BAR: Wednesday June 25th
AAR: Wednesday July 2nd
Preface: This post is directed towards friends and family who have not participated in or witnessed a Death Race firsthand. It does not provide a play by play timeline of events, but rather highlights and key “life lessons” learned before, during and after.
Below is my Before Action Review (“BAR”) for the upcoming Summer Death Race in Pittsfield, VT. BAR is a concept I created as a channel to post BEFORE an event leading up to the (After Action Review (“AAR”)) , to compare my expectations with reality. The BAR will note my expectations of difficulty of several key categories and what I did to prepare for them, i.e. my process. The AAR will provide the opportunity to see how horribly off I was on most things.
Summer Death Race – http://www.peak.com/death-races/summer-death-race/ “This is the ULTIMATE challenge. The Death Race is designed to present you with the totally unexpected, the totally insane, and take you out of your comfort zone. This race is a 48+ hour event that is created to break you physically, mentally, and emotionally. All of you will enter, 90% of you won’t finish. Only consider this race if you have lived a full life to date.”
Mission: Timothy Midgley and Flo Barnes-Zurkinden have teamed up to raise money directly for In My Father’s Kitchen (IMFK) by having our donors pledge a small hourly amount for our participation in the 2014 Summer Death Race on June 27th. All donations will be collected after the race has finished or we quit, whichever comes first.
Based on my experiences and fellow Death Racer posts, here is my BAR for SDR 2014: my expectations on a scale of 1-10 (1=least challenging, 10=most challenging) and my preparation process.
**UPDATE**- WE RAISED OVER $3500 IN PLEDGES TO IMFK.org! FINAL RACE TIME WAS 65 HOURS AND CHANGE!! “RACE WITH PURPOSE”!**
Finishing: “9.5” I foresee four main reasons I would not finish this event: 1. Keeping up with the physical demands and time hacks required to remain in the race 2. Failing miserably on the mental and/or orienteering challenges 3. Breaking down after being sleep deprived over 48 hours 4. My right IT band failing me (it has been a major issue for me 2 months prior)
Actual: “9.4” I was able to maintain a high level of physical performance during this event. My biggest fears were exposed during mental challenges and those tasks that required laser focus to complete. I am not the best “MacGyver” out there. My amazing crew YooSun and pure hustle got me through all of them.
Strength/Endurance: “8” Thanks to GoRuck I have a good rucking background, and if we are faced with long distance hikes carrying heavy weight, I will be in my comfort zone. Straight “PT” is still a weakness of mine, but I will hopefully survive that and remain in the middle of the pack.
Actual: “8” Aside from the heavy rock drag at the start and 80lb concrete haul up the ravine at the end, pure strength was not a major requirement. Endurance was- the ability to sustain fast paced movements with gear, finish burpees, and keep your body injury free over 65 hours is a formidable challenge.
Cardio: “9” Mountains. Elevation. Time hacks. Trail running. Bring your cardio A-Game or go home.
Actual: “9” If you want to earn a Death Race skull- you better plan on your heart rate being through the roof for 80% of your 65 hour journey. When you are told that the last 5 people to arrive at check-in are out of the race – “Sh*t gets real”- quick.
Mental Toughness: “9.5” Scary feeling not knowing how long a race will continue. What will my body succumb to first? How will I function after being awake (and physically drained) for over 48 hours? What exactly will I need to suffer through to finish this race? Are people really cheating? Or are those racers planted on the course to frustrate me?
Actual “9.5” The hardest part of the entire race was after 48 hours when we hit the Borden farm. I got a sense of panic that something along the way was going to break me. Water submersion up to our necks, rolling in (what was claimed to be poison oak) endlessly, racing upstream in a flowing river full of uneven and slippery rocks, crawling on your knees until they are bloody and bruised- how much can you take? Glad I survived.
Packing/Gear Complexity: “9” Complicated. I have no idea what I will need and if overpacking will cost me a finish (due to excessive weight). Axe? Bucket? Extra clothes? Shoes? Nutrition? Take your best guess and roll with it.
Actual: “8” Most extras were not necessary, however those who did not bring a bucket were punished with 1500 burpees along the way. See my highlight on this below.
BAR Summary: I’ve had major issues with my IT band for over 2 months prior to this race. I’ve stopped running altogether in fear that my knee will get worse. I’ve done my research on orienteering and the other required tasks. I will have to rely on my previous experience and training and not worry about getting extra work in that may damage my IT band further.
AAR Summary: It was an absolute eye opener how easily you can relate a Death race with the real world. Some will do anything to earn a skull, others will HELP anyone in any situation, even if it means losing time. This was a fabulous experience that I would trade for nothing. My crew YooSun performed flawlessly and was there for me every minute of the way. I owe her BIG! My dear friends Jason Spare and David Kim did exactly what I knew they would do- race with honor and dignity, help others along the way, and FINISH the RACE. Chris Stokes and Kristy Lynn had just met me and treated me like family- thank you. My sister Theresa drove all the way from Syracuse 48 hours in, providing me with a moral boost and confirmation that I must finish. Like in real life, our relationships with people say tons about our attitudes in life. The “Elite” fueled me in this way. Some were incredibly supportive of everyone’s desire to succeed, taking the extra couple seconds to motivate each other and others were not quite as “cordial”. I experienced both – those I shared smiles and laughs with and those who did not speak to me, or brushed me off (including post race). Both kinds of people brought me energy and resolve to continue on. Like in real life, we have both. It’s our choice to be one or the other and grow from our relationships with either. Thank you for that. As a side, if you are an Elite racer and make a public post after the race about how “You didn’t race to win” (after not winning)- you should reevaluate the insecurities that reveals, and consider what that means to the 250+ other racers. Just a suggestion. This race will show you the good, the bad, and the ugly- how you deal with it is part of the game.
SDR CHALLENGE HIGHLIGHTS and PHOTOS:
“The ORANGE BUCKET” My bucket story will remain burned into my memory for a long time. Prior to the event I heavily debated whether or not to carry a bucket throughout the race. It’s well known that racers have needed a 5 gallon orange bucket in the past, and used it to carry heavy loads up the mountain. It was not required this year. I opted to go with an REI collapsible orange bucket- the only loss here would be protection of my legs if it was filled with rocks, or the handles breaking if too heavy. I took my chances. To make a long story short- I used my bucket successfully for a key task during the race. We reached a summit and were told to approach Don Devaney one by one for instructions. “You were given a log. Now present me with something to hold my cup”. I noticed everyone was busy hollowing out their log pieces, the idea being to use it for a cupholder. I decided to try my luck and balance the collapsible bucket on top of the log. It worked!! my next task was to bring Don fresh water. Easy- run down the hill and fill my bucket, return, and I was done. BUCKET SUCCESS! Wait. There is more. I raced back to the farm to chaos, everyone needed to hand sew an outfit out of their buckskin pieces, and push a porcupine needle directly through the center of our log piece without cracking the wood. I got these tasks done, and got up to begin racing away to the next task (we were told anyone not gone within 5 minutes had 500 burpees to do). YooSun (my crew member) yelled to me- hey- Don’t you want your orange bucket? “No- I’m fine for now, I need to get out of here”. Fast forward to the end of our hike- It was a requirement to fill a bucket with 5 gallons of water- it had to be a real bucket with handles. He was accepting the one I left back at the farm. If you did not have one- the penalty was 1500 burpees. I sat down crushed. All I could do was laugh, and listen to all the complaints and chaos this caused around. Attention to detail- I failed big time.
“The TEST” Arguably the toughest mental challenge of the race. We were told we had to answer a 26 question test about famous explorers, and if we handed it in and did not get a 100% score, we were OUT of the race. We were allowed to ask questions, however before asking a question you had to complete a “relaxation challenge” then wait in line. This was brilliant. The relaxation techniques included holding a one arm side plank for 10 minutes, and other various balance and yoga poses that were far from relaxing. I estimated that I could brute force get a 100% on the test if I repeated this cycle approximately 50 times. Estimated completion- 10 hours. People dropped, gear chaos ensued, and starvation kicked in (you could not eat, speak, or sit down the entire time). In the end, we were told to hand in our tests and they would be graded- it was time to race back to the farm.
“20 minute rest in the woods” This was absolutely brilliant. After building a massive wall of large rocks along the river bed, we were told we had earned a rest. We needed to find a comfortable position in the woods to relax in for 20 minutes. The only catch? You cannot fall asleep, or move a muscle- or you were OUT. My stomach felt uneasy. I found a position and opted NOT to lay down fully- knowing I would surely pass out (we hadn’t slept in over 50 hours at this point). I was able to watch the race directors point, laugh, and take note at everyone falling asleep or moving even the slightest bit. Were they really out of the race?? Only time would tell. My eyes were crossing and my focus was weaning. On top of that, I had a bug crawling on my right ear, and a large ant crawling on my bare feet (which were exposed to “dry out”). At one point my neck jerked approximately one inch as I almost passed out and I saw Johnny staring at me (trying to determine if he saw it or not). After 20 minutes, he quietly announced that we must stand up without waking up the other racers, and that the last 5 back to the Borden farm were OUT. Keep in mind, the only path way directly up river over uneven, slippery rocks. Chaos ensued. Racers were falling, I could hear cries of desperation as people struggled to find safe footing and keep up with the leaders. I saw the best and worst of people. Amy Palmiero Winters (an absolutely AMAZING racer I had the honor of hiking with for many hours during the race) had fallen and her prosthetic leg was falling off. I had a split second decision to make- I chose to stop and move back towards her to help- to be honest here- she had three others helping her up, and looked to be ok- so I did race on. I felt good with just that simple pause and turn back- as others seemed to care less and ruthlessly stomped past. I made it back to Borden, and was still in the race.