Category Archives: Kage Didn’t Get to Go

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!

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

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

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

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

Cup O' Dirt Ride 1

Four manly men ready to ride.

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

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

Casey's pizza on a gravel ride

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

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

jim at the top of a climb

Jim at the top of the first big climb.

Travis peeing

Travis, quit playing with your dinghy!

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

Cedar Cross Victim on a bike

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

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

what is that?

What is that? Hmm…

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

dead pigs in a creek

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

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

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

Hams Prairie Store

The only place in town.

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

Riding near the nuclear power plant

This is one of the highlights of the ride.

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

The Darkness Road

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

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

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

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

A post shared by Łuke Łamb (@lukaslamb) on

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

Soft Katy Trail

This. Just. Sucked.

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

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

beer with The Darkness

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

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

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

Fat Bike and Fun in Minnesota

Over the Christmas/New Year Break, my family and I hopped in the Virtus Van and ventured up to the land of a thousand lakes where my parents live in Shakopee, MN. My brother Zack and his family were going to be there as well. Sadly, Casey and his family couldn’t make it.

Zack is an Ultrarunner, and he needed to get in some trail runs to keep up with his training plan. Since I have a thick “winter coat” on at the moment, and since I haven’t run in months, my dad rented a Fat Bike for me so I could keep up with Zack while he ran.

Running on the snowy, icy boardwalk.

Running on the snowy, icy boardwalk.

This was a Back-Off week for me in my training, so riding an easy pace while Zack ran is just what I needed. We ended up getting a Kona WO, and other than my toes and hands freezing – I really need to get some winter shoes and lobster gloves – the Fat Bike was a super-fun bike to ride.

I now understand why Fat Bikes have been exploding in popularity. First, they’re amazing bikes in the snow. When I first got on, I kept bracing myself to spin or slide out on the climbs and corners, but it never happened. Second, the Fat Bike is super fun. I felt like a kid again riding that thing. And third, the Fat Bike handles rocks, roots, features, and other obstacles like a champ. I rode a snow-covered rock gardens and other obstacles with ease. I almost looked like a real mountain biker. Almost. If I lived in MN or if MO had more snow, I’d save up and buy a Fat Bike for sure.

Anyway, here’s a short video from Minnesota. And I’ve said it before, but I’ll keep saying it: Photos and videos pale in comparison to what it’s really like out there. But anyway, here you go…

We didn’t just run and ride, though. We also went to a Minnesota Timberwolves game which was a great family experience. My kids had never been on a train before, and they thought it was pretty damn cool. Here are few shots from New Year’s Day…

L to R: Mabel, Eli, and Della

L to R: Mabel, Eli, and Della

Jackson and Lydia

Jackson and Lydia

The kids got really into the game, howling like wolves every time the Kings shot free throws.

The kids really got into the game, howling like wolves every time the Kings shot free throws.

Family photo on the Timberwolves' court after the game.

Family photo on the Timberwolves’ court after the game.

We also played lots of board games and card games together. We played some hoops at the local rec center where I may or may not have dunked on my nephew. We chillaxed and talked basically non-stop. We ate a crap-ton of delicious food – which only added to my “winter coat.” And of course we all laughed our faces off. The only thing missing was Casey and his family. They were dearly missed.

How about you? Did you do anything cool over the Holidays? Let’s hear about it in the comments!

Missouri’s Best Kept Mountain Biking Secret – Two Rivers Bike Park

Not many people know about Two Rivers Bike Park, but let me tell you: It is incredible! This past weekend, Bob, Adam, and I met up with Travis for his 30th birthday party. We decided to ride at Two Rivers Bike Park before the party.

None of us were too motivated to ride, but we decided to go anyway. And we are all glad we did. Even with a few inches of snow on the ground, we had a ridiculous amount of fun.

Rather than bore you with words, I’ll simply show this video. Just know that photos and videos never show how truly awesome this stuff is.  Here you go:

Big thanks to Trailspring for building such an amazing park. There’s some great single track, a skills course, a pump track, a downhill course, a slopestyle course, and a cool spot to hang out between runs where you can chill by a fire or have a snack or just relax and recover. We didn’t even ride it all since we had a party to get to, and we still absolutely loved it! There is absolutely no fee (which is unbelievable), although they accept donations in a lock box. If you’ve never been there, do yourself a favor and go as soon as you get a chance.

Another big thanks to Travis and his lovely wife, Crystal, for inviting us and making us feel welcome. We had a blast at the party, and some of us may have had too much fun (ahem… me). We really enjoyed getting to meet some of Travis’s friends and family.

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

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

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

Cedar Cross Gravel Grinder

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

Bob's speech at Cedar Cross

“I swear, it’s THIS long.”

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

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

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

Flat Tire at Cedar Cross

Big calves and a flat tire.

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

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

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

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

Gravel on the Cedar Cross

That little speck in the distance is Dave.

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

Cedar Cross Double Track

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

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

Hoosier Daddies at Cedar Cross

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

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

Cedar Cross Fields

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

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

Jim Smith at Cedar Cross

Man, that sucks.

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

Riding through Mark Twain National Forest

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

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

Crashing at Cedar Cross

Travis fought the concrete, and the concrete won.

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

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

Adam riding a low water crossing

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

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

Gravel before the singletrack at Cedar Cross

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

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

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

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

PHOTO OF THE STAIRWAY COMING SOON!!

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

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

Beer at the Cedar Cross

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dead End at Cedar Cross

The Cedar Cross doesn’t care about Dead Ends!

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

Rutherford Bridge at Cedar Cross

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

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

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

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

Bag Drop at Cedar Cross

It was great to see Bob’s smiling mug.

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

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

Overheating at Cedar Cross Gravel Grinder

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

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

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

Aaron Lackman at Cedar Cross

Aaron at the top of a climb.

Justin Nemeth at Cedar Cross

Justin near the top of the same climb.

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

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

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

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

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

Riding Solo Gravel at Cedar Cross

Riding solo and feeling good… for now.

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

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

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

Food at Hams Prairie Store during Cedar Cross

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

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

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

Text to Bob Jenkins at Cedar Cross

Another text to Bob Jenkins at Cedar Cross

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

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

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

Struggling to eat at Cedar Cross

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nuclear Reactor and Cooling Tower at Cedar Cross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last Survivor Award for Cedar Cross

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

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

Monster Bicycles Co. Last Survivor at Cedar Cross

I slept with this flask that night. Seriously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And to those that raced, thank you.

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

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

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