PULLMAN — Under a definition of “hell” many people might include the Spartan Death Race. Its website sets the tone for the test it offers: www.youmaydie.com.“My friends all think I’m crazy,” says Camille C. Adams, a Pullman High School graduate training for the 2013 race that takes place June 21 in Pittsfiled, Vt. “They say, ‘You paid to do this?’ ”
The endurance event is billed as a test of physical and mental strength. Challenges are kept secret until the race begins. Competitors may be asked to chop wood or carry a 20-pound stump for hours. Crawling through mud under barbed wire is common. One year, after 20 hours of racing, competitors were told to memorize the names of the first 10 U.S. presidents, then hike to the top of a mountain and recite them back in order. Another year they ate pounds of raw onions. The race can last 24 to 72 or more hours. During that time one may be taunted and lied to. Weaknesses are probed. Only 15 percent who enter finish.
Adams, 31, is in military intelligence in the U.S. Army. She enlisted right after high school in 1999 and has been deployed to Iraq four times and to Afghanistan once. When she competes in June’s race she plans to wear a shirt with the names of a friend and a boyfriend who died while serving. In Afghanistan she vowed to “go out and do the things I know my friends would do if they were still here,” she explains. The Spartan Death Race is one of those things.
“Being 31 and burying as many people as I’ve buried, it gets hard,” says Adams, who was home for the holidays visiting her mother, Charise Lloyd of Albion, before being transferred to Germany for two years.
Running is one of her coping tools. She is also a community athlete with Team X-T.R.E.M.E., a nonprofit organization that honors, empowers and motivates wounded service members.
“You find things to get away from that mindset of what you lose out there,” she says.
Snow piled up in Pullman wasn’t stopping her afternoon workout of 20 laps at the track. After each lap she would do 25 each of pushups, squats, sit-ups and burpees. To prepare for the Spartan race she plans to chop a lot of wood, and go on rucksack marches and gas mask runs. Running with a gas mask constricts how well you breathe, thereby improving your cardio, she explains. She’s also competed in some shorter Spartan races, taking second place in the Mid Atlantic Super Spartan in August.
Just before the death race participants are sent a list of what to pack. Besides food and water past lists have included an ax, a live fish, and $50 in pennies. Each year there is a theme. For 2012 it was betrayal and deceit. This year it’s gambling.
She tells of a friend who competed in last year’s race. He finished after 74 hours and left in a wheelchair because of trauma to his feet and back. She’s been advised not to overlook the importance of extra socks.
When asked if there is anything she fears about the race, Adams says, “besides not finishing?”
She thinks for a moment.
“The reality of losing that grip on reality because of exhaustion,” she says. “I’m actually pretty excited to see how much I can put my body through.”
Adams has already completed one of the race’s challenges, to have a story run in a credible news source on her adventure. There is a 50,000 pound lift punishment for those who fail. They are given five hours to lift 30 to 50 pound boulders over and over again until 50,000 pounds is reached.
Adams, who spent her youth in Pullman and Lewiston, says she’d like to push more friends to challenge themselves. She’s grateful for the opportunities she’s had to travel the world in the military and push herself to new limits.
“Anyone, even a simple country girl, can go after any goal she sets her mind to,” she says.