Coming Back as a Veteran

The racing season hasn’t exactly started off with a bang. After missing the Spartan SoCal due to weather and air traffic control (thanks Philly!), I’m now faced with an unpleasantly cold Winter Death Race.

Well, that’s what I signed up for, right? Fair point. Last year the Winter Death Race was held a month later–beginning of March, and it was a particularly balmy weekend (need I remind you of the sports bra burpee pics? No. Thank God. Because I can’t get over those either). I went in scared out of my mind, with no idea what to expect.

So this year should be easier, yes? Having finished two Death Races, it should be old hat to me by now. Yet the butterflies are still there, the unknown still lingers, and my biggest foe–the cold–is alive and kicking.*

I don’t doubt my ability to finish a Death Race. And I don’t doubt my ability to finish this Death Race. What I doubt is my body’s ability to last outside in single digit weather for 24+ hours. What I start to fear is giving in because I can no longer control my body, I can no longer feel anything, and I can no longer move my toes. Perhaps because I’ve seen so many people go down from hypothermia, but despite never being a victim, I have an irrational fear of it.

Hands and feet. Hands and feet. Hands and feet. That’s what it all comes down to–that’s what it always comes down to in the cold.

But is this fear any different than my pre-race fears in the past? Isn’t that what drove me to tears and a breakdown before World’s Toughest Mudder this past year? Didn’t I say the exact same thing preparing for the Winter Death Race last year?

While I’ve always said that the Death Race attracts a special group of people, let it be known that the Winter Death Race attracts an EXTRA special set of people. Current registration for this summer’s DR is 382 people; for the Winter Death Race – 74 (and I know a good number of those are already DNS’s). In this respect, it makes the WDR all the more special – it feels like a family event, albeit extremely dysfunctional. Very few people want to hang out in the woods and hike up and down a mountain in the dead of winter in Vermont.

And that’s the reason that keeps me coming back, despite the frigid temps, despite the long travel and time required off from work.

And despite the very real fear that, just because you’ve finished all the previous ones, it doesn’t mean that you are going to finish this one.

Being a veteran is a double-edged sword: while you have experience and know generally what to expect, you also (or at least I do) put expectations on yourself. As a newbs, all you can do is give it your best shot.

But lest I forget, we are doing this all for our own personal pride and enjoyment. There’s no monetary gain. There’s no glory. There are no fancy pictures or merchandise for sale. There’s a single plastic skull, and a feeling of satisfaction. And hopefully a hell of a lot of fun and amazing memories along the way.

And a breakfast sandwich at Pittsfield General Store.

See you soon, Pittsfield. It’s been too long.

(Can we get some bikram in this joint this year?!)

*Hi Andy & Joe! You wanted to know my weaknesses??