I had heard about last year’s endurance race that Joe Decker and his wife, Nicole, put on at the farm he was born and raised at in Cuba, Illinois, just west of Peoria. It was suppose to be the most physically and mentally demanding 36 hours out there. If you don’t know who Joe Decker is, he won the Death Race 2 times….in a row. That has never been replicated. He owns the Guinness Book of World Records for Fittest Man. Want to know more about him, Google him, you will have more to read than you can possibly stand. Talking to him you wouldn’t know it.
The event started Friday at 7 P.M. Candie and I thought we left with plenty of time to get to the farm with an hour or so to spare. As we were getting closer, it was apparent that we had not. We were the last to roll in, with a few minutes to spare before briefing of how things would be ran and who was doing what and when. As I listened to the information, Candie was busy getting my ruck ready to roll with everything I may need. Never underestimate whether you need crew to help or not, you need them period. Joe finished up with the specifics of everything and gave us 5 minutes to gather what we needed and meet back at basecamp. So, off we went, and I had to change out of my sandals into my trusty Xodus 3.0 shoes and put a pair of compression shorts under the ranger panties.
First task was to obviously get us stinky and wet from the beginning and test our resolve against the murky black water with green layer over the top. With how hot it was, no one seemed to mind getting in and the smell just became part of the task. My mind has a tendency to zone out of everything except the task at hand. I will talk to myself and others may not understand me. Out of the pond and a slight jog back to basecamp.First PT test up was the Marine Corp PT test. 100 sit-ups with 50 lb. sandbag, 200 hand-release pushups, and a Joe Decker 3 mile run. Yeah, Joe Decker distances are longer than what he says they are. Up to this point, I found myself right in the middle of the pack. On the return trip of the run, a young lady by the name of Taylor introduced herself and I found out she had won the Southeast Regional Suck and we jogged together for a little while just talking about how much we hated running and things Suck related. It ended with us having a nice little run to the finish line and we went our separate ways.
Something the Suck is known for is its love of the farmers carry. They are also called the bucket carry. 2 buckets, 2 50 lb. sandbags, and a long hike. Embrace the Suck. I started out and caught up with Justin Attebery and Steve Noviello. I shared with them a system I have been doing for the bucket carries which we adopted and modified. We stuck together for the duration of the bucket carry and it allowed us to get to know each other a little bit more and have a good time doing something that was not. It may have taken us a few hours to do that bucket carry, but as they always say, 2 hours gone is 2 hours nearer to the finish. We made it back to base camp and guessing by how few people had passed us we were guessing we were in 7-8 place, middle of the pack which is a good place to be early on. It helps establish who is going out to fast and who is reserving the tank. This was my thinking up to this point.
Another Joe favorite and staple is mini strongman competitions mixed in with the rucking, farmers carries, and spa like ponds…lol. So first one was throwing something that looked like what a hammer throw would use. You would have to stand underneath a pole running horizontal (looked like a mini goal post) and in a kettle bell swing throw it over the bar 4 times I
believe. Since the bar was around 8′, it wasn’t too difficult. Next station was a log, 6-7′ in length, and flipping it end over end to a point and back. Final station was taking another log, roughly 8′ in length and doing 100 thrusters. I would have to say strongman competitions like this is a lot of fun for me.
Next up, 3-4 hours into the event, we needed our ruck, a bucket, 50 lb. sandbag, life vest, tire, food, and water. The goal was to take off heading north from base camp and following what looked like a tractor trail off and to the left about
a half mile up and dropping into a creek bed a mile from basecamp. From there, I am sure the 3 miles that were told to us were a bit more. Justin, Steve, and I would drop into the creek bed leaving behind Steve’s wife, Kristyn, and Candie to tackle this on without our crew. It was slow going because, even though the water was low, it made for more things to tackle, like the logs that had jammed together which made getting ourselves and our gear through even tougher. I had started pulling away from the other two.
Weeks before the race, as Candie and I talked about what approach I wanted to take, I always stayed together with someone as a team. With most that I usually teamed up with not being in this event and knowing Erik Krantz and Josh Cuthbert teaming up, I knew I wanted to take a different approach and push myself beyond what I had before. So, there I stood, with that going through my mind. My decision is something I rarely do, but I made the decision for myself to keep going and see what happens. As I started going, I noticed I was picking up speed, as in having a little jog associated with moving down the creek bed. Passed 2 people, the count goes from 7-8 to 5-6. Not bad, means I must be moving at a pretty steady pace. Than Erik and Josh, thank Sean, and than another 2. I get to the bridge which has a few volunteers and I ask how many
would have been too, I think I did it in half the time. I was in 1st!have already passed. They yell back 3. I am a bit puzzled, but maybe my calculation was off, so I quicken the pace even more. Granted, at this point, I don’t know if I can even keep this pace up so I am just using the energy since its there. I caught up to one more on a steep hill and he had taken the wrong way while I just so happened to find the perfect “stairs” up. I come flying through to base camp to Joe, Nicole, and everyone’s surprise because of how fast I got through there. Candie was told I would be out at least 3 hours so when she heard my name from the campsite, she was doubtful. I
Not sure what time it was but I was pumped, focused, and felt a different way than I normally had during these types of events. I was on to the next task with hardly a break. Another strongman event. Perfect!! I know there were tire flips, rock squats, maybe more? Memory isn’t very strong on this one. Off again with my life vest, shovel, shotgun, and axe. Sort of a circuit. Apple shooting first, roughly 10, 20, and 30 yards in the dark, well except for my headlamp. After shooting at all 3 of them without them so much as moving, I thought I was in for some penalties. Luckily I checked and had hit all 3 of them. Next up, digging a hole for 30 minutes, shit that was boring!! After that, axe chopping and a reason why you do not want to me in 1st place for that. I had a log from hell that when I made contact either threw the axe back at my head or sunk it in so far it was rough getting it out. Chopped the wood in no time besides that and started carrying all the wood to the wood pile back at the farm, about a 1/10 mile walk. Took me 4-5 trips. I was feeling alive as I speed away on my next task.
The next task, after hiking back down Polecat Rd. was to do 10 push-ups, 10 dips, and 10 high knee jumps all the way down to 1 of each, then drop down into the creek and, as would most of the ones involving the creek bed, had me going through Joe’s Day Spa where you first coat yourself with a nice top layer of green algae base layer cream and top if off with black soul water to soak the skin giving off a cologne-ish smell that any Abercrombie model would die from. As if 1 pond wasn’t bad enough, a 2nd made it all seem just right. Needless to say, as you swam through the pond, there were spots that were really cold and others like someone had just “warmed” it for you. Figure that one out. Making it to his brother’s place the task was to take 28 bales of hay and, lucky me, being 1st, I got to take them to the furthest point to stack them. So, with dawn breaking and 14 trips later, stacked and done. Three chain climbs next, made 2 of them so 10 8-count man makers. After that, what I had heard people talking about, the gas chamber. I had to do 10 burpees in order to make it out. I closed my eyes, opened the door, knocked them out, came out and dunked my head in the horse trough. Task done and I had to follow my steps in reverse, back through the 2 ponds, down the creek bed to the bridge and back up and around to basecamp.
So, hitting the 12 hour mark now and still feeling pretty damn good. Sun is coming up which always seems to wake us crazy all nighters up and a little PT to loosen the muscles up. A Joe Decker 1 mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 hand release pushups, 300 squats with our 50 lb. sandbag, and another beautiful 1 mile run. The heat at this point was getting pretty bad and the hottest part of the day was still to come. At this point, I knew I had to keep going and push even harder. I knew if I could do this for another 24 hours, I would win and this heat would give me an advantage. I just didn’t know how much.
Good old bucket carries. Taking the same path as when we did the first ruck down the tractor path. This time, during the hottest part of the day. Luckily, there was still some shade along much of the path up to the tractor path. Doing my normal routine with the bucket carries and stopping in the nearest shade for a few minutes got me going pretty good. It was like an army with Candie, Heather, Breton, and myself all heading down the road side by side. These 3 people not only made sure I was taken care of, but that Candie was taken care of. If you ever want to see some of the most compassionate people in racing, not just the 3 special people I had the honor of crewing for me, take a look at these endurance events. Found out how fast Breton is. We were completely out of water and he took off and was back in what seemed to be minutes and we were still a good ways out from basecamp. That was a life saver and I made the last home stretch a lot quicker than I thought I would. During the whole trip back, I hardly noticed anyone, and those that were coming through were stopping because of the heat. I figured I gained a good 30 minutes on everyone there. After that, I was pretty exhausted and overheating because of how hot it was. I probably rested for a good 30-45 minutes just to get myself right and make sure I wouldn’t suffer from heat exhaustion.
Back to the strongman circuit!! A tractor pull, a REAL tractor pull, not the Spartan Race kind. Had never done that before and was pretty entertained by it. Yes, I said entertained, if you don’t understand why I said that, next time look at the nickname on the back of my Corn Fed Spartans jersey. Second in the circuit, take a empty half keg and toss it over the “goal post” bar, this time 15-ish feet in the air. Third was the concrete ball toss from 10′ away into the center of a tractor tire. NAILED IT!!! Onto deadlifts of 220 lbs. till failure. I stopped at 25 reps because the event wasn’t even half over. Might as well save some. Lunge thrusters with the same 8′ log from earlier, 100 of them followed by 200 lb. farmers carrier, roughly 40 yards. Lifting heavy stones, overhead, chest, waist. I love lifting heavy shit!
Another round of life vest, shotgun, axe, and shovel and I was off. Made the 2 closest shots but missed the 3rd this time which earned me 30 8-count man makers. 30 minutes of digging followed by some more great logs to chop and carry over. This is where I got worried. On one of my trips carrying wood, I noticed Mark Jones had really cut into the lead I had and was chopping wood maybe 30 mins behind me. I got done with my last amount of wood and headed out on the hike which took me back down to the bridge and followed the creek back to the farm but right before the farm, Joe blocked it off and I got directed to go to the left, which was definitely the path less traveled and took a bit of planning on how to get around certain obstacles which if you can guess it by now lead back to the pond. Crossing both ponds and back to Joe’s brothers house to take the stacked hay and put it back into the barn.
At this point, I knew I had won. I knew because of a few things. I am not sure how many people in the group were taking 2 bales at a time which cut time in half. I also pay attention to what is going on, the time and I always put mini goals in front of myself to make sure I stay on task and going hard. Hay done and chain climbs, got 2 out of 3 again so another 10 burpees thrusters with a cinder block. Then back in the gas chamber for 15 knees to chest from pushup position. Came out and splashed water on the face and was off back to basecamp, roughly ¾ of a mile away.
I got back to basecamp around hour 29 and had the last strongman circuit, which was everything. Tractor pull, keg throw, deadlifts, tire flip, log pull with chain, heavy rock lifts, 200 lb. farmer’s carry, squat thrusters, and sled pull.
Last but certainly not least, the final bucket carry. This one was a killer last year, and Joe made sure to save the best for last. Such a sweet guy! I started strong but getting a ¼ of a mile out where it got quiet and dark made for an interesting time. Each time I put the buckets down, it was everything I could do from not falling asleep. Getting to the hill that seemed like it went on forever was pretty uplifting and as we all turned around, I felt my body and mind focus a little bit more. With every step, every time I lifted those buckets up and walked, each corner turned got me going a little faster until we all turned that last corner. We could hear yelling, like a battle cry as the rest of the group had started their bucket carries towards us. We all started getting motivated and about halfway through the group, Joe stopped me and announced me as the winner. It was the words I had been waiting for and was shocked, overjoyed, emotional (even though I didn’t show it), and relieved. Candie had went to sleep during that bucket carry because of how exhausted she was and Heather went to wake her and as I was coming up on the tents, she came out and we all shared a moment, at least I thought it was a moment. Finishing up the bucket carry with a nice little jog was nice, and partly because my grip was shot.
My official finish time was 32:25:59. Obviously, Joe made sure we got out 36 hours in by having us put the rest of the hay back in the barn, and this time I carried 1 bale at a time.
My heart is so full from this race. It is truly the hardest event I have been a part of. Sure, the Death Race is all about pushing you past the point and sometimes being downright cruel at times. But, I can say that hour for hour, task for task, The Ultimate Suck was by far tougher, and this is with everyone, from Joe and Nicole to all the volunteers and everyone involved being positive, uplifting, supportive, and showing love too all the racers and crew. If Joe and Nicole wanted people to quit, they would have no finishers, that is a guarantee. A special thanks to Joe and Nicole Decker for being 2 of the most gracious, honorable people I have ever met. I am honored and humbled to even know you.