Below is a post I wrote and posted on Facebook March 2013 after completing my first Winter Death Race. I am reposting it here as I find it relevant to my journey to being captain of Team Renegade.
Winter Death Race, where do I start? I am such a different person today then I was a year ago, even then the person I was after I finished summer Death Race or even 2 months ago. How did this all start? A couple years ago a good friend and coach, Eric LeClair forwarded a link about Death Race and how it would suit me. I was intrigued and wanted to do it, but I was afraid to leave my known world of triathlon racing to take it on. How would I find time to train for such a long event? There would be so much new to me and I didn’t know where to start. It took a severe back injury that kept me from biking and therefore racing to sign up for Death Race. I trained by running, doing Crossfit, and 3 of Joe Decker’s Suck events the longest being 20 hours. I signed up with I don’t know what will happen, but I knew I wouldn’t quit. To help cement that idea I raised money for Lone Survivor Foundation, which provides retreats for wounded veterans and their families, a cause close to my heart. Even better the foundation was founded by an ex-SEAL and their motto is Never Quit. In all the mind games leading up to DR we were told we needed to submit a Death Waiver. The one I wrote is below. It is pulled on heavily from the SEAL creed
I Melody “Tiger” Hazi enter Death Race under my own will, but I may not be of sound mind as I did sign up and pay to participate in said event. I will never quit; if knocked down, I will get back up, every time; I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to accomplish the challenge and I am never out of the fight. If I die in the process then so be it. I will not hold Peak Races or the State of Vermont liable, so bring it!
This waiver will be considered signed by the blood that I will leave in Pittsfield Vermont and surrounding areas June 15-18, 2012
After doing more of these types of events I have come to realize a few things and what’s funny is I had it right. To succeed at a Death Race, GoRuck Selection or other such extreme event you must really be willing to put it all on your line. Willing to go beyond into the unknown and totally destroy your body, be able to push the consequences out of your mind if you want to succeed. At WDR many people quit because they were beginning to get frost bite during our time in the frozen river. There is no shame in quitting due to not wanting permanent damage due to frost bite, but if you want it bad enough you will risk it.
These types of events are 90% mental. It comes down to how bad do you want it and what are you willing to risk? You can’t succeed without risking something. We all have limits as to what we are willing to risk for such an event. The people that motivate and inspire me (our countries special operations forces) are willing to risk all because their and their teammates lives depend on it. To them it is mission, team, country and family. Those of us that do these events for “fun” don’t have the same high stakes, so it is understandable we are not willing to go to same extremes of risking it all.
For me what am I willing to risk? If it is something I want almost anything. For me I’ve figured out I want to live life to its fullest no matter what the consequences as long as I can guide my son off to college/adulthood. I.E. I want to be around and have brain function 8 more years till he is 18. Besides that I am willing to risk pretty much anything.
So let’s go back to WDR. After summer DR I learned I can deal with sleep deprivation, fight off hallucinations, go on no food or water for hours ect. Being a Cali girl I don’t do cold. I like 90*f and humid. I.E. Central America or the south in summer is my comfort zone. Winter Death Race wasn’t even on my radar. Somehow that changed. I knew that since I finished summer I wanted to take on winter even though it was way outside my comfort zone.
I decided I wanted to prove to myself I can survive in cold. First up was Worlds Toughest Mudder. I unfortunately never got to prove I can deal with cold as I almost detached quad muscle a few hours in and had to withdraw. Next up (just 5 weeks after I tore my quad) I decided to take on GoRuck Selction in DC to prove I could deal with the cold. It was 20-35*f during the event. I survived the first night and day being soaking wet in these temps. The 2nd night my body was struggling. Even running my core wouldn’t get warm in these temps as we were soaking wet. After 27 hours in I was checked on by the medic and asked if I wanted to continue, my answer? Yes I want to go on till I pass out on the trail. Patrick serving as medic said no I was out. Not my favorite decision, but probably the right one. If I had continued on there is a good chance I would have passed out on the trail and ended up needing a hospital.
So you could say I had failed twice in the cold, but somehow I showed up in Vermont with confidence. Your failures do teach you something. It didn’t mean I would survive, but I wouldn’t hesitate. I would jump in full blast whether I succeeded or failed. You can’t question or wonder in the back of your head whether you can survive the cold or anything else. If you do you’ve already set yourself up for failure. You have to believe anything is possible. This doesn’t mean you will always succeed, but you believe that you can possible succeed and being willing to commit 100% and risk it all for that chance of success.
I embraced WDR 100%. I was able to find the light moments, passing a real frozen beaver around ring a bell? Shoveling manure out of a barn for hours? I had to do this as a chore as a kid and now I pay money to do this? Laughing at the fuck fuck games. I.E. playing versions of it pays to be a winner, but it not paying to be a winner besides you have expended more energy then the others sprinting through the snow. Remember to take in the pure beauty. Hiking solo up Joe’s mountain in the snow. To me it held the magic of the snow scene in The Nutcracker as a kid. Or sprinting down through the trees in the snow and moonlight. We lost a lot of people during our time in the river pulling out the ibeam and then our 10 laps of across the river, 100 burpees, back across the river. Two things were in my head during this. One the faster I move the warmer my core will be and the sooner I will be done and the less chance I’ll have for frostbite or hypothermia. Second watching the people that didn’t make it. I saw pieces of a previous me.
DR whether summer or winter is never a true race and never fair. At some point it does become individual and somewhat of a race. After the 10x burpee river crossings I knew it was on. I was paired with the Nele to ascend Joe’s Mountain. Olof and Joshua went off together first and then 2 other guys. Being I had done summer I led the way. I goofed and went right instead of left at one point 1/3 of the way up. We were now headed towards Tweed River Road. It eventually dumps you there, but not where we wanted to go. Nele I am sure was worried we are lost. We weren’t lost, just off course. Eventually all trails lead to Joe’s cabin if you go up. Soon enough we reach Joe’s Cabin not far behind Olof and Joshua, beating the 2nd set of guys even with our detour. We had to saw our logs up and then chop the pieces. Joe’s son Jack was up there. While working on our logs I had a great chat with Jack as he supervised my work. This is one of the great moments of Death Race and not something you would have in a true race. I finished my work with my log and my “snowshoeing” (building snow piles only using your shoe) slightly behind Nele, putting me in line behind her to start the Tangram puzzles. Joshua finished his, so Nele got to start her puzzles. Olof struggled with one of his puzzles, so I got to start my puzzles over and hour after Nele. With assistance from the others now waiting on me I made quick work on the puzzles and took off running down the mountain (via Treed River Road) to try and makeup time. I get back to the farm just as Nele had headed back out. I did an efficient quick refuel and was off again. I planned to cross the river on the rope (now iced over bridged) and up the mountain vs going the longer Tweed River Route. It was snowing fairly heavily and even though I headed to the river I missed going left off the main trail. I was half way to Tweed River Road before I was sure so decided to keep going. Since I was going the long way I pushed the pace. When I reached the top Nele was still there. I made quick work of my log, snowshoing and puzzles and was off again. There were a few guys who were on their 1st lap while I was on my 2nd. They were going to go Tweed River Road, which is longer. I told them to go down the mountain if they wanted to make the time cutoff. We headed off down the mountain running. At some point we lost the pink ribbons. Just like going up all trails lead to the cabin all trails down go to the river. We made it down, but were north of the farm by a little. The same mistake I had done the 2nd night of summer death race, but only by ¼ of a mile, not a couple miles. Easy enough follow the river south to the rope bridge. We made it to the rope bridge and they let me go first across and then I raced up to the farm for another quick transition. For my 3rd and final time up the mountain I didn’t miss the turn and made it across the river and rope bridge and strait up the mountain solo to Joes cabin. Olof, Joshua and Nele were still there. Nele finished the puzzles first, so I started on mine as Olof and Joshua were still working on theirs. Nele had decided to wait for them to head down the mountain together. Olof and Joshua finished their last puzzle as I started working on my last puzzle, so they agreed to wait so we could all head down together. We were told once we got back we just hard to be at the yoga studio at 5am, so we all wanted to get down and have a little time to rest. We were going together as we wanted to cut strait down the mountain. With Olof leading we were off. We were all sprinting. Being I was just getting back 100% from my torn quad I was somewhat hesitant to go all out and risk injury especially when I knew we would have at least one more thing once we reached the yoga studio. I was at the back as we raced down the mountain when Mark Webb and 3 other guys flew by from behind. When I reached the rope bridge the others ahead had just finished crossing. I went across and instead of sprinting up to the farm chatted with Don about Death Race and life. If I had known our finishing time would be based off the time we got back to the farm would I have sprinted all the way down the mountain and up to the farm from the river? I am not sure. Death Race is about life and is like life in that it is not fair always, but the experiences mean the most. Did being the 2nd women and 7 minutes behind Nele mean I had accomplished anything less? Not to take anything away from Nele, but not to me. I had made up over 50 minutes the last 2 trips up and down the mountain based on something out of my control and I had nothing to prove to anyone. I only had one thing to prove and that was to myself to show me I could deal with the cold. I did that, I pushed hard and I loved every minute of it. That is success to me!