(pictures to come)
Thanks to my good friend Michelle, I am now fully entrenched in the world of the Death Race and this is now consuming most of my spare time. A few things that need to be achieved are
- Getting used to training for long hours (the DR is 48hrs long)
- Learning your weaknesses that might cause you to quit
- Getting used to ferrying large loads monotonously for long periods of time
Two guys that I am starting to consider as good friends completed the Death Race last year and famously took a 300lb+ tractor tire around the Spartan Beast obstacle course. Bruce and Jeff, known as the Tire Guys, started running a phenomenal Death Race training camp in RI and the 3rd was this past weekend. I’ve attended all three and this was the hardest and most fun yet.
Note, I write this foggy due to lack of sleep, but will do my best to remember all the details as I recount the sequence of events here.
Before I start, we had some mandatory equipment. A saw, headlamp and safety light, $10 in pennies, 1.5lb wrist weights, 2.5lb ankle weights, swimwear and water shoes. We had no idea what any of these items were for.
After getting dressed, a gear check and signing waivers we setoff (‘we’ being about 14 of us.
We put our packs into some barrows and Bruce led us around an elaborate obstacle course set up around their property. This was really well put together and consisted of the following (in rough order). Note that our pack was on throughout (mine weight around 40lbs), and wrist and ankle weights were worn.
- Sawing a 2-3′ section of log (our companion for the loop)
- Monkey bars
- Wall climb
- 200lb tire up and over ramp (6’hi gh, ~15′ long)
- Long tunnel crawl
- Scrambling over brush
- Loooong tire walk
- Sandback carries (4 60lb backs needed to be ran about 50′)
- Rope climb
- Tire Flip
- Culvert crawls
- Log traverse – complete with soap covering
- Calasthenics. No elaboration here, but they SUCKED!!
- Raise block on rope
- Wood chop (including the piece we carried with us)
- Tunnel crawl though fire
After the walkthrough I noticed our packs were moved. Hmmm, weird. We were also asked to remove our shoes. While the rules were being explained further our shoes were tossed into the muddy brush area and we were then given 5 minutes to find our pack and shoes. All but one of us found them all. I forget who didn’t but he reverted to his spare shoes that he thankfully had packed.
Then we set off. The loops probably took 40 minutes or so, and I loved every minute except maybe the log traverse. My balance always sucks on these, and I took a penalty each time. At first the penalty was a 3-5lb concrete ball and chain attached to wrist or ankle. On the ankle it tends to give you the occasional toe smash. Fun! The wood chop is always my favorite, made even more special by (I think Jeff’s) solid steel axe. I have no idea how much this weighed but it was a LOT. The best part was even a misstrike caused the wood to split I think out of sheer fear of the beast that was this ax. I WANT ONE!
In the third lap, I wrenched my shoulder really badly on the tire flip. Subsequent pushups had me close to tears, and I definitely didn’t manage the full ROM for those. I lay down for 5 minutes trying to stretch it out. Jeff came over concerned and I told him what happened. He asked where it hurt and he could massage it out, and of COURSE the smart ass jester in me kicked in first – I turned over, point to my crotch and said "Right here, on my penis!". He walked away mad that I got him, and I heard Bruce laugh from within the culvert a few yards away.
Somewhere around lap 4 for me, we were called to the fire area for the next challenge.
Here we grabbed a couple of tires each and took a hike – probably not much more than a half mile, maybe less, to a baseball field. Here we had to place our tires on the ground and walk across the field and back from tire to tire without touching the ground (about 300 yards). The tires were all pretty floppy so it was easy to flip and fall off. The penalty for hitting the ground was 10 pushups – AGONY for me both times I had to do it thanks to the shoulder pain. The task was pretty annoying at first but eventually I hit a zen state and just floated across gaining time quickly. Once complete, it was back to the house for the next challenge.
Here we had a white water raft, 5 gallon filled buckets and tires. As a group we had to start carrying the lot. I started with the buckets. They suck, always have and always will, but I am a big fan of just getting it over and done with. We waled perhaps a 1/4 of a mile and the pain was unbearable. Holding back tears of pain, I slammed them to the ground, walked over to Jeff and Bruce, and said "I can’t go on. I’m done. I QUIT!". Jeff looked at me blankly and simply said "No you aren’t". Fair enough. I stayed on and was able to find ways of keeping my shoulder out of the picture. At some point I realized I could use my pack to carabiner the buckets and move all the wight instead to my back. GENIUS!! Now I could pull my weight and still keep going. We walked like this for quite some time – I have no idea of the mileage to be honest – but again you quickly become zen and the monotony of it seems to help with the pain.
We eventually came to Sheri’s car and were split into two teams. I went with Jeff, and we were sent on a two mile run with our pad and paper. Before this we were told we could remove our packs and wrist/ankle weights. I decided to keep my weights on. This is training after all, with a safe out, so why not make it harder when possible? After hitting a couple of miles along the bike path, we came to a cone with a puzzle made of of connected discs with various colors. We had to write down enough info so we could reproduce it and leave. Working on Architectural software for 15 years really helped me here. I drew a quick rear and side elevation and plan view and started off. 50yds away, I remembered I forgot to write a schedule (how many pieces of each color) so I ran back to get this information and then left.
A third of the way back running with the weights was starting to hit me so I decided to run 400 steps and walk 50 until I got to the starting point where I sprinted the last 50 yards or so. Ryan had overtaken me at this point, and he was already started with the puzzle. I looked at my schedule, grabbed the pieces I needed and wandered off to recreate the puzzle. Ivana arrived after me put finished the puzzle first – she definitely has good spatial skills proved later as well with the knot untying. I finished next and in fact not one person failed at the puzzle. The punishment for an incorrect result was to wear another persons weights for the remainder of the event.
Once we had finished this, we grabbed a wheelbarrow with a huge tire, tire pulls, cinder blocks and buckets and proceeded to do a walk up hill and back down again. The wheelbarrow bothered my shoulder slightly but not as badly as I expected.
The two groups reconnected at this point and we set off with the raft, buckets and blocks for quite some time until we hit Lincoln Woods. This is going to be the location of a 5k Obstacle Race that the Tire Guys will hold in September – watch out for details of this.
Sheri was waiting here with a trailer full of large tractor tires. We split into pairs – Ivana chose me, we picked our tire (well she did) and we set off across the road. Bruce and Jeff started pushing there tire up a 40 degree incline for 50ft or so. Many groans were heard and we did the same, then across a baseball field then another incline. We thought that was tough but then we had to navigate an entire trail system uphill until we hit the peak. This must have taken maybe 90 minutes to get to the top and an hour to the bottom but it was a BLAST!!
At the bottom, we were told to grab the raft and blocks, and the idiot I am decided to take buckets as well. Here we set off in motion again. I think it was during this walk that we passed a bench that someone was throwing out so decided to carry that also. Why not!! 🙂
It was probably around 8am when we hit a honeydew donuts store and decided to stop for coffee and a snack but none of us actually had any money EXCEPT for our pennies. There was no way I was going to be last in line, so I dashed in first and in my cutest British accent ordered a coffee and muffin from the girl and asked "before you get those, I only have rolls of pennies – can I possibly pay with those?" – she seemed fine, so $4 of pennies later (and a thunk thunk of $1 in the tip jar) I drank coffee and ate junk.
Fed and warmed we set off, getting back into the woods area and to the side of a lake. Bruce or Jeff showed us a grate at the side of the road and said our next task was to have our photo taken from behind the grate. The catch was we needed to walk through the tunnel on the other side of the road through an ice cold stream to get to it. I LOVED this – the cold water felt great on inflamed feet. I actually expected a full submersion though so changed and stripped to just my swim trunks.
This done and dusted, we set off again with all our stuff for a couple more miles until we hit a beach area. Sheri was hear again. We were asked to pick a cinder block (each had a rope tied numerous times around the inside of it) and we were relieved of the heavy stuff for the last time.
With our cinder blocks, we lined up at the beach shore and were instructed to walk waist deep (the water was probably 40F) drop the cinder block under the water and untie the knots until tope and block were separate although we could come out to warm up. Once in, I decided to stay until the task was done and have to admit I did cheat a little and study the knot on the way in. Ivana and Bruce were the first to leave the water. Really quickly my fingers slowed down and it was hard to grip. Next to me Jeff kept chanting "It’s not cold, its warm" (later we talked about this and he had no idea he was saying this out loud :). Eventually I got my rope and block apart and slowly walked out of the water. Surprisingly I didn’t feel cold at all – no shivering – but my fingers were burning. Some glove liners and a bunch of fist clenches for 3-4 minutes saw to that.
Once everyone was changed and warm we were handed three velcro strips each. Weird!
Again, paired with Ivana, we had to loosely loop a strip around each ankle and then back to back put a loop through one each of our feet so we were no fastened together. Then we had to walk probably 3 miles – one of us forwards and one backwards. This was pretty hard, and Ivana took the lead and almost fell on her face. To prevent this, I took one of the straps in my pack, tied it to her ruck and made a leash. This way if she fell I’d catch her. The confidence this added really improved our speed and we started overtaking Luke and James who were holding hands for the same fall prevention. Of course our cadence chant went from "12345678…" to "123456 Lukes gay" "123456 very gay" etc. Hey, we had been awake for around 30 hours at this point and in the event for maybe 19-20 – we had to make it fun. This was a fun walk but we got to a point where the traffic became too intense and so Bruce and Jeff decided for safety we should just hike back. Being the idiot I am I picked a log from someones yard (I think Keith did the same) just to keep the walk interesting and set off back to Bruce’s house – the starting point for this all. They kept saying "this isn’t over when we get back" and they were right.
Once get back and what I think is our final challenge was to break down the obstacle course. 10 people can do this really quickly – and once done I went to grab a Guinness. Bruce looked at me and said "Are you quitting? We aren’t done yet!". "Erm, no Bruce" – I put the Guinness down and we set off for a five mile run. We got lost a couple of times on this making it a little longer but it was amazing how light I felt doing this after all the effort expended although it was the first time I had taken the wrist and ankle weights off and pretty much the only time my pack had come off. The kicker with this run by the way? We were given an egg. If the egg broke, we had to do the loop again with another egg.
About a mile from the end point (again Bruce’s house) I started to run out of steam and so walked it out with Luke. Bruce came by and offered us a warm ride back to which I said "Hell no!". Finally we got to Bruce house. I almost tripped crossing onto his lawn and nearly dropped the egg mere yards from completion. Thankfully i kept a hold of it and saved myself another 5 miles.
This was the 23 hour mark and I could have continued but was glad to be done. I cracked that Guinness along worth Luke, went inside and immediately started to reminisce about the whole night. This is the new hardest thing I’ve done and enjoyed every painful minute of it. Funnily enough I realized my shoulder injury had worked its way out too – with only slight pain during certain ROM.
Props here to Gabriel. He had told his friends and family that he was doing a 24 hr event and so decided to go and and split wood for an hour. Tempted to join him, but more tempted to drink Guinness I stayed inside and admired his spirit. Also props to those that pushed through and completed this. It was torture yet fun. Another epic Tire Guys event. Look them up (outerlimitsfitness.com) and do one for yourself. You won’t regret it.