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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Pounding on Death's door

City adventure racer ready to tackle legendary event

Posted: 06/14/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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A cast iron skillet, a needle and thread, a coonskin hat and a compass.

Those are some items on the 'what-to-bring' list that Winnipeg's Jesse Cox has been issued for the 2014 Summer Death Race.

Cox, 36, is one of about 300 entrants from around the world registered for the event, which will also include Caelin White of Winnipeg.

No one knows what the items will be used for in the event, which will last anywhere from 48-70 hours. It is set at the Amee Farm's 40-acre property in Vermont -- complete with two ponds, a waterfall, hiking and biking trails, farm animals and is next to the Green Mountain Trails network.

The race will start on or before June 27 and may finish June 29 or 30. That's not a misprint.

"Some people have called it the hardest race in the world because we don't know what we're going to be doing," Cox said. "We don't know when it starts, nobody knows when it's going to end and nobody knows what we're going to be doing through the race.

"I want to finish. I want to get my skull."

The Death Race is exactly what it sounds like. If you finish, you are awarded a realistic-looking skull.

The motto of the race is -- "Every man dies, but not every man lives" -- and the website address -- www.youmaydie.com -- tell it like it is.

The aura around the event is ominous and thrilling.

Creators and organizers Joe De Sena and Andy Weinberg, veteran ultra-athlete adventurers, don't try to be helpful. "We provide no support," they state on the website, and "We want you to fail and encourage you to quit at any time."

The Death Race is a test of fortitude, determination, focus and fitness while being faced with tasks that challenge both the mind and the body.

The New York Times called it "part Survivor, part Jackass."

Cox figures it will be a good fit for him -- getting things done under intense pressure and time limits is what he is trained to do.

He lived for 10 years in the United States where he worked as an advanced-care paramedic, first in Mississippi and then in South Carolina where he was part of a special counter-terrorism unit that worked major events.

"The Death Race is something I've wanted to do. Test my limits, to see exactly what I can push through and understand about myself and see that I can actually do it or how far I can go," said Cox, who three years ago moved back to Winnipeg with his children -- daughters Angelica, 14, Ariana, nine, and son Donovan, 12.

He knows he must be ready for anything, but can expect scenarios similar to past Death Races. He might have to carry bicycle parts, hill and dale, for 10 hours then dive in a river to find the chain and put the bike together, only to ride it for five minutes and leave it.

He might have to muck out a barn and translate Greek, memorize and recite a list of presidents' names or climb 200 feet up the side of a mountain to retrieve a design scheme and then return to the bottom to put together LEGO pieces in that pattern. Get it wrong, do it again.

"I know you do have to carry a 50-pound log. I know last year they had people climbing up and down with their legs tied together and some fell down and broke their clavicles," Cox said.

Race organizers advise arriving well before June 27 because the race could start early and at any time. Early arrivals do workouts or farm labour until it starts. Those who show up late might have to do 2,000 burpees with a weighted vest before being allowed to start the race. Cox plans to be there by June 20.

To the surprise of no one, the event has a high failure rate. Typically, about 10 per cent of starters finish.

"Most races you know your distance, you know what you are going to do and you can train for that specifically. With this, there's no idea what you're going to do or how long you're going to do it for, if you are going to get any sleep or any chance to eat," Cox said. "There's really no specific way to train for it, just do everything you can, day and night."

Day and night are already pretty busy for Cox, a single dad to his three children.

Cox works full-time as a coach at Starke CrossFit and Creative Conditioning. He plans to begin work as a paramedic in September.

He fits in his own training around his children's schedules and works it around making meals, shopping for groceries and cleaning the house. He can make carrying stacks of laundry part of a workout.

"I have kettlebells at home, skipping ropes, a tractor tire," said Cox. He's trained with a military friend for survival skills. He's trained in the heat, cold, dark, mud, carrying heavy packs and on varying terrain.

He has participated in eight other endurance/obstacle events including a Spartan "Beast" (12-plus miles with 25-plus obstacles) a few years ago.

Cox has been interacting through social media with former competitors for preparation ideas. The theme is to push yourself as far as you can in every way you train.

"They all say, whatever you do, just kill it," Cox said.

Which fits in a Death Race.

 

To follow it, go to www.Facebook.com/spartanrace.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 14, 2014 D16

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