Capt. Daniel Gordon is no stranger to difficult tasks. As an armor officer with the 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade on Fort Bragg, Gordon has worked hard to succeed in his military career. He is using that focus and drive to compete in the Spartan Death Race in Pittsfield, Vermont.
The race, held June 30 through July 3, is an extreme test of the participants’ endurance, and Gordon is looking forward to it.
“I always kind of like to do things that push me out of my comfort zone,” Gordon said.
From running marathons and ultra marathons to participating in Spartan Races, Gordon has been preparing for the Spartan Death Race since September, and says he is looking forward to the grueling, four day event.
“I have done a lot of the regular Spartan races. I had done all the way up to the longest one they have, so this seemed like the next logical progression from that. It is something varied, something new, something I wasn’t sure I was able to do, so it was kind of that next challenge for me,” said Gordon.
The Spartan Death Race, held in a farm in Vermont, is considered to be one of the most difficult races in the world. Participants are subjected to several days worth of challenges before the actual race begins. Those who don’t make the timed events or who can’t complete the tasks are pulled from the event.
Gordon says the days of challenges leading up to the actual race were created to mentally and physically wear the participants out. Last year, they spent the first day carrying concrete bags weighing around 70 pounds up and down a mountain and building a rock wall. This was when the organizers made the first cut, Gordon said.
Instead of being able to relax after the strenuous day, the competitors hiked all through the night before they came to their next day’s challenges, which seemed to be centered around memorization skills. The race began not long after these challenges.
Sleep deprivation, hunger and body fatigue plague every participant, and according to the Spartan website, only 20% of those who enter the race actually finish.
This will be the second year that Gordon will be doing the extreme event. Last year, he came within four hours of finishing the race.
“The sun was coming up on the third day, and I knew they were going to call the race in the couple of hours, but I didn’t complete one of the challenges in time,” said Gordon. “I got cut with about four hours remaining. I was so frustrated because I got super close.”
This year, he is hoping for redemption.
“I’m looking forward to correcting the mistakes of last year. I don’t want to come up short. I trained really hard and put a lot of effort into it, just to come so close to finishing,” Gordon said. “It really put a sour taste in my mouth. I don’t like failing at anything. People in sports say they have unfinished business, it was kind of like I had to come back for redemption I guess.”
Gordon set the goal of finishing the race a few years ago, and has been working toward that goal ever since. Last year, he trained for four months leading up to the event. This year, he gave himself nine months to train. Balancing military life with training has been difficult, he said, but he tries to make time every day to work out. If he doesn’t get a run in before work, he’ll run after, going as far as eight to ten miles. On weekends, when he has more spare time, he’s able to do longer runs along with weight training.
But Gordon doesn’t seem to mind. He says the military has helped prepare him for these events.
“There are times when you are out in the field when you have to run on low sleep, not a lot of food. When we are in these races where people get super agitated or people have to operate without sleep, the military prepares you for that,” he said.
He said he finds a similar camaraderie with his fellow racers as he does with his military friends.
“I met some really cool people last year,” he said. “While you’re doing it, it isn’t enjoyable. But kind of like the military there’s a camaraderie with the people you do it with.
“It is a race, but especially in those first couple of days you are kind of helping each other out. It’s the same in the military, you build friendships through going through hard things. That’s what I’m looking forward to: the feeling of going through a hard thing with some cool people who are like-minded.”
Gordon finds the mental aspects of the race to be the most challenging to conquer.
“You just never know when it’s going to end. It could end at hour 69 or hour 72,” he said. “When you go above the 24 hour mark with very limited sleep, you just want to give up. You ask why are you doing this. Those questions creep in your head. You gotta just come back to center, come back to being in the moment.”