Death Race Resurrection (Part 2/2)

CRAWL

Once back at the farm, we took another trip over to the pond. Robin told us we had 10 minutes to put a fish in his hand or we would be in trouble. I quickly pulled out my Adams fly and fishing line, and spent a few minutes cutting some line for others. Only me and a handful of people spread out around the pond and tried to fish while everyone else waited eagerly. The minutes ticked by without a bite. Robin warned us we only had a minute left.  I was praying for a miracle. Robin’s final count “10, 9, 8….” We were told to get back to our packs. Robin told us thanks to a clever teammate, we were all saved. When I asked what happened, Yvette told me she took some tuna fish she had in her pack, stuck the fly in it, and put it in Robin’s hand. Genius. Apparently she had saved us from a couple hours of PT.

As we walked back away from the pond, one of the female medics told me her and a couple others were talking, and they were sure I was going to finish. I was suprised by her statement. I saw this particular medic watching me from around the fire as I was struggling through my burpees. I had a hard time believing she had that much faith in me. Still, her confidence lifted my spirits.

Back at the barb wire crawl, there were a decent group of spectators including former participants, all of the staff, and a camera crew. There was also a desk with a computer and another giant digital clock set up next to the crawl. The rumors were definitely true.

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We lined up at the start line as we were briefed on what was to come. Joe told us the world record for longest distance crawled in 12 hours is a 10k, or 6.2miles. He wanted us to break the record. Furthermore, in order to be eligible for the $100,000.00 cash prize advertised before the death race, we must do a full marathon. Some quick calculations in my mind and I realized that goal was damn near impossible. My goal became simply to keep crawling for 12 hours. It felt very daunting, but I was committed to it.

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He introduced the Guinness employee who would be monitoring us, and she gave us the rules. We must CRAWL only, no rolling. Joe added a rule that we cannot at any point stop moving while in the barb wire. 10 people were asked to volunteer to have their names entered for the record attempt. They were given a different color death race bib to differentiate them and were told to crawl on the outside edge of the track, which was marked with flags. The people who felt strongest volunteered and moved over. We were all allowed to rest if we deemed it necessary, at the end of a lap. We had to check-in with our bib number given to Emily, the woman sitting at the computer, after each lap. Joe threw 4 egg sandwiches into our group as we lied in the dirt. We all took a single bite and passed the sandwich. At approximately 9:20 am, we began the crawl.

I quickly noticed the bandage around my knee was cutting into the back of my leg. I felt the chaffe and it was painful. I asked if anyone around me had a multitool, and Nelson Diaz answered me. He passed me the tool and I struggled to open it as we continued to crawl, remembering we were not allowed to stop moving. I finally managed to cut the bandage off my knee while crawling- day off to a great start already. I had some knee sleeves I brought with me (rehband-for lifting) and I pulled them up to protect my knee as we continued. The padding wasnt much, but I was grateful for it as I looked around and noticed a couple people wearing shorts, with knees completely exposed.
It became clear right away who was going for the record. Amy Winters and Eric Hutterer took the lead quickly. Eric is a 20- something chiseled guy from Canada, and I’ve already mentioned Amy. Both remarkable human beings, I had done a 12 hour hurricane heat with Eric before and I knew he was strong. Amy has an unyielding drive and a spirit of positivity that never quits. She is hands down one of the strongest women I have ever met in my life and I am better for having spent 3 days in the woods with her.
The first few hours into the crawl, I was pacing maybe a 40 minute lap. I checked with my peers, and we all seemed to be going about the same pace. Eric and Amy however, were doubling our lap counts. By the time I hit 4, Amy was at 10, with Eric close behind at 8. As the hours ticked by, the gap between us and them continued to widen. Every time they passed me, my eyes welled up with tears, in awe of their determination and strength.

It was a very hot day, somewhere around 90 degrees, and there was not a sliver of shade as we crawled in endless circles. The course was rocky, my knees were swelling, my wrists were sore, and every so often my pants would get caught on the wire and leave me with a fresh hole. The staff started cooking burgers for us to eat, which we could stop and grab after a lap. No doubt this was thanks to Guinness and wouldn’t have otherwise been allowed at the Death Race. I was grateful for the courtesy. They put water coolers at 2 points on the crawl and made it mandatory for us to stop and have a cup of water every time we passed them.

I heard the man from the pond earlier, the one who came back in after he quit, try to quit again. Joe refused to let him and sent Jack, a kid he was mentoring, out into the crawl to keep him company. A short while later I heard him screaming, then he stood up and walked out of the crawl. His words were something along the lines of “Fuck this, I’m done with this shit. It fucking hurts. I’m not doing this anymore. Fuck all of you.” Amy spoke up saying that wasn’t necessary and to calm down, but he kept cursing as he walked away.

We were all in pain, we were just dealing in our own ways. Everyone out there had mixed emotions, and you could definitely feel it. Some of us were determined. Some were exhausted. Some were angry, and others refused to quit even when they should have. Over the course of the day, many were medical pulled, despite their protests. Most agreed a few hours later that the pull was necessary. Still, many of us stayed cheerful, with smiles on our faces.

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At one point, I heard singing and I turned to look as I crawled. Sure enough, it was Sephra, wearing a one piece bathing suit with denim shorts and barefoot, bounding through the barb wire crawl happy as a kid in a sandbox. She did multiple laps that day, and made it look effortless. Later on, she came by with a camera taking photos, cheering us on and making small talk. She told me she worked for a company that stores seeds from plants all over the world, so we have the ability to replant them in the event of a natural disaster. She told me about how she met Joe, and how he let her build a cabin in his woods and live there. It was a lovely story in the middle of a very chaotic day. I was grateful she was there. She took my photo and went on her way

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As I neared the end of my 5th lap, a medic jumped in the crawl and demanded I sit up on my knees. He walked over to me, rubbed my head, and said “You’re dry, medical DNF.” I became frantic and begged him to change his mind. “I feel fine, there’s nothing wrong with me. I’m not done here.” He said “It’s 90 degrees, you’re crawling in the sun, and not producing sweat.” He was worried about heat stroke. He told me to stand up and step out of the barb wire. As I stood up, I burst into tears. “I FEEL FINE! Can I grab some water and sit on the sidelines for 10 minutes then jump back in?!” He said maybe.

A female medic walked over to ask if everything was ok. I was hysterically crying as I told her he was trying to DNF me for not sweating. The woman hugged me and told me it was going to be OK. She promised to return me to the crawl after cooling me off. “Are you sure?- he said he was gonna pull me from the race.” The woman reassured me and told me to jump on her atv. She drove to the white barn, stuck me in an air conditioned room and told me to drink 2 bottles of water. I downed both water bottles within 10 minutes. While I had the time, I used the bathroom. Normal amount of urine, normal color. I clung to that. I was fine. The woman took me back to the crawl, and I sighed in relief. As I hopped off the atv she told me to take a couple minutes before going back out. I began stretching my legs as Cookie (Steffen Cook- Spartan Endurance Krypteia) walked over to me with his phone on facebook live on the Spartan Endurance page. He asked me about my danger of being medically pulled, and I told the camera I felt good as I smiled and gave a thumbs up.

As he walked away I felt frustrated that my happy groove of crawling was interrupted by sadness, but quickly made up my mind to get my head back in the game and stay positive. I started out on my 6th lap, chugged a cup of water at both water stations, and by the time I finished lap 6 my bladder was about to explode. I hit the port-a -potty twice before starting lap 7. I exclaimed to the medic that my bladder was now uncontrollable and he seemed pleased. I started obsessively checking myself for sweat at least twice a lap after he told me if he caught me dry again, he was pulling me from the race.

I saw Ashley Seeger taking off her shoes to let them dry, and I realized what a brilliant idea that was. I quickly followed suit, taking off my socks and sneakers and lying them out to dry. I knew it would be beneficial to have dry shoes later, and I discovered it was actually very comfortable crawling barefoot. It also gave my pruned feet time to dry, which would allow for less blisters later on. My next lap went smoothly.

As I sat drinking water after my next lap, I noticed Amy asking for assistance. I heard a staff member saying he couldn’t help her, and I jumped up to ask what she needed. Amy’s back was badly bleeding from numerous barb wire cuts, and she needed a shield to cover her back. I grabbed my multi tool and ran across the field to find a bucket. My friend Andrew Blair who was watching from the sidelines came over to ask what I needed. I explained that Amy was in bad shape and I wanted to cut a bucket and duct tape the plastic to her back. Andrew took my multi tool, said he would get it to her, and told me to get back in the race. I was thankful for him as I started again.

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It’s worth mentioning that Leyla DiCori, who had dropped from the race earlier, was supporting Eric. She stood at his side for hours on the sidelines of the barbwire, cheering him on, getting him water, and playing music from her phone. This gesture of kindness quickly formed a bond between the pair, who had just met at the start of the Death Race. The power of teamwork between the two of them was felt by everyone. I couldn’t help but feel bad for Amy, his competitor, who was going at it alone. I knew Eric had the leg up. I could see Amy sinking into her mind when she realized Eric was catching up to her. I tried to talk to her and cheer her on every time she passed me, but I could tell I was not helping her.
After lap 8 my adrenaline must’ve worn off, because I started to notice pain. stinging pain in my bikini region and underarms. I’m sure some people would leave this stuff out of their blogs, but I want to tell my whole story, even the ugly parts. I ran to the port-a-potty and found chaffing lacerations on my bikini line. Every time moved a leg in the crawl, my pantyline was cutting into my skin. When I touched it, it stung like hell. I ripped off some Leukotape I had on me and covered the spots so they wouldn’t get worse. I had no choice but to remove my underwear and pray that the barb wire which had already put several holes in my butt region, wouldn’t completely rip open my pants to reveal my naked ass. I also noticed chaffing spots on my bra line, which were getting deeper. I ran out of the bathroom to grab my multi tool, and a fellow racer cut my bra for me where it was chaffing and applied some trail toes. Now I was also praying my bra didn’t pop off. Whatever, I wasn’t in pain anymore. Back into the crawl.
Many fellow racers had worse issues than me. A couple had badly ripped up knees, lacerations on the backs of their knees from their make shift duct-tape knee pads, and lots of cut up bloody backs. Amy and Eric had completely torn apart their race bibs and skin.
BJ Pierce, a racer who had dropped during burpees, had stayed around to help us. For hours he was handing out water along the side of the crawl. Upbeat attitude, cheering us all on. As I stopped for water toward the end of the day, he asked me if he could help me. “Is there anything you need?” I thought about it. I was getting tired, and I knew night wasn’t far off. “Caffeine,” I replied. He assured me he would do his best. A short while later, he passed me a 5 hour energy. I stored it away inside my bra, worried about a pack search and it not being on my gear list. I thanked him and continued.
A short while later, Eric lapped Amy to claim the Guiness World Record. He had lapped her again before we finished, securing his hold on the title.

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Around 830 pm, I finished my 10th lap. Knowing we had less than an hour left, I decided to use the bathroom, grab a snack, and fix my feet before we began whatever fresh hell was in store for us. On my way to the bathroom, Jason stopped me and told me everyone needed to be out of the area by 9pm. Realizing that was only 30 minutes away, I started running around the crawl, warning all the racers we only had 30 minutes to finish and move out. Everyone thanked me and started moving more quickly. I ran back to my gear and started taping and lubing my toes as the last bit of light left the sky. Robin walked over and asked me what the hell I was doing. I explained Jason told me we needed to leave in 30 minutes. Robin said Jason didn’t know what he was talking about. He told me the record attempt was almost over, but that we were supposed to crawl for 15 hours total. The man next to me decided if he had to continue to crawl, he was done, and he turned in his bib. Robin looked at me and told me to get back out there unless I was giving up my bib too, and so back out I went. On my way out I passed Yvette, who looked incoherent. I explained to her what Robin had just told me and she simply nodded her head. I asked her to verbally confirm that she understood me and she said she didn’t. A race participant who had dropped, William Chamblee, told me he would take care of her, and to go. At 9 pm, I started out on my 11th lap with my headlamp on.
I was halfway through the lap, with Randy slightly ahead, as I looked behind me to notice only Eric was behind us. Him, Leyla, the Guinness team and cameras caught up to us quickly. People cheered as the final seconds of the 12 hours ticked down and Eric’s final distance was logged. Shortly after, staff told me and Randy to get back to the start line. I passed the medic and joked with him about trying to pull me earlier, telling him I felt fantastic and still had plenty of energy in me. He gave me a high five and told me I needed to move quickly for the next portion. I nodded, wondering what was coming.

Staff told us all to line up again at the start of the crawl. I tried to line up in the front, but staff put a 2nd line of people in front of me. As the 21 people remaining lied there in the dirt, they told us we were to race through the crawl, and only first 12 people to cross the finish line and pop a balloon at the end were going to be allowed to continue.

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I knew the course by heart now. After 12 hours I knew where the hills were, where the deep mud was, I knew where I had to crawl really low, and I knew where I could gain a little speed. I don’t know how much of that really mattered. Once we started, the only thought on my mind was MOVE LIKE HELL. I managed to get around someone in the front line and then i bolted as fast as i could. I must’ve caught my hair on the barb wire 5 times, each time simply ripping the wire off my head and continuing. I know I left chunks of hair out there. Doesn’t matter, MOVE. I felt a light from a phone standing over me, the live feed. I heard Rob count as his light passed my head “Eleven.” Only halfway through the crawl, I began to worry someone might pass me, and I somehow picked up speed. I felt like i grew extra legs, like a spider manipulating my way over the jagged rocks and under the barbs overhead. I was FLYING. Nearing the last quarter I heard someone say, “You’ve got it, you have plenty of space.” I turned around to see 12’s headlamp pretty far off in the distance. I calmed a bit and slowed my pace. I crossed the finish line and POP the balloon. SAFE.

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I was told to go over to the line of people at the side in front of the cameras, and I continued to crawl. I heard someone say twice “You can get up,” before it registered. I sat in line with the other finishers collapsed into a forward fold over my legs, finally able to stretch and relax for a second. When I sat up, I must’ve spaced out for a second, as a sudden “Hey” from an inch to the right of my ear startled me. No clue anyone was there. I turned my head to see Rob. “Remember when you tried to quit last night?” I replied, “Yea, thanks for not letting me do that.” A minute or 2 went by before the final finisher, Ryan Robeson lined up next to me. It finally hit me. I am in the final 12 at the Death Race.

 

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We sang happy birthday to staff member Peter and took a photo. Joe stopped our celebration saying none of us will continue unless someone can recite The Man in the Arena in Mandarin. There was silence for a second, then I said aloud “The Man in the Arena in Mandarin.” There were some chuckles and Joe said “Alright, you got it.” I tip my hat to Rob for that, I’m sure it’s thanks to him I think that way. He complimented me on it later.
We were given 15 mintues to do whatever. I cut open my knee sleeves, which were cutting off circulation to my legs because of how badly swollen my legs were. (3 days after the event I still had dents in my legs). As I got up to go change, Randy pulled me to the side. Pep talk time. He told me they’re going to play mind games with us and to stay strong. “It will be over tomorrow. You have this. Don’t let them play with your mind.” I thanked and hugged him, then ran off to change in the brown barn. I threw on shorts and a new shirt, put my dry socks and shoes on, and fell back in with the group. The racer who tapped out when Robin said we had to keep crawling gave me all his remaining MRE’s. I took cheese and meatballs and passed out the rest to the group. Neely yelled to get in line as I suck the last meatball out of the package.
We got a head count “1,2,3….11.” I said, “Where is Yvette?” and in all the mob and commotion between staff and racers, I heard someone say “She is here,” and took their word for it. Count again “1,2,3…11.” Next time Rob said it, “Yvette is missing.” I took a quick scan around the field for her and she was nowhere to be found. Rob disapeared for a second and returned saying she was in the barn. I dropped my pack and bolted. She was behind a closed door, so I knocked and asked permission to come in. I heard, “Yes, please,” and opened the door to find her on the floor, with no shoes on, and the contents of her pack all over the room. I told her everyone was in line waiting for her and we needed to move out. She looked at me with sad distant eyes and said “I need help.” I told her to get her shoes on and get in line as I packed her gear. We ran back over and I pulled her to the front with me, right behind Neely. Yvette told me she wasn’t sure if she could keep up with everyone, she had used all her energy in the crawl. I reassured her we were at the front of the pack, I was next to her, and we just needed to keep putting one foot in front of the other. She nodeded and we started a brisk pace back up Joe’s mountain.
We stopped for a moment halfway up, noticing some of the group fell behind. Large droplets of sweat hit the rocks beneath us. We were on the stairs up to shreks, put in place by a Death Race years ago. The makeshift stairs were much thankfully much easier to hike up than the dirt next to them. Once we were all together, we finished the trek to the cabin. I heard a dog barking at us as we figured out a couple was staying at the cabin. “Is this the death race?” the woman asked. Neely said yes and radio-ed to Rob at the back of the line that we were moving out down the other side of the mountain.

PULL

After a short while, we arrived at another small cabin, and a few steps further, a metal rig was setup in the woods. The ropeflex.

We were told to put our gear down and grab enough water and snacks for 12 hours.  The guy next to me stood at the rig with nothing. Neely yelled for him to get water. He walked away and came back with tomato juice. Neely yelled again. “You are going to stand here for 12 hours. YOU NEED TO GET WATER.” The guy silently stumbled away again. Don predicted he was too far gone, and wouldn’t finish. We had to stand at the rig pulling, and break the world record of 30,000 meters. We couldn’t be away from the rig at any point for more than 60 seconds, or the machine would reset to zero. The rules were we had to tell the staff member in charge of our side (3 people) every time we hit 1,000, and the clock resets every 10,000. Someone noted that the machine measures in feet, not meters. I asked what the conversion was, but no one answered. We started pulling. It was somewhere around midnight on the 3rd night of the Death Race.

Pulling the rope seemed easy initially. The resistance wasn’t terrible and we were standing in one place. The only annoyance was the rope kept picking up dust from the ground and spitting it into the air. It was a constant dust shower. I had to step further back from the rig to avoid getting dust in my eyes. It wasn’t long before my water bottle was coated in a thick layer of dirt. Every 1,000 feet I told Rob to come check and he marked me off in his little notebook. The repetitive motion of the rope pull started to put me into a trance. I told Rob how the rope coiling at my feet was starting to look like snakes and he laughed. In the days prior to the race, he had joked about me having hallucinations. A little while later I heard someone else mention the snakes too.

Staff members were sitting in chairs off to the side of the rig. Jack, Joe’s young sidekick, was among them. I looked over and saw him tilting over in his chair. I couldn’t get any words out before he collapsed over to the side out of the chair and hit the floor. Everyone was laughing. The camera guys even caught it on video. A short while later Don was snoring at the top of his lungs. We all shared a laugh over that as one of the staff recorded it on his phone.

I looked over at Yvette periodically and saw her nodding off. 2 or 3 times I ran over to her to wake her up, give her a pep talk, and immediately ran back over to my rope. I realized she had a good handle on it. Even when I saw her falling asleep, she used her head to lean into the rope and pull it down. Funny looking technique, but she kept moving. I decided I could stay at my rope. The rope that cant be left for more than 60 seconds. It became like a game. I had to pee. pull the rope and run, quick squat, run back and pull. strange game.

Eventually I felt myself nodding off. But I was still pulling. I made sure I kept pulling. It is so peculiar how I was completely checked out of my brain, but still pulling the rope. I heard people having conversations. I chimed in every now and then. I was not entirely conscious, but I was aware of it. Things started to blur, I was somewhere between dreaming and awake.

Around 3 am, I realized I never got an answer about the meters to feet conversion. I brought it up to Rob and he looked it up in his phone. He told me 77,000 ft. I realize now that math is wrong, but in the moment, I took it for fact. I told everyone in the group take whatever number they’re at now and multiply it by 4. If it doesn’t add up to 77,000, we’re fucked. I was nowhere near the number, and started to pull faster. We all started using different techniques, teaching each other what keeps the meter running longer with less effort. Grab at the top, walk all the way back, give it a good yank before you move back in, the meter keeps running. No more hand over hand. It was getting tiring anyway. I started noticing blisters on my fingers. I periodically took my work gloves off to let my hands breathe.

I noticed the sky starting to lighten, the 3rd morning. I told myself I just needed a 5 minute nap before the sun was up and they could see me. I allowed myself to nod off. I KNOW I was still pulling. It must’ve been 1 minute before I was awoken by Rob singing some nursery rhyme or something in my ear. I jumped, startled. He laughed. I gave him a pouty face and he smiled back at me. There was no way in hell was he letting my close my eyes. A few minutes later everyone must’ve been nodding off, because Rob took something metal and started clanging on the rig. Loud jolting echoing banging sounds started to ring out in the forest. We were all awake.

Around 5am, after 5 hours of pulling, Rob stopped us. He logged everyones numbers and gave us a quick run down. The top person had 15k ft, the lowest had 8k, and most were hovering around 10-11k. I had 10,800. I had slowed down significantly nodding off in the last hour. Rob gave us a speech about how some people seem to be happy doing the bare minimum. He told us we needed to prove how much we want this.

“There are 6 skulls. There are 12 of you.
Only the top finishers will get a skull. We are going to give you another 2 hours.
How bad do you want it?
Prove it.
GO.”

We all pulled harder and faster than we had all night. The only sound was our heavy breathing and the gravel beneath our feet. I was quickly winded. It didn’t matter.

PULL PULL PULL.

HARDER. FASTER.

KEEP PULLING.

We were exhausted. It didn’t matter.

Run in, grab the top, run back.
Pull with your whole body, into a squat.
PULL. PULL.
The skull is on the line. PULL.

After a while, Joe showed up. He told us to listen as we pulled. He introduced us to Dr. Frank Bicci and Dr. Campbell who are experts on plant based diets. They started talking about their clients and the drastic health improvements they’ve seen when people switch to a plant based diet. Joe told us to repeat what they were saying back to him. In unison.

The first sentence was “I’ve seen clients recover from cancer after switching to a plant based diet.”
We repeated it back.

Then he says, “Clients have more endurance and quicker recovery on a plant based diet.”
We tried to repeat both lines back, but it got sloppy.

We were all still pulling, winded, trying to repeat sentences in unison. We couldn’t remember, we couldn’t catch our breath, we stumbled over our words as if we were intoxicated. We tried, but all that came out were disorganized mumbles.

“You can reduce chronic disease on a plant based diet. You can reverse type 2 diabetes on a plant based diet.”

We were a mess. an absolute jumbled mumbly mess.  Joe suggested we make a song. We made the rhythm to The Farmer in the Dell.

“Diet change alone…diet change alone…”

Eric and I managed to catch on quickly to the lines and memorize them while everyone else was stumbling. We came up with a system. Chris Rice did a countdown, we all said our new chorus in unison, I started the first 2 lines, Eric started the last 2 lines, and everyone tried to follow.

“Diet change alone, diet change alone..
Clients recover from cancer based on diet change alone
Diet change alone, diet change alone
More endurance and quicker recovery with diet change alone
Diet change alone, diet change alone
Reduce chronic disease based on diet change alone.
Diet change alone, diet change alone
Reverse type 2 diabetes with diet change alone
Diet change alone, diet change alone…….”

over and over and over again.

Joe started filming a video with the doctors, with us in the background, pulling ropes and singing this odd exhausted mindless chant. I heard Cookie arrive and say he was already sick of the song.

My gloves were ripping. There were blisters on my pinkies. My hands were sore.
I looked at the meter and realized I passed 10k ft and the meter had reset.
How many times did my meter reset? I never told anyone my number. Will I be jipped of feet? Will I be eliminated?

Then I thought harder. I was so exhausted I didnt realize. No one’s numbers had been checked. half the group’s meters must have reset.
It didn’t matter. They weren’t checking.
We were all moving forward, I hoped.

Just keep pulling.

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The staff told us to get off the rope in pairs of 2, people next to us must continue to pull our ropes along with there’s, while we talked to the doctors about our diets. Me and Euan Campbell walked over to talk together. Ironically, both of us switched to Keto a few months prior, in preparation for the DR. We both love its affects on our energy and stamina. We ended up in a mini debate about the benefits of keto and plant based diets. It was informative. As we walked back to the ropes, Euan and I continued our discussion about how keto has been working for us. Then my name was called along with Matthew Moortgat and we were told to leave our ropes and go do burpees behind the rig. Joe filmed another video while we did our burpees together in the background.

A short while later, we were told to stop. After about 7 hours of pulling rope, we lined up at our packs, take another photo, and head out on another hike. Back down the mountain.

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Joe was in the lead, with Jack next to him. We headed straight down the middle of a bunch of switchbacks. It was slippery with loose dirt, leaves, and unstable ground. It was difficult to maintain footing, and we all got spaced out. Joe had us keep a head count. We periodically yelled numbers into the woods, as most of us could no longer see each other. I saw “8” in front of me, I yelled “9” and listen carefully for 10 off in the distance behind me.

When we finally got back together, Amy and I made our way to the front. I chatted her up as we continued to move quickly down the mountain. Where are you from? What do you do? You are so strong. How do you train? Ironically she lives in Hicksville, about 30 minutes from where I live, Queens NY. We talked a while about lots of things, I wont get into details, but she is a phenomenal woman. Strong as hell in every way. At the front, Joe was trying to convince Jack to come to Mongolia Agoge. He told me Jack comes from an affluent family, and he wanted to break him. Amy and I gave him 100 reasons why he should go, and Jack rebutted us with excuses. Joe decided no one was finishing Death Race until he agreed to go. Reluctantly, Jack agreed in order to spare the group. I personally couldn’t fathom how anyone could turn down Joe DeSena on an offer to take a trip to Mongolia.

We continued down quickly. I was bouncing off rocks. I slipped and took a pretty hard fall, but I shook it off and keep going. I recall telling Amy I was starting to see shadows in my peripheral vision, like people standing next to me, but no one was there. She told me hallucinations are normal with sleep deprivation. I told her I felt like I wasn’t speaking. I knew I was talking to her, but it felt sort of like I was outside myself, watching me speak. She responded as if it was normal. The whole experience was very interesting to me.

 Broken skulls

As the farm came into view, Joe yelled, “Run over to the tree, get in a line, lie down, and SLEEP.” Mandatory rest. My eyes closed, and I relaxed, knowing it was likely not going to last long. In the bright sunshine, I saw white behind my eyelids. Despite the light, i drifted into the endless brightness. I heard a snore, and Amy next to me giggled and asked if someone actually fell asleep. I heard staff in front of us on live feeds, but I couldn’t make out their words. I was genuinely napping, in whatever sense it was possible in that moment.

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Maybe 3 minutes went by before we were told to get up quickly and run over to the brown barn. I stood and felt noticeably more tired. I assume that was the point of our faux naptime. On the way we passed the sandbags we had fetched from the lake earlier. We were told to pickup our sandbags and line up at the barn. I frantically searched for my bag, but couldn’t find it. Jason told me to grab someone else’s sandbag.

As we approached the barn I heard people clapping and my name being called. I looked up and for a minute, I had facial blindness. I saw a row of people, but recognized no one. I kept hearing my name but couldn’t figure out who it was coming from. Then someone waved an arm as they said my name, and I recognized Mike Raedy. I smiled and suddenly everyone else’s face came into focus. Dashee, Ashley, Abe, Andrew…several others. A moment later we were told to take off our packs and sit down. We were told to somersault across the farm to the fence near the white barn. It’s a race. On the fence were all the bibs of those not longer in the race. Another reminder we could lose our bibs at any moment.

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“There are 6 skulls, go earn it.” We rolled as fast as we could. It was far, we were dizzy, it HURT. Every time I rolled my knees hit the ground on my landing. My raw swollen knees. I tried to place my palms over my knees to cushion the fall, but it didn’t help much. I was in pain. I heard Rachael hysterically crying. I had seen earlier, her knees were badly injured. They were cut up and bleeding. I knew she had it much worse than me, I kept rolling.

Dont think about the pain. You have come too far. Get. that. skull.

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I stood up at the fence. Jason was on the live feed, he told me Mark Mckennet said “Athena, Option B, GO GET THAT SKULL.” I nodded in a daze and thumbs up to the camera. My friends were watching.

YOU HAVE THIS. DON’T FUCKING QUIT.

We somersaulted back backwards. We grabbed our sandbags, we rolled to the fence, we rolled back. We got on our packs, we rolled. It felt like forever. The whole time Don was screaming, “We are gonna do this all day, you better get used to it.” I ignored him.
Tune it out. It’s not true. It’s a mind game.

Staff was standing over us mumbling on the live feeds. I heard someone comment on how streamlined I was with my pack. I was thankful for the recognition. Early on in the race some were poking fun at me for only bringing a 21 Liter Rucker, while most had 50 or 60 liter Osprey’s. They were regretting them now. I was glad I packed light. Keep rolling. They finally stopped us at the fence. I looked to my left and Yvette was collapsed on her ruck next to me. Cookie walked over and took her photo.

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I heard Robin yelling towards a group he had separated out, Amy, Ryan, Euan and Rachael. Ryan was protesting. Robin yelled “SAY YOU EARNED THAT GROUP.” Ryan responded finally,  “I earned this group.” Robin said something about taking their bibs. I started to tear up. He turned to my group and said “TELL THEM THEY EARNED THAT GROUP.” I didn’t want to say it. He repeated himself. We reluctantly said “They earned that group.”

Don told us to run over to the white barn and line up. He told Ryan’s group to follow after we got there, and stay separated. He told us all to get into plank. I fall immediately into high plank, some others took their time. Some were on their forearms. Don yelled “HIGH PLANK.” I was shaking by the time everyone was in proper plank. I turned my hands and shoulders out to lessen the load, Don was all over it. “HANDS FORWARD, SHOULDERS TURNED IN.” I obey and he moves down the line. “BUTTOCKS DOWN,” he yelled repeatedly. I knew it hadn’t been long, but it felt like forever. I was shaking.

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Neely told us all to stand up. She talked about how they buried Death Race in 2015, and how we were resurrecting it. She placed boxes in front of us. All 12 of us. She said our skulls were broken and we must piece them back together.

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In silence, like phantoms, we all sat down, opened our boxes, and pulled out the skulls. They were in pieces, and there was glue in the box. We start piecing our skulls back together. There was no celebration, no smiles, only silence as we complete our final task. The cameras were all over us, but we were focused. Fix the broken skull.

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I heard a staff member comment on how badly my hands were shaking. Yvette was next to me and said how she cant stop gluing her fingers together. I laughed at what a mess my glue job was too, and said how we’ll always remember how disheveled we were because of the state of our skulls. We giggled, then started to cry. I heard a staff member ask “Why are you crying? You just finished the Death Race.” I laughed, then it’s like a switch went off in my brain. I stopped gluing, looked up at Yvette, and said “Yvette, you’re holding a skull.” She responded “You’re holding a skull too.” I started crying more as I told her how proud I was of her, and we hugged each other. Suddenly the medic woman was taking my blood pressure. I didn’t even notice she was there. “Oh, hi.”  I thanked her for believing in me. I told her I was doubting myself for a long time. She said “I know,” and smiled. She confirmed my pressure was good and moved down the line.
I finished gluing my skull and it read “Death Race Ressurection 2018.” I stood up. Rob was standing there and congratulated me. I asked him for a photo and he made a stereotypical goofy Rob face. I told him how thankful I am for him.

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Cookie asked me to take a finisher photo. I smiled with skull in hand and then tried to go and find my sandbag. I was quickly stopped by a staff member and told I wasn’t allowed to leave the barn. I reluctantly turned around. Jason gave me a shirt, hat, and hoodie. I carefully folded up my Death Race bib, put it in the box with my skull, and put on the hoodie, thankful to be warm and cozy. I looked at my watch. 11:30 am, July 14th. 61 hours had passed from when we lined up at the church July 11th at 10pm. It was finally over.

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Hugs and smiles all around. A chocolate sheet cake with a skull and barbed wire. A group photo, and we were finally released. Yvette asked me to walk with her back to barbed wire to find her headband. We started to walk over and were stopped by film crew. We went into the barn to be interviewed. I was a tad emotional, of course. I told the camera about how much I love the endurance community, how I’v met my best friends through racing, how much it’s changed my life. The camera man asked if I will be back. I thought on it for a second, and said yes. The cameraman thanked me and sent me on my way.

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All the former participants came over and congratulated me. Mike Raedy told me he was heading to Palmerton PA for the Hurricane Heat with Abe and William. I asked if I could come, excited to be able to make it to Palmerton, a race I had deffered for DR. 20 minutes later I made the rational choice and decided not to go.
We all got cleaned up, took naps, and got some food. Before long we were all sitting around the farm drinking beers and sharing stories. I looked around me amazed at the position I was in, surrounded by Spartan Staff, the people I look up to. I was on Joe’s farm, the creator of this wonderful company that has changed me in so many ways. Cookie was showing me youtube videos, Ashley was trying to convince me to do Go Ruck Selection, Joe’s wife Courtney congratulated me. I couldn’t be happier. In the serene beauty of Riverside Farm, the sun set. Jason invited us all to hike Killington with him in the morning and we said our goodnights.
Th next morning we all went out for breakfast at the Original General Store. Afterward, everyone headed out for the hike, but Ronald Tortola and I opted to relax at the house. We sat together watching all the live feed videos and basking in the glory of our soreness. Eventually Cookie came over and offered me a ride back to the church to pickup my car, and I headed home.
Sooo many people reached out to me after the race. When I turned on my phone, the notifications exploded and my phone dropped to 50% battery. I answered the texts, and ignored the instagram and facebook messages. I wanted to respond to people close to me, I was too overwhelmed to look at anything else. In the time since, I have responded to everyone. I felt slightly burdened initially by all the people looking to me for advice. I still feel like a novice myself, who am I to be a mentor? What right do I have to guide others?

In the time since, I have had a few deep convos with close friends, and they have assured me of my power. I always tend to devalue myself. I’m insecure, i’m anxious, I feel inadequate. No more. My close friend Nathaniel said to me “I don’t want to hear you say ever again that you can’t do something.” I promised him I wouldn’t.
Don has said in the past “The Death Race will change you on a cellular level.” I know now that is true. As I type these last few sentences, it is 2 weeks after the Race. It took me this long to process my experience and write it all. It has changed me.
I have a rejuvenated sense of purpose and a new outlook on life. I am happier.

Coincidentally, some things have changed in my personal life over the past week, and I am rolling with the punches like a champ. My stress levels are down, my ambition is up, and I only see things getting better from here. I will be back for Death Race 2019, and I will do more. I will have new experiences. I will welcome change. I will believe in myself and my power. Because I am capable, I am worthy, I am amazing. And I am finally realizing that.
The first 7 months of 2018 were horrible for me. I fell into a deep pit of depression I felt I was never going to recover from. Somehow, that feeling of hopelessness is just gone. I symbolically died, and I was spiritually reborn.
I thank God everyday now. I am thankful for my body, and it’s ability to withstand extremely strenuous activity. I am thankful for my family, and their pride in everything I do. I am thankful for my friends, and their encouragement through every circumstance. I am thankful for my boyfriend, and his remarkable faith in my ability and endless support. And I am thankful for my mind, and it’s ability to bounce back from a seemingly hopeless depression.
Endurance events have completely changed me at my core. They are my passion, they are my drive. They have introduced me to remarkable humans and given me remarkable courage.
I’ve decided to start blogging regularly, so I can share my experiences with everyone. I can’t promise it will be great; this isn’t something I have experience with. But I will do my best. Because if I can give even 1 person the motivation I have received from this life, I will have succeeded. Thanks for reading, I know it was long, but I hope that it was worth it.

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Author: athenaendurance

Hey, I'm Athena. I'm a city girl who used to have a whole lot of bad habits and found salvation through exercise. I am proof anyone can come from rock bottom and not only endure, but thrive. This is my first time dabbling in blogging, I hope to create something people enjoy and benefit from.

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