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).

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