As much as I hate to do it, I’ve gotta break this report into fragments. For whatever reason, my employer seems to think my talents are better used “working” instead of AR-blogging during business hours. The following is a brief account of the hours leading up to our domination of the 2012 Berryman 24 hour Adventure race. And by “domination”, I mean we didn’t die.
At a table littered with empty fast-food wrappers, Travis and I sat in the Hardee’s dining room plotting UTM points. The 2012 Berryman 24 was happening the next day, and we had redemption on the brain. A full year had passed since our “Four Points Debacle“, and while it was surely on our minds, there was no talk of the past. We spoke only of the grandeur that lay ahead.
Brimming with confidence and the lofty goal of a top 3 finish, we had once again found ourselves drunk with confidence. Countless emails had been exchanged in the preceding weeks, and the phrase “if we can just run a clean race..” had been repeated over and over again. Hope had become certainty, and for better or worse, we’d let ourselves believe it was going to happen. Tomorrow would be a BIG success; of this we had no doubt.
“If we can just run a clean race..”
With each plotted CP, another piece of tomorrow’s quest was revealed. It was clear we’d be covering a lot of distance tomorrow. The mileage on the bike leg alone was… respectable. That was fine though, after all our Dirty Kanza training earlier in the year, we were confident the bikes were our strong-suit. My excitement came to climax when we confirmed that all 13 miles of Council Bluff’s bitchin’ singletrack would be used on the bike leg(s). Council Bluff was the first course I ever raced on, and I’ve had a lot of good times there. I think it was ’09 when Corey, Big Gay Bob and myself took home buckles in the clydesdale division. And I may or may not have whipped Corey’s ass at the Rimwrecker there in ’08, but it’s not like I’m gonna hold that over his head until my dying day.
Course plotted, we drove back to camp and managed to be in the sack by 11:30. Of course, this only gave me more time to lay in the sleeping bag and stare restlessly at the sky. Sleeping on the ground was so much better before I got fat, but hey, at least I forgot my pillow.
Frustrated at my inability to sleep, I watched the stars and let my mind wander. It dawned on me that we really hadn’t shown this race the proper level of respect. The Berryman is notoriously difficult, and this was gonna be Travis’s first 24 hour race. It made me nervous that we weren’t nervous, but there would be time for all of that tomorrow.
Morning finally came, and for whatever reason I was awake 15 minutes before my alarm went off. Trust me, that’s not the kind of thing that happens everyday. Resisting the urge to go back to sleep, I decided to head for the camp commode. Much to my surprise, I’d gotten there before a line had formed. Man, I felt like such a grown-up… until I opened the bathroom door. With a dropped jaw and bulging eyeballs, time literally froze as I realized I was standing face-to-face with a half-naked man sitting on the toilet.
He hadn’t locked the door.
Well, this is awkward.
Thankfully he was wearing a headlamp, so all I saw was a defecating silhouette. That being said, my imagination has a nasty habit of filling in the blanks. Without missing a beat, the mystery dumper, (keeping his headlight steadily in my eyes to secure anonymity) , said “Sorry dude.”
No other words were spoken; I quietly closed the door and got the hell out of there.
So, just to recap: I do NOT know who you are, Mr. Mystery Dumper, and I think it’d be really cool if we could keep it that way.
I’d say this is a great time to change the subject, so let’s fast forward to the final minutes before race-start
In the final minutes before race-start, the crowd of racers was large:
Our esteemed colleagues from the Orange Lederhosen cult are always a welcome sight, and I do believe Derrick has been trimming down. Emma was rumored to be somewhere on course, so we could only hope she’d have “provisions”. Speaking of distinguished, I had the pleasure of crossing paths with several CAC veterans. Folks like “Iron Man” Chuck Vohsen, male-model Steve Willi, (my mom thinks he’s hot), and the recently expedition-tested Team Wahoo. The Hoosier Daddies were also present, albeit without any alcohol. I’m sure that won’t be the case at Castlewood, though.
My mojo must’ve been through the roof, because I managed to get a 2-word conversation with Awesome-Butt Girl. As long as we’re on the subject, a lot of people have asked me about “ABG’s” true identity. I’m sorry to say it, but that information will never be revealed here. Firstly, knowledge is power. A woman with that knowledge could use her powers for evil, and I don’t need that weight on my conscience. Secondly, we don’t want to objectify anyone… I mean, I certainly wouldn’t want a bunch of people calling me “Awesome Abs Guy.” I’m not a piece of meat.
Swiftwick sleeves were donned, Bodyglide was applied and much pre-race wind was broken. The National Anthem was sung and race director Gary Thompson unleashed 200+ racers onto his AR masterpiece. The Berryman had begun.
***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…
***NOTE: The title of the blog post was completely ripped off from my race report of last year’s Dirty Kanza, but since I wrote it, I give myself permission to steal it.***
On Friday evening as Bob, Cary, and I were weed-eating the single track portion of the Cedar Cross course, Bob said to me, “Hey, you may want to seriously consider bringing a headlamp on race day.” Since Bob is the mastermind behind Cedar Cross and knows the course like the back of his hand, I threw a headlamp into my bag as I headed to race HQ on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, I am quite stupid. I thought there was no way I’d need a light, so right before the start of the race, I decided to throw my headlamp back in my van. Twelve brutally difficult hours later as the sun had set, I realized my stupidity knows no bounds.
I registered at the check-in table, said hello to a lot of my cycling friends, and then promptly fired Adam for showing up at the last minute with his son’s helmet that was way too small for his big melon. Once I made final preparations (and threw my stupid headlamp back in the van), we walked over to hear Bob’s words of wisdom before the race started. I can honestly say it was the funniest pre-race speech I’ve heard.
Here is a Garmin link to the Cedar Cross course if you want to see it or follow along. I’d like to point out that this is NOT my Garmin link. I was MUCH slower, and I wasn’t wearing my Garmin. Anyway…
The race would start out on pavement with a lead car showing us the way. I made my way to the back of the pack along with Adam. It was already in the 80′s and humid, but that’s perfect training for the DK200 in a few weeks. Bob said go, and all 120-ish racers rolled out with hopes of crushing the 112 mile course.
It was less than a mile before the race doled out its first set-back of the day. Just 0.8 miles into the race, our friend Jim Smith from Monster Bicycle Co. got a flat tire. Adam and I made sure he had everything he needed, and we kept going. We knew that Jim would catch up to us soon enough. Unfortunately for Jim, this would not be his last go-round with bad luck.
Adam and I made it to the gravel with only a few people behind us, one of them being Jim. It wasn’t very long before we saw our friend, Dave Baettie, pulled off to the side of the road. Somehow he lost a screw to one of his bottle cages. I handed him my bike tool since Adam couldn’t find his (Fired again!), and I took a pit stop in the brush. As Dave took his bottle cage off, Jim came up behind us. It was good to have him back in our group.
At mile 3, we began our first climb, and it was brutal. At the start of the climb, I heard someone’s tire spin out. When we got to the top, there was no Jim Smith. We assumed he had spun out and walked the hill or had just fallen behind. Later I found out that Jim had his secondflat tire within the first 3 miles of the race. That’s some pretty terrible luck. I feel bad for leaving him, but I really didn’t know he had had another flat. I just thought he would quickly catch up to us again.
Dave rode on ahead of us as Adam and I found ourselves on familiar ground: The Dirty Jenkins ride. We’ve ridden this stretch of gravel many, many times, yet we still love it.
As the sun beat down on us with no shade in sight, we rolled on.
We passed a handful of riders and caught up to a few more as the miles were easily ticking by. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves at the entrance of Mark Twain National Forest. It doesn’t look like it is public land, and without Bob Jenkins, a lot of people would have never known you could ride there. With double track though open fields, a pond or two, and a bit of single track thrown in, this stretch of the Cedar Cross course is just really cool.
At one of the cattle gates around mile 15, the Hoosier Daddies were volunteering, and by volunteering, I mean they were handing out ice-cold beer and water. We caught up with a few more riders and our friends Travis Hammons and the Boos Bros here as they enjoyed the frosty beverages in the shade. It was also here where Jim Smith caught up with us and informed us of his second flat. Unfortunately for Jim, this still wouldn’t be his last go-round with bad luck.
It was hard to say good-bye to these guys, but after one cold beer (or four if you’re Kyle Boos), we rode away in a “pace-line” through the fields.
Not long after the above shot was taken, we descended a rocky, rooty hill with lots of sticks and branches scattered about. As I came down the hill, I saw a rider off his bike. I realized it was Jim Smith pulling a stick out of his spokes. Unbelievable. Two flat tires, and now this? The cycling Gods were not smiling down upon Jim, but I guess it’s better to get all of your bad luck out of the way at a free race instead of the Dirty Kanza. He said he was just going to walk back up to the Hoosier Daddies and get a ride. Bummer. I would later find out that this STILL wouldn’t be his last go-round with bad luck.
I caught up to the group, and I stopped to get a shot of them as they rode through my favorite piece of this part of the ride: a long, flowing downhill through the tall grass.
We left the National Forest, and we jumped back on some gravel roads. This stretch of gravel had a few wet-weather creek-crossings and one low-water crossing. This particular low-water crossing can be very slick, but before I could yell out a warning, Travis and Kyle splashed right through it. Well, Kyle splashed right through it, but Travis wasn’t so lucky. He fish-tailed like a mo-fo, and just when I thought he was going to pull out of it, he crashed and slid on his side through the water. It was awesome to watch!
Adam and Derrick missed the show because they stopped to pick up one of my water bottles that had bounced out of its cage on the rough descent. The top of the bottle was destroyed, though, and I had lost my eFuel in that bottle. I used a simple strap to secure the other bottle after that, and I had no more problems.
Here’s a shot of Adam showing Travis how to do it:
I was feeling really strong as we rode the gravel on Clinkenbeard, Ginn Ln, and Barnes Chapel Rd. It kept getting hotter, though, and we were sweating buckets. Soon we found ourselves turning onto the single track at the trail head.
We hopped onto the first section of single track. Although it was muddy, the first quarter-mile or so was rideable. After we crossed the creek, though, things turned to crap in a hurry. You see, horseback riders completely destroy these trails no matter how much time and effort we put into maintaining them. It’s a shame, too, because these trails could be incredible. But it is what it is, and there’s not much we can do about it. Trust me. Trying to maintain these trails is a losing battle.
I didn’t get any photos of this section because I was too busy trying to survive. I tried riding what I could, but that wasn’t much. Riding was only marginally faster than walking, and the energy exerted just wasn’t worth it. So I pushed my bike the last mile and a half or so. Even pushing my bike was completely exhausting, though.
And then we got to the “Staircase of Pain” where we saw Jim Davis sitting and talking with Mr. Race Director himself, Bob Jenkins. He was there to get some photos of all the suffering. Just take a look at this:
PHOTO OF THE STAIRWAY COMING SOON!!
After the “stairway” completely drained what was left of my energy, we pushed our bikes up a hill to find our friends from the Hoosier Daddies again. It was great to see them. I stopped for a quick pee-break before I grabbed another beer. Uh-oh. My pee was a dark yellow. Not good at all.
So, I did something I never thought I’d do: I didn’t follow the Virtus Code that mandates no “free beer shall be refused.” I would hereby like to propose an addendum to this part of the Virtus Code: No free beer shall be refused UNLESS you are at risk of sever dehydration leading to cramps during a race. All those in favor say, “Aye.” All those opposed say, “Nay.” Okay, the “Ayes” have it.
I had been drinking a lot of fluids, but with this kind of heat, humidity, and energy expenditure, I guess it was enough. I was worried. We were only 30 miles into this race, and I was in trouble. Then I remembered that Bob said there was a Peach Snapple in his truck for me. I’m a Diet Peach Snapple addict. This, however, was the full-sugar variety, and it was just what I needed. I slammed the delicious Snapple and a couple of water bottles from the Hoosier Daddies. Hoping to recover, I rested a few more minutes than I normally would have at this point.
We said good-bye once again, and we rode off onto S. Millsite Rd. I’ve been on this road before and there are 4 nasty dogs here. In fact, the Cue Sheet for this race warned racers: “Watch for Four Pissed Off Dogs.” People thought Bob was kidding when he recommended dog spray, but these dogs are the reason for the recommendation. I love dogs as much as anyone and don’t like to spray dogs, but these dogs are vicious and not to be messed with.
By the time we got there, though, the dogs were no threat at all. They were either worn out from terrorizing all the racers in front of us (which was a lot), full from eating some of the racers in front of us, or they had been sprayed so many times by the racers in front of us that they didn’t dare mess with us. Regardless, we only heard one of them bark a wimpy, little bark as we simply strolled right by them along the gravel road.
A few miles later, we began riding past the “Cranky Old Bastard’s” place. He literally has this weird sign in his yard stating that he will shoot you if you mess with him. I’ve never stopped long enough to read the entire sign or get a photo of it, because I don’t really want to find out if he’s bluffing. As we rode past, he yelled out to us. I thought to myself, “Please don’t stop! Nobody stop! Nobody stop!” But then Jim Davis stopped, so we all stopped. He asked us how many more riders were coming through so he could let his dog back out. And then he apologized for making us stop our ride. Um… What?!? I couldn’t believe it. Maybe the faster riders had sprayed him with dog spray, too.
Anyway, we rode gravel for 4 or 5 miles. I’m sure it was a little unsettling for some riders to ride past a Dead End sign with 90 miles remaining, but that’s exactly what we did.
For those of us that ride gravel around Jeff City, we knew where this “Dead End” would take us. For a car, it is indeed a dead-end. On a bike, however, you get to cross the very cool Rutherford Bridge over Cedar Creek.
From the bridge, we hiked our bikes up a big, muddy hill and started riding more gravel, a bit of pavement, and then more gravel. Somewhere along the way, Travis and I lost Adam, but we didn’t realize it until we turned onto CR 326 and ran into our friends Aaron Lackman and Justin Nemeth along with a couple of guys I didn’t know.
It was brutally hot by now, and the two guys we didn’t know didn’t seem to be doing too well. I thought about waiting for Adam, but we had discussed this very scenario earlier in the day. We both agreed to go on without the other if one of us dropped off the back. Since it was only a few more miles until the manned checkpoint and bag drop, we rode on, hoping Adam would catch us there.
When we got there, we saw probably 8 riders sitting in the shade, resting and refueling before heading out on the last of the two stretches of single track.
The gear drop couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Knowing there was less than 20 miles to go before I could resupply my water and food, I had been pounding my water and food since my last stop at the end of the first section of singletrack, and I was running precariously low. Drinking ice-cold water was heavenly after chugging hot water and e-Fuel for so long. Big thanks to Mo and Chadwick for volunteering there! There was another guy helping out there, too, but I don’t remember his name. Regardless, thanks to him too!
Some of the riders looked like they were feeling pretty fresh, others looked a little rough, and some looked like they wanted to die. Kind of like this poor guy:
I was just beginning to worry about Adam as he rolled up. He seemed to be doing well enough. He didn’t look fresh, but he didn’t look like he was dying either. He said he was going to chill there and fill up with water. I gave him what was left out of my drop bag since he forgot to pack one, and I headed back out with a handful of riders including Travis, Aaron, and Justin.
I was dreading this next section of singletrack. I had helped Bob and Cary Maloney weed-eat and clear the trails on Friday, but Bob had gone back out there to find that horseback riders had already trashed part of them. Bummer because they were in great shape less than 48 hours earlier. If this section of trail took as much out of me as the first section, then my ride might be over.
Fortunately, the trails were in much better shape than I expected. They weren’t great, but there were some fun, rideable sections to go along with the muddy, destroyed-by-horses sections. I exited the single track feeling good. Travis seemed like he was starting to struggle a bit, though.
We ended up playing leapfrog with Randy and Dana from Team Red Wheel on the next several miles of gravel, and for whatever reason, I was starting to feel really good at this point. I must have finally caught up with my hydration and nutrition. It’s a good thing, too. Standing between us and the Hams Prairie Store 20 miles away were lots of big hills.
Being on a singlespeed, you either ride hard up the hills, or you get off and push your bike. There really isn’t much in-between. So at the start of every hill, I had to go up ahead of our little 6-person group and then wait at the top so they would catch up. I’m definitely not a good climber by any stretch of the imagination, but I had no granny-gear with which to spin up the hills. Believe me, if I had it, I would have gladly used it.
At the top of one hill, I waited for the group. Then I waited some more. After a few minutes, I thought something must have gone wrong, so I turned around and went back. Thankfully, they were just around the corner and not all the way back down the brutal hill. Everyone but Travis was pulled over talking to Randy’s girlfriend (or was it wife?). Travis had fallen off the group, but it would have been suicide to ride back down the hill for him. Fortunately, Randy’s girlfriend/wife said she’d drive back to check on him for us. Big thanks to her.
So we continued on our way. I kept riding ahead on the climbs and waiting at the top. Again, I want to make it clear that I’m not saying I’m a good climber. In fact, I kind of suck at hills. If I could have gone any slower up the hills without walking, I would have. The only problem with riding ahead and waiting was the heat. It was really starting to get to me. Sitting at the top of each climb in the blazing sun with no breeze was terrible. After one long, slow climb, I just couldn’t bring myself to stop. The thought of stopping as the sun torched my skin was too much. Since the others were still together, I decided to just cruise on, knowing that I would soon see them at the Hams Prairie Store at mile 69-70.
I was feeling the best I had all day long, and I was having a great time. Shortly after crossing Hwy 54 at mile 63-64, however, I started to fall apart. My legs began to feel heavy. My head started hurting. I even felt a little queasy. I drank as much as I could, but I was afraid of vomiting which would have only made things worse. It was mind-blowing how fast I went from feeling great to wanting to die.
I thought about waiting in the shade somewhere for the group behind me, but I knew I only had about 7 more miles to the Hams Prairie Store. Those seven miles really hurt, though. I hated every damn pedal stroke. I eventually made it to the store at 5:35 PM. Many of the top riders were already done with the entire course at this point, and I still had 40+ miles to go. What a bunch of show-offs.
I walked into the store with my head pounding, and my guts churning. The air conditioning was the bomb diggity, though! There were other riders coming and going, but all I wanted to do was order some food, get a drink, and sit down. I ordered a hard salami sandwich, but they were all out since Bob recommended to everyone that they order one at this store. Damn. I was looking forward to that. It didn’t really matter since I wasn’t sure I could even eat anything without vomiting. So, I ordered a roast beef and Colby cheese sandwich, grabbed two Powerades, and sat down. There was only one problem. I just couldn’t eat or drink any of it.
Fifteen minutes after I arrived, Aaron and Justin showed up. They didn’t look good, but they looked better than I felt. I think I had only eaten two bites and drank two swallows as they sat down at my table. Things weren’t looking good at all. I felt like absolute dog crap.
If I would’ve had a support vehicle there, I would have thrown in the towel. I was really bummed. I kept picturing Bob at the finish line, an ice-cold beer in one hand, a delicious homemade brat courtesy of the Hoosier Daddies in the other hand, laughing his ass off at how much pain I was in. So, I texted him. I remember texting him, but I didn’t really remember what I had written until I looked at my phone at the end of the race. We normally try to keep this blog PG-13, so if you’re offended by foul language, you may want to skip ahead. Here is the text conversation we had. And please remember that Bob and I are very close friends, and I was a bit delirious at this point in the race.
And now the world knows that Bob has agreed to ride the Cedar Cross course on his GT Peace 29er singlespeed. I’m going to hold him to it. Anyway, back to our story…
Aaron and Justin ordered some food, and I was still trying to force myself to eat and drink. Another rider came over and sat down on the bags of dog food by our table and starts talking to us. This guy looks like he had just been on a 5 mile leisure ride. His name is Keith Clark, and he was determined to finish the ride since his wife had told him he was too old for this kind of thing.
Then in walked Kyle Boos. He, too, looked a lot fresher than I felt, and he had consumed a 6-pack of the Hoosier Daddies’ free beer. Very impressive, and kind of disturbing too. Kyle ordered his food, took a leak, ate his food, and left before I finished half of my sandwich. I was struggling. I got some encouragement from my facebook friends, but I was really having doubts. Every gulp and bite I took just didn’t want to stay down. It reminded me of how I felt at the Tour de Donut, only 10 times worse.
I received a text from Adam saying that he was cramping up pretty badly back at Hwy 54. He and Travis were pulling out of the race. I wanted to join them, but I was starting to feel slightly better. Eventually, I was able to finish my sandwich and drink both Powerades. I grabbed two more Powerades to pour into my water bottles, I paid my bill, and I headed back out into the heat… an hour and 15 minutes after arriving at the store.
Fortunately, it was probably 5 to 10 degrees cooler than when I had arrived. That was fantastic! I knew there was one more climb left, but it was an SOB of a climb. After that climb, though, it was all flat. Having ridden those flat gravel roads that lay ahead of me, I knew the wind could be terrible. But I had checked the forecast earlier, and the wind was supposed to be at our backs. So I was confident that if I could make it to the top of the next climb at mile 76, then I could probably finish this race.
There was a group of 8 of us leaving the store. One guy only rode far enough to hit 75 miles on his bike computer, so that left us with 7. I didn’t get everyone’s name, but there was Aaron, Justin, Keith, Tony (who joined us on the Cock-Gobbler 50+ mile gravel grinder back in March), and two other guys. We headed out towards the killer climb that no one wanted to face. Of course the toughest climb of the day the last climb of the day. Thanks, Bob!
I was starting to feel quite a bit better by the time we got to the climb at mile 76, and for a split-second I thought about trying to ride all the way up. With more than 30 miles left, though, I figured I’d better play it smart and push my bike up it. It was the only hill I walked (other than the singletrack and the “staircase”). Two in our group rode the whole thing, one of them being Keith, and I was quite impressed.
It wasn’t long before we rode up on one of the coolest parts of the race: The Nuclear Reactor and Cooling Tower in Fulton. Keith, who was wearing a Wind Power jersey, asked me to snap a photo of him with the tower in the background. That’s pretty funny. A few others stopped for a photo-op, myself included.
Shortly after leaving the nuclear power plant, we had the pleasure of riding down what Bob referred to on the Cue Sheet as a “Totally badass downhill” and it was indeed BAD-ASS! Thankfully, we made it down the hill before it got completely dark. As we hopped on the Katy Trail at around mile 84, it was getting very dark, and everyone that had lights started using them. I, being the complete fool that I am, did not have one, though, and I was very glad to be in this group.
We rode the Katy Trail and then hopped onto CR 4000. A few guys in our group were talking about taking the Katy Trail the whole way back, and it was very tempting. I just couldn’t let myself do it after coming this far, though. I had ridden this gravel before, and although it can be tough, I knew I could make it – especially since the wind was supposed to be at our backs.
After a short stretch of gravel, we wound up back on the Katy Trail, but something didn’t feel right. Then we started having trouble following the cue sheet from this point on. I broke out my phone to pinpoint our exact location, and this confirmed my fear. We had unfortunately gone right when we should have gone left onto CR 4010. A LOT of riders must have done the same thing since there were a ton of tire tracks going the way we had gone.
So after riding 100 miles (only the second time I’ve ever done so), we had a decision to make. The two riders whose names I never got rode on ahead, so I assume they took the Katy Trail all the way back. Tony’s rear-end was killing him, and he had to work the next morning. So he understandably opted for the Katy Trail as well.
For me, there was only one choice. I had to go back. I said I was going to go back and ride the full course, but I told the other guys that I didn’t expect them to go with me. I was ready to ride the last 16 miles PLUS the 2 or 3 miles we had gone off-course by myself… in the dark… with no light. But I couldn’t have been happier when Keith said, “I’m going with you.” Aaron and Justin both said they were in as well. Holy shit. These guys were awesome riding partners.
We turned around and got back on course. The gravel on 4010, however, was fresh and loose. It was NOT easy riding. But we put our heads down and kept the cranks turning. Together.
Several miles of gravel led us to a short jaunt on the Katy Trail led us to CR 4015. Once we turned west onto CR 4038, the headwind slapped us in the face hard. A storm was blowing in fast and furious, and just like Bob planned, after 106 miles of riding, we’d be riding into a vicious headwind and trying to beat the storm the last 10 miles
It was not fun. At all. But again, we just put our heads down and kept the cranks turning. Together.
The lightning show was pretty impressive, but I really hoped we didn’t get caught in the storm. We kept getting closer and closer, but it seemed to take forever. But then finally, we rode under Hwy 54 and soon found ourselves riding toward the finish line to cheers of the few remaining riders, friends, and family still there at around 11:10 PM. Fourteen hours and roughly 116 miles after we had started.
The cheers grew louder, and then we were completely soaked with sprays of warm beer as we crossed the finish line. Together.
It was incredible. I couldn’t believe it. We had done it. Together. We were officially Cedar Crossers.
I hugged Bob (after flipping him off), high-fived everyone I could see – Travis, Kyle, Derrick, Emma, Adam, Cara, Jim, Bob’s Mom, my fellow riders… It was a great moment. One I’ll never forget.
Although the lights to the pavilion had been turned off, there were still deliciously hot baked potatoes (courtesy of Bob’s amazing Mother!), sour cream, and loads of butter. I had a couple of notes from my wife and kids that almost brought a tear to my eye. Unfortunately, they had to go home earlier since it was a school night. I never dreamed I would be finishing that later. In fact, I think I told my wife that I should be done around 8:00 PM and if I wasn’t, then it meant I probably wasn’t finishing.
And then the storm hit. We had made it in just in the nick of time. It was a perfect ending to an unbelievably great day.
But wait… It gets even better. Jim Smith from Monster Bicycle Co. handed me this:
I didn’t even realize that technically my tires were the last to cross the finish line, but I’m glad they did. I almost feel bad for winning this prize since the four of us really finished together, but I don’t feel bad enough to give it to someone else. I freakin’ love this flask. I immediately filled it with Blackberry Whiskey (also courtesy of the Hoosier Daddies) and tried it out. Nothing ever tasted so good. Huge thanks to Jim, who ended up having an even worse day than I thought. Seriously, go read his report. It’s ridiculous.
We sat around reminiscing awhile as Bob called a bunch of people who had never checked in. He wasn’t sure if these people were still out on the course, on their way home, asleep in their beds, or dead. After a little while, though, the rain had let up a little, and it was time to go home.
This was definitely the hardest race I’ve ever finished, and it was one of my favorite races of all time. It was brutally hard. I wanted to quit several times. I hated Bob for a little while. But it was all worth it.
I’d like to thank the awesome sponsors of this race, the even awesome-er volunteers, and especially Bob Jenkins. I know everyone that took part in the Cedar Cross appreciates all that Bob did, but I don’t think anyone realizes what Bob actually put into this race.
He has worked tirelessly for months on this race: planning, scouting, weed-eating, lining up sponsors, getting permits, more scouting, hating horses, more weed-eating, blogging, riding the course, re-riding the course, more scouting, more schmoozing with sponsors, more weed-eating, more hating the effing horses, driving the course, more re-routing the course, answering countless questions via email that could have easily been answered by simply reading the damn blog, meeting with the Jeff City Tourism Bureau, checking the weather forecast every half hour during the week leading up to the race, worrying that even one of us coming to the race might not have an awesome time, marking the course, re-marking the course, hating the damn horses even more, and then worrying his ass off on race day until every last one of us made it back safely, and the list goes on and on and on…
And do you know how much money he made from this race? Not a damn cent. In fact, Bob sunk a lot of his own cash into this race to bring us the best damn gravel race Missouri has to offer. That’s just incredible.
Bob has said to me several times that “we” are doing this or “we” did that, and he has referred to this race as “our” race. I just want to make one thing clear. The Cedar Cross was, is, and always will be Bob Jenkins’ race. And don’t let him tell you otherwise.
So, Bob. Thank you. I’m proud to call you my friend.
And to those that raced, thank you.
And to those that finished with me, a giant thank you!
And to those that missed it, make sure you’re there next year. This thing is going to be HUGE next year.
***NOTE: This race report was written by Luke and is presented in black text. Casey added some comments and are presented to you in Red, Bob’s comments are in Green, and Kage’s comments are in Navy Blue. Luke added a response or two in Purple. If you need to get caught up, you can read part 1 here and part 2 here.***
Paddle Leg #1 – 1:13 PM Saturday Afternoon – 5 Hours 43 Minutes Racing
Somehow, through all the mistakes and mishaps, we managed to make it to the TA at CP8. We ditched the bikes and our bike gear, and we readied ourselves for the paddling leg. We all grabbed a bite to eat as we donned our PFD’s and put our paddles together. We only had 3 kayak paddles, and since Kage had little to no experience using one, we decided we’d let her just use a canoe paddle.
After a fairly quick transition (although we could have been faster), we carried the canoes down to the lake. Kage got stuck in a canoe with me, and Bob and Casey filled up another one (Bob: Is this a fat reference?). With storms in the forecast and clouds in the sky, we were a little worried that the water was going to be pretty rough. We were pleasantly surprised when we shoved off and headed out on a silky smooth lake. This was going to be easy.
On this paddling leg, we had to get 3 CP’s (9, 10, & 11) in any order before heading back to the TA. We decided to get CP10 first since it was closest, and then we would either portage the canoes across a peninsula to get CP11 before getting CP9 on an island OR we would paddle around the peninsula to get CP9 followed by CP11 if the portage looked too gnarly.
The paddling was easy and we made good time… until we left the bay. Once we were out of the shelter of the bay, the lake was much rougher. It wasn’t the worst I’ve paddled on, but it wasn’t exactly a cakewalk either.
Bob: The pictures do absolutely no justice to the size of the waves. Coming back to the canoe takeout, Casey and I had several waves crash right over the front and sides of the boat. I was soaked to my ass….balls first.
We stayed close to the coast and found CP10 easily. There was a team here, “For the Run of It” I believe, that was convinced this was CP11. I was 99.99% sure that we were at CP10, but a small seed of doubt had been planted in my brain. With the rocky start to the race and several navigational blunders, I started to second guess myself. We couldn’t afford another mistake.
We decided to paddle on and not portage the canoes since the brush and trees looked pretty thick. I also knew that Kage was dreading portaging a canoe, but I’m sure she would have done just fine. I mean, we all know that she has more upper body strength than Bob does, but then again, that’s not saying much.
Anyway, we decided to paddle to the island to get CP9. On the way to the small island, I kept looking toward the coast. The little seed of doubt about CP10 began to grow. Did we somehow paddle too far and miss CP10? Was that actually CP11 instead? I looked at the map, and I tried to convince myself that there was no possible way that could have happened. There was, however, a bit of doubt remaining in my mind.
The water was getting more choppy and the wind picked up as we made it to the island. It looked like it was raining to our east, but other than a few errant raindrops, we had managed to avoid the inclement weather. We beached the canoes and Bob punched the passport.
Bob: Actually, I was just trying to look like Scott Fredrickson. If he had a beard, we’d look exactly alike.
We paddled into the small bay to get CP11, and I was once again worried that I had led our team astray since that other team was so sure that what we thought was CP10 was CP11. I was still 99% sure I knew where we were, but it was a huge relief when we paddled right to the CP and confirmed that we had indeed gotten it right.
At this point, we could have portaged across the peninsula or paddled around it again. I know Bob really wanted to portage, but the rest of us voted to paddle around it. In hindsight, I think it would have been faster to portage, but I guess we’ll never know.
Kate: In retrospect, I feel bad that I argued against portaging. Wimpy move, especially since we didn’t have bikes in the canoes or anything. Next time, tell me to man up.
Casey: I was on the fence and would have been fine with the portage. It didn’t look too far but I think we made the right decision. I have a feeling the portage would have taken us longer.
Bob: I think it would’ve been faster. By the time we would’ve gotten there, the trail would have already been blazed.
Luke: Like I said, we’ll never know.
As we paddled around the peninsula, the waves seemed to have gotten MUCH bigger. It was really rough out there. It was so rough, in fact, that we had to make sure we didn’t get sideways to the waves. We had to hit the waves straight on or risk being tipped. Hitting the waves head-on was a rough ride, though, and Bob said that several times they took on water over the bow of the canoe as they came crashing down over each wave.
Kate: I was definitely nervous during this part of the paddle, especially being as someone had already almost tipped the canoe in calm water.
Bob: I’m so glad Luke lost the bet.
Kate: Still stinging from that upper body strength comment, huh?
Casey: It was pretty rough out there. Bob and I had a hard time not pulling away from the other canoe (we had 2 kayak paddles) with the rough waters. We’d try to coast and wait for them, and we’d get tossed around and had to paddle to keep our bow into the waves. We eventually decided to paddle a little ahead and get into the cove and wait for them there. We kept an eye on them and hoped they’d join us safely in a few minutes.
We eventually made it back to the TA after roughly 2 hours of paddling, but the last half of that paddling leg wasn’t exactly fun. Well, that’s not true. It was actually a lot of fun… now that it’s over. We were definitely glad to be getting off the lake without tipping.
Kate: Thanks for putting in that really flattering picture of me. Now I’ll never be selected for America’s Next Top Model. Jerk.
Luke: Kage, there can’t be a more flattering shot than a woman carrying a canoe in the middle of a 24+ hour adventure race. Right?
Casey: I guess we didn’t get any pictures when it was really rough, we were too busy trying to survive. The pictures we have don’t do it justice. However, according to people who raced LBL last year, it was nowhere near as rough as it was last year. Last year, they cut the paddle short because it was too rough and too many people were dumping their canoes (they were the yellow P.O.S. canoes, however).
We transitioned to the bikes for a short ride (roughly 2 miles) to the big orienteering leg of the race. We were really looking forward to getting to our first food drop, too. As we pulled up to CP13 and the start of the O-course, we were shocked that there were so many bikes still there.
Food Drop #1 / CP 13 – 3:56 PM Saturday Afternoon – 8 Hours 26 Minutes Racing
As we rode down the gravel road to the manned-checkpoint, we could see a team of four getting ready to get back on the bikes. It turned out to be Team Tecnu, one of the best teams in the country. Oh, crap! If it took a team of their caliber that long to finish the O-course, it must be pretty damn tough. We dropped our bikes, swapped our bike shoes for trail shoes, and started to go through our food bag as Tecnu took off on their bikes.
Then another team came out of the woods. It was Wedali. Double crap! Another top team was just now finishing the orienteering section. And then as we were going through our food, switching from biking gear to trekking gear, and just taking way too long at the TA, another team came out of the woods: One of the two Bushwhacker teams. What… the… hell?!?!
Casey: Thanks for putting in that really flattering picture of Bob and me. Now we’ll never be selected for America’s Next Top Model. Jerk!
Luke: Casey, there can’t be a more flattering of two husky dudes with half-beards. Right?
Clearly, this orienteering leg was a big, fat female dog, if you know what I mean. As we ate some food, restocked our packs, and got ready for the O-course, I studied the map. It was pretty clear that we were not going to clear the course. So the question then became how many CP’s we should try to get before the 9:00 PM (?) cutoff. Should we use all of that time to get as many CP’s as we can? Or should we just grab a couple of the close ones in the daylight and come back to the bikes and hope we can use that time to get more CP’s later in the race?
Since the top teams obviously had some issues with the orienteering course, I figured we just might have some issues as well – especially once it got dark. So I wanted to get 3 or 4 CP’s, skip the rest, and make our way back to the bikes before dark and hope that saving a couple of hours would help us later in the race. Casey disagreed. He’s the kind of guy that never wants to concede anything until absolutely necessary, and he always wants to push the envelope, for better or worse. So we planned on getting a couple of CP’s and then we would reevaluate.
Bob: You forgot to mention that he does it all with a million-dollar smile, dazzling facial hair and an endless supply of mind-bending flatus.
Casey: I think you should use all the time you have to get as many CP’s as possible, especially if you don’t know what is coming later in the race. I don’t like to ASS -U-ME anything. You know you have these CP’s to get and can’t assume there will be more later (undisclosed at this time). I would hate to leave early, saving time for later, only to find out that there were no more CP’s and finish with time to spare and CP’s left un-punched. Hell, I want to get all the CP’s every race.
Luke: Every team needs a guy like you, Casey. You always push us to do more than we think we can, and that’s a very good thing. Sometimes, however, it’s better to skip CP’s early to get more later. It’s a tough decision sometimes, though, because (like you said), you just don’t know what the rest of the race has in store for you.
As we were finishing up our (way too long) transition, the other Team Bushwhacker came out of the woods, our friends Scott and Frederick. We asked how it was out there, and they said it was pretty rough. That’s not what we wanted to hear. We said good-bye and good luck, and then headed into the woods. A few minutes later, we crossed paths with Team Alpine Shop, another top contender, as they were just finishing the orienteering leg.
Man, it was going to be a rough O-course.
To Be Continued…
***NOTE: This race report was written by Luke and is presented in black text. Casey added some comments and are presented to you in Red, Bob’s comments are in Green, and Kage’s comments are in Navy Blue. Luke added a response or two in Purple. If you need to get caught up, you can read part 1 here.***
Trek Leg #1 – 7:30 AM Saturday:
It was go-time, and we set off jogging at a nice easy pace for the first quarter of a mile or so. We then slowed to our endurance trekking pace. As we left the pavement behind and headed onto the trail, we noticed a couple of people running back toward us. It was Team Tecnu, one of the top adventure racing teams in the country. I’m not sure what happened exactly, but I believe one of them forgot or dropped their passport. Regardless, I’d like everyone to know that there was a moment, however fleeting it may have been, when Team Virtus was ahead of Team Tecnu… And I have photos to prove it:
CASEY: So the eventual winner of the race (Team Tecnu) had to pass everybody in the race from this point. They went from last to first. I’d love to know when they regained the lead.
Luke: Great, Casey. Now you ruined it, and everyone knows we didn’t win the race. Nice going.
As we watched Team Tecnu fly down the trail ahead of us, we noticed that Casey was starting to fall behind. I asked him how he was feeling. “Not good.” I asked if it was his legs cramping up. “Yup.” It was literally 7 minutes into a 28-hour race.
Casey has had some issues with this in the past. In fact, the cramps flared up on him about 6 weeks before the race. It was bad enough to make Casey consider pulling out of this race since he was worried that he might not be able to finish it. He just didn’t want to be the reason for a DNF. He worked on his nutrition, though, and he took some time off from training. The cramps seemed to disappear, so we thought we were good to go for LBL. However, we knew there was a possibility that the cramping might rear its ugly head at some point during this race, but we never imagined it would happen so soon.
At the High Profile Adventure Camp last year, we learned from Robyn Benincasa that a true team works together and does whatever is necessary to keep moving forward no matter what. So, rather than poke fun at Casey and tease him like we used to do, we all gladly took turns carrying Casey’s pack for awhile, and we slowed our pace substantially. So there we were, just 7 minutes into the race, in dead last, moving really slowly… even by our standards. But we kept moving, and that’s the important part.
Casey seemed really pissed, but there was nothing more he could have done to prevent this. Bob, Kage, and I were fine with the pace, though. We just wanted to take it easy to see if things got better for him, but he was really beating himself up. Sensing that Casey was dwelling on something that was out of his control, Kage stepped in and worked her magic. You see, when Kage isn’t being a bad-ass on the trails, she is a special education teacher. She used her mad teaching skillz to talk Casey out of his funk. The diversionary tactics seemed to work, and Casey’s spirits brightened significantly.
Kage: To give credit where it’s due, Casey’s a much better conversationalist than my first graders. And it gave me a chance to ask him what I always wonder when I watch a fight: why would you want to do that? Honestly, I still don’t get it, but now I have his perspective.
Luke: We really could have used you at The Thunder Rolls two years ago when I morphed into Betty White.
During this slow trek (and throughout the whole race for that matter), Bob gave us quite an education. You see, he’s been watching a ton of Man Woman Wild, Survivorman, and Bear Grylls-type shows lately. He has a wealth of knowledge (or “knowledge”). Anytime there was a lull in the conversation, Bob would say, “In a survival situation…” And then he would drop a knowledge bomb on us. Here’s one of my favorites: “In a survival situation, you can dry out your own turd in the sun and then use it as a fire starter.” Here’s one more little gem: “In a survival situation, you can rip off the nail of your big toe to use as a makeshift knife.” It was edutainment at its finest.
Bob: One of these days when we’re lost in the Alaskan tundra and the only thing keeping us warm is dried, smoldering animal poo….you’ll thank me.
We reached Checkpoint (CP) 1 when we noticed two people running back toward us. We were shocked that there was anyone still this far back. It was half of Team Punisher. I’m not sure what happened, but they must have missed the CP, so they had to come back to get it. On our way to CP2, the same thing happened. Two of their team were running back towards us, but this time the other two showed up a few minutes later. We discussed where we thought we were on the map, but we soon took different routes as Team Punisher ran off into the woods and we maintained our slow and steady pace along the trail, hoping Casey’s cramps would vanish.
Team Punisher looked like they were serious runners and in top shape. Not to mention being the best dressed team. I’m still a little bummed we never found out what (if) he was wearing under that kilt. I figured they would beat us to CP2, but as we headed off-trail toward the CP, Team Punisher came over the ridge behind us. We arrived at the CP just ahead of them. Team Punisher then decided to take a direct bearing to CP3 while we opted for the trail and found CP3 fairly quickly. We never saw Team Punisher again, and we later learned that they had to drop out because of bike issues.
The only issue we had with the first 3 CP’s was judging our distance. We had been moving so slowly that we were always second-guessing whether or not we had gone too far or not far enough. Fortunately, Casey’s legs were feeling much better, and he was able to take his pack back. We were still moving more slowly than usual just to be safe, but we were at least moving a bit faster at this point.
CASEY: I was feeling better but I wasn’t out of the woods yet (both literally and figuratively). My legs were really touch and go for quite some time and they could have gone either way. If they seized up, our race was over. We kept moving and hoped the AR Gods would smile upon us.
On the way to CP4 and the first Transition Area (TA), we somehow completely missed where the trail turns. Actually, that’s not true. Kage actually pointed out the trail we should have taken, and for whatever reason, I thought it was the wrong one. So, this was my mistake completely.
Kage: Yeah, but I for one spent way too much time coasting and waiting for you to tell me where to go rather than taking responsibility for paying attention to what was supposed to be coming up next. I think your job would have been a lot easier if the rest of us had stepped up a little.
Luke: I blame Adam.
Fortunately, we saw another team hiking back towards us which made me double-check the map. Rather than back-tracking on the trail, we decided to bushwhack through the woods…
…and then we trekked along the beach and up to the TA and CP4.
We made it to the TA about the same time as the other team we saw that had taken the same wrong turn that we did. They rolled out before we did, and there was only one other set of bikes left at the TA – Team Punisher’s. Well, even with the cramps and a wrong turn, at least we weren’t in last place, right? We transitioned to the bikes fairly quickly, although we still have a looong way to go before I’d consider us a good transitioning team.
Bob: We suck at transitioning. We really need to work on that.
Bike Leg #1 – 10:19 AM Saturday Morning – 2 hours 49 minutes racing
We said good-bye to the wonderful volunteers, and we hopped on our bikes for some sweet single track. We were having a lot of fun… Maybe too much fun since we blew by the first biking CP. Casey and Bob had pulled off the trail to get some shots of Kage and I crossing a creek.
Kage:Luke’s too nice to say it (though not too nice to christen me MawMaw during the race), but he rode across the creek and I walked across the creek.
CP5 was located at a trail/creek junction, the very junction at which we stopped to take photos, and unfortunately, we never saw the CP. Four people, eight eyes, and we still didn’t see the CP even though we were literally standing two yards away from it. Doh!
CASEY: I actually noticed something on the tree as I rode by, but I kept going. I never for a second thought it was a CP. I didn’t know we were coming up to one so soon. I guess I should have known to keep an eye out for one. I need to do a better job sneaking peaks at the map and asking Luke what we are looking for.
Now in our defense, when a CP is placed along a trail or road, there is no orange and white flag. There is only a cable with a passport puncher hanging from a tree, a post, or a road sign. Still, we should have never missed this CP. Fortunately, we didn’t go very far before we caught our mistake. As we stood there looking at the map, Bob somehow managed to fall into, onto, and over Casey’s bike, cutting his leg in the process. Of course, I used my ninja skills to snap a few shots before he managed to get back to his feet. It was pretty damn hilarious.
Of course, nobody laughed at all, and Casey even helped Bob up. Once we made sure he was okay, we hopped back on the bikes and easily found the CP that never should have been missed.
Bob: As much as it hurt, I came away with a really cool scar…six separate chainring scratches that look just like a Steak ‘n’ Shake logo. Totally worth it.
CASEY: Not only did he cut his leg, he left skin and blood on my gear teeth…Gross! I later found out that in a “survival situation” you can actually use your own blood (or a teammate’s') to lubricate your chain. I guess Bob was just looking out for me.
The rest of the CP’s in the first bike section were easily found, but that doesn’t mean getting to them was uneventful. Kage’s bike was jumping gears like crazy. If you’ve never ridden when your bike does this, trust me. It sucks. We tried to adjust it for her, and then Bob decided to hop on the bike to see what he could figure out. After adjusting the height of the saddle on Bob’s bike, Kage hopped on it for a bit while Bob rode her bike. After a while, Bob managed to dial in Kage’s bike a little bit (although it wasn’t perfect), so they switched bikes back once again.
Kage: Now I want a 29er.
However, when Bob went to raise the saddle back up on his bike, the seat clamp wouldn’t completely tighten. Eventually, Bob just tightened it down as much as he could and had to leave the clamp open. So Bob was riding on a saddle that was too low, and every time he pedaled, his thigh would hit the open clamp. His seat also would shift side to side with each pedal. I imagine this created extra friction in the taint region. Way to suck it up Bob. It couldn’t have been fun or comfortable, but Bob’s a trooper. I never heard him complain, but watching him ride that bike from behind did NOT look like fun.
Kage: I felt like crap the rest of the day thinking about that bike seat…no good deed goes unpunished, Bob.
Luke: Again, I blame Adam.
Bob: My taint will never be the same.
The single track was a blast, and so far the storms were still holding off. During this bike leg, Casey crashed once (but somehow we never got a shot of it), and Kage crashed twice. Neither of them was hurt, and it provided some comic relief.
CASEY: I landed with much less grace than Kage did. It looked almost as if she was just sitting down for a rest. I, on the other hand, landed on the top of my helmet and did a complete somersault. Maybe as I age I’ll learn how to fall more gracefully (I guess you learn how to fall to prevent breaking a hip).
Casey’s cramps seemed to be gone. (They were gone only because I stopped talking about them. They weren’t too painful any more but felt like they might totally seize up at any minute.) We just hoped that they wouldn’t come back to haunt us later in the race. We got CP7 under a bridge, and then we hopped onto some old forest roads and then some paved roads as we made our way to CP8 to transition to the first paddling leg.
We made it to the TA at CP8 a little after 1:00 PM on Saturday, and there were several other teams getting ready to start their paddle. All but two (I think) were 12-hour teams, though, and it was here where we learned that Team Punisher had to pull out of the race. So, we were guaranteed to not finish last…
That is if we finished at all, and that was definitely not guaranteed. In fact, just making it to the TA at CP8 was a miracle with all of the problems we had already faced:
Cramps just seven minutes into the race…
Kage’s bike issues…
Bob’s saddle issues…
My sucking at orienteering issues…
All of this, and Casey hadn’t even quit the team yet.
To Be Continued…