Category Archives: Bonk Hard Racing
**Note: This post was written by Luke with commentary added by Kate in Blue, Bob in Green, and Travis in Orange.**
By the end of the Perfect 10 Rogaine my feet were sore and beat to shit, I was fighting off cramps, and I was kinda lonely. Don’t get me wrong, though. It was an insanely fantastic day. It was just different than previous Perfect 10’s we’d done. Back in 2012, Bob, Kate and I ran the race together, and then at last year’s race, Kate and I teamed up and won a friendly bet against a team of Bob and Casey – a bet for which they still need to pay up, by the way.
Kate: But we have a plan for that, and it’s glorious.
But this year, Kate, Bob, Travis, and I decided to sign up as solos so we could all get some good navigation work on our own, rather than relying on each other.
The three of us dudes have had quite a bit of experience with navigation. At times, all three of us have been the lead navigator for our team. Kate, however, is the least experienced, and the Perfect 10 was to be her biggest solo effort to date. She was pretty nervous, but I knew she’d do fine. She’s come a LOOOOOONG way since her first navigational experience at The Deuce:
Friday afternoon, Kate met up with Bob, and they then drove to my house. From there we hopped in the Virtus Van for the short road trip down to Lake of the Ozarks State Park. Of course we had to stop for Kate to get some pulled pork, and then we needed to make a pit stop for Bob to get some underwear and other supplies.
Bob: That chick in the background is totally scoping me out. And for the record, we were buying underwear because I was, (and still am), covered in poison ivy from the waist-down on all sides. And dang my hair looks good!
We then headed to the campground and drove around trying to find our friends from Team Alpine Shop and Wedali/Gear Junkie, but the we had no luck since the campground is so huge. We ended up picking a site near the entrance, and then we set up camp in the dark. We decided not to build a fire since it was pretty late, but we had to have one adult beverage together before bed. That’s when Bob made a startling discovery:
“I just realized I didn’t actually pack any food for the weekend.”
If only we had just been at a very large store that sells just about anything you might need for a weekend of camping and racing. You know, kind of like a Walmart. Oh, wait…
Travis: Or maybe if someone had been driving up the day of the race. Maybe they could have brought something. Oh well.
It just so happened that I had made a crap-ton of Feed Zone Portables, which I will review in a later post. Kate had extra food as well, so collectively we had plenty of food for all of us. Crisis averted. I guess Bob’s motto of “It’ll work itself out” – shortened to IWIO – still holds up.
Bob: You totally saved my ass. I was really surprised at how tasty those things are.
We went to bed a little too late since we’d be getting up at 5:45 AM, but that’s how Virtus rolls. We don’t spend enough time together, so we try to make the most of it when we do.
We met up with Travis, who drove up on his own the morning of the race, at race HQ for the check-in. Then we received our maps at 6:45. With a start time of 8:00, we got straight to work strategerizing our routes.
We each planned our routes separately, but Travis and Bob mapped out the same route while Kate and I had planned a different route that happened to be the same for the first 6 checkpoints, though it was . It only made sense for Travis and Bob to start together and likewise for Kate and me. At any time, however, we could separate if someone was faster than someone else.
Kate: I was really glad that someone else was going the same way I was. I’m always shakiest in the beginning.
Travis: I was happy to be starting with Bob. I felt confident that I could navigate on my own, but since I don’t get to see my teammates very often I figured we would hang together until one of us was slowing the other down, or we decided on different route choices.
Kate has been training her ass off, and I haven’t run in months… literally. She’s been running a lot, focusing on the upcoming Skippo Trail Race. So I was pretty sure she’d drop me quickly. I decided I’d try to stay with her as long as I could and as long as she didn’t mind me tagging along. Below is a shot of the first part of the map so all you Virtusites can follow along at home.
- CP’s numbered 1 – 6 were worth 100 points (getting all 6 100 pointers gave you a 100 point bonus)
- CP’s numbered 10 – 19 were worth 10 points
- CP’s numbered 20 – 29 were worth 20 points
- CP’s numbered 30 – 39 were worth 30 points
- Total points available (including the bonus) = 1300
Bob and Travis planned on heading east to CP 28 first and then heading counterclockwise. Kate and I had planned on going north to CP19 followed by CP’s 27, 26, 17, 25, and 16 before parting ways… if I could keep up.
Kate and I jogged most of the way to CP 19, and just to be a jerk, when we got close to the CP I ran ahead of Kate to get there first. I didn’t realize there was a photographer there, so that only made it better.
From 19 we took the trail for a bit, running most of it, and then we bushwhacked up the spur to get CP 27. So far so good. From 27 we headed down to the road. We took the road to the creek south of 26. We followed the creek and then went up the reentrant to CP 26. Again, no problems.
Kate: Luke was doing the nav here, but I was following along on the map, and it was all making sense. That was a huge boost to my confidence, even if I needed a few reminders about orienting my map.
We were ahead of Wedali/Gear Junkie!!!!… Sort of.
We got to CP 26 just before Erl and Andrei from Gear Junkie/Wedali, one of the top teams in the nation. Erl was a good sport about posing for a photo of Team Virtus being “in front” of them. Yes, we got to CP 26 before they did, but they had already gotten WAY more points than we had at that point. They were way ahead of us in the race, but it was fun pretending we were awesome for a minute.
Kate: We’re always awesome; we’re just not that fast.
From 26 we headed northwest to the trail and then ran the trail to CP 17. I was feeling surprisingly good so far, but I’m sure Kage was just taking it easy on me. I know I wouldn’t have run nearly as much as I did if I hadn’t been with Kate.
Kate: I was perfectly happy with our pace. No point in sprinting at the beginning of a 10 hour race (not for me, anyway).
From 17 we took the trail north until it crossed the creek and turned northeast. We bushwhacked toward CP 25 at the pond. Along the way we found an abandoned picnic area complete with picnic tables and a monstrously big BBQ grill. We are Team Virtus so we obviously stopped for photos.
We got CP 26 and then headed to our last CP that we’d get together, CP 16. We followed the creek down to the road to the west. Then we decided to bushwhack across and up the spur to 16, cutting out some distance on the road. It wasn’t long, though, before we reached an old fence line. I was ready to cross the fence at a low spot when Kate said, “Oh, wait. This is private property.”
Kate: If you look at Alpine Shop’s maps, they always block out the private property. We need to start doing that, because all of those red lines kind of run together on the map, especially when you’re in a hurry.
A quick look at the map confirmed this, and Kate saved me from breaking the rules. So we backtracked to the road and after going the long way around we found CP 16 with no problem at about the same time as our friends from Boom Boom Pow. We headed west to the road and then north to the road junction where Kate struck out on her own, moving west to get CP’s 15, 14, 37, 24, and 5 (see the map below) before heading to the northwest section of the map. You can read her account of the Perfect 10 right here.
After wishing Kate good luck, I headed north (see the map below). At the second church, I headed west for CP 3, my first 100-pointer. I hesitated once, questioning if I had gone too far, but after going a little farther I walked right to it. That’s always a good feeling.
From CP 3, I hopped back on the road and went to CP 12 which was also a water drop. It was obvious that no one else had been to this water drop CP yet. Either that or no one else had take any water. The cases of water were untouched. This made me doubt my route planning.
I refilled two water bottles, ate a Feed Zone rice cake, and was on my way again to CP’s 21 and then 11. I didn’t have any trouble with either of these, but on my way to CP 32, following the ridge top, I think I must have gone down the wrong reentrant.
After searching for a little bit, I realized I had gone too far north. I circled back to start again from the top of the hill to the northeast of the CP. That’s where I ran into Bob and Travis. I let out a, “CaCaw! CaCaw!” as I approached. Since their planned routes were the same up to this point, they had remained together. They were taking a short break, so I decided to join them. I was really happy to see them.
Resting on my knees as I drank a Spike energy drink, my left hamstring cramped badly. It came out of nowhere, and I ended up face down on the ground, spilling my Spike all over my arm. My teammates immediately rushed to help me, and by that I mean they sat there and laughed at me.
Travis: I was very suprised to see Luke, and even more so by his direction of travel, since it was the same way we had just came in. As misfortunate as it was for Luke to cramp, it was incredibly funny to watch.
Once the cramping eased up, I slammed a serving of The Right Stuff. It tasted, as Bob likes to say, “like the Devil’s ball sweat.” Although I’ve never actually tasted the Devil’s ball sweat, I imagine that’s a pretty accurate comparison. But the stuff really works. It tastes awful, but it stopped my cramps almost immediately for the next couple of hours. I only wish I’d brought more than one pouch.
Bob: It’s odd that Satan’s ballsweat could cure cramps, but the flavor of that stuff has me convinced it can only be the ballsweat of the devil or a mythical beast.
At this point, I only had 230 points while they each had over 400 points. They were kicking my ass, and their route choice offered them many more options than mine did. Once again I questioned my route.
From here, the three of us got CP 32 together with no problems. We said our good byes and went our separate ways. I headed to CP 2 next. Bob and Travis had warned me that it was a bit tricky.
After my mistake trying to get CP 32, I was extra cautious trying to get CP 2. I was a little too cautious, second-guessing myself a lot and chewing up time by being so careful. I was stopped at a creek trying to make sure I knew exactly where I was when a coed team confirmed I was headed towards 2. Even with their assurance, though, I had a little bit of trouble finding it.
Travis: With the clue being a spur CP2 was definitely more difficult than one would think. Mostly due to the fact that the spur was rather poor in my opinion.
From 2 I went up and up and up the spur to the junction of Highways 42 and 134. From there, it was an easy shot to CP 13, and from there I headed south down the reentrant toward CP 35.
This is where having a teammate would have helped. I felt like I was walking forever to get to this checkpoint. I almost turned around no less than 5 times, pausing each time to make sure I knew where I was and where I was going. I probably wasted 10 minutes doing this, and it would have been nice to have someone with me to discuss where we were and what to do.
It was a big relief to finally find 35 without turning around or backtracking. My confidence was a bit shaken at this point, though. I didn’t feel sure of myself as I headed back to highway 42 and then down the reentrant toward CP 23.
Unfortunately, I went into the woods too early and hiked down the wrong reentrant. By the time I realized what I had done, it didn’t seem worth it to go back and get a 20-pointer. So I continued down the creek bed to the private property line where there was a fence.
From there I bushwhacked along the fence line even though the other side of the fence was awfully tempting. In this case the grass truly was green on the other side. It was a wide open field that had been mowed recently. But The Virtus Code would not allow me to cheat even though no one would be the wiser. So I kept bushwhacking through the brush of the State Park.
Once I hit the gravel road, it was a quick jaunt up the reentrant to find CP 4, another 100-pointer. Getting that one so easily bolstered my confidence again as I followed the road up the hill to Highway 42 once more.
Travis: CP4 was almost too easy to be a 100 pointer.
At this point I was almost out of water, and I could feel the cramps threatening to come back every time I had to step over a downed tree or other obstacle. From the highway I could go out of my way to the water drop at CP 18 and hope there was still water there or I could skip the 10 points and stick to my plan by going for CP 36.
I opted to skip 18 and the water drop, hoping to fill up in a creek later. I found 36 easily and headed down the trail toward CP 6. Shortly after the trail crossed the road, I found enough water in the creek to fill my bottles. I popped an iodine tablet into each bottle and kept moving.
I decided to follow the fence line of the airport to the “Beacon” before heading south again. This was a bit of a calculated risk. Last year Kate and I had bushwhacked on this side of the airport and it was very slow going. The brush was super thick, and in spots there were big rocks under the tall grass that threatened to break your ankle with one false step. At this point in the race, I hoped others had taken this route, beating down an easier path for me.
It was great to see not only a beaten path, but much less brush and overgrowth here than last year. I definitely saved some distance by choosing this route, and I think I saved some time as well.
From the Beacon, I headed south and picked up the trail again. From where the trail turns southwest, I headed into the woods and down the reentrant. I walked right to CP 6, notching another 100-pointer.
I headed down the reentrant and picked up what used to be a trail that still happened to be there. I ran most of this flat trail, taking a few walk breaks. My legs and feet hurt, but they didn’t hurt any worse when running.
I took the reentrant to the east of CP 28, and I climbed the less steep part of the spur to the top. The clue was “Bluff Top,” so I knew I wanted to attack it from above instead of below. After a long, fairly steep climb which sapped my energy, I was rewarded with a great view of the Grand Glaize Arm of the Lake where the CP was hung on the top of a cliff. It was beautiful, and I should have taken a photo. I didn’t feel like digging in my pack, though, so you’ll have to take my word for it. It would have been nice to have a teammate there with me to share the view.
At this point I had about 45 minutes left before the 10-hour cutoff after which I’d start losing points. I was pretty sure I had enough time to head south for CP 29, but that was only if I didn’t make any mistakes. It looked easy enough, but I was tired and lonely. I kept arguing with myself over whether or not to go for it.
As I neared highway 134, I heard a “CaCaw! CaCaw!” It was Travis walking along the road, and it was great to see him. He and Bob had split up a couple hours previously. Neither of us really wanted to go for CP29, so we hiked into the finish line together, jogging the last 30 yards or so. We crossed the finish line in 9 hours and 24 minutes.
Travis: At this point I had been on my own for approx. 4 hrs, hit several cps with great success, but was in pretty sad shape. An old ankle injury was acting up and two large blisters on the bottom of my toes of my right foot were killing me. Once I had hit that road I was just marching to the finish. In hindsight I basically walked right past CP27 but my only concern was to make it back before 6pm. I was definitely happy to see Luke come right on the road as I passed.
Travis posed for a photo at the finish line, and when the photographer kept asking him to smile, I assured her that he was indeed smiling.
I posed for a photo, and then we both posed for a photo together. Even though we only got one CP together, it was pretty cool to finish with one of my teammates.
Travis and I went to our vehicles to change clothes. As I was getting out of my stank-ass jersey, Bob came running into the finish line. He looked like he’d been pushing the pace pretty hard, but he also looked strong.
Travis: I was happy to see Bob come running in because when I left him he had big ambitions and I didnt want him to be late.
Bob: Those ambitions were quickly snuffed out by failure, but I did still manage to pick up a few small pointers on my way back to the Finish.
We brought a few beers back to the shelter and loaded up a plate of delicious BBQ, baked beans, and cheesy potatoes. We stuffed our bellies and cheered others in as we waited for Kage. It wasn’t long before she came running across the finish line.
Ladies and gentlemen, what I’m about to show you is one of the rarest things you will ever see. You see, I’m a bit of a photo ninja (just ask Bob about the photo I took of “Powder” at the god-awful Lionheart Race). As Kage was telling some hilarious account of her race, I managed to snap this incredible shot:
Getting a photo like this is sort of like shooting Sasquatch. Only I have done both, but the Sasquatch shooting is a tale for another day.
Travis: Yes I can smile. No I am not grumpy, I just choose not to be as expressive with my feelings I guess. LOL.
Bob: Yes, Travis is the strong and silent type. Just like my farts.
We all swapped stories of our successes and failures as we shared many laughs over great food and a few beers. It turns out that Bob and Kate struggled a little more than they would have liked, but we all had a great day.
Full results can be found here, but the results of the four of us Virtusans are as follows:
- Kage – 310 points – 9:43:37 – 3rd (out of 3) in her division and 47th overall
- Bob – 500 points – 9:33:11 – 8th in his division and 33rd overall
- Travis – 610 points – 9:24:30 – 6th in his division and 27th overall
- Luke – 650 points – 9:24:28 – 5th in his division and 24th overall
After the awards ceremony, we all headed back to the campsite. We showered up and sat around the fire. By the time everyone was cleaned up, we were sadly too exhausted to go find all our AR friends at their campsite to hang out. So we just sat around our campfire, drinking some good beer and honey whiskey while laughing our asses off like we always do. Some of us even did some campfire yoga:
The story doesn’t end there, though. We woke up the next morning way too early, packed up, and headed out for breakfast. We went back to Stewart’s and it was fan-frickin’-tastic.
Travis: Attempting to eat all that was almost painful.
After breakfast, Travis headed back home as Bob, Kate, and I went back to the course to look for her Garmin GPS watch that she had lost. She assured us that she was almost positive she knew where she had dropped it: near CP 22 by a downed log where she sat to get something out of here shoe.
Travis: I wish I would have felt up to going with you guys to look for the Garmin, but at that point I could barely walk on my ankle.
Bob: Painfully awesome.
It turns out there were only 4 million downed logs in this area. Unfortunately, we didn’t find her watch, but Kage managed to find a weird, creepy skull that my son can use to scare his sisters.
We made our way back to the Virtus Van and drove home to end a wonderful weekend. From all of us at Team Virtus, we’d like to thank Bonk Hard Racing for putting on another top-notch, must-do-every-year event. We’ll be back next year, though I think we all agree that we won’t be doing it solo.
Next up for us is the Castlewood 8-hour Adventure Race in November. Rumor has it that Team Virtus will be rockin’ some sweet new kits. So stay tuned for that.
I have a confession to make. I’ve given up endurance sports.
For now anyway…
With endurance sports like Adventure Racing, there really isn’t an off-season. You can train and race year-round if you want. But I decided to take break, an off-season if you will. That’s right. I haven’t gone for a run or been on my bike in roughly two months. Maybe more.
***Cue the shrieking, alarms ringing, babies crying, and kittens dying***
Many people may consider this sacrilege, but I assure you I haven’t lost my mind. I simply needed a break from all of the long-distance stuff. So I’ve been lifting weights four times a week, doing some high intensity intervals here and there, and eating a LOT. Yes, I’ve gained weight. I’m okay with that. I wanted to get stronger, and I wanted to do something else for a little while. And I’m having a blast.
When it was time to sign up for the Castlewood 8-Hour Adventure Race, I knew I was out. But I also knew I would hate sitting at home, trying to get updates on how my teammates were doing. So my lovely wife agreed to volunteer with me at Castlewood. It would be the maiden voyage into volunteering for both of us, and I was excited she was coming with me. We dropped our amazing kids off at a friend’s house for the weekend, and we were on our way.
There was some confusion as to whether we were meeting at the Alpine Shop or at Bob’s house, but eventually we all ended up together. Then it was time for some carb-loading, because, you know… Volunteering is very strenuous. Becca and I would need our glycogen stores topped off, so we all went to Dewey’s. It was excellent, and we all laughed our asses off. The quote of the night was from our very own Bob Jenkins to the waiter: “Nope. It’s too late. You hurt my fat heart.” It was hilarious.
After stuffing our bellies, we went back to Bob and Cara’s new house (which is awesome by the way). Bob thought he would need a refresher course on plotting UTM points, but it’s kind of like riding a bike. You never forget how to do it. Well, that’s what I’m hoping anyway since I haven’t been on a bike in forever. Anywho… After Bob plotted the points with no problems, the team put together a stategery for the race.
Honestly, it was very strange to be observing instead of participating in the pre-race whirlwind: plotting, route-planning, gear packing, gear list checking, repacking, making fun of Adam (well, I might have participated in that last one). We all went to bed way too late, and the alarm went off way too early. Bob’s new house is very close to race HQ at the Wyman Center, which worked out great for this race. Even though we only had a ten-minute drive or so, we were still running late. Shocking, I know. But at least we were all organized and prepared come race morning:
We made it to the Wyman Center right on schedule which was 20 minutes after we had intended. We dropped the bikes off outside, and then we found our guest racer, Jim Smith of Monster Bicycle Company and Team TOG fame. How he was talked into tarnishing his reputation by racing with Team Virtus is beyond me. The race started at 7:00 AM with teams heading out on foot for a short orienteering section. Becca and I were given our orders, and we headed to the canoe put-in where racers were expected to arrive around 8:00 AM. There was only one problem, though:
The road to the river access was closed and chained. I called Gary, the race director, and left him a message. I was a little worried about missing the first racers, and since I had the puncher the racers needed to punch their passports, we really needed to be there. So in true adventure racing-spirit, Becca was ready to hop the fence and walk a mile or so in 10 degree weather. She didn’t even hesitate. So I threw some snacks, water, and hand-warmers into my pack, and away we went. Fotunately, we didn’t have to climb the fence. We simply walked down and around the fence and through some brush to the other side.
About three-quarters of the way to the boat ramp, we met a park ranger driving toward us in a truck. He asked if we were with the race, and we informed him that we had to park on the other side of the fence. Well, it turns out that the gate was unlocked after all. It just looked like it was locked with the chains wrapped around each other. Well, damn. I felt like an idiot, but it was clearly all part of my plan to give Becca a taste of the “expect the unexpected” nature of adventure racing.
I continued to walk since I was close enough to the put-in by now, and Becca hitched a ride back to the Virtus Van. I didn’t get another hundred yards before Gary pulled up and gave me a ride the rest of the way to the boat ramp at Checkpoint 13. Becca soon joined me after parking the Virtus Van.
It was cold. Very cold. Like 10 to 15 degrees cold. We set up shop on the boat ramp and waited. We were layered up, and we had plenty of chemical hand-warmers. Every 30 – 45 minutes I would start up a new batch of hand-warmers so that we always had a fresh supply to keep our hands and feet warm. It worked fairly well for the most part, although our toes got pretty cold from time to time.
At about 8:10 or so, the top four or five teams came in within a minute or two of each other. They all looked great as they quickly got their bikes in the canoes and canoes on the water. Other teams started to come in, usually in waves of 3 or 4teams at a time. It was a bit hectic as Becca handed each team their new UTM coordinates to plot and I punched their passports and wrote down their times. Our friends from Team TOG, Dave and Justin, came into the CP a little after 9:00. And it was great to see them.
And then at 9:15, we saw them. Our beloved team came into CP13, and they looked like they were having fun (shocking, I know). They said they had stayed pretty warm, and Bob had apparently been nailing the navigation – which nobody other than Bob ever doubted. Bob quickly began plotting the points using the UTMs we had given him as the rest of the team got their gear and bikes into the canoes.
Other teams were coming and going – punching their passports, plotting UTMs, packing bikes into canoes, carrying canoes… It was chaotic, but it was really cool to watch. Once Bob had the points plotted, they were ready to get on the river. Playing the “Girl-Card” that Robyn Benincasa has talked about, Kage did nothing while the guys carried the canoes to the water.
Becca and I both shed some tears, forming tear-cicles on our cheeks, as we watched our team push off into the frigid, unforgiving waters. We weren’t sure if we’d ever see them again. Well, that’s not true. But we knew how cold that paddle was going to be. I didn’t envy them at this moment.
Other teams came through our CP. One team got there, punched their passport, and turned around to ride back to Race HQ. He said, “There’s no way in hell we’re getting on that water.” Two or three other teams never made it to CP13 before deciding to call it quits. Eventually, there was only one team left that hadn’t yet made it to CP13.
We said good-bye to our new friend and race photographer, Travis Irvin, but not before he helped me carry a lone canoe up from the boat ramp.
The last team out came in around 10:45. That was about an hour after all other teams, but these guys really embodied the spirit of adventure racing. They lost their passport on the first orienteering section, so they had to go back and get a new passport and then do most of the first O-course all over again before moving on. But they didn’t quit. They just kept going. That’s pretty damn cool if you ask me. Big kudos to those guys.
On the way back to Race HQ, Becca and I grabbed some delicious soup from Panera Bread (although near St. Louis they’re still called St. Louis Bread Co.). Man, that soup hit the spot! We could feel it warming us from the inside. Then we went back to the Wyman Center to wait for teams to come in, plot more points for an optional orienteering section, and then finish. Becca and I were in charge of the food tables, carrying the pizzas, labeling the pizza boxes, removing empty boxes, etc. Teams came in, warmed up a bit as they plotted points, and then headed out to get more CP’s. We were happy to see Team Virtus roll in.
Bob plotted the extra points as the others filled water bottles. It seems when it’s really cold, even the insulated bottles won’t keep your water from freezing.
As Bob finished plotting the last few CP’s and planned a route to get a couple more optional CP’s, the rest of the team warmed up, ate some food, and got ready to head back out in the cold. Kage even had time to be a perv and sneak into the Men’s restroom. Here is proof:
It was really great to be at the finish to see the fast teams finish as other teams were still coming in only to go back out for more CP’s. And it was great to hear different race stories from our AR friends, new and old. I was a little worried that our team might miss the cutoff, but I shouldn’t have been. With ten minutes to spare, the team came running down the hill, literally leaping over a railing as they made their way to the finish line.
I couldn’t be prouder of the team. They ran a really great race. Congrats, guys. Big thanks to Bonk Hard Racing for letting us help out, and an even bigger thanks to my amazing wife, Becca, for volunteering with me. It was way more fun having her there with me. And no Virtus race report would be complete without at least one Maw Maw joke. So here she is after the race:
Last year was the inaugural Perfect 10 Rogaine, a 10 hour orienteering race. Luke, Bob, and I had gone and had a great time, so I was already excited about this year’s edition even before a little intra-team bet upped the excitement level. A rogaine is a great learning/practice opportunity since everyone gets a map, and navigation is a huge weakness for me. As much as I was anticipating the race, though, I was most of all looking forward to getting to hang out with my teammates.
Since most of our activities are centered around Jeff City, where most of the guys live, I’m used to making the drive on my own, but not this time. Bob recently moved closer to the St. Louis area, and he’d picked up Casey from the airport, so the three of us made the very cozy trip together in Bob’s truck.
|Luckily everyone wore deoderant|
We met up with Luke, switched all our gear over to the Virtus van, and headed south (? I think it was south) to Lake of the Ozarks. (Luke: Why would Kate say her navigation is a weakness? And yes. It was south.) We were camping again, so I was not thrilled to see clouds gathering in the sky despite the scant chance of rain in the forecast. Last year it rained both nights, and the post-race rain had flooded my tent and made for a long, cold night. With temperatures even lower this year (30’s overnight), the last thing I wanted was a soggy sleeping bag.
We had time to find a spot to camp (my first non-campground camping trip), get set up, and climb back into the van before the rain started. I wanted BBQ, so we ended up at Fired Up BBQ. The parking lot was packed, but the restaurant was largely empty. Weird. The service wasn’t great, but the food was really good and we weren’t in any hurry to get back into the rain. We watched the Cardinals game, talked, and otherwise kept occupied.
The rain never did stop, but that was probably a good thing because it forced us to go to bed sooner rather than hanging out around a campfire. I for one needed the sleep, and thankfully my tent stayed dry and I stayed warm in my borrowed sleeping bag (considerably warmer than my own sleeping bag, thanks Luke!).
We got up around 6, which should have been plenty of time to make the short drive to the race start. As it turned out, despite taking the time to put on a little makeup after changing, I still wasn’t the last one ready. If Luke hadn’t looked at the time around 7:00 (15 minutes after maps had been handed out, oops!) we might still be there. Heading towards the start, we hit another hiccup when it turned out we weren’t as clear on where to go as we’d thought the night before.
Being a little lost on your way to an orienteering race is never a good sign, but eventually we got there and saw the tents pitched at race HQ. Brilliant idea! Why didn’t we think of that? We got our preplotted maps and then set to route planning. And by “we”, I mean that while Bob and Casey busily discussed potential routes and strategies with each other, I left Luke to deal with our maps while I finished putting my food in my pack, braiding my hair, and pinning our numbers onto our packs and then agreed with the route he thought was best.
Luke: That’s not entirely true. Kate had more input than she’s taking credit for. She handed me a pen and a highlighter.
|Photo credit: BonkHard Racing
“Sure Luke…whatever you think, Luke”
Michael, who has read our team blog, came up and introduced himself, and I also got a chance to catch up with my friend Melissa, who rocked the course as a solo.
|The map shows around 30 square miles. It’s a little hard to see, but all of those red circles and numbers show the location of checkpoints. For a look at how teams who could potentially clear the course, check out Emily’s blog post about the race. The highlighted section above is what we anticipated covering.|
Before we knew it, it was time for the pre-race meeting. A raffle ticket was drawn for the sweet Kuat bike rack, but sadly I didn’t win it. We barely had time for some pre-race pictures before it was time to start. In fact, our friend Kelly was still holding the camera as the race began. That’s fitting, because I’m pretty sure he’s the guy who once claimed that Team Virtus would probably do twice as well if we didn’t spend so much time taking pictures.
Luke: But we’d only have half the fun.
|There’s something funny about this picture (besides the fact that Luke and I are sharing one pair of gloves). Can you guess what it is?|
Since we’ve both been running a decent amount lately, we planned to try to do as much running as possible during the race. We’re definitely nowhere near Alpine Shop’s ability to tear up and down rocky slopes while bushwhacking through thorns, but we could at least jog along roads and trails. Our first steps, though downhill, were a good reminder of how much harder it is to run while carrying a pack. Last year, feeling the difference even just a large hydration pack makes helped me to realize how much easier running would be if I dropped some weight; I came back to Perfect 10 around 15-20 pounds lighter, which had to help.
|Our planned route.|
If you look closely at the map above, you’ll notice that each little circle (marking the location of the checkpoint) has a number next to it. The number both tells you which box on your passport to punch and signifies the points the CP is worth. (Important information if you read your race info…not naming any names here but there are a couple I could mention :D). Single digit CPs were worth 100 points, tens were worth 10 points, 20s were worth 20 points, and 30’s were worth 30 points. Strategy is key here in order to maximize your points. Our route included three hundred pointers.
We ran east out of race HQ along the road and then realized we had no idea which way Bob and Casey had gone. All day long we wondered where they were, how their day was going, and whether or not they’d beat us. We basically followed a run ’til Kate got tired/walk/run ’til Kate got tired plan for the road and for smoother trails. We hit our first few CPs with no problems and made sure to get a picture of the cemetery we came across for Chuck.
|Super excited because I’ve located the cemetery on the map.|
I was doing my best to follow along on the map, and I sort of could, but I’d have been in trouble if I was doing the navigating for myself. Well, I probably would have been in trouble, and I most definitely would have been far slower. I teach struggling learners, and navigating using a topo map always gives me insight into what school must be like for them. It takes me a lot of thinking to figure out something that would be immediately obvious to a competent navigator. I’ve learned a lot following along on the map while my more skilled teammates do the navigating, but it’s probably time for me to give it another solo go.
Our first hundred point CP was near the airport boundary. We’d traveled in this area the previous year, and this had been one of the spots where we tested alternate routes. Bob had discovered that the land near the airport fence was pretty clear. Armed with this knowledge, we planned to skirt the boundary. The area was level and clear enough that we were able to run a decent amount here.
|Hard to tell, but I’m running here.|
Since the next CP (number 19) wasn’t far off of the airport boundary and the mapped trails, Luke handed off the maps so I could navigate to this one. Like everything on a map for me, it was much more confusing than it should have been. Follow the airport boundary…which of these fences is the mapped boundary? Follow the trail…exactly which trail are we on? Sigh. We got all turned around and lost some time there before I handed the maps back to Luke and let him sort us out.
Luke: In Kage’s defense, it was a tricky for me as well. I was following along on the map with her, and I’m not sure I would’ve don anything different. Regardless, we found it, and that’s all that matters.
Being able to shrug my shoulders and pass off the map makes me appreciate my teammates who do the nav that much more. I was really focused on following along on the map for the first two thirds of the race, but later when my knee was really hurting and I was hating life a little, I totally checked out and just followed Luke. No one racing with me has that luxury because I’d have us lost in a heartbeat. That’s one of the reasons that I really do want to get better with navigation.
Anyway, we eventually found our way to 19, running into Kelly Sumner on our way out, and then made our way to CP6, another 100 pointer. I don’t remember much about that one, so it must not have been too remarkable. Our plan from 6 was to follow the airport boundary to our attack point for CP 29, but the eastern fenceline was nothing like the relatively clear area you see in the picture above. As we made our way through thickening brush and grass covered rip-rap style rock towards the fenceline, we heard a familiar voice call, “Do NOT come this way!! You can’t get through the thorns and brush.” B’rer Rabbit he’s not, but neither are we, so we took his good advice.
Eventually Kelly emerged from the thicket he’d lost all kinds of time attempting to pass through, so we had a chance to catch up with him for a while on the trek towards CP 29. Once we got passed the briars, the boundary cleared out nicely.
|Kelly leads the way|
Either Kelly moved a lot faster than we did (likely) or we attacked from different points (more likely both), but we lost track of each other before heading into the trees. We snagged 29 (“snagged” might imply that it was easier than it was…I don’t really remember 29, but it seemed like we had more trouble with the 20-pointers than any other CPs) and headed towards CP18.
With the sun finally out, the chilly day was starting to feel really nice. We were hiking along the road talking about the race so far and wondering about where Bob and Casey were, how they were doing, and what our chances were of beating them. I don’t think either of us felt super confident, and it was weird to have no idea at all where they were, what route they’d taken, anything.
Luke: I was pretty worried. I know my brother, and he’s a competitive dude. I thought he might kill himself and/or Bob trying to beat us.
|A partial view of the quarry from last year’s race|
We were just speculating whether Gary had put a checkpoint in the quarry, one of the cooler spots from last year’s race, when we turned off the road towards CP 18 and up to the edge of the quarry. I guess maybe the clue “rock pile” should have given us a hint. Of course, the quarry was full of rock piles. We were having a hard time making our approach match what we were seeing on the map, so we did a little walking back and forth looking for the intersection shown. “That looks like a likely spot,” I told Luke. He wasn’t convinced and started in another direction.
“I feel like it’s right,” I continued. “I’m just going to go check it out real quick.” I walked over to the rock pile and didn’t see anything. I was about to go follow Luke when I considered how stupid I’d feel (and how much time we’d waste) if my perfunctory glance missed if the checkpoint was actually there, so I walked a little further, looked up, and sure enough saw the flag. Now, it has to be mentioned that it was purely dumb luck that I found it; I certainly wasn’t following the map and probably would have been sure the CP was at whatever checkpoint I first laid eyes on…in this case, though, we were lucky enough to have seen the right one first. I called out our special secret code to Luke to let him know I had it and waited there savoring the feeling of — for once — being the one to find the CP.
Luke: Kate saved us at least 20 minutes here. Maybe more. And it was the first REAL time that we used our secret code. It was perfect, and I laughed as I trotted over to her.
We ran into Kelly on our way out of the quarry and attempted to let him know where the CP was, but when we ran into him at the next checkpoint (35) he told us our advice wasn’t so helpful. Sorry! We left that CP at the same time, but he took a slightly sharper angle towards the road or was moving faster than us (or both), and other than catching glimpses of him ahead of us on the road we didn’t see him again until the finish line. We had a long stretch (ok, not particularly long, looking at the map maybe just over 2 miles) of road hiking, which sounds like it should be gloriously fast but wasn’t at all. The race rules required that you walk on the mowed right-of-way next to the highway unless crossing, and trekking along the off-camber side pretty much sucked.Up to this point, we’d had a pretty smooth day with the exception of my attempt at navigation, but we hit a speed bump or two along highway 42. First, CP24 was playing hard to get. Seemed like we hiked a creek forever. We’d had a few other times when we’d questioned whether we were on the wrong track only to find our CP a little further than we’d expected, but this time, as Luke looked at the map and compass, it became evident (to him) that we weren’t in the right place. We ended up hiking over a spur and finding our CP in the next reentrant over, but we definitely lost some time here.
We hiked out to the road and then attacked CP22 which, despite its proximity to the road, was much harder to get to and steeper than we’d anticipated. We were both having trouble keeping our footing and feeling a little grumpy.
Luke: Hiking back up to the road from CP22 sucked. I was nearing a bonk, so I popped a couple of Foosh caffeinated mints and ate a bunch of food. About 10 minutes later, I was feeling much better.
|OK, I don’t look grumpy, but trust me, I was.|
We took a short break once we got back to the road, grabbing some food, checking the maps, getting the little rocks and junk out of my shoes. That taken care of, we snagged CP13 and then headed off in search of our final 100-pointer of the day. The CP required a half-mile hike along a (((ridge))) and then was located off of a hilltop with the ambiguous clue of “slope”.
We cut in too soon and did some wandering around in search of our CP, but that ended up being a good thing. We passed a guy in the woods who was looking for the same checkpoint. Shortly afterwards, Luke spotted it. “Should we tell him?” Luke asked.
“Yeah,” he decided. “We should…hey buddy, it’s over here!”
When the other guy got there, he asked if we were Team Virtus. “I thought you looked familiar!” he told us. It turns out he’s a blog reader who’s corresponded with Luke about adventure racing. We were really glad we’d called out to him. Very cool meeting you out there, Michael.
Luke: This was a different Michael than the one we’d met earlier in the day. It was great meeting both Micheals.
CP2 was the far point of our trek, and now it was time to head back towards race HQ, picking up checkpoints along the way. Last year our last CP was off of this same ridge, followed by a 5 mile road trek back to the finish line. This year’s route was much more pleasant, trekking through woods. Our first CP of the way back, another 20-pointer, seemed to take forever to find as we again wondered have we gone too far? Did we miss it? In the end, Luke led us straight to it and then we headed for the creek we’d follow to some trails.
At this point in the race, despite a healthy dose of ibuprofen, I was really sore. In fact, the last 3 or so hours were very painful. It was weird; the two sides of my body were having very different experiences. While my right side felt fantastic, my left foot, knee, and hip hurt like crazy. Getting to the trail was little respite, and it was around this point where I’d pretty much checked out on the map and was just following Luke, limping, wincing, and struggling mightily not to complain because what good would it do.
Luke: For the record, Kate never did complain. So her streak of no complaining is still alive. She may have stated a few facts regarding the pain in her Maw Maw hip, but they definitely weren’t complaints.
The trail seemed to take forever, but it was very cool to pass a man backpacking with his little boy. We passed another family already set up at a backpack camping site on our way to CP26. Finding 26, we set a fast hike back to the HQ to resupply and decide on our course for the last 1.5 hours. We’d worked all day to minimize our stops, and we were pretty quick grabbing some extra food and water at the Virtus van before setting off for a 30-pointer a half mile or so away. We toyed with the idea of going for one more possible CP but decided that we’d be cutting it close enough that getting 20 more points wasn’t worth risking more than that with the 10 point per minute penalty for finishing after the cutoff…especially when I wasn’t sure I could run.
Luke: We were tempted to get the 20-pointer since it would have put us over 600 points which was our original goal for the day. There was VERY little chance we’d make it back in time, so we played it safe.
Decision made, we hiked back uphill from the checkpoint. Between the steepness of the hill, all the babyheads rolling under our feet, and my sore knee, I was over it. I kind of wanted to scream…or cry. “I’m going to use up every single non-complaint on this hill right now!” I told Luke. “This must be how Todd feels when he has hiking madness!”
|It took a couple tries to get this without me laughing, but here’s my attempt at depicting my feelings about hiking.|
Luke was doing better than I was, but he sure wasn’t enjoying rolling his ankle with every step. No hiking madness for him, though; instead he did his best imitation of the thousand mile stare.
|This picture makes me laugh every time I see it.|
We had plenty of time to get back to the finish line before the cutoff, so we screwed around a little bit taking stupid pictures and then, spirits lifted, headed back the way we’d come….or did we?
“Wouldn’t it be funny if we were here laughing and being stupid and then took off the wrong way?” Luke asked. We both laughed at the thought and then he looked at his compass. Sure enough, we were hiking in the exact wrong direction. Crisis averted, we headed back to the finish line, breaking into a fake jog for the cameras.
|Photo credit: BonkHard Racing|
We made it back to the finish line with around 45 minutes to spare, so we got to watch a lot of the teams come through. It was nerve-wracking waiting for Bob and Casey and hoping they missed the cutoff finished well, but if you have to wait nervously to find out if you’re going down in flames, I highly suggest doing it with BonkHard’s awesome post-race food and good company.
Luke: Mmmm… Pulled pork… Mac & Cheese… Chili… Beer…
|Photo credit: BonkHard Racing
Casey, me, Luke, Kelly, Jason
Of course, what happens at the Lake stays at the Lake, but my face was sore from laughing by the time I went to bed, and the funniest exchange had to be between Casey and Bob. Ridiculous plans were being hatched for tormenting each other, and Casey asked, “What if I trained a bear to do it?”
“There’s a couple problems with that,” Bob replied, “First, if you find a bear, not cool if you bring it back here!”
Not cool at all. But a weekend hanging out with some awesome teammates? It doesn’t get a whole lot cooler than that.
I know we’re all still basking in the greatness that is/was Dirty Kanza, but there’s something else everyone should be very excited about. I am of course referring to Bonk Hard Racing’s Perfect 10 Rogaine. We all know Bonk Hard is legendary for their adventure races, so the thought of a 10 hour rogaine at the Lake of the Ozarks…well, let’s just say it’s probably going to be pretty challenging.
I’ll be there, and hope to come back with a lot of photos that look like this:
And none that look like this:
So, who’s in??
Trek Leg #2 – O-Course – 4:50 PM Saturday Afternoon – 9 Hours 20 Minutes Racing
Note: This segment of the LBL report is brought to you by Robert Lewis Jenkins III, but you can call me Bob. Luke has added a comment or two in blue, Kate commented in purple-ish font and Casey’s comments are in red.
We pick up where Luke previously left off. The team has just arrived at a Transition Area heading into an orienteering leg.
Given the time restrictions and the fast-approaching sunset, it was no secret we wouldn’t be clearing the (13 CP) course. We’d just have to get what we could and return before the time-cutoff. Striking out, we used an open field for a hand-rail and our progress was momentarily swift. Along the way, we crossed paths with a very relaxed looking Team Alpine Shop. It was odd to see them casually hiking through the woods, and we could only take it as a testament to the difficulty of the course.
In the weeks leading up to the race, Luke and I had agreed that I’d take over nav-duties at some point, and by now I was jonesing pretty bad to take point. We decided that he’d find the first CP in this section and then I could take the reins. My wait turned out to be a bit longer than expected though, because we had one hell of a time finding that first one.
The micro-nav on this course was just ridiculous, I bet we walked around for an hour trying to find the first checkpoint. Cool heads always prevail though, so we regrouped for a while and finally found paydirt. Redemption was ours..for now.
Luke: I was REALLY struggling with the map. Bob is mercifully leaving that part out, but I was more than happy to hand the map over to Bob.
Map in hand, it was now my turn to lead the charge. Up until now things hadn’t exactly gone smoothly, and even after finding the first CP there was a bit of a “dark cloud” looming over the group. Despite all that, I was totally stoked. I’d been looking forward to this moment for months and was really hoping to pull the team out of this funk. I picked a route and checked with the guys to see if they liked it.
They didn’t. Hmm..maybe I shouldn’t have asked.
My route was a bit too ambitious, cutting across a few reentrants and whatnot. I was confident in my route selection and wanted to go my own way reeeally bad. I wanted to take the training-wheels off and strike out into the unknown.. but we decided as a team to take a more “trail-oriented” path. I wasn’t happy about it, but in retrospect it was the smart thing to do. To my thinking, they’d trust me a little more if I got us to the CP smoothly. After that, I could get fancy and maybe noone would mind.
A quick bearing lead us to the trail, and I started looking for collecting features.
Luke: For me, it wasn’t a matter of trust. It was a matter of how physically difficult your proposed route would have been. I’m more of a “stay high and go around instead of going up and down repeatedly” kind of guy.
Kate: I had no opinion, but I appreciated that you guys always included me in the looking at the map to make a decision like I had a clue what I was doing.
Casey: Personally, I was fine with either route. Luke was struggling with the map and needed to take a break for a while and regather himself mentally for the rest of the race (we would be needing his skill later in the race). I would have been happy to take the reigns but Bob really wanted to and it was a good opportunity for him to have a chance to do some orienteering in a big race setting.
For whatever reason, everything seemed to be happening exactly as it should. (Weird) Rises and dips in the trail matched the map, and after about an hour’s hike we were within striking distance. A knot formed in my stomach as we left the safety of the trail, cutting across an open field using a re-entrant to the South as a handrail. This was it, I was exposed now…I’d either be a hero or a zero. Feigning confidence, I cut straight through the tall grass with Kate following closely behind. Luke and Casey found a much smoother path along the treeline.
Kate: You were the navigator, I was following you. Which was just fine until I started thinking about snakes halfway through that field.
Per the map, there was another reentrant coming up on our left, (North). We found it and used it as another handrail. The trek took longer than I thought, but we eventually walked right up to the flag. I have to say, it felt pretty damn good.
No time for gloating, we turned around and headed for the next one. Fearful of distraction, I removed myself from all conversation. Minutes turned into hours as we trekked along, hoping I wouldn’t get us lost. .
**Now, I do all of my nav-training in the Cedar Creek area, where there are a lot of powerlines and radiotower-type things to help keep me from getting too lost. Even at night, the Southerly glow of city lights keeps me somewhat oriented. Land Between the Lakes doesn’t have any of that; out there you’re either in the right place or you’re very lost. LBL requires a lot of micro-nav: paying close attention to your surroundings and how they relate to the map. Little things like which direction a spur is facing or which way a creek flows become critical bits of information. **
Luke: Not to mention that everything looks exactly the same out there. It was a nightmare.
A smile crossed my face as it became apparent I was gaining the group’s trust. (Luke: Again, you always had my trust) (Kate: And mine) (Casey: Not mine…yet) Spirits were on the rise but I knew it was all for nothing if we didn’t walk straight into the next CP. After descending a short hill, we stood at a creek and I had to decide which of the multitude of bluffs in front of us held the Checkpoint. Problem was, they all looked the same. The only thing setting them apart from one another was that one was located directly south of the highest point in the surrounding area.
I stood there staring at the map, weighing our options. By now, we were no longer alone. Another team whose name I can’t recall had latched on and was following us. I’m pretty sure they cleared it with Casey first (Casey: Not with me but they definitely were green and needed some help.) , but I can’t be certain. So now instead of getting 4 people lost, I had 6 lives in my hands. After giving it some thought, I eventually decided to burn the extra calories and ascend the monster hill. Hopefully we could take a bearing from up there and walk right to the flag. The climb was kinda brutal, but when we got to the top it took all of 2 minutes for Luke to spot the control flag. (Casey: Now you have my trust.)
I swear, it felt like I had thunder in my veins and lightning shooting out of my ass. There’s nothing like that feeling of knowing where you are. My self-doubt was gone and it felt good. Alas, time was against us and we had no choice but to head back to the transition area. We had already been out there for almost 6 hours. Getting back to the T/A was easy, we headed back to a bend in the trail, turned straight West and followed the ridgeline nearly all the way back to the field.
Luke: Casey, as usual, wanted to get one more CP before heading back. I think Bob kind of wanted to do so as well since he was spot-on with his nav, but after weighing our options, we decided to save some time and play it safe by heading back.
Bob: There’s no denying that. I was having a blast and would’ve happily stayed out there all night.
Casey: We could have gotten another one.
We’d hit a few rough spots, but things were looking up. Best of all, there was still plenty of food waiting for us back at the T/A. Clear skies prevailed as the sun began to set, but noone could have predicted the storm that would cut loose on us later in the race.