Sometimes , a hot cup of coffee and a quick trip into the woods is all you need for a short, pleasant escape from life’s bullshit. Yesterday afternoon’s hike was no epic adventure, but it was a lot of fun and I’d like to share the experience, so here goes.
Lately, most of us at Virtus HQ have been bitten by the bikepacking bug. The idea of strapping a ton of gear to your bike, riding great distances and camping under the stars with friends is overwhelmingly appealing. Thusly, we’ve been accumulating some untested gear.
One such item is the Vargo Hexagon Woodstove. I saw this thing on http://www.pedalingnowhere.com and had to have it. Its low weight, very packable, and there’s no fuel to buy…you simply load it with wood you find laying around. Win-win.
So like I said, I needed a coffee break. The plan had been to ride my bike to an undisclosed location and test out the stove. Unfortunately it had been raining all day, so I decided to go for a nice trail-friendly hike.
Arriving at the trailhead, I saw two shirtless men grappling in the parking lot. Awkward. I hiked past them slowly, avoiding eye contact.
With no clear destination, I simply followed the trail and tried to enjoy my surroundings. Barking squirrels and passing geese took over my senses and it just. Felt. Great. A pair of nearby deer were also fun to watch.
A small rock ledge overlooking the river seemed like a good spot to stop, so I set up shop and got the stove going. With all the recent rainfall, finding dry sticks was slightly challenging, but using cotton soaked in hand sanitizer, the fire was burning in no time.
Water was boiled, coffee was brewed and life’s bullshit was forgotten. I even brought almond milk and splenda for that extra something special. I sat there until dark, just stoking the fire, sipping the brew and listening to squirrels bark.
At first I was glad to be alone, but it didn’t take long before I was wishing there were friends to share the moment.
When it was time to go, all I had to do was pour water over the fire, pack up my crap and hike back to the truck. Thankfully there were no shirtless men wrestling in the parking lot this time.
If you’ve got a few hours to kill, you should treat yourself to a short trip like this. All it takes is a little bit of time and a little bit of coffee.
**Note: This post was written by Luke with commentary added by Kate in Blue, Bob in Green, and Travis in Orange.**
By the end of the Perfect 10 Rogaine my feet were sore and beat to shit, I was fighting off cramps, and I was kinda lonely. Don’t get me wrong, though. It was an insanely fantastic day. It was just different than previous Perfect 10’s we’d done. Back in 2012, Bob, Kate and I ran the race together, and then at last year’s race, Kate and I teamed up and won a friendly bet against a team of Bob and Casey – a bet for which they still need to pay up, by the way.
Kate: But we have a plan for that, and it’s glorious.
But this year, Kate, Bob, Travis, and I decided to sign up as solos so we could all get some good navigation work on our own, rather than relying on each other.
The three of us dudes have had quite a bit of experience with navigation. At times, all three of us have been the lead navigator for our team. Kate, however, is the least experienced, and the Perfect 10 was to be her biggest solo effort to date. She was pretty nervous, but I knew she’d do fine. She’s come a LOOOOOONG way since her first navigational experience at The Deuce:
Friday afternoon, Kate met up with Bob, and they then drove to my house. From there we hopped in the Virtus Van for the short road trip down to Lake of the Ozarks State Park. Of course we had to stop for Kate to get some pulled pork, and then we needed to make a pit stop for Bob to get some underwear and other supplies.
Bob: That chick in the background is totally scoping me out. And for the record, we were buying underwear because I was, (and still am), covered in poison ivy from the waist-down on all sides. And dang my hair looks good!
We then headed to the campground and drove around trying to find our friends from Team Alpine Shop and Wedali/Gear Junkie, but the we had no luck since the campground is so huge. We ended up picking a site near the entrance, and then we set up camp in the dark. We decided not to build a fire since it was pretty late, but we had to have one adult beverage together before bed. That’s when Bob made a startling discovery:
“I just realized I didn’t actually pack any food for the weekend.”
If only we had just been at a very large store that sells just about anything you might need for a weekend of camping and racing. You know, kind of like a Walmart. Oh, wait…
Travis: Or maybe if someone had been driving up the day of the race. Maybe they could have brought something. Oh well.
It just so happened that I had made a crap-ton of Feed Zone Portables, which I will review in a later post. Kate had extra food as well, so collectively we had plenty of food for all of us. Crisis averted. I guess Bob’s motto of “It’ll work itself out” – shortened to IWIO – still holds up.
Bob: You totally saved my ass. I was really surprised at how tasty those things are.
We went to bed a little too late since we’d be getting up at 5:45 AM, but that’s how Virtus rolls. We don’t spend enough time together, so we try to make the most of it when we do.
We met up with Travis, who drove up on his own the morning of the race, at race HQ for the check-in. Then we received our maps at 6:45. With a start time of 8:00, we got straight to work strategerizing our routes.
We each planned our routes separately, but Travis and Bob mapped out the same route while Kate and I had planned a different route that happened to be the same for the first 6 checkpoints, though it was . It only made sense for Travis and Bob to start together and likewise for Kate and me. At any time, however, we could separate if someone was faster than someone else.
Kate: I was really glad that someone else was going the same way I was. I’m always shakiest in the beginning.
Travis: I was happy to be starting with Bob. I felt confident that I could navigate on my own, but since I don’t get to see my teammates very often I figured we would hang together until one of us was slowing the other down, or we decided on different route choices.
Kate has been training her ass off, and I haven’t run in months… literally. She’s been running a lot, focusing on the upcoming Skippo Trail Race. So I was pretty sure she’d drop me quickly. I decided I’d try to stay with her as long as I could and as long as she didn’t mind me tagging along. Below is a shot of the first part of the map so all you Virtusites can follow along at home.
- CP’s numbered 1 – 6 were worth 100 points (getting all 6 100 pointers gave you a 100 point bonus)
- CP’s numbered 10 – 19 were worth 10 points
- CP’s numbered 20 – 29 were worth 20 points
- CP’s numbered 30 – 39 were worth 30 points
- Total points available (including the bonus) = 1300
Bob and Travis planned on heading east to CP 28 first and then heading counterclockwise. Kate and I had planned on going north to CP19 followed by CP’s 27, 26, 17, 25, and 16 before parting ways… if I could keep up.
Kate and I jogged most of the way to CP 19, and just to be a jerk, when we got close to the CP I ran ahead of Kate to get there first. I didn’t realize there was a photographer there, so that only made it better.
From 19 we took the trail for a bit, running most of it, and then we bushwhacked up the spur to get CP 27. So far so good. From 27 we headed down to the road. We took the road to the creek south of 26. We followed the creek and then went up the reentrant to CP 26. Again, no problems.
Kate: Luke was doing the nav here, but I was following along on the map, and it was all making sense. That was a huge boost to my confidence, even if I needed a few reminders about orienting my map.
We were ahead of Wedali/Gear Junkie!!!!… Sort of.
We got to CP 26 just before Erl and Andrei from Gear Junkie/Wedali, one of the top teams in the nation. Erl was a good sport about posing for a photo of Team Virtus being “in front” of them. Yes, we got to CP 26 before they did, but they had already gotten WAY more points than we had at that point. They were way ahead of us in the race, but it was fun pretending we were awesome for a minute.
Kate: We’re always awesome; we’re just not that fast.
From 26 we headed northwest to the trail and then ran the trail to CP 17. I was feeling surprisingly good so far, but I’m sure Kage was just taking it easy on me. I know I wouldn’t have run nearly as much as I did if I hadn’t been with Kate.
Kate: I was perfectly happy with our pace. No point in sprinting at the beginning of a 10 hour race (not for me, anyway).
From 17 we took the trail north until it crossed the creek and turned northeast. We bushwhacked toward CP 25 at the pond. Along the way we found an abandoned picnic area complete with picnic tables and a monstrously big BBQ grill. We are Team Virtus so we obviously stopped for photos.
We got CP 26 and then headed to our last CP that we’d get together, CP 16. We followed the creek down to the road to the west. Then we decided to bushwhack across and up the spur to 16, cutting out some distance on the road. It wasn’t long, though, before we reached an old fence line. I was ready to cross the fence at a low spot when Kate said, “Oh, wait. This is private property.”
Kate: If you look at Alpine Shop’s maps, they always block out the private property. We need to start doing that, because all of those red lines kind of run together on the map, especially when you’re in a hurry.
A quick look at the map confirmed this, and Kate saved me from breaking the rules. So we backtracked to the road and after going the long way around we found CP 16 with no problem at about the same time as our friends from Boom Boom Pow. We headed west to the road and then north to the road junction where Kate struck out on her own, moving west to get CP’s 15, 14, 37, 24, and 5 (see the map below) before heading to the northwest section of the map. You can read her account of the Perfect 10 right here.
After wishing Kate good luck, I headed north (see the map below). At the second church, I headed west for CP 3, my first 100-pointer. I hesitated once, questioning if I had gone too far, but after going a little farther I walked right to it. That’s always a good feeling.
From CP 3, I hopped back on the road and went to CP 12 which was also a water drop. It was obvious that no one else had been to this water drop CP yet. Either that or no one else had take any water. The cases of water were untouched. This made me doubt my route planning.
I refilled two water bottles, ate a Feed Zone rice cake, and was on my way again to CP’s 21 and then 11. I didn’t have any trouble with either of these, but on my way to CP 32, following the ridge top, I think I must have gone down the wrong reentrant.
After searching for a little bit, I realized I had gone too far north. I circled back to start again from the top of the hill to the northeast of the CP. That’s where I ran into Bob and Travis. I let out a, “CaCaw! CaCaw!” as I approached. Since their planned routes were the same up to this point, they had remained together. They were taking a short break, so I decided to join them. I was really happy to see them.
Resting on my knees as I drank a Spike energy drink, my left hamstring cramped badly. It came out of nowhere, and I ended up face down on the ground, spilling my Spike all over my arm. My teammates immediately rushed to help me, and by that I mean they sat there and laughed at me.
Travis: I was very suprised to see Luke, and even more so by his direction of travel, since it was the same way we had just came in. As misfortunate as it was for Luke to cramp, it was incredibly funny to watch.
Once the cramping eased up, I slammed a serving of The Right Stuff. It tasted, as Bob likes to say, “like the Devil’s ball sweat.” Although I’ve never actually tasted the Devil’s ball sweat, I imagine that’s a pretty accurate comparison. But the stuff really works. It tastes awful, but it stopped my cramps almost immediately for the next couple of hours. I only wish I’d brought more than one pouch.
Bob: It’s odd that Satan’s ballsweat could cure cramps, but the flavor of that stuff has me convinced it can only be the ballsweat of the devil or a mythical beast.
At this point, I only had 230 points while they each had over 400 points. They were kicking my ass, and their route choice offered them many more options than mine did. Once again I questioned my route.
From here, the three of us got CP 32 together with no problems. We said our good byes and went our separate ways. I headed to CP 2 next. Bob and Travis had warned me that it was a bit tricky.
After my mistake trying to get CP 32, I was extra cautious trying to get CP 2. I was a little too cautious, second-guessing myself a lot and chewing up time by being so careful. I was stopped at a creek trying to make sure I knew exactly where I was when a coed team confirmed I was headed towards 2. Even with their assurance, though, I had a little bit of trouble finding it.
Travis: With the clue being a spur CP2 was definitely more difficult than one would think. Mostly due to the fact that the spur was rather poor in my opinion.
From 2 I went up and up and up the spur to the junction of Highways 42 and 134. From there, it was an easy shot to CP 13, and from there I headed south down the reentrant toward CP 35.
This is where having a teammate would have helped. I felt like I was walking forever to get to this checkpoint. I almost turned around no less than 5 times, pausing each time to make sure I knew where I was and where I was going. I probably wasted 10 minutes doing this, and it would have been nice to have someone with me to discuss where we were and what to do.
It was a big relief to finally find 35 without turning around or backtracking. My confidence was a bit shaken at this point, though. I didn’t feel sure of myself as I headed back to highway 42 and then down the reentrant toward CP 23.
Unfortunately, I went into the woods too early and hiked down the wrong reentrant. By the time I realized what I had done, it didn’t seem worth it to go back and get a 20-pointer. So I continued down the creek bed to the private property line where there was a fence.
From there I bushwhacked along the fence line even though the other side of the fence was awfully tempting. In this case the grass truly was green on the other side. It was a wide open field that had been mowed recently. But The Virtus Code would not allow me to cheat even though no one would be the wiser. So I kept bushwhacking through the brush of the State Park.
Once I hit the gravel road, it was a quick jaunt up the reentrant to find CP 4, another 100-pointer. Getting that one so easily bolstered my confidence again as I followed the road up the hill to Highway 42 once more.
Travis: CP4 was almost too easy to be a 100 pointer.
At this point I was almost out of water, and I could feel the cramps threatening to come back every time I had to step over a downed tree or other obstacle. From the highway I could go out of my way to the water drop at CP 18 and hope there was still water there or I could skip the 10 points and stick to my plan by going for CP 36.
I opted to skip 18 and the water drop, hoping to fill up in a creek later. I found 36 easily and headed down the trail toward CP 6. Shortly after the trail crossed the road, I found enough water in the creek to fill my bottles. I popped an iodine tablet into each bottle and kept moving.
I decided to follow the fence line of the airport to the “Beacon” before heading south again. This was a bit of a calculated risk. Last year Kate and I had bushwhacked on this side of the airport and it was very slow going. The brush was super thick, and in spots there were big rocks under the tall grass that threatened to break your ankle with one false step. At this point in the race, I hoped others had taken this route, beating down an easier path for me.
It was great to see not only a beaten path, but much less brush and overgrowth here than last year. I definitely saved some distance by choosing this route, and I think I saved some time as well.
From the Beacon, I headed south and picked up the trail again. From where the trail turns southwest, I headed into the woods and down the reentrant. I walked right to CP 6, notching another 100-pointer.
I headed down the reentrant and picked up what used to be a trail that still happened to be there. I ran most of this flat trail, taking a few walk breaks. My legs and feet hurt, but they didn’t hurt any worse when running.
I took the reentrant to the east of CP 28, and I climbed the less steep part of the spur to the top. The clue was “Bluff Top,” so I knew I wanted to attack it from above instead of below. After a long, fairly steep climb which sapped my energy, I was rewarded with a great view of the Grand Glaize Arm of the Lake where the CP was hung on the top of a cliff. It was beautiful, and I should have taken a photo. I didn’t feel like digging in my pack, though, so you’ll have to take my word for it. It would have been nice to have a teammate there with me to share the view.
At this point I had about 45 minutes left before the 10-hour cutoff after which I’d start losing points. I was pretty sure I had enough time to head south for CP 29, but that was only if I didn’t make any mistakes. It looked easy enough, but I was tired and lonely. I kept arguing with myself over whether or not to go for it.
As I neared highway 134, I heard a “CaCaw! CaCaw!” It was Travis walking along the road, and it was great to see him. He and Bob had split up a couple hours previously. Neither of us really wanted to go for CP29, so we hiked into the finish line together, jogging the last 30 yards or so. We crossed the finish line in 9 hours and 24 minutes.
Travis: At this point I had been on my own for approx. 4 hrs, hit several cps with great success, but was in pretty sad shape. An old ankle injury was acting up and two large blisters on the bottom of my toes of my right foot were killing me. Once I had hit that road I was just marching to the finish. In hindsight I basically walked right past CP27 but my only concern was to make it back before 6pm. I was definitely happy to see Luke come right on the road as I passed.
Travis posed for a photo at the finish line, and when the photographer kept asking him to smile, I assured her that he was indeed smiling.
I posed for a photo, and then we both posed for a photo together. Even though we only got one CP together, it was pretty cool to finish with one of my teammates.
Travis and I went to our vehicles to change clothes. As I was getting out of my stank-ass jersey, Bob came running into the finish line. He looked like he’d been pushing the pace pretty hard, but he also looked strong.
Travis: I was happy to see Bob come running in because when I left him he had big ambitions and I didnt want him to be late.
Bob: Those ambitions were quickly snuffed out by failure, but I did still manage to pick up a few small pointers on my way back to the Finish.
We brought a few beers back to the shelter and loaded up a plate of delicious BBQ, baked beans, and cheesy potatoes. We stuffed our bellies and cheered others in as we waited for Kage. It wasn’t long before she came running across the finish line.
Ladies and gentlemen, what I’m about to show you is one of the rarest things you will ever see. You see, I’m a bit of a photo ninja (just ask Bob about the photo I took of “Powder” at the god-awful Lionheart Race). As Kage was telling some hilarious account of her race, I managed to snap this incredible shot:
Getting a photo like this is sort of like shooting Sasquatch. Only I have done both, but the Sasquatch shooting is a tale for another day.
Travis: Yes I can smile. No I am not grumpy, I just choose not to be as expressive with my feelings I guess. LOL.
Bob: Yes, Travis is the strong and silent type. Just like my farts.
We all swapped stories of our successes and failures as we shared many laughs over great food and a few beers. It turns out that Bob and Kate struggled a little more than they would have liked, but we all had a great day.
Full results can be found here, but the results of the four of us Virtusans are as follows:
- Kage – 310 points – 9:43:37 – 3rd (out of 3) in her division and 47th overall
- Bob – 500 points – 9:33:11 – 8th in his division and 33rd overall
- Travis – 610 points – 9:24:30 – 6th in his division and 27th overall
- Luke – 650 points – 9:24:28 – 5th in his division and 24th overall
After the awards ceremony, we all headed back to the campsite. We showered up and sat around the fire. By the time everyone was cleaned up, we were sadly too exhausted to go find all our AR friends at their campsite to hang out. So we just sat around our campfire, drinking some good beer and honey whiskey while laughing our asses off like we always do. Some of us even did some campfire yoga:
The story doesn’t end there, though. We woke up the next morning way too early, packed up, and headed out for breakfast. We went back to Stewart’s and it was fan-frickin’-tastic.
Travis: Attempting to eat all that was almost painful.
After breakfast, Travis headed back home as Bob, Kate, and I went back to the course to look for her Garmin GPS watch that she had lost. She assured us that she was almost positive she knew where she had dropped it: near CP 22 by a downed log where she sat to get something out of here shoe.
Travis: I wish I would have felt up to going with you guys to look for the Garmin, but at that point I could barely walk on my ankle.
Bob: Painfully awesome.
It turns out there were only 4 million downed logs in this area. Unfortunately, we didn’t find her watch, but Kage managed to find a weird, creepy skull that my son can use to scare his sisters.
We made our way back to the Virtus Van and drove home to end a wonderful weekend. From all of us at Team Virtus, we’d like to thank Bonk Hard Racing for putting on another top-notch, must-do-every-year event. We’ll be back next year, though I think we all agree that we won’t be doing it solo.
Next up for us is the Castlewood 8-hour Adventure Race in November. Rumor has it that Team Virtus will be rockin’ some sweet new kits. So stay tuned for that.
It has been a long while since I have done an early morning run. My schedule has worked out to where I can get runs in just after work and before I pick the kids up from school. Or I can get a run in when my son is practicing baseball. But today’s schedule would not give me the time I needed, so I decided to rise and shine and run.
When Lukas Lamb talked me into signing up for the Mark Twain Endurance Run I started looking for motivation. The rise and shine video really spoke to my inner drive. I started running. Every time I feel myself not wanting to run I watch that video. It inspires me to go run and to push forward. I keep the ultimate goal in my mind and just run. I run when I don’t want to. I run when it rains. I run when it is hot. I run when it is dark and when it is light. I just run.
This morning was about myself. When I stepped outside, the sun was starting to come up, but it was still dark enough where I couldn’t see the time clearly on my watch. I was immediately inspired. I was up before the sun and it felt great! The only sounds were that of nature and the pack of coyotes off in the distance. My run started with a nice simple warm-up down the road and back. Before I knew it I was on the gravel road that leads to a horse barn. I pushed down and back on this road and then headed out of the neighborhood. The pace I had set felt good and I told myself that I was going to do 20 minutes out and 20 back. “Steady Brown…Steady.” But to my surprise, when I got to 20 minutes I was only .2 away from 2.5 miles completed. Why stop now?
I wanted to continue on past 2.5 miles, but time was not on my side. Reluctantly the turn around happened at 2.5 miles. The rest of the run was great! I only saw 1 car and it was nothing but me and the birds…and the pack of coyotes I could still hear in the distance.
Morning runs are definitely going to start happening more and more. I loved the peace and quiet. I loved the coolness of the air and I also loved hearing the coyotes.
“I am a great champion; when I ran the ground shook and the skies opened and mere mortals parted the way to victory” ~Dreamer
I feel lost. I don’t really know what the hell I’m going to do with myself this weekend as my fellow Virtusans set forth on a mission to finish The Dirty Kanza 200. I will sadly, for various reasons with which I won’t bore you, not be in attendance this year. I feel like I should be there as part of the support crew, but I just can’t make it happen this year.
Finishing DK two years ago alongside Bob and Adam was one of the highlights of my supremely mediocre (at best) racing career. Last year, my heart wasn’t into it, and it showed when I pulled out at the 108 mile mark. I doubt I’d have finished anyway because the wind was horrible, but both Robby and Casey crushed it last year.
Unfortunately, Kate hasn’t quite been able to finish this beast of a race. Two years ago she made it 165 miles after getting into the race with just a few weeks to train for it. Last year she succumbed to the wind as so many others did. This year, however, she’s more than ready. Barring a serious mechanical or severe weather (both very real possibilities), Kate is going to finish this fucker this year. No doubt in my mind.
And to make sure Kate finishes, I apparently gave her some extra motivation a few months back. I don’t exactly remember how this all came about, but both Bob and Kate assure me that this happened. Somewhere in an email conversation or facebook chat or maybe even in a face to face conversation, I said if Kate finished the DK this year, I’d be at the finish line in…
Wait for it…
Wait for it…
… Nothing but a jock strap.
What the hell was I thinking?! It’s not that I’m betting against her at all, because that would be a foolish thing to do. In fact, it isn’t a bet at all since Kate owes me nothing if she fails to finish (which ain’t gonna happen anyway).
It’s just that I know how much pleasure we all get out of embarrassing each other, and when the going gets tough – and it will get tough – Kate will keep going, knowing that my utter humiliation is in her hands. And I honestly can’t remember how those words ever came from my mouth or keyboard, but I guess they did. I’m such an idiot.
Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, I won’t be in attendance. So all of the wonderful people at the finish line will be spared from seeing me nearly naked. In lieu of being at the finish line in a jock strap, Kate has agreed to accept a photo posted to our facebook page instead. So, that’s gonna be a treat for everyone.
As much as I don’t want to have to post that photo, I truly want Kate to finish Dirty Kanza this year. I hope all of them – Kate, Bob, Adam, and Travis – finish the race and have a great time. I’m just bummed I won’t be there to see it all go down. And I’ll be even more bummed when I have to post that stupid photo.
So, to my Virtus brothers and sister, good luck, ride strong, and have fun! Strength and Honor to you all.
That’s right! This is a new series here on the Virtus Blog. First, though, I have to give props for this idea to my favorite strength and conditioning blogger, Tony Gentilcore. He’s hilarious, entertaining, and super smart when it comes to fitness. And yes, I totally ripped the idea off from him.
This idea is simple. We’ll post some cool shit related to adventure that we think you should check out. This first installment will be focused on The Cedar Cross since it’s coming up quick, but there’s still time to register! It is a gravel race in Mid-Mo that is the perfect tune-up race for Dirty Kanza, and it’s one that you don’t want to miss. The race director isn’t half-bad either.
1. One Month to Go and Heavies Ride for Free – Bob Fuckin’ Jenkins
The Cedar Cross is the shit for many, many reasons. One of those reasons is our very own Bob Jenkins. A couple weeks ago, there was an ad on facebook basically making fun of an overweight rider, and it was despicable. Bob was moved to write this post and make Cedar Cross even more awesomer. Read it and see just how fantastic this race is going to be.
2. Cedar Cross 2013 Video – thebikeweiss
Okay, so this technically doesn’t require any reading, but you should still check it out. I don’t know the guy who made it, but it shows some great footage of the race from last year.
3. Cedar Cross 2012 Race Report – Casey F. Ryback
Here’s a great race report from our friend, Casey, from Team Seagal. It’s from the inaugural Cedar Cross way back in 2012. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll sign up for Cedar Cross 2014 and join in on all the fun.