The Calm Before the Storm – The LBL Challenge Adventure Race Report Part 1

Last weekend, Casey quit the team.

Seriously.  I’m not making that up.  That’s how awful the LBL Challenge was.  Now, I don’t mean it was a bad race.  In fact, it was a fantastic race.  I just mean that things went terribly wrong for us from start to end.  Things just spiraled out of control, mistake after mistake, mishap after mishap.  It was as if we were in quicksand, struggling to get out and back on track, but no matter how hard we tried, the more we struggled, the more we sunk into the depths of despair.  At our breaking point late in the race, my brother threatened to beat my ass (something he could easily do), and then he quit the team.  But I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I?  Perhaps I should begin at the beginning.  Buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride…

Pre-Race Friday Night:

Things started a little rocky right from the beginning.  Bob and I were supposed to meet Kage at the Cracker Barrel on Exit 9 off of Highway 64.  Unfortunately, she meant Exit 9 off of Highway 64 in ILLINOIS!  Bob and I went to the Cracker Barrel on Exit 9 off of Highway 64 in MISSOURI!  Who knew there were TWO Exit 9’s with Cracker Barrels?  Well, now we all know.

So we soon found Kage at the correct Exit 9, and we made our way south to meet Casey in Tennessee.  It was a fun ride down.  We chatted, joked, laughed, and had a jolly good time.  Just before we crossed the state line into TN, we passed through the “Art District” and found this amazing homoerotic sculpture:

Homoerotic Scuplture in the Art District

I believe this piece was called "Bumpin' Uglies"

Then we decided to stop at a Gander Mountain store for Bob to pick up a dry bag.  While we were there, though, Bob found something for Kage.  We wanted to make her feel like one of the guys, so Bob got her a “Go Girl” of her very own.  She seemed much less thrilled with the idea than we did.  She never used it, but I know if she would she would no longer “take life sitting down.”

We eventually pulled into the lot at the Inn at Paris Landing State Park, and it was a perfect spot for race headquarters.  There were great rooms, nice cabins, a large conference room, and a restaurant which provided a terrific buffet on Friday night and early Saturday morning as well.  After finding Casey, we piled into the Virtus Van to drive the long way (200 yards) to the conference hall where we could check-in.

Hairy Men

Too many people, not enough seats. Reminds me of this photo from Berryman but with more hair.

We checked in, got our sweet race shirts, bought some Swiftwick socks and a Bonkhard Racing hat for a friend (Shout out to Kim Chou!).  Then we hit the buffet – Spaghetti, bbq chicken, potatoes, grilled veggies, frog legs, shrimp, crayfish, ham & beans, coconut pie, chocolate pie, and probably even more.  (Thank God, Bob and I weighed-in BEFORE this trip!)  Then we checked into our room with a view of the Lake and started going through our gear before the pre-race meeting.

View from Inn at Paris Landing at the LBL Challenge

So peaceful and calm... Pretty much the opposite of how our race would go.

At the pre-race meeting, Kage had to go get the maps since she isn’t nearly as skilled at the “Not It!” game as the rest of Team Virtus.  Kage also got to pick the ticket for the winner of the Kuat Bike Rack.  None of us won it, and the guy that did win it acted like he must have already had two of them for each of his cars.  He let out a little “Woo!” and sort of half-raised his arms.  If I ever win a Kuat Rack at one of these races, I’m going to go flippin’ nuts!  I guarantee it.

We chatted with Scott and Frederick from Team Bushwhacker for a bit, and let me tell you… They’re two of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.  These guys are elite-level racers, and they went out of their way to give us some last-minute pointers on route-planning and map-prep.  Big thanks to those guys, and if they ever decide to put on a navigation/AR clinic, I’ll be the first in line.

We then went back to our room to get our gear in order and to pack our gear-drop bags.  Since the Land Between the Lakes area is so remote, we were allowed to pack 4 sacks with food, gear, and water.  Two bags would be dropped at a point during the first half of the race where we could access it twice, and the other two bags would be dropped at a point during the second half of the race where we could access it twice as well.  I’ve never done a race with gear/food drops like this, so it was a bit tricky deciding how much stuff to pack.

Kage and I plotted the points and went over some route options while Casey and Bob spooned each other in bed.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  While we plotted, Casey and Bob aired up the bike tires, put the bike lights on, and got other last-minute things in order.

Plotting UTM Points for the LBL Adventure Race

Although just a newby, Kage is quite savvy with plotting UTM's.

We finally felt like we were as ready as we were going to be, and we ended up going to bed around midnight.  I slept on an air mattress on the floor.  Now before you think I did this to be chivalrous, in all honesty I just didn’t want to sleep with Bob or Casey in a full-size bed.  Having slept near Bob more times than I’d like to admit, I can identify his snoring quite easily.  He was definitely the first one to fall asleep.  I’m not sure when Kage or Casey fell asleep, but I know I had a hard time drifting off.  Eventually, though, I think we all fell asleep and got 3 to 4 solid hours of sleep (something we did not get at the Berryman 36-hour AR last year).  Although we’d always like to get a full 8+ hours of sleep before a race, just getting any sleep is HUGE.  But would it be enough?

Race Morning Saturday:

The alarm went off WAY too early at 5:00 AM.  Casey seemed to be the only one not affected by the lack of sleep, but that’s usually the case.  Casey is always enthusiastic and ready to go on race morning.  We quickly got dressed and packed up as we scarfed down some bagels and other goodies for breakfast.  We posed for a team photo:

Bearded Team Virtus

Beard Power x 4!

Casey and Bob decided to do something a little different with their beards, and since they destroyed the sink, I’m really glad that I had already brushed my teeth.


I always knew these guys were two-faced.

Since this was our first-ever coed Team Virtus, and since this was Kage’s first official race with us, we wanted to make her feel as welcome as possible.  Kage is known for many things: awesome cookies (which she didn’t bring on this trip), braided pigtails, wicked-fast race reports, never ever complaining, general bad-assery, etc.  She is also well-known for her fashion sense – especially when it comes to her fancy, argyle socks.  So we, the manliest of men, sported these:

Argyle Socks for Adventure Racing

Do you know how difficult it was to find non-cotton, argyle socks to match our jerseys? Incredibly difficult.

We reloaded the Virtus Van, dropped our bikes at the bike drop, and then drove to the starting line under overcast skies with plenty of time to spare.  It was actually pretty weird since we weren’t rushed at all.  Usually, we are one of the last teams to drop the bikes and make it to the starting line.  This time, however, we had enough time to just chill, use the port-a-potties, and talk to the Bushwhacker guys some more.  We dropped off our gear/food bags, and we waited for the start of the race.

Gear Bags for gear drops at LBL adventure race

Team Virtus was #185, but we know we're #1 in your hearts, right?

We grabbed our passports, sang the National Anthem, and we suddenly found ourselves toeing the line, finally ready to start the LBL Challenge 24-hour Adventure Race.  It was finally here, and we were ready.  Nothing could stop us.  Not even the thunderstorms that were all but guaranteed to ravage the Land Between the Lakes over the next 24 hours.  Not even the stiff competition in our division.  Not even cramps…

To Be Continued…

Read Part 2 right here or you can read Kage’s perspective right here.

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 March 28, 2012, in Epicnicity---yeah it's a word, Race Reports and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. Best. Intro. Ever. I can’t wait to hear what happens next…and I was THERE!

  2. I have a Kuat Rack, but if I won another one, I would go freaking nuts as well!

  3. Is that a hairy belly button attacking Kage while she plots UTM’s?
    I give her credit for tolerating you guys.

  4. Dave (Tardy Rooster)

    You guys rock and you havn’t even started. It is like reading a book that you can’t put down, I can’t wait to check for the next up date. By the way I checked Kage’s blog and hers was ready first.

  5. Outstanding intro! It’s going to make my 92.5% complete race report from Thunder Rolls that starts off with a flashback look like I copied you, but I’m ok with that since I doubt that’s ever going to see the light of day.

    Now I suppose I’m going to be forced to kick out some Lightning Strikes stuff tonight, huh?

  6. You’re embelishing a bit…I never threatened to kick you ass. I just needed some time to cool off. I can’t say too much, I don’t want to spoil the rest of the report.

    Overall, this race was awesome. Once of my favorite to date. After the race, I actuallly felt like I raced not that I was getting ready to start one. I was spent and felt like I legitimately earned it. That I should be spent. Maybe it was because I was in the worst shape I have been in for a race due to injuries or maybe the course was all that. Or maybe a little of both. Whatever the reason, I like the way it felt.

  7. What you call embellishment, I call poetic license. But in this case, it was neither. I don’t want to ruin it, but there was indeed a time when you said you were going to beat my ass. You’ll just have to wait to read that part, and we’ll see if it jogs your memory. And it’s okay, I wanted to beat your ass too, so don’t worry about it.

  8. cory "STALLION" howard

    I won the bike and was super excited……i just didnt know what it was haha.

    • Okay, that makes me feel much better. I’m glad you appreciated it. I just didnt want it going to someone that didn’t really need it. Congrats, man! And cool nickname!

  9. Bob does snore and he does get up close and personal.

    • I can personally confirm both of those accusations. I was his bunk mate for this trip. We both more then filled up half of the bed so as you can imagine it was a bonding experience to say the least. My adventure actually began the night before the race.

      After sharing a bed with BLD for two nights on this trip I can add a few more items to my never do again bucket list…

      1) Never be spooned by a large hairy man.

      2) Never awaken a man fighting a demon in his dreams.

      3) Never sleep 6 inches away from a super-sonic snorer (or a dirt bike or a chainsaw).

      4) Never feel the breath of a large hairy man on the nape of you neck while being scissored between his legs in a figure four – it’s a terrible way to wake up.

      If you haven’t shared a bed with Bob, do yourself a favor and give it a try. I assure you, it will be more adventuresome than the actual adventure race and will be an experience you will never forget (or want to repeat).

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