I’ve heard that racing with your spouse can ruin a marriage. I’ve heard horror stories of couples nearly killing each other out there. But I’ve never had doubts about my marriage, and the High Profile Adventure Camp only made me realize how fucking lucky I actually am to be married to Becca. The weekend in Mount Carroll, IL only confirmed that my wife is indeed my soul mate… even though she literally wished she was with another man at one point, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
The original plan for Team Virtus was to all go to camp together and bring our significant others. It was to be an epic battle (and party) with all of us there. Unfortunately, this thing we call life got in the way. Work, children’s sporting events, medical procedures, and perhaps a touch of Antisocial Behavior Disorder kept many Virtusans and their partners from attending camp. But nothing would stop Adam, Michelle, Becca, and I from going. (EDIT: There was one more Virtusan there. Kate, as she pointed out in the comments below, was also there. She volunteered, and she kicked ass as the camp’s social media guru and helped clear the orienteering course.)
We saw a lot of our AR friends as we made our way through the painless check- in at Camp Benson, and we got our fantastic swag bags (worth well over $100 at least). Then we hauled all our gear down to our
orgy love shack cabin before heading back up to the lodge for burgers followed by Gerry Voelliger’s opening talk on all things Adventure Racing.
After Gerry’s talk, I headed over for the advanced orienteering lecture (although I am anything but advanced). Adam stayed with Michelle and Becca for the beginner orienteering talk, and our friend and camp volunteer Dave Huntley promised he’d help out if Becca needed it. Big thanks to him.
It was great sitting next to our friend Scott Frederickson from Team Bushwhacker at the advanced orienteering lecture. He chimed in with some great pointers a few times, and anything I didn’t quite understand was easily explained by Scott.
After the lectures, we hiked back down to the cabin for some
group love shut-eye. The flatulence was somewhat disappointing without our friends from WTFAR there and no Bob Jenkins, but Michelle almost made up for their absence. She can really rip ’em!
The next morning we practiced our orienteering skills at Palisades State Park. Unfortunately, the Mississippi was partially frozen over, so there would be no paddling practice for us. That’s probably a good thing since Gerry still uses this damn photo of us from our first year at camp in his opening lecture. That also meant we had more time to practice our navigation and, later, fixed ropes.
We decided we’d stay in a group of four for the orienteering practice. We headed straight up – and I mean straight UP – to our first checkpoint. On the way, we had to stop off at one of our favorite views, a spot we’ve visited every time we’ve gone to camp.
We were mostly successful, although I led us astray on one point that other teams swore was not there. So of course Adam and I had to try and find it. That was stupid. We spoke with our friend and camp volunteer Kim Heintz later, and we figured out where we went wrong. Even though I’ve been doing this for over 10 years, I still have lots to learn and a ton of room for improvement.
Although we didn’t have a perfect run of CPs, I thought we were all having a blast. But then, as we were hiking, Becca turned to me and said:
“I wish Bob Jenkins was here. He’s way more entertaining.”
Ouch. That one hurt. I tried to hide the tears, but everyone knew I was crushed. She’d rather be with my BFF than her own husband? Damn! That just killed me.
Becca claims that she thought she was boring me and that I’d rather have Bob with me instead of her. Don’t get me wrong. Bob always makes everything fun, but there was no one else I’d rather have by my side than Becca. (Cue the sappy music all you want, but it’s true.)
Becca and Michelle are brand new to adventure racing and orienteering, so it was good practice for them as well. They even lead us to one of the CPs without any help. For real! Check it out:
Being new to adventure racing, Becca tried to avoid using the woods as a bathroom (maybe we should get her a Go Girl?). She tried to hold it, but eventually had to succumb to nature’s call. Adam was a gentleman and turned the other way as Becca went behind a tree to take care of business. About 30 yards down the trail – literally – we found an outhouse which Michelle gladly used.
After another CP or two, it was time to go back to the Virtus Van and head back to Camp Benson. We stopped at McDonald’s on the way back, because there was a line at Subway. Believe it or not, we were running behind – shocker, I know! – so we opted for the quicker and much greasier burgers and fries than to wait in line at Subway.
Back at camp, Gerry gave the Ropes Safety Talk which terrified me the first year we went to camp. Then the one and only Robyn Benincasa gave a brief talk about paddling followed by some great, quick-hitters on AR gear, strategy, navigation, nutrition, and more. It was a short but jam-packed session as the knowledge bombs kept raining down on us.
And then it was time for the fixed ropes practice: rappelling, zip lining, tryolean traversing, and ascending (we skipped the rock climbing to practice more of the skills we’d encounter at the race the next day).
The first time I ever rappelled was at High Profile Adventure Camp, and I was flat-out petrified. I was nauseated and sweating profusely. I wanted to chicken out badly, but I didn’t. Even today, I get a little nervous, so I was expecting Becca and Michelle to be quite scared. Well, they weren’t.
After watching my wife give birth to our four amazing kids and pass kidney stones as easily as Bob passes gas, I already know she is way tougher than I’ll ever be. Watching her crush all of the fixed ropes proves she’s braver than I’ll ever be as well.
Rather than bore you with words, I’ll just show you how much fun we had on the ropes.
Michelle opted to conserve her energy for the race in the morning, so she decided to skip the Tryolean Traverse. It’s not too bad for the first half since you’re going slightly “downhill.” But then you have to pull yourself the rest of the way, fighting gravity. It can be very tiring.
Later that evening, Robyn Benincasa gave her world-class talk on what makes winners win, what makes a good team, and what makes a good leader. This talk alone is worth the price of admission.
Then Gerry gave the pre-race briefing, and we got our maps. The Lightning Strikes report will come out soon – sometime within the next two years.
As you can probably tell, we had an amazingly good time the first day and a half. The High Profile Adventure Camp is hands down the best way for beginners to get started in adventure racing, and it’s also a great place where veterans of the sport can continue learning and expanding their skills.
For what you get – the top-notch instruction, the lodging, the awesome swag bag, some food, the super safe environment, the fun, the adventure, the laughs, and then a 4- or 8-hour adventure race – it is an absolute steal. You’re crazy if you don’t go at least once.
We’ll definitely be back (a fourth time for me), and hopefully we’ll have more Virtusans and spouses with us.
It would be impossible to top our experience at the 2010 Lightning Strikes Adventure Race, but that’s certainly no reason to skip it in 2011. Eager to once again explore the wonders of Camp Benson, Team Virtus decided to compete in this outdoor endeavour put on by Gerry Voelliger and our good friends at Team High Profile Adventure Racing. For those who don’t know, Gerry is a stone cold ladies man….
At registration, Gerry informed us that he’d made arrangements for us to stay in one of the larger, newer cabins. This was great since we had such a large group. This year’s roster included Casey, Austin, Mr. Steve Lamb, Luke, yours truly and Adam Laffoon.
Casey: If you look closely we all were rocking sweet facial hair of some kind. Even my son and my Dad decided to forgo the razor for several weeks leading up to the event. Austin looked like he had been drinking chocolate milk and my Dad looked a bit like a derelict. However, they became true members of TV for their wilingness to conform to the team dress code. Don’t miss Adams wicked Fu Manchu and Bob’s 70’s porno star stache.
After checking in and dropping off our gear, we headed into town for a Team Virtus time- honored tradition:
This was our second assault on the Kountry Kettle, and one that will not be soon forgotten. Despite our lack of elbow room at such a small table, this quickly became a 2-fronted assault. While the rest of us exploited the Kettle’s foolish decision to offer an all-you-can-eat menu of fried meat, Mr. lamb shocked the locals by being the first vegan to walk through their doors. When he asked if there was anything on the menu not fried, dipped in grease or containing meat…you would’ve thought he’d claimed allegiance to Al-Quada. The entire room literally stopped. Praise be to Alla-..I mean, thank God he was wearing a flannel shirt, or someone may have shot him. (Terrorists never wear flannel)
Luke: Two dudes sitting behind us literally stopped eating, put down their forks, turned around, and stared in disbeif. It was hilarious, and it would not be the last time that Dad would shock onlookers.
Casey: You should have seen the guys behind my Dad. They literally froze, forks in midair and became stone cold silent and looked totally lost and confused. Was this little man in red flannel some sort of comedian. THey were waiting for the punch line. If a man walked through the door in white robes and a thorn crown and proclaimed to be the second coming of Christ they would’ve have been less surprised.
Furthering the awkwardness was Austin’s fury with his father. Here, we see him threatening to put a chicken leg up Casey’s ass if we didn’t stop making fun of the way he wears his pants. I’m sure this would have been immediately followed by Casey asking if it was gay to eat a piece of chicken that had been in his own ass. I mean, it is his ass.
Alas, time had worked against us once more and we had to leave the restaurant before fully defiling ourselves. With semi-full bellies and sound minds, we made our way back to camp and got settled in for the first round of lectures.
Luke: On the way back to camp, we narrowly escaped a head-on collision. It was as close as you could get to a disastrous crash without actually crashing. Pretty scary stuff, but Casey did a fine job of maneuvering the minivan.
Bob: I forgot about that. That was some pretty scary shit.
There were lots of familiar faces at camp this year, and it was nice to see everyone again. It was also nice to finally meet the members of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Adventure Racing, otherwise known as WTFAR.
It was later learned that we’d be sharing a bunk-house with these gentlemen. Much to the dismay of all others present, Casey declared a “no-holds-barred” fart war against WTFAR to establish our dominance. Noone was safe, and I do mean noone.
Luke: The only female in our cabin elected to sleep in her car on the second night… Seriously. The poor girl.
Casey: We may have won the gas war but we lost the pyschological war that went on that night. Team WTF kept our cabin up with a noise that sounded like a groundhog being stepped on and a ferret being choked at the same time. One of the WTF team members makes some very unique sounds when he sleeps. They were sporadic and, according to his team, a usual accurance. How would you guys describe the sounds?
Bob: It sounded to me like a screaming midget tap-dancing on a xylophone.
A gas-induced nausea eventually caused team-mates to turn on one another. Here we see Austin falling victim to the fabled “sniper-fart”. These are rarely caught on film:
The poor kid never had a chance. And as you can clearly see, Adam had every opportunity to warn him. What an asshole.
Casey: Bob thought Austin might need alittle help with the facial hair requirement and hooked him up. I thought this was very thoughtful of him, but he really only gave it to him as a distraction to get his “sniper” rifle into position. Poor kid…he never saw it coming.
After a foggy night of “shock and awe”, it was time to load up on the buses and head over for paddling/orienteering practice. It was a chilly morning and we knew the river would be cold. This lead to a fair amount of banter about whether or not anyone would hit the water. One thing was for sure, there was no way in hell we were getting in one of those God-forsaken yellow boats.
Due to heavy rain, most of the parking lot near the boat ramp was flooded. This made for a tricky entrance/exit from the water. Last year, we figured out that 3 Virtusans in one canoe is a bad idea. In an effort to prove their dominance, our good friends from WTFAR decided to go for a 3-man dip of their own. Much to their chagrin, they never made it out of the “parking lot”. Luckily, Gerry was there to lend support. And by support, I mean he laughed his ass off and gave them a nickname.
Luke: “Team Parking Lot” seems like a more appropriate nickname than what Gerry nicknamed us at last year’s camp: “The Six Pound Burrito Brothers.” Actually, I guess that nickname fits us pretty well now that I think about it.
Casey: WTF was not the only team that went in that day. However they were the only team to get a cool nickname out of the deal (much like us last year). One of the teams in the other group ended up in a couple of trees. I heard they were strong and very fast paddlers but somehow dumped their boat (I bet it was a yellow one).
The WTF boys were definitely re-living our experience from 2010. They seemed to be taking it well, but we knew from experience that tipping the boat is a confidence destroyer. They’d be nervous on raceday for sure, but if they could hold themselves together they would emerge a stronger team.
Casey: I guess they learned from our experience the previous year, since they dressed on the bus instead of the middle of the parking lot. Either that or they are more modest than TV (and the water wasn’t as cold as it was last year. However, the part of the parking lot that we got dressed in was under water this year so they couldn’t have used it to dress. Team Parking Lot…I love the nickname.
Casey: I have one question for Team WTF…Who went in first?
The rest of us were having a much better year in the canoes. Team Virtus was represented by 3 different 2-man squads this year. Luke and Adam, (Virtus 1), Casey and I, (Virtus 2), and Austin & Mr. Lamb, (J-Virtus). All three boats remained upright for the duration of the practice. We even tried, ( a bit unsuccessfully), to do a little canoe drafting. It’s a lot harder than it looks
I guess Casey and I must’ve been looking pretty good out there, because you can clearly tell in this photo that Robyn Benincasa is TOTALLY checking us out:
Luke: Nice try, Bob, but neither of you guys had a blue jacket. That’s clearly not you in the canoe, so Robyn was NOT checking you out.
Casey: The other way you can tell it is not us…they are in a piece of crap, tippy ass, yellow banana boat. I thought about BS’ing and trying to sell the picture as us until I saw the boat they were in. Hopefully, I’ll never be in one of the yellow bananas P.O.S.’s again.
Bob: Well now…I am embarrassed. Up until this moment I truly believed we were in that boat.
Speaking of Ms. Benincasa, she gave an EXCELLENT presentation at the camp. With multiple videos, photos and stories of her own personal triumphs, she inspired everyone in the room and taught us what it truly means to be part of a team. I think what impresses me the most about Robyn is that while she is such an accomplished athlete, she’s also so humble and normal. She was super-patient with everyone, and I think she even laughed at some of Casey’s jokes.
Luke: Robyn Benincasa was truly amazing. Her talk was one of the many highlights of the weekend. And she is one of the kindest, most down-to-earth people you’ll ever meet. But she only laughed at Casey’s jokes out of pity.
Casey: While all the lectures are infomative and very well put on, I thoroughly enjoyed Robyn’s lecture (yeah, we are on a first name basis now, thanks to all my great jokes she enjoyed, plus she is a fan of Bob’s). I think it was my favorite lecture this year and was surely by anybody, even non-racers. It was very inspirational. I got a lot out of her talk and look forward to someday doing her Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim Hike to raise money for her foundation, Project Athena (http://www.projectathena.org/R2R2R_Events.php). Check out this great cause and support it if you have the opportunity to do so, it’s a worhty cause.
After her speech, we made a team-decision to change part of the Virtus code. Carrying another Virtusan’s gear will no longer be something we do to give each other shit. Teamwork is teamwork, and you never know when you might need someone else to carry your pack for a while. Little did we know how quickly this new rule would come into play.
Luke: After Robyn showed a video of a Japanes AR team carrying a teammate with a knee injury across 30 + miles including a razor’s edge ridge top with death on either side just to finish the race, we decided that we could help each other a little more without ripping on each other. Teamwork, baby!
Casey: I agree. You team is there to help you and you shouldn’t be ridiculed for accepting their help when you need it. I have always felt this way and have even given my teammates the “gift” of carrying my pack at past races. Robyn taught us that it is a gift you give to your teammates by letting them help you when you are down and need it. Plus, if you race long and hard enough you will eventually need help from you teammates at some point. I guess you could consider me a “pleasure-giver”. I now ask my teammates to “give it back”.
On top of our canoe success, we also enjoyed much better results on the practice orienteering leg this year. I can’t speak for the other guys, but Casey and I had a great time and found most of the CP’s before time ran out. We even took a few minutes at the scenic overlook to get a few pictures.
I’m not sure the entire O-section was the same as last year, but there were definitely some of the same CP’s. This was actually a good thing, since we were able to gauge our progress from 2010. There were definite improvements, especially for Casey.
Casey: Our orienteering was spot on all day. We used great attack points and were using handrails and collecting features. We had a great game plan all day and we never lost contact with the map. If you were with us you would have caught Bob and I “aiming off” every chance we could get that day in the woods.
Luke: This was Adam’s first experience with orienteering, so I showed him the basics. He did really well. In fact, he didn’t do anything to get fired from the team. It was very disappointing. So he was once again fired for disappointing us.
After the paddling and orienteering practice sessions were over, we loaded onto the buses and headed back to camp for ropes practice. My main concern was the ascending wall. I had bumbled my way through it through it once before, but was really hoping for some tutoring from one of the volunteers.
Our first order of business was to enjoy a nice zip-line. I’m not sure of the specific height, but it was a tall one. Here we see Mr. Lamb preparing to take his first leap of faith for the day. There’s just something about walking off the edge of a cliff…
Rappelling was much more fun without the crippling fear we experienced last year. Look at the absence of fear on Luke’s face. This is a stark contrast from the man we saw here last year.
Casey: How were we so scared and nervous last year with the ropes and a kid and senior citizen had no problem this year? Was it that they knew people who had actually did the ropes the previous year and were still living? Or was it that they were better at masking their fears than we were (no Jimmy Legs)? This year defiinitely was more enjoyable than last year (not quite as much of an adrenaline boost though). We had an opportunity to practice many faucets of ropes that you see at various races. We had a blast again this year.
It wasn’t long before we found ourselves standing at the ascending wall. There were several ropes available, and there was also a rescue ladder set up for us to attempt. Austin rushed over to the ladder and started to make his way up. I don’t know what the other guys were thinking, but I was a bit intimidated. The ladder was very narrow and completely unsupported. It was one of those ladders they drop out of helicopters in the movies. Undeterred, Austin twisted and spun his way to the top. We were all VERY impressed.
Next up was Mr. lamb. Now, I’m sure you’re wondering why I haven’t just called him “Steve”. Well, there’s a very good reason for that. You see, Mr. Lamb is what we like to call… a “Badass”. A veteran distance runner, vegan and father to 3 Lamb-boys, Mr. Lamb is no stranger to pain. He grabbed that ladder, tied into the safety rope and FLEW to the top. He made that ladder his bitch in a way you could only understand if you’d seen it with your own eyes. Later he claimed to have struggled a bit, but from where I was standing it looked like he did stuff like this everyday. It was impressive to say the least.
Luke: I had been a little worried about how my Dad would hold up at camp (although I never told him this). After seeing how he dominated the ladder, though, I knew he was going to rock everything that Gerry would throw at him. It was impressive, and a lot of people noticed. I’m always proud to be his son, and this is just one of the infinite number of reasons.
Casey: I was impressed by my Dad’s performance thoughout the entire camp, especially at the ladder. He owned it. Once my son and my Dad killed the ladder, I had to go up. I had no choice. I was next in line and had to do it . I wanted to do it sometime at the camp but maybe after a little regular ascending first. I thought the ladder would be harder than it looked and I thought it looked hard. I had to get to the top…three generations of Lambs owned that ladder that day (perhaps the middle generation did so the least).
The rest of us made it up the ladder too, but with a lot more effort and a lot less grace. Personally, I was scared shitless the entire time I was on the ladder. It’s scary because you have no option but to keep going up. The safety rope won’t let you come back down, and it’s not like anyone would be stupid enough to unhook the safety rope. It was a bit harrowing, but at the end of the day I think we’re all glad we did it.
Moving on to the ascending wall, my stomach was in knots. Rope ascension is one of those things that requires a certain amount of finesse; You can’t just horse your way up the rope, your whole body has to move in sequence. I’d done it before, but was VERY exhausted once at the top. Today would be different, as I had the good fortune of receiving one-on-one instruction from Robyn Benincasa. She took a few moments to explain things in a way that I could understand and sent me up the cliff. With Robyn coaching from the ground, I made my way up the rope. I can’t even tell you how relieved I was to be ascending with confidence. I was so thrilled with my success that I rappelled down and ascended once more. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when there’s a woman there to tell you what to do.
Casey: I was coached by Robyn as well. She did a great job coaching me on the technique and keeping me relaxed and focused. They taught a different techinque than we learned last fall at the Thunder Rolls. This was a single leg ascent as apposed to a double leg that we learned last year. I felt this technique was much more intuitive and easier to apply on the spot. I felt confindent by the time we were done ascending. We actually raced up the wall the second time.
The ropes practice was a smashing success for all those present. We even had the good fortune to see a not-so-golden-looking Golden Girl making her way up one of the ascents.
And who could forget running into our bunk-mates and esteemed “We’ve swam in the Mississippi River” colleaugues…WTFAR.
It would have been impossible to have a bad day out there. We had great weather, an awesome playground and great people all around us.
Casey: When we were doing the Tyrolean Traverse across the river Austin jumped too far from the bank and landed flat on his back on the ground. After several bounces he got up and tried a couple of more times, more bounces, and eventually made it out over the water. I think we have a video of this somewhere. I’ll try to tind it and link it to this report for your viewing pleasure.
Time flew by and we found ourselves heading to lunch. Who could have known we’d stumble across a tetherball pole? Soon everyone had stories about how good they were at tetherball “back in the day.” I think you kow what happened next..
Then it got serious..
ROUND 3: TV vs. WTFAR
This was truly a battle for the ages. After losing the fart war and tipping their canoe, WTFAR wanted to yet again pit themselves against TV, this time in a tetherball challenge. The Virtus code prevents us from declining a tetherball challenge, so the battle was on. We swatted the ball back and forth for countless seconds as our team-meates looked on in paralyzing suspense. With his towering height and longer arms, things were looking grim until I hit this little gem.
Casey: For the record I was not included in tetherball activities. I guess nobody, not even my teammates wanted any of the Anchorman on the tetherball court. I once hospitalized 2 opponents over the course of a single tourney back in my semi-pro tetherball days. I was actually ranked in the world in the Clydesdale Division.
After that, it was time to head back inside for the pre-race pasta feed and enjoy a few more lectures. After a long day of outdoor fun, sleep would come easy. And that was a good thing, because we knew all too well…Gerry Voelliger was going to hurt us tomorrow.
Casey: Much like we were last year, Team WTF was anxious about the paddlign leg of the next days race. They somehow had to stay upright and dry. We encouraged them and assured that it was now out of their systems. I especially enjoyed hearing Bob explain his running the banks of the river during the paddle leg to Team WTF. I think they decided against it.
Bob: Chickenshits 🙂
***NOTE: Be sure to read the race report from the Lightning Strikes Adventure Race. Check it out right here.***
If you haven’t heard about this adventure racing camp, then you need to go check it out right now. The 3-day camp will cover topics such as orienteering, canoe and kayak paddling, and fixed ropes (rappelling, zip lines, ascending, traversing). There will also be the longest and highest tyrolean traverse in the Midwest at this camp – over 500 feet long – holy donkey turds!
The paddling portion is taught by Jeremy Rodgers, an elite adventure racer, professional paddler, and a member of the US Canoe and Kayak Team. So I guess he has enough credentials to possibly show me a thing or two. On the other hand, maybe I’ll be able to give him some advice – “Don’t push the water, pull the canoe.” Well, maybe not.
I’m a little nervous about the ropes stuff since I’m not a huge fan of heights. However, if I ever want to do longer races, I’m going to have to learn this stuff sooner or later. It also looks so flippin’ fun… I can’t wait. Check out a couple of pics from last year’s camp:
The camp concludes with a 6 hour adventure race including orienteering, mt. biking, paddling, fixed ropes, and caving. The race, called Lightning Strikes, also happens to be a qualifying race for Nationals. You have to place in the top 3 or 4 as a 3-person coed team, though, which means we won’t be qualifying for Nationals. The Lightning Strikes race is also part of the Checkpoint Tracker Series, which is pretty cool.
All instruction, the 6 hour race, lodging, and some of the meals are all included for a measly 175 bucks. Since most adventure races cost $100 or more anyway, we thought this was a pretty good deal. The camp takes place the last weekend of March in Mount Carroll, Illinois. I can’t wait to go, and we’ll take lots of pictures to post. So… Who else wants to go?