*****Disclaimer: This is my account of events as best as I can remember. The nature of the race precludes the recount of things exactly as they happened without the omission of some details and the distortion of others. I only hope to convey the misery and the glory of my time in Pittsfield, Vermont, and to not misrepresent any other persons that may be named in this blog.*****
Friday: we get up and have a huge breakfast at this awesome local restaurant, Sugar and Spice. At this point, it’s me, Ricky, Dawn and Chris, Laurel, and Roger (Dawn’s brother). We all order a monster amount of food, but I’m unable to eat too much due to nerves.
Death Racers had been advised to attend a parachute packing class at 12pm if they were around the farm. We made it a point to be there when that happened but with a bit of time to spare, we meet back up at the hotel to regroup before heading out. I’m feeling sleepy and try to take a nap, but can’t make it happen, there’s just too much going through my head. Ricky and I end up chatting instead. Anita arrives.
We head to Amee Farm and start looking for this class. Lots of groups are ambling around, but no one seems to know where to go. We try the barn and the General Store which is a short walk down the street. At the General Store, we meet up with some people that had just come from the church, another likely meeting place. They hadn’t seen anyone. Ricky knew a couple of guys hanging around and the consensus was that we had been misled. There would be lots of this to come in the next few days. No one tried to make it to the Free Mason’s meeting, we all pretty much agreed that time would be better spent. Ricky headed back to the hotel and the rest of us made a Walmart trip for various supplies. When we got back, Laurel and I went to register and the crew got to work getting base camp set up, organized and sheltered from the rain – there would be lots of that in the next few days too. I leave Dawn in charge of the whole operation for many reasons – we’re the same person, she knows what I need, she’s done the most Death Race research, she knows how to get things done, she’s organized and responsible and most of all, because I trust her with my life.
At some point, we notice a long line forming outside the barn. The people waiting say that they are doing video interviews/waivers and that everyone has to get one done. So I get in line. As the line gets bigger, one Death Racer comes out and says that we’re going to have to arrange this large pile of wood into smaller piles of 15. We can either do it now or later. We choose to do it now.
After the wood is moved, they say they also need these huge PVC pipes cut into equal sections, filled up with water, then capped. And, they need this pile of rocks (some are boulders!) moved into groups of 6. Each group of 6 rocks must have a large stone followed by one a little smaller, then one a little smaller than that… Ricky and I worked on this and then got back in line for the interview.
That’s when Andy comes out, looking comfy-cozy and dry, half-eaten pizza in hand, and tells us that a guy from Fish and Wildlife is here and we will all have to get a Vermont fishing license to continue the race. The 1-day license costs $20. Much ado later, I’m standing in line waiting to get my fishing license. This drives me crazy…I hate lines and I hate waiting. I would rather be moving rocks. If only I knew…
I get my license and by now it’s 6pm and time for the meeting at the church. We all head that way, put our packs outside and find a seat. The pastor gives a little seminar on world religions. Many people are taking notes; the guys beside me are taking turns writing notes on each others’ arms with a sharpie. Neither Ricky nor I have brought any note-taking materials, so we do the best we can to listen and memorize. I’m already trying not to fall asleep – not a good sign. Before we leave, we’re asked to make a donation (our remaining $2 from the mandatory gear list) and told to take a sip of wine. Andy tells us that we will have to identify this particular wine later at one of the stations (not true). Ricky and I still have our video to do and we’re released first with about 40 more who have yet to get that done. They’ve finally figured out that interviewing 155 people one at a time is taking too long (you think?) and start letting us back 4 at a time. I wish I could remember the full waiver, but they asked us very specifically if we knew the nature of the race was dangerous, that we may be seriously injured, that we would be coming in contact with different, possibly hazardous situations and if we were willing to take on these risks. I said yes.
By now we were split up into groups of 13 by our bib numbers. Our groups were each taken to a circle of rocks (the ones we had moved into groups of 6 earlier) with a hay bale and a water-filled PVC pipe in the center. Joe came around and explained the name of the game: We each stand in front of a rock, we each deadlift the rock in front of us, we SET the rock down (not drop or throw! I hear this a million times…SET the rock down, SET the rock down, SET the rock down*), we move to the left, we deadlift that rock, we continue around the circle until we get to our original rock, we all move into the center of the circle and lift the PVC pipe and the hay bale at the same time, that counts as 1. We are to do this 150 times. There will be a volunteer stationed at each group to make sure there’s no funny business. What am I thinking at this moment? Holy crap, Batman!! There’s no way. That’s going to take at least a day. Is that even humanly possible? I can’t see myself deadlifting rocks for that long. I start to doubt my worthiness to be at this race. There’s one girl in my group, the rest are guys, some of them huge (in other words, they look like they COULD deadlift rocks all day long). Everyone is to wear their packs for the entire task. I pull myself together. I knew that something like this was going to happen. From research of previous years, I had gathered that they were going to try and weed out the quitters early on by throwing something insane at us at the start. I knew this was coming, and I tell myself just to hang in there.
Joe asks the racers if they want to move the girls into their own circles with smaller rocks. One veteran racer saves us from certain humiliation by saying, no, the guys will help out the girls. Girls are later told that they can take their packs off. Girls are also told later that they get to sit 5 rounds out on the 30’s (so rounds 30-35 are resting rounds, 60-65…). Everyone is allowed to get help from a teammate if a rock is unliftable. My fellow girl and I need help with almost every rock. I feel bad at this point that the guys are not only having to lift their rocks, but also help us with ours. They are doing twice the work. Yesel is the other girl on the team and she’s flown from LA with her friend and training partner, Daren (fun fact: Daren’s birthday was Saturday and at 12:15am, we all stop to sing happy birthday to him). They are both very nice as I will find about lots of people at this amazing race. Yesel and I get into a groove of moving after each round so that a different guy can help and no one has to carry the burden the entire time. Most of the guys are really nice and don’t seem to mind the extra work. There are 2 guys that really piss me off. Okay, you feel a little resentful having to do more than your share. But it’s not just that. These guys are getting aggravated, I can tell. Anyone could tell. They are dropping and throwing their rocks and trying to get away with pushing rocks out of the circle so there’s less to lift. The volunteer keeps telling them and us that that will get them disqualified. Stupid boys. We end up with a volunteer that sticks with us for almost the entire time we’re on the rocks. I wish I knew her name because she was freaking awesome. She dubbed us “Team Brows” due to the fact that one of our team members had shown up shaved from head to toe (one alternative to having the prerequisite newspaper article published) and had sharpied thick, black, angry eyebrows onto his forehead. Awesome. Go Team Brows! Our volunteer cheered us on, encouraged us and kept us laughing (of course the 2 stupid boys were immune to any such shenanigans).
After who knows how many rotations, maybe 20 or 30, Team Brows is getting really discouraged. Other teams are 20, 30, 40 rotations ahead of us. It’s about this time that Laurel comes to check on me and tells me that we have the biggest rocks of all the groups. An official finally notices this and groups start rotating to different rock circles. Our next set of rocks is like a gift from heaven. I can lift all but 2 of the rocks by myself. Team Brows really picks up the speed. All the other rock circles we move to are similar. We hear that the group that got our original rocks ended up moving some of the bigger ones out for smaller ones, that’s how bad it was. By now we’re really working better together and taking breaks every 20 rotations. When we get to rotation 80, Joe stops us and tells us we’re going to go do something else but that we still owe him the rest of our rounds. We are to pack up in groups of at least 2 and get our stuff ready to go. I think we were there from 8pm to 1am. Megan – 1, Ring of Stones – 0.
*Later, we are told that one person got disqualified during the rock circles. He broke another racer’s foot after dropping his rock, not setting it down.