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Category Archives: Epicnicity—yeah it’s a word

OMGNAPNA! (OMG, Not Again! Please Not Again!) – The Super Century 2015

It is with a sense of deep, dark dread that I inform you the Super Century is once again taking place next week on Super Bowl Sunday. I’ve waited as long as I could to post this, hoping that I would come to my senses and stop this madness. But alas, we are all going to suffer together apart once again for the 5th annual Super Century.

Robby is thrilled about another Super Century.

For those of you who’ve no idea what I’m talking about, let me just say that it might be the worst idea we’ve ever come up with. Actually, my stupid brother, Casey, came up with it, and then all of us took it and ran (or rode) with it. If you want to read about how the very first Super Century got started, you can do so here.

Here’s the basic info:

Who: You and your stupid, sadistic friends if you’re stupid gluttons for punishment like us

What: A metric century (62 miles) on the trainer

When: Super Bowl Sunday, February 7th, anytime you want really, but most of us will be starting around 8:30 AM

Where: Wherever the hell you want to suffer

Why: Because we’re stupid and also so we can eat whatever we want guilt-free during the Super Bowl

If you are dumb enough to join us in this terrible idea, be sure to hit us up on the book of faces and the twitterverse. And don’t forget to use #SuperCentury and #MyTaintHurts in your posts so we’ll see them. That way we can all suffer together apart virtually. It’s fun… Sort of… But not really…

Robby, Adam, and me at the end of the Super Century 2015 and the Tour of Sufferlandria 2015.

And for those of you who are certifiably insane, you can also take part in the Tour of Sufferlandria 2015 which starts Saturday the 6th. It will add a lot of pain and sufferng to your whole week, and it will make the Super Century even worse, if that’s even possible.

Robby, Adam, and I took part in the Tour of Sufferlandria last year, and you can read about the first of nine stages right here. And if you don’t want to read about all nine stages, you should at least take a look at my sweet bloody elbow from crashing on my trainer.

Last year, the Tour of Sufferlandria ended on Super Bowl Sunday. This year, however, the Tour starts the Saturday before Super Bowl Sunday, so the Super Century coincides with the second stage of the ToS. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse, but I’m sure it’s not good either way.

So let us know if you want to join us, you psycohpaths. Let’s suffer together.

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Cinco de MLK

The 5th annual MLK Ride is indeed happening again. It seems impossible, but every year this thing just keeps getting bigger and better.

If you have no idea what the MLK Ride entails, please go here for year 1, here for year 2, here for year 3, and here for last year’s ride.

Date: Saturday, Jan 16th

Time: Meet at the Berry-Man Campground Trailhead (Google Map here) at 8:00 AM and roll out as a group at 8:30 AM. Faster riders wanting to do two laps (or more) might leave earlier. I am not one of those riders.

What to Bring:

  • Yourself
  • Your bike
  • Any and all gear, food, and water you’ll need (this is a self-supported ride on a fairly rough trail – you’re on your own for the most part)
  • Some food to share
  • Something to drink (beer and/or whiskey is almost always the right choice, but homemade wine is also a good choice)
  • Dry, warm clothes for hanging out after the ride (possibly the best part)
  • Camping gear if you plan on camping the night before and/or after

What Not to Bring:

  • Douchebags
  • Assholes
  • A shitty attitude

Team Virtus will bring stuff to fire up the grill along with some meat and Kate’s cookies (right, Kate?) to throw on the grill – yes, they’re super delicious that way. And maybe even Chuck will bring his super secret Chili (right, Chuck?) with Cheeze-Its thrown in.

We probably won’t have enough meat for everyone, so please bring enough food for your group. Bringing a side dish or dessert to share would be super cool. And of course bring your own beverages.

Some of us will be camping Friday and/or Saturday night. And some of us will also be riding the totally rad Joe Dirt Ride at 12:00 pm on Sunday to round out a great weekend on bikes with friends.

It works out perfectly, really:

Camp, drink, and laugh our asses off Friday night. Get up and ride Berryman with a big group. Eat, drink, and laugh some more after the ride. Camp, eat, drink some more. Get up and get a good breakfast at the Spare Rib Inn, and then go ride bikes some more on Sunday.

So let us know if you’d like to join us. You can comment below or hit us up on the facebook event page.

 

A SHARTS-Giving to Remember

Twas the Sunday after Thanksgiving. There was cold rain. There was mud. There was fire. There was coffee. There was whiskey. And there was laughter. Joyful, hearty laughter shared by bearded, manly men in the great outdoors. This is the telling of that story.

Read on, dear friends. Just know this: the words you’re about to read and the photos you’re about to see are meager substitutes for actually being there, experiencing it all, and sucking the marrow out of life.

Just ask Kate, who didn’t get to go. Now, on with the story…

As far as I know, I am the first person to finish the inaugural SHART, so I’m pretty much famous now. What’s that? You don’t know what a SHART is? No, not that kind of shart (although those of us on Team Virtus have plenty of experience with those as well).

If you haven’t been keeping up with us lately, then perhaps you missed this post explaining what a SHART is. If you’re too damn lazy to go read that, here’s a hint: SHared Adventure Race Training – that’s what a SHART is.

And perhaps you also missed this post regarding the very first SHART and how you too can participate if you’re in the St. Louis area-ish. This is the SHART which I was the first to complete. I guess that makes me sort of like the Neil Armstrong of SHARTs or something. Or would it be Neil SHARTstrong?

Bob was with me too, but I technically finished before he did. Chuck was also there, but he was the brilliant SHARTist behind this masterpiece, so he can’t really be considered for the first-ever SHART finisher. So I have laid claim to that title.

Bob was a last minute addition to our group just as Kate was a last minute cancellation. We were bummed Kate wouldn’t be joining us, but we were stoked about rubbing it in every chance we got.

We three men met up, geared up, and headed out.

Shared Adventure Race Training - SHART

The three bearded amigos.

Astride our trusty steeds, we pedaled out onto the gravel double track, hoping that most of the single track would be rideable. We had 15 checkpoints ahead of us. On each control marker – beautifully homemade by the one, the only, the amazing Lori Vohsen – was a secret letter which we needed to write down. These letters, when put together in order, would spell a secret word or phrase. This phrase would serve as proof that we reached all the checkpoints. Or would it?

Here’s our clue sheet:

SHART #1 Cue Sheet

My favorite clue is for CP #4

We took a different route to CP 1 than Chuck, who had set the course, had anticipated, partly because we were unsure of the conditions of the single track and partly because sometimes navigators do things differently. And that’s one of the many cool things about this sort of event. We can practice navigating and discuss what was done, what should have been done, and what someone else might do. It’s a great learning experience, and damn it, it’s just a super fun time. Right, Kate? Oh, sorry…

Nearing CP1 – which was at a graveyard in the middle of the woods – a random person came down through the trees from the general direction of the graveyard. No bike. No map. Just a random dude appearing out of nowhere. Or maybe it was a zombie for all we knew. A few pleasantries were exchanged, and we headed into the woods and found the first CP.

CP 1 of SHART 1

Checkpoint 1

Now, you may notice in these photos that Bob is in jeans and an ugly (or is it beautiful?) Christmas sweater with tinsel on the cuffs. Why, you ask? Because he’s Bob fuckin’ Jenkins that’s why. Don’t ask such stupid questions.

After getting the first secret letter, Bob thought he had the secret phrase figured out. Chuck neither confirmed nor denied if Bob was right. Spoiler alert: Bob was wrong.

From here, Bob F. Jenkins led us to CP2. We dropped our bikes on the double track trail and headed up and into the woods. The control marker shone brightly on this drab and dreary day, so it didn’t take long to spot it. We got the second secret letter, and as I was writing it down, it clicked. I knew without a doubt what the secret word or phrase was.

Chuck neither confirmed nor denied it… at first. However, the “Fuck you guys! Two freakin’ letters and you figured it out! Fuck you guys!” kind of gave it away. It was hilarious.

Now, just because we may have “cracked the code” doesn’t mean we just quit with an unbeatable time (trust me, our official finishing time is sure to be beaten). You’d have to be some kind of asshole to try to cheat at a free, badass training event. That would defeat the whole purpose and go completely against the spirit of the SHART. So we were still determined to get every damn CP come hell or high water. But not before a map check and bathroom break.

Bob shitting at the SHART

When you gotta go, you gotta go.

That rock was perfect, and this photo cracks me up. The sweater really sets the mood. But for some reason, this really reminds me of something from another time, another era…

Hmm… What could it be?

 

pooping at an adventure race

Great minds poop alike.

 

If you can tell me which race the above photo is from, you are a true Virtusite! And you have serious issues. But I digress.

We decided to take the trail, which was in surprisingly good shape, on foot to CP 3 at a spring/pond before heading back to get our bikes. That’s another cool feature of the SHART – being able to get the CP’s however we damn well please.

Bob and Chuck had already been to this little area back in the summer when they did a little swimming and exploring. With the temps in the 40’s, there would be no swimming on this day, though.

Luke at CP3 of SHART #1

Proof that I was indeed there and participating.

We made it back to our bikes and quickly pedaled our asses off to the next checkpoint. With a clue like “Irish Coffee Spot,” you’d be a fool to waste any time in getting there. We soon found the old pavilion as the rain started coming down a little harder. There were holes in the pavilion’s roof but not enough to leave us wet. It was the perfect spot for Irish coffee on a cold, wet day.

Chuck readied his Jetboil stove, Bob worked on the makings of a campfire, and I went to get some water out of the creek to boil. But not before I snapped a photo.

Irish Coffee at an old pavilion

I love this spot which shall now be called the Dublin Pavilion in honor of our Irish coffee.

Chuck fired up the stove and put the water on to boil. Bob had his wood ready (TWSS) in the fire ring, but he needed some tinder. He scoured the ground under and around the Dublin Pavilion to no avail. Curses! After a few more minutes of Bob’s desperate searching, Chuck asked what he needed. When Bob answered he was looking for some tinder, Chuck reached under his seat and said, “Well here’s this remnant of a bird’s nest. Oh, and here’s this old, dried up piece of birch bark.” This is just one more piece of evidence confirming Chuck was raised by a pack of wolves. The man is completely at home in the wilderness.

Bingo. Chuck’s tinder was exactly what Bob needed. So with nothing but a flint, small pieces of nest and birch bark, and a whole lot of manly badassness, Bob got us a nice fire going just as Chuck poured the boiling water into our awesome 100+ Project SiliPints.

I had brought Irish Burritos (some sausage breakfast burritos from the most famous Irish restaurant in the world – McDonald’s), because you know, it fit with our Irish theme. Sadly, Bob and I devoured ours as soon as we unwrapped them, but not Chuck. Chuck is a wise and patient man. They say the best things come to those who wait which is usually bullshit. This time, however, it couldn’t have been more true.

Chuck whittled himself a roasting stick and roasted that damn burrito over the fire to perfection. The tortilla was golden brown with a nice, flaky crust. The sausage, eggs, and cheese were hot and tasty. It was the best damn $1.00 burrito I’ve ever tasted. Seriously.

fire roasted burrito and Irish coffee

It may not get any better than this.

I don’t believe any of us were quite ready to leave, but the day was getting away from us. We had 11 more CP’s to find before we were done SHARTing. So we extinguished the fire, packed up, and headed back out on our bikes. The next CP was a short ride down the double track to the old chimney, another really cool spot.

chimney checkpoint at the SHART

We need to camp here.

 

old abandoned chimney

The chimney from afar.

From CP5, we had a difference in opinion on which way to go. Taking the double track all the way around and then take the trail back to CP6 was one option. The other option involved a hike-a-bike up a fairly steep hill to the trail and then biking on the trail a shorter distance. We chose the latter option. I’m not sure it was the better choice, though.

hike-a-bike orienteering at the SHART

It was steeper than this looks. At least we stayed warm.

After getting CP6, we hopped back onto the single track, and we rode to CP7. Actually, we rode past CP7 because I wasn’t paying close enough attention. After catching my mistake, we dropped the bikes and hiked to the the CP which was in another graveyard.

Those of you who participated in the first ShITR might recognize this tombstone:

Shared adventure race training cemetery checkpoint

Sweet Caroline

From CP7, it was a short ride to CP8 at the “Spring/Cave” which was really cool. Had it not been for the Irish coffee and singing Kumbayah together around the campfire back at CP4, this one would have been my favorite CP.

SHART Spring Cave

Chuck is the first known human to enter the cave, so he named it “SHART Spring Cave.”

CP9 at the “Peninsula” was also a short ride away, followed by just a bit of bushwhacking on foot. This was yet another cool place for a CP. It’s almost like Chuck knows his shit.

With all the recent rain, though, the water was up a bit, so Bob stripped down and braved the cold water to go get the secret letter (even though we already knew what it was since I’m basically Alan Turing when it comes to code breaking).

Bob's Peninsula at the SHART

Bob’s tiny Peninsula

Back on the bikes, we rode down the trail and found yet another cool CP. The clue was “Reentrant/Pipeline,” and yet again, Bob went to get the super secret letter from the control marker. I think he enjoyed himself a bit too much, though.

Cowboy Bob

Ride ’em, Cowbob!

We reached the next three CPs uneventfully and continued on toward CP 14. At this point in the day, the sun had almost set. With the cloud and tree cover, it was getting dark in a hurry. At least we were all prepared with headlamps, though. And by that, I mean we had one headlamp with nearly-dead batteries between us.

Bob and Chuck bombed the long, downhill doubletrack from CP13. Even with a headlamp, I was a little timid, and those guys just flew down it in stealth mode. Very impressive.

We found CP 14 as the darkness swallowed us, but we only had one more CP to go. CP15 was on the “SE Wall” in an old rock quarry. It looked like we were going to make it out alive and unscathed. But that’s when it happened.

Some asshole (me) forgot he had the only headlamp, so he didn’t point out a log in the trail leading into the quarry. It’s pretty impressive how fast a log will stop a front wheel if the rider never actually sees the log. Chuck nailed the log and crashed pretty hard. At least he got a pretty sweet knot under his eye from the crash. Sorry about that, Chuck.

We rode through the mushy, swampy grass and found the final CP. On the way out of the quarry, through no fault of my own this time, there was another crash. Somehow Bob crashed and managed to dry hump his handlebar on the way down.

handlebar to the goods

That’s gonna leave a mark.

It left a really good bruise above his package. And no, I didn’t just take his word for it. I actually saw the bruise on his majestically man-scaped pubic area at the Castlewood Race (report coming soon) the following weekend.

I pulled a DB move at the end by waiting until we were almost back to the parking lot and then sprinting to get back to the cars first. That’s how I became the first ever official SHARTer, edging out Bob for the title.

We headed into town for some food and drinks at Tully’s. I’m pretty sure the waitress wanted all three of us. We wreaked of the moist outdoors and campfire smoke with just a hint of whiskey. Throw in our wit, charm, boyish good looks, manly beards, and it’s no wonder she fell for us hard.

Three men and a beer-by

Sorry, ladies. We’re all off the market.

And with that, a mere 5 hours and 49 minutes after we started, our SHARTS-giving celebration came to an end. We had an absolute blast.

A day in the woods is a day well spent. A day SHARTing in the woods with great friends is even better.

Big thanks to Lori for making the awesome control markers, and big thanks to Chuck for inventing the SHART series and setting up the first course.

If you want to SHART with us, you can comment here on the blog or on our facebook page, and we’ll send you details on the current or next SHART event. That’s right, ladies and gents. We will be SHARTing throughout the year in lots of different locations. So stay tuned!

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

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

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

The Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

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

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

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

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

We even look like brothers! Sort of...

We even look like brothers! Sort of.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The Part Where We Drive to the Race

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

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

Road Trip to The Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

I let Kate have shotgun because I respect my elders.

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

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

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

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

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

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

burger and hand-breaded onion rings

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

hand-breaded pork tenderloin sandwich

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

 

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

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

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

The Part Where We Prepare Ourselves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Camp Benson Amphitheater

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

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

Plotting UTM's at Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

Brian was shocked at how easy the course looked.

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

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

Pooping in urinal

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

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

The Part Where I Was an Ungrateful Dick

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

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

“What’s this?” I said.

“Open it,” said he.

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

“What is it?” I said.

“Turn it around,” said he.

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

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

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

Best Hoodie ever from Thunder Rolls AR

So damn happy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brian, thank you. Seriously. Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

Start of 2015 Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

Crappy photo of an awesome team.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

BVW in the cave at Thunder Rolls AR

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

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

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

The Cave at Camp Benson

Screenshot from Brian’s audition for The Walking Dead.

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s when it happened…

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

Here we see the the exact moment when it happened:

Kate Busting Ass at Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kate's stench

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

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

Ascending at Thunder Rolls AR

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

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

Clash of Clans Kate at TR

A valiant effort in a losing battle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Shit!*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rappel at Thunder Rolls 2015

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

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

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

The Part Where We Bike and Everyone “Helps”

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

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

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

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

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

Thunder Rolls Bridge Checkpoint

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

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

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

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

Brian sleeping at TR Adventure Race

Brian was a big help.

Chuck asleep at Thunder Rolls AR

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

Kate sleeping at Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

Kate was very helpful too.

Sleeping Virtus at Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

The Three Sleeping Amigos

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

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

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

Brian: my favorite part of the race.

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

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

easy map at Thunder Rolls AR

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

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

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

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

Brian navigating at Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

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

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

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

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

bathroom stop at TR AR

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

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

Stay tuned for Part 2… More to come!

Plan Accordingly – MLK 4 is Happening

In case you missed any (or all) of the Martin Luther King (MLK) rides in the past, I wanted to get this out there with plenty of time for you to do whatever you have to do to you make sure you’re there this time. This is a ride you won’t want to miss. Don’t believe me?

Start of the MLK mountain bike ride

The start of the MLK3 mountain bike ride last year.

MLK1 surpassed all our expectations and become quite a party thanks in large part to our friends The Hoosier Daddies. The second year was just as much fun if not more fun, again thanks to the Hoosier Daddies and everyone else that showed up. Then last year at the MLK3 ride, we were without the Hoosier Daddies, but we still made it a helluva good ride/party.

Here are the deets:

Date: Saturday, Jan 17th

Time: Meet at the Berry-Man Campground Trailhead (Google Map here) at 8:00 AM and roll out as a group at 8:30 AM (faster dudes and dudettes wanting to do two laps might leave earlier – I am not one of those dudes).

What to Bring:

  • Yourself
  • Your bike
  • Any and all gear, food, and water you’ll need (this is a self-supported ride on a fairly rough trail – you’re on your own for the most part)
  • Some food to share
  • Something to drink (beer and/or whiskey is almost always the right choice, but homemade wine is acceptable)
  • Dry, warm clothes for hanging out after the ride (possibly the best part)
  • Camping gear if you plan on camping the night before and/or after

What Not to Bring:

  • Douchebags
  • A shitty attitude
  • Any music by Nickelback

As mentioned above, some fast riders do two laps. Most riders only do one lap. And then there are others (myself included the last 3 years) who only do part of the trail. There are plenty of places to shorten the route so you can get back to the party earlier. Here’s some info with a link to a map of the Berryman Trail if you’re unfamiliar with it.

Team Virtus will be bringing supplies to fire up the big grill at the campground along with some meat and other food. I’m sure Kate will bring some of her delicious cookies, and if you’ve never had a freshly grilled cookie, then consider your life incomplete. We won’t have enough food for everyone, so please bring something to add to our pile of food. Also BYOB.

Grilled Cookies... Mmm....

Grilled Cookies… Mmm….

Leave a comment below if you’d like to join us. Or you can go to the event page we created on the book-of-faces and let us know if you’ll be there. Or if you’re on Attackpoint, you can see the event right here. Feel free to invite anyone you want as long as they aren’t a-holes.

Rumor has it that Bob Effin Jenkins will even be there. I have my doubts, though, since he has missed all 3 MLK rides so far. (**Edit: Bob was actually at the very first MLK Ride, but he has missed the last two).

This is one of my favorite rides of the year with some of my favorite people. Hopefully you’ll join us too.

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