Monthly Archives: December 2011

Cedar Cross update

                                     Northern entrance to the Moon Loop

I figured people might like to see a few more photos of the Cedar Cross course. I had a couple of days off, so I set out to do a bit of trail cleaning and find some new gravel.

I also wanted to get an idea of what the area would look like after 2 days of solid rain; Turns out it looks pretty damn fun. The picture below was taken on Burnett School road. This bit of gravel is usually dry, but when it rains the water has to go somewhere..

          Hmm..might be a good idea to put some fenders on the ol’ cross bike

A few more miles down the road, the gravel was almost too smooth, as if I was the only person to have driven on it. Turns out I was right:

(You don’t even want to know how much money it’s costing me to get these roads in shape for raceday.)

Then I was off to the Devil’s Backbone to move some leaves off the trail. For those who don’t know, the southeastern portion of the Backbone was only recently acquired by the Forest service. Thanks to this development, the course will now be taking you past 3 DEAD END signs.

Upon entering the Backbone trail, there’s a short, unmarked trail that I can only assume was created by the property’s previous owners. From this trail, there are several cliff-faces where you can step a few feet from the trail onto a rock ledge overlooking Cedar Creek. You can literally see for a mile in either direction, it’s beautiful. Photos are forthcoming

As the trail descends, you get to cross this waterfall:

                                   *This spot is also normally dry*

I’m happy to say that the leaves have been removed from about 90% of this trail, and it is now very rideable. It’s also worth mentioning that this piece of trail contains one rock garden that’s so nasty I probably wouldn’t attempt it on my full-suspension mtb….unless someone had a camera. No photos yet, but it’s not like a photo would do justice anyway.

It was getting dark, so the work came to an end. Rather than make the 45 minute drive home, I hiked up to one of the bluffs along the Smith Creek Trail and made camp. Lemme tellya, those woods come alive when the sun goes down. I’ve never heard so many coyotes in my life.

Thankfully, this fire was just big enough to keep the Boogeyman away
 
Thanks to some frozen feet and an angry bladder, morning came early. A quick hike back to the truck, and I was on my way to the Moon Loop. I’m pleased to announce that this trail is about 80% leaf-free now. The only problem is that horses are rutting the trail and leaving massive piles of shit to clean up. This is nothing new.
 
Trekking along, I found another example of equestrian laziness:
                                                         So lazy
Rather than move the tree off the trail, people just blazed a new trail past it. This literally took me 2 minutes to clean up, and I can only wonder how long ago that tree laid there.
 
                                                  Seriously. 2 minutes.
Later in the day, I met a pair of horseback riders who thanked me for cleaning the trail. They seemed oblivious to the destruction they were creating and the mountains of shit their horses were leaving behind.  Since they were so nice and since it was Christmas day,  I decided not to pull my gun.
 
At the Big Branch Creek crossing, there is a strange and interesting rock wall. I have to assume it’s man-made, and I can only guess at its historical significance.
 
                                     This has to be man-made, right?
 I think that’s about all I’m willing to share for now. This race is only 5 months away and there is still a lot of work to be done. Maybe I should be doing more work and less typing?
Just so we’re clear, I am NOT creating any new trails out here, only clearing leaves and downed trees from trails that already exist. I’ve been in contact with the local forest service, and they are well aware of my activities.
                                                        *Before*
I have no desire to go to prison for trying to organize a free bike race, so there will be no new trails cut by me. This thing isn’t about new trails, it’s about showcasing the ones we already have. Aside from having a great time on a kickass course, The whole point of this race is to get people out here enjoying these trails and working together to bring them back to their former glory.
 
                                                         *after*
Soon I’ll be adding a place on the website for people to RSVP. The way I figure, if we know you’re gonna be there on raceday, we’ll be more motivated to get out there and make this course even better. When it’s posted,  please take a moment to add your name to the list (if you plan on racing). You’ll totally make my day.
 
      
 
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Just for Fun Friday – Ride with Us Edition

First, I’d like to say on behalf of all of Team Virtus and Adam, merry Christmas to all of you crazed Virtusites out there!  We truly hope you have the best Christmas ever.  Enjoy this time with loved ones.  I know I will.

Secondly, I’d like to cordially invite all of you to a group ride on the one and only Berryman Trail on January 14th, 2012.

Berryman Trail Sign

I’d like to get a fairly early start, but it will have to be after we register for the Dirty Kanza 200.  Registration for DK opens at 6:00 AM EST (That’s 5:00 AM for us) on the morning of the 14th.  I’m going to need to be somewhere with access to an internet connection at that time, so the ride will start after that.  I have family that lives close to Steelville, so maybe I can crash there so we can get an earlier start.  I’m thinking about trying to start the ride between 8:00 and 9:00 AM.

Let’s start 2012 off right with an epic group ride.  And if you need some reasons to ride with a group, here you go.  We’ve already got some people ready to ride together on the 14th.  Some Wahoos, some Hoosier Daddies, and an Offroad Medic are planning on joining us.  Why don’t you?

If you have any questions, drop a comment below or check in with us on Facebook or Twitter.  We hope to see you there!  And once again, merry Christmas!!!!

Messin’ with Sasquatch: The Race of Hope Rogaine Report

Our trip to meet Casey and his family in Ohio didn’t start well. We got away a lot later than we had planned, and the traffic was terrible near Indianapolis (bumper to bumper forever… Who was the genius that decided to do work on 45 frickin’ Miles of highway?!?). We eventually made it into Athens, OH, checked in and went to bed around 1:00 AM. Casey and his fam were already asleep in the room next door, but Casey, Austin and I had previously planned to meet in the lobby at 6:00 AM for the Race of Hope Rogaine, put on by NSF Adventures.

We woke up, grabbed a bite to eat at the free continental breakfast, and we made our way to Lake Hope State Park. It was cold, but the forecast looked great. We checked in and got our maps. Unfortunately, we registered at the last minute, so we didn’t get any shirts or socks. Next time we’ll definitely sign up earlier.

Austin and I quickly got our gear ready while Casey took care of some “bidness” in the bathroom. Austin and I then went over the maps to strategerize our route. Casey had taken his map into his “office” so he could come up with a plan as well. Our goals for this race were to have more fun than anyone else (always our number 1 goal), get as many points as we could, and get better with a map and compass. Our plan was to let Austin navigate as much as he wanted to, and we would help him as he needed it.

It was then time to go to the pre-race meeting, and two-thirds of Team Virtus made it on time. Can you guess who wasn’t there?

Start of the Race of Hope Rogaine Race

No, that's not Casey stretching behind us.

At the pre-race meeting, we ran into Chris again. If you’ll remember from our last rogaine race, Chris was rockin’ a very strong beard, and we actually thought he was Mason Storm (of Team Seagal fame). Since that race, Chris’s beard grew to such epic proportions that he actually won “Best Beard” at the Warrior Dash, and after seeing a photo of his beard from that event, it was abundantly clear why he won. His beard would have made ZZ Top hang their heads in shame. While his beard was groomed into a goatee for this race, it was still mighty powerful. Have a look:

Chris the Mason Storm look-alike

Less beard but still a strong showing

As we listened to the race director go over all the rules, we made sure we paid attention. We didn’t want to miss any important info about a Phantom Cutoff or anything. Most of the pre-race meeting was the standard fare, but there was one nugget of information that was very important (and one that would provide many laughs a little later in the day). Checkpoint (CP) 51 had been plotted near the park boundary, and the race director said that he noticed a deer stand nearby when he was placing the orienteering marker. He didn’t want to risk any showdowns with anyone holding a gun, so he moved the CP up the hill to the east and placed it right on the trail. Easy enough.

Here’s the map if you want to follow along (the highlighted CP’s are the ones we got, and the thick black line is our estimated route):

Race of Hope Rogaine Map

Now, moving the CP for safety reasons was a good call, and no one had a problem with this. However, I decided to take advantage of this bit of information… to mess with Casey. Muwahahahahah!!!

I told Austin, “We shouldn’t tell Casey about the CP being moved, and when we come to CP51, you should start going up the trail to the CP even though Casey will think you’re going the wrong way. Then when you walk right up to the CP, we’ll act like it must have been plotted on the map incorrectly just to see how Casey reacts.” Austin was definitely on board for this little prank.

Casey eventually joined us (after what seemed like an hour and a half), and we went over our plan to attack the CP’s in a clockwise direction. Casey agreed with our plan, so when the gun went off, we made our way to CP 50. If you look at the map, you may notice that the terrain is very hilly with some very steep sections. We didn’t even make it to the first CP before Austin fell on his buttocks (or is it buttocki?) not once, not twice, but THRICE.

Mud Butt at Race of Hope Rogaine

Early in the race, Austin had a case of Mud Butt.

We easily found CP 50, and there were quite a few other teams at the CP as well. Casey and Austin decided to shed some layers before moving onto CP 43, which we found easily as well. By this time, the teams had spread out and we were basically on our own.

From CP 43, we headed down the reentrant to the trail that ran along the creek, and we took the trail towards CP 51. If you look at the map, you’ll see that the CP was originally supposed to be in the creek to the west of the trail. But remember, CP 51 is the CP that had been moved up the hill on the trail to the east. But Casey knew nothing about it being moved… And honestly, I had already forgotten about it.

Trekking at the Race of Hope

On the way to CP 51... Or were we?

As we got near where we should have turned to the west for the CP, Austin looked at the map and said he thought we should go east. I began to tell him to stop over-thinking things, to trust the map and compass, and not worry about making a mistake. As Casey was looking at his map, Austin shot me a look as if to say, “Uncle Luke… Remember?!? This is the CP that was moved!” I instantly remembered our plan, but I felt like an idiot for forgetting about it. I guess it’s a good thing that I forgot, because I don’t think I would have been nearly as convincing if I had remembered.

Casey then said, “You think we should go east?!?” To which Austin replied, “Yup!” as he headed up the trail to the east. Casey looked at his map again, completely dumbfounded. He looked at me, and I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “We gotta let him do his thing, man.”

As we hiked uphill to the east, Casey kept looking at his map in disbelief. I was laughing my ass off on the inside. Casey then said, “So you really think we should go east up this hill?” To which Austin replied, “Yup!”

Casey said, “Why do you think we should go this way?” To which Austin replied, “I’m just going with my gut.”

Casey said, “And your gut is telling you that the CP is uphill in this direction and not across the creek to the west?!?” To which Austin replied, “Yup!”  Austin seriously deserves an Oscar for this performance. Casey then looked at me in utter disbelief and muttered:

“What the hell is he doing, dude?”

I just said, “Hey, man. He’s never going to learn if we don’t let him make mistakes. We can’t just tell him where to go, can we? Let’s use this as a teaching moment.”  And then I turned around and kept walking as I tried not to rupture a disc by holding in all the laughter.

Casey stared at his map again as we climbed the hill. The look on his face was absolutely priceless. I can’t even tell you how hilarious it was. Case was really trying to be supportive by letting Austin be the lead navigator, but Austin was literally going in the opposite direction of where Casey thought we should go.  It couldn’t have worked out any better. I wanted to laugh so damn badly, but I knew I couldn’t let the cat out of the bag just yet.

We kept hiking up the hill, Casey kept checking his map, and Austin and I kept silently laughing hysterically. As we came around a corner, we saw the CP.  Austin turned around, grinning smugly as we caught up to him.  I said, “What the…?!? Dude, there really is a CP up here. ” And as I looked at the CP marker, I added, “And it really is CP 51!” Casey was now completely flabbergasted.

Fooling Casey at CP 51

Casey was a bit confused, and Austin was proud of his performance.

Casey kept looking from his map to the CP over and over. Austin was sporting the biggest smile I’ve ever seen in my life, and he and I kept looking at each other and then at Casey, soaking in this amazing moment. After a minute or so, we finally filled Casey in on what he had missed at the pre-race meeting. All he said was, “You assholes.” And then Austin and I finally let out all the pent-up laughter. Casey even laughed with us, and all was right in the world.  Good times indeed.

Once we finally regained our composure and caught our breath, we started on our way again. I won’t bore you with all the step-by-step details, though (Shocking, I know!). I’ll just say that the terrain was beautiful but HILLY. Austin was our leader, and we hit CP’s 74, 45, 75, 52, 70, and 35 (also a water drop) with no problems. Here are a couple of photos from this section of the race:

Race of Hope Rogaine Rock Cliff

CP 74

Cave at Lake Hope State Park

CP 74 Again

Buck Rub in Ohio

I found this Buck Rub on my own, Bob!

Water Drop at the Race of Hope Rogaine

Casey rocking his own strong beard at the water drop

After we left the water drop, we made one small mistake on our way to CP 63. We somehow blew right by the CP without seeing it. We quickly realized our mistake, and Austin led us to CP 65 before we backtracked to CP 63 which we easily found tucked into a small reentrant. It was a small mistake that didn’t really cost us any time since we needed to get CP 65 anyway, and it wasn’t Austin’s fault. Casey and I completely missed it, too.

In fact, Austin has gotten really good with a map and compass, and I’m very proud of him. The only thing he needs to work on is his confidence. He was second-guessing himself a little too much. I think he was terrified of going the wrong way since he was leading his uncle and his dad. He just didn’t want to screw up the race for all of us. So we helped him out…

By completely messing with him!

In fact, we messed with him so much, that we started to call him Sasquatch (thank God he didn’t retaliate like the real Sasquatch in that video!). How did we mess with him? Every now and then, I’d say something like, “Uh… Why are we going west?” when we were really going east. Or Casey would say, “Shouldn’t we be crossing a creek soon?” when there was no creek anywhere near us. Every time we did this (which was a lot), Austin stopped in his tracks to check the map again. It was great fun, but it also served a few purposes:

  1. It showed Austin that he needs to know where we are and what we’re looking for at all times.
  2. It made Austin realize that he needed to be more confident in his navigation.
  3. Most importantly, it made Casey and me laugh every single time.

Instead of “Sasquatch,” Casey wanted to call Austin “Squatch” for short, but I changed his nickname to “Baby Sass” which Austin liked much better. That would make Casey “Papa Sass.” Since we had already messed with him earlier in the race, I knew what the title of this race report would be. It was perfect.

Baby Sass getting a checkpoint

Baby Sass in action

After getting CP 63, we got CP’s 31, 54, and 55 with no problems. Well, we had no problems other than I was fighting the good fight against my bowels, and I was losing. I had seen Bob employ a certain turd-fighting technique at other races, and I had to do the same thing several times: stop hiking, double over in pain, and clench tightly to avoid a mess.

I had gotten to the point of no return, but I noticed we would be hiking right through a campground soon. I told Casey and Austin that if there was a bathroom at the campground, I would be using it. If there wasn’t one, I was going to have to drop trou and relieve myself behind a tree. As we climbed up the ridge, we saw this…

Salvation Bathroom

Hallelujah!

After a much-needed restroom break, we were on our way again. We were all feeling pretty good as the day wore on, and we had high hopes of getting many more CP’s. On our way out of the campground towards CP80, we came to a gate across the road. Not to be outdone by Bob at our last rogaine, Austin decided to show his mad limbo skillz.

Limbo Austin

Every limbo boy and girl, all around the limbo world...

As we kept moving, we just couldn’t believe how perfect the weather was.  It was an amazing day to be in the woods with my brother and nephew. If anything, it was a bit too warm, but we would never complain about that in mid-November.

We found CP’s 80 and 42 with no problems, but we attacked CP73 from above. The CP, however, was at the base of the cliff, so we had to detour around and down to actually reach the CP. After punching the passport, we climbed back out of the reentrant and hopped on the road, grabbed CP41, and then headed for CP60.

As the sun began to fall from the sky, Austin’s energy began to wane. When we reached the CP, we decided to take a break to refuel, rehydrate, and reevaluate our plan for the remaining checkpoints. Austin had a hot-spot on his foot, so it was a perfect time to take care of that while we were stopped anyway.

Fixing a blister while adventure racing

Austin tends to his Hobbit feet (or is it Sasquatch feet?) at CP60

Our original plan was to go hit CP40 before hitting the water drop on our way to CP71. However, with the hour getting late and Austin getting tired, we realized that we were not going to clear the course. So we decided to skip CP40, hit the water drop, get CP71, and then reevaluate again.

After eating, drinking, and making sure Austin’s foot was good to go, we climbed the rest of the way down the spur, crossed the creek, and climbed the steep hill to the road. We saw some buildings to the south, and we looked around for the water with no luck. There was a small park office building to our south, so we scouted that area for the water. Again, no luck. I ran down the road a short distance hoping to find the water. Again, nada.

Then Casey realized that the door to the bathroom at the office was open, so we filled up with water in there. There was also a soda machine. An ice-cold Diet Coke would have really hit the spot. I always carry some money for emergencies or in case we happen to pass a McDonald’s during a race, but I only had a 20 Dollar Bill. The machine only took Singles or change. Bummer.

We discovered one other interesting item here at the park office, and not to be out-done by Rusty at the Tour de Donut, I had to get a photo:

Luke at an old pay phone

Working pay phones are hard to find. When is the last time you used one?

Now, you may think that we wasted way too much time here, and you may be right. However, we were out here to have fun, let Austin work on his navigation skills, and spend time together since we only get together two or three times each year. Plus, Austin still wasn’t feeling that great, so some extra rest didn’t hurt anything. And if we had rushed out of this area, we would have missed my favorite part of the race.

As we hoisted our packs onto our backs and started hiking again, we heard voices behind us. Assuming it was just other racers, we kept hiking. Then we heard, “Daddy!!!” And we heard, “Luke!!!” And, “Austin!!!” And, “Casey!!!” And, “Daddy!!!” We turned around to see my wife, Becca, with my kids and Casey’s wife, Lauren, with their kids.

What the What?!?!

This was impossible. There was no way that they could have known where we’d be at any point during the race, and honestly, we could have been anywhere in the park. They could have chosen any of the many trails to hike, and they happened to choose the one that led right to us… At the EXACT moment we would be there? Are you kidding me?  Seriously, what are the odds?

Austin and I ran down the road to our families while Casey, you guessed it, was still messing with his gear. He had no idea why we were running the other way at first. He realized what was going on and quickly joined us. I got down on one knee, threw my arms out, and the kids ran at me. Casey said it reminded him of this scene (specifically at the 1:38 mark):

Many hugs and kisses were exchanged, and our spirits soared. I can’t tell you how cool it was to see our families out on the race course. That just NEVER happens. Plus, Becca had dollar bills so I could get an ice-cold Diet Coke!! But, I did not want to break any rules by accepting outside assistance, so I reluctantly declined. We chatted for just a few minutes, and snapped a few photos before parting ways.

Lamb Family at the Rogaine Race

Do you know how rare it is to get this many kids to smile for a photo? About as rare as Adam NOT getting fired from the team. I just love this photo.

As much as we wanted to stay with our families, there were CP’s to be found and ground to be covered. Since the sun was getting very low in the sky, we said our good-byes and marched onward. We continued on the road to the top of the hill. We then headed west down a spur, hoping to find CP71.

Unfortunately, we headed west a little too early, regrouped, and then went down another spur to the west.  Once again, we headed west a little too early.  We looked for the CP for 5 or 10 minutes, and then we decided to head all the way down to the trail that followed the creek. When we saw the big reentrant/valley to our west, we headed up the reentrant to the east. We found the CP easily at this point, but the extra hiking was taking its toll on us. Especially the hills.

Climbing a reentrant at the rogaine orienteering race

Photos never do justice to how gnarly the terrain is, but this reentrant was STEEP.

The CP was near the top of the reentrant by a beautiful rock overhang/cave area. It was clear to us at this point that Austin not just getting tired, but he was indeed bonking. We stopped here and told Austin to eat some food. His reply was, “I don’t have any.”

This is really the first race I’ve done with Austin. Casey had done a few short orienteering races with him in the past, but nothing like this. In fact, this race was 3 times longer than any other race Austin had ever done. So, we’ll chalk this up to inexperience – both Austin’s inexperience with longer races, and our inexperience with racing together. Normally, we’re pretty good at noticing when one of our teammates needs help. Likewise, we’ve gotten pretty good at asking for help when we need it. Austin didn’t let us know he needed help, and we failed to realize it. I feel bad about that.

We took some time at this CP, and we handed Austin some delicious Honey Stinger Waffles and other food, and we had him pop a Foosh mint. After washing it all down with some water and e-Fuel, he was ready to go. It was twenty minutes well spent.

It was now completely dark as we hiked back down the trail to get CP33. It was a wet, marshy area, and we had to hop a creek. Austin looked like a leprechaun kicking his heels together as he soared over the creek.

Austin Hopping the Creek

"Everybody's always after me Lucky Charms!"

I hopped the creek and kept my feet dry. Then I noticed that I could turn around and get a shot of Casey perfectly framed in an arch of weeds – yes, I’m that good with a camera, and no it wasn’t pure luck.

Casey about to hop a creek

Gateway to the WET... See what I did there?

Immediately after the photo above was taken, Casey hopped the creek, caved-in the opposite creek bank, and soaked his feet. It was awesome.  Have a look:

Casey with wet feet while racing

The wet and muddy aftermath.

From CP33, we had a little trouble finding CP52 which appeared to be at the western most point of the cliffs. We purposefully climbed up to the cliffs on the eastern side, so we could just follow the cliffs to find the CP. A couple of teams were heading the opposite direction. They clearly hadn’t found the CP yet. Then a team of two traveling east met us as we were traveling west. They claimed that they had dropped in at the “very western-most point” of the cliffs, and the CP wasn’t there. They were sure that the CP was to the east.

Now, let me repeat Rule #1 of Adventure Racing which applies to Rogaine Racing as well: DON’T FOLLOW ANYONE ELSE… EVER! SERIOUSLY, DON’T DO IT! This rule is easier said than done, though. It’s really hard to follow this rule when a team seems so adamant about something. We stuck to our guns, though.

As we made our way west, we could see many other teams’ headlamps searching all over the cliffs. We kept heading west, though, and Austin found the CP tucked behind some rocks, brush, and trees.

CP 32 at Race of Hope Rogaine

Baby Sass and Papa Sass at CP52

We followed the trail and easily found CP’s 32 and 46 before heading back to the Hash House/HQ. Austin was beginning to crash again. This time, it wasn’t bonking, it was just that he had been racing for over 11 hours, 7+ hours longer than he had ever raced before. So this was to be expected.

I could tell that Austin really wanted to hand in the passport and be done for the day. Casey really wanted to go for CP’s 61, 10, and possibly 30. The hike back to HQ took us a little longer than we anticipated, so getting all 3 CP’s was out of the question. Casey still wanted to go for CP61, and Austin still wanted to call it a day. I was fine either way, and Austin said he would try for 61. We somehow managed to resist the Siren Song of the warm fire and delicious-smelling food in the pavilion, and we headed back out for one more CP.  As we left the HQ pavilion, we ran into our families again. This was another spirit booster. We had no time for hugs and kisses, though. We told them we’d be back in a half an hour or less.

Getting to CP61 meant we’d have one more tough climb. This did not sit well with Baby Sass. He was a trooper, though, and he marched on since Papa Sass wanted to get one more CP. Not wanting to tarnish an otherwise fantastic race by going for one more CP, Uncle Sass stepped in. I told Casey that I thought we should go back and hand in the passport. Casey gladly agreed, and we quickly turned around and finished our race.

Team Virtus Finishes the Race of Hope Rogaine

Uncle Sass, Baby Sass, and Papa Sass finishing the Race of Hope Rogaine

We finished 18th out of 29 overall and 13th out of 20 teams. We got 1260 out of a possible 1780 points. I’m more than happy with that. I think we met all of our goals, too:

  1. Have more fun than everyone else – By pulling the prank on Casey, we had already had more fun than everyone else by the time we got our 3rd CP
  2. Get as many CP’s as we can – Mission accomplished.
  3. Get better with a map and compass – No doubt about it.

We had unbelievably nice weather, it was a great course, the post-race food was delicious, Austin did a fantastic job navigating, and I got to spend a day in the woods with my nephew and my brother. We even got to spend a little time with our wives and kids ON THE COURSE! It truly was an incredible day.  Big thanks to NSF Adventures for putting on another great race.  Big thanks to our wives and kids for coming with us and supporting us.  And big thanks to Casey and Austin for racing with me and making it a great day.

We headed back to the hotel for some family time, swimming, and some pizza. We slept in as much as the kids let us (not at all), had a nice breakfast together, and then we left for home in Missouri while Casey and his family headed for home in NY. It’s never fun to say goodbye, but we had a wonderful weekend, we created some great memories, and we survived even though we were messin’ with Sasquatch.

Backstage at Checkpoint Tracker Nationals

It’s no secret I’ve had a bit of an extended learning curve when it comes to navigating. From the first time I tried to fly solo right up until my most recent debaucle,  it simply hasn’t been been one of my strong-points. At all.

Leading up to Castlewood, I knew I needed to figure some things out. What better way to do that than volunteer at Checkpoint Tracker Nationals?  It was a guaranteed way to see how the elite teams perform on raceday, (and get some free stuff). I spent the weekend mingling with friends new and old, and had the good fortune to be placed at a Checkpoint working alongside Scott Fredrickson of Team Bushwacker. I was excited, to say the least.

Since racers wouldn’t get to our CP for an hour or 2, I got to hang out and watch the start of the race. I found out a few of the teams have some pretty strange pre-race rituals. Take for example, our good friends from Forum Dental, (who kicked major ass at this race, btw):

**Masturbation joke here**

 Not long after that, I saw a man who was clearly not dressed to run through 23 miles of thorns:

Wow. I hope he had some pants in that pack.

Here we see Alpine Shop and Wedali waiting to take off.

WEDALI in green, Alpine Shop in red

When the race started, those racers tore out in a hurry. It looked like WEDALI took the lead immediately, but it wasn’t too long before this solo adventure racer/karaoke master came running by:

Ladies and gentlemen....Kelly Sumner!!!

After the race start, Justin Cook and I jumped in the truck for the quick drive to our volunteering stations. We were stationed close together, so carpooling made sense. I dropped him off at this spot, it was absolutely beautiful.

A guy could get real comfortable in a spot like this.

Then it was off to my assigned spot. Scott and I had never met, but as I was parking the truck I felt like I could hear his thoughts:

"Oh shit, not this guy"

 Scott and I made friends quickly, and I was blown away at his willingness to pass on a gold mine of AR knowledge. Seriously,  I couldn’t take notes fast enough will all the things he was telling me. We had a great time. We worked a CP that teams had to visit before and after setting out the first o-section. They had 10 hours to finish this section, and Gary Thompson, (the course designer), informed us there was no way to complete it without trekking for “AT LEAST” 23 miles.  Wow.

Before long, the racers started coming in. WEDALI had a pretty serious lead, but Alpine Shop showed up looking fresh and strong. In this photo I think Carrie is actually timing how long it takes Doug to piss. She was definitely in charge.

I found it interesting that he wasn't using a mapcase.

 
Learning all this new stuff was making me hungry, so I decided to dig into the only food I had brought along: A giant can of Pork ‘n” Beans and a bag of fritos. Only problem was, the can-opener on my fancy bike tool turned out to be a piece of shit. It broke almost immediately, and things started looking pretty grim. Luckily, we found a pair of Vise-Grips. Crisis averted.

And people call me stupid..

 Well, look who it is!!

Kelly Sumner shows us where Adam can have a seat

 The day wore on and all of the teams finally made it into the 1st O-section. Scott continued pouring knowledge into my brain and the world was right. Day became night, and teams slowly began to make their way back from the trekking leg. WEDALI finished the 23-mile o-course in about 6 hours. They were kicking the shit out of everybody out there.

Our CP was a good place for people to change clothes and fill up with water, so it wasn’t uncommon for someone to drop trou right in front of us. At one point,  I’m sitting there minding my own business and I notice these guys are acting funny… just kind of staring into the room behind me.
 

"sighs"

  I turned to see what they were gawking at:

Yeah, he must work out

 The next day, Scott asked if I wanted to help him clear the course. I tried not to shit my pants with excitement, then changed clothes as quickly as possible. This was why I came out here, and I was PUMPED.

Still not a cloud in the sky

It was a good time, and I learned even more as we trekked thru the woods. Scott explained to me the benefits of the thumb compass and how much easier it is to “thumb” the map while you’re using one. You can see what I’m talking about in the photo below:

With the thumb compass, you dont even need to break stride. You just look down at your thumb, which you are already using to keep track of your location on the map.

Then he started to show off a bit,  trotting effortlessly across this tree:

He almost makes it look easy, and yes, he is jogging

 I tried it, but didn’t have quite the same finesse. I wound up having to dry-hump my way across, but thankfully there were no splinters waiting for me.

It just doesn't look as cool

 
About an hour later, Scott decided we’d split up to get the last 2 CP’s faster. We agreed if I was not back in 45 minutes he’d come looking for me. When we parted ways, I became mildly lost for a few minutes and had to regroup. But then…
 

Trust me, I was just as surprised as anyone.

When I got back to the truck, Scott wasn’t back yet and that mean it was time to celebrate. Justin had foolishly left his cooler in my truck, so I reached inside to grab one of his beers….. but instead found this:

Oh Justin... you should've known better.

Next thing you know, I’ve got a belly full of Irish whiskey and I’m riding shotgun next to “Special K”  from Orange Lederhosen in a U-haul truck loaded down with about $50,000 worth of mountain bikes.

**Pause for a moment and let that picture burn itself into your mind. Seriously, I couldn’t make this up if I tried.**

Him, Derrick, Justin and I were transporting bikes back to race HQ.  It was a lot of work, but we got them all hauled back to HQ just in time to almost be late for the award ceremony/dinner. The food smelled amazing and tasted even better. Most everyone was dressed nice, so it was a little awkward being all sweaty and dirty, but then I realized these people are adventure racers… and they couldn’t have cared less. It was a great way to end a great weekend.

“Fine dining” with the Golden Girls and Kelly

Checkpoint Tracker Nationals is going to be in West Virginia in 2012, and we’re gonna do everything we can to put at least one Virtus squad in this kickass race. I’m just not sure how it could be any more fun than it was in 2011. I could not have had a better time.

Castlewood Race Report

I will have to admit that when I committed to doing this race, I was very skeptical about how things would go.  Orienteering….nay, paddling….I don’t think so, Mt. Biking…..HELLZ YES!  So 1 out of 3…..not the best odds.

Lucky for me I had Bob Jenkins as my teammate!  Bob’s navigational skills were outstanding and I am still here today to tell this epic tale.

The night before the team headed up to the Alpine Shop to check in and get our maps, instructions, and packets.  Each racer received a certificate for 30% off 1 item in the store.  Unfortunately my budget did not allow me to purchase a new Specialized Epic or  Specialized Tarmac, so I settled for some nice wool socks.

The team then headed to The Pasta House for some pre-race carb loading.  After a plateful of pasta and a salad we headed to the wonderful amenities at the local Super 8.  For those who are looking for a nice hotel to stay at, this one is not the one.  But the price was right and it served its purpose.

The night was spent getting the pack ready and double checking our lists.  Decisions were made about what to wear, what to pack, what to eat, and were the checkpoints would be.  Beers were consumed and stories were told.  The night flew by and before we knew it, it was after midnight.  We were looking at 3 hours of sleep before the race day was upon us.

Morning came way to early.  We scurried to get our S**T packed and get the bikes to the bike drop.  Surprisingly that went off without a hitch and we arrived at the race headquarters.  Adam ran up and signed in since we was a late arrival Friday night (another reason why he is fired from the team).  Everyone else made there way to the start finish line to get the passport and rethink their opening moves of the race.

Everyone sang the National Anthem and they said “GO”.  Bob I am took a different route from the “Real” team virtus.  We made our way up the ridge and followed it around.  Bob had his thumb compass and map in hand and directed me where to go.  We seemed to sail to the first checkpoint without a hitch.  Bob planned our route to #2.

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We seemed to sail through the first 3 checkpoints with no problems and Bob was spot on with his navigation and checkpoint plotting.  The 4th checkpoint was the bike transition.  We headed out on a sweet downhill and headed into some sweet ass trails!  Binder has nothing on the trails we were on.  We were cruzing through checkpoints right and left.

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As we came to checkpoint 15 we were given the option of finding about 4-5 more checkpoints for bonus at the end or continue on with no bonus. Bob and looked at each other and said “We got this”

The awesome volunteers gave us the clues and maps and we sped off.  Bob was instantly energized and I almost had to tell him to slow down.  I was struggling to keep up with him on his bike.  Bob and I totally dominated the bonus checkpoints.  We found them in what seemed to be lightning speed.  We stopped at our last bonus checkpoint and reminisced on how great our day was going.  We grabbed a drink and ate some power bars.

Next was the feared paddle.  I was especially concerned about this portion of the race.  I hadn’t been in a canoe in years…let alone paddled down a river with our bikes in the middle.  Bob and I found a great way to get the bikes in.  Unfortunately I can not disclose our secrets.  But our canoe was balanced and we felt strong as we paddled downstream.

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Things were going smoothly till Bob said “Hey Robby….our map is floating about 10 yards behind us”.  I think my response was…”Are you serious?”  But level heads prevailed and we slowed our blistering pace down the river and manuvered the boat enough to get the map back inside the canoe.  Lucky for us Bob Jenkins is the man and sealed the map case correctly.  We paddled hard for the finish and made landfall at the last paddling checkpoint.  I successfully pulled our canoe (with Bob in it) out of the river.  We unloaded and passed the mandatory gear check (though Bob had trouble finding his light).  Turns out that Bob had his light in his pocket….not his pack.

We saddled up headed to what we thought were the last checkpoints of the day.  Bob looked at the map and said “You better eat now because we have a lot of climbing coming up”.  I pounded down a powerbar as we headed for the hill.  This so called hill had never met “Team Virtus” because Bob and I crushed this hill.  Everyone else was walking their geared bikes and Bob and I crushed this on our single speeds!

Bob crushing "The Hill" on his SS

Bob reaching the checkpoint at the top of "The Hill"

So after we said “F**K YOU!” to that hill we had the finsih line in site.  The day was ours and we had had a great race.  We had heard rumors of another bonus section at the end of the race.  What we did not know was there was 8 more checkpoints to be plotted and found.  As we sat down to plot the last 8 points our spirit was a little crushed.  But I told Bob…”Get your mind right!”  I think this energized Bob because he was a checkpoint plottin MOFO!  With a little help from me (reading the plots) we had 6 new checkpoints plotted.  2 of the 6 were ones we had already found earlier in the day.
As we headed out we stopped in and grabbed a couple slices of pizza (the only pizza we got this fine day) and a gatorade.  Once again Bob was right on with his point plotting and navigation.  He pointed us toward the first checkpoint and as I punched it, he already had the next one in mind.  We breezed through the first 2.  We chose to get the first 2 we had plotted since we already knew where these were.  As we headed toward the next checkpoint (the 2nd of the first 2 we had found) we encountered a lady who was lost.  She was looking for the start/finish line.  We consulted the map, did the honorable thing, and pointed her in the right direction.  Time was winding down as we found the 3rd of 8.  The day as getting long and the light was starting to dim.  Time was not on our side and we (as a team) made and executive decision to grab one more and head for the finish line.
Bob had it scouted and as we got to the creek bed Bob said “It’s just up here”.  I had no doubts that he was right and we headed up a small creek bed.  Sure enough….Bob was right once again.
As you can see this was, in my opinion, the best checkpoint of the day.  Bob Jenkins is the man!  He was right on and once again our day was going great!
After reaching this checkpoint we decided to head back and finish the race.  For every minute past 4:30 were were going to be penalized 1 point per minute so we did not want to be late.  We decided to take the road up as it would be easier then hiking through the woods.  About a quarter of the way up Bob said he wasn’t going to make it.  I was feeling great so I litearlly pushed Bob up this long, never ending, hill.  Once we got to the top Bob went back to work and navigated us back to the finish line.  We crossed the finish line with about 5 minutes to spare.

Team Virtus dominates again

The day was ours any we did the best we could.  Bob and I were extrememly satisfied with our day.  Bob even said “Thanks God for your beard Robby Brown.”  What a fun and exhausting day.
We headed for the pizza only to find there was no more pizza.  All had been consumed, but that did not damper out spirits.  We got in some nice group photos

The whole Team Virtus

We had a great day!  No real problems and a lot of fun.

A huge thanks to Bob Jenkins and Luke Lamb for accepting me into the team and getting me out there.

Luke telling us his adventure story

Bob relaxing after a hard day of racing

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