Thoughts From the Death Race Pit

There are lots of great write-ups and videos out in the blogsphere regarding the 2012 Death Race.  Below are some brief thoughts by some of the racers, crew members and volunteers at this year’s race – The Year of Betrayal.

Thanks for the encouragement…Year of Betrayal.

Also…check out the following…

Dirt In Your Skirt video clip – A great visual overview of the first 24 hours.  Click here to view.

Blogger Matt B. Davis Podcast Interview with Death Racers Anthony Matesi and Morgan Mckay.  Click here to listen.  Listen in also on July 12th at 10am (PST) as Matt interviews me and some of the other Team SISU members.

Great overview by Death Racer Junyong Pak.  Click here to read.


Louis L. (Crew Member)

My experience with the Death Race left me wondering why people do this to themselves: the sleep deprevation, blisters, broken toes, swollen feet and at times seeing people hallucinating in the middle of the woods.   It was clearly torture but I came out of this race with one thing: brotherhood.  This is not a race for “who’s first” but it is a life experience you can apply for everyday living.  There were moments that I felt we where quitting but the team pushed on and as we got closer and closer my eyes got watery thinking of all that we as a team had  accomplished.  Crewing mostly [the] race [humbled me] as I watched what the athletes endured.  In my eyes these are races that make not just winners but instant family for life.  Call it stubborn determination. I saw people up there that almost gave their life and THAT shows passion and love for what they do. I’m glad I was part of that.

Sarah B. (Crew Member)

The blow by blow of my crew experience in this race would not be a very scintillating read – unless you like reading about waiting. There was plenty of that, to the point where I began to wonder if they’d moved the race location and not told us (not inconceivable this year). I was there to support, not sit around, and the worst part was not being able to cheer on my friends because most of the tasks were so remotely located. So…instead of complaining about that, I offer a couple of philosophical observations of the whole thing formulated during my many hours of…waiting.

From what I can see, most people who do this race, do so to push themselves, to see what they are made of, to get out of their comfort zone, to feel that they’ve stretched themselves into a bigger life, or just to prove something to themselves. It’s a luxurious and grateful position to be in, truth be told, that this kind of misery is still a rare enough state in life that people need to pay to come and purposely experience it to get the personal transformation that follows. That being said, it is definitely no less a transformation just because it is voluntary. Relentless hours of humbling beatdowns will distill just about anyone into their true, no-frills selves; there just isn’t the energy anymore to keep up a front or maintain some well-groomed image, and most people are better for it to be honest. Kinda telling, I think, of just how much energy we waste daily trying to not be ourselves when it takes that much effort to finally drop it…thoughts for living…

Other transformations were maybe…less profound. Assumptions of who should finish or not were turned on their head when big, beefy muscle guys quit but the unassuming yet tenacious 100lb-ish woman makes it all the way to the end – yay girl power! Then a simple pink shower cap becomes a beacon of inspiration and hope. Then, sad day, peanut butter and jelly ceases to be comfort food. And most unfortunately, a roll in the hay definitely loses all its allure.

Will I put myself through this again next year? Well…I’ll just have to wait (sigh) and see.

Yesel A. (Racer)

So the DR has changed me in many ways. It is a race of self-defining oneself….digging deep within yourself to push your every limit. It “is” a physical challenge but mostly a mental challenge. It takes you to such dark places that forces you to really dig in deep within yourself and face demons that have taunted you for years of your life but ignored them. When you’re out in those Vermont mountains for 3-4 days; day in and day out, as happened to me…ran out of [water], and had no other choice but to drink from the river. You realize the importance of life. Your true character comes out. If whether you are willing to share your food and water with others to help them get through this. I see it as a test, to see how I will respond in situations.

Even though towards the end of it all as I began to ware out and felt I could pull out no more. The people I bonded with and even though they might of not none it; they inspired me to move on. At times I walked with my eyes closed and had wonderful friends to literally guide me as I walked with my eyes shut. I just wanted it to stop at this moment. But I continued because this friend at one point also wanted to stop but at this specific moment was so strong and determine to continue I….(considering myself as strong) at this moment felt so venerable and humble. “That” kept me straddling along for another day. But most of all; what pushed me from beginning to end was my daughters last words that I read in a text saying “don’t quit mom, what ever you do, do NOT quit! There is an end to it eventually. Your a strong woman whom I admire for doing this, not everyone can say I am a DR!”. Those words ran through my head in my weakest moments and pushed me to get that skull I went back for!

Dameion R. (Racer)

Doing community service in the eyes of the Death Race meant power hiking at full speed up what seemed like the face of a cliff with a guide that did not sweat no matter how fast we climbed. I believed the whole time I was rucking my way to the top that I was feeling great. It wasn’t until about half way down the other side that I realized that I didn’t even remember being at the top or climbing down to where I was at all. I knew then that I had a long road ahead of me while at that time I was only about 30 or so hours into a 52 hour hell tour that I paid for with my own money, and loved it!

Sarah K. (Volunteer)

I have nothing but respect and awe for the athletes that I had the privilege to meet that day, but I did get a kick out of the fact that one racer did ask me, in all seriousness, if she could pee in the pond.  I feel like there had to be some increadible bonds being made out there if she had no problem asking me that in front of some peers who sat in the water with her.

Matt B. (Crew Member)

Andy mentioned in a post race message how the Death Race is just a game that imitates life. What I think he means is how you show up at the Death Race is how you show up in life. Do your wife and kids easily irritate you? Do you cut corners at work when the chips are down? Do you walk away when you don’t get your way while playing sports? Do you take ownership for your mistakes or blame others?

On my way out of town after the death race, I was asking myself these same questions. Furthermore, I found myself asking: Am I ready to go to the next level and actually enter this event next time? Well, I can safely say, I am not there…yet.

Thom M. (Racer)

I was letting my achilles and the setting sun get in my head and as I headed up the road I thought I was in dead last. At that moment I just quit mentally. I physically could have easily pushed on, I was hydrated, I didn’t have any acute injuries, but I let the races emotional games break me. I sat down and took my socks off thinking if I rested and massaged my achilles I could go again and be fine. But when I stood up after I just couldn’t mentally make myself go. The thought of going up the mountain seemed like the last thing I would ever want to do. I sat down again and just let myself lose more and more motivation. Lots of groups were coming out of the woods behind me making me realize I was nowhere near the back, one group convinced me to get up and walk a little with them but I just couldn’t do it. I would later recognize them online as finishers, and at that point they were probably 20 minutes behind me once again underscoring that in this race the key is just to keep moving forward. I finally just gave into the inner voice in my head and walked back to Amee. Taury and the rest of the crew were at the general store and true to her word Taury did her best to convince me to turn around and head back up the mountain. I could’t do it though and that was the end of the race for me.

Read the rest of Thom’s Death Race experience here.

Jane C. (Volunteer)

I had the opportunity to volunteer for two days…at the Spartan Death Race. Last March, I had followed the Winter Death Race and thought, I HAVE to be involved in the summer race. I emailed Race Director Andy Weinberg to let him know my interest and all of a sudden the day was here.

Saturday, June 16. They did not come back. We were told they were still hiking and 12 hours behind and would not be seeing them until 7 or 8pm. WHAT??? My heart was broken! I wanted to see more inspiring stuff! That was my goal for the weekend, to be witnessing some crazy stuff and to grow from it. So, what was I going to do all day? Parked cars, spoke with support crew and family who were worried and wondering what was happening. “Sorry, we have no idea. All we can tell you is that your racer is still on the course or not.” Peter Borden, another race coordinator, told support crew and family to go enjoy the day, go tubing, sight seeing, etc, because they would not see their racer until late evening. Then, we started seeing the first round of racers who were quitting, mostly due to injuries, trench foot, bad knees, one guy had been taken to the hospital the night before. People’s bodies were breaking down. And, we volunteers had no idea why and what was going on out there! So, as racers were coming back, I chatted it up with them. They each had their own story of what happened to them and this is where my ESFJness kicked in. I wanted to help them get back to their cars, listen to their stories, get them ice for their injuries, etc. I LOVED this. This is what I wanted, to hear the stories of their experience if I was not going to be able to be out there and witness it. I witnessed both men and woman racers crying because they could not keep going because of injury. I cried with one woman as I watched her acceptance that her feet were so fucked up that she could not go on. That was tough. I was a mess.

Read the rest of Jane’s experience as a volunteer at Vermont Scrubnut.

John P. (Volunteer)

My time as a volunteer at the Death Race was actually a recon mission. What is the Death Race really? Can I do it? My main focus was my assigned tasks but I was always taking mental notes.

Day 1, I parked cars. Boring but important and I was able to chat briefly with racers and families. With all the cars in their place I was moved to Amee Farm and met Andy. He told me to pack for a 6hr hike and put on long pants due to stinging nettles… as a volunteer I was not immune to betrayal. 16 hours later, I escorted an injured racer to a shuttle for the injured and otherwise DNF[Did Not Finish]. I was chaffed, exhausted, dehydrated, and pissed that I had been tricked. On the shuttle back to Amee Farm my thoughts were “F*** this race, F*** Andy, F*** it all”.

But I came back the next day for some more work. I got to oversee part of the origami station (mind you, we’re now over 48hrs into the race). I was yelling, encouraging, discouraging, and directing racers carrying 100lb logs up a hill. I was also quickly assessing racer’s mental status (I’m a medic by trade) and all the racers had something in common – they were all smiling (except one girl that dropped the log on her foot, but that’s different). I watched one guy spend so long doing everything he could to split his log. 10 hits, no split. 15 hits, no split, 20 hits, no split. “By gawd, why doesn’t he just quit?” I was thinking. Somewhere around the 25th whack, that log finally split. That scene changed everything.

I’ll see you in ’13 with a Fiskars X27 in my hands and a smile on my face!


I would love to hear more thoughts from any of my readers who were there as racers, volunteers or crew members.  Share your story in the comments section.

Ruck On. Stay Muddy.


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