Sunday, June 17, 2012

Not the post I was hoping to make today ...

Not the post I was hoping to make today. I pulled from the race late last night. No excuses - the Death Race beat me this year. A full update to follow, but the very short version is that we were surprised with a snap start and sent on a 30 hour odyssey without food or extra water. Involved hiking 25+ miles through impossible single-track trails carrying a kayak overhead the whole way, doing a ton of manual labour and a lake swim, then hiking 18 miles back. After writing a bizarre test we then ran a dirt road to the top of the mountain, carrying 5 gallon buckets of gravel to the peak, chopped up massive logs and carried them back down the mountain, in a creek bed most of the way. When I came back into camp, for the first time, at midnight, my feet were a disaster and I could not get my energy levels restored to face what was still to come - which turns out to be a 45 minute soak in the very cold pond, hiking back up the same creek bed to the top of the mountain, bringing more wood back down, a long hike in blistering heat today and carrying the kayak BACK along the same path, and more that is still to be revealed. Zero percent chance I could have completed that this year. Several of my friends ARE still out there and I am so ridiculously impressed and inspired. Staying to the end to cheer them on, then starting the drive North tonight. THANK YOU SO MUCH TO EVERYONE WHO HAS SENT ME ENCOURAGEMENT AND ENERGY. I love you :)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Death Race Chronicles - Day 2 - Overnight/Morning

Saturday, June 17th - 1:00pm
posted by James Waite

There is very little news of the race today, but a ton of speculation.  One of the two latest reports are that the racers will be arriving at camp within 45 minutes, the other is that they will not be seen until 6pm.

What is sure is that no-one has seen their racer since they left to begin the hike last night at 7pm, to the great consternation of the support crew who are anxious about the food and water situation, which is grim according to many of the returning (DNF) racers.  They are telling tales of endless hiking along vicious, sometimes-not-even-footworn paths, all the while carrying the kayaks, pipes and tires, in areas so remote that even the news crews covering the event can't get hikers/cameras in to document.

As racers drop out, they are held at a gathering point until there are enough to justify a shuttle van making the trip to return them to Aimee Farm.  So every couple of hours, a van rolls up and 8-10 racers slowly empty out and unload their gear.

The latest load included a guy who recognized the Johnny Waite "CREW" shirts and called us over to say "Johnny looks GREAT!  He's doing just fine."

So it seems like there's not much to do except sit and wait and be ready to spring into Support Mode whenever the racers appear.

Will update again when there's anything credible to report (beyond the absolutely incredible so far)!

Death Race Chronicles - Day 1 - Afternoon/Evening

Saturday, June 17th - 7:00am
posted by James Waite

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It was a busy Friday afternoon of almost non-stop activity, although none of it particularly gruelling.  There was a mandatory weigh-in at the top of the mountain between 1pm and 2pm, which required a hike of 15-20 minutes from the top of Tweed River Road, which was accessible by car.

As Johnny neared the top, those on the way down suggested not to rush as the line up was very long.  He was also warned not to curse, as there were several of the organizer's kids - each sporting a DR Volunteer shirt - milling around, and the penalty for cursing around them was burpees.

Shortly after summitting, a by-now-familiar and exhuberant "Johnny!" was called out by a fellow Death Racer from last year.  He informed Johnny that alumni were given preferential treatment and he was to move to the front of the line.  The weigh-in was done in secret, with Johnny reemerging a few moments later to begin the hike/drive back down to the Registration.

Registration took place between 2pm and 4pm, and Johnny arrived at 2:15 to a long line up.  After a brief scramble to rewrite the contents of his pack on an index card (original misplaced somehow), Johnny was processed and given the following instructions:
  • Sew your participant number (651) into the black compression shirt you were told to bring as mandatory gear, with letters at least 3" high
  • Hike towards the shed with the silver roof, then follow the trail until you reach Aimee Farm
  • Be at Aimee Farm by 6pm - the official start time of the 2012 Death Race

Shorlty into the trail, signs were posted on trees, with no explanation as to why, what their significance was or how they might (or might not) come into play throughout the race.  Not surprisingly, racers paused to write down, note, sketch, etc. the various instructions, sayings and pictures they encountered.  In total, there were close to 30 of them, some of which were clearly meant to instill fear ("Swim Test Ahead") or confusion ("Must Have Ticket").

A little over an hour later, the trail emptied out at Aimee Farm, to a beehive of activity.  On entering the base camp, racers were instructed that they needed to complete three tests: a Strength Test, a Fear Test and a Swimming Test.
  • Strength Test:  Split 10 logs into quarters (or more) and haul 0.5 km uphill to stack at the Aimee Lodge
  • Fear Test: Traverse a 30m culvert under the Interstate Highway (at any given point, 10-12 racers were in the culvert at the same time
  • Swimming Test: Swim a 20m round-trip in a cold mountain-fed pond

On completion of the tests, racers were instructed to "cut this", "move this", "tidy this", "trim this", etc.  Basically, they were berated if standing still in any way at all.

Shortly before 6 o'clock, all racers were called to gather at an area where several large ocean kayaks, lengths of very thick PVC pipe and a huge tire had been sitting the entire time.  Told to arrange themselves into roughly equal groups near one of these objects, they were then instructed to lift them - as a group - above their heads.  During the 10 minutes of standing with these objects held above them, race organizers and volunteers moved throughout and inspected the groups to make sure
that their item was fully aloft - not resting on their shoulders, on their head, etc.  At one point, Joe Desena introduced Chris Long, to a chorus of cheers when Joe announced that Chris was down to 312 lbs from his highest weight of over 700 lbs.  He then revealed that there are 39 tasks in this year's race, but that no-one was allowed to or considered finished until Chris' weight was 300 lbs or lower.

All the while, the racers continued to support the weight above their heads, and it was becoming clear that the physical toll on the arms was significant.  However, with not much else going on, the question that was naturally forming in many spectators' minds was "How long are they going to have to stand there like that?"  Standing there like that?  Not long.  Doing other things like that?  Well...using a megaphone, Joe Desena announced the plan for the racers:
Keeping your item above your head, you have to move as a group across the road to the pond, where you will set the kayaks/pipe/tire down.  At that point you will all get back into the pond (where the swim test had been done) and retrieve one of the hundreds of ping pong balls that will be floating.  Each has a number, and that will be your group number.  Once you are assigned a group, you will get back out of the pond, gear up, and once again lift a kayak/pipe/tire above your head.  We are then headed out on a 25 mile hike through the woods, during which time those items cannot touch the ground.  There will be additional challenges.  You will do many burpees.  Most of you will quit.

The group then moved en masse across the interstate, with traffic stopped several times to allow the different groups to cross.  Once the items were set down, all racers sprinted back across the road to gather their gear and return to re-enter the frigid pond, which Andy pointed out was absolutely disgusting and likely festering with e-Coli given the amount of ducks, birds and other animals on the farm that used the pond.  Andy then officially welcomed the racers to the 2012 Death Race, reminding everyone of the Peak Races slogan: People Inspiring People.  When the microphone was handed over to Joe, who reiterated the rules of race (do as instructed), Chris and the target weight of 300 lbs, Andy walkd around to the far side of the pond to dump in a bucket of ping pong balls.  Pandemonium broke out as the racers began swimming over to retrieve a number and then called out loudly to try and form up into groups, as instructed by Joe.

Once re-formed into groups and team numbers verified, Joe then called each group out of the pond one by one and assigned them an item.  After the kayaks, pipes and tire were once again hoisted high, Andy led the way up the steep service road that served as the entrance to a series of roads, switchbacks, trails and paths that form a 25 mile loop which would punish the racers for the next 12-14 hours.

UPDATE @ 4:45am
  • Peter, a race organizer, gave a brief update to some of the support crew that were awake and gathering around the fresh coffee pots
  • The group is several hours behind the projected pace
  • Racers are still hiking with the gear above their heads
  • The first task, at Chittondon Reservoir, will be to re-gravel and grade a very long driveway, using the 5-gallon buckets on the mandatory gear list
  • After that, it is expected that cold water swimming or kayaking will be required
  • Given how far behind they are, they might leave the gear so they can jog out (8-10 miles)
  • He suggested support crew go to sleep, then enjoy the area attractions and maybe go golfing, as they wouldn't be seeing the racers for another 8-10 hours
Reports from DQ'ed Racers
  • 40-50 people have dropped out, most because their water supply ran out
  • No provisions/restocking along the way, despite assurances that "water is available at the next checkpoint" - each checkpoint has simply been a random order drop all the gear and do burpees until ordered to resume the hike under load
  • Those who dropped out had to hike themselves out 5-6 hours back to camp (no guides, no rides), including one guy who dislocated his shoulder when he slipped backwards in muck as the group stumbled and dropped the pipe they'd been carrying - directly onto his shoulder
  • Lee, a race veteran, tore his ACL before midnight and lay waiting for several hours until two people could drive as near as possible and then hike in to get him and carry him out
  • At least one racer has been taken to the hospital - recovering ok

Friday, June 15, 2012

Death Race Chronicles - Day 1 - Noon

Friday, June 15th - Noon
posted by James Waite

The day started with a coffee and bagel at the Trailside Inn, where many racers spent the night in a "hostel" wing with several rooms with bunks, then it was off to Aimee Farm to set up the support tent and organize gear for the race.

A Global News crew is down from Toronto to cover several of the Canadian racers throughout the event and they got some footage of John organizing his gear and readying his pack, as well as capturing his thoughts on race strategy, preparation and attitude.  John said "Two things you will hear me say a LOT this weekend.  'I don't know' and 'It's all good", because really, when it comes down to it, I DON'T know and it IS all good.'"

As in years past, the General Store served as the gathering point for racers, with the first official task to attend the 10am Race Meeting in the parking lot.  Andy Weinberg addressed the crowd gathered around him and standing three deep along the front porch of the store, welcoming everyone and saying "These are some of the fittest people you will ever be around in your life. These are the kind of people we like to hang out with!". He announced that 258 racers have entered, suggesting that number would be cut to 158 by Saturday morning, 58 by Sunday morning, 8 by Monday and none by Tuesday.

Joe Desena set the crowd abuzz by announcing that in keeping with this year's theme of "Betrayal", there are 18 unidentified racers who are actually "embedded" by the organizers, whose sole function is to irritate and undermine the other racers.  The meeting was ended with the next instruction, which is to be at the Riverside Inn for Registration at 2pm, after which there may or may not be a weigh-in, which may or may not take place at the top of the mountain (a 45 minute hike along a dirt road).

Following the announcements, many racers and crew settled into the comfort of the General Store to eat, strategize, meet fellow racers and, in many cases, catch up with friends gained in past events.

The strategists were sent into high gear when it was discovered that some race "hints" were left outside on the grass, and an overview of race tasks was posted on a refrigerator.  Given the theme of Betrayal, no one is sure that all or even any of these things are in store, but it has sure made for great conversation and speculation. 


Johnny's reaction when asked if he thought the tasks were legitimate or red herrings?

"I don't know, but's it's all good."

All set up for DR2012

Friday morning. In the General Store in Pittsfield, VT. First pre-race meeting done. Lots of familiar faces. Loving life! A few random tasks through the day - hike to top of mountain for weigh-in, 2pm mtg, sounds like 6pm start, though they say "the race has already started" so ready for anything.

Turning the blog over to brother James for the weekend. Unlike last year we should have "great" weather - hot and sunny (well, except at night when it will be hot and dark). Still, no way to predict what is happening as far as the actual race and very spotty wifi at the General Store - but James will do his best to keep you up to date. Sounds like pics and videos will mostly be uploaded to facebook and tagged, with this space mostly for quick text updates. Also, Amanda will be tweeting updates, so follow @jodawaite.

Thanks for giving a shit about this silliness I get up to ;)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Living the Dream!

This morning, I had a wonderful, simple email exchange that made my day.

I had received a message from Ontario Car Kit Consultants, a very cool company owned and operated by my friend, Ed Konda (I have written about Ed and his company in this blog before - "Some Friends Indeed"). This particular message was an update on his latest project - a dune buggy. Here is a picture of that magical-machine-in-progress, alongside some of OCKC's other incredible builds.


Reflecting on my admiration for Ed's willingness to "follow his bliss", I sent him a one-line email ... "Truly living the dream!"

Ed soon responded with "As are you my friend... Modern gladiator going from challenge to challenge, training self and others along the way."

I had never before considered that perspective on my life, but I really like the way it sounds. Even more than the first part of that idea, embodied by my Death Race adventure this coming weekend, I am proud of the thought that I get to be a contribution to others. As I enter into the second half of my life (I turned 44 this week), my education is really just gearing up - and it is all about how to help others better prepare themselves for their own life adventures (e.g. certified hypnotherapist, Crossfit trainer, Infinite Possibilities coach, meditation instruction). 

In the fantastic film series I recently introduced in my hometown, Elevate Orillia, we screened "Finding Joe" last week.

I am truly grateful for my life, my adventure, and all of the awesome people like Ed who help me see greatness in myself and others.



Wednesday, June 6, 2012

8 Super Straightforward Steps to Getting Into Shape and Rocking Life

A friend emailed me just now, explaining that he'd allowed himself to fall out of shape, and asking for advice as to how to turn that around. This is a great guy who has everything in the world going for him - smart, healthy, handsome, beautiful wife (inside and out), awesome kids - and yet we have had this same conversation, ongoing, for the past year and a half. I sent him the following email about 5 minutes ago - because I love him and his family and I want him to ROCK life!

Then I thought, "Hey. This is not just him. This is SOOOO many of my friends. And sometimes I am on that list too!"

So, here is my advice (actually, here are three other awesome people's advice repackaged as my own!)

Pretty simple.
  1. read this
  2. join your closest Crossfit gym.
  3. read this again
  4. workout 4 days a week.
  5. reread this regularly
  6. REPEAT 4,5,6
  7. then be the guy who can help someone in the same spot you were way back "now" - go from consumer of information and tips to producer/distributor, because you really do already have it all
  8. read this (preferably EVERYDAY), especially if you have any doubts about #7
Does that help?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Cancer, Broken Necks, Roadside Bombs and other things to be grateful for...

Today, one of my Death Race friends posted a video of a deaf child having his cochlear implant turned on for the first time (thanks Michael Petrizzo). It was beautiful to watch and led me to watch several similar videos. Including the one below.

This is a 29 year old woman who had been deaf her whole life. In her wonderful blog, In The World But Not Of The World, she shares how hard she had worked, for as long as she could remember, at speech therapy and how grateful she was for all of her many blessings - despite not being able to hear. Her reaction to the device being turned on is awesome. Such overwhelming joy and appreciation.

I can't imagine watching this without being moved by such a profound moment for her, and I am immensely grateful to be able to witness that miracle. And yet, it is no less miraculous that you can hear, or that I can hear. Every sound is just as beautiful, or more, than that therapist's voice. Except that we have, naturally, come to take them for granted.
“Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.” 
~ Aldous Huxley
Every single day there are countless visions that would seem overwhelmingly beautiful if you could just "allow" yourself to see the for the first time again. Your child's face. A moonrise. A maple tree framed by the blue sky. If we were to remove the automatic filter of familiarity we would find ourselves weeping too.

And so far I am just addressing what is on the surface - the concrete stimuli available to our physical senses. Though that alone is a bounty beyond measure. The smell of surf. The taste of a grandmother's baking. The feel of a loved one's fingers tickling your neck.
“When something does not insist on being noticed, when we aren’t grabbed by the collar or struck on the skull by a presence or an event, we take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”
-Cynthia Ozick
Then there are the intangibles. Love. Joy. Bliss. Wonder. Gratitude itself (I have thought how grateful I am to be someone who is grateful).

One may also consider what is beyond even that. Or behind it, as you may believe. In this video, Richard Feynman talks about the beauty that he sees as a scientist. Please take what works for you from this short film. He shares his skepticism about organized religion and, while my view is not dissimilar from his, I do not wish to challenge or disrespect anyone's beliefs (and will, in fact, make it up to you in the next video) ...

As the images in Feynman's "Beauty" video remind us, there is so much to be grateful for. I would actually assert that there is EVERYTHING to be grateful for. Yes, everything.

Cancer survivors often talk of their gratitude for all of the good that the disease brought into their lives. Including Lance Armstrong - “It gave me a chance to re-evaluate my life and my career. Cancer certainly gives things a new perspective. I would not have won the Tour de France if I had not had cancer. It gave me new strength and focus.”

Mark Zupan, quadriplegic star of the documentary "Murderball" says, "Breaking my neck was the best thing that ever happened to me. I have an Olympic medal. I've been to so many countries I would never have been, met so many people I would never have met. I've done more in the chair, ... than a whole hell of a lot of people who aren't in chairs."

Just over a month ago, Travis Mills, an American soldier, lost all four limbs to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. In this news video, he is upbeat and optimistic and says, “My life’s not over. It’s got a little more unique.” He hopes to work as a motivational speaker, or perhaps, find a way to stay in the military and help instruct soldiers. “I’m just inspired to get better, because I have things I want to do with my life.”

You get the point, but here is one more video. It is somewhat of a counterpoint to Richard Feynman's position, but is also similar in that it demonstrates how important it is to have a "bigger picture" perspective, whatever form it may take for you.

Here is something I'd ask you to think about ...

If these people can find a way to be grateful for disease and disability, could you take a moment every day to be profoundly grateful for your health? And whatever problems you may be facing, could you also get very present to the nearly infinite blessings you are still presented with in your life? Whatever your situation, you are far better served by finding the good in it than the bad.
No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see possibilities - always see them, for they're always there.
~ Norman Vincent Peale

I have posted this next link many times - and I don't mind promising that I will share it many more! Rob Brezsny's essay "Glory In The Highest" is one of the most impactful things I have ever read. He points out clearly, specifically, just how astonishingly much is going RIGHT for us at any given moment. Please read this (you can download a .pdf >HERE<, and remember it anytime you start to feel like a victim of the world ...

Glory in the Highest

by Rob Brezsny©

Thousands of things go right for you every day, beginning the moment you wake up. Through some magic you don't fully understand, you're still breathing and your heart is beating, even though you've been unconscious for many hours. The air is a mix of gases that's just right for your body's needs, as it was before you fell asleep.

You can see! Light of many colors floods into your eyes, registered by nerves that took God or evolution or some process millions of years to perfect. The interesting gift of these vivid hues comes to you courtesy of an unimaginably immense globe of fire, the sun, which continually detonates nuclear reactions in order to convert its body into light and heat and energy for your personal use.

Did you know that the sun is located at the precise distance from you to be of perfect service? If it were any closer, you'd fry, and if it were any further away, you'd freeze. Here's another one of the sun?s benedictions: It appears to rise over the eastern horizon right on schedule every day, as it has since long before you were born.

Do you remember when you were born, by the way? It was a difficult miracle that involved many people who worked hard on your behalf. No less miraculous is the fact that you have continued to grow since then, with millions of new cells being born inside you to replace the old ones that die. All of this happens whether or not you ever think about it.

On this day, like almost every other, you have awoken inside a temperature-controlled shelter. You have a home! Your bed and pillow are soft and you're covered by comfortable blankets. The electricity is turned on, as usual. Somehow, in ways you're barely aware of, a massive power plant at an unknown distance from your home is transforming fuel into currents of electricity that reach you through mostly hidden conduits in the exact amounts you need, and all you have to do to control the flow is flick small switches with your fingers.

You can walk! Your legs work wonderfully well. Your heart circulates your blood all the way down to replenish the energy of the muscles in your feet and calves and thighs, and when the blood is depleted it finds its way back to your heart to be refreshed. This blessing recurs over and over again without stopping every hour of your life.

Your home is perhaps not a million-dollar palace, but it's sturdy and gigantic compared to the typical domicile in every culture that has preceded you. The floors aren't crumbling, and the walls and ceilings are holding up well, too. Doors open and close without trouble, and so do the windows. What skillful geniuses built this sanctuary for you? How and where did they learn their craft?

In your bathroom, the toilet is functioning perfectly, as are several other convenient devices. You have at your disposal soaps, creams, razors, clippers, tooth-cleaning accessories: a host of products that enhance your hygiene and appearance. You trust that unidentified scientists somewhere tested them to be sure they're safe for you to use.

Amazingly, the water you need so much of comes out of your faucets in an even flow, with the volume you want, and either cold or hot as you desire. It's pure and clean; you're confident no parasites are lurking in it. There is someone somewhere making sure these boons will continue to arrive for you without interruption for as long as you require them.

Look at your hands. They're astounding creations that allow you to carry out hundreds of tasks with great force and intricate grace. They relish the pleasure and privilege of touching thousands of different textures, and they're beautiful.

In your closet are many clothes you like to wear. Who gathered the materials to make the fabrics they're made of? Who imbued them with colors, and how did they do it? Who sewed them for you?

In your kitchen, appetizing food in secure packaging is waiting for you. Many people you've never met worked hard to grow it, process it, and get it to the store where you bought it. The bounty of tasty nourishment you get to choose from is unprecedented in the history of the world.

Your many appliances are working flawlessly. Despite the fact that they feed on electricity, which could kill you instantly if you touched it directly, you feel no fear that you're in danger. Why? Your faith in the people who invented, designed, and produced these machines is impressive.

It's as if there's a benevolent conspiracy of unknown people that is tirelessly creating hundreds of useful things you like and need.

There's more. Gravity is working exactly the way it always has, neither pulling on you with too much or too little force. How did that marvel ever come to be? By some prodigious, long-running accident? It doesn't really matter, since it will continue to function with astounding efficiency whether or not you understand it.

Meanwhile, a trillion other elements of nature's miraculous design are expressing themselves perfectly. Plants are growing, rivers are flowing, clouds are drifting, winds are blowing, animals are reproducing. The weather is an interesting blend of elements you've never before experienced in quite this combination. Though you may take it for granted, you relish the ever-shifting sensations of light and temperature as they interact with your body.

There's more. You can smell odors and hear sounds and taste tastes, many of which are quite pleasing. You can think! You're in possession of the extraordinary gift of self-awareness. You can feel feelings! Do you realize how improbably stupendous it is for you to have been blessed with that mysterious capacity? And get this: You can visualize an inexhaustible array of images, some of which represent things that don't actually exist. How did you acquire this magical talent?

By some improbable series of coincidences or long-term divine plan, language has come into existence. Millions of people have collaborated for many centuries to cultivate a system for communication that you understand well. Speaking and reading give you great pleasure and a tremendous sense of power.

Do you want to go someplace that's at a distance? You have a number of choices about what machines to use in order to get there. Whatever you decide — car, plane, bus, train, subway, ship, helicopter, or bike — you have confidence that it will work efficiently. Multitudes of people who are now dead devoted themselves to perfecting these modes of travel. Multitudes who are still alive devote themselves to ensuring that these benefits keep serving you.

Maybe you're one of the hundreds of millions of people in the world who has the extraordinary privilege of owning a car. It's a brilliant invention made by highly competent workers. Other skilled laborers put in long hours to extract oil from the ground or sea and turn it into fuel so you can use your car conveniently. The roads are drivable. Who paved them for you? The bridges you cross are potent feats of engineering. Do you realize how hard it was to fabricate them from scratch?

You're aware that in the future shrinking oil reserves and global warming may impose limitations on your ability to use cars and planes and other machines to travel. But you also know that many smart and idealistic people are diligently striving to develop alternative fuels and protect the environment. And compared to how slow societies have been to understand their macrocosmic problems in the past, your culture is moving with unprecedented speed to recognize and respond to the crises spawned by its technologies.

As you travel, you might listen to music. Maybe you've got an MP3 player, a fantastic invention that has dramatically enhanced your ability to hear a stunning variety of engaging sounds at a low cost. Or maybe you have a radio. Through a process you can't fathom, music and voices that originate at a distance from you have been converted into invisible waves that bounce off the ionosphere and down into your little machine, where they are transformed back into music and voices for you to enjoy.

Let's say it's 9:30 a.m. You've been awake for two hours, and a hundred things have already gone right for you. If three of those hundred things had not gone right — your toaster was broken, the hot water wasn't hot enough, there was a stain on the pants you wanted to wear — you might feel that today the universe is against you, that your luck is bad, that nothing's going right. And yet the fact is that the vast majority of everything is working with breathtaking efficiency and consistency. You would clearly be deluded to imagine that life is primarily an ordeal.

That's it. That's all. I love you :)


Saturday, June 2, 2012

A mere fortnight away ...

"And to be honest…I’m not looking forward to the DR this year. Nervous, bugged, idk. I gotta fix my head." 

I did not say that. It was the closing remark today in an email from a friend who is also returning to Pittsfield, VT, two weeks from now, for The Spartan Death Race. And it confirms what we are warned when we register - "The Death Race starts NOW!"

So, while I didn't say it, I DO get it. I am sure that most racers - especially returning veterans - have some version of that going on in their heads this week. Mine sounded like this ...
"You know what, this is actually kind of stupid to be going back this year. You have nothing to prove. You've been twice and finished twice. You have a summer skull and a winter skull. You have a busy life and really don't have time for this race. Why don't you take a pass, spend some extra time with the kids, do an extra ultramarathon later in the summer to "make it up"? Let's face it, Johnny, "been there done that" - aren't you getting a bit bored of this?"
Sounds reasonable, right? What I know, however, is that it is just a cover for my being actually a bit freaked out about this year's race. Which makes no sense, really. I am healthy and fit and have two successful trips under my belt. Still, my mind and body are playing all kinds of games with me - low energy, aches and pains, unexplained doubts.

Truth be told, the organizers are not helping the entrants much at this point - but they never promised to. In fact, they promised just the opposite - to do everything they can to have you quit the race. And they are effective! Last year, 255 people signed up but only 155 toed the line. So a full HUNDRED people decided to not even show up. 

Then 120 more dropped before the race was over - but they "suited up and showed up".
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never tasted victory or defeat.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt
As usual, we know nothing about this year's event, except that it starts sometime on Friday June 15th. I have, however, received a number of cryptic and ominous messages.

The first was last October from my friend Jack Cary (who had recently decided to  rest on his multiple-finish laurels this year and help organize the 2012 event) ... "Don't do the summer Death Race in 2012. I have officially joined the race planning staff. I feel sorry for the racers, their race is already over and they don't even know it yet! Not a single person will finish. I am sworn to secrecy, but I can tell you one thing..... everyone will quit." 

Even a wonderful compliment I received from Jack, in March of this year, contained a warning ... "Johnny, I think you are one of the coolest, most positive people I've ever met. And you will definitely be the nicest guy to quit the Death Race this year."

Earlier this week I received the first "official" email from HQ about this year's race. Here are some highlights;
  • We are expecting close to 300 athletes to start the race and few, if any, will finish. This means most, if not all, will go home with your tail between your legs. Many of you will fail but leave in good spirits and many of you will fail and you’ll blame someone else. This happens to be one of the most challenging aspects to this race. If you finish it’s all about you and what you accomplished but it’s funny those who don’t finish point the finger and blame someone else. Please save it. 
  • Article or 12 mile swim. The majority of you chose the article but some have chosen the swim for various reasons. Swimmers will meet me Friday morning at 3:45 a.m. at 89 Drew Lane in Middlebury, VT or at Lake Dunmore in Salisbury, VT for the start of the swim at 4:30 a.m. You have 12 hours to finish the swim. You will not be allowed to use fins or motors. You will be free to leave once you finish the 12 miles. If you are done by 4:30 p.m. you will have 45 minutes to drive to Pittsfield and be ready to start the race. 
  • Directions to DEATH RACE: Pittsfield, Vermont, USA – Figure it out.
  • Gear List: Life Jacket, bandages, knitting needles. Note: These are the only mandatory items you must carry. Don’t email me and ask if that’s it and tell me that you’ve watched the videos and it seems like you should have more. Athletes will bring everything from helmets, rope, shovels, saws, knives, post hole diggers, bikes, etc. Whatever you choose to bring or think you’ll need must go with you the entire race. Athletes are responsible for their own index card and their own gear. Race staff reserves the right to check your packs at anytime during the race and any athletes who aren’t carrying what they said they were carrying will be assigned a penalty. Athletes who are caught a second time will be disqualified. Be very careful and selective when choosing what to bring. Study what this race is about, envision being trapped in the woods for a week and bring what you think would help you to survive. 
  • SAFETY: This is actually important to us, kind of. We don’t want you to die. We’ll have a few Doctors on site (they may not be at a certain checkpoint but they are around). They happen to be Veterinarians but in most cases this will do. We also have EMT’s on site and an ambulance on site. We will use radios at each checkpoint so that we know where athletes are.  We’ll also use cell phones where we can. You should be able to take care of minor injuries on your own (carry creams, iodine, bandages, needles, syringes, insulin, adrenaline needles, snake bite kits, bee sting kits, knives, scissors, rope, etc.)
  • Dogs: Please respect the land owners and don’t bring them. Riverside is private property and home of pit bulls that don’t care for other dogs on your property. If you break the rule and bring your dog there is a good chance you’ll be burying your dog that day.
  • Fuel: We will give you nothing. Bring what you’ll need. 
  • Support Crew: Please explain to your support crew the nature of the event. Every single year we have to deal with support crew people who don’t understand the event. 92.7% of the support crews are incredible people like yourselves and they are very supportive, nice, and fun to be around. The 7.3% that doesn’t understand is a huge pain in the ASS and to be honest we’d rather not deal with them. We get hate emails after the race from many of them and it’s really annoying. Anything you can do to help would be appreciated. IMPORTANT: IF YOU DON’T LIKE YOUR SUPPORT CREW THERE IS A GOOD CHANCE WE WON’T LIKE YOUR SUPPORT CREW. MY SUGGESTION IS TO LEAVE THEM HOME.
  • Awards: Anyone who finishes the entire course in 24 hours will win $100,000. Anyone who finishes the entire course in 36 hours will win $50,000. There will be no other cash prizes. Skull Kettle bells will be awarded to the top three men and women in the race, if we have three. 
  • Cut Off: The race will be over Monday by Midnight [later clarified to mean 11:59pm Monday]. We will have three cutoffs this year. Anyone who does not make it to a certain checkpoint by Saturday at 8 p.m. will be moved to the shorter course. You may continue the race but you’ll be doing an abbreviated course. The second cut off will be in the middle of the day Sunday and the last cut off will be Monday at Noon. My guess is you’ll quit or finish by Monday at noon but if not you’ll have to start your last challenge by noon.

Wait. What is that feeling? Yes, I believe it is genuine excitement!!
Just writing this blog post, and the required virtual immersion into the race, has me right back on track. T-minus THIRTEEN DAYS and I will be several hours into another incredible race.

So, here is the quick low-down. I have a smaller crew this year. James Waite and Amanda Woodman are driving down with me Wednesday evening (the 13th). Bill McGill will be coming down Friday evening through Sunday. James is the intel guy, who will also be doubling as on-site blogger extraordinaire. Amanda will be the runner - finding me on the course whenever possible and keeping me informed and inspired. Bill will fill in with all sorts of random roles through the weekend, but is mostly being counted on to keep us all laughing and loose.

I am guessing I will finish the race mid-day Monday, so we will stay for a post-race shindig (I have already been nominated to DJ, by Winter Death Race Winner Olof Dalner - who also declared himself bartender) and the we will drive home Tuesday.

Again, I am raising funds for POGO (Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario). You can click >>HERE<< to read more about that, or just click on this logo to donate and help kids coping with cancer!

Lots more news and updates coming in the weeks ahead. Stay tuned!!

P.S. If you are interested in seeing what sort of madness this race entails, here is a video about the 2010 version (which was only about half as long and brutal as this summer's will be).