June 18, 2014

By Jess Thomas

“All my friends call me crazy,”  said Stow native Ned Dalzell.

The 29-year-old mechanical engineer has signed up to take part in a “Death Race” in Pittsfield, Vt., starting on Thursday, June 27.  Dalzell is ready for any challenge that comes his way.

8In preparation for this crazy “race,” he went for a 10-mile hike around Mt. Snow, biked 70 miles, and then went to an off-road event, all in one weekend. He actually finds this kind of rigorous exercise fun.

“It’s a weekend-long, half obstacle, half military style, half push-your-limits-until-you-break kind of thing, and it seemed like a pretty interesting challenge,” Dalzell said simply. “I consider myself to have a little bit more drive than a lot of people, so it seemed like a really good thing to test my limits.”

He said he was linked up with people who do Tough Mudder races, Spartan races and other obstacle-type challenges, which led him to the Death Race.

Dalzell said, “I’m a pretty competitive person. I always kind of push myself and pride myself on doing something a little crazier than everybody else.”

Crazy indeed, as this Death Race is the ultimate task of competitors facing physical and mental challenges and a whole lot of unknowns.

Dalzell mentioned that he could be going under a barbed wire or building a stone wall for 70 hours, just as an example of the tasks that could be coming his way in the “race.” In reality, he has no idea what is going to happen, which is one of the parts that excites him.

“The start can be whenever they decide,” Dalzell said. “They tell you to show up Thursday night and the race could start 15 minutes after you get there or at 9:15 at night, or they can wake up you up at 5:00 in the morning and say ‘okay we’re going.’”

In terms of food and sleep, it really is a free-for-all. Participants have to bring their own food and decide when they want to eat it.
“I plan on making a whole bunch of meals: chicken, rice, beans, steak, and bringing some energy bars and eating as I go when they give you a chance,” Dalzell said.

Sleep is definitely the most unpredictable because of the unknowns of each event. But Dalzell said he is ready for it, having once gone nearly 60 hours straight with no sleep and was still functional.

“It’s hard to determine when to sleep because you might stay up and be like, ‘Oh, I’m tired, I’m sleeping,’ and the race could end 15 minutes later and now you’re sleeping when the race is ending,” Dalzell said. “Or it could go on for another entire day and now you have to stay up for another entire day.”

Dalzell said he is constantly looking to improve and better himself every chance he gets.  “I always try to compare myself to people who are way better at specific things,” Dalzell noted.

He said that he runs with people who run marathons in 2:30, bikes with a former Navy Seal who set a record with a team of seven others in biking across the country in about five days, and swims with actual swimmers.

Dalzell feels that competing with that level of athletic ability gives him a benchmark of how much he can improve and an edge that allows him to always keep pushing.

Some examples of Dalzell’s extreme competitive nature include a time that his friends drove their cars to an off-road event, but he decided to ride his bike there instead, recalled Dalzell with a laugh.

Dalzell illustrated a random weekend for him where he woke up at 6 a.m. to do an obstacle run, then drove to his shop in Londonderry to work on his friend’s truck until 4 a.m. He then drove back to Stow to unload some junk, drove to Boston and won a ¾-mile kayak race down the Charles River and then ran an 18:30 5K race and didn’t go to bed until 10 p.m. This was 40 hours of no sleep and a whole lot of exercise, and all for fun.

He has talked to a few friends who have participated in the Death Race and was told to not stand out too much because he would for sure get picked on.

“They said they’re going to tell you to quit,” Dalzell said. “They’re going to tell you that you’re out of the race, or walk up to you and say ‘that was bad form’ or that you missed an obstacle and to ‘get out of here.’” Dalzell was advised to just keep pushing through.
Dalzell had a bit of advice for people who are thinking about doing Death Races of sorts in the future. First, make sure you sign up early because the longer you wait, the more expensive it becomes. He signed up more than a year ago.

His other advice is to keep doing more. He said, “Do as much as you do until your friends think you’re crazy, and then do more.”
On the Death Race website, they warn the participants about a chance of death (hence the name). Dalzell isn’t thinking too much about that.

“The first year they did it, a guy almost drowned, but I actually don’t think of dying. I don’t let that get to me,” Dalzell said. “But I’m sure if I’m faced with it, I’ll be saying something else.”

No matter how much pressure he gets to quit or how difficult the race may be, Dalzell has only one goal for this Death Race even though only 40 people out of 400 finished the race last year.

“I’m definitely finishing.” Dalzell said confidently. “I’d be pretty disappointed with myself if I didn’t.”

Visit www.peak.com/death-races/summer-death-race/ to learn more about the Death Race.t