So, blogging is turning out to be as much an ordeal as the actual Death Race, haha! I’ve been spending hours looking at pictures, reading other’s blogs to try and stay as true to the actual order of events as possible, and writing and editing. Whew! The rest of the blogs may be a little more abridged but you are welcome to ask any questions if I have shortened a part you are most curious about 🙂
Battle Damage: Fingertips are still a little numb, feet get tingly after standing more than an hour (but are normal sized again!), and muscles are still very strained (I pulled my leg getting out of bed and my arm carrying 1 bag of groceries – pathetic!). Heal, body, heal! I’m ready for some short runs and Sweat Therapy is having their annual ride with the Tour on weekends. I hate missing out on all the fun!
*****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.*****
Time: approximately 1am. After the ring of stones, Joe took us in one large group and we trekked through some woods, over a bridge and entered the river. He informed us that along the way, we would each need to catch a fish. At registration, we had all been given one teenie fish hook and then later had been made to get a fishing license. I picked up a branch to use for stability in the water and we started our miles-long slog through some very cold water. I started out with Ricky and my new friend, John, who had been one of the good guys from the rock circle. (After I asked John if he wanted to buddy up with me his support crew girl told me that I had picked a good one. I said I would try not to, scratch that, I would not disappoint him. Both statements turned out to be true.) It wasn’t too long before I lost my footing and fell to my chest becoming very cold all over. I fell a couple more times as the river went on and on. Every now and then, I would see lights on a bridge and think that surely we would be getting out here, but time kept draggin on and eventually we would pass right by that lighted bridge. Going was rough in places, there was fast water, deep water, branches that slapped you in the face, branches that you had to go under or climb over.
A little more than halfway through, I realized that John was looking for fish as we were going. I had completely forgotten about catching a fish. I shared what little knowledge I had on fish: that they like rooty areas and inlets (this may not be true at all!) and that Chris had told me that they are more active at dawn and would probably be attracted to our headlamps. After much fruitless searching, we decided that if there were any fish, they had probably already been scattered by the stomping of many Death Racers in front of us. At one point, I look into some shallows and see darting movement: fish! Small, baby, amoebas of fish, but definitely fish. “Do these count?” John suggested that we catch them and find out later. It takes what seems to be forever but John catches the first one by cupping his hands and scooping it out. He then helps me try and get one, but they seem on to our little plan. Once we both have our fish secured in ziplocks, we get back on our way. Ricky has forged on, but we stay back and John attempts to help another racer catch a tiny fish too. We end up picking up another racer, Erica, and finally make it to what seems to be a bank. We all crowd up on the rocky shore and wait for the rest of the racers to catch up. One racer shows Joe his tiny minnow and Joe says that’s not a fish and it doesn’t count. He shrugs it off and says, “well, it’s bait,” and sets off to catch a bigger fish while we wait 🙂 Lots of little pebbles have made a nice little home in my shoes, so I shake them out, ring out my socks and wait for what is next to come.
Racers are marched to a pond and told to stand up to their waists in the water for 5 mins. I don’t know how cold the water is but to me it feels positively warm compared to the river. John and I get in next to some other people doing their time. A girl and guy invite me to huddle up with them to stay warm. I happily oblige. Joe has to keep telling some guys to get deeper in and the teeth chattering is punctuated with him yelling, “balls in! I want your balls in the water.”
Once we’ve been released, Joe lays it on us: we are to swim across the cold pond, claw our way up the steep bank, push our way through the trees to the farm, grab a lit candle from one of the many volunteers (thank you volunteers!) and walk a perimeter of the field without letting our candle go out – 7 times. If the flame went out, we had to start over. Start over from the field, start over from the lap, or start over from the beginning? Luckily, I never had to find out.
The pond had been rigged with safety lines running from bank to bank. After 2 rounds, John and I learned it was best to wait for the people ahead of us to get more than halfway across and scurry hand-over-hand along the line very quickly to minimize the time spent in the cold water. Forget what I said about it being better than the river. Going all in, with your pack, is torture. Not to mention that the water smelled horrible. I never knew that water could smell. Goes to show that my water experience is limited to pools and beaches along the gulf. A few rounds in, John and I also decided on the best route up the steep, slippery slope. He let me go first, would push me out of the water and we would watch out for each other scrambling on all fours up the mud. By the time we got to the candle walk, the hot wax dripping on my skin felt so good. Clawing up the slope warmed you up, then walking slowly to prevent the flame from blowing out let hypothermia start to set in. Before heading back to plunge into the icy pond, we would warm our feet and hands by the fire, our clothes setting off giant plumes of steam.
John and I make it through all 7 rounds and then are told to take off our shoes, hand them in and wait. We sit, barefoot on the bank and wait. We become a shivering, hypothermic mass and wait. Finally, Joe tells us that there are 3 guys that spent too much time by the fire and that they have to swim the pond and climb up the slope 5 more times as punishment. Once they are finished, we can find our shoes and head to to the next task. We are all to sit and wait for them to finish, or encourage them to quit. I’m shaking uncontrollably, as is everyone else, and we cheer them on, hoping to lift their spirits and speed their rounds. We all huddle to share body heat and after a while, a racer named Michelle throws her foil emergency blanket around me, Ricky and John. Thank you, Michelle! When the 3 guys finished, someone yelled that they needed medical help and when I looked over, one of the guys’ hands were blue and 2 were hugging as what I can only assume was an attempt to stay alive. I don’t know if they continued or had to stop racing at that point.
The rest of us headed to where they threw our shoes in the woods and one or two racers went in and started throwing them out. This is when we found out that our footwear had been anointed – dunked in cooking oil – before being flung into the trees. I cannot express in words right now how HAPPY I am to see Chris at this point. When we got out of the river, before going into the pond waist high, he had asked me what I needed and I begged him for some dry shoes and socks. Thank. You. Chris. Everyone else put on their oily shoes, I put on some dry shoes and socks (a HUGE moral booster) and we headed off to the next task. By now the sun had come up and I had been racing for about 14 hours.
*while I am doing to rock circle and the river walk, my support crew is bushwhacking miles through the woods, up the mountain, in the dark because they had been told there were clues up there that would be helpful later during the race. I believe they were misled to think they only had 1/2 a mile to hike. It ended up taking hours. Thanks, team, you’re the best. Someone later said that this was a rouse by Andy and Joe to purposely separate us from our teams so that we were forced to create bonds with our rock circle group and river walk partners. It is said that they wanted us to use those bonds to look out for each other during the rest of the race. Is this true? I don’t know, but that was certainly the outcome.