Saturday, June 25, 2011

Death Race Post - Saturday, June 25 @ 7:05pm

My apologies for the lack of posts.  Going into this event, Johnny and I (and many of you, I'm sure) had grand plans to update this blog on an almost hourly basis.

However, the harsh realities of the Death Race kicked in pretty much from the get-go.  The logistics blogging about an event that takes place on/in farms, mountains, surging rivers and frigid ponds has proven incredibly difficult, especially considering that the only WiFi signal is in the General Store that really hasn't factored into the event other than the initial meeting, and that Pittsfield has been under almost constant rain and, as of a few minutes ago, thunderstorms.

So...where do things stand now?  From the field of 154, there are about 60 people remaining after 25+ hours.  Not surprisingly, Johnny Waite is among them!  He is presently atop a mountain at a challenge stage involving, push ups, sit ups, hand-sawing logs and moving split logs around using wheelbarrow.  He has been working at this for almost 5 hours.

Afterwards, he must hike out by forging a trail through brush, until he finds an old utility road and series of switchback walking trails.  Having walked these trails earlier in the day, I can tell you that his "out" trek will be about 2.5 miles, down very steep grades that are muddy at the best of times.  The last hour has brought torrential downpours and thunderstorms, which will make the descent pretty treacherous.  Added to the fact that he will have his 40 lb backpack (which has been with/on him since the race began) and a 40-45 lb log that he was forced to cut to length using a handsaw some and has been carrying since 9am this morning.

How did all this begin?  Following a one hour meeting, and some time to get up to the farm and organize into groups of 12, each person was faced with the task of 960 consecutive clean lifts of a 40-50lb rock, punctuated with hoisting a wet hay bale and a large pipe 3/4 filled with water once for every 12 times the rocks were lifted.  This task was begun at about 8pm and lasted until 1:20am.

While originally slated to last much longer, this event was suddenly cut short and all racers told to hike a one mile trail to a river, which they would then wade into and hike 2.5 miles against a very strong current, in depths ranging from ankle deep to chest high.

Greeting the racers as they exited the river was a huge bonfire, that they were told they would be disqualified if they hovered around.  That was for the support crew, who had been waiting in the dark for more than 2.5 hours alongside the frigid river for the racers to appear.  Instead, they were ordered to head up to a pond and submerge to waist deep.  Shortly afterwards they began a task that would take the next 1.5 hours.  Pull themselves hand over hand across the over-their-head pond using ropes suspend 1 foot above the water level. Following that, scrabble up a 50 degree mud bank to the top and be handed a lit candle which they must carry in violently shaking hands around the field without it blowing out.  If it goes out, walk around the field a second time.  Then hike down a slippery grade to the pond's edge again.  To repeat the task.  Seven times!

The night and day and now into this evening has unfolded as variations on this theme.  Incredible strength, incredible fatigue, incredible effort on the part of Johnny to get this far.

At last check (an hour or so ago) he had shortly before been wakened by Mike Kitchen, his on-course support, after his first (and thus far only) 20 minute nap.  He's in great spirits - no surprise - but is incredibly fatigued.  He's also disappointed to have so been unable to record any video messages "live from the race".  The non-stop deluge or rain has prevented him and Mike from carrying any kind of electronic other than the water proof walkie talkies to communicate needs and progress to the support team.

Much like a Tour de France or marathon, "watching" a Death Race is an interesting concept.  The areas of the region they are required to trek are generally inaccessible by car and traverse huge or difficult distances.  As such, we have sometimes caught glimpses of him as he comes/goes by the Amee Farm, but predicting his arrival is extremely difficult, especially given the secretive nature of the race staff and volunteers.

All told, though, this has been an awesome experience so far - for us the support crew, and for Johnny!  He's loving the challenge, of course, and he pushes forward with an energy and intensity that has us all in awe.

The General Store closes in 15 minutes, and they shut off their WiFi when the close the doors, so this will be today's only post.  There will be another post mid-morning tomorrow, complete with some great pictures (albeit few) of Johnny Waite in action.


  1. Great post, Jamie (I think it's Jamie posting? If not, great post, you posting poster you)
    Thanks for keeping us informed in such adverse conditions.
    And, GOOD STUFF JDW!!!!!! You have what it takes my friend.
    Smilin' and Proud on Matchedash!
    (I think I'll just go and do a celebratory sit up. Nah. More ice cream :-)

  2. Wow. Thanks. This has been the most informative intel thus far! Way to go to all the racers still slogging through the suffer-fest!