“Fast” Fun at the Wakarusa Off Road Challenge 2011

Last year I had an absolute blast at the Wakarusa Off-Road Challenge in Lawrence, KS.  I didn’t exactly do that well, but it was a super-fun race and a fantastic weekend with my family (you can read about last year’s experience right here).  I couldn’t convince anyone else to go last year, but I just had to bring some of my homies this year.  So I teamed up with my friend, Phil Wehmeyer of Snail Trail infamy, and fellow Virtusan Rusty Sapp decided to do the race as a solo.  All of our families joined us for a weekend of camping as well which turned a great race into an even greater weekend.

Wakarusa Off-Road Challenge

The rest of Team Virtus was unfortunately unable to attend, and they really missed out on a ridiculously fun race.  Bob had a family weekend planned, Robby was too busy poring through his vintage film collection, Darin was studying for an exam, Drew was hungover, Casey still refuses to move to MO, and Adam… Well, Adam was fired for not having a legitimate excuse.

We all arrived at Clinton State Park at different times.  After setting up the camper and bidding everyone good night, we went to bed around 11:30 PM.  Getting up the next morning at 5:45 AM with 4 kids wasn’t very much fun, but all things considered, the morning went smoothly.  We made our way into Lawrence, parked the vehicles, and went to register and stage our canoe (for Phil and myself), kayak (for Rusty), and our bikes.

The Sapps at the Wakarusa Challenge

Addie workin' hard to support her hubby.

As we were on our way to the boat ramp, we ran into our friends Susy and Connie (aka The Golden Girls) who were volunteering at the race.  It was great to see their smiling faces.  Before we got back from the boat ramp, my daughter Mabel lost a tooth.  Well… Let me rephrase that.  She had a loose tooth that was barely hanging on.  When Sydney, Phil’s daughter, heard about the loose tooth, she offered to pull it.  Mabel declined her offer, but then Sydney grabbed Mabes, jammed her hand in her mouth and the tooth popped right out.  Apparently we missed all the excitement.

Mabel's missing tooth

Despite being assaulted and all of the blood, Mabel was pumped about loosing a tooth.

Mabel was worried that the Tooth Fairy wouldn’t find her since we were camping out of state.  And here is Della’s reaction to the whole ordeal:

Cross-eyed Della

Della: "I'm never telling Sydney that I have a loose tooth."

We warmed up a little but not enough… When am I going to learn that lesson?  During the pre-race meeting, I had to make one last run to the Port-a-Potty.  I told Phil to listen closely so I wouldn’t miss any key details.  Then we all got ready to start, and we positioned ourselves in the front of the middle part of the mass start.

Start of the 2011 Wakarusa Off Road Challenge

No, that's not me running up to the starting line. I finished taking care of business with time to spare.

Jason said go.  We went.  And we went out too fast.  Well, it was too fast for me.  Phil is faster than I am on foot, and I know he wanted to push the pace early so we wouldn’t get caught behind slower riders going into the single track.  The first mile was on an old Rail Trail called the Levee Trail (I think), and I’d say we were running around a 7:30 mile or so.  Rusty was running right behind me up until we turned into the single track for the run back to our bikes.  Right before we headed into the woods, Rusty passed us, and I started to hurt.  If I stayed at this pace, my race was going to fall apart quickly.  So I backed off.

People began to pass us as we began the 1.2 -ish mile trail run back to the transition area (TA).  Phil thought I was right behind him, so he kept going at a pace too fast for me.  Eventually he realized that it was some other dude in a white hat behind him, and he then waited for me to catch up.  I was definitely not feeling the run.  My cardio felt fine,  but my legs were just laughing at me.  They simply felt dead (pretty much like they did last year).  Maybe I should have warmed up more.  We finished the 2.2 mile run roughly 20 minutes, and Rusty finished it in roughly 18 minutes.

As Phil and I trotted over to our bikes, our families cheered us on.  It was great to have a cheering sections again.  Rusty had already hopped on his bike and was out of sight.

Rusty Biking at the Wakarusa Challenge

Rusty was smokin' us!

We transitioned to the bikes and took off on the Levee Trail.  Phil was hammering down on the pedals, and I was trying to keep up.  My legs were still laughing at me.  It was starting to piss me off, to be honest.  I know Phil wanted to get in front of as many riders as possible on the Levee Trail while we still had plenty of room to pass.  And I know he REALLY wanted to get in front of our friend Noelle and her teammate.  We ended up passing a lot of people, including Noelle and her teammate, before hopping onto the single track.

Oh the single track… The sweet, sweet single track.  This was BY FAR the best part of the race.  My legs stopped laughing at me, we passed a few riders quickly, and then we fell into a groove.  The single track at the River Trail in Lawrence is one of the most fun trails I’ve been on.  It’s not technical at all, there are no climbs to speak of, but it’s just super-fast, flowy trail with banked turns and berms.  I felt like we were flat-out flying!  We made it back to the TA, and we finished the 8.5-ish miles (4 of that on the rail trail) in 39 minutes (including our transition time), and Rusty finished it in 39 minutes as well.

We immediately headed back out onto the single track for some more fun on the bikes.  The next 8.5 miles or so of single track were just as fun as the first bike leg.  I seriously can’t tell you how much fun it was.  I felt like I was actually a fast rider for once in my life, if that tells you anything.  The trail is so fun, that we’re planning a Team Virtus trip to Lawrence to ride, camp, and do whatever else may happen when all of us get together.  But you know what they say about Kansas… What happens in Kansas… No wait… No one says that about Kansas, do they?

Phil and I rode by the fams again on our way to the TA.  We quickly transitioned and headed for the canoe.  We had no idea where Rusty was, but the Virtus Wives assured us that he was only a few minutes in front of us.  We later found out that we finished the second bike leg (all of it on single track) in 42 minutes, as did Rusty.  So he was roughly 2 minutes ahead of us.

Transition Area at Wakarusa Off Road Challenge

Holy Crap! That single track was fun!

We were both smiling and giggling like little school-girls over how much fun the bike legs were.  We jogged over to our canoe, put our PFD’s on, grabbed our paddles, and then the race got even better!  As we were carrying the canoe down to the river, we ran into the one and only Derrick Boos from Orange Lederhosen who was volunteering.  He offered us a beer which we gladly accepted.  Could this race get any better?  Perfect weather, great single track, and free beer?  We later learned that we were the only two to accept Derrick’s gracious offer of free beer.  That’s just hard to believe.  Very disappointing.

Beer and Canoes at Wakarusa Challenge

Phil was clearly very happy, and I was too busy to smile... I was thirsty!

Last year’s paddling leg was awful.  I was alone, kneeling in the middle of a 17 foot aluminum canoe with a too-short kayak paddle.  I posted one of the slowest paddling times last year.  This year was much better.  We had two in the canoe so I could actually sit on the seat in the stern, I borrowed Bob’s paddle that was much longer, and we had two people paddling which makes a big difference.

Paddling the Kansas River at Wakarusa Challenge

This is Rusty taking off on the paddling leg a few minutes ahead of us.

We made decent time on the river.  We only got passed by a guy in a racing kayak within the first 2o seconds of getting on the water.  We passed a team or two, but by the time we reached the take out at Mud Creek, there were a handful of kayaks and canoes behind us.  We also thought we could see Rusty a short distance in front of us.

Sure enough, it was Rusty about 50 yards ahead of us taking his kayak out of the water.  He finished the 4.2 mile paddling leg in 53 minutes, and we finished it in 51 minutes.  So, if you’ve been following along, we were all pretty much right where we started – all together again.  But that didn’t last long.  By the time we carried our canoe to the top of the boat ramp and took off our PFD’s, Rusty was out of sight again.

All that stood between us and a glorious middle-of-the-pack finish was 4.1 miles of trail running.  My legs began laughing at me again. (Stupid legs!)  It wasn’t nearly as bad as last year, though, since I didn’t have to kneel in the middle of the canoe this time.  I tried to keep up with Phil, but it wasn’t going to happen.  He let me lead then, and we tried to keep a coed team within reach.

We eventually passed the team in front of us, but then I really started hurting the last mile of the race.  My nipples were becoming seriously chaffed.  I didn’t want to ruin my awesome jersey with bloody nipples, so I unzipped it almost completely.  I apologize  to anyone that may have seen my nearly shirtless body.  I hope the blindness didn’t last too long.

Phil kept pushing me, and we were only passed by 3 or 4 teams right at the end. I was really glad to be done.  As I crossed the finish line, I saw our friend Josh Perkins from Team Wahoo running toward us.  He was grinning like a mad man.  Was he going to hug me?!?!  Nope…

Finish Line at Wakarusa Off Road Challenge

That's Josh in all black running at us like a lunatic.

Josh was not handing out hugs at all.  He completely douched me in the face with ice-cold water.  It was quite a shock, yet curiously satisfying.

Splashed at Wakarusa

The aftermath of getting "Wahooed."

Phil felt left out, so Josh then nailed Phil in the face with some Gatorade for good measure.  We finished the 4.1 mile trail run in 43 minutes, and Rusty finished it in 41 minutes.  Our official finishing time was 3:15:35 – which was good enough for 11th place out of 32 two-person male teams and 38th out of 89 teams and solos overall.  Rusty finished in 3:13:30 – good enough for 21st out of 33 solo males and 33rd out of 89 overall.

We feasted on pizza and soda, provided by Bonk Hard Racing.  We hung around and chatted with Josh and Jason from Wahoo, Derrick and Emma from Lederhosen, and our wives of course.  Our kids were busy building a shelter out of sticks.

Big thanks to Jason and Laura of Bonk Hard Racing and to all of the volunteers.  This was a great race that went off without a hitch just like all of the Bonk Hard events (a nice breath of fresh air after the Lionheart Adventure Race Fiasco – report coming soon, I swear!), and we all had an amazingly great time.  I said it last year, and I’ll say it again.  YOU HAVE TO DO THIS RACE NEXT YEAR!!!

We all went back to Clinton State Park, showered up, and spent the rest of the weekend camping with great friends.  I’ll leave you with some random photos from the weekend so you can see how much fun you missed.

Wehmeyers

Phil and Shelly

Becca and Luke at Wakarusa

My waaaaay better half and me

Finishing the Wakarusa Challenge

Look at our faces. I promise we had more fun than you.

Boat Ramp at Wakarusa

Rusty heading down to the river.

Lyd at Wakarusa

Lydia - Flower Power

Ote at Wakarusa

Otis was a filthy mess by the end of the day.

Skills Park at Clinton State Park

Kole, Rusty, and Sean (all Chicago Bears fans) at the Bike Skills Trail in Clinton State Park. I GOTTA go there next time.

Seriously… Make plans now to do this race next year.  I’m looking at YOU Bob, Adam, Drew, Darin, Robby, Casey, Kate, Travis, and anyone else that has actually read this far.

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About Lukas Lamb

Husband to a wonderful wife, father to 4 incredible kids (3 daughters and 1 son), adventure racer, mountain biker, runner, lifter of weights, reader of books, and lover of life. He can be found on Google+

Posted on September 19, 2011, in Adam gets fired from the team, Bob didn't get to go, Race Reports and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Great Report. It was good to see you guys again (and meet Russ). Glad you enjoyed the beer too. I don’t understand why more teams didn’t want to take a beer… I mean, you’re going to be sitting down for the next 30-45 minutes, after all the running and riding, your legs are going to cramp up without one.

    Awesome Jerseys too. If you did stain the jersey with your chapped nipples, just remember bloody nipple stains would just help demonstrate the Strength of Team Virtus.

  2. Way to go all you guys, and Rusty, thanks for the nice comment on my blog. I’m working on my badass mofo status, though then I look at the times you guys post and realize it’s still gonna be a longer trip. 🙂

    That does look like a fantastic good time. And it’s nice that families can actually spectate a little. And I’m sure you had waaay more fun than I did that weekend, though a good 5K and an awesome trail run did cushion the blow of missing Wakarusa. And what’s up with people not wanting free beer? I’m not even a big beer drinker, and I’D have taken it!

    • Kate you are a badass fo sho! Your blog is always a great read! Keep up the good work.

      The really cool thing about this race is having spectators. It’s great to have “fans” rooting you on. At the end of the race when I popped out of the woods my son was on his bike right behind me yelling at me to GO GO GO!! It really was a great experience.

  3. Great report! It is always fun to read your version of a race. You always have said anyone could pick out your team because you would be the ones having fun. Somehow you are mixing the fun with some seriously great times and places. Good job! I just wish we hadn’t been busy at the finish line and had a chance to meet your family. Next year?

  4. Derrick, nipple-blood stains would look pretty sweet now that you mention it. And thanks again for the beer!

    Kate, you really, really need to do this one next year. Bring the family, and make a weekend of it!

    Susy, I think I may have misspelled your name in the report. I’ll change that ASAP if I did. Sorry about that. And I wanted to introduce the fam to you, but by the time things settled down, I never saw you again. It was great to see you again, and thanks for volunteering and the compliments!

  5. Great write up Luke! I’m glad you found this race last year, it truly was a blast! We all need to go up there and ride again! Then we can head back to Clinton State Park and test our mad skills on the bike skills course, it will make you pucker.

    Derrick- I will be in St. Joe on OCT 7th-9th for a wedding reception and was thinking of bringing my bike up. Any good trails up there?

    • Oh yeah, don’t forget to bring your mountain bike. We have 20+ miles of mountain bike trails all within riding distance of each other. And a CX course cut into a field, although it is in a different section of town. Give me a shout while you are in town, and I will take you on tour of the trails.

  6. Nice work guys. Although I think you should have gone with the nipple stains. Wives dig scars and nipple stains on their men, don’t they?

  7. What an awesome report. This is the second year that I have thought about doing this race and the second year that I have been dissappointed that I didn’t after reading your report. It is a lot of fun to have your family there cheering for you, having my family in Kansas is what kept me going. Just let me know when you plan the trip, cause I am in.

  8. Nice write up Luke! What a fun weekend. It was great racing with you and getting the families together to hang out together for the weekend. Sorry if I pushed you too hard, I just love pain- does not really matter who it is, pain is good, it makes you feel alive and stretches your comfort zone. Speaking of pain, great job on the Berryman 36 hour race this last weekend!

    • No worries, man. You didn’t push me too hard. I was just pissed at my legs (and at my big fat gut) for slowing me down. I had a great time racing with you and camping with the fams. I would have been much slower if you weren’t pushing me, so thanks dude!

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