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Category Archives: Race Reports

Adventure Stuff to Read While You’re Pretending to Work – 4/18/14

That’s right! This is a new series here on the Virtus Blog. First, though, I have to give props for this idea to my favorite strength and conditioning blogger, Tony Gentilcore. He’s hilarious, entertaining, and super smart when it comes to fitness. And yes, I totally ripped the idea off from him.

This idea is simple. We’ll post some cool shit related to adventure that we think you should check out. This first installment will be focused on The Cedar Cross since it’s coming up quick, but there’s still time to register!  It is a gravel race in Mid-Mo that is the perfect tune-up race for Dirty Kanza, and it’s one that you don’t want to miss. The race director isn’t half-bad either.

1. One Month to Go and Heavies Ride for Free – Bob Fuckin’ Jenkins

The Cedar Cross is the shit for many, many reasons. One of those reasons is our very own Bob Jenkins. A couple weeks ago, there was an ad on facebook basically making fun of an overweight rider, and it was despicable. Bob was moved to write this post and make Cedar Cross even more awesomer. Read it and see just how fantastic this race is going to be.

2. Cedar Cross 2013 Video – thebikeweiss

Okay, so this technically doesn’t require any reading, but you should still check it out. I don’t know the guy who made it, but it shows some great footage of the race from last year.

3. Cedar Cross 2012 Race Report – Casey F. Ryback

Here’s a great race report from our friend, Casey, from Team Seagal. It’s from the inaugural Cedar Cross way back in 2012. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll sign up for Cedar Cross 2014 and join in on all the fun.

Let us know what you think of the new series. Do you like it or does it suck? Should we continue or shitcan it?

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Frozen Feet Half Marathon short and sweet

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

Where was everyone else?

Where was everyone else?

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

Elevation profile of the Frozen Feet Half Marathon

Elevation profile of the Frozen Feet Half Marathon

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

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

Easy access to water.

Easy access to water.

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

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

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

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

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

Kate's official time was 2:01:43

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Vicarious 2013 Castlewood Adventure Race Report

I have a confession to make. I’ve given up endurance sports.

For now anyway…

With endurance sports like Adventure Racing, there really isn’t an off-season. You can train and race year-round if you want. But I decided to take break, an off-season if you will. That’s right. I haven’t gone for a run or been on my bike in roughly two months. Maybe more.

***Cue the shrieking, alarms ringing, babies crying, and kittens dying***

“Uh… What?!?! You don’t ride year-round?!?!”

Many people may consider this sacrilege, but I assure you I haven’t lost my mind. I simply needed a break from all of the long-distance stuff. So I’ve been lifting weights four times a week, doing some high intensity intervals here and there, and eating a LOT. Yes, I’ve gained weight. I’m okay with that. I wanted to get stronger, and I wanted to do something else for a little while. And I’m having a blast.

When it was time to sign up for the Castlewood 8-Hour Adventure Race, I knew I was out. But I also knew I would hate sitting at home, trying to get updates on how my teammates were doing. So my lovely wife agreed to volunteer with me at Castlewood. It would be the maiden voyage into volunteering for both of us, and I was excited she was coming with me. We dropped our amazing kids off at a friend’s house for the weekend, and we were on our way.

The Lamb Clan

There was some confusion as to whether we were meeting at the Alpine Shop or at Bob’s house, but eventually we all ended up together. Then it was time for some carb-loading, because, you know… Volunteering is very strenuous. Becca and I would need our glycogen stores topped off, so we all went to Dewey’s.  It was excellent, and we all laughed our asses off.  The quote of the night was from our very own Bob Jenkins to the waiter: “Nope.  It’s too late.  You hurt my fat heart.”  It was hilarious.

Carb loading before Castlewood Adventure Race

My wife “accidentally” cut me out of the picture for no reason at all.

After stuffing our bellies, we went back to Bob and Cara’s new house (which is awesome by the way). Bob thought he would need a refresher course on plotting UTM points, but it’s kind of like riding a bike. You never forget how to do it. Well, that’s what I’m hoping anyway since I haven’t been on a bike in forever. Anywho… After Bob plotted the points with no problems, the team put together a stategery for the race.

IMG_0024

Nice bracelet.

Honestly, it was very strange to be observing instead of participating in the pre-race whirlwind: plotting, route-planning, gear packing, gear list checking, repacking, making fun of Adam (well, I might have participated in that last one). We all went to bed way too late, and the alarm went off way too early. Bob’s new house is very close to race HQ at the Wyman Center, which worked out great for this race. Even though we only had a ten-minute drive or so, we were still running late. Shocking, I know. But at least we were all organized and prepared come race morning:

Packing for Adventure Racing

Team Virtus will soon offer a race-planning seminar so you too can organize like this!

We made it to the Wyman Center right on schedule which was 20 minutes after we had intended. We dropped the bikes off outside, and then we found our guest racer, Jim Smith of Monster Bicycle Company and Team TOG fame. How he was talked into tarnishing his reputation by racing with Team Virtus is beyond me. The race started at 7:00 AM with teams heading out on foot for a short orienteering section. Becca and I were given our orders, and we headed to the canoe put-in where racers were expected to arrive around 8:00 AM. There was only one problem, though:

"ROAD CLOSED. DO NOT ENTER."

“ROAD CLOSED. DO NOT ENTER.”

The road to the river access was closed and chained. I called Gary, the race director, and left him a message. I was a little worried about missing the first racers, and since I had the puncher the racers needed to punch their passports, we really needed to be there. So in true adventure racing-spirit, Becca was ready to hop the fence and walk a mile or so in 10 degree weather. She didn’t even hesitate. So I threw some snacks, water, and hand-warmers into my pack, and away we went. Fotunately, we didn’t have to climb the fence. We simply walked down and around the fence and through some brush to the other side.

Somewhere under all of those layers is a future adventure racer... It's also my hot wife.

Somewhere under all of those layers is a future adventure racer… It’s also my hot wife.

About three-quarters of the way to the boat ramp, we met a park ranger driving toward us in a truck. He asked if we were with the race, and we informed him that we had to park on the other side of the fence. Well, it turns out that the gate was unlocked after all. It just looked like it was locked with the chains wrapped around each other. Well, damn. I felt like an idiot, but it was clearly all part of my plan to give Becca a taste of the “expect the unexpected” nature of adventure racing.

I continued to walk since I was close enough to the put-in by now, and Becca hitched a ride back to the Virtus Van. I didn’t get another hundred yards before Gary pulled up and gave me a ride the rest of the way to the boat ramp at Checkpoint 13.  Becca soon joined me after parking the Virtus Van.

It was cold.  Very cold.  Like 10 to 15 degrees cold.  We set up shop on the boat ramp and waited.  We were layered up, and we had plenty of chemical hand-warmers. Every 30 – 45 minutes I would start up a new batch of hand-warmers so that we always had a fresh supply to keep our hands and feet warm.  It worked fairly well for the most part, although our toes got pretty cold from time to time.

At about 8:10 or so, the top four or five teams came in within a minute or two of each other.  They all looked great as they quickly got their bikes in the canoes and canoes on the water.  Other teams started to come in, usually in waves of 3 or 4teams at a time.  It was a bit hectic as Becca handed each team their new UTM coordinates to plot and I punched their passports and wrote down their times. Our friends from Team TOG, Dave and Justin, came into the CP a little after 9:00.  And it was great to see them.

Foggy glasses and an awesome ice beard.  Badassery at its finest.

Foggy glasses and an awesome ice beard. Badassery at its finest.

And then at 9:15, we saw them.  Our beloved team came into CP13, and they looked like they were having fun (shocking, I know).  They said they had stayed pretty warm, and Bob had apparently been nailing the navigation – which nobody other than Bob ever doubted.  Bob quickly began plotting the points using the UTMs we had given him as the rest of the team got their gear and bikes into the canoes.

Bob had his thinking helmet on to plot the points.

Bob had his thinking helmet on to plot the points.

Other teams were coming and going – punching their passports, plotting UTMs, packing bikes into canoes, carrying canoes…  It was chaotic, but it was really cool to watch.  Once Bob had the points plotted, they were ready to get on the river. Playing the “Girl-Card” that Robyn Benincasa has talked about, Kage did nothing while the guys carried the canoes to the water.

Even Adam helped.

Even Adam helped.

Becca and I both shed some tears, forming tear-cicles on our cheeks, as we watched our team push off into the frigid, unforgiving waters.  We weren’t sure if we’d ever see them again.  Well, that’s not true.  But we knew how cold that paddle was going to be. I didn’t envy them at this moment.

Canoeing with Bikes

Bon voyage!

Other teams came through our CP.  One team got there, punched their passport, and turned around to ride back to Race HQ.  He said, “There’s no way in hell we’re getting on that water.”  Two or three other teams never made it to CP13 before deciding to call it quits.  Eventually, there was only one team left that hadn’t yet made it to CP13.

We said good-bye to our new friend and race photographer, Travis Irvin, but not before he helped me carry a lone canoe up from the boat ramp.

Here is our best Zoolander Blue Steel Pose.  Don't hate us because we're beautiful.

Here is our best Zoolander Blue Steel Pose. Don’t hate us because we’re beautiful.

The last team out came in around 10:45.  That was about an hour after all other teams, but these guys really embodied the spirit of adventure racing.  They lost their passport on the first orienteering section, so they had to go back and get a new passport and then do most of the first O-course all over again before moving on.  But they didn’t quit.  They just kept going.  That’s pretty damn cool if you ask me.  Big kudos to those guys.

On the way back to Race HQ, Becca and I grabbed some delicious soup from Panera Bread (although near St. Louis they’re still called St. Louis Bread Co.).  Man, that soup hit the spot!  We could feel it warming us from the inside.  Then we went back to the Wyman Center to wait for teams to come in, plot more points for an optional orienteering section, and then finish. Becca and I were in charge of the food tables, carrying the pizzas, labeling the pizza boxes, removing empty boxes, etc.  Teams came in, warmed up a bit as they plotted points, and then headed out to get more CP’s.  We were happy to see Team Virtus roll in.

Still having fun.

Still having fun.

Bob plotted the extra points as the others filled water bottles.  It seems when it’s really cold, even the insulated bottles won’t keep your water from freezing.

A homemade frosty.  This one is water-flavored.

A homemade frosty. This one is water-flavored.

As Bob finished plotting the last few CP’s and planned a route to get a couple more optional CP’s, the rest of the team warmed up, ate some food, and got ready to head back out in the cold.  Kage even had time to be a perv and sneak into the Men’s restroom.  Here is proof:

Kage in the Men's Room

Yes, that’s the men’s room. At her age, though, she gets confused sometimes.

It was really great to be at the finish to see the fast teams finish as other teams were still coming in only to go back out for more CP’s.  And it was great to hear different race stories from our AR friends, new and old. I was a little worried that our team might miss the cutoff, but I shouldn’t have been.  With ten minutes to spare, the team came running down the hill, literally leaping over a railing as they made their way to the finish line.

Team Virtus finishing the Castlewood Adventure Race

A great finish.

I couldn’t be prouder of the team.  They ran a really great race.  Congrats, guys.  Big thanks to Bonk Hard Racing for letting us help out, and an even bigger thanks to my amazing wife, Becca, for volunteering with me.  It was way more fun having her there with me. And no Virtus race report would be complete without at least one Maw Maw joke.  So here she is after the race:

Circulation is often hindered once you reach a certain age which can leave you feeling cold.  A shawl is a must-have item when you're this age.

Circulation is often hindered once you reach a certain age.  This can often leave you feeling cold. A shawl is a must-have item, and Maw Maw never leaves home without one.

You can check out some more photos below, and you can also read Kage’s race report right here.  And don’t forget that you can keep up with us on our facebook page and/or twitter.

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Perfect 10 Rogaine – Kage and Luke edition

Last year was the inaugural Perfect 10 Rogaine, a 10 hour orienteering race. Luke, Bob, and I had gone and had a great time, so I was already excited about this year’s edition even before a little intra-team bet upped the excitement level. A rogaine is a great learning/practice opportunity since everyone gets a map, and navigation is a huge weakness for me. As much as I was anticipating the race, though, I was most of all looking forward to getting to hang out with my teammates.

Since most of our activities are centered around Jeff City, where most of the guys live, I’m used to making the drive on my own, but not this time. Bob recently moved closer to the St. Louis area, and he’d picked up Casey from the airport, so the three of us made the very cozy trip together in Bob’s truck.

Perfect 10
Luckily everyone wore deoderant

We met up with Luke, switched all our gear over to the Virtus van, and headed south (? I think it was south) to Lake of the Ozarks. (Luke: Why would Kate say her navigation is a weakness?  And yes.  It was south.) We were camping again, so I was not thrilled to see clouds gathering in the sky despite the scant chance of rain in the forecast. Last year it rained both nights, and the post-race rain had flooded my tent and made for a long, cold night. With temperatures even lower this year (30’s overnight), the last thing I wanted was a soggy sleeping bag.

We had time to find a spot to camp (my first non-campground camping trip), get set up, and climb back into the van before the rain started. I wanted BBQ, so we ended up at Fired Up BBQ. The parking lot was packed, but the restaurant was largely empty. Weird. The service wasn’t great, but the food was really good and we weren’t in any hurry to get back into the rain. We watched the Cardinals game, talked, and otherwise kept occupied.

Perfect 10
It’s all fun and games til someone loses an eye…Actually, Casey hit me right below the eye, and it hurt.

If you enlarge the photo, you’ll notice the bullet heading for Bob’s face.
Unfortunately, it veered right and juuuust missed hitting a guy at
another table.

The rain never did stop, but that was probably a good thing because it forced us to go to bed sooner rather than hanging out around a campfire. I for one needed the sleep, and thankfully my tent stayed dry and I stayed warm in my borrowed sleeping bag (considerably warmer than my own sleeping bag, thanks Luke!).

We got up around 6, which should have been plenty of time to make the short drive to the race start. As it turned out, despite taking the time to put on a little makeup after changing, I still wasn’t the last one ready. If Luke hadn’t looked at the time around 7:00 (15 minutes after maps had been handed out, oops!) we might still be there. Heading towards the start, we hit another hiccup when it turned out we weren’t as clear on where to go as we’d thought the night before.

Being a little lost on your way to an orienteering race is never a good sign, but eventually we got there and saw the tents pitched at race HQ. Brilliant idea! Why didn’t we think of that? We got our preplotted maps and then set to route planning. And by “we”, I mean that while Bob and Casey busily discussed potential routes and strategies with each other, I left Luke to deal with our maps while I finished putting my food in my pack, braiding my hair, and pinning our numbers onto our packs and then agreed with the route he thought was best.

Luke: That’s not entirely true.  Kate had more input than she’s taking credit for.  She handed me a pen and a highlighter.

Photo credit: BonkHard Racing
“Sure Luke…whatever you think, Luke”

Michael, who has read our team blog, came up and introduced himself, and I also got a chance to catch up with my friend Melissa, who rocked the course as a solo.

photo.JPG
The map shows around 30 square miles. It’s a little hard to see, but all of those red circles and numbers show the location of checkpoints. For a look at how teams who could potentially clear the course, check out Emily’s blog post about the race. The highlighted section above is what we anticipated covering.

Before we knew it, it was time for the pre-race meeting. A raffle ticket was drawn for the sweet Kuat bike rack, but sadly I didn’t win it. We barely had time for some pre-race pictures before it was time to start. In fact, our friend Kelly was still holding the camera as the race began. That’s fitting, because I’m pretty sure he’s the guy who once claimed that Team Virtus would probably do twice as well if we didn’t spend so much time taking pictures.

Luke: But we’d only have half the fun.

103_1021
There’s something funny about this picture (besides the fact that Luke and I are sharing one pair of gloves). Can you guess what it is?

Since we’ve both been running a decent amount lately, we planned to try to do as much running as possible during the race. We’re definitely nowhere near Alpine Shop’s ability to tear up and down rocky slopes while bushwhacking through thorns, but we could at least jog along roads and trails. Our first steps, though downhill, were a good reminder of how much harder it is to run while carrying a pack. Last year, feeling the difference even just a large hydration pack makes helped me to realize how much easier running would be if I dropped some weight; I came back to Perfect 10 around 15-20 pounds lighter, which had to help.

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Our planned route.

If you look closely at the map above, you’ll notice that each little circle (marking the location of the checkpoint) has a number next to it. The number both tells you which box on your passport to punch and signifies the points the CP is worth. (Important information if you read your race info…not naming any names here but there are a couple I could mention :D). Single digit CPs were worth 100 points, tens were worth 10 points, 20s were worth 20 points, and 30’s were worth 30 points. Strategy is key here in order to maximize your points. Our route included three hundred pointers.

We ran east out of race HQ along the road and then realized we had no idea which way Bob and Casey had gone. All day long we wondered where they were, how their day was going, and whether or not they’d beat us. We basically followed a run ’til Kate got tired/walk/run ’til Kate got tired plan for the road and for smoother trails. We hit our first few CPs with no problems and made sure to get a picture of the cemetery we came across for Chuck.

103_1025
Super excited because I’ve located the cemetery on the map.

I was doing my best to follow along on the map, and I sort of could, but I’d have been in trouble if I was doing the navigating for myself. Well, I probably would have been in trouble, and I most definitely would have been far slower. I teach struggling learners, and navigating using a topo map always gives me insight into what school must be like for them. It takes me a lot of thinking to figure out something that would be immediately obvious to a competent navigator. I’ve learned a lot following along on the map while my more skilled teammates do the navigating, but it’s probably time for me to give it another solo go.

Our first hundred point CP was near the airport boundary. We’d traveled in this area the previous year, and this had been one of the spots where we tested alternate routes. Bob had discovered that the land near the airport fence was pretty clear. Armed with this knowledge, we planned to skirt the boundary. The area was level and clear enough that we were able to run a decent amount here.

 

103_1028
Hard to tell, but I’m running here.

Since the next CP (number 19) wasn’t far off of the airport boundary and the mapped trails, Luke handed off the maps so I could navigate to this one. Like everything on a map for me, it was much more confusing than it should have been. Follow the airport boundary…which of these fences is the mapped boundary? Follow the trail…exactly which trail are we on? Sigh. We got all turned around and lost some time there before I handed the maps back to Luke and let him sort us out.

Luke: In Kage’s defense, it was a tricky for me as well.  I was following along on the map with her, and I’m not sure I would’ve don anything different.  Regardless, we found it, and that’s all that matters.

Being able to shrug my shoulders and pass off the map makes me appreciate my teammates who do the nav that much more. I was really focused on following along on the map for the first two thirds of the race, but later when my knee was really hurting and I was hating life a little, I totally checked out and just followed Luke. No one racing with me has that luxury because I’d have us lost in a heartbeat. That’s one of the reasons that I really do want to get better with navigation.

Anyway, we eventually found our way to 19, running into Kelly Sumner on our way out, and then made our way to CP6, another 100 pointer. I don’t remember much about that one, so it must not have been too remarkable. Our plan from 6 was to follow the airport boundary to our attack point for CP 29, but the eastern fenceline was nothing like the relatively clear area you see in the picture above. As we made our way through thickening brush and grass covered rip-rap style rock towards the fenceline, we heard a familiar voice call, “Do NOT come this way!! You can’t get through the thorns and brush.” B’rer Rabbit he’s not, but neither are we, so we took his good advice.

Eventually Kelly emerged from the thicket he’d lost all kinds of time attempting to pass through, so we had a chance to catch up with him for a while on the trek towards CP 29. Once we got passed the briars, the boundary cleared out nicely.

103_1029
Kelly leads the way

Either Kelly moved a lot faster than we did (likely) or we attacked from different points (more likely both), but we lost track of each other before heading into the trees. We snagged 29 (“snagged” might imply that it was easier than it was…I don’t really remember 29, but it seemed like we had more trouble with the 20-pointers than any other CPs) and headed towards CP18.

With the sun finally out, the chilly day was starting to feel really nice. We were hiking along the road talking about the race so far and wondering about where Bob and Casey were, how they were doing, and what our chances were of beating them. I don’t think either of us felt super confident, and it was weird to have no idea at all where they were, what route they’d taken, anything.

Luke: I was pretty worried.  I know my brother, and he’s a competitive dude.  I thought he might kill himself and/or Bob trying to beat us.

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A partial view of the quarry from last year’s race

We were just speculating whether Gary had put a checkpoint in the quarry, one of the cooler spots from last year’s race, when we turned off the road towards CP 18 and up to the edge of the quarry. I guess maybe the clue “rock pile” should have given us a hint. Of course, the quarry was full of rock piles. We were having a hard time making our approach match what we were seeing on the map, so we did a little walking back and forth looking for the intersection shown. “That looks like a likely spot,” I told Luke. He wasn’t convinced and started in another direction.

“I feel like it’s right,” I continued. “I’m just going to go check it out real quick.” I walked over to the rock pile and didn’t see anything. I was about to go follow Luke when I considered how stupid I’d feel (and how much time we’d waste) if my perfunctory glance missed if the checkpoint was actually there, so I walked a little further, looked up, and sure enough saw the flag. Now, it has to be mentioned that it was purely dumb luck that I found it; I certainly wasn’t following the map and probably would have been sure the CP was at whatever checkpoint I first laid eyes on…in this case, though, we were lucky enough to have seen the right one first. I called out our special secret code to Luke to let him know I had it and waited there savoring the feeling of — for once — being the one to find the CP.

Luke: Kate saved us at least 20 minutes here.  Maybe more.  And it was the first REAL time that we used our secret code.  It was perfect, and I laughed as I trotted over to her.

We ran into Kelly on our way out of the quarry and attempted to let him know where the CP was, but when we ran into him at the next checkpoint (35) he told us our advice wasn’t so helpful. Sorry! We left that CP at the same time, but he took a slightly sharper angle towards the road or was moving faster than us (or both), and other than catching glimpses of him ahead of us on the road we didn’t see him again until the finish line. We had a long stretch (ok, not particularly long, looking at the map maybe just over 2 miles) of road hiking, which sounds like it should be gloriously fast but wasn’t at all. The race rules required that you walk on the mowed right-of-way next to the highway unless crossing, and trekking along the off-camber side pretty much sucked.Up to this point, we’d had a pretty smooth day with the exception of my attempt at navigation, but we hit a speed bump or two along highway 42. First, CP24 was playing hard to get. Seemed like we hiked a creek forever. We’d had a few other times when we’d questioned whether we were on the wrong track only to find our CP a little further than we’d expected, but this time, as Luke looked at the map and compass, it became evident (to him) that we weren’t in the right place. We ended up hiking over a spur and finding our CP in the next reentrant over, but we definitely lost some time here.

We hiked out to the road and then attacked CP22 which, despite its proximity to the road, was much harder to get to and steeper than we’d anticipated. We were both having trouble keeping our footing and feeling a little grumpy.

Luke: Hiking back up to the road from CP22 sucked.  I was nearing a bonk, so I popped a couple of Foosh caffeinated mints and ate a bunch of food.  About 10 minutes later, I was feeling much better.

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OK, I don’t look grumpy, but trust me, I was.

We took a short break once we got back to the road, grabbing some food, checking the maps, getting the little rocks and junk out of my shoes. That taken care of, we snagged CP13 and then headed off in search of our final 100-pointer of the day. The CP required a half-mile hike along a (((ridge))) and then was located off of a hilltop with the ambiguous clue of “slope”.

We cut in too soon and did some wandering around in search of our CP, but that ended up being a good thing. We passed a guy in the woods who was looking for the same checkpoint. Shortly afterwards, Luke spotted it. “Should we tell him?” Luke asked.

“Yeah,” he decided. “We should…hey buddy, it’s over here!”

When the other guy got there, he asked if we were Team Virtus. “I thought you looked familiar!” he told us. It turns out he’s a blog reader who’s corresponded with Luke about adventure racing. We were really glad we’d called out to him. Very cool meeting you out there, Michael.

Luke: This was a different Michael than the one we’d met earlier in the day.  It was great meeting both Micheals.

CP2 was the far point of our trek, and now it was time to head back towards race HQ, picking up checkpoints along the way. Last year our last CP was off of this same ridge, followed by a 5 mile road trek back to the finish line. This year’s route was much more pleasant, trekking through woods. Our first CP of the way back, another 20-pointer, seemed to take forever to find as we again wondered have we gone too far? Did we miss it? In the end, Luke led us straight to it and then we headed for the creek we’d follow to some trails.

At this point in the race, despite a healthy dose of ibuprofen, I was really sore. In fact, the last 3 or so hours were very painful. It was weird; the two sides of my body were having very different experiences. While my right side felt fantastic, my left foot, knee, and hip hurt like crazy. Getting to the trail was little respite, and it was around this point where I’d pretty much checked out on the map and was just following Luke, limping, wincing, and struggling mightily not to complain because what good would it do.

Luke: For the record, Kate never did complain.  So her streak of no complaining is still alive.  She may have stated a few facts regarding the pain in her Maw Maw hip, but they definitely weren’t complaints.

The trail seemed to take forever, but it was very cool to pass a man backpacking with his little boy. We passed another family already set up at a backpack camping site on our way to CP26. Finding 26, we set a fast hike back to the HQ to resupply and decide on our course for the last 1.5 hours. We’d worked all day to minimize our stops, and we were pretty quick grabbing some extra food and water at the Virtus van before setting off for a 30-pointer a half mile or so away. We toyed with the idea of going for one more possible CP but decided that we’d be cutting it close enough that getting 20 more points wasn’t worth risking more than that with the 10 point per minute penalty for finishing after the cutoff…especially when I wasn’t sure I could run.

Luke: We were tempted to get the 20-pointer since it would have put us over 600 points which was our original goal for the day.  There was VERY little chance we’d make it back in time, so we played it safe.

Decision made, we hiked back uphill from the checkpoint. Between the steepness of the hill, all the babyheads rolling under our feet, and my sore knee, I was over it. I kind of wanted to scream…or cry. “I’m going to use up every single non-complaint on this hill right now!” I told Luke. “This must be how Todd feels when he has hiking madness!”

103_1035
It took a couple tries to get this without me laughing, but here’s my attempt at depicting my feelings about hiking.

Luke was doing better than I was, but he sure wasn’t enjoying rolling his ankle with every step. No hiking madness for him, though; instead he did his best imitation of the thousand mile stare.

103_1036
This picture makes me laugh every time I see it.

We had plenty of time to get back to the finish line before the cutoff, so we screwed around a little bit taking stupid pictures and then, spirits lifted, headed back the way we’d come….or did we?

“Wouldn’t it be funny if we were here laughing and being stupid and then took off the wrong way?” Luke asked. We both laughed at the thought and then he looked at his compass. Sure enough, we were hiking in the exact wrong direction. Crisis averted, we headed back to the finish line, breaking into a fake jog for the cameras.

Photo credit: BonkHard Racing

We made it back to the finish line with around 45 minutes to spare, so we got to watch a lot of the teams come through. It was nerve-wracking waiting for Bob and Casey and hoping they missed the cutoff finished well, but if you have to wait nervously to find out if you’re going down in flames, I highly suggest doing it with BonkHard’s awesome post-race food and good company.

Luke:  Mmmm… Pulled pork… Mac & Cheese… Chili…  Beer…

Photo credit: BonkHard Racing
Casey, me, Luke, Kelly, Jason
Casey and Bob did indeed beat the cutoff, but we edged them in points, meaning that at some point they’ll be performing a skit written by Luke and me and posted on youtube for their eternal humiliation your viewing pleasure. I’d have to say that, while we soundly defeated them, Bob went home the big winner when his name was drawn for a sweet package for two to Tan-Tar-A resort.
Luke:  Man, I can’t wait until Bob takes me on that trip!
We cheered for finishers and winners, hung out long past dark, and just generally enjoyed ourselves until race HQ was taken down around us. After saying our goodbyes to the few people still remaining, we headed back to our campsite…via a stop in town for the most expensive gas station coffee ever (and yet totally worth it to knock off the chill) and a beer run. The night before may have seen us huddled in our tents/hammocks against the rain, but race night we had a great fire and a fantastic time hanging out together.
Luke: Post-race campfires with my teammates is always one of my favorite parts of a race.  I’d try to explain it, but I’d fail to express how great it is.  So just trust me when I say it was fantastic.  Or join us next time.

Of course, what happens at the Lake stays at the Lake, but my face was sore from laughing by the time I went to bed, and the funniest exchange had to be between Casey and Bob. Ridiculous plans were being hatched for tormenting each other, and Casey asked, “What if I trained a bear to do it?”

“There’s a couple problems with that,” Bob replied, “First, if you find a bear, not cool if you bring it back here!”

Not cool at all. But a weekend hanging out with some awesome teammates? It doesn’t get a whole lot cooler than that.

Mud, Sleet, and Beers – The S.H.I.T.R. Half Marathon Race Report

You know those running shoes that are too worn out to run in, but feel oh-so-good to slip into because they, like your favorite pair of jeans, are broken in just perfectly?  Well, they don’t make good trail shoes – especially on a wet, muddy, messy trail..  Trust me on this one.

Robby, Bob, Christina, and I headed to Lost Valley Trail in Defiance, MO where we met up with Drew and a bunch of other crazy trail runners for Rock Racing’s SHivering Icy Trail Run (or SHITR for short).  This was a half marathon in the middle of winter at night.  Sounds awesome, right?

It wasn’t until I got there when I realized that I had forgotten my trail shoes… And my Garmin watch.  But the Virtus Code wouldn’t allow me to sit this one out, so I ran in my crappy Nike Free’s.  But oh what a run it was!

I am definitely NOT on my tip-toes.

I am definitely NOT on my tip-toes.

The cold and wind seemed to cut right through us as we stood around waiting for the race to start.  People weren’t sure what to wear.  One nut ran shirtless.  Others were decked out in full winter garments.  I chose to run in tights, a t-shirt with a long-sleeve shirt over it, a winter hat, and glittens (glove-mittens). Bob decided to wear this (although later he through a fleece on over the top):

Dress for success!

For Team Virtus, image is everything.  We dress for success!

Unfortunately, Bob would have to part ways with at least one piece of clothing by the end of the night.  Don’t worry… I’ll get to that.  Have a little patience.

We started the race by heading out to the top of “The Mound” as it was just starting to get dark.  The wind at the top was ridiculous, so none of us stayed up there more than a few seconds.  On the way down, I absolutely FLEW by the best runner on our team: Drew.  Don’t believe me?  Take a look at this video (courtesy of Robin Rongey from Rock Racing) at the 3:02 mark:

In case you couldn’t tell, the only reason I passed Drew was because of gravity.  I got going a bit too fast, and I couldn’t stop.  So I just went with it, and like an out of control snowball tumbling faster and faster, I flew down the stairs and almost died.  It was probably the first and last time I’ll be ahead of Drew in a foot race.  And don’t worry.  He passed me shortly thereafter.

Before long, we had to turn on our headlamps.  The rain picked up as the temperature continued to drop.  Soon we were on some single-track.  By the time I got there, the trails had become a slippery, muddy mess.  And it was awesome!  I’m not sure trail shoes would have helped much, but my shoes were worthless.  I felt like I was skating more than I was running.

Somewhere in that muddy mess, Patrick from the 100+ Project and Russ (from Alabama I think) caught up to me.  Their company was much appreciated as we ran together for awhile.  The temps continued to drop, and the rain became more of a sleet/rain/snow mix.

It was dark.  It was cold.  It was raining/sleeting.  It was muddy.  It was slippery.  It was terrible.  Just terrible.  And I was loving every minute of it.

Before long, we found the mystery event.  We were supposed to find the name on a tombstone.  Patrick and Chuck had done a good job of marking the tiny cemetery with reflective tape, so it was pretty easy to spot.  Reading the name on the tombstone in the dark, however, proved to be more of a challenge.  Patrick already knew the name, so he couldn’t help us.  As we tried to make out the writing,  Robby Brown caught up to us.  Then Russ’s headlamp hit the stone sideways which provided enough shadow-relief that we could read “Caroline L.”

Trust me.. It was MUCH harder to read in the dark.

Trust me.. It was MUCH harder to read in the dark.

Even stopping at the tombstone for a few minutes caused our body temp to drop significantly.  So we quickly trotted off again.  I’m not sure who started it (‘Bama Russ maybe?), but someone in our group began singing “Sweeeeeet Caroliiiine.”  And all of us chimed in “Bah, bah, bah!”  It was a fabulous rendition that surely would have made the great Neil Diamond proud. And you’re welcome for getting that song stuck in your head.

Neil Diamond's Hairy Chest

“I don’t always wear a necklace, but when I do, I like to complement it with a massive amount of chest pubes.” – Neil Diamond

The rain had fully converted to sleet by now, and it was VERY cold.  I decided to pick up the pace a little just to keep warm.  Patrick was right behind me, but Russ and Robby had fallen off the pace just a bit.  This section wasn’t quite as muddy, but there was one small incline which was super-slippery.  As my front foot hit the slope, it completely slipped out from under me.  I was able to catch myself with my glitten-covered hands, but my foot flew up behind me and almost nailed Patrick in the face.  It was a close one, but we both made it out unscathed.

Soon we found ourselves back on the double-track which meant we were getting pretty close to the finish line.  I was tired and cold, but Patrick kicked it up a notch.  I too picked up the pace to stay with him.  Then we ran into Jim and Janie Smith from Team TOG and Monster Bicycles.  They were walking the short-course… In the dark and cold and mud and wet.  Very cool.

The Smiths on the Left and Dave Baettie on the right.

The Smiths on the Left and Dave Baettie on the right.

Patrick stopped to walk and chat with them.  As much as I wanted to, I was just too damn cold.  I said hello and good-bye and just kept running.  I climbed the last hill by myself, and as I turned on the last stretch just a mile or so from the finish line, the wind just punched me in the face.  It was brutal out there.  Even though I was having a blast, I was glad that it was almost over.

Then I heard some weird noises.  It sounded like a woman yelling.  So I slowed to a walk to listen.  It was indeed a woman yelling, so I ran ahead to see what was going on.  No one was in sight, but there were lights through the trees to my left.  After bushwhacking through a small block of brush and trees, I was on a small road.  There was a woman yelling, “Jeff!  Where the hell am I?!?  What the hell am I going to do?!?”  She seemed a little scared and quite pissed.  Then I realized that it was Carrie Sona from Team Alpine Shop.  She had gotten a bit turned around and off the trail, so we ran it in together until she saw her husband Jeff coming back for her.

They slowed to a walk, so I just kept running to the finish.  I couldn’t believe there were still volunteers at the finish to welcome me in and hand me an awesome SHITR sticker.  HUGE thanks to the volunteers out there!  I finished in 2:36.  Drew had finished 16 minutes ahead of me, and Robby came in a few minutes behind me with Kate coming in about 10 minutes after him.

SHITR Sticker

I was really cold, but I didn’t realize how serious these conditions were until I tried to get my keys out of my pocket.  It took me a several attempts and a couple of minutes before I could get my fingers to work properly.  Eventually, I hopped into the Virtus Van, cranked the heat up, and changed into gloriously dry, warm clothes.

As I slowly started getting warm, I began to worry about Bob.  This was his first half marathon – his longest run ever at that point I think.  Temps has fallen close to freezing by now, and the sleet was unrelenting.  The last thing I wanted to do was go back out in the nasty weather, but the longer I waited, the more worried I got.  Fortunately, Bob made it in about a half an hour after Kate, and I didn’t have to go back out there.

It seems Bob was slowed down by some intestinal issues.  Fortunately, our friends Chad and Bethany were with him to help him through this.  He came over to the Virtus Van, but he wouldn’t get in.  He had to be freezing his ass off, but he still wasn’t getting in.  Why?  Well, let me have him explain it in his own words:

For those that don’t know, Bob has some issues with pooping in the woods.  He has a routine he likes to follow in the peace and quiet of his own bathroom.  I, on the other hand, have no problem dropping a deuce behind a tree.  So I’m always giving him hints and tips on how to shit in the woods properly, and to be more specific, how to wipe after taking care of business.  So he finally followed my advice with success, but then… Well, I’ll let him explain it again:

So we had a VERY good laugh at Bob’s expense.  Bob left his undergarments behind, got changed, and climbed into the Virtus Van.  There were no casualties, and everyone made it out alive.  We all headed to a local Mexican restaurant where we had beers, margaritas, tacos, and many, many laughs.  Although none of us won the SHITR, one of us did win a prize – The highly-coveted SHITR Trophy.

The SHITR Trophy

A well-deserved trophy for Bob.

It was a truly amazing night.  Big thanks to Rock Racing and all of the volunteers!  And don’t worry.  This is happening again on January 11th, 2014!  Get excited, people.  And make sure you don’t miss this one!

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