Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How to Train for the Death Race

The only thing that can be said for sure is that the Death Race will be tough.
"Becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable is the greatest shortcut to uncommon success in life."- a friend of a friend

 The Spartan Death race. Many seasoned endurance athletes have described it as the most challenging event they have ever attempted. On the event website,, the event is described as the ultimate physical and mental challenge with typically only a 10% completion rate. However you may describe it, the Death Race is hard. Really hard. There doesn't seem to be much question about that.

Clean and fresh at the beginning...
It has been several months since the 2012 summer Death Race, yet this is the first time I have written publicly about it. For me, this event was my first true ultra endurance event that has transformed into a personal journey to understand of my own spirituality, motivations, and to gain my own understanding of the human condition itself. The Death Race, unlike many other races, is not about competing against other participants. In most races I have been a part of, competitors rob one another of energy looking to seize an opportunity to surpass their accomplishments and make it to the finish line first.  Death Racers are a different breed of athlete who use their energy to fuel the energy of other Death Racers allowing each to go further than what would otherwise seem possible. It doesn't matter who beats who, who makes it to the end, or who finds their own finish line somewhere along the way. 
In this journey I have made many discoveries about myself, my own spirituality, and have begun to seek meaning in the interconnectedness of many different aspects of my life. I have learned that these connections are still beyond my comprehension but am nontheless blown away by their gravity.  The Death Race provides an opportunity for us to all see ourselves in a different light not easily glimpsed and to be a part of the journeys of others on their own quests. For these reasons, I will be back for another round in 2013 to address unfinished business and lingering questions.

Since my participation in this summer's Death Race, lots of people have asked me how I trained for it or how I plan to train for it in 2013. Many are Death Race hopefuls, either for 2013 or some year beyond. Some are just curious as to how one would prepare themselves for such an event. Either way, generally most people get a deer-in-the-headlights look from me, or if they are lucky they might get a stammer of uh, er, or hmmm...  This isn't an attempt on my part to avoid the question, create mystery, or protect my clandestine training secrets.

The truth is, I didn't.

This is not to say that I didn't do my best to become fit before the Death Race. I did. This isn't to say that I didn't run to the Home Depot to buy an axe and beg my friends to teach me how to swing it without chopping my foot off. I did that too. This isn't to say that I didn't make a gear list, change it, change it again and then start all over on three different occasions. I did that (I should point out, however, that this was a result of an ever changing gear list- not by my own choice). I lifted things, I carried things, I squatted things, and I ran like Forrest Gump.

The realization that everything will NOT fit in your pack is a memorable one.
What I mean to say is that I didn't do any training that is any different than what I would do to prepare for any obstacle race because you CAN'T train FOR it. This is, I believe, what separates the Death Race from other events. All you can do is try to be fit, both mentally and physically, and show up and hope that this is your day to do something really special.

So, if you can't train for it, what CAN you do to increase your chances of being successful? Certainly this is going to vary for each of us, but here are a few suggestions that might help.

1) Get an axe and make it yours. I drew flowers on mine. I thought this might mean the boys wouldn't want to use it. Turns out, that idea was wrong. Swinging it at logs a few times helps too.

2) Workout. Yeah, that sounds obvious. Mix it up- it is useless to be strong without endurance and vise versa. You don't need to be great at anything, but you don't want to have a weakness not tended to.

3) Train to your weaknesses. You know what they are. Don't hide from them, take them head on. Andy and Joe will find them anyway.

4) Have a positive attitude. If you go into the Death Race thinking that you probably won't finish, you won't.

5) Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Period.

 So, that is it. I know it is probably a little too simplistic and doesn't provide the concrete training secrets that you can write down in your workout notebook. Probably the biggest mistake you can make is believing that finishing this one race defines your success or failure as an athlete. What works one year might result in total failure the next.

This is not a Death Race at all. It is a Life Race and it has no finish line.
After 57.5 hours, not so clean and fresh.

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