Perrysburg native to participate in Death Race in VermontWritten by Brian Bohnert | | firstname.lastname@example.org
“You may die.”
When Andrew Sauber typed those words into his Web address bar last July, he finally found the challenge he had been looking for.
After clearing his schedule for two days in mid-June, he will voluntarily go face to face with death. On June 15, Sauber will attend the 2012 summer Death Race in the mountains of Pittsfield, Vt.
Established in 2005, The Death Race is an unpredictable, 40-mile, nonrunning obstacle race that tests the mental and physical endurance of up to 200 participants through 15-20 specifically designed challenges like chopping wood for two hours, crawling through mud under barbed wire, carrying a 20 pound stump around for hours and lifting anywhere from 10-30 pounds of rocks for five hours.
The event was created by Joe DeSena and Andy Weinberg, founders of Peak Races, an organization “breaking all limitations in order to fully experience the human spirit,” according to the Peak Races website.
Sauber, 34, signed up for The Death Race after he discovered the website www.youmaydie.com. Having tried popular endurance races like The Warrior Dash and Tough Mudder and “finding them too easy,” he wanted to test his limits and find his breaking point.
“The Warrior Dash was only like 5K, so it’s over in a few minutes,” Sauber said. “They say [Tough Mudder] is probably the hardest event on the planet. The toughest part was not going around the starting point and doing another lap; it was fun.”
Sauber said his ultimate goal is finding a race that is so difficult he cannot finish it.
“Anyone can run until they drop,” Sauber said. “But what I love about this race in particular is that there’s all these different aspects incorporated into this. It’s not just running. You have to be in good shape. You have to be able to go for days at a time without sleeping and you have to be able to be on your own.”
Katy Eisenstein has known Sauber for four years. The co-workers were partners for the 2011 Tough Mudder, working together to complete the various obstacles. While the challenges were easy for Sauber, Eisenstein said she often needed him to give her a helping hand in the muddy terrain.
“He challenged himself and he would do the obstacles and he would come back and help me. I usually needed a boost,” Eisenstein said. “He’d climb the wall by himself and come back around to help me do it.”
While Eisenstein declined The Death Race because she’s “not that nuts,” she said she wishes Sauber luck and hopes he comes back safely.
“He’s not going to stop unless he has to, unless he’s a physical danger to himself,” she said. “He tries to find something to break his body down. He wants to get to that point when he can’t go anymore.”
While The Death Race offers many physical obstacles, the psychological challenges also pose a unique threat. Sauber said the coordinators of The Death Race separate the participant from his or her support system and even encourage them to quit.
“They claim to be the only race where people on the support crew have cried and quit,” he said. “They incorporate a lot of psychological effects. They don’t cheer you on, they encourage you to quit.”
Sauber said he experienced this “forbidden apple-style” offer firsthand at the winter Spartan Death Race while he was preparing for the summer session.
“The winter one started with a guy coming out with a checkbook offering a refund if anyone wanted to quit,” Sauber said. “And then, after that we did two hours of burpees in a frozen parking lot. About halfway through that, he came out with his checkbook again and, after about an hour of doing burpees, he said ‘anyone who wants to drop, your bar tab is on me for the rest of the night.’ No one would quit, so we kept going.”
After heavy physical preparation for the winter Death Race, Sauber’s luck ran out when he ran out of food and water, key ingredients to surviving harsh conditions.
“The winter one went about 31 hours; I lasted about six and a half,” he said. “What happened was I got separated from my food and water early on, so I ended up dropping the race because I got dehydrated and overheated. … They told us to take our packs off and drop them because we didn’t need them. But what they didn’t tell us was you could take whatever you wanted out of the pack. So, some people had water bottles and food and I just grabbed a water bottle.”
In preparation for the summer Death Race, Sauber said he did research into the types of mental obstacles past challengers faced.
“There was one time a few years back where they made people hike up a mountain for two hours and read a list of the first 10 presidents in order. Then, when they hiked back down after another two hours, they had to recite them in order,” Sauber said. “They also did the same thing by making people memorize a Lego structure and recreate it at the bottom.”
Sauber said his training regimen is different from any he has had before.
Some days, Sauber said he takes a lightweight pack and jogs the rough terrain of the 16-mile trail at Oak Openings. On others, he pushes himself and his limits by wearing a pack weighted with 50-90 pounds and then hikes the trail.
To further push his physical boundaries, Sauber said he makes sure to stop every few minutes to include some high-intensity exercises, similar to the winter session of The Death Race.
“I tried to start to emulate the race a little bit,” he said. “I have an interval timer I take with me and every 10 minutes, a buzzer will go off. And, wherever I am, I’ll just start doing lunges for two minutes until that is up.”
The goal of his weekend training hikes is to focus on one part of his body. Lately, he is working hard to “burn his legs up,” he said.
Sauber has been the sustainability manager at Owens-Illinois for 11 years.
Sauber graduated from The Ohio State University in 2001 with a mechanical engineering degree and followed it up with an MBA from Bowling Green State University in 2007.
Sauber said while all of the popular endurance races are fairly expensive, his mindset and drive to keep challenging himself make the hefty price tag worth the cost.
On a graduated pricing scale, registration on the website for The Death Race is currently $900. Sauber said he paid $525 last July.
“The reason I’m doing this is to find a race I can’t finish because I’m curious about what my real limits are,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t know what your limits are until you fall off a cliff. So, I’m trying to find where that edge is. I’ve always been fascinated that the human body is one of the few machines that gets stronger as it’s worked harder. Taking that into account, I’ve been trying to find what my real limits are.”