by Carrie Adams
Owen Duff is no stranger to hard work and dangerous environments. He’s not even a stranger to the Death Race itself. He was a part of the 2011 race, where he dropped after 17 hours of the 43 hour event. Long before the Death Race, Duff, 25, spent time in the military on the bomb squad as an explosive ordinance disposal technician and currently spends his days living and working as a CrossFit and Olympic weightlifting coach in Palm Springs, CA. He’s heading back to the Green Mountains in June to finish what he started last year.
Duff’s 2011 experience was rough. Feeling sick before the event began, he blamed nerves for his upset stomach. But early on, it was clear something was wrong. The Death Race opened with five hours of heavy lifting and Duff’s stomach only worsened, “During the rock cleans I was having trouble eating and keeping water down. We took off from the farm and I got really sick I couldn’t eat and water was hard to swallow I assumed I had food poisoning.” He made the decision at that time to drop out but managed another 10 hours through the woods and water before he succumbed and left the race. Once he finished it would still be another two days before he could eat normally again. A disappointing experience for the competitive, Duff. He’s not letting that effect his view of what awaits him this year.
Upbeat, quick-witted, and full of palpable positive energy, he’s ready to take on the race again in 2012 with a renewed energy and focus. When asked about how he feels about the Death Race he says, “Last year I didn’t know what to expect, this year is no different but I have a beard so that makes everything better.” And indeed, his beard has become legendary. He has the (self-proclaimed) “Best Beard” in CrossFit and he jokes, “Hiding success in my beard is key this year.” No doubt there’s room.
The Spokane, Washington native is also preparing for the CrossFit games, but the Spartan Death Race is something altogether different. Duff says, “For me the Death Race is about finding what stopped me last year, staring it down, putting it in my ruck and carrying it back into the river. Finishing the race.” Like many in the Death Race field, his CrossFit training and coaching a major part of his race preparation.
The closeness of the Death Race community has also become something Duff looks forward to in June, “I am most excited to see all the friends and people I met last year, the pain suffering and cold brings souls together.”
And so he trains, regularly posting videos of his progress on his YouTube channel including this video of a recent 285 pound Hang Squat Clean. Jokes aside, he says, “the death race is now apart of me, it is forever simpler to take the path less traveled by.” The race is something that’s changed his life for the better and influenced how he spends his time, how he feeds his body, and who he surrounds himself with. He’s planning to bring that knowledge and wisdom gained over the last year with him back to Vermont. But, like Sampson, he’s also bringing a secret weapon, adding,“I do have magical beard powers.”