Embracing Extreme Elements: Robert Storck '13

Robert Storck poses with a Washington College rowing t-shirt in the White Mountains.
Robert Storck poses with a Washington College rowing t-shirt in the White Mountains.

Washington College Rower is Wilderness EMT, Mountain Hiker, Future "Death Race" Participant

It's hard to imagine anyone willingly signing up for something called the "Death Race," but Washington College sophomore rower Robert Storck (Wilton, CT/St. Mark's School [MA]) isn't just anyone. A member of the championship-winning varsity eight at the 2010 Mid-Atlantic Rowing Conference Championships, Storck is a certified Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT) who spent part of his winter break hiking and volunteering in New Hampshire's White Mountains, home to some of the worst weather on Earth.

"One day, my friend and I hiked to the top of Mt. Jefferson, where the temperature was only about two degrees Fahrenheit with a wind chill of 35 below," Storck recalls. "It was so cold that if you took your goggles off and closed your eyes they would begin to freeze shut and if you took a Nalgene water bottle out of your pack, you could hold it in the air and watch the water inside freeze."

Storck discovered the "Death Race,"  online over the summer, via its grimly named web site - youmaydie.com. His interest was immediate and he was able to convince two of his WC rowing teammates - graduate student Brandon Riker (Marlboro, VT/Twin Valley) and junior Sean Harrison (Richmond, VA/Hazelton Area [PA]) - to sign up with him.

What, exactly, is the "Death Race?" Its web site refers to it as a 10-mile "challenging race that may kill you." The race starts at 4:00 a.m. on June 24th and begins and ends at Amee Farm in Pittsfield, VT. Beyond that, the race description is decidedly cryptic, though past races have combined both physical and mental challenges. 

"You can expect barbed wire, mud boggin, wood choppin, tunnels, deep water diving, running, crawling, crying, screaming, and sweating," warns its web site. "Doubtful you'll finish but be proud of yourself for trying." There is a 24-hour time limit to finish the race and separate time limits on the race's individual tasks. A video on the web site shows some of the tasks from last year's race, which ranged from wriggling under barbed wire to reciting a list of U.S. presidents to building a fire. Other challenges have included carrying 32 pounds of pennies, transporting 10 pounds of onions and eating one pound, and translating ancient Greek from a 20-pound dictionary. The race is limited to 200 participants and, shocking as it may be to the average person, those spots fill up quickly.

If anyone is prepared for a mysterious race fraught with physically and mentally demanding challenges and described with imagery usually reserved for haunted houses and horror movies, it's Storck.

Storck's WEMT certification allows him to practice emergency medicine in remote areas of the world and in back-country situations. The certification is standard for ski patrol and many Peace Corps volunteers, but not for collegiate student-athletes. 

"In order to get this certification, I went to SOLO (Stone Hearth Open Learning Opportunities,  in Conway, NH)," notes Storck. "While obtaining my certification, I worked as an EMT and on search and rescue. Since then, I have continued to work as a member of search and rescue every year."

Storck, who is a resident assistant at WC, also works as an EMT in his hometown of Wilton, CT, and locally for the Kent and Queen Anne's Rescue Squad. 

Of course, as qualified as Storck might be to run "The Death Race," he knew well enough to get in some practice. Storck, Riker, and Harrison participated in the three-mile "Warrior Dash" in late October and finished in the top 200 of 5,000 racers. In November, the trio were joined by three more teammates - junior Miqdad Annab (Mechanisburg, PA/Cumberland Valley), sophomore Parker McIntosh (Berlin, MD/Worcester Prep), and sophomore Jeff Nutting (Catonsville, MD/Mount St. Joseph) - in the 12-mile "Tough Mudder."

The "Tough Mudder" featured an obstacle every eighth-mile. "You see some of the obstacles, and then there are mystery obstacles," Storck told the Wilton Bulletin last month. "There was a jungle gym to a chute that had 100 wires hanging down. They were electrified. You could see the car battery." Another obstacle featured greased monkey bars and a 25-foot frop into 40-degree water for a 100-yard swim. Sounds crazy? Remember, that was just a "warm-up" for "the Death Race."

Only time will tell if Storck, Riker, and Harrison will finish the "Death Race," but with Storck's passion for adventure and experience in harsh conditions on board, their odds are as good as anyone's.


"Death Race" Web Site

Wilton Bulletin Article