Monthly Archives: August 2013

A Tale of Two Teams: Thunder Rolls 2013 (part 1)

Note: This race report was written by Kate, with commentary by Luke in red, Bob in green, Robby in purple, and Travis in orange. My responses (if there are any) will be in blue because it’s my favorite color and I’m a bit of a diva like that. OK then…on with the show…

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, but not for all of us at the same time. If it’s true that a story of struggle and adversity is more compelling than one that dances from high point to high point, then you’re in for a treat. We may have set off for the weekend entertaining thoughts of glorious triumph (or at least a happy romp through Gerry’s house of pain), but we should’ve known it couldn’t be ALL rainbows and unicorns. After all, this was Thunder Rolls.

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Unicorns did, however, make a guest appearance.

This year, Team Virtus fielded two squads for the 24 hour version of the Thunder Rolls adventure race: Luke and I on one, and Bob, Robby (making his first appearance in a 24 hour race), and Travis on the other. Even with two teams, though, the plan was always to stick together. ..once we got there, anyway. I made it to Camp Benson around 11:30, in plenty of time to visit with my volunteering buddy Brandy and snag a bottom bunk in the cabin. The guys rolled in a couple hours later, and once we were all registered and settled in the cabin, the first order of business was to get down to the ropes practice area. Travis and Robby would be rappelling and ascending for their first time, and I wanted to get in some practice.

tv before practice

Team Virtus in da house!

Because we got to the ropes nice and early, there wasn’t much of a line (which is still plenty of time for me to get nervous). Our friends Dave and Woody were there so that Woody too could make his first rappel, and soon after we got there Chad and WTFAR’s Brian wandered down. We had a nice little reunion waiting for the ropes volunteers to have everything ready, Woody rappelled, and then it was our turn.

robby rappel

Robby Brown heading down…

travis rappel

That first step’s a doozy.

First Robby and then Travis made their first rappels and looked smooth and comfortable.

Luke: I must admit, I was both impressed and a little disappointed: Impressed with how easy they made it look, and disappointed that neither of them almost shit their pants like Bob and I did on our first first rappel a few years ago.

Robby: I was scared shitless, but didn’t want anyone to know I was frightened. Once I figured out what I was doing then it was pretty easy. The most scariest part was when the rock ended and I was left dangling.

Travis: The whole rappel and ascend were the two things that I was truly concerned about. But once I coached myself over the edge and got started down it was only mildly terrifying. Even with full finger gloves I was holding on with my left hand so tight that it was burning as I went down.

I was up next, and my reputation for cowardice preceded me as John remembered, “You’re not too crazy about heights, right?” Somehow backing up over that edge is way scarier in practice than in a race, but I managed it more quickly this time than at camp.

bob rappel

There goes Bob…

Bob came down next, and then it was time for us to ascend back up.

robby ascend

Robby had a close encounter with a girl on rappel.

Robby: She actually did hit me. To bad we didn’t get a picture of me grabbing her leg. ūüôā

kate and travis ascend

Travis nearly caught up with me.

Robby and Travis looked like old hands on their first try. Though I’d expected to be pretty comfortable after my additional practice back in March, I had a harder time than anticipated and needed coaching from John to get over the edge. The experience left me very nervous about the ascent in the race, particularly after my disastrous attempt last year. Since the line was so long, Luke and Bob opted to hike to the top rather than take time away from people who were getting their first ropes experience.

Travis: Once I got started I felt pretty comfortable going up, of course Bob may or may not have copped a feel of my ass in an attmept to boost me up the rope. And I was trying to catch up with Kate. =)

ascend line

The crowd at the bottom.

We said hi to Chuck and Robin at the top and then headed off to take our bikes to the bike drop. After about 15 trips back to the cabin for forgotten items, we finally crammed 6 of us and 5 bikes into the Virtus van for a hilarious (for most of us) and uncomfortable (for Brian and Bob) trip to Savanna.

cozy van ride

Cozy. Not sure whose idea it was to put the two biggest guys in one seat, but it was the right choice (for the rest of our entertainment).

We were able to leave our bike shoes and a stash of food and water with the bikes, eliminating the need to carry them with us for the first part of the race. By the time we got back, it was time for the pre-race dinner: pasta, salad, and bread sticks served family style on the table.

Low carb? No. Delicious? Indeed.

Finally it was the time we’d been waiting for: getting the maps and hearing about the course.

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Race director Gerry, probably heckling our team. ūüôā

There weren’t many points to plot, so Luke took care of ours by himself (probably a good thing because my contacts had gone into open rebellion against my eyes and I could barely see) while Bob, Travis, and Robby went over their map.

The basic structure of the race was like this:

1. Midnight start with a short run to pick up the pre-plotted maps for our initial o-section, which would include both the rappel and ascend. The early ropes were kind of a good news/bad news situation. I was much happier to get ascending out of the way before I was exhausted from the race, but it also created the potential for a big bottleneck of teams waiting.

Robby: I was very nervous about the ropes sections after hearing Gerry ask how many had practiced. Then he said “That ain’t shit!”

Travis: My heart definetly sank after Gerry made the comment about the practice not being shit compared to what was coming in the race.

2. Coasteering leg (hiking down the river)

3. Short run (walk) to the canoes

4. Canoeing the Plum River (paddles, pfds, and food staged here)

5. Bike leg (bike shoes, water, and food staged here, climbing and paddling gear could be dropped here)

6. Bike-o at Palisades Park. You could ride your bikes on the park roads to get closer to attack the CPs on foot.

7. More orienteering on foot

8. Advanced course (it was pretty clear from the maps that we wouldn’t be experiencing this)

9. Mandatory bike route back

There was a lot of discussion about whether or not to bring extra shoes to change into after the coasteering leg. We could send dry shoes with our paddling gear and then change after we finished the canoeing. I kept going back and forth about what I wanted to do until Bob told Travis, “I’m taking my shoes because that’s what Luke is doing, and every time I don’t listen to him I’m wrong.” That decided me; there were three times in last year’s Thunder Rolls that I didn’t listen to Luke’s advice, and I regretted each one.

Luke: I think the main point here is I’m always right. It has nothing to do with the fact that I’ve made WAY more mistakes than everyone else.

Travis: I figured that Luke was probably right, but I also figured that my shoes would dry by the time I needed them, I did not take into account how much sand would in my shoes though.

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Almost start time.

Weirdly, we were all packed and ready in time to lie down for a little bit, if not actually sleep, and there was no last-minute rush (unless you count Bob and I having to lug Luke’s gear up to the start line). We dropped off our paddling gear, took some last-minute pictures, sang the National Anthem, and then at exactly midnight the race started and we wished Orange Lederhosen’s Kyle a happy birthday as we dashed off to pick up our map.

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Teams picking up the maps for our first O-section.

Thunder Rolls is primarily an expedition-style race, meaning you have to get each checkpoint (CP) in order and if you miss one, you’re done; scores are based on the last consecutive CP punched. This first section was a rogaine, though, where the points could be found in any order. Anticipating a logjam at the ropes, we’d discussed tackling the other points first, hoping to make some forward progress while other teams were waiting in line and then arrive at the ropes once the crowd died down. Looking at the map, we rethought this plan: it looked like a lot of doubling back would be required.

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Robby punches CP1 while Travis checks the map.

Our nav was spot-on for CPs 1 and 2. There was a bit of a line at the rappel (CP3), so we skipped ahead to CP5 which wasn’t too far away. Following a ridge that narrowed as we got closer to the CP, we came to what appeared to be the end of the ridge…but didn’t find the flag. There were steep drop-offs on three sides, and we could see lights below. Noticing that there was another rock outcropping just a bit further ahead, we made our way out to that one with some careful climbing. We ended up getting there about the same time as Alpine Shop and Wedali, and even though they’d already found an additional two CPs it was still really cool to be at the same spot as two top teams. Usually that only happens at the pre-race meeting.

Robby and I had the passports for our respective teams, and it was sketchy getting to the CP. We had to hang onto trees and swing out on the rocks because the flag was on the very top tree facing out. I was trying very hard not to think about how high and how exposed we were; it makes me a little sick to my stomach to think back about it now.

Robby: I was actually quite scared.

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We’re going to assume that this is on the way back from punching CP5. Note my death grip on the tree.

Luke: I believe there was a CP here at one of the Lightning Strikes races where we had to clip into a rope just to get on top of it before we could rappel. At TR2013 we had no ropes whatsoever.

Next up was the rappel, where thankfully the line had died down. We got our harnesses on and basically got right onto a line. Luke went first so he could belay me (for some reason no one trusts me to belay anymore) and made quick work of the rappel; then it was my turn. I gingerly backed over the edge to LE’s coaching and before I knew it I was standing in the river. This was my fifth rappel ever, and for the first time I loved it. I think all of my previous rappels have involved overhangs where my feet weren’t touching the rock. This time, Luke and I had a straight shot down a wall and I could just kind of walk my way down.

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Travis

Over to our right Bob was belaying for Robby and then Travis.

Robby: I wasn’t very nervous here. For some reason, not being able to see the ground helped. The descent was a lot faster then practice though. It was pretty cool coming down in the river.

Travis: I was still pretty nervous about going down, but maybe that was just because the rope seemed like it had a lot of stretch in it as I leaned back to go over the edge. Or maybe because when you are rappeling your life is basically in your own hands.

The guys looked like they’d been doing this for years. Once we were all down, it was time to go around the corner to the ascending wall. There was a pretty good line waiting, and as luck would have it right in front of us were our friends (and cabinmates) Kim, Donovan, Chad, Chuck, and Robin. I felt pretty good that we were sticking right with them, especially since we actually were one CP up on them all at this time. And then I looked at the ascending wall and felt even better: “That’s it?

Now, make no mistake…it was a big cliff, but it didn’t seem all that much bigger than the practice wall and I’d been anticipating something twice that size like last year. I knew I would still have a hard time, but I was really relieved that it wasn’t worse. When a rope came open, Bob, Robby, and Travis went first since there were three of them to get up their rope.

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Bob started up line 4, and almost immediately things seemed off. He was struggling to make any progress. Ascending is exhausting when it is going well, and it’s debilitating when it isn’t. Now, Bob isn’t a pro climber or anything, but he knows what he’s doing. Remember, this is the guy who coached me up the wall at last year’s race when I had pretty much accepted that I was going to spend the rest of my life hanging off the cliff…and then zipped the rest of the way up with a smile while I collapsed at the top.

Pic Stitch

I’d say he was feeling a bit better than I was.

Now, it sucks to struggle at something, but there’s a whole added layer of frustration and confusion when you’re suddenly sucking at something you can do. And the icing on the shit cake was that this was all happening very publicly, in front of volunteers and other racers who were still in line, amid good-natured teasing and coaching that tapered off as it became clear that Bob’s predicament wasn’t at all funny.

Meanwhile, I had started up rope one, calling encouragement to Bob as I went up, and my ascent was going really well. It was the best of times and worst of times all at once. Everything was clicking, I was making good progress…and the irony was agonizing. My friend — my hero — was in the midst of one of the worst moments of his life, and I couldn’t do anything to help him.

I’ll let Bob take it from here…

I had decided to ascend before Travis and Robby in hopes of showing them that ascending wasn’t that hard. Sure, it’s exhausting..but as long as you think about what you’re doing and keep good form you’re ok. I had, after all, been successful at this before. The volunteer got me set up, and I started moving up the rope. I think I made it about ten feet up before I realized something, no.. everything was wrong. Ropes were twisted, ascenders wouldn’t move, muscles burned. What just happened?

Kate: Must’ve been a shit rope.

Travis: Even though I had pretty much zero prior experience I recognized right away that something did not look right. Whenever Bob would stop to rest it looked as if he let go of the rope that he would just flip upside down.

I’ve always prided myself on being level-headed, so I stopped for a moment to assess what was wrong. I tried to sit in the harness, but couldn’t stop myself from falling backward. Nothing made sense. I tried untwisting the straps to get things moving properly, but that didn’t work either. It was frustrating, and I was burning a ton of energy. We’d done so well to get to this point, and any gap we had on other teams was dwindling away quickly.

I tried to wrap my brain around what was happening, but came up with nothing. There were a lot of jokes and advice coming from the racers below, and I knew it was all well-intentioned humor, but the negativity just consumed me. I pushed and pulled and did everything I could think of to get up that rope, but it was obvious I wasn’t going anywhere. Chad climbed past me and tried to help…no dice. Minutes later, some other guy ascended past me and accidentally teabagged me…how appropriate.

I couldn’t begin to describe the level of shame, self loathing and exhaustion I felt on that rope. I’ve never tried that hard to do something and failed. Ever. I lost all my grip strength, so I had to hold the rope with the bends of my elbows. I tried to take my pack off, but it was twisted into my harness. The rock face was about 8 feet away, completely out of reach. The harness pinched the meat on my ass until it burned like fire, and I couldn’t feel my junk anymore…it was totally asleep. This was the lowest I’ve felt in many, many years. I don’t know how long I hung there, but I can tell you it was a long damn time.

When the other racers had come and gone, I was left to my own thoughts; none of them were good. As I wallowed in my gloom, Ron was suddenly on the rope beside me. Unaware that I’d completely given up, he was trying to coach me into ascending. We tried, but I was just completely spent. I’m not ashamed (anymore) to say I begged him to get me off the rope. To say I’d been humbled is a drastic understatement. Ron worked hard to get a rappel device set up, but even with that, I was too weak to get the ascender unhooked. I was no help at all.

Ron made the call to cut the loop. I didn’t give a shit anymore. If he’d have handed me the knife and told me to cut the rope and hope for the best, I was game. Robby and Travis held a tight belay on the rope below me and Ron did the knife-work. When the loop finally gave way, they lowered me to the ground and I just laid there in a heap. I think it was Travis who pulled my harness off.

Travis: Ron had called down for us to belay Bob, of course neither me or Robby really knew what we needed to do. So we just both got ahold and pulled down on the rope in hopes that Bob wasn’t going to come screaming down at us when the sling was cut. Once we got him down my only concern was getting his pack and harness off and restoring blood flow to his lower extremities. I knew he felt terrible and I knew that without some help there was no way he was going to get up off the ground anytime soon.

I didn’t want to quit, I was quitting. Of this, there was no doubt. I couldn’t breathe right, my stomach was spinning, I couldn’t lift my arms…continuing was simply not an option. I had completely ruined this race for the entire group.

Guilt. Shame. Failure. Inadequacy. Embarrassment. Pick a synonym for pathetic and multiply it by a thousand.

And now Ron and Luke are talking about how “there’s still a lot of racing left to do.” I would’ve laughed if I had the energy. Clearly these people don’t know what’s happening here. If I’d had my way, I would’ve been on an evac-chopper headed back to Holts Summit.

I knew I was about to puke, so I got to my knees. After a fair amount of burping and some “visualization coaching” from Luke, the vomit finally came. Several times, actually.

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Friends don’t let friends’ suffering go undocumented.

Finally done with that, Luke handed me a bottle of something to drink.

It was delicious, so I guessed that was a good sign.

Then they got me to my feet, and Travis shouldered my gear. I knew I’d never make it, but the rest of the team wasn’t taking “quit” for an answer and I owed to them to give it a shot. We were just gonna have to see how things played out. We lined up and made our way back onto the course.

Read on for Part 2

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Shoe Reviews

Shoes. With all the different brands, styles and fads, it’s hard to figure out which shoe is the right one for you.¬† Over the past few years I’ve tried out a few different lines of trail shoes, and I thought It’d be fun to share my thoughts on them. I’ve never been the kind of person who buys things simply because it’s “what the cool kids are doing“, so I’ve been hesitant to spend the money on Salomons. I really wanted to do my own thinking and come up with that awesome shoe that noone knew about.

Strike One: the Asics Trail Shoe:

I was pretty excited when I bought these shoes, paying over $120 for them.¬†They looked cool,¬†had good ventilation and seemed lightweight.¬† Well, to make a long story short..they sucked. The laces didn’t stay tied, they held water and I got a lot of blisters. Running in wet conditions was like wearing roller skates.¬†

Strike Two: The Hi-Tec Infinity-Lite

At first, I LOVED these shoes. Never before had I experienced so much traction and breathability. While running in these shoes, you can literally feel the air moving through them. They drain water very efficiently, the laces stay tied and they’ve got that handy hoop on the back¬†so you can clip them to your pack while cycling.¬† All this, AND you can find them at steeply discounted prices on ebay.

The one major problem with this shoe is its lack of durability.¬† I’ve owned 3 pair of these shoes, and they all fell apart in nearly the exact same way. Before the 2012 Berryman 24 hour race, I bought a brand new pair of these, and the tread literally fell¬†off halfway through the race.¬† I was understandably pissed off, so I called their customer service people later in the week. Their response: “Wow, that sucks.¬†” Thanks, Hi-Tec..thanks a lot.

Then one day I got lucky and found a Merrell outlet having a clearance sale…

Big success! – The Merrell Mix Master

What a great shoe. I found these babies on sale for $40. They drain water wonderfully, breathe magnificently, are durable and they look cool .  Win-win, especially for $40. If I could own 10 pairs of them, I would.

My only issue is that since the sole is so thin, I can “feel” the trail a little too well. I suspect¬†this has¬†more to do with my body-weight than anything, so we’ll overlook that. These are excellent shoes for adventure racing, no doubt about it.

The Hoka One One Stinson Trail Shoe.

Best purchase of 2013

Best purchase of 2013

If I could describe the Hoka trail shoe in two words, those words¬†¬†would be “Holy Shit”. These shoes have literally solved 95% of my running problems, with the other 5% being comprised of obesity and lack of motivation. Shinsplints..gone. Uber painful calf cramps…gone. Knee pain..gone. Shit, I think my teeth have even gotten whiter since I started wearing these shoes.

¬†My one and only complaint is that they don’t really shed water very well. But seriously, these are the best and lightest¬† trail shoes you’ll find. You can step on rocks and never feel them! These shoes have given me the ability to run downhill, and that’s not something I’ve been able to do until now. ¬†I seriously think these skins are some¬†gonna be a major¬†game-changer for me.

So…those are my thoughts on AR-specific trail shoes. Someday I’ll own a pair of Salomons, but for now I’m a Merrell/Hoka man.¬† Feel free to call me a dumbass in the comments section and/or share your own opinions.

Stoppingjay – The Thunder Games Part 3

***Editor‚Äôs Note: If you’d like to get caught up (and to see Bob in a Gold Speedo) you should read Part 1 and Part 2. This race report was written by Luke with comments added by Bob in Green and by Kage in Blue. Luke added a few responses in Red.***

The Tributes from District 69 (That’s us, by the way) had already been through a lot – An amazing but difficult coasteering section, a lost passport, thorns and thick brush, heat and humidity, and of course a swarm of pissed off yellow jackets. And now we were standing at the base of an enormous cliff – the only way up via ropes and ascenders.

Bob and I had a little bit of experience ascending from previous camps and races, but Kage’s first and only practice with ascending came during the “Training Session in Front of the Game Makers” back in Part 1. Ascending can be difficult and exhausting, especially for the uninitiated.

Each team was only allowed one rope, so each team member had to be completely off the rope before the next person started. For whatever reason (luck mostly) I was the fastest ascender when we practiced, so we decided that I would go last. But it turns out that I was the first one with my harness on. While Kate and Bob got ready, we figured I might as well go up first. I didn’t want them waiting on me, so I pushed it as hard as I could. I don’t have the best technique in the world (I do too much with my arms and not enough with my legs), but I managed to make it up in a decent time. I was completely soaked with sweat, out of breath, and exhausted at the top. Next up was Kate.

Fixed Ropes at Thunder Rolls AR - Ascending

Not even halfway up. (Photo Credit: Bob Jenkins using Maw Maw’s camera)

Kate slowly but surely made her way up to a small rock ledge about a third of the way up. Being at the top, I didn’t realize how much she had struggled just to make it to this point. For her perspective, you can read her fantastic race report here. She had simply worn herself out. That’s a little shocking, honestly. I mean it’s not like she had been racing all night and day, and it’s not like she had been attacked by a swarm of yellow jackets or anything. Oh wait… Yes she had. And considering this was only her second ascent ever, she was doing a remarkable job.

Kate got to a certain point where she just couldn’t get herself to make any progress. I think at one point she even considered cutting the rope and falling to her death. I, of course, was oblivious to this since I couldn’t see or hear Kate at all. This is where the awesome volunteers bent the rules for us. We were basically in last place, the other two ropes were not being used, and no other teams were in sight. So they allowed Bob to start ascending on the rope next to Kage. When he caught up to her, he patiently coached and encouraged Kate the rest of the way up.

Kate: This made a world of difference. I can’t even tell you how hopeless I felt hanging on that wall…basically well, I guess I’ll just spend the rest of my life right here. And Bob was a great coach, but it had to require enormous patience because I was so exhausted and defeated. I remember telling him, “I understand what you’re saying, it makes total sense…I just can’t do it.” I think the only thing that got me up that wall was Bob’s force of will…and G. Scott’s arms pulling me over the edge.

Bob: I still think if she would’ve had a knife in her hand she’d have cut the rope and fallen to her death. That was bad.

Kate dug deep, maybe deeper than she has in any other race, and she made it. Bob followed shortly thereafter, but rather than butcher the experience with words, I’ll let the photos tell the story at the top of the ascent:

At the top of the ascending ropes at the Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

Almost too tired to stand, Kage had made it all the way up.

Ascending at the Thunder Rolls AR

Bob was feeling pretty good at the top. Asshole.

Exhausted after ascending during an adventure race

I think she was a bit tired.

Bob Jenkins

“Teammates don’t shake hands, teammates gotta hug!”

An adnveture race hug

Bob congratulating Kate, and Kate thanking Bob. Such a beautiful moment.

Team Virtus at Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

The Virtus Three at the top. It may not have been perfect, but we made it.

I really like that last photo above. That’s the real us: Exhausted, dirty, and slow, but struggling forward together with smiles on our faces and loving every minute of it. And for us – for me anyway – that’s what it’s all about. Best. Teammates. Ever. Okay, back to the story.

For those that don’t know, Bob is an epileptic. He doesn’t often have seizures, but he still has to be careful.His seizures are usually triggered by extreme physical exertion or lack of sleep. So adventure racing is pretty much the worst possible activity for Bob in regards to his epilepsy. Fortunately, Bob has learned how to control the seizures with lots of rest and sleep leading up to a race combined with staying on top of his medication.

Seizure

Wow. Normally I’m only amused by seizure jokes when I hear them from another epileptic, but that’s actually pretty funny.

So… It was about this time that we realized that Bob had forgotten his seizure medication. We had been awake since the previous morning, and we had definitely exerted ourselves in an extreme manner. Forgetting his meds was the final ingredient in this disastrous recipe. And we all saw this as a team issue. ¬†We know that, in the rush to get everything together before a race, Bob often needs a reminder to bring his meds, just like I need a reminder to eat and drink while we’re racing and Luke…um…needs to be reminded he’s short? We really need to figure out a weakness for that guy. Anyway, neither Luke nor I remembered to check on the med situation. Our bad. ¬†We discussed our options, but we all knew what we needed to do. We decided to stop “racing” (even though we are mid/back-of-the-packers, we still try to race hard) and start chilling. We became the Stoppingjays that the Capitol tried to snuff out.

Our plan was to finish the O-course, possibly get 1 or 2 CP’s on the paddling leg of the race, and then head to the finish line. We would end our race early rather than trying to push through and risk Bob’s health. And honestly, it wasn’t a hard decision. The Head Gamemaker Gerry had kicked our asses, and none of us minded cutting the race a little short. Perhaps we could’ve done more if Bob hadn’t forgotten his medication, but I think it was a blessing in disguise. I, for one, was a bit relieved. The rest of the race, although still difficult, had a much different vibe than the previous portion of the race, and it was truly great.

We no longer had to worry about pushing the pace. We had PLENTY of time to finish what we had planned. So we headed off and just enjoyed the rest of our race.

Rough terrain at the thunder rolls AR

Easy terrain? Not at a Gerry-Voelliger-designed adventure race.

We eventually made it to the second cave in the race. All three of us had to go to the back of the cave to punch our wristbands (proving that all of us actually went into the cave. The cave was heavenly cool, so we decided to take a short break… For 45 minutes to an hour. See? I told you the rest of the race was different. ¬†It was glorious.

Cave at Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

So cool. And so COOL!

Team Virtus in the Cave

So much fun.

We sat in the mouth of the cave and relaxed, reminisced, joked, and had an absolute blast. Eventually, we decided we’d better get moving. So after our “short” break, we made our way on foot to get the rest of the CP’s on the Orienteering section. Once all of the O-course CP’s were punched, we found ourselves at the TA again… Where we took another short break… for another 45 minutes or so.

Nap on a picnic table at an AR

Picnic tables can be VERY comfortable after racing all day.

resting at the thunder rolls adventure race

Super Kate showing super strength.

Nap at an AR

The ground can be quite comfortable too.

Super-volunteers Chad and his family started packing up their things to leave the TA. We assured them we would be leaving soon. Before we left the TA, Kage needed to reapply some Body Glide anti-chafe lubricant. Rather than be discreet, Kage simply said, “You may not want to look. This isn’t going to be pretty…” (or something like that), and then she just shoved Body Glide up her shorts and went to work on her thighs. We were shocked and speechless which is pretty damn rare.

I think her exact words were, “Well, this isn’t gonna look very delicate.” I’m STILL shocked.

I’m¬†shocked that the bar for shocking these guys is so low. ¬†It wasn’t particularly ladylike, but I was fully dressed.

After the show, we hopped on our bikes and headed to the finish line. We had decided to forgo the paddling section completely. We rode some gravel and walked when we needed to. We were in no hurry whatsoever, and we were still having fun. We were even treated to a Cirque-de-Bobby show on the ride to the finish:

Bike Tricks

Bob is quite an acrobat… Riding airplane-style on his belly.

About to crash at an AR

The show started to go bad. Note the skid mark left by his foot.

Almost a crash

Bob managed to pull out of the nosedive just in time. And I’m pretty proud of these shots since I was riding right next to Bob while this went down.

We also got to cheer for Bushwhacker as they rode past us on the way to a strong finish after clearing the course…but they didn’t¬†get to hang out for an hour in the cave,¬†

We crossed the finish line a few miles down the road, and we were surprised to see our friends from WTFAR/TR already there. They cleared the O-course and did a little bit of paddling before heading to the finish line for 1st-Place in their division! That’s pretty damn cool. And somehow, we managed to NOT be in last place in our division despite taking our sweet-ass time. We ended up 11th out of 13 teams in our division.

It was great hanging out with a bunch of our AR friends at Camp Benson after the race. It really is a perfect venue to start and finish an adventure race. The next morning Bob even dominated Brian at a rematch of Tether Ball before we headed to the Kountry Kettle for some delicious breakfast.

Food after an adventure race

No. I did not share this.

All in all, this is one of my favorite and most memorable races of all time. Even though the Tributes from District 69 may not have been victorious, they lived to fight another day. And that day is fast approaching. We’re heading to the Thunder Rolls 24-hour Adventure Race THIS WEEKEND!!! There will be 5 Virtusans altogether, and we’ll be ready for whatever the Head Gamemaker has in store for us… Probably… Maybe… Or not. We’ll see.

Well, this is disappointing.

Good afternoon, my friends. It is with a tattoo-free lower back that I announce¬† my quest to run 100+ miles from June 20th to August 15th has been a successful one. Read ’em and weep:

Graph

Actually, I hit 100 on August 7th, which was a private goal I kept to myself and one other person. As one can see from looking at the graph, there was an 8 day stretch where I literally did nothing. I had a lot of lower leg pain and running any more than about 50 feet brought on a lot of calf/shinsplint pain. I finally broke down and ordered a pair of Hokas, which cured about 90% of all those problems. More on that later.

Best purchase of 2013

Best purchase of 2013

The ¬†embarrassing thing is that I truly believed running 50 miles in one month was a¬†monstrous challenge. Almost insurmountable. The truth is..it really wasn’t that hard. I just put my shoes on and dedicated between 10-60 minutes of my day to completing the goal. Using the Beeminder was a huge benefit, but I’d have to say most of my motivation came from my lovely wife when she¬†asked me “what kind of pink panties¬†are you going to wear when¬†you lose the bet.” I ran an extra 2 miles that day, and for the record I would’ve went with boy-shorts.¬†

As per luke’s part of the bet, he has handily doubled my mileage and¬†dwarfed me in the process. He’s in¬†Colorado¬†as we speak, probalby on a mountain doing something awesome.

His cardio should be other-worldly next weekend.

His cardio should be other-worldly next weekend.

So, this is one of those odd bets where we both win, and you, the reader, loses. I’m honestly torn as to how I should feel about this, but I think there’s a solution.

Robby, Travis and Kate are also going to Thunder Rolls. It only seems fair they have to duke it out somehow, and I’d like to hear your thoughts on how we should make that happen.¬† Or maybe you want us to do another running bet “to the death’ for the Castlewood race later this year; I don’t know..let your imagination run wild.

Either way, let your thoughts be heard. I’ll be at work all weekend and likely bored out of my mind.

Legs Catching Fire – The Thunder Games Part 2

***Editor’s Note: To get caught up (and to see Bob in a Gold Speedo) you should read this first. This race report was written by Luke with comments added by Bob in Green and by Kage in Blue. ***

When we last left you, the Tributes from District 69 (AKA Team Virtus) had just completed the rappel and Bob had just worn the Gold Speedo, making good on his bet. We were all blown away by his incredible sexiness and had a great time giving his tiny penis nicknames like “gumdrop” and “Christmas light”.

For the record, the creekwater was super cold.

With laughter in our hearts and the image of Goldmember-Bob permanently etched into our minds, we left the rappel. Bob had paid off his bet in a big way, but for some reason he still wore the Gold Speedo. Why? Because he looked so damn good in it, that’s why!

Mostly, I did that because it was so tight I didn’t think I’d be able to dislodge it from my ass.

We made our way to the bike drop, but with a little less than half a mile to go, Bob had to change out of the Speedo. Some serious chafing issues forced him to strip down and put some real shorts on.

We made it to the Bike TA shortly ahead of WTFAR/TR, but they beat us out of there on the bikes. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: We need to work on our transition times. We changed out of our wet clothes, and no, we didn’t go back to our cabin or hide behind a tree. If the Capitol wanted a show, we were going to give it to them. So we just dropped trou and changed clothes (of course Kage went to hide behind something since she is the only female on our team and has at least a modicum of modesty… for now anyway).

Bike Transition Area at Thunder Rolls

Kage all changed and ready to go.

Leg 2 – Biking

Then we hopped on our bikes and started out on the gravel road leading out of Camp Benson. Something was wrong, though. Our legs felt dead. None of us had anything in our legs. We thought maybe we just needed to spin them out a bit, but even after 10 or 15 minutes, they weren’t coming back. It became clear that the Head Gamemaker, Gerry Voelliger, had planned this. He forced us into the river on foot, leading to the destruction of our hip flexors and quads from coasteering through the water. Well played, Gerry… Well played.

Night Biking at Thunder Rolls AR

Biking into the dark, waiting for the sun to come up.

The first biking leg was only 11 miles or so, mostly on gravel. Our legs never cooperated, and we lost a bit of time here. But we had a lot of racing still ahead of us. The sun had just come up and the sky began to brighten as we rolled into the second transition area (TA) a little after 6:00 AM. It was here where we first met our friend Chad and his beautiful family. They are amazing volunteers – as are all of the volunteers involved with High Profile Adventure Racing.

Unfortunately, my waterproof map case was uh… Not so waterproof. Here’s a little tip for all you out there: MAKE SURE YOUR MAP CASE IS INDEED WATERPROOF! Apparently, my map case had a couple of tiny, imperceptible holes in it. The maps were soaked, and all of the highlighting we had done was gone. Fortunately, the maps for the next section were nice and dry inside Bob’s map case. We laid the maps out to dry at the TA as we headed out on foot for the next orienteering leg.

Wet maps at an adventure race

Wet maps are no fun. Fo realz. (Photo Credit: Maw Maw)

Leg 2 – Orienteering

It seems like the first Checkpoint (CP) of an orienteering leg always gives us problems. After a small hiccup, we managed to find it, and then we started reeling them in one after another with no problems. We really focused on staying in contact with the map and not wasting time. Before we knew it, we had gotten the first 17 CP’s without any major issues. We were gaining momentum and confidence. Sure there were lots of thorns and stinging nettles (what race created by Gerry Voelliger doesn’t?). But overall things were going very well for us… For now.

Orienteering at The Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

Cruising along as we are nailing the orienteering section.

When things go well, viewers of the Thunder Games get bored. So Head Gamemaker Gerry decided to spice things up. We were bushwhacking through some thick undergrowth, I in the lead followed by Kage and then Bob, when I heard Kage say, “Ow!” She followed this with, “Ow… Ow, ow!” I assumed she got caught in some thorns. But then the “Ow’s” grew in both frequency and urgency. Before I could turn around to see what was happening, I heard Bob yell (and it will forever be replayed in my mind in super slow-motion):

“BEEEEEES! RUN! RUUUUUUUUUUUUUUN!!!”

I took off in a sprint with Kage right on my heels. Unsure of where Bob was, we just kept running – ripping through the brush as we tried to escape the nasty insects which we later figured out were actually yellow jackets. After what felt like a 4-mile sprint (although it was probably only a couple hundred yards), we stopped, panting and confused. Kage let out another, “Ow!” So we ran a little bit more. We had narrowly escaped the killer swarm, but a few yellow jackets had remained on Kage’s socks and on my long pants. My pants were apparently baggy enough that no stingers could reach me. ***NOTE: Pack and WEAR long pants on any and all orienteering sections at a Gerry-Voelliger-Directed Race.***

I remember noticing a spot on the ground devoid of leaves, and wondering if it was some kind of deer-sign. Then I saw that it was boiling with pissed off, winged insects. Then came the stings, the yelling, and that’s when I tore ass running the other way. I was really lucky to only be stung once on the face, as I was running with my eyes closed and hands over my face. The stings on my arms hurt too, but the one on my face was legit.

We swatted off the last few stragglers as Bob came out of nowhere to join us. We had to assess the damage. Bob took a few stings to the arms and one on his bearded chin. Kage only took between 20 and 50 stings (no exaggeration – there were too many to get an accurate count). I, however, got the worst of it. As I ran from the yellow jackets, I suffered a half-inch scratch on my hand from the stupid thorns. It really hurt. All I could do was hope it wouldn’t get infected. I tried to stay strong for my team, though, so I kept quiet about it.

Now if you’ve never been stung by a yellow jacket (let alone 20 or more of them), then let me tell you this: It hurts badly and it burns like flames blazing from the depths of hell – kind of like my scratch did. As bad as my scratch was, I guess I have to admit that it wasn’t as bad as Bob and especially Kage had it. We kind of stood there, stunned, sweating, and out of breath. I can’t even imagine the pain they were feeling.

It hurt sooo much.

Yellow Jackets suck at the Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

Kate wanted to cry but didn’t, and Bob didn’t want to cry but did.

As you, dear reader, may or may not know, I am an idiot. Sometimes I say things without thinking, and oftentimes those things come out at the worst possible time and everyone stares at me in awkward silence. This, fortunately, was not one of those times. I said something like, “Hey… If those would have been Tracker Jackers, you guys would be hallucinating right now. And then you’d probably die.”
Like I said, I’m an idiot. And this was a really dumb thing to say, but it seemed to distract Bob and Kage from the pain, and we all actually L’dOL about it.

It was hilarious and probably the difference between crying and not crying.

I already knew that women are tougher than men (watching my wife give birth to 4 children and deal with 4 kidney stones while pregnant proved this to me), and seeing Kage deal with her pain only confirmed this fact. I still haven’t ever heard her complain about anything, even through all of this. And since Kage was being so tough, Bob had to be tough too. And since they were both being tough, I had to be tough and keep quiet about my thorn scratch.

Thanks to that whole “Kate never complains” (semi-undeserved) reputation, I felt like I really couldn’t complain. It’s actually a pretty brilliant strategy on Bob and Luke’s part to avoid listening to me whine all the time. That said, I did a lot of whimpering on the inside and definitely let it rattle me. Not fear-wise, but I don’t know…I was pretty shattered.

So we decided to just keep going even though my two teammates must have been dealing with, in medical terms, a crap-ton of pain. You would think that after unleashing a swarm of yellow jackets on us, the Head Gamemaker would give us a break with some easy navigation over flat, brush-free terrain. Well, you’d be wrong.

A Checkpoing on steep terrain at the Thunder Rolls AR

As steep as this looks, photos never do justice to just how gnarly the terrain is out there.

CP 19 was located on a powerline, and we found it easily. But we now faced yet another problem: A missing passport. Bob had been in charge of the passport all day, and up until now he’d done a great job of securing the passport in the same pocket after punching it at each CP. When he reached for the passport this time, however, it wasn’t there. He searched all of this pockets. No luck. He searched his pack. Nothing. We all searched our pockets and packs. Nada.

After 15 – 20 minutes of panic, Bob found the elusive passport tucked away deep in a different pocket. Finding that little baby was a HUGE relief, and we were ready to head to the next CP. We decided to follow the powerline as far as we could to the next CP. We had to go up and down some ridiculously steep terrain in the blazing sun, and it was anything but easy.

Losing the passport is absolutely terrifying.

Very steep powerline at the thunder rolls AR

Once again, photos don’t show how steep it truly was.

The stings were still burning, although my scratch was feeling better. We were simply baking in the sun, and we were all running low on water. Fortunately, the next CP was at a campground where we figured we could fill up with water, relax for a bit, use a real toilet, and cool off. And that’s just what we did.

Taking a break at the Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

Taking a much-needed break. Not all of the “hitch-hikers” on my pants.

With her legs still on fire, Kage ran cold water over her wounds. It seemed to help ease the pain a little bit. We filled up with water, ate some food, and rested for a bit. What started as a short break quickly turned into an hour. Eventually, we decided to move on from our sweet, sweet refuge.

There was a woman camping there who brought us cold drinks, too. I wasn’t impressed with my first taste of coconut water, but it was really nice of her.

Trekking while adventure racing

Hiking along with smiles on our faces and songs in our hearts.

The next several CP’s came and went pretty quickly and easily. The yellow jackets may have slowed us down a bit, but we were still going and still having fun. Gerry Voelliger never disappoints. He seems to design the best course with some of the most challenging and unique locations for CP’s. Case in point:

One of the many awesome CP's at Thunder Rolls.

One of the many awesome CP’s at Thunder Rolls.

It wasn’t long before we found ourselves at the Ascending portion of the race. And this was no short, little ascent. This was a HUGE! We knew Kate had been pretty worried about ascending, but I never thought it would be that big of a deal. That is until I saw the cliff.

Ascending at The Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

You can’t even see the top of this!

I had tried ascending the previous day at the practice wall and managed ok, though I was exhausted by the time I hit the top. It went well enough that I felt cautiously optimistic…until I looked up…and up…the cliff we were about to ascend.

As if the coasteering, biking, orienteering, and yellow jacket attack wasn’t enough, we were now faced with this monster of a cliff. We could almost hear Head Gamemaker Gerry Voelliger laughing his ass off back at the Capitol.

Will the Tributes from District 69 surrender and admit defeat? Will they summon the strength and honor needed to make it up the cliff? Will Bob wear the Gold Speedo again? Will Luke’s scratch become infected? Will there be any more killer swarms? Stay tuned to find out.

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