I've been a regular subscriber to SHAPE magazine for a few years now. I enjoy the magazine and when I saw an ad in the magazine for a Diva Dash, I decided to check it out. This would be the first year for the race, but it looked like fun. The Diva Dash would be a 3 mile run with obstacles about every half mile. Since this is suppose to be my year of "fun", I decided to sign up and do it.
For a first year race, it had some good and some bad parts to it. So, I'll break it down for you.
Registration was fine. It was done online and was just like signing up for any other race. The only thing was there were different waves and once they were full, your only option was a later wave. I waited too long to actually decide to do this, so the first available wave for me when I signed up was the 10:45 am wave. I knew it was risky with the heat, but I figured this was for fun, so who cared. Eventually 3,000 women signed up to race.
Originally, packet pick-up was just going to be on race day. It said to pick up your packet an hour before your wave. Well, I guess with 3,000 women doing the race, someone got smart and they decided to open a packet pick-up option on Friday night. This was good. The bad, however, was that they decided to hold the Friday night packet pick-up at Runtex on Riverside. Those of you from around here know that there is NO parking at Runtex on Riverside. Pick-up started at 5pm. I got there around 4:30 and there was not one spot to be found. I had to pay for street parking on Barton Springs and walk over. It's not a long walk by any means, but by the time I got back over there, a line had formed.
Usually, packet pick-ups will start a little early. Not this one. I don't think they even had the bags stuffed yet. And there is no space inside Runtex, so we were all standing outside in the 90+ degree heat. I will give props to Runtex, however, for bringing out free water for all of us. The water may not have been cold, but it was very welcome.
After standing in line in the heat for 20-30 minutes the line finally started moving. Then we found out the line to the right was for merchandise. If you didn't want to buy anything, you could walk (through all the store merchandisse) to the place where they were handing out bibs. I made my way to the 10:45 line. When I reached the front, I signed the waiver and was handed my bib. And that was all. No bag, no goodies, nothing. Just my bib. I saw some stuffed bags to the side, so I went over and grabbed my own before making my way out of the mad house and back to my car.
Once I was back at my car, I checked out the contents of the goodie bag. Of course, there was a SHAPE magazine in there. There was also a Luna bar, a pair of cute socks, and our pewter finisher necklace. I thought that was a little strange to get the finisher necklace in the goodie bag instead of at the end of the race, but oh well.
The race venue was at Walter E Long Park aka Decker Lake. This is also the sight of the Danskin Triathlon and the Austin 70.3 triathlon, so I am very familiar with it. The race info had said there would be shuttles to take us from the parking at the Travis County Expo Center to the park. This is nothing new. The same thing happens at the triathlons. I figured it would take a while and I like to be early, so I had arrived at 8:40am. And it was a good thing I did.
The best we could figure out, there were only 3 buses in the shuttle rotation. And there were tons of people in line to catch them. Racers and spectators. Some of the ladies around me were in the 9:30 or 9:45 wave. I knew they wouldn't make it. I stood in line for an hour before I climbed on the bus to be shuttled over. If I would have known it would take that long, I would have walked the 2 miles. It would have been faster. Next time, they need to have a lot more buses in the shuttle rotation.
Since I had gotten there so early, I made it to the park by about 10am. I saw many girls enter the starting chute that were past their start time, however. I watched the 3 waves ahead of me take off and then I got in the chute and headed to the very front. I knew there were a lot of first timers and a lot of people doing this just for fun and I wanted to be ahead of the crowd going into the obstacles.
When it was our time to go, I took off with the other ladies at the front. A few of them really took off. I just settled into a good pace ahead of the crowd. I felt pretty good about where I was at and hoped that when I reached the obstacle there wouldn't be a line. I had carried my bottle of water with me as well because someone had mentioned there wasn't much water on the course (and they weren't kidding - more on that later). As I rounded the corner to approach the first obstacle, I saw that it was really pointless for me to have carried my water as I would need both hands for this one. I ditched the water and hit the obstacle.
Obstacle #1: walk across an approximately 2" diameter rope (probably 15-20ft long)while holding onto two very thin ropes about waist high. I thought this was kind of fun. I wasn't speedy fast, but I wasn't slow either. I hopped off the other end and continued on my way.
The other thing about races out at Decker is that the runs are always VERY hilly. It doesn't matter which direction you are headed, you will be running up several hills at some point. Joy.
After we got up the first hill and turned to the right, we found our second obstacle.
Obstacle #2: the "maze". I wouldn't really call this a maze because there weren't any wrong turns, but you did have to duck down the whole time and follow the twists and turns until you came out the other side.
As I exited the other side I kept running. At this point the sun is starting to poke out from behind the clouds and I am missing my water, but I pressed on. I kept running until I saw the third obstacle.
Obstacle #3: the balls. This one wasn't hard either. They had an area full of big balls, taller than people. They were packed in pretty tight, but all you had to do was push them aside and run through to the exit. I was out of there quickly and on to the next one.
Luckily, somewhere in here we had some downhills. It made me feel good at one point to run past some walkers and hear one of them say, "she must be a runner" because I was running at a pretty good pace. As I got down the hill and turned the corner, there was the next obstacle.
Obstacle #4: the rope/Survivor one. For those of you that watch Survivor, this one seemed like something on one of their challenges. It was a big A frame with rope cross-crossing in every direction. All you had to do was find the big holes in between the ropes and crawl through to the other side. It was maybe 3' wide, so not hard to do. If it had been longer, it would have been more challenging. From what the volunteers told us, we were at mile 2. We still had not seen a water stop. The heat was getting unbearable.
The real challenge at this point was the hill that faced us as we left the obstacle. Uggghh. And all we had to do was run up it, do a u-turn and head back down to where we were. I will admit that I did a little bit of walking up this hill. But, as I turned that corner, I started running again. I knew I only had about a mile left to go.
Probably a quarter mile later we came across the one and only water station of the whole race. This is definitely an area that needs to be improved on. There needs to be more water in a race like that. I stopped, drank a glass, dumped a glass on my head, and then drank some more. Then it was time to tackle the next challenge.
Obstacle #5: the tubes. In this area, they had lots of intertubes (like tires) next to each other. You had to run (or walk) through them kind of like football players do in their drills. I decided I wanted to run through them. I did pretty good at first, but to run through them, you really have to pick your feet up and run with high knees. This is NOT how I normally run, so before I got to the end I got tired. It was a fairly long distance of tubes, so I was not surprised I got tired. When I got to the end, there was a medical staff attending to a racer, probably from heat exhaustion. Hello, more water would be nice.
I left that obstacle and ran toward the next one. As I rounded the corner I thought "there goes my time". I was doing well up to this point, but the lines for the last obstacle were huge.
Obstacle #6: water trampolines. You know those big trampolines they put in the lake in the summer? Well, there were about 5 of those, but on a smaller scale, tied together close to the shore. You had to make your way across all of them and back to the shore a little further down. There was a possibility you could fall into the water, but it was probably only a foot deep here.
I could have skipped this obstacle and no one would have ever known, but I came here for fun and part of that fun was completing all of the obstacles. There were only two stations for this one, and only one person could go at a time, so like I said the lines were LONG.
As I got in line I looked at my time. I wanted to know at the end how much time I spent waiting in line. I will admit that they wait was kind of welcome. There was a nice breeze blowing which helped to cool me off just a bit. By the time I got to the front, however, 14 minutes had passed. Ouch. That really hurt my time. I quickly made my way across the trampolines and got off on the other side. I was headed to the finish line, but not before climbing one last hill. Have I mentioned how hilly this course was???
The Finish and Timing
After crossing the finish line you were coraled into a narrow path where you walked passed a table. One lady was calling out your bib number and another lady was writing it down on a yellow notepad in the order you were in line. No times. Did I mention this race was not chip timed? I have no idea how they are going to determine who the overall winner was or who the age group winners were without knowing what times the people finished in. And on top of that, it would have been very easy to skip the long line at the last obstacle. As it was, the finish time on my watch was 47:04. Take out the 14 minute wait and my time was pretty respectable at 33:04. But how would anyone have known whether I did the obstacle or not? I didn't expect to win anything, but it's the principle. The overall winner received a 5 day trip to Aruba and I can almost guarantee the winner was in the first wave of the day and didn't have to wait at obstacles. I definitely think it should have been chip-timed and there should have been mats at places to account for the wait time.
I had a soccer game to get to, so I did not hang around. After leaving the finish area I grabbed a cup of water and walked back to the shuttle area to catch the shuttle back to the parking lot. There was a line again, but it didn't take as long as this morning to get on a bus and make my way back.
Overall, I like the concept of the race. There are definitely things that need to be improved upon and personally, I would like to see the challenges a little more challenging, but I know they were trying to attract women of all abilities for this race. The goal of the race was to have fun and I did, so mission accomplished.