Category Archives: Bob didn’t get to go

High Profile Adventure Camp 2014: Couples Edition

I’ve heard that racing with your spouse can ruin a marriage. I’ve heard horror stories of couples nearly killing each other out there. But I’ve never had doubts about my marriage, and the High Profile Adventure Camp only made me realize how fucking lucky I actually am to be married to Becca. The weekend in Mount Carroll, IL only confirmed that my wife is indeed my soul mate… even though she literally wished she was with another man at one point, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

The original plan for Team Virtus was to all go to camp together and bring our significant others. It was to be an epic battle (and party) with all of us there. Unfortunately, this thing we call life got in the way. Work, children’s sporting events, medical procedures, and perhaps a touch of Antisocial Behavior Disorder kept many Virtusans and their partners from attending camp. But nothing would stop Adam, Michelle, Becca, and I from going. (EDIT: There was one more Virtusan there. Kate, as she pointed out in the comments below, was also there. She volunteered, and she kicked ass as the camp’s social media guru and helped clear the orienteering course.)

We saw a lot of our AR friends as we made our way through the painless check- in at Camp Benson, and we got our fantastic swag bags (worth well over $100 at least). Then we hauled all our gear down to our orgy love shack cabin before heading back up to the lodge for burgers followed by Gerry Voelliger’s opening talk on all things Adventure Racing.

Cabin at Camp Benson for High Profile Adventure Camp

The ladies in front of our cabin.

After Gerry’s talk, I headed over for the advanced orienteering lecture (although I am anything but advanced). Adam stayed with Michelle and Becca for the beginner orienteering talk, and our friend and camp volunteer Dave Huntley promised he’d help out if Becca needed it. Big thanks to him.

It was great sitting next to our friend Scott Frederickson from Team Bushwhacker at the advanced orienteering lecture. He chimed in with some great pointers a few times, and anything I didn’t quite understand was easily explained by Scott.

After the lectures, we hiked back down to the cabin for some group love shut-eye. The flatulence was somewhat disappointing without our friends from WTFAR there and no Bob Jenkins, but Michelle almost made up for their absence. She can really rip ’em!

The next morning we practiced our orienteering skills at Palisades State Park. Unfortunately, the Mississippi was partially frozen over, so there would be no paddling practice for us. That’s probably a good thing since Gerry still uses this damn photo of us from our first year at camp in his opening lecture. That also meant we had more time to practice our navigation and, later, fixed ropes.

We decided we’d stay in a group of four for the orienteering practice. We headed straight up – and I mean straight UP – to our first checkpoint. On the way, we had to stop off at one of our favorite views, a spot we’ve visited every time we’ve gone to camp.

lookout point at palisades state park

Aw… Isn’t that – BARF!

luke and becca at the lookout point

So beautiful. And the view ain’t bad either. (I apologize for the hard nipple in this shot. It was cold.)

We were mostly successful, although I led us astray on one point that other teams swore was not there. So of course Adam and I had to try and find it. That was stupid. We spoke with our friend and camp volunteer Kim Heintz later, and we figured out where we went wrong. Even though I’ve been doing this for over 10 years, I still have lots to learn and a ton of room for improvement.

Although we didn’t have a perfect run of CPs, I thought we were all having a blast. But then, as we were hiking, Becca turned to me and said:

“I wish Bob Jenkins was here. He’s way more entertaining.”

Ouch. That one hurt. I tried to hide the tears, but everyone knew I was crushed. She’d rather be with my BFF than her own husband? Damn! That just killed me.

Becca claims that she thought she was boring me and that I’d rather have Bob with me instead of her. Don’t get me wrong. Bob always makes everything fun, but there was no one else I’d rather have by my side than Becca. (Cue the sappy music all you want, but it’s true.)

Becca and Michelle are brand new to adventure racing and orienteering, so it was good practice for them as well. They even lead us to one of the CPs without any help. For real! Check it out:

Orienteering at Adventure Racing Camp

They were excited. Can you tell?

Being new to adventure racing, Becca tried to avoid using the woods as a bathroom (maybe we should get her a Go Girl?). She tried to hold it, but eventually had to succumb to nature’s call. Adam was a gentleman and turned the other way as Becca went behind a tree to take care of business. About 30 yards down the trail – literally – we found an outhouse which Michelle gladly used.

After another CP or two, it was time to go back to the Virtus Van and head back to Camp Benson. We stopped at McDonald’s on the way back, because there was a line at Subway. Believe it or not, we were running behind – shocker, I know! – so we opted for the quicker and much greasier burgers and fries than to wait in line at Subway.

Back at camp, Gerry gave the Ropes Safety Talk which terrified me the first year we went to camp. Then the one and only Robyn Benincasa gave a brief talk about paddling followed by some great, quick-hitters on AR gear, strategy, navigation, nutrition, and more. It was a short but jam-packed session as the knowledge bombs kept raining down on us.

Gerry Voelliger at High Profile Adventure Racing Camp

Hey Gerry, quit playing with your dinghy! Oh wait, that’s just a carabiner.

Robyn Benincasa Paddling Lecture

With 3 world records in paddling, I’m pretty sure Robyn Benincasa knows her shit.

And then it was time for the fixed ropes practice: rappelling, zip lining, tryolean traversing, and ascending (we skipped the rock climbing to practice more of the skills we’d encounter at the race the next day).

The first time I ever rappelled was at High Profile Adventure Camp, and I was flat-out petrified. I was nauseated and sweating profusely. I wanted to chicken out badly, but I didn’t. Even today, I get a little nervous, so I was expecting Becca and Michelle to be quite scared. Well, they weren’t.

After watching my wife give birth to our four amazing kids and pass kidney stones as easily as Bob passes gas, I already know she is way tougher than I’ll ever be. Watching her crush all of the fixed ropes proves she’s braver than I’ll ever be as well.

Rather than bore you with words, I’ll just show you how much fun we had on the ropes.

Rappelling

Michell Rappelling at Adventure Racing Camp

Michelle had rappelled before, but it was a LONG time ago. She rocked it!

Becca rappelling at adventure racing camp

Becca’s first rappel ever!

Becca's rappel at High Profile Adventure Camp

Becca on her second rappel.

Ascending

Becca ascending at Adventure Racing Camp

Becca struggled just a bit to get started ascending, but once she found her rhythm, she crushed it!

Adam ascending at High Profile Camp

Adam is an OLD pro at ascending by now.

Ascending for Michelle at AR Camp

Michelle made it up too!

Zip Line

Becca on the Zip Line

Becca coming down the Zip Line.

 

Michelle at the bottom of the Zip Line

The Zip Line was a bit slow at the bottom, so you had to pull yourself down the last half or so.

Tyrolean Traverse

Michelle opted to conserve her energy for the race in the morning, so she decided to skip the Tryolean Traverse. It’s not too bad for the first half since you’re going slightly “downhill.” But then you have to pull yourself the rest of the way, fighting gravity. It can be very tiring.

Becca on the Tyrolean Traverse

Becca at the midway point. It’s all “uphill” from there.

Dave Huntley and Becca at the Tyrolean Traverse

All of the volunteers at camp are top-notch. Dave even gave me a bouncy ride on my traverse, but he was kind enough to let Becca have a steady rope.

Later that evening, Robyn Benincasa gave her world-class talk on what makes winners win, what makes a good team, and what makes a good leader. This talk alone is worth the price of admission.

Then Gerry gave the pre-race briefing, and we got our maps. The Lightning Strikes report will come out soon – sometime within the next two years.

As you can probably tell, we had an amazingly good time the first day and a half. The High Profile Adventure Camp is hands down the best way for beginners to get started in adventure racing, and it’s also a great place where veterans of the sport can continue learning and expanding their skills.

For what you get – the top-notch instruction, the lodging, the awesome swag bag, some food, the super safe environment, the fun, the adventure, the laughs, and then a  4- or 8-hour adventure race – it is an absolute steal. You’re crazy if you don’t go at least once.

We’ll definitely be back (a fourth time for me), and hopefully we’ll have more Virtusans and spouses with us.

The 3rd Annual MLK Ride

If you missed the 3rd annual Martin Luther King ride back on January 18th, I really feel sorry for you. You missed out on a great day. Below you will find a brief write up of what went down, but trust me when I tell you that it was 412% more awesome than this will show.

MLK 3 Ride at the Berryman Trail

Above is the group that stuck around for a photo at the start of the ride. There were a few people who rolled out earlier for TWO laps at Berryman and one guy who even ended up doing THREE laps! There were a few people who showed up later and did a lap as well. We probably had 20 – 25 people all together.

Since I’ve put on a serious “winter coat,” I only planned on doing 5 – 10 miles before heading back to the trail-head to fire up the grill. My friend Rhonda had only ridden single track once or twice before, so she wasn’t planning on doing a full lap either. So we decided to stick together at the back of the pack.

Rhonda on one of the climbs.

The trail was in great shape, and although it was chilly to start, the weather was pretty damn nice considering it was mid-January.

The riding was fun, but my lungs and legs hated my fat ass. So I talked Rhonda into bailing around the 5 or 6 mile mark. We cut out on a jeep road that would lead us to a gravel road leading back to the trail-head. There was one frozen puddle across the jeep road that was a bit tricky.

Icy crash on the Berryman Trail

This photo may or may not have been staged. It may or may not have actually been me who crashed.

We hopped out on the gravel road and made it back to the trailhead with no more issues. We changed into dry clothes, and I fired the grill up.

But first I tapped the keg (courtesy of Dave Baettie via Team TOG – HUGE thanks to him/them). I only tapped the keg so early to make sure it would be ready for the rest of the riders when they rolled in – of course I might have had a sample or two. Besides, the keg had my name written all over it.

Blue Moon Keg at the MLK ride at the Berryman Trail

It’s mine. All mine!

After the grill was good and hot I kicked off what has become an MLK tradition: Grilled Chocolate Chip Cookies! Kate brought a bunch of cookies, and when grilled over charcoal, they taste just like they’re fresh out of the oven with just a hint of smokiness.

So.

Damn.

Good.

If you’ve never done this, do it the next time you grill and thank me later.

There was a plethora of tubed meat, beef patties, cheeses, side dishes, desserts, and ice-cold Blue Moon. Everyone brought a little something to share, and for that, I thank you all.

BBQ after the MLK bike ride at Berryman Trail

Food always tastes better after a good ride.

As the riders started to roll in, everyone gathered around the grill, eating, drinking, and making merry while trying to stay warm. Here are a few photos of the festivities:

Berryman Trail Group Ride

L to R: Becca, Steve, Dave (or Jim) Chuck, Josh, and Rhonda.

Helmet hair at Berryman

Blue Moon Dave rockin’ some serious helmet hair.

Group at Berryman Trail

L to R: Kate, Me, Becca, Phil, Chuck, Caleb, Rhonda, Dave, and Dave (Jim).

Mo and some of the other Team Red Wheel guys were there, but this is the only photo I got of any of them. I think the rest were always at the keg.

Mickey Mouth was there too! This ride was good training for the Super Century… Oh wait… Mickey never did the Super Century.

Everyone was having a grand time after the ride, but then I turned around to see a truly horrific sight. As my eyes fell upon the ghastly scene, it felt like someone kicked me in the nards and punched me in the face simultaneously.

How could anyone, especially someone I considered a close friend, do something so terrible?

Please be warned that the photo below is difficult to look at. If you are sensitive, you may want to scroll right past it. You’ve been warned.

Virtus Jersey on the ground

This poor, poor Virtus Jersey was abandoned by Kate.  She left it to die alone on the cold concrete. This is blasphemous!

Kate tried to hide the fact that she had disgraced our team, but I’m a photo-ninja. I was too quick for her, and I got the above photo. Then I snapped one of her trying to hide the evidence:

Kate with her disgraced jersey.

What’s that behind your back, Kate?

Many miles of single track were shredded, lots of stories were told, much bread (and wind) was broken, gallons of beer were consumed. It was another fantastic ride and barbeque.

Our brethren from the Hoosier Daddies  were dearly missed. They were the ones who truly made the 1st MLK and 2nd MLK rides/parties a smashing success. Hopefully, they’ll once again join us at MLK 4 next year, and hopefully so will you. And maybe someday, our very own Bob Jenkins will make it to the MLK ride… maybe.

Frozen Feet Half Marathon short and sweet

Since I don’t have the writing skills that my comrades do…here is the Frozen Feet Half Marathon report short and sweet… from my phone.

Where was everyone else?

Where was everyone else?

The race started for me in the 9:30 pace group.  I really didn’t know what my pace would be so I opted for a slower paced start group.   The first mile or so ticked off and I felt great.   We got to the first “trail” section and I found a burst of energy.   I was having a blast and had a smile on my face the whole time.   The tunes were jamming in my ear and my legs felt great.   People probably thought I was nuts as I passed them on the trail.

Elevation profile of the Frozen Feet Half Marathon

Elevation profile of the Frozen Feet Half Marathon

As we came out of the single track it started to rain but I really didn’t mind.   I had water and tunes and my legs still felt great.   Then came mile 7-9.

The gradual hill was fun for the first mile and sucked/blew balls at the end.  I was very happy when we got to the top.  There was an aid station there but thanks to the Ultimate Direction vest I was wearing I didn’t stop.   I passed so many people who stopped for water at the aid stations.

Easy access to water.

Easy access to water.

The downhill was a blast.   When I got to mile 11 I thought the worst was done, and I tried for a second gear.   But my lungs said, “No way, son!”  I struggled through that mile and again tried to reach for the second and third gear.  But the head wind and 12 miles behind said, “Nope…. not today.” I kept my sights on people ahead of me and pushed to the end.

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Clock Time is not accurate. Official Time was 1:52:11

My finishing time was 1:52 something which was around 8:34 pace.   Not bad but I feel I could have gone harder.

It was a great race and I would like to do it again.

Thanks to Kate, Adam, and Michelle for getting me out there and for just being awesome.

Kate's official time was 2:01:43

Kate’s official time was 2:01:43.  Doesn’t she look happy?

Adam set a PR with a time of 2:03:48.

Adam set a PR with a time of 2:03:48.

"The DARKNESS doesn't need darkness for slumber." - BLD

“The DARKNESS doesn’t need darkness for slumber.” – BLD

 

So Fun Soda Mile (and Trail Running)

First, I’d like to say happy New Year to all of you Virtusites out there!  I hope it’s the very best year for all of you.

We’ve been a little quiet here on the blog lately.  Well, we’re going to try to fix that.  I need to finish several race reports, and I need to write a couple of posts about upcoming events (like the SHITR on Saturday and the MLK2 Ride the Saturday after that).  But to whet your appetite, I thought I’d do a quick post on yesterday’s goings-on: The Soda Mile followed by some trail running.

Soda Popinksi

Obviously Soda Popinski would have won the race had he been there.

After yesterday, I can proudly say that I have surpassed Kage with the highest miles-driven-to-miles-raced ratio.  Her previous best was driving from Edwardsville, IL to Jefferson City, MO for the Kicks in the Sticks race.  That’s roughly a 150 mile drive to run 7.5 miles for a ratio of 20 to 1.  Well yesterday, I drove from Jefferson City to Edwardsville for a ONE mile race for a ratio of (for those of you who are mathematically challenged) 150 to 1.  That’s gonna be hard to beat.

Why would I drive that far for a one mile race?  To support a friend of course.  But also because it sounded like a blast.  It was a soda mile to benefit a friend’s son dealing with cancer.  I had never even heard of a soda mile, but once I understood what it was, I knew I had to go.

Here are the rules:

  1. Drink an entire can of soda.
  2. Run one lap around the track.
  3. Repeat 3 more times.
  4. Try not to barf but if you must, do NOT barf on the track.

I was up in the first heat, and there were some young, thin, fit high school runners in my heat.  Although I knew I wouldn’t be anywhere near the podium, seeing these young, fast dudes confirmed it.  But there was something else I could do better than these young whippersnappers.  I could out-chug them.  My only goal was to slam my diet 7-Up, get the hole shot, and be the leader through turn one – just like Bob does at every cross race.

Getting ready for the soda mile

This is how you should warm up for a Soda Mile. (Photo Credit: Diane Dudding)

Taking the early lead was so easy I almost felt bad for the young bucks.  I pounded the soda, smashed the can in my hand like a man, threw it down, and took off running.  For a brief second, I thought about trying to run the mile as hard as I could.  Then my right calf tightened up, and I reigned it back in.  Not that it would have mattered.  The other guys were much faster than I was.

As I was belching my way over to the straight-away on the track, I heard some monstrous burps behind me.  It was a young guy who went on to be the overall winner with a time of 7:48 or something like that.

I finished lap one, grabbed another soda, and chugged as much as I could.  It didn’t go down as easily as the first one, though.  The third and fourth sodas went down a little more slowly as well.  The first 100 yards after each soda was always the worst.  I tried to open up my gut and throat to let as many belches out as possible.  Every time I hit the straight-away on the other side of the track I would be burp-free, and I could actually run full-speed again (although I wasn’t exactly crushing it since I wanted to save my calf for the trail running later in the day).

I passed a couple of younger, faster guys on the side of the track barfing.  It was hilarious.  I finished in 10:49 or so.  It was one of the slower times in my heat, but that’s okay.  That’s not what this event was about.  It was about helping a friend and having fun.

Finishing the Soda Mile

This and other shots prove that my running form is improving. I have a LONG ways to go, but I’m no longer a heel-striker. (Photo Credit: Kage)

Kage was up next, and she was not really looking forward to drinking the soda and possibly barfing.  But would that stop her?  Absolutely not.  We all knew that Kage was going to step up and chug 4 sodas and run the fastest mile of the day.  And here’s a video to prove it:

Kage finished the first lap with no problems.  There was no barfing.  I know…  Disappointing.  Before Kage started her second lap, Patrick and I informed her that she had not actually finished the entire can.  Well, here’s what she thought about that:

Kage Middle Finger

I don’t think she cared about what Patrick and I thought.

Kage probably drank half of each can (if we’re being generous), and she finished her mile in 25 minutes.  Okay, that’s not true.  I actually don’t know what her time was, but I think it was around 9 and a half minutes or so.  And it didn’t really matter that she didn’t drink all the soda.  The spirit of a soda mile is all about fun.

Our friend Sara – who broke out of prison with us – was in the last heat of the day.  I think she actually drank all four of her sodas and successfully completed the mile without barfing.  She rocked it!

Sara at the Soda Mile

She’s WAY too happy to be on her fourth Orange Soda.

The soda mile was a lot of fun.  It was very laid back, and no one took it too seriously.  The top three runners received their awards: Six-packs of soda.  We later found out that the event raised $2,511.00 for our friend Lindsay’s family.  And that is very cool.

After the race, Kage and Patrick (of 100+ Project fame) were nice enough to take me running on their local trails.  The trail through the Big Woods was fantastic.  The other trail was great too, but I really enjoyed the Big Woods.  I won’t bore you with the details, but here is a synopsis followed by some photos:

  • The trails were great.
  • The company was even better.
  • The bridges were super slick.
  • Wild Running is way too much fun.
  • We spotted Sasquatch.
  • I learned about (and ran through the ruins of) the Mississippi River Festival from the ’70’s (Here’s a cool video that shows some of the trail and relics).
  • We had some great conversations and laughed a lot.
  • We covered 9.75 miles (with just a bit of walking at the end).

And now for the photos:

SIUE Trail Running

The beautiful trails were practically right on the SIUE campus.

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Remnants of the Mississippi River Festival at SIUE

Although it looks like I’m trying to poop, I was actually trying to lift an old cable left behind from the Mississippi River Festival.

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Patrick the Future Failure

The SIUE campus has lots of different sculptures to keep us entertained. Here we see Patrick the Future Failure.

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Kage in a cage

No, she wasn’t trying out for “Showgirls 2: Maw Maw in Vegas.” Patrick noticed this and said, “Hey, we should put Kage in a cage.” So we did.

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Sasquatch on SIUE campus

While Kage was taking care of bidness, Patrick and I spotted the elusive Lukesquatch.

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Don’t forget about the SHITR on Saturday and the MLK2 ride next Saturday!  I hope to see you there!

Ride Together, Die Alone Redux: The Cedar Cross Race Report

***NOTE: The title of the blog post was completely ripped off from my race report of last year’s Dirty Kanza, but since I wrote it, I give myself permission to steal it.***

On Friday evening as Bob, Cary, and I were weed-eating the single track portion of the Cedar Cross course, Bob said to me, “Hey, you may want to seriously consider bringing a headlamp on race day.”  Since Bob is the mastermind behind Cedar Cross and knows the course like the back of his hand, I threw a headlamp into my bag as I headed to race HQ on Sunday morning.  Unfortunately, I am quite stupid.  I thought there was no way I’d need a light, so right before the start of the race, I decided to throw my headlamp back in my van.  Twelve brutally difficult hours later as the sun had set, I realized my stupidity knows no bounds.

Cedar Cross Gravel Grinder

I registered at the check-in table, said hello to a lot of my cycling friends, and then promptly fired Adam for showing up at the last minute with his son’s helmet that was way too small for his big melon.  Once I made final preparations (and threw my stupid headlamp back in the van), we walked over to hear Bob’s words of wisdom before the race started.  I can honestly say it was the funniest pre-race speech I’ve heard.

Bob's speech at Cedar Cross

“I swear, it’s THIS long.”

Here is a Garmin link to the Cedar Cross course if you want to see it or follow along.  I’d like to point out that this is NOT my Garmin link.  I was MUCH slower, and I wasn’t wearing my Garmin.  Anyway…

The race would start out on pavement with a lead car showing us the way.  I made my way to the back of the pack along with Adam.  It was already in the 80’s and humid, but that’s perfect training for the DK200 in a few weeks.  Bob said go, and all 120-ish racers rolled out with hopes of crushing the 112 mile course.

It was less than a mile before the race doled out its first set-back of the day. Just 0.8 miles into the race, our friend Jim Smith from Monster Bicycle Co. got a flat tire.  Adam and I made sure he had everything he needed, and we kept going.  We knew that Jim would catch up to us soon enough.  Unfortunately for Jim, this would not be his last go-round with bad luck.

Flat Tire at Cedar Cross

Big calves and a flat tire.

Adam and I made it to the gravel with only a few people behind us, one of them being Jim.  It wasn’t very long before we saw our friend, Dave Baettie, pulled off to the side of the road.  Somehow he lost a screw to one of his bottle cages.  I handed him my bike tool since Adam couldn’t find his (Fired again!), and I took a pit stop in the brush.  As Dave took his bottle cage off, Jim came up behind us.  It was good to have him back in our group.

At mile 3, we began our first climb, and it was brutal.  At the start of the climb, I heard someone’s tire spin out.  When we got to the top, there was no Jim Smith.  We assumed he had spun out and walked the hill or had just fallen behind.  Later I found out that Jim had his secondflat tire within the first 3 miles of the race.  That’s some pretty terrible luck.  I feel bad for leaving him, but I really didn’t know he had had another flat.  I just thought he would quickly catch up to us again.

Dave rode on ahead of us as Adam and I found ourselves on familiar ground: The Dirty Jenkins ride.  We’ve ridden this stretch of gravel many, many times, yet we still love it.

As the sun beat down on us with no shade in sight, we rolled on.

Gravel on the Cedar Cross

That little speck in the distance is Dave.

We passed a handful of riders and caught up to a few more as the miles were easily ticking by.  It wasn’t long before we found ourselves at the entrance of Mark Twain National Forest.  It doesn’t look like it is public land, and without Bob Jenkins, a lot of people would have never known you could ride there.  With double track though open fields, a pond or two, and a bit of single track thrown in, this stretch of the Cedar Cross course is just really cool.

Cedar Cross Double Track

This part was marked with Kansas City Chiefs balloons, but Bob SHOULD have used balloons from the greatest team of all-time: The Chicago Bears.

At one of the cattle gates around mile 15, the Hoosier Daddies were volunteering, and by volunteering, I mean they were handing out ice-cold beer and water.  We caught up with a few more riders and our friends Travis Hammons and the Boos Bros here as they enjoyed the frosty beverages in the shade.  It was also here where Jim Smith caught up with us and informed us of his second flat.  Unfortunately for Jim, this still wouldn’t be his last go-round with bad luck.

Hoosier Daddies at Cedar Cross

The Hoosier Daddies know how to volunteer!  And Travis looks WAY too happy.

It was hard to say good-bye to these guys, but after one cold beer (or four if you’re Kyle Boos), we rode away in a “pace-line” through the fields.

Cedar Cross Fields

Another cool stretch of grassy fields through Mark Twain National Forest.

Not long after the above shot was taken, we descended a rocky, rooty hill with lots of sticks and branches scattered about. As I came down the hill, I saw a rider off his bike.  I realized it was Jim Smith pulling a stick out of his spokes.  Unbelievable.  Two flat tires, and now this?  The cycling Gods were not smiling down upon Jim, but I guess it’s better to get all of your bad luck out of the way at a free race instead of the Dirty Kanza.  He said he was just going to walk back up to the Hoosier Daddies and get a ride.  Bummer.  I would later find out that this STILL wouldn’t be his last go-round with bad luck.

Jim Smith at Cedar Cross

Man, that sucks.

I caught up to the group, and I stopped to get a shot of them as they rode through my favorite piece of this part of the ride: a long, flowing downhill through the tall grass.

Riding through Mark Twain National Forest

Look closely and you’ll see the line of riders in the distance.

We left the National Forest, and we jumped back on some gravel roads.  This stretch of gravel had a few wet-weather creek-crossings and one low-water crossing.  This particular low-water crossing can be very slick, but before I could yell out a warning, Travis and Kyle splashed right through it.  Well, Kyle splashed right through it, but Travis wasn’t so lucky.  He fish-tailed like a mo-fo, and just when I thought he was going to pull out of it, he crashed and slid on his side through the water.  It was awesome to watch!

Crashing at Cedar Cross

Travis fought the concrete, and the concrete won.

Adam and Derrick missed the show because they stopped to pick up one of my water bottles that had bounced out of its cage on the rough descent.  The top of the bottle was destroyed, though, and I had lost my eFuel in that bottle.  I used a simple strap to secure the other bottle after that, and I had no more problems.

Here’s a shot of Adam showing Travis how to do it:

Adam riding a low water crossing

Adam was almost re-hired for showing up Travis… almost.

I was feeling really strong as we rode the gravel on Clinkenbeard, Ginn Ln, and Barnes Chapel Rd.  It kept getting hotter, though, and we were sweating buckets.  Soon we found ourselves turning onto the single track at the trail head.

Gravel before the singletrack at Cedar Cross

Still feeling good… for now. (Photo Credit: Nicole Stacey)

We hopped onto the first section of single track.  Although it was muddy, the first quarter-mile or so was rideable.  After we crossed the creek, though, things turned to crap in a hurry.  You see, horseback riders completely destroy these trails no matter how much time and effort we put into maintaining them.  It’s a shame, too, because these trails could be incredible.  But it is what it is, and there’s not much we can do about it.  Trust me.  Trying to maintain these trails is a losing battle.

I didn’t get any photos of this section because I was too busy trying to survive.  I tried riding what I could, but that wasn’t much.  Riding was only marginally faster than walking, and the energy exerted just wasn’t worth it.  So I pushed my bike the last mile and a half or so.  Even pushing my bike was completely exhausting, though.

And then we got to the “Staircase of Pain” where we saw Jim Davis sitting and talking with Mr. Race Director himself, Bob Jenkins.  He was there to get some photos of all the suffering.  Just take a look at this:

PHOTO OF THE STAIRWAY COMING SOON!!

After the “stairway” completely drained what was left of my energy, we pushed our bikes up a hill to find our friends from the Hoosier Daddies again.  It was great to see them.  I stopped for a quick pee-break before I grabbed another beer.  Uh-oh.  My pee was a dark yellow.  Not good at all.

So, I did something I never thought I’d do: I didn’t follow the Virtus Code that mandates no “free beer shall be refused.”  I would hereby like to propose an addendum to this part of the Virtus Code: No free beer shall be refused UNLESS you are at risk of sever dehydration leading to cramps during a race.  All those in favor say, “Aye.”  All those opposed say, “Nay.”  Okay, the “Ayes” have it.

Beer at the Cedar Cross

I can’t believe there was any beer left after the Boos Brothers and Jim Davis were there.

I had been drinking a lot of fluids, but with this kind of heat, humidity, and energy expenditure, I guess it was enough.  I was worried.  We were only 30 miles into this race, and I was in trouble.  Then I remembered that Bob said there was a Peach Snapple in his truck for me.  I’m a Diet Peach Snapple addict.  This, however, was the full-sugar variety, and it was just what I needed.  I slammed the delicious Snapple and a couple of water bottles from the Hoosier Daddies.  Hoping to recover, I rested a few more minutes than I normally would have at this point.

We said good-bye once again, and we rode off onto S. Millsite Rd.  I’ve been on this road before and there are 4 nasty dogs here.  In fact, the Cue Sheet for this race warned racers: “Watch for Four Pissed Off Dogs.”  People thought Bob was kidding when he recommended dog spray, but these dogs are the reason for the recommendation.  I love dogs as much as anyone and don’t like to spray dogs, but these dogs are vicious and not to be messed with.

By the time we got there, though, the dogs were no threat at all.  They were either worn out from terrorizing all the racers in front of us (which was a lot), full from eating some of the racers in front of us, or they had been sprayed so many times by the racers in front of us that they didn’t dare mess with us.  Regardless, we only heard one of them bark a wimpy, little bark as we simply strolled right by them along the gravel road.

A few miles later, we began riding past  the “Cranky Old Bastard’s” place.  He literally has this weird sign in his yard stating that he will shoot you if you mess with him.  I’ve never stopped long enough to read the entire sign or get a photo of it, because I don’t really want to find out if he’s bluffing.  As we rode past, he yelled out to us.  I thought to myself, “Please don’t stop! Nobody stop!  Nobody stop!”  But then Jim Davis stopped, so we all stopped.  He asked us how many more riders were coming through so he could let his dog back out.  And then he apologized for making us stop our ride.  Um… What?!?  I couldn’t believe it.  Maybe the faster riders had sprayed him with dog spray, too.

Anyway, we rode gravel for 4 or 5 miles.  I’m sure it was a little unsettling for some riders to ride past a Dead End sign with 90 miles remaining, but that’s exactly what we did.

Dead End at Cedar Cross

The Cedar Cross doesn’t care about Dead Ends!

For those of us that ride gravel around Jeff City, we knew where this “Dead End” would take us.  For a car, it is indeed a dead-end.  On a bike, however, you get to cross the very cool Rutherford Bridge over Cedar Creek.

Rutherford Bridge at Cedar Cross

This is the ONLY way across Cedar Creek for miles and miles and miles.

From the bridge, we hiked our bikes up a big, muddy hill and started riding more gravel, a bit of pavement, and then more gravel.  Somewhere along the way, Travis and I lost Adam, but we didn’t realize it until we turned onto CR 326 and ran into our friends Aaron Lackman and Justin Nemeth along with a couple of guys I didn’t know.

It was brutally hot by now, and the two guys we didn’t know didn’t seem to be doing too well.  I thought about waiting for Adam, but we had discussed this very scenario earlier in the day.  We both agreed to go on without the other if one of us dropped off the back.  Since it was only a few more miles until the manned checkpoint and bag drop, we rode on, hoping Adam would catch us there.

When we got there, we saw probably 8 riders sitting in the shade, resting and refueling before heading out on the last of the two stretches of single track.

Bag Drop at Cedar Cross

It was great to see Bob’s smiling mug.

The gear drop couldn’t have come at a better time for me.  Knowing there was less than 20 miles to go before I could resupply my water and food, I had been pounding my water and food since my last stop at the end of the first section of singletrack, and I was running precariously low.  Drinking ice-cold water was heavenly after chugging hot water and e-Fuel for so long.  Big thanks to Mo and Chadwick for volunteering there!  There was another guy helping out there, too, but I don’t remember his name.  Regardless, thanks to him too!

Some of the riders looked like they were feeling pretty fresh, others looked a little rough, and some looked like they wanted to die.  Kind of like this poor guy:

Overheating at Cedar Cross Gravel Grinder

He looks miserable. I have no idea if he finished or not.

I was just beginning to worry about Adam as he rolled up.  He seemed to be doing well enough.  He didn’t look fresh, but he didn’t look like he was dying either.  He said he was going to chill there and fill up with water.  I gave him what was left out of my drop bag since he forgot to pack one, and I headed back out with a handful of riders including Travis, Aaron, and Justin.

I was dreading this next section of singletrack.  I had helped Bob and Cary Maloney weed-eat and clear the trails on Friday, but Bob had gone back out there to find that horseback riders had already trashed part of them.  Bummer because they were in great shape less than 48 hours earlier.  If this section of trail took as much out of me as the first section, then my ride might be over.

Aaron Lackman at Cedar Cross

Aaron at the top of a climb.

Justin Nemeth at Cedar Cross

Justin near the top of the same climb.

Fortunately, the trails were in much better shape than I expected.  They weren’t great, but there were some fun, rideable sections to go along with the muddy, destroyed-by-horses sections.  I exited the single track feeling good.  Travis seemed like he was starting to struggle a bit, though.

We ended up playing leapfrog with Randy and Dana from Team Red Wheel on the next several miles of gravel, and for whatever reason, I was starting to feel really good at this point.  I must have finally caught up with my hydration and nutrition.  It’s a good thing, too.  Standing between us and the Hams Prairie Store 20 miles away were lots of big hills.

Being on a singlespeed, you either ride hard up the hills, or you get off and push your bike.  There really isn’t much in-between.  So at the start of every hill, I had to go up ahead of our little 6-person group and then wait at the top so they would catch up.  I’m definitely not a good climber by any stretch of the imagination, but I had no granny-gear with which to spin up the hills.  Believe me, if I had it, I would have gladly used it.

At the top of one hill, I waited for the group.  Then I waited some more.  After a few minutes, I thought something must have gone wrong, so I turned around and went back.  Thankfully, they were just around the corner and not all the way back down the brutal hill.  Everyone but Travis was pulled over talking to Randy’s girlfriend (or was it wife?).  Travis had fallen off the group, but it would have been suicide to ride back down the hill for him.  Fortunately, Randy’s girlfriend/wife said she’d drive back to check on him for us.  Big thanks to her.

So we continued on our way.  I kept riding ahead on the climbs and waiting at the top.  Again, I want to make it clear that I’m not saying I’m a good climber.  In fact, I kind of suck at hills.  If I could have gone any slower up the hills without walking, I would have.  The only problem with riding ahead and waiting was the heat.  It was really starting to get to me.  Sitting at the top of each climb in the blazing sun with no breeze was terrible.  After one long, slow climb, I just couldn’t bring myself to stop.  The thought of stopping as the sun torched my skin was too much.  Since the others were still together, I decided to just cruise on, knowing that I would soon see them at the Hams Prairie Store at mile 69-70.

Riding Solo Gravel at Cedar Cross

Riding solo and feeling good… for now.

I was feeling the best I had all day long, and I was having a great time.  Shortly after crossing Hwy 54 at mile 63-64, however, I started to fall apart.  My legs began to feel heavy.  My head started hurting.  I even felt a little queasy.  I drank as much as I could, but I was afraid of vomiting which would have only made things worse.  It was mind-blowing how fast I went from feeling great to wanting to die.

I thought about waiting in the shade somewhere for the group behind me, but I knew I only had about 7 more miles to the Hams Prairie Store.  Those seven miles really hurt, though.  I hated every damn pedal stroke.  I eventually made it to the store at 5:35 PM.  Many of the top riders were already done with the entire course at this point, and I still had 40+ miles to go.  What a bunch of show-offs.

I walked into the store with my head pounding, and my guts churning.  The air conditioning was the bomb diggity, though!  There were other riders coming and going, but all I wanted to do was order some food, get a drink, and sit down.  I ordered a hard salami sandwich, but they were all out since Bob recommended to everyone that they order one at this store.  Damn.  I was looking forward to that.  It didn’t really matter since I wasn’t sure I could even eat anything without vomiting.  So, I ordered a roast beef and Colby cheese sandwich, grabbed two Powerades, and sat down.  There was only one problem.  I just couldn’t eat or drink any of it.

Food at Hams Prairie Store during Cedar Cross

It looks delicious now, but at the time it looked foul.

Fifteen minutes after I arrived, Aaron and Justin showed up.  They didn’t look good, but they looked better than I felt.  I think I had only eaten two bites and drank two swallows as they sat down at my table.  Things weren’t looking good at all.  I felt like absolute dog crap.

If I would’ve had a support vehicle there, I would have thrown in the towel.  I was really bummed.  I kept picturing Bob at the finish line, an ice-cold beer in one hand, a delicious homemade brat courtesy of the Hoosier Daddies in the other hand, laughing his ass off at how much pain I was in.  So, I texted him.  I remember texting him, but I didn’t really remember what I had written until I looked at my phone at the end of the race.  We normally try to keep this blog PG-13, so if you’re offended by foul language, you may want to skip ahead.  Here is the text conversation we had.  And please remember that Bob and I are very close friends, and I was a bit delirious at this point in the race.

Text to Bob Jenkins at Cedar Cross

Another text to Bob Jenkins at Cedar Cross

And now the world knows that Bob has agreed to ride the Cedar Cross course on his GT Peace 29er singlespeed.  I’m going to hold him to it.  Anyway, back to our story…

Aaron and Justin ordered some food, and I was still trying to force myself to eat and drink.  Another rider came over and sat down on the bags of dog food by our table and starts talking to us.  This guy looks like he had just been on a 5 mile leisure ride.  His name is Keith Clark, and he was determined to finish the ride since his wife had told him he was too old for this kind of thing.

Then in walked Kyle Boos.  He, too, looked a lot fresher than I felt, and he had consumed a 6-pack of the Hoosier Daddies’ free beer.  Very impressive, and kind of disturbing too.  Kyle ordered his food, took a leak, ate his food, and left before I finished half of my sandwich.  I was struggling.  I got some encouragement from my facebook friends, but I was really having doubts.  Every gulp and bite I took just didn’t want to stay down.  It reminded me of how I felt at the Tour de Donut, only 10 times worse.

Struggling to eat at Cedar Cross

This is me hurting and trying to swallow food without puking. (Photo Credit: Aaron Lackman)

I received a text from Adam saying that he was cramping up pretty badly back at Hwy 54.  He and Travis were pulling out of the race.  I wanted to join them, but I was starting to feel slightly better.  Eventually, I was able to finish my sandwich and drink both Powerades.  I grabbed two more Powerades to pour into my water bottles, I paid my bill, and I headed back out into the heat… an hour and 15 minutes after arriving at the store.

Fortunately, it was probably 5 to 10 degrees cooler than when I had arrived.  That was fantastic!  I knew there was one more climb left, but it was an SOB of a climb.  After that climb, though, it was all flat.  Having ridden those flat gravel roads that lay ahead of me, I knew the wind could be terrible.  But I had checked the forecast earlier, and the wind was supposed to be at our backs.  So I was confident that if I could make it to the top of the next climb at mile 76, then I could probably finish this race.

There was a group of 8 of us leaving the store.  One guy only rode far enough to hit 75 miles on his bike computer, so that left us with 7.  I didn’t get everyone’s name, but there was Aaron, Justin, Keith, Tony (who joined us on the Cock-Gobbler 50+ mile gravel grinder back in March), and two other guys.  We headed out towards the killer climb that no one wanted to face.  Of course the toughest climb of the day the last climb of the day.  Thanks, Bob!

I was starting to feel quite a bit better by the time we got to the climb at mile 76, and for a split-second I thought about trying to ride all the way up.  With more than 30 miles left, though, I figured I’d better play it smart and push my bike up it.  It was the only hill I walked (other than the singletrack and the “staircase”).  Two in our group rode the whole thing, one of them being Keith, and I was quite impressed.

It wasn’t long before we rode up on one of the coolest parts of the race: The Nuclear Reactor and Cooling Tower in Fulton.  Keith, who was wearing a Wind Power jersey, asked me to snap a photo of him with the tower in the background.  That’s pretty funny.  A few others stopped for a photo-op, myself included.

Nuclear Reactor and Cooling Tower at Cedar Cross

I wanted to hold my bike up over my head for this pic, but I was too damn tired.

Shortly after leaving the nuclear power plant, we had the pleasure of riding down what Bob referred to on the Cue Sheet as a “Totally badass downhill” and it was indeed BAD-ASS!  Thankfully, we made it down the hill before it got completely dark.  As we hopped on the Katy Trail at around mile 84, it was getting very dark, and everyone that had lights started using them.  I, being the complete fool that I am, did not have one, though, and I was very glad to be in this group.

We rode the Katy Trail and then hopped onto CR 4000.  A few guys in our group were talking about taking the Katy Trail the whole way back, and it was very tempting.  I just couldn’t let myself do it after coming this far, though.  I had ridden this gravel before, and although it can be tough, I knew I could make it – especially since the wind was supposed to be at our backs.

After a short stretch of gravel, we wound up back on the Katy Trail, but something didn’t feel right.  Then we started having trouble following the cue sheet from this point on.  I broke out my phone to pinpoint our exact location, and this confirmed my fear.  We had unfortunately gone right when we should have gone left onto CR 4010.  A LOT of riders must have done the same thing since there were a ton of tire tracks going the way we had gone.

So after riding 100 miles (only the second time I’ve ever done so), we had a decision to make.  The two riders whose names I never got rode on ahead, so I assume they took the Katy Trail all the way back.  Tony’s rear-end was killing him, and he had to work the next morning.  So he understandably opted for the Katy Trail as well.

***UPDATE: I received an email from one of the two riders that rode from Hams Prairie to the Katy Trail with us.  His name is John Porter, and his friend’s name is Mark Cody.  It turns out that they rode a few miles of “extra credit” earlier in the day, and since they had to drive back to Kansas City and work the next day, they rode the Katy Trail to the finish line.  Kudos to those two for finishing up around 11:00 PM even though they knew they had to drive 2 – 3 hours.  They didn’t get home until 2:30 AM.  That had to be rough.  It was great riding with them, and I hope to see them next year. ***

For me, there was only one choice.  I had to go back.  I said I was going to go back and ride the full course, but I told the other guys that I didn’t expect them to go with me.  I was ready to ride the last 16 miles PLUS the 2 or 3 miles we had gone off-course by myself… in the dark… with no light.  But I couldn’t have been happier when Keith said, “I’m going with you.”  Aaron and Justin both said they were in as well.  Holy shit.  These guys were awesome riding partners.

We turned around and got back on course.  The gravel on 4010, however, was fresh and loose.  It was NOT easy riding.  But we put our heads down and kept the cranks turning.  Together.

Several miles of gravel led us to a short jaunt on the Katy Trail led us to CR 4015.  Once we turned west onto CR 4038, the headwind slapped us in the face hard.  A storm was blowing in fast and furious, and just like Bob planned, after 106 miles of riding, we’d be riding into a vicious headwind and trying to beat the storm the last 10 miles

It was not fun.  At all.  But again, we just put our heads down and kept the cranks turning. Together.

The lightning show was pretty impressive, but I really hoped we didn’t get caught in the storm.  We kept getting closer and closer, but it seemed to take forever.  But then finally, we rode under Hwy 54 and soon found ourselves riding toward the finish line to cheers of the few remaining riders, friends, and family still there at around 11:10 PM.  Fourteen hours and roughly 116 miles after we had started.

The cheers grew louder, and then we were completely soaked with sprays of warm beer as we crossed the finish line.  Together.

It was incredible.  I couldn’t believe it.  We had done it.  Together.  We were officially Cedar Crossers.

I hugged Bob (after flipping him off), high-fived everyone I could see – Travis, Kyle, Derrick, Emma, Adam, Cara, Jim, Bob’s Mom, my fellow riders… It was a great moment.  One I’ll never forget.

Although the lights to the pavilion had been turned off, there were still deliciously hot baked potatoes (courtesy of Bob’s amazing Mother!), sour cream, and loads of butter.  I had a couple of notes from my wife and kids that almost brought a tear to my eye.  Unfortunately, they had to go home earlier since it was a school night.  I never dreamed I would be finishing that later.  In fact, I think I told my wife that I should be done around 8:00 PM and if I wasn’t, then it meant I probably wasn’t finishing.

And then the storm hit.  We had made it in just in the nick of time.  It was a perfect ending to an unbelievably great day.

But wait… It gets even better.  Jim Smith from Monster Bicycle Co. handed me this:

Last Survivor Award for Cedar Cross

This is the trophy that I am most proud of. And it’s useful, too!

I didn’t even realize that technically my tires were the last to cross the finish line, but I’m glad they did.  I almost feel bad for winning this prize since the four of us really finished together, but I don’t feel bad enough to give it to someone else. 🙂  I freakin’ love this flask.  I immediately filled it with Blackberry Whiskey (also courtesy of the Hoosier Daddies) and tried it out.  Nothing ever tasted so good.  Huge thanks to Jim, who ended up having an even worse day than I thought.  Seriously, go read his report.  It’s ridiculous.

Monster Bicycles Co. Last Survivor at Cedar Cross

I slept with this flask that night. Seriously.

We sat around reminiscing awhile as Bob called a bunch of people who had never checked in.  He wasn’t sure if these people were still out on the course, on their way home, asleep in their beds, or dead.  After a little while, though, the rain had let up a little, and it was time to go home.

This was definitely the hardest race I’ve ever finished, and it was one of my favorite races of all time.  It was brutally hard.  I wanted to quit several times.  I hated Bob for a little while.  But it was all worth it.

I’d like to thank the awesome sponsors of this race, the even awesome-er volunteers, and especially Bob Jenkins.  I know everyone that took part in the Cedar Cross appreciates all that Bob did, but I don’t think anyone realizes what Bob actually put into this race.

He has worked tirelessly for months on this race: planning, scouting, weed-eating, lining up sponsors, getting permits, more scouting, hating horses, more weed-eating, blogging, riding the course, re-riding the course, more scouting, more schmoozing with sponsors, more weed-eating, more hating the effing horses, driving the course, more re-routing the course, answering countless questions via email that could have easily been answered by simply reading the damn blog, meeting with the Jeff City Tourism Bureau, checking the weather forecast every half hour during the week leading up to the race, worrying that even one of us coming to the race might not have an awesome time, marking the course, re-marking the course, hating the damn horses even more, and then worrying his ass off on race day until every last one of us made it back safely, and the list goes on and on and on…

And do you know how much money he made from this race?  Not a damn cent.  In fact, Bob sunk a lot of his own cash into this race to bring us the best damn gravel race Missouri has to offer.  That’s just incredible.

Bob has said to me several times that “we” are doing this or “we” did that, and he has referred to this race as “our” race.  I just want to make one thing clear.  The Cedar Cross was, is, and always will be Bob Jenkins’ race.  And don’t let him tell you otherwise.

So, Bob.  Thank you.  I’m proud to call you my friend.

And to those that raced, thank you.

And to those that finished with me, a giant thank you!

And to those that missed it, make sure you’re there next year.  This thing is going to be HUGE next year.

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