Warrior Race #4 - Elite Black Ops Style

Words: Susan Sloan | Photos: DO IT NOW Media

You chat to your friends and they ‘brag’ about some crazy race they just did that was just insane. The obstacles they had to overcome, crawling in the mud and jumping off constructed 8 m platforms into mud pools. Climbing over and under suspended logs. Monkey bars and rope climbs. Dragging tractor tyres and climbing cargo nets. Rope swinging and electric shocks. The pain, the struggle, the mud, the face-plants in the mud, the scrapes and bruises they show you as war wounds afterwards.

As a multi-sport athlete you feel left out and a little jealous that you’ve missed out! So of course you go home to Google and enter the next one. This was the scenario when my friends told me about the last Warrior Race, so I just had to enter Warrior Race #4, which took place on 22 June 2013.


I arrived at Redstone Estate, nestled next to Hartbeespoort Dam, excited and nervous, but then I saw a few of the obstacles that would be my imminent torture and thought, "Oh my word! WHAT have I gotten myself into?" Despite being a triathlete I come from a running background, which means that anything requiring upper body strength is not my strength! So I knew this event would be just as much a mental battle as a physical one for me. But as I always enjoy a challenge and figure that whatever doesn’t kill me will make me stronger for the next challenge! So I greeted the race with the positive attitude that I’ll try my hardest, and if I fail, I’ll try again and again because I'm sure there’s more in me. But if not, then I’ll laugh and have fun while playing in the mud.


The race started and we dashed off with high hopes, excitement, and maybe a little fear of what we were about to embark on. Not knowing what all the obstacles entailed and whether they were physically possible, my mind meandered over the few that I'd seen and thought I might not manage. I tried not to indulge the doubt and decided rather to just tackle each obstacle as it came. Running along a single track and down into a dip, we crossed over a stream and headed up towards our first obstacle, where we had to crawl under a cargo net and manoeuvre over two short wooden walls. I got over quickly and with ease, while thinking, "That wasn’t too bad, I can do this." Motivated, I continued running towards the next obstacle and I mentally started counting down the obstacles, of which there were 30, so I could get an idea along the way of how far and how many challenges there were still to go.


I clambered frantically over and under obstacles, through the river and onto some muddy slopes. I ran between the obstacles, then caught my breath and braced myself for the next challenge. Some obstacles were simple and easy, while others demanded all your strength. The 8 m jump and Yellow Mamba drop were not physically challenging at all, but being so scary made them tough in their own way. One by one I ticked off the obstacles, along the way thinking, "This is much harder than I expected." But I pushed my body through limits not even I knew possible and was even a little impressed that I had managed so far. At some point on approach to an obstacle I even said to the race official, "What crazy thing do you have here for us?" I happily tackled the challenge and moved on, all the while continuing with my countdown.


Obstacle 24 was another mud pool to climb in and out of and was appropriately situated to make us wet and muddy before attempting the Skatepark Ramp obstacle. A considerate move, of course, on the part of the race directors, as it's much less painful to slide down the ramp flat on your face while covered in mud. "Anyway, it's good exfoliation," I thought to myself! And hilarious to watch too, hence the massive crowd that gathered around this obstacle as the competitors struggled to surmount the slippery slope.


As I approached the ramp, I noticed that some (not all) of the guys were managing to run fast enough to get high enough on the ramp, to reach over the edge at the top and manoeuvre their now ‘heavier than usual’ bodies onto the summit. The females, however, were running as fast as they could and leaping forward with outstretched arms in the hope that their faithful partners, on top, would catch them, but they were still falling short and sliding back to the ground. Oh dear! On my first attempt, I ran as fast as my little legs could manage and reached as high as I could, but my fingertips only just reached the lip of the ramp and were not far enough over to actually get any grip. So I joined the rest of the girls and had my turn sliding down the slippy slide. Ryno Griesel then showed us how it was intended to be done, and on his first attempt easily and gracefully hopped on top. Seeing my struggles, the crowd started shouting, "Help her," unaware that I was amongst the suckers racing in the Elite Black Ops and therefore couldn't receive any help from anyone. After informing them that I was in the Elite race, the entire crowd started cheering me on and tried to give me tips on how to conquer this seemingly undoable task. No pressure.


On my next attempt, I retreated a few steps, so I had a bit more of a run up, and took a deep breath and gave it everything I had. I ran, I leapt, I reached, and managed to get a good grip over the lip of the ramp. Yes, I had done it. But wait, now my entire body was hanging straight down, with fairly fatigued arms by this point in the Warrior Race. How would I get up from there? My only other option was to slide face flat on the ramp’s now less-than-super-smooth surface. So with ALL the might I had left, I pulled myself up, with less grace than I would have liked, and slowly body rolled myself over the edge. AWESOME! With my arms in the air like a champion, I had conquered the RAMP! The crowd went wild, feeling the relief, satisfaction, and excitement just as much as I had when summiting this monster.


The next obstacle was an inclined rope climb to a wooden wall and then a climb down a rope back to the ground. Sounds simple enough, maybe at the start of the race, but not so much 25 obstacles later. I climbed onto the wooden logs to get to the start of the rope climb, grabbed the rope, wrapped my limbs around, and started the simple procedure of worming my way along this rope. I stopped for a second, shook my one hand and then the other, as I was really struggling to grip the rope. By this time, my forearms were like rocks, having exceeded maximum capacity about five obstacles ago. Trying to get moving again, my hands failed me and I fell to the ground. I made two more unsuccessful attempts, it was just not going to happen, my body was done.


As the race official cut the Elite black band off my wrist, I had to fight back a little tear of disappointment. I had pushed myself so hard to get through the first 25 obstacles, only to be unsuccessful at the 26th. I then had to perform 30 burpees, which was the penalty for not completing the obstacle, to at least finish the race, albeit unofficially. I’ll be back and better prepared next time!


Only one female managed to complete all the obstacles without any help! Well done to the CrossFit lady who was just unwilling to give up! The Warrior Race #4 was not as much about speed as having the strength and will to complete all obstacles. Regardless of winning, losing, completing all or none of the obstacles, the camaraderie and support at this event made it so much fun! Playing in the mud may not be for everyone, but for those of us who were in it, it was such a wonderful excuse to act like children again! And for those who didn’t like getting down and dirty, they shouted, cheered, and laughed with us.


To view the Warrior Race #4 gallery, visit this link: http://on.fb.me/18fVnb7


Adventure Racing