I guess I will start with a thank you to everyone who has been supporting me. It would be impossible to list everyone so I wont list any, but thank you.
I will also apologise for not completing the race. I know no one will tell me I let people down etc. but I could have done better; I should have taken better care of my feet and not panicked about getting lost. Lessons learnt…on to the next challenge.
That being said, I am happy with what I achieved. 48 hours is no mean feat and I am happy I made it to the start of the ‘race’ (Sunday morning), as many people didn’t.
Lack of experience, allowing my feet to get that bad, is why I didn’t get any further – physically and mentally I was set to continue. They say one of the most important skills for this race is keeping your feet in a good condition. I guess this is a lesson I learnt the hard way. Maybe next time I will miss a two-hour training session and Google ‘race foot care’ instead.
Despite having changed my socks throughout the race, my feet started to get pretty bad at the start of the hike over Blood Root mountain. The group I set of with took a wrong path and ended way off track. After navigating the whole night we eventually got close to where we should have been and we took another wrong turn; this was the final straw for me and I felt terrible…I was convinced everyone was at the lake starting the swim and we would be DNF’ed. Looking back I don’t know why I felt this way as getting lost is part of the race and in actual fact we were only 45 minutes behind the leader at this point.
I felt so bad I did something that usually makes me feel better: I ran! I half sprinted back up the path and along the road until I found the checkpoint near the lake. This was it for my feet; it was only 4-5km, but the most painful run of my life to date. I not only had trench foot, I f***ing sprinted.
Once I took my shoes of I couldn’t even walk a meter. I crawled down to the lake to bathe them, but couldn’t stand. Andy came over and said how serious trench foot is explaining that I couldn’t go back over the mountain. I asked if I could do the swim anyway, he said of course so I crawled down to the lake. I didn’t finish though. 3 miles is a long way especially knowing I couldn’t continue afterwards. This had dented my spirit, so next thing I new I was warming next to a fire. And that was it, game over. I will have to endure another 48 hours of death racing until I get the opportunity to carry on again.
If I was to tell you I wasn’t secretly a little happy to be told I had to stop I would be lying. After swimming half a mile I could already feel myself getting far too cold. With my body type, swimming in the cold is very difficult and the only way to protect against hyperthermia is more kit, which I didn’t have. Hyperthermia is a medical condition some people are more prone to than others. With next to no body fat I hate the cold!
Looking back l shouldn’t have stopped. I couldn’t walk, but I should have tried to crawl and after 3-4 hours I could bare some weight on my feet and tried to walk. Andy said I couldn’t crawl back over the mountain but I should have tried. And that’s what the death race is all about. Someone told me before the race ‘just don’t stop and you will finish’. That’s the best advise for anyone attempting this… just don’t stop and you will finish. I stopped.
Henriette is telling me that it was the right thing to do to stop, trench foot can turn into a very serious injury and I have plenty of other challenges to prepare for. Next time hopefully I won’t stop; they would have to drag me of the mountain. However, I am also forgetting I would have to crawl with a rock and loaded rucksack.
I have to say I did loose a few of my marbles at different points throughout the race; Henriette and dad helped at some points and the group I got lost with helped as well. If I were alone and got lost I would have gone back. Being a novice to the race I didn’t see this was part of the game and to continue was the only option. If Henriette hadn’t reassured me when on the way to the wire crawl I would have been hopeless. It’s this psychological side that I was unprepared for and as soon as you panic you stop looking after yourself.
I have been told that in the early stages of the Death Race some people had an easier time than others. I definitely pulled some short straws but that is part of the challenge and I am proud to have stuck to the ‘rules’ as best as possible.
I have to admit; yes I did try and swap my rock, which was on the larger size of what people were carrying, but thanks to a nosy spectator I was told to retrieve my original boulder so as not to be called a cheater. If only there were more nosy spectators in the woods. But again that is part of the race and cheating does form much of many people’s game plan. The most important part of this race is self-preservation and bending the rules can aid this a lot. Yes – I bent the rules, but looking back I am undecided as to whether I should have done so more. Everyone’s experience over the weekend would be different because for the first 40 hours everyone would have a different concoction of tasks. From what I hear, some people even got the opportunity to rest for a couple of hours.
My kit was good but I learnt so much, especially from other competitors. I took things that were on the kit list too literally; I had a proper small shovel, proper tux, a proper saw… being more creative with the kit list would definitely have helped. And a rucksack with better straps is a must. My OMM 45+10 must have been designed to carry balloons; the straps are so thin they cut into your shoulders terribly. Definitely a poor choice!
On a funny note: on the hike over the mountains my sleep-deprived mind did see some strange things. A funny one was boxes of ‘Zico’ coconut water. This was what the organisers gave us to drink in the early stages of the race. No wonder it formed part of my weird hallucinations. I think by sponsoring the race Zico now have 200+ people who will never drink it again, me being one of them. Coconut water is also a natural laxative; I didn’t have a problem but I did give a couple of people some of my Imodium…
It’s amazing how a race can be designed to test you in so many ways and how effectively the organisers can mess with you mind. Joe and Andy are two legendary guys and what they put on in Vermont is truly amazing. Yes, you do manual labour others should be paid to do, but that’s the game and until the ‘race’ starts that’s what wears you down. At the end of the day, I really enjoyed it. I also enjoyed seeing what people can do when challenged. We built, by hand (!), a stone staircase to the top of a mountain. I would be proud to return in years to come and see that staircase still there and know I helped create it.
I am disappointed, as to finish would have been amazing and I had so many cheering me on. I feel bad I couldn’t push further. All I can say is this is just the beginning, I love racing and challenging myself – learning what I am capable of.
I have a lot of races on my to-do list for the long term and there are some great obstacle races coming up in the UK. I am also thinking about getting my axe out again for Primal Events, On-trial Frozen. I would also love the opportunity to try the Worlds Toughest Mudder; I believe this race would suite my skill set a lot better than the Death Race, but another trip to the US might be a bit much for this year.
I know I am going to get asked the question as to whether I would return to Pittsfield, so I might as well answer it; yes. This type of racing is incredibly addictive, I can’t describe the feeling you get of pushing yourself that far and finding you can go even further. The human body is an amazing thing and unless you challenge it you will never find what it is capable of.