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Review of Urban Warrior Dash by

Posted by: on March, 4 2013

Red Frog’s Warrior Dash series has been fairly successful it seems. I have never run one of their events before but I have heard and seen a lot about it. I am a fan of Obstacle Course Races (OCRs), having participated in Tough Mudder twice and one Spartan Sprint, not to mention many other smaller events. So I was expecting some good things from this OCR with a city twist. It was nice to attend an OCR without having to travel too far, as they often take place in remote locations that can get muddy and hilly. Unfortunately, this event didn’t live up to the hype of a normal Warrior Dash.

Pre-race = C: I was one of the volunteers who handed out packets to people on Thursday evening. After reading the two reviews above, I now understand why SO many people were asking where the shirts were. As an OCRacer, I normally receive shirts after the race and as a runner in general I don’t believe in wearing an event shirt at the event. But, if the website advertised that the shirt would be at packet pickup, then it damn well better be. When something is advertised in one way, you’d better follow through with it or at the very least place a sign up that states the change. The two Red Frog employees who were on hand to help people with issues had a map of the course on hand printed on a piece of paper. It would have been nice to have the map blown up on a poster as well as signs to guide the participants, rather than rely on the volunteers to organize the entire packet pickup for Red Frog. Of course, the map will become a point of contention in a second.

Course = D: The course surprised me for several reasons. I was expecting a five-mile course and, while I pushed myself pretty hard to get a good time, would have pushed myself harder if I had known that the course was shortened down to 3.75 miles! There was no notification to the racers of the course changes. There was no map to show the new (or even the old) course. This fact was made even worse because the mile markers were placed to make you think you ran 5 miles total. I know that no race has a perfect 5k distance mapped out, or 13.1 miles, or so on. However, a difference of 1.25 miles is pretty significant! Notifying racers of course changes allows serious competitors to adjust their strategies accordingly for a successful race. Yes, obstacles and courses are subject to change, but there is no excuse for the mile markers being incorrectly placed and not notifying racers to the changes.
But wait, there’s more! Some of the obstacles were pretty fun. Some were a challenge (Daily Grind was tough, but I made it through with hands only like the description said we should). Yes, we signed waivers for this race. Red Frog doesn’t want to be held liable for injury. I understand that. However, they do have a responsibility to mitigate and minimize injury to the best of their ability. I’ll highlight my issues where safety was a concern in a bit. Let’s go through each obstacle in order:
Rubber Ricochet: I like running through swinging tires like a kid in a playground. Fun!
All Tied Up: Not listed on the website. A criss-crossing of bungee cords to crawl your way through. Not too tough but also fun.
Impound: No cars, per the description, but the loose pile of tires in the middle made the climb over treacherous and challenging. I didn’t even think about the fact that the cars were missing until after I was all done with the race.
Road Block: Crawling under low placed wood planks and vaulting over plastic barriers. Here was my first safety concern. The park that this obstacle was placed in had concrete pillars that people could sit on. The pillars were the same height at the plastic barriers. The third set of barriers were placed directly in front of the pillars. Just before I vaulted over, I noticed the barriers and made a correction to avoid them. If I hadn’t noticed them, I would have swung a knee right into the barrier. The barrier should have been placed after the pillar or repositioned.
Grid Lock: It was supposed to be a web of barbed wire. It was just a net. All I had to do was bend over as I ran and lift the net with my hand to make it through. Might as well have not been there.
Rush Hour: I like climbing walls. No high walls like Tough Mudder (thankfully) but just enough of a challenge to make it fun. Tape was placed along the top of the wooden wall, presumably to protect people from splinters. However, I’d rather get a splinter than to have my feet slide on the tape as I climb over because my shoes are wet from the grass I was running through and nearly fall off. By the way, I wear gloves to OCRs.
Concrete Tightrope: More like plastic tightrope. The concrete barriers were replaced with plastic. The plastic was wide, making a complete lack of a challenge. Sure, they put a plank of wood on top to walk on, but even that was wider than the concrete barriers that were promised. There was no elevation change that was shown on the website either, which would have upped the difficulty.
Vertical Detour: Presumably replaced the “High Beams” obstacle from the website with a bit more challenging construct. Two angled surfaces to climb, however the climbing side is shorter than the repelling side. Therefore, you have to lean back slightly to reach up over the top of the repelling side, which was thick, and lift yourself up and over to then slide down the repelling side. An interesting challenge. It wasn’t easy and it was a nice surprise. However, as I approached the obstacle, I saw one person take a nasty fall from near the top down the climbing side, tumble down the steps, and hit the concrete below. He seemed okay thankfully.
Urban Summit: A fun climb up a rope and sloped plywood surface. Easy, but fun.
The Shredder: Not sure why it has this name. Simply a crawl through a plastic tube. The website showed an elevation change, which would have made this much more difficult due to the slippery inside, but no such luck.
Anti-Dumpster Dive: This was fun, and provided the balancing challenge that the Concrete Tightrope was supposed to give. One of my favorite obstacles of the bunch.
Petco Quad Killer: Meh. Ran up and down two flights of stairs. I was expecting more out of this, but the flights were approximately 40 steps each, which I was able to take two at a time due to the low slope of the steps without too much effort. I fully expected something you’d see out of a training montage… At the tops of the stairs was a narrow path that forced you to move at the pace of the people ahead of you…
The Daily Grind: Definitely the hardest obstacle of the group, if you follow how the website presents the people moving down the parallel bars. Walking down with upper body strength only was tricky, especially since the bars were fairly far apart. I made it through the prescribed way, though many other people used their feet to slide down the bars or what not.
Metro Peak: A cargo net climb. Nothing to it. The last two obstacles were at the finish line, allowing spectators to observe. A nice motivation to finish strong.
In summary, the course was too short, the obstacles weren’t too difficult (though there were a couple of good ones), and there were some safety concerns that the race directors could have mitigated with some better planning. Great volunteers on the course prevented this grade from receiving an F.

Post-race = C: OCRs tend to offer beer as a reward for completing a tough challenge. This race offered Miller Lite… When a race offers beer in San Diego, I expect to see a local brewery offering their product. San Diego is known for the many award-winning local breweries. When you start a new race series, and you hype it as a race that integrates with the city, you should take advantage of what the city has to offer, to include local brews. They did have local food trucks, including the deliciously awesome NotSoFast, so that was a huge bonus in my eyes (and stomach). The music was forgettable, playing pop and Metallica. The vendors were… odd (the DoubleTree?? Really???). I didn’t understand why P4 was offering a pre-workout drink when we were about to do a bunch of running. That’s not good for the heart since the cardio elevates the heart rate already. Overall, the food trucks really made the post-race the best. Oh, the results screens were hard to see because the brightness setting was too low.

Overall, the event was a C. There is some potential for this race to do well, but it needs some work. The race directors need to work on their obstacles to make them better and do a better job of keeping their customers informed of changes. I’m still surprised at the lack of organization pre-race, given that Red Frog also runs the regular Warrior Dash and thus has experience already. I’ll be keeping an eye on this to see if it is worth running again, but at the moment, my verdict is “No”. If you are looking for a small distance OCR to run without getting muddy, try Hero Rush. You’ll get wet, but there is no mud. Otherwise, try Gladiator Rock ‘n Run or, if you want a major challenge, a Spartan Sprint.