When Inland 360 last saw Camille Adams, the Pullman native was about to run 20 laps in the February snow, each lap followed by pushups, squats, sit-ups and burpees in preparation for one of the country’s most intense endurance events, the Spartan Death Race.Nearly 400 people registered for the 2013 race this summer in Pittsfield, Vt. Fewer than 200 arrived ready to compete; 41 finished, including four women. Adams, 32, was the first woman to complete the race.
Adams is used to challenges. She enlisted in the Army after high school in 1999 and has been deployed to Iraq four times and to Afghanistan once. Now stationed in Germany, she is the service desk non-commissioned officer in charge and a platoon sergeant in the 66th Military Intelligence Brigade.
The theme of this year’s race was gambling. Players could be eliminated by a roll of the dice or by missing a time cut-off in the unpredictable race that stretched nearly 70 hours for many. Adams shared her experience with 360 in an email interview.
360: A few days before the race, participants are sent a list of things to pack. What were your thoughts about this year’s list?
Adams: This year’s list was a bit odd but not overwhelming. It included a saw, ax, swimming and safety goggles, a life vest, 5 pounds of hay, 1 pound of grass seed, $5 in quarters, a hand shovel and a tuxedo. When I saw the tuxedo my initial thought was, “How in the heck am I going to hike and not overheat in a tuxedo?”
360: What were some of the challenges you and the others faced?
Adams: 1. Show you packed the required items.
2. Build a 2x2x2 trench around a house and get it to drain water.
3. Build stairs up a mountain with boulders. (This took more than 10 hours.)
4. Move all the tiny rocks from a 30-foot area of ground.
5. Chop 30 logs into eight to 10 pieces and stack them, with a break to do 500 burpees.
6. Crawl through a barbed wire covered culvert for a playing card, five times or until you got a card that beat the deck.
7. A rainy all-night hike to a reservoir where teams were instructed to move seven loads of rock to improve a road, followed by a mile swim.
8. Scoot about half a mile up hill with ankles bound by zip ties, memorize a placard of information and return to answer questions.
9. Hike four miles to get the make and model of a stove in a mountain cabin and return.
10. Hike four miles to an iron mine and find a quote written at the back and return.
360: What was the most difficult moment for you?
Adams: Probably the overnight hike through the mountains. The hallucinations ran deep. I saw everything from a random glass house with candles burning in the window to the Arc de Triomphe, I did a really good job of hydrating and drinking water, but I did a poor job of eating and that, coupled with exhaustion, had me a couple times doubting whether or not I could keep going. I luckily had a lot of amazing people who were out there and everyone seemed to encourage one another and help people keep pushing through.
360: What was your reaction when you found out you were the first woman to complete the race?
Adams: It was actually an insanely close competition among the four females that were finishers. When I found out I was the first-place female I cried pretty intensely and thanked the other female who really went out of her way to push me, Stacie Webster, who came in second.
360: Did you have any injuries to recover from?
Adams: As far as post-race injuries I had an amazing rash from the wild parsnip that went up half my left side and my feet were covered in blisters and swollen so badly I was unable to run for almost a week.
360: Your biggest concern going in was losing your grip on reality. Do you feel you came close to that?
Adams: I definitely came to the point where I lost my grip on everything, though I am OK with that. I feel like so many weights and stresses that had plagued me were left in the mountains of Vermont and a new peace was washed over me. When it is all over there is a calm that washes through you that you simply cannot explain. … I think the fear that I had was well-formed going into it, but I am beyond thankful for it.
360: What best prepared you for this challenge?
Adams: I think what best prepared me was something I learned from the military and a determination and animal bond I share with one of my best friends, and that is the mind-set of the rhino. When things are hard or tedious you never stop. Just put your head down and keep going. Eventually pain and fatigue will be alleviated. The true testament to us as people is what we can push through, and the manner in which we do it.
360: Would you compete again?
Adams: HA, HA, HA, I would most certainly do it again. I am actually already registered to compete again in the 2014 Death Race. I am also signed up for Fuego Y Agua, a survival run in Nicaragua.