*MISSED PART OF THE STORY? Part 1 HERE. Part 2 HERE.
The comedy begins.
Friday, June 21, 2013 1430 hours, 0 hours into the race
My Death Race has officially started. I work my way through the racers, who are already sweaty and dirty, until I finally find Team Four. We have few metal pipes to carry, so I jump in, assisting another girl in the group, and we start hiking up the mountain.
Ten minutes in, I’m tired. I’m sweating profusely. “Uh-oh”, I think to myself. “That’s a little disconcerting”. Yet again, for me the first 500m of any race are always the hardest. Slow starter, this one. [If you don’t believe me, please refer to the photo of me below chopping wood 48 hours in. I look fresh as a cucumber.]
1530 hours, 1 hour into the race First Circle of Hell – Limbo
We arrive at our destination – small flat area with a pile of huge rocks. I glance at the rocks tenderly. Something tells me we will have to become friends. Might as well.
The hunch is correct. First task – we are building a massive staircase to the top of the hill. We drag rocks up the hill, again and again. Then we drag some more rocks.
The freaking things are heavy (at least we think so at this point). We use four pipes, lined up, as makeshift rails, then push the rocks, one by one, onto the edges, and push, pull, drag the rock to the edges of rails. Then pull out two pipes, carry them uphill, re-align, keep pushing. Two or three guys are pushing the rock uphill, while another four or five are pulling onto a strap, wrapped around the rock. I partner up with one of my teammates to be on the pipe-carry detail.
Dante Alighieri described it well:
[quote] … I saw multitudes to every side of me; their howls were loud while, wheeling weights, they used their chests to push.[/quote]
It looks exactly like this:
The work is mind-numbing (at least I think so at this point), but we are still in the honeymoon stages of both the Death Race and the team dynamics. Word on the street cross out!!!!!! in the woods is that a fist fight has already broken out in one of the other groups.
Andy shows up, and dishes out praise to our team, seeing the pile of rocks slowly dissipating. Joe passes by without saying much. Don appears like a hurricane, screaming bloody murder, leaving a trail of burpees behind. They are like the alter egos of a comic book superhero – never seen together in the same room.
I try to eat to hunger, rather than according to my regular fueling routine. The rocks are heavy, but it’s still not quite the same physical effort as a continuous run. Now that we are in the shade, I’m not even sweating. I sip water, and try to settle into a labor routine.
We do as we are told. We are being good. We are even fed at one point in the evening – chicken and potato salad. I eat with my hands.
I can’t shake the image of slave plantations. Maybe, lynchings will be next.
2130 hours, 7 hours into the race
Change of location. Our group picks up and starts moving forward. We pass other groups, laboring away at their corresponding tasks. It’s dark, when we finally stop. Mission – continue dragging rocks up the hill, dig up the trail so individual large rocks can be placed in the middle to serve as steps, carry gravel and soil to the steps, to pack them down. Straightforward enough. Part of me is glad that we have not yet been asked to eat live snails, or hang upside down for three hours.
However, we do have a problem. It’s way too crowded on the trail. Two hundred people are trying to work where 50 bodies would do nicely. Now it’s about carving out a spot for yourself where you can contribute and be useful for the next x number of hours.
While some racers are laying it all out there, with the determination of working elephants, more experienced racers are clearly taking it easy. While all are working, the strategy of the latter group is apparent. The race has not really started yet. The first 24-hours serve as a prolonged hike designed to pre-tire you.
I dig, and carry. Push, then pull. Chew on some food. Cut branches off a tree. It’s past my bedtime. And we are not pushing nearly hard enough to keep me awake. I’m starting to get bored.
Saturday, June 22, 2013 0430 hours, 14 hours into the race
Our night activities do not get any more exciting in hours to come. I gotta admit, if I’m gonna be awake past 11pm, I prefer a little more adrenaline in my bloodstream than landscaping can provide.
Finally, at 4am we are instructed to get our gear, and to start lugging our butts up the mountain. Up, up and away. All the way to the summit. Once there, I’m not 100% sure what we are supposed to be doing – I’m still bored and really sleepy. Backpacks are off, and we lie on the ground. It seems that we are left alone for about twenty minutes.
I strategically place myself on the backpack, so my butt is not touching the wet grass – I’m holding on to relative state of dryness for as long as it is possible. Without movement, we start getting cold – I put on a fleece (also still dry!) and get out an emergency blanket. Yes, I look like an incredible dork, unfolding the shiny parcel and making crackling noises, but once wrapped in its foil goodness, I’m as comfortable as the situation allows. I fall asleep for what will be my longest nap of the race – a whopping fifteen minutes or so.
If you are caught sleeping during the Death Race, you are disqualified. Note the “caught” part… I think sleeping during our little siesta was actually legit, but I’m way too anxious. It’s like sneaking food from your own damn fridge. You look over your shoulder, hoping not to get caught, not sure why you are sneaking around in the first place.
Soon we are on our feet. We are moving more rocks. These ones are three times the size of the rocks we had to move before. It takes ten, twenty, thirty people to roll one of these monsters towards the cabin on top of the mountain. We place rocks in a circle, creating seating.
Then next task… The one item on our gear list that everyone is dying to get rid of – freaking hay and grass seed. Each person runs (walks, crawls) down the trail, spreading the grass seed alongside the stairs we created overnight, and mulching it with hay. Throwing handfuls of seed around, I momentarily regret, not mixing in some BC buds into the mix. Crossing the border would have been that much more difficult, but it’s a source of national pride, y’all. Joe would have a healthy grow op in few short months. Imagine the excitement! And just in time for the Team Death Race. You are welcome, people!
As I return hayless and seedless, we get ready for a hike. Where off to next? Someone says we will have to complete a four mile swim. I just shrug. It’s the Death Race. No point in even wondering. Four mile swim. Ten mile swim. Carry fifty pounds. Carry hundred and fifty pounds. I either can do it, or I cannot. Whether it’s the former or the latter, only time will tell. Racers get their hiking poles out. I’m jealous. I’ve considered poles briefly, but having never used them before, decided against experimenting too close to the race. These iron shoulders and thunder thighs would have to do the job.