the Death Race chronicles – how it ends
I started blogging about my Death Race experience last summer. Yet after four blog posts, I couldn’t write another line. It wasn’t in me. People emailed, people wondered, people asked.
I couldn’t do it.
Why couldn’t I finish it?
Hell, I drove out to the mountains of Vermont this year, just to put myself back into that place. To smell the air, to experience the event from another perspective, to see the people. Nothing.
However, I think I finally have the answer as to why I couldn’t finish the story of the Death Race. It’s because I did not know how I felt about the Death Race. I didn’t know how the story ended.
There was no pretty bow on the package. There was no punch line at the end. No moral. No life lesson. And part of me felt robbed. Cheated somehow. Where WAS my damn life lesson?
Here’s the story of the Spartan Death Race 2013:
I signed up a year in advance.
I started this blog.
I trained some more.
I arrived in Vermont.
I carried heavy things, and did burpees.
I chopped wood.
I pulled weeds.
I stood at the finish line.
I walked away without a skull.
I did not quit.
In the Death Race community, which I came to know and love, this is called a bib finish. You were not pulled from the event. You got to keep your bib. You did not quit. You were not disqualified. But you didn’t get a skull.
The unappreciated lot of the finishers. All the pain, none of the glory.
Following the Inferno and the Purgatory, the Paradise was missing.
Christ did not say to his first company:
‘Go, and preach idle stories to the world;
but he gave them the teaching that is truth,
and truth alone was sounded when they spoke;
and thus, to battle to enkindle faith,
the Gospels served them as both shield and lance.
But now men go to preach with jests and jeers,
and just as long as they can raise a laugh,
the cowl puffs up, and nothing more is asked.
But such a bird nests in that cowl, that if
the people saw it, they would recognize
as lies the pardons in which they confide.
[Paradiso, Canto XXIX, lines 109–120, Mandelbaum translation]
“Did you finish?”
“Did you finish?”
“DID YOU FINISH?”
I had to come up with an answer.
“Did you finish?”
I was in that fucking race for 57 hours.
Some of you were expecting a more detailed narrative. You may feel somewhat disappointed. You may feel robbed. Even cheated. “That’s it?”, you may be thinking. Well, that’s exactly how I felt after the event.
“That’s it?”, as we stood in line at 6am on Monday morning. When it all came down to one chip – the one you got for swimming in the frigid lake. Did you have that chip? The yellow chip.
I did not.
Neither did few dozen of my fellow racers who never got the opportunity to attempt the swim.
We did landscaping instead. For 22 hours.
Some were angry. “We never even got the chance!”, they protested. In typical Death Race style, Don did not waste any time.
“You want to swim?”, he shouted. “Ok, you’ll swim!”.
“Right now, gather your gear, and we are heading out to do BloodRoot and the swim”. That’s a 30-mile hike, and then a 3-mile swim. Most protesters hesitated. A small group were adamant that they wanted an opportunity.
As I looked at Italian, he sighed. I guess I already had that look in my eyes. “What do I have to lose?” was my first thought. And the second thought was: “I am not fucking quitting this thing. I will be able to speak to the full experience of this event, if this is the last thing I do, damn it”.
And so we headed out – perhaps, a dozen or so, of crazies.
A number of arbitrary checkpoints were created on the spot. “The first three people to make it to Borden’s house are going to get skulls!”. Some sprinted, others shrugged. There was already way too much lying in this event. If BloodRoot was even a remote possibility, there was no use in tiring ourselves out. After all, we needed to do the swim. It was about the swim.
Of course, it wasn’t about the swim. The race organizers were bluffing. And the first three racers to sprint to Borden’s house did get skulls. Go figure.
When we finally turned around and headed back, I felt nothing.
I felt incredibly disappointed. Not in myself. I’ve pushed myself further than I thought I could. Disappointed in the event. “What’s all this hype?”, was the thought running through my head. “What is this? What is this strange animal that someone refers to as a “race”?. There was nothing athletic about this event for me. For some, perhaps. Yet I witnessed strong fit guys quit for the same reason. They were disappointed. They were bored.
Yeah, I finished.
“To DNF a race” is still on my bucket list.
One day I WILL meet a race bigger than me.
I will give it my all. My everything. And it won’t be enough.
A race that will bring me to my knees.
The Spartan Death Race was not that race.
Did Not Quit,
YOUR TURN: How did you like the Death Race chronicles? Have you had YOUR perfect DNF?