25 Capt. Daniel Gordon, Alpha Troop, 3rd Squadron, 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade, smiles as he talks about his love for obstacle races. In the plainly decorated gym at his apartment, he pulls 45-pound weights off the rack and places them onto the bar. He is focused on the events awaiting him at the end of June.

He gets a little distracted as he talks about his upcoming race — the Spartan Death Race in Pittsfield, Vermont. He is both excited and nervous. He begins to discuss some of the mental challenges he'll face.
Gordon is strong, and he spends a lot of time inside a gym or doing sporting activities. He has an infectious energy about him and moves and talks rapidly. His girlfriend, Melody Chong, is standing beside him and watching him with a smile. She picks up the weights and places them on the bar.

For 72 hours, Gordon will complete a series of tasks, both mental and physical, without any sleep. These tasks will include a 14-hour ruck march, a 26.2-mile sandbag carry and 26.2 miles of burpees. Gordon is not exactly sure what to expect at the Spartan Death Race. The race itself has about a 5 to 10% completion rate.

Tonight's workout is the second of the day for Gordon. This morning he ran 10 miles on Fort Bragg at 5 a.m. He tries to include running in his daily routine.

“I'm still not the quickest runner. I don't love running,” he says, laughing.

Spartan is very specific about the race's qualifications. Gordon went through an application process and was required to upload training videos each month after acceptance as a participant. He will compete in a series of mental challenges during the race, then complete the physical challenges.

“I think the more you get wrong, the more you do,” Gordon said of the physical exercises.

He admits that he is not entirely sure of all the activities and obstacles he will have to tackle to complete this three-day course. This part seems to energize Gordon. He has always been up for challenges. This is good considering this race also includes a barbed-wire-crawl marathon along with the other events.

“I've been doing a lot of mental preparation. I have been listening to podcasts. Your mind can handle ‘I'm going to carry this rock for an hour,' but it can't handle 'I have to carry this rock for 72 hours,’” Gordon smiles widely, then continues, “I want to be able to mentally function when I'm dead tired.”

Gordon attended West Point and said he was very active in sports growing up. His father, also in the military, pushed him not to give up and always complete things. He also taught Gordon and his sister to work hard at their activities. Gordon remembers spending hours hitting balls outside for practice. The discipline he has developed he credits first to his dad.

“He always pushed us to do our best,” Gordon explains.

Obstacle racing has become part of his life in the last couple of years. These races, according to Gordon, are also good practice for his military career. They help prepare for situations that a soldier may find themselves in. It helps him answer some questions he says are essential to his job duties.

“Can you operate as a team when you are tired and hungry and you haven't slept? Can you mentally stay in the game when you want to quit?”

Gordon leans back to do a bench press. He does a few sets and then sits back up.

“You know,” he says, “I can handle you are going to crawl under barbed wire for 10 miles … it's that hour 65 or 70 when you are wondering when is this going to end; that's the scary part of it.”

Gordon leans back down and lifts more weights. He admits that the thirtieth of June isn't too far away, and 72 hours is a lot of time for things to “go wrong.” The right attitude, Gordon says, is key. “I think you only know if you are ready once you get there. And once you get there, you kind of gotta say, ‘alright, now I'm here. I got to accept that I am here.’”

“I'm not going to be one to tap out and do the walk of shame,” He explains. “… I think I'm going to make it. Once I'm there, I'm going to be there. That's been my mindset.”

Regardless of the outcome, Gordon says he will run it again. Pushing his limits is a thrill that he can't seem to get enough of.

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