Sunday, approximately 12pm
I check in with the volunteers and am told to find Andy or Joe for my next task. Most people are doing farm-like chores – I see lots of wood and wheelbarrows and such about. I find Andy and he looks surprised to see me and asks me if I’m still in. Of course I’m still in! I just came down that freaking mountain! He gets on the walkie and says something like, “who said that Megan Mays dropped? Because she’s standing right in front of me and is still in the race.” Then he starts ticking off tasks left to do: go get bucket from Colton Camp, bring bucket back down, fill at pond, take back to Colton to have water measured, leave bucket, go to Roger’s to leave log, come back to Amee, plant cucumbers, do test, and he tells me, “so you might as well finish.” And I think, “yeah, might as well finish.” He was so nonchalant about it even though I’m looking at 8-9 more hours of work and have been going for 41 hours straight. In my mind, if Andy thinks it’s possible, then it is. I’m about to finish this bad boy.
He then directs me to Joe who thinks for a minute and tells me that the rocks lining the drive all need to be deadlifted. Just to clarify, I ask him if I’m allowed to get help on the bigger rocks. He reluctantly allowed help (saying he would prefer another athlete to help, but that they were all busy) from my support crew, looking at Anita and Laurel.
Laurel’s got this. We start around the circle, and she’s taking most of the weight. Some rocks need all three of us but for the most part, it’s all her. After some weak protesting about not doing the brunt of the work, Laurel says something to the point of, “he said that we could help you on the big ones, not that you had to do the lifting.” In tricky terms, this is true. Ricky had come back from the Death Race Camp in the spring warning me about listening closely to their words, how they would say something like, “put water in your bucket,” which most people took to mean, “fill up your bucket,” but which actually meant, “put any amount of water in your bucket.” So I acquiesced. Laurel is literally a rock star. Muscles bulging, sweat pouring down, blood from a ripped finger dripping on the stones…she knows how to get this done. It takes no time at all and the rocks have been lifted.
Bearing in mind that I have to be clean and at the church at 3pm for our mandatory sermon, I head towards Colton with Jerritt like it’s the first day, nothing’s sore, and there is definitely something to lose. I’m timing the trip up just in case I have to turn around before I even get there, but it only takes 20 or 40 mins…either way, there was plenty of time to make it back, down some Red Bulls and change. The volunteers at Colton were excited to see me again, telling me I looked much better than the last time they saw me. They gave me a bucket, a cryptic message about how much water needed to be in it when I got back (they refused to say how high the water had to be up the side, but the girls’ height was 2 inches less than the boys’) and sent me back to Amee. As before on every downward trek, my knees ached relentlessly, but I arrived back at base camp with over an hour to spare. I changed clothes, wiped myself down with some baby wipes, drank as much Red Bull as I could (for fear of sleeping through something important in the sermon) and talked to some of the racers that were hanging around.
While I was getting ready, the crew was devising a plan of action for the water-bucket carry back up to Colton. The boys figured I could carry the bucket, they could carry gallon jugs of water from the pond and I could fill it up at Colton. Laurel set off to ask an official if that was allowed or if I would get disqualified. The man she found said that I was supposed to carry water in my bucket, but if I were to spill some and need some more, I could get it from somewhere, emphasizing that last word.
Along the way to the church, I kept running into racers that I had met previously along the course. When they found out that I was still in, I got huge votes of confidence and lots of encouragement. Thank you, Death Racers. This much needed energy made me so happy when I needed it most.
At church, we listened to a sermon about racing, death and religion but I can’t recall specifics because I really was trying not to fall completely asleep, but I do remember when Joe took the podium and said that there were 7 racers who were finished with the course and many others who were going to be going back out to finish after leaving church. He asked us to raise our hands if we intended to stay and finish. By his count, 22 people were still racing. Then he announced that we had all finished, the race was over.
What was I feeling at that exact moment? Disbelief and excitement. Disbelief that he was telling the truth…surely there’s a catch. Excitement that maybe he was telling the truth and I wouldn’t have to go back up the mountain! When it finally did sink in, I felt pride, relief and overwhelming surprise that I had finished. While finishing or reaching 48 hours (and there was a point on Joe’s mountain where I was just trying to get to 48 hours, the hell with finishing) was my goal, I never fully let myself believe that it was going to happen. And yet, here I was, one of 35 finishers. Out of 155 people that started and over 200 that signed up, I was in a small percent of those who stuck it out and kept moving forward.
There was a lot more talk about staying to finish the tasks if you wanted (and Susan was correct in assuming that the look on my face in one of the posted Facebook pictures was disappointment that I wouldn’t get to prove I could go on for 6 more hours) and I was torn with the idea for a few seconds. Was I really a finisher if I didn’t do the same amount of work as the other racers? But then the thought of going up another mountain sent my muscles into the fetal position so I had no qualms about stopping when Joe said it was okay to do so.
Back at base camp, there was much rejoicing and much picture taking as can be seen here:
Overall, the Death Race really has been a life-changing experience. I met so many astounding individuals, rediscovered why I love each one of support crew (because they are caring, sacrificing, strong, amazing people), took myself physically and mentally to the edge and did something that few people will ever do (and live to tell): faced Death. I’ve said it many times, but will say it again – I can’t say that I had fun, but it was the most awesome weekend of my life.
In the 2 weeks following the Death Race, I would ask myself many times if I was a true Death Racer, having received much more support than most other people there (food and clothes at most checkpoints). Is it really Death Racing if there are people to encourage you, feed you and warm you up along the way? Also, the fact that I did not go up the waterfall haunted my steps. Ricky dropped after an amazing 33 hours 1/2 way through the barb wire after having climbed his way up the waterfall with his 3 ft log on his back. I can’t say for sure that I wouldn’t have done the same after ascending that treacherous path. A 180 degree turn from that thought is that I did see other racers taking shortcuts. At one point, Anita looked at me after 2 racers clearly did not do what they were told and I said to her, “they have to live with themselves, I have to live with me.” And that is the ultimate stand that I take on finishing the Death Race. It truly is an individual race. No one is watching anyone else, most of us have our heads down and we’re trying to force our bodies to move just one more step. The Death Race turned out to be whatever you wanted it to be and I accomplished what I set out to do: push beyond the reaches of my normal, comfortable life and see how my body and brain react. Regrets? The only semblance of a regret I have is that being a finisher means I don’t yet know where my limits are and that just means pushing farther next time.