Tag Archives: Triple Canopy Ranch

Warrior Working to Stay Atop Mudpit

By Pete Williams

Warriors cross the finish line.

LAKE WALES – We’re not sure if obstacle mud runs will be a long-term part of the endurance sports world or just a fad that will disappear after a few years. But Warrior Dash, which kicked off the mud run season this weekend at the Triple Canopy Ranch, seems intent on being part of the category for however long it lasts.

It’s not that the 2012 version is more difficult than the 2011 rendition. Warrior Dash seems comfortable being the shorter, first-timer mud run, as opposed to longer endurance tests like Tough Mudder and Spartan Race. With Muddy Buddy announcing last week that it’s scaling back to eight events this year, in part because of the success of Warrior Dash, it seems Warrior Dash should command even more of the first-time mud run demographic.

This weekend’s Lake Wales attendance was 9,000 over two days, down from 13,000 last year. That’s in part to the countless mud runs that have sprung up in the last year in Florida, at least five of which left postcards on windshields while athletes raced. We’re guessing Warrior Dash will have an easier time maintaining and building its numbers in other parts of the country where there’s not a mud run nearly every weekend of the year.

Race-ending mudpit

With so many events, it’s difficult to come up with new challenges. We liked Warrior Dash’s main water obstacle, a 10-yard swim through chilly water to a floating obstacle, followed by another 10-yard swim back to shore. The distance was short enough for non-swimmers to doggie paddle – lifeguards were on hand just in case – but long enough for everyone to feel uncomfortable. Even with temperatures in the high 70s, it’s still January in Florida and the water is 60ish.

The Dash featured many of the obstacle run staples – walls, rope ladders, hurdles, fire jumps – along with running over old cars. Though it did have 100 yards of mud at one point that took some competitors down waist deep, it was easy for some just to run around the obstacle. Perhaps the biggest challenge was running about a mile through sand.

We missed last year’s Warrior Dash and wish we had done it before taking on Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, Savage Race, Highlander, and multiple Muddy Buddies. It’s one of the easiest among that group, though there are a lot of things Warrior Dash does best.

Warrior Dash was the first event to take the mud/party race formula national and they still do a great job with that, attracting perhaps the youngest crowd and probably selling the most beer. (Athletes get the first for free.) It definitely had the liveliest post-race atmosphere. It helps that the Chicago-based Red Frog Events, parent company of Warrior Dash, was founded in 2007 by then-27-year-old Joe Reynolds and the band of Millennial staffers on hand worked tirelessly. The Chicago Tribune recently rated Red Frog as the No.1 small company on its list of top workplaces and clearly these young adults love their work.

We liked the fuzzy Warrior hats all athletes received, perfect for Halloween should we ever go as Fred or Barney. Warrior Dash also has jumped aboard the soft T-shirt craze with some sharp, fitted, navy blue shirts with the Warrior Dash helmet logo on the front. (Hopefully this will inspire Tough Mudder and Spartan Race to give out something other than fairly generic unisex numbers with a concert shirt-like race calendar on the back.)

The back of the Warrior Dash shirt reads “World’s Largest Running Series.” Tough Mudder is taking aim at that title. For now, Warrior Dash, which caused obstacle mud racing to blow up a year ago, shows no signs of slowing down.

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Hardened Warrior?

By Pete Williams

Warrior Dash 2.0?

If you’re someone bitten by the obstacle mud run bug, you have Joe Reynolds and Warrior Dash to blame.

It was Reynolds, 31, whose Red Frog Events company launched Warrior Dash on July 18, 2009, a spin-off series to the company’s  Great Urban Race scavenger hunt that began in 2007. Other companies, most notably Competitor and its Muddy Buddy series, had combined endurance sports and mud. Warrior Dash dialed it up a notch with military training-style obstacles, costume contests, and post-race beer and parties.

Reynolds and his band of Millennials built a massive following via social media and word of mouth from their Chicago offices. A $5,000 investment in 2007 became a $50 million company at the end of 2011.

Tough Mudder and Spartan Race debuted in 2010. Dozens of competitors sprung up around the country last year. Here in Florida, we have at least two races – The Highlander and the Ragin’ Warrior – created in 2011 by guys inspired by racing in the first Warrior Dash in Florida last January.

New race organizers scoffed at the relatively easy three-mile Warrior Dash course, and dialed it up a notch with longer distances and more challenging obstacles. Tough Mudder, which stages races between 11 and 13 miles, installed a banner at its 3-mile mark reading “Warrior Dash Finish Line.”

As Warrior Dash kicks off of the 2012 obstacle mud run season with a two-day event in Lake Wales next weekend (Jan. 21-22), it’s tempting to write off the series. Tough Mudder has grabbed the lead in popularity, with Spartan Race not far behind, and many athletes are clamoring for challenges beyond what Warrior Dash provides.

Alex Yount, spokesman for Warrior Dash, says 8,899 athletes are registered to compete at Triple Canopy Ranch. That’s down from last year’s 13,176 and below the projected 13,000 for this year.

Still, Yount says the company expects to draw 1 million athletes to the 65 Warrior Dash events the year. About two-thirds already are announced, including a North Florida race March 31 in Live Oak. A third Florida location is being considered.

Athletes might be surprised by the degree of difficulty to this year’s 14 Warrior Dash obstacles. The race will include more water obstacles, some requiring athletes to swim. (Like other races, alternative challenges will be offered for non-swimmers.) At the moment, the weather looks promising, with projected highs of 78 degrees both days. (No word on the murky water temperature.)

Yount says there’s a fine line between making the race all-inclusive and yet challenging for most.

“The beauty of Warrior Dash is that it is for everyone and it’s about challenging yourself,” he said. “We want to have some pretty challenging obstacles. We’re upping the stakes by having water obstacles requiring people to swim and challenging the warriors out there that have been there year after year.”

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