Lightning Strikes Adventure Race

**NOTE** This race report is presented to you as a collaborative effort; Casey, Luke and I (Bob) pieced this one together as a group so we could each give our own impression of this event.

The original write-up is given in black text, Casey’s comments are presented to you in red, and Luke’s commentary is given in yellow. I added a response or two in green.

Also be sure to read our Fixed Ropes and Paddling Fiasco Reports from camp.

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When my alarm went off at 4:43 I was already thinking about that damn canoe.

I didn’t get much sleep the night before the race, mostly I just laid there thinking about how we were going to get through the paddling leg without another capsizing disaster. The last thing anyone wanted was to go for another swim in 40 degree water and have to spend the rest of the day all wet.

There had to be a solution…there had to be redemption.

Furthering my frustration was the fact that I wasn’t exactly in an environment conducive to deep thought. Hell, I don’t think Albert Einstein could have heard himself think in that cabin.  9 grown men, (and Alec), all  crammed into one small room were working unconsciously to create a symphony of farts and snoring that was absolutely spell-binding. The guys all just kinda fell into a rhythm…unknowingly breathing in one another’s ass funk and then expelling it in long rattling snores. I didn’t know whether to laugh or vomit.

Bob in the Cabin at Camp Benson

Bob wonders what the race will be like... or smelling a fart.

Add to that, Casey was talking in his sleep…recounting an epic tale of  survival about “that one time he fell through the ice while he had a broken rib…” he was obviously somewhere in dreamland delivering a motivational speech before thousands of riveted fans. Every now and then he’d throw in a question about vibrating eggs, but I never really figured that one out.

Lying there in that haze of testosterone, I came to the conclusion that the 3 of us were too much “man” for one canoe. The only solution was for one guy to load his Camelbak as lightly as possible and run next to the water while the other two piloted the boat. Casey and Luke both had way more experience in the boat so it only made sense for me to be the runner. To my thinking, one wet ass was better than 3, so we would just have to make it work.

I had pitched a rough draft of this plan to the guys the night before….Casey and Luke both thought the idea sucked. Deep down I knew they were right, but this idea was the only one we had.

Anyway, back to the story. The first time I hit the snooze button, Casey was already awake and asking Luke questions. Funny thing was….Luke was asleep and so were the rest of the dudes in the cabin.

All at once Luke sits up and whispers, “Why are you yelling at me?!?!?”

I wanted to punch Casey in the face repeatedly.  Why in the hell was it so urgent to ask me so many questions before 5:00 AM???

It was race day.  Get your lazy butts up and out of bed.  It was time to rock and roll.  We had to get our bikes to the bike drop by 5:30, then back to breakfast by 6:00 and get all of our gear ready and to the starting line before 7:00.  Let’s go Team Virtus…Rise and Shine…It’s Race Time.

Moments later, the alarm went off again and we all sprung to life. There was only a short while to get our gear together, hit the bike-drop and be race-ready before start-time. Luke and I headed for the bike drop while Casey gathered his things and interviewed the other racers. The bike drop was only a few miles from camp so we made good time; there was plenty of time to eat, drop a deuce and make final preparations.

I was left at the camp because only 2 people could ride in Bob’s truck.  However, I did get a couple of good interviews and some pictures of me wearing Luke’s and Bob’s gear without any underwear.  You should see what I put in their water reservoirs.

Dear God, I hope that’s not true!

Good to know, now I can tell my doctor where I got  this strange rash

Strawberry cream cheese….glorious strawberry cream cheese!! I loaded my bagel with gobs of it and the world was right. Damn I love strawberry cream cheese!

Right about the time I was polishing off bagel #2, some guy walks into the room all in a panic and says he’s locked his keys in his car…with all of his gear.

That’s no way to start your day…

So, we headed out to his van to try to break in through the window.  I’ve had to break into my own vehicle literally dozens of times, so I was confident we could get into his van. But after 40 minutes of trying unsuccessfully, I handed the coat-hanger to someone else and ran for the starting line. We later heard that he had to call AAA and do the short race.  I felt bad for the guy, but sometimes shit happens.

**Here’s a fun fact: Apparently, he had been giving his wife a hard time about locking her keys in her car earlier in the week…His wife was his team-mate…I wonder how that conversation went.**

So there we are, standing at the starting line moments from when the hammer is going to drop. We’re totally organized, hydrated, equipped and ready for action. Fist-bumps and yee-haws out of the way, it was business time. We only had one problem: I was trying not to take a dump in my pants.

Seriously.

We had spent so much time trying to help that guy break into his car that I hadn’t been able to run to the latrine. Now I was paying the price: The 3 plates of spaghetti, a pile of salad and garlic bread from the night before were ready to be out of my body.

Not cool.

Gerry said go.

We went.

You’ll notice in the picture that Bob and I were carrying the canoe.  I am pretty sure that we carried it most of the way.  I haven’t seen any pictures of Luke carrying the canoe.  But wait…That’s Luke with the paddles in this picture.  He did carry the paddles.

Not true at all.  I carried the canoe as well, and there are photos on the professional photographer’s site to back me up.

I like Strawberry cream cheese.

The first order of business was to run about 3/4 mile to pick up our canoe and then carry it another 1/2 mile down to the river. The boat got heavy quick, so we rotated carrying duties along the way.

Carrying the Canoes at the Lightning Strikes Adventure Race

Casey and Bob carrying the canoes.

After dropping off the boat, paddles and PFD’s we headed  into the first orienteering section. There was a super rocky, steep  climb to get to the O-section, but the race directors had been gracious enough to place a piece of rope for us to use as we ascended the rocks. Once at the top, Luke guided us flawlessly to the first CP. #1 was creatively placed in an opening on the backside of a rock face.

Actually, I almost took us in the wrong direction when Bob asked if we were sure that CP #1 was not right behind us.  After a quick map-check, we found the CP behind us with no problems. Thanks, Bob!

As Bob was punching our passport, another team approached and asked if the Check Point was there and motioned towards Bob.  Luke answered, “No, he’s taking a dump.”  The team froze in their tracks and asked, “Seriously?” with a disgusted tone in their voice and look on their faces.  Luke laughed and said, “No, the check point is right up there.”  I found it funny that the other team actually believed one of the “6 Pound Burrito Brothers” (as the race director nicknamed us) would actually take a dump right on the main trail of the race.

It always feels good to get the first checkpoint

Checkpoint 1 at the Lightning Strikes Adventure Race

Checkpoint #1

And so it went with the entire first orienteering section. Luke was our lead navigator and things were going smoothly. Every now and then Casey and I would chime in to “verify” our route, but Luke lead the way about 98% of the time…and that was fine with us.

The weather was perfect;  just chilly enough to wear thermals, but warm enough to shuck your gloves and still be warm. The terrain was beyond description;  Massive hills, boulders, rock faces, streams and trees were putting us all on sensory overload.

It wasn’t long before we made it back to the canoe. Nobody really said anything,  but we were all thinking the same thing:

“We can not flip the canoe today”

We decided to launch the boat around the bend from where most people had put in.  We did this because we heard several teams had tipped on the first curve.  With our shaky canoe performance yesterday, why tempt fate?  We drug the canoe across the river, up and over the bank and put into the river on the other side of the bend.  As we looked up we saw a very disappointed photographer who had been patiently waiting for us to launch our vessel.  I imagine he was hoping to get a great action shot of the “6 Pound Burrito Brothers” dumping their canoe.  Sorry we disappointed him, but we were hoping and planning on keeping dry.

We got Casey and Luke situated in the boat and I made ready to run the bank. At first the running wasn’t too difficult. I criss-crossed the river at its shallow points and followed beaver trails along the bank. No problem. All the same, it was soon apparent that I was slowing down the team.  It was time to get my ass in the boat.

Luke was the point man, I was in the middle and Casey in the back. Normally when we’re in the boat there’s a great deal of story-telling, bullshitting and playful banter. Not on this ride, today it was all business. If one of us took a moment to notice the scenery he didn’t point it out to the others and risk a distraction. We had trees overhanging the water, menacing rocks  beneath the surface, and a whole lot of fast-moving white water.

It was some pretty scary shit.

With Luke very much in control, things got off to a  smooth start. He called out turning instructions and told us when it was time to duck under trees, bounce over rocks or slam into a rock face.

That’s right, I said we slammed into rock faces.

There was no alternative, really. With all our weight + the weight of our gear, there were several times when we were simply unable to maneuver fast enough to avoid obstacles. Luke would let us know about 5 seconds in advance when we were going to ram something and we just did what we could to hold on. I can’t even tell you how many times I was positive we were going to tip the canoe, but somehow we managed to stay above water.

Casey did a fantastic job in the back of the boat.  It was nearly impossible to maneuver the canoe very quickly with all three of us PLUS all of our gear (probably 750 pounds), but Casey did a much better job than I could have done.  Good work, man!

You would have done fine.  Plus you did a great job “reading” the river and keeping us in the deep water whenever possible.  You calling out directions was half the reason we didn’t dump the canoe.  Another issue we had to deal with was using kayak paddles instead of canoe paddles.  I think they are the way to go and definitely faster, we just need more practice with them as most of our paddling has been done with a canoe paddle.

My only job in the middle of the boat was to stay still and keep balanced. Sounds easy enough, right? Not really. There were at least 2 times when I saw Luke’s body disappear in a spray of water. One time the canoe took a hit from the side and at least a gallon of water rolled over the side of the boat straight into my lap. Unable to help, all I could do was sit there and hold my balance.

At one point, the water was so violent that the race directors set up a place for racers to portage their boats and carry them to the other side of the river bend. When we got to this spot we found Jeremy Rodgers waiting for us, and DAMN it felt good to tell him we hadn’t flipped the canoe….yet. Jeremy told us  several teams had capsized on the river today, and one team even managed to flip the boat 6 times.

With that in mind we were back in the boat and on our way to the transition area.  Confidence was building… nerves were starting to calm down… and we were beginning to believe we’d make it out of the boat alive.

Naturally, 5 minutes later it all went straight to shit.

After a sharp right turn, the speed of the water more than doubled and we were now on a crash-course with an enormous boulder. Further complicating the situation was the fact that the boulder was directly in front of a tight left turn.  Every few seconds we’d hit another underwater rock, jouncing the boat erratically. Despite all this, the boat was still gaining speed.

I literally couldn’t believe how fast we were going. The current was sucking us straight into that boulder faster and faster.

Our reality check had just bounced.

Jaws were clenched and buttholes were puckered water-tight as we tried to psychologically prepare ourselves for the train-wreck unfolding before us.

That water was gonna be cold.

We are so screwed..

Literally at the last second, the right side of the boat hit an underwater rock, shoving us laterally so that we raked the side of the boat against the boulder instead of slamming into it. This was good news, but there was no time to celebrate. We were now face-to-face with a rock wall and there was absolutely no way to avoid it.

Luke called out the warning to stay cool and hold tight, and a split-second later we hit the wall head-on. And when I say we hit the wall, I mean we hit it…we hit that bastard like it owed us money. We slammed it so hard I was thrown from my seat and into the floor of the canoe……but we stayed upright.

We stayed upright?

I don’t think any of us will ever know how that happened. We sat there dumbfounded for a moment before the nervous laughter started and we got back into the current.

That was amazing!  Looking back, it was a blast, but it was a little scary at the time.  I couldn’t believe we didn’t go in the water!

Bob was definitely on the floor and my lap got wet as water splashed over the sides.  It was fun, but I knew all along we wouldn’t tip.  We got all of that out of our systems the previous day.  I believed that we would complete the entire canoe leg without tipping.

The last mile or 2 of the paddling leg was hard on Luke. The water level had dropped far enough that he had to keep getting out and pulling the canoe while Casey and I “forgot” to push. I think we were punch-drunk from all the near-misses in the boat or something.

Yeah, I’m not sure what happened, but it was hard enough to pull a 600 pound canoe through 6 inches of water when Bob and Casey were pushing with their paddles.  After pulling for a minute straight and only moving a foot or two, I looked back to see my teammates taking a leisurely float trip as they took in the beautiful scenery.  WTF?!?!?!  I “politely” asked if they could possibly find it in their hearts to help me out by pushing a little bit, and they obliged.

We pushed the whole time he was pulling.  We only stopped pushing because he stopped pulling to look back.  If he was looking back he obviously isn’t pulling with full effort.  However, there was one time that Bob told me to quit pushing and let Luke earn this last foot or two.  I listened to him and took a 30 second breather.  This must have been the time Luke looked back and saw us “taking a leisurely float trip.”  Luke – Thanks for jumping out all those times and dragging us to bigger water.

Eventually we rounded a corner and saw the canoe take-out. One last section of whitewater separated us from our mountain bikes. As we began our final left-turn the boat smacked another underwater rock and we literally spun sideways until we were pinned against a log in the current. The boat was pointing the wrong way, and we were all dumbstruck.

“It’s fate”, I thought. We’ve come all this way just to capsize at the damn TA. It only makes sense to have an audience for such an epic last-minute failure. We had seen at least 4 capsized teams along the way who were wet and miserable and now it was our turn to douche it in the river.

Only we didn’t. We righted the boat, beached it and punched the passport. That big yellow boat was a memory now, and anyone who was banking on us capsizing today was just gonna have to suck it.

Dry land never felt so good. We mapped out our bike route and made ready.

Mapping the bike route at LSAR

Mapping out the bike route

There were several people standing around at the TA soaking wet and obviously miserable, so we loaned them some of our dry clothes. One woman in particular was shivering so badly she couldn’t even get her gloves on. We gave her a stocking cap to use for a muff and a facemask to get her core temp back up. There were plenty of other people there to take care of her so we pressed on.

Note**Giving people dry clothes when they’re soaking wet is a quick way to make friends**

By the time I realized anyone needed some help, Bob had already given up much of his warmer clothing to help our our fellow racers.  He’s just that kind of a guy.  By the time we left the TA, though, we were in last place… literally. DFL!  But not for long…

I quickly changed into my bike shoes (not taking time to even put on dry socks) and got ready to go and found my teammates making preparations for the bike leg.  They are more experienced racers than I am so I figured they knew what they were doing.  Plus, I wasn’t in a huge hurry, and when I realized Bob was helping another team, I figured the AR Gods had smiled on us during the canoe leg and it was the least we could do to help them out.  Somehow, even the team we were helping beat us out of the TA by quite a bit.  Luke and Bob changed into dry socks and rechecked the map (I was hoping that I wouldn’t regret not changing socks).  We were dead nuts last when we left the canoe/MTB TA.  Minimizing TA times is definitely one area we can and need to improve on.  I guess that comes with more experience and a better game plan.  We were there to learn and have fun, not do everything we could to win (that will be next year).

The bike leg was about 98% dirt and gravel roads. The scenery was beautiful, the climbs were steep and the wind was a nightmare. We formed a 3-man paceline to combat the wind and reel in the other teams. There were at least 2 climbs that had us pushing our bikes, but all-in-all I’d have to say that the biking portion of the race wasn’t very difficult. We overcame a handful of teams during this part of the race, and noone passed us. We held a solid pace, and anytime we saw another team we made a point of picking it up and passing them.

Gravel Road at LSAR

Luke and Casey riding some gravel

Halfway through the bike-leg we stopped for the 2nd section of orienteering.  Here, we met several other volunteers and Ron. Ron had given us the orienteering lecture the night before the race. He let us know it’d be in our best interest to skip controls #9 and #10 to make it back in time for the rock climbing section of the race. We weren’t necessarily happy to be skipping checkpoints already, but we appreciated the advice.

I was really bummed and pissed that we were getting short-coursed.  I was secretly crushed inside, but I tried not to show it.

I was pissed too.  We weren’t given a “cut-off” time for a short course.  I began to wonder if it was because we were not thin or because we dumped the canoe the day before.  Anyway we weren’t in last and figured everybody else after us would get short coursed too.  I am sure that Ron was just looking out for us and didn’t want us to miss all the great climbing and ropes that were to come later in the race.  However, I had every intention of getting all the points.  I was against skipping any and wanted to push the pace to ensure we cleared all the points.  That was my plan which I shortly shared with my teammates.  We all quickly agreed that we would not be short coursed and we would get all the CPs in this section.

On our way to CP # 6 we found a couple other teams trying to find the same control. As we searched for the correct re-entrant, the other racers revealed to us that they had not been advised to skip any checkpoints. This was odd, and we came up with all kinds of unflattering theories as to why we’d been short-coursed.  The next two teams we encountered (and passed) also hadn’t been short-coursed, and we decided we weren’t either. We were kicking all forms of ass on this section and there was no reason we shouldn’t just keep on truckin’.

Only now, the pressure was on. We’d never live it down if we “de-shortcoursed” ourselves and didn’t get all the controls. Given the remaining amount of time and all the work we still had to do, there was zero room for errors.

So….we didn’t make any. Luke was reading the map like it was the menu at Dragon Kitchen and we hit every one of those checkpoints; we even passed 2 more teams in the last 1/4 jog back to the bikes.

Once again, anyone banking on our failure was going to have to suck it.

We transitioned quickly back onto the bikes and got back on the road. Some of the downhills were incredibly fun and fast. The navigation on this section was near-perfect; we made no mistakes and held a solid pace.

Gravel Road Biking at the Lightning Strikes AR

Bob leading the way on the bike leg.

As we were nearing the final bike checkpoint, (which was also the canoe takeout), my bike started shifting gears on its own. The cables had stretched and now I had to be really careful about pushing down too hard on the pedals. We still made good time and found the CP. Once there, we had to load up our PFD’s and paddles to haul them back  to the bike-drop. Luke assigned himself to carry the PFD’s and I took the paddles.

It REALLY sucks when your bike starts jumping gears and shifting on its own.  I’ve had to finish a race like this, and it is NOT fun.  It completely sucks the power out of your legs, yet Bob still dominated the bike leg while carrying 3 paddles in some VICIOUS wind!

I remember it more like, Bob volunteering to carry the paddles since he had experience carrying things on his bike.  He loaded up the three paddles on the back of his pack and looked like a dragonfly as he got on his bike.  Then Luke grabbed his life jacket for him, and we were off.

It was all that extra energy I had from eating Strawberry cream cheese.

I’m always amazed at the versatility of my camelbak; the paddles fit in the back section securely even despite the wind, and we pedaled the last few miles to the bike drop.

Biking with Paddles at LSAR

We really need to get paddles that break down into two pieces.

Dropping the bikes was a relief. We weren’t really tired, but pedaling into the wind is only fun for so long. Plus, we were now entering into the final leg of the race and we knew it would be the most fun.

CP 16 was easy enough to find since the clue was zip line. We knew exactly where it was because we had run right past it earlier in the day. Today’s zip-line was significantly longer and steeper than the one we had ridden the day before; There was a series of safety lines skirting the cliff-top just to get hooked up to the thing.

Zip Line at the LSAR

Casey clipping into the safety rope as Bob prepares for the Zip Line.

My memory of the zip-line is a bit of a blur, but what I do remember for sure is  that when I stepped of the ledge I was hauling ass. The speed was overwhelming, so much so that I didn’t realize the rope was burning the skin off the back of my neck. (I wasn’t leaning back far enough) When I finally felt the burn, I put my hand up to grab the rope and was promptly told not to do so by the men on the ground. Apparently that’s a pretty good way to lose a finger.

Too bad, that would have been waaay cooler than a scar.

The other guys came down the line to the tune of a few “yee-haw’s”  and then it was time for us to move on to the moster-sized rappel.

The climb to the rappel was a beast, but we had been up this same climb earlier in the day so we knew a clean route. Once we got to the top of the rappel, Luke went first, then Casey, then me.

Luke had obviously conquered his “deep respect” for heights, as was evident by the way he stepped to the edge, hopped out and rapelled all the way to the bottom. Casey also strolled to the ledge, stepped back and rappeled to the bottom without incident.

Casey Rappelling at LSAR

Casey showing us how rappelling is done.

I remember standing there watching them and thinking about how things had changed since yesterday. Less than 24 hours ago we had all been scared shitless, legs trembling, death-grips on the top-rope and stank-holes puckered during our first rappel.

Now it was 80% fun and maybe 20% fear. Awesome.

This is so true.  I didn’t think I was going to do that first rappel, but after I did, the rest were a LOT easier and a LOT more fun!

Of course,  being unafraid sometimes has its disadvantages. I learned this lesson quickly when I took my turn on the rappel; I slipped on the initial step and  found myself upside down at the top of a 500-foot rope. People wll think I’m lying, (and that’s fine), but i swear to you that I never freaked out. After everything we’d learned about rappeling and belaying, I knew I was fine. Keeping one hand on the brake-end of the rope, I righted myself and enjoyed a BADASS rappel.

It’s true… Bob didn’t panic at all.  He simply got his legs back under him and finished the rappel.  I actually slipped on my first step, too, so this was a much trickier rappel.  I somehow managed to ca myself with my feet at the last second to save it without going upside down.

Bob was a stud.  He was hanging there upside down, very serene and calm.  Then he quickly righted himself and finished the rappel.  This was a very cool rappel.  I went through some branches at the top, and then as I cleared the branches I kicked off the rack faces.  I didn’t realize the cliff face was angled in at this point (because I couldn’t see it through the branches) and since I kicked out pretty hard I was hauling ass for about 40 feet before I made contact with the rock face again.  It was freaking awesome.  I was like G.I. Joe, Rambo, and Chuck Norris all rolled into one—I was G.I. Rambiss.

Or was it “Chuck RamJoe”???

Top of Rappel at LSAR

Here we see Bob at the top of the 100' rappel.

Upside down Bob at LSAR

And here we see Bob trying to get right-side-up.

Do you think those pants make my ass look fat?

After a lot of chuckles and some high-fives, it was time to move on to CP 18. Luke and I were clueless as to how we were going to get there, so Casey stepped in and casually said “Why don’t we just go this way?” His route was spot-on, so we took off.

I’m not sure why the map looked so foreign to me at this point.  Maybe I was fatigued, but I was struggling with which way to go.  Casey seemed to be the only one thinking clearly at this point, and once he pointed out the best way to go, everything clicked back into place on the map for me.  Thanks, Casey.

It was my one contribution to the orienteering on this race.  The sun shines on a dog’s butt once in a while.

We plodded along next to a creek until we saw the outcropping of rock we were certain housed the CP. The hill was “holy shit” steep, rocky and scary looking. There was no reason for all 3 of us to climb it, and since I had “saved energy” in the canoe all morning we decided I’d go up.

I’m so glad Bob did this.  I was not wanting to climb that thing.  Thanks, Bob.

I was happy to let Bob do it too.  Luke and I waited at the bottom as we watched Bob climb up the steep cliff face like a hungry badger after his favorite snack.  He made short work of the hill.  Thanks Bob.

It was a fun climb, mostly red dirt with small trees and roots to pull my way up, then as I got closer to the top there was a lot of rock. The CP was in plain sight so I punched the passport and headed down. The hike down was just as fun as the hike up. For the last half of the descent I actually sat on my ass and slid down the hill. It was great.

CP 19 was straight across the creek from 18 in a small cave. Casey located it very quickly and we sent Luke inside to punch the passport.

Part of the reason I found it so quickly was another team was walking away, and a friend winked and nodded his head towards the face of this huge rock.  I just followed the direction of his nod and quickly found the little cave that hid CP 19.

Cave Checkpoint at the Lightning Strikes Adventure Race

This was the small cave.

CP 20 was  the one we had all been waiting for…the real cave. We followed the creek for a bit until we came to what was obviously the cave’s entrance. There was a pile of camelbaks and other gear that people left behind before entering.

Smart move, we did the same.

There was a creek crossing right in front of the cave’s entrance, and it looked like the crossing could be attempted a variety of ways. We watched one guy come across the creek with water up to his chest, and then another guy six feet to the right with water to his mid-thighs. We went with the mid-thigh route.

We lost a fair amount of time waiting for other teams to make their way out of the cave. Standing at the cave’s entrance, Alec and his partner caught up with us. They asked if they could pass us since they were trying to finish on time.

Um..No.

We were trying to finish too.

Eventually Casey got tired of waiting for the other teams to exit the cave, so  he went in. Luke and I decided we better follow him, and Alec and his team-mate weren’t far behind us.

A team that was leaving as we entered the river said that there was room for only 1 team at a time and you had to wait for them to get out before you could go in.  The other team was taking forever.  I headed in a little way and looked around when I realized that although it was a really narrow passage that there were parts that you could definitely pass one another with a little cooperation from the other team.  So I headed in and my teammates followed, plenty of room.  I wonder if the other team (that told us we had to wait) was trying to stall us a bit…HMMM.

The cave was amazing. We know that because we were wearing our Princeton-Tec Apex Pro headlamps and we could see every detail of every single thing around us. Those headlamps are ridiculous.

Initially we were walking in what I’d describe as a long triangular tunnel. The floor was relatively flat and the sides tapered upward. We were splashing along through about 2 inches of water when we started to notice we were surrounded by bats. Bats were literally all around us, clinging to the walls… about the size of a midget’s fist and covered in frost. Very cool.

Every now and then we would even see a frog sitting on a ledge about knee-high.

Man, I wish I would’ve taken my camera with me.  I left it with my pack on the back of the river so I wouldn’t get it wet, but that cave was amazing!

At one point I told Luke there was a bat right by his head that he should check out.  He said that he saw it.  I told him I meant on the other side and when he turned around his nose was maybe an inch from a little bat’s frost covered butt.  It was awesome to see his startled reaction to being this close to a bat.  It was a really neat little cave and we enjoyed the experience (one of the best during the race in my opinion).

If you’ve never been face to face (or nose to ass) with a frost-covered bat, let me tell you – It’s quite an experience!

We walked for about 5 minutes, pressing deeper and deeper into the cave. I hadn’t mentioned anything, but I was going through a little bit of anxiety at this point. I don’t like being underground, it freaks me out. We were required to wear our PFD’s inside the cave, and for good reason. By now the water was coming about halfway up my shin and it wasn’t helping my sanity at all that were having to crawl on hands and knees since the ceiling was so low.

Right about now, Luke turns to me and says, “Dude, how far into the ground do you think we are right now? Have you noticed the water is getting deeper? Holy Shit, if it started raining really hard outside and the river came up….we’d never make it out of here.”

There might have been a little bit of my urine in that cave.

At long last we found the CP, punched our passport and got the hell out of the cave. Indiana Jones couldn’t have done it better.

Now there were only 2 CP’s between us and the finish line. CP 22 was the CP where we had to use ascenders to make it to the top of a cliff, and we hadn’t had time to learn that procedure the previous day. That’s where Alec and his partner were headed. We decided to skip it and head for the finish, we only had about 13 minutes left before the cutoff, and since we didn’t know how to use the ascending tools it was the smart thing to do.

About 100 yds from the finish line we realized CP 21 was really close by, so we decided to go for it. With 11 minutes until the cut-off, we had the CP in plain view, and it may as well have been at the bottom of a well.

It was like some kind of sick joke, we were literally looking straight down a 20 foot drop with zero chance of climbing down safely. Shit, the only way to get down there was to jump, and assuming you could survive the drop without  shattering your pelvis you’d still never get back out.

Not in 9 minutes, anyway.

As the clock was ticking (tick, tock, tick, tock) I was considering our options and through the fog of fatigue I could just make out a solution.  My mind came up with a great solution to this dilemma.  By using the 10 feet of rope Bob was carrying we could lower Luke down into the chasm to get close enough to punch the CP or at least close enough to safely make it down to the CP.  Luke was considering this idea when…

There had to be another way. We fanned out to find another route. The clock was ticking and we had come too far and overcame too much to end up with a damn time penalty. As luck would have it, I got lucky and found a descending rope. The time penalty was heavy on my mind, so I grabbed the rope and tore ass down the rocks. It was about a 15 foot drop through some sketchy terrain, but with that rope in my hands I was able to jump over the bigger rocks and use the rope like an “air-brake”.

Too bad nobody saw it. We really need to get that helmet cam.

CP 22 at LSAR

Bob at the bottom getting CP 22.

It was significantly more difficult to get back up the climb, but that rope helped a lot. I got a helping hand from my team-mates at the top and we headed for the finish line.

I really thought there was no way we were going to get that CP. Looking down at that damn CP from the top, I was just standing there dumbfounded.  Then I heard Bob’s carabiners clanging from somewhere down below.  Then he miraculously appeared from nowhere to punch our passport.  Awesome!

Luke and I verbally cheered and applauded once we realized Bob had found a way to get our final CP.  I am not sure if Luke applauded for Bob getting the CP or for the fact that I wasn’t going to be lowering him down the chasm to his death.  Once again, Bob saves the day.  I think Bob might have been this races MVT (Most Valuable Teammate) for Team Virtus.

I agree, Bob was MVT.

Horseshit.  I say casey gets MVT for keeping the canoe floating (mostly) in a straight line

Much to the bewilderment of all those present, we crossed the finish line with 5 minutes to spare. We had skipped one checkpoint, only one.

Race Director and High Profile Adventure Camp mastermind Gerry Voelliger was standing near the finish, and I believe his exact words were, “Holy shit, I can’t believe you guys are still alive!!” We asked someone to take our photo at the finish, and Gerry literally SPRINTED to have his picture taken with us. What a guy, he thanked us for coming to the camp and asked if we’d had a good time.

Finishing the Lightning Strikes Adventure Race

Gerry Voelliger, Bob Jenkins, Casey Lamb, and Luke Lamb at the Finish

No Gerry, we didn’t have a good time…We had the best time EVER!!

Did I mention that Luke won a free pair of Keen trail shoes? Perhaps I forgot to mention that Casey won a frickin’ amazing messenger bag from Keen as well. Perhaps it would interest you to know that I got a Pro-level discount package from Suunto… and maybe I should mention that Zanfel gave away $8600 worth of their product away as well…

The High Profile Adventure Camp community is as dedicated to customer service as any group I’ve ever even heard about. Every aspect of this camp was top-notch. Each rope-station had at least 2 volunteers working, we were fed quality meals each day from an army of volunteers, provided with 1st class instruction from World-Class Athletes, (ever heard of Jeremy Rodgers?), given loads of awesome schwagg, and it all happened in the most patient, beginner-friendly environment conceivable.

This is so true.  Gerry and his crew from High Profile Adventure Racing, LLC were absolutely amazing!  The staff at Camp Benson was just as amazing, and it is one of the most beautiful places you’ll ever visit. It was seriously one of the best weekends of my life, and it was easily the best race I have ever been a part of.

I agree with my teammates.  We learned a ton, had a blast, and grew as a team.  The High Profile Adventure Racing crew was a bunch of true professionals and were willing to help you in any way that they could.  The day and a half of instruction prior to the race was unbelievable, invaluable, and informative.  We learned many new skills in a safe environment and expanded on some skills we already had.  We now have the skills that may have prevented us from attempting certain races.  The camp was top notch and worth every penny.  In fact, I feel like we owe them more for everything they provided.  You should try to make next year’s camp; you will not regret your investment.  Team Virtus will be there, so come and join us for one of the best weekends of your life.

I’ve been to Ireland, Alaska, the Bahamas, Breckenridge and even Branson Missouri, but I’ve never seen anything like Camp Benson. This was easily my top 3 of the most incredible outdoor experiences of my life.  Having more friends and family with us would have been the only thing that could have made it any better, but there’s always next year.

But enough about us, how was your weekend?

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About Bob Jenkins

Crusher of beers.

Posted on April 5, 2010, in Race Reports and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Loved the writeup!!! I could not have done the cave or anything that required me to climb up or climb down.. So, I would not have fared very well… Great Job fellas…

    PS. Gears dont slip on a singlespeed… Cant wait to see you this weekend…

  2. Team Virtus overcomes all obstacles again!!! Congratulations! On a tremendously difficult course you did everything but the ascension…WOW! It appears those markers were not swinging in the breeze for you to see from several meters away, but tucked way back or down into some kind of hiding place. You really had to nail the navigation. The only place you were slower than others was in transition where you were offering up help. It is hard to find fault in that generosity and good hearted spirit. Quite impressive, actually.

    The river and the cave sounded very scarey, the terrain was very challenging, the wind was horrid for biking and you met it all head on. The Adventure Racer’s euphoria is all the more intense the more difficult the challenges.

    FANTASTIC!!!

    PS No flat tires???

  3. No flats….we took turns beating the shit out of Casey the night before the race to ward off evil spirits.

  4. I hind sight we proabably should have been beating the shit out of Bob the night before the race. It would have made his race more comfortable.

  1. Pingback: Facing your fears | superkatedotcom

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