “Goliath.” This multifaceted obstacle started with a rope climb up an angled wall, and was then followed by a balance beam walk over water twenty feet below. To finish, warriors climbed up the last part of the structure, and then shot down a large (and fun) water slide into the muddy water below. After climbing up a steep muddy bank, racers were at the finish line.
There were a few aspects that I thought could have been improved about the Warrior Dash. First, the race was shorter than the advertised 3 miles on the Warrior Dash website. Several racers tracked their path via GPS and the actual distance seemed to be around 2.5 miles. With the race being shorter than expected, I felt slighted over that half mile I did not get to run. Next, the obstacles within the race could have been better distributed. In such a short race, I and many others thought it a strange choice to have essentially a complete mile of running, after which it seemed that the obstacles were unnecessarily stacked in close proximity to each other. Lastly, and most importantly, a portion of the race was run on pavement, which I felt inappropriate for an obstacle course race. The whole point of obstacle racing is to go off in nature and climb new, innovative obstacles, run through beautiful woods, and get muddy. Everyday we can all go for a run down the street, and I, for one, don’t want any pavement in the obstacle course races for which I pay.
As a whole, however, there were many things that the 2015 Georgia Warrior Dash did very well. The trails that ran behind the camp were beautiful and were a pleasure to run through. Moreover, motivational quotes scattered throughout the course proved to be a nice and comedic touch. I could not have agreed more when I got to the top of the largest hill and was greeted with a poster saying, “we wish you had trained too.” The obstacles were, in general, well-constructed and fun to traverse. The aforementioned Goliath ended the race on a great note, as I’m sure the water slides put a smile onto nearly every racers face. There were more swimming elements than I initially expected, but this was a welcome surprise, especially for heats later in the day after the temperature rose. As for the non-racing aspects, the Warrior Dash was well organized overall. The staff and volunteers were friendly and helpful, the live music entertaining, and the venue adequately set up.
In conclusion, the Georgia 2015 Warrior Dash was overall a successful event. I definitely enjoyed spending my day out there and felt it was worth the drive. If the race directors look to improve on the points mentioned before, I feel that next year’s Warrior Dash will be an event to which racers of all skill levels and ages can look forward.
*Photos By: Emory OCR Graduated Students
Evan Dackowski is currently a junior enrolled at Emory University. As the Co-Founder and Co-President of the Emory Obstacle Course Racing club, he provides students with opportunities to train for and compete in obstacle course races across Georgia.