A stump almost broke me.
I was finished chopping my wood and stacking it, except for this bastard of a stump about 3 feet in diameter, knotted to hell, and frozen solid. The thought entered my mind “there’s no way I can chop this up. There is absolutely no way.”
And at that moment, I knew I had to snap out of it. Because that’s exactly what they want: once they have you mentally defeated, you are toast. Might as well throw in the towel and call it quits.
And snap out of it, I did. We were only 12ish hours into the race, and a piece of wood wasn’t going to break me. I would get it done. So on the advice of a wise DR veteran, I started hacking around the outside. Slowly, over the next half hour, the stump came apart.
From that point on, I knew that nothing would break me. Throw at me your worst, Andy & Joe, and I’ll do it. I will go until you tell me to stop. Because what I learned from the Winter Death Race, above all else, is that your attitude determines your success. But I had it easy.
Over the course of the 32+ hour race, I witnessed attitudes that ran the gamut from my fellow racers. While there were a few minor exceptions, I was continually impressed by the spirit and the resilience of my fellow racers, especially those racers that weren’t leading the pack, but continued to stick it out. Those racers are the true inspiration, and are the ones for whom I have the utmost respect.
Think about it. It’s “easy” being in the lead, or at least towards the front. You don’t really know what is ahead of you, so you do things as Joe & Andy tell you to do it. I hung towards the front of the pack for most of the race, but was never out in front. So while I knew certain things coming to me (say, another run up the mountain or another 1000 burpees), it was never an overwhelming amount.
For those racers that fell behind initially, the list of what is ahead of you grows…exponentially. And to know that, for instance, you have 2000 more burpees, 2 more mountain loops, a dip in the pond, and more wood to chop, can be mentally devastating. Moreover, knowing how hard it would be to catch the leaders, or even go fast enough to finish, is enough to make any sane person want to call it quits.
Take, for example, the lovely and badass Jessica Pineault. She had the unfortunate occurrence of having to roll a log that had split in two, which forced her way behind the pack. As several of us were working on our 3rd set of 1000 burpees about 24 hours into the race, she was working on her 2nd set, knowing that she still had an additional mountain loop and a dip in the pond before she even made it to her 3rd set. But she soldiered on, laughing and joking with us as we all did burpees together on the frozen ground. “Burpee drunk,” she said. And unwavering, with a smile on her face, she continued on.
It’s times like this that show your true character. And I’m honored to race with those that embody that spirit, and inspired to conduct myself in the same way. I only hope, that the day when I’m faced with that feeling of hopelessness, that I can carry myself with as much integrity and respect that I saw out there this weekend.
Everyone congratulates the winners and the finishers. I’m proud of what I accomplished by finishing in those 32+ hours, and I’m proud of how I got there. But we had it easy–the unknown gave us a mental advantage, one that wasn’t shared by all the racers.
So fellow Death Racers and future Death Racers: soldier on. Don’t let them break you. And realize that sometimes the greatest source of inspiration comes from those that may not finish at all.