The Dream Team
The day I met Joe Desena in spring 2011 little did I know that he would not only become a good friend but also open up a whole new world of people to me, each one more amazing than the next. I often have joked around with friends that Joe and Andy Weinberg through their Peak Races and Death Race have amassed a small army, an army of extreme athletes each with a unique story to tell. Speaking with my friends I have met through racing many have the same stories that Joe and Andy and their races have changed their lives.
I could write novels on all the people and the stories I have heard since spring 2011. I now know people who have reached just about every corner of the earth. However, today it’s about three guys, who will be the first to call themselves old guys. All three are fathers, all three have had interesting lives and all three are worth getting to know. Don Devaney, Ray Morvan, and Johnny Waite make up three out of the four members of this years winning Team Death Race. If you ran the Spartan Race Beast or Ultra Beast in Killington, Vermont this year, they were the “old guys” carrying all the sandbags and such.
MEET THE OLD GUYS
Don Devaney, I can’t remember the first time I met Don, maybe it was this years Death Race, maybe it was last years race. The first time I think we were able to have a conversation was during the Peak 500. Don is a Vermonter through and through. When I first met him he was a jack of all trades, care taking for some properties, and doing just about everything in between. He always seems to keep a positive attitude even in the worst of situations, his laugh brightens up any day. More recently he has been a fixture on the Spartan Race circuit and has become part of the crew working for Spartan. Every race when I see him on course it’s always like a small ray of brightness in the day. Whether he is carrying a 100# sandbag, rock, or out in the woods hiking for days, his laugh and smile reverberates and touches everyone in it’s path.
Ray Morvan, Ray I met during the 2011 Death Race when I was helping out. Ray and I because of our proximity at the time became friends, interaction mostly on Facebook but sharing jokes about Death Race, Vermont, and life. He is one of two people that I know of that stayed up all night when I was racing in World’s Toughest Mudder constantly checking in to see how I was doing. Ray is a jokester, if you know about our “fake Vermont State forms for the Death Race” that was the brain child of Ray and I. Ray’s dad is also the producer of the Dirt in Your Skirt Maple Syrup. Ray another Vermonter to the core has been around the Death Race world since 2009. Below is his application video for a show that never aired. Ray is tough, compassionate, loving, and well simply always smiling. He is the guy who brought his 2011 Death Race fish to the 2012 Death Race as his personal mascot. He smiles through the pain, and keeps moving forward, relentless until he reaches his goal.
Last but certainly not least is Johnny Waite, who some have referred to as a bodhisattva, radiates all that is good and caring from him wherever he goes. His signature baseball cap with the colors of the rainbow and one world, Love, say it all. You can always spot him in a race with his hat on. Johnny has an interesting story, he rose to wealth to lose it all in a political campaign (he is Canadian they do politics differently than we do in the US), he lived out of his truck for a while. During all of these things in his life he had an awakening and decided to take the extreme parts of his personality and channel them into something else doing the Death Race. Johnny is a constant source of information often finding the best of the internet and posting it on his blog and Facebook page. Each conversation with Johnny whether it be in person, on the phone, internet of whatever is a pleasure and something that I look forward to greatly.
TEAM DEATH RACE
Individually these three are pretty unique and exceptional people. Together they create a special bond, a blend of all that is good in each one is multiplied a palpable energy can be felt around them. During their Team Death Race (DR) I saw them twice on course, well saw them once and heard Ray the second time. One of their tasks was to complete the Spartan Race Beast course while carrying two 60# sandbags between the three. When I talked to Johnny after the race was over he commented how the three instead of skirting away from carrying the sandbags actually tried to take them from each other, not in a bravado way showing off ones manhood but they truly all wanted to make sure they were doing their part for the team. When I passed them on one of my favorite trails on Killington their smiles and encouragement was the best boost anyone could get in a race. The three all carrying a stupid amount of weight and gear smiled and laughed like young school girls out on a Sunday stroll. There is no doubt that the task was arduous but the three made it look like nothing.
On my second lap I heard Ray’s encouragement as I tried to duck and dodge racers down the muddy slopes of Killington. I was so in a zone but still his words broke through the wall. Something I remember vividly. Later they were invited into where we all were eating, forced to sit down and have a nice hot meal, in a warm environment, if you remember it poured rain in the afternoon and into the evening of the Beast and Ultra Beast. We sat and ate they again acted as if it was a fun afternoon, for truly these guys in the face of what most think is adversity were having the time of their life. They left to continue the race.
This dream team had one other member that we never saw for he was on a mountain bike the whole time. Dave French, while the guys hiked in Killington was over on Joe’s mountain riding a mountain bike race that was once called the 666. Although he was off in the distance he was just as important as the rest. As Johnny told me over a phone conversation, “You can’t forget Dave. He was as much a part of the team as any other member and we couldn’t have done it without him.” These four guys dominated the Team DR due to what I believe was their will, wit, and humor. They came out on top winning the first ever Team Death Race.
Recently, Ray has had a complication from previous medical issues flair up again for the last month he has been in and out of the hospital fighting once again at times for his life. He has been in multiple surgeries and still kept his signature Ray attitude. Sometimes cryptic (probably due to the meds) he has been posting about his journey on his Facebook page. We have all been keeping tabs on him. However, his team from the Death Race didn’t end when they received their skulls, recently all four men got together in Darmouth Medical Center to visit Ray. From Johnny. “The stats on last week’s visit are that I drove 1,000 miles round trip from Canada. Dave French rode his motorcycle 1,000 miles round trip from Virginia. Don Devaney had just flown in hours before from Texas. All for a 1hr visit with Ray.”
It is undoubtable that races like the Death Race and other extreme events not only give us racers a shared experience to take forward but really it’s more than that. The bonds we form in racing carry over into all parts of life. These guys are living proof that the race maybe over, but you never stop being a team.
Here is to Ray and his family as he continues his battle. Our thoughts are with him and know his wit, humor and just plain stubbornness will get him through and out on the slopes soon skiing or in a crazy race proving that the impossible is truly possible.