Five Fanatical, Foolish, Faithful, Freezing Friends Finding Formidable Flags in the Frigid Forest For Fun on a Fabulous Friday – The Official Write Up Covering My Experience at The 1st Annual Team Virtus Adventure Non-Race
It was finally the morning of Team Virtus’s first ever adventure non-race. The non-race director, Lukas Lamb, and I were staying at our parents’ house in Rolla, MO. We got up a little after 6:00 in the morning to ensure that we would get to McCubbins Point in time for the start of the race. Due to an untimely call from nature (I had to use the restroom before we headed out), we were leaving a little later than we had originally planned and were already behind schedule. After a quick stop by Wal-Mart for some sharpie markers, food, and an extra pair of gloves we were headed to the starting line of our non-race. We pulled in around 9:05 (the race was supposed to start at 9:00) and everybody was waiting for us (except Phil, who arrived 10 minutes after we did). The air temp was around 10 – 15 degrees but felt even cooler due to the wind when we pulled into the parking lot.
The first thing we noticed, other than the freaking cold, was that the kayaks we rented from Dan at OZ Cycles were there along with 4 life jackets and 4 paddles (which Dan the Man delivered himself for us). Then we noticed Bob’s little 1 man kayak in the back of his truck, which he borrowed from a friend. Luke and I asked him if he was really going to paddle that thing across the lake in this weather because it “was tippy as hell.” He freaked out and said that Dan had told him the same thing (we knew Dan had told him this and enjoyed messing with Bob). A few minutes later Phil pulled up and with some prompting from us he told Bob that the kayak he had “was tippy as hell” and asked if he was really going to use it. Bob went nuts and was convinced he was going to be getting wet, it was great fun.
After some discussion we decided that Zack and Bob would pair up in one of the tandem kayaks (they claimed the “Shitty Kitty” which finished 6th in the Missouri River 340 Race with Dan from OZ Cycles paddling it) and Phil and I in the other boat (without a working rudder). We also agreed to keep the boats as close to the shore as we could and to keep the boats near each other for safety reasons in the event of one of the boats tipping. If one were to tip, my money was on our boat since this was only my 3rd time in a kayak and my first in a tandem kayak. Not to mention that I would be the more experienced kayaker in our boat.
I climbed in to the stern and Phil into the bow and we pushed off around 10:45 am. My fears soon became a reality as I realized that my extensive experience in canoes did not translate perfectly to kayaks. This was going to be a learning experience (the main reason for a non-race). We began to paddle and our strokes were not synchronized nor were they smooth. In fact they were short and jerky which threw water into the air and all over us. Our boat must have looked like an alligator having an epileptic seizure. Soon, I realized that the decision to put on my new O2 rain pants and rain jacket before casting off was a great idea, as I looked down and saw beads of water all over my legs and jacket. Phil also had water down his back and both of us had soaked our gloves. We would have gotten only a little wetter had he tipped the boat.
Our boat did not track as well as the “Shitty Kitty” did since we were rudderless (and probably less versed in kayaking skills). We constantly were correcting our course and even bumped into the kitty several times when we got too close while we were talking to our teammates. I think part of our problem was that Phil insisted on steering the boat from the front. I have limited kayak experience, but many years of canoeing experience made me to believe that the kayak should be controlled from the back much like a canoe.
In a canoe, the front person is the “motor” and the person in the back steers the craft. I suggested this and it seemed to work for a while, but soon Phil was stroking just on one side again in an attempt steer the craft. This led to overcompensation and the kayak began moving in a zigzag like pattern. So, I decided to play the motor and let him steer the boat as best as he could from the bow. It sort of worked pretty well but not as efficiently or quickly as the kitty was moving. Zack and Bob glided across the water at a faster rate and with less effort. After we got the check point (CP) on the far side of the lake we headed to the 2nd CP near the takeout.
As we approached the 2nd CP we noticed the lake was covered with a sheet of ice. We approached the ice slowly and assessed the situation. After some discussion, we decided that we would take out before the ice, stow the kayaks, and hoof it to the 2nd CP. We got there pretty quickly and Zack waded out to the CP in his bare feet to punch his card (to see pics of this, go read Bob’s report on this non-race right here). I opted to write in the number and letter of the CP and hope it was OK with the race director. And if not…so what, it was a non-race and we were out for practice and fun, not to win a championship.
Due to the altered takeout we had to cross a creek in order to get to the 3rd CP. Zack ran across the creek on his tiptoes. The rest of us decided to follow the creek upstream to find a place where we could cross without getting wet. However, this put us much further upstream than any of us realized, and it took us some time to locate the 3rd CP.
While searching for the CP I consulted the map while Phil ran up and down every trail he could find searching for the CP. I imagine that he must have covered and extra 2-3 miles up and down, back and forth all over the country side. I was getting tired just watching him run around. Phil was like a young golden retriever bouncing around with tons of energy to burn trying to find his favorite chew toy, but he had absolutely no idea where to look. I decided to conserve my energy, but since Phil was having a blast and getting a good workout I let him run around while I studied the map. Finally, with collaboration with Luke’s team (he took Brandon and his wife Ronda out on the short course, they decided not to paddle), who we ran into searching for the same point, we finally located the 3rd CP. Luke and his team headed to their next CP (which was different than ours) and the four of us split into 2 teams, Phil and I were one team and while Zack and Bob made up the other.
From there, Phil and I hit the remaining CPs with little difficulty. We found one in a drainage pipe and another hidden in the brush near a slab. All the CPs were well placed and a challenge to work through. A couple of the CPs would have been much more difficult (maybe impossible) to find without the clue that was provided on the coordinates sheet.
We finally finished the first orienteering leg and made it to the trailhead where we were to begin the mountain bike portion of the non-race (on the Honey Run Trail). I was particularly looking forward to logging some miles on my new bike, especially after all the trouble I had with it the week leading up to the race (I had to have a new wheel set which was installed by OZ Cycles). At the transition area (TA) Phil broke out a loaf of French bread, lunch meat, and pepper jack cheese. He graciously offered me half, which I was looking forward to devouring. I returned the favor and tossed Phil a Spike (Team Virtus’s adventure race energy drink of choice). We ate the sandwich, drank the spike, and changed our shoes when we heard voices. Luke, Brandon, and Ronda were arriving at the TA. Brandon and Ronda took a quick trip to the facilities, while Luke shared my half of the sandwich. We checked the time and discussed the options for the rest of the non-race.
We only had about 1.5 to 2 hours of day light left. We had about 17-18 miles of single track planned that we were supposed to ride. We were to take the connector trail down to the south loop and ride it clockwise. Next, we were supposed to ride the north loop counter clockwise and had to hit the south loop again at a time of our choosing (either before or after the north loop). Then we had to head back to the TA either by the connector trail or by riding the gravel roads back. Then we had another 3 or 4 CP’s on foot and would finish with the paddle back to McCubbins point.
There was no way that we were going to get everything done while the sun was still in the sky. Plus, we did not want to be on the water after dark in this cold without any support (the risk just wasn’t worth it). We discussed our options and decided that we would ride the connector followed by the south loop and then see how we were with time and reassess the situation. As Phil and I were getting on our bikes, Zack and Bob came strolling into the TA and after hearing our revised game plan agreed with us. You can make these changes very easily in a non-race situation with a non-race director as cool as Luke (one of the many advantages of a non-race).
Phil and I took off down the connector trail which turned out to be a lot of fun to ride. It is a quick, flowy trail that I enjoyed riding (most of it anyway). The only part that sucked was the part in which I bit it pretty hard (otherwise it would have still been cool) and injured my unit, just the general not the boys. I was about half way down the connector, and I was going into a curve that looked a bit rocky. So I decided to swing out to the edge of the trail to avoid the big rocks. The problem was that I swung to the edge of the trail, but the trail ended sooner than I thought it did, and I ended up swinging out into what turned out to be just leaves. This resulted in my front tire dropping off the trail into a ditch. To make matters worse I could only get one cleat out of the pedals in time, and it happened to be the leg that I was falling away from, which did not provide much help. I went down kind of hard and smashed “Little Casey” on the cross bar of my bike. I rolled over to my stomach and laid there for a few seconds holding onto myself and praying that it wouldn’t be permanently numb and the pins and needles would eventually stop.
It was at this time that I heard somebody ask if I was all right. This surprised me because I thought I was all alone and I was hoping there were no eyewitnesses. I believed Phil to be further ahead on the trail (out of visual contact) and everybody else behind me possibly still at the TA. I was wrong. There was an eyewitness, and Phil saw everything. I am just glad he wasn’t carrying a video camera or I’d be all over the internet by now (kind of like Zack, click here to see him bite it). I commend Phil for not laughing hysterically or even at all until he knew I was ok. After a slow 10 count, I finally answered Phil that I was ok.
Then I got up, picked up my bike, wiped the snow and leaves off of myself, adjusted my manhood, and climbed back in the saddle to finish the ride. In case you were concerned, the pins and needles soon stopped, and I regained feeling and full use of my unit. The rest of the connector ride went smoothly and was a lot of fun. When we shot out onto the gravel road at the end of the connector trail we saw everybody else that was participating in our non-race.
Luke’s group had driven down to the south loop in a truck and Zack and Bob rode the gravel roads to the South Loop in order to catch up with us. I looked down the road and saw Bob carrying his bike on his shoulder; he blew out his rear tire and left everything, spare tube and tools, back at the starting line in his truck. Plus he did not have a quick release on his rear tire, and nobody had a wrench to loan him. He planned on carrying his bike all the way back to the TA on his shoulder (quite a hike and mostly uphill on gravel roads in his bike shoes).
It was at this time that Phil and I found out that they ran into Dan from OZ Cycles and he said he’d pick up the kayaks where we left them (there was an access road to the sewage tanks) to help us out. This was great, it meant more time biking and no threat of an after dark swim in the lake. Everybody but Bob was getting ready to hit the trail when somebody called Bob out – I think Zack called him another term for a kitty cat. He threw his bike into the weeds and said “Fuck it! I’ll run the loop in my bike shoes. How far is it?” Luke answered about 2.8 miles. Bob said it was no problem and took off running down the trail.
We passed Bob about a quarter of a mile down the trail. Phil, Zack, and I took off and had a nice ride of the south loop. When we finished the south loop we noticed the truck that Luke’s group drove down in was gone and so was Bob’s bike. We thought we should head back to the TA and see what was going on. We planned on riding the connector trail back to the TA, but rode past the trailhead as we went up the gravel road. We only realized this after climbing a large hill. Being fat and out of shape we decided to stick to the gravel roads since so much effort was already invested in the initial climb.
We rode back to the TA at a decent pace with Zack and Phil battling it out for first, while I was enjoying the ride back from last place watching them fight for the lead. Not that it really matters (it was a non-race), but from my vantage point it looked like Zack finished way ahead of Phil. I pulled in a couple of minutes later and Phil decided to bike back to his car, because it was only a mile or two (or so he thought). It turned out to be quite a bit further and he had a nice, long ride back to his car.
At the TA, Zack and I found Luke’s and Bob’s bikes by our cars so we loaded them up and piled into our vehicles. As I started the van I found a hastily written note stuck under my windshield wiper and I’ll never forget what it said. It said I am with Dan getting the kayaks…a big picture of a heart (implying man-love) and then signed Bob. Zack and I drove back towards McCubbins Point and passed Dan’s vehicle at the top of an access road which was barred by a gate.
We pulled in to see if everything was alright. It turned out that the area where we left the kayaks was in fact accessible by road, but it was blocked by a locked gate. This meant that Luke, Bob, and Dan carried the 2 large kayaks up to the top of the access road. Bob and Luke carried one boat and Dan manhandled the other (the Shitty Kitty) all by himself. Luke and Bob claimed that it was a minimum of a mile to a mile and a half portage with a vertical climb of at least 500 feet, and most likely more. I’ll admit it was a hike, but it did not look all that steep or that far. I am sure carrying a boat made it feel longer and steeper than it really was.
Zack and I helped pass the boats over the gate and onto the roof rack on Dan’s car. So I really don’t think that Luke or Bob have anything to bitch about. Zack and I did help with the hardest part. I mean we helped lift the boats over the gate and then carried it ALL the way to Dan’s car and positioned it on his roof rack. Anyway, it was a team effort which really brought us together.
Once everything was loaded up, we hung out and had a beer, which was provided by Dan, to celebrate our efforts. Dan volunteered to show us a short cut back to our cabins. Since it didn’t go through town we decided to split up. Bob and Luke would follow Dan back in my van to the cabin via a short cut and would have the responsibility of getting the fire started in the cabin. Zack and I would drive the long way home, through town, and were entrusted to pick up the food and beer.
Zack and I stopped by the grocery store and got plenty of grub (sun chips, brats, Little Debbie cakes, donut holes, organic rice and beans, garlic bread, a green grass jelly drink, some beers, and a little surprise for Bob since we man-love each other). We cruised back to the cabin and barged through the doors with plenty of food ready to eat. Much to our dismay it was ice cold in the cabin. No fire. In all the time we were gone shopping, half of Team Virtus could not get a fire started. I was a bit concerned because Luke usually has no problem starting fires. I figured something must be wrong with the stove or the wood.
So, the other half of Team Virtus took over fire responsibilities. Bob stated that a fire could not be built in that stove and that if we could get a fire going he would “Gargle Zack’s balls in his mouth”. Unbeknownst to Bob, Zack had a wood stove at his house and is used to dealing with the challenges a wood burning stove can pose. As fate would have it, we shortly had a roaring fire going. In Luke and Bob’s defense, the wood, which was provided with the cabin, was crap. It must have still been a little green and was difficult to start and keep burning. Zack and I over came this by collecting “Squaw Wood” (dead wood that is still hanging on a tree so it is dry and burns very well) from the woods surrounding the cabin.
Zack asked Bob about his earlier statement, the “Gargling”, and beads of sweat began to form on Bob’s brow. Zack told him if he drank the green grass jelly drink he was off the hook. A very happy Bob grabbed the can, popped the top and began to chug the unusual drink. After a couple of seconds he stopped, chewed a little, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and told us that it had big chunks in it. We all laughed and enjoyed his misfortune. Zack and I were man enough to step up and try this unusual drink. Luke on the other hand did not. He ungracefully pussed out. The grass jelly drink was subtly sweet and tasted a little like diluted green tea with a slight undertone of freshly cut grass. The chunks were not all that offensive but really took away from the drinking pleasure. I guess I am just not used to chewing my beverages.
It was about this time that Bob realized that his epilepsy medicine was in his truck back at McCubbins Point. So Luke and Bob took a 90 minute moonlit drive to the point and back to get his meds. This left Zack and I to tend the fire and cook dinner. When they returned, they walked into a somewhat warm cabin with dinner just about ready for them to enjoy. We had brats cooking on foil, which was laid on top of the wood stove, along with Zack’s organic rice and beans in a can warming up and a loaf of garlic bread wrapped in foil also heating up.
We devoured the food and sipped a few beers as we relived the day’s race by sharing stories and some laughs. Luke decided to fire up his Primus EtaPower stove and had some water boiling in record time. He poured the water into two bags of Mountain House Instant Meals (Spaghetti and Beef Stew), resealed them and told us we had to wait 8-10 minutes for them to be ready. They were surprisingly good to eat, and Bob totally devoured the beef stew meal. We enjoyed them so much that Luke made the Beef Lasagna Meal and another Beef Stew for Bob. Team Virtus was finally full and ready to chill and bond a bit as a team.
Zack decided to leave a little after dinner in order to spend some quality time with his family the next day. So he left around 11:00 pm to drive home. Bob decided to sleep on a futon on the first floor in a minus-35 degree sleeping bag and he used another behemoth sleeping bag as a pillow (he didn’t really need the cabin). Luke and I slept in the bunks up in the loft. However, we had light weight fall sleeping bags because we were informed that the cabins get toasty and that a mummy bag would be way too hot to use in the cabins. I guess Bob didn’t get that memo.
Well the cabin never really got toasty that night. It got warmer but you could see your breath until just before bedtime. Luke and I crawled up into the loft and then into our bags wearing just about every piece of clothing we had with us. Everybody quickly fell asleep and slept well throughout the night. I only awoke a time or two because I was cold and had to put a hat or jacket back on.
The entire cabin was awoken at around 7:40am because my work called my cell phone with an “urgent” question. I wanted to stay in my bed and sleep, but it was really cold. I waited a few minutes, hoping somebody else would get the fire going (or at least try to redeem their previous night’s failure). Nobody stirred so I eventually pulled myself out of the bed to get the fire going. I threw my Carhart on, tossed my sleeping bag over a lump in the adjacent bed which I assumed was Luke, and then shimmied down the ladder to check the fire.
Upon opening the stove door I found a decent bed of coals and thought a fire would be easy to get going. I found something quick to munch on and noticed that all the liquids were frozen solid. Then I headed outside into the cold for some more “Squaw Wood” and had a nice blaze going in 10 to 15 minutes. However, it never really got much warmer until just before we were ready to leave several hours later.
Luke got up a little after the fire was going and we ate a little breakfast of leftover brats. Bob still hadn’t moved and we hoped he hadn’t expired in his sleep. We thought about poking him with a stick, but he finally grunted and moved a little. Then Bob said he was hot and sweaty and was forced to strip down naked in the middle of the night due to how hot it was. Luke and I looked at each other realizing: A) he was the only person who slept warm the previous night and even had an extra heavy duty sleeping bag serving as his pillow and B) the only thing separating us from Bob’s sweaty, naked body was the thin layer of his sleeping bag.
Bob decided to stay in bed resting and would not get up. Luke and I talked about an old Boy Scout trick used to help wake up scouts who insisted on sleeping in. Luke grabbed his frying pan (which had some frost on it), snuck over to Bob’s bunk quietly and jammed the pan down into Bob’s sleeping bag and onto his bare chest. Bob let out a shrill scream, not unlike Jamie Lee Curtis’s character in one of the Halloween movies, and began to wiggle around furiously inside his sleeping bag. This forced Luke to drop the pan which prevented Bob from getting the ice cold pan out of the bag for several seconds. Bob was finally awake and ready to start the day. I am sure that it was a nice and refreshing start to his day.
We all ate some more breakfast (we are very hobbit like in our second breakfast habits) and discussed our plans for the day. Our plans were originally to ride Bittersweet and then head home in the early afternoon so I would avoid getting in trouble with my wife and my family could leave for New York (where we live) before it got too late. However, due to our late start, the fact that Bob’s car was still at McCubbins Point (45 minutes in the wrong direction), that Bob’s back tire was still flat and had to be repaired (the tools to do so were still in his truck), and that Luke forgot his helmet and camera in Dan’s car we had a change of plans. We first went to get Bob’s truck and then headed to OZ Cycles to get Luke’s brain bucket and camera. These things had to be done and were not optional. Once they were done we would know exactly how much time we had to play with on the Bittersweet Trail.
Unfortunately, we ran out of time and had to make the call to head home without riding at all that morning. However, while we were at OZ Cycles Luke and Bob snagged up some stylish biking duds that were on super closeout and were very happy about their finds. We said an emotional goodbye to Bob and headed back to Rolla and our families. When I got there I was in a bit of trouble, but the wife seemed to understand the situation. We quickly loaded up the car and the kids then left for home about 5:30pm (3-4 hours later than planned).
All things considered, I think our first attempt at an adventure non-race was quite a success. Everybody had a great time. We all worked on skills that we needed to improve on, and we all walked away a little better than when we showed up. Plus, it was a great team-building experience, and we did not have to worry about the pressures or costs of a real adventure race. We did what we wanted, when we wanted, where we wanted, and with whom we wanted. I assure you we all had a blast.
Who won the non-race, you ask? Well, it doesn’t matter one damn bit. There were no losers, and only a jackass would care about who won.
I am sure that Team Virtus will be doing this again in the future, and I encourage everybody to come out, have some fun, and work on your adventure racing skill set in a non-race, pressure-free environment. It is a great way to test the waters and see if adventure racing is for you. If you’re a seasoned veteran, then it’s a great way to train all three disciplines (mountain biking, orienteering/trekking, and kayaking) in one day at one place. It was free; it was fun, and a great learning experience. A quick thanks to our non-race director Lukas Lamb, to Bob Jenkins and Austin Lamb for helping set the control point markers, to Dan from OZ Cycles for helping us out so much, and to our sponsor homework-help-secrets.com for defraying some of the costs of this race (gas, maps, lodging, grub, etc.). Until our next non-race…