Last Updated on January 31, 2022 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
Let me preface this for those of you coming here via Google looking for play-by-play Death Race reviews: I did not participate in the race as an athlete. I was, however, a participant in the madness from a totally different point of view: that of a volunteer coordinator for the race. And even though I did not race, I still didn’t sleep. I still found myself deep in the woods. I still had no freaking idea what was going on for most of the race. I still stared at Andy and Joe, baffled in shock and awe, of the tasks they doled out to the death racers. And I’m still not sure, 3 weeks later, if I can even wrap my brain around what occurred that weekend.
|(photo credit: Amee Farm Lodge Facebook page)|
…with no idea how long you will be on the course, and no set finish line. And you carry all that stuff, and more, for hours. Actually, make that days. Hell, the website is http://www.youmaydie.com/ and I’m almost certain they are not kidding.
I can’t even begin to tell you the exact order of events. There was hiking. Tons and tons of hiking with a lot of heavy gear, including buckets, shovels, bags, and kayaks. And tires. And swimming in duck ponds trying to find a ping pong with your number on it. They chopped wood. Fixed a gravel driveway. Took a 3 hour (rumor had it) written exam. (I saw the exam and it made MY mind spin). There were cheaters, sentenced to sit waist deep in a duck pond for 6 hours in 40 degree temps at 2 am (the non cheaters only had to serve 45 minutes). Carrying logs up and down a mountain. Carrying 60 pound concrete bags up and down a mountain. And then there was the rolling. An obstacle you would literally have to see to believe. A ¾ of a mile track with various obstacles, including rolling UNDER a black tarp (it was like 90 degrees out) and over a bucket filled with bio hazardous material (aka, sheep intestines that were rumored to sit out in the sun for a few weeks) At the end of the ¾ mile roll, where keep in mind, you could not get up off the ground, you had to sit up and correctly answer an SAT style question. Then, you did it all over again. 6 laps for some, 12 for others (they really HATE cheaters and bad attitudes at the Death Race.) Here’s some pictures, they can’t even do the race justice, but they sure are fun.
Unwritten Rule #1: in the Death Race, there are no rules. There are a bazillion instructions, most incredibly vague, given out over the course of the YEAR leading up to the death race,and no one knows what is real and what isn’t real. Gear lists, required “homework”, check in times, etc. It’s a free for all. And as I would learn by the end of the weekend, the whole point of the death race is to test YOUR willpower. No one can make you quit. No one can disqualify you. Except…for yourself. The trick is trying to remember when you are sleep/water/food deprived, cold/hot/muddy/wet/utterly exhausted. Or, when a volunteer (i.e. me) makes you stop dead in your tracks at 1:00 in the morning, while you are carrying 75 lbs of logs, blinds you in the eyes with her (my) headlamp, and asks you “Are you a cheater?”. It was insane.
Theme of the race: Betrayal. Which leads back to rule #1. Who do you believe? Who knows what’s really going on? Who is on your side and who isn’t? The funny part was, I didn’t even know. Racers would scoff at me and call me a liar at the time, but the truth was, I really did not know. I can’t tell you how many people I told were disqualified, or DNF’s, missed a check point, would never make a check point, etc. Some of the time I knew I was messing with them (hey, it was my job). Other times, I truly believed the words I said were true. Because I didn’t know about Rule #1.
But here was the most amazing thing to me about this race was not the ridiculous obstacles and challenges, but the racers themselves. They were not there for the glory, nor the titles, nor the kick ass skull-kettlebell-trophies (I so want one). They were there for themselves. I can not even begin to tell you how many people I looked dead in the eye, told them they were finished, they would be listed as a “did not finish” on the final results, and they just looked me right back in the eye and said “yes ma’am. I’m going to keep going”. And they did. People who were beaten, broken, dehydrated, hungry, and exhausted. Who were just FEET away from their family and fresh gear and a car ride to a shower and a pizza join. I TOLD them they were done, that they could return to the comforts of normal civilization, and they said, politely at that (seriously, like 95% of them were the nicest people I’ve ever met) , “no thank you”.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t make it to the finish line. After 3 hours cumulitive sleep over 3 days, I went and passed out and didn’t wake up in time. I think the first place person came in around 60+ ish hours. That’s right, 60 hours, no sleep, just racing. Kind of makes Ironman look like playground game of kickball, right?
This post is completely unorganized and likely leaving out hundreds of details and has no real beginning or ending. There truly is no way to race recap…or even volunteer coordinator recap this story. You just had to be there.
But since even a half story needs a conclusion, here you go:
The Spartan family is amazing. Unrivaled. From the Death Racers to the Spartan Sprinters, to the support crew, the employees, the volunteers, and the crazy guys in charge, they all bring a whole new outlook to what it means to push your limits, to be strong, and to really LIVE. And I’m honored to be a part of that family.
|Ultra Beast Gang Signs. I think it was maybe 3 am here…delirious: check!|
|excuse the language. You had to be there.|
|The awesome Spartan interns kept me going with redbull deliveries…this was about 36 hours in|
|Social Media…it’s what I do 😉|
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.