LUKE GREGORY of Alton is training for the Spartan Death Race, set for June in Vermont. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
March 11, 2013ALTON — By all accounts, Luke Gregory doesn't have a death wish.
But the race he's signed up for is certainly something that might make everyone wish they were dead.
The Alton resident is training to be part of the Spartan Death Race in Pittsfield, Vt. in mid-June.
The race is a unique event in that going into it, the contestants know nothing about what is going to be thrown at them. They pay a registration fee without having the slightest idea of what they're signing up for.
Most contestants will have some sort of idea of just how tough the race is, but the only indication they have of what they might be expected to do comes from videos and testimonials from previous races and the organizers of the race are known to throw completely different things at the competitors from previous years.
From physical tasks like chopping wood and carrying large loads, to mental tasks such as remembering information after an overnight hike, the Spartan Death Race is unique in the fact that it offers many different challenges. Racers are sent a short list of supplies that they will need in order to compete, but beyond that, it's going in all blind.
Gregory, who was raised in Portsmouth, but moved to Alton after taking a job in Gilford, has done some adrenaline races in the past, but traces his search for something more to the time he spent in the Army, where he received training in psychological ops before traveling around the world.
"But the most adrenaline was at Camp McCall," Gregory said. "I thought that was pretty intense at that time."
After getting out of the Army, Gregory wanted to continue to do the things he enjoyed and he noted that some of the things he enjoyed involved pushing his body, much like he did in his Army training.
"One of the things I enjoyed was going out into the wilderness and pushing your body," he said. "I wanted to go back and experience it again."
He was considering traveling to compete in a Half-Ironman, but then stumbled upon the Spartan Death Race, which is much closer to home and even more difficult.
"I don't know what's going on, but that's a good thing," Gregory said. "Everyone's at a level playing field going in."
Gregory did his research, as the price to enter the race is relatively high and he wanted to make sure that this was something he wanted to do.
"If the affection didn't fade away after reading and researching for a month, it was going to be something staying with you if you didn't do it," Gregory stated.
One of the biggest factors in signing up for the race was the simple fact that many of the competitors who gave it a go last year and didn't finish, were signing up to do it again.
"I said I have to do this," Gregory said. "But it's going to take a lot of training."
Gregory has been doing a lot of hiking through the Belknap Mountains in preparation, as he believes that the type of terrain available there is much like he will encounter in Vermont. He's been hiking in snowshoes during the winter month and also planned a trip to Carter Dome, up beyond Wildcat Mountain in Pinkham Notch.
He's also putting himself through stress tests, incrementally adding weight in his ruck sack and adding length to his hikes. He hopes to eventually be up to a loop of 45 miles, which he expects would be good to test his body as to his water intake needs.
Gregory has also been taking notice of foot maintenance, as one of the biggest issues facing Spartan Death Race competitors each year is issues with their feet.
"One of the biggest demoralizers is foot problems," Gregory stated. "You have to watch that."
Gregory, who went to UNH after leaving the Army and took a job in Worcester, Mass. after finishing at school, returned to New Hampshire to get away from the city.
"This whole area is ridiculously beautiful," he said. "I was never meant to be in the city."
He expects he will be taking a few extra days off from his job as a thermo-design engineer in Gilford following the race, because he really h as no idea how long the race may last.
Last year's race was 67 hours long. Competitors are given a time to show up, but sometimes they sit around for hours as race organizers test their mental toughness.
"It's supposed to embody everything that's hard in life," Gregory said. "They tell you to quit. They taunt you."
As the snow melts away, Gregory plans to spend many hours at Gunstock, running up and down the ski slopes to the summit, increasing the weight in his pack each time. He's also going to try to stay awake for a three-day stretch to also train his body for what's ahead.
"I'm excited," he said. "It lingered for a while before I pulled the trigger and signed up for it. You have to take that chance."
Appropriately enough, more information on the race can be found at www.youmaydie.com.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 569-3126