Monthly Archives: February 2011

Mistake or Miracle in the Boundary Waters

***NOTE*** This is a guest post by our friend Susy Stephens from the adventure racing team, The Golden Girls.  She graciously agreed to let us post it here for all of you to enjoy.  It’s a fantastic story.  Thanks, Susy!

Camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) is an incredible wilderness experience, or so we had been told. Our group of five set-off to celebrate the 60th birthday of the Twins, Sandy and myself, and discover what camping away from people, cell phones, television, internet, running water, air conditioning, furnaces, beds, all of the conveniences we take for granted. The chance to see nature in its most pure state, the call of the loon, soaring bald eagles, clear water lakes, huge fish, and maybe a moose were part of our dreams. The lure of an area restricting large groups of people with no noise pollution from motor boats or people was so intriguing we were determined to overcome some obstacles.

The difficulty of the “portage” was something we greatly respected (feared) and almost took the option of a tow to a much easier to reach area. However, we mustered up all the courage we use to tackle other events not commonly done by people of our age group and gender, such as adventure racing, and told our Seagull Outfitters we wanted to go for it. The two day easier trip became a six day stay in the wilderness, with several options on route choice, credit given to our very wise and able outfitter. We pumped ourselves up, disregarded the first option for a base camp not even in the BWCA, and told ourselves we could go deep into the wilderness. We can do it!

Departure morning we got a first glimpse of all the gear in one place, six Duluth bags(monster frameless back packs), a huge bear barrel, a large food pack, our fishing tackle, and Go-Lite packs to carry our rain gear, cameras, and water bottles all looked like enough to sink a large boat, let alone a two person and three person canoe with five women! Chris, our routing engineer, assured us all would be fine and loaded us up in our canoes and pointed the direction to our first portage. You have to wonder if the outfitters hang around to witness the beginners on their first portage for laughs. We could have had them howling with laughter.

Golden Girls Paddling the Boundary Waters Canoe Area

We paddled confidently off in the pointed direction until we hit a dead-end. What??? It didn’t have any “No Outlet” signs, now what. We turned around to ask our buddies if they had seen the portage we must have passed and started to retrace our route, paddling back to where we had come. Realizing that wasn’t going to work we went back to our initial first stop and realized the portage was right in front of us, we just didn’t know what to look for. So off we went on our first portage of 150 rods. Rods??? We just figured it was about the length of a canoe and thought “150 canoe lengths” to give us a good idea of the distance. One of the stronger younger women, Angie, was able to hoist the two person canoe over her head and onto her shoulders and away she went down the trail. Wow! Three of us in our lack of wisdom decided to carry the three person canoe. We ended up fighting each other all the way down the trail and had the most miserable canoe carrying experience I will ever have. After three more trips, we had all of our gear ready for the next lake. Whew! It was really only 50 rods, but seemed like 150.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area

That first portage really put us in our place, so when we cruised into Ham Lake and saw the first Base Camp Option, it was indeed very tempting. However, it was not in the BWCA, so we would have to go further to really be in the BWCA. On we paddled to the next portage; we were considerably more “experienced” at this point after practicing on the previous two portages. This time we were smart enough to let Angie carry both canoes, while we trudged along with all the Duluth Bags and our varied assortment of gear. The next lake, Cross Bay Lake, contained Base Camp Option 2 and by this time we were really hoping that site would be available. All sites are on a first come basis. Once we spotted it with no tell tale signs of campers we sent Missy on shore to check it out. She scurried up the trail and was back in no time…”This is good!” Oh, yes, we were all pleased to have found home for at least the next two nights. After getting everything hauled into the camp site and put up, it was looking like home for more than two nights. We set about the business of preparing to live on this rocky point. Connie and Missy went out in the canoe to filter water, but were being blown around so much, I decided to stabilize the front end of their canoe from my seemingly stable sloping rock so they could continue to filter water at a deeper spot than from shore. Well, it seemed like a good idea. It was the first night out and I was already in my second and last outfit. Thank goodness all the clothes dried quickly including my newly acquired buff, so I could pretend to be like a Survivor contestant.

drying clothes at the BWCA

We settled into life in the wilderness, fishing, paddling out to see if we could catch sight of a moose, relaxing around camp, and enjoying all the fantastic meals Seagull Outfitters had packed for us. We decided pretty early that this camp was home for the next 5 nights and we would day trip from there. We found portaging to be so much easier without our well supplied kitchen, and tents complete with sleeping bags and Thermarest pads. Comfy camp living does not lend itself to multiple moves into the wilderness. We were content and happy to have the option not to do an entire loop, thanks again to our wise outfitter.

We gained in confidence how to live in the wilderness, knowing that waiting to make smores at dark would bring out the mosquitoes. And so it was, one evening, we had finished up dinner early, had the dishes washed and were ready to dive into the tents before the bugs were out. But we heard an unexpected noise at the portage site. Someone was coming through very late for heading anywhere on the lake. So we all popped up to our rocky vantage point to see what braves souls were still traveling late in the evening. Two canoes moved indirectly toward us, piquing our curiousity even more. One wave from them…a reply wave from us…then a very quiet tired voice…”Would you have some room (at the inn) for a tired family?” Four of us mid-westerners were present at the time, we grew up watching our family and neighbors pitch in when another faced tragedy or hardship. We glanced at each other and said, “Sure, we can put you over on the hill.” As they get closer, we can see it is a family with a teenage son and daughter. The father and mother begin to tell their story of getting delayed by rain, not being able to find a portage, and fatigue. We could hear the deep, deep fatigue in their voices. As they approached our landing the Floridian of our group, Connie, joined us to see what was going on. She took one look at the youngest child and asked if they had eaten. All little Emily could do was shake her head…not even a whisper. Proving caring for those in need, is not exclusive to the mid-westerners, Connie bids our weary travelers to set-up their camp while we fix their supper. By that time the sincere, complete, abundant, and deep gratitude radiating from these folks really almost shined. If you have ever heard the song “Does the Light Still Shine?” sang by Ray Boltz you will know what I am talking about. It is about a person that regularly visits an old-timer in the nursing home, and each time the old man wants to know if the light of the cross on the mission he used to run was still shining. Though the mission had long closed, if you take the time to listen to the song, you will find out how the light still shines.

So we all sprang into action…doing what we do around our camp. Missy who has a daughter the age of Emily, the youngest child found out they did not have water filtered for the evening and morning. Most folks do not carry water on the portages, so they had wisely waited. Missy’s motherly instincts kicked in and away she scooted down our hill and up theirs to gather their jug and water bottles for her and Angie to fill, while Connie started rummaging through our food to find something to warm their souls. Sandy and I assisted while Connie put together a Chicken and Rice meal that made Chris the teen-age son proclaim, “I feel so much better now.” Even Emily managed a smile when we ask for their family photo.

Helping out at the Boundary Waters

But that is not the end of the story…my sister, Sandy, came to me…”You know how we always say what goes around comes around? Well, I think these folks just received a little kindness they give to others all the time. It was their turn.” That was quite a testament to how this family came across to us.

Connie came to me…she had been the main chef of our group and kept track of what our outfitters had planned for us. Having an odd number in our group, we sometimes had extra food, since most was packed for even numbers…not to mention the generous proportions. So Connie looked for that one sack of Chicken And Rice that had been leftover from our previous meal, knowing that would probably feed two of them. “Something happened,” she said. “I knew there was only one sack of Chicken and Rice…but I found TWO. Something happened.” So on our rocky “mount” you tell me…did Connie make a Mistake… or did we have a small Miracle?

canoeing at the Boundary Waters Canoe Area

Sometimes you are not sure can do something… so you don’t. Not the Shroeders…they never hesitated to tackle the long loop set up by their outfitter…and they did it! “In over their heads?” Not even close. As they paddled off the next morning to complete their trip, I couldn’t help but admire and respect their tremendous accomplishment. They taught us how in giving you really receive so much more. Thanks to the Shroeders for stopping in at our little rocky “mount.”

A couple days later we paddled back to our take-out point. On the way, in the middle of a lake it began to rain. We really didn’t have much of a chance to get our rain gear on. But it was a warm rain, so we kept moving, hoping to avoid a real storm. Seagull Outfitters were fast to meet us, even though we looked like drowned rats and probably smelled worse. The storm blew in with a fierce wind and a heavy down pour, just after we arrived at Seagull. They had warm towels, hot cocoa, hot coffee and amazingly clean showers with warm water. Oh yes…that definitely felt like a miracle! Thanks, Connie, for getting with Seagull Outfitters to make that incredible boundary waters trip of my dreams.

mostly happy campers at the BWCA

Spring Fever with Snowshoes – The Medved Winter Challenge

Hello again to all of our loyal readers!  It’s time for another race report.  However… I want to preface this report by saying that what you’re about to read may not be 100% accurate.  You see, I was a wee bit ill when I did the Medved Winter Challenge.  And by “a wee bit ill” I mean I should have stayed in bed.  I had a nasty fever, felt like poop, and I’m pretty sure I actually coughed up a piece of my lung in the snow.  It could have been phlegm, but I really think I saw some alveoli in there somewhere. That is all I will say about me being sick, because I don’t want this to turn into a pity party for me (Yes I do).

There are parts of this race that I don’t remember, so Casey will chime in when necessary.  His comments will be in RED to which I may reply in BLUE.  One other note: If you want to read about the rest of my awesomely radical trip to visit Casey’s family in NY, then just go here.  Now, on to the race report…

Start of Snowshoe 5K

Casey, James, Austin, and Luke before the Race.

Casey, Austin (my nephew), James (Austin’s friend), and I arrived at Webster Park in Monroe County, NY.  Yes, we were running a little late (as usual), but we had plenty of time to register and pick up 3 pair of snowshoes from the race director (Austin is the only one that has his own snowshoes).  She was nice enough to let us borrow them, so a big thanks goes out to her.

There were actually two races going down on the morning of January 30th: a snowshoe 5K and the Winter Challenge Adventure Race.  However, if you signed up for the Winter Challenge then you were fortunate enough (or forced) to do the 5K as a prologue to the adventure race.  Oh joy!  Actually, I was pretty excited to try some snowshoeing.

Casey in snowshoes

Casey warming up before the Snowshoe 5K

I’ve read that you should expect to be 1 to 3 minutes slower per mile in snowshoes versus running shoes.  For Casey, James, and Austin, that was true.  Casey finished in 29 minutes or so, Austin finished in 36 minutes or so, and I have no idea what James ran.  I, on the other hand, dominated the field in a blazing fast 45 minutes and 16 seconds.  Okay, I only beat one person, but it was fun. Sort of.  The course was great, and the snow was falling.  Running in snowshoes was much less awkward than I thought.  I just had nothing in my legs.

As I finished the 5K, I knelt down in the snow trying to recover.  I contemplated bowing out of the adventure race, but that would have been the smart choice.  And we all know that Luke and smarts go together about as well as vomit frosting and angel food cake.  So, we all got ready for the adventure race that was starting in 15 minutes.  Austin and James were getting ready to dominate the Teen Course, and Casey and I were getting ready to dominate… to compete… to survive and finish the full course.

We ended up starting the race about 15 minutes behind everyone else since it took me so long to finish the 5K.  We were handed the maps along with a bag with a playing card (I think we had a queen of clubs), some bits of licorice, a carrot, 3 Swedish fish, and some zip ties.  We were then told that we needed to zip-tie one of our wheels so that it wouldn’t spin.  Apparently, bikes weren’t allowed on the trails in this part of the park, so they wanted to make sure that nobody was riding.  What, they don’t trust us?

Casey carrying bike

Casey carrying his bike in the snow.

So, we headed out on the trail carrying our bikes.  I told Casey that he was navigating, because I didn’t even want to look at the map.  All I wanted to do was focus on moving forward.  I had no idea how far we had to carry our bikes, and that’s probably a good thing.  If I had known how far it was, I might have quit right there.

Casey: I looked briefly at the map but since we were told “flags” mark the route we had to take I figured a map wasn’t necessary.  Plus, it was a trail map and I didn’t see any scale.  Had we known how far the hike-a-bike section was, we probably would have put our trail shoes on instead of hiking in 12+ inches of snow in our bike shoes.  We talked several times about making the switch but figured we had to almost be there and didn’t want to waste the time of two unnecessary shoe changes.

I could only carry my bike for a few minutes.  Then I started rolling it in front of me on the back wheel while holding onto the handle bars.  It was pretty rough.

Casey: For the record, I offered several times to carry Luke’s bike in addition to my own.  He adamantly refused.

Luke: This is true.  He offered to carry my bike, but I would have literally died before I let that happen.

At least it wasn’t snowing… for the first two minutes.  Then it started snowing ridiculously hard.  Seriously, it was a white-out for awhile during our stupidly long hike-a-bike.  The photo below doesn’t come close to what it was really like.  You can click on the image to see it a little better, but trust me… It was much worse than the photo shows.  Notice my pack and helmet are starting to get covered in snow.  This photo was taken early in the hike-a-bike section, too.  It was ridiculous!

Hike-a-Bike in White-out conditions

"How much farther?!?"

It seemed like it was taking us over an hour to travel what I would later learn was roughly 1.5 miles.  I guess it seemed that way because that’s actually how long it took us.

Casey: I think Laura, the race director, said the course setter clocked it at 1.6 miles with his Garmin.  One of the volunteers actually walked right behind us picking up their flags because we were the last team.  She was cool and we chatted for most of the hike-a-bike since Luke wasn’t really able to speak.  I asked Luke a question or two, and each time I got no response.  He was either ignoring me, or he was just completely out of it.

Luke: I remember ignoring you once because the question was stupid.  Other than that, I don’t think I heard you.  Or I was just spaced out.

I had NO energy, and I simply couldn’t move any faster.  I just kept my head down and tried to do the best I could. I was focused on putting one foot in front of the other.  So much so that I missed some pretty cool sights.

Cool Tree

Casey took this shot of a gnarly looking tree. I never even saw it.

Casey, to his credit, stayed right behind me and never complained.  After what seemed like forever and a day, we made it to Checkpoint (CP) #1 at a small parking lot.  Laura, the race director, was there waiting for us.  As she punched our passport, another team was coming in from a trail.  They had already completed 90% of the biking section, and we were just getting started.  I was grateful to be getting off of my feet, though, and the snow had come to a stop.

We hopped on our bikes and took off.  I asked Casey if he was sure we were going the right way, you know, just to be safe.  It would have been really embarrassing to start off in the wrong direction right in front of the race director.  He said, “Yeah, we need to go north for a little ways, and then make a – blah, blah, blah.”  I kind of quit listening.  All I heard was that we should be going north, so I checked my wrist compass to discover we were heading due south.  I let Casey know about this, and we stopped for a map check.  Sure enough, we had to turn around and ride past the race director again.  Awesome.  Casey didn’t know how the hell that happened, but read on to find out…

Casey map check

Completely turned around... and confused.

We turned around and started off in the correct direction this time.  We took snow/ice/slush-covered roads through the wind and cold, but we weren’t exactly setting any speed records thanks to me.  I just had nothing in my legs, and I mean nothing.  We rode roughly 48 miles on the road before we got to the first turn… Well, that’s what it felt like to me, but it was probably only a mile or so.

Casey:  I know Luke must have felt very bad.  I was behind him and looking at what gear he was in.  It was the little ring in the front and the second to biggest in the back, and we were on totally flat ground.  His cadence in a very low gear was even lower than it usually is in top gear.  I commend Luke for keeping his balance when we were going so slowly.  I even had difficulty staying upright a time or two, and I wasn’t on my deathbed.  We were going so slow that I am pretty sure, even in my current shape and in my bike shoes, that I could have run the whole bike section as fast, if not faster than we biked it.  I thought about hopping off for a while and jogging, you know to get in a good workout, but I figured it might provoke Luke.  In hind sight he might not have even noticed.  Or if he did, he might’ve hopped off too, thinking it was more hike-a-bike.

Luke: Dude, I know you could have run faster with your bike than I was riding.  I may not have noticed you run by me with your bike on your back, but if I did then I probably would have punched you in the face… except I’m sure I wouldn’t have caught you.

Riding at medved Winter Challenge AR

See all of the snow inside the vents of my helmet? That's from the white-out during the hike-a-bike portion of the race.

We eventually made it to what appeared to be an old railroad track that had been turned into a trail where we would find CP#2.  It was just a short ways down the trail, and there was over a foot of snow on the ground.  So instead of riding it, we just walked our bikes to the CP.  Casey climbed down the bank to punch our passport while I tried to find my happy place.

Casey Medved CP2

Getting CP#2

We hopped back out on the road, and this is where things get pretty foggy for me.  I don’t really remember how we got to the trails, but we made it to some single track that actually allowed bikes.  Unfortunately, with all of the snow and my lack of energy, the trails were not easily ridden.  The good news is that we started off on our second hike-a-bike section with a really steep hill.  Fantastic!

Casey: On a positive note…  By being the absolute last team to go through this (and any) section of the race we had a nice, broken trail.  Not to mention it was hard to get lost since there were fresh (starting to fill) tracks to follow.  Imagine how much fun it would’ve been to be in first.

Hike-a-Bike up a snowy hill

Soooo much fun... Now that it's over.

I knew we weren’t going to finish the bike leg before the 4-hour cut-off if I didn’t pick up the pace at least a little bit.  So it was at the top of the hill seen in the above photo that I decided to try to ride the trails.  Brilliant!  As I pushed off and tried to get clipped in, my wheel spun out in the snow.  I fell hard, and it was one of those slow-motion crashes that seem to hurt the worst.  I also managed to get powdery snow down my jacket and my pants.  That was great!

I managed to get up and say, “F*@% This!  I don’t even wanna be here!!!”  And then I knelt down in the snow and just sat there.  Casey somehow realized that the best thing he could do was keep his mouth shut and let me have a minute or two.  I kept waiting for Casey to blurt out one of his usual inappropriate comments about… Well, I can’t write what Casey normally talks about because this is a PG-13 blog.  If Casey had said anything, and I mean anything, I know Betty White would have returned and our race would have ended right there.  But he did great, and after a couple of minutes, I stood up and started hiking with my bike again.

Casey: We did a better job of communicating and I knew Luke felt like dog poop.  Either that or maybe it was his body language or how he was moving.  I have felt that bad (albeit, not in a race…yet) and knew he was nearing his limit.

To be honest, I don’t really remember much else of the bike leg.  I know that we did manage to ride some of the snowy, icy single track, and it was a lot of fun.  It was challenging enough on a mountain bike with fat tires, but Casey managed to ride it on his brand new Jake the Snake cyclocross bike on its maiden voyage.  Nice work, Casey!

Casey: Isn’t it a little ironic that my bike actually rode me before I got to ride her?  I guess I pedaled around the parking lot but this race was the first time I rode my bike at all.  The night before I sat on her while we adjusted the seat and swapped the pedals.  I love her.  She’s so much fun to ride and I can’t wait to start logging some serious miles on her, just as soon as it warms up a bit (even just a little bit).

Luke: What, are you Alanis Morissette now?

Casey on his Jake the Snake Cross Bike in the snow

Casey on his yet-to-be-named Jake the Snake.

I don’t really remember much else about the bike leg.  I know we got all of the CP’s for the biking leg, though.  I also remember popping out onto a road and seeing Lake Ontario, one of the Great Lakes.  I remember wanting the race to be over.  I remember giving our queen of clubs to the race director, and when we asked her what it was for, she said it was to keep us guessing.  Well, it worked.

I also remember Casey taking us in the wrong direction one more time.  I showed him my wrist compass, and he showed me his compass.  They were taking opposite bearings.  Not good.  What the hell was going on here?  Then Casey moved his hand, and his compass matched mine.  You see, he was wearing glittens (gloves that have a mitten flap for when it gets really cold) with a magnetic snap on them.  The magnetic snap was interfering with the compass.  So, Casey wasn’t a completely incompetent navigator after all.  Mystery solved and lesson learned.

Casey: Are you sure they are called “glittens’ and not “moves”.  This sort of thing once happened to a teammate at our first annual non-race.  He had his compass clipped onto a lanyard with a big metal hook and his compass was going bonkers.  You’d think I would’ve learned from his mishap.

Luke: Yes, I’m sure.  “Glittens” is the correct name.  I would never make up a word.

That’s about all I remember, though, so here are a few photos from the final part of the biking leg:

Luke getting a CP at Winter Challenge Adventure Race

Getting CP#???

Luke riding snowy single trackriding

Proof that I actually rode my bike on the snowy trails.

Casey on Tron Bike

I think Casey should name his bike "Tron."

Casey: Isn’t she pretty?  I’ll try out Tron and see if she likes it.  Can Tron be a girls name?

So, we made it back to HQ at the small lodge.  We were handed a sheet of instructions for the mystery event.  We had to build a snowman with at least 3 snowballs.  It had to be at least 64 centimeters tall which seemed like 10 feet to me at the time, but Casey assured me it was only about 2 feet tall.  It had to have two arms, and we had to use the carrot for the nose, the pieces of black licorice for the eyes, and the Swedish fish for the mouth.

We whipped out the world’s best snowman in record time since the 4-hour cutoff was almost up.  We grabbed chunks of snow left behind by a snow plow, and we stacked them up.  I shoved the carrot and candy onto his face while Casey worked on it’s arms that included trekking poles.  We ended up with this:

Snowman during a mystery event at the Winter Challenge AR

The frown on Frosty's face was no accident. And why is Casey so damn perky in this photo?

We went inside the warm, cozy lodge which was fully stocked with cookies, chips, and other delicious goodies.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t even think about eating anything.  We found out all of the other teams in the Adult Division had cleared the course and were already finished.  We had about a half an hour left or so, and there was no way we could get all of the CP’s in time.  There was also no way I was leaving the warm lodge to go back out into the cold and snow.  So we did what any great team would do.  We quit.

Okay, that’s not true.  We strapped on our snowshoes and begrudgingly made our way out the door.  As we headed out, Austin and James were coming in.  All they had left was to build their snowman.  Austin said he had the same problem with his glittens messing up his compass too.  Like father like son, I guess.  However, Austin figured it out much sooner than we did.  Those two young bucks cleared the course and rocked the crap out of that race.  They won the Teen Division and received sweet Mizuno backpacks for coming in first place!  Big props to those guys.

Casey: In my defense, we figured it out the second time I took a bearing; all orienteering up to that point needed no compass.  The boys made it to the orienteering leg much faster and had to use their compass much more.  Still it’s pretty embarrassing to make such an obvious mistake.  I blame Luke for not figuring it out much sooner.  After all, he is our usual map man, I am the Pace Center.

Luke: Sure.  It was my fault that I realized we were going the wrong way TWICE before we got too far off course.  I apologize :).

I sort of looked at the map as we left the lodge.  I agreed that we should hit the CP closest to us and then see if we had time to get any more.  We headed out on our snowshoes, but I was really struggling at this point.  We came upon some sort of tipi shelter.  Casey managed to snap a photo of me from inside the tipi, but I was too tired to take a photo of him inside it.  It would have been a cool photo, though.  I swear.

Tipi in the snowin

Looking out of the tipi at me struggling to keep moving.

We punched our passport at the next CP, and Casey thought we had enough time to get one more and make it back to the lodge in time.  I disagreed, but I was willing to try.  After about 5 minutes or so, I told him that there was no way I was going to make it.  He graciously agreed to turn back, and he never made me feel bad about it.

So we turned around and made it back to the lodge with just 2 minutes to spare.  Everyone ate snacks, chatted, and laughed as stories were told and jokes were made.  I think I managed to laugh at the appropriate points in the conversations, but I’m not sure.  We then went home, and I took the hottest shower ever and tried to nap on the couch with my niece and nephew, Josie and Colton, climbing all over me.

This was probably my worst performance in an adventure race (other than a couple of DNF’s earlier in my racing career).  I hated this race while we were racing, but as usual, now that I look back on it I realize that it was a great time.  The race director did a great job.  Huge thanks to you, Laura, and to all of the volunteers!  Casey was the best teammate a guy could ask for.  And Dude, I promise I’ll be healthy for the next race we do together… I hope.

Casey: I will try to be healthy as well.  You were a trooper and in hind sight probably shouldn’t have raced and stayed home in bed.  If Jay Culter had even one of your balls, the Bears would have beaten the sorry ass Packers and probably would have won the Super Bowl.  You say you’re done having kids.  I’ll believe it if you mail one of your testicles to the Bears front office with a letter telling Cutler to man up.

Luke: Stupid Packers!

Casey: Great race, I had a good time regardless of our finish.  I got to snowshoe for the first time ever (I agree with Luke, it was surprisingly easy).  Thanks for making the trip to New York to visit (it had been over 5 years), and remember… you’re coming out for the Lion Heart race later this summer.  If you haven’t read the story about his whole visit to New York, check it out.  We had a great time and did some great things (at least check out some of the pictures).  Thank you to Medved, the race director, the volunteers, and everybody else that was crazy enough to come out and race.  I promise a better performance next year.  Luke are you in again?  Anybody else?

Luke: Fo’ Sho’!  Count me in.

So there you have it.  We survived, but just barely.  Have any of you been racing in the snow this year?

Check out the rest of our photos below:

Snow, Ice, Mud, Blood and Bikes

It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten out there for a nice, somewhat long, gravel ride with teammates and friends.  Zack set this ride up, and at first it seemed like it would just be three of us.  Then more people said they were in, too, which was very cool.  The more the merrier!

group gravel ride

Look closely and you'll see everyone (excluding me since I took the photo). You can just barely see Stoney's and Bob's heads in the background. Also, this is the only photo of Barry (farthest left) since he took off like a bat out of hell.

We had planned on riding this route.  Well, I planned on cutting that ride short to begin with since I had to be back for a birthday party my daughter was going to… And because I’m a wimp.  We decided to slightly alter the route since the Katy Trail was covered in a foot of snow.  We had to ride on Highway 63 for a short distance instead.  We had no problems, though.

I won’t bore you with too many details.  I’ll just say that the weather was terrific.  Although, the roads were pretty muddy in spots and icy in others.  It was a ton of fun.  You should have been there!

I’ll leave you with some fun facts from our ride, followed by a few photos and then a photo montage.

Now on to the Fun Facts…

Participants: Zack Lamb, Bob Jenkins, Adam Lafoon, Barry Vollmer, Matt Stacey, Stoney Cranmer, Don Daly, and Luke Lamb.

Distance: Bob, Adam, and I rode a total of 26.36 miles.  The rest of the group wimped out and decided to keep riding for a measly 30 more miles or so.  In fact, they’re still out riding as I type this.  What a bunch of cream puffs!

**UPDATE**: Zack, Matt, Don, and Stoney made it 55 miles including a 2 mile hike-a-bike section in over a foot of snow (photos at the end of this post).

Number of Crashes: Two.

Rider with the most crashes: Bob Jenkins with two.

Riders in Shorts: One – Bob Jenkins

Rider with the Most Bloody Knees: Bob Jenkins

Now, on to the photos…

Bob crashing his bike on ice

Don points out Bob's first crash in case any of us missed it.

Bob's bloody knee

The aftermath of Bob's fall (although it would get worse after the next crash).

 Zack Riding his Cross Bike


Adam riding gravel


Stoney riding gravel


Dong Daly


Group Ride on Snow and Ice

Roads either looked like this...

Wet, muddy road

...or this.


Fenders on bikes work

Don't think fenders work? Zack was the only with a fender, so check out his ass (middle) compared to Don's and Stoney's.

Adam's Muddy Camelbak

Adam's new Camlbak... Well, it was new before this ride.

Muddy Adam, Bob, Luke

A Muddy Good Time.


Bob's Bloodier Knee

This is what Bob's knee looked like at the end of the ride. I'm sure it won't get infected. (Click on photo to get a really good look)



Now on to the Photo Montage…


Here are some Photos from the long riders’ Hike-a-Bike…


Hike-a-Bike in Snow

This could not have been easy. (Photo by Matt Stacey)

Zack and Don Hike-a-Bike

Zack and Don making their way through the snow. (Photo by Matt Stacey)

Cross bikes in the snow

Cross bikes in the snow... So pretty. (Photo by Matt Stacey)



A Familiar Chill

It doesn’t seem so long ago when I was scouring the internet in search of something a little more challenging. I’d done a few bike races here and there, but there was this nagging itch to do something more… something that maybe I wasn’t capable of.  I wanted to test myself.

A Google search found me looking at something called the “Bonk Hard Chill“. 20-35 miles of mountain biking, 8-15 miles of trekking and 5-10 miles in a canoe while looking for checkpoints with a map and compass. The required gear list included a flare gun… a FLARE GUN!!!

Hmm… too bad I couldn’t read a map and had never run for more than 2 miles… or been sober in a canoe. Add to that, I knew absolutely no one who was willing to partner up.

So I turned to my teammates at Team Red Wheel and posted this. There were no takers from the actual “team”, but if you scroll to the 7th comment you’ll bear witness to the birth of what would later evolve into Team Virtus. It was like peanut butter and jelly coming together for the first time. I think it benefited our training that we were strangers at the time and were both terrified of being the team anchor. These were the days before armonkey, so we started our own accountability log on TRW.

Of course, this is all history leading to a story that’s already been told. I ‘spose my true point is that Luke and I will see you next weekend at the 2011 Bonk Hard Chill. We are heavily unprepared and I am personally about 40 pounds fatter than when we did the race last time. (I’ve got a better bike tho)

Maybe you want to go and don’t have a partner? Maybe you do have a partner but you’re scared shitless of being lost in the woods? Need to borrow some gear?  Post your thoughts in the comments section and see if there’s someone else who wants to “Chill”. You never know, you might just find yourself surrounded by a new group of friends.

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