Warm-up: 10 Push-ups and Chin-ups at a wide, normal, and narrow grip, 15 Clapping Push-ups, 400m Run, Calf Stretch, Couch Stretch, Lax Ball Scapula, Armpit, and Pec
MetCon – 3 Rounds for Time:
Burpee Broadjumps (length of gym)
5 Wall Walks
And so tonight begins the second installment of the Death Race series. If you missed the first one, it can be found here.
Imagine a place beyond sight or sound, beyond reason; you are entering the Death Race. For those of you keeping count we are 8 hours in to the race, my group ended up lifting stones for over 1,300 reps per person, and I am cold – very, very cold. Things are still looking bleak as it is 2AM and the next task involves the pond we just stood in for 5 minutes.
Different opinions of what the next task are circulating as we wait for the rest of the racers to get to us. Some of the ideas are outrageous enough to make me think the race organizers are seeding these thoughts in to random racer’s heads. Finally, Joe DeSena announces that our task will be to swim/use ropes to make it across the longest length of the pond, climb up the steep 30m bank, grab a lit candle from a volunteer and proceed to walk the candle around a track in a large field while keeping it lit. If you make it back to the race volunteers with a lit candle you then head back down to the pond to complete one lap. We had to do 7 laps.
I had at this point warmed myself up to a mere mild shiver. I was not at all happy about getting back in to the cold pond, but this is what I was here for, right? Getting back in the water was not as hard as I thought it would be for we had queued up in lines to cross using a set of ropes strung across the surface. When it was your time to go you had no other choice but to slog right in because the person in front of you did it and the person behind you was waiting on you to get out of the way. Watching the person in front of me, I learned the ropes were not taut enough to support the weight of the two or three racers that ended up in the pond at the same time. It looks like there was to be no way to avoid getting downright sodden.
I began my walk in to the pond without hesitation once the racer in front of me made it half way across. The icy water made me Valsalva like I was doing a heavy back squat. I breathed through pursed lips while I waded in deeper to my knees, then my waist, and then to my chest where my feet finally lost contact with the bottom. My technique for crossing was to keep my arms fully extended underneath the water moving along the rope hand over hand. I would kick with my legs underwater. With my Gore-Tex jacket zipped all the way up to my mouth, I was able to keep my torso somewhat dry on the first crossing thanks to the tightness of my pack’s hip belt around my waist. This only allowed a slow seeping of water up under the jacket. I was also quite the sight trying to stay as upright and long as possible so water would not spill over the top and fill my jacket from above.
I made it three quarters of the way across when I heard the racer behind me starting to scream. She couldn’t swim and the rope had slackened too deep under the water for her to reach it without going totally under. I realized that it was partly my weight pushing the rope too far under the water for her to safely reach it, and at this point she was frantic. People all around the pond are yelling to her to keep moving. I join in with some positive yelling and told her I was letting go of the rope to raise it up. I swam the last 10m sans rope, and she made it across. I had very few heroic moments during the race, but I am going to count that as one of them.
The swimming left me a little worse off (as heroics often do) and now water had totally filled my jacket. No worries, let’s grab a candle; I’m psyched. The first trip around the field was not so bad. All you had to do was keep your hand, both of which were inside my leather work gloves, cupped around the front of the flame to keep the air from putting it out. You also had to contend with your breathing by either not looking directly at your candle or exhaling to the side. I chose the latter for a while, but I was pretty sure my cold skin and face were freezing in a weird, contorted image. I resigned to just not look at my candle during the walk.
The first lap of this task was the hardest. It was this way mostly because of the cold water, but it also had that shroud of the unknown around it. With one lap down it became a little easier to get in the pond and the veil of the unfamiliar was lifted. I also caught sight of an extremely early twilight somewhere around 3:30AM. The thought of the sun coming out and it not raining warmed my heart greatly. Thoreau said, “Morning brings back the heroic ages.” I totally agree, so I continued on as the crepuscular animal that I am.
Subsequent laps went by much like the first. I found out the poor girl behind me from the first lap ended up dropping out because the ropes lost almost all of their tautness. At this point if she were to even go by herself they would be too deep for her to stay above water. She was very slight and her pack was just too much weight for the ropes to bear. Of note is the way Joe Decker, last year’s winner and current leader, passed Kevin and I headed back to the pond for our 4th lap. He slapped us on the ass and gave words of approbation as he ran by us. Kevin and I could barely speak to one another and were moving at a pace much unlike a run. Not for the last time, I was astounded.
Kevin and I finally made it to our last round. Several people were already sitting down Native American style at the edge of the pond signifying they had completed all 7 laps. My 5th, 6th, and 7th laps proved to be the hardest. The cold water was doing a number to my muscles. Each time I made it to the end of the pond and went to put that first foot down I would cramp. I worked extremely hard to make movements that just put me to the verge of cramping but not past it. I saw several guys who just sat down on the hillside during their laps and never moved again because of cramps. But it wasn’t just my legs at this point. The last few laps had my lats and triceps cramping while holding myself up on the rope. It was a nasty ordeal where I learned a lot but was awarded no degrees.
Once a large enough group had finished and sat down, we were given our instructions for the next task. We had to hike through the woods, down a road, and then up and down a hill to reach a house. As I was approaching the house through the woods I heard a familiar sound: the splitting of large logs. I’m not going to lie, it made me a tad bit giddy. Unless I was totally mistaken, if we were splitting wood that meant we were not waist deep in the river. But I didn’t let the excitement build too much because, after all, I was in the Death Race.
The prophecy held true though. I arrived to a scramble of log selection. Anyone that has split wood before will tell you that not all logs are created equal. I overheard a guy say we needed to split three logs from a certain stack in to 7 pieces each. I found some knot-free logs and went to find a clear space to start swinging. In sixty seconds time I had my firewood. It is of some note how much wood we end up splitting before this race is finished, not to mention the various locales where we do the splitting. I am fairly certain we were just splitting all of the wood that Joe, Andy, and their friends would need for the impending Vermont winter.
I changed in to a dry long sleeve shirt and squeezed the water out of my socks before receiving my next set of orders. It felt good to be somewhat dry and not sloshing around in my shoes any longer. With the morale boost I asked about my next task. I was to choose a log marked with an X and carry it to the top of the mountain. At the top of the mountain would be a sign with a Bible verse on it. I was to memorize said verse, come back down the mountain, and then recite it verbatim or else go back up the mountain with my log.
If there were better logs to begin with, there were none left by the time I got over to them. I narrowed it down to three that I thought looked skinniest and shortest. I rolled those three around to check the sides for knobs that would make the log uncomfortable to carry. Finally, I chose my burden and employed my one inch webbing to make a sort of sling to carry the log. I thought I was so handy using the one inch webbing, but the fact is there is no easy way to carry a 90lb, rain soaked log anywhere, much less to the top of a mountain.
Nevertheless, I made my way up the mountain. I passed more than one racer heading up for the second time because they messed the verse up. I did not want to carry this log back up the mountain. There was electric wiring we had to crawl under with our log about halfway up the mountain. But other than that one obstacle, it was just walking. I spent about 5 minutes coming up with mental imagery to Corinthians 16:13. “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” After feeling confident I knew the verse forwards and backwards, I scooted back down the mountain. I got back, recited the verse with no problems, and was then told to split my log in to 7 pieces.
I made short work of my log and helped another guy that was in my stone lifting group who was having a bit of trouble. I then grouped up with 4 other guys and headed back down the river to Amee Farm. The river was still raging, but the daylight helped make the 3 miles back to the farm that much easier. Another fact that made the walk much easier was in my group we had a swift water rescue certified racer. He led the way and had us cross the river several times. The guy knew what he was doing.
When I arrived back at the farm I was greeted with the sight of my sister and dad. They refueled me with Paleo Kits, sweet potato baby food, a protein shake, and lots of Gu and electrolyte capsules. They also gave me dry clothing. I changed everything from head to toe and took on food and water. I found my next task was to cut a 36” section from a recently cut tree about half a mile up the hill. At the fallen trees I ran in to another guy from my stone lifting group. His saw was inadequate so I let him borrow mine after I finished sawing my log. I carried my 70lb log back down to Amee Farm where I had to use my manual hand drill to drill my number in to it. I chose to drill in to the end of the log and made quick work of the task. After showing it to a judge and getting the go ahead, I took off for what would prove to be a 9 hour jaunt.
And so we will take a breather here. To come: 90 push-ups, 100 burpees (both of which felt like a rest), some of the worst trails I have ever had the pleasure of hiking, hallucinations, and MORE RAIN!