Warrior Dash Gulf Coast 2018
From parking to packet pick up the Warrior Dash Gulf Coast venue ran far more smoothly than last years. Everything was simple and easy. The fact that parking and bag check are included is a nice convenience. Parking was extremely close to the venue and everything from t-shirt pick up to the starting gate were very easy to find and access. Volunteers were friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable and there were no shortage of them. The staff also performed extremely well.
Warrior Dash also did a great job at making spectators and competitors alike feel as if they were indeed walking into a muddy fun zone. The Warrior Dash sign near the entrance was a symbol of fun about to be had. Volunteers manned sponsor tents well. One even presented competitors with a nice warm-up area. As long as Warrior Dash has been in the game they have begun to excel at race and wave starts.
The festival is the area in which Warrior Dash seems to shine most. It had everything OCR newcomers and veterans could enjoy. There was beer, food, a rig to play on, kettlebells, a cargo net, corn hole, lots of opportunities for picture taking, kids play course, great shower stations, and even a hand washing station outside of the port-o-potties. Warrior Dash also utilized their many different contests to keep festival-goers entertained. Though the stein holding contest didn’t seem to happen (at least while I was there) the added plank challenge was a nice addition. There were far more participants in this newer contest as well as the staple push up and tug-of-war contests. Everyone seemed to be having a really great time and no one seemed bored.
Designers laid out the course better than last year. Though many of the obstacles and routes were similar, Warrior Dash made enough changes to make the course feel fresh. What was not so fresh were the abundance of A-Frames and other climbs. I understand that this is one of the most basic obstacles that newcomers can conquer. This is Warrior Dash’s bread and butter. However, the repetitiveness may dissuade some newcomers.
The small slip walls bookending a small barbed wire crawl designed by Grunt Style was a nice beginning. Upslide down, a favorite of many was a nice break up of running through fields. Super Soaker gave us an added twist this year by inserting a slip wall bridged with two by fours in the middle of the balance beams making it both more and less challenging at the same time. I am sure this made the obstacle more enjoyable to those not balance adept.
The Course Second Half
A new obstacle, Rockslide, was a great new addition which added some grip elements. Though rock climbing grips were the key focus of the obstacle, a toe board underneath allowed competitors to support their weight and shimmy across while gripping. This allowed the obstacle to be less overbearing for beginners. Builders suspended each lane allowing them to swing with the competitors’ weight and movement. This made the obstacle much more fun. This was much more fun than a stabilized version would have been and brought joy to many racers.
The course ended nearly identically to last year with a fire jump, followed by pallet jacked, and muddy mayhem. Muddy mayhem was much more fun and muddy this year. Pallet Jacked offered four separate lanes – two difficult and two easier lanes. The less difficult pallets were connected with chains allowing less movement from the pallets. However, I preferred the difficult lane as it allowed me to utilize gymnastic skills gripping the straps and leapfrogging from pallet to pallet. The volunteers on course did a superb job of cheering on competitors especially at the end through the muddy mayhem. A good time was had by all both on and off of the course.
Once again the flat region of the Mississippi Coast doesn’t offer much in the way of elevation or tough terrain, but Warrior Dash utilized what they were provided in a great way. The field allowed a bit of difficulty in the softness of the ground and occasional ruts and mud to run through. There were also a few trails with the occasional slight elevation to push competitors just a tad harder. All in all, a very good venue for beginners to test themselves on and learn how to handle the basics of trail running.
The awards ceremony also went very well. Officials presented competitors with shirts and certificates. They announced each competitor’s time and presented them with an entry to the OCR national championships. The crowd gave winners their due admiration. In the spirit of Warrior Dash, all competitors were humble and knew that what was most important was the fun they had out on the course.