Chuck and Kate have been the dynamic duo of Team Virtus this year. They’ve raced a lot more than the rest of us, and they’ve done it a lot better than we usually do it. We’re waiting for them to ditch us soon for a better, faster team.
But we know they’ll never leave us. We’re way too much fun. Besides, we have them under contract for 10 years, and at Kate’s age, she’ll likely be in a nursing home by then. So I think they’re stuck with us.
Anyways… They kicked ass at this inaugural adventure race. They encountered root caves, an actual labyrinth, gargantuan maps, and perhaps even a podium finish!!!
You’ll definitely want to head on over to Kate’s blog and read the full report. DO IT RIGHT NOW and thank me later.
As much as I hate to do it, I’ve gotta break this report into fragments. For whatever reason, my employer seems to think my talents are better used “working” instead of AR-blogging during business hours. The following is a brief account of the hours leading up to our domination of the 2012 Berryman 24 hour Adventure race. And by “domination”, I mean we didn’t die.
At a table littered with empty fast-food wrappers, Travis and I sat in the Hardee’s dining room plotting UTM points. The 2012 Berryman 24 was happening the next day, and we had redemption on the brain. A full year had passed since our “Four Points Debacle“, and while it was surely on our minds, there was no talk of the past. We spoke only of the grandeur that lay ahead.
Brimming with confidence and the lofty goal of a top 3 finish, we had once again found ourselves drunk with confidence. Countless emails had been exchanged in the preceding weeks, and the phrase “if we can just run a clean race..” had been repeated over and over again. Hope had become certainty, and for better or worse, we’d let ourselves believe it was going to happen. Tomorrow would be a BIG success; of this we had no doubt.
“If we can just run a clean race..”
With each plotted CP, another piece of tomorrow’s quest was revealed. It was clear we’d be covering a lot of distance tomorrow. The mileage on the bike leg alone was… respectable. That was fine though, after all our Dirty Kanza training earlier in the year, we were confident the bikes were our strong-suit. My excitement came to climax when we confirmed that all 13 miles of Council Bluff’s bitchin’ singletrack would be used on the bike leg(s). Council Bluff was the first course I ever raced on, and I’ve had a lot of good times there. I think it was ’09 when Corey, Big Gay Bob and myself took home buckles in the clydesdale division. And I may or may not have whipped Corey’s ass at the Rimwrecker there in ’08, but it’s not like I’m gonna hold that over his head until my dying day.
Course plotted, we drove back to camp and managed to be in the sack by 11:30. Of course, this only gave me more time to lay in the sleeping bag and stare restlessly at the sky. Sleeping on the ground was so much better before I got fat, but hey, at least I forgot my pillow.
Frustrated at my inability to sleep, I watched the stars and let my mind wander. It dawned on me that we really hadn’t shown this race the proper level of respect. The Berryman is notoriously difficult, and this was gonna be Travis’s first 24 hour race. It made me nervous that we weren’t nervous, but there would be time for all of that tomorrow.
Morning finally came, and for whatever reason I was awake 15 minutes before my alarm went off. Trust me, that’s not the kind of thing that happens everyday. Resisting the urge to go back to sleep, I decided to head for the camp commode. Much to my surprise, I’d gotten there before a line had formed. Man, I felt like such a grown-up… until I opened the bathroom door. With a dropped jaw and bulging eyeballs, time literally froze as I realized I was standing face-to-face with a half-naked man sitting on the toilet.
He hadn’t locked the door.
Well, this is awkward.
Thankfully he was wearing a headlamp, so all I saw was a defecating silhouette. That being said, my imagination has a nasty habit of filling in the blanks. Without missing a beat, the mystery dumper, (keeping his headlight steadily in my eyes to secure anonymity) , said “Sorry dude.”
No other words were spoken; I quietly closed the door and got the hell out of there.
So, just to recap: I do NOT know who you are, Mr. Mystery Dumper, and I think it’d be really cool if we could keep it that way.
I’d say this is a great time to change the subject, so let’s fast forward to the final minutes before race-start
In the final minutes before race-start, the crowd of racers was large:
Our esteemed colleagues from the Orange Lederhosen cult are always a welcome sight, and I do believe Derrick has been trimming down. Emma was rumored to be somewhere on course, so we could only hope she’d have “provisions”. Speaking of distinguished, I had the pleasure of crossing paths with several CAC veterans. Folks like “Iron Man” Chuck Vohsen, male-model Steve Willi, (my mom thinks he’s hot), and the recently expedition-tested Team Wahoo. The Hoosier Daddies were also present, albeit without any alcohol. I’m sure that won’t be the case at Castlewood, though.
My mojo must’ve been through the roof, because I managed to get a 2-word conversation with Awesome-Butt Girl. As long as we’re on the subject, a lot of people have asked me about “ABG’s” true identity. I’m sorry to say it, but that information will never be revealed here. Firstly, knowledge is power. A woman with that knowledge could use her powers for evil, and I don’t need that weight on my conscience. Secondly, we don’t want to objectify anyone… I mean, I certainly wouldn’t want a bunch of people calling me “Awesome Abs Guy.” I’m not a piece of meat.
Swiftwick sleeves were donned, Bodyglide was applied and much pre-race wind was broken. The National Anthem was sung and race director Gary Thompson unleashed 200+ racers onto his AR masterpiece. The Berryman had begun.
***NOTE: This race report was written by Luke and is presented in black text. Casey added some comments and are presented to you in Red, Bob’s comments are in Green, and Kage’s comments are in Navy Blue. Luke added a response or two in Purple. If you need to get caught up, you can read part 1 here and part 2 here.***
Paddle Leg #1 – 1:13 PM Saturday Afternoon – 5 Hours 43 Minutes Racing
Somehow, through all the mistakes and mishaps, we managed to make it to the TA at CP8. We ditched the bikes and our bike gear, and we readied ourselves for the paddling leg. We all grabbed a bite to eat as we donned our PFD’s and put our paddles together. We only had 3 kayak paddles, and since Kage had little to no experience using one, we decided we’d let her just use a canoe paddle.
After a fairly quick transition (although we could have been faster), we carried the canoes down to the lake. Kage got stuck in a canoe with me, and Bob and Casey filled up another one (Bob: Is this a fat reference?). With storms in the forecast and clouds in the sky, we were a little worried that the water was going to be pretty rough. We were pleasantly surprised when we shoved off and headed out on a silky smooth lake. This was going to be easy.
On this paddling leg, we had to get 3 CP’s (9, 10, & 11) in any order before heading back to the TA. We decided to get CP10 first since it was closest, and then we would either portage the canoes across a peninsula to get CP11 before getting CP9 on an island OR we would paddle around the peninsula to get CP9 followed by CP11 if the portage looked too gnarly.
The paddling was easy and we made good time… until we left the bay. Once we were out of the shelter of the bay, the lake was much rougher. It wasn’t the worst I’ve paddled on, but it wasn’t exactly a cakewalk either.
Bob: The pictures do absolutely no justice to the size of the waves. Coming back to the canoe takeout, Casey and I had several waves crash right over the front and sides of the boat. I was soaked to my ass….balls first.
We stayed close to the coast and found CP10 easily. There was a team here, “For the Run of It” I believe, that was convinced this was CP11. I was 99.99% sure that we were at CP10, but a small seed of doubt had been planted in my brain. With the rocky start to the race and several navigational blunders, I started to second guess myself. We couldn’t afford another mistake.
We decided to paddle on and not portage the canoes since the brush and trees looked pretty thick. I also knew that Kage was dreading portaging a canoe, but I’m sure she would have done just fine. I mean, we all know that she has more upper body strength than Bob does, but then again, that’s not saying much.
Anyway, we decided to paddle to the island to get CP9. On the way to the small island, I kept looking toward the coast. The little seed of doubt about CP10 began to grow. Did we somehow paddle too far and miss CP10? Was that actually CP11 instead? I looked at the map, and I tried to convince myself that there was no possible way that could have happened. There was, however, a bit of doubt remaining in my mind.
The water was getting more choppy and the wind picked up as we made it to the island. It looked like it was raining to our east, but other than a few errant raindrops, we had managed to avoid the inclement weather. We beached the canoes and Bob punched the passport.
Bob: Actually, I was just trying to look like Scott Fredrickson. If he had a beard, we’d look exactly alike.
We paddled into the small bay to get CP11, and I was once again worried that I had led our team astray since that other team was so sure that what we thought was CP10 was CP11. I was still 99% sure I knew where we were, but it was a huge relief when we paddled right to the CP and confirmed that we had indeed gotten it right.
At this point, we could have portaged across the peninsula or paddled around it again. I know Bob really wanted to portage, but the rest of us voted to paddle around it. In hindsight, I think it would have been faster to portage, but I guess we’ll never know.
Kate: In retrospect, I feel bad that I argued against portaging. Wimpy move, especially since we didn’t have bikes in the canoes or anything. Next time, tell me to man up.
Casey: I was on the fence and would have been fine with the portage. It didn’t look too far but I think we made the right decision. I have a feeling the portage would have taken us longer.
Bob: I think it would’ve been faster. By the time we would’ve gotten there, the trail would have already been blazed.
Luke: Like I said, we’ll never know.
As we paddled around the peninsula, the waves seemed to have gotten MUCH bigger. It was really rough out there. It was so rough, in fact, that we had to make sure we didn’t get sideways to the waves. We had to hit the waves straight on or risk being tipped. Hitting the waves head-on was a rough ride, though, and Bob said that several times they took on water over the bow of the canoe as they came crashing down over each wave.
Kate: I was definitely nervous during this part of the paddle, especially being as someone had already almost tipped the canoe in calm water.
Bob: I’m so glad Luke lost the bet.
Kate: Still stinging from that upper body strength comment, huh?
Casey: It was pretty rough out there. Bob and I had a hard time not pulling away from the other canoe (we had 2 kayak paddles) with the rough waters. We’d try to coast and wait for them, and we’d get tossed around and had to paddle to keep our bow into the waves. We eventually decided to paddle a little ahead and get into the cove and wait for them there. We kept an eye on them and hoped they’d join us safely in a few minutes.
We eventually made it back to the TA after roughly 2 hours of paddling, but the last half of that paddling leg wasn’t exactly fun. Well, that’s not true. It was actually a lot of fun… now that it’s over. We were definitely glad to be getting off the lake without tipping.
Kate: Thanks for putting in that really flattering picture of me. Now I’ll never be selected for America’s Next Top Model. Jerk.
Luke: Kage, there can’t be a more flattering shot than a woman carrying a canoe in the middle of a 24+ hour adventure race. Right?
Casey: I guess we didn’t get any pictures when it was really rough, we were too busy trying to survive. The pictures we have don’t do it justice. However, according to people who raced LBL last year, it was nowhere near as rough as it was last year. Last year, they cut the paddle short because it was too rough and too many people were dumping their canoes (they were the yellow P.O.S. canoes, however).
We transitioned to the bikes for a short ride (roughly 2 miles) to the big orienteering leg of the race. We were really looking forward to getting to our first food drop, too. As we pulled up to CP13 and the start of the O-course, we were shocked that there were so many bikes still there.
Food Drop #1 / CP 13 – 3:56 PM Saturday Afternoon – 8 Hours 26 Minutes Racing
As we rode down the gravel road to the manned-checkpoint, we could see a team of four getting ready to get back on the bikes. It turned out to be Team Tecnu, one of the best teams in the country. Oh, crap! If it took a team of their caliber that long to finish the O-course, it must be pretty damn tough. We dropped our bikes, swapped our bike shoes for trail shoes, and started to go through our food bag as Tecnu took off on their bikes.
Then another team came out of the woods. It was Wedali. Double crap! Another top team was just now finishing the orienteering section. And then as we were going through our food, switching from biking gear to trekking gear, and just taking way too long at the TA, another team came out of the woods: One of the two Bushwhacker teams. What… the… hell?!?!
Casey: Thanks for putting in that really flattering picture of Bob and me. Now we’ll never be selected for America’s Next Top Model. Jerk!
Luke: Casey, there can’t be a more flattering of two husky dudes with half-beards. Right?
Clearly, this orienteering leg was a big, fat female dog, if you know what I mean. As we ate some food, restocked our packs, and got ready for the O-course, I studied the map. It was pretty clear that we were not going to clear the course. So the question then became how many CP’s we should try to get before the 9:00 PM (?) cutoff. Should we use all of that time to get as many CP’s as we can? Or should we just grab a couple of the close ones in the daylight and come back to the bikes and hope we can use that time to get more CP’s later in the race?
Since the top teams obviously had some issues with the orienteering course, I figured we just might have some issues as well – especially once it got dark. So I wanted to get 3 or 4 CP’s, skip the rest, and make our way back to the bikes before dark and hope that saving a couple of hours would help us later in the race. Casey disagreed. He’s the kind of guy that never wants to concede anything until absolutely necessary, and he always wants to push the envelope, for better or worse. So we planned on getting a couple of CP’s and then we would reevaluate.
Bob: You forgot to mention that he does it all with a million-dollar smile, dazzling facial hair and an endless supply of mind-bending flatus.
Casey: I think you should use all the time you have to get as many CP’s as possible, especially if you don’t know what is coming later in the race. I don’t like to ASS -U-ME anything. You know you have these CP’s to get and can’t assume there will be more later (undisclosed at this time). I would hate to leave early, saving time for later, only to find out that there were no more CP’s and finish with time to spare and CP’s left un-punched. Hell, I want to get all the CP’s every race.
Luke: Every team needs a guy like you, Casey. You always push us to do more than we think we can, and that’s a very good thing. Sometimes, however, it’s better to skip CP’s early to get more later. It’s a tough decision sometimes, though, because (like you said), you just don’t know what the rest of the race has in store for you.
As we were finishing up our (way too long) transition, the other Team Bushwhacker came out of the woods, our friends Scott and Frederick. We asked how it was out there, and they said it was pretty rough. That’s not what we wanted to hear. We said good-bye and good luck, and then headed into the woods. A few minutes later, we crossed paths with Team Alpine Shop, another top contender, as they were just finishing the orienteering leg.
Man, it was going to be a rough O-course.
To Be Continued…
***NOTE: This race report was written by Luke and is presented in black text. Casey added some comments and are presented to you in Red, Bob’s comments are in Green, and Kage’s comments are in Navy Blue. Luke added a response or two in Purple. If you need to get caught up, you can read part 1 here.***
Trek Leg #1 – 7:30 AM Saturday:
It was go-time, and we set off jogging at a nice easy pace for the first quarter of a mile or so. We then slowed to our endurance trekking pace. As we left the pavement behind and headed onto the trail, we noticed a couple of people running back toward us. It was Team Tecnu, one of the top adventure racing teams in the country. I’m not sure what happened exactly, but I believe one of them forgot or dropped their passport. Regardless, I’d like everyone to know that there was a moment, however fleeting it may have been, when Team Virtus was ahead of Team Tecnu… And I have photos to prove it:
CASEY: So the eventual winner of the race (Team Tecnu) had to pass everybody in the race from this point. They went from last to first. I’d love to know when they regained the lead.
Luke: Great, Casey. Now you ruined it, and everyone knows we didn’t win the race. Nice going.
As we watched Team Tecnu fly down the trail ahead of us, we noticed that Casey was starting to fall behind. I asked him how he was feeling. “Not good.” I asked if it was his legs cramping up. “Yup.” It was literally 7 minutes into a 28-hour race.
Casey has had some issues with this in the past. In fact, the cramps flared up on him about 6 weeks before the race. It was bad enough to make Casey consider pulling out of this race since he was worried that he might not be able to finish it. He just didn’t want to be the reason for a DNF. He worked on his nutrition, though, and he took some time off from training. The cramps seemed to disappear, so we thought we were good to go for LBL. However, we knew there was a possibility that the cramping might rear its ugly head at some point during this race, but we never imagined it would happen so soon.
At the High Profile Adventure Camp last year, we learned from Robyn Benincasa that a true team works together and does whatever is necessary to keep moving forward no matter what. So, rather than poke fun at Casey and tease him like we used to do, we all gladly took turns carrying Casey’s pack for awhile, and we slowed our pace substantially. So there we were, just 7 minutes into the race, in dead last, moving really slowly… even by our standards. But we kept moving, and that’s the important part.
Casey seemed really pissed, but there was nothing more he could have done to prevent this. Bob, Kage, and I were fine with the pace, though. We just wanted to take it easy to see if things got better for him, but he was really beating himself up. Sensing that Casey was dwelling on something that was out of his control, Kage stepped in and worked her magic. You see, when Kage isn’t being a bad-ass on the trails, she is a special education teacher. She used her mad teaching skillz to talk Casey out of his funk. The diversionary tactics seemed to work, and Casey’s spirits brightened significantly.
Kage: To give credit where it’s due, Casey’s a much better conversationalist than my first graders. And it gave me a chance to ask him what I always wonder when I watch a fight: why would you want to do that? Honestly, I still don’t get it, but now I have his perspective.
Luke: We really could have used you at The Thunder Rolls two years ago when I morphed into Betty White.
During this slow trek (and throughout the whole race for that matter), Bob gave us quite an education. You see, he’s been watching a ton of Man Woman Wild, Survivorman, and Bear Grylls-type shows lately. He has a wealth of knowledge (or “knowledge”). Anytime there was a lull in the conversation, Bob would say, “In a survival situation…” And then he would drop a knowledge bomb on us. Here’s one of my favorites: “In a survival situation, you can dry out your own turd in the sun and then use it as a fire starter.” Here’s one more little gem: “In a survival situation, you can rip off the nail of your big toe to use as a makeshift knife.” It was edutainment at its finest.
Bob: One of these days when we’re lost in the Alaskan tundra and the only thing keeping us warm is dried, smoldering animal poo….you’ll thank me.
We reached Checkpoint (CP) 1 when we noticed two people running back toward us. We were shocked that there was anyone still this far back. It was half of Team Punisher. I’m not sure what happened, but they must have missed the CP, so they had to come back to get it. On our way to CP2, the same thing happened. Two of their team were running back towards us, but this time the other two showed up a few minutes later. We discussed where we thought we were on the map, but we soon took different routes as Team Punisher ran off into the woods and we maintained our slow and steady pace along the trail, hoping Casey’s cramps would vanish.
Team Punisher looked like they were serious runners and in top shape. Not to mention being the best dressed team. I’m still a little bummed we never found out what (if) he was wearing under that kilt. I figured they would beat us to CP2, but as we headed off-trail toward the CP, Team Punisher came over the ridge behind us. We arrived at the CP just ahead of them. Team Punisher then decided to take a direct bearing to CP3 while we opted for the trail and found CP3 fairly quickly. We never saw Team Punisher again, and we later learned that they had to drop out because of bike issues.
The only issue we had with the first 3 CP’s was judging our distance. We had been moving so slowly that we were always second-guessing whether or not we had gone too far or not far enough. Fortunately, Casey’s legs were feeling much better, and he was able to take his pack back. We were still moving more slowly than usual just to be safe, but we were at least moving a bit faster at this point.
CASEY: I was feeling better but I wasn’t out of the woods yet (both literally and figuratively). My legs were really touch and go for quite some time and they could have gone either way. If they seized up, our race was over. We kept moving and hoped the AR Gods would smile upon us.
On the way to CP4 and the first Transition Area (TA), we somehow completely missed where the trail turns. Actually, that’s not true. Kage actually pointed out the trail we should have taken, and for whatever reason, I thought it was the wrong one. So, this was my mistake completely.
Kage: Yeah, but I for one spent way too much time coasting and waiting for you to tell me where to go rather than taking responsibility for paying attention to what was supposed to be coming up next. I think your job would have been a lot easier if the rest of us had stepped up a little.
Luke: I blame Adam.
Fortunately, we saw another team hiking back towards us which made me double-check the map. Rather than back-tracking on the trail, we decided to bushwhack through the woods…
…and then we trekked along the beach and up to the TA and CP4.
We made it to the TA about the same time as the other team we saw that had taken the same wrong turn that we did. They rolled out before we did, and there was only one other set of bikes left at the TA – Team Punisher’s. Well, even with the cramps and a wrong turn, at least we weren’t in last place, right? We transitioned to the bikes fairly quickly, although we still have a looong way to go before I’d consider us a good transitioning team.
Bob: We suck at transitioning. We really need to work on that.
Bike Leg #1 – 10:19 AM Saturday Morning – 2 hours 49 minutes racing
We said good-bye to the wonderful volunteers, and we hopped on our bikes for some sweet single track. We were having a lot of fun… Maybe too much fun since we blew by the first biking CP. Casey and Bob had pulled off the trail to get some shots of Kage and I crossing a creek.
Kage:Luke’s too nice to say it (though not too nice to christen me MawMaw during the race), but he rode across the creek and I walked across the creek.
CP5 was located at a trail/creek junction, the very junction at which we stopped to take photos, and unfortunately, we never saw the CP. Four people, eight eyes, and we still didn’t see the CP even though we were literally standing two yards away from it. Doh!
CASEY: I actually noticed something on the tree as I rode by, but I kept going. I never for a second thought it was a CP. I didn’t know we were coming up to one so soon. I guess I should have known to keep an eye out for one. I need to do a better job sneaking peaks at the map and asking Luke what we are looking for.
Now in our defense, when a CP is placed along a trail or road, there is no orange and white flag. There is only a cable with a passport puncher hanging from a tree, a post, or a road sign. Still, we should have never missed this CP. Fortunately, we didn’t go very far before we caught our mistake. As we stood there looking at the map, Bob somehow managed to fall into, onto, and over Casey’s bike, cutting his leg in the process. Of course, I used my ninja skills to snap a few shots before he managed to get back to his feet. It was pretty damn hilarious.
Of course, nobody laughed at all, and Casey even helped Bob up. Once we made sure he was okay, we hopped back on the bikes and easily found the CP that never should have been missed.
Bob: As much as it hurt, I came away with a really cool scar…six separate chainring scratches that look just like a Steak ‘n’ Shake logo. Totally worth it.
CASEY: Not only did he cut his leg, he left skin and blood on my gear teeth…Gross! I later found out that in a “survival situation” you can actually use your own blood (or a teammate’s’) to lubricate your chain. I guess Bob was just looking out for me.
The rest of the CP’s in the first bike section were easily found, but that doesn’t mean getting to them was uneventful. Kage’s bike was jumping gears like crazy. If you’ve never ridden when your bike does this, trust me. It sucks. We tried to adjust it for her, and then Bob decided to hop on the bike to see what he could figure out. After adjusting the height of the saddle on Bob’s bike, Kage hopped on it for a bit while Bob rode her bike. After a while, Bob managed to dial in Kage’s bike a little bit (although it wasn’t perfect), so they switched bikes back once again.
Kage: Now I want a 29er.
However, when Bob went to raise the saddle back up on his bike, the seat clamp wouldn’t completely tighten. Eventually, Bob just tightened it down as much as he could and had to leave the clamp open. So Bob was riding on a saddle that was too low, and every time he pedaled, his thigh would hit the open clamp. His seat also would shift side to side with each pedal. I imagine this created extra friction in the taint region. Way to suck it up Bob. It couldn’t have been fun or comfortable, but Bob’s a trooper. I never heard him complain, but watching him ride that bike from behind did NOT look like fun.
Kage: I felt like crap the rest of the day thinking about that bike seat…no good deed goes unpunished, Bob.
Luke: Again, I blame Adam.
Bob: My taint will never be the same.
The single track was a blast, and so far the storms were still holding off. During this bike leg, Casey crashed once (but somehow we never got a shot of it), and Kage crashed twice. Neither of them was hurt, and it provided some comic relief.
CASEY: I landed with much less grace than Kage did. It looked almost as if she was just sitting down for a rest. I, on the other hand, landed on the top of my helmet and did a complete somersault. Maybe as I age I’ll learn how to fall more gracefully (I guess you learn how to fall to prevent breaking a hip).
Casey’s cramps seemed to be gone. (They were gone only because I stopped talking about them. They weren’t too painful any more but felt like they might totally seize up at any minute.) We just hoped that they wouldn’t come back to haunt us later in the race. We got CP7 under a bridge, and then we hopped onto some old forest roads and then some paved roads as we made our way to CP8 to transition to the first paddling leg.
We made it to the TA at CP8 a little after 1:00 PM on Saturday, and there were several other teams getting ready to start their paddle. All but two (I think) were 12-hour teams, though, and it was here where we learned that Team Punisher had to pull out of the race. So, we were guaranteed to not finish last…
That is if we finished at all, and that was definitely not guaranteed. In fact, just making it to the TA at CP8 was a miracle with all of the problems we had already faced:
Cramps just seven minutes into the race…
Kage’s bike issues…
Bob’s saddle issues…
My sucking at orienteering issues…
All of this, and Casey hadn’t even quit the team yet.
To Be Continued…
**NOTE** This race report was written by Casey and is presented in black text. Luke added some comments are presented to you in Blue. And Casey added a few additional comments in green. This is part 2 of an epic tale of an epic team of epic brothers at an epic race of epicnicity. Be sure to read Part 1 right here.
PLOTTING and PACKING – Last Minute Race Prep
At the pre-race meeting, Jason mentioned how a lot of people have given him a hard time about using “reentrant” (think drainage or small valley) as a clue for a lot of his Checkpoints (CP’s) at previous races. So he decided to place all fourteen CP’s of the first orienteering section in a reentrant.
Luke: For those of you that have never raced in MO before, please let me enlighten you. Reentrants are EVERYWHERE. No matter where you look, you will see what could be considered a reentrant. Needless to say, this was going to be a tough O-section. Thank you, Jason. Thank you so much.
This was the first time that Luke and I actively plotted more than a couple of points together. Usually BLD or Drew calls the points out and Luke plots them. It took us a few CP’s until we fell into a cadence that made the plotting more efficient. As we plotted the points I would call out the clue to make sure that the clue and the point corresponded.
Luke felt the need to ask what the clue was for every single CP for this section. He’d say, “What’s the clue?”
And I’d respond with, “Reentrant.”
Then Luke would say, “You know that I already know the clue because they are all reentrants, right?”
To which I would answer every single time, “Yeah, that’s what makes it so funny.”
We did this for all 14 points of that section. This never grew old and brought a smile to each of our faces every single time. Travis and BLD were watching us plot our points, and even they were slightly amused by our repetitive, nonsensical comments.
Luke: I’m not sure they were amused. I think we thought it was funnier than they did.
By the end of plotting our points, we put together what passed as a rough game plan. Then we made our final pack adjustments, decided how much food to bring, filled our bladders and water bottles, and made last minute pit stops. BLD and Travis lubed our bike chains, checked the air in our bike tires, and adjusted my Corona bike light as we finished getting ready for the race. As I was taking care of some last minute business in the latrine (for the 43rd time) Luke looked over the maps, strategized a bit more, and came up with a more concrete game plan.
Luke: I’ve never known someone that poops more than this guy. I feared it was going to be a long race.
Casey: You go before the race so you don’t have to go during the race. Plus I am all about going light – I had to lighten the load, literally.
I returned to TV Camp and made our final preparations. With only 5 minutes left before the race started, we were rushing around making sure that we didn’t forget something. BLD and Travis were helping in any way possible, trying to make sure that we toed the line in time to start with the group.
I was standing by the passenger door of the TV van, and I was putting my wedding ring in a safe spot when Luke handed me his glasses and said, “Here are my glasses and wedding ring.” I looked down and said that I only had his glasses. Luke didn’t believe me at first, and then, once he realized that I was serious, he was visibly upset and said that he wasn’t leaving until we found it.
Luke: In my defense, my wedding ring means a lot to me. I know I could get a replacement, but this is the ring that I actually got married in. So a replacement just wouldn’t be the same. If that costs me man-points, than so be it.
Casey: No man points lost. I’d have done the same thing.
We now had about 4 minutes to the start of the race. I think this is when I heard the Star Spangled Banner playing (at least in my head). We were on our hands and knees looking for a little gold ring (actually, it’s platinum) in the grass around the car. Fortunately, Luke found it and handed it to me to put safely in the car. We ran to the starting line with a minute to spare. We sat on our bikes as everybody bunched around, ready for the starting gun.
And then my headlamp came unstrapped. I fumbled around with it for a few seconds to no avail. I then asked Luke to take a quick look at it. As he monkeyed around with it, the race started and we stood there as everybody began to ride away. Bob said, “So much for getting the hole shot.” Luke quickly had my headlamp fixed, I threw it on, we clipped in and then joined the peloton towards the rear. The race just started and already we were near last place. At least we didn’t have to worry about getting passed by too many teams.
Luke: I love starting a race off on the right foot. What a great start.
BIKE LEG #1 – Night Riding to Start the Race
We started the race with a huge uphill climb. We may have been a little cool at the start of the race but we were were sweating and had steam rolling off of us in no time. CP 1 was on the Ozark Trail just off of the gravel road. There were a lot of teams all around us when we found CP1 no problem.
We struggled a bit with CP2, and it took us longer to find it than it should have. Instead of taking an old jeep road down to the Berryman Trail where the CP was, we decided to take a gravel road down to the Harmon Springs campsite and then the Berryman Trail into the woods to the CP. We were afraid that the old jeep road wouldn’t be there or would not lead to the CP. With maps that haven’t been updated in decades, the jeep roads and trails are not always accurate. In hindsight, this was a mistake.
We cruised along the trail at a good pace and suddenly came up to at least 5 or 6 teams all looking around for CP2. After some quick conversation and a map check we decided the epicenter for the mass search for CP2 was incorrect, we could not have gone far enough to be at the CP yet. We decided to race our own race and continued along the trail, leaving a headlight-lit clearing behind us.
Luke: The #1 Rule in Adventure Racing is to NEVER FOLLOW ANOTHER TEAM! So we trusted our map and instincts.
After a couple of minutes we ran into another team headed back towards the group, and they informed us that we had missed CP2 and they had already gone far enough to be sure that it wasn’t up ahead. Well, we wanted to see for ourselves and continued down the trail.
Luke: See Rule #1 above.
Sometime during the search for CP2 the 30% chance of rain became 100% chance, and it rained on and off for the next 3 to 4 hours. Usually it was just a light mist but hard enough to soak us and everything in the woods, and at times, the sky opened up and really let loose for brief periods. Less than an hour into the race and we were soaked to the bone and our feet, as well as our shoes, where water logged.
After another 15 or 20 minutes, we were becoming more convinced that this wasn’t the right trail and we must have somehow missed the CP. We hated to turn around for fear that the CP might be just a little further down the trail. Should we continue the search where we were or retrace our steps and try again? Another couple of minutes and the trail began to play itself out and took a turn in an obviously wrong direction. We were now convinced that we were not near CP2 and had no choice but to retrace our steps.
Luke: Rule #1 is stupid.
We made it back to the previously-congested clearing and found nobody still searching for the CP. They all had either found it or had given up their search and headed to CP3. We looked around a little more, still with no luck. We continued to retrace our steps all the way back to the gravel road. We were sure that we knew where we were on the map, but we were unsure of how to find the correct trail to CP2. It should have been back where we just were. We were beginning to wonder if we had made a plotting error. But with so many other teams there, was it possible that we all made the same mistake? We thought about checking the point really quickly, when we realized that we left the clue sheet back at the TA. We no longer had the option of checking our points. We could only hope that we had plotted everything correctly.
Luke: Man, I felt like an idiot for leaving the clue sheet back at the van. I’m an idiot.
Casey: We left the clue sheet. I felt like an idiot too. It was the least I could have done.
We discussed our options…should we:
- Take the gravel road back to the main road, head down the road a bit further, hope we could find the jeep trail that appeared to lead almost right to the CP, and ride it into the area for a different approach? Or…
- Head back down the trail and find the trail and/or the CP2, we knew it had to be right there?
Well, we didn’t want to climb back up the gravel road, so we decided to head back into the woods on the trail for one more try. If that failed, then we’d back track to the main road and search for the jeep road. We took our time and rode slowly. Then as we neared the clearing, Luke spotted a trail marker for the BM a ways off the trail to the right (I imagine it’s more visible in the day light). We took the trail and within a several minutes we found the CP.
Luke: I felt pretty stupid for having missed the trail the first time. Fortunately, we caught my mistake relatively early and “only” wasted 20 to 30 minutes.
From there we headed towards CP3. As we neared CP3 we ran into a team back tracking looking for CP2. They had gone ahead, found CP3 and then backtracked hoping to find CP2. I guess we weren’t the only team that struggled with this CP.
We made good time to CP3 and CP4. We were a little annoyed that we lost some time searching for CP2 and we tried to push the pace a bit, hoping to make up some of the lost time. We hit CP4 and looked at the map really quick. If we rode down the trail a bit, we’d hit a jeep road that would kick us out onto the main road that would lead us in a roundabout way to CP5. However, it looked closer than staying on the trails the whole way. I asked Luke if the trails led all the way to CP 5. He answered that they did but it was quite a bit further and it was trail as opposed to gravel roads. He asked if I’d rather stay on the trails or take the shorter road option to CP5. I told him I was enjoying the single track but since it was a race, we should take the jeep road to the gravel road over to CP5.
So that was what we did. We hit the jeep road, cruised up to the gravel roads, and then rode hard to CP5/TA1. We felt that we might have made up a little of our lost time. We hit CP5 for the first rogaine section of the race. Our spirits were up and we found out that we were ahead of more teams than we thought. We changed into our trail shoes, ate a quick snack, checked the map, and then headed over to sign into the O-section (we had 8 hours to complete it or get as many points as you could find and for every five minutes past the 8-hour-cuttoff, you lost a CP).
We signed in and were about to head into the woods, when we ran into Jason, the race director. He said we were doing well and we told him about the difficulties we had at CP 2. He asked why we didn’t just take the jeep road. We told him we were afraid that it wouldn’t be there since the maps weren’t exactly new. He thought that the jeep road was the obvious route and that everybody would have taken it. We told him about the large number of teams (and there were some really good teams there) looking for the CP with us. He wished us luck and we checked the map again. Just as we turned to leave we heard Jason calling to us. (Uh-Oh) We turned around to talk with him.
He asked if we came in on the road to which we answered, “Yep.” We told him we had kicked out on a jeep road and rode down that way instead of taking the trail all the way around. We pulled the map out and showed him our route. Then he said that we were supposed to stay on the trail from CP4 all the way to CP5, it was on the clue sheet AND he mentioned it at the pre-race meeting. (Shit!) It hit me, I had read it briefly while plotting the points and I vaguely remember hearing it during the pre-race meeting (maybe we should not have been talking so much).
Luke: Now I felt like a complete idiot. I remembered reading it and hearing it too, after Jason reminded us of it. I can’t believe neither of us remembered it even after we debated about staying on the trail or taking the road. Would we have caught our mistake if we had a clue sheet? I have no idea, and I guess we’ll never know.
He said that he had extra clue sheets with him if we needed another. We walked to his truck and got another clue sheet (which we ended up never needed again). On the way to his truck we asked him what our options were.
He answered that we could continue with the race and finish “unofficially”.
To this Luke said, “No way. I’m through with that ‘UNOFFICIAL SHIT!’ We’ll go all the way back.” This reaction was based on the total BS that happened to Team Virtus at the Lionheart AR back in July (Luke is writing the report still). I have to admit I felt the same way but I just wasn’t able to verbalize my feelings as well as Luke did.
Luke: I’d like to apologize to Jason. I hope he didn’t take offense to my reaction. It was our mistake, not his. He had the rules in writing and discussed them at the pre-race meeting like a good race director should (unlike what happened at the Lionheart Adventure Race). There was just no way in hell I was going to be an “unofficial finisher” again, and I was just upset with our stupidity.
I then asked Jason if we could go back to where we cut out onto the gravel road and ride the trails all the way back to where we were and still be official finishers. He answered yes; we’d be official if we did this, but we had to go all the way back to CP 4, punch again on the “A” box, to prove that we had ridden the trail all the way from CP4 to CP5.
CP 4 was a several miles back up the trail from where we’d cut out on the jeep road. Our mistake was going to cost us several hours and many extra miles on our legs (and taints). We checked out of the O-section and explained what happened and that we’d be back in a while. We were pissed at ourselves. How could we make such a detrimental mistake so early in the race?
Luke and I were in a pretty bad place mentally and spiritually at that point. We had such a shitty race in Pennsylvania and were so looking forward to a good race at the Berryman. Now, due to a stupid mistake, that great race we had been looking forward to for weeks was in jeopardy. Luke checked the map and reminded me about the long down hills that got us to this TA and how crappy and slow it would be to get back to CP4. He guessed a good 2 hours of hard riding back to CP 4 (it only took an hour of riding to get to CP5) and then at least 2 hours to ride the trails from CP4 to CP5.
Luke: I can’t even tell you how low I felt at this moment. It felt like our race was ruined, and I felt like it was all my fault. It was probably the lowest I’ve ever felt at a race, because, unlike the Lionheart AR where the bullshit that happened was out of our control, this bullshit was self-inflicted. Did I want to quit? Absolutely. But then I remembered what Bob has said in the past: “Imagine how cool this story would NOT be if it ended with… ‘and then it got really hard so we quit.’” I didn’t want to have to write that on our blog, so we mustered all of the Strength and Honor we could and moved on the best we could.
Casey: It wasn’t all your fault. I could have taken over the navigation anytime I thought I could do better. We lost an hour or two with you navigating. It could have been 3 or 4 if somebody else (like me) was doing it. I am glad that we continued with the race.
As we got our biking shoes and helmets back on and prepared to head back out on our bikes, more teams trickled in from the road side. Apparently, there were several teams that took the road just like we did. We were clipping into our bikes when we heard Jason calling out and asking if Team Virtus was still here. We answered, “Over here!” and he came over to us. He said that they talked it over and due to the circumstances we could choose to ride back like we were planning on doing or continue with the race with a 2 hour time penalty assessed to our finishing time and still be official finishers.
Luke: I’ve never wanted to kiss a man so badly in my life. Thank you, Jason!
We agreed to this option and thanked him. This is what a good race director does. He makes adjustments on the fly. He could have made us all unofficial finishers (I think 6 or 7 teams, or about 25% of the 36 hour racers made the same mistake we made), he could have made us all ride back to CP 4, or he could assess a fair penalty and allow us all to keep racing.
I am pretty sure that nobody would have chosen to ride out on the jeep road and take a two hour penalty to avoid riding the trails to CP5. It just wouldn’t be time effective. We figured that we saved an hour by riding the road instead of the trail, but ended up losing roughly 2 and a half hours from the time penalty and changing back and forth from biking gear to trail gear and back twice. So we probably lost an hour and a half total. We quickly changed back into our trekking gear and headed over to the TA area to check back into the O-section.
THE FIRST O-SECTION – Rogaine Style: Team Virtus Does A 180 – the Trials and Tribulations of Night Navigation
We had 8 hours to do the first O-section. With 14 CP’s plus the final CP back at the Transition Area (TA) where we had checked in, we had about 32 minutes to make it to each CP’s if we wanted to clear the course. We had to be point on and needed to make up some ground. If we could clear this section we’d be right back in the race. We headed into the course planning on a clockwise rotation through the CP’s.
We quickly passed a team checking their maps, it was Team Kuat. We have raced against them in the past and know they are a competitive team. We didn’t have a definitive attack point for CP6 and hoped that Kuat did. We were trying to make up time and made a mistake that we have made over repeatedly, we followed another team. But this was Kuat, they knew what they were doing, so we thought it would be okay just this once. Maybe our decision not to follow the group back at CP2 somehow subconsciously effected our decision to follow another team and not race our own race.
Luke: Yeah, after NOT following other teams at CP2 led to us losing some time, we thought we could make up time by following a good team here. And I will now repeat Adventure Racing Rule #1: NEVER FOLLOW ANOTHER TEAM! EVER! Why do we have to learn this lesson over and over and over and over again?
Well, we followed Kuat into the woods for a while (kind of nonchalantly and hoped they wouldn’t notice), and we thought we’d see the CP in a few minutes. We followed Kuat for a while, but they eventually outpaced us. We knew we couldn’t keep pace with them for long, but we thought we could follow them for long enough to jump start our o-section and quickly find CP6.
Unfortunately, we hadn’t found CP6 before they dropped us. Now we were alone in the woods and had lost contact with the map.We knew we were in a specific general region but had no defining features that we could see in the dark to pinpoint our location.
Luke: This was really stupid of me. Stupid, stupid, stupid! And by the way, how can you be in a “specific general region?” It’s either specific or it’s general. It can’t be both, can it?
Casey: A specific general region is possible. We all can agree that there are many “general regions” on any given map. Out of all the “general regions” on the map we knew which “specific general region” we were in. We didn’t know exactly where in that” general region” we were in but we did know that we were in that specific region.
We continued down a ravine in what we thought was the correct direction. We eventually hit a significant trail and found a trail marker. We now knew that we were somewhere on a trail. Somehow, when searching for CP6 we had trailed off to the northwest and hit the Berryman Trail. We took the trail back towards CP6 and thought that we could go up the reentrant and find the CP pretty easily. We wandered around for another 30 minutes and still no CP.
So much for 32 minutes per CP. We had already wasted an hour and had yet to find a single CP in this rogaine section. Our attitudes were rapidly heading south, this sucked. Luke seemed more affected by our abysmal start than I was. I am guessing the reason for this was because he has raced Bonk Hard before and knows how good their races are, especially the Berryman. This coupled, with the lousy experience at the Lionheart and Luke’s spirit was close to breaking. I was down and pissed off but still thoroughly enjoying the time in the woods with my brother, whom I don’t get to see enough.
Luke: I really was close to breaking. The mistake at CP2, the two-hour time penalty, and now we were effing lost?!?!? I felt like all of the mistakes were my fault since I was navigating. I felt like I was ruining not only my race, but Casey’s race as well. And he had spent a lot of money and time to fly out to MO to do this race with me. I felt like a failure. Plain and simple.
We backtracked all the way back to where we left the trail and found a trail/creek intersection so we could locate our exact location on the map. Contact with the map again, we should find the CP shortly…Right? From here Luke shot a direct bearing and we decided to bushwhack directly to the CP.
We leapfrogged each other when the woods became too dense to follow the bearing by itself. I’d walk ahead of Luke and he’d line me up on his bearing. Then he’d catch up to me, and I’d head off ahead and make adjustments based on Luke’s verbal directions. A team headed past us back towards the trail. They asked us if we had found CP6 yet, and we said not yet and asked if we were close. They said that they didn’t know, that they were giving up on CP6 and heading on to their next checkpoint. We told them we had a direct bearing and were going to find it.
I wish I could tell you that it worked out and that we found CP6, had a big celebratory hug, and our raced improved from there. But alas… We were unable to find CP6. After a few minutes of discussion, we decided to throw in the towel on CP6 and head for CP8 (remember, this was a rogaine section, so we could get the CP’s in any order). In hind sight, we should have done this at least an hour earlier. Well, if we are looking with hind sight, I guess we never should have followed Team Kuat because we later found out that they never found CP6 after looking for about 2 hours.
At sometime around this point in the race Luke had a Viktor Frankl moment and made a conscious decision to turn his attitude around, which, in turn, turned our race around. For those that don’t know,Viktor was an Austrian psychiatrist that was imprisoned in Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp during WWII. His philosophy (you can read all about it in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning) basically stated that you can’t always control the circumstances you face or what happens to you, but you can always choose and control how you react to them. This led to his survival through some tortuous experiences. I am not for a second comparing this race or anything in my life to what Viktor went through, but I believe that his philosophy can be employed in my life, especially adventure racing where so many things are out of your control. I immediately noticed Luke’s improved attitude which in turn picked me up and we started having fun again. This was what it was all about. The race was on and Team Virtus was moving to the outside.
Luke: It’s funny you should mention this. While Viktor Frankl never crossed my mind, I did make a conscious decision to turn my attitude and my race around. I had hit rock-bottom as far as how low I felt. I knew that I couldn’t let this race crumble into further disaster. When we decided to give up on CP6, I made up my mind that I was NOT going to let what happened thus far ruin our race. I made the decision to not let any future mistakes ruin our race. I made the decision to stop beating myself up for making so many mistakes. And I made the decision to kick some orienteering ass to the best of my ability no matter what happened.
Casey: Luke did an amazing 180 and never looked back. He was a new man once we abandoned the search for CP6 (I know we had to be close to finding it). His change in attitude lifted my spirits and attitude as well. I knew from then on that we would have a great experience together regardless of what happened in the race. First and foremost, I wanted to have a great experience with Luke and be able to look back on this one day many years from now and smile.
Not only did Luke’s attitude improve but so did his navigation. We rallied off 8 CP’s in a row with the time we had left. He was on point. We never wasted more than 5 or 10 minutes looking for a CP not only for this o-section but for the rest of the race. He was like a homing pigeon, it was like he turned on a sixth sense and just knew exactly where to lead us. I started calling him “Homer” (short for homing pigeon) which took him several CP’s to figure out.
Luke: At first I thought you meant Homer Simpson since I had made so many mistakes.
The rest of the o-section went smoothly and was pretty uneventful. At some point during this section my headlamp broke, the hinge of my Apex snapped and my headlamp now pointed straight down. I’ll not bore you with a CP-by-CP account of the whole section. Somewhere in the wee hours of the morning, the rain stopped for good, but our feet and clothes were soaked through. Everything in the forest was still soaked and dripping wet as well, so it still felt like it was sprinkling on us. We made our way through the darkness, finding the CP’s with no problems. With each CP, our spirits brightened. And then the sun shone through the trees, perking us up evene more.
In hind sight, I think you’d have had to run some in order to clear the o-section. It was just too much ground to cover with a fast walking pace.
Luke: We got 8 CP’s plus the final CP at the TA where we checked back in. We had 15 minutes left of our 8-hour time allotment. If we spent an hour and a half looking for CP6 (and maybe it was longer than that), then we averaged a little under 42 minutes per CP. We weren’t too far off, but yes. We would have needed to run to get all of them I think.
However there is one more point worth mentioning. Towards the end of the 8 hour o-section we started seeing 12-hour racers biking on a trail that we were trekking on. We kept an eye out for any teammates or friends that we knew were doing the 12 hour, hoping that we’d see a familiar face. We never saw Bob or Travis (whose race report is in the works), but we did run into Kage and Jim (Their race report can be found here). They were in good spirits and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying their first adventure race. They asked if we were still in our 8-hour rogaine section and wished us luck when we answered affirmatively.
Luke: Actually, I believe Kate said something like, “Please tell me you’re not still on the orienteering section!”
After a few quick, encouraging words we parted ways, and they rode off down the trail as we hiked up the trail. We made it back to the TA with 15-20 minutes to spare. We noticed that we were almost out of water and were hoping to find a good source to refill our supply. We quickly transitioned, checked the maps, and took off on our bikes.
BIKE LEG #2 – Fast, Flowy Single Track and the Mystery Event
The bike section was fun and fairly easy to navigate. Shortly after leaving the O-section, we had to cross a beautiful little creek. Since we decided against changing into dry socks at the last TA we just waded across the creek in our already wet socks and shoes. However, there was another, drier option. There was a log across the majority of the river and you could cross on the log to dry land if you had good balance and the desire to do so. Since we were almost out of water we took this opportunity to fill all of our water bottles. I waded into the fast moving water and filled our bottles for us as Luke dug into his pack to retrieve the iodine so that we could properly treat the water. We popped an iodine table into each bottle, shook them up and prepared to leave the TA.
As we were packing up, we had an opportunity to see another team attempt the alternate option of crossing the creek by trying to tight rope the log. It turned out to be about as easy as it looked, and out of the four feet crossing on the log, three of them got wet.
We packed up and headed away from the creek. As we left, we walked down the trail a bit through several inches of sand. Once we cleared the sand we hopped back onto our bikes and took off. We pedaled at a good pace and enjoyed some fun, fast and flowy single track.
We hit on CP21 and ran into team Off Road Addiction as they were heading back down the trail to the CP. They had somehow overshot it and were headed back to collect it. It turns out that the Golden Girls were to us at the Truman Lake, as we were to Team Off Road Addiction at the Berryman (SAT flashback, sorry).
Luke: Dude, no one in the Midwest takes the SAT. Everyone out here takes the ACT.
Casey: Does the SAT reference still work with the ACT’s? I assume the tests are similar.
Off Road Addiction would fly by us at high speed on the bike or on foot and later when they stopped for a map check or a snack, we’d catch up, say hello, and pass them. Each time, within minutes of passing them, they’d fly by us and retake the lead. This went on for much of the race, we’d leap frog each other until the final bike leg and then we didn’t see them until the award presentation. After finding CP22, they passed us, and Luke and I sat down and took a good 10 minute break to eat, drink, and study the map.
Luke: Actually, they had the lead the whole time since they got 13 of the 14 CP’s on the O-course, only missing one, and we missed 5 CP’s.
After the break, we felt much better and we decided not to follow Team Off Road Addiction’s chosen route. Instead, we chose to bike-whack through the woods for a stretch and come out on a gravel road. During this bike-whacking expedition I commented on how much Bob would love this. I found myself doing this many times throughout the race. Bob would have loved the hard rain, he would loved that stretch of single track, and he would have loved the bike-whacking. I found myself wishing Bob was here to experience this and be a part of it with us. Maybe next year he’ll be there with us. We hopped on the road just like we had planned and quickly passed a couple of teams. We cruised down a HUGE downhill that dead-ended at a small beautiful lake.
This CP was manned by our friend Dan Dugan, from OZ Cycles (who rented, delivered, and picked up the kayaks for our first non-race), and it was also a mystery event. One member of the team had to pick an inflatable raft and paddle across the lake to a CP and then back. (Thank God we didn’t have to build a noodle raft like we did last year) I was going to do the event, but I had to pee really badly. I said I’d be happy to paddle but had to pee first. The volunteers said it’s a quick event and Luke would be half done with it before I was done peeing. So as I peed, Luke picked a raft, hopped in, and quickly made his way across the lake and back in 5-10 minutes. He was awesome in the raft, by paddling on alternating sides he was able to keep the raft tracking in a straight line and made it look effortless.
As Luke was paddling, two teams showed up with only half of their team (2 out of 4). They were asked about their teammates and one team had a rear derailleur break, forcing one teammate’s bike into a single speed. He didn’t want to ride that far or climb that big of a hill on a single speed. The other team just had tired teammates that didn’t want to climb back up the large hill. They were instructed to get their teammates or they would be in violation of the close-vicinity-of-a teammate-rule. Both teams said that this wasn’t an option and that they would take whatever penalty they had coming.
They were doing the mystery event as Luke and I saddled up and climbed up the bitch of a hill. At the top of the hill, we saw two of the missing teammates waiting for their teammates to reunite with them, and several miles down the road we ran into the other two teammates waiting patiently along the side of the road. We noticed that one of their bikes indeed had no rear derailer. At least they were telling the truth (personally I was glad to see they did). We know how it feels to lose your rear derailer in a race. It really sucks. It happened to us at the Lionheart Adventure Race (Luke is still working on the race report). We left both teams behind us as we headed towards the next o-section of the race.
The rest of the bike section was hilly but fun and fast in stretches. We got the opportunity to ride a lot of single track during this race. It is by far the most single track in any of the adventure races that I have experienced thus far in my adventure racing career. We finished the bike leg and hit CP24/TA3 around 4:20 PM on Saturday.
THE 2nd O-SECTION – Rogaine Style: Homer is Smoking
We took another little break and ate some food as we studied the map and planned out our route for the next o-section. We took the time to pinpoint definitive attack points for each CP, hoping to avoid any mistakes. We refilled all our water bottles (Luke filled them this time and I was in charge of the iodine) before we checked into the o-section. We had 6 hours to find the next 6 CP’s.
We headed towards the first CP and suddenly came to a large creek that we had to cross. We looked upstream and downstream hoping to find a dry crossing or maybe a log across the creek like we encountered before? No luck. So we waded across the stream and thoroughly soaked our nice semi-dry socks.
Homer continued his hot streak, and we rolled through the first couple of CP’s with no problems. The CP’s were pretty far apart, and since we weren’t running this section or really any other… until the finish (Nice foreshadowing!) it seemed to take a long time to get to each CP. However, we knew that we were going correctly as we never lost contact with the map and Luke gave an ongoing commentary of the terrain up ahead and twists and turns in the trails. He was spot on for this whole section and we kept collecting CP’s.
We knocked off the first 3 CPs in broad daylight and collected the 4th just as it was starting to get dark. We still had 2 more CPs to get, so we dug out our headlights. We continued with our hot streak and hit the last two CP’s with little difficulty. The last CP was placed in a “valley “(according to the clue sheet). We climbed down the valley from above and decided to follow the middle of it down to the CP. We climbed and scrambled over a collection of boulders of all shapes and sizes. This slowed our progress and took its toll on us physically. We eventually came right up to the CP.
We punched our passport and took a quick look at the map. We could either ascend back up the rockslide we just scrambled down and take the jeep roads/trail back out, or we could continue down the valley, bushwhack through some pretty thick vegetation, cross some creeks, and hit another trail and take it out. We were getting a little short on time and discussed which way would not only take less of a physical toll on our bodies, but which would get us back to the TA the fastest.
Neither of us really was looking forward to mountain-goating our way back up the boulder field and since we weren’t planning on running when we hit the trail (unless we had to, to get back in time) it didn’t look worth the time and energy we would need to invest to re-ascend to the trail above us. We decided to bushwhack down the valley, across the flat (and densely vegetated) field, hit the lower trail and take it back to the TA.
We walked, we bushwhacked, we climbed through thorns and poison ivy, we laughed, we cussed, we might have cried a little, and we second-guessed our decision and hoped we’d get back in time. After much effort and what seemed like hours, we finally kicked out on the trail just like we planned. However, it took a little longer than we anticipated and we worried about cutting it too close. We doubled our pace and speed-walked the trail as it meandered along the base of a hill. We kept one eye on the clock and the other on the map. We eventually hit a power line and walked up it to a trail that would take us right back to the TA.
Luke: My feet were killing me, and that speed-walking BS didn’t help matters any. I was determined not to lose a precious CP that we worked so hard to get, though. I think next year we need uniforms like Hal from “Malcolm in the Middle”:
We now knew that we’d get back in time and even had some time to spare. We slowed back down to our race pace and strolled into the TA with about 16 minutes to spare.
We took time at this TA to air our feet out (Note to self: at the next race bring more than 1 extra pair of socks with you). Luke’s feet were super white and very wrinkled. They were becoming more sore, and we feared they were becoming macerated and tried to let them air out for as long as we could.
Luke: My feet were hurting so damn bad!
Luke also became very aware of his Monkey Butt. His ass and taint area were chapped and chafed. He was afraid it might actually be bleeding. As much as he wanted to get off his water sodden sore feet, he didn’t want to climb onto his bike seat and aggravate his Monkey Butt. He thought about pulling a BLD and airing everything out (it’ll be in the Lionheart report, Luke’s working on it – Okay, Okay!!! I’ll try to finish the report soon. Geesh!), but since the TA was manned, he was respectful and modest and kept his pants on.
We ate lots of food, re-hydrated, rested, dried out Luke’s feet (sort of), and studied the map. This was one of our longer breaks. We knew we had a long bike ride to the paddle and neither of us was very excited or anxious to get started on the long bike leg. We were now out of caffeine (Note to self: always throw in a couple extra packets of Foosh Mints – They’re very light and worth it if you need it) and beginning to feel like we could use a little pick me up. The food was helping some, but we were afraid it wouldn’t last. We also didn’t bring any extra batteries because we thought we’d be back to camp much sooner and 1 set of fresh batteries should have been enough (Note to self: always throw in an extra set of batteries, worth the weight). (We did have back up headlamps, but hey weren’t nearly as bright as our Apex headlamps)
We decided to cannibalize my Corona Bike light, and we now had 8 AA batteries plus the quickly dimming batteries in our headlamps to make it through 10-ish miles of biking and 6 – 7 miles of paddling (something I have done very little of in the dark). I also took a few minutes to jerry-rig my Apex so I could actually see the road as I biked. I wedged a couple of Honey Stinger Waffle wrappers behind the light and duct taped the light back onto the base. This gave me a fixed angle and would allow me to bike and paddle without my light pointing at the ground.
We eventually ran out of things to do, Luke’s feet were as good as they were going to get so we decided that we had best be on our way. We put on dry socks, even though our shoes were still wet, and we saddled up and took off on our long, arduous pedal to the paddle leg of the race.
BIKE LEG #3 – The Sleep Monster Pays Us His First Visit
Navigation was basic and minimal on this section. We had a long ride on mostly gravel roads. We rode everything, even the big uphill sections; this spared Luke’s aching feet. However, every bump would aggravate his monkey butt so he was pedaling standing up most of the time. It was a lose-lose situation for Luke, and we still had a lot of race left.
We weren’t setting any speed records and were becoming tired, and we longed for even a few minutes of sleep. We were biking along when I saw Luke shake his head back and forth. Had it been Bob, I might have thought it was a start of a seizure. Then he continued biking like nothing unusual had happened. Once again he had a mini “seizure.” This time I asked him if he was OK. He said he was getting very sleepy and having trouble staying awake. He was being visited by the much dreaded SLEEP MONSTER.
His head-shaking technique seemed to work for a while.
This was Luke’s pattern for a long stretch of this bike ride. Then, when we were cruising down a nice long downhill, I saw his longest shaking session yet. Then I heard him yelling something out really loudly and making what sounded like farm animal sounds. At the bottom of the hill I asked him if he was OK. He said that he had almost fallen asleep on the last downhill.
Luke: It scared the hell out of me. Have you ever dozed off while riding your bike down a hill at 30 mph? I suggest you don’t try it.
I asked about the sounds and he answered that he was playing a game with the SLEEP MONSTER. He’d call out something like…
“A pig goes…”
And then make a surprisingly realistic pig sound.
“A cow goes…”
And do a really good cow.
He cycled through many animals, and I was kept awake by watching his performance. He was very entertaining; I had a one-man show travelling with me.
We climbed up another large hill and knew we had the big downhill coming up. I kept near Luke on the downhill, and I would call out various animals. Luke would then respond with the proper animal sound between head shakes. I now know what sounds an aardvark, a hippo, an alligator, a zebra, a sloth, a chinchilla, and many other exotic animals make. It was a very educating bike ride for me. Apparently, Luke knows his animal sounds and is quite adept at reproducing their calls. Next time you see him I encourage you to challenge him with an exotic animal and let him reproduce the sounds they make, he knows them all.
Luke: I only vaguely recall this little animal sound game. I don’t think I could reproduce the sounds of some of those animals if you asked me to now.
Casey: My favorite one was the spitting cobra. You have to ask Luke to do that one for you…classic.
We continued to pedal, and Luke continued his cage fight with the SLEEP MONSTER. Head-shakes and animal sounds won us some battles but Luke was slowly losing the war. He just couldn’t understand or rationalize why he couldn’t stay awake. If almost dying by falling asleep on your bike going 30 mph down a hill doesn’t give you enough of an adrenaline rush to wake you up, head-shakes and animal sounds don’t have much of a chance as a long-term solution to keep you awake.
We needed some caffeine but had none. We crested another hill and we decided to get off and walk down. That’s right. For Luke’s safety, we had to walk down a bombing big downhill. We were able to ride up it, but the speeds we’d hit going down were too much of a risk if Luke actually fell asleep again. As we walked, we played the animal sound game some more and it quickly lost its ability to have any affect against the sleep monster.
Not only was Luke losing his battle with the sleep monster, he had suddenly come down with a bad case of the UMBLES…he was stumbling, mumbling, bumbling, and even grumbling a little. As we walked, Luke was taking little micro-naps. I would be talking to him and then he’d become silent, stop moving, and list to the side. He’d then startle himself awake and start moving again. At least several times he fell into me as we walked and I would put a hand on his shoulder and push him back upright, and he’d continue on.
This went on for quite a spell. We now were walking the flats and uphills as well. Luke checked the map and saw we were getting closer but we still had a ways to go. I asked him if he wanted to take a quick nap on the side of the road. He said no, he was afraid we’d wake up after the race was over. So, we kept moving.
Luke: In hindsight, we probably would have been much better-off if we would have slept a little bit. In my sleep-deprived pseudo-coma, though, I thought that if we could just make it to the canoe put-in, I’d wake up and everything would be okay.
Eventually Luke decided that he had to ride if we were ever going to get to the paddle. He needed to wake himself up somehow. He decided to call upon a trick we have used in the past on long road trips…PAIN. He slapped himself silly. After 3 or 4 hard, full hand-slaps to his own face, he was able to wake himself up enough to saddle up. We climbed the rest of the hill and we flew down the backside. Luke was shaking and squealing his way down the hill. He began to pull ahead of me and was drifting across the road. I wasn’t sure if he was asleep or not so I called out as loudly as I could…
“A PIG GOES!!!…?”
And Luke squealed, grunted, and oinked himself safely down the hill as he shook his head most of the way.
We had done it; we safely pedaled down the last significant hill in this leg of the race. Now we just had a stretch made up of a nice flat, rolling gravel road which would lead us to the start of the paddling leg of the race. We talked as the end of the bike leg drew near. We decided it was in our strategic favor to take a quick 20-30 minute nap before launching our canoes for the paddle.
We thought we’d feel better and knew we’d be safer on the river with the rest. We began to feel better and picked the pace up as we knew we would soon get to sleep, even if for only a few minutes. We pulled into CP33/TA5, checked in and received a big smile from the volunteer, Dave from Team Forum Dental, who gladly snapped a photo of us:
He then handed us a note. It was from Bobby-Let-Down. It had some encouraging words, a bribe of pork steaks on the grill when we were done, and a nice hand drawn picture of either an erect penis or a hand with the middle finger extended. Either way it brought a smile to our faces and made us laugh.
Luke: Getting this note was almost like getting a hug from my kids… almost. It helped me wake up and lifted my spirits more than you’ll ever know.
In preparation for our nap followed by the paddle, Luke and I stripped down and dressed into every piece of dry clothing that we had. As we stripped down, we impressed even ourselves with the odor emanating from our bodies and clothing. Good God we smelled! I felt bad for the volunteer across the parking lot. I am pretty sure that he could smell our home-brewed batch of smelly man-filth. I couldn’t tell if Luke or I smelled worse.
Luke: Seriously. I’ve never smelled such a vile odor coming from a person in my life. It seriously made me gag a few times.
For the last 5 to 6 hours I noticed a stench following us through the woods. Finally I realized that the rotting carcass smell was emanating from us. I attempted to determine who was smelliest but wavered back and forth as to who would hold the title. Every time I thought I had a winner the wind would change direction and then suddenly find a new horrific odor. Was it coming from me or my teammate? Unable to determine a winner I decided that together we were smellier than our parts and anointed us both the title of World’s Smelliest Adventure Racer. I know without a doubt that this was the smelliest I have ever been in my life. My new TV jersey as well as some really nice racing gear might be ruined for good. So let me know if you are in the market for a used TV Jersey, some base layers, or lightly used bike shorts with a nice chamois.
As we layered up and talked about the paddle and our nap, a funny thing had happened. Luke had woken up; he was wide awake and ready to go. He had done it; he had finally kicked the SLEEP MONSTER’s ass. Awesome. Luke said he wanted to skip the nap and hit the river right away. I agreed and was excited that we might actually make it to the finish line without a nap and before the cut-off.
We checked out with the volunteer, picked our canoe, and headed to the Huzzah Creek to start the 7-ish mile paddle back towards the starting area. Once we finished this paddle, we only had 2 “quick and easy” CP’s to nab, and then we’d be back at race headquarters, where we’d get our second set of maps and coordinates and then make a decision on what to do with the time we had left.