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Posts Tagged ‘Adventure Racing’

Death Race: You May Die in Vermont

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

death-race-vermontThe Death Race could be one of the most difficult adventure races known to man (or woman).  The tagline of this race is, ‘You May Die.’  Yeah, that sounds pretty gnarly.  But what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger right?  Well signing the three word race waiver that states, “I might die” may make you second guess that statement.  The race is 24 hours of physical and psychological challenges full of barbed wire, sharp rocks, mental tasks, and carrying things for no particular reason.  There are no ground rules so you can’t train for this race, just be ready to kill yourself.  It’s like any race though, 95% mental right?  Well, probably more like 110% mental; and I realize that giving anything more than 100% is mathematically impossible…

Race Director Joe DeSena says, “…failure always comes when there’s a lack of commitment.”  Joe knows about hard work and commitment.  He’s from Howard Beach, Queens where he parlayed a pool cleaning business into a job on Wall Street.  Who knew they had pools in downtown Manhattan?  From that job Joe made a small fortune and bought a 400-acre spread in the Green Mountains.  There he has established a securities trading concern, a wedding retreat, and yoga studio.  This smart businessman even bought the local trading post, why let someone else make money on the increased visitors you attracted to this small town?  When Joe isn’t busy building a small town empire he runs Ironman triathlons which include desert crossings, river safaris, and ice treks.  Joe wanted to create a race that separates the tough from the mentally tough.  He even discourages participants during the race, telling them to just quit.  Sounds like a combination of my fraternity hell week, Ranger school experience, and my “nothing was ever good enough” father.  Sign me up!

Here’s a race recap, so you can expect the unexpected.  From 8-12 on a Friday night you take your bike and mandatory gear up 1800 feet to get instructions and make your game plan, then go back down the hill to try to sleep from 12-330, race starts at 4:00 AM.  First you crawl uphill in a ditch under barbed wire until you get to a bunch of 1 foot tree stumps.  You have to find the stump with your number on it.  The task is to dig the tree stump out of the ground with the roots using an axe or any other equipment you may have.  If you don’t do this in 2 hours, you’re already out of the race.  Thanks for trying.  Once you get the stump out of the ground you have to carry the stump, along with your other gear, back down the barbed wire ditch.  You then grab your bike and other equipment and crawl down another barbed wire ditch leading to a rocky river.  You walk about a mile or two down the river, filled with only jagged rocks on the bottom, until you come to a man with a single match (not waterproof).  Take the match, turn around, go back upstream, and up the ditch you just came from, still carrying all of your equipment and the stump.  You are led to a pile of 20 large logs where you must quarter split every log.  Some logs can take up to 30-40 minutes to split.  Make 6 of the splits small because you will be taking 6 logs, along with your bike, gear, stump, and match with you.  You go for about a mile where you can drop the logs before climbing up a steep mountain.  At the top of the mountain you have to memorize 10 names.  Turn around and go back down the mountain to recite the names, if you mess up guess where you are going back up to.  Once passing this task you get into another barbed wire ditch and crawl to a foot bridge with Legos on it.  You must memorize the Lego structure and colors and go back down the ditch.  You come to a pond where there is a bag of Legos for you to recreate the Legos formation you just saw.  You then travel back down to the rocky river, but this time you make a right and go upstream to a flame and torch in the middle of the river.  You must then search for a hidden chicken egg in the forest.  You must find some wood and make a fire to boil water (hope you still have that match) to cook the egg then eat it (I’m allergic to eggs, otherwise I’d do this race).  After completing this task you go over a hill where your bike tires are and ride to the finish.  Of course not before adding 20% of your body weight worth of rocks to you.  Try balancing that.  Sound easy?  Then you must be confident like Donald Trump.  DT’s gone broke multiple times you know.

Or if you want to see what you are really made of then sign up.  Still not sure if you can handle it?  Check out this video that shows some sections of the course.  Still not sure?  Try it anyway, don’t worry, you may die.

Challenge your Body when not Running

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

I injured my knee and have taken 7 days off of running with no improvement, so I went to the doctor to be referred to another doctor next week.  While I wait for my prognosis, I’ve begun to think about what I may do to take some of the pressure off my knees that the constant pounding of running creates; hopefully I will not need to.  Should I get on a bike?  I really don’t see the thrill in that.  Plus Pee Wee Herman loves bike.  Should I start swimming?  I’ve never felt like I can push myself to the limits in the water.  If you push yourself to exhaustion you drown, right?  What other things can I do to challenge myself and test my whole body instead of just pounding directly on my knees?  Adventure racing.


I haven’t been on an adventure race challenge but have done most of the activities that they compete in when I was an Eagle Scout, outdoor loving teenager, and in the Army.  Shoot, I’ve “adventure raced” in enemy territory!  I thought about an adventure racer that I met not too long ago, Robyn Bennicasa, when she was promoting Project Athena.  I was able to find some races on the Project Athena website which look a lot like what I was thinking of, like the one coming up soon, the Mt. Whitney Challenge.  Hiking up a mountain for days?  That’s just like a long trail run, but with some climbing and more adventure involved of course.  Why stick to merely adding swimming and biking to running to do a trathalon?  I want to mountain bike, rock climb, and kayak, and everything else, all while blazing my own trail….just not in enemy territory this time.

Big Peach Running Company Event: Adventure Racer Robyn Benincasa

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

I attended an event last night hosted by a local Atlanta running shoe and accessory store, Big Peach Running Company.  It was a lot of fun and featured the guest speaker, adventure racer Robyn Benincasa.  Big Peach Running Company events are a great way for runners to come together to talk and learn more about running.  What better place to talk running than at a Running Company store?  Big Peach puts on a lot of great events which attract a variety of organizations from Get Fit Atlanta to Trail Blazers Adventure Racing.  If you are a novice runner or fitness guru, there was information available for you.  Not to mention the free food provided by Sweet Tomatos in Kennesaw!  I probably should have just mentioned that at the beginning.


I was a real treat meeting Robyn Benincasa.  Robyn is a EcoChallenge Adventure Race World Champion, Raid Gauloises Adventure Race World Champion, has finished in the top 5 in over 20 Expedition Adventure Races, is a 10 time Ironman finisher, and is a San Deigo firefighter on an all female crew.  Obviously she has pushed herself to the limits both physically and mentally numerous times.  Robyn was able to share with the group in attendance video clips of some of the amazing stories she has had in Adventure Racing.  During her presentation I kept thinking of similar situations I had been in while in the Army in Iraq, Afghanistan, and even Ranger School.  I thought to myself, ‘I had to be in these stressful situations.  Why would anyone volunteer to do such strenuous challenges?”  To push and learn about yourself.  To become mentally stronger.

This is why Robyn does a lot of corporate presentations, to motivate organizations, build leaders, and focus on teams.  Sounds like the Army to me.  Robyn was able to share some amazing stories like the local villager who was recruited to fill a spot on a team and compete in an Adventure Race without ever being in a canoe or even riding a bike!  The team finished in 2nd!  The local villager at the beginning of the race said, “I’m not sure if I can do these things, but I know we can as a team.”  The strength of teamwork is universal.  No matter who you are or where you live in the World, the team is always stronger than the individual.  This is the main difference between pushing yourself to your limits while running versus Adventure Racing.

Another inspirational story and video she shared was when her team, in 1st with a 3 hour lead, reached the final stage of the race and could not find their support team who had their bikes.  They found out that their support team was about day behind them.  Robyn’s team was visibly distraught by this news.  However, one team member didn’t lay down in exhaust and anguish, he set out to solve the problem.  He was able to break the language barrier and arrange to purchase locals’ bikes to finish the race on.  They even incurred other obstacles in the form of penalties from race officials for not using proper bicycles, although the ones there was using were far inferior to the official race bikes, and were able to overcome and finish the race.  This was a true test of mental toughness and determination.

Robyn is sharing that mental toughness and determination she has gained from adventure racing to start Project Athena.  The mission of Project Athena is to help women with breast cancer and other medical or traumatic setbacks live their athletic and adventurous dreams. Awareness for Project Athena is achieved through the ultra endurance endeavors of an experienced and high profile all-female adventure team who embody the spirit of Athena.  It is a non-profit foundation that encourages women to not just survive–but go on to STRIVE after enduring life altering yet life affirming medical conditions.  Robyn Beninecasa and Project Athena aim to keep the dream alive.  Please click here and donate to help keep this dream alive.

In order to keep our dreams alive we all have to work together to accomplish our goals.  Thank you Big Peach Running Company for organizing this great event and bringing a magnificent team of runners and experts together.