Friday, June 23, 2017 This Week's Paper

Tacoma man will push himself to the limit

On average, only 15 percent of participants finish the Spartan Death Race. Given his physical training regimen and military background, Travis Gendron would seem to have a good chance to be in the elite group that completes the grueling test of mental and physical prowess.

Gendron grew up in Vermont. After finishing high school he joined the U.S. Army and eventually was stationed at Joint Base Lewis McChord. He served a tour of combat duty in Afghanistan.

“There is no way to truly train for that. It keeps you on the edge. I think you have to be a little off your rocker to do this.” -Travis Gendron

He met his wife Kendall here and decided to live in Tacoma after his honorable discharge two years ago. He is a student at Pacific Lutheran University, where he is majoring in fine arts.

He keeps up on news back home and learned about the Death Race, which takes place in Pittsfield, Vt., about a year ago. It began in 2005.

Gendron has competed in some mud runs and five-kilometer and 10-kilometer runs, but nothing like the Death Race. Competitors must complete a series of challenges throughout a 40-mile course. They may be asked to chop wood for two hours, carry a 20-pound stump for hours, lift 10 to 30 pounds of rocks for five hours, cut a bushel of onions or recite the names of the first through 10th presidents of the United States.

“This seemed like a whole new ballgame,” he said, especially the mental challenge. The theme for that component this year is gambling.

“There is no way to truly train for that,” he said. “It keeps you on the edge. I think you have to be a little off your rocker to do this.”

Unlike other endurance races that offer a detailed map, Death Racers have no idea what to expect since the map and list of challenges is kept secret. The time frame can range from 24 to 48 hours.

Gendron has been running a lot to prepare for the Death Race. Point Defiance Park is one place he often runs. Sometimes he does so with a weighted backpack.

He will have a support team on hand. His wife will be part of it, and his father may as well. Support teams provide their athletes with food, beverages, clean socks and words of inspiration.

Some years about 200 people participate. It is open to male and female competitors. The only requirement to participate is meeting the minimum age requirement. Gendron paid a $300 entrance fee.

He may or may not win, but expects to gain something through his participation. “As long as I learn something about myself, and test myself physically, I will be satisfied. I am excited in a strange kind of way.”