Castlewood 9hr and 43 Minute Race
Ok, so it’s suposed to be an 8 hour race, but big deal.
The Bonk Hard racing series didn’t earn its name by being easy. Luke and I knew that when we signed up for this one and we planned to train accordingly. We hit a bit if a “training glitch” when Luke cracked a rib and I got a girlfriend. Raceday saw us each at a not-so-svelte 230 lbs.
Luke’s done several of these races in the past, and as we all know ,he and I teamed up to do “The Chill” earlier in the year, so we knew what we were up against. The race description said to be ready for 5-10 hours of trekking, mountain biking and paddling. After further investigation and the use of a magic decoder ring, it was determined that the race would take us much longer.
Advanced Directives were written, pain killers were purchased from ebay and required gear was packed.
The night before the race we were fortunate enough to be bunking with Corey and Phil, from Team Scardick. (I don’t think they have a website yet?) Phil had made arrangements for us to stay with a friend of his who lives a mere 5 minutes from the park. Even better, Corey was even kind enough to bring his girlfriend Noelle who talked endlessly about……something? (She also farts a lot in her sleep)
This is all fine and dandy when you’re on the outside looking in, but let me ask you one thing: Have you ever smelled Corey’s feet?
Let me paint you a picture…try to imagine that a zombie has clawed its way into Divine’s coffin, ate her corpse and then took a shit into a shampoo bottle and boiled it in the microwave. Then imagine that Corey goes to the grocery store, buys the aforementioned shampoo and uses it for foot-scrub. Yeah, try sleeping with that up your nose. On the rare occasion that I did lose consciousness I was plagued with nightmares of being trapped inside Rosie O’donnell’s vagina.
I’m not even going to say anything about the whole “restless leg” thing.
I lay on the floor staring at the ceiling….begging for the alarm to go off.
Luke wasn’t doing much better sleeping on the floor with a cracked rib.
At 4:57 the alarm went off and it was gameday. We were up and ready to go…late as hell. We took a wrong turn on the way to the race and wound up having to “use the force” to get to the park. It’s not a good sign when you get lost on your way to an adventure race.
We rolled into Castlewood Park to the sight of approximately 200 racers being loaded onto 6 school buses. If there’s one thing I can say about the “Bonk Hard” series, it’s that they make the race very interesting. Once we got on the bus we were lucky enough to hang out with our good friends Jim and Wendy from Team Trail Monster/Team Seagal. It turns out they’re pretty good at this AR thing, and they were contenders for the 2-person coed title.
A couple of the windows on the bus were stuck open, and that made for good small-talk. Jokes were told, wind was passed and all was merry. Since we were in an enclosed space and virtually noone knew us, I thought it would be a good idea to unleash the Triple-T. (defined in the Jenkins dictionary as a fart that which must travel ” through the turd,” making it particularly disgusting to the human palate and fatal for most small animals) We were quite entertained at the crowd’s reaction as “The TTT” spread through the bus.
Then the bus hit a bump. A big one. (Luke’s got a cracked rib) We were in the back of the bus and he got to feel every bump in the road for 45 minutes …good thing he took a leak before we left or he prolly would’ve pissed in his pants.
When we got to the starting area we got our maps and got ready to go. It took a minute to find Team Scardick, but we managed to get in a quick handshake and wish them luck right before they started reminding us that they were here to kick our asses. Way to raise the bar, boys!
I guess this would be a good time to mention that the temp was 17 degrees. A week before the race it had been like 70 degrees, so we were completely un-acclimated to this kind of weather.
Race director Jason got us all lined up and started the race. Some ran and some walked, Corey Case took off running like this guy. Talk about focus…he had a rocket up his ass.
In order to keep teams from bottlenecking on the course, the first part of the race was a foot-run to get to our passports. I’d say it was 1/2 a mile or so to get to the first spot where we had an oppurtunity to bush-wack. We could either follow the road all the way to the passport station or cut down a steep hill to cut out a large portion of the road. We cut it. If you look at the map below and follow the pink line, you can see where we cut accross the road. (just for the record, this is someone else’s map, our route was fairly similar though)
This was Luke’s first taste of how much rib pain he would endure throughout the day. After a few choice words and some hobbling we found him a walking stick and descended the hill. Once at the bottom, we decided to cut out even more of the road by going straight up the side of the next hill. The grade was steep and uneven, but well worth the effort when we got to the top. The sun was juuuuust beginning to rise and we knew that it would probably be juuuuust beginning to set when this race was done.
We got to the passport station to find volunteers standing near a roaring fire and our passports. Most everyone else had already been there so we didn’t have to bump elbows with too many other people while we got our act together.
Now it was time to get down to the business of a 15 point rogaine. CP’s (that’s checkpoint, in case you didn’t know, mom) #1 thru 11 could be gathered in any order you wished, while #’s 12 thru 15 had to be found in order. Here’s a copy of our map with the pre-plotted points:
As navigator, I decided we would go clockwise, starting with CP # 1 and ending with 11 on our way to 12-15. The route was easy enough; follow a hiking trail for a while along the top of a saddle:
and once we got to the most uphill portion of the far side we would cut into the woods to find the CP at the end of a finger in the middle of some rocks.
This would have been just dandy had I not gotten us completely off course from the moment we left the passport station.(Insert f-word here). Instead of being almost to Checkpoint #1, we were right on top of CP #11. Thankfully, Luke was quick to catch my mistake and we changed our route. From here it looked like the smartest way to get to CP 10 was to follow a creek all the way there. This proved to be a smart move since the creek was nearly dry, flat and easily traveled. We found the CP with zero problems and managed to get a cool pic of this frozen waterfall along the way:
The path from CP 10 to CP 8 looked to be a bit menacing. A straight shot over to CP 8 would take us across some rather large climbs and descents laden with menacing rocks. We talked about it for a moment and decided the best thing to do would be to keep following the creek. By doing so we would go around the climbs instead of over them. Hopefully this would save energy, prevent bonking, and be safer travel for Luke’s rib.
This whole “creek-following” thing would prove to be a staple tactic for us throughout the day. By staying along the waterways we were able to keep close track of our location and have a great reference point for where we needed to go.
From CP 8 we decided the best plan of attack was to follow the creek straight west to CP 9. As we got closer we began to notice there were a lot of different teams converging on this spot from several different directions. I knew there would be a bottleneck if we all got there at the same time, so the decision was made to sacrifice our bodies…We smashed the hill and got there first.
Coming down the hill from CP 9 on our way to CP7, it felt good to make eye contact with some of the other racers. Why? Because we got to see that some of them were in pain too. Maybe I’m a sicko, but I really like to know that other people are struggling….just like me.
CP 7 wasn’t hard to find, it was just hard to get to. It was right along the trail, about 12 feet above the trail on a reee—dick-you–luss embankment. We managed to get some PICS and this little piece of video…..ya gotta fast forward to 0:43 to see it though.
After that it was time to climb. Holy batshit, did we climb…getting from CP7 to CP2 was a lesson in humility. Standing at CP2 and looking across to the boulders at CP6… knowing that we were going to have to climb that beast was enough to make me reach into my pack for another mouthful of disgusting apple-cinnamon Hammer Gel. We made it though, and stood at the top admiring a BAD-ASS view of the park.
Then I’m like, “Luke, where do we go?”
CP 4 was easy, CP 5 was easy…what’s going on here?
For the fist time (EVER) I’m starting to feel like I know what I’m doing. At this point we’re mid-way up a grueling climb on our way to CP 3. There is a trail clearly marked on the map which no longer exists, ( no surprise since the map is Circa 1985),and our confidence level is so high that we don’t question it. We know where we are and we know where we’re going. When we reached the top I cycled my eyes back and forth between the land and the map, land and the map…and something clicked in my head. I knew EXACTLY where we were.
I decided to kinda keep it to myself though, just in case I was wrong. I told Luke I was pretty sure we were going to go a little farther downhill and run into a small pond. 2 seconds later we were looking at the pond and I couldn’t have been happier. I could finally call myself a (half-assed) orienteer!!
On our way from CP 13 to CP14 we ran into a father/son team who were looking for CP 13. I gave them horrible instructions because I misunderstood which CP they were looking for. Right after we parted ways, Luke asked me if I had given them shitty instructions on purpose? Of course not, I’m just a dumbass with horrible hearing:). So, we ran them down and gave them better directions. That would have really bothered me if someone thought I sent them astray on purpose… talk about a close call. I think those guys actually wound up finishing ahead of us.
Getting from CP 14 to CP 15 was a snap, and I was glad to see that we would be transitioning over to our mountain bikes. Much to our surprise there were still a lot of teams who hadn’t gotten this far. We were well ahead of the 4-person team all wearing Santa hats, and that was a very, very good thing. Luke plotted the new CP’s on our new maps and I made sure the bikes were ready to go and our Camelbaks were full.
The first several miles of the bike leg were going to be on paved roads and the CP’s looked pretty easy to find. There would be no shortage of winding climbs, though…. If you look at the route from CP 15 to CP 16, do you notice how close together those contour lines are on the map? The closer those lines are together, the steeper the climb. Yeah, so show some respect.
Since I was running my singlespeed I had no choice but to attack all the way to the top. That was serious pain, one of those times you can taste blood in your mouth coming up from your lungs. The only real benefit to my situation was seeing the looks on the faces of skinny dudes riding geared bikes as I was stomping past them. One of the turns toward the top was so sharp that there was actually a MIRROR there so you could look for oncoming traffic. I thought they only had that kind of stuff in Germany?
After we punched the passport at CP 16 it was time to make our glorious descent to CP 17. It was all downhill and very fast. Luke’s cyclometer made it to 39.3 mph. Did I mention it was still about 20 degrees? You would think I’d have remembered to put my gloves on before we did something like that..
Getting to CP 18 was taking longer than we expected, but since it was along a trailhead we figured we couldn’t miss it. Luke suggested,( a few times), that we should stop and check the map but I insisted we were on track.
I was wrong…really wrong. Thanks to my overconfidence we wound up at CP 19 before we punched #18 and wound up having to backtrack about 5 miles.
Much profanity was spoken.
When we got back to CP 19/22 I disappeared into the brush to “drop the kids off” while Luke talked to one of the volunteers. I know he doesn’t know this, but I could hear them talking. She asked him howI was doing as navigator and his response was so overwhelming that I made a point to capture it on video.
Words hurt, Luke.
Heading to CP 20, we noticed that EVERYONE coming back from that checkpoint was covered in mud and looked generally pissed off. Luke popped a pain pill and we cruised onward. It wasn’t long until we realized we were going EXACTLY to the same area where we got into all that mud on our recon ride (which you can read about right here). This was good and bad; Good since we knew where we were going and bad because we knew it was in the middle of a football field of mud.
I got to the CP a little ahead of Luke and reached into my pocket for the passport…..it wasn’t there. I checked all my pockets, my pack, even did a body-cavity search….it wasn’t there. I couldn’t wait to explain this one, especially after costing us so much time looking for CP 18.
Luke was pissed. So pissed, in fact, that he made me take a picture of how pissed off he was:
And then he took a picture of me “being a dumbass”
Right after that, I found the passport in the sleeve of my jacket. Talk about a relief…my life was spared and we trudged back to CP 19/22.
Getting to CP 23 was not fun in any way. We had to load our bikes into a canoe and then paddle upstream for about…..forever.
Quick math lesson:
One paddler with a cracked rib
+ one paddler who SUCKS in a canoe
+ 2 very muddy bikes
+ strong current
I think we both wanted to die. I vividly remember looking down into the icy-clear water and seeing a seashell on the bottom. 20 paddle-strokes later I looked down and it was still there…we had moved maybe 8 inches upstream. Further adding to the pain was the fact that another team was right next to us having just as many problems. A game of bumper-boats ensued as we kept slamming into one another, thinking the other team was at fault. Tensions were running high to say the least.
We finally got to the CP and turned the canoe around for what would be a swift ride downstream with the wind at our backs. We both took the oppurtunity to rest and eat since we knew we would be on the bikes again soon.
Soon after fueling up we decided to set a solid, sustainable rowing pace to reel some other teams in. We managed to pass a few teams that way, including 2 poor bastards who we would later find out flipped their canoe. At the canoe out-take we got our passports punched, our gear checked and dropped off some socks and a jacket for the dudes who fell in the water. We were freezing our asses off, so I hate to think what they felt like being wet.
Now we were out of the canoes and onto our bikes once again for the final leg of the race!!
map is below:
One thing that caught our attention was how closely our recon ride matched the route we would be taking on this leg…it was just a little too convenient. Instead of having to stop and think about how we were going to get somewhere based on the map, we just went there from memory. It was great.
We knew exactly where CP 26 was and we knew a shortcut that was going to get us there fast. The shortcut involved carrying our bikes up a super-steep climb that would cut out a lot of trail biking and save us time. The mtb trail’s bumps and downhills had proven to be the most painful obstacle for Luke’s rib throughout the day, so we were doing everything we could to avoid them.
I guess I should bring up the fact that there was a team of asswipes following us. When I say “following” I don’t mean in the sense that we consistently wound up going the same way, I mean FOLLOWING us. They actually stopped in the middle of the trail multiple times to let us pass so they could follow our lines. Can you say bullshit? What is the point of competing in an ADVENTURE RACE if you’re going to follow other racers? The whole point is to find your own path, blaze your own trail and be your own man, for crying out loud. Hey buddy, ya see that piece of paper in your hand with all the squiggly lines on it?….That’s a map, jerkoff. Use it.
Well guess what, now they were following us up the hill. We were both pretty fed up with their shit so we took a breather at the top of the hill and let them go on. It was either that or throw down an ass beating, and neither of us had the energy for that. I caught a photo of Luke as we made our way up:
There’s a lot to be said for the view on the way to CP 25. It was hard not to just stand there and take it in, but we were near the finish and it was business time. The next bit of trail was mostly downhill and very fun for me. For Luke it was probably a lot like playing the lead role in a prison fight scene. There were lots of rocks, root balls and otherwise bumpy terrain.
It was a bitch, but that pain was nothing compared to the soul-crushing energy-vacuum known as Cardiac Hill, and that was exactly where we were going. How tall is that climb, anyway? I didn’t even try to ride it on my SS, I just shouldered the bike and started hiking. At the top I waited for Luke and looked forward to the pizza and beer waiting for us at the finish line.
Luke’s pain meds had completely worn off by now and he was feeling every pebble in the trail. We had one more heavy climb and the rest of the mtb section would be fast, bumpy downhills. I rode behind him so he could set the pace and we started down. This bit of trail would be face-melting fun any other time, but it hurt him bad enough he was doing Lamaze breathing to ride through the pain.
After the final checkpoint there was a short bit of singletrack before we got on the road to the finish line. We had somehow caught and passed ???????4 teams????? on the biking leg and now we were right up the ass of another 2 man group. My jaw dropped and my heart filled with pride when Luke whipped out to pass them riding along the bumpy frozen ground next to the trail. We put a quick gap on them and crossed the finish line 9 hours and 43 minutes after we started.
Jim and Wendy of Team Trail Monster/Team Seagal fame wasted no time putting cold beer in our hands, and Corey and Phil jumped out of the woodwork to give us each a victory leg-hump. Not long after that we crushed some delicious pizza and got our schwag.
Stories of triumph and failure were exchanged and much wind was broken.
For the ride home we got Luke some quality pain meds, a couple of Hobgoblins and some victory cigars. It wasn’t long before my POS truck was rollin’ down the highway like a Cadillac.
Participating in a Bonk Hard Racing event is an experience that everyone should have at least once. This is a long race report for sure, but a bajillion details have been left out.
Stop and think about why you didn’t do this race: Do you feel like you’re not athletic enough? Was it too cold for your tastes? Perhaps you don’t know how to read a map? Maybe your rib hurts? Don’t like losing?
Hmm…Guess what, we overcame all of that, and we did it with smiles on our faces. You can too, all you have to do is sign up and you’ve already won. Need a partner?…..say so in the comments section and you shall have one.
Until next time, sports fans…may your bottle be full and your ass on the trail!!