Author Archives: Lukas Lamb
If ever there was a race tailor-made for Team Virtus, this was it. None of us had ever attempted Land Run before this year, yet it has instantly become one of our favorites, and it’s on our must-do list for next year. You should do it too. Yes YOU!
***Note: Chuck added some comments in green, Kate’s comments are in blue, Bob’s are in Red, and Travis apparently had nothing to add.***
Bob: This is bullshit. My comments have always been green.
The 2016 Land Run 100 in Stillwater, OK had it all: red, clay-like mud, whiskey, misty rain, gravel, beer, music, hike-a-bike, sunshine, wind, food trucks, seemingly never-ending rollers, and… Wait a minute… what’s that? A podium finish for a Virtusan? Perhaps. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
Five Virtusans – Kate, Chuck, Travis, Bob, and I – and one FOV (Friend of Virtus) – Mickey – met up at various locations for the drive down to Stillwater. We stopped for some fine dining and some drinks.
I’m pretty sure Travis loved riding with Bob and me. We sang our faces off as we rocked some sweet jams on the way to OK. Bob and Travis seemed to be having a fart war while I, sadly, had no firepower which is completely unlike me.
We soon found ourselves at Iron Monk Brewery for registration, the pre-race meeting, and of course to buy a sweet-ass growler filled with delicious Land Run IPA. The race director, Bobby, gave a short speech from the heart, as did the course designer. And then the one and only Jay Petervary spoke briefly. The talks were short, sweet, and they actually got me pretty fired up. It was MUCH better than most pre-race meetings. The whole atmosphere was amazing. Seriously, it just felt good to be there.
Chuck: We bought the growlers to take home with us, but it is worth pointing out that the beers being served up at check-in were free!
We hung out for a bit, drinking the delicious Land Run IPA and chatting with friends. We visited District Bicycles and bought a few things, and then we headed back for some more delicious beer and live music. Speaking of live music, Bob had himself a little crush on the singer.
Bob: She totally wanted me, I could tell. We made eye contact and everything.
We finally dragged ourselves away from the party and headed back to the hotel to try to get a good night’s sleep. We Virtusans are pretty frugal, so sometimes the sleeping arrangements get a little cozy – sometimes too cozy if you ask Travis, but perfect if you ask Bob or me.
The next morning we ate a big ole continental breakfast, and we fought over the two bathrooms as we tried to empty our bowels as much as we could. Trust me, you don’t want to be carrying any excess shit when you’re about to ride 100 miles. Those poor toilets.
Chuck: And some of us were smart enough to go through the adjoining door to destroy the toilet in the Luke/Bob/Travis room instead of the Chuck/Kate/Mickey room.
We kitted up and made our way to the race start for our pre-race team photo:
And of course we had to take our trademark “Where’s everyone else?” photo:
The race was kicked off with a bang from a legit canon. I mean, that was some kind of boom! The roll-out of Stillwater was a bit cool and damp as a light mist fell, but our spirits were high. Kate had been training like a mad-woman, so she and Mickey were out of sight from the get go. The rest of us stuck together for the first 15 miles or so, if my memory serves me right. After that, I found myself on my own. Well, I wasn’t alone. There were lots of riders around me, but none of them were my teammates. But onward I rode.
And the roads were in great shape! I wasn’t sure what the hell everyone was talking about from last year’s race. I didn’t see any of this infamous mud. But then the roads changed, and we began to see the early carnage the clay-like muddy roads in this area of Oklahoma can dish out.
It wasn’t long before almost everyone was walking their bikes. Those that tempted fate by riding through the mud either ended up without their derailleurs intact or they had to keep pulling over to clear the mud from their bikes just to keep them rolling.
In some places, the mud was so thick and sticky that you couldn’t even roll your bike at all. Carrying the bike was the only option. There’s some technique involved in carrying your bike through mud, so if you plan on doing this race – which you definitely should – you might want to figure out what works best for you.
Kate: It turns out bike carrying is an area where you can put all kinds of time on faster riders.
Bob: I heard the first 3-4 miles of mud was from natural causes. The rest was formed by a deluge of roadie tears.
After several miles of hike-a-bike and climbing a set of stairs out of a kick-ass creek crossing where the race director was doling out encouragement, I found myself back on rideable gravel roads. And then – at around mile 40 – 45? – I found a most pleasant surprise: a keg in the ground, covered in ice.
After a few pulls from the keg, I hopped back on the bike to ride out on my own again. I was shocked at how many riders passed up the cold beer. But I knew my Virtus brethren behind me would enjoy this fine gift from the people behind the Land Run 100 as much as I did.
Chuck: Oh yeah, I stopped at the keg too!
Kate: Riding with Mickey I wasn’t allowed to, but I don’t like beer anyway.
Bob: I may have consumed more than my fair share..
I was feeling strong, and I’m pretty sure I had a shot at winning the whole thing. Remember at the beginning of this post when I mentioned a possible podium finish for one of us? Well, that was ruined when this happened:
With my hope of winning crushed, it was nice to chat with our friends Lo and Alice on their tandem while we waited for the train to pass.
It wasn’t long after crossing those railroad tracks that I started to feel not so great. My energy was waning, and I felt a bit queasy. I ate a little more food and drank some more water and kept pedaling, but I was definitely wishing one of my teammates would turn up.
I rolled into the halfway checkpoint to the sound of some live music. The atmosphere at this checkpoint was great. There were food trucks there, and riders, support crews, family, and the burrito truck. The blessed burrito truck.
I took a few extra minutes to eat, drink and recover. I didn’t want to stay too long, though, so I gathered my things and was just getting ready to stand up when this guy rolled up:
I gladly waited a few extra minutes while Chuck refueled and filled up his water. Seeing Chuck, who was in very good spirits, was fantastic. I felt rejuvenated knowing we’d be riding together out of the checkpoint. I’m pretty sure Chuck’s jersey will never be the same, though.
Chuck: That jersey has been through the laundry so many times and still has pink stains. I like to think they are badges of honor.
We left the checkpoint together, and it wasn’t long before the clouds gave way to the sun as the temperature rose. It turned into a gorgeous day to ride bikes. The roads seemed to get even better too. I only remember one small stretch of a little mud, but the rest of the roads were in fine shape. And even though there are no huge climbs on this course, don’t be deceived. There is very little flat terrain. The never-ending rolling hills were killer during the second half of the race. I was so over them by mile 80, but we pressed on, knowing there was one more manned aid station somewhere ahead.
I think it was at around mile 85 to 9o when we rolled up on the aid station. And damn, it was the perfect aid station at the perfect time. There was a sign that said, “Whiskey, Women, and Beer” or something like that. As we stepped off our bikes, one fine volunteer asked if we wanted whiskey to which we replied, “Hell yes, we want some whiskey!” She seemed surprised and excited as she poured us each a cup. It turns out we were only the 4th and 5th people to actually drink any whiskey at this aid station. We assured her that there would be at least one more rider coming through that would gladly drink any whiskey he was offered. The crew working here were awesome. They were happy and super helpful. They even loaded us up with some candy bars and a beer for the road.
Kate: Nope, didn’t get to stop here, either, but at least the slave driver played domestique and stopped to get me an ice-cold Coke while I rode ahead.
Chuck and I begrudgingly left the oasis of the aid station and rode toward the finish line over what seemed like a thousand more rolling hills. But we knew we would finish at this point. And we knew there was beer waiting for us. And food trucks. So we rode with a thirst and a hunger like no other. Kate managed to snag a photo of Chuck and me shortly after we crossed the finish as the sun was about to vanish.
I’ve finished a lot of long races where the race director was nowhere to be seen. I’ve finished a lot of races where there is no beer left. I’ve finished a lot of races where the finish line has already been torn down. And you know what? That sucks. If anyone needs all that shit, it’s people like me who are out there all damn day, struggling just to finish. We NEED that beer and food and finish line and at least a handshake from the Race Director. We deserve it, damn it!
Bob: Preach, brother.
Well, as Chuck and I crossed the finish line of the 2016 Land Run 100, the RD Bobby was there waiting for us, screaming like a maniac. As we stepped off our bikes he gave us a big hug. And it wasn’t some bullshit, rah-rah, I’m-hugging-you-to-seem-cool kind of hug. It was a genuine fucking hug. That shit was real, and it was fucking great. I’m sure there are some a-holes out there who scoff at such a display of joy and affection. To them I say, piss off. Go ride somewhere else and leave this race to those of us who love it.
Chuck: Bobby is such a genuine and super high-energy guy. I really liked hanging around the finish chute watching him yelling and hugging finishers. You get the feeling that each and every rider is important to him, from first place all the way to DFL.
After some high-fives and hugs from Kate, who had long since finished, and Travis who pulled the plug around mile 60 – 65, we each grabbed a beer and went to change clothes. On our way over to our car, they were giving out awards. Chuck and I knew we sure as hell didn’t win anything, so we didn’t pay much attention to it. As we finished changing clothes, though, Kate walked up with a “slight” grin and some hard-earned hardware:
And this wasn’t a cupcake division. There were some badass ladies in her division, and she took second fucking place! Holy shit! Huge congrats to you, Kate. You trained your ass off, and it was well-deserved. Super proud of you.
Chuck: Definite highlight of the entire weekend! Congrats again Kage!
Kate: Seriously the only reason I placed was all the bike carrying you had to do. That said, it was super cool to place second in a division with more than two people, and the girl who was first in my division was also second overall for women.
We headed back to the party/finish line, and Chuck and I got some grub. Someone pointed out that the one food truck had a painting of me without my glasses on the side:
We ate, drank, passed much gas, and cracked wise. We just had a grand old time as we waited for Bob to finish. But the longer we waited, the more worried we became. We knew Bob didn’t have a light. And we knew he left his phone at the hotel. But he’s Bob effing Jenkins, and we knew he’d be fine. He’s the king of IWIO (It’ll Work Itself Out). And you know what? It did. He crossed the finish line to the same greeting from the RD Bobby as Chuck and I received.
We were obviously relieved to see Bob, and we were super-happy that he finished. His tale of the finish will put my little story to shame, so hopefully he will decide to share it with us (coming soon!). I know it involved rum, beer, getting lost, police, and a couple panicked directors/organizers. But in the end, Bob does what he does best. He Jenkinsed the shit out of that race.
The ride home involved a few naps. Bob and Kate clearly haven’t mastered my technique of avoiding nap time photos:
The ride home is often a ton of fun if you do it right, and we always do it right. And of course that means we stopped to eat lunch together:
And then some of us later stopped for dessert. Because when you pass the Uranus Fudge Factory, you pretty much have to stop.
As I mentioned before, this race was put right at the top of our Must-Do list for next year. And you know what? We’re already signed up for it, and there’s even more of us going. I hope you signed up too, because it’s already sold out. If you were dumb enough to miss registration, you should get on the waiting list for sure. I know I’m looking forward to another hug at the finish line. And maybe Kage will go for the number one spot next year.
It is with a sense of deep, dark dread that I inform you the Super Century is once again taking place next week on Super Bowl Sunday. I’ve waited as long as I could to post this, hoping that I would come to my senses and stop this madness. But alas, we are all going to suffer together apart once again for the 5th annual Super Century.
For those of you who’ve no idea what I’m talking about, let me just say that it might be the worst idea we’ve ever come up with. Actually, my stupid brother, Casey, came up with it, and then all of us took it and ran (or rode) with it. If you want to read about how the very first Super Century got started, you can do so here.
Here’s the basic info:
Who: You and your stupid, sadistic friends if you’re stupid gluttons for punishment like us
What: A metric century (62 miles) on the trainer
When: Super Bowl Sunday, February 7th, anytime you want really, but most of us will be starting around 8:30 AM
Where: Wherever the hell you want to suffer
Why: Because we’re stupid and also so we can eat whatever we want guilt-free during the Super Bowl
If you are dumb enough to join us in this terrible idea, be sure to hit us up on the book of faces and the twitterverse. And don’t forget to use #SuperCentury and #MyTaintHurts in your posts so we’ll see them. That way we can all suffer together apart virtually. It’s fun… Sort of… But not really…
And for those of you who are certifiably insane, you can also take part in the Tour of Sufferlandria 2015 which starts Saturday the 6th. It will add a lot of pain and sufferng to your whole week, and it will make the Super Century even worse, if that’s even possible.
Robby, Adam, and I took part in the Tour of Sufferlandria last year, and you can read about the first of nine stages right here. And if you don’t want to read about all nine stages, you should at least take a look at my sweet bloody elbow from crashing on my trainer.
Last year, the Tour of Sufferlandria ended on Super Bowl Sunday. This year, however, the Tour starts the Saturday before Super Bowl Sunday, so the Super Century coincides with the second stage of the ToS. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse, but I’m sure it’s not good either way.
So let us know if you want to join us, you psycohpaths. Let’s suffer together.
The 5th annual MLK Ride is indeed happening again. It seems impossible, but every year this thing just keeps getting bigger and better.
Date: Saturday, Jan 16th
Time: Meet at the Berry-Man Campground Trailhead (Google Map here) at 8:00 AM and roll out as a group at 8:30 AM. Faster riders wanting to do two laps (or more) might leave earlier. I am not one of those riders.
What to Bring:
- Your bike
- Any and all gear, food, and water you’ll need (this is a self-supported ride on a fairly rough trail – you’re on your own for the most part)
- Some food to share
- Something to drink (beer and/or whiskey is almost always the right choice, but homemade wine is also a good choice)
- Dry, warm clothes for hanging out after the ride (possibly the best part)
- Camping gear if you plan on camping the night before and/or after
What Not to Bring:
- A shitty attitude
Team Virtus will bring stuff to fire up the grill along with some meat and Kate’s cookies (right, Kate?) to throw on the grill – yes, they’re super delicious that way. And maybe even Chuck will bring his super secret Chili (right, Chuck?) with Cheeze-Its thrown in.
We probably won’t have enough meat for everyone, so please bring enough food for your group. Bringing a side dish or dessert to share would be super cool. And of course bring your own beverages.
Some of us will be camping Friday and/or Saturday night. And some of us will also be riding the totally rad Joe Dirt Ride at 12:00 pm on Sunday to round out a great weekend on bikes with friends.
It works out perfectly, really:
Camp, drink, and laugh our asses off Friday night. Get up and ride Berryman with a big group. Eat, drink, and laugh some more after the ride. Camp, eat, drink some more. Get up and get a good breakfast at the Spare Rib Inn, and then go ride bikes some more on Sunday.
So let us know if you’d like to join us. You can comment below or hit us up on the facebook event page.
**NOTE: This race report was written by me (Luke) with commentary added by Kate in Blue, Chuck in Green, and Brian (I renamed myself Captain Jack for this tale) in Red. If I feel like it, I might even add a response or two in Purple. And if you need to get caught up, go read Part 1 first.
The Part Where We Tried to Start the Paddling Leg
We rolled in and dropped our bikes at the TA where saw the smiling faces of some of the best volunteers in the AR biz. We dropped our bikes and grabbed an ice cold Red Bull before grabbing our paddling gear: paddles, PFD’s, throw bags, and glow sticks (which were no longer needed since the sun was already quite high in the sky).
Kate: Daytime paddles that are supposed to be nighttime paddles are something of a Team Virtus specialty at Thunder Rolls.
We walked over to the canoes and picked out what we hoped were good ones. That’s when we decided we might need some sun block. None of us had packed any, though, but thankfully our friend and super-volunteer Brandy had some. Brian went back to the TA to get some, and we applied the cream liberally as Chuck and Kate hopped in their canoe.
As they headed out onto the calm water of the cove, I realized I had forgotten my maps. Once again, we had to go all the way back to the TA to get our maps. Finally ready to start paddling, we started to climb into the canoe as Kate and Chuck paddled back toward us. It turns out they, too, had forgotten their maps at the TA. If only someone had just told them they were going back for maps. Oh, wait…
Captain Jack Sparrow (aka Captain Handsome): I had to move my legs in a fast motion repeatedly in order to go back and get the maps. It’s a new fad. I believe it’s jogging or yogging. It might be a soft j. I’m not sure, but apparently you just run for an extended period of time. It’s supposed to be wild….and to be honest, I didn’t like it much.
Kate: Sadly, we hadn’t heard him mention the maps because I was too busy giving Brian shit about taking the time to put on sunscreen.
Chuck: There is a picture of us somewhere laughing so ridiculously hard that we could hardly paddle back in.
One final trip back to the TA to get Chuck’s maps, and we were all ready to actually begin the paddling leg… at long last. And we wonder why we take so long in the TA.
The Part Where We Actually Paddle
Now I’m used to manning the back of the canoe, but Brian stepped up and took control of the stern as I sat in the bow. We’ve never paddled together before, and it showed. We zig-zagged all over that damn cove as Kate and Chuck made a beeline for the Mighty Mississippi.
We literally hit the lily pads on both sides of the cove several times before making it to the main river, and by then Kate and Chuck were well ahead of us. Being a wee bit heavier than Kate and Chuck only helped them pull away faster.
Captain Sparrow: Where I’m from, we just call it the front and the back of the boat. Much easier than all those other fancy terms.
Kate: We assumed they’d be way faster than us, having two strong men in their canoe and not being hampered by my noodle arms, but we hadn’t thought about the weight difference or the fact that Chuck and I have paddled quite a bit together now.
Luke: Kate doesn’t give herself enough credit. She no longer has noodle arms, and she’s become a much stronger paddler. Just ask Chuck.
Chuck: Seriously. She could slay the MR340 and set a new record time.
Kate: Only if by “slay” you mean “experience a psychotic break and murder everyone involved”.
Captain: Before this tale gets too far along, I want to press the pause button so I can reflect quickly on a few of my past experiences in these canoes. I’ve flipped one in a flooded parking lot, I’ve spent a whole race squatting in the middle of one so that we wouldn’t flip, I’ve been out on the Mississippi in one when the waves were so high we had to stop racing, and I also spent a whole race just last year paddling through a thunder and lightning “What Does WTFAR taste like when BBQ’d”-fest. The adventures have been mighty in these plastic yellow bananas, so I was looking forward to what this year’s race had in store for us.
Luke: In retrospect, maybe I never should’ve gotten in one of those things with you.
We knew that Brian would probably have to skip a few CP’s on the paddling leg to make it to his father’s 70th birthday party in time, so we decided to go for the farthermost CP’s across and upriver a couple miles away. Then we’d reevaluate to see how many other CP’s we would have time for (in hindsight it’s laughable we thought we could get more).
As calm as the cove was, the main river was anything but. The wind had picked up in a big way, and there were serious whitecaps out there. The wind came from the side, so the waves were nearly tipping us anytime we got sideways to them. We had to angle our canoe in such a way that we were going in the general direction of our intended CP while pointing the canoe into the waves. It was terrible out there.
It was weird, though. There were shallow areas with seaweed-like plants and tall lily pads where the river was very calm. While these sections were much less rough, paddling through them wasn’t much fun since our paddles kept getting caught in the plants with seaweed and algae spraying both of us, and there was a lot of drag since Brian and I aren’t exactly built like your typical endurance athlete. At one point we simply got stuck in the muck. I hopped out and dragged us through the shin-deep sludge as Brian used his Sasquatch strength to push us forward. All this effort to just continue paddling back into the really rough stuff. It was really, really tough paddling.
Captain: Let me really paint the picture for you…we’re out paddling in the middle of what appears to be an ocean. Water as far as the eye can see with a few random islands here and there. You’d think that the water would be so deep that you could find Atlantis down at the bottom depths of the darkness, but instead we’re literally sitting in inches of water. Unfortunately for us, we’re both naturally already in wintery-thick mode for the hibernating season, and our large asses made that canoe draaaaaaaaaaaaaaaag. And then all of the sudden…we’re stuck. Not moving. Done. Finished. Probably going to eaten by birds. As Luke mentioned, I started stabbing the muck and trying to find a way to push us forward. It was.not.working. And then…it happened. Luke jumps out of the canoe INTO THE MISSISSIPPI FREAKING RIVER. Think about that, those of you who aren’t insane adventure racers like Luke. He got out of a the canoe in the middle of the MISSISSIPPI RIVER. He should have plummeted down to Davey Jones locker to visit a Krakken or the Loch Ness monster, but oh yeah, we’re in inches of water. He quickly grabs onto the handle on the front of the canoe, and with his mighty hairy Wolverine strength lifts the canoe and starts dragging my Sasquatch girth towards the “deep end”. There was no Sasquatchian strength on my part. It was just this small thick man walking on water pulling a large thick man in a giant banana. You know, just typical every day stuff you see at the local Crossfit gym. Adventure racing….you gotta love it.
We could see Chuck and Kate up ahead, but from our angle, it looked like they were headed into a dead end of lily pads and the bank of the river. So we went around all that. This was a big mistake. We ended up WAY north of where we had intended, partly because of the vicious wind and partly because I suck with the river maps.
Kate: From my angle it looked like a dead end, too. I don’t remember the wind being terrible on the paddle to the Elk River, probably because it was so much worse on our return trip. We did barely drag through some shallow areas, and Chuck kept tormenting me by slapping the river with his paddle to make the Asian carp — which I hate — jump out of the water. I was so paranoid that one of them was going to jump into our canoe.
Chuck: The bearing we were following looked like a wall of jungle to me too. I had no confidence that we weren’t heading into a dead end, but when the Suunto MC-2 says ‘go that way’ … we go that way, and somehow always seem to luck out.
Luke: And perhaps it was rougher for us since we took the loooooong way to the Elk River. That and we outweigh you guys by just a few pounds.
Eventually, and with a tip from a couple of fishermen, we found the Elk River. And oh what sweet, sweet relief the calm waters of the Elk River provided. It was a nice break from the Mississippi, and we soon found the CP. There was no sign of Chuck and Kate, though.
Captain Jack: That fisherman thought we were idiots. Yeah, he’s out there in one of them there motor boats like a lazy loser, and we’re using all muscle. Who’s the REAL idiot?
Kate: The Elk River was heaven compared to the Mississippi. We found both CPs without much drama, and though running into some of the 12-hour teams was a little demoralizing we also saw a couple other 24-hour teams too. One of them was Chad’s team, who told us they’d seen Luke and Brian downriver, the first word we’d had of them since we’d gotten separated.
Knowing the paddle back across the Mississippi was going to suck and since it had taken so long to get just one CP, we decided to head straight back to the TA so that Brian could go to the party on time. Again, this was foolish thinking.
Captain: We got some really good Clash of Clans discussions during our romantic ride on the Elk.
Luke: Clash of Clans 4 Eva!!!
Even though we were paddling downriver, we couldn’t tell. We were going pretty much directly into the wind, and it was serious work to make slow progress. It was terrible but sort of in a good way. Brian and I even remarked that as terrible as it was, we were glad to be out there suffering together. It was kind of awesome in a way.
And then the wind and waves got even worse. At one point I swear the waves were coming at us from 3 different directions, and we almost tipped several times. Our bungholes were at pucker-level 10, and it was a fight to stay upright.
It was scary. Not as in we were going to die scary, but as in if we tip, we might not make it off the river for several hours.
Captain: Luke is insane, it was totally die scary. There was not a lot of talking going on at all. Due to the fact we’re brothers from a different mother, we quickly developed a series of grunts and groans to signal what was going on. Mostly, nothing. Once in a while Luke would bark out “RIGHT BRIAN!, RIGHT BRIAN!” even though I was already madly paddled on the right. It was freaking insane.
At one point we tried to go more east-west to…I don’t really know why…and we were immediately sideways and riding a giant wave. At that moment we looked EXACTLY like George Clooney and Mark Walberg in “The Perfect Storm”, not giving up and attempting to overcome the world’s most gnarly of waves. It was so much like the movie that in fact that in the middle of the wave Clooney and Walberg were already in negotations to play US in “The Perfect Storm Too”. But luckily we used our powers of Spongebob and Gerry training to work out of that horrible idea. So, so puckery…
Luke: The idea behind turning east-west was to get the waves and wind to our backs. It turns out that was a really shitty idea.
Kate: Conditions were difficult enough that the safety kayak returned to shore and Gerry “loves to make you suffer” Voelliger cancelled the paddle for
lucky later-arriving teams.
Captain: And oh yeah…even though that was all pretty insane and nuts, I paddled with a sense of calm because each time it got a little hairy I knew my main man up front had it all figured out.
Luke: I’m glad you had such blind faith in me. That was really stupid of you, though, because I wasn’t sure we were gonna make it.
Then we found ourselves next to a small island with lots of pelicans and seagulls on it. It was pretty cool actually, but it seemed like we were next to that damn island for 45 minutes. Remember, we were paddling “down” river.
After paddling hard for 15 minutes and only gaining 10 yards, Brian broke the silence and said, “So, uh… Luke. What’s the plan here?”
I said, “I’m just trying to stay upright and keep moving forward, man!”
I looked ahead a bit and saw a couple of downed trees in the river a hundred yards ahead or so, and I said, “Let’s aim for those trees and hope they provide even a little bit of shelter from this bullshit!”
Having a specific goal to shoot for seemed to help a little, but the trees provided no shelter from the wind and waves. Eventually, we made it to one of the shallow, calmer parts of the river. As we unpuckered for a bit, we paddled slowly through the “seaweed” and algae, throwing the vegetation all over ourselves. We dragged a few times, but we never got stuck.
Captain: It was at this point that I was delirious from paddling and was pretty sure the slowly waving weeds, just barely under the surface of the water were going to reach up and yank us down into our watery grave. That and those stupid carp that kept slapping the surface and scaring the crap out of us.
Slogging through another couple of rough patches left us with one final rough section before we could coast down the sweet, calm cove to the TA. We almost tipped another time or two before reaching the cove, but we managed to make it… finally.
Paddling down the cove made us realize how much we had improved as a paddling team in just a few hours. On the way out, we zig-zagged all over the damn place, but on the way back in, even though we were physically and mentally exhausted, we paddled straight as an arrow – a huge improvement from when we started – to the shore as the volunteers cheered.
The Part Where We Hug it Out
We hit dry land where I crawled out of the canoe and dragged the boat up so Brian could get out. We’d done it. No, we didn’t get all the CP’s. In fact, we only got 1, but by George we effing earned it! But paddled through some of the roughest paddling I’ve been in during an Adventure Race, and we managed to not flip the canoe. And for the first time in Brian’s AR career, he never had to witness any PaDdLinG MaDNeSs (even though it would have been warranted this time).
With our feet on dry land again, we turned to each other. Our eyes met as we both let out a sigh of relief, and then we embraced. It was not a sexually charged embrace (this time), but it was more than just bro-hug. It was a special moment that only Brian and I shared… in front of all the volunteers.
(Side Rant: Yes, I purchased the above photo as a digital download. I did not steal it or use it without permission because I am not a douchebag – at least I try really hard to not be a douchebag. I like supporting good people who do good work, and John is definitely one helluva guy doing great work. Yes, it’s not much. I only threw a couple of bucks his way, but I feel a lot better about doing that than ripping him off. You should support him and other artists like him too. Rant over.)
Captain: That bro hug was real. What a cool and fantastic adventure in a sport where thick mildly handsome pseudo athletes can be admired around the world by tens of fans….ok, seriously, what a great life adventure with a man I’m glad to call a friend.
It would have been fun to share the misery with Kate and Chuck. But they wanted to be like good at the paddling thing or something. Whatever.
Luke: “Mildly handsome pseudo athlete.” I need to put that on my business card.
We had been on the water for 4 hours or so, and it was later than we had hoped to get Brian on the road. A couple phone calls later, and after another hug and a teary goodbye, Brian found himself shuttled first class back to Camp Benson.
I hated to see Brian go. Even with the shitty conditions out on the river, we were all having a blast racing together. We should have teamed up for a race a long time ago, and we’ll definitely do it again as soon as possible.
I’ll let Brian describe his ride back to Camp Benson and his subsequent drive to his dad’s birthday party:
Captain: I had a nice bumpy nap in the back of that bad boy.
The Part Where We Reunite
And then there was nothing for me to do but wait for Kate and Chuck. Well, I worried a little about them too. And I chatted with my friends volunteering at the TA. And I might have eaten a couple delicious cookies courtesy of Mrs. Tardy Rooster herself, Leisha Huntley. And perhaps, I managed to catch a quick catnap, but I’m not sure.
A few of the 12-hour teams came paddling in, and each time I hoped it was Kate and Chuck arriving safely. Several teams had swamped, and 3 or 4 teams called for a ride on the Iowa side of the river. None of those teams were Chuck and Kate, though.
I’ll let Kate describe the rest of their time on the river. Take it away, Kate!
Kate: After leaving the Elk River, Chuck and I had to canoe downriver towards our next CP. Just as Luke described, “downriver” felt like a difficult upstream paddle because we were heading almost directly into the ridiculous wind, chopping through whitecaps and paddling as hard as we could just to make any kind of forward progress. We, too, hugged the islands and marshy patches where possible; we still had to fight the wind, but the water was calmer there.
As we struggled against the wind and flopped down over whitecap after whitecap, my paddle strokes were powered mostly by the fervent hope that we’d reach the boat ramp where the next CP was located and see race volunteers there to tell us that due to unsafe conditions the remainder of the paddle was cancelled and they would drive us back to the bike drop. (Spoiler alert: Nope.)
The wind was so strong on the river that we both had to paddle constantly, so neither of us had eaten in the past couple of hours. We beached at the boat ramp, dumped the water that had splashed in during our voyage, ate some food, dispensed some helpful safety advice to the 5 year old wandering the river bank alone, and generally steeled ourselves to get back into the canoe. Oh, and sent Luke a text so he knew we were still alive.
Chuck: Watching Kate switch from BA adventure racer to Mom mode was pretty funny considering we just survived one of our scariest paddles to date. “Where are your parents at?”, “Be careful by that water.”, “Oh, that is a nice frog!”.
Luke: Getting that text was a huge relief.
Once we’d stalled as long as possible, we set off on our return trip. Both the canoe take-out and our last CP were back across the river, which is like 25 miles wide at that point (OK, maybe not, but it felt that way) Chuck: (5K). Compounding the distance was the fact that we had to angle away from our destination in order to account for the way the wind was pushing us. Now instead of waves splashing over the nose of our canoe they were hitting us broadside, and we both worried about tipping. The one perk of the sub-optimal conditions was the near-total lack of other river traffic — we’ve spent plenty of paddles being buffeted by the wakes of pontoon boats and jet-skis — the downside of this being that no one was on the river to help us if we tipped.
Chuck: Self-rescue would have been a long-term affair maybe even bordering on impossible.
Eventually we made it to our final CP and all that remained was to paddle upriver (but with the wind at our backs) to the inlet we’d left several hours before. It was then that Chuck made a near-fatal error.
Chuck: “Suck it River! We beat you!”
“Shut up!” I told him, “Why are you talking like that before we’re safe on land?? He didn’t mean it, river.” Moments later we struck a submerged log; the canoe shuddered but then righted itself. Chuck held back any further smack talk, and the rest of our paddle was uneventful.
After paddling for roughly 7 hours, Chuck and Kate arrived to our cheers. They looked about as relieved as Brian and I did when we arrived. It was damn good to see them.
Chuck: I actually hate that this picture looks so calm and peaceful. As far as I know NOBODY got a picture out in the wind on the main channel. It was just to scary to stop paddling for the few seconds it would have taken.
Chuck and Kate didn’t take very long in the TA. They unloaded their paddling gear, grabbed some food, filled up with water, and we were ready to hop back on the bikes.
The Part Where We Bike to and Do the O-Section
After that un-Virtus-like quick transition, we were back on the bikes. The temperature had risen along with the humidity. Fortunately, the wind that was so brutal on the river was now at our backs.
This bike leg was uneventful as we nabbed all the CP’s pretty easily, and we soon found ourselves at that TA for the O-Section. There were a few very good teams on their way out of the woods when we arrived. They looked a little defeated, to be honest.
I slammed an ice-cold Red Bull as we looked over the maps quickly. We were running short on time since we needed to be off the O-course by 8:00 pm. We came up with a plan where we would grab one of the “easy” CPs and then reevaluate our situation to decide if we’d go for another CP or two.
Kate: Chuck briefly suggested we run on the road sections. I was not in favor of this plan.
We found the little shed in the woods we were looking for, and we shot a bearing to the CP.
Kate: Luke and I were very helpful, if by “helpful” you mean “busy taking selfies“.
Luke: It was so nice having Chuck do the navigating here. My selfie-skills are much improved.
It took us a little longer than we had anticipated, but Chuck did not lead us astray. Kate and I have faced a Thunder Rolls cutoff before, and it can be quite formidable. So we decided to err on the side of caution and head back to the TA with just one of the O-Section CPs.
We hiked back to the TA, making sure we stayed out of the cornfields per Gerry’s instructions. And apparently, adventure racing tends to make Kate’s hands grow abnormally long:
I drank another Red Bull back at the TA – what can I say, I was sleepy by this point. My nether regions were really chafed and sore, and I contemplated riding that final bike leg back to Camp Benson without my bike bibs. Kate was considering the same thing. I opted to put my bibs back on, but I’m not sure if it helped or made things worse.
After a mile or two, it didn’t matter since I didn’t do much sitting on the saddle anyway. I fell into a rhythm of standing and pedaling for 3 hard strokes followed by coasting as long as possible before pedaling again. I got pretty good at it, maintaining the same speed as Chuck and Kate without sitting on the saddle much to save my ass – literally. Despite the chafing and general fatigue, we made way better time than we had anticipated, dropped our bikes at the camp’s pavilion, and headed back down to the Wakarusa River for one last Coasteering leg.
Kate: Unless you really effed up that bike leg, the state park-mandated cutoff for the O section pretty much guaranteed that you were going to be back at Camp Benson and finished with the final coasteering leg well before the race ended at midnight.
Chuck: I would’ve loved to spend more time in that O-section. Sucks that the state park people wont let us race in there after dark.
Coasteering like this can be a lot of fun, and when the race started it was just that. However, 20+ hours into a race made it sub-awesome, to say the least. And Gerry, being the sadistic bastard he is, designed the last coasteering section in such a way to force you to trudge through the water much longer than you wanted to.
Kate: I think this year’s coasteering legs were the best (least unpleasant) of my four Thunder Rolls experiences. Whether because of the stretch of river or just dumb luck, we seemed to miss out on all of the big submerged rocks that seem to trip you up in the dark.
Luke: And for whatever reason, there was much less flesh-shredding sand and grit in my shoes this year.
I’m pretty sure we didn’t take any photos during this section because we just wanted to be done. We were all much quieter too – especially Kate who has been know to be a bit chatty from time to time.
There was a 2-person coed team who tagged along behind us for this section. I think they had had enough and just didn’t want to have to think anymore. This is something I totally understand.
Kate: I was mad for a long time that they were following us and didn’t trust myself to talk without saying something bitchy. Instead I stalked ahead, fueled by righteous anger. Chuck and Luke both talked to the other team a little, and once I realized where they were mentally I relaxed a little and finally started having fun again when, on my way back from punching our final CP, I ended up chest-deep in the river:
We finally got the last few CPs and humped it back up to the finish line. The team that tagged along with us fell back so we could finish ahead of them which was an honorable thing to do. As we reached the finish line, I peeled off to the side to let Chuck and Kate finish together. I was DQ’d anyway since my passport left with Brian.
I guess if I’d have turned in a passport, I wouldn’t be officially listed as a DNF in the final results. But Brian and I were supposed to be signed up as a 2-person team instead of solos anyway, and I came into the race expecting to DNF. If you’re familiar with us at all, though, you know we don’t put much stock in the final standings. We come for the experience – kicking ass is just a bonus.
Captain: Hey everybody! I missed talking to you. At this point in their race I had already eaten a ton of food at my dad’s party, explained the fantastic sport of adventure racing to my family while they looked at me like I was insane (especially the rappelling part) and was now asleep and drooling on myself on my parents couch….
I do regret not getting a finishing – or is it Did Not Finishing – photo with Gerry. We took a team photo before grabbing some delicious pizza and cold beer.
The only thing that would have made finishing better is if Brian could’ve been there with us.
Kate: Indeed. Such a great day.
BVW: You three are great. Let’s do this again?
Luke: We absolutely need to do this again!
He was with us in spirit, though, so we had John snap a quick photo of us with our entire team:
After eating, drinking, and chatting with fellow racers, we showered and went to bed. Sleep never feels as good as it does after a long, hard race.
One of us, who shall remain nameless, chatted deep into the wee hours of the morning. She stayed up so late that she slept through most of the goodbyes and had to be roused from her bunk so we could pack up and go home.
Kate: Whoever that was, she missed out on saying goodbye to everyone but Gerry, and since the socialization is pretty much her favorite part of races, she was disappointed about that (but well-rested).
Once the nameless sleepyhead was finally out of bed, she packed her things up and we left our beloved Camp Benson. Per tradition, we hit the Kountry Kettle for some gravified breakfast. Again, Brian was missed. In his honor, I ate twice as much as I normally would have (which is a lot).
Big thanks goes out to Gerry and all of his crew from High Profile Adventure Racing, and an equally large thank you must go to the amazing volunteers who made the race not only possible but a smashing success. And thanks to Brian for racing with us even though he knew he had to cut the race short. We seriously need to do it again as soon as possible.
Until next time, may your adventures be epic. And your breakfasts covered in gravy.