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Don Schwartz returns to the Spartan Death Race

Whistler athlete looking to win battle of physical and mental endurance

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"Nothing in the race is about being fair," he said. "There could be a section (this year) where you flip a coin and you have to go over the top of a mountain while another guy gets sent on an easy trail to the same destination. And no, it's not fair. The whole idea is to frustrate you and try to make you quit."

Getting ready for the Death Race means taking an unusual approach to fitness. For example, Schwartz has just had a load of wet, soggy wood delivered to his backyard so he can practice his wood-chopping — a common challenge in every Death Race. He's been doing up to three workouts a day to simulate the non-stop nature of the event, doing things like hauling rocks up and down the side of a local mountain or running around his neighourhood wearing a 50-pound weight vest or lugging a 100-pound medicine ball. He's also a regular at CrossFit, and recently went head to head — and beat — a younger athlete training for CrossFit Regionals.

"My wife actually bought me a nice early Father's Day present," laughed Schwarz. "It's an eight-foot long piece of irrigation pipe that I can fill with water — it weighs 200 pounds. I fill it halfway so it sloshes around when you pick it up and it's a nightmare to carry. That's the kind of thing you have to do for this event."

And while most people at the start line will be hoping to endure, Schwartz is looking to place first this year.

"The way I look at it, I didn't spend an entire year training to finish in the middle," he said, admitting that it was a strange way to look at this kind of event. "Most people don't have that thought process at the start line, they want to finish, to endure, to make it to the end in the timeframe. I want to go in and be the guy that's in front and the guy who wins in the end."

It's strictly a personal goal, he said, as there's nothing in it for the winner.

"There's no money in it, it's really expensive and at the end you get a pat on the back and the respect of the 20 people in the world that actually care. The entire race is not much about winning, it's about finding out what you're capable of, what's truly deep inside of you... and when you're at the limit and next to broken physically it becomes about how far you can go mentally. About 10 per cent of this race is physical, the other 90 per cent is all your mental state."

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