It is why he is the only person from the Washington area headed to Vermont in June to run the 2011 Death Race, the sixth year of a competition so unimaginably cruel that the organizers require the 200 carefully selected entrants to sign a three-word waiver that reads simply, "You may die."
"I just want to see if I can push through and do it," said Allentuck, who has completed seven marathons, four ultramarathons, three Ironman triathlons, a 4.4-mile Chesapeake Bay swim, and 30 to 40 other triathlons of various lengths.
"I've done all kinds of things," he said. "It's the next thing."
Allentuck's personal journey roughly parallels the evolution of adventure racing itself. As the sport's popularity has surged over the past decade, the core disciplines of trail running, biking and paddling are increasingly combined with wades through mud bogs, leaps over fire pits and knee-scraping crawls under barbed wire.
Jack Raglin, who studies the connection between the psychology and biology of exercise at Indiana University, says Allentuck does not exhibit any of the classic signs of exercise addiction: diminished family and social life, loss of interest in anything but exercise, lack of interest in his job.
Instead, he is driven to see what he is capable of.
"It seems to be something people are either born with or develop very early on their own. It can't be coached or taught," said Raglin, a professor in the university's kinesiology department. "They have this need or desire to find out where that limit is. It's obviously very rare."
The Death Race, the diabolical creation of veteran adventure racers Joe De Sena and Andy Weinberg, prides itself on messing with competitors' minds. It is, De Sena says, more "obstacle race" than adventure race. Entrants are not provided food or water. They are not told exactly when the race will start, when it will end, how long it will last or what their tasks will be. They know only that they will be so physically and mentally exhausted that just a small percentage will even finish.
In 2009, racers began at De Sena's Pittsfield, Vt., farm by slithering through mud under barbed wire at 4 a.m. to find their race bibs pinned to tree stumps. They had to hack the stumps out of the ground and carry them for most of the 24-hour race. There were countless hours of running, climbing, bushwhacking, log-splitting and lifting. After a 2,000-foot climb, they found a list of the first 10 U.S. presidents, which they had to recite correctly after running back down the mountain. One mistake and they were sent back up again. The following year, some pre-race instructions arrived in Greek.