BOCA RATON, WEST Local firefighter Joe Falcone risks his life every day to protect the residents of West Boca Raton and the Palm Beaches. Still, even during his downtime, he puts himself in danger. He is preparing for a February trip to the pits to participate in a Winter Death Race.
It takes a unique sort of person to sign up for a New Year’s 5K knowing they’ll have to get up the morning after New Year’s Eve. That in itself is a “death race.”
Someone slightly more extreme would sign a waiver for a race that said, literally, “You May Die.”
Yep. You did read that right.
Falcone will compete again from February 9 to February 11 in and around Pittsfield, Vermont’s Green Mountains, which serve as the venue for all ultra-endurance races run by the event’s host Peak Races.
Potential participants are cautioned on the firm’s website: “We offer no assistance. We withhold the beginning date from you. When it concludes is a secret to you. We withhold the details of what it will entail.”
And from the little information available about the race, nobody has perished.
At least not yet.
How To Win A Death Race
The website states that races can take up to 70 hours and that the terrain to be encountered is “unexpectedly hard,” in addition to the motivational statement, “We want you to fail and encourage you to quit at any point.”
It’s hard to predict exactly which trails Falcone and the other trekkers will take. The Rutland Southern Vermont Regional Airport is the only pin drop offered.
The oldest long-distance track in the United States, located in the Green Mountains where the races are conducted, Vermont’s Long Trail, gives a number of them to give an idea of the “unexpected” difficulties Falcone and friends may encounter.
Bears and “alpine zones” at the peaks of Camel’s Hump, Mount Mansfield, and Mt. Abe, which contain some of the nation’s only alpine tundra, are among the “particular considerations” to take, according to the Green Mountain Club, the trail’s creators and maintainers.
Falcone provided a little film with several hypothetical situations he would find himself in without reading the website or having any prior understanding of what to anticipate in a tough winter.
After a lengthy scene of snow-covered alpine mountains, the first footage showed a contestant carrying a two-by-four down a hill before slipping and dropping the wooden board upon the skull of another contestant. Another race saw competitors moving 900-pound chunks of ice together.
One of the final images showed a shivering athlete struggling to get warm while lying on top of what appeared to be a burning undergrowth.
Falcone stated that the most challenging part of preparing for the marathon was training because “the human body is governed by the mind.”, especially for someone who lives in Florida’s flat, perpetually sunny climate.
Making “You May Die” Ready For
Florida’s highest peak is Sugarloaf Mountain, a 312-foot summit located four hours from Falcone in West Boca Raton and 15 minutes from Clermont.
Falcone might find himself ascending Vermont’s Mt. Mansfield, which has a staggering 4,393-foot peak.
“Other than cutting wood and carrying heavy objects while hiking, there are no special skills to practice. To prepare, I run, hike with a weighted backpack, drag a tire along a levee for kilometers, lift oddly heavy objects like pebbles, carry weighted buckets, cut wood, and do a lot of HIIT exercises, “explained Falcone.
I’ve spent the last four years building up my experience and cold-weather racing resume by competing in tough, challenging races.
Falcone completed a 135-mile winter ultramarathon in February in Northern Minnesota while towing a sled loaded with all his equipment through the whole race in subfreezing temperatures.
Falcone described his biggest fear as a scenario requiring action to avert “severe consequences” from hypothermia. “Cold weather requires a tonne of gear and the knowledge of how to use it in an emergency case,” Falcone added.
Before leaving, Falcone said he practices utilizing his equipment and tries to have a plan “A, B, and C” in case the phrase “You May Die” becomes all too true.
There will be food, a headlamp, a camp stove, an axe for cutting wood, and necessities like insulated coats, mittens, layers, a first aid kit, a fire starter, hand warmers, and a “emergency bivvy,” a small shelter to climb into for warmth.
According to Falcone, bring your bucket—a five-gallon size—to a Death Race for “many reasons.”
“There is also a list of necessary equipment, but I have not yet gotten it. Usually, that is released one month before the race, “explained Falcone. I’ll be wearing a pack that weighs between 30 and 40 pounds.
Falcone’s first summer Death Race was replied to by 62 exhausting hours of obstacle-filled physical activity, emphasized by hallucinations, sleepwalking, and extreme exhaustion. However, he still has no idea what to expect from his first winter Death Race.
Falcone remarked, “But I was able to push through all of that and finish the race. That encounter set the tone for several years of endurance racing.
Only 10 to 15 percent of people reportedly finish the race. Finishers, as opposed to winners, make it to the finish line.
Falcone’s only failures occurred in two 2013 firefighter-coworker team death races, the Summer Death Race and the Team Death Race.
Falcone remarked, “I honestly don’t know how you would win a Death Race. Most people are there to complete it, and the rules change frequently.
The first person to complete all the chores would be crowned the winner, but I believe they would assign you another assignment and wait for you to give up.
Where The Drive To Survive Began
Although Falcone’s interest in extreme endurance sports began three years earlier with his first Ironman race, a one-day competition that consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a marathon 26.22-mile run in that order, a friend from the fire department inspired him to compete in Death Races in 2011.
If you will, that was the proverbial kiss of death for Falcone.
Falcone stated, “I had already completed a few Ironman triathlons and some ultra-running, but the thought of this wacky race struck me as something I had to accomplish. “There was no turning back once I started down this route of multi-day races.”
Falcone said that the events were crazy, but the best thing was that endurance races helped him be psychologically and physically prepared for any mayhem that might arise while performing his job as a firefighter.
When I discovered this event, Falcone stated, “One thing that struck me was that most races would give you support, let you know how far along you are, and encourage you to finish. “Not this race—they don’t tell you anything, encourage you to give up, and frequently modify the rules.”
Falcone remarked of the series, “Just like reality, nothing is fair, constant, or assured.” Thank goodness my wife and kids are okay with my going on these wild escapades.