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Category Archives: Race Reports

Team Virtus takes on the Tour of Hermann

Last weekend, three Virtusans took on the final Tour of Hermann. Chuck and Jim bikepacked there Friday, rode Saturday, and then rode back home on Sunday.

Riding loop 1 at Tour of Hermann. Photo credit: Mike Langille

Quality nutritional choices is a Virtus hallmark!

You can check out Jim’s write-up of his Tour to the Tour of Hermann here.

I took the easy way out and drove to Hermann on Saturday morning before riding both days.

I look much happier in this picture than I was for the majority of the race. Photo credit: Mike Langille

It was mostly a sufferfest, but I finally managed to ride all five loops, a goal that had eluded me to this point. Here’s my post about the race.

Check them out and maybe we’ll see you at the next gravel race!

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The Thunder Rolls 2015 Part 2: The WTFAR-TUS Break Up

 

**NOTE: This race report was written by me (Luke) with commentary added by Kate in Blue, Chuck in Green, and Brian (I renamed myself Captain Jack for this tale) in Red. If I feel like it, I might even add a response or two in Purple. And if you need to get caught up, go read Part 1 first.

The Part Where We Tried to Start the Paddling Leg

We rolled in and dropped our bikes at the TA where saw the smiling faces of some of the best volunteers in the AR biz. We dropped our bikes and grabbed an ice cold Red Bull before grabbing our paddling gear: paddles, PFD’s, throw bags, and glow sticks (which were no longer needed since the sun was already quite high in the sky).

Kate: Daytime paddles that are supposed to be nighttime paddles are something of a Team Virtus specialty at Thunder Rolls.

We walked over to the canoes and picked out what we hoped were good ones. That’s when we decided we might need some sun block. None of us had packed any, though, but thankfully our friend and super-volunteer Brandy had some. Brian went back to the TA to get some, and we applied the cream liberally as Chuck and Kate hopped in their canoe.

As they headed out onto the calm water of the cove, I realized I had forgotten my maps. Once again, we had to go all the way back to the TA to get our maps. Finally ready to start paddling, we started to climb into the canoe as Kate and Chuck paddled back toward us. It turns out they, too, had forgotten their maps at the TA. If only someone had just told them they were going back for maps. Oh, wait…

Captain Jack Sparrow (aka Captain Handsome): I had to move my legs in a fast motion repeatedly in order to go back and get the maps.  It’s a new fad.  I believe it’s jogging or yogging. It might be a soft j. I’m not sure, but apparently you just run for an extended period of time. It’s supposed to be wild….and to be honest, I didn’t like it much.

Kate: Sadly, we hadn’t heard him mention the maps because I was too busy giving Brian shit about taking the time to put on sunscreen.

Chuck:  There is a picture of us somewhere laughing so ridiculously hard that we could hardly paddle back in.

One final trip back to the TA to get Chuck’s maps, and we were all ready to actually begin the paddling leg… at long last. And we wonder why we take so long in the TA.

The Part Where We Actually Paddle

Now I’m used to manning the back of the canoe, but Brian stepped up and took control of the stern as I sat in the bow. We’ve never paddled together before, and it showed. We zig-zagged all over that damn cove as Kate and Chuck made a beeline for the Mighty Mississippi.

We literally hit the lily pads on both sides of the cove several times before making it to the main river, and by then Kate and Chuck were well ahead of us. Being a wee bit heavier than Kate and Chuck only helped them pull away faster.

Captain Sparrow: Where I’m from, we just call it the front and the back of the boat.  Much easier than all those other fancy terms.

Kate: We assumed they’d be way faster than us, having two strong men in their canoe and not being hampered by my noodle arms, but we hadn’t thought about the weight difference or the fact that Chuck and I have paddled quite a bit together now.

Luke: Kate doesn’t give herself enough credit. She no longer has noodle arms, and she’s become a much stronger paddler. Just ask Chuck.

Chuck:  Seriously.  She could slay the MR340 and set a new record time.

Kate: Only if by “slay” you mean “experience a psychotic break and murder everyone involved”. 

Captain:  Before this tale gets too far along, I want to press the pause button so I can reflect quickly on a few of my past experiences in these canoes.  I’ve flipped one in a flooded parking lot, I’ve spent a whole race squatting in the middle of one so that we wouldn’t flip, I’ve been out on the Mississippi in one when the waves were so high we had to stop racing, and I also spent a whole race just last year paddling through a thunder and lightning “What Does WTFAR taste like when BBQ’d”-fest.  The adventures have been mighty in these plastic yellow bananas, so I was looking forward to what this year’s race had in store for us.

Luke: In retrospect, maybe I never should’ve gotten in one of those things with you.

We knew that Brian would probably have to skip a few CP’s on the paddling leg to make it to his father’s 70th birthday party in time, so we decided to go for the farthermost CP’s across and upriver a couple miles away. Then we’d reevaluate to see how many other CP’s we would have time for (in hindsight it’s laughable we thought we could get more).

As calm as the cove was, the main river was anything but. The wind had picked up in a big way, and there were serious whitecaps out there. The wind came from the side, so the waves were nearly tipping us anytime we got sideways to them. We had to angle our canoe in such a way that we were going in the general direction of our intended CP while pointing the canoe into the waves. It was terrible out there.

It was weird, though. There were shallow areas with seaweed-like plants and tall lily pads where the river was very calm. While these sections were much less rough, paddling through them wasn’t much fun since our paddles kept getting caught in the plants with seaweed and algae spraying both of us, and there was a lot of drag since Brian and I aren’t exactly built like your typical endurance athlete. At one point we simply got stuck in the muck. I hopped out and dragged us through the shin-deep sludge as Brian used his Sasquatch strength to push us forward. All this effort to just continue paddling back into the really rough stuff. It was really, really tough paddling.

Captain: Let me really paint the picture for you…we’re out paddling in the middle of what appears to be an ocean.  Water as far as the eye can see with a few random islands here and there.  You’d think that the water would be so deep that you could find Atlantis down at the bottom depths of the darkness, but instead we’re literally sitting in inches of water.  Unfortunately for us, we’re both naturally already in wintery-thick mode for the hibernating season, and our large asses made that canoe draaaaaaaaaaaaaaaag.  And then all of the sudden…we’re stuck.  Not moving.  Done.  Finished.  Probably going to eaten by birds.  As Luke mentioned, I started stabbing the muck and trying to find a way to push us forward.  It was.not.working.  And then…it happened.  Luke jumps out of the canoe INTO THE MISSISSIPPI FREAKING RIVER.  Think about that, those of you who aren’t insane adventure racers like Luke.  He got out of a the canoe in the middle of the MISSISSIPPI RIVER.  He should have plummeted down to Davey Jones locker to visit a Krakken or the Loch Ness monster, but oh yeah, we’re in inches of water.  He quickly grabs onto the handle on the front of the canoe, and with his mighty hairy Wolverine strength lifts the canoe and starts dragging my Sasquatch girth towards the “deep end”.  There was no Sasquatchian strength on my part.  It was just this small thick man walking on water pulling a large thick man in a giant banana.  You know, just typical every day stuff you see at the local Crossfit gym.  Adventure racing….you gotta love it.

We could see Chuck and Kate up ahead, but from our angle, it looked like they were headed into a dead end of lily pads and the bank of the river. So we went around all that. This was a big mistake. We ended up WAY north of where we had intended, partly because of the vicious wind and partly because I suck with the river maps.

Kate: From my angle it looked like a dead end, too.  I don’t remember the wind being terrible on the paddle to the Elk River, probably because it was so much worse on our return trip. We did barely drag through some shallow areas, and Chuck kept tormenting me by slapping the river with his paddle to make the Asian carp — which I hate — jump out of the water. I was so paranoid that one of them was going to jump into our canoe.

Chuck:  The bearing we were following looked like a wall of jungle to me too.  I had no confidence that we weren’t heading into a dead end, but when the Suunto MC-2 says ‘go that way’ … we go that way, and somehow always seem to luck out.

Luke: And perhaps it was rougher for us since we took the loooooong way to the Elk River. That and we outweigh you guys by just a few pounds.

 

We had been on the water for 4 hours or so, and it was later than we had hoped to get Brian on the road. A couple phone calls later, and after another hug and a teary goodbye, Brian found himself shuttled first class back to Camp Benson. *Pic* And then there was nothing for me to do but wait for Kate and Chuck. Well, I worried a little about them too. And I chatted with my friends volunteering at the TA. And I might have eaten a couple delicious cookies courtesy of Mrs. Tardy Rooster herself, Leisha Huntley. And perhaps, I managed to catch a quick catnap, but I'm not sure. *Pic*

Clearly, it was not a dead end. And this photo does not do any justice at all.

Eventually, and with a tip from a couple of fishermen, we found the Elk River. And oh what sweet, sweet relief the calm waters of the Elk River provided. It was a nice break from the Mississippi, and we soon found the CP. There was no sign of Chuck and Kate, though.

Captain Jack:  That fisherman thought we were idiots.  Yeah, he’s out there in one of them there motor boats like a lazy loser, and we’re using all muscle.  Who’s the REAL idiot?

Kate: The Elk River was heaven compared to the Mississippi. We found both CPs without much drama, and though running into some of the 12-hour teams was a little demoralizing we also saw a couple other 24-hour teams too.  One of them was Chad’s team, who told us they’d seen Luke and Brian downriver, the first word we’d had of them since we’d gotten separated.

Knowing the paddle back across the Mississippi was going to suck and since it had taken so long to get just one CP, we decided to head straight back to the TA so that Brian could go to the party on time. Again, this was foolish thinking.

Captain: We got some really good Clash of Clans discussions during our romantic ride on the Elk.

Luke: Clash of Clans 4 Eva!!!

Even though we were paddling downriver, we couldn’t tell. We were going pretty much directly into the wind, and it was serious work to make slow progress. It was terrible but sort of in a good way. Brian and I even remarked that as terrible as it was, we were glad to be out there suffering together. It was kind of awesome in a way.

And then the wind and waves got even worse. At one point I swear the waves were coming at us from 3 different directions, and we almost tipped several times. Our bungholes were at pucker-level 10, and it was a fight to stay upright.

It was scary. Not as in we were going to die scary, but as in if we tip, we might not make it off the river for several hours.

Captain:  Luke is insane, it was totally die scary.  There was not a lot of talking going on at all.  Due to the fact we’re brothers from a different mother, we quickly developed a series of grunts and groans to signal what was going on.  Mostly, nothing.  Once in a while Luke would bark out “RIGHT BRIAN!, RIGHT BRIAN!” even though I was already madly paddled on the right.  It was freaking insane.

At one point we tried to go more east-west to…I don’t really know why…and we were immediately sideways and riding a giant wave.  At that moment we looked EXACTLY like George Clooney and Mark Walberg in “The Perfect Storm”, not giving up and attempting to overcome the world’s most gnarly of waves.  It was so much like the movie that in fact that in the middle of the wave Clooney and Walberg were already in negotations to play US in “The Perfect Storm Too”.  But luckily we used our powers of Spongebob and Gerry training to work out of that horrible idea.  So, so puckery…

Luke: The idea behind turning east-west was to get the waves and wind to our backs. It turns out that was a really shitty idea.

Kate: Conditions were difficult enough that the safety kayak returned to shore and Gerry “loves to make you suffer” Voelliger cancelled the paddle for lucky later-arriving teams.

Captain: And oh yeah…even though that was all pretty insane and nuts, I paddled with a sense of calm because each time it got a little hairy I knew my main man up front had it all figured out.

Luke: I’m glad you had such blind faith in me. That was really stupid of you, though, because I wasn’t sure we were gonna make it.

Then we found ourselves next to a small island with lots of pelicans and seagulls on it. It was pretty cool actually, but it seemed like we were next to that damn island for 45 minutes. Remember, we were paddling “down” river.

After paddling hard for 15 minutes and only gaining 10 yards, Brian broke the silence and said, “So, uh… Luke. What’s the plan here?”

I said, “I’m just trying to stay upright and keep moving forward, man!”

I looked ahead a bit and saw a couple of downed trees in the river a hundred yards ahead or so, and I said, “Let’s aim for those trees and hope they provide even a little bit of shelter from this bullshit!”

Having a specific goal to shoot for seemed to help a little, but the trees provided no shelter from the wind and waves. Eventually, we made it to one of the shallow, calmer parts of the river. As we unpuckered for a bit, we paddled slowly through the “seaweed” and algae, throwing the vegetation all over ourselves. We dragged a few times, but we never got stuck.

Captain: It was at this point that I was delirious from paddling and was pretty sure the slowly waving weeds, just barely under the surface of the water were going to reach up and yank us down into our watery grave.  That and those stupid carp that kept slapping the surface and scaring the crap out of us.

Slogging through another couple of rough patches left us with one final rough section before we could coast down the sweet, calm cove to the TA. We almost tipped another time or two before reaching the cove, but we managed to make it… finally.

Paddling down the cove made us realize how much we had improved as a paddling team in just a few hours. On the way out, we zig-zagged all over the damn place, but on the way back in, even though we were physically and mentally exhausted, we paddled straight as an arrow – a huge improvement from when we started – to the shore as the volunteers cheered.

The Part Where We Hug it Out

We hit dry land where I crawled out of the canoe and dragged the boat up so Brian could get out. We’d done it. No, we didn’t get all the CP’s. In fact, we only got 1, but by George we effing earned it! But paddled through some of the roughest paddling I’ve been in during an Adventure Race, and we managed to not flip the canoe. And for the first time in Brian’s AR career, he never had to witness any PaDdLinG MaDNeSs (even though it would have been warranted this time).

With our feet on dry land again, we turned to each other. Our eyes met as we both let out a sigh of relief, and then we embraced. It was not a sexually charged embrace (this time), but it was more than just bro-hug. It was a special moment that only Brian and I shared… in front of all the volunteers.

Bro Hug after Paddling at Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

Huggin’ it out. (Photo Credit: John Morris)

(Side Rant: Yes, I purchased the above photo as a digital download. I did not steal it or use it without permission because I am not a douchebag – at least I try really hard to not be a douchebag. I like supporting good people who do good work, and John is definitely one helluva guy doing great work. Yes, it’s not much. I only threw a couple of bucks his way, but I feel a lot better about doing that than ripping him off. You should support him and other artists like him too. Rant over.)

Captain: That bro hug was real.  What a cool and fantastic adventure in a sport where thick mildly handsome pseudo athletes can be admired around the world by tens of fans….ok, seriously, what a great life adventure with a man I’m glad to call a friend. 

It would have been fun to share the misery with Kate and Chuck.  But they wanted to be like good at the paddling thing or something.  Whatever.

Luke: “Mildly handsome pseudo athlete.” I need to put that on my business card.

We had been on the water for 4 hours or so, and it was later than we had hoped to get Brian on the road. A couple phone calls later, and after another hug and a teary goodbye, Brian found himself shuttled first class back to Camp Benson.

Brian in a truck at Thunder Rolls AR

Gerry made sure Brian was treated like a king.

I hated to see Brian go. Even with the shitty conditions out on the river, we were all having a blast racing together. We should have teamed up for a race a long time ago, and we’ll definitely do it again as soon as possible.

I’ll let Brian describe his ride back to Camp Benson and his subsequent drive to his dad’s birthday party:

Captain: I had a nice bumpy nap in the back of that bad boy.  

The Part Where We Reunite

And then there was nothing for me to do but wait for Kate and Chuck. Well, I worried a little about them too. And I chatted with my friends volunteering at the TA. And I might have eaten a couple delicious cookies courtesy of Mrs. Tardy Rooster herself, Leisha Huntley. And perhaps, I managed to catch a quick catnap, but I’m not sure.

catnap on a 24 hour adventure race

I was just resting my eyes.

A few of the 12-hour teams came paddling in, and each time I hoped it was Kate and Chuck arriving safely. Several teams had swamped, and 3 or 4 teams called for a ride on the Iowa side of the river. None of those teams were Chuck and Kate, though.

I’ll let Kate describe the rest of their time on the river. Take it away, Kate!

Kate: After leaving the Elk River, Chuck and I had to canoe downriver towards our next CP. Just as Luke described, “downriver” felt like a difficult upstream paddle because we were heading almost directly into the ridiculous wind, chopping through whitecaps and paddling as hard as we could just to make any kind of forward progress.  We, too, hugged the islands and marshy patches where possible; we still had to fight the wind, but the water was calmer there.

As we struggled against the wind and flopped down over whitecap after whitecap, my paddle strokes were powered mostly by the fervent hope that we’d reach the boat ramp where the next CP was located and see race volunteers there to tell us that due to unsafe conditions the remainder of the paddle was cancelled and they would drive us back to the bike drop.  (Spoiler alert: Nope.)

The wind was so strong on the river that we both had to paddle constantly, so neither of us had eaten in the past couple of hours. We beached at the boat ramp, dumped the water that had splashed in during our voyage, ate some food, dispensed some helpful safety advice to the 5 year old wandering the river bank alone, and generally steeled ourselves to get back into the canoe.  Oh, and sent Luke a text so he knew we were still alive.

Chuck:  Watching Kate switch from BA adventure racer to Mom mode was pretty funny considering we just survived one of our scariest paddles to date.  “Where are your parents at?”, “Be careful by that water.”, “Oh, that is a nice frog!”.

Luke: Getting that text was a huge relief.

Once we’d stalled as long as possible, we set off on our return trip. Both the canoe take-out and our last CP were back across the river, which is like 25 miles wide at that point (OK, maybe not, but it felt that way) Chuck: (5K). Compounding the distance was the fact that we had to angle away from our destination in order to account for the way the wind was pushing us. Now instead of waves splashing over the nose of our canoe they were hitting us broadside, and we both worried about tipping. The one perk of the sub-optimal conditions was the near-total lack of other river traffic — we’ve spent plenty of paddles being buffeted by the wakes of pontoon boats and jet-skis — the downside of this being that no one was on the river to help us if we tipped.

Chuck:  Self-rescue would have been a long-term affair maybe even bordering on impossible.

Eventually we made it to our final CP and all that remained was to paddle upriver (but with the wind at our backs) to the inlet we’d left several hours before. It was then that Chuck made a near-fatal error. 

Chuck:  “Suck it River!  We beat you!”

“Shut up!” I told him, “Why are you talking like that before we’re safe on land?? He didn’t mean it, river.”  Moments later we struck a submerged log; the canoe shuddered but then righted itself. Chuck held back any further smack talk, and the rest of our paddle was uneventful. 

After paddling for roughly 7 hours, Chuck and Kate arrived to our cheers. They looked about as relieved as Brian and I did when we arrived. It was damn good to see them.

The end of the paddling leg at Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

Finally done after getting ALL the CPs.

Chuck:  I actually hate that this picture looks so calm and peaceful.  As far as I know NOBODY got a picture out in the wind on the main channel.  It was just to scary to stop paddling for the few seconds it would have taken.

Chuck and Kate didn’t take very long in the TA. They unloaded their paddling gear, grabbed some food, filled up with water, and we were ready to hop back on the bikes.

The Part Where We Bike to and Do the O-Section

After that un-Virtus-like quick transition, we were back on the bikes. The temperature had risen along with the humidity. Fortunately, the wind that was so brutal on the river was now at our backs.

This bike leg was uneventful as we nabbed all the CP’s pretty easily, and we soon found ourselves at that TA for the O-Section. There were a few very good teams on their way out of the woods when we arrived. They looked a little defeated, to be honest.

I slammed an ice-cold Red Bull as we looked over the maps quickly. We were running short on time since we needed to be off the O-course by 8:00 pm. We came up with a plan where we would grab one of the “easy” CPs and then reevaluate our situation to decide if we’d go for another CP or two.

Kate: Chuck briefly suggested we run on the road sections. I was not in favor of this plan.

We found the little shed in the woods we were looking for, and we shot a bearing to the CP.

Kate: Luke and I were very helpful, if by “helpful” you mean “busy taking selfies“.

Luke: It was so nice having Chuck do the navigating here. My selfie-skills are much improved.

Chuck taking a bearing at Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

Chuck doing his thang.

It took us a little longer than we had anticipated, but Chuck did not lead us astray. Kate and I have faced a Thunder Rolls cutoff before, and it can be quite formidable. So we decided to err on the side of caution and head back to the TA with just one of the O-Section CPs.

We hiked back to the TA, making sure we stayed out of the cornfields per Gerry’s instructions. And apparently, adventure racing tends to make Kate’s hands grow abnormally long:

Thunder Rolls Adventure Race Trekking

That’s all you can see now, right?

I drank another Red Bull back at the TA – what can I say, I was sleepy by this point. My nether regions were really chafed and sore, and I contemplated riding that final bike leg back to Camp Benson without my bike bibs. Kate was considering the same thing. I opted to put my bibs back on, but I’m not sure if it helped or made things worse.

After a mile or two, it didn’t matter since I didn’t do much sitting on the saddle anyway. I fell into a rhythm of standing and pedaling for 3 hard strokes followed by coasting as long as possible before pedaling again. I got pretty good at it, maintaining the same speed as Chuck and Kate without sitting on the saddle much to save my ass – literally.  Despite the chafing and general fatigue, we made way better time than we had anticipated, dropped our bikes at the camp’s pavilion, and headed back down to the Wakarusa River for one last Coasteering leg.

Kate: Unless you really effed up that bike leg, the state park-mandated cutoff for the O section pretty much guaranteed that you were going to be back at Camp Benson and finished with the final coasteering leg well before the race ended at midnight.

Chuck:  I would’ve loved to spend more time in that O-section.  Sucks that the state park people wont let us race in there after dark.

Coasteering like this can be a lot of fun, and when the race started it was just that. However, 20+ hours into a race made it sub-awesome, to say the least. And Gerry, being the sadistic bastard he is, designed the last coasteering section in such a way to force you to trudge through the water much longer than you wanted to.

Kate: I think this year’s coasteering legs were the best (least unpleasant) of my four Thunder Rolls experiences. Whether because of the stretch of river or just dumb luck, we seemed to miss out on all of the big submerged rocks that seem to trip you up in the dark.

Luke: And for whatever reason, there was much less flesh-shredding sand and grit in my shoes this year.

I’m pretty sure we didn’t take any photos during this section because we just wanted to be done. We were all much quieter too – especially Kate who has been know to be a bit chatty from time to time.

There was a 2-person coed team who tagged along behind us for this section. I think they had had enough and just didn’t want to have to think anymore. This is something I totally understand.

Kate: I was mad for a long time that they were following us and didn’t trust myself to talk without saying something bitchy. Instead I stalked ahead, fueled by righteous anger. Chuck and Luke both talked to the other team a little, and once I realized where they were mentally I relaxed a little and finally started having fun again when, on my way back from punching our final CP, I ended up chest-deep in the river:

chest deep kate

POIDH so here’s a pic.

We finally got the last few CPs and humped it back up to the finish line. The team that tagged along with us fell back so we could finish ahead of them which was an honorable thing to do. As we reached the finish line, I peeled off to the side to let Chuck and Kate finish together. I was DQ’d anyway since my passport left with Brian.

Thunder Rolls Adventure Race finsih line

At the finish line with Gerry.

I guess if I’d have turned in a passport, I wouldn’t be officially listed as a DNF in the final results. But Brian and I were supposed to be signed up as a 2-person team instead of solos anyway, and I came into the race expecting to DNF. If you’re familiar with us at all, though, you know we don’t put much stock in the final standings. We come for the experience – kicking ass is just a bonus.

Captain: Hey everybody!  I missed talking to you.  At this point in their race I had already eaten a ton of food at my dad’s party, explained the fantastic sport of adventure racing to my family while they looked at me like I was insane (especially the rappelling part) and was now asleep and drooling on myself on my parents couch….

I do regret not getting a finishing – or is it Did Not Finishing – photo with Gerry. We took a team photo before grabbing some delicious pizza and cold beer.

Team Virtus finishing Thunder Rolls AR

Tired but happy.

The only thing that would have made finishing better is if Brian could’ve been there with us.

Kate: Indeed. Such a great day.

BVW:  You three are great.  Let’s do this again?

Luke: We absolutely need to do this again!

He was with us in spirit, though, so we had John snap a quick photo of us with our entire team:

Invisi-Brian at Thunder Rolls AR

Invisi-Brian. Notice how much taller he is than the rest of us. (Photo Credit: John Morris)

After eating, drinking, and chatting with fellow racers, we showered and went to bed. Sleep never feels as good as it does after a long, hard race.

One of us, who shall remain nameless, chatted deep into the wee hours of the morning. She stayed up so late that she slept through most of the goodbyes and had to be roused from her bunk so we could pack up and go home.

Super(sleepy)Kate

Kate: Whoever that was, she missed out on saying goodbye to everyone but Gerry, and since the socialization is pretty much her favorite part of races, she was disappointed about that (but well-rested).

Once the nameless sleepyhead was finally out of bed, she packed her things up and we left our beloved Camp Benson. Per tradition, we hit the Kountry Kettle for some gravified breakfast. Again, Brian was missed. In his honor, I ate twice as much as I normally would have (which is a lot).

Post Adventure Race Breakfast

Mmm… Gravy.

Big thanks goes out to Gerry and all of his crew from High Profile Adventure Racing, and an equally large thank you must go to the amazing volunteers who made the race not only possible but a smashing success. And thanks to Brian for racing with us even though he knew he had to cut the race short. We seriously need to do it again as soon as possible.

Until next time, may your adventures be epic. And your breakfasts covered in gravy.

SuperChuck and SuperKate at the Tomahawk Challenge Adventure Race

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

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

Tomahawk Challenge Adventure Race 2015

Man, Chuck looks so young next to Kate.

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

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

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!

(Mostly) Soloing the Perfect 10

**Note: This post was written by Luke with commentary added by Kate in Blue, Bob in Green, and Travis in Orange.**

By the end of the Perfect 10 Rogaine my feet were sore and beat to shit, I was fighting off cramps, and I was kinda lonely. Don’t get me wrong, though. It was an insanely fantastic day. It was just different than previous Perfect 10’s we’d done. Back in 2012, Bob, Kate and I ran the race together, and then at last year’s race, Kate and I teamed up and won a friendly bet against a team of Bob and Casey – a bet for which they still need to pay up, by the way.

Kate: But we have a plan for that, and it’s glorious.

But this year, Kate, Bob, Travis, and I decided to sign up as solos so we could all get some good navigation work on our own, rather than relying on each other.

The three of us dudes have had quite a bit of experience with navigation. At times, all three of us have been the lead navigator for our team. Kate, however, is the least experienced, and the Perfect 10 was to be her biggest solo effort to date. She was pretty nervous, but I knew she’d do fine. She’s come a LOOOOOONG way since her first navigational experience at The Deuce:

Map Check

Kate was just a newbie in this photo (and still in her 30’s).

Friday afternoon, Kate met up with Bob, and they then drove to my house. From there we hopped in the Virtus Van for the short road trip down to Lake of the Ozarks State Park. Of course we had to stop for Kate to get some pulled pork, and then we needed to make a pit stop for Bob to get some underwear and other supplies.

Bob: That chick in the background is totally scoping me out. And for the record, we were buying underwear because I was, (and still am), covered in poison ivy from the waist-down on all sides. And dang my hair looks good!

Underwear

Bob is a part-time underwear model.

We then headed to the campground and drove around trying to find our friends from Team Alpine Shop and Wedali/Gear Junkie, but the we had no luck since the campground is so huge. We ended up picking a site near the entrance, and then we set up camp in the dark. We decided not to build a fire since it was pretty late, but we had to have one adult beverage together before bed. That’s when Bob made a startling discovery:

“I just realized I didn’t actually pack any food for the weekend.”

If only we had just been at a very large store that sells just about anything you might need for a weekend of camping and racing. You know, kind of like a Walmart. Oh, wait…

Travis: Or maybe if someone had been driving up the day of the race. Maybe they could have brought something. Oh well.

Beer for the Perfect 10 Rogaine Race

Priorities… Food or beer?

It just so happened that I had made a crap-ton of Feed Zone Portables, which I will review in a later post. Kate had extra food as well, so collectively we had plenty of food for all of us. Crisis averted. I guess Bob’s motto of “It’ll work itself out” – shortened to IWIO – still holds up.

Bob: You totally saved my ass. I was really surprised at how tasty those things are.

We went to bed a little too late since we’d be getting up at 5:45 AM, but that’s how Virtus rolls. We don’t spend enough time together, so we try to make the most of it when we do.

We met up with Travis, who drove up on his own the morning of the race, at race HQ for the check-in. Then we received our maps at 6:45. With a start time of 8:00, we got straight to work strategerizing our routes.

Route Planning at the Perfect 10 Rogaine Orienteering Race

Route planning. Photo Credit: Erin Santos

We each planned our routes separately, but Travis and Bob mapped out the same route while Kate and I had planned a different route that happened to be the same for the first 6 checkpoints, though it was . It only made sense for Travis and Bob to start together and likewise for Kate and me. At any time, however, we could separate if someone was faster than someone else.

Kate: I was really glad that someone else was going the same way I was.  I’m always shakiest in the beginning.

Travis: I was happy to be starting with Bob. I felt confident that I could navigate on my own, but since I don’t get to see my teammates very often I figured we would hang together until one of us was slowing the other down, or we decided on different route choices.

Team Virtus at the Perfect 10 Rogaine

Team Virtus at the Perfect 10 Rogaine. I love being the tallest one on the team.

Kate has been training her ass off, and I haven’t run in months… literally. She’s been running a lot, focusing on the upcoming Skippo Trail Race. So I was pretty sure she’d drop me quickly. I decided I’d try to stay with her as long as I could and as long as she didn’t mind me tagging along. Below is a shot of the first part of the map so all you Virtusites can follow along at home.

Note:

  • CP’s numbered 1 – 6 were worth 100 points (getting all 6 100 pointers gave you a 100 point bonus)
  • CP’s numbered 10 – 19 were worth 10 points
  • CP’s numbered 20 – 29 were worth 20 points
  • CP’s numbered 30 – 39 were worth 30 points
  • Total points available (including the bonus) = 1300
Parital Map for the Perfect 10 Rogaine Orienteering Race

Parital Map 1 (Southwest Section) for the Perfect 10 Rogaine (Click to enlarge and then click again to zoom)

Bob and Travis planned on heading east to CP 28 first and then heading counterclockwise. Kate and I had planned on going north to CP19 followed by CP’s 27, 26, 17, 25, and 16 before parting ways… if I could keep up.

Kate and I jogged most of the way to CP 19, and just to be a jerk, when we got close to the CP I ran ahead of Kate to get there first. I didn’t realize there was a photographer there, so that only made it better.

checkpoint 19 at the Perfect 10

Being the gentleman I am, I let Kate punch her passport first. (Photo Credit: Erin Santos)

From 19 we took the trail for a bit, running most of it, and then we bushwhacked up the spur to get CP 27. So far so good. From 27 we headed down to the road. We took the road to the creek south of 26. We followed the creek and then went up the reentrant to CP 26. Again, no problems.

Kate: Luke was doing the nav here, but I was following along on the map, and it was all making sense. That was a huge boost to my confidence, even if I needed a few reminders about orienting my map.

We were ahead of Wedali/Gear Junkie!!!!… Sort of.

We got to CP 26 just before Erl and Andrei from Gear Junkie/Wedali, one of the top teams in the nation. Erl was a good sport about posing for a photo of Team Virtus being “in front” of them. Yes, we got to CP 26 before they did, but they had already gotten WAY more points than we had at that point. They were way ahead of us in the race, but it was fun pretending we were awesome for a minute.

Kate: We’re always awesome; we’re just not that fast.

So happy to be

So happy to be “ahead” of Gear Junkie/Wedali.

From 26 we headed northwest to the trail and then ran the trail to CP 17. I was feeling surprisingly good so far, but I’m sure Kage was just taking it easy on me. I know I wouldn’t have run nearly as much as I did if I hadn’t been with Kate.

Kate: I was perfectly happy with our pace. No point in sprinting at the beginning of a 10 hour race (not for me, anyway).

From 17 we took the trail north until it crossed the creek and turned northeast. We bushwhacked toward CP 25 at the pond. Along the way we found an abandoned picnic area complete with picnic tables and a monstrously big BBQ grill. We are Team Virtus so we obviously stopped for photos.

Kage at one of the old picnic tables.

Kage at one of the old picnic tables.

abandoned bbq grill at the Perfect 10 Rogaine

If only there really were some burgers and ribs on this baby.

We got CP 26 and then headed to our last CP that we’d get together, CP 16. We followed the creek down to the road to the west. Then we decided to bushwhack across and up the spur to 16, cutting out some distance on the road. It wasn’t long, though, before we reached an old fence line. I was ready to cross the fence at a low spot when Kate said, “Oh, wait. This is private property.”

Kate: If you look at Alpine Shop’s maps, they always block out the private property. We need to start doing that, because all of those red lines kind of run together on the map, especially when you’re in a hurry.

A quick look at the map confirmed this, and Kate saved me from breaking the rules. So we backtracked to the road and after going the long way around we found CP 16 with no problem at about the same time as our friends from Boom Boom Pow. We headed west to the road and then north to the road junction where Kate struck out on her own, moving west to get CP’s 15, 14, 37, 24, and 5 (see the map below) before heading to the northwest section of the map. You can read her account of the Perfect 10 right here.

Partial Map 2 for Perfect 10 Rogaine

Partial Map 2 (West Section) of the Perfect 10 Rogaine

After wishing Kate good luck, I headed north (see the map below). At the second church, I headed west for CP 3, my first 100-pointer. I hesitated once, questioning if I had gone too far, but after going a little farther I walked right to it. That’s always a good feeling.

Partial Map 3 of the Perfect 10 Rogaine

Partial Map 3 (Northeast Section) of the Perfect 10 Rogaine

From CP 3, I hopped back on the road and went to CP 12 which was also a water drop. It was obvious that no one else had been to this water drop CP yet. Either that or no one else had take any water. The cases of water were untouched. This made me doubt my route planning.

I refilled two water bottles, ate a Feed Zone rice cake, and was on my way again to CP’s 21 and then 11. I didn’t have any trouble with either of these, but on my way to CP 32, following the ridge top, I think I must have gone down the wrong reentrant.

After searching for a little bit, I realized I had gone too far north. I circled back to start again from the top of the hill to the northeast of the CP. That’s where I ran into Bob and Travis. I let out a, “CaCaw! CaCaw!” as I approached. Since their planned routes were the same up to this point, they had remained together. They were taking a short break, so I decided to join them. I was really happy to see them.

Resting on my knees as I drank a Spike energy drink, my left hamstring cramped badly. It came out of nowhere, and I ended up face down on the ground, spilling my Spike all over my arm. My teammates immediately rushed to help me, and by that I mean they sat there and laughed at me.

Travis: I was very suprised to see Luke, and even more so by his direction of travel, since it was the same way we had just came in. As misfortunate as it was for Luke to cramp, it was incredibly funny to watch.

Once the cramping eased up, I slammed a serving of The Right Stuff. It tasted, as Bob likes to say, “like the Devil’s ball sweat.” Although I’ve never actually tasted the Devil’s ball sweat, I imagine that’s a pretty accurate comparison. But the stuff really works. It tastes awful, but it stopped my cramps almost immediately for the next couple of hours. I only wish I’d brought more than one pouch.

Bob: It’s odd that Satan’s ballsweat could cure cramps, but the flavor of that stuff has me convinced it can only be the ballsweat of the devil or a mythical beast.

Taking a break at the perfect 10 orienteering race.

It was great to see these two jamokes.

At this point, I only had 230 points while they each had over 400 points. They were kicking my ass, and their route choice offered them many more options than mine did. Once again I questioned my route.

From here, the three of us got CP 32 together with no problems. We said our good byes and went our separate ways. I headed to CP 2 next. Bob and Travis had warned me that it was a bit tricky.

After my mistake trying to get CP 32, I was extra cautious trying to get CP 2. I was a little too cautious, second-guessing myself a lot and chewing up time by being so careful. I was stopped at a creek trying to make sure I knew exactly where I was when a coed team confirmed I was headed towards 2. Even with their assurance, though, I had a little bit of trouble finding it.

Travis: With the clue being a spur CP2 was definitely more difficult than one would think. Mostly due to the fact that the spur was rather poor in my opinion.

From 2 I went up and up and up the spur to the junction of Highways 42 and 134. From there, it was an easy shot to CP 13, and from there I headed south down the reentrant toward CP 35.

This is where having a teammate would have helped. I felt like I was walking forever to get to this checkpoint. I almost turned around no less than 5 times, pausing each time to make sure I knew where I was and where I was going. I probably wasted 10 minutes doing this, and it would have been nice to have someone with me to discuss where we were and what to do.

It was a big relief to finally find 35 without turning around or backtracking. My confidence was a bit shaken at this point, though. I didn’t feel sure of myself as I headed back to highway 42 and then down the reentrant toward CP 23.

Unfortunately, I went into the woods too early and hiked down the wrong reentrant. By the time I realized what I had done, it didn’t seem worth it to go back and get a 20-pointer. So I continued down the creek bed to the private property line where there was a fence.

From there I bushwhacked along the fence line even though the other side of the fence was awfully tempting. In this case the grass truly was green on the other side. It was a wide open field that had been mowed recently. But The Virtus Code would not allow me to cheat even though no one would be the wiser. So I kept bushwhacking through the brush of the State Park.

Once I hit the gravel road, it was a quick jaunt up the reentrant to find CP 4, another 100-pointer. Getting that one so easily bolstered my confidence again as I followed the road up the hill to Highway 42 once more.

Travis: CP4 was almost too easy to be a 100 pointer.

This has nothing to do with this part of the race report, but it’s a great shot of Travis and I needed to break up all the writing with a photo.

At this point I was almost out of water, and I could feel the cramps threatening to come back every time I had to step over a downed tree or other obstacle. From the highway I could go out of my way to the water drop at CP 18 and hope there was still water there or I could skip the 10 points and stick to my plan by going for CP 36.

I opted to skip 18 and the water drop, hoping to fill up in a creek later. I found 36 easily and headed down the trail toward CP 6. Shortly after the trail crossed the road, I found enough water in the creek to fill my bottles. I popped an iodine tablet into each bottle and kept moving.

I decided to follow the fence line of the airport to the “Beacon” before heading south again. This was a bit of a calculated risk. Last year Kate and I had bushwhacked on this side of the airport and it was very slow going. The brush was super thick, and in spots there were big rocks under the tall grass that threatened to break your ankle with one false step. At this point in the race, I hoped others had taken this route, beating down an easier path for me.

It was great to see not only a beaten path, but much less brush and overgrowth here than last year. I definitely saved some distance by choosing this route, and I think I saved some time as well.

From the Beacon, I headed south and picked up the trail again. From where the trail turns southwest, I headed into the woods and down the reentrant. I walked right to CP 6, notching another 100-pointer.

I headed down the reentrant and picked up what used to be a trail that still happened to be there. I ran most of this flat trail, taking a few walk breaks. My legs and feet hurt, but they didn’t hurt any worse when running.

I took the reentrant to the east of CP 28, and I climbed the less steep part of the spur to the top. The clue was “Bluff Top,” so I knew I wanted to attack it from above instead of below. After a long, fairly steep climb which sapped my energy, I was rewarded with a great view of the Grand Glaize Arm of the Lake where the CP was hung on the top of a cliff. It was beautiful, and I should have taken a photo. I didn’t feel like digging in my pack, though, so you’ll have to take my word for it. It would have been nice to have a teammate there with me to share the view.

At this point I had about 45 minutes left before the 10-hour cutoff after which I’d start losing points. I was pretty sure I had enough time to head south for CP 29, but that was only if I didn’t make any mistakes. It looked easy enough, but I was tired and lonely. I kept arguing with myself over whether or not to go for it.

As I neared highway 134, I heard a “CaCaw! CaCaw!” It was Travis walking along the road, and it was great to see him. He and Bob had split up a couple hours previously. Neither of us really wanted to go for CP29, so we hiked into the finish line together, jogging the last 30 yards or so. We crossed the finish line in 9 hours and 24 minutes.

Travis: At this point I had been on my own for approx. 4 hrs, hit several cps with great success, but was in pretty sad shape. An old ankle injury was acting up and two large blisters on the bottom of my toes of my right foot were killing me. Once I had hit that road I was just marching to the finish. In hindsight I basically walked right past CP27 but my only concern was to make it back before 6pm. I was definitely happy to see Luke come right on the road as I passed.

Travis posed for a photo at the finish line, and when the photographer kept asking him to smile, I assured her that he was indeed smiling.

Travis at the finish of the Perfect 10.

Not quite the Thousand-Mile-Stare but not quite a smile either. Photo Credit Mary Welter

I posed for a photo, and then we both posed for a photo together. Even though we only got one CP together, it was pretty cool to finish with one of my teammates.

Luke and Travis at the Perfect 10 Finish

Happy to be done, and yes, that’s a pretty good smile from Travis. Photo Credit: Mary Welter

Travis and I went to our vehicles to change clothes. As I was getting out of my stank-ass jersey, Bob came running into the finish line. He looked like he’d been pushing the pace pretty hard, but he also looked strong.

Travis: I was happy to see Bob come running in because when I left him he had big ambitions and I didnt want him to be late.

Bob: Those ambitions were quickly snuffed out by failure, but I did still manage to pick up a few small pointers on my way back to the Finish.

Bob at the finish of the Perfect 10

Sweaty but happy. Photo Credit: Mary Swelter

We brought a few beers back to the shelter and loaded up a plate of delicious BBQ, baked beans, and cheesy potatoes. We stuffed our bellies and cheered others in as we waited for Kage. It wasn’t long before she came running across the finish line.

Kage finishing the Perfect 10.

Ladies and gentlemen, what I’m about to show you is one of the rarest things you will ever see. You see, I’m a bit of a photo ninja (just ask Bob about the photo I took of “Powder” at the god-awful Lionheart Race). As Kage was telling some hilarious account of her race, I managed to snap this incredible shot:

Travis smiling.

Proof that MC Hammons can and does (occasionally) really smile.

Getting a photo like this is sort of like shooting Sasquatch. Only I have done both, but the Sasquatch shooting is a tale for another day.

Travis: Yes I can smile. No I am not grumpy, I just choose not to be as expressive with my feelings I guess. LOL. 

Bob: Yes, Travis is the strong and silent type. Just like my farts.

 

We all swapped stories of our successes and failures as we shared many laughs over great food and a few beers. It turns out that Bob and Kate struggled a little more than they would have liked, but we all had a great day.

Full results can be found here, but the results of the four of us Virtusans are as follows:

  • Kage – 310 points – 9:43:37 – 3rd (out of 3) in her division and 47th overall
  • Bob – 500 points – 9:33:11 – 8th in his division and 33rd overall
  • Travis – 610 points – 9:24:30 – 6th in his division and 27th overall
  • Luke – 650 points – 9:24:28 – 5th in his division and 24th overall

After the awards ceremony, we all headed back to the campsite. We showered up and sat around the fire. By the time everyone was cleaned up, we were sadly too exhausted to go find all our AR friends at their campsite to hang out. So we just sat around our campfire, drinking some good beer and honey whiskey while laughing our asses off like we always do. Some of us even did some campfire yoga:

campfire yoga

Campfire Yoga – a new trend sweeping the nation.

The story doesn’t end there, though. We woke up the next morning way too early, packed up, and headed out for breakfast. We went back to Stewart’s and it was fan-frickin’-tastic.

Travis: Attempting to eat all that was almost painful.

gravy breakfast

Three “Diet Plates” and an order of Biscuits & Gravy.

After breakfast, Travis headed back home as Bob, Kate, and I went back to the course to look for her Garmin GPS watch that she had lost. She assured us that she was almost positive she knew where she had dropped it: near CP 22 by a downed log where she sat to get something out of here shoe.

Travis: I wish I would have felt up to going with you guys to look for the Garmin, but at that point I could barely walk on my ankle.

Bob: Painfully awesome.

It turns out there were only 4 million downed logs in this area. Unfortunately, we didn’t find her watch, but Kage managed to find a weird, creepy skull that my son can use to scare his sisters.

skull and feathers

Cool skull, and we also found two feathers.

We made our way back to the Virtus Van and drove home to end a wonderful weekend. From all of us at Team Virtus, we’d like to thank Bonk Hard Racing for putting on another top-notch, must-do-every-year event. We’ll be back next year, though I think we all agree that we won’t be doing it solo.

Next up for us is the Castlewood 8-hour Adventure Race in November. Rumor has it that Team Virtus will be rockin’ some sweet new kits. So stay tuned for that.

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