Cold Weather, We Will Smite Thee!! – Adventure Non-Race Short Course Report
The forecast for New Year’s Day stated, “Ridiculously Cold with a chance of You Should Stay in Bed, Idiot!” At least that’s what I was thinking when my alarm clock went off. It was Non-Race day for Team Virtus, and we needed to get to Lake of the Ozarks State Park. As I stepped outside, I thought there was absolutely no way that Brandon and his wife, Ronda (two first-timers that had never done any adventure racing before), would show up. They agreed to come at the last minute, and that was only after we put a little good-hearted pressure on Brandon.
As we pulled into McCubbin’s Point, I was elated to see them waiting for us in their warm truck. Happiness spewed from my chest for a couple of reasons. First of all, I love it when we can get new people involved in this great sport. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, seeing Brandon and Ronda there meant that I was going to do the short course instead of the long course (Thank God I didn’t have to paddle!).
As we waited to see Casey, Zack, Bob, and Phil take off on the long course, I quickly showed Brandon the basics of using a map and compass while Ronda wisely waited inside the warm truck. I somehow managed to screw the UTM coordinates up (I still need to figure out how I did this), but I was able to plot all of the points for everyone anyway.
It seemed like it took forever to get going – we started at around 11:00 AM instead of 9:00 AM, but this might have been a good thing since it was slightly warmer (17 degrees instead of 13). Once the long-coursers were on their way, Brandon, Ronda, and I drove down to the trailhead and started off on the orienteering leg of the non-race. I’ve found that the best way to teach someone the basics of orienteering is to just let them go for it on their own and get their feet wet (there’s a little foreshadowing for you). Brandon confidently took the lead and brought us right to the first Checkpoint with no problems at all. Seriously, the guy acted like he had done this a thousand times. Was he hustling me? Had he done this before?
Both Brandon and Ronda were managing to stay warm, and they were still smiling. So far, so good. Brandon took his next bearing, and we headed off in search of CP #2. This checkpoint proved to be slightly more difficult than the first one, but Brandon and Ronda soon found it after consulting the map and reading the landscape.
Now it was time for Brandon and Ronda to make a decision. They could take a bearing and go directly through the forest to CP #3. Or they could head to the power line that we had previously crossed, take this down to the creek, and then follow the creek along to the CP (the clue was Creekside Cedars). They chose to take the power line down to the creek which proved to be easier traveling than bushwhacking through the trees and brush. After reaching the creek, the Wondrously Wed Duo quickly found #3.
I asked Brandon and Ronda if they wanted to head back to the car. Brandon told Ronda it was up to her, and, much to my delight, she said, “Let’s finish this thing.” If that isn’t the attitude of a future adventure racing star, then I don’t know what is.
The weather was actually turning out to be pretty nice, all things considered. Although it was still cold, the sun was out, and we stayed warm as long as we kept moving and stayed dry. It’s the dry part that had me worried. We needed to cross the creek to get to CP #4, and Bob had previously fallen in the creek when we set the course up two weeks prior to this (check out the photo right here).
I knew that if Brandon or Ronda got wet in this cold weather, the race might be over. I wanted to make sure that they had fun and wanted to come back for more, so I was trying to guide them up the creek to a spot that I knew we could cross without getting wet. Before we could get there, though, Brandon found his own place to cross.
As he took one step out onto some rocks, I tried to say, “You might not want to cross there.” However, I was too late. Splash! Brandon took a second step that plunged his foot into the icy water, followed by a third step into the water. Splash! At this point he was already committed, so he just kept on plodding through the creek, completely soaking his feet. Splash, splash, splash, splash! Once on the other side, he looked back and wryly said, “That might not be the best way to go.” Truer words have never been spoken.
Although it was pretty funny, I couldn’t laugh. I was a little worried. I thought this was the end. Having wet feet while hiking through the woods is never a picnic. Having wet feet while walking through the woods when it’s less than 20 degrees out is even less fun. I had two pair of extra socks, and Brandon and Ronda each had one extra pair. So Brandon sat down, took off his shoes to wring them out as much as he could, and put on dry socks as Ronda and I headed up-creek.
Ronda and I crossed the creek, although Ronda ended up getting her toes a slightly wet, but not too badly. We headed down the creek to check on Brandon when we heard him call to us from above. He had already taken care of his feet, climbed the very steep hill, and was waiting for us. When asked if they still wanted to go on, both of them were ready to keep going – another sign that they have a bright future in this sport.
As we reached the trail at the top of the climb, we began to look for CP #4. Brandon was about to take us up a reentrant, when I (being the orienteering master that I am *note sarcasm*) pointed out that I thought we needed to go farther. A short distance down the trail, we met up with the guys doing the long course. They had to beach their kayaks at a different location due to the ice in the coves, and they were having trouble finding their CP #3 (which was the same as our #4).
After searching for a while, we headed back to where Brandon originally wanted to go up the reentrant. Sure enough, the CP was right there. The student had now become the master. Great work, Brandon! I felt a little silly, especially since I set the course up (hey, it was dark when I set that CP – cut me some slack). It just goes to show you that we can always get better at orienteering.
From here, the long coursers bushwhacked while The Wondrously Wed Duo and I headed down the trail to the tip of the finger before heading back up the hill to find CP #5. Brandon led us right to it with no problems. To get to CP #6, we could either take a trail and go down a reentrant or take a bearing and head straight at it. Brandon decided to practice with the compass some more, so he took a bearing and went for it. We came in just slightly above the marker, but we were close enough to find it easily (This wasn’t a mistake… This is normally how it works out for me anyway in most races).
From here, the orienteering leg was over except for getting back to the trailhead. Brandon’s plan was to take the trail until we saw the power line and then take the power line back. Either the power line didn’t cross the trail like we thought it would, or we somehow walked right past it. So we ended up taking the trail all the way out to the gravel road to get a “bonus” CP (it was a CP for the long course, but since we were there anyway, we made it a bonus CP – hey, I was the race director so I could make that happen).
We took the long, hilly gravel road back to the trailhead where we met Casey and Phil getting ready for the biking leg of the long course. Brandon and Ronda took their truck up to McCubbin’s Point to use the restroom while I hung out with Casey and Phil. Zack and Bob soon showed up as well. The sun was now behind the clouds, and the temp was dropping as the hour was getting late. Nobody wanted to paddle in the dark, so we decided to cut out the last paddling leg completely and to make the bike leg shorter for the long course. If we would have started right at 9:00, then they might have been able to get it all in, but we did what we could.
Brandon and Ronda came back, and we drove down to the slabs to ride the South loop of the Honey Run Trail. It was now getting really cold again, but like the troopers that they are, Brandon and Ronda got ready and hopped on their bikes.
We headed into the trail. It was fun, but none of us were really feeling it that day. Every little bump seemed like an enormous obstacle, every creek seemed like the mighty Mississippi, and every breezed seemed like gale force winds. It was cold, it was getting late, and we were all beat. So, after a short bike down the trail, we simply turned around and headed back to the truck. I think this was a great decision. I would much rather stop a little early with smiles on our faces than try to push ourselves so hard that we ended up hating the experience.
We got back in the warm truck and drove back to the trail head. Bob had gotten a flat and wisely hadn’t carried anything with which to fix it. So he was already back at the trailhead when we got there while Zack, Phil, and Casey finished up on the bikes. Brandon and Ronda dropped me off, and then they headed home.
Bob and I had to go with Dan from Oz Cycles to pick up the kayaks that we rented from him. They had left the kayaks at the bottom of a huge hill at some sort of barracks-like camp. Unfortunately the roads were gated and locked up, so we had to walk all the way down to get them and carry them up what felt like Mt. Everest for at least a mile. Dan put us to shame by single-handedly carrying a kayak while Bob and I struggled to carry one between us. It sucked bad. I mean really bad. And it was weird how Casey, Zack, and Phil all managed to show up juuuuust as we got the kayaks back to the car (Jerks!). A HUGE thanks goes out to Dan. If you go to the lake, be sure to stop in and say hi at Oz Cycles.
So, that was the end of my day, and the first annual Team Virtus Adventure Non-Race was over. We had just completed a race on the coldest day of the year up to that point (and the hottest day of the year up to that point as well – not too many people can say they’ve done that). We laughed in the face of the cold. We scoffed at the rugged terrain. We snickered at the thought of everyone else all snug in their warm houses while we brave few conquered the short course.
Brandon and Ronda did a superb job (and I’m not just saying that because they are going to read this). Brandon was a natural with the map and compass, and Ronda seemed to smile the whole day even though she thought she’d hate being out in the cold when the day started. They seemed to enjoy the race, but maybe they were just being nice. At the very least, I hope they liked it enough to come back for more, because I think they’ll make great adventure racers. I know I had a lot of fun tromping through the great outdoors with these two. I hope to do it again sometime soon.
There are only two things that I regret about this race. Casey had t-shirts made up for confirmed participants (Sorry Phil, Brandon, and Ronda – we didn’t know you were coming in time). Unfortunately we left them at my parents’ house and had to hand them out later in the week. Here is what they looked like:
I also really regret not taking my Beaver Walking Stick that Bob had given me at the start of the race. This thing is freakin’ amazing. It has literally been chewed on by beavers, and it has been made into a suh-weet walking stick. I love this thing. But I’m an idiot, and I totally forgot to take it with me until we were a couple miles away from the trail head. Anway, thanks a lot, Bob. I’ll be sure to use it next time. To find out more about them check out beaverstix.net.
So, there you have it. If you stayed at home in your warm bed… Or if you were “driving back from somewhere with your girlfriend” (Corey)… Or if you were too scared to come out and join us… Then I feel sorry for you. You missed a great time. Don’t believe me? Then check out the slideshow below: