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Las Vegas fitness buffs defy Mojave Death Race

When you click on the website for the Mojave Death Race, there are photos of a rattlesnake and tumbleweeds and a rustic sign for Goodsprings that shows the sign is hanging from its hinges and several photos of forlorn desert landscapes. And one picture of a solitary desert tortoise crossing a lonely road.

One gets thirsty just watching the slideshow.

Nobody has actually died during the Mojave Death Race. Not yet anyway. But Ashley Hall II — his fitness pals call him AJ — says he has experienced the occasional hallucination.

There are many components to the Mojave Death Race, which starts and ends in Nipton, California, near the California-Nevada state line. For a reference point, Nipton, pop. 60, is 64 miles south of Las Vegas, and roughly a bazillion miles from where hell freezes over.

Heat-induced hallucinations are only one of the aforementioned components. Here are others:

• Teams of 12 (or fewer) verifiable lunatics — er, competitors.

• 24 legs of running, mountain biking and road biking through the Mojave National Reserve.

• 24-hour time limit.

• Tumbleweeds.

• Temperatures of 116 degrees. Or thereabouts.

AJ Hall is the captain of the Mojave Death Race winning team from Las Vegas called 6-Gun! Salud! This was the second consecutive year he and his fitness pals crossed the line first with a diminished supply of electrolytes. Hall is the son of BG Ashley Hall, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general. He’s also a retirement planner who has learned to take Gatorade intravenously (slight exaggeration).

The other team members and their occupations are: Will Josephson, federal government employee; Alex Pristash, construction manager; Chris Armstrong, operations manager; Tedd Girouard, UNLV professor; Ryan Daniels, attorney; Chris Viton, accountant.

So it can be said that verifiable lunatics — er, Mojave Death Race competitors — come from all walks of life.

When I asked AJ Hall about the Mojave Death Race, he said it has been going on for 20 years and that it has its own Facebook page. That way when competitors don’t show up for work on Monday, their next of kin has a place to start looking. The Facebook page has photographs of fitness buffs amid those of cattle skulls.

Hall, 42, said he was mostly running triathlons when he entered the Mojave Death Race three years ago. Triathlon combines running, cycling and swimming. There is no swimming in the Mojave Death Race, probably because the closest watering holes are the Pacific Ocean and the swimming pool at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas.

“This is a fun, local race that people can participate in,” Hall said, though one might vigorously debate the first adjective. “But you have to keep in mind it’s very long and very rigorous and it nearly kills you.”

Yes. You have to keep that in mind. The part about nearly killing you. This is why racquetball or getting an MLB.com subscription might seem like a better summertime alternative.

Hall was asked how he would describe the heat. He used one word.


He emailed a photo of a thermometer attached to a trading post along the race route. The mercury appeared to stop at the little line representing 116.

And he’s certain nobody died?

“There were no incidents or anything medical,” Hall said. “There were a couple of really dehydrated guys, but they pulled through. They knew when to dial back.”

Knowing when to dial back is one of the keys to running the Death Race. Gatorade, of course. But surviving this extreme test of one’s willpower and endurance is like driving a UPS truck, Hall said. You gotta have logistics.

You have to know who can run or cycle from Point A to Point B and approximately how long it will take, and then when they arrive, you must have somebody there to take them to Point C for the next segment.

AJ Hall said his father helps out with the logistics. Retired brigadier generals are pretty good at logistics.

Marines? Apparently not so much.

Hall said there was a unit of Marines from Camp Pendleton competing. They had Ooh Rah guys, and they were Special Ops, and there were 12 of them and they brought along a film crew.

“We blew their socks off,” AJ Hall said.

It took around 19½ hours. Electrolytes were burned at an alarming rate. It was a blistering 116 degrees, slightly less blistering in the shade. Provided you could find some.

Is the Mojave Death Race the ultimate test of man and machine? Perhaps not. People say the Indy 500 is the ultimate test of man and machine.

But out on the forlorn stretches of old U.S. Route 66, beyond the cattle skulls and the dusty ghost towns where heat lines rise from cracked and desolate highway, you might find a parched and barefoot Marine who might beg to differ.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski

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