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Author Archives: Lukas Lamb

SuperChuck and SuperKate at the Tomahawk Challenge Adventure Race

Chuck and Kate have been the dynamic duo of Team Virtus this year. They’ve raced a lot more than the rest of us, and they’ve done it a lot better than we usually do it. We’re waiting for them to ditch us soon for a better, faster team.

But we know they’ll never leave us. We’re way too much fun. Besides, we have them under contract for 10 years, and at Kate’s age, she’ll likely be in a nursing home by then. So I think they’re stuck with us.

Tomahawk Challenge Adventure Race 2015

Man, Chuck looks so young next to Kate.

Anyways… They kicked ass at this inaugural adventure race. They encountered root caves, an actual labyrinth, gargantuan maps, and perhaps even a podium finish!!!

You’ll definitely want to head on over to Kate’s blog and read the full report. DO IT RIGHT NOW and thank me later.

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The 2015 Thunder Rolls Race Report Part 1: The WTFAR-TUS Debut

**NOTE: This race report was written by me (Luke) with commentary added by Kate in Blue, Chuck in Green, and Brian in Red. If I feel like it, I might even add a response or two in Purple.

At one point, we thought we were going to have 6 Virtusans and a Whiskey Tango Foxtrot-er going to the premiere Adventure Race in the Midwest – nay, the nation – nay, the world! – The Thunder Rolls 24-hour AR. We were planning on showing up en masse to dominate all our competitors.

The Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

That was the plan, but I’m sure we’ve all heard this line from Steinbeck: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” (And before any of you literary snobs chime in to tell me it was originally “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley” from the Robert Burns poem To a Mouse, just know that nobody cares.)

When it came time to sign up for the race, we were down to Kate, Chuck, Brian from WTFAR, and myself. Brian needed to leave the race early to help his dad celebrate his 70th birthday party. So Kate and Chuck raced as Team Virtus, and Brian and I paired up as the formidable Team WTFAR-Tus (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Adventure Racing + Virtus = WTFAR-Tus). We signed up as solos, though, so when he had to split, I could continue on with Kate and Chuck to suffer and enjoy the rest of the race.

Even though we were signed up as solos, we only took one passport since we were a team. In our hearts and minds we were racing togehter as Team WTFAR-Tus. We were racing as teammates. We were racing as brothers.

Brian: You guys need to understand, I wouldn’t be a top notch mediocre adventure racer if it wasn’t for Team Virtus. I  remember fondly the cold January day where I sat in my comfy chair with a blanket and coffee reading their first adventures of rappelling at Camp Gerry. My hands got sweaty from fear as I moved from paragraph to paragraph but finally I came to the conclusion if those idiots could become the Midwest’s greatest team then maybe I could at least survive.  And now I’m racing WITH them? I’d compare it to being a kid who got to invite Batman, He-Man, Daisy Duke, Fat Elvis, and a Dino bot to his birthday party. So yeah, I was stoked.

We even look like brothers! Sort of...

We even look like brothers! Sort of.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The Part Where We Drive to the Race

Part of the fun of a big race is the road trip. I can’t begin to tell you how many stories and jokes we have from previous road trips alone. For example, on one long road trip we learned that “Twister” is one of Robby “The Darkness” Brown’s all-time favorite movies. Seriously.

So I was stoked that Kate and Chuck were willing to wait for me to get off work at 9:00 so I could meet up with Chuck and then pick up Kate along the way. We piled into Chuck’s Adventure Jeep and much laughing and farting ensued. Unfortunately, Brian had to ride up to the Adventure Racing paradise that is Camp Benson by himself.

Road Trip to The Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

I let Kate have shotgun because I respect my elders.

Chuck:  At some point during the drive Luke spotted the big Gerber knife on the rollbar and had to check it out.  The sheath has a tight fit, so you really gotta pull to get it out.  I don’t even want to know how close it came to stabbing me in the neck when it popped loose.

Luke: The Adventure Jeep is a badass vehicle and that knife makes it even more so. And yes, I may have almost stabbed both Chuck and Kate once or twice.

Brian: SuperChuck…the most interesting adventure racer in the world.

On any road trip, we try to honor Bob’s rule of “No Chain Restaurants” whether he’s not with us or not, and in this case he most certainly was not with us since his brother was getting married (a valid excuse – family first, right?). Bob’s dining rule has resulted in some hilariously bad dining experiences as well as some really good ones. Fate was smiling down on us, though, when Chuck spotted a sign for Crossroads Diner.

This little diner didn’t look like much from the outside, and the interior followed suit. Even with Kate at our table, we brought the average age of the diners down substantially. Chuck and I ordered their specialty: Pork Tenderloin Sandwich with Fries. Kate, however, ordered a cheeseburger with onion straws, and then she decided to be a pain in the ass and substitute onion rings for her fries.

Ho-lee shit! We were not disappointed. Our tenderloins and Kate’s onion rings were hand-breaded in their delicious proprietary, super secret breading, and the portions were effing huge! Take a look:

burger and hand-breaded onion rings

Whether or not Kate planned to use these onions against Chuck much later is still up for debate.

hand-breaded pork tenderloin sandwich

If you flattened the tenderloin, it was almost twice as big as the bun.

 

Chuck: That picture is a lie.  The tenderloin looked so much bigger in real life.  I swear it was the size of an elephant ear.

Brian: I had lunch at Wendys, thanks for asking.

It was so freakin’ good! Seriously. If you’re ever near Mt. Olive, Illinois, you should stop. Just be aware that the bathroom doors are wicked-narrow. For real.

The Part Where We Prepare Ourselves

We arrived at Camp Benson, and Brian, who arrived before us, was nowhere to be seen. I really thought he’d be there waiting to greet us with a giant bear hug or something, but I was mistaken.

We checked in and got our schwag bag which was literally a bag this year – a cool littler cooler/duffle bag with Zanfel and BOETJE’S MUSTARD OMG OMG!!! and a few other things.

Chuck:  And did you hear Gerry say they now have a bourbon barrel aged Boetje’s Mustard?!  We HAVE to find some!

Luke: Yup! We need to make a sammich with the Boetje’s Bourbon Mustard and pair it with your homemade whiskey, Chuck!

Then we headed down to our cabin assuming we’d find Brian taking a nap or doing push-ups or something. No such luck. But we soon found him as we were walking back to the main lodge for the pre-race pasta dinner.

Brian: I was sitting by my car preparing my gear patiently waiting for my teammate’s to arrive. I wish they would create some sort of typing device that one could use to send a message to someone else that could arrive almost instantly. That way I would have know they had arrived. I guess the technology just isn’t there yet…

It had been WAY too long since we’d seen BVW (or as we started calling him, The Beev – another gem from the road trip), and it was great to see his model-like face and rockin’ body. We stuffed our faces as we laughed our asses off catching up with each other and seeing many of our AR friends. Then it was time for the pre-race meeting out in the new amphitheater.

Camp Benson Amphitheater

Camp Benson just keeps getting better with additions like this every year.

After Gerry Voelliger finished scaring the shit out of us with tales of how epic and real the rappel and the rest of the course were, we got our maps and began to plot our points and stategerize our impending doom domination.

Plotting UTM's at Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

Brian was shocked at how easy the course looked.

Being the Den Mother she is, Kate was nice enough to write the clue for each checkpoint in the corresponding box on our passports. Kate read the UTM coordinates to Chuck who plotted them. Brian did likewise for me. And then we all planned our route together.

After a final bathroom stop, we got all our maps gathered up and headed out of the lodge.

Pooping in urinal

When you gotta go, you gotta go. (No actual poop was pooped into the urinal)

It was time to head out to the Adventure Jeep and get our shit together. The race was starting at midnight which left just a couple hours to get ready.

The Part Where I Was an Ungrateful Dick

I found myself alone by the Adventure Jeep, going through my gear and figuring out what I’d need to take with me at the start of the race. I’m not sure where Chuck and Kate were, but The Beev had gone to his car to get his kayak paddles.

Out of the darkness, BVW appears and hands me a wad of black fabric.

“What’s this?” I said.

“Open it,” said he.

I unroll the fabric to see the inside of a black hoodie.

“What is it?” I said.

“Turn it around,” said he.

I turn it around to see that it is Brian’s North Face hoodie from 2012 The Thunder Rolls. Now before I tell you this next part, let me preface it by telling you how much I LOVED my hoodie from that year.

Yes, I said I loved my hoodie as in past tense. As in, I no longer have it because while I was pacing my brother at the Leadville 100, I loaned it to another runner who was freezing her ass off. She gave it to someone at the next aid station, but I never saw it again. It was my absolute favorite hoodie in the world from one of my favorite race experiences of all time.

It killed me to lose it. My wife and mom tried to surprise me by finding a replacement for me. They actually scoured the web and contacted Leadville HQ to see if it had turned up. They even contacted Gerry to see if he had any extras or possibly knew how to get another one. But alas, there was no way to get my hoodie back.

Best Hoodie ever from Thunder Rolls AR

So damn happy.

It’s actually been a long-running joke. Every time Kate or Bob wear their hoodie, they ask me about mine. And each time, a small part of me dies. And now Brian was in on the joke, flaunting his hoodie in front of me.

“Ha ha, you asshole. Yeah, yeah. I don’t have mine anymore. Good one,” I said.

“No, you idiot! I’m giving it to you!”

Well, I felt like an ass. I couldn’t accept this unbelievable gift, though. I tried to give it back, but he wasn’t having any of it. And since he’s the size of Sasquatch, I couldn’t force him to take it back.

“It doesn’t fit me anyway,” he said (which I’m pretty sure is a lie). “Besides, I appreciate your friendship.”

With those words, I was left speechless – a rarity indeed. I should have said a lot of things, but nothing came to mind. I hope I said, “Thanks,” but I’m not sure I did. Like I said, I didn’t know what to say. And we were scrambling to get all our shit together, so if I didn’t show my gratitude at the time, I’m doing so now.

Brian, thank you. Seriously. Thank you.

Brian: (Cue the sappy music…) You lost your hoodie being a good human, it was the least I could do. You’re welcome my friend… And now you can point out how big of assholes Bob and Kate are/were for taunting you so much.

Kate: And now you’ve spoiled one of our favorite ways of tormenting Luke, which makes you the asshole. Thanks a lot.

Luke: Yeah. What a bunch of jerks. I’d never make fun of them for something. And thanks again, man!

The Part Where We Start: Biking, Coasteering, & Fixed Ropes

With our PFD’s, paddles, and other appropriate gear loaded onto the truck to be taken to the canoe put-in, we lined up in the back of the pack at the starting line – you know, to give some of the other teams a chance to get ahead of us.

Start of 2015 Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

Crappy photo of an awesome team.

The pre-race group photo was taken, the National Anthem was played, and the race started with a short ride down to the river for some Coasteering to find the first 5 CP’s in any order.

Brian had put a new chain on his bike just before the race. He did not, however, change the cassette which caused his gears to jump all over the place. This would be an ongoing issue throughout the race, and it’s a mistake none of us will make again in the near future.

We rode a mile or so down to the river. There was a steep, rocky section where I almost ran over someone half-walking on one foot, half-riding with the other, so I had to stop and walk my bike for the last section.

Kate: I’d wanted to be in the back of the group at the start just so we didn’t have to be in the middle of a pack of people all crushing onto the doubletrack at the same time; instead, we ended up behind the people who felt the least comfortable riding it.

Brian and I caught up to Kate and Chuck, and we entered the river. We decided to first go to the farthest checkpoint away, perhaps grabbing the CP in the cave if there weren’t too many teams there. With just one team exiting the cave as we approached, we headed into the cave.

I snapped a few photos of the others entering the cave, but none of them turned out. I climbed into the cave just in time to see BVW’s powerful ass backing out of a side crevice. Kate had sent him down that small chute to make sure the CP wasn’t in there as it was one year.

Kate: I was trying to be nice and save him the extra walking if the CP turned out to be close, but I should have known Gerry wouldn’t put it there two years in a row.

I love this cave. It’s cold, and the water at the bottom is even colder. The bats are super cool, unless they repeatedly hit you in the face like they did to Brian. For some reason they were attracted to him. Maybe it was the bat pheromones we secretly sprayed on him before the race. Or maybe it’s just because he’s so damn handsome.

Brian: I took two bats off the helmet, and when the second one hit, my head lamp flipped down onto my face, making me think I had a bat stuck to my face. I screamed like a scared baby…I mean, damn, that bat was lucky I didn’t turn it into bat and urine stew.

 

BVW in the cave at Thunder Rolls AR

If you were a bat, wouldn’t you want to hit him in the face too? With this picture all we needed was a chopped-up door to recreate a scene from The Shining

At a couple points, the cave was quite narrow, forcing Brian to crawl (insert Kate’s short-joke about me here). The cave is pretty deep (200 feet? 300 feet?), and it’s just so damn cool. One of my favorite parts of any race.

It turns out the CP was almost all the way in the very back of the cave. We squeezed past Chuck and Kate in one of the not quite as narrow parts of the cave after they punched their passport so we could punch ours.

The Cave at Camp Benson

Screenshot from Brian’s audition for The Walking Dead.

Brian: Please note the 2012 tshirt commerating my glorious victory over THE Bob Jenkins in our tetherball match.  He may have destroyed me in every match since, but at least I have a cool shirt from my lone victory. Man, that guy can tetherball.

Luke: That’s not exactly how I remember it, but since you gave me your hoodie, this is how I’ll remember it from now on.

After the cave, we headed over to the Ascending CP. On the way, we grabbed CP 4 which was up a little ways in a creek bed. Chuck was spot on finding this one.

From CP4, we headed over to CP 5 for the ascent. There was quite a line. In hindsight, we would have been better off going to get the other ones and then coming back to this one, but we decided to wait. I think we waited in line for 45 minutes or so.

Brian and I already had our harnesses on so we’d be ready. Chuck and Kate waited to put theirs on, assuming (correctly) that they’d have time to do so while waiting in line.

And that’s when it happened…

There was no warning. There was no sound. There was just a smell. A smell so foul, we heard Sasquatch himself shriek in horror as he ran away. Poor Chuck got the worst of it. And I actually caught the moment on film. Well, I guess I caught it on a memory card since film is pretty much dead, but I digress. Back to the stench…

Here we see the the exact moment when it happened:

Kate Busting Ass at Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

Poor Chuck and Brian are oblivious to the fact that Kate is pushing out the nastiest fart known to Team Virtus.

It hit Chuck first since his face was so near the source – with his mouth open and everything.

“Oh my God! What the hell is that,” Chuck said in disgust.

Then it hit Brian. “Holy shit! That’s worse than Bob Jenkins’s ass!”

In this next photo you can see the reaction to the awful event – Chuck is trying to stay upright without passing out, and Brian is unsure if he should breath through his nose and smell it or through his mouth and taste it:

Chuck: We’ll never get her to admit it, but I bet this stealth attack was a carefully planned and well-played act of revenge. God knows she owes us.

Luke: This is true. She definitely owes us, but this one made up a lot of ground. Let’s never let her eat onion rings before a race again.

Brian: Wow. Sometimes the nicest people do the nastiest things (allegedly). My nostrils still burn thinking of that.

Kate's stench

Kate clearly enjoyed this moment while the rest of us did not.

It was finally our turn, and although the ascent was by no means easy (unless your name is Wes Black who literally flew up on the rope next to me faster than anyone I’ve ever seen – literally), but it wasn’t awful either. Kate went up first followed by Chuck, myself, and then Brian.

Ascending at Thunder Rolls AR

Kate going up as Chuck adds weight to the rope to get her started.

At the top, Kate realized she had forgotten to put her Town Hall inside her the walls of her war village and our war was about to start. She checked her phone to see if she had a signal, and she made it right with no time to spare. It turns out we lost that war, but we survived to fight another day. And for those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, you haven’t had the pleasure and shear joy of playing Clash of Clans with your team. No, it’s not dorky. It’s the coolest thing in the world. Jenkins Clan 4EVA!!!

Clash of Clans Kate at TR

A valiant effort in a losing battle.

Brian made short work of the ascending, and we headed out. In hindsight, we should have given Brian a few minutes to recover here. He said he was fine, but the rest of us had anywhere from 10 – 20 minutes of rest at the top. Having never raced with Brian, I didn’t insist that we stop, and I should have. Sorry, Brian!

Brian: I did NOT make quick work of that ascend. Those guys were high on Kate’s fart. My form sucks, I went all arms and tired out quickly. Luckily we weren’t on the straight overhang rope, so I had a few rocky outcroppings to rest on. The first one I stopped at looked like it had poison ivy all over it. I sighed, said f#$k it, and rested on it anyway. My gross ooze covered arm now reminds me of that stupid decision. And…I should have taken them up on the rest offer. Moving 500 lbs of ass up a rope is hard work, and I struggled for 15-20 minutes after that as my team took off like jackrabbits.

Luke: I don’t think we’ve ever been called jackrabbits before. I’m all arms too when ascending. This is something I need to work on.

Anywho… We found our way back down to the river and soon reached the rappel. Again, in hindsight we should have gone and gotten CP 1 before rappelling, but we didn’t. We ended up waiting in line for the rappel for another 45 min or so, but that’s what happens sometimes when you’re not one of the faster teams.

I’m really glad we did this rappel at night. We had to walk across a knife’s edge (clipped into a safety line of course) just to get to the small table top where we would begin the rappel. It would have been much more terrifying in the daylight with the ability to see how far the sheer drop off on each side was.

Chuck went down first, and then it was my turn. It’s always reassuring to have LE and April helping out on the rappel, and then to have G Scott at the very top was even more reassuring. We literally trust these people with our lives, and not only are they superb instructors, they are super awesome people.

As I sat on the table top with G Scott, he said, “Oh boy. You have a Figure 8.”

*Shit!*

“You’re going to have to listen to me very carefully and do exactly as I say,” he said.

*WTF?! I’m going to die! Why didn’t I bring my ATC instead of this stupid Figure 8?! Why?! WHY?!*

“You need to make sure you keep tension on both sides of the rope or this rope will come up over the top of the Figure 8 and you’ll get bound up.”

*Okay, so I might not die. I’ll just get stuck on the rope. That’s not so bad, I guess. Phew.*

To say I paid very close attention to G Scott’s fine instructions is an understatement. It would be like saying the Green Bay Packers only sort of suck when in reality they suck more than any other team ever in the history of sports.

Kate: I didn’t hear the conversation, but I heard G Scott’s tone and its seriousness threw me; it’s how he always sounds when talking me through my fear of heights, and I know Luke isn’t nearly as scared as I am.

Brian: I had a figure 8 too, so my story mirrors Luke. I thought I was going to die. Especially as I crawled my Sasquatch body to the edge and then spun around on my stomach while having G Scott repeat everything numerous times because my wife tells me I never listen and I thought I should REALLY pay attention in this case. So scary and fun. 

Rappel at Thunder Rolls 2015

This is what the top looked like in the daylight. And that is superstar Jonas rappeling. He’s 8 years old! (Photo Credit: Jon VanDis)

Like always, once I sat back into my harness and felt the rope hold my fat ass, I was fine, and the rappel was a lot of fun. We got to see our friends and super-volunteers, Dave and Leisha Huntley, on a small ledge near the bottom before we continued downward into the river.

Kate and Brian came on down with no problems, and then it was up a beautiful creek bed to find CP 1 before heading back on our bikes to the TA at Camp Benson where we changed into dry clothes and headed out on our bikes again.

The Part Where We Bike and Everyone “Helps”

Dry socks and shoes felt wonderful, but the air was cool. It was hard to regulate our body temperature. The climbs would leave us sweaty, and the downhills would leave us chilled.

The hills were particularly fun for Brian who was had only 1 or 2 gears that wouldn’t skip and jump all over the place. Remember that part earlier about him changing his chain but not the cassette? Well, now he was paying the price. But he never complained, and he kept up just fine. He’s basically a stud.

Brian: I’m so bike stupid. I was always a bit behind the whole ride, but tried to stay with them the best I could. It was mildly disappointing as I had trained pretty hard on the bike.

Luke: You kept up just fine. Especially considering your chain issue.

We got the first CP or two with no problems. One of them was under a bridge:

Thunder Rolls Bridge Checkpoint

Kate was the Virtus Passport Puncher, and Brian was the WTFAR-Tus Passport Puncher. Although Kate was nice enough to punch ours here too.

We did make one navigational error on the bike that put us at an off-limits highway. It would have been much faster and easier to break the rules and take the highway, and I doubt anyone would have ever known. But we would have known, and that’s not the Virtus hhhhway. We race with strength AND honor even when it sucks to do so. So we headed back around the long way, losing 30 – 40-ish minutes in the process.

Another CP or two and the sky was juuuuust beginning to brighten. It was roughly 5:30-ish AM. We had all been up around 24 hours or more at this point, and we could definitely feel the sleepiness setting in. The sun rising always acts as a pick-me-up and brightens our spirits, though.

As we rolled up to a 4-way intersection, I realized my front tire was going flat. So we pulled over to swap the tube with a new one. Now this is where Team Virtus/WTFAR-Tus really shines. We work together as a team to get shit done in a hurry. Everyone has a job, and everyone does it quickly and efficiently. We are like a well-oiled machine with no wasted time or energy. To see us work together is a thing of beauty.

Brian sleeping at TR Adventure Race

Brian was a big help.

Chuck asleep at Thunder Rolls AR

At least Chuck handed me a tire tool before ending up like this.

Kate sleeping at Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

Kate was very helpful too.

Sleeping Virtus at Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

The Three Sleeping Amigos

In their defense, they did offer to help. But honestly, there’s not much anyone else could have done to make things go faster. And I’m a grown man who changes his own damn tires! The only thing that would have made it go any faster is if I hadn’t taken the time to snap these photos, but it was too good to pass up.

Kate: I never fell asleep because I kept having to add clothes, but just lying down and closing my eyes for a few minutes was glorious, and I’d much rather have a picture of myself sleeping on the side of the road than a really unflattering picture of me allegedly farting in my teammate’s face.  Oh, wait…

Chuck:  I remember asking if Luke needed any help….and that was all.  I was totally asleep and didn’t even know he came over to borrow the frame pump off my bike.

Brian: my favorite part of the race.

A couple cars went by us here. They probably didn’t know what to think. It’s 6:00 AM on a Saturday, three people are sprawled out in the road and ditch, and a chubby guy (me) has his back to the road doing what appears to be something lewd and lascivious as he pumped his tire up. It probably looked a lot like this:

With the sun up, three-quarters of our team well rested, and a fresh tube in my tire, we rode onward. We entered the French Bluff Natural Area which held the closest thing to single track that we’d see in this race. The map looked easy enough that Brian said even his usual teammate Todd could find the CP’s.

easy map at Thunder Rolls AR

“Hey, Todd. Even YOU could find these!”

To prove how “easy” these CP’s would be, Brian (our least experienced navigator) took the helm and led us through the trails. While the map looked innocent enough, the hills were tough (especially that first one), and the terrain was rough. But Brian did a stellar job as the lead navigator.

Kate: I’m pretty excited to have graduated to non-least-experienced navigator, even if it’s only when Brian is with us.

Brian: I don’t nav, I carry things & paddle.

Brian navigating at Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

Brian’s first official CP as a WTFARTusan lead navigator.

It was tough but fun riding. The rocky downhill was especially fun (Yes!!). We left French Bluff and rode between some corn and soybean fields on a flat, gravel road.

Brian: I suck at single track and rocky sandy downhills, its the WTFAR way. I stayed WAAAAAY behind everyone and managed not to die on the way down.

We planned on stopping at the campground to fill up with water and unload some feces. As we approached the campground we met Team Alpine Shop as they were heading back out on their bikes having already completed the paddle. We asked how it was to which they simply replied: “It was hard.”

bathroom stop at TR AR

We all felt refreshed even if Chuck doesn’t look like it.

Oh shit. If the paddle was hard for one of the top teams in the nation, then we were screwed. We knew it was going to be rough, but none of us were prepared for what was about to happen out there on the Mississippi River. *shudders*

Stay tuned for Part 2… More to come!

Ridin’ for the Cup #1 – The Cock Gobbler Ride

I’ve regretted coming up 6 or 7 miles short of a metric century at the Rocheport Roubaix a few weeks ago. The race was 55 miles, but the weather was bitterly cold – like in the teens with high winds kind of cold. My feet were frozen, and I was exhausted at the end of that race, and the warm cafe was too inviting, so I didn’t go out and ride the extra mileage to get credit toward earning my Cup O’ Dirt.

So, I really wanted to ride a metric century (62 miles for those of you who don’t want to Google how far a kilometer is) as soon as the weather turned halfway decent. But we weren’t just blessed with halfway decent weather last weekend. The weather was simply superb for early March.

Travis, Bob, and Jim joined me in Mokane to do the Cock Gobbler Ride. – 53 miles so we were planning on adding some Katy Trail miles to the end of the ride to hit 62 miles total. We met at the Katy Trail parking lot and took an obligatory pre-ride photo.

Cup O' Dirt Ride 1

Four manly men ready to ride.

It was sunny but cool at the start of our ride. The first climb had us plenty warmed up. The gravel was super smooth and hardpacked, and the wind was at our backs. It just couldn’t get any better.

We soon found ourselves close enough to the local Casey’s General Store, so we obviously stopped for some delicous breakfast pizza, Spike Energy Shots, and other beverages and snacks. I may or may not have spilled Travis’s Monster drink, and I may or may not have sucked the spilled beverage off the sidewalk. No photos were taken, so you’ll have to decide for yourself.

Casey's pizza on a gravel ride

Where was everyone else on this gorgeous day? We may never know.

We rolled out of the Casey’s parking lot onto the pavement for a short stretch before we got back onto the gravel. There were some good climbs, lots of laughs, a few deep conversations, and several pee breaks. See for yourself…

jim at the top of a climb

Jim at the top of the first big climb.

Travis peeing

Travis, quit playing with your dinghy!

Shortly after this pee break, we found the remnants of an unlucky victim of last year’s Cedar Cross. We stopped for a moment of silence (and to take photos of course).

Cedar Cross Victim on a bike

This poor rider. At least he died riding The Cedar Cross.

One other, uh… “highlight” of the ride was seeing a beautiful creek from a rural bridge. The breathtaking view brought us an immense feeling of peace and serenity. All felt right in the world until  Jim said, “What the hell is that?!” We all turned to look, and we saw this:

what is that?

What is that? Hmm…

At first we thought it was just some trash, maybe some old house insulation thrown over the bridge. But that wasn’t it. It took us a minute to realize what it was. Here’s a closer photo for you. See if you can tell what it is.

dead pigs in a creek

Once you can tell what it is, it’s pretty gross. You can click on the image to enlarge it if you’re into that kind of thing.

Look closely and you can see a tail, an ear, and at least two snouts of pigs along with intestines and other various organs, skin, and what not. Nasty. And this is a good reminder of why we should ALWAYS treat any water out of a creek, river, pond, or lake before drinking it.

After that, we were of course hungry, so it was great to find ourselves at the Hams Prairie Store, home of the world’s best hard salami sammiches. Or so I’ve been told. I have yet to experience the deliciousness, and since I had forgotten to bring any money, this ride would be no different. But Bob bought himself a sammich and shared it with me, and it truly was delicious. For those of you riding The Cedar Cross, make sure you get there early enough so they don’t run out of salami like they did when I first rode Cedar Cross!

Hams Prairie Store

The only place in town.

Before long, we made it to the nuclear power plan near Fulton. Again, those of you who are riding Cedar Cross should be sure to stop for a photo here.

Riding near the nuclear power plant

This is one of the highlights of the ride.

Sadly, Adam and Robby couldn’t join us even though they both wanted too. Adam had to work, which is only a marginally acceptable excuse. Robby had hernia surgery the day before, so that’s a little more understandable. The first thing Robby said as he awoke after surgery was, “Ask the doctor if I can ride tomorrow.” And that, ladies and gents, is why he is the mutha-effin’ Darkness!

The Darkness Road

Sadly, we couldn’t find “The Darkness Road” so this will have to do.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure and sheer joy of riding with Bob Jenkins, he often does some cool shit on a bike. Most of it scares the hell out of me, and I’m too chicken to even attempt it. He can stand up on his bike while hauling ass down a bumpy gravel road with his arms out wide à la Jack Dawson doing his King of the World bit in “Titanic.” Not that I watched that chick flick. And I definitely didn’t cry when I didn’t watch it.

Here is a series of photos of Bob “Jack Dawson” Jenkins working his magic. And yes, this is on pavement, but I assure you I have seen him do this flying downhill on gravel roads. And if you’re reading this, Mama Jenkins, I’m totally kidding. Bob would never do such a thing.

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@bob.jenkins.7505 doin' what he does.

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Toward the end of the ride, we were supposed to ride the Katy Trail for several miles. That wasn’t gonna happen. With the snowmelt from earlier in the week, the Katy Trail was way too soft. It was like riding through two inches of peanut butter, and I say that from experience.

Soft Katy Trail

This. Just. Sucked.

So we altered the route, adding more gravel with stupid headwinds. The last few miles hurt, but we made it the full 62 miles. My first metric century of the year! Woo hoo!

Jim and Travis had other obligations, but Bob and I grabbed some beer and wings and headed over to The Darkness residence to surprise Robby.

beer with The Darkness

The Darkness will be back on the bike soon, bitch!

It was great to see Robby after the ride. He was moving a little gingerly, but he’s one tough SOB. Every once in awhile, he’d just punch himself in the stomach to show us how many he is. Very impressive.

Sights were seen, farts were ripped, and many miles were ridden. And one century toward my Cup O’ Dirt is in the books.

Tour of Sufferlandria: Stage Nine + the Super Century

I’m sad and happy, exhausted and energized. The Tour of Sufferlandria is over (you can start at the beginning right here). I’m sad because it’s over, and super happy to have finished it. I’m completely worn out after 9 straight days of suffering, my legs especially, yet I feel great, almost supercharged in a way. It’s weird.

Start of Stage 9 of the Tour of Sufferlandria

Ready to go. Rockin’ the old-school TV jerseys.

Adam and I went over to Robby’s house to suffer together. On tap for the final stage of the Tour was “ISLAGIATT,” the longest video in the Sufferfest lineup. “ISLAGIATT” stands for “It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time.”

I borrowed Robby’s Speed/Cadence Sensor and Adam’s Dongle again (see Stage 8 for that explanation), so I was fully hooked up to TrainerRoad for Stage 9.

I really liked “ISLAGIATT.” It didn’t feel like 2 hours even though there were 4 tough “climbs” and some attacks and fast spinning throughout. I even managed to hit 5 personal bests in Virtual Power!

All three of us were drenched with Holy Water, but we made it to the end, and finished our Tour. We finished “ISLAGIATT” with 31.52 miles.

Tour of Sufferlandria finale

The end of the Tour: 3 Virtusans and now 3 Sufferlandrians.

But our day was not over. For we had to continue on and finish the 4th annual Super Century. There were far fewer participants this year. As far as I know, it was just the three of us, my brother and teammate Casey in NY, and our friend and Virtusite, Christina.

That was kind of a bummer. There was very little back and forth on the interwebz via Twitter and Facebook. It was much less fun this year because of that. Although, it’s never exactly fun, but when we know there are more people suffering out there with us, it makes it a lot better.

We watched “Bicycle Dreams” to finish the Super Century, and it was really good. Those dudes and dudettes are nuts. The movie ended when we only had about a mile left. Almost perfect timing.

We stopped at the 45 minute mark for short break – to save our taints and refill our water bottles and to drink a delicious smoothie courtesy of Mrs. The Darkness – DELICIOUS! Then we stopped again at about an hour and 20 minutes in for the same reasons. Then we finished it up strong, although the last 8 miles or so were pretty shitty.

Super Century Complete

Super Century complete!

The Tour of Sufferlandria was so much more than I could have imagined. I’ll try to put together a recap post when I gather all my thoughts on the Tour in the next few days.

ToSfinish

It’s weird to not have a Stage to get ready for tomorrow. But this Tour came at the perfect time for me. I’ll take the next week to recover, and then I’ll take the following week to get ready for our first race of the year: The Rocheport Roubaix.

Soon, I’m heading back to Robby’s house for some hard-earned food and drink while watching the Super Bowl Commercials (since my beloved Bears decided to give someone else a chance at the Championship, I don’t really care who wins).

If you’ve followed along all through this Tour, you have serious issues. But thanks for reading.

Tour of Sufferlandria: Stage Eight (The One with Adam’s Dongle)

Holy shit, that was hard. Really hard. Adam and I just finished Stage Eight of the Tour of Sufferlandria, and it was terrible. Just awful. And it was also great.

If you wanna start at the beginning of this Tour, you can go check out Stage One. Or you can also go check out Stage Five – the one where I wrecked my bike on the trainer. But we’re here to talk about Stage Eight.

The Eighth Stage is the one I was most dreading. It’s also the one I was most looking forward to. Stage Eight is the Dame Alissa Memorial Stage.

Dame Alissa Memorial Stage at the Tour of Sufferlandria

From the Sufferfest Tour Page:

“Our youngest Knight of Sufferlandria, Dame Alissa Schubert, was killed earlier this year when she was hit by a truck while out cycling. Revolver was her favourite video. We dedicate this stage, the hardest stage ever to feature in the ToS, in her memory. We also dedicate it to her parents who also became Knights of Sufferlandria with Alissa. A true Sufferlandrian’s stage. Crush it.”

So this Stage had a lot of meaning for all Sufferlandrians. And it was of the utmost importance to ride this Stage with Strength and Honor.

But this morning didn’t start out so great. I had everything together and laid out before Adam arrived. Lots of water and Skratch Labs hydration mix, a few snacks, mostly-dry shoes, extra towels, etc. I thought I was ready to roll, but I was mistaken.

Preparations for Stage 8 of the Tour of Sufferlandria

I didn’t realize it yet, but something was missing.

I somehow lost my stupid Wahoo Speed and Cadence sensor that I was using to log each Stage on TrainerRoad. After all the suffering so far in this Tour, I really, really didn’t want to drop out of the TrainerRoad part of the Tour. Yes, I could still be an official “finisher” of the Tour without logging each Stage on TrainerRoad, but, to me, it would have felt incomplete.

After searching everywhere at least twice and even driving with Adam back to Robby’s house (where I last remember having it), we never found it. We even tried two bike shops for a new one. No luck. I was pretty bummed.

But at least I could still do the Stage with Adam and finish the Tour. That’s when Adam mentioned I could use his Dongle. No, not that Dongle. He had an ANT+ Dongle at his house. We went and got that to plug into my laptop so TrainerRoad could at least pick up my heart rate info from my Garmin HR Strap (which uses ANT+ instead of Bluetooth).

Fortunately, TrainerRoad is super easy to use with the Sufferfest Videos. After quickly figuring out how to use TrainerRoad on my laptop instead of my iPhone (which is what I had been using), we were back in business.

pre-stage 8 photo of the ToS

We were all smiles even though we knew it we were about to start suffering.

Adam and I mounted our steeds, and started video number one: “Revolver.” I had done this video once before, but it was done as a stand alone workout and not as the first of three videos and not after suffering for a week straight.

“Revolver” took us through 15 (or was it 16?) 1-min high intensity intervals with 1-min recovery spins in between. It started out fine, but by the last 5 or 6 intervals, we were deep in the pain cave and soaked with Holy Water.

end of part one of three of stage 8

Still smiling for the most part, but very sweaty and tired already.

Up next was “Violator.” Our transition to this video was probably a minute, maybe less even.

Again, I had already done “Violator” once previously but as a stand-alone workout. In this video, we had to do three rounds of short sprints ranging from 5 seconds to 15 seconds. Each round, the recovery periods were shortened which made it much harder.

The first round of intervals were pretty good. The intervals themselves hurt a bit, but there was ample recovery. Then the second round of intervals, with shorter recoveries, was harder. And the third round of intervals, with the shortest recovery periods – and I’m talking almost nonexistent recovery periods – really sucked. Man, that hurt.

The final two intervals had us going really hard for 15 seconds with just 15 seconds recovery. I remember thinking that we had to do those exact same interval ratio in the next video… FORTY EFFING TIMES!

end of Violater

Not so smiley any more.

We quickly filled water bottles and went potty, and then we started “Half is Easy.” This is a misnomer. I can’t recall any easy parts – even the recovery intervals felt difficult.

The stupid sprints just kept coming. Again and again. They wouldn’t let up. 10 minutes straight of sprinting for 15 seconds, “recovering” for 15 seconds. Then a few minutes recovery followed by another 10 minutes of 15/15 intervals. Pain, suffering, misery. It was terrible. But we made it.

End of Stage 8 of the Tour of Sufferlandria

We’re only smiling because we survived. Trust me, though. We were nearly dead.

And here’s a photo of Robby during his ride (he had to do it later than us and by himself – the poor bastard):

Zombie Darkness

This was taken when Robby still had two videos left.

As shitty as we felt at the end of today’s ride, we still felt great. That may not make sense, but that’s exactly how we felt. Our legs were completely fried, but were stoked for having done it.

Adam and I bro-hugged it out and said our good-byes. Then I slowly climbed the stairs out of my Bike Torture Chamber. I ate a ton of food and drank a ton of water.

I got an email to confirm that TrainerRoad did indeed record my suffering. So I’m still in it, baby! And that’s when I noticed, more than an hour later, that my legs were still acting a little funny. Take a look:

Does anyone else’s legs do this after a hard effort? Or is it just me? Seriously, I want to know.

So, we finished this stage. We have one stage left for tomorrow. I’m weirdly sad that this is coming to an end. It’s been so much fun. For real. Even though it’s been really hard, it’s been a blast.

Also, after the Stage tomorrow, we’ll continue riding until we hit a metric century to finish up the 4th annual Super Century! You should too!

Until tomorrow, suffer on, my friends.

(Update: Stage Nine and the Super Century is done.)

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