Monthly Archives: May 2011

Train Long to Race Long – Getting Ready for the Dirty Kanza

Okay, so you may have heard that we (Bob, Robby, and I) are heading out to Kansas in a couple of weeks for the infamous Dirty Kanza 200 mile gravel road race.  Bob is riding it solo, and Robby and I are forming a dynamic duo the likes of which has never been seen!

I’ve been told that the only way to get ready for this race is to get LOTS of time on the saddle… ideally in a sauna, but that’s a little unrealistic (although I used to take the stationary bike into the sauna while wearing a plastic suit and winter clothes to make weight, but that’s neither here nor there).  So last week, we planned a long night ride on the Katy Trail from Jefferson City to McBaine and back.

We met around 8:30 or so at the paved pavilion, and Adam couldn’t make it.  Therefore, he was once again fired from the team.  Robby showed up in a jersey that pre-dated Red Wheel Bike Shop:

Retro Robby

Retro Robby rocking a throw-back jersey as well as and an old-school Camlebak

We headed out around 9:00 PM with our sites set on McBaine.  To be honest, if we made it that far and back then it would be my second longest ride ever.  Seriously.  That’s probably not good since I’m signed up to ride half of the DK200 in a couple of weeks.

Team Virtus on the Katy Trail

The only shot of the three of us

The evening was beautiful even though rain was in the forecast.  We had a decent headwind, but it was no match for Team Virtus.  We arrived in Hartsburg in what seemed like no time at all.

Bikes on the Katy Trail

Obligatory photo of our bikes (not sure where Bob's was)

It was there in Hartsburg that we discovered something that all Missourians should be proud of.  Our modest little Katy Trail is a Rails to Trails Hall of Famer!  And I wanted to get photographic evidence of this fine accomplishment, but Bob had to go and ruin the moment…

Bob's Butt

Crack kills, Bob. Crack kills.

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of flats (I think I need new tires), and as we rolled into Cooper’s Landing, I got yet another one.  How many Virtusans does it take to change a flat?  Two apparently:

Changing Tire on the Katy Trail

I hate trying to get the back tire back on. It makes me feel inadequate.

After fixing my flat, we rolled on out, headed for McBaine.  There was lightning in the distance, but so far Mother Nature was cooperating with us.  We made it to McBaine with no more problems.  We stopped for some photos to prove that we did, in fact, make it to our destination.

Team Virtus Freek Strength

We didn't realize McBaine was home to the World's best Gun Show

McBaine on the Katy Trail

The rare Quadruple Finger Point

Katy Trail Marker

The Incredible Glowing, Floating Katy Trail Sign (only visible at night)

After a little break and a snack, we headed back toward Jefferson City.  If you’ve ridden the Katy Trail much, then you are aware that it is somewhat of an anomaly.  No matter what you do, you always ride into a headwind.  Seriously.  The wind was in our faces on the way to McBaine, and now that we had turned around to ride back home, the wind had shifted.  We were once again riding into a decent headwind.  It never fails.

The ride back to Jefferson City was uneventful, but it was a great time.  I was definitely ready to be off my bike, though.  My ass was done!  The Katy Trail is a different kind of difficult for long rides.  Many people assume the Katy is too easy since it’s so flat.  I beg to differ.  Yes, it’s flat.  But that is part of what makes it difficult.  There are no breaks.  You don’t get any downhills to rest your legs.  You don’t get any turns to break up the monotony.  You just have to keep pedaling… and pedaling… and pedaling…  I think it’s great training for the Dirty Kanza, but I may be delusional.

We made it back to the paved pavilion in Jeff City at around 2:00 AM.  Our actual riding time was around 4 hours.  Not great, but not bad.  It was a great ride, but I was ready to be done.  I felt pretty good during the ride, but it definitely didn’t give me a ton of hope for success at DK200.  We’ll see.

Bob resting in truck

Bob used to live and sleep here. Seriously.

So there you have it.  Just another training ride for Team Virtus.  We’re doing another long Katy Trail ride tomorrow, so let us know if you wanna join us.  We’re trying to re-create the magic from Bob and Adam’s last Katy Trail ride, although that might be impossible.  We shall see.

Team Virtus Non-race #2: The Deuce

The 2nd annual Team Virtus adventure non-race, (“The Deuce”), has come and gone. For those who came to volunteer, non-race, or stand around waiting for your husbands to finish.. I’d like to extend a very sincere THANK YOU.  Thank you for coming out and supporting local, FREE racing. Good people with positive attitudes are what non-racing is all about, and we hope you’ll all come back next time.


Who would have thought organizing an adventure race could be so much fun AND such a pain in the ass?  I mean, seriously!! I think we all had our moments of anxiety before and during the Deuce……

Planning an Adventure Race

EFF Word!! Eff word REALLY LOUD!!

…. but now that it’s over I think we can all agree it was a success. And since we’re shameless self-promoters, we thought it’d be fun to give you a behind-the-scenes look at how we set things up.

Setting the course was a lot of fun. Late in the summer last year I found a substantial piece of National Forest land about 10 minutes from my house. On my days off, I’d just go out there and walk around. It didn’t take long to compile a list of “cool stuff” we wanted to include in the race, and it was also nice to watch my dogs roll around in every disgusting mudhole they could find.

Course markers are super-expensive if you buy the good ones, so we decided to make our own.  I think we spent $8 on spray-paint and twine to come up with all our 31 checkpoints. Each non-racer would be given a small notebook and an ink-pen to record the images we put on each control.

Yeah, so the paint came off.... big deal. 

Each racer was provided with a series of maps with pre-plotted checkpoints. They were also given maps specific to the Cedar Creek Trail and Pine Ridge Conservation area. These additional maps would prove to be very beneficial to anyone wise enough to use them. (**Coughs while pointing at Phil & Corey**) 

On the morning of the non-race, I was very nervous about whether or not anyone would actually show up. We had really poured ourselves into planning this thing, and it would’ve been a huge let-down if noone showed up. I passed the time by amassing our pile of schwag on a dinner table in my driveway, and drinking coffee next to my fire-pit.

Adventure Racing Schwag

We didn’t technically have any sponsors  for this race, but we did have some really good friends help us out. Nick Smith, (Owner of Redwheel Bike Shop), was generous enough to donate two $20 gift certificates. In addition to that, he sold us  a great deal of cycling gear for a heavily discounted price. The Brickhouse Deli also gave us a $10 gift certificate and sold me a few sandwiches on the cheap. The schwag was legit, we had about $300 worth of stuff to give away.

People started showing up and I could finally breathe a little. It looked like we would have 2 solos and 2 teams of two competing this year, and that was AWESOME!!  I can’t remember who drove the furthest, but I know the majority of our non-racers lived a few hours away. Jim and Wendy Davis had planned on being there, but ran into some issues finding a baby sitter. We had also hoped for more local kids to show up, but there’s always next time.

Travis Hammons from Offroad Medics showed up along with his professional support team made up of his wife and son.

Travis Hammons

Here we see Mr. Derrick Boos from Orange Lederhosen along with his better half, Emma.

Derrick from Orange Lederhosen

Another impressive  fact is that we had just as many volunteers as we had racers!!! Phenomenal!! We actually had more help than we needed, so we called Drew at the last minute and told him to save himself a trip all the way to Holts Summit. Big thanks to him for being available to volunteer, and sorry to him for not letting him know sooner that his services were not needed.  Having so many helping hands really made the event run seamlessly. My mom even showed up with bananas, oranges and granola:)

 Mrs. Jenkins - AKA the best volunteer EVER!

My mom is awesome, just in case anyone was wondering. She’s also married, so don’t try any bullshit.

Everybody gathered around the fire while I explained the rules and did my best to look important. Non-race directing is serious business, so I made sure to wear clean underwear that morning. Gotta be profesional..

I’ll tell you one thing Team Virtus doesn’t waste money on, and that’s a starting line. For a non-race called the Deuce, it only seemed appropriate that the start/finsh line be a brown smudge:

Relax, it’s only some mud from my yard.
Starting time was fast approaching, so we got everyone lined up and started the countdown.

Obviously we’re going to have to figure out a more glorious way to start the race next time. A simple “GO” and honking my horn just didn’t seem to get people motivated….so I took off running down the road, leading everyone on their way to non-racing glory. The Deuce had officially crowned!!

Sometimes running while honking a horn can land you in an awkward “kodak moment”

It’s disturbing, I know.

Robby and I hopped in the car and made way for CP3, which had been named “WTF died here?” The CP was right next to some roadkill and needed a bit of touching up. I’m sure you’re wondering what I mean by that. Well….we’d seen a dead skunk near my house, and thought it would be funny to add it to the checkpoint. We put our little friend in a Wal-Mart bag and hung him off the bike-rack. A short drive later, we added him to the CP and took a photo:

I’m sure the skunk would have been glad to know his life served a greater purpose. He looked really happy to be part of the non-race. Just look at that fanged smile!!

As we drove along, we got to see how our non-racers were faring on the gravel section of the first bike leg. The weather couldn’t have been better. Things were really looking good for the Deuce.

I believe corey and Phil got to CP 1 first:

Derrick seemed to appreciate the coolness of CP 1, named “Big Brother”. It’s a giant revolving radio-tower of some kind. Apparently he found some cool stickers there as well. You just never know what might happen at a non-race.

As I was driving past, I got to witness Corey & Phil’s first navigational blunder of the day.

I guess someone should’ve put a giant yellow sign next to the road that says “DEAD END“. Oh, wait…it’s already there.
**Pause 10 seconds for awkward silence.**

After a brief conversation with “Snail Trail”, I was back on the road. I’m not sure, but I think Corey was trying to draft the car:

After that, Robby and I headed to Pine Ridge campground to meet up with the rest of the volunteers. The campground served as a transition area for 2 key points during the race, so it was important to have food and water there. Our volunteers were doing a great job and things seemed to be in order, so Robby, Darin and I headed over to set up the 2nd mystery event.

Most adventure races include some form of paddling, but we don’t have the resources for all that. Canoes, insurance, medical staff, pfd’s… not on our salaries. We had to get creative for this one.

Check. it. out.

I bet you’ll never see that shit at a Bonk Hard race, and if you do you’ll know it was TV inspired. We stretched a length of rope across the pond and staked down both ends. If you wanted to get this CP, you had to get in the Flytepacker and pull yourself across. In the above photo, Robby demonstrates the proper way to cross the pond. Look at that form!!

If you look at that pic and the photos below, you’ll notice  that everyone who did this event seemed to have one thing in common….see if you can figure out what it was:

I wish I could’ve been there to watch, but there was too much other stuff to do. Lucky for us, Darin volunteered to oversee the mystery event and take a lot of pictures. He was also kind enough to tear it all down after the race and drop everything off at my house. Rumor has it, he was also passing out full-size Snickers bars to anyone who wanted one. Helluva team-mate, that guy.

When I got back to the campground/TA, I was happy to see that everyone had made it to the first transition. Muddy bikes littered the campground while checkpoint “Pain-Train” rested in the background.

The volunteers said everyone seemed to be having a good time, and aside from Phil and Corey intentionally riding a couple extra miles to see if the people following them were in good shape,” noone was having much difficulty with the navigation. This was great news, but it meant that I had missed watching everybody attempt the first mystery event…

This mystery event was Luke’s brainchild, and I think it’s a testament to him being a sick, sick bastard. By the time non-racers made it to the Prowler sled, they had already burned some pretty serious calories. Nevertheless, they were required to push the sled, (weighted w/ 90 lbs), around the campground’s turn-around area. 1 lap per team-member.


I guess it’s a good thing my mom had a bunch of food and Gatorade laid out nearby. Kate seems to be happy about it.

After pushing the sled, racers headed back into the woods for an orienteering leg. This section of the course was added  at the last minute because Luke and I were afraid the course may be too short. We would later regret this decision, but we’re glad  people got to see more of the park. Most of the controls were close to the Cedar Creek trail, which was detailed on one of the “extra” maps we provided before the race.

It’s hard to see, but if you look closely you can see two property lines of either side of the trail in that photo. The barb-wire fence is wrapped around a tree just to Kate’s left, and our control is hanging from a tree along the property line just to travis’s right. The Cedar Creek trail passes through a space no more than 10-feet wide between these 2 property lines. Pretty damn cool if you ask me.

By now, some of the racers were showing signs of fatigue. They had ridden approximately 15 miles and hiked 3-5. Travis was clearly experiencing a flurry of different emotions…




It wouldn’t be a true adventure race if we didn’t showcase some of the area’s historic landmarks. Here, we see Kate next to the old Nevins homestead. There’s a trail that leads straight to it, so if you’re ever in the Pine Ridge Ranger District area you should check it out. Lots of cool stuff out there.

Once they got the O-section cleared, teams made their way back to the T/A to get their bikes. Everybody seemed to be having a good time, and my nerves were finally starting to settle down. Most people were glad to see the food/gatorade station too, and a few of them paused here to refuel and chill for a bit. Robby and I were already hard at work making sure the beer we were providing at the finish line was fresh and tasty.

If you look at that photo, you’ll notice Emma using a stick as a crutch. She twisted her ankle early in the day while volunteering at the race. You’ll also notice that Kate’s about to head-butt me in the ass… I’m not sure what that’s all about.

I guess it was all the stress and caffeine that forced me to take a break from non-race directing so I could handle other, more important business…

Apparently I wasn’t hidden in the woods as well as I thought. As you can see from the photo below, this was clearly a disturbing sight. Even young Ethan seems mortified…

…Sorry, mom.

After leaving the TA, non-racers rode a short connector trail leading them southward to the next o-section. There was a large tree fallen across the trail, so Robby and I took turns beating the shit out of it until it finally broke into small enough pieces to clear from the trail. We got it finished just in time, and took the opportunity to get a few quality photos.

I like how you can see the chunks of wood in the background of that photo. We worked our asses off getting that thing off the trail!!

Here’s another good shot of Super Kate, who had run 21 miles the previous day:

It was obvious by now that the race was going to take a lot longer than we had planned. We had hoped everyone would be finishing in a 6-8 hour time frame, but that wasn’t going to happen. Most everyone had to skip over the 2nd orienteering section in order to finish before dark. This was especially disappointing since so much work had gone into laying out this section of the race. There was a lot of scenic real-estate people didn’t get to see, and that kinda sucked. I REALLY wish you guys could’ve done that section. I guess the good news is that we can use those same checkpoints for a later non-race.

I received word that our good friend Travis Hammons had suffered a catastrophic bicycle malfunction involving his front derailleur. The poor guy rode several miles of gravel in his granny-gear before I tracked him down and drove him to the finish. I can only hope he enjoyed the parts of the race he got to experience.

Team Snail Trail ran into some issues of their own. Navigational blunders and  repeated flat tires crushed their hopes of Deuce victory, and they too had to take a DNF.  The good news is that Team Virtus never leaves a man behind, so we sent out a car to pick them up and return them to race HQ. At least the Fail Trail would be ridden from the comfort of a heated vehicle. On the ride home, there was a bit of discussion as to the accuracy of our maps and where the CP’s were plotted. I assured Corey & Phil that each checkpoint had been triple-checked with a GPS to ensure accuracy and that the additional trail maps we provided before the race would have been very helpful. It got really quiet in the car, but the smell was one I won’t soon forget.

When I dropped the guys off, we discovered that someone had stolen a cyclocross bike right off the back of Corey’s truck earlier in the day. Right away, those of us at HQ set out to find it. Our efforts were fruitless and it was a blight on an otherwise great day. I really hated to have this happen. We put a lot of work into making this a fun event and it’s a shame that some asshole tried to take a shit on the Deuce. If you’re the thief and you’re reading this report, fuck you.

Meanwhile, the last 3 non-racers were still out on the course battling it out for first place. After leaving the 2nd mystery event, they followed a piece of singletrack to a gravel road. The road goes sharply downhill to a bridge, where the next CP was tucked away.

We had to put the marker somewhere less visible, so it wouldn’t be stolen or tampered with. We dropped it about 10 feet below the bridge on a piece of string. After they got this checkpoint, racers had to turn around and go right back up the giant hill we sent them down. We did it just to be assholes:)

From there, there was a series of moderately challenging gravel climbs until a casual 8-mile gravel ride to the finish. I believe Derrick was the first non-racer to cross the brown smudge and claim the title of “Deucemaster”. This isn’t the best finish-line photo we’ve ever seen, but it’s clear that Mr. Boos is ready to load up his gear and grab a cold beer.

It couldn’t have been longer than a minute before Luke and Kate came rolling through the finish. Now here’s a woman who knows how to have a photo taken:

I will mention once more that Kate ran 21 miles the day before this non-race. Seriously, she’s  a brunette version of Wendy Davis. We’re currently begging Kate to race with us in a 4-person co-ed AR later this year. We offered her a $50,000 sign-on bonus, so we’ll see what happens there. If we can get her signed on, all we have to do is get her a  big enough pack to carry all of our stuff. Very impressive woman, that one.

Becca and Otis seemed pretty happy to see their old man at the finish line. It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t mention that Becca was kind enough to bring a cooler FULL of foil-wrapped baked potatoes for anyone volunteering or racing. Did I mention she also brought a huge crockpot of rotel dip?  That’s what I call finish-line food!! Thank you Becca.

 So now that everyone’s race was done, it was time to sit around and drink a beer or two. Or twelve. A lot of people had brought food for after the race, so we had quite the spread. I have no idea why we don’t have photos of the food, but I definitely remember eating  a heavy plate of Ro-tel and nachos with my baked potato. Here we see everyone chilling out while Corey fills out a police report for his stolen bike. Phil and Travis had to leave early, so we went ahead and drank their beer for them.

What happened next was something that Luke and I had been anticipating for months. Ever since we started racing, we have always thought it would be great if there were some sort of award for the people who don’t “win”. I think we’d all like to run 4-minute miles and ride 100 miles in 5 hours, but that’s not reality for most people. We’ve always had more respect for the teams who beat the cutoff by 10 seconds sprinting it out for 47th place.  After all, if you finish a 12 hour endurance race in 6 hours, what have you really endured?

So, we decided to create such an accolade. We would select the racer or team we thought had shown the most “Virtus-like” behavior and present them with a trophy.  But what would the trophy be? The answer was simple… a Beaver Stick. Next, the trophy would have to have a cool name. This was something we worked on for quite a while. We wanted the name to represent our team, BUT we also needed it to have a Deuce-related theme. I believe it was Luke who finally concluded that the name would be………the SHAT.

S.H.A.T. stands for “Strength and Honor Achievement Trophy. I know, it’s totally badass, right?

Speaking of badass…check out this photo.

After the non-race was over, Luke and I spoke briefly about who deserved the SHAT the most. Between Kate and Derrick, I just didn’t know, and neither did he. Each racer had shown a rock-solid positive attitude all day. There was simply no way to choose one person over the other, so we decided to change the rules. The Deuce would have 2 SHAT winners. We gave Kate the Beaver Stick, and told Derrick he could go to The Brick House Deli and choose his own Beaver Stick. All he had to do was tell them he needed the Team Virtus discount. It all worked out perfectly.

After everyone left, Luke and I reflected on the day’s events and talked about what we can do to make next year’s non-race even better. I think our biggest opportunity for improvement will be judging how long the course takes to complete, cuz  we definitely screwed that up. That being said, we’d much rather have the race be too long than too short. I believe Luke got some info from Kelly Sumner from Off Road Fixation for solving this problem, so it shouldn’t happen again.

All things considered, the Deuce was a great success. From a non-racer’s stand-point, the race was FREE, we had more schwag than we could give away, the course was legit, and everyone left for home with a full stomach and a story to tell. We even offered shower services, for crying out loud. Depending on how you look at it, you might even say that someone got a free cyclocross bike at our race, but I guess that’s not really funny.

From a Team Virtus stand-point, we worked together to create an event we can all be very proud of. Each member of the team, present on raceday or not, contributed in some way. Except Adam…he was with his girlfriend at some kind of couples retreat. What an asshole. Adam, you’re fired from the team until further notice.

I love doing that.

I have to say that directing a non-race was pretty stressful. The planning, the agonizing over what CP’s to keep and which ones to get rid of, where to put transition areas, hoping the weather would hold, worrying if the race would be lame…it took its toll on my nerves in the days leading up to the race. I had a lot of anxiety about whether or not people would even show up, and then when they did show up I was nervous about whether or not they were having fun. After the nerves wore off and I could see that things were going smoothly, I really enjoyed myself. None of the positive things that happened on raceday would have been possible without my team-mates, friends and family. You guys are all awesome. I think the fact that we had so many volunteers is proof that people believe in what we’re doing, and I can’t wait to see how this thing grows.

Don’t forget to read Kate’s report, and check out the rest of the photos here and here.

Be there next time, cuz all of your friends will be:)

Prelude Deuce Report

3 years ago I “competed” in the first annual CXMAS non-race put on by our friends at Team Seagal. It was 8 degrees below zero with the windchill and when my sweat got into the fabric of my jacket, it actually froze. It was certainly an epic ride, and one I’ll likely never forget. All non-racers were rewarded for their efforts with one of these:


That, my friends is a spoke-card. I like to think of it as a cool scar; something that shows where my bike and I have been and what we’ve done. I look at that photo and I’m able to recount the day’s events: the bitter cold, the bomber downhills, and trying to draft Pete Goode for 10 miles down the Katy Trail. Mostly, I remember being impressed at how the members of Team Seagal functioned as a unit to make the event so seamless.

The Godfathers of non-racing. Matching jackets and everything!!!

A spoke card wasn’t all I got that day. I left with a free PBR hat, PBR t-shirt and 12 pack of beer. Needless to say, I was a happy camper. There were something like 25 riders that year. Sadly, I took no photos.

 In 2009, the race was anything but underground. Over 140 people showed up, donated money to GORC and had a great ride. Luke’s wife had a kidney stone, so he stayed home.

CXMAS is a festive painfest. Whiskey, cupcakes and bacon abound. I remember being offered various brands of delicious whiskey and enjoying them all…before the race even started. I don’t remember ever crashing, but I do remember being drunk, lost, and having nothing to drink other than a camelbak full of bourbon and Pepsi.  You might say I got a little bit dehydrated.

At long last, I came to the manned checkpoint where each rider had to drink at least one cup of eggnog. My good friends, Sir Mason Storm and “Lawman” Jim Davis were manning the cups, so I was obliged to hang out for a bit. They told me Nick Smith had the current nogg record at 5 cups. Well, I just couldn’t let that happen. I drank five and felt good, five more and I was feeling full. After 12, I knew i was eventually going to puke so I went for broke. After 15 cups of disgusting egg nog, I called it done, joined a group of riders and pedaled a few miles to the finish. Along the way…there was epic vomiting.

Mr Storm was raining eggnog. (See what I did there?)

When I crossed the finish line I was awarded with a pair of speakers for my efforts. I didn’t know it was a legit contest with prizes so I was thrilled, especially considering I was one of the last riders to clear the course.

Pictured here w/ Mike Bobelak who donated the speakers, Wendy on the left

Needless to say, CXMAS is a non-race I look forward to every year. The routes are always well planned, fun and challenging. The event is FREE, the schwag’s  endless and the beer is free. Sadly, Adam Hempelmann crushed my nogg record in 2010. Personally, I think it’s bullshit that any man with huge pectoral muscles and 6-pack abs is able to consume that much nogg in one sitting. He probably has an enormous penis too, the bastard.  I’ll get you in 2011, Hempelmann.

 A Team Seagal non-race is a lot like a family reunion, minus the fried chicken and awkward forgetting of names. You always leave with more friends than you came with, and there’s always a story to tell….a badass story about bourbon, bacon and the geysers of egg-nog I saw shooting out of Luke’s face last year. You should have seen it.

So why am I telling you this? Two reasons, actually:

1. So you will be at CXMAS next year.

2. To give credit where credit is due

Team Seagal brought non-racing to Missouri. We’re just trying to help carry the torch and spread the love. And now that your history lesson is over we can finally talk about “The Deuce”…..tomorrow.




“Du” or “Du” Not, There Was No “Tri” – The 2011 Flower City Challenge Race Report

***WARNING***This report is a little short on pictures.  I wasn’t planning on writing a race report and didn’t carry a camera on the course with me.  It was a short race and what could I possibly have to write about?  Well, Luke talked me into writing a quick race report.  You have all heard the saying,
“A picture is worth a thousand words”, well since I am short on pictures, I made up for it with several thousand extra words.  Enjoy…

It has been an unseasonably cold spring thus far where I live, even by Upstate New York standards.  Plus, it has been raining almost non-stop for over a week with flash floods and rivers flooding a common occurrence.  Not only has this hindered my training this year but as I found out earlier this week it could lead to the possible cancellation of the paddling leg of the paddle triathlon I was planning on attempting this weekend.  If canceled, how would the event be run?  What kind of race would I be running?  Would the event be canceled entirely?  Thursday night when I checked my email inbox I found an email entitled Important Paddle Tri Update!   I anxiously opened the email, fearing the worst and found answers to all of my questions…

Important Paddle Triathlon Update

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hello Paddle Tri Participant,

Due to the extreme velocity and volume of the water flow of the Genesee River, the paddle portion of the triathlon will be canceled.  The event will now be a duathlon (run/bike/run) for everyone…

…Average river flow for this time of season is 4620 cfs (cubic feet per second, which is about half a million pounds). River flow for the event last year (April 24, 2010) was 1880 cfs. Current flow is up to 11,300 cfs and is expected to continue to increase to 12,000 cfs, about 3.5 ft per second velocity.

Not only is flow impressive, but there is a substantial amount of debris, trees, flotsam, etc. moving along the river with enormous size, that also is a concern for personal safety.

Genesse River Triathlon / Duathlon

This is where the paddle was supposed to have happened, this is not a picture from the day of the event, the water level was much higher and the leaves have only started to bud. It would have been a great place for the paddle...maybe next year.

It looked like they waited as long as possible before canceling the paddle leg, hoping Mother Nature would cooperate, but she once again flipped me the bird.  So much for my strategy of making up the time I lost while running the 5k with a great paddle leg.  I was thinking the recent rain might actually enhance my race performance.  I figured that I had more upper body strength than most of the other racers and was a decent paddler so maybe I could use this to my benefit in the 1.5 mile upstream portion of the paddle.  The extra weight I would have to lug around the 5k course might actually help in the paddle portion of the race.

Once I got a look at the Genesee River (yes that is supposedly where the water that gives Genesee Beer, Genesee Light Beer, and Genesee Cream Ale (one of Luke’s favorite) it’s great taste comes from) as high as it was, my mind flashed back to the torturous up river pack raft paddle on the Rock River during the Thunder Rolls Adventure Race last fall.  I knew I was capable of safely navigating the river and might even have climbed a few positions in the rankings.  However, I was fine with not having to horse my kayak upriver with the water flowing as quickly as it was.

I now was lumped into the race with true Duathletes that have been training to run 2 5k’s sandwiched around a 20 mile bike ride while I, on the other hand, have been training for just 1 5k and a leisurely paddle on the river.  Plus, since this race was lacking a Clydesdale division (for us big-boned, husky racers that are over 200 pounds), I would be competing with many people who weighed a fraction of my 235 pounds.  I still was upbeat and planned to try my best.

After reviewing the times from the 2010 race and speaking with Dragon (Luke) about what I should expect for my race time and splits I came up with some goals.  I decided that I was looking at around 2 hours and 15 minutes as a target for the whole race.  2 hours and 30 minutes was my absolute cut off for an acceptable time.  Anything over this (barring multiple flat tires) and I would consider my race a failure.  My secret, stretch goal (you are now the first to know my stretch goal) was to break the 2 hour mark.  I felt it was realistically in my wheel house considering my current level of conditioning if I had a good race.

I figured I’d run around a 25 minute 5k, a 75 minute 20 mile bike ride, followed by another 25 minute 5k.  I also had budgeted 2 minutes per transition.  If I hit my targeted times I would cross the finish line in about 2 hours and 9 minutes.  This would allow for some wiggle room for each leg of a minute or two and still allow me to hit my 2 hour and 15 minute goal.  Usually when I race I do it just for fun, for a reason to run or compete, or a chance to spend some time with friends and family.  I usually show up and go out without a targeted or expected result.  However, since I was a team of one, I thought I’d try something a little different.  For this race, I had a target finish time and was enjoying shooting for a goal and pushing myself to beat my target time.  This was different, this was challenging, this was fun.

Friday night I checked the weather report and race day was looking ideal.  It was going to be in the low 40’s for the start of the race and climbing in the upper 40’s or possibly the low 50’s by the end of the race.  They were predicting little chance of rain (I think 10%), sunny, and a 5-10 mph wind.  I have been reading a book by Dean Karnazes (50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days – How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance!) and he mentions a study that alluded to the low 40’s being the ideal temperature for performing your best during a marathon.  While this wasn’t an actual marathon we would be covering the distance of the marathon.  Great, I had ideal weather and now just had to perform in the morning at my expected level.  If I fell short of my goal, I couldn’t blame the Mother Nature.

Then I quickly got my gear together and was ready for bed early for a night before a race.  Usually, I have a rules meeting where I am given maps and directions.  Then I have to drive out to the middle of nowhere to drop off my bike.  Upon returning, I would have to plot points (or watch Dragon do it), pack gear, check mandatory equipment, annoy Dragon a bit (Editor’s Note: This should say “annoy the crap out of Dragon”), and finally crawl into my sleeping bag just hours before I had to get up to get to the starting line at 6:00 or 7:00 am.  I was ready much quicker on the night before this race than I am for most races.

Was I forgetting something?  I checked what I needed… bike?  …check.  Bike shoes?  …check.  Bike helmet?  …check.  Running shoes?  …check.  The clothes I was wearing in the morning?  …check. Water bottle and a Honey Stinger Waffle?  …check.  My race bib and bike number?  …check.  That was all that I needed for this race and I had it all laid out and ready to go.  So, I Hydropelled my feet and thighs and went to bed for a good night’s sleep.

I awoke (I had to pee) about 4:50 am.  I climbed back into bed but couldn’t go back to sleep.  So, I got up and started my race morning protocol (poop, whole wheat toast with natural peanut butter and honey, a PowerAde zero and get dressed).  Then my lovely wife Lauren drove me to Rochester (30 minutes away) for the race.

Once I was there, I went through the usual pre-race dance.  As I walked into the transition area I was assigned a timing anklet and instructed to put it on my faster ankle.  Unsure which leg was actually faster I put it on my right ankle (I am right handed and punt with that leg so I figured it must be faster).  Then, I set up my area in the transition area (Like the rookie I was I had my bike on the rack wrong, not exactly wrong but I was planning on coming up to my bike on the wrong side).  Next I had to take another poop, decide what I was going to wear, warm up, and slam a Spike.

It was a crisp, cool morning with a slight breeze.  I felt a bit cool standing around and wondered how cold I would feel once I was running and biking?  I decided that I would wear long sleeves, so I stripped down bare chested (woof) and put on my thin merino wool shirt.  I walked around a bit and looked around checking out the competition.  There appeared to be some serious competitors, so I took notice of their clothing choices.  Some were wearing long sleeves, some had arm warmers, and others had wind breakers and even a light weight fleece.  I think one guy was going shirtless (or maybe he was just showing off or trying to figure out what to wear).  Then I looked around some more and saw some short sleeves, some sleeveless jerseys, some with a singlet like suit, and a couple in costume (I wish I took a picture of team TMNT, they were a 4 person team and all in costume).  I was warming up quickly so I decided to strip down again (double woof) and go back to my short sleeved shirt.  Or maybe I was just showing off (not sure exactly what I would be showing off…my beer gut, my chest pubes?)

I was now ready for the race to start.  They shortly announced to clear the transition area and start heading to the starting line for the start of the race in 10 minutes.  I headed over.  While waiting for the race to start, I chatted a bit with several friendly racers.  Then I realized that I had to pee.  I looked around and the nearest bathroom was a good 200 yards away and I only had about 5 minutes before the race started.  I scanned the area for a place to discretely relieve myself…Nothing.  I couldn’t spot anywhere to take a leak near the starting line.  However, I did notice several police officers and wondered if they’d cut me some slack for urinating in public.  I decided against risking a ticket and not racing and figured I’d take care of business when the chance presented itself (hopefully sooner rather than later).

5…4…3…2…1…GO!  The race had started.

We took off, and I was feeling pretty good.  I was running almost effortlessly and enjoying the moment.  After a couple of minutes, as the pack was thinning out a bit, I glanced down at my watch and saw I was running a 7 minute 22 second pace.  I felt like I could maintain this pace for the duration of the race and set a PR for a 5k (I have only run 1 other 5k).  However, I wasn’t running a 5k.  I thought about it for a bit and decided that it was a long race and that I should pace myself, at least for the time being.  I slowed down to around an 8 minute 30 second pace (I knew I could do this without bonking).

The run was enjoyable and really beautiful.  The entire course was within the park’s boundaries.  The run was pretty uneventful except for when I decided I wanted a drink of water.  I took a cup of water from a volunteer at one of the aid stations.  Getting it was not a problem, the hand off went smoothly.  It clearly wasn’t the volunteer’s first rodeo.  However, drinking it was a different story.  I was on my own here and the volunteer couldn’t really help me.  I am pretty sure that this was the first time I had ever tried to drink out of a cup while running.  You think it would be easy right?  It wasn’t as easy as I had anticipated.  I went to take a drink and almost drowned myself.  I got only a couple of swallows of water and discarded the cup in the cup pile.  I would recommend a couple of practice drinks before you try it during a race if you have never done it before.

The course meandered through the park and crossed the Genesee River several times.  The water was really moving and to be honest I was a little glad that I would not have to paddle 1.5 miles upstream later in the race (it would have been the last 1.5 miles of the race).  I was feeling strong and was even looking forward to the second 5k…

The mileage of the first run leg was 3.18 (view course here) and my split was an easy 26 minutes and 23 seconds (an average speed of 7.23 mph or 8 minute 17.8 seconds per mile).  It wasn’t a PR but I was still feeling good and still on pace to reach my target finishing time.  Goal accomplished on the first leg, now to get in and out of the TA in less than 2 minutes.

My first transition went fairly smoothly.  I found my bike, changed my shoes, ate a Honey Stinger Waffle, took a big drink of water, threw my helmet on, and headed to the TA exit (you had to walk/run your bike not ride out of the TA to the bike mount zone).  As I was leaving the TA I headed 90 degrees to my right (the course was 90 degrees to the left).  A helpful volunteer tried to redirect me.  I told him I had to pee and was headed to the port-a-potty across the way.  I dropped my bike and ran to the bathroom.  Finally, I was able to relieve myself even though it would cost me a good 45 seconds on the bike leg since my clock had already started as I left the TA.  I ran back to my bike and took off at a good pace.  I was feeling good and ready to reel some of my fellow racers in.  ***NOTE – Only thing I missed at the TA was I forgot to put on my bike shorts, luckily this didn’t cause me any issues later in the race and probably saved me a little time.

Flower City Challenge

Me transitioning (this was actually during the second transition)

I was hauling ass on Tron (my Jake-The-Snake cyclo-cross bike) as soon as I began to peddle.  Tron was one of quite a few other cross bikes in the race and one of at least 3 Jakes that I saw during the bike leg.  There also were a handful of mountain bikes entered in the race, but most riders were on road bikes.  However, I was the only one that I saw riding a cross bike with off road cross tires (I should have invested in a pair of road slicks for my bike – next race I think I will).  I began to pass people at a surprisingly quick rate.  Was I heading out too fast?  Was I going to bonk hard, as the saying goes?

I felt good, so I kept on pushing the pace a bit.  The ride was great, but it was much hillier than I anticipated.  After passing a good 50 people, I settled in with a group of riders that were riding around my pace.  There were men, women, young, old, first starters (first start time), and second starters (second start time).  We took turns passing each other, each with their own strengths and everybody racing their own race.  I thought of the advantages of a pace line and wished for my Virtus teammates.  We rocked the pace line earlier in the month at the Lightning Strikes Adventure Race and would be crushing this leg of the race together, if they were here.

I passed many of my peloton on the bigger climbs and they in turn would catch me on the flats.  One guy always seemed to pass me on the big climbs, and as he passed me, he would say that he’d see me on the next flat area.  I’d bomb down the hills and cruise on the flats and eventually catch and pass him.  I’d return the comment by stating that I’d see him on the next hill.  He’d smile, drop back a bit, and then pass me on the next climb.  We did this for the rest of the bike leg.

My group of riders would spread out at times and then bunch up and we’d all be together again.  We passed another 10-20 riders as a group and were occasionally passed by a faster biker.  One time when we were spread out I saw a shadow creeping up on me.  I looked over, expecting to see one of my peloton, and saw a new biker passing me.  He looked hardcore and had on one of those aerodynamic, racing bike helmets that matched his bibs and jersey.  Plus, he was laid down on his handlebars and was keeping up a quick pedal cadence.  He glanced at me, and I said, “You’re only passing me because of your helmet.” And then I smiled and nodded at him.  He was not amused and decided to pick up the pace and put some distance between us.

I was tempted to give chase but figured it was hopeless since I was catching so much wind in my regular helmet (Plus I still had a ways to go and didn’t want to bonk).  I let him go on his way, but I had a big smile on my face for the next couple of miles.  I think I might have to get myself one of those helmets for the next race.  Do you think it would help much during a mountain bike or adventure race?  Maybe it would help me go faster during the paddle.  Just think how fast our pace line would move if we all had aerodynamic racing helmets.  They could get progressively smaller from the leader to the caboose.  We’d be one large aerodynamic helmet train.  I apologize for not having any pictures but I wasn’t carrying my camera this race.

This isn't an actual picture of the rider that passed me on race day but I swear this is what he looked like...I've got to get me a helmet like that. I'd probably shave 5-10 seconds off my 20 mile split (plus I'd look sexier).

The ride was going pretty smoothly, and I was maintaining a surprisingly quick pace for the amount of limited training I have been doing as of late.  Our group once again bunched up as we crossed a major intersection where the police had kindly stopped all traffic for us.  We were in a tight little group taking up about half of the right lane of traffic (2 or 3 bikers deep) when a black car came flying by us, surprisingly close.  Then it slowed down and a jack hole leaned out the passenger window and started yelling at us.

He asked us if we were “F—ing stupid” and did we want to get “F—ing” killed.  In my head I answered no to each question.  Then he yelled that we should get off the f—ing road.  He was yelling some more garbage when the rider in front of me flipped him off.  The yahoo in the car went off, flipped us the bird, and began yelling some more obscenities and telling us he was pulling over and would be waiting for us up ahead.  I told the guy in front of me that I had his back, not to worry about it.

Then a girl behind me pulled up alongside me and said what an A—Hole that guy was.  I said I kind of hoped he would and that I’d throw his ass into the river (we were biking alongside the Genesee River).  She laughed and then pulled ahead of me a bit.  I assumed she thought I was joking, I was not.  The car drove away and we didn’t see them again.  I was thinking that I probably could have taken care of business and still made my goal of 2 hour and 15 minutes because I felt as if I was crushing the bike leg so far.  As we came around the corner we had another major crossing that was manned by a couple of local police officers.  I looked around and couldn’t see the car and didn’t think to get his license plate number.  I let it go but happily used the little adrenaline surge it had provided me to keep pushing the pace.

(Editor’s Note: I’d like to remind you that Casey is a professional MMA fighter.  That guy has no clue how close he was to getting his ass handed to him.  What a jerk!)

My little peloton stuck together and passed a handful of bikers over the last couple of miles.  There were tons of volunteers along the course, which was well marked and easily followed (I also always had many bikes in front of me to follow).  Finally, we were directed into the final turn and came into the TA for our final transition.  I was still feeling pretty good as I jumped off my bike.  When I hit the ground, though, my legs felt a little squishy.  Almost like I was still biking and not walking.  It was kind of like when you roller skate all afternoon and when you finally take your skates off and walk for the first time and feel as if you are still skating.  Most of my brick training (training multiple disciplines consecutively) was running to bike.  This was how I trained and what I planned for this race…Run…Bike…Paddle.  Now I would have to run again for the first time in my racing (and training experience).

Flower City Duathlon Bike Leg

Coming in from the bike leg - that's me on Tron between a couple of people

The mileage of the bike leg was 20.04 miles (view course here), and my split was a surprising 1 hour 6 minutes and 29 seconds (an average speed of 18.09 mph or 3 minutes and 32 seconds per mile).  I have never raced 20 miles before so I guess I set a PR for a 20 mile bike ride.  This split and these times are with my 40-45 second pee break included since there were no bathrooms in the TA and you had to leave it to reach a bathroom.  Once you leave the TA your split time was started.  Now for a quick transition then the final running leg.

Bike to Run Transition

Transitioning from the bike to the run on "squishy legs" - I was opening the Stinger Honey Waffle (they are awesome!)

This transition was a little different, and my legs were pretty numb.  I put my bike up, changed shoes, took a swig of water and headed out.  I still couldn’t really feel my legs as I exited the TA and my final leg time started.  I told my legs to run and my leg muscles remembered the task and begrudgingly obliged.  As I headed out, I took a cup of water from an enthusiastic volunteer and did better this time.  I was able to drink it a little better while running, and I didn’t even choke.  I threw the cup in the cup pile and headed up the incline and over the Genesee River yet again.

It was clear to the volunteers that I was a runner now.  As I passed some volunteers, I thanked them and they cheered me on.  A couple of volunteers seemed surprised to see a man of my “husky” stature so early.  I heard, “…a big guy…” accompanied by clapping, I received a couple of startled looks.  I hoped it was because a “big boned” guy was doing half way decent in the race and not because something was hanging out the bottom of my shorts.  It gave me a little surge, and I picked it up a bit.  I appreciated their efforts and responded by increasing mine.

Leaving the transition area after the bike.

You can see me leaving the TA on numb legs, it felt like I was still biking.

Still on phantom legs, I plodded on.  Around 7 tenths of a mile into the run I began to feel my legs again.  They were telling me that they weren’t too happy with me and seemed to question the need to continue and slowed the pace slightly.  I was a little pissed at my legs and willed them to move at the pace I was trying to maintain. I knew I could run this pace and wouldn’t accept a slower one.  My gait might have been a little stiff and might have looked a little awkward but it was working and I was moving towards the finish line.   My legs ached but continued to turn over at an acceptable rate and each step I took was one less I would have to take to get the finish line.

Running at the Flower City Challenge

I think this is where my legs got their feeling back and were a little stiff.

Somewhere around 1.5 miles into this running leg, my legs came back to life.  They had feeling, they weren’t hurting, and they were beginning to pick the pace up, and the run was once again fun and enjoyable.  I felt like I could run at this pace for much longer than I had left to race.  In hind sight, this is where I should have stepped up the pace, but I was afraid the reprieve from my recent dead leg syndrome would be short-lived, and since this was my first race of this type, I didn’t want to hit the dreaded wall.  So I kept my usual consistent pace.  I passed a few runners and was passed by a couple others.  We crossed back over the Genesee River again and started the final stretch of the race.

Once again, looking back, I should have stepped up the pace for this last bit.  Finally, when I could see the finish line in the distance I began to kick it in a bit and passed another runner as we approached the finished line.  Another runner had the same idea and kicked it in as well.  He too passed the other runner with me.  He then challenged me down the shoot and I did what I thought I would never do. I let him cross half a step in front of me.

I felt like I could have kicked it in and beaten him across the line, but I let him go.  I am not really sure why I did this, and I was a little angry at myself for not sprinting across the line ahead of him.  At the very least, I should have made him really earn it.  I am pretty sure that he was actually several minutes ahead of me since he appeared to be several years older than me (I was just under the cut off for the first start) and I had a several minute head start on him since he started in the second group.  I guess I need to race more and get more experience.  Next time I will beat everybody near me across the finish line or else make them really earn crossing the finish line ahead of me.

Finishing the Flower City Challenge Duathlon

Entering the shoot, feeling strong and ready to keep going.

The mileage of the final run leg was 2.8 miles (view course here) and my final split, dead legs and all, was a very surprising …wait for it…wait for it… (Rat Baxter flashback)…wait for it…23 minutes and 51 seconds (an average speed of 7.22 mph or 8 minutes and 18.6 seconds per mile).  In case you haven’t been keeping a running total of all my splits, my total time was 2 hours 0 minutes and 27 seconds.  I beat my minimum goal, I beat my realistic goal, and I missed my stretch goal by a lousy 27 seconds.

If I didn’t have to stop and take a leak I would have beaten my stretch goal.  In hindsight I feel as if I could have made that up on the final running leg.  1 second faster per mile and each transition and I beat my stretch goal.  I had a watch on and was timing each leg.  However, I made the mistake of not keeping a running total.  My watch, a Garmin Forerunner 310XT, is capable of this feat, but I have yet to learn how to use that function.  I will learn how to do so before a multi-discipline race where GPS watches are allowed (they are not allowed in orienteering or adventure races).

Crossing the finish line

Look closely and you'll see me cross the finish line and the clock is 2 seconds faster than my posted finish did I get a 2 second penalty?

My first attempt at a duathlon (actually I was trying to do a paddle triathlon) was mostly a success.  I was mad that I missed my stretch goal by only 27 seconds, but after thinking about it for a while I am (or at least should be) happy that I only missed my stretch goal by 27 seconds.  It was a lofty expectation given the training I put into preparing for this race.  I knew that I could have done better if I trained a little more.  I know that I could have broken the 2 hour mark and will smash it on my next attempt.

How did my just over 2 hour performance hold up to the competitors?  Well, I was 16th out of 26 in my division (Male 35-39) and 135th out of 380 racers (many were 2, 3, or 4 person teams).  View official results here.

After the race, I had a banana, a couple of cookies, pretzels with peanut butter, a hotdog and diet coke (that I shared with my kids).  They had come out to support me.  I had no idea they were there until I crossed the finish line and saw them headed my way.  I wish that I had seen them during the race; I think it would have provided me with a much-needed energy boost.  During the race I saw some kids and spouses standing along the route with “Go Daddy” or “Go Mommy” signs.  These signs and the anxious looks on their faces made me smile and picked me up a bit.  Had I caught a glimpse of my kids at the last TA, maybe I would have been sub 2 hours (hey, you never know).  Or maybe I would have called it a day and taken them to the blow up obstacle course.  During Adventure races, there really aren’t many places for friends and family to view you since most of the race route is unspecified and determined by the racers.

After the race and once I was reunited with my family (sans Austin, he was working the tables at a wrestling tournament), we walked around a bit while I munched on a banana and a couple of cookies provided by the race.  We drank some water and watched the kids climb on a free obstacle course that was set up at the finish area.  After several trips through the obstacle course we coerced the kids to head to the other side of the finish area.  We shared my post race hot dog and diet coke and headed to the TA to get all of my belongings.  As we were packing up some people were still coming in, we clapped for them and offered words of encouragement.   We headed back to the car as a family with Colton and Joselyn mounted together on Tron as I pushed them to the parking area (it was mostly uphill).

Colton and Josie contemplating taking on the obstacle course.

Colton on obstacle course

Colton rose to the challenge and smoked the course (they wouldn't let me do it).

It was a great race, a great experience.  My first foray into the Duathlon Venue was a success and a very enjoyable experience.  I will be doing another one in the near future.  The race was well run, and a huge thank you goes out to Fleet Feet and Yellow Jacket Racing for putting on such a quality event in the Rochester area.  A sincere thank you to all of the generous race sponsors.  The success of this event is in a big part due to the hours many volunteers unselfishly give to help wherever they are needed.  A thank you to all the volunteers, you make these types of events possible.  I’ll be back for next year’s race (hopefully the Tri) and encourage you to come out and give it a “Tri” with me, I gaurantee you’ll have a good time.  I hope to see you there!

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