Global Rescue Security Manager and Navy SEAL, Daniel Bayer, took first place in the 2011 winter edition of the ‘Death Race,’ a grueling trial of fitness and cold-weather survival held every year in Pittsfield, VT. Described by the New York Times as “300” meets “Survivor”, and by Outside magazine as a “demented sufferfest”, the Death Race is a sadistic stew of running, crawling, manure-hauling, barbed-wire navigating, wood chopping, and any other agony-inducing activity that springs to the mind of the event’s creator, Joe Desena, who mixes up the course every year. Of the 20 elite participants, only half of them finished.
However, Bayer has deep experience operating in difficult environments. As a veteran of four combat deployments as a Navy SEAL, and as a team leader of Global Rescue’s security evacuations from the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and January’s revolution in Egypt, he is regularly tasked with missions that have moving parts to coordinate, unforeseen obstacles to overcome and physical challenges.
After four hours of warm-ups, the athletes took off for their first ascent of one of the peaks near Killington ski resort at 10PM on March 4th, each carrying a log under an arm. Then they carried two logs for the second loop, then three and then four. Twenty-six miles in total, all done on snowshoes except for the first leg, where racers slogged uphill without them, pulling their legs out of the crusty, thigh-deep snow most of the time.
After the mountain marathon came the rock carry: digging dozens of slimy stones out of the bed of an ice-cold river, and carrying them three-quarters of a mile in buckets – weighing about 80 to 100 pounds in each hand – to a spot where they built three-foot cairns. Their hands completely numb, the competitors were asked to construct two bird houses, testing fine motor skills in sub-freezing conditions. Next up, wheel-barrowing, quartering and stacking 30 logs, and then shoveling wet snow away from a chicken coop.
The final hurdle was a winter nightmare: submerging themselves and holding their breath for an aggregate 60 seconds in a frozen pond, and emerging to recite a tongue-twister given to them to memorize at the beginning of the race.
Bayer finished in 19 hours, 28 minutes -- about 45 minutes in front of second place. The secret, he said, was proper planning, such as what and when to eat, and just plain mental toughness.
“The biggest differentiator is the way people fueled, how they were dressed and how they dealt with pain,” Bayer said. “People deal with pain differently and that’s what this competition is all about.”
In addition to his security duties at Global Rescue, Bayer oversees physical training at the company’s Boston Operations Center, a regimen fondly known as the GRRT: the Global Rescue Readiness Training. One part cross training, one part powerlifting and one part mental-agility exercise, the GRRT test is a standard that all operations staff must meet in order to be eligible for deployment.
Dan Bayer will take his physical training to the next level to prepare for the next challenge on his agenda – the summer edition of the Death Race, scheduled for June.