LSAR 2011 – The Lightning Strikes Race Report

***NOTE: Be sure to check out Bob’s report from the High Profile Adventure Camp leading up to this race.  You can find it right here. Now onto the race report.***

The night before the race,  we sat and listened to adventure racing stories as told by Robin Benincasa. As we listened, I wondered what would be bestowed upon us the next day. Because up to this point, the only bad experience I had encountered was sharing a small cabin with 10 other guys and a girl (I felt really sorry for her).  There was definitely some epic flatulence going on.  At approximately 11 o’clock we got our maps and it was back to the cabin to plan a route, load our bikes and get our gear together because the 5:30 bike drop was coming whether we liked it or not.

Fast forward about 4 and a half hours and it was time to get up. Yea, there isn’t anything like knowing you’re only going to get a few hours of sleep just to get up and do 8 hours of  endurance racing, not to mention the gas war that took place between WTF and Team Virtus.

At 5:30, Luke and Bob headed to the bike drop as I continued to drag my ass around getting ready for the race. I constantly questioned if I had too much or too little gear. Not knowing what to expect, I relied on the sage wisdom of the rest of my team to guide me.  With the 7:00 start time inching ever closer, I stuck with what I had and made my way to the dining hall.

Before the start of the race we posed for a few pictures, two of which were with camp director Gerry Voelliger and Robin Benincasa.

Team Virtus and Gerry Voelliger ( And Adam Laffoon)

Team Virtus and Robin Benincasa- (and Adam Laffoon)

With the start of the race looming, it was time to get our heads together and our butts to the back of the pack, so as to avoid the carnage that was about to ensue.

As the countdown from 10 started, you could feel the excitement. Once we started, we had to run a couple hundred yards to get the canoes and carry them about a half a mile to the river. Pretty much only one thing went into the selection of our crafts and that was no-yellow-canoes.   I for one did not feel like swimming this early in the morning. You know, come to think of it I didn’t want to do any swimming…period.

Casey:  I was so glad that we were able to secure a canoe that was not a tippy-ass yellow banana.

Luke: I hate those damn, yellow boats!

Bob: Echo that. It was hard not to laugh when we’d see other people going in. Check out this photo, you can actually see the water starting to pour over the side.

Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!!

We carried our canoes for what seemed like hours, but I’m sure that had more to do with the lack of sleep than the actual weight.

Carrying the canoes

We “strategically” placed our canoe next to the river in a spot that would make for an easy put-in if we arrived at the same time as a few other teams. After that,  we were on foot for the first 3 checkpoints.

As we wandered off into the woods to search for the first of 24 checkpoints, we  exchanged witty banter and talked of what the day would bring. At this point in the race as I’m sure you can imagine there were some bottlenecks at the checkpoints.

Bottleneck at CP1

With the superior navigation skills of our fearless leader, we made haste through the first 3 checkpoints with no concern except for the paddling I knew would be coming soon.

Luke: Technically, we were racing as two teams of two.  So, I’m not sure to whom you are referring when you say “our fearless leader.”  I really hope you’re not describing Casey in such a manner.

Up until the day before, I had only been in a canoe on a float trip and I mean, really, who actually paddles or, for that matter gives a damn if their canoe flips on a float trip? The day before the race, we were only in a flooded area of the Mississippi and there weren’t any rapids or real danger of the canoe tipping. Somewhere in the depths of my soul, I had a feeling that today would be a whole different ballgame. When we got back to the canoe put-in, We could tell by the number of remaining canoes that we were somewhere in the middle of the pack. This was good news, but there was still a lot of racing left. As we launched our canoe, we were immediately held up because about 40 yards from the launch a team flipped.

That's a hell of a way to start the day..

Once we actually started, things went pretty smoothly and we cruised down the river. We ended up passing 5 or 6 teams, one of which was our counterpart.

Casey:  You got by us when we “T-boned” another canoe that got wedged between a couple of trees in the only paddable section of the river.  We managed not to tip them or us and the bump actually helped  them straighten out a bit.  Once you passed us we gave you some space to avoid another “T-bone” (first time I ever passed up a T-bone in my life).  You guys somehow got around another canoe and we just couldn’t find the room to pass them until near the end of the paddle leg.

Luke: First of all, what does “Paddable” mean?  Secondly, it’s a race, dude.  You don’t wait for room to pass.  You MAKE room to pass.  That’s what Adam and I did.

It was really nice of Casey and Bob to let us pass them

We had to be moving at a pretty good clip. At one point, as we were coming up on a bridge we started talking about how much farther it was to the takeout, but just past the bridge we could see other teams taking their canoes out of the water. We both said there’s no way this is the end, but a guy standing up on the bridge heard us and confirmed that it was. We were amazed by how quickly it went and the best part is that we stayed upright the whole way.

Luke and Adam pulling away

We did have to get our feet wet to get the canoe out of the water but we knew dry socks were waiting at the transition spot.  We changed our shoes and put on socks  as we waited for what seemed forever (it was only a few minutes) for Bob and Casey.

Bob and Casey coming ashore

Casey:  Look at Bob’s newly aquired (this camp) canoe securring technique.  It was so stable I was able to walk  upright in the canoe without any fear of a swim.  We’ll definitely use this technique at future races as we get on and off the water.  Nice job Bob.

After they pulled their canoe ashore and changed socks, it was on to the first bike leg.

At the first transition

Casey:  If you look in the back ground you can see the “pace center” reducing the TA time as he sprints to the CP while his team takes their time getting on fresh new socks.  Our TA times were much better this year.

Bob: They’re probably distracted by the gaping flesh wound on my knee. Holy shit, I’m hardcore

Luke: The way I remember it, Adam and I had already punched our passport because we had plenty of time while you guys were waiting for teams to let you pass them on the river.

Now this is where we expected to make up time. We knew we were going to be weak at paddling because it’s not something we practice but biking was different. We weren’t in a line like we knew we should be but we were four across, taking up the entire road. It wasn’t until Robin Benincasa and one of the race directors come up behind us and was giving us crap about not being in a pace line that we decided to take things a little more seriously. So we got in line and it was Luke leading, then myself, Bob and Casey.  Now, I’m not sure what Luke had been eating or what kind of training he had been doing but this shit was ridiculous. We hit speeds of 18 to 20 mph going down the road.

Serious paceline

Bob: Luke definitely had a rocket up his ass that day. His nutrition must’ve been spot-on.

Luke: That’s not exactly how I remember it, but hey… It sounds good, so we’ll go with it.

I don’t remember how far we had gone, but we came to a bridge and it was time to “lose some water,” so to speak.  Bob and I parked our bikes along the railing and after I relieved myself I took a drink from my water bottle.  When I went to put it back in the cage, it fell between the railing and into the river. Now, I had just put dry socks on less than an hour ago and now I had about 30 seconds to decide whether or not they would stay dry, because the current wasn’t exactly still. Now, I know you’re thinking “it’s just a water bottle,” and I could easily get another one,  but I didn’t want to lose it. I dashed down to the side of the creek and of course it’s not going to come right up by the side…no, my new Smartwool socks were going to be put to the test that day. I waded into water about mid-calf deep and snatched the bottle as my teammates showed support by laughing and snapping a photo.

Casey:  I am not a statistician, but I am willing to bet the odds of Adam somehow missing his cage as he put his water bottle away and having the bottle slip through the railing and land in the water is pretty low.  I have to admit that I did laugh at his misfortune but I assure you it was in good fun.

Me fetching my bottle

Luke: Adam took the “Leave No Trace” rule to heart.  If it was me, that bottle would have stayed in the creek.
Crisis averted and we were back on the road. Cruising along at insane speeds again, we arrived  at the next transition spot in a hurry. Time to do some hiking.

As we started off on foot we knew we the easiest route to follow would be the road and look for the first re-entry. Easy enough, right?

Bob slowing us down

 Bob: Really? Cuz that looks a lot like MY team-mate Luke kneeling on the ground.

Luke:  Indeed, that is me kneeling on the ground.  Why am I kneeling, you ask?  Because I had to get into my first aid kit to get pain killers out.  For who, you ask?  That would be Bob.

Well, as fate would have it, (and because Bob and/or Casey distracted Luke), we walked by the first reentrant and entered in the second and walked about 15 minutes before we figured out that we were going the wrong way. After back tracking to get checkpoint 9 it was smooth sailing, once again thanks to Luke’s superior navigation skills (I am legally required to say that or I get fired from the team).   We only had to hike up and down several hills to get seven more checkpoints before it was back to the bikes.

Luke:  I still feel bad about that mistake.  It was such a stupid, rookie mistake to be lulled into complacency when you think something should be easy to find.  My apologies to the team.  At least it was the only navigational error that day, and at least we caught it relatively early.

Once we were on the bikes again we had to ride back to the transition spot at the end of the paddling leg and get our pfd’s and paddles.

Packing up to head back to camp

We left with our paddles and life jackets and immediately had to go up a hill.

Saving our legs for the rope ascent

Once we started riding, it was only a few miles back to camp but we were much slower than we had been on the previous bike leg.  We made it back and ditched the bikes and headed to the cave.   The water in the creek was cold, as you can see here.

Bob freezing his nuts off...literally

Crossing the creek proved to be harder than it looked.  There were some hidden rocks, one of which I found and tripped over and ended up falling face first in the creek.

punching the passports in the cave

Luke: Even though this was my second trip into this cave, it was still just as amazing.  I freakin’ love this cave!

Each team-member’s wristband had to be punched in addition to the passports, so that meant everyone had to go in.  I don’t know why anyone would want to skip out on seeing the inside of a sweet cave like this one.  There were several bats on the walls. Some were covered in frost, and others were…well, you can judge for yourself.

bats "sleeping"

We made our way through the cave, even though in some spots it was a pretty tight fit.  We headed from the cave to collect a couple more checkpoints before we went to the ropes.

When we got to the ropes we checked how much time we had and we had well over an hour.  We had 4 more checkpoints to get and they were pretty close together.  The first section of  ropes was rappelling and it went pretty quick, even though there were several teams there at the same time.

Rappeling into the river. The ascent is directly to the left

Casey:  This was the firs time anybody rappelled and ascended this cliff.  It was great.  However, due to the fact that rappelling is a bit faster than  ascending, we ended up standing around in cold, knee-deep water as we awaited our turn to ascend. 

Bob: It was pretty cool to hang out with the volunteers and some of the other racers, but after a while I really started to feel like we might miss the cutoff.

Luke: Yeah, it was tough knowing that the minutes were ticking by as we waited for our turn.  But that’s just part of racing.  If we want to avoid bottlenecks, we need to get there first!  I was a little worried though.  Since we missed clearing the course last year by 1 CP, I REALLY, REALLY wanted to clear the course this year.

Next was the ascending wall, and it was here that the pace slowed considerably.  Priority was given to the teams that had their harnesses setup correctly, but that didn’t help us because it seemed like everyone knew what they were doing.  The minutes seemed to tick by quickly as we waited to ascend.  Once it was our turn, we climbed as fast as our legs would allow.

Bob after killing the ascent

Casey:  We lost some time on the ascend section.  This was not because of our lack of ascending skill.  I thought our technique was as good as anybody elses and we were as fast or faster than most other teams.  We lost some time because we were 2 teams of 2 travelling together as a team of four.  We ended up getting separate ropes but we didn’t start at the same time so we lost some time since we had to wait for 3 separate ascensions instead of only 2.  I think it was definitely worth the 5-10 minutes we lost here to race together as a whole team.  Maybe we made up some of the lost time by using a 4 person paceline during the bike leg.

Luke: What he said.

Although I can’t speak for everyone, my ascending form was considerably worse than the day before in practice.

Bob: I definitely didn’t feel like I had a strong ascent. I made good time, but  took several stops. I was just about exhausted at that point. Overall, I think we had a major improvement over last year, especially since we didn’t even ascend last year:).

We all made it OK and went to checkpoint 23.  It was on a little waterfall which was pretty cool.   It looks much better in person.

Bob and I coming back from CP 23

Casey:  I was the last off the ropes on the ascension and we took off running to CP 23 as soon as I was unclipped.  As we ran, I was taking my gloves off, fixing my harness, putting my pack on, and trying to catch my breath.  I finally recovered and was all straightened out as we were leaving CP 23.  I think I gave Luke a “gift” and let him hold my pack as we walked/ran to CP 23 as I messed with my harness.  Thanks Luke (or I guess you should be thanking me).

Luke: Uh… Thanks?

We only had one more checkpoint and it was to the finish line.  The only thing standing in our way of clearing the course was the zip line.  We were all hoping it would be higher and faster than the zip-line the day before, and much to our delight we weren’t disappointed.   It was a lot faster than the previous day, which unfortunately made it difficult to land on your feet at the bottom.

Luke on the zip line

Casey:  This zip line was awesome.  It was long and fast.  I planned to land on my feet gracefully but I somehow got turned around on my way down and landed on my side and butt.  I bounced a couple of times and slid in the dirt, eventually coming to a stop.  The people who zip-lined after me had to deal with the little ditch I left behind.  I quickly  hand-over-handed myself to the end of the rope, hung a leg over the zip line, unclipped and watched my teammates come down.  Adam’s landing was the landing I had planned.  He landed on both feet and jogged to a stop.  It looked like he had done it a hundred times.  Nicely done Adam, you’re back on the team.  I nominate Adam as the new team captain.

Luke:  I agree with letting Adam back on the team and even making him captain, BUT… He let me make a navigational error earlier in this race, so he is once again fired.

We all made it safely and we had plenty of time to make it to the finish line.  We hiked up the hill toward the camp and jogged to the finish line.

Team Virtus bringing it home

We crossed the line to the applause of the other teams and spectators and posed for a few more photos like this one.

WTFAR and Team Virtus

Bob: That garlic bread was the bomb.

Luke: Agreed.  At our next non-race, we need hot garlic bread at the finish line.

We cleared the course with 5 minutes to spare.  Much to our delight, there was plenty of food left at the finish line.   All things considered, we were feeling pretty good with just having cleared the course.  We noshed on corn dogs with Boetje’s mustard, which is phenomenal, and we were all amazed when Robyn Benincasa recognized our very own Bob Jenkins from the movie “Race Across the Sky”.

Bob casting the rest of us into obscurity

Bob: I’m still working on a book deal for that one.

Of course, in hindsight, there are things that we could be better at : more efficient paddling, quicker transition times, and not dropping water bottles into the river. We all crossed the finish line together but the posted results had Virtus Team 1 finishing 3 minutes behind Virtus Team 2.  I’m still not sure how the hell that works.  All in all everyone had a fantastic time and we are looking forward to next year.

Casey:  If I remember correctly Bob and I were TV #2 weren’t we?  Here’s how it went down…I clearly remember a dead sprint from the zipline by Bob and I.  We looked back and TV #1 was casually strolling towards the finish line, like they were in a park on a Sunday afternoon.  Bob and I then kicked it up to an even higher gear and flew across the finish line in a big blur of manliness.  After a couple of minutes, once we caught our breaths and our heart rates dropped back to their resting rates of 5o BPM, we walked back towards the zip line.  This is where we reunited with you guys and crossed the finish line together (and took the picture above).  If you remember, when we found you guys back by the top of the ravine, you were in pretty bad shape.  Luke even told us we should go ahead without him, he didn’t think he was going to be able to finish this one.  With some encouraging words and threats of being kicked off the team we were able to coerce you guys across the finish line.  I think Bob even offered to carry your pack but you refused him the “gift”.  You are therefore fired from the team for depriving Bob of that gift. 

Luke: 1. Casey’s comment is pure fiction.  2. Casey has no firing/hiring authority on the team. 3. It was a great race with a great team, and I had an absolute blast.  On behalf of Team Virtus, I’d like to say thanks to Gerry and all of the volunteers as well as the great staff at Camp Benson, and a big thanks to Robyn Benincasa for her coaching and inspiring stories.

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Posted on July 20, 2011, in Adam gets fired from the team, Adam is re-hired to the team, Race Reports and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Great report Adam! Helped me remember that huge ascent and cold river water. They must have harassed you for quite some time to get this report, it was worth the wait. What about the Jr. Virtus team? Any report coming from them?

    • I’m really hoping that Austin will write a race report from the J-Virtus perspective. We have some stellar photos that we could use for that one.

      Right now, though, Austin and my Dad are at Philmont Boy Scout Camp in New Mexico for a couple of weeks. I’m sure they’re sharing some amazing experiences together once again, and I can’t wait to hear about that too.

  2. Congratulations, Adam, on your first race report. This looks like a fantastic time, although the ascending and descending (or vice versa) would scare the crap out of me.

    My guess is that some DEET product would’ve helped bring feeling back into Bob’s frozen parts. You’d have to balance that against time lost, though.

  3. LOL, you are too funny, Kate! They might have had to carry him in and it was a pretty steep climb out of there!

    Casey, I can identify about being the last up the ascent and taking off in a hurry for the little waterfall. I was so shakey, we went right through those blasted thorns, finally just grabbed Connie’s backpack and let her drag me.

  4. I guess we should also mention that Casey had to carry my pack for about 40 minutes during this race. I’ll admit that it was VERY difficult to hand it off, and while I felt like a total disgrace to the team, it played to our benefit. I should also mention that I’ve not been reminded once of this ever taking place. It seems leaving your ego at home is a pretty big part of being on a team. I can only hope to return the favor

    • I think you mean that you gave Casey “the gift” of carrying your pack. He should probably thank you.

      • Thanks for the gift Bob. I’ve been there, man. At the very first race that Team Virtus ever did officially as Team Virtus (a 12 hour Rogaine in Chillicothe, OH) my calves cramped up and it was either let my teammates (Zack and Luke) carry my pack or call it a day.

        Since we were only 45 minutes into the race and we went to the trouble of getting to Chillicothe, I opted for the let my teammates (and biological brothers)carry my back pack option. We raced the entire 12 hours. They carried my pack for 2-3 hours and then I was able to carry it for the rest of the race. I was strong by then end and able to run and get CP while they were a bit spent (probably from the extra weight of my pack).

        I even offered to carry their packs at towards the end (I was answered with a big “Hell No”). Unfortunately, since we hadn’t been to Robyn’s lecture yet, I received redicule and plenty harrassing for at least good two years. Well, I guess right up until LSAR Camp this year. Maybe that was the reason people were afraid to ask or accept help when they needed it the most. If camp gave me nothing else, at least it got my teammates off my back about giving them the gift of carrying my pack. That alone is worth the price of the camp.

        For us to move forward as a team we need to not be afraid to ask for help or assistance when we need it. We have taken this step and are the better for it. Our team will only be stronger and faster now that we have agreed to abide by this rule. As the races get longer and harder everybody will be faced with the opportunity to give a teammate a “gift” and to reciprocate when the shoe is on the other foot.

        This post clearly is like the one night stand that wouldn’t leave, moved in, grew old, and eventually died in the living room.

  5. Maybe I can be like the post’s welfare-dependent relative, who covers the dead post with kitty litter and keeps it in the basement so the welfare checks will keep coming.

    *actual story, but names have been changed to protect the identites of people who should be in prison.*

  6. Hey, is this rappel picture the same place we had our rappel in TR13? It looks right.

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