What is the Death Race? And why would anyone want to participate in such an ill-named event? These are the questions that crossed the mind of Raleigh resident, Steve Brush, just before he sent in his entry fee to join the 200 other individuals from around the world to participate in the 2012 Death Race.
Held each year for the past 5 years in Pittsfield, Vermont, the Death Race (www.youmaydie.com) – labeled as one of the World’s Toughest Races, pushes competitors through a grueling, anything goes, non-stop, challenge. The Race Directors are proud to boast that less than 10% will actually finish the race, and Death Race participants only hope to survive.
On June 15, 2012, the gun will sound for the start of this year’s race. Participants will be expected to carry all required and any non-specified gear with them throughout the race. The race directors and race volunteers will not provide water, food, or encouragement during the race but actually push participants to quit. Though there is a stated start time, this may be ignored and/or modified by the race director. In addition the participant’s will continue from task to task without knowing when the race will actually finish again, decided upon by the race director.
Steve began his training a few days after the 2011 race. “I knew about the Death Race but it took me a couple of years to build up the courage to actually sign up,” states Steve. To prepare for the race, I requested the assistance of the coaches/trainers at Forged Fitness – Raleigh NC.
“I asked Jason and Melissa Culbreth, owners of Forged Fitness, as well as the entire staff of the gym, to get me into the most ludicrous and insane shape anyone has ever been in. I guess I should have been nervous because of the evil smiles on all of their faces and a resounding, “We can do that.”
Watching videos of previous Death Races always produces the same question in people’s minds, ‘Why do this race?’
“I still ask myself that same question, especially on long training days. For me, the reason I am doing the race is simply for the multiple physical and mental challenges. I feel that I passed the first challenge by just signing up for the race. My next challenge is to make it through the training that my coaches are putting me through. The final challenge: actually complete the race. I have always had the mind set to break myself out of my comfort zone and to always try new adventures. I think this is what keeps people young and full of life.”
What kind of training does someone undergo to prepare for such an adventure? Unsure of what obstacles and challenges will happen in the race, Steve’s training encompasses everything from long hikes, carrying-pushing-pulling-dragging all kinds of weight for miles to mind boggling brain teasers and puzzles – which he is tasked to complete during a workout.
Here is an excerpt from the daily journal that Steve is keeping:
Though Saturday’s workout did not seem like much when it was described, I quickly realized how grueling this was going to be. Within 3 minutes of carrying the 40lb slosh pipe (slosh pipe = a 10’ pvc pipe filled ½ with water) and wearing the weighted vest (50lb), everything from the waist up was in pain. Regardless of how I positioned the pipe there were going to be muscles that would feel it, and suffer. After another 10 minutes, my shoulders were numb but I was still moving and getting some very strange looks from people passing by me. Rounding the corner at the end of my first mile, I got a sense of renewed energy and my pace increased. This excitement was slowly extinguished as I began my second mile with the slosh pipe. The second mile was more challenging because I now knew how long it was going to take to finish it. Arriving back at Forged Fitness after my 2 miles (40 minutes), I was met by an empty and very large wheelbarrow. At this time, I figured that the hard part was behind me……I was sorely mistaken. My next task was to load rocks that are scattered throughout the woods behind the gym into the wheelbarrow. I began to pick up rocks that were easy targets and close to my wheelbarrow. This source did not last and I was forced to pull out partially buried rocks of varying weights and awkward sizes…..first round loaded and ready to be moved. You don’t realize how steep even subtle slopes seem in a driveway until you are pushing a wheelbarrow full of rocks. I made it to the 300m mark without incident and dumped my first load or rocks……4 more to go. My second load of rocks was ready to be relocated. I made it almost hallway and the load shifted…or I passed out for a brief moment….and the barrow dumped on its side. Once it starts to go, there is no stopping it. Reload it again. Loaded and dumped the 3rd, 4th, and 5th barrow of rocks. Now sat 5 loads of rocks and 100 m to go. Unfortunately I was relieved of the use of the wheelbarrow, as I was required to move all the rocks by hand. I started out carrying 1 rock at a time, which seemed like a good idea but was painfully demoralizing The pile of rocks seemed to grow and grow each time that I headed back the 100m even though I was removing rocks. I began to carry 2-3 rocks at a time. This method was just as demanding. The visual aspect of the pile did not change and now each rock seemed to gain weight with each step. Regardless of what you do, eventually pain will develop if you do it long enough. With each lap, my calves and feet were beginning to send signals to my brain that it was time to stop this nonsense and my shoulders agreed that enough was enough with this weighted vest. I was experiencing an internal mutiny and it was total chaos. I looked around for the support and cheering that had kept me going to the first 2 hours but it was no longer there. The doors were closed and I think I actually heard a ‘click’ which strangely sounded like someone had locked the door. At this point, I did not like my rocks. I hated my rocks. They were now the enemy that was keeping from having a drink of water, a bite to eat, and removal of that damned vest. Everyone has a breaking point and most think they know where and when that is, but, in reality, it’s a moving target and can be chosen at any moment. Mine would not be today. Not by these rocks. I kept moving and argued with my internal conflicts with words and phrases that would shock most. The pain began to subside, numbness I assume, but everything was on the same page and had the same goal: finish. After 3.5 hours, I tossed the last rock into its original location. Until next time my rocky friends.
When June 17, 2012 rolls around, hopefully the end of the Death Race will be in site for the individuals that are still participating.
What does a tired and beat-up participant hope to gain from the experience? “I hope to have a big smile on my face and a great sense of accomplishment. I am sure that I will go through every emotion while I am in the race and my body will, at some point, decide to have a war with my brain, but I think that is part of life’s challenges. A person will inevitably doubt themselves during such an event, but to beat and silence that negative internal voice will only help to become mentally and physically stronger for other challenges in life.”