The Chris Davis Project:  Week 10

This week Chris helps out with the Spartan Death Race.

If you are new to the story, Chris Davis started out at almost 700lbs. He’s lost over 300lbs so far. Follow his Spartan journey as he attempts to get below 200lbs and complete the Spartan Ultra Beast in September.

To catch up on the story, read last week’s blog:


The 2012 Summer Death Race was an incredible experience for me for several reasons.  First, it let me see Joe and Andy do what they do best, manage chaos on a grand scale.  Second, it gave me a chance to interact with some of the world’s best athletes.   The last and most important thing, it taught me to realize that only you know when you need to stop.

For me the race really got real on Thursday when I saw the list of people that had signed up, and I got my list of responsibilities.  I knew that if I was going to survive the race, I was going to have to push myself both mentally and physically – but looking back I had totally underestimated just how far I was going to push myself.  I was scheduled to work about 10 hours a day for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.   I was relieved to see that they were planning on rotating people out to get some sleep throughout the race.    So I got home early and tried to get some extra sleep, which I found hard because I was so excited about what was to come.

My first task for the race was to report to registration and help get everyone checked in.   I was so happy to see that Margaret Schlachter from Dirt in your Skirt was one of the first people to get to the pool house and wait for the registration to start.  I have the privilege to know her since arriving here, and I consider her one of my close friends.  I could tell that she was ready for the race, but there was something not quite right.  She told me that she was not going to finish the race, and I knew that her heart was not in it today.  In a race like this you do not have a chance in hell of completing it if your heart is not 100% in it.

As registration opened, I took my position in the pool house, and I had a chance to talk with every racer that went through the registration process.   It was funny to see the different reactions you would get when you would ask people do you want to quit.  It was also great when I would switch it up to ‘do you want to race’ and some people would just say no, because they had already stopped listening to the questions we were asking, because the 5 people before me had asked in they wanted to quit.   It would take about 5 seconds, then it would hit them to what I had asked.   It was great, we had already started to get into some of their heads.

Photo by Matt Davis

Once things calmed down, I headed to Amee Farm to see the official start of the race.  But it looked like Joe had other plans for me.  Once I arrived he had me front and center walking up and down the farm telling people that the race was starting and they had 60 seconds to get checked in.   The next thing I knew I was walking along with everyone over to the Amee Farm Lodge, where everyone had to get into the pond.  Now to honest with you, I would not want to get into this pond if I had a space suit because of the duck droppings and the run-off from the farm fields above the lodge.  But that did not stop most of the Death Racers.  There were a few that tried to sit on the shore and tried to talk them into getting in but they refused, and it was at that point I knew that they were not going to last long.   After Joe split them up into teams, I headed off to get a head start on their hike up the national forest because I knew that I would  not be able to keep up with the pace Joe was going to have them moving.  I met up with the groups a few miles away from the national forest entrance.   A couple of the racers peeled off from their groups to help me keep up, but I knew I was slowing them down so I let them go after a few minutes so they could get back with their group.  Things were going great until I came down one of the hills to find one of the racers having problems.   There were already two volunteers helping him, but I stopped to help as well.  We helped him to sit down and relax.  We got him some water and food, but it keep getting worse, so we had to call in support.   We were able to get him back to the farm but his condition got worse and he ended up heading to the hospital.  After we cleaned up a little we continued down the road until we meet up with everyone.

The racers were doing burpees at the entrance of the national forest.  Joe told them as I arrived that I was the reason they were doing burpees and I just shook my head.   Once I got there Joe made me do at least one burpee with every group.  Some groups talked me into doing 5 or 10 with them.   As I was getting ready to head back I bumped back into Margret and she told me that she was going to finish the race – I was shocked by the change.   I know that she is an experienced racer and that something had convinced her that she was good to go.   So I headed back to my house to try and get some sleep because I knew I had a big day ahead of me tomorrow. I had not realized how far down the road I had walked because it took hours for me to get back to town and then to my house.   I finally made it home around 11:30pm and I had to be up by 5am because I had to be on the top of Joe’s mountain by 7am.

* * *

There is almost nothing worse than hearing your alarm go off after only a few hours of sleep.   I got up and stumbled out the door.   I made it up to the first cabin by 6 am and then headed up to the top cabin.  I made it there by 6:50 am and I called to home-base to let them know that I had arrived.  Only I found out that the racers were over 12 hours behind schedule.  The only thing going though my mind at that point was why did I not check in before I got to the top cabin.   So after a few hours they had me head back down the mountain to the lower cabin and wait for a ride back to Amee Farm.  While waiting for my ride I started talking to Nick (he was there as Elisa Thrasher support crew). He had spend the night in a tent at the lower cabin. After hearing their story I knew that she was going to be one of people that would find a way to make it to the end.

When I arrived back at Amee Farm, I was told that Margaret had quit.   The first thing that I asked is she hurt?  No one had an answer, so the worst started to go through my mind.  But then I realized that if she had been hurt severely they would know.  So like everyone else I waited for the shuttle to arrive with the people that had quit.  When I heard that the shuttle had arrived I started heading towards it when I saw her, she was having some problems walking so I gave her a hand and we got her sitting down.   She took off her shoes and her feet were destroyed.   One of the medics from another team stopped by and checked her out.   We talked for a while, and she did not quit because of her feet,  she quit because she realized she was racing for the wrong reason.  She had been racing because everyone else wanted her to, and not because she wanted to.  I cannot tell you how much I respect her for making that decision.   I do not know if I have the inner strength to make that decision if I had been in her place.

Later in the day I was sent back up the mountain to the lower cabin, where we set up for the pebble challenge.   This was also the first time that the racers were going to be able to get support from their support crews.  So when I saw Nick still here I continued to talk to him while we waited for the racers to show up.   When Elisa showed up I got a chance to talk to her for a bit, and I knew my early assumption was right, she would make it as long as she did not get hurt.

The challenge was basic in design, but almost impossible to complete.   As the racers came to the challenge they were split up into teams of 2 to 5 people and were given a number.   Somewhere on the trails there was a stake and flag with their number on it.  Once they found  their stake they needed to fill a pot hole in the trail with buckets of pebble from in front of the cabin.   Simple right?  We expected each team to take 4 to 5 hours to find their stake, but teams were coming back in less than 30 minutes.  So we knew something was up, but things were happening so fast we had no idea on what to do.  So we sent them to the next challenge.

While they were at the next challenge people started to confess that they had cheated.   And as they did they were send back to Amee Farm to receive their punishment.  A little while later Elisa walked up to me and told me that she had found out that her team had cheated, but she did not know about it until she arrived at the next challenge.   She was very upset that she had not questioned her teammates and accepted it without questioning it.   I told her to go back to Amee Farm and explain to Joe and Andy what had happened.   She was the only one to come to me and tell me what had happened.  Looking back on this I screwed up, what I should have done was take one of the remain flags and sent her out to look for it.  By the time it was all over all but one or two teams had cheated.  Because of this fact, I was asked to stay at the cabin overnight and assist in their community service for their crime.   After that was complete I stayed there till after 6 AM manning the checkpoint to make sure we did not lose anyone over night.

I was so cold when I got home, I didn’t shower or anything – I just hit my bed and passed out.  But the crazy thing is I was only able to sleep for a couple of hours before I woke up to my legs on fire, itching and bloody.   When I looked at them they were covered in bug bites.  Overnight I had only been wearing shorts, and I did not have any bug spray with me so the only protection I had was the fire and smoke from the fire.  I started to count them and gave up when I reached 300.   Since I could not fall back to sleep I headed back to Amee Farm.  I was half out of it and I really don’t remember the next few hours.

The next thing I really remember is helping with the last of the cement distribution.  We were giving each racer a 60 lbs of cement to take to the top of the mountain,  So think about this, each racer is wearing a 30 lbs to 70 lbs backpack, and now we just added an additional 60 lbs to their load.  Oh yeah, and don’t forget they have been up for over 48 hours.  Then out of the corner of my eye, I see Elisa hopping on one leg as Nick is helping her walk.   I stopped everything I and ran over to find out what had happened.  I found out that she had sprained her ankle and she was out.  I was crushed,  I was so sure that she was going to make it, but it was not to be.   I helped her get into her car, and talked to her for a few minutes. I went back to helping with the cement, and after the last bag was gone I was asked to help move the registration computers from Amee Farm back to the pool house.

After getting things set up I got to relax and talk to Margaret, Forest, and Tara for a while while the race started to wind down.  Around 11pm Joe told us to get ready because the race was over and they would be sending people to us.    It was so cool being there as the race came to an end and the remaining racers started to file in.

Around 2 am they need some help running the last obstacle “The Death Roll” .  You literally roll on your side for 0.2 miles then have to answer a question if you get it wrong, the loop doesn’t count.  After 6 loops you are done.   When I got to there I noticed that number 486 was on the obstacle and I thought to myself I miss my old 486 computer…  Yes I am really that big of a computer nerd.

As the morning went on I kept waiting for racer 486 to check in but he never did.  A little while later his teammate started to ask when was the last time he had checked in.  All we could tell him was that he started the obstacle, but he had not made it back.   A little while later I called over to the pool house to see if he had quit and they replied back saying he is still in the race.  So we figured he was just taking his time on his first loop.   When his team asked again if he had check in yet, and we had not seen him, we sent several people to walk the course to see if we could find him, but since it was still dark we did not have any luck.  It was at this point we started to get more people involved.   His name was Marc DiBo.  We started to call out for him as we walked up and down the course.   When the sun started to rise we went into full search and rescue mode.   We started calling in any staff member we could wake up and even reached out to the State Police.   After a few more hours we found him.  He had walked off the course and went into one of the barns on the site.   Marc had found a shirt, and fell asleep on the stairs that lead to the attic.

After checking him out, he asked to complete his remaining loops so he could complete the race.  So I walked by his side until he finished all six of his loops.  After he was down we walked back to the pool house together as he was the last one on the course. As

we were walking out of the pool house, I was surprised to see Joei Harrison show up.   She had been asked to stop because of medical concerns a few hours ago.   But she did not want to quit, so we headed back out the obstacle and she did her last remaining loop.  By the time she was done it was sometime near 11am.  I had been up for over 24 strait and I had only had about 10 or 12 hours of sleep since Friday.

So to say I was exhausted is an understatement.  I was so happy to have survived my first death race.


One Response

  1. avatar

    Great writeup Chris! Keep up the good fight!

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