Del Mar men competing in this year’s Death Race
By Marlena Chavira-Medford
Hauling logs 26 miles up a snowy mountain, eating a pound of raw onions, and chopping wood until your hands bleed isn’t something most people would voluntarily subject themselves to. Then again, those who sign up for the race that entails such extreme tasks are not like most people. Like the name suggests, the Death Race is only for those who don’t fear, and in fact welcome, radical challenge.Even the race’s website, YouMayDie.com, is enough to make some weak in the knees. Part of what gives the race its reputation is its unpredictability. There are no start and end times because race organizers make that call when the spirit moves them, which can be anywhere from several hours to more than a day, and they keep everyone on their toes by constantly throwing curve balls, each in the form of some outlandish, agonizing mission. Those who finish the race — survivors, as they’re called — are few and far between. Last year only 19 out 135 people finished the annual race in Vermont. This year’s race will be June 24 and hopefuls include three men who hail from Del Mar: Daniel Schaerer, Bo Brown and Nate Brown.
“Crazy physical activity has pretty much always been part of my life,” said Brown, who spent nearly six years in the U.S. Navy, and in 2003 was part of the Naval Special Warfare Unit in Iraq. These days the veteran and former Del Mar lifeguard is in medical school at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. The change of pace has left him itching for some serious physical excursion. “Right now it’s a lot of sitting around studying books. When I learned about the Death Race, it immediately appealed to me.”
The Death Race also appealed to Schaerer, who is also a Del Mar native attending medical school at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Schaerer was a discus thrower at Stanford University, and then competed internationally as part of the Swiss national track and field team.
“He’s defiantly got that drive and competitive edge which I think will help a lot for this race,” Brown said, and that likely explains why his younger brother also signed up for Death Race. The junior at UC Berkeley has been a competitive Alpine skier since high school, when he moved to Idaho and joined the Sun Valley Ski Team.
Brown and Schaerer have also decided to use the Death Race as an opportunity to raise money for charity. Brown is raising money for the Challenged Athlete’s Foundation, and donations can be made via challengedathletes.org. Schaerer is raising money for Health Volunteers Overseas and donations can be made through his blog’s website, http://danielschaerer.blogspot.com/.
Brown said he thinks he and his race buddies will do well, considering they all share a characteristic critical for making it to the end: “You have to have something in you that makes you not want to quit anything, ever,” he said, adding that neither he nor his two fellow Del Mar race participants had to be coaxed into signing up for the Death Race. “If you have to convince someone to do this race, they shouldn’t be doing it. You have to really want it. This race is all about pushing yourself to new limits and seeing just how much you can take, and what you’re really capable of.”
Brown and Schaerer got a taste of exactly how much they can take and what they’re capable of a few month’s ago during the winter Death Race, which Brown describes “like a watered down version” of the main summertime race. Both men were among the 10 out of about 20 who finished the race.
“That experience has given me a good sense for the overall tone of the race,” he said. “I don’t know that you’re ever completely ready for something like this, but I think I’m as ready as I’m going to be.”
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