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legend of the death race

Legend of the Death Race Year 2: Part 9 – Down with the Sickness

There I was in the middle of the forest on the other side of Bloodroot Mountain, sweating, nauseous, exhausted, hadn’t slept in over 48 hours and I had just spent 15-20 minutes vomiting up every last bit of nutrients I had left in me. What’s happening to me? I need to rehydrate and refuel to make up for everything that just exited my system. I tried hard to focus on my priorities so I could continue on.

I had passed my good friend Mark Webb earlier and he caught back up right around the time I was having my puking episode. He checked if I was alright and I assured him I would be fine, I just needed to gather myself before I continued onward. I encouraged him to continue pressing forward while I lay there just off the trail. Bugs were starting to bite me, my entire body felt destroyed. My stomach ached inside and out. I can’t quit, I thought to myself. I must finish this race. All I wanted was an official Death Race finish after having unofficially finished the year prior.

Trying to eat wasn’t really working but I forced down some beef jerky, picked myself up and continued to move toward my next destination, which I secretly feared, the Chittenden Reservoir. It was a certainty that there would be some sort of swim that awaited us racers there. I wanted nothing to do with it. It’s not that I am not capable of swimming, my father taught me how at a very young age by tossing me in the water and letting me “figure it out.” It’s one of those things I picked up at a very young age, I was a fish, every summer you couldn’t find me anywhere else other than the pool. As I grew older though I developed a fear of the open waters. Seaweed, sharks, sting rays, electric eels, the more stories I heard of people drowning or being attacked the greater this fear grew. I tried to get those thoughts out of my mind as I continued my trek.

Not even 50 feet after getting up and continuing I found myself keeled over yet again, expelling what little was left inside me before going into a dry heaving fit. The feeling was beyond awful, my abdominal muscles were becoming increasingly sensitive from all the flexing, not to mention the 48+ hours of activity that I had already endured.

Regardless of how much pain I found myself in I continued to talk myself through this dreadful environment I found myself in. You’re not quitting, you must finish. This will pass. Leading up to this race and after my experiences I had discovered something that I truly believed in, you are only as strong as your mind. In an effort to practice what I preached through my Legend of the Death Race Adventure Races I was doing everything in my power to convince myself that I could overcome this. My mind is strong, I can push through, I can finish. I just kept repeating positive thoughts hoping to prove my mind is as strong as I believed it was.

Continuing through the forest I found myself becoming increasingly delusional. The lack of sleep was having a compounding effect on top of the series of vomit episodes. I swear I saw at least twelve or thirteen different houses that evidently were not even there. Trippy stuff.

As Chittenden Reservoir grew closer I across what the next challenge would be before being allowed the opportunity to enjoy a refreshing swim. There was a large gravel load that had been dumped alongside the trail and it appeared that the racers were being instructed to spread gravel all along this trail. Once again we were being utilized to make improvements to the surrounding land. There are many racers who become annoyed with these tasks that seem to be just Joe getting us to do his and his neighbors labor, but the reality of it is we’re helping to preserve the very land we race on. I see nothing wrong with giving back, given the experience they provide for us.

Before I could begin gathering gravel I still had to deliver my rock that I had been carrying to Joe who was waiting for the racers at the reservoir. Along the way there were signs that mentioned the distance of the swim one must complete in an Ironman. Luckily for us, this wasn’t an Ironman. This was the Death Race. That meant we would have to swim three miles. Yes, three miles. I began to dread this next challenge even more.

As I approached the area I tried to distract myself and only allowed my focus to remain on the current task at hand. Gathering gravel to pave the trail. When I arrived I had realized everyone was taking an opportunity to treat their feet. Last year I had found I was quite fortunate and had some of the better looking feet, while still very disgusting, they faired quite well. To prevent my feet from the dreaded trench foot, I decided to take this opportunity to dry my shoes and my feet out. So, I took my shoes and socks off and laid them both out in the sun in hopes they’d dry just enough over the next couple hours that these two tasks would surely take. That’s right, I went barefoot for the trail grooming challenge. There were a lot of looks, and a lot of fellow racers asking how the hell I was trekking back and fourth up the trails on the freshly laid, loose gravel. Quite honestly it felt great. My feet were drying out, I had to take caution with my steps but this seemed like the smartest idea ever. At least, I thought it was. Dry feet equals happy Death Racer. Plain and simple and mine were on their way to dryness.

IMG_6741Once I had completed my gravel task it was time to face what would be the most dreaded challenge of all for myself. Three miles of swimming. Three laps, each one mile round trip. After each lap I would have to take a gamble and spin the “Wheel of Death.” On it, was a tiny sliver of hope that would allow passage to the next obstacle, the rest of the wheel would return me to the waters for another lap until I had either won freedom or finished three laps, whichever came first. I grabbed my extremely oversized personal flotation device, a life vest hat I had borrowed from my neighbors back home. It was not made for someone my size, even before losing all the weight over the course of the race, it was too big for me.

I began to walk into the water, remembering I’ve always been a fairly good swimmer I began to convince myself that I would be fine. The Vermont water was still as cold as ice. It was almost July, but up here winter lasts all the way until May most years. As I walked further into the water, now at my calves, I froze. My heart beat accelerated, during the gravel challenge I was slightly delusional but was feeling a little better than I had earlier that morning. My breathing became heavy and within an instant a wave of anxiety rushed through my body. Uncertain where this was coming from I tried to steady my thoughts, attempting to convince myself that I could do this and was still capable of finishing this race. I may not have been feeling well but I could do this, sick or not I could do this. I was freaking out.

To be concluded…

Photo Credits: Marion Abrams – Madmotion

Legend of the Death Race Year 2: Part 4 – Ready, Get Set…..

Running down the staircase, yes, the one we just built not even a few hours earlier was absolutely exhilarating. Seeing the variety of boulders we’d placed and dug into the mountainside to create this new pathway leading us from the bottom to the top was a thing of beauty. In my head, I could already see how beautiful it would be a few months from now when I would return to Vermont for the Spartan Race World Championships Beast and Ultra Beast. As I hastily glided down the mountain, I fully embraced this boost in my energy levels; I started to think about how everyone gathered from all around the country and about how some people even travelled internationally to be here. For this race. This crazy insane race requiring us to build a staircase up the side of a mountain as we seeded the ground around what we had built. Then, it clicked. With people coming from all parts of the world, it surely meant the likelihood we were planting a wide array of grass seed from these very geographic locations was high—really high. This realization lost me in thoughts of how magical this place would soon become; something truly remarkable and uniquely special was being created before our very eyes. With shear man power, will and determination we had finally built a mile long staircase. We planted all kinds of grass seed and we’d created something that will outlast even my future grandchildren’s lifetime. All I could think about was what an absolutely breathtaking scene this mountainside will be once Mother Nature has her way.

pittsfield vermont stone stairs death racer built staircase

Regaining my focus on the task at hand, I arrived at the location where Andy directed us to unload our seed and hay. I opened my compression sack took out my grass seed, hurriedly spread it all about and laid my damp hay a top the seedlings. And before I knew it, I was sprinting my way up the mountain. Having the capability to travel without the ruck is so incredibly liberating—all that weight off my shoulders. I literally moved like the wind. Approaching the mountaintop and passing Shrek’s Cabin, I could hear Joe instructing Junyoung Pak, “See if you can beat the racers we already sent down and back up,” but just as Joe presented this challenge I was returning from the task. I announced my arrival to Joe and he looked to Pak and said, “Too late.” I remember Don being shocked at the blistering speed of my arrival. I was noticing quite a difference in my performance from the previous year when I was wandering the mountain just trying to get by with my torn labrum. Things were different this year. My power was back. I wasn’t supposed to be back to 100% and, at the time, I was probably only at about 80% of my strength, but it felt like 110%. That’s the difference between compensating and competing for an entire year on an injury. I felt like I could actually destroy this race and possibly even find myself in the top three spots if I kept moving with such ferocity. Going into the race my goal was simple, finish. It’s funny, how quickly that goal was evolving.

After this section, Joe took the first group of us down the mountain where we had quite a bit of bushwhacking to do before the next task. There we were required to move a few bucket loads worth of gravel to various spots on the mountain to assist in repairing sections of the trail. These are the typical “chores” that many racers have been known to complain about, but as a person who’d come to love this mountain and understand what it means to contribute to the preservation of its usability, I was happy to oblige. As we all finished our portion of the trail-grooming chores, we were told to grab a rock, which Joe had to approve, before he’d lead us through some gnarly terrain. Some of the spots were a bit sketchy and dangerous at times. With all the weight on my back and the big rock in my hands, I took extreme caution, but the terrain wasn’t enough to stop anyone, myself included. I remember one particular spot where a few people had clearly been recently. I must’ve been with the second group of people that Joe was showing the correct path to take, I thought.  I recall trying to follow these vaguely marked “trails” and at some point he said the magic words I’d been waiting to hear for well over 24 hours, “The race starts now.” BOOM! I took off trying to bushwhack, duck, dip, dodge, and climb over all the branches and rocks in my way while trying to pass people without endangering them or myself. The fire within my ribcage raged! Swelling with determination as my guide and Amee Farm as my destination. Once I found myself on the open, well-groomed trail I kicked it up a few notches.  Still carrying my rock in hand, I flew down the mountain. It was a rush passing everyone and soon enough, I found myself leading the way. I lead the entire pack to the next challenge. 


My frontrunning didn’t last too long, however, one of my good and very inspiring friends, Isaiah Vidal, saw my speed as I flew past and I saw him launch himself into a full-out run. The two of us glided down the mountain, twisting and turning, jumping over rocks, crushing the switchbacks, doing whatever it took to be the first to Amee Farm. Isaiah took the lead as I started to fall back ever so slightly. I looked back, no one was anywhere in sight. To me, it seemed that we were the only ones pushing ourselves to race. As the clearing approached I could see Amee Farm in sight. Arriving less than a minute behind Isaiah, I was ecstatic to find out I was in second place. Our reward for being the first two to arrive at the wood chopping challenge? The largest damn stumps I had ever seen! These were not meant to be split with an axe or even a maul. I looked at mine in a defeating disbelief. Lesson learned, don’t be among the first to arrive to a challenge, you’ll only be rewarded, no, punished, for being a top contender.

As the other racers poured in I realized how everyone else was greeted with normal-sized stumps, which they only had to split into six pieces each, requiring a total of 30 logs split. Isaiah and I, however, were to split these enormous stumps into 25 pieces of fire wood. Starving, I remember eating some food and chugging down some Gatorade. I was half eating a PB&J while trying to split this monstrosity. Whack. Whack. Whack. With each swing I couldn’t help but laugh; this was ridiculous! No matter how hard I tried I was making ZERO progress. Each strike just reaffirmed that this was an impossible task. I focused on trying to slam my Fiskars X27 into the edges of the stump to start splitting it up but in reality I was just mulching little tiny pieces away—I couldn’t chop one clean splice. I had no clue what to do. I checked on Isaiah and he was having similar luck—or lack thereof. Nothing was giving on these stumps.

The other racers were trickling in one by one. I felt a suffocating sense of claustrophobia by all the ax swinging that  surrounding me. Unlike everyone else, who could easily grab and move their stumps wherever they wanted, I was unable to re-position mine because of the weight. I even had to ask a few racers to relocate because I simply could no longer bear the proximity of everything. All of it began to stress me out. I think I even felt just a bit concerned for my life. I didn’t know how skilled some of these guys were in the art of chopping wood and I didn’t want become the victim to a stray piece of wood or worse, an ax courtesy of Mr. Butterfingers. Once I put things in perspective for a few of the racers surrounding and boxing me in, they finally moved.

Isaiah and I working hard at our burpees.

Isaiah and I working hard at our burpees.

Shortly thereafter, after a few of us veterans, maybe 10, were pulled away from our splitting logs and informed we had to complete some ridiculous amount of Burpees, something like 500!. I can’t even remember why or what the whole deal was, but what I do remember during this whole Burpee Fest, that no one took it seriously and our counting went a little something like…1, 2, 3, 10, 15, 20, 50, 100… our counting may have been a bit….off, but we were all doing them in unison. If I were to guess, I’d say we easily did anywhere between 150 and 200 Burpees. but I can’t “confirm” that number with any certainty. Once the torture was complete, we were allowed to go back to splitting wood, but I was no longer forced to hack away at that enormous log. So, what I did here was collect all the logs required and I positioned myself on the other side of Route 100 where they stored all the firewood at the top of the parking lot near the lodge. My strategy allowed me to split everything on location so I could go straight to stacking everything as soon as I finished.

Switching from that monstrosity to the normal-sized logs was the greatest blessing. That was the trigger I needed. That was it, now focused all my fury on my pile of logs. I remember Chad Weberg checked in on me and was shooting some photos. It was good to see a friend and fellow Corn Fed Spartan. The logs were splitting like a dream, I was just slicing through them like a hot knife (or ax) through butter. As soon as I finished splitting and without even skipping a beat, I stacked them and carried them over immediately. I was a machine—mechanical in my movements and output. I spent a little time adjusting the existing pile and I just knew I had to be one of the first to be finished splitting. After stacking all the wood and fixing the pile, I tried to see if I could move on, but I was told to continue stacking. I felt it begin to set in. Panic. I began to worry that I would get stuck in the wood-splitting vortex. Unable to continue on to the next task. Trapped. I wanted to see if I could get moving. I was already done with this challenge. I remember, Missy Morris came over to me at one point and informed me they’d started sending people on to the next task. I was livid. She could see it in my face and told me she wanted to make sure I knew what was happening. I was thankful but pissed not to be with that first group. I felt like I somehow got screwed out of being the first to leave even though I was the among the first two to: arrive, crank out a bunch of Burpees when I should have been splitting wood, and was one of the first to finish splitting all my logs. Needless to say, I was not happy, but this was the Death Race. I knew this type of thing could happen, which was why I was so concerned about moving to the next challenge in the first place.

Furious, I made my way back across Route 100 and went to the gear tent where I was stopped by Candie Bobick, another good friend and teammate from the Corn Fed Spartans.  Apparently my frantic rush to get my stuff together in an effort to catch up with the others (the ones already on their way to the next challenge) set off an alarm to Candie that I was not in the right state of mind. She asked me when the last time I had eaten and, unable to answer her, my mind raced around trying to think of what I needed to bring. The worst part is you are always unaware of how long it’ll be until the next time you’ll have access to your drop bin. My mind continued to race. Did I need shoes? Socks? How much food should I bring? I could barely think and Candie could tell. She stopped me and forced me to drink some chocolate milk; it was so damn delicious.  I’m pretty sure she fed me something else, pretzels for the salt content. Definitely pretzels. Within a few minutes I was feeling more self-aware again and back on track. Nutrition is probably one of the most important things at the Death Race, I’m usually very self-aware of my food intake, but in this moment my priorities were a mess. 

Before leaving Amee Farm I finished packing my gear and gave it all one more mental checklist read off.  I was primarily concerned with resupplying my food and water supplies and I was off to the top of Tweed River Drive where the barbed wire task awaited. I was told I could get there any way I wanted. I couldn’t find any alternative transport so I just started running along Route 100 towards Riverside Farm. I figured taking the direct route might be my best bet right now, in hopes of possibly catching a ride. Any means possible, right? That’s when I saw fellow Death Race competitor, Anthony fly past me on a bicycle. I yelled,  “How the hell did you get a bike?” Feeling defeated, I continued moving along the road. This sucks, I thought to myself. There goes my huge lead. For some reason I was letting my high hopes of staying in the top positions get me down. This wasn’t like me, I wasn’t here to win, ever. I was here to finish. Coming into the wood chopping challenge second was inflating my head. It didn’t take long for me to stop caring about where I ranked as I hiked my way up the long road to the top of Tweed River Drive. I had a race to finish.


To Be Continued…

Legend of the Death Race – Spring Edition

Leading up to the event I felt something I haven’t felt in a long time, not since I was working full time and attending grad school full time – about two and a half years ago, though it feels like a decade – I was stressed out. Coming back from Colorado I realized how little time was left until my second Legend of the Death Race Adventure Race, a program the started as a grass roots project to give people a simulation of what to expect at the Death Race in a shorter under 24 hour time period. Why was I so stressed though, I had everything ordered that I needed, banners arrived before I even arrived at Marxville Farm, t-shirts were picked up that Monday of the race. Everything was in place except for the marking of the course and I had already figured out at least 80% of the locations and paths – both on trail and off trail – that I would utilize weeks ago. So why after all the preparations was I so panicked? Because sometimes my passion for perfection gets the best of me.

Come Thursday morning around 8:00AM I had finished marking the course and finally was able to lay down and take a nap. Only a few odds and ends needed to be finished before the race began the following evening. The fear and stress started to fade and I set to work on finalizing some of the mind games and watched a few different videos to get me motivated for my role in torturing the racers for the next 24 hours.

After watching some clips from Full Metal Jacket and a other various motivational videos such as Rocky’s training in Rocky IV, I found myself ready to rest. The next 24 hours would be orchestrated chaos. It was glorious. We had 21 registrations, 12 participants showed up and only 4 would go on to finish. But I won’t go into all the details. I’ll let our female finisher, Andé Wegner tell her story.

“I’m bruised, I’m battered….but I’m not broken. Today, I finished the most difficult race I had ever undertaken and became the first woman to ever finish Legend of the Death Race.

A brief rundown of what happened during the race:

  • death race peak dr endurance legend of the death race training campsStarted around 6:30 pm Friday night. First task to fill PVC pipes with mud and water to form a slosh pipe.
  • Chop wood and fill 2 half pallets with the kindling.
death race spartan race peak races dr bear crawls

Rodrigo Velarde, destroying the first bear crawl challenge.

  • Bear crawls thru a 200 meter course in full ruck, repeat 5 times. Any swear words were punished with penalty burpees.
  • Had to complete 500 burpees in 45 mins, as a team. We did not succeed and had to do an additional 250 burpees.
  • Put our rucks on and headed to the trails for 9 pm, had to carry a slosh pipe for every 3 people and couldn’t allow it to touch the ground or penalty burpees would be tacked on. We had to go thru a culvert only about 3 feet in diameter and rushing with water. Tom and my third partner decided to quit after that, so Tom and I had to carry the pipe ourselves with no break – 4 miles hike total to the cub scout camp.
  • Get to camp and have to chop kindling and start a fire. We each had to go into a room and memorize three quotes by Confucious and the word in front of it. We all sat around the fire for a bit, and everyone told their reason of why they were there.
  • 1 hour of PT: 1 min plank followed 100 air squats, repeat a few times. Jumping Jacks for time (I think it was 5-7 minutes), 50 man makers, 1000 crunches, static squats for several mins.
  • Placed with a new team and carried the slosh pipe for another 2 miles to the base of a chapel, dropped the pipe and hiked up to the chapel where we had to memorize one of three bible verses (Revelations 2:10 – “Do not be fearful of what you about to suffer,” is what I chose.
  • Hiked back out to the base of a road and was instructed to put our sand pills totaling 50# into our buckets and carry them 1/2 mile up a steep hill, repeat 3 times, the first time holding it however you wanted, the second holding it out in front, and the third carrying it by the bucket handle.
  • Hiked back to the chapel, and had to recite the bible verse we memorized. Correct answers got 250 burpees. Incorrect answers got extra burpees depending on how bad you screwed it up. I recited mine just fine.
  • Hiked back to the slosh pipes and picked them up. Carried them down to the pond, then stripped down to skivvies and stood in the 40 degree water while passing the pipes over our heads. That went on for 15 mins, and we had to do squats in between breaks. We finished up there with 10 burpees in the water.
  • Ran with our rucks back to the farm (about 2.5 miles) and proceeded to chop wood for 4 hours, filling more pallets with wood. 
  • Put our rucks back on and jogged about 1 mile to a checkpoint. We then had to bear crawl up a hill 3/4 mile and back down, rucks on. 
  • Made it back to the farm, then had to solve a puzzle box ( did mine in less than 1 minute) do jumping burpees for a total of 1 mile.
log roll side roll challenge death race peak dr

Andé Wegner, our first female finisher, almost falling asleep at the log roll challenge.

  • Final task: 6 laps around the first bear crawl course, but we had to log roll. This, above anything, is what DNF’d most of the racers. After every lap 25 tractor tire tire flips had to be done, and then the Confucious quote was dug back out – needed to name the word that was associated with the phrase. I finished around 4 pm Saturday.

A big thanks to my mud brothers Dan and Ian for agreeing to undertake this challenge with me. Your presence helped me more than you’ll ever know. I’m proud of both of you for going as far as you did! 

Nick, John, T.J., Tom, Rodrigo, and Steve – you are all top notch people and I am proud to have raced this with you. Anthony Matesi – great job on putting together an amazing race, and I look forward to racing with you at the DR in June.

You tried, Death, but you did not succeed. Next stop , Death Race where we face off again. I assure you will not go easily.

This was an incredible second event and I cannot even begin to thank everyone who helped and was involved enough. Chad and Lisa are always the most incredible hosts and I cannot thank them enough for all that they do to help me organize and host the Legend of the Death Race Adventure Races. My volunteers this year were just awesome and I could not do it without you so thank you Candie, Matt, Dion and my father Rich. You all helped make the event that much better.

lostnscanned legend of the death race puzzle solving challenge revealIn addition to the support from all the volunteers, I also have to thank our sponsors for their donations, Innerzyme thank you for donating the samples and prizes. ZICO donated a few cases of their delicious coconut water for to keep our athletes and volunteers hydrated. Spartan Energy provided us with the energy boost we need to get through the 20-24 hours of mayhem. I also have to make a shout out to the startup company that I’m working for LostnScanned they provided us with tags to use for our puzzle challenge. Once the puzzle boxes were opened the racers had to have me scan a LostnScanned tag to unveil their next challenge – which was the Burpee Mile – it was a pretty cool tie in and made for a neat way to dictate second to last challenge of the race. Spartan Death Race Finishers of Legend of the Death Race Adventure Race Peak DR Training EventsOnce again we’d like to congratulate our Top Finishers, Nick Monette came out of nowhere like a silent ninja and won the whole thing, taking second was Jonathan Nolan – Founder of the Corn Fed Spartans, Tomasz Boltruczyk took third and we also had our first female finisher who gave us our recap above, Andé Wegner. Congrats again to all of you who participated and pushed your limits. You all inspire with what you do. Keep it up and we’ll see you at the Spartan Death Race. For those of you interested in the Winter Adventure Race, registration is now open. Spring 2014 Registration and new locations will be announced soon so stay tuned.