Monthly Archives: July 2010
First, I want to congratulate Zack for kicking ass at the Leadville Trail Silver Rush 50 Mile Mountain Bike Race. He said it was the hardest race he’s ever done, yet he still managed to finish in 7:08:54… on a single speed… with a shoulder he separated two weeks ago… Um… Yeah, he’s a stud. So a huge congrats goes out to Zack. Great job! Up next for Zack is the daunting Flint Hills Death Ride this Sunday. Good luck, bro.
In other news, all of us on Team Virtus have been training hard for some upcoming races. I might be going out to NY to do the Suicide 6 mountain bike race with Casey on Aug 15th. I hope I can make that work. Bob has a little race called the Leadville Trail 100 on Aug 14th. There is also the Midwest Single Speed Championships on Aug 22nd. Hopefully Zack, Bob, and I can all do that one.
Then Bob, Casey, and I will be competing in The Thunder Rolls 12 Hour Adventure Race in Oregon, IL on August 28th. To simply say we’re excited about doing another race put on by Gerry Voelliger and High Profile Adventure Racing is like saying Bob kind of likes to partake in an adult beverage after a hard race. We seriously can’t wait for this one.
Bob and I have teamed up with our friend, Brandon, to dominate the 3-man category at the Tall Oak Challenge 6 hour mountain bike race right here in our backyard at the Binder Trails in Jefferson City on September 4th. I think Zack might enter this one as a solo as well.
Then Drew and I will be competing in The Berryman Adventure 36 Hour Race on Sept 24th-26th. Yeah, we’re probably stupid for trying the 36 hour race, but it is the race that got us started in adventure racing 10 YEARS ago (Damn, I’m old!). We failed miserably at that first race, and we had no clue what we were doing (some would argue we still don’t have a clue). We just felt compelled to give it another go for the 10 year anniversary of this race. Darin was one of our teammates at the very first Berryman, and he truly wanted to join us for this one. Unfortunately for us, he has the Lewis and Clark Marathon the following week, though. I doubt a 36 hour race 7 days before a marathon is a good way to taper.
There may or may not be more races here and there, but the races listed above are some of the big ones. We’ve all been training our butts off to get ready for these races. Zack rides forever pretty much every day. Casey is finally recovered from a bulging disc (I hope), and he has jumped right back into the running, paddling, swimming, lifting, and biking that he was doing before the back problem. Drew has gone from running 6 days a week, to lifting weights twice per week, running thrice per week, and getting a good, long bike in at least once a week. Darin has continued his grueling running regimen to ramp up for his marathon. Bob and I have been doing a little bit of everything… TRX training, road riding, trail riding, paddling/swimming/caving, weight lifting, Prowler pushing, and of course trail running… Here is Bob’s leg after a nighttime trail run to prove our commitment:
So, will we see any of you at any of these races? I hope so. If you do make it to any of these races, be sure to come on over and say hello. We’ll be the ones having a blast… Like we always do.
Once again, hello to all of you Virtusites, the best fans a team could ask for (We love you both). As some of you may know, Bob and I had plans of laying waste to all who dared stand against us at the Alpine Shop’s Meramec River Marathon canoe race this Sunday. Well, plans changed. The race was canceled due to high water. Why a canoe race can be canceled due to high water is anyone’s guess, but I digress…
Undaunted by Mama Nature’s attempt to ruin our Sunday, we made plans to do some “local” paddling. Bob, already in St. Louis for the Meramec Marathon, came back to Jefferson City. Since I already had the canoe loaded up onto my Cadillac Escalade (okay, it’s actually a minivan), we made arrangements to hit Cedar Creek.
Bob had previously scouted Cedar Creek in a pack raft (read how that went right here), so he already had a plan in place – sort of. He knew where to put in and where we would take out. All I had to do was show up with the canoe, paddles and PFD’s (not to be confused with PDF’s). He told me, and I quote, “All you’ll really need is a bottle of water and maybe an energy bar.”
So, we headed out on some nice gravel roads. We dropped Bob’s truck off at the take-out, and as he climbed in my van I asked him if he had his keys. He said he had them right in the cup holder of the van. Perfect. We had everything we needed and we were ready to go. All we could hope for now was for the water to be high enough.
We got to the put-in at the end of Englewood Road, and there was no doubt about the water… There was plenty, and it was fast. We met a chain-smoking biker couple sitting on the foot bridge over Cedar Creek. When they realized we were planning on paddling the creek, they both whipped out their cell phones to record us. Well, I normally hate to disappoint anyone, but we did not put on a show for them. There were no mishaps… yet.
Only 100 yards or so down stream, we hit some faster moving water with a few riffles. It had been awhile since I’d paddled in a canoe, and I’ve only used a kayak paddle in a canoe one other time (in fact, I think I was holding the paddle incorrectly). So, I was a little apprehensive at first. Bob was kind of jittery as we hit the faster water too, but there were no major problems.
As soon as we made it through the riffle, we saw a cave up ahead. It’s a Missouri state law (section 1.130) that you have to stop and explore a cave when the opportunity presents itself – look it up. So, we pulled over for some “spelunking.” The cave was terrific – nice and cool, and it was actually fairly deep. We didn’t have any lights (since I “Only needed a bottle of water and an energy bar”), but I think we made it almost all of the way to the back of the cave. Next time I’ll bring a light to explore more thoroughly.
After killing 20 minutes or so at the cave, we were ready to once again embark on our journey. We hit a few more fast sections of rapids with no problems, and we were getting much more comfortable in the canoe as a team. The next couple of miles was peaceful and relaxing (other than the stupid horseflies) as we were treated to some beautiful scenery. If you look closely below, you’ll see a wake of vultures (yes, a group of vultures is called a wake… kind of like a pride of lions, a murder of crows, a gaggle of geese, a troop of baboons, a school of fish, a pod of dolphins, or a clutch of Virtusites… okay, I made that last one up) trying to cool off with their wings spread on top of a gorgeous, cliff-side house:
Here you can see what used to be a bridge. I’m not sure what road used to run across here, but it clearly no longer exists:
We came around the bend, and the glare was blinding with the sun directly in front of us. Bob’s huge melon and hat blocked a good portion of the glare from my eyes, so I could pretty much see where to take us. I knew that Bob was ready to have some fun, so I slowly guided us directly toward some of the rougher water. I kept waiting for him to yell out a change of direction, but he simply couldn’t see where we were going.
We were merely a few feet away from a slew of holes and hydraulics before Bob yelled out, “Hole!! Hole!! Big fucking hole!” The bow of the canoe raised up and over the first wave and then came crashing down into the next one with a loud Thwack! Bob got douched with water as a wave crested over the front of the canoe. “Another one!! Another one!! Big Fucking Hole!!” The same thing happened, and Bob was once again baptized as the water nearly filled the canoe. We hit a few more smaller holes and took on a bit more water before paddling out of the last stretch of the rapids.
We had taken on a lot of water, but it was a blast! We were both laughing about it, but then we realized that we had another rough patch of water ahead. So we got ready to make our way through the next run of rapids. Now, paddling a canoe full of water is kind of like steering a kiddie car at the carvial – You can steer all you want, but the ride is gonna take you where it wants you to go. When you add the weight of our fat asses to the additional water in the canoe, it was almost impossible to control the boat as we were sitting so low in the water. We did as good as we could, but we took on some more water as we made our way through the rapids. We soon wound up getting tipping a little as all of the water shifted to one side. We both leaned the other way, and we saved it… almost. Just as I thought we were about to pull out of it, another wave hit us and our canoe completely submerged.
So, we didn’t actually tip the canoe. We just sunk it. Literally. For the next 10 to 20 yards, we actually stayed in the submerged canoe as we made our way down the creek. It must have looked hilarious to see the two of us “paddling” down the river with only our upper torsos showing. We finally gave it up and hopped out of the boat. Our Gatorade bottles were floating away from us, so Bob went after them as I took the canoe to the bank. I definitely got the easier job since Bob had to hike back upstream for awhile after retrieving the two bottles.
It was at this point that I killed my Gatorade and began to wonder if we were going to be finished before dark. Bob and I joked that we should have brought a headlamp, you know… Just in case. We unswamped the canoe, and we were soon on our way again. After the previous mile of rougher water, we were much more relaxed in the canoe which was a good thing… especially since this is what was ahead of us:
I’m not sure if that is called a hole, a hydraulic, a standing wave or a haystack, but I’m positive that you can call it pure fun. Photos never do justice to the stuff we see out there, and this thing was a lot scarier than it looks in the picture. We actually heard it before we saw it. We rounded the corner as it came into view, and at first we were going to go to the side of it. Then Bob, with his newfound confidence said, “What the hell? There’s only one of them, so let’s do it.” Who could argue with that logic?
So, we headed straight for it. It was awesome! As we hit the haystack (yeah, that’s what I’m going to call it – a haystack)… Anyway, as we hit it the haystack, the bow of the canoe rose, and it looked like Bob was a good two feet above me. Then, as we crested the wave, I was looking down on Bob from above. I thought we were going to sink the boat as a huge wave hit Bob in the chest and filled the boat. We managed to get over it and through the rest of the rapids without trouble (other than quite a bit of water in the canoe). It was fantastic! We learned our lesson from the last time, though, and we decided to pull over and empty the boat again before moving on.
We hiked back up the creek to get the photo above, hoping to capture how cool this thing was. Then we realized that a photo wasn’t going to cut it, so we took a video of the creek to show the haystack. Here it is:
As you can see, we didn’t think the video of the creek was good enough, so I thought I’d swim it to give you a better idea of the swiftness and power of the water. After seeing that I didn’t die and hearing that I didn’t hit any rocks or anything at all, Bob decided to give it a go, too. It was a lot of fun.
At this point it was getting kind of late. I tried to call my wife (my phone stayed nice and dry in my aloksak bag), but I had no service. Since we had not yet reached the bridge at highway Y, we were beginning to realize that maybe we really should have brought a light. That would have taken forethought and planning, though – two things in which Bob and I are lacking.
We hopped back in the canoe and took off again with smiles on our faces. Not too far down the creek, we ran into an obstacle that even we, Team Virtus, decided not to paddle. A tree was laying across the entire width of the creek, and the water was really moving.
We were tempted to try it, but we thought better of it. We pulled over, and Bob carefully scouted it out. We had made a good decision. The two of us carefully walked the canoe up to the tree. I climbed over and through the tree to the other side before Bob passed the canoe through to me. Then we got cocky. I climbed into the canoe as Bob held onto it. We were now facing backwards as Bob tried to climb in. He made it, but we shot straight back into another branch which turned us sideways. The power of the water did the rest, and we tipped.
We unswamped again and headed back out. It wasn’t too much longer before we reached the bridge at Hwy Y, so we knew we were going to make it before dark. A couple more miles of slightly slower water lead us to our take-out at Burnett School Rd, and we still had an hour of daylight left.
It was a terrific paddle, and we had a lot of fun. I still had no cell phone service, but we could drive back to civilization where I could then call my wife to let her know I was still alive. That is… if Bob actually had his keys. Um… Yeah… His keys were still in my van which was only 15 miles away or so. Now do you get why the word “Keys” is in quotation marks in the title of this blog post? See what I did there?
After paddling a little over 11 miles in 90 degree heat and ridiculous humidity with only one Gatorade, you know, because that’s “all I’d need”, we now had to embark on a trek.
Perfect. Just Perfect.
As we started walking, my phone quit working. Seriously. I’m not kidding. It just stopped working and wouldn’t do anything. I thought we were going to have to walk the whole way back to the van. It was not looking good. I took my phone apart several times with no luck. After the 5th or 6th time, it miraculously started working again. I still had no signal though, so we kept walking towards Hwy Y as the sun was starting to set.
After 45 minutes of walking, my phone alerted me of three voice mails… One from my brother (sorry I didn’t call you back, Casey) and the other two from my wife. The first one from my beautiful, understanding wife was just to see if I was going to be home for dinner. Uh… Nope. The second one was to see if I was still alive. Yup… for now. I called her to fill her in on what was going on. She called us idiots (although I’m not sure why I got lumped into that category – well, maybe it’s because I’ve done stuff like this MANY times before). Bob then called his girlfriend to sweet-talk her into coming to get us. It didn’t take any sweet-talking, though. In fact, it was almost as if Cara expected this call. We hiked all the way to Hwy Y as it got dark while getting feasted on by horseflies, and thankfully, we only had to wait a few minutes for Cara.
Looking back, I think Bob left his keys in my van on purpose. It turned into a perfect training session for adventure racing. We were tired, wet, out of food and water, and we had to hike on a gravel road with no end in sight, not knowing when we were going to be done. Thanks for that Bob. Thanks a lot. In all seriousness, though, a big THANKS goes out to Cara for picking us up. And another big THANKS goes out to my wife, Becca, for putting up with this Dynamic Duo time after time. Baby, you’re the greatest.
It was a truly great day. We had a lot of fun, and we got better in the canoe fo’ sho’. I can’t wait to do it again… But next time I’ll hold on to the keys. For anyone that knows me personally, you know it’s pretty bad when I’m the responsible one.
And eventually… Just maybe… there could be a Team Virtus Non-Race in the works. And when that happens, your ass had better be there. That’s why we’re doing all this you know, to give you an awesome non-race. Not for our own entertainment.
Here at Team Virtus HQ, we’re counting down the moments until this year’s “The Thunder Rolls” Adventure Race. I can’t speak for the other guys, but every time I even think about this race I get more excited than Boy George at a shoe sale. This thing is going to be life-changing.
A major part of being ready for an event like this is being comfortable using the required gear. As if biking, hiking, paddling, rock climbing, rappeling, orienteering and rock climbing weren’t complicated enough, The Thunder Rolls promoters have presented us with a new challenge: The Pack raft.
Packrafts are inflatable “boats” designed to be used on-the-fly. They’re kept in your pack or strapped to your bike until a section of impassable water is reached. At that time, the boat is inflated and paddled to the other side. Once across, the boat is deflated and re-packed. It’s a great concept, as virtually noone wants to drag a kayak through the woods “just in case”.
Luke took the liberty of being the first to purchase a packraft. He bought the Sevylor Trail Boat, seen below.
The Trail Boat is fairly inexpensive, but many of the product reviews portray it as being inadequate in terms of toughness. Product testing is a big deal when most of your team is comprised of men over 200 pounds, so preparations were made and I was dispatched to evalaute the sea-worthiness of our new toy.
I couldn’t wait. I had been hearing tall tales of a fabled access point to a “certain” piece of swift water in Boone county. The spot was less than 20 minutes from my house, and when I hear stories like that I tend to think they’re bullsh*t.
When I finally found it I couldn’t believe my eyes:
Nice view of the water too.
I loaded up my gear and started hiking. Since I was alone and had no way to stage a vehicle, I decided to hike upstream a few miles and then float back. I found a deer trail and followed it through the woods. It was a good hike with minimal thorns, and after a while I found this:
I think this is supposed to be called a “natural arch” since you can see all the way through it. The thing that impressed me the most was that I found no graffiti or garbage. Maybe it’s because the arch was positioned at the very top of a vertical cliff?
Awesome stuff, and I found a few more rock formations similar to the first one. I saw a few eagles along the way and had a great time. Despite all this, I couldn’t wait any longer to get on the water, so I climbed down off the ridge and made my way toward the water.
That’s when the real learning began. The closer I got to the water, the thicker the vegetation got and the looser the ground became. It wasn’t exactly dangerous, but it was definitely a pain in the ass. I guess when the water recedes, the soil is rich and promotes rapid growth of thorns and scrub-brush.
- PFD –check
- Golite pack –check
- Wallet and camera in the drybag –check
- Helmet –check
- Fresh cheekload of Redman –check
- Sense of adventure –CHECK!!
Next thing ya know I’m in the water and cruising downstram. I was using a single blade collapsible canoe paddle–don’t ever do that. Almost immediately I stowed the paddle and piloted the boat with my hands. What a great time! The water was moving fast, the scenery was awesome and it was all over before it started. It only made sense to do it again, right?
The second hike upriver, I went along the other side of the bank. I will never do that again. I went through some Stinging Nettles or something, and my legs hurt so bad I couldn’t believe it. Lesson learned, tromping through the brush wearing shorts is a fool’s game.
Hiking along, I came to one of the fingers that feeds into the creek. It was about 30 feet across with no sign of being crossable on foot.
Hmm, Good thing I’ve got a pack raft.
I put it in the water and made it across with no problems. After slashing my way through what seemed like an eternity of thorns and nettles, I decided this little hike needed to be overwith. The stinging in my legs was too much to ignore, so I made a bee-line for the water to float back…. That’s when I stumbled across this:
WHAT THE (insert profanity here)?!?!?
I’ve been tromping through razor wire for an hour right next to a manicured trail?? Man, I-was-pissed….but glad to find a trail. I followed it until it ended and then bushwacked to the water. I made my way into another of the creek’s fingers and followed it to the actual creek. Along the way it got a bit…..brushy.
After that it was all smooth sailing. A great day in the woods and on the water, no “real” injuries and a very positive experience. I hadn’t truly tested the “Trail Boat” yet, but preliminary testing had shown this vessel to at least be entertaining. My second trip in the boat will be detailed later, and as a precursor to that experience I’ll just go ahead and say we are currently exploring other options for the Team Virtus packraft of choice.
Last Thursday (which happened to be my 10th wedding anniversary – Thanks for letting me ride, baby – I love you!), Bob and I headed to Castlewood State Park for the Apline Shop Short Track Dirt Crit #2. It’s a little over 2 hours to Castlewood from Jeff City. If I was going to drive that far then I wanted to do the B race since it’s longer than the C race. I probably have no business being in the B race since I’ve never done a Dirt Crit, but I didn’t want to drive that far for just 20 minutes of racing.
Well, mother nature along with some horrible traffic had different plans for me. About halfway there, we ran into some serious rain which slowed us down. Then we came to a screaching halt on I-70. It was slow-going for 20 minutes or so. It seemed like it was taking FOREVER to get there, and as the minutes ticked by I knew I wasn’t going to make the B race. In fact, it was a long shot to make it in time for the C race at this point. With all the rain, I doubted that the race was even still going to happen. But we had traveled this far, and we weren’t about to turn around without at least making it to Castlewood.
As we entered the park and the rain let up, we saw a ton of cars, bikes, and people. I couldn’t believe the race was still on, let alone how many people were actually there. Sweet! Now, I just had to make sure I registered in time for the C race. After taking a quick potty break (and barging in on a hot, young blonde… hey, she should’ve locked the door), I hustled over to the registration table and got checked in.
Whew! I made it. Bob decided not to race since he had been paddling and hiking all day long, and his bike was all jacked up. We ran into several friends from Team Seagal… Lawman, Sasha, Gino, and Casey F. Ryback:
Bob finally got his CXmas spoke card back after a loooong separation. Then we got to talking to Ryback as the B race was finishing up. This man can tell a story, and he has a way with words. We were swept away as he spun yarn after yarn and dropped several knowledge bombs on us. It was like James Earl Jones was reading the Declaration of Independence in a beautiful amphitheater. We were mesmerized. So much so that I didn’t realize that my race had started until I heard a bunch of cheering as Bob casually said, “Hey Luke, isn’t that your race starting over there?” Uh… Yeah… I’m an idiot. Check out Team Seagal’s report to see a pic of me trying to catch up to the back of the pack (That post also has a video clip at the end worth watching).
So, I hauled ass as fast as I could, and I actually caught one guy before we headed into the woods. I passed a couple more people right away, and then it was slow-going for a little while as the trail was pretty congested. I made it around another rider or two when I got behind a kid that was probably 10 years old or so. He was moving pretty good when we popped out of the woods for the creek crossing. It looked the the little man was going to fly across the water, and I thought, “Hell yeah! Way to go, man!” Then he locked his breaks up, and I almost ran right over him. I juuust missed him, and I barely made it through the creek.
I managed to pass another rider or two on that first lap. As I came out of the woods and worked my way through the grassy turns, I could hear Bob screaming his head off. He was still kind of laughing at me for missing the start of the race which I fully deserved, but I still had a message for him:
Most of the racers were fairly spread out by the start of lap #2. I passed a few more people this lap, and I saw one dude walking with his bike (I assume he broke a chain or had a flat or something). I passed a lady shortly before crossing the creek. She soon passed me again, though, as the guy in front of me almost went down, and I came to a complete stop so I would not t-bone him. A little while later, I passed both of them as they almost took a wrong turn. I passed another rider or two before finishing the second lap only to hear Bob yelling even louder.
You see, free beer was being supplied by O’Fallon Brewery, and Bob just couldn’t get enough Wheach (wheat beer with a touch of peach which was deliciously refreshing at the end of the race). With every lap I completed, Bob finished off at least one more Wheach. He became really good friends with this guy:
The third lap went much like the second lap. I passed a few people and pedaled hard. I found out that I suck at the sharp turns in the grass… Something I definitely need to work on.
The bell rang, meaning we only had one more lap to go, so I tried to pick up the pace a little. I passed a couple of people right away, and I noticed a few people seemed to be hurting pretty badly and struggling. I was feeling good, and I caught and passed as many as I could. As the last lap was coming to an end, I saw one more rider up ahead. I made it my mission to pass him, because let’s face it… beating one last guy in the middle of the pack separates the boys from the men.
I caught him before the single track ran out, but I couldn’t get around him. We popped out on the grassy turns, and I could hear some lunatic screaming at the top of his lungs. I tried to take the inside line on the first turn to pass this guy, but he swooped right in front of me. I hit the brakes so we wouldn’t collide. Then I realized that the screaming lunatic was actually Bob, and he was screaming at me, “QUIT BEING NICE!!! QUIT BEING NICE!!! QUIT BEING NICE!!!” Over and over and over, at the top of his lungs. Did he want me to run over this guy?
I kept trying to take him on the inside with no luck, and Bob kept yelling at me. As we approached the second to last turn, Bob was standing right there… Still screaming, “QUIT BEING NICE!!!” I think he scared the guy in front of me, because he took the turn too sharply and slid out on the wet grass. I avoided running over him and then passed him as the guy scrambled to get up and catch me. Bob was now screaming, “GO, GO, GO, GO, GO, GOOOOO!!!”
I crossed the line in front of that poor guy, and Gino from Team Seagal yelled, “Only two more laps, Luke!” For a second, I thought he was serious. I was both pumped to get to ride more and devastated because I was spent. Then I realized that he was kidding. Thanks, jerk.
The race only lasted 20 minutes or so, but it might be the most fun I’ve ever had at a mountain bike race. To get a feel for what the race looks like, check out this video from the A race (just remember, they are a LOT faster than I am). It was soooo much fun… Being shoulder to shoulder with other riders on a flat, fast course… Trying to figure out when to hit it hard to pass, and when to save a little for the right opportunity to pass… Trying not to slide out in the wet grass… Almost running over a kid at the creek… Trying to figure out how to “quit being nice” without crashing into someone… It was all simply amazing. Seriously, it was a blast. Just look at the face on this kid, and tell me it doesn’t look like he’s having the time of his life:
I ended up taking 25th out of 49 riders in the C race. I guess that’s not too bad considering I completely missed the start of the race. I wish I would have started near the front to see if I am indeed a C racer or if I need to move up to B. I’ll probably move up to B just so I can ride longer. Not sure yet, though… We’ll have to wait and see.
There was some delicious food after the race – pulled pork sandwiches, quinoa salad (someone called it couscous, but I’m pretty sure it was quinoa), some sort of scrumptious desert bars, and more – all provided by the Lone Wolf Coffee Company. And of course there was the Wheach Beer to wash it all down.
The rain started to come down as we finished eating the great grub, so we said our goodbyes and headed out on our LONG voyage home. I somehow stayed on Hwy 61 instead of getting on I-70, and we ended up way North of Mexico, MO – again, I’m an idiot – and yes, I’m the team navigator. So, I ended up driving over 6 hours round-trip for a 20 minute race on my 10th wedding anniversary. Sounds like a waste of time, right? Nope. I can’t tell you how much fun it was. Seriously… You NEED to do one of these races. I will definitely be back, but I hope to do the B race next time. And you’d better be there. Yes, you!
Bob and Cara had practiced paddling / not killing each other over the last couple of weeks in preparation for the Race to the Dome, but Casey and I hadn’t paddled together since The Lightning Strikes Adventure Race back in March. Back then Casey felt a little left out since Bob and I were rockin’ some sweet Fu Manchu mustaches, and he didn’t get the memo. So, he overcompensated just a little bit for this race…
What makes his hair even funnier is the fact that The Last Airbender opened in theaters this weekend, so everyone just assumed he was a huge fan of the cartoon and movie. If he was 30 years younger, 200 pounds lighter, and Asian then he might have actually been mistaken for Aang (which was Casey’s nickname for the rest of the weekend):
Anyway, he arrived at my house from NY around 5:30, and we wanted to get in a short paddle with his new tandem kayak, a Necky Manitou II. So we met up with Bob and headed to the Capitol View Access. We wanted to paddle a half mile down Cedar Creek to the Missouri River and then paddle to the Noren Access near the Hwy 54/63 bridge to take out.
Casey and I left Bob with the kayaks, and we headed out to drop off a vehicle at Noren Access. When we got back, Bob was chatting with local paddling legend Laura Egerdal. She and a friend of hers had the same idea for a pre-paddle, only they were going to paddle in two whitewater canoes. After chatting with them, we snapped a quick photo of the three of us before we got in the water:
We pushed off and were on our way down Cedar Creek. Not far from the parking lot was this cool old bridge what we paddled under. If you look closely, you’ll see Laura in her whitewater canoe next to Bob:
After a short, easy paddle we came to Big Muddy, the Missouri River. None of us had ever paddled on the Missouri River. In fact, the last time we paddled on a huge river ended in disaster, so we were all a little apprehensive about paddling on the Missouri.
After a few minutes, we realized that we were worried over nothing. Paddling on the Missouri River was kind of like paddling on a really long lake. The only time things got slightly uncomfortable was when we got too close to the banks and got caught in some whirlpools and back-currents. Other than that, it was a nice float.
We paddled the rest of the way to Noren Access with no problems. The total distance was roughly 4.75 miles or so, and we made it to the take-out in about 45 minutes. As Casey and I were hauling our kayak out of the water, we saw Bob making out with a dog named Bandit (which was Bob’s nickname for the rest of the weekend). It never fails… All dogs and kids seem to love Bob.
So we all went back to my house for a feast of Chinese food. After stuffing our faces and lighting a sparkler bomb or two, Bob left, and we put the kiddos to bed. We went to bed shortly thereafter since we needed to be up fairly early the next day.
The next morning, we once again met Bob. This time, however, he was accompanied by his better half, Miss Cara Willoughby (but you can call her Mrs. Jenkins). We headed to the start of the race at Hartsburg Access.
Bob and Cara were competing in the K2 Mixed (K = Kayak, 2 = 2 people, Mixed = coed) category, while Casey and I were competing in the K2 Men (K = Kayak, 2 = 2 people, Men = Men) category. Our friend, Barry, of Team Red Wheel fame, was competing in the K1 Men division. I’m not sure what category the boat below was competing in, but it was pretty damn cool:
The race was started in heats with C1 (C = Canoe, 1 = 1 Person) Men and Women, and C2 Mixed going first. 20 minutes later, the C2 Men racers started. Another 20 minutes after that, K1 Men and Women, K2 Mixed, and K2 Women, and K2 Men all left, followed by the last heat consisting of only the K1 Men category. So, Bob, Cara, Casey and I were all in the 3rd heat.
When it was our turn, we all got in our boats and kind of pulled off to the side. As we looked around to scope out the competition, we noticed two strange looking kayaks. They were super long and narrow with spoiler/outriggers on the back. These were clearly racing kayaks with serious paddlers in them. One of the racing kayaks had two men in them, so they were in our division (just great). The other racing kayak had two women in it, so they were not in our division (phew!).
The race director said go, and we all started paddling. It was kind of a cluster-eff as we bounced off a couple of boats, and I just prayed that Casey wasn’t going to knock someone out with his paddle. There were a few boats from our heat in front of us, including the two racing kayaks.
A few minutes after the start, as I was messing with the rudder, I saw another kayak out of the corner of my eye. It was Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins, and they were flying! We said hello, and almost rammed into them. Then Casey and I decided to pick up the pace a little. We couldn’t lose to the Jenkinses. They would never let us live it down.
We found a pretty good cadence and got into a rhythm. We passed a kayak or two, and we could see a solo female kayak up ahead of us. We decided to try to reel her in. We stayed in the channel and soon passed her. Shortly thereafter, though, we seemed to get too close to the bank while we were saying hello to several canoes that we were passing. We got caught in swirl after swirl, and our momentum was destroyed. We were actually paddling against the current while we were paddling downriver! As we worked our way out of this mess, we saw the solo female fly by us as she stayed in the faster moving water. Damn!! This mistake probably cost us 3 or 4 minutes. Not a huge deal, but it was still frustrating.
Back in the channel, we got back in the groove and started picking up the pace a little. We were feeling great, but we had never done a race like this before. We weren’t sure when to kick it into high gear, and we didn’t want to completely blow up too soon. We passed the solo female again along with some more canoes.
As we got closer to the finish, we could see the Dome:
With only a few miles left, we realized that we still had a lot of gas left in the tank. We picked up the pace again as we saw a white dot in the distance. We were pretty sure it was the racing kayak with the 2 women in it. We made it our goal to catch that kayak with only 2 miles or so left. We got pretty close, but we just didn’t have enough time to catch them. They ended up finishing 1 minute ahead of us.
We passed many canoes and several kayaks throughout the race, and we were only passed by one solo kayak. It was another racing kayak that was hauling ass. We finished sooner than we thought we would, so our families were not there yet. We told them to be there around 11:00, and we finished around 10:40 or so. So I had to take our own finishing photo:
Bob and Cara came into the finish right behind us. They did a great job, and, believe it or not, they didn’t want to kill each other… too much.
Our families arrived soon after we all finished, so we could all celebrate together. Here we see the four of us reunited after finishing the race:
After finishing the Race to the Dome, we were treated with delicious brats topped with awesome relish, potato salad, chips, and soda provided by The Old Brick House Deli. We had a little picnic as the rest of the racers came in and the results were tallied. Here are a few pics of the post-race party/picnic:
After filling our bellies and sharing stories from the race, the race organizers were ready to announce the top three in each division. Our official time was 1 hour and 41 minutes, and we took 2nd place in the K2 Men division (out of 4 teams) and 10th out of 66 boats overall. Bob and Cara took 1st place in their division (out of two teams) and tied for 16th place overall out of 66 boats with a finishing time of 1 hour and 50 minutes. Barry represented Team Red Wheel by tying for 10th place in the deepest division with 23 competitors. His finishing time of 1 hour and 48 minutes placed him in a tie for 14th place overall.
After all of the teams received their medals, the top three teams in each division were also awarded a bottle of wine from St. James Winery which made the day even better.
All in all, it was a great day for Team Virtus. None of us had ever done a race like this before, and we didn’t really know what we were doing. We feel like we could’ve pushed the pace a lot harder, but you never know. There’s a fine line between not going hard enough and completely bonking.
The race was great, and it went off without a hitch – a rare thing for a first race. It was very well organized, the post-race food and party were terrific, and we had a great time with good friends and our families. And to top it all off, the proceeds went to Missouri River Relief. I’ll definitely be doing this one next year. Will you?