Cinco de MLK

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

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

Date: Saturday, Jan 16th

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

What to Bring:

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

What Not to Bring:

  • Douchebags
  • Assholes
  • A shitty attitude

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

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

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

It works out perfectly, really:

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

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

 

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A SHARTS-Giving to Remember

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shared Adventure Race Training - SHART

The three bearded amigos.

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

Here’s our clue sheet:

SHART #1 Cue Sheet

My favorite clue is for CP #4

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

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

CP 1 of SHART 1

Checkpoint 1

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

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

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

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

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

Bob shitting at the SHART

When you gotta go, you gotta go.

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

Hmm… What could it be?

 

pooping at an adventure race

Great minds poop alike.

 

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

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

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

Luke at CP3 of SHART #1

Proof that I was indeed there and participating.

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

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

Irish Coffee at an old pavilion

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

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

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

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

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

fire roasted burrito and Irish coffee

It may not get any better than this.

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

chimney checkpoint at the SHART

We need to camp here.

 

old abandoned chimney

The chimney from afar.

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

hike-a-bike orienteering at the SHART

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

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

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

Shared adventure race training cemetery checkpoint

Sweet Caroline

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

SHART Spring Cave

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

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

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

Bob's Peninsula at the SHART

Bob’s tiny Peninsula

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

Cowboy Bob

Ride ’em, Cowbob!

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

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

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

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

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

handlebar to the goods

That’s gonna leave a mark.

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

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

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

Three men and a beer-by

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

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

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

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

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

The SHART is Happening – RIGHT NOW!

You may have read the earlier post advertising an upcoming Team Virtus SHART.  Well, it is here!  Our SHART is now available for your pleasure, and just in time to brush up route planning and navigation skills for the Castlewood Adventure race.  We plan to leave the course set for a couple of weeks, but don’t wait too long. There is no guarantee the points wont be removed by other folks in the area or carried away by Sasquatch.

crash

This first edition is intended as a Mountain Bike-O, don’t worry about the picture above – that kind of stuff never happens.  But feel free to do it on foot if you like that better, its short enough to do either way.  The course is a combination of mostly sweet single-track and a little double-track (if you end up on pavement, you’ve made a big mistake).  There are 15 checkpoints spread around the trails.

IMG_20151125_113219
We intended the first SHART to be beginner friendly, so even though none of the CP’s are directly on a trail, all are within 50 meters.  Most have distinguishing features or a  handrail nearby.  Depending on your navigation skills and route choice they can all be found within an 18 kilometer ride/run.

 A quick reminder of how this works:

  1. Message one of our team members with the subject line: “I gotta SHART!”
  2. We’ll reply with a .pdf file of the pre-plotted 1:12000 map and a copy of the cluesheet.
  3. Print your map  – 11×17 paper works out great, or go paperless and just scan the bar-code into your phone.
  4. Complete the course – remember to record the letters written in each CP to complete the secret phrase.
  5. Message us back with the secret phrase and a photo of you (clothing optional) near your favorite CP.
  6. We list you as an OFFICIAL finisher.

 

You already know we aren’t into making a bunch of rules, so you can use map and compass, dead reckoning, sextant, phone, or GPS.  Whatever skills you want to work on, the course is available:  Adventure Racing –  Scavenger Hunt – Orienteering – Geocaching.

 

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.

Come SHART With Us!

Team Virtus didn’t earn the title of Least Elite Adventure Racing Team in Missouri the World by simply cooking expired meat on campfires and drinking dark beers. No! We train. We train long and hard. And now we’re ready to share one of our top-secret training methods with all of you.

Sleeping Virtus at Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

Training paying off big in the 2015 Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

The SHared Adventure Race Training series ended up with an unplanned and entirely coincidental acronym that fits our middle-school level sense of humor so well, we stuck with it.

Here’s how the SHARTs will work:

We’ll set up a fun and challenging orienteering course that can be completed in a couple hours. We leave the course set out for 30 days. You come, play, and train on it for free!

How many times have you wanted to attend an organized ride, run, or O-meet but the calendar was already full with the kind of shit life throws your way, and you just couldn’t make it on that one-single-day?

Now you can pick a day, any day, out of the 30 or so days the course stays up. Bring friends or do it alone. Do it in the daylight the first time, come back after dark the second time. (Pay attention to the area rules wherever the course is set. )

High quality 1:24000 maps and a clue sheet will be provided in the form of .pdf files which will be linked on this blog and the Facebook page. You then print your own map from the file, as big (or as little) as you like.  Or forget about printing altogether by scanning the barcode with your phone for a paperless copy of the course.  Here is a sample of what the maps will look like with a couple CP’s plotted.

Capture

Each CP will have a letter to record.  For example, CP1 has the letter W written inside. CP2 has the letter H…. keep gathering letters from the 7 checkpoints until you spell the secret word – in this example the word might be “WHISKEY”. You will then message us privately with the secret word and we’ll add your name to the growing list of distinguished SHARTer’s. If you want to record your time or share a GPS of your route, send that too, we’d love to see it.

Keep checking the blog and FB. The first Virtus SHART is coming soon.  In fact, the first course design is already complete. The course map is made and verified by GPS. Once the controls (custom made by my amazing and beautiful wife) are hung, we’ll publish the course.

We’re kind of excited about this idea and would love to hear your comments. Do you love it or hate it? Think it will work out or suck completely?

If this does work out and more than 1 person thinks it’s cool, we’ll set up additional courses at different locations in the future and challenge other teams to out-SHART us by creating courses of their own!

Quick note: This is not a race or organized sporting event in any way, shape or form.  Consider it the cool version of Geocaching.  There are no waivers to sign, no entry fees to pay, and there will be absolutely no involvement with the governing bodies of cycling, running, or shitting of the pants while farting. There will be no chip timing, no number plates and no hot apple cider with pickles at fancy Aid Stations. This is strictly a “For-Fun” outdoor challenge at a time and date of your choosing.

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