18
Apr
12

Some guy named Tim wrote this

One of my colleagues at the MetroWest Daily News – Tim Whelan – wrote this. Check it out …

 

 

Endurance is not a buzzword for Michelle Roy. It’s a way of life.
“If you go out there with the right frame of mind,” she said, “you will see yourself as a different man or woman, whether you finish or not.”
On June 15, Roy’s mental and physical fortitude will again be run through the wringer when she takes part in the Spartan Death Race, an annual event in Pittsfield, Vt.
Co-founded in 2005 by Andy Weinberg and Joe DeSena, the 48-hour struggle session weeds out the weak before they even arrive. Finishing is far from guaranteed. The front page of their website — ominously named youmaydie.com — provides not-so-subtle reminders that to embark on this endeavor, only certain personality types need apply.
Nobody has died on the course yet, but the race’s title is not something to take lightly. Pushing one’s self to previously unimagined limits is the idea.
“Ninety percent of you will not complete this endurance race,” the introductory paragraph on the site reads. “Please only consider this adventurestyle race if you have lived a full life to date.”
Roy, a Framingham resident and S.T.E.Ms (science, technology, engineering, math) teacher at Holliston’s Robert H. Adams Middle School, fits the mold. Or maybe she breaks it.
An avid hiker growing up in Chelmsford — “I used to play in the woods for hours” — she began running in 2005 as a tribute to beloved teacher Mary Troy, who had recently passed away after a bout with melanoma.
“I had never run more than a mile,” admitted Roy. “I did it to get my students’ minds on something else. Mary was an icon in Holliston.”
Running at first as a tribute to a colleague became competing to test herself.
And just over a year ago Roy had her own battle with cancer, which now in remission as she continues to push her boundaries. Next month, she will be participating in the PEAK 500-mile race, which spans 10 days. “The school system is really generous to give me the time off,” Roy said.
She joked that for those 10 days, all she will do is “run and sleep.”
It’s a mere tuneup for a woman who stands 5-foot-4 and has been dubbed “The Log Lady” for her penchant for taking 32-mile jogs with a 20-pound piece of wood.
“I have about six years of ultras, from 50K to 100-mile races,” said Roy, who estimated she has run between 40 and 50 ultra marathons (which is defined as anything that surpasses 26.2 miles).
Roy and her boyfriend, Tom Lee of Hollis, N.H., will attempt to be the first couple to finish the Death Race together. Lee, a 41-year-old father of three, owns T.K. Lee Heavy Truck and Repair in Tewksbury. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound former Billerica High School wrestler competed in last year’s Death Race.
“It’s an event I knew never existed until I met Michelle,” Lee said. “A lot of people who know me would say I’m kind of extreme and intense, but this is a real step up. It’s me against me.”
Lee was one of nearly 200 competitors in last year’s race, while Roy was one of just 30 women to compete. Unfortunately her experience came to an end about 27 hours in. She was coming down a muddy incline when she slipped, and the axe she was carrying hit her in the head, knocking her unconscious. She was rushed to the emergency room.
The accident could have been far worse.
“A friend had covered my axe with duct tape,” she said. “It’s the nature of the beast.”
Roy said she was “devastated” about how last year’s event played out — not about the harrowing accident, but that she didn’t finish. Lee, meanwhile, lasted until the 30th hour a year ago, before dropping out due to nutritional issues.
“It haunted me that I didn’t finish, it really bothered me,” he said. “I was relying on liquid nutrition 25 hours in and had extreme acid reflux. … I was physically prepared, but my digestive system failed me.”
Roy recalled last year’s race beginning with (deep breath) seven hours of cleans and presses with rocks ranging from 20 to 75 pounds.
“A guy broke his foot within the first two hours,” she said.
That was followed by a treacherous walk in a roaring river with each competitor decked out in full gear. More mud runs, more obstacles, more physical and mental challenges were in store.
“Anyone who does this, you have to love pushing yourself for whatever reason,” Roy said. “It’s a suffer-fest. It’s not like hiking or playing golf.”
Each year’s race also operates under a theme. Last year’s was “Religion,” with each step of the course relating the overarching topic.
Consider the founders good planners. The information for the 2013 Death Race is already on the website, with next year’s theme being “Gambling.” The 2012 theme is “Betrayal.”
Don’t expect predictability, Roy cautioned.
“There are no rules,” she said. “They don’t tell us anything before the race. It could go into the next week if they wanted it to. We could go in and work our butts off and they could say there won’t be any finishers this year. They don’t owe you anything.”
With a laugh, she added, “Joe and Andy are like the funny, sadistic brother who chases you around growing up.”
As for Lee, he hopes to be more prepared this time around, and having Roy as a partner and confidant in the process will help.
“Michelle is undoubtedly the toughest person I’ve ever met,” Lee said. “She can be a girly girl, too, but she is so tough. She can run and hike and do things for an incredible length of time. I don’t know anyone that can keep up with her.”
At Robert H. Adams, Roy runs a running club called “Rampage.” She and her students go out and run long distances. “Every time a kid goes out and challenges themselves, they’re competing against themselves,” she said. “I want the kids to feel good about themselves. Everybody can be an athlete.”
Especially their teacher, a survivor in every sense of the word.
“For me, the Death Race is celebrating life,” Roy said. “It’s seeing what I can push my body to do. I don’t think I’m a natural-born athlete, but I’m tough, I’m scrappy. I won’t quit.
“This is how we celebrate who we are.”

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