It’s been several days now since the Death Race ended and my feet are still recovering. I could barely walk a few days ago. The journey that began last year when I registered for this event finally came to a momentary end Monday morning around 5am…62.5 hours after the race began on Friday afternoon. I came close to dropping out several times but I am glad I stayed in the game (big gratitude to my crew who gave me and the other members of our team amazing moral support and encouragement). This is a brief recount of my experience in the race. A lot to write about so I will break it up into several posts. This one covers the stuff before the actual race began.
This year’s theme was BETRAYAL and it was in full effect even before the race began. Due to the theme of the race there was a lot of misinformation, misdirection, deception, red herrings, chaos and outright lies by Death Race creators Joe Desena & Andy Weinberg and the Death Race staff and volunteers. I don’t think anyone outside of Joe and Andy ever really knew what was going on. All racers knew this was going to be part of the race (or they should have known!). It certainly made for an interesting and sometimes maddening race.
Tuesday 6/12: I left Los Angeles in the early morning hours. Anxious, nervous and excited for the unexpected. I would be staying in the Boston area for a night at the house of my east coast crew member Sarah. We’d be meeting the rest of the Los Angeles Team SISU racers and crew members in Vermont on Wednesday night. Team SISU is a group of mostly Los Angeles-based racers and athletes of all levels who come together for obstacle races, mud runs, marathons, training sessions and other events. The group was formed earlier this year and has grown in leaps and bounds.
Just before leaving I packed a few last minute gear items which turned out to be useful: wetsuit and extra shoes. I hopped the plane and arrived in Boston later that day.
Wednesday 6/13: We arrived late in the evening at our rental house situated about a mile down the road from Amee Farm (the main event area and base camp for the Death Race). We also received our final gear list email from Andy Weinberg. We had received three other FINAL gear lists in the last week and a half so, really, nothing was certain. For all I knew we might get another FINAL gear list the day of the event. Included in this list: a bag of human hair. Ironically, I was standing next to a hair salon when I read the email. I’m sure it was the first time the stylists at the salon had ever had a request such as mine!
Thursday 6/14: The rest of the Team SISU members arrived in the morning. Racers included: Daren DeHeras & Yesel Arvizu (participants in last year’s Death Race but did not finish), Michelle Kruse, Dameion Renault, me and east coasters Lisa Lunt & Jeff Robinette. Most of our crew flew out from Los Angeles with us. These guys were amazing and crucial to our success in the race. I can’t say enough about them! They included: Louis Lopez, Kyle Kropf, Aracely Rodriguez and Phillip Scot Acosta. Joining them were east coasters Sarah Barlow, Mark Jones, Will Guidi, and Eric Wyler.
We spent the morning and afternoon gathering supplies, shopping for food and getting our gear ready. We scouted Amee Farm, stopped by the General Store and ran into Andy Weinberg at the Yoga Studio. AND here is where the very first deception occurred!
Andy Weinberg and Joe Desena are the creators of the Death Race. They run around all weekend torturing people and then spend the rest of the year figuring out how to do it better the next time around. This being the day before the Death Race we are all off our guard having nice, friendly conversation with Andy about the area, the race and weather. Daren has kept in touch with Andy since last year so there is no reason not to believe him when he casually tells us that the stream and lake water from the mountains on one side of Route 100 is completely safe but on the other side of Route 100 the water is not safe to drink even with iodine tablets. A complete lie and the first act of betrayal! This little “fact” would hurt us in a few days when we were up a mountain dehydrated and not willing to drink from the streams we kept coming across! Death Race 1 – Team SISU 0.
Oh…we also rescued a bunch of sheep tangled up in netting near Amee Farm. All in a day’s work!
That night we all sat down for our Final Supper. The next day is what we had all been preparing and training for months. The spirit and energy was high. We had a game plan and a strategy. Too bad it would do us no good.
Friday 6/15: Final gear preparations. Michelle and I head over to the General Store at 10am for the optional “hints” meeting. We figure it is going to be bullshit, misleading information but better to be safe than sorry. The crowd is large and energetic when we arrive. The first waves of intimidation creep over me. A quick scan of the group reveals the high fitness level and caliber of the athletes. Quick assumptions and predictions are made in my head about who will quit and who will finish. I’m sure I am incorrect in my judgments but it brushes away the fear. I’m not a big guy coming in at 5’7″ and 142lbs but I have to remind myself that size and muscle are not indicators of determination and perseverance. The Death Race definitely requires a high fitness level but equally important is the mental fortitude to overcome the doubts, fears, aches and pains that are screaming at you to stop and quit throughout the race.
At the hints meeting, we are greeted by Joe and Andy and very quickly told that no one will finish and that we should quit now. In fact, they very generously offer a full refund to anyone who quits on the spot. No one takes the bait. After some more banter we are dismissed as Joe casually drops a manila envelope on the floor labeled “HINTS”. Someone picks it up and removes the contents: 13 sheets of paper with various drawings and number on them. Are they true hints? Misleading information? Meaningless red herrings? No one knows for sure but EVERYONE diligently snaps photos with smart phones and jot down notes. There is much talk but no facts. Betrayal #2 is activated.
More in Part 2 on the race itself and my experience going through it!
Here are some links to keep you busy…reports, blogs, photos and videos from other racers and crew members.
Ruck On. Stay Muddy.