By Carrie Adams
When I met Bryan Selm, 31, back in March for the Winter Death Race, he left an immediate first impression. In his distinctive Jersey accent (he denies having an accent), he was constantly joking and even admitted openly that he’d never been on snow shoes before. That would be okay, except that a snow shoe marathon while carrying heavy blocks of wood and a loaded backpack of supplies was one of the first challenges he’d face. I figured that he wouldn’t last very long. As it turns out, I was wrong. Not only did he finish the Winter Race – in 22 hours 41 minutes– but I learned later that he had also completed the Spartan Death Race the previous summer with an impressive 10th place finish of 35 hours and 26 minutes.
Selm isn’t your average endurance athlete. A few weekends back, for example, he had three races. Yes, three. A four-mile run Friday night, where he placed 10th out of about 2,000; a Metro Dash obstacle race Saturday where he not only got first place but he set a new course record; and a 10-miler on Sunday to round out the weekend. (He just “jogged” that one.) He may be all over the place with the events he does, but don’t make a mistake–he’s legit.
His background includes an Ironman in 2009 in Madison, Wisconsin, and he’s gearing up for another one in Lake Placid on July 24th, 2011 just one month after the Death Race. Two races back to back whose training couldn’t possibly be more different. He regularly takes on intense challenges, but this carpenter from Collingswood, NJ races these events for the fun of it, because he may be just a touch competitive, but mostly to finish what he sets out to start. When confronting the Death Race he is no different. “I hate not finishing. I have never not finished anything.” Not even something as intense as the infamous Death Race that leaves competitors guessing as to what’s coming next alongside factors like sleep deprivation and the uncontrollable environmental factors courtesy of the Green Mountains.
Says Selm, “The Death Race is unique. I haven’t found anything like it. And believe me, I’ve been looking,” he says. And we do believe him. He’s been competing in these kinds of events – and loving it – over the past couple of years and has recently set his sights on the upcoming Ultimate Mudder’s 24 hour competition in December. But he isn’t so focused on the events that he loses sight of why he does it: “I don’t like losing – but that’s not what it’s about for me. I thrive on the challenge of it all.”
Growing up, Selm played a variety of sports. “I was all-around awesome,” he jokes. “I always played sports – soccer, football, baseball, track—but I never stuck with any one thing. I got a job in high school, and that’s my biggest regret, because I left sports for a job. Maybe that’s why I am doing it now.” What he’s doing now is filling his life with events like the Death Race, which offer him the opportunity to meet inspiring people, push himself, and stay focused on fitness.
A self-described “nomad” as an athlete, Selm has tried a bit of everything. He got into rock climbing really heavy out of high school and even competed in inline skating. Yes, that means roller blading. He finds humor in his approach to competition. “If you don’t laugh and keep your spirits up, what’s the point?” He’s found his niche with these kinds of obstacle races though and he continues to excel.
When it comes down to it, Selm connects with the physical aspects of the events and can mentally stay tough in the moment. “I love it. I’d race every single weekend if I could. You can escape the real world for a bit – show yourself what you’re made of, and let it take you to your breaking point.” At this year’s Death Race, Selm plans on finishing the race. His Road I.D. bracelet is inscribed with his motto, “Quitting isn’t an Option.” He won’t let himself think about an alternative and he plans on enjoying himself in the process. ”I hear this race is going to be the toughest Joe (DeSena) and Andy (Weinberg) have made so far.” he laughs. “I can’t miss that.”
How to endure in a Death Race? Selm, “It’s simple. It’s about not quitting. Just don’t give up. Go as hard as you can and have fun. Try not to die.”