Team Virtus “gets centered” at the 2011 Bonk Hard Chill

Several months ago, Luke added a contacts link to the website so people could ask  questions a bit less publicly. Since then, we’ve gotten questions about race nutrition, saddle-sore prevention and even route planning for rogaines. Believe it or not, we even get a compliment every now and then. This one is my personal favorite:  “I’ve read almost your whole blog and even though I might be dumber after reading some parts of it, it’s jam-packed with good tips and hints.” I guess that’s a compliment, right?

Not too long ago, we got this one:

“Hey guys-
I’m a reporter at The Pitch newspaper in Kansas City. I’m interested in writing something about adventure racing, and I came upon your hilarious race reports. I’m looking for a team to hang around with during an upcoming race (likely the Bonk Hard Chill), and I’m convinced Team Virtus is it. If you’re doing that race (and live/train somewhere near Kansas City) would you be up for letting me write about you, your preparation and experience in the race? Please give me a call or e-mail if you’re game, I think it could be a lot of fun.

Thanks a lot.
Ben Palosaari
The Pitch
Staff Writer”

As I’m sure you can imagine, this came as quite a surprise. We’re always ready to take a newby out on the trail, but we certainly never planned on having one from a major newspaper. Due to health complications, (Luke being sick all the time and me being a lardass), we were actually planning to skip The Chill this year and turn our focus towards something later in the season. But now that we had a big-time news reporter wanting to “hang around with us” after “coming upon our race reports”, (Ben…you animal),  things had to change and they had to change quickly. After performing a quick background check on Ben to prove he was real, we started making preparations to tackle this year’s Chill as a 3 headed monster.

Bonk Hard Chill Adventure Race 2011 Race Report

Then there was the real question…What if  Ben’s a douchebag? I mean, what if this guy comes down here and writes a story about us being morons? We’ve always made fun of ourselves, so what if this was an outsider’s attempt to poke fun as well? What then? Do we beat his ass? Do we leave him for dead out in the woods?…..What?  We’d just have to wait and see.

Lodging was going to be interesting. Luke had made arrangments for us to stay in one of the rustic cabins at ” The Outpost.” We’d be bunking there with Ben, a photographer named Brooke Vandever, and fellow racer Travis Hammons of Offroad Medics Racing fame. Aside from a 3-second conversation before the Berryman last year, we only knew Travis through blogs and facebook, so you might say we had a cabin full of strangers out there. Luke and I got there early in the day and set up camp. We brought literally every stitch of outdoor clothing we owned, so Ben would be able to find something that suited him. The cabin walls were lined with every shirt, hydration pack and pair of shorts we owned…it was all there.

Adventure Racing Clothes

Next, we headed to race HQ to meet up with our new homies. When we met Ben, it was immediately clear that he was our kind of guy; He was completely unprepared, unaware of the pain that lay before him, and he was COMPLETELY pumped to be doing an adventure race.  Holy shit, was this guy excited. Just look at him taking notes at the pre-race meeting:

Ben Palosaari taking notes

*scribbles furiously*

Dan from Oz Cycles raffled off an $800 canoe, and the guy who won it acted like someone just handed him a pack of gum. I think any one of us would have raised the roof, but whatever. Maybe next time. Dan briefed us on the paddling leg, and made sure everyone knew they would “get their feet wet.” Then he talked about how quickly the water was moving from all the recent snow-melt, and cautioned that it would be very easy to tip the boat.

This was not good news for us. After the meeting, we spoke with Jason, (Bonk Hard race director), about having Ben with us in the boat. We were signed up as a 2-man team and he was merely going to be spectating, so obviously we weren’t trying to gain some sort of advantage. Our primary concern was for Ben’s saftey. Jason and Dan made it clear there was a definite possibility of tipping, but Ben was completely undeterred. He reassured us that he had “Played a lot of canoeing on the Nintendo Wii, so we would be fine.”

confused Luke


In private, Luke and I spoke at length about what would likely happen on raceday, and we agreed to be ready for some swimming. If Ben wanted the real adventure racing experience, we had to give it to him. He didn’t drive all this way just to stand on the bank. If we got dunked, we’d just deal with it. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

Finally, it was time to take care of some serious business….crushing pre-race carbs at Applebee’s. Ben had lots of questions, so it gave us all a chance to get to know one another. I think we censored ourselves for about 30 seconds and Ben wasted no time reciprocating the sarcasm and profanity… it was clear we were all going to get along just fine. As the conversation wore on, we delved deeper into the intricacies of cycling. It’s always fun to explain the concept of chamois butter to someone new, and it’s even more fun when you get photographic proof of the moment:

Brooke and Ben

Ben: Say what? Brooke: Hahahah!, you've gotta put butter up your ass!!

I think it’s worth pointing out that Ben grew a beard specifically for this race.  We told him it was required gear, and he would blend in better with the other raceers if he had facial hair. It wasn’t the strongest beard I’ve ever seen, but he did alright.

Fast forward an hour or two later and we’re all at the cabin. Luke and I plotted a few points as Ben watched.

*Photo by Brooke Vandever

Eventually, Luke handed over the UTM tool so Ben could learn a little bit. As it turns out, Ben is a quick learner. He had plotting figured out in about 2 minutes,  which annoyed me just a little bit.  The jerk could have at least acted like it was difficult, ya know?

Plotting Points for Adventure Racing

Note the romantic candle-light

It was starting to get late, so Luke resumed plotting the points while I helped Ben figure out what kind of gear he was going to wear tomorrow.  I was delighted to find out that Ben had never worn a pair of bike shorts. After assuring him that spandex was indeed normal cycling apparel, he was given a very clean pair of shorts and set forth to try them on.

While Ben was up in the loft, we reviewed his notes.. and even added something:

Penis jokes are funny

I won’t go into a whole lot of detail, but there was a LOT of  crude humor directed at Ben that night. Even by Casey’s standards, we gave him a lot of shit. He took it like a champ, though, and did a good job returning the banter.

Morning came early, and we were running behind as usual. We hit the commode and got Ben ready for action. Here we see him loading up on pain pills before the race even starts. Smart man.

Wow, wanna run a comb thru that shit?

Pre-race photo:

Start of the 2011 Bonk Hard Chill Adventure Race

The national anthem was played and we were sent on our way. Luke and I wanted to start out slow, but Ben wasn’t having any of that shit. He was eager to be in the fray, so he took off running… for a minute. We had to make some pace adjustments after his adrenaline rush calmed down, but soon we were holding a decent pace.

Swinging Bridge at Lake of the Ozarks

And then we were alone

I like that photo because you can see how badly we’re already getting our asses kicked. Seriously, checkout the ENTIRE race field at the other end of the vridge. Contrarily, (big word), I like the photo below because you can tell we don’t care:

Bob and Ben on bridge

For a guy who doesnt work out much, Ben has the ability to walk very fast.  So fast, in fact, that I had to shed some layers pretty early in the day. I made the mistake of asking Luke to carry my pack for a moment…

Proof of Luke carrying Bob's pack

Not that we keep score or anything..

The pace was brisk and the conversation intelligent. Seems like we were at that first CP in no time:

Ben scratches one more achievement off of his bucket list

A few more miles of hiking and chatting found us at the canoe transition. I couldn’t help but chuckle as I wondered how the day would go after we got dunked. Choosing a canoe was easy since there was only one left, so we threw our things together and set out onto the water.  I remember being relieved that we were in metal canoes, not those tippy yellow pieces of shit.

We gave Ben two very specific, very serious instructions: Stay centered and do NOT grab the sides of the boat, not matter what.

Team Virtus paddling

All smiles and rollin' on the river (Photo courtesy of Laura Elsenraat)

I don’t think it took very long for Ben to figure out that Wii canoeing and real canoeing are very different. I personally have a lot to learn about river canoeing, but it’s something I love to do. Ben really seemed to be enjoying himself, and so far things were going very well. The water was swift in some areas, and with the 3 of us in the boat it didn’t take much for waves to crash over the front. It wouldn’t be long before Ben had a very cold, wet ass.

At times, the going got pretty rough. Anytime we bounced off an underwater rock or tree, it was always immediately followed by Ben calling out “I am centered!! I am centered!!” It was both hilarious and reassuring.

This paddling leg is one I’ll never forget. I remember coming to a section where we had to decide to either turn right and pass thru a tangle of roots and sticks, or duck under a large tree that had fallen across the creek. The obvious choice was to pass thru the rocks, since it was much safer. Fate had other ideas, though, and the current sucked us to the left .

We bumped a rock: “I AM CENTERED!!”

The current pushed us further left until we were on a beeline for the felled tree. The way I saw it, we were screwed. I began to psychologically prepare myself for the cold water.


Everyone saw what was about to happen and we all reacted in our own way. I leaned straight back and stared upward, waiting to pass under the tree. Ben froze up, unable to react. Luke saw this and jumped forward, shoving Ben’s head down to safety and then ducked under the tree himself, narrowly escaping decapitation. It was all over in the blink of an eye…crisis averted.

We were certain Ben had just shit in his pants (Actually, they were my pants). He was clapping his hands, pumping his fists in the air, shouting profanity and doing all kinds of other celebratory business. Mere inches had saved him from the icy embrace of the river, but here he was… (mostly) dry and safe.

If you don’t count all the times we had to get out and push the canoe through 2 inches of water, the rest of the paddling leg went without incident. Ben stayed centered, and our asses stayed dry.

Then it was time to get on our bikes and ride….right after eating this sandwich.

Brick House Deli, son!

We’re not officially sponsored by the Brickhouse Deli, but they gave me a free lunch combo and a bunch of free bottles of water when I told them we’d do some free advertising for them on the blog. I eat there at least 3 times a week because the food is awesome and they make their customers feel like family. Steve, (the owner), is also the guy who makes our coveted Beaverstix.

We got Ben situated and taught him a few things before takeoff… like how to shift gears.

Ben's first time on a mountain bike

I think the biggest problem we had was keeping Ben’s enthusiasm under control. He had 2 speeds: Fast and stop. It became obvious that the bike wouldn’t be his strong-suit, so we tried coaching him into walking the hills.

Pushing bikes up a hill

Ain't no shame in it

We made it to the top of a fairly large hill, and we noticed that Ben was a little pale.  It started with a tiny burp, then a muffled gurgling sound. Next thing you know, there’s a gallon of red gatorade geysering its way out of Ben’s face. This was epic vomiting at its very finest. If we had known him better, we would’ve laughed our asses off because we’ve all been there. Out of respect, we didn’t even take a photo until after the show was over.

Ben after puking

It's only funny when it isn't you

Still undeterred, Ben soldiered on to the next checkpoint. Neither of us had known he was pushing himself so hard, so we took a few moments to stress the importance of inter-team communication. After reviewing the map, we collectively decided that trying to ride the rest of the bike leg wasn’t in Ben’s best interests. He had shown promise as a foot-bound racer, so we decided to head back to the TA and begin the trekking leg.

Along the way, I had some technical diffuculties of my own:

Bob crashed with hole in shorts

Damn, these used to be my favorite pants.

After a few easy hills, we came to the top of a long gravel downhill. I told Ben to let himself get a little bit of speed and enjoy the hill…staying off the brakes. It was pretty much a straight line to the bottom, so what could go wrong? I let go of the brakes myself and enjoyed the descent. When the road leveled out, I turned to check on Ben. He was hauling ass, but clearly out of his element. I saw the rear wheel fishtail for a moment, and then the handlebars spun around.

We all know what happens next.

I’d say Ben was humming along at around 20 mph when he hit the ground. I saw him land on his chest, then saw his helmet bounce off the ground. He bounced once more and then tumbled into the ditch. Groans of pain quickly followed as he rolled to a stop. That shit had to hurt. Luke and I got there as fast as we could to make sure he was alright. He was scuffed up pretty good,  nursing his shoulder and bleeding from the elbow. The look on his face spoke volumes, he’d had enough of this for one day, maybe for one lifetime. He took his helmet off and let if fall to the ground.

Ben finds himself "at the face"

Luke and I  were nearly speechless, and that doesn’t happen everyday. This was the exact opposite of what we had wanted for Ben. We gave him a moment to collect himself and rest. A quick inspection of the gravel road told the tale…he had panicked and locked up the brakes. You can tell from the length of the skid that he was hauling ass, and he almost pulled out of it before crashing in glorious fashion. Poor guy.

I haven't seen a skidmark like that since I worked at the nursing home.

He was obviously in a lot of pain; unable to lift his arm and visibly shaken. That meant no more biking today, and we could only deduce that the race was over. Luke gave Ben 2 options:
A: Quit now and call for a ride
2: Walk back to the TA and get his shoulder looked at.
Ben chose the latter and man points were promptly awarded. Luke gave him some ibuprofen and carried his pack while I hauled the bike so Ben could walk unimpeded.
On the bridge again at the Bonk Hard Chill AR

Ben slogs onward

Back at the TA, Ben got his shoulder looked at and we waited to see what he wanted to do next. It was determined that he had strained a rotator cuff, and should likely see a doctor the next day. So now what do we do? We can’t ride our bikes, and there’s no possible way to complete the O-section and make it back to the finish in time. We could either quit now or walk to the finish line.
Ben's Shoulder

Ben shows where it hurts

**So let’s take a moment to review Ben’s day: Wake up at 5 am, sit in the floor of a canoe soaking your ass in freezing cold water, vomit epic amounts of gatorade, then wreck the shit out someone else’s bike and nearly break your shoulder. And now it was raining. **
Ben asked how far we’d have to walk to the finsh. Luke’s response…about 8 miles? I think he knew it was farther than that, but he hoped to get Ben to at least attempt going for the finish.
Ben never hesitated.  He wanted to finish, and that was that. My mind was blown, absolutely blown.  I thought back to Ken Chlouber’s words before the LT100, when he spoke about being “at the face”. Ben was there now, deep within his own pain cave. If he had any traces of self-doubt, they were tucked away in some dark place where they couldn’t poison his resolve. In all honesty, I expected Ben to walk a few miles and then call it a day. I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way at all, I just thought that with all his misfortune and the rapidly deteriorating  weather conditions, he would’nt see any reason to go on. Man, was I wrong.
Brooke decided to join us for what would be a 13 mile trek to the finish line, toting her very expensive camera.  She had some high-tech gear to shield the camera from the rain (aka – walmart bags).  The cold, cold rain soaked through every stitch of clothing we wore; it was truly miserable.
Wet Bob

Seriously, Ben...why wont you quit?

As we neared a manned CP, we saw a volunteer running toward us in the rain.  We soon realized it was our good friend, Wendy Davis.  She had heard that someone on our team was hurt.  She had tears in her eyes (or maybe it was just rain) as she asked who was hurt.  She was relieved to hear it was “just Ben” that got hurt.  No offense to Ben, but Wendy and Team Virtus are pretty tight.
Wendy Davis at the Chill

Wendy was happy that Ben got hurt... Well, you know what I mean.

I remember hearing Ben say, ” I think there’s something to be said for finishing. That’s what I like about Team Virtus… we don’t quit.” My heart swelled with pride for 2 reasons:
  1. Ben “got it”. He understood the true essence of adventure racing.
  2. When he said “we”, he was including himself as a member of the team. He was no longer an outsider taking notes; He was a bearded man walking in the rain, soaked and chilled to the bone but willing to press onward. Not to win… not for accolades… but to prove to himself and us that he could persevere. He was doing it for the team.
Along the way, we stumbled across Osama Bin Laden’s Ozark home.
Osama Bin Laden's Ozark Home

Bin Laden wouldn't come to the door. What an asshole.

It literally rained buckets on us.  We were walking on what should have been the final bike leg. I couldn’t stop thinking about how quickly I could have ridden 10 miles of gravel. We were passed by droves of racers riding their bikes, and most of them asked why we were walking. When we told them of Ben’s decision to walk the last 13 miles instead of quitting, most of them said we were crazy, or hardcore or something to that effect. I don’t think any of us felt hardcore at all; we just felt wet, cold and ready to be done.

Brooke Vandever's photo of Team Virtus in the rain

FML...Fml...fml...fml... *Photo by Brooke Vandever

Eventually the rain slowed down and our spirits began to rise. By now there were quite a few people who knew Ben’s story. Each passing rider offered words of encouragement, but after a while Ben was convinced that there was no finish line. People would say, “Keep going, you’re almost there!” He now questioned the meaning of those words, and swore to bitch-slap the next person who said them. He went off on a rant about different people’s definition of “almost”. It was hilarious to see him finally lose his shit. He was human after all :). It wasn’t long after that when we could finally see the finish line. Baked potatoes and beer were only an arm-length away. Word had spread of Ben’s determination, as was evident by the crowd waiting for him there clapping, ringing cowbells and showing their support.
Team Virtus Finishing the Bonk Hard Chill Adventure Race

Ben is still smiling... somewhere under all of those clothes (Photo credit: Laura Elsenraat)

After some high fives and “congratulations,” we went inside and commenced baked potato and ice-cold beer consumption.
The Bonk Hard Chill AR

Recounting the days events with Travis *Photo by Brooke Vandever

After that, Ben kinda went into a zombie state:
zombie Ben

somebody get this man some pain meds..

Sometimes inspiration can come from the strangest places. Ben Palossari will forever live in my mind as a man unwilling to accept the fate so many others predicted for him. Noone, Luke and I included, expected him to finsh the race. He proved us all wrong by displaying courage and character. Funny enough, these just happen to be 2 of the words that pop up when Virtus is translated into English. Welcome to the team, Ben.
Special thanks to Brooke Vandever for letting us use a few of her photos.  To see the rest of her amazing photos from the Chill, check out this slideshow.  Also, if you want to read Ben’s article on adventure racing and his experience racing with us, “Missouri’s Least Elite Adventure Racers,” then you should go right here right now.
The Pitch Newspaper

About Bob Jenkins

Crusher of beers.

Posted on March 16, 2011, in Epicnicity---yeah it's a word, Race Reports and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. “Ben likes penis”…remind me not to leave my phone or notebook out around you guys! 🙂

    Ben couldn’t have picked a better team by whom to get baptized into adventure racing. Clearly he’s an amazing trooper (from growing the beard to putting on bike shorts to playing Exorcist at the top of the hill) as well as being a talented writer.

    Great report on probably the longest short race you’ll ever have.

  2. Great report and a great article by Ben!

  3. What a great write-up Bob. Very funny and motivational!

  4. Great article by Ben, and a great write up….very, very funny. I read it to my wife and she got totally annoyed by the number of times I had to stop and laugh. I’m a beginner in the adventure racing world…or any racing world for that matter…and you guys are an inspiration! thanks!

    • Thanks, Brian! Glad you liked the article and the race report. Hit us up with any questions you might have. We’re not experts, but we’ve made LOTS of mistakes along the way. So we can definitely tell you what NOT to do. And maybe we’ll see each other at a future race!

  5. While I frequently find myself scratching my head and muttering WTF, I am indeed a different Brian. I live in Lebanon, MO…just south of the Lake of the Ozarks. My first (and only, to date) adventure race was the Sand Springs Race about a year and a half ago. (I missed last year because I got hit by a car on my road bike, but that’s a whole ‘nother story) We did a LOT of walking in that race, but did finish…dead last! Right now my race partner and I are training for the Truman Lake race that is coming up in April…short course, for sure.

    Thanks very much for your offer of help…we need all we can get! As a novice, my only big concern with the upcoming race is the orienteering feature. My race partner is a former Marine, and says he still remembers most of the map/compass navigation, but if you know of any good resources (preferably online) that can give him a refresher and me the basics that would be awesome!

    I do hope we run into each other at a race, that would be very cool! Thanks again,

    • Geez! You got hit by a car? I hope you’re fully recovered. The Truman Lake Race is a blast, and Kelly (the race director) is a great guy! You’ll have a lot of fun.

      I’ll see if I can find some online resources for orienteering. The best thing to do would be to go to a local orienteering race (although I don’t know if there will be any events between now and the Truman Lake Race). Both St. Louis and Kansas City have great clubs – and – but I’m not aware of any clubs that are closer to you.

      I’m not sure if we’re going to make it to Truman Lake this year. We’ve been to it the first two years, but it may not work out this year. If we don’t see you there, good luck!

  6. Well technically, I hit the car…T-boned it…’cause it pulled out in front of me. So really, it was asking for it. I got a cervical collar, a ride in an ambulance, and what felt like a bazillion x-rays, and great pain meds. In the end I was bruised but not broken…and am fully recovered!

    We’re super excited about the Truman race. We went up there and rode week before last, just to get an idea of what we’d be looking at. I’d say we’ll get through the nav part okay, we’re pretty close to Ft. Leonard Wood so I might be able to reach out that way.

    Thanks for the good wishes, if we don’t see you we’ll catch up with you later in the year!!


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