Friday 2pm PST: Spirits and bodies running high as we step off for what is supposed to be one of our greatest challenges. Packed in our packs is 30ish pounds of knitting needles, pink swim cap, axe, life jacket, life vest(the previous all mandatory gear), water, food, and random gear deemed necessary. Our first task was to travel up Tweed River Road, past the shack and up the trail to the “cabin” at the top of the mountain for a gear weigh in. The mountain is about 1800 vertical and a mile and a half of travel(so pretty damn steep). After the weigh in we went down and checked in. At that time we were told to travel by foot the two miles back to Amee Farm. We were told we had until 6 pm to travel and to sew our race number into our shirts in 3 inch letters to our mandatory compression shirt. We got in about 3 and were told the race started at two and began sewing our numbers. A couple of notes here. I woke up that morning with a mad case of the shits and was pounding water to prevent the perceived oncoming dehydration. Also I am the worst sewer in the world and my beautiful wife unintentionally sabotaged me here. She bought me sewing machine needles which I found to be insanely hard to use. So after two hours of stabbing my self in the hand, mixed in with the required tasks of moving through the 1 foot diameter 40 foot long culvert and the pond swimming task we were directed to take our gear to the pond. At the pond we were directed to get in the pond as a group to get our directions. Once in, they threw a bag of ping pong balls with numbers in. The numbers corresponded to the group we would be working with over the next unknown amount of hours. Chad, Adam and I made sure found the same numbers and became part of group 9.
There were 220 or so participants at the beginning. We were split into 10 groups and were given an object to carry. The object could not touch the ground. The choices were: one of 5, 20 ft kayaks, or a giant tire, or two per group- 12 inch diameter 6 foot long 100lb slosh pipes. We ended up with two slosh pipes.
Over the next 5 hours we carried the slosh pipes 12ish miles and climbed 3000vertical feet. Mixed in were sprints, jostling for position and a preview of the events to come. The preview was witnessing the folks who never touched the slosh pipe and generally cheesed their way out of the task. The other preview involved burpees. Over the first 20 hours we were given 900 burpees as penalties. I think the most anyone did was in the low 100s. Which set the tone for two things: it’s ok to cheese your way through, and that they would hand out tasks with no expectation of them being done to a standard (more to come on this later). At this point we were told to switch objects with another team and to continue down the trail. We picked up a kayak for the next portion. This involved another 10 miles over the worst trail you could imagine. 7 hours to move a kayak 10 miles with 20 people. Slow, tedious and irritating was an understatement. At this point the first big wrinkle in the race became important. In past death races you were back to your support crew (insert the Godsend Rob Dowse) about every 8 hours. Based on that, most participants had 8 ish hours of food and water. At 16 hours we had still not been back and we figured out that we might never be resupplied with food or water again. Fortunately Chad had brought iodine tablets and Adam and I had Steri Pens so were able to disinfect the water picked up in the streams. Also the theme for the race was “betrayal” which would become more important later About 6 in the morning we arrived at the reservoir after 22miles of travel carrying our packs and kayak. We were then told to swim a course in the lake and then begin moving buckets of gravel. After a couple hours of gravel moving the next chapter started.
Me and the boys were moving gravel when we saw a mass of people on the move with the race staff. We stopped what we were doing and went for our packs and took off after them. About 100 people were in the main pack with another 65 or so behind(including us). Our smaller pack included a guy who lived and ran these mountains. The trails in the death race are flagged every 100 feet or so with marking tape. We reached an intersection and saw flags heading back the way we had come (the 22 mile route) and flags heading the shorter route back. Group think, along with the guy, led us down the shorter path. About 2 miles into that i hadn’t seen flags in a while and stopped Chad and Adam. After a ten minute discussion we decided we were off course, which would be cheating and decided to head back and find the correct trail even if we would lose time. We were the only people form this group to do that. Over the next 4 hours we traveled another 10 or so miles and finally caught the main body at Rogers Cabin. We added an extra 4 to 6 miles but did the right thing. As soon as we hit the cabin the group, including, us left for 4 more miles of descending and ascending back to Tweed River cabin. At this point we had traveled 35 to forty miles, were 26 hours into it and had not had a food or water resupply. We had left the srteams and the boys and I had run out of water and food.
Upon arriving at the cabin we were put into groups and told to go find our group number off the trail. We didn’t know it yet but this would have a profound effect on the “race”. The numbers were from 400ft to 2 miles away on a labyrinth of trails. Most teams, including mine spent hours looking for a number that could not be found. Team after team began making a number to move on and after hours of futility and realizing that our number probably had been picked up and changed, we did the same. When we turned in the number we were told that the Race had begun and went down the road for the next task. Rob showed up here with food and water and saved our bacon. The most amazing thing was the Nuttela rollups! Down the road we were assigned a log to be cut in half, then split and then to be carried up and over the mountain back to Amee Farm. The number looking and the log assignment destroyed the race before it began. If your team had an impossible number to find you started 2 hours behind! And then the logs. The logs ranged in size from 12 inches diameter to 24. Some were wet and some were dry. My long was 24 inches and when hit with an axe it erupted with water. When I set off with Adam back over the mountain, I had over 100pounds in my pack, was 3 hours behind the leaders and was watching other people carry kindling in their packs. I was pissed but motivated none the less. So Adam and I set off in the dark down the mountain. I found a good route and we hit Amee Farm and we hit camp at about 1am. We passed 50 people in the dark through hard work and good navigation. At this point we had traveled over 40 miles, over 10,000 vertical feet and had been moving for 36 hours.
At Amee farm we turned in our wood (where I saw people turning in bullshit little sticks), and checked in. We were allowed to get some chow with Rob and then were put in the pond for some punishment. I was in for 10 minutes and then was pulled out to lead a group of convicts up the mountain in the ravine(rocky stream running with water.). I changed clothes and boogied out of camp with my baggage and challenged them to keep up. I stopped often and still dropped most of them. This was the first time I was separated from Adam and Chad and hoped them the best. Once up and over the mountain we did some menial tasks and were sent down the other side to cut some wood. It was now 8am and we had traveled 46ish miles and had been going for 42 hours.
At this station we split 10 logs and were then given a log to carry up the mountain to two stations for some memorization. After memorizing the tasks we were to come back down with the log and complete the memorization. My log weighed at least 70-80 lbs. The hike up was about 600vetcial feet and was a monster. We had to read and memorize a saying and learn and then recreate an origami swan. I went up and down in less than and hour, recited my phrase and busted out my swan and was on my way. The task was physically challenging but I was determined to make up the ground I had lost from my log assignment and get back in the game. From there I went back up Tweed River, up and over the mountain and back to the farm.
At the farm I realized I was in the top 20 and was ready to make a move. I was given a 60 bag of concrete and was told to take it to the top of the mountain undamaged. I put the hammer down. I made it to the top in just over an hour and moved in to the top ten, with the cost of digging into my deep reserves. To my dismay as I dropped off my perfect bag of 60 lbs of concrete I saw 3 bags that were empty but had still been allowed to be dropped off by other competotors. None the less, I set off down to the bottom.
Upon returning I was told to move 15 bales of hay before heading upend over to the mountain to Riverside farm for some “rolling”. I ran to the hay and to my dismay I figured out that some had to move 5 bales, some 10 and me 15! Fuck it, drive on. I moved my 15 and headed up the mountain, fast. I hit the farm at 5 pm and had been moving for 51 hours.
Rolling was the next task. Rolling involved 6 laps of barrel rolls of 400 meters.
Or in-other words vomiting, sickness, and 4 hours of stupidity. Fortunately I have a strong stomach and was ok. The messed up part was watching the first place woman being passed because she was prone to vomiting. I rolled through vomit. Not good. At lap three the word came down that the three top races had completed the rolling, went back and over the mountain and with a four hour lead had left the race. On of these three was my good friend Don. Loyalty had served us well so far so even though I had been going for 53 hours and felt great, I decided to walk away. The rest of the story is part 2.
Part 2: What Race?
There is a lot of good things to be happy about with this experience so I will keep those for the end. Before that here is the preface.
In the race there were participants and there were racers. At one point, as I was helping a guy get through the ravine he asked me, “you are a racer right?”. Well, yes. Thats why I trained for 2 years, spent time away from my family and committed my all to this event. To race. To push my limits. To be tested. That’s not really what I got. By getting a piece of wood, filled with water and deciding to meet the intent of the task I lost two hours to the leaders without even blinking. Tasks were handed out differently. Some moved 5 bales of hay and some moved 15. Some cut 10 inch logs and some 20. As I progressed through the event I moved from a place in the hundreds to the top 10, yet what I saw was discouraging. When I was handed the 60lb bag of concrete I knew I could make moves and get up the hill fast. I went out like a mad man, picked a dead vertical route and pushed the hammer. When I got to the top I had passed 3 in front of me, and caught and tied 4 who arrived minutes before I did but left the bottom more than 30 before. When I went and dropped off the bag in the cabin I was appalled. Our instructions were to deliver it intact (obviously to prevent dumping some of the weight) yet when I dropped my bag, which was the 8th one in, 3 of them were EMPTY. No accountability, no one telling them to go back down…nothing. As I was log rolling through other people’s vomit (again, what the hell does that test?) I learned that the top 3 had dropped because essentially the race director kept adding more shit because not enough people had quit. This is important because it fed into the participant versus competitor versus eventual “finisher”. This quick story will elaborate. We ran into a guy hobbling through the airport on the way home. Obvious death race participant. He asked “did you finish?”. Me being who I am gave him a quick no and moved on. He then chatted Chad up and got more details. The guy had been declared a finisher. He was at the rolling station at midnight which should have put him two or so hours behind me….But not so fast. He told Chad that because he was so far behind on Sunday the organizers had allowed him to skip the log carry/origami/memorization station AND and the concrete carry. WTF!!! That was 5 to 6hours of work for me and 8 to 10 for this dude and he skipped it?!! So by doing less,and going slower, you were rewarded. And by doing more, and going faster you were punished. As things like this came to light I realized that this was not a race and had become something else. When my friend Don and the other top 3 dropped I was poised to easily make top 3…. But it felt wrong.
Those 3 had earned it and I wasn’t going to bring home a trophy that wasn’t mine. I had been going for more than 50 hours, was physically strong, mentally ready but was not willing to push for something that had lost meaning to me, so I walked away.
Part 2: The Good.
So what did I get out of this. I proved to myself that I could prepare, train and withstand a beating that most could not. I could push the envelope and go harder where most faltered. That I would not cheat even when there were no consequences. That being a friend and coach was more satisfying than personal gain. That moving through tough times with your friends is worth more than acclaim, or finisher skull trophies or bragging rights. That Chad and Adam were strong and tough beyond words. That Chad sprained his ankle within the first four hours and spent the rest of the race with a smile on his face limping his way through a course that would break most healthy men.
That Adam is faster and stronger than he thinks. That Adam could go into the cave of despair, pull himself out and come out stronger and faster.
That Rob is an angle and pulled all of our butts out of the fire.
That seeing your friends at the wood chopping station with a smirk and a strong back is worth more than words can describe. And that we all make choices and have to live with them. Mark Twight wrote on quitting: “You bite it off – and you chew it. Then you swallow it and you smile even when you want to choke. Why? Because you crossed the start line. You said it. You began it. Now you fucking-well finish.”. Good words from a tough man. They resonate with me. I’m smiling but I’m not sure if I’m choking on walking away at hour 53 or knowing that doing less leads to more. Only time will tell.
THOUGHTS FROM ADAM BACA-
Ben’s record of events is accurate. The logs were heavy, the course was long, the outcome from a racing perspective was unsatisfying. That said, the race was a life changing event. A year ago when Ben asked me if I was interested in this race I was reluctant. I knew I wasn’t ready, that I didn’t endure well, that often excuses were easier than pushing the limits. Jess and I talked about for a few days and decided it was something that I should do.
Had you asked me at that time whether I thought I could persevere for just less than fifty hours, over 60 miles of hiking and 10,000+ feet of vertical I would have told you flat out “No.” I would have then added that the whole proposition sounds stupid, futile, and egotistical. Sometimes I guess ignorance really is bliss.
When we woke up Friday morning I was excruciatingly nervous. Had someone given me a way out I would have gladly accepted. Fortunately, no such option was given. As Ben described, the race began in pandemonium. 260 type A people running around, barking orders at others, and generally acting like idiots. For the first time ever I was sewing. All I could think was, “this is so stupid. I hate everything. ”
Sewing completed we headed up the mountain with a non-cohesive group of like minded idiots. Chad, Ben, and I stuck together and generally enjoyed ourselves. At this point my body felt great but as it got dark my mind shifted to Jessie and Jack and I started to get really homesick. It felt like the first day of college when your parents had left you and you were all alone. It was a strange and unsettling feeling. All I wanted was to go home to my sweet family and crawl into a warm bed.
As time passed and our friendly kayak was carried over the increasingly precarious trail the homesickness subsided. Somehow I just became focused. The difficulty of the task at hand forced me to funnel my energy into something that could effect change. In the past I havent had that gear.
The remainder of the trail was fairly uneventful except for the fact that by the time we finished the 22 mile trek our feet had been wet and moving for about 12 hours. We swam, we carried, we set off again. At this point the shortage of food became an issue. Ben, Chad, and I had been functioning as a unit for quite awhile and were dividing what little food we had between the three of us. Unlike others we brought supplies that allowed us to drink water from the streams. This was a total lifesaver.
Then we got lost. Not hopelessly lost but misdirected enough and short enough on supplies that our decision making meeting became really important. We decided that taking the perceived short cut was wrong and that the only honest and sporting thing to do was to reverse our track and head back in the opposite direction. At this point I really don’t remember how I was feeling. I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t even really uncomfortable. I guess I was mostly just hungry and irritated. Doesn’t matter, we set off.
As time passed all of our feet became more and more of an issue. The 12 hour hike through a muddy forest coupled with a dip in the pond and a quick redirect through an icy stream left our most important assets in shambles. I think it would be similar to soaking your feet in a bathtub for a few hours, running a marathon, and then rubbing the first few layers of skin off with medium grit sandpaper. Awesome.
This was also one of the best moments of the race. Fatigue set in, frustrations started to simmer, and our little band of brothers from NM bound ourselves tighter and tighter. Sometimes we whined, a lot of times we joked, and we wakled. And walked. And walked. The only thing I really remember talking about was Nachos. Yep, nachos.
By the time we found another human I wasn’t in what I would call a good place. I was hungry, tired of drinking sanitized stream water, frustrated, and generally grumpy. I walked silently. Someone had made a stack of flat stones off the side of the road. I pushed it over. That’s where I was.
At this point we had been out somewhere around 24 hours. This was also the point where mind stared to shift. The frustration of the day had taken its toll. The “race” (we had done no racing) was starting to win. My feet are tired. I’m hungry. It’s not cool to isolate us from food and water for 24 hours. The reasons to quit began.
Then the flag debacle. Followed by the log splitting from hell. Before we even left to hike our log filled, 80-90 lb packs back up the mountain I was ready to quit. For the first time I was on the ropes. I wasn’t going to quit on course and I wasn’t going to make a production out of it. But that was it. I was done.
We started up the hill and I set Ben on his way. I was hurting physically (remember we hadn’t eaten anything but pro bars and gel for over 24 hours), I was starting to get cold, and I wanted to be done. All the way down I thought about reasons why it was ok to quit. I thought, this is the hardest thing you’ve ever done and you deserve a break, this isn’t good for your body, what of you get injured.
We got to camp about 2 or 3am Saturday and I was in a bad spot. Looking back I don’t think I had uttered a word in hours. I was hopelessly cold, tired, feet in shambles, and mentally fighting to stay vertical. I checked in, stacked my wood, and sat down. For some reason I didn’t quit. I thought, OK, you made it up and down that mountain in the dark, survived being lost, and here you are. Next task: pond…45 minutes. 3 am. Awesome. This was the first time I fought my way off the ropes. I somehow convinced myself that the soak in a freezing, duck crap filled, murky pond would be good for my aching muscles.
I was partially right. My legs and feet did feel better. By feel I mean that I could no longer feel them. Then I started shivering. It was actually more akin to just uncontrollable shaking. Back on the ropes. I sat by the fire and couldn’t get warm, put on a down jacket, nothing. Added a fleece layer, still shaking. I rattled my way through an omelet, ate a table spoon of coconut oil and returned to the ropes in my mind. I was done. This was it it. No one should have to be this cold. I’m no longer safe. Every excuse possible passed through my mind. Even worse was that even as destroyed as I was I knew they were all right. I had exceeded expectations.
It was about this time that Rob started pissing me off. I’m sitting there shivering and he starts antagonizing me. Put your shoes on. No, I’m too cold. Put your shoes on. No. Here’s a dry shirt. Are you going back out in the same shoes or dry ones? Rob, I’m effing done. Do you not see how cold I am? You’re fine. Put your shoes on. No. Adam, put your damn shoes on and get the hell out of here. You’re fine. No Rob, I’m not fine. I’m done. Then he took my chair away. In protest I put my shoes on. Then my race shirt that was still wet. Then I checked in. Back from the ropes. What just happened?
I set off again but this time without the benefit of my friends. Just me and my thoughts. I honestly don’t think a cognizant thought passed through my brain for two hours. Every stump i looked at was a face looking back at me. Who needs drugs when all you need for some amazing hallucinations is to just not sleep.
As the sun came up I started thinking back to Rob. He saved me from myself and he was right, so long as I was moving I felt ok. Finally the sun came up and I started feeling better. My body felt better, my legs were refreshed, and for the first time I raced. I left the guys I was with because they were too slow. 80lb log carry, done. Origami bird, easy. Split more wood? Child’s play.
I was back from the ropes and for the first time I knew I would finish the race. I passed people going up and down hill. I’m not just going to finish, I’m going to finish well.
As I started down the mountain it was now about noon or so and I had covered around 55 miles on foot. I had never felt better and I knew I was within hours of finishing the race. I hit my stride and went. Fast. About half way down I noticed a pinch in my left knee. No big deal I thought. My whole body is a disaster and my knee’s just a little angry. Then it got angrier so I just ignored it. I roll into camp about 3:30 and was rewarded with hay bale stacking and a bag of concrete. Moving hay bales up and into the attic of the barn I noticed my knee starting to swell and took note of the now escalating pain. Ignore, race, continue. So I did. Back to the tent for some lunch meat and coconut water. I told Rob about my knee and looked at it and said I was fine. Cool, back on the trail.
My pack was now back in the 80lb range. I started down the hill and was greeted with a stabbing pain. No biggie I thought, I’ll walk sideway for awhile. This will go away. Sideways didn’t work so I just walked slower. At this point I’d been awake and on the move for the better part of sixty hours. I sat down on the side of the trail to reassess. I rested for a few minutes and got up again. Instead of feeling better my knee had gone into full melt down. My leg and knee were quickly swelling and I watched as my left quad started to fire repeatedly without any stimulus from me.
About this time Ben comes racing down the road. He took word to Rob that I was hurt and needed help so down came Rob. This time there was nothing he could do. DNF. Those three stupid letters were emblazoned in my brain and it crushed me. I tried to carry my pack back to camp but couldn’t so Rob had to. I sat down and contemplated and then at 49:15 I quit. DNF.
Then I called Jess and exploded. I don’t cry, ever. The dam broke and I cried hysterically. words led my mouth as I sat there tired, hurt, and exhausted physically and mentally. I still can’t really think about it and not spiral to a bad place. It wasn’t even that I couldn’t finish that was killing me. It was the fact that I had gone deeper into the abyss of suffering than I had ever even considered and I had come out, twice. Only now, I was on the other side, mind ready to conquer but body broken.
Sitting here a couple of days later and having slept a bit things seem better. The swelling in my knee, both legs, ankles, and feet are evidence of the punishment my body endured. Yet for some strange reason I crave more. Not more success, but I think more experience in the abyss. How deep can I go and come out on the other side?
Thoughts from Chad on the Spartan Death Race 2012
What it was
What it wasn’t
Why it was still awesome!
In summary: Grueling speed hiking with heavy awkward crap for almost 3 days culminating in the world’s largest anticlimax. Yet it was still amazing.
10 months of training—some solo, some Crossfitting, and some with my buddies Ben and Adam. Here we go. Weeks leading up to the “Race” brought emails with specific instructions: where to be, when to be there, what to bring, and oh, by-the-way, we’ve adopted a theme of “Betrayal”.
Good luck figuring out what’s true and what’s published to mess with us. Packing list: Bonzai tree, bag of human hair, dress shoes, pink swim cap, bucket, chopsticks, Really?
Preparation and anticipation were fun and invigorating. The 2 clear highlights were bonding with my buddies over a common goal, and the immeasurable outpouring of encouragement from gym athletes, friends, family members & random acquaintances. Wow. Thank you!
WHAT IT WAS:
Over 28 hours of group hazing. Start with a soak in thick yellow duck pond—making sure out feet were soggy. Crap! We carried 100lb slosh pipes and 2 man kayaks over 22 miles the first night. Up, up, up. And across the nastiest trail one could find. Mixed in there was a lake swim, dehydration, starvation. We were lied to about when we’d have access to water and supplies, so this created a suffocating effect on the herd. Many dropped. Not Ben, Adam, or I. We were solid.
We ran up, we ran down. A mole working for the cadre led us onto a cheater’s path and figured it out. I’m really proud of the guys. None of us “wanted” to turn around and repeat 7 miles, but we believed it was the honorable thing to do. So we did. We also believed it would eliminate us from the race because of the massive time handicap. But we did it anyway. Ben led us to that decision. Way to go boys.
Also in that 28 hour hazing was 5gal buckets of damp sand/gravel mix. Carry up the mountain and find some stupid flag in the woods that doesn’t exist. We were lied to over and over. Nobody really knew what to believe. Nobody knew if there was even a race going on. People were dropping like flies. Many were told they were disqualified for being too slow, or for not finding their stuff, or whatever. Unwittingly these racers believed ‘em and quit. Not us. We agreed nobody would take us out of the race. We would continue no matter what we were told. We think we covered about 34 miles so far and all kinds of vertical. We were smoked. The rest of the racers had a 1-2 hour break to sit, refuel, and change shoes/socks. Not us. We had to make up for the 7 mile detour. But we stuck together. We were solid.
Our clever support man, Rob saved us from disaster at the “flag challenge”. He found us and managed to deposit dire food and water supplies. Sneaky bastard! Support staff was strictly forbidden from giving food or water to their racers on the course. So he didn’t. He just dropped it off and told us where it was…. Love him for it. We were new men!
Next: individual challenges: chop wood and carry over the mountain to the farm. Many got lost—like me. This task should have taken 4-5 hours. We started about 8pm. I didn’t get to camp until 3:30am. Estimated weight 70-100lbs +pack weight (26lbs). I was well behind Ben and Adam, but going strong. It felt like a race was forming, but we didn’t know because everybody was being assigned different tasks, timelines and distances. WTF?
Next challenge: Sit in duck pond 45 minutes—designed to induce hypothermia. But clever Rob made hot coffee and hot chicken soup for us. Aaaaahhhh. A very pleasant soak at 4am. It was about 45 degrees outside. This was the first time I sat down in 39 hours. It was heavenly. Food and water refuel. Dry socks. Superglue on the blisters. I was a NEW MAN!
Next challenge: go back over mountain, down other side and find another farm. At the farm, split wood, the carry large log up mountain to station where we were to master an origami swan and memorize a phrase. Bad news: my log looked like an engine block from a V8. It weighed between 250-300lbs. Crap. So I rigged up a dragging harness and I basically dead-lifted it up the mountain, 8-12 inches at a time. I Ben and Adam crushed this challenge. So did I, it just took me 3 hours.
Next challenge: back to a different mountain, over the top and back to the farm. There we were told “you missed the cutoff, but if you want to continue, you may. You won’t be considered a finisher.” No problem. Give me that bag of concrete. 60lb bag back up the mountain, 1200vertical appx 3 miles. We were on about 50+ hours by this point.
Return back for next challenge. Go back over the mountain and down the other side. Join the remaining racers for 400m of human log rolling. 6 laps.
My day was done. At 56 hours (roughly 10pm Sunday) we had logged over 60 miles, 30,000 vertical feet, and carried everything from our weightless 26 lb packs to kayaks, pipes, buckets of wet sand, massive wet stumps, bags of concrete. Many buckled. Not us. I learned that Ben, Adam, and Don (the Beast from BC) had all finished, so I elected to join them. We had a flight to catch. Still no idea if there was actually a race going on, or when it may end, or what it would take to “complete”. None whatsoever. Odd.
What it was: Group hazing and speed hiking with heavy awkward crap. In Don’s words, “the world’s largest anticlimax”. Well put.
WHAT IT WASN’T
This wasn’t a race. This was a series of lies woven into a long, grueling war of attrition. It was challenging. It was rewarding. It was annoying.
The racers came for competition. There was no competition. Joe (the race Czar) had one objective: reduce the field to 10%. 236 started. He wasn’t going to stop until only 23 were left. But his staff created a big problem for him. Nobody on the course was held accountable to complete tasks. Just as Joe set a theme of betrayal, many racers adopted it, and sought ways to betray him. Racers skipped challenges. Racers dumped their buckets and carried them empty. Racers ditched their concrete and delivered empty sacks to the checkpoint, racers were told “you’re so far behind, you need to skip this one and meet the group at wherever”. Sadly, this was rampant.
Yes, an element of gamesmanship is fun, challenging, and welcome. However, this was an outcry. The BC Beast Don Schwartz (who solo finished 4th last year) led the entire “race”. He completed every task faster than any other. Ben was on his heels. On completion of what appeared to be the last task, he was around 5th place. But Joe wanted numbers. So he just kept adding trips over the mountain. Nobody was even on the mountain to check them off. It was senseless and petty. Ego clouded his decision-making and he ran many elite and impressive racers out of the event.
We learned a day later that they finally called off the “event” (not race) around midnight – just a few hours after we all pulled out. Anybody still on the course was declared a finisher, regardless of whether they actually completed the challenges. We could have sat there drinking beers and roasting weenies (like some did) . As long as we were there at midnight, when Joe finally called it off, we would have been finishers. But wait, why should we care, it wasn’t even a race…
WHY IT WAS STILL AWESOME
I met all of my objectives: I got to train with my buddies, and we spent hours together throughout the course. I got to see Ben crushing the course after a 7 mile disadvantage; he closed on the lead like a mad-man. I saw Adam crushing the course. I watched him battle back from incoherent hypothermia. He couldn’t speak, think, or move. He convulsed uncontrollably, even dressed on down and fleece head-to-toe. But he rallied and got back on the course and was strong as a bull (that’s a stud version of a Baca cow). I got to see my friends stick together and make a decision that we believed would eliminate us from the race, but we believed it was the honorable course.
I got to tell those bastards “give me that concrete” after the told me “you can’t continue, you’re too late”. I didn’t care. I was there to go, not to quit. We all carried this mentality.
Just like we all agreed we would–and did– continue to the end. Any one of us could have gone longer. And was ready and willing to. But we had a flight to catch. And there wasn’t even a race to stick around for anyway.
The world’s largest anticlimax. An otherwise highly esteemed World Championship Spartan Death Race wasn’t a race at all. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I am immensely proud of the boys and immensely grateful for all the encouragement our fellow Crossfit ABQ athletes showed, our dear wives, families, and many friends pledged. We were so honored by your support and still are.
Thank you!- Chad
For a full record of photos, courtesy of Rob Dowse, go here.