Summer Death Race – The At Home Spectator Perspective

I have mentioned a few times that I would post about this. When I first met some of my new teammates, the death race (DR) came up in conversation. I didn’t entirely understand what was being said and what I did understand just sounded utterly insane.

That was two-ish weeks before I joined the team. I joined the team right before DR Weekend so the team was all a-buzz. I still wasn’t entirely sure what the hell was going on but I couldn’t help but get swept up in the excitement. We had racers heading out and a crew to support them and those of us at home were offering support in any way they could.

I started off with a simple good luck to everyone. But I was also chatting with some team members and learning more about what was to transpire. I still thought it was utterly insane. But I was also massively impressed. With knowing very little about the racers and the crew and the race itself, I knew one thing. These people are incredible!

But what IS DR, you may be asking. Well to put it simply it is a physical and mental challenge… and more accurately on the mental part… it is a total mind F*ck. You are given tasks that you must complete. There are also time cut-offs. You never know what you are going to be told to do next so you never know what to expect. Racers are giving a “Gear list” but that is the only clue they have about the weekend ahead. There is not even an official start time and end time. You are told to show up around such and such time and when they yell “Go!” it has begun. The race stops when they decide to stop it. It may be in 24 hours or it may be in 72 hours… you just don’t know. Oh and did I forget to mention that the racers do not sleep. This race does not stop from the moment they yell “Go!” to the moment the skulls are handed out. That is the finisher prize… a skull.

So with this new plethora of information, I started to follow along. The crew was keeping us updated through a FB page. There were also hashtags to follow along on social media. I quickly learned that Twitter was one of the better places for information. It also seemed to be the most up-to-date place to get information about what was going on.

So with that, I started to post to the group what I was learning through Twitter about the race. Everyone was jumping in to comment and chat and I was making friends with my new teammates. I loved it… so much support from everyone. We all seemed to be swept up in what was happening in Vermont (this race is held in Killington, VT).

The first task… Run up the mountain and then back down. While the racers were running, someone tied their packs together… let the mind games begin. The first day was simple enough, they had to move rocks and build stairs with the rocks. And these are some HUGE rocks. Everyone worked together to complete the task. It was a physically demanding task and it was only the first day. Once that task was done the race was truly on and it wasn’t about team work anymore.

I won’t go into details about all the tasks but just some of the other tasks included, making fire, making an axe, sewing a buckskin outfit and then wearing it, turning a log into something you could then drink out of and lots of back and forth up and down the mountain. The task that seemed to get a lot of people was the Explorer test…. Think history class. You were allowed to ask yes/no questions but you had to wait in line to do so and then you had to hold a yoga pose for 10 minutes. The test was graded and if you did not get a 100% on the first try you were DQ’d.

This was where one of our racers was DQ’d. The team, me included, was devastated that one of our own was out of the race. But we were also so proud! It was truly a mix of emotions and with that all attention to turned to our remaining racer.

The race started on Friday morning around 9:00 am and this is now Saturday night. We knew we had a huge cut-off time coming up at Midnight so most of us stayed up to see what happened. Our racer was still in. We knew the next cut-off time was the following morning so most of us went to bed.

Since I had no plans for Sunday and there was a parade going on near my home which means I hide for the day, I decided to follow along with social media. Things started to get interesting…

Two buses – One yellow (school bus) and one white (coach bus) showed up. The racers were told to get pick one and get on… that was it… Just pick one and get on the bus. And oh yea, they had to wear a Kevlar suit and an adult diaper before getting on the bus. The buses then left base camp and social media went mostly quiet. The yellow bus was the first to return and soon there was information pouring in about what they were up to. Think child’s play… a lot of what the yellow bus people had to do seemed to be centered around a childhood theme. There was no information (at the time) about what the white bus people were up to but we later found out they went to NYC.

Our racer was on the yellow bus and was eventually DQ’d. I will not go into details about how or why. That is not my story to tell. But it was another round of mixed emotions. We were all so proud and at the same time so disappointed. We had two racers… two incredible people who took on something that most people would never even consider. They went and did their best but they did not get a skull.

After the initial heartbreak in hearing what happened to our final racer. I took a step back and thought about everything I had witnessed over the weekend through this team and social media. Less than a week after joining this team, I knew without a doubt that it was the right decision. Not only because it will take my training to another level but because this team is filled with just absolutely incredible and wonderful people. Very few of us were on that mountain. Very few of us witnessed these events first hand. But all of us at home jumped in to support our team from afar. We eagerly awaited information and shared it with everyone.

My teammates did not skull. But they still did something absolutely amazing. I have yet to meet them in person but I already know without a doubt that they are truly incredible and having them in my life will only help to make me a better person, racer, runner and competitor. I could not be more proud of what the accomplished. They did their absolute best. And they did it without faltering on their standards. Getting the skull was not the point, the point was to be there and participate and push through. The theme of the weekend for them was to not give up… to keep going.

They say that DR changes you. That it is impossible to be there and not change. From my observations, I can tell that is true. The weekend changed me and I wasn’t on that mountain. In life, there are lows and highs and this race is a perfect metaphor for that. It’s a mind game and they try to break you. You can either choose to keep going or you can choose to quite. I am proud to say that my teammates chose to keep going.

As I prepare to enter a new type of racing and a new training program I am unsure and I am nervous. I am way out of my comfort zone. But I know that I have my team behind me. I know that they will support me. I know that they will not let me quite. My weekend of observing DR from afar taught me that no matter what, this team is behind everyone. I am thrilled to be a part of this team. At the end of the day we can decide to quite or we can decide to fight. I am choosing to fight. #DFQ


2 thoughts on “Summer Death Race – The At Home Spectator Perspective

  1. Wow. I’ve never heard of the Summer Death Race. It would be interesting to try it one time. I might drop out since it sounds grueling. But probably pretty rewarding if I could get to the end and hold up that skull! 🙂

    • I had never heard of it either until I met the team members volunteering for Ragnar. I am not sure if I will ever try it but I am going to crew for it next year. So I will have a much more hands on experience. So who know what will happen after that.

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