FORT WAYNE – He will chop wood, maybe. Lug a cinder block, maybe. Crawl on his belly beneath barbed wire, lug his own 80-pound pack, run, swim, do it all again.
For 48 straight hours.
Yeah, they say 48, but like last year it went 62, says Jon Nolan, 31, who played football in high school at DeKalb 13 years ago, but never ran into anything as mind-and-body-bending as the charmingly named Spartan Death Race, a multidiscipline obstacle course event which hell attempt in Pittsfield, Vt., on June 21. They make you go as long as they figure youre not tired enough.
Or mentally broken enough.
Yeah, you have to be incredibly mentally focused, Nolan says.
Physically its challenging, obviously, but the first thing that really breaks down on people is their minds. The founder of it has an uncanny ability to spot someones weakness and then to use that weakness against them over and over just to get them to quit.
This sounds like exactly the thing for a guy like Nolan, who started out running 5Ks a few years back but quickly found them the physical equivalent of reading the phone book. And so, in the summer of 2011, he entered the Midwest Spartan Race in Illinois.
Man and challenge were immediately joined in holy agony.
It wasnt typical, says Nolan, when asked what drew him to that initial race. It was unknown, because they dont tell you what youre going up against or what theres going to be or the distance. So its more of trust that youll finish and go out there and do it.
Especially starting the race, they do an excellent job of hiding what its going to be. They even put people in as registered competitors that are doing it just to freak out and just stir chaos up. It really tests your mental focus, because thats the weakest part of our entire body.
As to the rest of his body, its getting plenty of work these days. Nolan estimates he spends 40 hours a week training, and his calendar leading up to the Death Race – whose web URL, naturally, is www.youmaydie.com – is crowded with one extreme competition after another.
Twice in 2012, for instance, Nolan ran the Huff 50K twice. He did another 50-miler in the bake-oven heat of last summer. Hes done more than 20 obstacle course races, a Death Race training camp – he finished second there by less than 30 seconds – and between now and the Death Race, hell do a 12-hour race on March 2, a 24-hour race in Las Vegas in April and a 20-hour plus, 50K-plus race in Wisconsin.
Oh, yes: And on June 20, less than 12 hours before the Death Race, hes getting married.
And, yes, one who seems to have found something to which he can apply everything, and more, he learned playing high school football.
Two-a-days used to be really popular, Nolan says. The coaches would help us by teaching us, obviously, but they also wouldnt let us stop, even if we were drained. They always worked on our mental capabilities, getting us to push ourselves past the point of what our physical bodies could do. I think thats the main key thats really helped me in this.
The rest is his training regimen, which includes spending his weekends lugging the aforementioned 70- or 80-pound pack around.
Ill go out to Metea or Chain OLakes and backpack all day long, Nolan says. Or hold the pack on my forearms, or carry it around. Make it as uneasy for myself as possible. Because when the event comes, thats exactly what theyre going to do.
Beneath the words lies the great unspoken: Bring it on.