A bead of sweat runs into your eyes, stinging until you can’t do anything but press them shut. You squeeze your eyes dry, and look back up at the edge of the green shipping container. Your fingertips are numb from holding up your body. Which is a good thing, because the sun-baked metal is cooking them, and this way you can’t feel the searing pain. You edge your way across the box, a few fingers at a time. At the other end, your muscle fibers shred as they scream at you for forcing them up the side of the connex. Your shoulder feels like it’s going to come out of joint, yet you pull harder. As you clear the top edge, and shimmy your way onto the roof, you’re met with a giant grin from a Colabro: “Welcome to the Summit Club! Now for the Peeps!”

The obstacle course was grueling, harder than anything you’ve ever done. You sit down in a rickety metal chair, and shove the first Peep in your mouth. Yes, those Peeps. The sugar-coated, puffy goodness that show up once a year, surrounded by green cellophane grass. Your mother’s words ring in your ear: “You better only eat one, or you’ll be sick to your stomach!” Moms, the masters of foreshadowing. While you gorge yourself on marshmallows in a way that would please Dante, you franticly field strip an AK-47. Your fingertips stick to the metal, as the mushy sugar mess melts. You get the rifle put back together, and function check it to be sure it works. Of course, it works perfectly. A product of Soviet engineering, banged out with a rock and pliers by some Siberian conscript, it’s amazing it even went back together. Let alone works. Then into the trashcan it goes, where an AK belongs.

As you down the last Peep, your buddies start cheering you on (or are they hazing you? Hard to tell). You take off in a sprint down the trail. A few hundred yards in, your flank is on fire, as a blow torch of the past few months’ lethargy burns a hole in your side. You see the Colabros up ahead, yelling for you as you come to the end of the run. “Stop being fat!” calls the heckler. Stomach acid mixed with molten Peeps roils in your stomach, like you sucked off the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.

They hand you your rifle, and you rush to get it loaded and ready as you scout the targets ahead. More sweat pours into your eyes, and you squint to see the first target. The rifle belches and the steel rings. “Hit!” Folks cheer you on, hit after hit, and even some misses. Once you’ve hit all your targets (and you still wonder how in the hell you hit that far one…), they hand you your pistol. As you take your first shot, the steel rings, but your gut drops. What the hell?! The entire rack of targets starts swinging. This has GOT to be a joke. “Tick, tock!” comes the reply, as the others roar in amusement. You knock down the pistol targets as quick as you can. Not as quick as you wanted, but they’ll do.

And now for the dreaded Chug. Your stomach revolts before the first drop passes your tongue. The molten marshmallows try to come up. How in the hell will you fit six sodas in that same boiling, acid-filled mess? One after the other, they go down. Your stomach certainly will burst before you can squeeze them all in. The only way to relieve the pressure is to lay down. The mud and the soda and the yellow jackets keep you company, and… what’s that smell? No, it can’t be. Is that vomit?

As you crunch the last can, and they call “Time!” your stomach unleashes its hate and anger at you for the last twenty minutes of abuse. You don’t even make it to the designated puke zone before you yack everywhere. The folks nearby roll with laughter, as the soda and the stomach acid and the Peeps spew down your shirt and mix into the mud. But oh, what a relief!

You just got baptized. Welcome to Cola Warrior!

History of Cola Warrior

Cola Warrior (CW) was started 4 years ago by AR15.com user “Rusted Ace” as a sort of combination training event, joke, and semi-serious competition. Rusted Ace was a prior service Marine and held various combat instructor billets following his combat tours.  During his time off, he bought a hundred or so acres of swamp in Mississippi, on which is held the original CW event every year in the Spring. The competition format is the same – 5 obstacles, peep & AK, run, shoot, chug. What makes Cola Warrior special to us is that things are non-commercial and completely community run.

After its inception, the competition became instantly popular, and in its third year there were 75 competitors. Cola Warrior East was started when some of the Mid-Atlantic members wanted to put together a “regional competition.”

CW East follows the same financing and competition model as the original; nobody makes any money from it, you run it safely, it’s open to the public and you follow the CW format. In fact, anyone is welcome to put together their own event as long as they follow those rules, and at least one CW veteran helps plan it to ensure that the formula is adhered to.

This year, a lot of people wanted to compete, but Mississippi was too long of a drive, so the regional format makes sense for a good number of us. Of the 60 competitors at CW East 2, not even 1/4 of them had made it to Mississippi earlier that year.  We had a large number of first-time competitors, all of which walked away with some incredible stories and lessons.  Expansion will continue.  There’s talk of a Cola Warrior West in Arizona, and a Cola Warrior Midwest in Ohio, but neither event is finalized just yet. CWW is very close, however, and should happen in March 2015.

Train Like a Cola Warrior

What Rusted Ace knew from the beginning, and the rest of us have found out, is that it’s actually some of the best training you can possibly get. It takes around 15-20 minutes for an average, relatively in-shape individual to run and at the end you’re totally spent. Puking isn’t just a common occurrence; it’s a normal sight to see someone taking a knee to dislodge chunks across the course.

Shooting after you’re mentally and physically drained is challenging enough, and trying to drink six sodas after that is just pure physical pain. You find out very quickly what works and what doesn’t, both in terms of fitness and with equipment.

By way of example, the rifle portion consists of 8 steel targets between 50 and 300 meters. In the first few years, many people brought AKs and other types of rifles to use. Early on, it was probably a 50/50 split of AR15s to other types of rifles.

In Cola Warrior 4 last May, 100% of competitors used an AR platform. Two of them were in 5.45, and about half a dozen were .308s, but everyone used an AR of some type. There’s even an “official” rifle configuration known as the CWAR.

On the physical side, we’ve had at least two dozen people get serious about strength training. Many of the “fatter” members have completed “couch to 5k” and other training regimens all in pursuit of trying to improve performance at CW. Rusted Ace jokes that a competition revolving around gluttony is better at getting people in shape than many professional trainers are. Being in the military myself, I finally recognized the brilliance of his format–equal parts camaraderie, physical punishment and hard lessons really do motivate people to improve themselves.

If there’s any metric for success, the course gets more difficult every year, and yet most people’s times all decrease slightly.

 

What is Cola Warrior? It must be experienced.

I mean, yeah, there is video, and you can watch Cola Warrior on YouTube and watch people puke to your heart’s content. But it doesn’t look like anything. You watch it, and you’re just like, “Well, shit, I can do that.”
And you’re right; you can do it.
And you’re also wrong; you can’t.

It’s a paradox within an enigma, in a swamp, covered in vomit.

The whole drive down, I’m thinking, “I’ve got this. I can shoot high power rifle at 600 yards; 300 will be cake. I shoot 50m pistol all day long. 25 feet will be cake. I can run miles and miles. Half of one isn’t even a thing. Obstacles? Schmobstacles.” And then I’m wondering why I’m even bothering. Why am I spending all this money on fuel and travel costs and ammo, and giving up my weekend and a vacation day because some jackass on the internet convinced me to drive 1,000 miles to puke in a swamp? What can I possibly get out of this but lulz?

And there are lulz. Plenty of that.

And then you run the course. It’s a daze. You do the whole thing on autopilot. There’s no thinking. There is only do, or do not. And you think you’re doing everything right. Even now, looking back, I *know* my sight picture and sight alignment were perfect. I mean perfect. I’ve been shooting competitively for over a decade. I can call my shots. It was perfect. My trigger control was perfect. And I missed. More than once. More than I hit, in fact. I was absolutely certain that everything was perfect, and yet, somewhere, somehow, it wasn’t.

You know those dreams people talk about where they try to use a gun, and it doesn’t work? I don’t have them, but I can only assume that this was what they’re like. And you don’t understand it. It doesn’t make sense. You *know* how to shoot, but, yet, apparently not?

And then Ace finishes up all the silliness, and the goofiness, and the booby prizes, and you think that’s it. That’s all there is. The weekend is over; time to drive home.

And then he bestows this completely savant shit on you, and for a brief and glorious moment, it all makes sense.

And, just as quickly, he basically gives you a trollface, tells you nah, he’s just fucking with you, and you’re left wondering what really, actually happened just then.
I didn’t go there with any expectation that I would learn something. None at all. I was just there for a good time. But I left with, quite literally, a deeper understanding of existence.

I’m very serious when I say that it was absolutely some weird Socratic shit, man. It’s not knowledge. It’s not a skill. It’s not a technique.

It is understanding. And you can’t just watch a video about it and ever expect to get it.

It’s also derranged, masochistic, and basically all-around fucked-up. I don’t know why anyone in their right mind would subject themselves to that shit. And yet I find myself wanting to do it all over again. Like I said. Paradoxical and shit.”