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White Barn

Legend of the Death Race Year 3: Part 9 – Comin’ in Hot

This is it; this is where the fun began.

For the next 7-8 hours or so we would be tasked with doing laps up and down Joe’s mountain from the White Barn to Shrek’s Cabin, and back again. Just as the racers did at previous Winter Death Races, but I was on the other side of the fence –organizing and photographing the event. I remember how incredibly epic it was standing inside Shrek’s Cabin, with the fire ablaze, checking participants in as they did laps in the snow, up and down Joe’s Mountain after having spent the better part of the morning dancing to Bruno Mars’s hit song, ‘Uptown Funk’.

The thought of this being the last task of the event crept in my head. At that last Winter Death Race, the event ended with running laps up and down the mountain. Could it be that this would be how they’d end this Death Race, too?

Could it be? A new quasi-level of standardization for the Death Race? Having worked for Spartan in a more official capacity for about a year at that time afforded me more insight into the direction the team wanted the Death Race to go. One thing I kept hearing all year was the desire to make the Death Race more of a race – to get back to the core values, make it more performance-based, meaning less time out in the woods. After all, even the race directors didn’t want a repeat of the 70+ hour Death Race finish in 2013. That race put the whole crew into panic mode. Participants didn’t believe the event was over, they were willing to do damn near anything to end their suffering. After a year like that, maybe this would be a shorter Summer Death Race, perhaps 48 maybe 50 hours, tops? Or so I began to hope.

In hindsight, this specific moment gives me goosebumps. To this day, it’s my favorite personal moment from all the Death Races in which I participated.

With the next task being a time trial of sorts we were, of course, given some parameters. I took this as another hint at what could possibly be the finish of the 2014 Death Race, Year of the Explorer. The rules for this specified that we had until 0700 to run as many laps up and down Joe’s Mountain possible making sure we checked in at Shrek’s Cabin and at the White Barn each time. Furthermore, a minimum of five laps were required to pass this challenge, extra laps would be “rewarded” to decrease the actual laps run, and we did not have to carry our packs.

Sweet baby Jesus. This was so much like Winter Death Race, I couldn’t help but think, this is it, this is the time to push it! The time arrived to put in a maximum effort. It was time for me to do the last thing necessary to earn my skull.

How wishful am I? I thought to myself.

As I came in, people were already beginning to ascend the mountain for their first summit. I was still a bit behind compared to where I thought I’d be having taken a ride. I realized how badly held up I got with the bag fiasco. No worries, I knew I could catch up. It wasn’t even a question, it would happen. With my bag stripped off my back and my legs itching to do some time trials up and down this mountain, I was stoked.

How many laps can I do? I wondered.

The next thing I knew I was sprinting up the mountain heading for Shrek’s cabin. As I made the climb up the stone stairs I noticed some people were carrying their rucks. I was confused by this as I remembered confirming whether we needed our rucks for this segment of the race. We didn’t.

Sometimes, it pays to confirm the rules of the challenge. In this case, I was at an advantage because I took the time to make sure I understood what was required of me, and that was to do as many laps up and down the mountain as possible – without a ruck. That first ascent took me about 25 minutes from the bottom to the top. I checked in at the cabin and immediately turned around and began my descent. On the way, down there was a huge line of people trying to make their ascent. I immediately started shouting out, “On your left, comin’ in hot!”

I repeated this like a broken record throughout the dark night. That first descent took me right around ten minutes to complete. I checked in hastily at the white barn where I made a quick stop for some water and Skittles at the SISU team tent.

Up and down I’d go each lap checking in at the top and bottom as quickly as the volunteers could get me in and out. I’d only stop at the team tent for a few minutes at a time, I didn’t want to waste any time. I wanted to see just how far I could push myself. I wanted to see how many laps could I do in this small amount of time.

By the fifth lap I was all hopped up on Skittles and Mountain Dew when Kristine forced me to eat a protein bar since it had been hours since I’d eaten anything other than sugar and corn syrup. At first, I resisted, I wanted nothing but Skittles and Mountain Dew. The fact was, she was right, I did need something else. To this day,  I’m thankful for her support. I probably would have bonked had she not shoved that Mint Chocolate Chip Builder’s Bar down my mouth.

At this point my ascents had slowed drastically, that first ascent was without question my fastest but from that point on each ascent after took me anywhere from five to ten minutes longer, which was to be expected. My descents, however, were a whole different story. Each lap I got more precise, more calculated with how I was attacking the downhill.

Peak Death Race, 2014 Peak Death Race, Death Race, Running Laps, Mountain Laps, Mountain running, death race running laps, death race mountain laps

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Spicer

I began to know exactly what trees I could grab to maximize my speed, which stone stairs I could bounce from to control what was essentially me falling down the mountain. I was letting gravity completely take over. Each descent I got faster and faster, and as the sun began to rise, I memorized the fastest route to get from Shrek’s to the White Barn and my body glided almost effortlessly down the mountain.

When I arrived at the White Barn on my eighth lap up and down Joe’s mountain, I discovered I currently held the position for the most laps and my friends Mark Webb and Mark Jones both were heading out for another lap to tie me. Before this knowledge was made known to me, I had planned on calling my eight laps a ‘job well done’, but the competitive side of me wanted more.

I checked how much time I had and how long each lap had been taking me. On average, I was taking about 45 minutes on my ascents and anywhere from 8-10 minutes for the descents. There was just over an hour left for the challenge, if I went out for another lap I’d be cutting it close and not knowing what was next, if anything, could be risky business.

I was determined to dominate this challenge and without much thought, I took off for another lap. I’d already far surpassed the five-lap minimum, and for all, I knew I was just wasting my energy on another lap. Maybe I was being foolish but I really wanted to clinch this challenge. As I began yet another ascent, it was clear there weren’t too many people left on the mountain.

A large majority of the racers stopped after they had finished five laps, they were comfortable with doing the minimum requirement. Others who hadn’t yet hit the threshold continued to push to get there and here I was chasing after Mark Jones and Mark Webb who were both a lap behind me because something inside me told me, to keep hammering.

That final descent is one of my most fond memories of this event. With the light of the sun glistening through the trees and showing me the path previously been lit only by headlamps now fully visible, my line was even easier to see. I hopped and jumped and practically flung myself from one tree to the next as I barreled down the mountain side. I could almost sense that I was moving faster than the previous laps.

Suddenly, I could hear someone coming up behind me. It was Mark Jones, and although I had him by a full lap, I couldn’t help but crank up the heat. The battle was on. Mark Jones is a dominating force in the world of adventure and endurance racing. He’s unbelievably fast and strong and the patter of his feet on my tail drove me to push harder than ever.

Every lap I did I took the exact same route. On the way up, I took the stairs and on the way down I took this snowmobile trail, which was an extremely steep slope. As I neared the turn-off, I wondered if I was the only person who had been taking this route for the descents. I soon found out as I peeled off and took my “shortcut” to the bottom that all of a sudden, the sound of Mark’s feet pounding the trail dissipated. I lost him.

It wasn’t until this moment that it occurred to me that I was, in fact, the only person taking this path to the bottom. I could feel my toes absolutely destroyed. It felt as though the toenails on my big toes were disintegrating. I feared what I would find when I got back to the SISU tent. I pushed through the pain determined to make it back in time.

As I entered the White Barn there were only mere minutes left before we had to get ready for the next challenge. Completely wrecked from completing nine laps I could only hope that the next challenge was nothing more than the ending ceremony. When I found out how fast I finished that last descent I was in shock, from the top of Shrek’s Cabin to the White Barn I managed to do it in six minutes. SIX MINUTES! Holy shit.

Additionally, to my surprise my feet were fine, my toenails were still intact. The pain was immense, I couldn’t believe my toes were OK, it really felt like I had just absolutely destroyed them. My crew instructed me to that we had to be in our white Tyvek suits and diapers ready to go within the next five minutes. I quickly rinsed my body with the hose and without even thinking twice I stripped naked right then in there in front of everyone (something I feared ever doing in front of anyone other than a significant other) and threw my diaper and my Tyvek suit on, I grabbed my ruck and I began to sob uncontrollably.

I couldn’t believe that it wasn’t over. I had just wrecked myself for nothing. I let my pride get the best of me, and now the race would go on and I had to wonder. Did I have enough energy left in the tank to finish this?

To be continued…

Photographers – Please contact me if these are your photos, I forgot to write down your name when I downloaded late one night and I want to give you proper credit. Email me at and I’ll get that sorted right away. Thank you in advance or in some cases I’m sure again, for letting me use your photos to tell the story. 🙂 

Legend of the Death Race Year 3: Part 8 – Endless Yoga

Having made up a lot of time with our strategy we found ourselves beating the 4PM cut-off by four hours. As I recall, we were somewhere in the middle of teams who finished. After a quick refresh at basecamp it was right back to it with the next challenge.

Next up, we found ourselves back on our own again and the task was to get to the top of Joe’s mountain all the way to Shrek’s Cabin where we would have to “start a fire”. I say that in quotes because before taking off for the summit, I caught wind that all we needed to do was make a fire by using a bow drill.

In typical Death Race fashion, it wasn’t explicitly stated that you had to use a stick and a bow drill to make the fire, so some people who arrived earlier had discovered that you could have a match attached to the end of your bow drill and still receive a passing grade. With this knowledge, I made a sprint to the top with only the things I needed. As I made my way up, I received confirmation from a few others who had already made fire and were headed back. Knowing the secret to completing this task set me up make up some time if I could get it done quick enough.

When I arrived at Shrek’s Cabin, I checked in with Peter Borden and went off to the side of Shrek’s to gather some hay, I quickly fashioned myself a bow drill, recalling my experiences at the Survival Run in Texas, this felt like cheating know I was using a match to make my fire. One of the strange things about Death Race is the lack of direct rules and instructions, with such an open box and the freedom to do anything in, around, our outside the box, it’s sometimes hard to determine what was within reasonable compromise and what wasn’t. I often look back on this decision and my rationale is that it was allowed which means it was an acceptable strategy, whether it was the right strategy, is up to the person who used it. In my opinion, I feel I cheated myself by not actually making my fire, but on the other hand, my conscious tells me that I played the “game” of Death Race. By playing the “game,” I found myself propelling forward, way ahead of the rest of the participants by doing whatever it takes.

You can decide what you think, but here is how it went down. I got that bow drill, I attached a stormproof match to the end of my drill, placed the strike pad on the wood notch that I was going to grind and eventually cause enough friction to create fire with. I set up my bow drill and like magic, I had fire quickly. Technically speaking, I used a bow drill to create fire. My drill just happened to be a bit, modified.

When I think back to past experiences at Death Races, I recall the time that another Tony rode a bike more than half way up Joe’s mountain while everyone, literally, everyone else ran to the top. Or the time I heard some guys caught a ride to the next challenge just because they were that much more resourceful and willing to take that chance. Could they have been ejected from the event? Certainly. Were they? Nope. It was with this prior knowledge and the wisdom of past Death Racers, that I could quickly justify my doing this task in this manner. It was all a part of the game, and I was hacking it, one challenge at a time. At survival run, the rules were very specific, something like this would never fly, and I would never have tried it, but the Death Race things were, different. Everything was open to interpretation.

By playing the game and hacking this challenge, I was in and out of Shrek’s Cabin within eight minutes of arriving. Running downhill is one of my strong suits, I navigated back to the White Barn at Riverside Farm in a flash.

After returning to the White Barn we were directed to grab a log and carry it up along Tweed River Drive, this part kind of blurred past and brings me to the next challenge which we had to endure for oh, somewhere between six and eight hours, at this point in the race, who’s counting? The next challenge was probably one of the most brutal, it was a test of how bad you want it, how much mental fuckery can you endure. That’s what this next challenge was all about.

Navigating up Tweed River Drive with a log was easy compared to what came next. It was in this challenge that some of the hardest, strongest, athletes would suddenly break. Unbelievably so. The challenge was quite simple, a test, administered by none other than the mastermind who had tortured me with a mile and a half of log rolling through other people’s puke back at the 2012 Death Race during the Year of Betrayal, the infamous, Jack Carry.

The test contains 26 questions with 26 matching answers, you were to match the answer to the question using letters. Simple enough right? There were a few stipulations, for one thing, if you turned in your test and had one, just one wrong answer, you’d be sent home. Think that’s bad? It’s worse, you were not allowed to speak to anyone during the entire test. No cheating. No sharing answers. No talking. Silence. One hundred percent silence from the participants. Think that’s it? Ha, I’m just getting started, after all this is the maniacal, Jack, who orchestrated this challenge from hell. For questions, you didn’t know you could wait in line and check if an answer was correct. The more questions you knew the easier this would be to do the process of elimination until all the answers were correct, however, after you asked a question you could do one of two things. First, you could elect to stand on the hillside and work on your test, trying to figure out answers. Then to get back in line you would have to hold a Yoga stance for eight minutes at a time. One pose, hold for 8 minutes. Jack would give you options you could select for your pose. There were a few poses in his collection, standing on one leg, or laying on your back with your feet over your head, or laying on your stomach and holding on to your bent legs by the feet, I almost always alternated between laying on my back with my feet overhead and laying on my stomach with my legs bent. Those two were great, stretched my back and my hamstrings like crazy. I rather enjoyed the long holds. They were, meditative the more we did them. At least, they were for me.

This madness went on for hours and hours and hours, as the night wore on the cold began to set in. One of the first things we did upon our arrival was drop our rucks in a pile. We weren’t allowed to access them. Oh, how I had wished I’d grabbed an extra layer. I had arrived with one of the first groups initially, so the line we waited in to ask Jack a question grew longer and longer after each cycle. Since we couldn’t access our rucks I did what any sensible person would do after being up for more than 30 hours or so, I started acting a fool. I was dancing, and bouncing around and doing all kinds of silly things to keep my body heat up. Remember that whole silence thing, yeah, that sucked every so often someone would slip, the race directors or volunteers might have asked a question and instead of staying silent, a participant would acknowledge the question, and boom, that was it, race over. For some, this was devastating, to put so much effort and training and to travel to this event is everything, and to get kicked out all for opening their mouth and uttering a single word. I found this to be quite brutal and every time a fellow racer was dropped for this I genuinely felt for them. What a shitty way to get dropped from this race, but it’s a mental challenge, a very, very, effective, and difficult challenge.

As the night wore on, all I could think was when would this be over? It seemed like this could go on and on and on. As we did more questions I started to realize that some of the questions and answers were bullshit. How did I come to this conclusion? I purposefully asked a question regarding the same answer twice and received two different answers, evidence that this entire event was another mindfuck, possibly one that couldn’t be won. I lost trust in Jack and figured he was just trying to drop people. At that point I stopped caring about the test, now it was just about enduring. Eventually, I thought to myself, they’ll just shut this thing down. At least, that’s what I had hoped.

Not long after my revelation, which I couldn’t share with anyone due to the whole silence game, another racer lost it. I don’t recall the exact circumstances but some of the race directors, in an effort to get participants to break their silence I am sure, started dumping out everyone’s rucks. Mind you we were initially told to empty our rucks, many of us used separate dry bags within our rucks to keep things organized so even though we had to empty those bags out it would have been relatively easy to find most of our things. But they started dumping the individual bags and mixing everything up. This was a pretty messed up and a shitty move, one that should probably never have happened. Nonetheless, it did, and a racer completely lost it. Sleep deprivation, fucking with gear, and the fact that everyone’s stuff was now mixed together in this massive pile including medications was the shitstorm we needed for them finally bring this challenge to an end. After the racer went wild and sacrificed his bib to the raging campfire, the race directors decided to let everyone collect their things and we were told to meet at the White Barn back at Riverside Farm with no mention of how to get there.

It was now midnight and tt took my quite a while to collect my things, I tried to be strategic by stringing my things together with a carabiner, yet I couldn’t find half my things. After what felt eternal, but was really only a good five to ten minutes of scrambling around, I finally found everything and started on my way. By this point I had fallen behind, I was probably sitting somewhere in the back half of the pack as I set out toward the White Barn. On the way out I saw my girlfriend, Kristine, she had parked her rental car up there and was just hanging out watching all of this insanity play out.

Over the past two years, I have struggled to come to terms with my decision to “game the system” at this point of the race. It has been an internal struggle for me and a large part of why it’s taken me so long to finish my “Death Race story”.

Recently, I had a revelation and was able to talk through this with a close friend. In that moment of the race I panicked, I wanted to finish this so bad and didn’t want something stupid like this dumping of bags thing to be my demise, I wanted to get back to the front of the pack, where I had been the majority of the event. I began to think back to past Death Races I had been a part of and recalled some tactics utilized by racers who not only finished but ranked in the top three.

You see, after the Year of Betrayal in 2012, the Death Race morphed into this sort of, do whatever it takes and use a “figure it out” mentality to finish. For instance, if the instructions are, “get to the White Barn as fast as possible” with no indication of HOW to get there, what’s to stop you from riding a bike or hitching a ride? Hell, if I had a jet pack, I could have used that. The rules were arbitrary. You have to kind of figure out what is and isn’t acceptable through trial and error. Sometimes you can get away with gaming the system, sometimes you are punished severely. In previous Death Races, I witnessed top finishers carpooling to a challenge, and one time I got passed up by a finisher who was lucky enough to find a bicycle to ride up Tweed River Drive to whatever the next challenge was at the 2013 Death Race. With this knowledge, I made a decision.

Resourcefulness, in this event, was considered a necessity and given that prior knowledge, that wisdom, I decided this was my moment to play the game the way others had in the past. Let me be clear, this is something I would only do at a Death Race, were it any other race, I prefer to play by the rules. But this was the Death Race, and the Death Race was about “figuring it out”. In many cases, at any given moment during the race, what rules existed and what rules didn’t could be up for debate. For two years I have struggled with writing about this part of the event. Given the circumstances surrounding how the Death Race worked, I still don’t really feel good about what this specific segment but, live and learn, right? One thing the Death Race showed me was that I was willing to take a huge risk even though there could have been consequences. You see, I had already played the risk analysis out in my head, in the Death Race, this was [possibly] an acceptable strategy, worth the risk and were it any other event, an Ultra Marathon, a Hurricane Heat, or hell even one of the 12-Hour Hurricane Heats that I brought to life under the Spartan Endurance umbrella, it wouldn’t even be on the table as an option. My prior knowledge of the Death Race gave me the confidence that this risk was worth taking.

It took me two years to come to terms with the, rather ballsy decision I made back then. The fact remains, I was just willing to take that chance. That chance could have gotten me a DNF, but it didn’t. The fact is, had I been “caught” and told what I did was unacceptable I would have accepted my fate and walked away.

You could say, lady luck, was on my side.

After catching a quick car ride half way down from the top of Tweed River Drive, I jumped out of the car and ran the last quarter of a mile back to the White Barn, likely saving myself a solid 10-15 minutes of rucking and providing me with the recharge needed to prepare for the next evolution in this race.

To be continued…

Author’s Note: It’s been three years since this event occurred. This article has taken about a year to write. Some events may be missing information, out of order, or misremembered. I’d be happy to hear of any corrections I need to make to the timeline if needed.

Legend of the Death Race Year 3: Part 5 – Pocahontas and Porcupine Quills


Don Devaney at the water cup in a log challenge.

The time had come to depart from the top of Bloodroot Mountain Trail. After a long and tedious process thanks in part to Don’s desire to break me by angering my soul, I successfully finished crafting my cup of water in a log holder project. With the remains of my creation packed tightly away, I took off down the mountain trail. With the radiance of the sun gone and replaced by the starry skies of central Vermont, the first night of the Death Race had finally begun.

Darkness engulfed the sky and these moments are a test of willpower and determination. Naturally, when the sun fades, the body and more importantly, the mind will naturally find itself desiring sleep, rest, and comfort. During these long, dark hours are a test of perseverance. Enduring the darkness and doubt brings its own reward — like the rising sun’s power  to bring a spiritual resurgence  and provide the kick in the ass necessary to carry on. 

Unaware of what lie ahead during this first evening and now alone in the mountains, I knew I had to maintain my focus. Knowing that  Kristine had finally arrived I knew it would be tough when I finally saw her to not want to stop the race and spend all my time in the majestic wilderness alone with her. It’s true, internally my emotions within were all over the place, as much as I’d probably want to suspend time and stop racing to be with her, I was equally giddy with excitement at the prospect of having her see what I was made of. I wanted her to see that I had the gusto to finish the Peak Death Race.

My trek down Bloodroot Mountain Trail was far better than my ascent. No longer feeling any foot pain, I had almost completely forgotten about the episode. Determined to return the the White Barn at Riverside Farm to catch my lady, a fire inside began to rage. I barreled my way down the treacherous trails. With my headlamp lighting the tree lines up with the power of 200 lumens, I swear that Black Diamond Icon headlamp is like having your own personal sun, and because of its brilliant light  I was able to leap over every puddle, creek, and stream that lay in my path. Utilizing my trekking poles, I managed to navigate the dark path without hitting any water by propelling myself over each water source in my way. 

The further down the trail I made it the more I felt the weight of my pack taking its toll on my shoulders. In an effort to quell the discomfort, I messed around with my straps loosening them and tightening them, sometimes unclipping the chest strap and allowing the shoulder straps to fall off, putting a majority of the weight into my waist belt. I was resolute to keep my pace and not have to stop. I had made it down the more treacherous parts of the trails, but no matter how much I shifted and adjusted the pack, the nearly 70 pounds was too much. I eventually caved, and dropped my pack to the ground. I had to rest, if only for a minute. Fellow Death Racers passed by and I felt a sense of defeat, I was unhappy with my inability to bear the weight. It was my own fault; even with all my knowledge from previous races, I made a mistake and over-packed. The truth of the matter was I feared Bloodroot. In my experience, going to Bloodroot typically meant a trek to Chittenden Reservoir. A journey to those parts meant long distance swims in frigid waters. Swimming, I can do. In frigid, open waters? That’s when I get a little shaky. Thankfully, it seemed we avoided that water hole of misery, at least for now, I thought to myself.

Continuing to make the long hike back, I relished in the fact that at least with the downhill gravity was doing some of the work. Just a little further and I’ll be back, I told myself. It seemed like a never-ending hike. As I made my way off the trails and onto the road that leads to Upper Michigan and towards the path that leads past Jason’s home, I paused to soak in my surroundings. Here I was, still in the beginning stages of another Death Race adventure,and yet, if only for a moment, it was a chance to acknowledge the vastness of the universe. I gazed up at the blackening abyss over the clear Vermont sky speckled with blinking beams of light that traveled light years just to reach my eyes in this very moment. The experience was transcendent. Staring out gave me this assurance that as difficult as anything I might face ahead may be, that there are far greater challenges being faced everywhere. For a moment, my mind expanded beyond my conceivable conscious. I returned my mind and myself back to this planet after sitting for a brief moment on a roadside guardrail, lost in the stars above. I redirected my enlightenment to getting through this Death Race as a finisher. This was it, everything I’ve done over these past few years has led to this defining race. You’d be mistaken if you thought it was only about racing others, the truth is the Death Race is you against you. Can you overcome whatever demons might reveal themselves in the face of the adversity crafted to disrupt you? I believed I not only could, but would. 

Not too long after my short meditation, I gained a bit of pep in my step and finally could see the lights of Riverside Farm in my sights; all I had to do was safely cross Route 100 and run up the driveway. As I approached the farm, excitement filled me, having already been going for well over 12 hours; I finally got to see the beaming smile of my lady, Kristine. As I ran up she greeted me already prepared to help me as my crew in any way possible. 

I was informed I had to speak to the woman by the teepee tent that was there in the back corner of the corral where a large amount of Death Racers were already hard at work on the next task. 

The next task to be completed was to take the log that I had just carried back from Bloodroot and I needed to make a hole in the center. It was required to show this woman, who resembled Pocahontas in the garb she adorned, through this hole that the mandatory porcupine quill I had brought with me could be slid all the way through it. Sounded like a simple enough task. Before I was allowed to do that, however, I had to change my clothes. It was time to take the four yards of buckskin, or in my case vinyl that looked the color of buckskin but felt like a “pleather”, and create a top and bottom that mimicked her look. Specifically, I would need to use 108 stitches to do so. Those were the instructions. 


Amie Booth adorning her amazing survival garbs.

Immediately I ran back to where I dropped my pack by Kristine and my attitude changed. The temperatures were dropping and I was not in the mood to sew a stupid outfit that I would have to wear for what at worst could be the rest of the damn race. All I could think was, this was going to be miserable!. Negativity overwhelmed me. It engulfed my soul so quickly, I was actually thinking about quitting. Why the f*ck do I have to do this bullshit? I could just go back to the hotel with Kristine and enjoy Vermont for once, why am I putting up with stupid shit like this. It’s incredible how fast the negativity can exasperate into an uncontrollable fury. Kristine tried to encourage me. This was only the first night; I had to snap out of it. This is what the Race Directors wanted, they wanted to get a rise out of us, and they wanted to break those of us who lacked patience. It’s not always the physical tasks that will get you in the Death Race; it’s the ones that require mental solitude, perseverance, patience, more often than anything else it’s these challenges that force a Death Racer to quit. 

This would be my greatest challenge — overcoming the mind-numbing task of sewing, which I’m pretty awful at, my own hunter/gatherer style outfit. I decided to essentially slice the fabric in half, one part to make a skirt of sorts, a kilt, if you will. For the top I would fold it in half and using my Ka-Bar I turned it into a tunic, making a hole that may have been a bit larger than necessary for my head to go through. I sealed up the sides a bit to fulfill the requirements of having stitches and made sure to count each stitch one by one, an impressive test of focus. Stitch, count, stitch, count. It was a repetitive task that had to be done precisely for fear of penalty. By the time I had my tunic and skirt all stitched up I had regained my composure and desire to race. I  decided if I was going to deal with wearing this I might as well have a little fun with it, so I took my knife and sliced some stylish cuts into the skirt to give it a more “Gladiator” style, at least that’s what I pictured in my mind . It looked far from the garb of a gladiator, but it certainly gave me and everyone else a laugh, including Pocahontas.


Death Racer working on porcupine quill through the center of a log challenge.

Next up, I had to get to work on my log. While the task seemed like it would be easy at first, I quickly realized how difficult this could be. Strategizing with my crew, Patrick Mies, a fellow Death Racer with whom I had raced with the previous summer, suggested first to begin splitting the wood with my hatchet without breaking it in half. Then I could shove screwdriver or something similar down the middle. While I loved his suggestion, there was one problem I didn’t have a screwdriver or anything like that. Not even two minutes later, I found one on the ground by my side. It’s strange how items just appear right when you need them at a Death Race. 


Ella Kociuba working on her log.

Working hastily, I jammed the screwdriver into my already half split log and started pounding it down with the back of the hatchet I borrowed from fellow Death Racer, Rob Barger. Once it was through I went to pull it back out of the log. It was stuck! Shit?! What do I do? I could feel my heart rate accelerating. I’m screwed. I started throwing my log on the ground, pulling, pushing, twisting, and doing whatever I could to try to wiggle it free. After tirelessly working on it for a good 10 minutes I finally succeeded. Now to make sure I can get the porcupine quill through. It was important to me that I could do it before I went and showed them. My first attempt I lost my quill in the wood shavings and debris. I had to make it smoother. Round two with the screwdriver went a little smoother than the first. After losing another quill, and I only had 2 more left, I finally succeeded. Excited, I ran over to the teepee tent and fire that was burning in front of it and presented my project to Pocahontas. Success came only after my log almost fell apart, only a sliver of bark held it together. Ecstatic to finally be done with this tedious task, I ran over to Kristine and Patrick and began gathering my things so I could prepare for what lie ahead. 

To be continued…