Wednesday, February 19, 2014

2014 Winter Death Race

The last day of January, and the first of February this year, I spent getting a first hand crash course on death racing. Here's how it all played out...

Andy telling directions for the hike
Drive down: My wonderful Girlfriend, Lindsay and our magnificent Malamute, Suunto drove down with me. We left on Thursday night, made it about 3 hours, and then drove the last 6 hours in the morning. Pittsfield is pretty far south, so it was a long drive. Overall it was a great drive. Lots of stops at Timmy's, and yummy treats.

Preface: Each activity we completed earned us a puzzle piece. Once we completed our puzzles, we were done the race.

Friday 1:30 pm: We arrived in Pittsfield, and went to the cabin, where our drop bags were supposed to be. I was told to hurry up, and get to Amee Farm. So, we went back up the road to Amee. I was told to sign a contract, and start chopping wood. All the email contacts said that we should arrive between 1:00pm, and 3:00pm. I started chopping wood at about 1:40. I was told we had to chop wood for 2 hours. At 3:00pm, everyone who had started chopping at 1:00 got to leave. I stayed until the end, about 4:40, chopping wood, with the rest of the people who were "late". This was just how they mess with you in this race. I found out later that we didn't even have to chop wood, and that the race started at 3:00, with a time trial. I missed the time trial, and got to attend the fire making workshop, while the people doing their TT were still out on the mountain, finishing up. Little did I know it, but this would come in later as a very important detail.
Chopping wood: Totally "My Jam"
Friday 5:00-6:30: The fire building workshop was really cool. I learned a lot, and I'm glad I did. I managed to make several char cloths, and managed to get a fire going with a pretty wicked tinder ball. Overall, I didn't think that I was particularly good at making fire, but I am an Engineer, and once I understood all the components of making fire, I got it mastered pretty quick. After this, we all hiked the 2.5ish miles over to Amee Farm.
Fire Building: Blowing on my Tinder Ball
Friday 7:00-11:00: We went and all did a Ballet class together. This was a lot of fun, until Joe DeSena started to intervene. We had to do a ton of single leg lifts, and hold squats for long periods of time. Once again, the unfairness of the Death Race came into play, as some people would get called out for not doing the exercises properly, but others were allowed to perform sub-par exercises. Oh well... Just keep going.

Ballet: I'm better than I could have guessed!
Friday 11:30pm- Saturday 5:00am: After we hiked back to the barn, we were told we'd have make a fire with our partner. Cool! I had the fire building nailed. I was surprised that we weren't the first ones to make our fire, but apparently some people were using road flares to make their fires! I thought this wasn't very fair, but oh well. I think a road flare would qualify as a "modern fire starting technique". Once our first reached a certain height, we had to hike up to the top of the mountain, with our sandbags, and our full gear. I got up the mountain first, and there was no one there. I think I beat the volunteer up there. I had to do some convincing, because they didn't believe I had made it up there and back already. We had to keep going up and down, taking our sandbags one time, and leaving them the next. at 3:20 am, I was finished my 4th trip, and I decided that I didn't want to go back up another time with the sandbag, so I sat down, and ate a ton of food and rested until 5:00.

Saturday 5:00am-9:00am: We all had to go for a big hike at this point, with all our gear, but sans sandbag. I love hiking mountains, and I quickly went to the front of the pack. I was having such a good time, that I forgot I was racing for over 2 hours. We had to do some burpees at the base of the mountains. I got to see a lovely sunrise.

Burpees at 6:30am... They best kind

Saturday 9:00-11:00am: At this point, I was told that I had to do my "T.T." of the sandbag hike. I didn't want to do any more hiking with the sandbag, but I set off anyways. Foolishly, I thought that I should bring my super-light pack for this hike. BIG MISTAKE. The little straps dug into my shoulders badly, and the sandbag fell off at least ten times. At one point, I just lay down in the snow, and thought about sand bags for a while. After about 60 seconds of thought, I realized that I don't like them very much. I finished the TT nearly 2 hours after starting. For me, this was brutally slow. Also, I lost about 2 hours on the leaders during this activity, since they had already done their TT at 3pm the previous day.

Saturday 11:00am-12:30ish pm: I'm really not sure about time here, but we had to hike our sandbags back to Amee farm, and hold them over our heads for 45 minutes. This one really wasn't fun, and it further cemented my earlier thought about sand bags. After this we hiked back. Without the sand bags. yessss.

I'm a little hazy about what happened next, because I was getting tired. I think we hiked back up the mountain again.

Saturday 2:00pm-4:00pm: We had to hike over to a farm, and find pennies in the snow. They zip tied one of our hands to one of our feet. This really was depressing. I looked through the big field, and the stream for about 45 minutes until I realized that someone else had found all their pennies in about 5 minutes, and went to look where they were. I found them all a few minutes later. This was a great example of how they mess with us. It got me kind of upset.
Another Fire: I was taking about 3 minutes each time

Saturday 4:00-8:00pm: At this point we were tasked with a repetitive loop. It involved started a fire (up to about 18 inches), then hiking up the mountain and back. For those of you who know me, I love going up mountains. I am very good at it, and just love every minute of it. I also figured out, that if I kept all my kindling from my previous fire, in a hidden, sheltered location, it made my next fire easier to make. I also collected more tinder on my hikes up and down the mountain. once I combined all these factors, I just put my head down, and started jamming. I was able to hike up and down the mountain, and start a fire, plus collect my puzzle pieces in about 40-45 minutes per lap.

I started eating into the time deficit that I had. On the last lap, I was told I had to go up the mountain one more time. About 900ft of ascent. The leader had about 1 minute lead on me. I realized that I should just unleash all the power that I had left. I knew that running up a mountain would make me really hot, so i took off my shirts. about 2 minutes into the climb, I realized I had dropped my bib! I turned around, and lost another minute picking it back up, out of the snow. With my bib securely zipped in my pocket, I rocketed up the mountain, only slowing on two stair sections. I passed the leader on this climb. I put the puzzle together at the top, and ran back down. I completed the last climb in about 12 minutes, and the descent in about 6 minutes. I ran in, and finished.
All done
I won my first Death Race! The Stoke was on. It took just under 29 hours, and was a lot of fun. I met every challenge, with intelligence, and fitness, and just kept pushing.

Post Race Thoughts: I think the concept for these races is pretty cool. I did a lot of things that I would NEVER have done before, and a lot of things that I do all the time. I liked coming from behind, and I loved that they tried to mess us over with the start time. Being able to come back from a deficit like that was awesome. I met tons of really cool people, and had lots of fun racing with them. A lot of these people aren't elite athletes, just really cool people, pushing themselves to their limits. I have a lot of respect for everyone involved. I'm not going to do the rest of the Death Race Series, mainly due to money, and time, and then fact that I want to focus of different types of races this summer and fall. Having said that, I would LOVE to, and I think this type of racing suits me very well.
Thanks to everyone involved, and thanks to Andy Weinberg for suggesting that I do the race.


  1. OMG What a race!!! You rock Ryan!!!

  2. Hi Ryan,
    I'm an editor at Men's Health. Can you please get in touch?

  3. Awesome work mate! Cant wait to catch up on the weekend! - Dave NSW OCRL State Manager

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