The theme of this year’s Death Race was “the Gambler”, so for 12 months I pondered a number of thoughts;
What am I willing to bet?
What are the odds?
Should I go all in?
Will I know when to walk away…or should I?
Last year I walked away. I went into the race this year thinking that it was all about redemption and making peace with my decision. In the end, this year’s race was really about overcoming my own demons.
The 12 months leading up to this year’s Death Race, the voices (I have a few) in my head kept asking why? What was I thinking? Why did we (more on the “we” later) quit with a 3-4 hour lead? What was the real reason? I have tried to answer these questions over and over again; sleep deprivation, not knowing when it would end, or maybe the race just got us. After all, that is the point of the race. Last year’s race was the longest event I had ever competed in. The emotional and physical highs and lows I experienced mimicked life. However, I learned more about myself in those 54 hours than in all 39 years I had live so far. In reality, I don’t really know why and no matter how I try to justify it, I still knew I quit and that sucks!
Physical strength is the easy part, I love to train! My favorite training partner; an axe and a 50 lb weight vest. I also ride my bike for hours, run miles and miles, I knew physically I could handle this race. It’s the psychological aspect of the race that will win every time if you let it. I was prepared to psychologically shut off….keep moving, one foot in front of the other, never stop!
Coming into this year’s race, my main strategy was to assume there was no end. I was going to do whatever it took to finish. I was prepared to stay focused as long as I needed to. When we arrived at what would be the final challenge, I thought for sure we were still going to continue racing for at least another 6 hours. When we completed the challenge at 7:30 PM Sunday evening (over 55 hours into the race) and were told we were done until 6am the next morning we didn’t believe it. “Show up at the barn at 6am with your tuxedos on” They had told us from the beginning that we needed a tuxedo for the finish so we knew that was the finish. The “we” included two of the most amazing athletes and friends I have come to love racing with, PJ Rakoski and Don Schwartz! These were also the guys that I quit with at last years race….we all had something to prove and we wanted to prove it together. Prove it we did, three way tie for first….exactly what we wanted and how we planned it.
Some of the challenges this year included the following:
- Building a stone stairway up a mountain
- Chopping wood
- Hiking a total of 20-24hours with a 30lb pack. The first 11 hours were also carrying a 30lb rock with multiple thunderstorms moving in throughout the hike
- 2 Mile swim
- Barbed wire crawl with your pack
- ½ mile hike up a hill with your feet zip tied together
- Memorization challenges
- 1 ½ hour workout (500 jumping jacks, 100 push-ups, etc…)
- Being at a 6am Black Tie Event with your Tuxedo on!
Each year I take something different away from the race. You will learn more about yourself during the race than over the course of years. If you participate in a triathlon, running race or cycling race you may have to dig deep for 1 minute, 10 minutes, or a few hours, but it doesn’t compare to 60+ hours of soul searching and questioning why you are there. The funny thing is, if you signed up, you know why you are there! Don’t be afraid to saddle up and make it happen. If you quit and don’t come back you will never get the full experience of the Death Race!
I would like to thank Joe DeSena and Andy Weinberg as well as all the awesome volunteers at this year’s race, you rock!!