The Death Race – Reflections


Death Race 2011It’s just about the eve of the Spartan Death Race. I am not making the trek to Vermont to go attempt to slay that beast again. My time with the Death Race as a competitor has come to an end, I prefer to try to slay races like Peak 100 and quite possibly one day even try to take on Peak 500 after some more years under my belt. But as my newsfeed, and inbox has been flooded with updates and questions, I have spent most of the week thinking about the DR.


It was in 2009 when I first heard about the DR a friend Rob Niles had done the race three times already. The DR was not the popular race it is today, back then it was a bunch of random Vermonters who sort of just showed up and did this crazy thing, a mix of physical labor, psychological games, and random puzzles on Joe’s mountain in Pittsfield, Vermont. At the time I thought, there is no way I would ever be able to do such a thing, but yet I was intrigued from the moment I heard about it. Two friends from the ski world have completed and won the race Doug Lewis and Stever Bartlett, so the DR is something I knew about, at least a little. Then the New York Times did a video on the race and Madmotion made but is still the best race video from the DR.



Death Race 20112011 DR, in 2011, I was such a newb at this all. I had met Joe Desena a few weeks early and had been talked into coming and helping out with the race. I met some of the greatest people the night before the race began at the now famous Joe Crupi pasta party, a tradition that is being carried on by others for the third year in a row this year. It was at the 2011 Death Race I first met Hobie Call in person and his brother in the background, whom now has become my other half in life, and it all started with a chance meeting on a rainy day. In 2011, it was the year Michelle Roy was taken away by ambulance, we did not know each other at the time, now she is one of my closest confidants. I met Ray Morvan, well really his wife as Ray was probably lost on the mountain. Val is an amazing woman. I met Robin Crossman and his wife Melissa. I met team Glamazon, Johnny Waite, Kevin Lowe, Frank Fumich, and many many others. 2011 was my indoctrination into the world of Peak Races and Death Race, prior to that I was just some woman who lived down the road and had done a few Spartans. Little did I know from helping out at that race I would make new friends, new training partners, and that weekend really started the friendship I have with both the Weinberg and Desena families. 2011, we the year I was welcomed into the family of DR.

Death Race 2011



WDR 2012, the winter DR I was there to crew for my friend Jason who was not racing the DR but attempting the 100 mile snowshoe race. Between, coaching Joe and Andy’s kids on the mountain (skiing) and then doing a 1/2 marathon on snowshoes myself, I ended up helping out the WDR for the majority of a weekend. In the depths of the night I found myself leading the charge for the WDR as participants held axes above their heads for hours. I would walk around talking to everyone assessing where they were at and relying the news back to Joe as he sat in a warm car. At this point I knew the ins and outs of the DR and spent that whole event tweeting and Facebooking about the happenings of the athletes involved.



DR 2012, a full year had passed since my first DR experience. This time I would enter the race as a participant. It had been over a year in the making and the expectations of what the race would be and should be were high after being so involved with the last two races. However, helping out and racing it are two very different things. The key to a great Death Race is to have intrinsically a reason and drive to do it. For I found when you lose the drive within yourself at the DR, it’s over. It’s not a place for puffed up egos, for all or nothing personalities, or for those wanting to be in the know. It’s raw, it’s real, and you learn something about yourself along the way. I did 2012 DR for all the wrong reasons, but still loved it, learned from it, and then went back after I quite and helped with the race for the rest of the weekend and into Monday morning. I love the DR just as much after quitting as I did before I started. It’s the DR once it creeps into your skin it’s a part of you forever.




TDR2012, Another race I was not an actual participant but as I was running the Ultra Beast my friends were participating in the first ever Team DR. As I looped the mountain for the final times before my move out west. Some of my best DR friends were also on the mountain, carrying heavy bags of sand, while their teammates navigated a brutal mountain bike course. The encouragement from those in the TDR propelled me faster on the trails, and I know it was their words of encouragement that kept me moving in the race. Seeing Don, Ray, and Johnny on course were rays of sunshine along the day. Sharing a meal with them as it poured rain outside after I had completed my race, but theirs was still very much in full swing, was a highlight of the day and one which I hold dear to me. Even when not racing it the DR is close to me.


DR 2013, it’s the eve of the DR once again. It’s only been a few years since I first became part of the DR. Although I am not racing, nor will I be in Vermont this year. My heart will be with those in Vermont this weekend. All the friends I have made throughout the years who keep going back year after year seeking an internal unknown or those that just find it a fun weekend in the woods with Joe and Andy. To all those who it is there first attempt, don’t take yourself too seriously, don’t make finishing the only goal, take the experience as it comes, one step at a time. There is not future, no past in the DR only the present moment and task at hand. We all learn about ourselves in the DR as a volunteer, as a participant, as support, and as spectator. It’s a special race, a special place, and Joe and Andy have created something over the years that unless you are part of you can truly never explain it. Best of luck to all those attempting it this year, have fun, stay safe, drink lots of water, and have food stuffed in random places. Welcome to the 2013 DR!




PAST Death Race Posts of Interest:

2011 Experience – Live From the Death Race

2012 Winter Death Race – The Year of the Burpee

2012 Death Race – The Race Part 1

2012 Death Race – The Race Part 2 Quitting

2012 Death Race – Part 3 Changing Sides


Margaret Schlachter

About Margaret Schlachter

Margaret Schlachter is Founder of She has been part of the OCR Community since 2010. When not working on the next article she can be found running from race-to-race. She is Editor-in-Chief of She authored the book Obstacle Race Training.
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