Katy McCabe spent six years in the Marines, including a 13-month tour in Iraq and two shorter stints in Afghanistan. So when she signed up for last year's Spartan Death Race, McCabe didn't think it would be more difficult than being in the military.
"I really did think it would be a lot easier [than the Marines]," said McCabe, 32, who grew up in Aberdeen and lives in Ellicott City, where she works as a consultant. "I look at it differently now. It was brutal."
That is exactly what Andy Weinberg and Joe DeSena want to hear. Seven years after it began as the unofficial "championship" of other endurance events in their Spartan series, the race in and around little Pittsfield, Vt., has grown in the number of competitors it attracts as well as its own national profile.
This year's event, scheduled to begin June 15 and expected to last up to 48 hours, will draw some 200 participants from around the country to the Green Mountains. There is bound to be some sort of media coverage that in recent years has included ABC's"Nightline"and CNN.
"It used to be pretty secretive, catering to a small breed of people — marathoners, ultra-marathoners, triathletes and those with a military background," Weinberg said last week. "But we've attracted all types the last couple of years."
Though a number of this year's Maryland entrants have a military background — aside from McCabe, Mark Hutchinson served seven years in the Marines and Michael Pavlisak is a major in the Army — Weinberg said that only "about a quarter" of the competitors fit that category.
"You would think that the military training would help, but a lot of the military [people] don't finish," Weinberg said.
Last year, McCabe was one of them.
Initially, McCabe looked at the Spartan Death Race to get over a relationship gone bad. When McCabe found out that her boyfriend was dating another woman in California, she contacted Laura Svette with an unusual request.
"One of the organizers [of the Death Race] said he would give me a 2-for-1 deal, so I called her," McCabe recalled. "She said, 'Sign me up.' We became known as 'The Glamazons.' We also became best friends."
Both women eventually dumped the guy and bonded even more when they met up in Vermont. Unfortunately, the 5-foot-9 McCabe and the 6-1 Svette — thus, the Glamazons — didn't make it to the end of what turned out to be a 45-hour event.
They quit together after 33 hours.
They were going to try again this year, but Svette ruptured her Achilles tendon in February. McCabe will be going it alone.
"I have a score to settle with that race," McCabe said.
McCabe said that while she was in "pretty decent shape" going into last year's competition, "there's not any way to prepare for the unexpected." Though Weinberg and DeSena choose the individual events from an extensive database, some of the activities have typically been repeated with slight variations.
There is always wood-chopping — "That's the one I wasn't ready for," McCabe conceded — as well as one activity that includes trudging through the icy-cold waters of the Tweed River in the dead of night, usually on very little, if any, sleep.
Then there's the yearly crawl — under barbed-wire fences or even through a field of manure.
"We have them crawl through some crazy things," Weinberg said. "It's pretty humorous at times."
John Wall, a 40-year-old electrical designer from Pasadena, said he can now look back at last year's race and laugh at some of the things he was asked to do, but it wasn't much fun going through it.
"It was pretty painful," said Wall, who was planning to compete this year until finding out that his 7-year-old daughter's dance recital was the same weekend. "What helped me get through was not knowing what was coming next."