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Death Race Challenge lives up to its billing

Don Schwarz survives three-day Vermont Challenge



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Schwarz was fourth out of the water, he said, but then the finishers had to wait an hour or so for people to catch up.

Then the competitors had to stand up to their waists in a freezing pond, about six degrees Celsius, for five minutes before pulling themselves across a 50-yard (45 metre) rope strung over the pond. Then they climbed up a hill, where they had to walk 200 metres around a farmyard with a little candle, without the candle going out. They did this seven times.

"After two laps the hypothermia starts to set in," said Schwarz, which made it almost impossible to hold the candle. There was a bonfire to tempt the racers, but anybody who stopped to get warm would be disqualified. Schwarz was one of the first 10 to finish, then was told to sit in the mud until the rest of the field caught up.

By the time this field had shrunk to about 50 people, and the race hadn't even started yet.

The next test involved following pink ribbons through the woods for three miles and chopping up and stacking 10 pieces of lumbers. Then they had to grab an 80-pound log and get it 300 metres up a mountain where they had to memorize a Bible verse. They came back down afterwards and had to recite the verse perfectly or go back up.

The were told to walk a mile-and-a-half back to the farm that was the staging area for the race, where they had to take a tape measure and cut off a 30-inch piece of wood with the handsaw. They had to carry that log back across the street to the next checkpoint in their packs, doing 100 burpies along the way while carrying another 50 pounds of wood on top of their 35 pounds of gear - they didn't know it then but they'd be carrying that chunk of log for the rest of the competition.

By now it was 7 a.m. on Saturday and they had already been going over 12 hours - and the race hadn't started yet. The sun did come out to help dry and warm the competitors, but the nice weather didn't last.

Next up, they had to hike eight kilometres over the side of the 600-metre mill and then back down the other side to the next checkpoint, bushwhacking the whole way while following a line of pink ribbons. On the other side, competitors had to throw their logs into the pond and then crawl through a narrow, 35-metre highway culvert with 25 centimetres of cold water flowing through it. Schwarz said he scraped he knees and elbows on the rusted bottom. After that it was back to the pond with swim goggles to fish out their logs. After that, they pointed to another mountain and told competitors the checkpoint was on the other side.