‘Death Race’ Challenges Mind, Body

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(Host) The name of the website – youmaydie.com – gives some sense of the intensity of an event that starts tonight in Pittsfield. Two hundred competitors from as far away as Greece and Ireland will test their mental and physical endurance in the Spartan Death Race.

VPR’s Nina Keck has our report.

(Keck) Robin Crossman is training. He starts by splitting wood.

(Crossman) "So what I’m going to do is throw that wood in the wheel barrow – fill it up a little bit and head up a mountain, up a side of a hill here."

(Keck) Crossman, a 54-year-old veterinarian from Chittenden, is in seriously good shape. He’s competed in two Ironman Triathlons in Hawaii and done his share of Burlington marathons. But slipping on a 40 pound weigh vest, he smiles and says training for the Death Race is different.

(Crossman) "People are going to wonder – what’s he doing? This is death race training – wheel barrow, wood, weight vest and running."

(Crowley) "The race originally started where you had 24 hours to finish the race, complete every task that they gave you in 24 hours. "

(Keck) That’s Proctor resident Gretchen Crowley. She competed in last year’s Death Race.

(Crowley) "Now they’ve changed the rules which is their game. So the race ends when they decide. So the race could be 24 hours, the race could be three days."

(Crossman) "We don’t’ know when the end is. We don’t know. It’s tough and you probably won’t finish. They’ll tell you right away you’re not going to finish. They play mind games – it’s the list that really gets you going."

(Crowley) "The list – and everyone has to bring all the same things – like last year you had to bring a book on Greek. It has to be this special book that you got on line."

(Crossman) "I didn’t’ mind so much that it was on Greek – but it weighed four and a half pounds. You had to carry that. You had to bring fifty dollars worth of pennies. Ahh, that’s 27 pounds. And a post hole digger. You had to bring five pounds of onions. And you had to carry these things throughout most of the race. And the post hole digger you never used it once."

(Weinberg) "I think that’s probably the hardest part of the whole race."

(Keck) That’s race director Andy Weinberg.

(Weinberg) "Carrying a five gallon bucket – think about that. There’s no easy way it’s bumping against your body – and it’s tough to hold it. And people come up with all kinds of crazy ways to carry their bucket, but we come up with things ourselves. Like this year we’re taking all the handles off the buckets. You know, we have these mystery things and mental challenges so we wait until you’re in sleep deprivation mode and then you have to put together a Lego structure or you have to translate Greek. That’s the mental side, but for the physical side we like challenges that aren’t easy."

"They’ll go up and down this trail several times. This whole section, the briars and the stinging nettle it looks wild, but they have to crawl through that late in the race. There will be a barbed wire section through here and they have to stay low, like 16 inches off the ground, but there’s rocks and sticks and stinging nettle, and barbed wire. It’s pretty intense, but they’re carrying things. They have 5 pound buckets.

(Crowley) "I think people like me who tend to have the ADHD personality, we love that. It’s the unknown, go do something different every hour. Instead of just like running a marathon, where you run your 26 miles and you’re done. It’s boring. The Death Race is not boring in any way shape of form."

(Crossman) "You get a lot of self confidence – I did this – I pushed my body as far as you think you can ever push your body and then you push it a little more. That’s where you’re at in the Death Race. If you can get past pushing it a little more than when it says it can’t go anymore, you’ll finish."

For VPR news, I’m Nina Keck in Chittenden.

(Host) Robin Crossman hopes to continue his streak as the oldest competitor to finish the Death Race, which begins tonight in Pittsfield.

VIDEO: Hobie Call trains for the 2011 Death Race

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