That sort of thinking is important, because the Death Race attacks you mentally as much as it does physically. Online, you can find De Sena bragging about how the race separates the tough from the timid, the pussies from the powerful. No one forces you to sign up, but after you do, you'll receive regular e-mails from Joe and Andy advising you to give up in advance. "It's not too late," they say. "Just quit." They also throw in helpful training advice: "Check yourself into a state prison and get into as many fights as possible" and "Have some teeth pulled without drugs."
"We are animals, meant to sweat," De Sena said. "For thousands of years, every day was a death race for humans. This race is for the hunter-gatherers left in society, those few who can still deal with risk and uncertainty."
I NEVER DO FIND my pennies in the goddamned pond, which means I won't have that five bucks to buy my way out of some unknown future task. When I finally give up and crawl out of the water, I'm shivering uncontrollably. Sue covers me with fleece jackets and pours hot soup down my throat.
The next task is to run—with textbook, posthole digger, onions, knife, remaining pennies, and six heavy chunks of firewood—up and over another mountain to someplace called the Onion House. By this point it's almost 4 P.M. on Saturday, and the few of us still going have been at it for 19 hours.
I can no longer run. No act of willpower could put the pain in my knees out of my mind. I hike as fast as I can, following fluttering bits of pink survey tape straight up a trailless mountain thick with poison ivy.
At the top of the 1,000-foot climb, there's no Onion House. Instead, the survey tape turns and drops straight back down. Going up was manageable for my knees, but going down is excruciating. I should've paced myself, recognizing that, since this is a long race, an extra half-hour walking the downhills wouldn't have made much difference.
Should'ves are always irretrievable; now I have to deal with the consequences. I'm sidestepping, limping, tripping over deadfall and flipping onto my face. At the bottom of the mountain, the survey tape doglegs and goes back up. I begin the ascent with knees screeching and diminishing hope, which surprises me. What the hell is my problem?
When I finally reach the Onion House, the assigned task is to wheelbarrow firewood back and forth for ten laps, then chop up nine pounds of onions and eat a pound. If you still have enough money, you can buy yourself out of this torture, but then you might not have enough to avoid whatever comes next.