Author Archives: Casey
This past September I found myself with the opportunity to cross yet another item off of my ever-growing bucket list. I had the opportunity to paddle part of the Colorado River. You see, paddling the Colorado has been something that I had always dreamed of doing. The stretch of river that I have often dreamed of paddling is the epic stretch of the Colorado River that runs through the Grand Canyon. Such a trip would afford me the chance to experience some serious world-class white water and take in the beauty of the Grand Canyon from the floor looking up to the rim. I have never seen the Grand Canyon from this view-point. I wish this was the story of that paddle but it isn’t. I’ll have to paddle that stretch another time. However, I was not disappointed. My trip took me through the beautiful Black Canyon on the Colorado River. This is the stretch of river that flows from Lake Mead, created by the Hoover Dam, south towards Lake Mojave which was created by the Davis Dam. We would put in literally at the base of the Hoover Dam on the Nevada side of the river and paddle down river to our take out at Willow Beach on the Arizona side of the river. As we paddled, Arizona would be river left and Nevada river right for the length of the paddle.
This stretch of the river is slow-moving but still pretty big water. It reminded me of stretches of the Missouri River or Mississippi River that I paddled only moving a little slower, with less under current, and the scenery was a little bit different. Here is one of my favorite photos from the trip…
The water flowing between these two dams maintains a frigid year round temperature in the lower to mid 50° F. This is due to the depth of Lake Mead and the fact that the water the dams releases is released from the bottom of the lake into the river. I would be making this trip with my beautiful wife, Lauren and one of my best friends Manny Garcia and his wife Shauna. My wife has limited canoe and kayak experience but I am pretty sure my friend and his wife had never been in a canoe or a kayak. We decided it was best to join a guided trip down the river with Evolution Expeditions. They would be providing the boats, the paddles, life jackets, lunch, snacks, beverages, guides, and the local knowledge of the river.
The guides picked us up outside our hotel at 5:30 in the morning. From there we had a 45 minute drive through Vegas to the Hacienda Hotel near the Hoover Dam to meet up with the other guide and the rest of our party. We met everybody else on the tour and it seemed like a good group. We all piled into one of the vans and headed to the Hoover Dam to our put in. We talked with the knowledgeable guides and each other and soon had built a sense of camaraderie and knew the day would be a great one.
On the way to the river we saw a big horned sheep on a mountain side up from the road. This was the first time I saw one in the wild and was excited but unable to get a picture due to the speed of travel on a bumpy road we were on. I was assured by the guides that we’d see plenty of them along the river as they regularly came down to water on the Colorado River since we are surrounded by desert. They told us we might get see bald eagles, peregrine falcons, big horn sheep, maybe a rattle snake, and much other wildlife since they rely on the Colorado River for water in this arid region.
We carried the boats down a ramp and over some rocks and into the river. We got a quick how to paddle and what not to do lecture and then we launched our crafts into the Colorado. We took a few minutes to paddle around and familiarize ourselves with the Prion Kayaks. Manny and Shauna were in a tandem as were Lauren and I. Everybody else had opted for solo kayaks. As we paddle around, the guides informed us that our marriages would be tested today since we chose to paddle in tandem or “divorce boats” as they are known in the business. We laughed and made a vow to get along at all costs. We posed for a couple of “dam photos” and soon were headed down river.
Shortly after heading downriver we saw a precariously thin plank walkway that clung to the cliff faces. It was only two planks wide with a little cable hand rail. It was very sketchy, even when it was first built. The planks were constructed in the early 1900′s when a future dam employee walked the planks, crossed the river in a hand basket suspended from a cable, and then walk more planks to check the flow rate and height of the river several times every day to help determine the location of the Hoover Dam. Check out these pictures…
Here are a couple of pictures that I found online but didn’t actually take myself. The first one shows a longer stretch of the walkway and the second one shows the actual gondola that the dude used to cross the river.
We continued down river a bit when we were directed to beach the boats on the right side of the river. We had arrived at our first stop of the trip, the Sauna Cave. This is a man-made cave that was drilled out back when the Hoover Dam was being built. They hit a natural hot spring and the cave is now full of hot water and has a temperature of around 130°F. We stripped down to our bathing suits and got ready to climb up to the cave. As we disrobed I made the joke about going in the cave naked. The people we were with seemed all for it and ready to participate. I quickly backtracked and announced I was keeping my suit on.
After a few minutes of thought, it hit me…the rest of our group was made up of free loving hippies; seriously cool hippies from Alaska. Not the fake hippies you see nowadays but grownup hippies from back in the day. I couldn’t believe I didn’t pick up on it earlier. They were laid back and really cool, down to earth people. Luckily for all, everybody kept their clothes on. We left our lights off and climbed through the hot water to the cave mouth. You could see steam flowing from the cave and feel its hot, moist breath on your skin. We walked single file through the cave, our sense of touch our only guide. The cave bent a bit to the left and soon we were in total darkness. Wet, Hot, Darkness…With a bunch of cool, free-loving hippies. We sat ourselves along the back of the cave and enjoyed the experience.
Soon the rest of our group started to “ouhmmm” all together and chant like a bunch of Tibetan monks. At first it was cool and I even joined in for a bit. But they kept on and on and on with the chanting. I could feel their chants reverberating throughout my entire body. The chants seemed to grow louder the longer it went on. It was cumulative and growing in intensity….Louder, Louder, Louder. My insides were vibrating and I was tingling all over. I get that they were enjoying it and possibly they felt something spiritual by doing this but after 5 or 10 minutes of chanting I was ready to experience the cave in silence. The silence never came and finally it was time to head back to the river. After our sweaty visit to the cave we jumped into the frigid river to cool off. It felt so good and we enjoyed our quick swim before loading back into the kayaks and continuing down river.
Our next stop was going to be at the natural hot springs. Being very excited about the trip, I did extensive research on what we would be seeing and doing on the river that day. During my research, I found that you had to be careful at these specific hot springs because of a rare type of hot water amoeba that lived in the waters. I found this warning:
Warning – Naegleria fowleria, an amoeba common to thermal pools, may be present and could enter through the nose causing a rare infection and death. Do not dive into pools, splash water, or submerge your head.
I was surprised the guides hadn’t mentioned this fact earlier in the trip. There had been a couple of deaths caused by this amoeba already in 2011 (not in Las Vegas but down south in hot, stagnant ponds). As we prepared to hike up the canyon to the hot springs I asked them about the amoeba thing. They played it off and said it was very rare and not likely to happen. But we probably should not dive or submerge our heads in the water. I then asked about the warm waterfall I was just sitting under.
And found out that this was the runoff from the hot springs and it probably wasn’t a good idea to get the water in or around your nose or ears. Seriously? I was just sitting under the falls and letting it cascade down my head and shoulders. Well, too late now. The damage had already been done. (For the next 3 or 4 weeks I constantly blew my nose and thought I was going to die from amoeba infection, but the fact that you’re reading this proves I did, in fact, survive. Whew!) We hiked up the canyon and waded and sat in numerous hot springs. This was my first time in a hot spring in nature and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
The guide told us how the Native Americans used to come here for the healing abilities of the springs and how they were sacred to them hundreds of years ago. I haven’t researched their claims, but the hot springs were surrounded by desert. I am sure the Indians came to the river for water, but to sit in the hot springs when it was 100°F or higher? Maybe? I enjoyed their story and decided not to ruin it by possibly disproving it with some research. To me, it is probable that people once came here for the healing properties of these magical hot springs. Did it heal all of my aliments? No, I am afraid not. But it did feel pretty damn good to sit in the hot springs and relax. If you haven’t enjoyed a natural hot spring, do yourself a favor and visit one.
We hiked back to the river and headed down stream in our “yaks”. We paddled leisurely and enjoyed the spectacular weather and the breath-taking views. Our next stop was at the cliff jump. We had some granola bars for a snack and climbed along a cliff face and out on a ledge. We took turns jumping off of a 30 foot cliff into 50° F water. I’ve cliff-jumped plenty but never into the Colorado RIver. It was a great time. The ice-cold water literally took your breath away on the first jump. It was every bit as cold, if not colder than, the Mississippi in early April.
After having a great time on the cliffs we headed to our next stop and one I was looking forward to all day… lunch. As we paddled to our lunch spot we kept our eyes open for a Big Horn Sheep. They are often sighted along this area as they come down to the river to get water. Due to recent rain and the high availability of water, there were no sheep in this area. I guess I wasn’t going to see a sheep along the river…and then, up ahead in the distance we saw something. Our luck improved, we saw a big horn sheep…
We saw a whole wake of vultures in this horaltic pose. As we neared the beach with the dead sheep, we looked at the hillside and saw 7 or 8 vultures in this pose. It is believed the pose is to dry their wings, heat their bodies, or bake off bacteria. Scientists are still studying the reasons for this pose. I have some thoughts on it…It was in the 90′s so I think the vultures were warm, they had to be dry (we were in the desert), so I guess maybe they decided to bake off bacteria as we got close to the beach where they were feeding. My theory is maybe, just maybe they use this pose to look larger than they are in an attempt to scare off predators or other scavengers (or in this case the big ugly creatures in the kayaks). Whatever the reason it was really neat to see. One started the pose and then they all copied the pose as it spread across the hillside like dominoes being knocked over. I have never seen more than 1 vulture in this pose at a time. It was really cool.
After lunch, we paddled down the river. I think some of our group was ready to get off the river. We had a long stretch of very slow-moving water to paddle before reaching our takeout. We broke this long stretch of paddling up by having water fights with water tubes and our paddles. I literally almost sank Manny and Shauna’s kayak by scooping water with the blade of my paddle and throwing it into their boat. Their inexperience in a kayak and using a kayak paddle was my savior. I had a definite unfair advantage as I threw gallons upon gallons of icy water into their boat. Eventually, Manny called a truce and the Lamb kayak was declared the winner. He then spent the next 10 minutes sucking water out of his boat with his water tube. It was a good time and made this stretch go a little faster for those ready to call it a day (I could have paddled all day and into the night, I was truly enjoying the experience).
Soon we came to a spot that one of the guides pointed out to us. It was the exact spot a famous picture was taken back in 1871 way before either dam was built. He pointed out the top of what once was a large rock in the picture. I remembered seeing the picture online, it was a cool picture, but I figured it would all be underwater now. With the guide’s guidance we tried to capture a photo from the same angle of that old photo. I think we did a pretty good job from memory, check them out…
As we continued down river we saw many interesting caves. This one looks like a monster’s mouth or some creature’s jaw with teeth…
Our last stop happened to be inside a cool cave named, “Emerald Cave”. It got its name because with the right lighting conditions the water is a fabulous, deep, emerald-green color.
The sunlight wasn’t hitting just right for the perfect emerald conditions during our visit. We had a few moments of green and then the sunlight went away and refused to cooperate. I still thought it was really cool looking. We packed all of the tours’ kayaks into the cave (I feared we were in for more “ouhmmming”, but thankfully they refrained) and sat there for a couple of minutes. As we were talking Shauna dropped her fancy designer sunglasses into the emerald abyss. Luckily our guides were prepared. One of them pulled his goggles on and jumped out of his boat and into the cold water. It was crystal clear and we could see all the way to the bottom. After a few dives and some directions from the surface, our guide broke the surface with a huge grin on his face…
Here is one more picture of Emerald Cave as we left…
We continued downriver and enjoyed the scenes. We saw double-crested cormorants, a pair of peregrine falcons, and blue herons. As we neared Willow Beach, we passed Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery. They raise and stock trout in the rivers and lakes in the region. They also raise razorback suckers and bony tail chubs and restock thousands of these fish each summer into their native waters, the Colorado River. We continued down river and spotted our takeout in the distance. We really dug in and sprinted to our takeout. It was a yet another competition that the Lamb boat would win.
We had finished our trip and had a great time on the river. An experience that we will never forget. We had a great time with great guides. They were experienced, knowledgeable, and had great personalities. If you are ever in the area, even just for a short visit you are doing yourself a disservice if you don’t make time for this trip. If you are in Las Vegas for business or pleasure take a break from town and head to the river. You will not regret it, and you’ll create memories that will live forever.
Here are a few more pictures that I couldn’t fit into the report. Check them out.
I know you are probably getting sick of hearing about the “ass-kicking” we took at the 36 hour Berryman Adventure Race. However, there is one more point worth discussing that I wasn’t able to fit into the report…Passport Separation Anxiety.
For those of you who don’t race, the passport is an official race form that you punch with a differently shaped hole punch at each CP. This proves that you were at the CP and ensures that you get credit for locating it. If you lose the passport you have no proof of getting any of the CP’s and cannot officially finish the race. The Berryman was the first time in a big race where I was in charge of the passport. Usually Luke handles most of the navigation, BLD is the passport guy, and I am the guy that reminds everybody to eat and drink and tells an occasional bad joke.
With just me and Luke on the team for this race I inherited the passport duties. First, I had to decide where to keep the passport. I needed a secure location that was easily accessible since you need to punch it at each and every CP. I decided that I’d put the passport in a Velcro sealed pants pocket on the outside of my right leg. It fit the criteria; it was safe and easy to get to. This worked great through the first night. I’d punch the CP, slip it in my pocket, and then push the Velcro flap down to seal it and not think about it until we needed to punch it again.
As the race went on and we collect more CP’s the inherent value of the Passport went up proportionately. If I lost it early in the race; in theory we could get another passport and then retrace our steps to collect the CP’s again. However, after about 12 hours I realized this was no longer an option. If I lost it now, our race was officially over. We’d have another “unofficial” finish under our belts this summer (I swear Luke’s almost done with the Lionheart Report). I became more aware of the passport and began to check the Velcro seal between CP’s. I’d reach down and pat the closure assuring myself that it was still sealed and that I hadn’t lost the passport.
By the time the sun went down on Saturday we had many CP’s collect and I was even more anxious about the passport. I could feel the weight of the passport in my pocket. It was as if I were Frodo and the passport was the ring that I was sneaking into the depths of Mordor.
I began to not only check the Velcro closure but I felt lower in the pocket to actually feel the passport through the pocket to confirm it was still there. Making sure the pocket was sealed was just no longer good enough. I had to physically locate my passport, to prove to myself that it was still there. I thought about changing the location of the passport. Maybe that pocket wasn’t secure enough. There had to be a better, safer place for the passport. I thought about where to move it to. I decided the pocket had served me this far and was probably the best place to keep it. Plus, I was afraid that I would forget where I moved it to and become frantic when I thought that it was lost.
As the race went on and I grew more sleep deprived I began to check for the passport more frequently. I would check it at least every 10 minutes. I was becoming obsessed. I would not lose the passport. During the night/fog paddle leg of the race I had a horrifying experience not mentioned in the race report. After climbing in and out of the canoe numerous times, after wading through the river and stumbling along gravel bars I finally remembered to check my pocket. I hoped I still had the passport. I put my hand down and felt through the pocket. There was no passport. My heart beat rapidly, my breath grew short, and I broke out in a cold sweat. I was panicking. Where was the passport? How could I have lost the passport? What could we do?
I felt my pocket again, and it wasn’t there. The pocket was sealed but there was no passport. I began to fear it got washed out of my pocket when I was in the water at some point. I thought about telling Luke I didn’t know where our passport was and quickly decided against it. I was afraid that he would kill me. After all the effort we put into collecting all those CP’s, how could I have lost the passport? I mean we only had 3 CP’s left. I kept it safe for so long. I decided that it had to be in my pocket. I felt again through the pocket and didn’t feel it. Was there a hole in my pocket? I opened the Velcro flap and put my hand in the pocket. No hole. Nothing! I dug deeper and felt around.
I felt something, deep down in the corner of my pocket. It was kind of folded into the material of my pocket. I grabbed a hold of something. Was it our passport? I pulled my hand out of my pocket and I was holding onto our precious passport.
I breathed a sigh of relief. My heart rate returned to normal and I felt so relieved. I was so happy; Luke wasn’t going to kill and our race wasn’t going to be “unofficial” (assuming I could keep track of it for just a little bit longer). It turns out that I didn’t lose the passport. It had been in my pocket all the time. I thought about finding a new home for the passport but figured it was safest in its previous location. I mean after all that we have been through and to have it still be there. I decided it was a safe location to keep it for the duration of the race.
For the duration of the race I found myself checking for the passport almost nonstop. I constantly was feeling down the outside of my pocket confirming its location. As I grew sleep deprived and became more delirious it grew worse. I kept a hand on my pocket almost the entire time for the rest of the race. I actually carried the passport in my hand from the final CP to the finish line. The only way I felt comfortable at this point was if I could actually feel and see the passport.
I have thought about this a lot since the race. I wonder why there isn’t a better way to keep track of your passport. Why hasn’t somebody invented a case to carry it in? Or why isn’t the passport made of laminated card-stock with holes punched in it so that you can put a string through it and carry around your neck? There has to a better solution for the passports than a piece of paper that you fold up and stick in a pocket. I will waste much time in the near future pondering a better passport solution.
Has anybody else ever experienced this type of anxiety over your passport? Does anybody know of a better way to carry your passport? Where do you carry you passports during a long race? What’s your worst PSA experience?
**NOTE** This race report was written by Casey and is presented in black text. Luke added some comments and are presented to you in Blue, and Casey added a few additional comments in green. This is the conclusion to our story, and in case you missed the first two parts, you’ll want to be sure to get caught up by reading Part 1 right here and Part 2 right here.
THE PADDLE – Fog, Hallucinations, and Narcolepsy
After some discussion, we decided that Luke would man the bow of the canoe and I’d pilot our craft from the stern. Part of this logic was due to Luke’s adept skills at reading rivers. He does a great job of directing us to the deeper water, which is very important when your boat is carrying the load that is Team Virtus.
Luke: That and Casey is very good in the stern of a canoe even though it pains me to admit that.
Casey: Thanks. That means a lot coming from the team captain. Seriously.
Luke: I’m not the captain.
As the temperature continued to drop, we carried our canoe into the river and climbed into the boat. We were ready to rock the paddle section and make up some ground. We shoved off, took two strokes and were beached on the gravel in a shallow section of the river. Seriously? Way to read the river Luke (there was no other choice). In hindsight, we probably should have carried our boat across the off-shoot of the river, over the gravel bar, and launched on the other, deeper side. However, we were unwilling to admit our error and were just too stubborn to get out of the canoe just yet, so we manhandled the boat and pushed our way into deeper waters as the fog began to thicken.
We were off… Now it was time to make up some ground. We were doing great, and Luke was reading the river like a good book and directing our course well for about 10-15 minutes. Then the thicker fog rolled in and limited our visibility to anywhere from 3 to 25 feet (usually less than 10 feet). There were times that I could barely see Luke sitting in the front of the canoe. It looked kind of spooky and was beautiful and fun to paddle through. However, it was very difficult and slow to race through. We were literally feeling our way down the river. Luke would call out, “ROCK” or “LOG” only milliseconds before we crashed into it or slid over it, hoping that we wouldn’t tip. Just as we were getting used to the foggy, nighttime canoe navigation and beginning to move a little quicker by trusting the river gods to keep us dry, it happened again…
HELLO SLEEP MONSTER…..
We wondered where you have been…
We hoped and prayed that you were done with us…
That’s right. That SOB had climbed up and made himself comfortable perched atop Luke’s shoulders. It sort of looked like this:
Luke: I would like to include this disclaimer: What you are about to read may or may not have happened. I cannot verify nor deny most of the events as they are described below.
Casey: They happened and they happened exactly as they are written in this report.
Luke became quiet, listed from side to side, and almost fell out of the boat. It looked as if he would wake up just in time to keep himself upright and us out of the river. Luke was a trooper and pushed through the ordeal as best as he could. He was bound and determined to make it through the paddle. We ventured onward.
His struggle with the sleep monster continued. He would paddle, stop, and lean over the edge of the boat, then startle himself awake and sit upright once again. It was the bike ride all over again, only it was getting worse. He was no longer able to read the river in his mentally clouded state. Hell, he could barely paddle. I guess we had made a fortuitous decision to put him in the bow. I can’t imagine how horrific things would have gone had he been in the stern when the sleep monster attacked.
Luke: In my defense, I couldn’t exactly read the river before the Sleep Monster attacked me again. The fog was ridiculous.
I talked to him and asked him to call out which side of the river we needed to be on. He asked me how he was supposed to do this. How did he know which side we needed to be on? I told him to keep us on the side with the steeper banks and away from the gravel beaches. He said ok. Then our canoe squealed and moaned in pain as we hit the rocks and gravel, beached again. Luke was in no shape to hop out and back into the canoe so I hopped out, pushed us to deeper waters and jumped back in.
This happened several more times. Luke was just unable to make sense of what he could see of the river, and I could hardly see anything from behind Luke due to the fog and the darkness. We tried all permutations of possible lighting options – Both lights on, both lights off, my light on/Luke’s light off, Luke’s light on/my light off, Luke’s light on the bow of the canoe. We eventually left Luke’s headlamp on and mine off. This reduced the glare on the fog and shadows and enabled me to see a bit of the river and do some navigation based on what I could see from the stern.
This worked pretty well except for the times that Luke turned his head to look at something at one side of the river or another. I’d call out and ask him to center his headlamp. This happened one time and Luke corrected the beam of light pretty quickly. Then a few seconds later, his light (our only light) was pointing into the bottom of our canoe and Luke was asleep in the boat. I asked him what was to our right.
CASEY: “Luke! What’s that! I hear fast water! Is that a tree!? Which way!”
LUKE: “Huh? (raising his head) TREE LOOKOUT, GO LEFT”
And we paddled hard trying to move our craft to the left side of the obstacle… with no luck. We slammed into a little strainer and it was all we could do to keep the boat upright. We pushed the canoe back against the strong current, but we just couldn’t get our canoe clear of the obstacle. The gunwale of the canoe was pinned under one of the roots. We were stuck. Water was splashing over the side. The canoe was taking more water and it looked like we might dump it. Then Luke quickly, instinctively, hopped out of the canoe into the shallower water near the bow and pulled us free and to safety. Nice job! We were a little wet but still upright. This gave Luke a much needed shot of adrenaline and woke him up for a bit.
Luke: I vaguely remember this happening.
He was back to attempting to read the river. He asked me how to let me know where to go. I told him to call out “River Right” or “River Left” and we’d go that way. He struggled with this concept… He asked, “Do I call ‘River Right’ to go to the right or ‘River Left’ to go to the right and avoid the obstacle on the left? Does River Right mean go right or that there is an obstacle on our right?”
Luke: I remember being very confused, and Casey just wasn’t making sense at all.
After much discussion and several attempts of explaining what I was trying to say (I thought that it was all on Luke but in hindsight I might have been nearing the edge as well), we finally came up with some new verbage for this paddle. Luke would call out “Beach Left” or “Beach Right” and I would take us where we needed to go. And it worked. He’d call out the location of the shallow water, or beach, and I’d pilot us to the other side, which in most cases led us to deeper water.
I then tried to teach Luke the verbage that Bob and I use when in a canoe together. I said if you need me to move just a little left or right just say “Tickle Left” or “Tickle Right.” This blew Luke’s mind… Tickle what?…Who?…How?…Tickle? I dropped the whole tickle-talk, and we stuck with the “Beach Left/Beach Right” call-outs. K.I.S.S. –> We had to keep it simple.
Luke: My brain was simply not working. Nothing made sense to me. And I mean NOTHING.
We were making decent time and avoided the shallow areas that would beach us and slow us down. This worked well as long as Luke could stay awake and cognizant. He was fighting a good fight against the sleep monster.
Luke would say, “Why can’t I stay awake?! It doesn’t make sense. I am paddling and falling asleep! How can I fall asleep while I’m moving?!?!”
He couldn’t understand why he was falling asleep while actively paddling. He was getting mad at himself for his inability to beat the Sleep Monster. After some discussion, we decided it was in our best interest and probably safer if we stopped for a quick nap. We pulled over on this nice little gravel bar and made ready to take a quick nap.
Luke: All I wanted to do was sleep. I’ve NEVER been more sleepy in my life. My mind and body were just completely shutting down. I had been up since 7:00 AM on Friday morning, and it was now roughly 3:30 AM on Sunday morning. That’s 44+ hours with no sleep. In hindsight, we probably should have napped earlier in the race.
Casey: Hind sight is 20/20. I agree with Luke. A 15-20 minute nap probably would have ended up saving us more time than it would have cost us.
We drug our canoe entirely out of water and onto the gravel bar. We wanted to be sure it would be there when we awoke. Then we burrowed down into the gravel, used our life jackets as pillows and prepared for some much-needed shuteye. I set the alarm on my watch for 30 minutes and stuck the watch under the band of my headlight so that it rested on my left ear. I then dug out my mandatory cell phone and set the alarm on it and slipped it under my headlamp’s headband on the other side and rested the speaker on my right ear. Hopefully, one of these alarms would wake me up, and we could finish our race.
As we were getting comfortable, I noticed how clear the sky was. The fog was mostly on the river, and from the gravel bar, I could see the sky clearly and the stars were amazing. They were so bright that it looked almost fake, like I was at the planetarium. As I tried to get comfortable and drift off to sleep, I heard thunder in the distance and saw some lightning. How could that be? The sky was so clear, you could see everything. Then I heard Luke ask me…
LUKE: “Dude, do you think we should keep going? We should probably get off the river if it’s going to start lightning.”
His logic made sense to me. Water + electricity in a metal boat… Yeah, we should get going.
CASEY: “I am good to go if you want to. It’s your call man.”
LUKE: “We should get going. What if it starts lightning, and they come and pull us off the river. I don’t want to get short-coursed or get a DNF.”
I didn’t want to get short-coursed or a DNF either. Could they do that? Did they have any idea of where we were? Could they get to us? Could they short-course us? That would suck. I didn’t want to be an unofficial finisher again (Lionheart race report coming soon).
CASEY: “Yeah, that would suck. We better get up and get going. “
Luke: The gravel felt luxuriously comfortable, and I desperately needed to sleep. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was get back up and keep racing, but I guess my desire to finish this race was stronger than my desire to sleep. Standing back up to continue the paddle in the cold fog without taking a nap is one of the hardest things I’ve done in any race thus far.
So, the nap that we so desperately wanted and needed would elude us yet again. We packed up, climbed into the canoe, and set off into the thick fog once again. Luke started out doing a great job. He was paddling hard and commanding the canoe from the bow…
Log in the middle…
We were making decent time, and then something that I had read about and was looking forward to some day experiencing happened right before my eyes. Well, at least right before Luke’s eyes…
LUKE: “Holy crap, Did you see that?”
CASEY: “See what?” And I looked around and ahead into the fog, hoping to avoid an obstacle that I feared would tip us. What had he seen?
LUKE: “That floating Samurai face, kind of like on Scooby Doo. It was awesome.” He said with a big silly smile on his face.
CASEY: “No, there was no face Luke. You doing all right?”
LUKE: “All right? This is awesome. It’s like I am drunk and high but I am really neither. Just sleep deprived. Awesome! Last Berryman the hallucinations freaked me out. This time I know they aren’t real, so it’s really cool.”
Luke: I do remember seeing this. For a brief moment, it seemed real, but then I knew that my mind was playing tricks on me.
Although Luke was disappointed that there was no real samurai face and that I couldn’t see it (I tried to and really want to, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t there), he was a little excited to be hallucinating. He realized that he was seeing things that weren’t quite there in the real world. Maybe there was a shadow or a leaf, but his brain was now processing things a little differently and leading him to believe that he was seeing things that weren’t there. Luke had been here before, and instead of fighting the hallucinations or being afraid of them he embraced the experience. Luke was high; he was tripping his balls off. He would stare off into the fog, freeze for a second, and then laugh out loud.
Luke: That fog was totally messing with me. It was spooky, but it was amazing… Well, what I remember of it anyway. I mean, come on… Look at the fog in that photo. Now imagine being delusional with hallucinations in that fog. It was crazy.
He was no longer able to navigate our vessel so I turned my light on in an attempt to help our situation. This messed with Luke’s situation, and he gave me a very Cheech and Chong like reponse…
LUKE: “Whoa man. Did you see that? It just got like brighter or something…Hahuhuh.”
Then Luke made a discovery that had him very excited. He leaned over the side of the canoe and shined his light into the water as he told me to do the same. He told me the reflections were awesome, that I had to see them. I looked over the side and saw water and a rock. It wasn’t very impressive. At least Luke was excited. Then he told me again in his best Chong voice…
LUKE: “No man, you have to see the reflections. When you do this (he shined his headlamp into the water and shook his head) you see the reflections. They’re awesome!”
Then he looked up through the fog and shined his headlamp onto the tree limbs overhead and shook it once again.
CASEY: “Uh… Yeah man, that’s really cool.”
I had no idea what was cool about his light in the water and then on the limbs overhead, but he was excited about it and it was keeping him awake. He must have been seeing something that I could not see. Luke was like a mentally challenged child with severe ADD and Narcolepsy. One minute he’d be talking to me about reflections or trying to catch a wisp of fog coming off the water (which did look really cool) and the next minute he’d be falling asleep. He’d startle himself awake and then give me a play by play description of the landscape and everything that he could see, and he’d paddle voraciously as we’d surge forward…for several strokes, and then he’d fall asleep again. This repeated itself for the majority of the paddle. He rarely slept for more than a second or two but he was sneaking in many little micro-naps. I was entertained and experiencing the hallucinations from the back seat. I have to admit that I was a little jealous of Luke’s good time. It looked like so much fun. I wanted to see a samurai face.
Luke: I did indeed take many micro-naps, but they did not add up to your power-nap in the van on the way to Steelville:
Casey: I napped for maybe five minutes in the van on the way to the race. Maybe that’s why I didn’t crash as soon as Luke did.
Luke: It was more like 10 – 15 minutes, and that was definitely the difference. I’m sure of it.
Once again Luke told me to see the reflections. I “had to see them.” They were “soooo cool, soooo beautiful.” He repeated his little light shining and head shaking skit. He mumbled about the reflections and how cool they were. He really wanted me to see what he was seeing… And then I finally got it. He was trying to tell me that when he shined his headlamp into the river and wiggled it around, there was a kaleidoscope-like pattern of reflected light shimmering on the leaves and limbs overhead. He was right. It was really cool.
I am glad that, even in his psychedelic stupor, he made the effort to keep explaining it to me until I finally got it. We sat there and enjoyed the cool light show for a few minutes. What I was seeing was pretty sweet. I wish I could have seen it through Luke’s eyes as I am sure it was even sweeter. Luke was content that I finally understood him. He was a five year old little boy that finally made himself understood to his father. He was quiet and content for a little while. He had finally gotten his point across, and I had seen what he wanted me to see.
Luke: It was so amazingly cool. It was frustrating that I just couldn’t explain it to Casey. I remember explaining it in great detail only to have Casey completely blow me off as if I was a little kid. In hindsight, I’m sure I wasn’t communicating very well. Regardless, the light show was fantastic. It sort of looked like this, only better:
The fog got even thicker, and it was getting really tough to see. When Luke would drift off, I was sometimes unsure of what I was seeing. It looked like there were big, fog-covered islands in the middle of the river. My light couldn’t penetrate the fog deep enough to confirm their existence. So I’d steer the canoe a little to the side to avoid the island, and as we passed, the island would vanish. Was I slowly slipping into the same condition Luke was in? I hoped not, but it seemed that I was nearing the edge. I started seeing things differently than they really were. My mind was misinterpreting what I was seeing.
Was it a shadow?…No it must be an island. Is that a huge bush in the middle of the River?…Yes it was…I think.
CASEY: “Luke, wake up man. Is there a huge bush island in the river.”
LUKE: “You mean that house with a big bush in front?”
CASEY: “No! Nobody builds a house in the middle of a river. Is there a big bush type structure right in front of us?”
LUKE: “Uhhh…..Yes, GO LEFT, RIVER LEFT, BEACH LEFT, LEFT!!!”
Luke: I have no memory of this whatsoever.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll realize that Luke had told me to go left and right in the same breath (based on our agreed upon lingo for this paddle). I quickly decided to go left since he said that way the most, and since I could barely see Luke, let alone what was in front of the boat, I had to trust him (even in his mental stupor).
I took us left and we passed a huge bush-like object in the middle of the river that was indeed there, and we found ourselves in a little channel with bushes on both sides of us. The bush Island was real, it had been right in the middle of the river. So, I kept us going forward until we ran out of river. The river just ended. It stopped, and we were beached once again. Did it really end or had I, too, lost it mentally? The sudden stop in movement had woken Luke up, much like a kid in a car seat.
LUKE: “Hey, why are we stopped?”
CASEY: “Because we are out of river.”
LUKE: “Why did you go this way?”
CASEY: “You told me to go to the left.”
LUKE: “Oh, sorry man. I’m out of it. I think I fell asleep.”
CASEY: “No problem man, it’s cool.”
Luke: While I don’t remember seeing a “house” in the river or telling Casey to go left at all, I do remember waking up to realize that we had come to a complete stop. I remember looking around and seeing that we were at a dead-end, and I wondered why Casey would have taken us that way. I was very confused, and I seriously can’t believe that I was giving directions while I was sleeping. I don’t think I’ve ever sleep-walked, but I can now say that I have sleep-paddled.
We sat there for a few seconds. Should we paddle back up stream and down the other side of the “house-bush” or drag/portage the canoe through a low area between two little islands? We decided to muscle ourselves through the little crack between the islands and soon found ourselves back on the main river.
Luke checked the map quickly as we floated down the river. He said that once the river pointed West it meant that we had about 2 miles left. This meant that we currently had more than 2 miles left. I was hoping we had much less to go. Could I last that long? I had to keep focused, to keep it together mentally because Luke had long since flown the coop.
I knew that I was walking a fine line and could easily slide off the cliff and become as high and as goofy as Luke was at any moment. As fun as that sounded, I couldn’t let it happen. I had to keep it together until we got off the river… or else we might never get off the river. I somehow had to find a way to push through and control the hallucinations. I would occasionally see something, do a double-take, and then be able to identify the object for what it really was. I wasn’t sure how long I would be able to maintain this control. We had to get to the end of the paddle. I could easily let it go, embrace the hallucinations, and enjoy the experience. If Luke had been 100%, I might have been tempted to go down that path. But since he was still high as a kite, I had to keep it together. I kept telling myself that I had to keep it together until we got off the river. Just get off the river safely, get Luke and myself to the next TA/CP safely, then I could let myself slip into the delirious hallucinations just like Luke. Hell, we could even take a little nap if we needed/wanted to.
I was able to keep us going down the river. I kept seeing “fog islands”, most of which evaporated as we got close to them. Luke was back to dozing off again, listing to the side almost to the point where I thought he was going to fall out of the boat. I knew we had to be close to the end of the paddle.
Suddenly Luke woke up a bit and started paddling some more. I asked him if he wanted to play a game. He said yeah. I said that I would say a word and he would have to come up with a word that rhythms with it (I play this with my 5 year old all the time and he loves it). Well, it turns out that sleepy, tripping Luke loves it too. He was more awake and alert than he had been in the last couple of hours. Here is the rhyme that started the whole game…
CASEY: “No more rhymes, now. I meant it!”
LUKE: ”Anybody want a peanut?” (said in his best Andre the Giant voice)
Yes! Not only did he get the game, but he got my reference from the classic film, “The Princess Bride.” Sweet, was Luke really back from the dark side? Only time would tell.
Luke: I remember the “Princess Bride” reference, and I remember the rhyming game helping me stay awake for a little while. It was a lot of fun and effective… for a little while anyway.
We continued our game…
LUKE: “TRUCK” (I bet you thought he had another word to rhythm with Duck didn’t you?…Sinner)
And so the game went. We played for a good 5-10 minutes straight, word after word, rhyme after rhyme. I am not sure who stopped the game, but it ended. Shortly thereafter, Luke drifted back into his stupor. I let him have his rest and paddled us down the river. I felt like I should break into a song in Italian. It was as if I was a gondolier piloting a gondola with my passenger around the canals of Venice (only I wasn’t standing). I looked down at my wrist compass and noticed that the river was definitely starting to head West. I called out to Luke…
CASEY: “Luke, how far to the TA once the river turns West?”
Luke: “Yadada Bladada, bliggity do…Schmest!” – Luke really said this, and it was hilarious.
CASEY: Laughing, “What was that? Are you still playing the rhyming game?”
CASEY: “That game is over. We haven’t been playing for a while.”
LUKE: “What? It’s over? Who won?”
CASEY: “You did, you won the rhyming game.”
LUKE: (With both arms and paddle over his head) “Yeah, I won!”
Luke: I don’t recall doing this either, but it’s pretty damn funny.
After his quick celebratory paddle pump, I was able to ask him about the river and how far we had to go. After some convincing dialog, I got Luke to check his compass and map. Yep, we had about 2 more miles to go. We talked a little more as we paddled, and then Luke faded away into his happy place.
Suddenly we found ourselves grounded on a gravel bar once again. Luke awoke and started paddling. Nothing, we didn’t even move. We just sat there, grounded on some gravel. We both dug in with our paddles together and “poled” our canoe a few more feet before becoming fully grounded and unable to move any further forward.
Luke asked me what we should do. I told him that we should rest a minute or two. During that time, Luke drifted off and I decided to climb out of the canoe and push us to deeper water. As I stepped my first leg out of the canoe Luke came awake and began to paddle like he was possessed. This was great…had we been in deeper water and me in my seat. The canoe lurched forward, tripping me in the process and I fell over into the water and caught myself with an extended arm that was shoulder deep in the water (at least I found the deep water). Luke apologized and I jumped back into the canoe and we took off.
Luke: At least when I paddled like a mad man we didn’t tip the canoe… Unlike the last time you paddled unnecessarily fast.
Casey: I was trying to keep the cadence up like Jeremy Rodgers instructed. The man in the bow sets the cadence for the craft. If I let you set the cadence on that paddle we’d still be on the river.
Luke: And we’d still be dry.
After this, we both were fairly alert and the last bit of the paddle went pretty smoothly. The river grew wider and we passed through some camp grounds. Then we finally saw a campfire up ahead. We were finally at the end of the paddle. We both were more alert and energized with the end in sight. We paddled much like we normally do, when awake and fully alert. We were taking deep, powerful strokes in unison. The canoe responded well and surged forward and into the TA. We had done it. We safely made it through the paddle. We weren’t dry, but we never capsized the canoe.
We beached our canoe and headed over to the volunteers by their nice, warm fire. The paddle that probably should have taken no more than 2 hours had taken us 3 hours and 58 minutes.
Luke: That’s just embarrassing. I was absolutely useless (aside from providing some comic relief). Casey did an amazing job of getting us through the paddling leg. I’ve never struggled through a leg of a race like I did this one, so big thanks to Casey, The Anchorman (in a good way this time).
Casey: No problem man. You carried us later in the race. Plus, tripping-Luke is way better than Betty-White-Luke.
It turned out that this TA also was the Gear check. We had all the required gear and were able to quickly find what was asked for. I think we had to show our whistles, a UTM tool, an emergency blanket, a cell phone, a first aid kit, and iodine tablets. We chatted with the volunteers as we warmed our cold, water logged bodies by the fire. I shared with the volunteers highlights of our paddle: Luke’s hallucinations, his micro-naps mid-paddle, and the fog.
As I talked, I felt myself letting down. I had reached the goal I set on the river. We had gotten safely off the river. My mind began to relax and I felt relieved and for the first time during the race, I was getting a little tired. We thanked the volunteers and headed off into the woods just as dawn was beginning to break. All we had to do was collect the last two CPs and then get back to the starting line to receive the next set of checkpoints. As we began to move, Luke was coming alive again, which was great because I was slowly losing it. I feared (and hoped a little bit) that I was headed down the road that Luke had already traveled.
The Final O-Section – Lincoln Logs and Burger Stands
My fears and hopes were accurate, and my mental acuity rapidly declined. I was physically, and now mentally, exhausted. I had overdrawn on my mental-alertness-account and was now paying the overdraft fee in full. Luke’s feet condition was deteriorating even faster than my mental capabilities. He said it felt like the skin was peeling off the bottom of his feet.
I followed Luke across a river, through the woods, and up a hill (To Grandmother’s house we go?). He stopped, and we talked a few minutes. He wasn’t sure if we were on the ridge we were supposed to be on or the ridge one over. He asked me my opinion. I quickly glanced a the map and decided that we were on the right ridge and started walking up the hill. I based my decision on nothing more than the need to keep moving and that we had already started up the hill we were on. I started walking up the hill on autopilot when I noticed that Luke stopped. I looked back and saw that he was still studying the map. I decided to sit down on a nice comfy, little stump and wait for him. It was the world’s most comfortable stump. If I had that stump in my living room it would be the seat I claimed as mine and mine alone.
Luke: Although I was in better shape than I was during the paddling leg, I was still FAR from 100%. It took way too much effort to make sense of the map, but something just didn’t seem right. After a couple of minutes, I figured out where we were.
Casey: You were in much better mental shape than I was. It was your turn to carry the team for a while.
Luke: I don’t like carrying the team. We’re fat and heavy.
I let my mind wander as I sat there. Eventually (and I have no idea how long it really was), Luke caught up with me and said that he was pretty sure that we were on the wrong hill and that we had to head over to the next one. I told him that his “pretty sure” was good enough for me, and I followed him to the next ridge line.
From this point of the race to just before the finish line, my recollection of the events might be a little off. Luke will fill in the blanks. From here on, I would phase in and out of consciousness. There were times when I was very lucid and remember conversing with Luke and what was going on, and then there are large blocks of time that I cannot clearly recall. I plodded along like a mindless zombie following my teammate, my captain, my brother.
Luke: I probably won’t fill in any blanks. It took every ounce of mental energy to not end up completely lost. I don’t really ever remember talking to you all that much. I just remember trying to stay in contact with the map, walking forever, and the pain in my feet… Oh the pain… I shudder now, just to think of it.
What I remember about the hike to CP 31 was that it was a long walk and all uphill. We were hiking up a steep section, climbing over logs and pushing through brush and thorns and then I mentally zoned out. When I returned mentally, we were still climbing. I could have been on a mental vacation for seconds, minutes, or even hours. I had no frame of reference; I just kept putting on foot in front of the other. I was on auto pilot.
Then I was out again for a bit. This time when I came back, the terrain had become a little more bearable, and it wasn’t as steep. I asked Luke if we were at the top of the hill yet, and he said not quite, that we still had a ways to go. He said that he was pretty sure we were going right but if he was wrong it would be a long, hilly climb to the correct hilltop. That was enough for me to hear, and my mind wandered away to its magical happy place. This happy place is amazing. It wasn’t filled with tricycle riding midget-cowboys, or my wife in a teddy holding pitchers of beer, or Billy Dee Williams playing the piano; it was much more peaceful that that. I can’t really describe my happy place other than to say it was very calm and restful. I felt no pain or tiredness when in this happy place. I just was and that was enough.
I continued on, moving at the pace Lukas set with almost no effort. If I could have stayed in that mental stupor, I could have raced at that pace indefinitely. I’m not sure if I was walking while sleeping or if my mind had just had enough and turned off in intervals. The next time I came back to reality, we were much closer to the CP. Luke led us onto a trail and said it would be up ahead just a little further. I went out again for a bit and then when I returned we could see the CP. We punched our passport and checked the map.
Finding the CP gave me a little lift, and I was coherent for a longer spell this time. Luke planned our route, showed me on the map what we planned to do, and we started on. After walking a bit, I saw what looked like a rickety, wooden hamburger stand up ahead through the trees. I closed my eyes for a few seconds and told myself to see what was really there (like I did on the river the night before). When I opened my eyes it was still there.
CASEY: “Luke, is there a hamburger stand on the other side of that tree?” And I pointed towards the hamburger stand.
LUKE: “No man, it’s just trees. Well, wait a second. Don’t listen to me, I have no clue what is going on. There could be a hamburger stand there for all I know.”
Luke: Only someone who is weak in mind and spirit hallucinates during long races. You’re such a pu… Uh… Wait… Nevermind.
Great, I could really have gone for a hamburger right about then. I was thinking about digging out some of our emergency cash and was hoping they had some cheese and bacon for my burger, and when I looked back at the stand it was gone. Apparently, somebody had either moved the stand or the trees leaning over touching each other had just looked like a hamburger stand to my sleep deprived mind. Damn, I’d have to wait to eat something good until later. Then I remembered the note BLD and Travis had left us so long ago – PORK STEAKS ON THE GRILL!!! Even better than a hamburger. I smiled and thought about how good they would taste. But first, we had to finish this race.
Our journey continued and we walked, and walked, and then walked some more. I was pretty lucid through most of this stretch and was still hoping to see a samurai face (it never happened though) or at least something really cool. We walked on when Luke looked back at me and then pointed up ahead…
LUKE: “Do you see that building up ahead?”
CASEY: “Yeah, like a big metal barn kind of building?”
LUKE: “No, like a huge Lincoln Log building. More like a Lincoln Log sculpture or display.”
CASEY: “No, I see that big, brown, or dark gray aluminum barn-like building though.”
LUKE: “No man, it’s made out of logs. Like big Lincoln Logs.”
Lincoln Logs? I closed my eyes and told myself to see what was really there. No Lincoln Logs. We kept getting closer and I kept blinking my eyes. I now knew it was neither an aluminum barn nor a Lincoln Log Display. However, I wasn’t sure what we were looking at. It was big and dark (That’s what she said). We continued to get closer, and I focused all my mental energy to figure it out.
CASEY: “I think it’s a tree, a big dead pine tree or something.”
LUKE: “No. I don’t think so. I think it’s… (we got closer) …it’s a… a… a big dead pine tree.”
It turned out to be a huge dead pine tree (or that’s what we thought it was, neither of us thought to take a picture). I looked at it again and kind of could see how it looked a little like Lincoln Logs. Then I could see how it looked a little like a large aluminum barn as well. That was pretty cool, we had shared a hallucination but saw something totally different.
Luke: I sort of knew I was hallucinating at this point, but I couldn’t do anything about it. I knew I wasn’t really seeing a Lincoln Log home or sculpture, but I just could not tell what it truly was. To me, it looked a lot like this:
As cool as that was, I was now a little worried. If Luke was in the same boat as I was in, how was he possibly navigating? (I have no idea) Well, I trusted him and knew he had to be in better shape than I was, so I kept my apprehension to myself. No sense in worrying him if he was going right. And if he wasn’t, I couldn’t help him anyway, and we were pretty well screwed.
We kept walking a ways, and we eventually picked up another good-sized trail. As we were walking around, I saw something very strange on the ground. What the hell was that? We walked closer. I couldn’t figure it out. Was it even there?
CASEY: “Luke, what the hell is that little red thing over there?”
LUKE: “It looks like a red Lincoln Log roof.”
CASEY: “A what? A Lincoln Log roof?”
LUKE: “Yeah, like a one-piece, red plastic roof you put on top of your Lincoln Log building.”
CASEY: “No it’s not.”
We walked over to where it was laying on the trail. Luke affirmed his belief and said it was a Lincoln Log roof again. I just didn’t quite see it that way. I walked over and kicked it. Now I had confirmed it’s physical existance, it was really there. When it rolled over I knew that it definitely was not a Lincoln Log roof but I had no idea what it was. After a few seconds of staring at it, Luke was able to determine it was a rear casing and lens of a car tail light of some kind (neither of us thought to take a picture again). What was up with Luke and Lincoln Logs? (I have no idea) I hoped he was still able to read a map and compass well enough to lead us to the final CP… or at the very least back to civilization.
We continued on and eventually came up to a gravel road. I think I remember being passed by a couple of vehicles and assumed that they were other racers heading home already. At least they were friendly and honked and waved to us as they passed us.
Luke: I don’t remember any cars, and I don’t remember hearing anyone honking or waving.
Casey: Seriously? Was I hallucinating that badly? Awesome. Can anybody reading this confirm they drove by us sometime around 8:00 on Sunday morning?
Luke: I don’t know if you were hallucinating or if I was just using all of my mental capacity focusing on getting us to the CP.
I hoped we were going right. I had no idea how far we had come or where we were going. I wasn’t even exactly sure where I was. My trust and safety were 100% in Luke’s hands. We plodded along and eventually came to a big gate that said NO TRESPASSING and that it was private land that was under surveillance and we couldn’t enter. We checked the map again. I was now lucid enough to confirm that this was in fact where we were and that the final CP was on the other side of the NO TRESPASSING GATE.
A light went off somewhere in my mind. Didn’t Jason say something about private land during the race meeting? Damn. I wish I had talked less and listened more during that meeting. I mentioned my vague recollection to Luke and he remembered the same thing too. We walked around the gate and down the driveway, half expecting to see some red-neck in a pickup truck with guns hanging on a rack in his back window to come flying up the driveway to ask us what the hell we were doing on his posted land.
Luke was describing the driveway on the map as we walked, and it was matching up perfectly. He said when it made a sharp turn, we’d have to kick off into the woods to find the CP. The driveway turned, and we headed into the woods. I noticed these rocks on the ground that had little carvings or pictures on them. They looked like they had been carved and worked on by somebody with more skill than I have (Can anybody confirm the existence of these rocks?). I thought about taking a picture but didn’t want to stop to do so. Then I thought about picking up a rock at taking it with me because they looked so cool. I didn’t for two reasons—1) I would have to stop and bend over and 2) It would add weight to my pack for the rest of the race.
Luke: I never saw any of these rocks. Geez, man! You need to hold yourself together better at the next race.
Casey: If they weren’t there, I am glad that I didn’t pick one up. It would have sucked to carry a plain old rock to the finish line. I really hope that there were carved rocks near the final CP. They were so cool.
In a few minutes more we walked right up to the final CP. We had gotten all of the CPs that we could. It was time to head back to the Start/Finish line and get our next set of coordinates.
Luke looked at the map and told me we had a VERY steep, long downhill climb to get to the finish line. We found a little path that meandered down the hill and followed it. Luke then had a question to ask me.
LUKE: “Have you ever stepped on a thumb tack?”
CASEY: “Yeah. It hurts like a son-of-a-bitch.”
LUKE: “Yeah, I know it does. Now, just imagine if you covered the bottoms of both of your feet with thumbtacks and then stepped down with all of your weight. That is what my feet feel like with each and every step.”
CASEY: “That really sucks man. Are you all right? Do you need me to carry you (I hoped he would say no)? Can you sit and scoot down the hill?”
LUKE: “No. It is what it is. Let’s keep going and finish this.”
We walked slowly down the hill. Several times I slipped and caught myself quickly. Each time I did this, my back seized up, and I was afraid my (our) race would be over. I have a bad back, and when it goes out, I am done (It will be mentioned in the Lionheart race report that Luke is still working on). Why couldn’t my consciousness leave me now and let me finish the race as a zombie following Luke? My back hurt, but it wasn’t going to stop me. Not here, not now. If Luke could walk the last few miles on thumbtacks I could definitely walk it with a catch in my back.
Finally, we reached the bottom of the hill and noticed it was going to be fairly flat the rest of the way back to the finish line. We walked a little further and picked up a road. I soon recognized the road as the same road we drove down in order to register our car a couple of days ago. I now knew that we were almost to the finish line. However, we weren’t sure if our race was soon to be over. We were led to believe that there was at least 1 more set of coordinates, so we figured we would be racing right up to the cutoff.
The Finish Line – Swamp Foot and Champagne
As we walked, we reminisced a little about the race… how long it took us to find CP 2, the error from CP 4 to CP 5, following Team Kuat, the foggy paddle, the hallucinations, the sleep monsters. It all seemed so long ago and almost surreal. We also discussed the rest of the race. How much more could we do? We decided that we had to get the new set of coordinates, plot them, and then see how we’d be traveling. We were hoping for some more paddling or maybe some biking because Luke was nearing him limit on his feet.
Luke: That is an understatement. My feet were done!
As we walked past the cabins you could rent at Bass’ River Resort, we talked about bringing our families next year and renting a cabin for the weekend. It seemed like a great idea. The kids could play, and we could use it as a home base for the race. I guess we both just assumed we’d be racing the 36 hour Berryman again next year. I plan on it (We’ll see). As we neared the finish line, we could hear Jason on the loud speaker and lots of clapping. It looked like we were going to be coming in during the middle of the awards ceremony.
CASEY: “Luke, are we running across the finish line? We gotta look good in front of everybody.”
LUKE: “I don’t think so. My feet are F*#@ed up. If I run on them, the skin might come off.”
CASEY: “Cool, it’s fine with me. I’d hate for my back to seize up. We’ll walk across together.”
That decided it. We hadn’t run much (or any) the whole race and decided the finish line was not the place to start running. Plus, for all we knew, we had more racing to do. As we drew near the pavilion, somebody spotted us and Jason announced that Team Virtus was coming in. We were walking side-by-side just like we planned.
The clapping grew louder and then Jason shouted to “jog it in” or maybe it was “run across the finish line”, something to that effect. Luke and I instinctively began to jog. (Damn, it hurt!) I lead by a step, and then he surged forward and took the lead. The clapping grew louder, the cheering and encouraging words echoed in our ears. And Luke looked at me and I looked at him. We both knew what was about to go down.
You guessed it (or remembered it if you were there). We took off like Olympic sprinters. We were running like a couple of tired rhinoceroses across the African Savanna with poachers on their trail. We were free… We were flying… I was losing. I was losing?
How the hell was I behind my little brother? I dialed it up a notch and took a little lead. Luke, dug deeper and blocked out his thumb-tack-lined, skin-peeling feet and took it up yet another level. He passed me by a step. I decided to reach deeper and open it up all the way and show Luke how it was done. As I began to fire on all cylinders I felt a twitching in my back. Instantly, I decided that I was going as fast I was going to go. I coasted across the finish line a half a step behind Luke.
Luke: Uh… The way I remember it, you were about 30 yards behind me. But that might have been another hallucination… Or a complete lie.
Everybody was clapping, and I said something like, “That’s it?” Which was answered with some chuckles and a few laughs. I was seriously expecting to be handed more coordinates. However, that never happened. I was walking around, trying to figure out if our race was over or not when I heard footsteps behind me. As I turned around, I was showered with champagne as BLD emptied half a bottle of bubbly all over me. It was unexpected and great. This brought on more cheers and laughs. Bob then handed me the bottle, and I slammed the remaining champagne. It was cold and sweet. It really hit the spot.
Luke: Thanks for sharing with me. Dick.
Casey: There was plenty of champagne in my fleece if you really wanted some. There couldn’t have been more than 8-10 big swallows of the bubbly left in the bottle.
Luke: 8 – 10 swallows was enough for 4 – 5 for you and 4 – 5 for me. Again, what a dick.
I soon found out that there was more to the race, but it just wasn’t doable in the time that we had left. The second set of points took you on a 16 mile paddle and then a 13 mile bike ride back to the finish line. Since we only had about an hour and 45 minutes left, our race was over.
As it turns out, only 6 out of 27 teams even attempted the final set of points. I was a little disappointed, because I had planned on racing until the 12:00 PM cutoff. (Only Casey would be disappointed with what we had just done) But I would be lying if I didn’t admit to being a little happy that the race was over. All good things must come to an end, and my first 36 Berryman was now over. Did it kick my ass? I don’t think so. I had a great time and felt like I could have kept going. Was it a hard-ass race? Was it a “Real-Ass Kicker?” Absolutely. It was long, and it was hard (That’s what she said). It was an unbelievable time. My favorite race to date.
It was just starting to sink in as Luke when I sat down at a picnic table. We could stop now, the race was over.
Casey: With his squinty eyes and sagging stash doesn’t Luke look a little like a cartoon China-man.
I looked around and saw that we were surrounded by friends. I remember seeing Bob and Travis, Kage and her brother Jim, Derrick and Emma from Orange Lederhosen, and many others… and then I saw our other brother, Zack, and his family magically appear. It was great. The Brothers Lamb were back together again. Unfortunately, we were too tired or dumb to think of getting a photo of the moment.
As we sat there Luke took his socks off to reveal the whitest, most disgustingly wrinkled feet you have ever seen. This was the first time I had seen macerated feet in person. Our feet had been wet for well over 30 hours. His feet were sore, and I wondered how long it would take for him to recuperate.
As we examined and looked at Luke’s feet in awe and disbelief Bob fetched a couple of steaming hot baked potatoes for us. I have always heard about these baked potatoes after Bonk Hard races. They are legendary. Since this was my first Bonk Hard race, it was my first post-race experience with them. I opened mine and took a bite of the best baked potato I’ve ever had. Then Bob showed up with a bucket of margarine and covered my potato with gobs of the good stuff, only making it even more delicious. Now I was covered with melted margarine as well as champagne.
As we sat there, a few more teams trickled in. The awards were given out as well as some more free race swag. Jason made a few more announcements and thank-yous and invited us to compete in Check Point Tracker Nationals that Bonk Hard is putting on at the end of October (This weekend actually!). I asked Bob about the pork steaks that he promised us. He said they were on the grill. So we gathered up our gear and headed over to TV Camp. By the time we got there, Bob had Pork Steaks laid out for us to eat and had thrown some ribs down on the grill. Oh yeah, and a beer can chicken too. We ate and then ate some more. It was as if we were in training for an IFOCE or MLE event. I’ll bet if a mystery event ever involves eating, TV will own the challenge (Unless Rusty is there).
We sat around with Bob and Travis, relaxing and reminiscing about their race and our race, and we discussed our plans for next year. After much socializing and eating, we finally decided to hit the showers. I scrounged up a couple dollars worth of quarters and headed to the showers (apparently you have to pay to park AND to shower at this resort, at least they don’t charge you to breathe yet). At least the water was good and hot. After the shower, I felt much better. I headed back to TV Camp, and we talked and ate some more.
I eventually came down from the race high and was beginning to feel a little tired. I started to feel like I had just raced for a day and a half. I fell asleep in my chair for a few minutes during which time my teammates took advantage of me and had some fun.
Casey: How many race reports have included a photo of Bob’s butt? Do we really need another one? The answer is..Yes, we can never have enough of Bob’s butt. It’s kind of like a cow bell… I got a fever! And the only prescription… is more of Bob’s Butt.
I finally awakened and moved to the ground for a good 45 minute nap. After the nap I felt like a new man. We broke camp and headed for home. What a great time, a great weekend, a great race.
Well if you have read this far, I guess you’d like to know how we did. We finished 6th out of 13 teams in our division and 11th out of 27 teams overall. Although Luke wasn’t able to defend his divisional championship from 2010, I am pretty satisfied with our performance (As am I). After a hellacious start, we rallied and raced a near perfect race. It was my first attempt in anything over 24 hours. I got to spend a great weekend with my brother and create some memories that I am sure neither of us will ever forget.
I want to thank Jason Elsenraat, his wife Laura, and all of Bonk Hard Racing for putting on the best race that I have had the pleasure of being a part of. I’d also like to thank all the volunteers and sponsors that made this race possible. Without your funding and countless volunteer hours I’d never have just completed the greatest race I have done to date.
Luke: I, too, had an absolute blast. It’s a race that I’ll never forget. Thanks to Casey for doing this race with me. It was a helluva ride, bro. I’d also like to thank Jason, Laura, and all of the volunteers as well. It was a superb race. I can’t wait to do it again… After I my left big toe is no longer numb.
Casey: Thank you for racing with me. I hope that I raced well enough for you. After all, I was your second pick for this race.
Luke: Umm… Yeah… You were my second pick. I definitely did not ask 14 other people to race with me before I asked you. Let’s go with that.
I’m planning on racing the 36 hour again next year. Luke, Bob, and I have already committed to doing it. Anybody else interested in joining us?
**NOTE** This race report was written by Casey and is presented in black text. Luke added some comments are presented to you in Blue. And Casey added a few additional comments in green. This is part 2 of an epic tale of an epic team of epic brothers at an epic race of epicnicity. Be sure to read Part 1 right here.
PLOTTING and PACKING – Last Minute Race Prep
At the pre-race meeting, Jason mentioned how a lot of people have given him a hard time about using “reentrant” (think drainage or small valley) as a clue for a lot of his Checkpoints (CP’s) at previous races. So he decided to place all fourteen CP’s of the first orienteering section in a reentrant.
Luke: For those of you that have never raced in MO before, please let me enlighten you. Reentrants are EVERYWHERE. No matter where you look, you will see what could be considered a reentrant. Needless to say, this was going to be a tough O-section. Thank you, Jason. Thank you so much.
This was the first time that Luke and I actively plotted more than a couple of points together. Usually BLD or Drew calls the points out and Luke plots them. It took us a few CP’s until we fell into a cadence that made the plotting more efficient. As we plotted the points I would call out the clue to make sure that the clue and the point corresponded.
Luke felt the need to ask what the clue was for every single CP for this section. He’d say, “What’s the clue?”
And I’d respond with, “Reentrant.”
Then Luke would say, “You know that I already know the clue because they are all reentrants, right?”
To which I would answer every single time, “Yeah, that’s what makes it so funny.”
We did this for all 14 points of that section. This never grew old and brought a smile to each of our faces every single time. Travis and BLD were watching us plot our points, and even they were slightly amused by our repetitive, nonsensical comments.
Luke: I’m not sure they were amused. I think we thought it was funnier than they did.
By the end of plotting our points, we put together what passed as a rough game plan. Then we made our final pack adjustments, decided how much food to bring, filled our bladders and water bottles, and made last minute pit stops. BLD and Travis lubed our bike chains, checked the air in our bike tires, and adjusted my Corona bike light as we finished getting ready for the race. As I was taking care of some last minute business in the latrine (for the 43rd time) Luke looked over the maps, strategized a bit more, and came up with a more concrete game plan.
Luke: I’ve never known someone that poops more than this guy. I feared it was going to be a long race.
Casey: You go before the race so you don’t have to go during the race. Plus I am all about going light – I had to lighten the load, literally.
I returned to TV Camp and made our final preparations. With only 5 minutes left before the race started, we were rushing around making sure that we didn’t forget something. BLD and Travis were helping in any way possible, trying to make sure that we toed the line in time to start with the group.
I was standing by the passenger door of the TV van, and I was putting my wedding ring in a safe spot when Luke handed me his glasses and said, “Here are my glasses and wedding ring.” I looked down and said that I only had his glasses. Luke didn’t believe me at first, and then, once he realized that I was serious, he was visibly upset and said that he wasn’t leaving until we found it.
Luke: In my defense, my wedding ring means a lot to me. I know I could get a replacement, but this is the ring that I actually got married in. So a replacement just wouldn’t be the same. If that costs me man-points, than so be it.
Casey: No man points lost. I’d have done the same thing.
We now had about 4 minutes to the start of the race. I think this is when I heard the Star Spangled Banner playing (at least in my head). We were on our hands and knees looking for a little gold ring (actually, it’s platinum) in the grass around the car. Fortunately, Luke found it and handed it to me to put safely in the car. We ran to the starting line with a minute to spare. We sat on our bikes as everybody bunched around, ready for the starting gun.
And then my headlamp came unstrapped. I fumbled around with it for a few seconds to no avail. I then asked Luke to take a quick look at it. As he monkeyed around with it, the race started and we stood there as everybody began to ride away. Bob said, “So much for getting the hole shot.” Luke quickly had my headlamp fixed, I threw it on, we clipped in and then joined the peloton towards the rear. The race just started and already we were near last place. At least we didn’t have to worry about getting passed by too many teams.
Luke: I love starting a race off on the right foot. What a great start.
BIKE LEG #1 – Night Riding to Start the Race
We started the race with a huge uphill climb. We may have been a little cool at the start of the race but we were were sweating and had steam rolling off of us in no time. CP 1 was on the Ozark Trail just off of the gravel road. There were a lot of teams all around us when we found CP1 no problem.
We struggled a bit with CP2, and it took us longer to find it than it should have. Instead of taking an old jeep road down to the Berryman Trail where the CP was, we decided to take a gravel road down to the Harmon Springs campsite and then the Berryman Trail into the woods to the CP. We were afraid that the old jeep road wouldn’t be there or would not lead to the CP. With maps that haven’t been updated in decades, the jeep roads and trails are not always accurate. In hindsight, this was a mistake.
We cruised along the trail at a good pace and suddenly came up to at least 5 or 6 teams all looking around for CP2. After some quick conversation and a map check we decided the epicenter for the mass search for CP2 was incorrect, we could not have gone far enough to be at the CP yet. We decided to race our own race and continued along the trail, leaving a headlight-lit clearing behind us.
Luke: The #1 Rule in Adventure Racing is to NEVER FOLLOW ANOTHER TEAM! So we trusted our map and instincts.
After a couple of minutes we ran into another team headed back towards the group, and they informed us that we had missed CP2 and they had already gone far enough to be sure that it wasn’t up ahead. Well, we wanted to see for ourselves and continued down the trail.
Luke: See Rule #1 above.
Sometime during the search for CP2 the 30% chance of rain became 100% chance, and it rained on and off for the next 3 to 4 hours. Usually it was just a light mist but hard enough to soak us and everything in the woods, and at times, the sky opened up and really let loose for brief periods. Less than an hour into the race and we were soaked to the bone and our feet, as well as our shoes, where water logged.
After another 15 or 20 minutes, we were becoming more convinced that this wasn’t the right trail and we must have somehow missed the CP. We hated to turn around for fear that the CP might be just a little further down the trail. Should we continue the search where we were or retrace our steps and try again? Another couple of minutes and the trail began to play itself out and took a turn in an obviously wrong direction. We were now convinced that we were not near CP2 and had no choice but to retrace our steps.
Luke: Rule #1 is stupid.
We made it back to the previously-congested clearing and found nobody still searching for the CP. They all had either found it or had given up their search and headed to CP3. We looked around a little more, still with no luck. We continued to retrace our steps all the way back to the gravel road. We were sure that we knew where we were on the map, but we were unsure of how to find the correct trail to CP2. It should have been back where we just were. We were beginning to wonder if we had made a plotting error. But with so many other teams there, was it possible that we all made the same mistake? We thought about checking the point really quickly, when we realized that we left the clue sheet back at the TA. We no longer had the option of checking our points. We could only hope that we had plotted everything correctly.
Luke: Man, I felt like an idiot for leaving the clue sheet back at the van. I’m an idiot.
Casey: We left the clue sheet. I felt like an idiot too. It was the least I could have done.
We discussed our options…should we:
- Take the gravel road back to the main road, head down the road a bit further, hope we could find the jeep trail that appeared to lead almost right to the CP, and ride it into the area for a different approach? Or…
- Head back down the trail and find the trail and/or the CP2, we knew it had to be right there?
Well, we didn’t want to climb back up the gravel road, so we decided to head back into the woods on the trail for one more try. If that failed, then we’d back track to the main road and search for the jeep road. We took our time and rode slowly. Then as we neared the clearing, Luke spotted a trail marker for the BM a ways off the trail to the right (I imagine it’s more visible in the day light). We took the trail and within a several minutes we found the CP.
Luke: I felt pretty stupid for having missed the trail the first time. Fortunately, we caught my mistake relatively early and “only” wasted 20 to 30 minutes.
From there we headed towards CP3. As we neared CP3 we ran into a team back tracking looking for CP2. They had gone ahead, found CP3 and then backtracked hoping to find CP2. I guess we weren’t the only team that struggled with this CP.
We made good time to CP3 and CP4. We were a little annoyed that we lost some time searching for CP2 and we tried to push the pace a bit, hoping to make up some of the lost time. We hit CP4 and looked at the map really quick. If we rode down the trail a bit, we’d hit a jeep road that would kick us out onto the main road that would lead us in a roundabout way to CP5. However, it looked closer than staying on the trails the whole way. I asked Luke if the trails led all the way to CP 5. He answered that they did but it was quite a bit further and it was trail as opposed to gravel roads. He asked if I’d rather stay on the trails or take the shorter road option to CP5. I told him I was enjoying the single track but since it was a race, we should take the jeep road to the gravel road over to CP5.
So that was what we did. We hit the jeep road, cruised up to the gravel roads, and then rode hard to CP5/TA1. We felt that we might have made up a little of our lost time. We hit CP5 for the first rogaine section of the race. Our spirits were up and we found out that we were ahead of more teams than we thought. We changed into our trail shoes, ate a quick snack, checked the map, and then headed over to sign into the O-section (we had 8 hours to complete it or get as many points as you could find and for every five minutes past the 8-hour-cuttoff, you lost a CP).
We signed in and were about to head into the woods, when we ran into Jason, the race director. He said we were doing well and we told him about the difficulties we had at CP 2. He asked why we didn’t just take the jeep road. We told him we were afraid that it wouldn’t be there since the maps weren’t exactly new. He thought that the jeep road was the obvious route and that everybody would have taken it. We told him about the large number of teams (and there were some really good teams there) looking for the CP with us. He wished us luck and we checked the map again. Just as we turned to leave we heard Jason calling to us. (Uh-Oh) We turned around to talk with him.
He asked if we came in on the road to which we answered, “Yep.” We told him we had kicked out on a jeep road and rode down that way instead of taking the trail all the way around. We pulled the map out and showed him our route. Then he said that we were supposed to stay on the trail from CP4 all the way to CP5, it was on the clue sheet AND he mentioned it at the pre-race meeting. (Shit!) It hit me, I had read it briefly while plotting the points and I vaguely remember hearing it during the pre-race meeting (maybe we should not have been talking so much).
Luke: Now I felt like a complete idiot. I remembered reading it and hearing it too, after Jason reminded us of it. I can’t believe neither of us remembered it even after we debated about staying on the trail or taking the road. Would we have caught our mistake if we had a clue sheet? I have no idea, and I guess we’ll never know.
He said that he had extra clue sheets with him if we needed another. We walked to his truck and got another clue sheet (which we ended up never needed again). On the way to his truck we asked him what our options were.
He answered that we could continue with the race and finish “unofficially”.
To this Luke said, “No way. I’m through with that ‘UNOFFICIAL SHIT!’ We’ll go all the way back.” This reaction was based on the total BS that happened to Team Virtus at the Lionheart AR back in July (Luke is writing the report still). I have to admit I felt the same way but I just wasn’t able to verbalize my feelings as well as Luke did.
Luke: I’d like to apologize to Jason. I hope he didn’t take offense to my reaction. It was our mistake, not his. He had the rules in writing and discussed them at the pre-race meeting like a good race director should (unlike what happened at the Lionheart Adventure Race). There was just no way in hell I was going to be an “unofficial finisher” again, and I was just upset with our stupidity.
I then asked Jason if we could go back to where we cut out onto the gravel road and ride the trails all the way back to where we were and still be official finishers. He answered yes; we’d be official if we did this, but we had to go all the way back to CP 4, punch again on the “A” box, to prove that we had ridden the trail all the way from CP4 to CP5.
CP 4 was a several miles back up the trail from where we’d cut out on the jeep road. Our mistake was going to cost us several hours and many extra miles on our legs (and taints). We checked out of the O-section and explained what happened and that we’d be back in a while. We were pissed at ourselves. How could we make such a detrimental mistake so early in the race?
Luke and I were in a pretty bad place mentally and spiritually at that point. We had such a shitty race in Pennsylvania and were so looking forward to a good race at the Berryman. Now, due to a stupid mistake, that great race we had been looking forward to for weeks was in jeopardy. Luke checked the map and reminded me about the long down hills that got us to this TA and how crappy and slow it would be to get back to CP4. He guessed a good 2 hours of hard riding back to CP 4 (it only took an hour of riding to get to CP5) and then at least 2 hours to ride the trails from CP4 to CP5.
Luke: I can’t even tell you how low I felt at this moment. It felt like our race was ruined, and I felt like it was all my fault. It was probably the lowest I’ve ever felt at a race, because, unlike the Lionheart AR where the bullshit that happened was out of our control, this bullshit was self-inflicted. Did I want to quit? Absolutely. But then I remembered what Bob has said in the past: “Imagine how cool this story would NOT be if it ended with… ‘and then it got really hard so we quit.’” I didn’t want to have to write that on our blog, so we mustered all of the Strength and Honor we could and moved on the best we could.
Casey: It wasn’t all your fault. I could have taken over the navigation anytime I thought I could do better. We lost an hour or two with you navigating. It could have been 3 or 4 if somebody else (like me) was doing it. I am glad that we continued with the race.
As we got our biking shoes and helmets back on and prepared to head back out on our bikes, more teams trickled in from the road side. Apparently, there were several teams that took the road just like we did. We were clipping into our bikes when we heard Jason calling out and asking if Team Virtus was still here. We answered, “Over here!” and he came over to us. He said that they talked it over and due to the circumstances we could choose to ride back like we were planning on doing or continue with the race with a 2 hour time penalty assessed to our finishing time and still be official finishers.
Luke: I’ve never wanted to kiss a man so badly in my life. Thank you, Jason!
We agreed to this option and thanked him. This is what a good race director does. He makes adjustments on the fly. He could have made us all unofficial finishers (I think 6 or 7 teams, or about 25% of the 36 hour racers made the same mistake we made), he could have made us all ride back to CP 4, or he could assess a fair penalty and allow us all to keep racing.
I am pretty sure that nobody would have chosen to ride out on the jeep road and take a two hour penalty to avoid riding the trails to CP5. It just wouldn’t be time effective. We figured that we saved an hour by riding the road instead of the trail, but ended up losing roughly 2 and a half hours from the time penalty and changing back and forth from biking gear to trail gear and back twice. So we probably lost an hour and a half total. We quickly changed back into our trekking gear and headed over to the TA area to check back into the O-section.
THE FIRST O-SECTION – Rogaine Style: Team Virtus Does A 180 – the Trials and Tribulations of Night Navigation
We had 8 hours to do the first O-section. With 14 CP’s plus the final CP back at the Transition Area (TA) where we had checked in, we had about 32 minutes to make it to each CP’s if we wanted to clear the course. We had to be point on and needed to make up some ground. If we could clear this section we’d be right back in the race. We headed into the course planning on a clockwise rotation through the CP’s.
We quickly passed a team checking their maps, it was Team Kuat. We have raced against them in the past and know they are a competitive team. We didn’t have a definitive attack point for CP6 and hoped that Kuat did. We were trying to make up time and made a mistake that we have made over repeatedly, we followed another team. But this was Kuat, they knew what they were doing, so we thought it would be okay just this once. Maybe our decision not to follow the group back at CP2 somehow subconsciously effected our decision to follow another team and not race our own race.
Luke: Yeah, after NOT following other teams at CP2 led to us losing some time, we thought we could make up time by following a good team here. And I will now repeat Adventure Racing Rule #1: NEVER FOLLOW ANOTHER TEAM! EVER! Why do we have to learn this lesson over and over and over and over again?
Well, we followed Kuat into the woods for a while (kind of nonchalantly and hoped they wouldn’t notice), and we thought we’d see the CP in a few minutes. We followed Kuat for a while, but they eventually outpaced us. We knew we couldn’t keep pace with them for long, but we thought we could follow them for long enough to jump start our o-section and quickly find CP6.
Unfortunately, we hadn’t found CP6 before they dropped us. Now we were alone in the woods and had lost contact with the map.We knew we were in a specific general region but had no defining features that we could see in the dark to pinpoint our location.
Luke: This was really stupid of me. Stupid, stupid, stupid! And by the way, how can you be in a “specific general region?” It’s either specific or it’s general. It can’t be both, can it?
Casey: A specific general region is possible. We all can agree that there are many “general regions” on any given map. Out of all the “general regions” on the map we knew which “specific general region” we were in. We didn’t know exactly where in that” general region” we were in but we did know that we were in that specific region.
We continued down a ravine in what we thought was the correct direction. We eventually hit a significant trail and found a trail marker. We now knew that we were somewhere on a trail. Somehow, when searching for CP6 we had trailed off to the northwest and hit the Berryman Trail. We took the trail back towards CP6 and thought that we could go up the reentrant and find the CP pretty easily. We wandered around for another 30 minutes and still no CP.
So much for 32 minutes per CP. We had already wasted an hour and had yet to find a single CP in this rogaine section. Our attitudes were rapidly heading south, this sucked. Luke seemed more affected by our abysmal start than I was. I am guessing the reason for this was because he has raced Bonk Hard before and knows how good their races are, especially the Berryman. This coupled, with the lousy experience at the Lionheart and Luke’s spirit was close to breaking. I was down and pissed off but still thoroughly enjoying the time in the woods with my brother, whom I don’t get to see enough.
Luke: I really was close to breaking. The mistake at CP2, the two-hour time penalty, and now we were effing lost?!?!? I felt like all of the mistakes were my fault since I was navigating. I felt like I was ruining not only my race, but Casey’s race as well. And he had spent a lot of money and time to fly out to MO to do this race with me. I felt like a failure. Plain and simple.
We backtracked all the way back to where we left the trail and found a trail/creek intersection so we could locate our exact location on the map. Contact with the map again, we should find the CP shortly…Right? From here Luke shot a direct bearing and we decided to bushwhack directly to the CP.
We leapfrogged each other when the woods became too dense to follow the bearing by itself. I’d walk ahead of Luke and he’d line me up on his bearing. Then he’d catch up to me, and I’d head off ahead and make adjustments based on Luke’s verbal directions. A team headed past us back towards the trail. They asked us if we had found CP6 yet, and we said not yet and asked if we were close. They said that they didn’t know, that they were giving up on CP6 and heading on to their next checkpoint. We told them we had a direct bearing and were going to find it.
I wish I could tell you that it worked out and that we found CP6, had a big celebratory hug, and our raced improved from there. But alas… We were unable to find CP6. After a few minutes of discussion, we decided to throw in the towel on CP6 and head for CP8 (remember, this was a rogaine section, so we could get the CP’s in any order). In hind sight, we should have done this at least an hour earlier. Well, if we are looking with hind sight, I guess we never should have followed Team Kuat because we later found out that they never found CP6 after looking for about 2 hours.
At sometime around this point in the race Luke had a Viktor Frankl moment and made a conscious decision to turn his attitude around, which, in turn, turned our race around. For those that don’t know,Viktor was an Austrian psychiatrist that was imprisoned in Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp during WWII. His philosophy (you can read all about it in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning) basically stated that you can’t always control the circumstances you face or what happens to you, but you can always choose and control how you react to them. This led to his survival through some tortuous experiences. I am not for a second comparing this race or anything in my life to what Viktor went through, but I believe that his philosophy can be employed in my life, especially adventure racing where so many things are out of your control. I immediately noticed Luke’s improved attitude which in turn picked me up and we started having fun again. This was what it was all about. The race was on and Team Virtus was moving to the outside.
Luke: It’s funny you should mention this. While Viktor Frankl never crossed my mind, I did make a conscious decision to turn my attitude and my race around. I had hit rock-bottom as far as how low I felt. I knew that I couldn’t let this race crumble into further disaster. When we decided to give up on CP6, I made up my mind that I was NOT going to let what happened thus far ruin our race. I made the decision to not let any future mistakes ruin our race. I made the decision to stop beating myself up for making so many mistakes. And I made the decision to kick some orienteering ass to the best of my ability no matter what happened.
Casey: Luke did an amazing 180 and never looked back. He was a new man once we abandoned the search for CP6 (I know we had to be close to finding it). His change in attitude lifted my spirits and attitude as well. I knew from then on that we would have a great experience together regardless of what happened in the race. First and foremost, I wanted to have a great experience with Luke and be able to look back on this one day many years from now and smile.
Not only did Luke’s attitude improve but so did his navigation. We rallied off 8 CP’s in a row with the time we had left. He was on point. We never wasted more than 5 or 10 minutes looking for a CP not only for this o-section but for the rest of the race. He was like a homing pigeon, it was like he turned on a sixth sense and just knew exactly where to lead us. I started calling him “Homer” (short for homing pigeon) which took him several CP’s to figure out.
Luke: At first I thought you meant Homer Simpson since I had made so many mistakes.
The rest of the o-section went smoothly and was pretty uneventful. At some point during this section my headlamp broke, the hinge of my Apex snapped and my headlamp now pointed straight down. I’ll not bore you with a CP-by-CP account of the whole section. Somewhere in the wee hours of the morning, the rain stopped for good, but our feet and clothes were soaked through. Everything in the forest was still soaked and dripping wet as well, so it still felt like it was sprinkling on us. We made our way through the darkness, finding the CP’s with no problems. With each CP, our spirits brightened. And then the sun shone through the trees, perking us up evene more.
In hind sight, I think you’d have had to run some in order to clear the o-section. It was just too much ground to cover with a fast walking pace.
Luke: We got 8 CP’s plus the final CP at the TA where we checked back in. We had 15 minutes left of our 8-hour time allotment. If we spent an hour and a half looking for CP6 (and maybe it was longer than that), then we averaged a little under 42 minutes per CP. We weren’t too far off, but yes. We would have needed to run to get all of them I think.
However there is one more point worth mentioning. Towards the end of the 8 hour o-section we started seeing 12-hour racers biking on a trail that we were trekking on. We kept an eye out for any teammates or friends that we knew were doing the 12 hour, hoping that we’d see a familiar face. We never saw Bob or Travis (whose race report is in the works), but we did run into Kage and Jim (Their race report can be found here). They were in good spirits and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying their first adventure race. They asked if we were still in our 8-hour rogaine section and wished us luck when we answered affirmatively.
Luke: Actually, I believe Kate said something like, “Please tell me you’re not still on the orienteering section!”
After a few quick, encouraging words we parted ways, and they rode off down the trail as we hiked up the trail. We made it back to the TA with 15-20 minutes to spare. We noticed that we were almost out of water and were hoping to find a good source to refill our supply. We quickly transitioned, checked the maps, and took off on our bikes.
BIKE LEG #2 – Fast, Flowy Single Track and the Mystery Event
The bike section was fun and fairly easy to navigate. Shortly after leaving the O-section, we had to cross a beautiful little creek. Since we decided against changing into dry socks at the last TA we just waded across the creek in our already wet socks and shoes. However, there was another, drier option. There was a log across the majority of the river and you could cross on the log to dry land if you had good balance and the desire to do so. Since we were almost out of water we took this opportunity to fill all of our water bottles. I waded into the fast moving water and filled our bottles for us as Luke dug into his pack to retrieve the iodine so that we could properly treat the water. We popped an iodine table into each bottle, shook them up and prepared to leave the TA.
As we were packing up, we had an opportunity to see another team attempt the alternate option of crossing the creek by trying to tight rope the log. It turned out to be about as easy as it looked, and out of the four feet crossing on the log, three of them got wet.
We packed up and headed away from the creek. As we left, we walked down the trail a bit through several inches of sand. Once we cleared the sand we hopped back onto our bikes and took off. We pedaled at a good pace and enjoyed some fun, fast and flowy single track.
We hit on CP21 and ran into team Off Road Addiction as they were heading back down the trail to the CP. They had somehow overshot it and were headed back to collect it. It turns out that the Golden Girls were to us at the Truman Lake, as we were to Team Off Road Addiction at the Berryman (SAT flashback, sorry).
Luke: Dude, no one in the Midwest takes the SAT. Everyone out here takes the ACT.
Casey: Does the SAT reference still work with the ACT’s? I assume the tests are similar.
Off Road Addiction would fly by us at high speed on the bike or on foot and later when they stopped for a map check or a snack, we’d catch up, say hello, and pass them. Each time, within minutes of passing them, they’d fly by us and retake the lead. This went on for much of the race, we’d leap frog each other until the final bike leg and then we didn’t see them until the award presentation. After finding CP22, they passed us, and Luke and I sat down and took a good 10 minute break to eat, drink, and study the map.
Luke: Actually, they had the lead the whole time since they got 13 of the 14 CP’s on the O-course, only missing one, and we missed 5 CP’s.
After the break, we felt much better and we decided not to follow Team Off Road Addiction’s chosen route. Instead, we chose to bike-whack through the woods for a stretch and come out on a gravel road. During this bike-whacking expedition I commented on how much Bob would love this. I found myself doing this many times throughout the race. Bob would have loved the hard rain, he would loved that stretch of single track, and he would have loved the bike-whacking. I found myself wishing Bob was here to experience this and be a part of it with us. Maybe next year he’ll be there with us. We hopped on the road just like we had planned and quickly passed a couple of teams. We cruised down a HUGE downhill that dead-ended at a small beautiful lake.
This CP was manned by our friend Dan Dugan, from OZ Cycles (who rented, delivered, and picked up the kayaks for our first non-race), and it was also a mystery event. One member of the team had to pick an inflatable raft and paddle across the lake to a CP and then back. (Thank God we didn’t have to build a noodle raft like we did last year) I was going to do the event, but I had to pee really badly. I said I’d be happy to paddle but had to pee first. The volunteers said it’s a quick event and Luke would be half done with it before I was done peeing. So as I peed, Luke picked a raft, hopped in, and quickly made his way across the lake and back in 5-10 minutes. He was awesome in the raft, by paddling on alternating sides he was able to keep the raft tracking in a straight line and made it look effortless.
As Luke was paddling, two teams showed up with only half of their team (2 out of 4). They were asked about their teammates and one team had a rear derailleur break, forcing one teammate’s bike into a single speed. He didn’t want to ride that far or climb that big of a hill on a single speed. The other team just had tired teammates that didn’t want to climb back up the large hill. They were instructed to get their teammates or they would be in violation of the close-vicinity-of-a teammate-rule. Both teams said that this wasn’t an option and that they would take whatever penalty they had coming.
They were doing the mystery event as Luke and I saddled up and climbed up the bitch of a hill. At the top of the hill, we saw two of the missing teammates waiting for their teammates to reunite with them, and several miles down the road we ran into the other two teammates waiting patiently along the side of the road. We noticed that one of their bikes indeed had no rear derailer. At least they were telling the truth (personally I was glad to see they did). We know how it feels to lose your rear derailer in a race. It really sucks. It happened to us at the Lionheart Adventure Race (Luke is still working on the race report). We left both teams behind us as we headed towards the next o-section of the race.
The rest of the bike section was hilly but fun and fast in stretches. We got the opportunity to ride a lot of single track during this race. It is by far the most single track in any of the adventure races that I have experienced thus far in my adventure racing career. We finished the bike leg and hit CP24/TA3 around 4:20 PM on Saturday.
THE 2nd O-SECTION - Rogaine Style: Homer is Smoking
We took another little break and ate some food as we studied the map and planned out our route for the next o-section. We took the time to pinpoint definitive attack points for each CP, hoping to avoid any mistakes. We refilled all our water bottles (Luke filled them this time and I was in charge of the iodine) before we checked into the o-section. We had 6 hours to find the next 6 CP’s.
We headed towards the first CP and suddenly came to a large creek that we had to cross. We looked upstream and downstream hoping to find a dry crossing or maybe a log across the creek like we encountered before? No luck. So we waded across the stream and thoroughly soaked our nice semi-dry socks.
Homer continued his hot streak, and we rolled through the first couple of CP’s with no problems. The CP’s were pretty far apart, and since we weren’t running this section or really any other… until the finish (Nice foreshadowing!) it seemed to take a long time to get to each CP. However, we knew that we were going correctly as we never lost contact with the map and Luke gave an ongoing commentary of the terrain up ahead and twists and turns in the trails. He was spot on for this whole section and we kept collecting CP’s.
We knocked off the first 3 CPs in broad daylight and collected the 4th just as it was starting to get dark. We still had 2 more CPs to get, so we dug out our headlights. We continued with our hot streak and hit the last two CP’s with little difficulty. The last CP was placed in a “valley “(according to the clue sheet). We climbed down the valley from above and decided to follow the middle of it down to the CP. We climbed and scrambled over a collection of boulders of all shapes and sizes. This slowed our progress and took its toll on us physically. We eventually came right up to the CP.
We punched our passport and took a quick look at the map. We could either ascend back up the rockslide we just scrambled down and take the jeep roads/trail back out, or we could continue down the valley, bushwhack through some pretty thick vegetation, cross some creeks, and hit another trail and take it out. We were getting a little short on time and discussed which way would not only take less of a physical toll on our bodies, but which would get us back to the TA the fastest.
Neither of us really was looking forward to mountain-goating our way back up the boulder field and since we weren’t planning on running when we hit the trail (unless we had to, to get back in time) it didn’t look worth the time and energy we would need to invest to re-ascend to the trail above us. We decided to bushwhack down the valley, across the flat (and densely vegetated) field, hit the lower trail and take it back to the TA.
We walked, we bushwhacked, we climbed through thorns and poison ivy, we laughed, we cussed, we might have cried a little, and we second-guessed our decision and hoped we’d get back in time. After much effort and what seemed like hours, we finally kicked out on the trail just like we planned. However, it took a little longer than we anticipated and we worried about cutting it too close. We doubled our pace and speed-walked the trail as it meandered along the base of a hill. We kept one eye on the clock and the other on the map. We eventually hit a power line and walked up it to a trail that would take us right back to the TA.
Luke: My feet were killing me, and that speed-walking BS didn’t help matters any. I was determined not to lose a precious CP that we worked so hard to get, though. I think next year we need uniforms like Hal from “Malcolm in the Middle”:
We now knew that we’d get back in time and even had some time to spare. We slowed back down to our race pace and strolled into the TA with about 16 minutes to spare.
We took time at this TA to air our feet out (Note to self: at the next race bring more than 1 extra pair of socks with you). Luke’s feet were super white and very wrinkled. They were becoming more sore, and we feared they were becoming macerated and tried to let them air out for as long as we could.
Luke: My feet were hurting so damn bad!
Luke also became very aware of his Monkey Butt. His ass and taint area were chapped and chafed. He was afraid it might actually be bleeding. As much as he wanted to get off his water sodden sore feet, he didn’t want to climb onto his bike seat and aggravate his Monkey Butt. He thought about pulling a BLD and airing everything out (it’ll be in the Lionheart report, Luke’s working on it - Okay, Okay!!! I’ll try to finish the report soon. Geesh!), but since the TA was manned, he was respectful and modest and kept his pants on.
We ate lots of food, re-hydrated, rested, dried out Luke’s feet (sort of), and studied the map. This was one of our longer breaks. We knew we had a long bike ride to the paddle and neither of us was very excited or anxious to get started on the long bike leg. We were now out of caffeine (Note to self: always throw in a couple extra packets of Foosh Mints – They’re very light and worth it if you need it) and beginning to feel like we could use a little pick me up. The food was helping some, but we were afraid it wouldn’t last. We also didn’t bring any extra batteries because we thought we’d be back to camp much sooner and 1 set of fresh batteries should have been enough (Note to self: always throw in an extra set of batteries, worth the weight). (We did have back up headlamps, but hey weren’t nearly as bright as our Apex headlamps)
We decided to cannibalize my Corona Bike light, and we now had 8 AA batteries plus the quickly dimming batteries in our headlamps to make it through 10-ish miles of biking and 6 – 7 miles of paddling (something I have done very little of in the dark). I also took a few minutes to jerry-rig my Apex so I could actually see the road as I biked. I wedged a couple of Honey Stinger Waffle wrappers behind the light and duct taped the light back onto the base. This gave me a fixed angle and would allow me to bike and paddle without my light pointing at the ground.
We eventually ran out of things to do, Luke’s feet were as good as they were going to get so we decided that we had best be on our way. We put on dry socks, even though our shoes were still wet, and we saddled up and took off on our long, arduous pedal to the paddle leg of the race.
BIKE LEG #3 – The Sleep Monster Pays Us His First Visit
Navigation was basic and minimal on this section. We had a long ride on mostly gravel roads. We rode everything, even the big uphill sections; this spared Luke’s aching feet. However, every bump would aggravate his monkey butt so he was pedaling standing up most of the time. It was a lose-lose situation for Luke, and we still had a lot of race left.
We weren’t setting any speed records and were becoming tired, and we longed for even a few minutes of sleep. We were biking along when I saw Luke shake his head back and forth. Had it been Bob, I might have thought it was a start of a seizure. Then he continued biking like nothing unusual had happened. Once again he had a mini “seizure.” This time I asked him if he was OK. He said he was getting very sleepy and having trouble staying awake. He was being visited by the much dreaded SLEEP MONSTER.
His head-shaking technique seemed to work for a while.
This was Luke’s pattern for a long stretch of this bike ride. Then, when we were cruising down a nice long downhill, I saw his longest shaking session yet. Then I heard him yelling something out really loudly and making what sounded like farm animal sounds. At the bottom of the hill I asked him if he was OK. He said that he had almost fallen asleep on the last downhill.
Luke: It scared the hell out of me. Have you ever dozed off while riding your bike down a hill at 30 mph? I suggest you don’t try it.
I asked about the sounds and he answered that he was playing a game with the SLEEP MONSTER. He’d call out something like…
“A pig goes…”
And then make a surprisingly realistic pig sound.
“A cow goes…”
And do a really good cow.
He cycled through many animals, and I was kept awake by watching his performance. He was very entertaining; I had a one-man show travelling with me.
We climbed up another large hill and knew we had the big downhill coming up. I kept near Luke on the downhill, and I would call out various animals. Luke would then respond with the proper animal sound between head shakes. I now know what sounds an aardvark, a hippo, an alligator, a zebra, a sloth, a chinchilla, and many other exotic animals make. It was a very educating bike ride for me. Apparently, Luke knows his animal sounds and is quite adept at reproducing their calls. Next time you see him I encourage you to challenge him with an exotic animal and let him reproduce the sounds they make, he knows them all.
Luke: I only vaguely recall this little animal sound game. I don’t think I could reproduce the sounds of some of those animals if you asked me to now.
Casey: My favorite one was the spitting cobra. You have to ask Luke to do that one for you…classic.
We continued to pedal, and Luke continued his cage fight with the SLEEP MONSTER. Head-shakes and animal sounds won us some battles but Luke was slowly losing the war. He just couldn’t understand or rationalize why he couldn’t stay awake. If almost dying by falling asleep on your bike going 30 mph down a hill doesn’t give you enough of an adrenaline rush to wake you up, head-shakes and animal sounds don’t have much of a chance as a long-term solution to keep you awake.
We needed some caffeine but had none. We crested another hill and we decided to get off and walk down. That’s right. For Luke’s safety, we had to walk down a bombing big downhill. We were able to ride up it, but the speeds we’d hit going down were too much of a risk if Luke actually fell asleep again. As we walked, we played the animal sound game some more and it quickly lost its ability to have any affect against the sleep monster.
Not only was Luke losing his battle with the sleep monster, he had suddenly come down with a bad case of the UMBLES…he was stumbling, mumbling, bumbling, and even grumbling a little. As we walked, Luke was taking little micro-naps. I would be talking to him and then he’d become silent, stop moving, and list to the side. He’d then startle himself awake and start moving again. At least several times he fell into me as we walked and I would put a hand on his shoulder and push him back upright, and he’d continue on.
This went on for quite a spell. We now were walking the flats and uphills as well. Luke checked the map and saw we were getting closer but we still had a ways to go. I asked him if he wanted to take a quick nap on the side of the road. He said no, he was afraid we’d wake up after the race was over. So, we kept moving.
Luke: In hindsight, we probably would have been much better-off if we would have slept a little bit. In my sleep-deprived pseudo-coma, though, I thought that if we could just make it to the canoe put-in, I’d wake up and everything would be okay.
Eventually Luke decided that he had to ride if we were ever going to get to the paddle. He needed to wake himself up somehow. He decided to call upon a trick we have used in the past on long road trips…PAIN. He slapped himself silly. After 3 or 4 hard, full hand-slaps to his own face, he was able to wake himself up enough to saddle up. We climbed the rest of the hill and we flew down the backside. Luke was shaking and squealing his way down the hill. He began to pull ahead of me and was drifting across the road. I wasn’t sure if he was asleep or not so I called out as loudly as I could…
“A PIG GOES!!!…?”
And Luke squealed, grunted, and oinked himself safely down the hill as he shook his head most of the way.
We had done it; we safely pedaled down the last significant hill in this leg of the race. Now we just had a stretch made up of a nice flat, rolling gravel road which would lead us to the start of the paddling leg of the race. We talked as the end of the bike leg drew near. We decided it was in our strategic favor to take a quick 20-30 minute nap before launching our canoes for the paddle.
We thought we’d feel better and knew we’d be safer on the river with the rest. We began to feel better and picked the pace up as we knew we would soon get to sleep, even if for only a few minutes. We pulled into CP33/TA5, checked in and received a big smile from the volunteer, Dave from Team Forum Dental, who gladly snapped a photo of us:
He then handed us a note. It was from Bobby-Let-Down. It had some encouraging words, a bribe of pork steaks on the grill when we were done, and a nice hand drawn picture of either an erect penis or a hand with the middle finger extended. Either way it brought a smile to our faces and made us laugh.
Luke: Getting this note was almost like getting a hug from my kids… almost. It helped me wake up and lifted my spirits more than you’ll ever know.
In preparation for our nap followed by the paddle, Luke and I stripped down and dressed into every piece of dry clothing that we had. As we stripped down, we impressed even ourselves with the odor emanating from our bodies and clothing. Good God we smelled! I felt bad for the volunteer across the parking lot. I am pretty sure that he could smell our home-brewed batch of smelly man-filth. I couldn’t tell if Luke or I smelled worse.
Luke: Seriously. I’ve never smelled such a vile odor coming from a person in my life. It seriously made me gag a few times.
For the last 5 to 6 hours I noticed a stench following us through the woods. Finally I realized that the rotting carcass smell was emanating from us. I attempted to determine who was smelliest but wavered back and forth as to who would hold the title. Every time I thought I had a winner the wind would change direction and then suddenly find a new horrific odor. Was it coming from me or my teammate? Unable to determine a winner I decided that together we were smellier than our parts and anointed us both the title of World’s Smelliest Adventure Racer. I know without a doubt that this was the smelliest I have ever been in my life. My new TV jersey as well as some really nice racing gear might be ruined for good. So let me know if you are in the market for a used TV Jersey, some base layers, or lightly used bike shorts with a nice chamois.
As we layered up and talked about the paddle and our nap, a funny thing had happened. Luke had woken up; he was wide awake and ready to go. He had done it; he had finally kicked the SLEEP MONSTER’s ass. Awesome. Luke said he wanted to skip the nap and hit the river right away. I agreed and was excited that we might actually make it to the finish line without a nap and before the cut-off.
We checked out with the volunteer, picked our canoe, and headed to the Huzzah Creek to start the 7-ish mile paddle back towards the starting area. Once we finished this paddle, we only had 2 “quick and easy” CP’s to nab, and then we’d be back at race headquarters, where we’d get our second set of maps and coordinates and then make a decision on what to do with the time we had left.
THE PADDLE – Fog, Hallucinations, and Narcolepsy
Stay Tuned for Part 3…
**NOTE** This race report was written by Casey and is presented in black text, Luke’s comments are presented to you in Blue, and Bob’s commentary is given in Red. Casey added a response or two in green.
The Berryman 36 hour adventure race has been part legend and part icon in my adventure racing world. You see, this is where it all started. This was the first Adventure Race Luke did, which would eventually lead to me doing my first adventure race. Berryman was the mother of all races, a “real ass kicker”. I’ve wanted to do this race since half way through my first adventure race, the Inaugural Truman Lake Adventure Race. This was before Team Virtus even existed, and I was racing with Luke and Drew, who also happened to be Luke’s first Berryman partner 11 years ago. I heard all about their adventures, mishaps and everything they did wrong and would do differently “next time.” Their discussion made me desperately want to complete the Berryman someday. Last year I couldn’t find a partner for the 36 hour race. I could have made the trip for the 12 hour kiddy race, but I had my heart set on the grown-up race.. the “real ass kicker”, the 36 hour version.
Bob: Kiddy race? MF’er, I’ll kill you.
Luke: I’m with Bob. The 12-hour race is an ass-kicker as well.
Casey: I am calling you out right here on this blog Bob. Man up, train you butt off, and enter the 36 hour race next year.
Bob: Challenge accepted.
Earlier this year, I looked for a partner once again for the 36 hour race. However, I was only having luck finding people willing to do the 12 hour version of the race. This race must be a real S.O.B. since I couldn’t find anybody to race it with me. Luke and Drew were planning on racing the 36 hour Berryman again in 2011 as a duo in defense of their divisional victory last year. I guess I would have to wait another year before tackling this iconic race. I didn’t give up all hope, but I had realistically explored all the possible partners I knew of. I wasn’t too excited about racing for 36 hours with a stranger that I met online, so I decided I’d have to wait at least another year.
One day back in June, though, I received a call from Luke. He asked me if I was still interested in doing the 36 hour Berryman. I said “absolutely” and then asked who I would be teaming up with. He answered with himself, that he needed a partner to race with. What happened to Drew? Was he injured or was he just afraid to get his ass really kicked? He told me that Drew had an untimely family conflict that weekend. Luke knew I had been chomping at the bit to try the Berryman, so he called me. That decided it. Luke and I entered in the 2011 2-man division of the 36 hour Berryman Adventure Race. Even though I felt like the last kid picked for dodge ball at recess, it was finally happening. I was going to tackle the race, the myth, the legend, the real ass kicker…the Berryman Adventure.
I then checked my calendar and realized that I would be spending the week before the race in Sin City with my wife, my best friend, and his wife. We had planned to see if everything that happens in Vegas really stays there. I considered cancelling the trip, but since it was all prepaid, I’d lose too much money. I decided to take the trip, have a good time, eat, drink, and be merry, and then recover in the 6 days before the race. I figured that no amount of debauchery and fun could possibly annul months of preparation. Could it? Well, time will tell.
Luke: I couldn’t wait to hear all of the stories from Vegas. With 36 hours to race, I knew I was going to hear every detail about the tranny hookers, face tattoos, random babies named Carlos, a naked Asian man in the trunk of a car… Or was that a movie?
Casey: I took it a little easier than that. I did get to meet Sugar Ray Leonard in person. I also got to paddle the Colorado, which was a blast (report in the works). Oh yeah, I did see a naked Asian man but he wasn’t in the trunk.
So, I spent the rest of the summer training my ass off and racing whenever and wherever I could get the chance. You see, even though I was Luke’s second choice, his back-up if you will, I still didn’t want to let him down at the race. I wanted to make sure I did all that I could in preparation for the big day. I wish I could tell you that everything went as planned, that I was in the shape of my life, and that the Lionheart Adventure Race (our other “big” race of the year) was a great race and got me ready for the challenge. Well, shit happens; I’m not as young as I used to be, I had a couple of injuries, Luke hurt his ribs again, and the Lionheart was disappointing (so disappointing that Luke is still working on the race report). Overall, I put in a good summer of training and felt ready to race and hoped that I would not be the anchor of the team and let Luke down. I had to prove myself worthy of his choice as a partner for the race.
RACE DAY – Pre-Race
Around 9:00 AM on race day, Luke and I were in his living room sorting through gear, checking required gear lists, and trying to decide what was and was not needed. We planned on finishing packing and loading the van before lunch and then catching a quick nap (while Oat Boat took his) before we headed to Steelville for the race. The nap was going to be much needed since the 36-hour-racers were led to believe the race was starting Friday night and there would be no chance for sleeping once we arrived at the BASS RIVER RESORT for check-in.
As we were packing, we realized that we were missing some very important required gear. Luke, the nice guy that he is, had lent his map case and map tool to Bob, aka “Bobby Let Down” or “BLD” for short. Not a big deal, right? We’d just call him and ask him to bring it to the race and then we could catch our nap. Well, BLD doesn’t believe in modern technologies and conveniences like deodorant, underwear, chamois butter, cell phones, or even land-line phones for that matter. Who needs those silly training distractions that Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell came up with? They probably invented them just to distract BLD from his intense training schedule.
Luke: In Bob’s defense, I didn’t actually lend the map case and map tool to him. I just thought they may have ended up in his gear box from the last race, which, as it turns out, was true. So it was actually my fault for waiting until the morning of the race to pack and for not knowing where my gear was. However, not being able to get in touch with Bob was a huge pain in the ass. I think we need to get sponsored by AT&T or something to get that man a phone.
Bob: For the record, I had the map and UTM tool ready at the campsite.
Luke: That’s true. You would not have let us down, so I’m not sure we can use your new nickname… But it just sounds so good! I think we’ll keep using it.
Well, it appears that BLD did it again, he let us down. We had no idea whether he would bring the gear to the race or even if he had it any longer (ask him what happened to the pack raft Luke lent him). Our race was in jeopardy. Was the inability to plot points or keep our map dry (not to mention a potential time penalty for missing mandatory gear) worth gambling on the likelihood that BLD would actually show up at the race with the gear we needed? Would he come through for us this time or would history repeat itself? As George Santayana put it in his often bastardized quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Luke and I were able to remember the past and feared we’d repeat it if we left it in BLD’s hands.
Bob: What “history” was everyone afraid of repeating?
Casey: Doesn’t this picture of Bob look like a Will Ferrell character? Like maybe a gay lumberjack or a psychotic trapper about ready to break into song and dance or maybe the perfect cheer?
I told Luke that since I was planning on buying a larger map case anyway; that we should just run out and pick one up just to be safe. While we were at it, I could grab a couple of pairs of socks. Luke then told me that the nearest place to find what we needed was about 4o-45minutes away at the Alpine Shop in Columbia, Missouri. Seriously? Isn’t Jefferson City the capital of the great state of Missouri? You cannot buy a map case or Injinji socks anywhere in the capital city?
So we thought about it and mulled it over for a while as we packed up the rest of our gear. If we made the quick trip to the Alpine Shop we’d have no opportunity for a nap. However, if we showed up without the required gear we would have a bad race and have kicked our own asses before the event even started. Could we trust BLD – the loveable, cuddle-able, forgetful Bob to come through and show up with Luke’s borrowed gear? The answer was a definite, Hell No! Not BLD. So we threw Otis into the van and headed off to the Alpine Shop. Upon arrival we quickly found what we needed. I would have loved a chance to peruse around the shop and check all the gear out, but we had a race to get to. We drove back to Luke’s house and stopped for some Lutz BBQ on the way (this is becoming a tradition for Luke and I whenever we race together in Missouri).
After we each ate half a pig, we finished packing and then loaded up the Virtus Van. As we prepared to leave, the school bus pulled up to drop off my nieces. We said goodbye to Luke’s daughters and then hopped into the van and headed to Steeleville. We both sighed with relief as we pulled out. Somehow this always happens. No matter how early we get to a race or plan to leave for a race, we always end up frazzled and short on time. We hoped that we had everything and that the drive would be uneventful.
Bob: You know, I read a quote somewhere that said,” Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Our hopes were answered and the drive went smoothly. Were the tides slowly starting to change? We pulled up and were greeted by a wannabe-cop-park-ranger wearing a plastic badge who seemed to have a crappy attitude. We received strict instructions about how to properly register our car at the main lodge. As we pulled up we were greeted by BLD and his partner for the race, Travis Hammons (of Team Offroad Medics fame). Luke and I quickly signed in and grabbed our sweet-ass Columbia fleece jackets and our swag bags and then headed back to our van.
As we approached the van, another Mickey Mouse Park Ranger stomped over to meet us and inquired in a short, irritated voice if we were the owners of the two unregistered vehicles. Luke owned up to being the owner of the van. We were once again instructed how to register the van and where we had to go to do so (that’s 5 two-lettered words in a row). He also expressed the urgency with which we needed to do so. As we walked towards the van, Park Ranger Mickey gave us the stink eye with one hand hovering near his revolver.
Well, since Team Virtus respects the law so much (and fake park rangers too) we all piled into the Virus Van to ride up together. However, there were only 2 seats available in the van due to our bikes and gear taking up the rest of the van. If it wasn’t so urgent that we get our van registered we could have taken the time to unload it a bit. However, since the fate of the world seemed to depend on us getting the van registered within the next five minutes, we thought outside the box and found a way to get it done.
Luke drove, Travis made sweet love to my sexy bike in the back of the van, and BLD and I shared the front seat. The problem with this is we both more than fill up the entire front seat by ourselves. It was like trying to get a loaf of bread into your glovebox or 10 gallons of water into a 5 gallon container, it just doesn’t work. We tried a couple different configurations and nothing seemed to work. Time was running out. We couldn’t fit side-by-side, front-to-back wasn’t an option either due to the kayak paddles in the floor board. So, we decided the only way to get it done was for me to ride on BLD’s warm and comfy lap. Well, since the world was going to end if we didn’t register our van within the next 3 and a half minutes, I took one for the world and hopped onto BLD’s luxurious lap. Let me tell you, Bob did not let me down; it was an enjoyable ride down the road to the main lodge.
Luke: I may have alternated between pushing the accelerator and the brake several times just to see the look on Bob’s face when this forced Casey to rock back and forth on Bob’s lap. However, Casey seemed to rock back and forth a little longer than necessary each time I hit the brakes. Regardless, it was fun to watch.
Bob: I’ve been to strip clubs where people paid money to get dry-humped like that.
Casey: I can’t believe that I didn’t make any tips. I could have used them to pay for parking.
We arrived at the main lodge with 90 seconds to spare. It looked as if the world wasn’t going to end, that we’d get the Virtus Van registered properly and promptly. It looked as if Team Virtus was going to save the world once again (Bob and Luke saved it once from a demon by singing the greatest song in the world. They even wrote a song about the experience, you should have them sing it to you sometime).
We waited in line hoping we’d make it in time. I watched the clock on the wall as precious time ticked away. Tick…Tick…Tick…Would we make it in time. Beads of sweat broke on our brows. I checked the door expecting a grumpy ranger to come storming in to announce that our time was up.
Suddenly, fate smiled on us and we were waved over to another line and quickly explained our mission and its urgency. They helped us and charged us $22 dollars to park there for the weekend even though we wouldn’t be camping. Seriously?!? I guess they had us by the short and curlys, didn’t they? I mean, we had to leave the van at the resort, and they knew it. We even could have had our own campsite for another $20. Well, we planned on racing the whole weekend and figured we might as well save our $20, so we decided to forgo the campsite. We registered our van, purchased dinner tickets and headed over to the prerace meal.
We met up with our friends from Team Wahoo at dinner and had the opportunity to meet a real life Facebook creeper. We met Kim who was familiar with our team site as well as our Facebook page. However, she hadn’t “liked” us yet (maybe she really didn’t like it, but she seemed to know too much to have just stumbled on the page once by accident). Luke called her on it and she promised to “like” us as soon as she got home (we’ll see). We had an enjoyable dinner and then headed back to Team Virtus/Offroad Medics Campsite.
Luke: So Kim had seen our facebook page, read some of the stuff, and then decided NOT to like us. Ouch that hurt. That really hurt. Since then, though, she has completely redeemed herself by not only “liking” us, but actually commenting on our facebook page. So, we feel much better about ourselves now.
Casey: If there are any other “Kims” out there, you know who you are, click on the little box and “like” our facebook page.
I’ll admit our site was pretty sweet. We had our own picnic table, a huge grill (thanks to BLD), two tents, and a rain fly set up over the picnic table (set up in a very peculiar way that only BLD can do – it was lashed to his truck. We unloaded our gear and caught up for a while as we tidied up camp and began to unload the van. Before you knew it, it was time for the pre-race meeting. It was here that I finally got to meet the original broodmare herself, “KAGE” – formerly known as Kate or Super Kate (be sure to read her race report right here because it’s awesome), and her brother, Jim.
We sat through the meeting, the raffles (none of us won anything, it must have been rigged), the free throw-outs (we were too lazy to get out of our chairs and try to catch anything), final instructions and guidelines, and then it was finally time to get our maps. I headed up to the pavilion, waited in line, and grabbed our maps. We were told we’d get the passport at the start of the race. Luke and I headed back to camp to plot our CP’s, plan our route, and get our race faces on. The race would be starting in just a couple of hours… at 11:00 PM on Friday night.
Luke: Man, that nap would have really helped us out…
Casey: I agree. BLD should have stayed up all night to make up for us not geting our nap. I really wWish we could have napped, even just a little…
To Be Continued…
**UPDATE** – Part 2 of the Berryman Adventure Race Report can be found right here. Buckle up. It’s gonna be a wild ride!