***Editor’s Note: This Thunder Rolls Race Report was written by Luke. Commentary was added by Bob in Green and Kage in Blue, and Luke added a few responses in Red. We hope you enjoy.***
***Note #2: If you haven’t read or seen The Hunger Games, then you may not get a few of these references. Don’t worry, though. Whether you’re familiar with The Hunger Games or not, this race report will still be worthy of a Pulitzer-Prize… or at the very least, my mom will say it’s good.***
Every year the Head Game Maker (Race Director), Gerry Voelliger, requires two or three Tributes (Teammates), either coed or same-gender, from each District to participate in the Thunder Games. At the reaping in each District, names are drawn to decide who will race with whom. When Adam’s name was announced as the first Tribute, everyone was shocked. He was just so frail and helpless, everyone knew he wouldn’t make it. The Games would eat him alive, destroying the delicate, little flower that is Adam. I couldn’t take it, so I screamed, “I volunteer! Take me instead of Adam! I volunteer!”
As I staggered forward numbly, I heard the names of the other two Tributes. Kage and Bob were also selected for this year’s Thunder Games. The three of us, the chosen ones, were the Tributes representing District 69, the Virtus District, for the 10th annual Thunder Games (Thunder Rolls Adventure Race).
The Trip to the Capitol
We planned on leaving the Seam (Jefferson City) around 7:00 – 7:30, and Bob was ready when I met him at his house. In fact, he had time to squeeze in a vigorous workout in preparation for The Games.
Each Tribute is allowed to take one Token with them into The Thunder Games. The Token is supposed to represent and remind them of home. Bob’s choice was easy, but I was still humbled and honored when he chose to take a gift that I had given him.
We were running late, but when we arrived at Kage’s place in the Hob (St. Louis), she was nowhere to be found. I guess she was trying to make a last minute trade of small game for some much needed supplies (glow sticks). After waiting roughly 4 hours (Kage: I actually pulled in right after they did, but the look on their faces was priceless), Kage finally graced us with her presence, and we made our way to the Capitol (Mount Caroll, IL).
On the way to the Capitol, Kage kept crying and blowing her nose. She must have been worried about leaving her family behind (actually her allergies had flared up in a BIG way). She looked absolutely miserable, but we knew she’d be fine once the race started.
Upon arrival, we checked in with the amazing Peacekeepers (volunteers), and we received our awesome schwag bags. The North Face Hoodie and the Boetje’s mustard are my favorite!
Training Session in Front of the Gamemakers (AKA – Ascending Practice)
We met up with fellow Tributes from District 68 (Iowa), Todd and Brian from WTFAR and Dave from Tardy Rooster, who were staying in the same cabin as us. They had already formed an alliance that would prove to be strong, and they became WTFARTR (pronounced WootFarter).
Kage had never rappelled before. She had never ascended before. In fact, she had never really done anything with fixed ropes before. Fortunately, we were allowed to practice ascending before the pre-race meeting. Our Mentor (Robyn Benincasa) told us that we needed to get our game faces on. We had to show no fear, and we really needed to impress the Gamemakers.
Bob and Kage each hopped on a rope, and they made short work of the 40 – 50 foot ascent. After just a little bit of instruction, Kage seemed to grasp ascending quite well. Then I shimmied my way up to join them. It was physically challenging for all of us, but we were ready.
Kage: I had been really nervous about the ropes sections of the course, and this practice really set me at ease. Huge thanks to the volunteers there!
Opening Ceremonies (Pre-Race Meal/Meeting/Route Planning)
We all ate one last meal together, and it was delicious. As we enjoyed the food, we looked around at all of the other Tributes. The Careers were all there, Wedali, Alpine Shop, and Bushwhacker. They looked at ease, but we knew they had been trained to destroy us all.
Head Gamemaker, Gerry Voelliger, introduced himself and then informed us of all we would need to know. He is notorious for his sadistic ways, and everyone knows that he gets joy out of the Tributes’ suffering.
We received our maps, and Kage and I plotted our course while Bob worked on last-minute survival skills… Um… Actually he took a shower… before doing a 24-hour adventure race… instead of taking a nap…
Bob: I didn’t want to get the Speedo dirty.
Kage: There were a few points that didn’t seem right when Luke plotted them, and I was worried that I’d screwed up the coordinates I was reading because I was so hopped up on Benadryl. Then Gerry came in to make some adjustments to the clue sheet and everything made sense. Whew.
We plotted the points, planned our route, and packed our gear. We got our other gear, food, and clothes packed up, and we took them to the Cornucopia (Bike Drop). We then sat down for a few minutes before it was time.
Entering the Arena / Leg 1 – Coasteering
With high hopes, we donned our packs and headlamps and then made our way to the starting line. After one last dukie-break, it was time to line up for a group photo. We all wondered which of us would not make it back in one piece.
As the clock struck midnght, Gerry yelled, “Go!” And Go we did. In fact, we started faster than we normally do. We normally either start out at a walk or we only run far enough to be out of range of the cameras before we walk. Not this time, though. We started running, and we didn’t stop right away. In fact we just kept running.
We weren’t setting any records, but I was feeling pretty good about our pace. The Careers were way out of sight of course, but for us, it was a good start. As we got into Mount Carroll, we entered a park. It was then and only then when we slowed to a walk. WTFARTR was right with us, and there were even a few teams behind us.
Bob: While I typically enjoy the isolation associated with being in last place, it felt really good to be among other teams. I thought we held a respectable pace and I was surprised we didn’t pass more people during this part of the race. I think we should do this running thing more often.
Kage: I wanted to die a little bit here, but there was no way I was going to be the one who was the first to quit running. I blame the Benadryl and certainly not my lack of training.
The next section was a Coasteering section where we had to stay within the banks of the Wakarusa River. The depth of the river ranged from ankle-deep to neck-deep, and in one or two places the water was over our heads. So we basically had to hike/wade/swim down the river at 12:30 AM with full packs on. And it… was… awesome! It might be one of my favorite legs of any race we’ve ever done.
Bob: Echo that. I remember swimming next to Todd and we were both laughing hysterically. This part of the race was just plain awesome.
Kage: Loved it!
Unfortunately, I have no photos of this leg since my camera isn’t waterproof, Kage’s camera is waterproof but has no flash, and Bob’s camera is waterproof with a flash but he couldn’t find it before leaving District 69. Trust me, though. It was an absolute blast. Fortunately, race photographer, John Morris, was out there to capture this shot:
On the other hand, it kind of sucked, too. It was never easy. Our socks and shoes immediately filled with grit, sand, and rocks. Trying to empty them was a losing battle. The uneven, rocky terrain underfoot wreaked havoc on our ankles, shins, and knees. Every one of us in our 6-person super-group of Team Virtus and WTFARTR fell over at one point, and a couple of us even went completely under. We managed to pass a couple of teams who missed a Checkpoint that was tucked behind some rocks which was nice, but walking through the water just hammered our quads and hip flexors. It was rough.
Regardless… It was one of the highlights of not only this race, but of my adventure racing career. Yes, I enjoyed it (and hated it) that much.
Leg 1 Continued – Orienteering & Rapelling
After CP 4, we were allowed to leave the Wakarusa behind. We grabbed a couple of CP’s, and then WTFARTR got a bit ahead of us on our way up to get another CP at the top of a reentrant at a creek junction. As we were heading up, they were heading back down. Once we punched the passport, I took a look at our map.
The next CP was on top of a narrow ridge. We were already up high, so I thought we should stay high. I thought it was very odd that WTFARTR (in addition to a couple of other teams) had gone back down. Especially since WTFAR’s motto is, “Up is good… except when it’s not.” I figured they must have tried bushwhacking and thought it wasn’t a good option, so I asked my fellow Tributes what they wanted to do. And then something amazing happened. Kage gave an opinion.
Now that may not sound like a big deal, but I think it’s huge. You see, before this race, Kage never really gave her opinion. She always just went along with whatever we decided. Most of the time she never gave an opinion because she didn’t really know enough about the map or the terrain to give an informed decision. And some of the time she probably wasn’t comfortable speaking up for fear of being wrong. Not this time, though.
She piped up right away, “I say we stay high instead of going all the way down just to come all the way back up.” I agreed, but I was still baffled as to why WTFARTR went back down. So I decided to bushwhack just a bit to see if it opened up any. And boy, did it open right up. In fact, there was a perfect little trail that led right to the CP. Good call, Kage!
Kage: I just didn’t want to climb uphill again.
The next CP was in the back of a cave where we all had to be punch our wristbands at the CP (roughly 300 ft back) to prove that the entire team went all the way in. This cave is really cool. It’s very narrow at points, and with teams coming and going, we got up-close and personal with complete strangers as we passed each other. The bats in this cave were like Kamikaze pilots, dive-bombing right in front of our faces or at the backs of our heads. Just a really cool experience.
From here, our next CP was the rappel, and I was REALLY looking forward to this. For those of you that don’t know, Bob lost a bet to me, so he had to wear a Speedo of my choosing for part of this race. We opened up a poll for all of you Virtusites, and even though Bob and Brian tried to cheat the system with Brian voting from 40 different computers for “Biking at Night,” their attempt was thwarted by all of you good, honest people, and “Fixed Ropes” won the vote.
Bob: Hey now, I think if you look back you’ll see that Casey gave the OK for multiple votes as long as they came from different IP addresses.
Luke: He didn’t give the OK, he just said it was possible. It wasn’t cheating, but it wasn’t exactly on the up and up, now was it? It doesn’t matter now. The right choice prevailed.
As Kage and I were putting on our harnesses, Bob was swapping his clothes for the Gold Speedo. There were several teams and a handful of volunteers there to witness this historic event, but we were sad that WTFARTR was going to miss it.
But then we heard some crashing through the woods and then a loud, “Yeeesssss!! We made it in time!” It was Brian, followed by Todd and Dave. They had realized their mistake and then hauled ass to catch up to us. Now all was right in the world. Our good friends would be there to see Bob “shine.” We posed for a photo or twelve, but be warned. Once you see the next few photos, you will never feel the same about Bob Jenkins. You will love him even more (if that’s possible).
Kage: I had seriously mixed feelings. On one hand, the Speedo bet was hilarious and has given us hours of fun. On the other hand, I’d have wanted to die before walking out in front of a bunch of other people in basically no clothes. No matter how uncomfortable Bob might have been, though, he owned it. And laughing about this insanity distracted me from my terror of heights and the knowledge that I was about to rappel for the first time. Thanks, Bob!
Luke: Kage is right. The whole thing was absolutely hilarious, but when it came time for it to actually go down, I was feeling pretty badly about it. Not badly enough to put a stop to it, of course. I mean, a bet’s a bet. Bob was simply superb. He more than owned it. He owned it, took it public and sold shares, and then bought all the shares back again. Bob, you were fantastic! Seriously, no one should EVER punk out on a bet after seeing you live up to this one (and yes, Brian, I still owe you a snack from our bet!).
After laughing our asses off, it was time to throw ourselves off of a cliff. Kage had never rappelled before. As in NEVER. So her first rappel was going to be 100 feet high or so, in the dark, with a free-fall, into a river. The plan was for me to go first so I could belay her at the bottom, she would go second so Bob could give her encouragement from above, and then Goldmember himself would rappel down in the Gold Speedo.
Kage had fingerless biking gloves, and I had full-fingered, leather gloves. I also had a pair of full-fingered biking gloves in my pack that I offered her. She was about to accept my offer when one of the volunteers said she wouldn’t need them. I offered once more, but Kage said she’d be fine. So over the cliff I went.
It was a really fun rappel, and I’m finally able to rappel without getting really nervous. I almost fell into the water at the bottom, but I managed to stay upright. The volunteers at the top and bottom were amazing. As I was unclipping from the rope, they informed me that there was a hornet’s nest somewhere nearby, so Kage’s first rappel would include dangerous insects as well. Nice, huh?
So it was Kage’s turn. I wasn’t up there, but Bob said she seemed like she had done it a hundred times.
Kage: If you really look at that picture, I look like I’m headed to the firing squad. I was really nervous waiting, to the point where my hands were shaking and I was feeling nauseous. Once I was hooked in, though, I was just focused on what I needed to do. I did get a little uncomfortable when I spun away from the wall, but I really wasn’t scared. Very cool experience.
Kage rappelled like a champ. It’s ridiculous how she seems to have absolutely no fear (and I still haven’t heard complain). She’s such a broodmare. During the rappel, I think she got going a bit too fast and nearly burned her fingers. If only she had a really wise and handsome teammate that suggested she wear full-fingered gloves. Hmm…
Kage: Let me officially say it here on the blog: Luke, you were right. I totally should have listened to you.
Luke: Wow. That is my favorite line of this entire race report!
Then it was Bob’s turn to rappel with Kage as his bottom-belay. It was hard to see him at the top of the cliff, but as he came downward, his gold Speedo shone like a beacon in the night. It was a sight to behold, let me tell you. Bob also got going too fast, though. He couldn’t seem to stop himself, and he yelled for a belay from Kage. I told Kage to pull the rope tightly, but it was twisted around another rope. Before we could figure this out, Bob was already in the river.
Kage: I feel bad about that. Sorry Bob!
Luke: It wasn’t your fault. I couldn’t have done anything if it was me doing the belaying. The ropes were twisted.
For a minute or so, Bob stayed in the water. We would later learn that Bob was yelling for us to stop him because the rope was burning his belly. He said the cool water was quite soothing to his smoldering skin, and it offered a brief respite from the searing pain. If you look closely in the photo above, you can see a small, red line on his belly just above his harness. And if you can’t quite make it out, here is a better shot of it:
Even though we had already experienced a full race-worth of fun and pain, we knew we must press on. There was a LOT more racing to do. So onward we pushed.
Will Team Virtus find the next CP? Will they succumb to the Careers? Will Bob continue to wear the Speedo just for fun? Will the Tributes from District 69 survive what the head Gamemaker has planned? Stay tuned to find out.
To Be Continued…
Our trip to meet Casey and his family in Ohio didn’t start well. We got away a lot later than we had planned, and the traffic was terrible near NSF Adventures.(bumper to bumper forever… Who was the genius that decided to do work on 45 frickin’ Miles of highway?!?). We eventually made it into , checked in and went to bed around 1:00 AM. Casey and his fam were already asleep in the room next door, but Casey, Austin and I had previously planned to meet in the lobby at 6:00 AM for the Race of Hope Rogaine, put on by
We woke up, grabbed a bite to eat at the free continental breakfast, and we made our way to Lake Hope State Park. It was cold, but the forecast looked great. We checked in and got our maps. Unfortunately, we registered at the last minute, so we didn’t get any shirts or socks. Next time we’ll definitely sign up earlier.
Austin and I quickly got our gear ready while Casey took care of some “bidness” in the bathroom. Austin and I then went over the maps to strategerize our route. Casey had taken his map into his “office” so he could come up with a plan as well. Our goals for this race were to have more fun than anyone else (always our number 1 goal), get as many points as we could, and get better with a map and compass. Our plan was to let Austin navigate as much as he wanted to, and we would help him as he needed it.
It was then time to go to the pre-race meeting, and two-thirds of Team Virtus made it on time. Can you guess who wasn’t there?
At the pre-race meeting, we ran into Chris again. If you’ll remember from our last rogaine race, Chris was rockin’ a very strong beard, and we actually thought he was Mason Storm (of Team Seagal fame). Since that race, Chris’s beard grew to such epic proportions that he actually won “Best Beard” at the Warrior Dash, and after seeing a photo of his beard from that event, it was abundantly clear why he won. His beard would have made ZZ Top hang their heads in shame. While his beard was groomed into a goatee for this race, it was still mighty powerful. Have a look:
As we listened to the race director go over all the rules, we made sure we paid attention. We didn’t want to miss any important info about a Phantom Cutoff or anything. Most of the pre-race meeting was the standard fare, but there was one nugget of information that was very important (and one that would provide many laughs a little later in the day). Checkpoint (CP) 51 had been plotted near the park boundary, and the race director said that he noticed a deer stand nearby when he was placing the orienteering marker. He didn’t want to risk any showdowns with anyone holding a gun, so he moved the CP up the hill to the east and placed it right on the trail. Easy enough.
Here’s the map if you want to follow along (the highlighted CP’s are the ones we got, and the thick black line is our estimated route):
Now, moving the CP for safety reasons was a good call, and no one had a problem with this. However, I decided to take advantage of this bit of information… to mess with Casey. Muwahahahahah!!!
I told Austin, “We shouldn’t tell Casey about the CP being moved, and when we come to CP51, you should start going up the trail to the CP even though Casey will think you’re going the wrong way. Then when you walk right up to the CP, we’ll act like it must have been plotted on the map incorrectly just to see how Casey reacts.” Austin was definitely on board for this little prank.
Casey eventually joined us (after what seemed like an hour and a half), and we went over our plan to attack the CP’s in a clockwise direction. Casey agreed with our plan, so when the gun went off, we made our way to CP 50. If you look at the map, you may notice that the terrain is very hilly with some very steep sections. We didn’t even make it to the first CP before Austin fell on his buttocks (or is it buttocki?) not once, not twice, but THRICE.
We easily found CP 50, and there were quite a few other teams at the CP as well. Casey and Austin decided to shed some layers before moving onto CP 43, which we found easily as well. By this time, the teams had spread out and we were basically on our own.
From CP 43, we headed down the reentrant to the trail that ran along the creek, and we took the trail towards CP 51. If you look at the map, you’ll see that the CP was originally supposed to be in the creek to the west of the trail. But remember, CP 51 is the CP that had been moved up the hill on the trail to the east. But Casey knew nothing about it being moved… And honestly, I had already forgotten about it.
As we got near where we should have turned to the west for the CP, Austin looked at the map and said he thought we should go east. I began to tell him to stop over-thinking things, to trust the map and compass, and not worry about making a mistake. As Casey was looking at his map, Austin shot me a look as if to say, “Uncle Luke… Remember?!? This is the CP that was moved!” I instantly remembered our plan, but I felt like an idiot for forgetting about it. I guess it’s a good thing that I forgot, because I don’t think I would have been nearly as convincing if I had remembered.
Casey then said, “You think we should go east?!?” To which Austin replied, “Yup!” as he headed up the trail to the east. Casey looked at his map again, completely dumbfounded. He looked at me, and I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “We gotta let him do his thing, man.”
As we hiked uphill to the east, Casey kept looking at his map in disbelief. I was laughing my ass off on the inside. Casey then said, “So you really think we should go east up this hill?” To which Austin replied, “Yup!”
Casey said, “Why do you think we should go this way?” To which Austin replied, “I’m just going with my gut.”
Casey said, “And your gut is telling you that the CP is uphill in this direction and not across the creek to the west?!?” To which Austin replied, “Yup!” Austin seriously deserves an Oscar for this performance. Casey then looked at me in utter disbelief and muttered:
“What the hell is he doing, dude?”
I just said, “Hey, man. He’s never going to learn if we don’t let him make mistakes. We can’t just tell him where to go, can we? Let’s use this as a teaching moment.” And then I turned around and kept walking as I tried not to rupture a disc by holding in all the laughter.
Casey stared at his map again as we climbed the hill. The look on his face was absolutely priceless. I can’t even tell you how hilarious it was. Case was really trying to be supportive by letting Austin be the lead navigator, but Austin was literally going in the opposite direction of where Casey thought we should go. It couldn’t have worked out any better. I wanted to laugh so damn badly, but I knew I couldn’t let the cat out of the bag just yet.
We kept hiking up the hill, Casey kept checking his map, and Austin and I kept silently laughing hysterically. As we came around a corner, we saw the CP. Austin turned around, grinning smugly as we caught up to him. I said, “What the…?!? Dude, there really is a CP up here. ” And as I looked at the CP marker, I added, “And it really is CP 51!” Casey was now completely flabbergasted.
Casey kept looking from his map to the CP over and over. Austin was sporting the biggest smile I’ve ever seen in my life, and he and I kept looking at each other and then at Casey, soaking in this amazing moment. After a minute or so, we finally filled Casey in on what he had missed at the pre-race meeting. All he said was, “You assholes.” And then Austin and I finally let out all the pent-up laughter. Casey even laughed with us, and all was right in the world. Good times indeed.
Once we finally regained our composure and caught our breath, we started on our way again. I won’t bore you with all the step-by-step details, though (Shocking, I know!). I’ll just say that the terrain was beautiful but HILLY. Austin was our leader, and we hit CP’s 74, 45, 75, 52, 70, and 35 (also a water drop) with no problems. Here are a couple of photos from this section of the race:
After we left the water drop, we made one small mistake on our way to CP 63. We somehow blew right by the CP without seeing it. We quickly realized our mistake, and Austin led us to CP 65 before we backtracked to CP 63 which we easily found tucked into a small reentrant. It was a small mistake that didn’t really cost us any time since we needed to get CP 65 anyway, and it wasn’t Austin’s fault. Casey and I completely missed it, too.
In fact, Austin has gotten really good with a map and compass, and I’m very proud of him. The only thing he needs to work on is his confidence. He was second-guessing himself a little too much. I think he was terrified of going the wrong way since he was leading his uncle and his dad. He just didn’t want to screw up the race for all of us. So we helped him out…
By completely messing with him!
In fact, we messed with him so much, that we started to call him Sasquatch (thank God he didn’t retaliate like the real Sasquatch in that video!). How did we mess with him? Every now and then, I’d say something like, “Uh… Why are we going west?” when we were really going east. Or Casey would say, “Shouldn’t we be crossing a creek soon?” when there was no creek anywhere near us. Every time we did this (which was a lot), Austin stopped in his tracks to check the map again. It was great fun, but it also served a few purposes:
- It showed Austin that he needs to know where we are and what we’re looking for at all times.
- It made Austin realize that he needed to be more confident in his navigation.
- Most importantly, it made Casey and me laugh every single time.
Instead of “Sasquatch,” Casey wanted to call Austin “Squatch” for short, but I changed his nickname to “Baby Sass” which Austin liked much better. That would make Casey “Papa Sass.” Since we had already messed with him earlier in the race, I knew what the title of this race report would be. It was perfect.
After getting CP 63, we got CP’s 31, 54, and 55 with no problems. Well, we had no problems other than I was fighting the good fight against my bowels, and I was losing. I had seen Bob employ a certain turd-fighting technique at other races, and I had to do the same thing several times: stop hiking, double over in pain, and clench tightly to avoid a mess.
I had gotten to the point of no return, but I noticed we would be hiking right through a campground soon. I told Casey and Austin that if there was a bathroom at the campground, I would be using it. If there wasn’t one, I was going to have to drop trou and relieve myself behind a tree. As we climbed up the ridge, we saw this…
After a much-needed restroom break, we were on our way again. We were all feeling pretty good as the day wore on, and we had high hopes of getting many more CP’s. On our way out of the campground towards CP80, we came to a gate across the road. Not to be outdone by Bob at our last rogaine, Austin decided to show his mad limbo skillz.
As we kept moving, we just couldn’t believe how perfect the weather was. It was an amazing day to be in the woods with my brother and nephew. If anything, it was a bit too warm, but we would never complain about that in mid-November.
We found CP’s 80 and 42 with no problems, but we attacked CP73 from above. The CP, however, was at the base of the cliff, so we had to detour around and down to actually reach the CP. After punching the passport, we climbed back out of the reentrant and hopped on the road, grabbed CP41, and then headed for CP60.
As the sun began to fall from the sky, Austin’s energy began to wane. When we reached the CP, we decided to take a break to refuel, rehydrate, and reevaluate our plan for the remaining checkpoints. Austin had a hot-spot on his foot, so it was a perfect time to take care of that while we were stopped anyway.
Our original plan was to go hit CP40 before hitting the water drop on our way to CP71. However, with the hour getting late and Austin getting tired, we realized that we were not going to clear the course. So we decided to skip CP40, hit the water drop, get CP71, and then reevaluate again.
After eating, drinking, and making sure Austin’s foot was good to go, we climbed the rest of the way down the spur, crossed the creek, and climbed the steep hill to the road. We saw some buildings to the south, and we looked around for the water with no luck. There was a small park office building to our south, so we scouted that area for the water. Again, no luck. I ran down the road a short distance hoping to find the water. Again, nada.
Then Casey realized that the door to the bathroom at the office was open, so we filled up with water in there. There was also a soda machine. An ice-cold Diet Coke would have really hit the spot. I always carry some money for emergencies or in case we happen to pass a McDonald’s during a race, but I only had a 20 Dollar Bill. The machine only took Singles or change. Bummer.
We discovered one other interesting item here at the park office, and not to be out-done by Rusty at the Tour de Donut, I had to get a photo:
Now, you may think that we wasted way too much time here, and you may be right. However, we were out here to have fun, let Austin work on his navigation skills, and spend time together since we only get together two or three times each year. Plus, Austin still wasn’t feeling that great, so some extra rest didn’t hurt anything. And if we had rushed out of this area, we would have missed my favorite part of the race.
As we hoisted our packs onto our backs and started hiking again, we heard voices behind us. Assuming it was just other racers, we kept hiking. Then we heard, “Daddy!!!” And we heard, “Luke!!!” And, “Austin!!!” And, “Casey!!!” And, “Daddy!!!” We turned around to see my wife, Becca, with my kids and Casey’s wife, Lauren, with their kids.
What the What?!?!
This was impossible. There was no way that they could have known where we’d be at any point during the race, and honestly, we could have been anywhere in the park. They could have chosen any of the many trails to hike, and they happened to choose the one that led right to us… At the EXACT moment we would be there? Are you kidding me? Seriously, what are the odds?
Austin and I ran down the road to our families while Casey, you guessed it, was still messing with his gear. He had no idea why we were running the other way at first. He realized what was going on and quickly joined us. I got down on one knee, threw my arms out, and the kids ran at me. Casey said it reminded him of this scene (specifically at the 1:38 mark):
Many hugs and kisses were exchanged, and our spirits soared. I can’t tell you how cool it was to see our families out on the race course. That just NEVER happens. Plus, Becca had dollar bills so I could get an ice-cold Diet Coke!! But, I did not want to break any rules by accepting outside assistance, so I reluctantly declined. We chatted for just a few minutes, and snapped a few photos before parting ways.
As much as we wanted to stay with our families, there were CP’s to be found and ground to be covered. Since the sun was getting very low in the sky, we said our good-byes and marched onward. We continued on the road to the top of the hill. We then headed west down a spur, hoping to find CP71.
Unfortunately, we headed west a little too early, regrouped, and then went down another spur to the west. Once again, we headed west a little too early. We looked for the CP for 5 or 10 minutes, and then we decided to head all the way down to the trail that followed the creek. When we saw the big reentrant/valley to our west, we headed up the reentrant to the east. We found the CP easily at this point, but the extra hiking was taking its toll on us. Especially the hills.
The CP was near the top of the reentrant by a beautiful rock overhang/cave area. It was clear to us at this point that Austin not just getting tired, but he was indeed bonking. We stopped here and told Austin to eat some food. His reply was, “I don’t have any.”
This is really the first race I’ve done with Austin. Casey had done a few short orienteering races with him in the past, but nothing like this. In fact, this race was 3 times longer than any other race Austin had ever done. So, we’ll chalk this up to inexperience – both Austin’s inexperience with longer races, and our inexperience with racing together. Normally, we’re pretty good at noticing when one of our teammates needs help. Likewise, we’ve gotten pretty good at asking for help when we need it. Austin didn’t let us know he needed help, and we failed to realize it. I feel bad about that.
We took some time at this CP, and we handed Austin some delicious Honey Stinger Waffles and other food, and we had him pop a Foosh mint. After washing it all down with some water and e-Fuel, he was ready to go. It was twenty minutes well spent.
It was now completely dark as we hiked back down the trail to get CP33. It was a wet, marshy area, and we had to hop a creek. Austin looked like a leprechaun kicking his heels together as he soared over the creek.
I hopped the creek and kept my feet dry. Then I noticed that I could turn around and get a shot of Casey perfectly framed in an arch of weeds – yes, I’m that good with a camera, and no it wasn’t pure luck.
Immediately after the photo above was taken, Casey hopped the creek, caved-in the opposite creek bank, and soaked his feet. It was awesome. Have a look:
From CP33, we had a little trouble finding CP52 which appeared to be at the western most point of the cliffs. We purposefully climbed up to the cliffs on the eastern side, so we could just follow the cliffs to find the CP. A couple of teams were heading the opposite direction. They clearly hadn’t found the CP yet. Then a team of two traveling east met us as we were traveling west. They claimed that they had dropped in at the “very western-most point” of the cliffs, and the CP wasn’t there. They were sure that the CP was to the east.
Now, let me repeat Rule #1 of Adventure Racing which applies to Rogaine Racing as well: DON’T FOLLOW ANYONE ELSE… EVER! SERIOUSLY, DON’T DO IT! This rule is easier said than done, though. It’s really hard to follow this rule when a team seems so adamant about something. We stuck to our guns, though.
As we made our way west, we could see many other teams’ headlamps searching all over the cliffs. We kept heading west, though, and Austin found the CP tucked behind some rocks, brush, and trees.
We followed the trail and easily found CP’s 32 and 46 before heading back to the Hash House/HQ. Austin was beginning to crash again. This time, it wasn’t bonking, it was just that he had been racing for over 11 hours, 7+ hours longer than he had ever raced before. So this was to be expected.
I could tell that Austin really wanted to hand in the passport and be done for the day. Casey really wanted to go for CP’s 61, 10, and possibly 30. The hike back to HQ took us a little longer than we anticipated, so getting all 3 CP’s was out of the question. Casey still wanted to go for CP61, and Austin still wanted to call it a day. I was fine either way, and Austin said he would try for 61. We somehow managed to resist the Siren Song of the warm fire and delicious-smelling food in the pavilion, and we headed back out for one more CP. As we left the HQ pavilion, we ran into our families again. This was another spirit booster. We had no time for hugs and kisses, though. We told them we’d be back in a half an hour or less.
Getting to CP61 meant we’d have one more tough climb. This did not sit well with Baby Sass. He was a trooper, though, and he marched on since Papa Sass wanted to get one more CP. Not wanting to tarnish an otherwise fantastic race by going for one more CP, Uncle Sass stepped in. I told Casey that I thought we should go back and hand in the passport. Casey gladly agreed, and we quickly turned around and finished our race.
We finished 18th out of 29 overall and 13th out of 20 teams. We got 1260 out of a possible 1780 points. I’m more than happy with that. I think we met all of our goals, too:
- Have more fun than everyone else – By pulling the prank on Casey, we had already had more fun than everyone else by the time we got our 3rd CP
- Get as many CP’s as we can – Mission accomplished.
- Get better with a map and compass – No doubt about it.
We had unbelievably nice weather, it was a great course, the post-race food was delicious, Austin did a fantastic job navigating, and I got to spend a day in the woods with my nephew and my brother. We even got to spend a little time with our wives and kids ON THE COURSE! It truly was an incredible day. Big thanks to NSF Adventures for putting on another great race. Big thanks to our wives and kids for coming with us and supporting us. And big thanks to Casey and Austin for racing with me and making it a great day.
We headed back to the hotel for some family time, swimming, and some pizza. We slept in as much as the kids let us (not at all), had a nice breakfast together, and then we left for home in Missouri while Casey and his family headed for home in NY. It’s never fun to say goodbye, but we had a wonderful weekend, we created some great memories, and we survived even though we were messin’ with Sasquatch.
Good day to all of you Virtusites! We hope you had a wonderful Halloween. All of us had a blast taking our little ones trick-or-treating, but Adam really got into the Halloween spirit. He terrified all of us by dressing up as a real member of Team Virtus!
With Fall in full swing and Old Man Winter lurking just around the corner, a lot of teams see this as the “off-season.” Well, not Team Virtus! We have to keep racing if we want to stay mediocre, don’t we? So we just wanted to give you all a quick heads-up regarding some upcoming races for Team Virtus.
Next up is the Race of Hope Rogaine in Ohio. I’ll be meeting Casey and Austin, my nephew, this weekend at Lake Hope State Park near Zaleski, OH. Why such a last-minute addition to our race schedule? Well, I still have Casey’s mountain bike that he left behind after this year’s Berryman Adventure Race. So we decided to meet halfway so he could get his bike back. Since we were going to meet halfway, we looked around for a race, and we found the ROH Rogaine.
This race is put on by NSF Adventures. If you’ve been with us from the beginning, then you’ll remember that they put on the very first race that we ever officially did as Team Virtus. They are also the same guys that put on the Shawnee Extreme 24-hour rogaine that we did last year. These are top-notch orienteering races, so we knew we wouldn’t be disappointed like we were at the Lionheart AR.
We’re pretty excited about this race. It will be Austin’s first ever 12-hour race. It will be his first rogaine race. And it will be the first time I’ve actually raced with Austin (we went to the High Profile Adventure Racing Camp together, but we didn’t race together). Austin has become a very good navigator, so we plan on handing over the map and compass to him to see what happens. Stay tuned for a report. It’s gonna be fun.
Next month, we will be heading to the Castlewood 8-Hour AR en masse. Six of us (Yes. SIX!) will form two teams. Bob Jenkins and Robby Brown are teaming up to dominate the Two-Person Male Division, and Rusty Sapp, Drew West, Adam Laffoon, and I will compete in the Four-Person Male Division. Sadly, we couldn’t manage to find a way to do this race with Kage, but she will be teaming up with Orange Lederhosen in the Four-Person Elite Division. We missed last year’s Castlewood AR, but Bob and I had a great time two years ago. Hopefully, no one will have cracked ribs this year, though.
Castlewood will be Bob’s first race as the lead navigator, and he’s been working hard at it to ensure he and Robby rock the course. This will also be Robby’s and Rusty’s first adventure race, and Castlewood is a perfect choice for getting their feet wet. And this will be Drew’s first AR of 2011 and our first AR together since last year’s “Buster Douglas moment” at the Berryman Adventure Race in 2010. And it could be the first race where Adam doesn’t get fired from the team… But I doubt it.
Some other races that we’re throwing around as possibly doing to finish a great 2011: The XCX Cross Country Xtreme, the Turkey-O, and the Possum Trot Orienteering Race (a REALLY fun race that I did 2 years ago).
So, will we see any of you at any of these races? We hope so! Seriously. You’d better be there, and you’d better come say hello.
**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: Be sure to check out Bob’s report from the High Profile Adventure Camp leading up to this race. You can find it right here. Now onto the race report.***
The night before the race, we sat and listened to adventure racing stories as told by Robin Benincasa. As we listened, I wondered what would be bestowed upon us the next day. Because up to this point, the only bad experience I had encountered was sharing a small cabin with 10 other guys and a girl (I felt really sorry for her). There was definitely some epic flatulence going on. At approximately 11 o’clock we got our maps and it was back to the cabin to plan a route, load our bikes and get our gear together because the 5:30 bike drop was coming whether we liked it or not.
Fast forward about 4 and a half hours and it was time to get up. Yea, there isn’t anything like knowing you’re only going to get a few hours of sleep just to get up and do 8 hours of endurance racing, not to mention the gas war that took place between WTF and Team Virtus.
At 5:30, Luke and Bob headed to the bike drop as I continued to drag my ass around getting ready for the race. I constantly questioned if I had too much or too little gear. Not knowing what to expect, I relied on the sage wisdom of the rest of my team to guide me. With the 7:00 start time inching ever closer, I stuck with what I had and made my way to the dining hall.
Before the start of the race we posed for a few pictures, two of which were with camp director Gerry Voelliger and Robin Benincasa.
With the start of the race looming, it was time to get our heads together and our butts to the back of the pack, so as to avoid the carnage that was about to ensue.
As the countdown from 10 started, you could feel the excitement. Once we started, we had to run a couple hundred yards to get the canoes and carry them about a half a mile to the river. Pretty much only one thing went into the selection of our crafts and that was no-yellow-canoes. I for one did not feel like swimming this early in the morning. You know, come to think of it I didn’t want to do any swimming…period.
Casey: I was so glad that we were able to secure a canoe that was not a tippy-ass yellow banana.
Luke: I hate those damn, yellow boats!
Bob: Echo that. It was hard not to laugh when we’d see other people going in. Check out this photo, you can actually see the water starting to pour over the side.
We carried our canoes for what seemed like hours, but I’m sure that had more to do with the lack of sleep than the actual weight.
We “strategically” placed our canoe next to the river in a spot that would make for an easy put-in if we arrived at the same time as a few other teams. After that, we were on foot for the first 3 checkpoints.
As we wandered off into the woods to search for the first of 24 checkpoints, we exchanged witty banter and talked of what the day would bring. At this point in the race as I’m sure you can imagine there were some bottlenecks at the checkpoints.
With the superior navigation skills of our fearless leader, we made haste through the first 3 checkpoints with no concern except for the paddling I knew would be coming soon.
Luke: Technically, we were racing as two teams of two. So, I’m not sure to whom you are referring when you say “our fearless leader.” I really hope you’re not describing Casey in such a manner.
Up until the day before, I had only been in a canoe on a float trip and I mean, really, who actually paddles or, for that matter gives a damn if their canoe flips on a float trip? The day before the race, we were only in a flooded area of the Mississippi and there weren’t any rapids or real danger of the canoe tipping. Somewhere in the depths of my soul, I had a feeling that today would be a whole different ballgame. When we got back to the canoe put-in, We could tell by the number of remaining canoes that we were somewhere in the middle of the pack. This was good news, but there was still a lot of racing left. As we launched our canoe, we were immediately held up because about 40 yards from the launch a team flipped.
Once we actually started, things went pretty smoothly and we cruised down the river. We ended up passing 5 or 6 teams, one of which was our counterpart.
Casey: You got by us when we “T-boned” another canoe that got wedged between a couple of trees in the only paddable section of the river. We managed not to tip them or us and the bump actually helped them straighten out a bit. Once you passed us we gave you some space to avoid another “T-bone” (first time I ever passed up a T-bone in my life). You guys somehow got around another canoe and we just couldn’t find the room to pass them until near the end of the paddle leg.
Luke: First of all, what does “Paddable” mean? Secondly, it’s a race, dude. You don’t wait for room to pass. You MAKE room to pass. That’s what Adam and I did.
We had to be moving at a pretty good clip. At one point, as we were coming up on a bridge we started talking about how much farther it was to the takeout, but just past the bridge we could see other teams taking their canoes out of the water. We both said there’s no way this is the end, but a guy standing up on the bridge heard us and confirmed that it was. We were amazed by how quickly it went and the best part is that we stayed upright the whole way.
We did have to get our feet wet to get the canoe out of the water but we knew dry socks were waiting at the transition spot. We changed our shoes and put on socks as we waited for what seemed forever (it was only a few minutes) for Bob and Casey.
Casey: Look at Bob’s newly aquired (this camp) canoe securring technique. It was so stable I was able to walk upright in the canoe without any fear of a swim. We’ll definitely use this technique at future races as we get on and off the water. Nice job Bob.
After they pulled their canoe ashore and changed socks, it was on to the first bike leg.
Casey: If you look in the back ground you can see the “pace center” reducing the TA time as he sprints to the CP while his team takes their time getting on fresh new socks. Our TA times were much better this year.
Bob: They’re probably distracted by the gaping flesh wound on my knee. Holy shit, I’m hardcore
Luke: The way I remember it, Adam and I had already punched our passport because we had plenty of time while you guys were waiting for teams to let you pass them on the river.
Now this is where we expected to make up time. We knew we were going to be weak at paddling because it’s not something we practice but biking was different. We weren’t in a line like we knew we should be but we were four across, taking up the entire road. It wasn’t until Robin Benincasa and one of the race directors come up behind us and was giving us crap about not being in a pace line that we decided to take things a little more seriously. So we got in line and it was Luke leading, then myself, Bob and Casey. Now, I’m not sure what Luke had been eating or what kind of training he had been doing but this shit was ridiculous. We hit speeds of 18 to 20 mph going down the road.
Bob: Luke definitely had a rocket up his ass that day. His nutrition must’ve been spot-on.
Luke: That’s not exactly how I remember it, but hey… It sounds good, so we’ll go with it.
I don’t remember how far we had gone, but we came to a bridge and it was time to “lose some water,” so to speak. Bob and I parked our bikes along the railing and after I relieved myself I took a drink from my water bottle. When I went to put it back in the cage, it fell between the railing and into the river. Now, I had just put dry socks on less than an hour ago and now I had about 30 seconds to decide whether or not they would stay dry, because the current wasn’t exactly still. Now, I know you’re thinking “it’s just a water bottle,” and I could easily get another one, but I didn’t want to lose it. I dashed down to the side of the creek and of course it’s not going to come right up by the side…no, my new Smartwool socks were going to be put to the test that day. I waded into water about mid-calf deep and snatched the bottle as my teammates showed support by laughing and snapping a photo.
Casey: I am not a statistician, but I am willing to bet the odds of Adam somehow missing his cage as he put his water bottle away and having the bottle slip through the railing and land in the water is pretty low. I have to admit that I did laugh at his misfortune but I assure you it was in good fun.
- Luke: Adam took the “Leave No Trace” rule to heart. If it was me, that bottle would have stayed in the creek.
- Crisis averted and we were back on the road. Cruising along at insane speeds again, we arrived at the next transition spot in a hurry. Time to do some hiking.
As we started off on foot we knew we the easiest route to follow would be the road and look for the first re-entry. Easy enough, right?
Bob: Really? Cuz that looks a lot like MY team-mate Luke kneeling on the ground.
Luke: Indeed, that is me kneeling on the ground. Why am I kneeling, you ask? Because I had to get into my first aid kit to get pain killers out. For who, you ask? That would be Bob.
Well, as fate would have it, (and because Bob and/or Casey distracted Luke), we walked by the first reentrant and entered in the second and walked about 15 minutes before we figured out that we were going the wrong way. After back tracking to get checkpoint 9 it was smooth sailing, once again thanks to Luke’s superior navigation skills (I am legally required to say that or I get fired from the team). We only had to hike up and down several hills to get seven more checkpoints before it was back to the bikes.
Luke: I still feel bad about that mistake. It was such a stupid, rookie mistake to be lulled into complacency when you think something should be easy to find. My apologies to the team. At least it was the only navigational error that day, and at least we caught it relatively early.
Once we were on the bikes again we had to ride back to the transition spot at the end of the paddling leg and get our pfd’s and paddles.
We left with our paddles and life jackets and immediately had to go up a hill.
Once we started riding, it was only a few miles back to camp but we were much slower than we had been on the previous bike leg. We made it back and ditched the bikes and headed to the cave. The water in the creek was cold, as you can see here.
Crossing the creek proved to be harder than it looked. There were some hidden rocks, one of which I found and tripped over and ended up falling face first in the creek.
Luke: Even though this was my second trip into this cave, it was still just as amazing. I freakin’ love this cave!
Each team-member’s wristband had to be punched in addition to the passports, so that meant everyone had to go in. I don’t know why anyone would want to skip out on seeing the inside of a sweet cave like this one. There were several bats on the walls. Some were covered in frost, and others were…well, you can judge for yourself.
We made our way through the cave, even though in some spots it was a pretty tight fit. We headed from the cave to collect a couple more checkpoints before we went to the ropes.
When we got to the ropes we checked how much time we had and we had well over an hour. We had 4 more checkpoints to get and they were pretty close together. The first section of ropes was rappelling and it went pretty quick, even though there were several teams there at the same time.
Casey: This was the firs time anybody rappelled and ascended this cliff. It was great. However, due to the fact that rappelling is a bit faster than ascending, we ended up standing around in cold, knee-deep water as we awaited our turn to ascend.
Bob: It was pretty cool to hang out with the volunteers and some of the other racers, but after a while I really started to feel like we might miss the cutoff.
Luke: Yeah, it was tough knowing that the minutes were ticking by as we waited for our turn. But that’s just part of racing. If we want to avoid bottlenecks, we need to get there first! I was a little worried though. Since we missed clearing the course last year by 1 CP, I REALLY, REALLY wanted to clear the course this year.
Next was the ascending wall, and it was here that the pace slowed considerably. Priority was given to the teams that had their harnesses setup correctly, but that didn’t help us because it seemed like everyone knew what they were doing. The minutes seemed to tick by quickly as we waited to ascend. Once it was our turn, we climbed as fast as our legs would allow.
Casey: We lost some time on the ascend section. This was not because of our lack of ascending skill. I thought our technique was as good as anybody elses and we were as fast or faster than most other teams. We lost some time because we were 2 teams of 2 travelling together as a team of four. We ended up getting separate ropes but we didn’t start at the same time so we lost some time since we had to wait for 3 separate ascensions instead of only 2. I think it was definitely worth the 5-10 minutes we lost here to race together as a whole team. Maybe we made up some of the lost time by using a 4 person paceline during the bike leg.
Luke: What he said.
Although I can’t speak for everyone, my ascending form was considerably worse than the day before in practice.
Bob: I definitely didn’t feel like I had a strong ascent. I made good time, but took several stops. I was just about exhausted at that point. Overall, I think we had a major improvement over last year, especially since we didn’t even ascend last year:).
We all made it OK and went to checkpoint 23. It was on a little waterfall which was pretty cool. It looks much better in person.
Casey: I was the last off the ropes on the ascension and we took off running to CP 23 as soon as I was unclipped. As we ran, I was taking my gloves off, fixing my harness, putting my pack on, and trying to catch my breath. I finally recovered and was all straightened out as we were leaving CP 23. I think I gave Luke a “gift” and let him hold my pack as we walked/ran to CP 23 as I messed with my harness. Thanks Luke (or I guess you should be thanking me).
Luke: Uh… Thanks?
We only had one more checkpoint and it was to the finish line. The only thing standing in our way of clearing the course was the zip line. We were all hoping it would be higher and faster than the zip-line the day before, and much to our delight we weren’t disappointed. It was a lot faster than the previous day, which unfortunately made it difficult to land on your feet at the bottom.
Casey: This zip line was awesome. It was long and fast. I planned to land on my feet gracefully but I somehow got turned around on my way down and landed on my side and butt. I bounced a couple of times and slid in the dirt, eventually coming to a stop. The people who zip-lined after me had to deal with the little ditch I left behind. I quickly hand-over-handed myself to the end of the rope, hung a leg over the zip line, unclipped and watched my teammates come down. Adam’s landing was the landing I had planned. He landed on both feet and jogged to a stop. It looked like he had done it a hundred times. Nicely done Adam, you’re back on the team. I nominate Adam as the new team captain.
Luke: I agree with letting Adam back on the team and even making him captain, BUT… He let me make a navigational error earlier in this race, so he is once again fired.
We all made it safely and we had plenty of time to make it to the finish line. We hiked up the hill toward the camp and jogged to the finish line.
We crossed the line to the applause of the other teams and spectators and posed for a few more photos like this one.
Bob: That garlic bread was the bomb.
Luke: Agreed. At our next non-race, we need hot garlic bread at the finish line.
We cleared the course with 5 minutes to spare. Much to our delight, there was plenty of food left at the finish line. All things considered, we were feeling pretty good with just having cleared the course. We noshed on corn dogs with Boetje’s mustard, which is phenomenal, and we were all amazed when Robyn Benincasa recognized our very own Bob Jenkins from the movie “Race Across the Sky”.
Bob: I’m still working on a book deal for that one.
Of course, in hindsight, there are things that we could be better at : more efficient paddling, quicker transition times, and not dropping water bottles into the river. We all crossed the finish line together but the posted results had Virtus Team 1 finishing 3 minutes behind Virtus Team 2. I’m still not sure how the hell that works. All in all everyone had a fantastic time and we are looking forward to next year.
Casey: If I remember correctly Bob and I were TV #2 weren’t we? Here’s how it went down…I clearly remember a dead sprint from the zipline by Bob and I. We looked back and TV #1 was casually strolling towards the finish line, like they were in a park on a Sunday afternoon. Bob and I then kicked it up to an even higher gear and flew across the finish line in a big blur of manliness. After a couple of minutes, once we caught our breaths and our heart rates dropped back to their resting rates of 5o BPM, we walked back towards the zip line. This is where we reunited with you guys and crossed the finish line together (and took the picture above). If you remember, when we found you guys back by the top of the ravine, you were in pretty bad shape. Luke even told us we should go ahead without him, he didn’t think he was going to be able to finish this one. With some encouraging words and threats of being kicked off the team we were able to coerce you guys across the finish line. I think Bob even offered to carry your pack but you refused him the “gift”. You are therefore fired from the team for depriving Bob of that gift.
Luke: 1. Casey’s comment is pure fiction. 2. Casey has no firing/hiring authority on the team. 3. It was a great race with a great team, and I had an absolute blast. On behalf of Team Virtus, I’d like to say thanks to Gerry and all of the volunteers as well as the great staff at Camp Benson, and a big thanks to Robyn Benincasa for her coaching and inspiring stories.