Local Army vet to endure 48+ hour “Death Race”

Local Army vet to endure 48+ hour “Death Race”

A Brentwood resident is entering his final weeks of training before taking on the Peak 2014 Summer Death Race in Pittsfield, VT.

Brentwood resident and endurance racer Todd Essig has no idea what he’ll be getting into when he arrives in Pittsfield, VT for the 2014 Peak Summer Death Race in late June.

He’s competed in over 50 endurance races in the past 15 years and has known how to train and what to expect for each event. But for the Death Race, most information is kept a secret, even as the event unfolds.  

Brentwood resident Todd Essig (Photo Submitted)

“I needed a different race and this is something completely new,” the 44-year-old United States Army veteran said. “I feel like I’ve almost done everything. So I thought, here’s something that seems hard, epic and different, so why not do it?”

A total of 300 people will begin the competition in the Green Mountains on June 27. Over the next 48-72 hours, participants will endure numerous physical and mental challenges throughout a 40-mile course. When it’s all said and done, only 10% of those competitors are expected to finish.

Those odds are exactly what Essig has been looking for.

“If I’m going to do these things, I want to do the most difficult events,” he said. “If you’re going to do it, then do it. Go big or go home.”

In his many years of experience, Essig  has competed in races  such as the IRONMAN triathlon and the 500-mile Eco Primal Quest. In the time leading up to those events, he knew what he was supposed to prepare for.

For the Death Race, it’s been the complete opposite.

Unlike traditional endurance events, athletes enter this race with little information about what they will encounter.

According to its website, competitors may be asked to do anything from completing a 30-mile hike with rocks and weighted packs, to memorizing the names of the first 10 U.S. Presidents and then reciting them in order after hiking up and down a mountain.

Even as the race goes on, the course map and list of challenges are kept secret, leaving the athletes without any idea about what to expect next.

“That’s the fun thing about this race — you don’t know what it is,” Essig said. “It’s not a traditional race where you know what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it. For this, you just show up with your backpack and a few items and be willing to endure the events as they unfold.”

Todd Essig (2nd from right) and his team after finishing the 500-mile Eco Primal Quest in 2003 (Photo Submitted)

To prepare for the event, Essig has continued his usual training regimen of mountain biking, running and swimming. However, due to the unpredictable nature of the Death Race, he said he’s had to add a variety of different exercises to his routine.

“I’m beating myself up because I’m trying to lift some weights and do some CrossFit while staying focused on my triathlon schedule,” he said. “I’ll also sometimes throw on a heavy backpack and do 10 miles of trails as fast as I can do it.

“Another thing  is they love to make people cut wood and that’s random. So, I’ve been cutting a lot of wood and carrying logs as far as I can go.”

While the race is physically demanding, the mental aspect is equally as tough.

Along with the burden of staying up for two or more days straight, Essig will have to complete numerous tasks that will test his ability to memorize and think critically.

“It’s kind of like stupid human tricks,” Essig said. “What it’s going to be, as I understand it, is fill your backpack up with rocks, hike 30 miles, swim across a lake a couple of times, put some jigsaw puzzles together, memorize a list of presidents, walk up a hill and then walk down a hill. It’s not just physical things.”

Even after all of the times he’s pushed himself past his physical and mental limitations to complete an event, Essig remains skeptical as to whether or not he can finish the Death Race.

“I don’t know if anybody ever feels as if they’re ready for it,” he said. “I don’t feel like I’ve trained enough, which I’ve actually done more than usual. I think I have a pretty solid base going into it. If I finish, then that’d be great. I guess we’ll see what happens.”

Essig is partnering with Operation Stand Down Nashville, Inc. for the Death Race. OSDN is a nonprofit organization that helps honorably discharged veterans, especially those who are homeless, by helping them rejoin the community as productive and responsible citizens. 

“I’ve given OSDN some time and money over the years, and I told them if I could do anything for them, just let me know,” Essig said. “It’s a great local group that helps homeless vets, which I think is an incredibly worthy cause.”

Sam McGaw is the sports editor for Brentwood Home Page. He can be contacted at sam@brentwoodhomepage.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @SamMcGawSports. 

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