Head wins his first Spartan Death Race

Published 12:01 am Sunday, March 5, 2023

SALISBURY — Andrew Head is still alive.

The endurance athlete, who lives in Granite Quarry, competed for over 60 hours in wintry conditions to claim his first victory in a Spartan Death Race. He was one of only three who finished after 15 started the race.

Head, who was featured in the Post in January, competes in the death races, which are endurance events that last up to three days and consist of mental and physical challenges. According to the Peak Races website, “every Death Race is its own uniquely brutal challenge, no two races are alike.”

This was Head’s first winter death race. He has competed in two other ones during the summer. He traveled again to Pittsfield, Vermont, where the death races are held. Head said temperatures during the race ranged from 10 to 30 degrees.

For this race, some of the challenges included carrying heavy objects up and down a mountain. They tied their legs together and then bunny hopped across a field multiple times in the snow. They also had to memorize “ridiculous things” and build a fire inside a bucket to cook a hamburger on top of it. It was also wet and snowing that weekend, so building a fire was even more difficult. Head said he was the only one who successfully cooked his burger.

The hardest part, he said, was when the competitors had to cut a hole in a frozen pond until they fell in and then stay submerged under freezing water for a minute and a half. They had to submerge themselves a total of nine times throughout the race. Once completed, they had 15 minutes to wrap themselves in warm, metal blankets, put hot packs on and then get back to racing.

“After that minute and half, the water’s cold enough that it does something to your eyes, something about blood rushing to your brain and when you come up you couldn’t see. You’d blink your eyes and it would look like somebody was flashing cameras in your face,” Head said. “It was weird, it was just like bright lights. It kind of freaked me out a little bit.”

Head had practiced for the freezing water challenge in his pool at his house for months before the race. But the water was much colder in Vermont and he started to develop hypothermia at one point.

“You can feel hypothermia coming on, it’s extremely predictable,” he said. “I got out of the water and the wind was screaming it was like 40 mph winds … and you’re dripping wet, wearing boxers, almost buck naked and soaking wet. I was standing on snow and ice and I remember the wind feeling so warm to me like I was on a beach. I knew I was in trouble ’cause that should not have felt good.”

When he found out he had finished the race, Head said he was overcome with emotions.

“It was overwhelming. It was very emotional, cried a little bit. I put a lot into this stuff, you know what I mean,” Head said.

Winners don’t get any prize money. For a trophy, Head received a white, plastic skull.

Most people would probably take a couple of weeks off after completing something grueling like the death race. But not Head. The next weekend he flew down to Jacksonville, Florida, to compete in a Spartan Super race, a 10K trail running race with 25 obstacles scattered throughout. He also competed in a Spartan Sprint race, which is a 3- to 4-mile obstacle race.

Head plans to compete again in his fourth death race this summer. He said he wants to do another because he feels “like I’ve got unfinished business up there.”