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Cold Weather, We Will Smite Thee!! – Adventure Non-Race Short Course Report

The forecast for New Year’s Day stated, “Ridiculously Cold with a chance of You Should Stay in Bed, Idiot!”  At least that’s what I was thinking when my alarm clock went off.  It was Non-Race day for Team Virtus, and we needed to get to Lake of the Ozarks State Park.  As I stepped outside, I thought there was absolutely no way that Brandon and his wife, Ronda (two first-timers that had never done any adventure racing before), would show up.  They agreed to come at the last minute, and that was only after we put a little good-hearted pressure on Brandon.

As we pulled into McCubbin’s Point, I was elated to see them waiting for us in their warm truck. Happiness spewed from my chest for a couple of reasons. First of all, I love it when we can get new people involved in this great sport. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, seeing Brandon and Ronda there meant that I was going to do the short course instead of the long course (Thank God I didn’t have to paddle!).

Staying Warm at the Team Virtus Adventure Non-Race

As we waited to see Casey, Zack, Bob, and Phil take off on the long course, I quickly showed Brandon the basics of using a map and compass while Ronda wisely waited inside the warm truck.  I somehow managed to screw the UTM coordinates up (I still need to figure out how I did this), but I was able to plot all of the points for everyone anyway.

Brandon learing how to use a map and compass

Brandon made short work of learning how to use a maps and compass

It seemed like it took forever to get going – we started at around 11:00 AM instead of 9:00 AM, but this might have been a good thing since it was slightly warmer (17 degrees instead of 13).  Once the long-coursers were on their way, Brandon, Ronda, and I drove down to the trailhead and started off on the orienteering leg of the non-race.  I’ve found that the best way to teach someone the basics of orienteering is to just let them go for it on their own and get their feet wet (there’s a little foreshadowing for you).  Brandon confidently took the lead and brought us right to the first Checkpoint with no problems at all.  Seriously, the guy acted like he had done this a thousand times.  Was he hustling me?  Had he done this before?

Finding CP #1 on the Team Virtus Adventure non-Race

Checkpoint #1

Both Brandon and Ronda were managing to stay warm, and they were still smiling.  So far, so good.  Brandon took his next bearing, and we headed off in search of CP #2.  This checkpoint proved to be slightly more difficult than the first one, but Brandon and Ronda soon found it after consulting the map and reading the landscape.

Finding CP #2 on the short course of the Team Virtus Short Course

Getting CP #2

Now it was time for Brandon and Ronda to make a decision.  They could take a bearing and go directly through the forest to CP #3.  Or they could head to the power line that we had previously crossed, take this down to the creek, and then follow the creek along to the CP (the clue was Creekside Cedars).  They chose to take the power line down to the creek which proved to be easier traveling than bushwhacking through the trees and brush.  After reaching the creek, the Wondrously Wed Duo quickly found #3.

Orienteering down the Power Line on the Short Course

Headin' down the power line

Ronda punching CP #3 on the Short Course of the Team Virtus Adventure non Race

Ronda getting CP #3

I asked Brandon and Ronda if they wanted to head back to the car.  Brandon told Ronda it was up to her, and, much to my delight, she said, “Let’s finish this thing.”  If that isn’t the attitude of a future adventure racing star, then I don’t know what is.

The weather was actually turning out to be pretty nice, all things considered.  Although it was still cold, the sun was out, and we stayed warm as long as we kept moving and stayed dry.    It’s the dry part that had me worried.  We needed to cross the creek to get to CP #4, and Bob had previously fallen in the creek when we set the course up two weeks prior to this (check out the photo right here).

I knew that if Brandon or Ronda got wet in this cold weather, the race might be over.  I wanted to make sure that they had fun and wanted to come back for more, so I was trying to guide them up the creek to a spot that I knew we could cross without getting wet.  Before we could get there, though, Brandon found his own place to cross.

As he took one step out onto some rocks, I tried to say, “You might not want to cross there.”  However, I was too late.  Splash!  Brandon took a second step that plunged his foot into the icy water, followed by a third step into the water. Splash!  At this point he was already committed, so he just kept on plodding through the creek, completely soaking his feet.  Splash, splash, splash, splash!  Once on the other side, he looked back and wryly said, “That might not be the best way to go.”  Truer words have never been spoken.

Although it was pretty funny, I couldn’t laugh.  I was a little worried.  I thought this was the end.  Having wet feet while hiking through the woods is never a picnic.  Having wet feet while walking through the woods when it’s less than 20 degrees out is even less fun.  I had two pair of extra socks, and Brandon and Ronda each had one extra pair.  So Brandon sat down, took off his shoes to wring them out as much as he could, and put on dry socks as Ronda and I headed up-creek.

Brandon "getting his feet wet"

Brandon "getting his feet wet"

Ronda and I crossed the creek, although Ronda ended up getting her toes a slightly wet, but not too badly. We headed down the creek to check on Brandon when we heard him call to us from above. He had already taken care of his feet, climbed the very steep hill, and was waiting for us. When asked if they still wanted to go on, both of them were ready to keep going – another sign that they have a bright future in this sport.

As we reached the trail at the top of the climb, we began to look for CP #4. Brandon was about to take us up a reentrant, when I (being the orienteering master that I am *note sarcasm*) pointed out that I thought we needed to go farther. A short distance down the trail, we met up with the guys doing the long course. They had to beach their kayaks at a different location due to the ice in the coves, and they were having trouble finding their CP #3 (which was the same as our #4).

Trying to figure out where the elusive #4 is.

Bob and Ronda try to figure out where to go.

After searching for a while, we headed back to where Brandon originally wanted to go up the reentrant. Sure enough, the CP was right there. The student had now become the master. Great work, Brandon! I felt a little silly, especially since I set the course up (hey, it was dark when I set that CP – cut me some slack).  It just goes to show you that we can always get better at orienteering.

Finding CP #4 on the Short Course

Brandon at CP #4 right where he thought it was

From here, the long coursers bushwhacked while The Wondrously Wed Duo and I headed down the trail to the tip of the finger before heading back up the hill to find CP #5.  Brandon led us right to it with no problems.  To get to CP #6, we could either take a trail and go down a reentrant or take a bearing and head straight at it.  Brandon decided to practice with the compass some more, so he took a bearing and went for it.  We came in just slightly above the marker, but we were close enough to find it easily (This wasn’t a mistake… This is normally how it works out for me anyway in most races).

CP #5 of the Short Course at the Team Virtus Adventure Race

Getting CP #5

CP #6 on the Short Course

Getting CP #6

From here, the orienteering leg was over except for getting back to the trailhead.  Brandon’s plan was to take the trail until we saw the power line and then take the power line back.  Either the power line didn’t cross the trail like we thought it would, or we somehow walked right past it.  So we ended up taking the trail all the way out to the gravel road to get a “bonus” CP (it was a CP for the long course, but since we were there anyway, we made it a bonus CP – hey, I was the race director so I could make that happen).

CP #7 - The bonus Checkpoint

Brandon Getting the Bonus Checkpoint

Ronda crossing the slabs at the Team Virtus Adventure Non-Race

Ronda crossing the slabs on the way back

We took the long, hilly gravel road back to the trailhead where we met Casey and Phil getting ready for the biking leg of the long course.  Brandon and Ronda took their truck up to McCubbin’s Point to use the restroom while I hung out with Casey and Phil.  Zack and Bob soon showed up as well.  The sun was now behind the clouds, and the temp was dropping as the hour was getting late.  Nobody wanted to paddle in the dark, so we decided to cut out the last paddling leg completely and to make the bike leg shorter for the long course.  If we would have started right at 9:00, then they might have been able to get it all in, but we did what we could.

Brandon and Ronda came back, and we drove down to the slabs to ride the South loop of the Honey Run Trail.  It was now getting really cold again, but like the troopers that they are, Brandon and Ronda got ready and hopped on their bikes.

Brandon and Ronda Mt. Biking in the cold

Ready for some single track in the bitter cold

We headed into the trail.  It was fun, but none of us were really feeling it that day.  Every little bump seemed like an enormous obstacle, every creek seemed like the mighty Mississippi, and every breezed seemed like gale force winds.  It was cold, it was getting late, and we were all beat.  So, after a short bike down the trail, we simply turned around and headed back to the truck.  I think this was a great decision.  I would much rather stop a little early with smiles on our faces than try to push ourselves so hard that we ended up hating the experience.

Ronda still smiling at the Team Virtus Adventure non-Race

Ronda still smiling at the end of a long day

We got back in the warm truck and drove back to the trail head.  Bob had gotten a flat and wisely hadn’t carried anything with which to fix it.  So he was already back at the trailhead when we got there while Zack, Phil, and Casey finished up on the bikes.  Brandon and Ronda dropped me off, and then they headed home.

Bob and I had to go with Dan from Oz Cycles to pick up the kayaks that we rented from him.  They had left the kayaks at the bottom of a huge hill at some sort of barracks-like camp.  Unfortunately the roads were gated and locked up, so we had to walk  all the way down to get them and carry them up what felt like Mt. Everest for at least a mile.  Dan put us to shame by single-handedly carrying a kayak while Bob and I struggled to carry one between us. It sucked bad.  I mean really bad.  And it was weird how Casey, Zack, and Phil all managed to show up juuuuust as we got the kayaks back to the car (Jerks!).  A HUGE thanks goes out to Dan.  If you go to the lake, be sure to stop in and say hi at Oz Cycles.

So, that was the end of my day, and the first annual Team Virtus Adventure Non-Race was over.  We had just completed a race on the coldest day of the year up to that point (and the hottest day of the year up to that point as well – not too many people can say they’ve done that).  We laughed in the face of the cold.  We scoffed at the rugged terrain.  We snickered at the thought of everyone else all snug in their warm houses while we brave few conquered the short course.

Brandon and Ronda did a superb job (and I’m not just saying that because they are going to read this).  Brandon was a natural with the map and compass, and Ronda seemed to smile the whole day even though she thought she’d hate being out in the cold when the day started.  They seemed to enjoy the race, but maybe they were just being nice.  At the very least, I hope they liked it enough to come back for more, because I think they’ll make great adventure racers.  I know I had a lot of fun tromping through the great outdoors with these two.  I hope to do it again sometime soon.

There are only two things that I regret about this race.  Casey had t-shirts made up for confirmed participants (Sorry Phil, Brandon, and Ronda – we didn’t know you were coming in time).  Unfortunately we left them at my parents’ house and had to hand them out later in the week.  Here is what they looked like:

Team Virtus T-Shirt

Front of the Team Virtus T-Shirt

Team Virtus Back of T-Shirt

Back of the Team Virtus T-Shirt

I also really regret not taking my Beaver Walking Stick that Bob had given me at the start of the race.  This thing is freakin’ amazing.  It has literally been chewed on by beavers, and it has been made into a suh-weet walking stick.  I love this thing.  But I’m an idiot, and I totally forgot to take it with me until we were a couple miles away from the trail head.  Anway, thanks a lot, Bob.  I’ll be sure to use it next time.  To find out more about them check out

So, there you have it.  If you stayed at home in your warm bed… Or if you were “driving back from somewhere with your girlfriend” (Corey)… Or if you were too scared to come out and join us… Then I feel sorry for you.  You missed a great time. Don’t believe me? Then check out the slideshow below:

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Five Fanatical, Foolish, Faithful, Freezing Friends Finding Formidable Flags in the Frigid Forest For Fun on a Fabulous Friday – The Official Write Up Covering My Experience at The 1st Annual Team Virtus Adventure Non-Race

It was finally the morning of Team Virtus’s first ever adventure non-race.  The non-race director, Lukas Lamb, and I were staying at our parents’ house in Rolla, MO.  We got up a little after 6:00 in the morning to ensure that we would get to McCubbins Point in time for the start of the race.  Due to an untimely call from nature (I had to use the restroom before we headed out), we were leaving a little later than we had originally planned and were already behind schedule.  After a quick stop by Wal-Mart for some sharpie markers, food, and an extra pair of gloves we were headed to the starting line of our non-race.  We pulled in around 9:05 (the race was supposed to start at 9:00) and everybody was waiting for us (except Phil, who arrived 10 minutes after we did).   The air temp was around 10 – 15 degrees but felt even cooler due to the wind when we pulled into the parking lot.

Bob's Dirty Bike before the Team Virtus Adventure non-Race

This is how Bob's bike looked BEFORE the race

The first thing we noticed, other than the freaking cold, was that the kayaks we rented from Dan at OZ Cycles were there along with 4 life jackets and 4 paddles (which Dan the Man delivered himself for us).  Then we noticed Bob’s little 1 man kayak in the back of his truck, which he borrowed from a friend.  Luke and I asked him if he was really going to paddle that thing across the lake in this weather because it “was tippy as hell.”  He freaked out and said that Dan had told him the same thing (we knew Dan had told him this and enjoyed messing with Bob).  A few minutes later Phil pulled up and with some prompting from us he told Bob that the kayak he had “was tippy as hell” and asked if he was really going to use it.  Bob went nuts and was convinced he was going to be getting wet, it was great fun.

After some discussion we decided that Zack and Bob would pair up in one of the tandem kayaks (they claimed the “Shitty Kitty” which finished 6th in the Missouri River 340 Race with Dan from OZ Cycles paddling it) and Phil and I in the other boat (without a working rudder).  We also agreed to keep the boats as close to the shore as we could and to keep the boats near each other for safety reasons in the event of one of the boats tipping.  If one were to tip, my money was on our boat since this was only my 3rd time in a kayak and my first in a tandem kayak.  Not to mention that I would be the more experienced kayaker in our boat.

Kayaking at Lake of the Ozarks for The Team Virtus Adventure Non Race

I climbed in to the stern and Phil into the bow and we pushed off around 10:45 am.  My fears soon became a reality as I realized that my extensive experience in canoes did not translate perfectly to kayaks.  This was going to be a learning experience (the main reason for a non-race).   We began to paddle and our strokes were not synchronized nor were they smooth.  In fact they were short and jerky which threw water into the air and all over us.  Our boat must have looked like an alligator having an epileptic seizure.   Soon, I realized that the decision to put on my new O2 rain pants and rain jacket before casting off was a great idea, as I looked down and saw beads of water all over my legs and jacket.  Phil also had water down his back and both of us had soaked our gloves.  We would have gotten  only a little wetter had he tipped the boat.

Team Virtus Kayaking at Lake of the Ozarks for our Adventure Non Race

Our boat did not track as well as the “Shitty Kitty” did since we were rudderless (and probably less versed in kayaking skills).  We constantly were correcting our course and even bumped into the kitty several times when we got too close while we were talking to our teammates.  I think part of our problem was that Phil insisted on steering the boat from the front.  I have limited kayak experience, but many years of canoeing experience made me to believe that the kayak should be controlled from the back much like a canoe.

In a canoe, the front person is the “motor” and the person in the back steers the craft.  I suggested this and it seemed to work for a while, but soon Phil was stroking just on one side again in an attempt steer the craft.  This led to overcompensation and the kayak began moving in a zigzag like pattern.   So, I decided to play the motor and let him steer the boat as best as he could from the bow.  It sort of worked pretty well but not as efficiently or quickly as the kitty was moving.  Zack and Bob glided across the water at a faster rate and with less effort.  After we got the check point (CP) on the far side of the lake we headed to the 2nd CP near the takeout.

As we approached the 2nd CP we noticed the lake was covered with a sheet of ice.  We approached the ice slowly and assessed the situation.  After some discussion, we decided that we would take out before the ice, stow the kayaks, and hoof it to the 2nd CP.  We got there pretty quickly and Zack waded out to the CP in his bare feet to punch his card (to see pics of this, go read Bob’s report on this non-race right here).  I opted to write in the number and letter of the CP and hope it was OK with the race director.  And if not…so what, it was a non-race and we were out for practice and fun, not to win a championship.

Due to the altered takeout we had to cross a creek in order to get to the 3rd CP.  Zack ran across the creek on his tiptoes.  The rest of us decided to follow the creek upstream to find a place where we could cross without getting wet.  However, this put us much further upstream than any of us realized, and it took us some time to locate the 3rd CP.

While searching for the CP I consulted the map while Phil ran up and down every trail he could find searching for the CP.  I imagine that he must have covered and extra 2-3 miles up and down, back and forth all over the country side.  I was getting tired just watching him run around.  Phil was like a young golden retriever bouncing around with tons of energy to burn trying to find his favorite chew toy, but he had absolutely no idea where to look.  I decided to conserve my energy, but since Phil was having a blast and getting a good workout I let him run around while I studied the map.  Finally, with collaboration with Luke’s team (he took Brandon and his wife Ronda out on the short course, they decided not to paddle), who we ran into searching for the same point, we finally located the 3rd CP.  Luke and his team headed to their next CP (which was different than ours) and the four of us split into 2 teams, Phil and I were one team and while Zack and Bob made up the other.

Orienteering at the Team Virtus 1st Annual Adventure Non Race

No, Bob. This isn't CP #1, it's CP #3.

From there, Phil and I hit the remaining CPs with little difficulty.  We found one in a drainage pipe and another hidden in the brush near a slab.  All the CPs were well placed and a challenge to work through.  A couple of the CPs would have been much more difficult (maybe impossible) to find without the clue that was provided on the coordinates sheet.

We finally finished the first orienteering leg and made it to the trailhead where we were to begin the mountain bike portion of the non-race (on the Honey Run Trail).  I was particularly looking forward to logging some miles on my new bike, especially after all the trouble I had with it the week leading up to the race (I had to have a new wheel set which was installed by OZ Cycles).  At the transition area (TA) Phil broke out a loaf of French bread, lunch meat, and pepper jack cheese.  He graciously offered me half, which I was looking forward to devouring.  I returned the favor and tossed Phil a Spike (Team Virtus’s adventure race energy drink of choice).  We ate the sandwich, drank the spike, and changed our shoes when we heard voices.  Luke, Brandon, and Ronda were arriving at the TA.  Brandon and Ronda took a quick trip to the facilities, while Luke shared my half of the sandwich.   We checked the time and discussed the options for the rest of the non-race.

Luke and Dolly at Team Virtus Adventure Non Race

We only had about 1.5 to 2 hours of day light left.  We had about 17-18 miles of single track planned that we were supposed to ride.  We were to take the connector trail down to the south loop and ride it clockwise.  Next, we were supposed to ride the north loop counter clockwise and had to hit the south loop again at a time of our choosing (either before or after the north loop).  Then we had to head back to the TA either by the connector trail or by riding the gravel roads back.  Then we had another 3 or 4 CP’s on foot and would finish with the paddle back to McCubbins point.

There was no way that we were going to get everything done while the sun was still in the sky.  Plus, we did not want to be on the water after dark in this cold without any support (the risk just wasn’t worth it).  We discussed our options and decided that we would ride the connector followed by the south loop and then see how we were with time and reassess the situation.  As Phil and I were getting on our bikes, Zack and Bob came strolling into the TA and after hearing our revised game plan agreed with us.  You can make these changes very easily in a non-race situation with a non-race director as cool as Luke (one of the many advantages of a non-race).

Re-routing the course for the non race

Bob is happy to hear the course has been shortened.

Phil and I took off down the connector trail which turned out to be a lot of fun to ride.  It is a quick, flowy trail that I enjoyed riding (most of it anyway).  The only part that sucked was the part in which I bit it pretty hard (otherwise it would have still been cool) and injured my unit, just the general not the boys.  I was about half way down the connector, and I was going into a curve that looked a bit rocky.  So I decided to swing out to the edge of the trail to avoid the big rocks.  The problem was that I swung to the edge of the trail, but the trail ended sooner than I thought it did, and I ended up swinging out into what turned out to be just leaves.  This resulted in my front tire dropping off the trail into a ditch.  To make matters worse I could only get one cleat out of the pedals in time, and it happened to be the leg that I was falling away from, which did not provide much help.  I went down kind of hard and smashed “Little Casey” on the cross bar of my bike.  I rolled over to my stomach and laid there for a few seconds holding onto myself and praying that it wouldn’t be permanently numb and the pins and needles would eventually stop.

It was at this time that I heard somebody ask if I was all right.  This surprised me because I thought I was all alone and I was hoping there were no eyewitnesses.  I believed Phil to be further ahead on the trail (out of visual contact) and everybody else behind me possibly still at the TA.  I was wrong.  There was an eyewitness, and Phil saw everything.  I am just glad he wasn’t carrying a video camera or I’d be all over the internet by now (kind of like Zack, click here to see him bite it).  I commend Phil for not laughing hysterically or even at all until he knew I was ok.  After a slow 10 count, I finally answered Phil that I was ok.

Then I got up, picked up my bike, wiped the snow and leaves off of myself, adjusted my manhood, and climbed back in the saddle to finish the ride.  In case you were concerned, the pins and needles soon stopped, and I regained feeling and full use of my unit.  The rest of the connector ride went smoothly and was a lot of fun.  When we shot out onto the gravel road at the end of the connector trail we saw everybody else that was participating in our non-race.

Casey and Phil Biking at Honey Run

Casey re-living the pain while Phil tells the story of his crash.

Luke’s group had driven down to the south loop in a truck and Zack and Bob rode the gravel roads to the South Loop in order to catch up with us.  I looked down the road and saw Bob carrying his bike on his shoulder; he blew out his rear tire and left everything, spare tube and tools, back at the starting line in his truck.  Plus he did not have a quick release on his rear tire, and nobody had a wrench to loan him.  He planned on carrying his bike all the way back to the TA on his shoulder (quite a hike and mostly uphill on gravel roads in his bike shoes).

Bob carrying his bike after a flat tire at Honey Run Trail at Lake of the Ozarks

It was at this time that Phil and I found out that they ran into Dan from OZ Cycles and he said he’d pick up the kayaks where we left them (there was an access road to the sewage tanks) to help us out.  This was great, it meant more time biking and no threat of an after dark swim in the lake.  Everybody but Bob was getting ready to hit the trail when somebody called Bob out – I think Zack called him another term for a kitty cat.  He threw his bike into the weeds and said “Fuck it!  I’ll run the loop in my bike shoes.  How far is it?”  Luke answered about 2.8 miles.  Bob said it was no problem and took off running down the trail.

We passed Bob about a quarter of a mile down the trail.  Phil, Zack, and I took off and had a nice ride of the south loop.  When we finished the south loop we noticed the truck that Luke’s group drove down in was gone and so was Bob’s bike.  We thought we should head back to the TA and see what was going on.  We planned on riding the connector trail back to the TA, but rode past the trailhead as we went up the gravel road.  We only realized this after climbing a large hill.  Being fat and out of shape we decided to stick to the gravel roads since so much effort was already invested in the initial climb.

We rode back to the TA at a decent pace with Zack and Phil battling it out for first, while I was enjoying the ride back from last place watching them fight for the lead.  Not that it really matters (it was a non-race), but from my vantage point it looked like Zack finished way ahead of Phil.  I pulled in a couple of minutes later and Phil decided to bike back to his car, because it was only a mile or two (or so he thought).  It turned out to be quite a bit further and he had a nice, long ride back to his car.

At the TA, Zack and I found Luke’s and Bob’s bikes by our cars so we loaded them up and piled into our vehicles.  As I started the van I found a hastily written note stuck under my windshield wiper and I’ll never forget what it said.  It said I am with Dan getting the kayaks…a big picture of a heart (implying man-love) and then signed Bob.  Zack and I drove back towards McCubbins Point and passed Dan’s vehicle at the top of an access road which was barred by a gate.

We pulled in to see if everything was alright.  It turned out that the area where we left the kayaks was in fact accessible by road, but it was blocked by a locked gate.  This meant that Luke, Bob, and Dan carried the 2 large kayaks up to the top of the access road.  Bob and Luke carried one boat and Dan manhandled the other (the Shitty Kitty) all by himself.  Luke and Bob claimed that it was a minimum of a mile to a mile and a half portage with a vertical climb of at least 500 feet, and most likely more.  I’ll admit it was a hike, but it did not look all that steep or that far.  I am sure carrying a boat made it feel longer and steeper than it really was.

Zack and I helped pass the boats over the gate and onto the roof rack on Dan’s car.  So I really don’t think that Luke or Bob have anything to bitch about.  Zack and I did help with the hardest part.  I mean we helped lift the boats over the gate and then carried it ALL the way to Dan’s car and positioned it on his roof rack.  Anyway, it was a team effort which really brought us together.

Once everything was loaded up, we hung out and had a beer, which was provided by Dan, to celebrate our efforts.  Dan volunteered to show us a short cut back to our cabins.  Since it didn’t go through town we decided to split up.  Bob and Luke would follow Dan back in my van to the cabin via a short cut and would have the responsibility of getting the fire started in the cabin.  Zack and I would drive the long way home, through town, and were entrusted to pick up the food and beer.

Zack and I stopped by the grocery store and got plenty of grub (sun chips, brats, Little Debbie cakes, donut holes, organic rice and beans, garlic bread, a green grass jelly drink, some beers, and a little surprise for Bob since we man-love each other).  We cruised back to the cabin and barged through the doors with plenty of food ready to eat.  Much to our dismay it was ice cold in the cabin.  No fire.  In all the time we were gone shopping, half of Team Virtus could not get a fire started.  I was a bit concerned because Luke usually has no problem starting fires.  I figured something must be wrong with the stove or the wood.

So, the other half of Team Virtus took over fire responsibilities.  Bob stated that a fire could not be built in that stove and that if we could get a fire going he would “Gargle Zack’s balls in his mouth”.  Unbeknownst to Bob, Zack had a wood stove at his house and is used to dealing with the challenges a wood burning stove can pose.   As fate would have it, we shortly had a roaring fire going.  In Luke and Bob’s defense, the wood, which was provided with the cabin, was crap.  It must have still been a little green and was difficult to start and keep burning.  Zack and I over came this by collecting “Squaw Wood” (dead wood that is still hanging on a tree so it is dry and burns very well) from the woods surrounding the cabin.

Roaring Fire in Wood-Burning Stove

Zack asked Bob about his earlier statement, the “Gargling”, and beads of sweat began to form on Bob’s brow.  Zack told him if he drank the green grass jelly drink he was off the hook.  A very happy Bob grabbed the can, popped the top and began to chug the unusual drink.  After a couple of seconds he stopped, chewed a little, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and told us that it had big chunks in it.  We all laughed and enjoyed his misfortune.  Zack and I were man enough to step up and try this unusual drink.  Luke on the other hand did not.  He ungracefully pussed out.  The grass jelly drink was subtly sweet and tasted a little like diluted green tea with a slight undertone of freshly cut grass.  The chunks were not all that offensive but really took away from the drinking pleasure.  I guess I am just not used to chewing my beverages.

It was about this time that Bob realized that his epilepsy medicine was in his truck back at McCubbins Point.  So Luke and Bob took a 90 minute moonlit drive to the point and back to get his meds.  This left Zack and I to tend the fire and cook dinner.  When they returned, they walked into a somewhat warm cabin with dinner just about ready for them to enjoy.  We had brats cooking on foil, which was laid on top of the wood stove, along with Zack’s organic rice and beans in a can warming up and a loaf of garlic bread wrapped in foil also heating up.

We devoured the food and sipped a few beers as we relived the day’s race by sharing stories and some laughs.  Luke decided to fire up his Primus EtaPower stove and had some water boiling in record time.  He poured the water into two bags of Mountain House Instant Meals (Spaghetti and Beef Stew), resealed them and told us we had to wait 8-10 minutes for them to be ready.  They were surprisingly good to eat, and Bob totally devoured the beef stew meal.  We enjoyed them so much that Luke made the Beef Lasagna Meal and another Beef Stew for Bob.  Team Virtus was finally full and ready to chill and bond a bit as a team.

Zack decided to leave a little after dinner in order to spend some quality time with his family the next day.  So he left around 11:00 pm to drive home.  Bob decided to sleep on a futon on the first floor in a minus-35 degree sleeping bag and he used another behemoth sleeping bag as a pillow (he didn’t really need the cabin).  Luke and I slept in the bunks up in the loft.  However, we had light weight fall sleeping bags because we were informed that the cabins get toasty and that a mummy bag would be way too hot to use in the cabins.  I guess Bob didn’t get that memo.

Well the cabin never really got toasty that night.  It got warmer but you could see your breath until just before bedtime.  Luke and I crawled up into the loft and then into our bags wearing just about every piece of clothing we had with us.  Everybody quickly fell asleep and slept well throughout the night.   I only awoke a time or two because I was cold and had to put a hat or jacket back on.

The entire cabin was awoken at around 7:40am because my work called my cell phone with an “urgent” question.  I wanted to stay in my bed and sleep, but it was really cold.  I waited a few minutes, hoping somebody else would get the fire going (or at least try to redeem their previous night’s failure).  Nobody stirred so I eventually pulled myself out of the bed to get the fire going.  I threw my Carhart on, tossed my sleeping bag over a lump in the adjacent bed which I assumed was Luke, and then shimmied down the ladder to check the fire.

Upon opening the stove door I found a decent bed of coals and thought a fire would be easy to get going.  I found something quick to munch on and noticed that all the liquids were frozen solid.  Then I headed outside into the cold for some more “Squaw Wood” and had a nice blaze going in 10 to 15 minutes.  However, it never really got much warmer until just before we were ready to leave several hours later.

Luke got up a little after the fire was going and we ate a little breakfast of leftover brats.  Bob still hadn’t moved and we hoped he hadn’t expired in his sleep.  We thought about poking him with a stick, but he finally grunted and moved a little.  Then Bob said he was hot and sweaty and was forced to strip down naked in the middle of the night due to how hot it was.  Luke and I looked at each other realizing:  A) he was the only person who slept warm the previous night and even had an extra heavy duty sleeping bag serving as his pillow and B) the only thing separating us from Bob’s sweaty, naked body was the thin layer of his sleeping bag.

Bob decided to stay in bed resting and would not get up.  Luke and I talked about an old Boy Scout trick used to help wake up scouts who insisted on sleeping in.  Luke grabbed his frying pan (which had some frost on it), snuck over to Bob’s bunk quietly and jammed the pan down into Bob’s sleeping bag and onto his bare chest.  Bob let out a shrill scream, not unlike Jamie Lee Curtis’s character in one of the Halloween movies, and began to wiggle around furiously inside his sleeping bag.  This forced Luke to drop the pan which prevented Bob from getting the ice cold pan out of the bag for several seconds.  Bob was finally awake and ready to start the day.   I am sure that it was a nice and refreshing start to his day.

Bob's rude awakening at the Lake of the Ozarks Outpost Cabin

Bob's Rude Awakening

We all ate some more breakfast (we are very hobbit like in our second breakfast habits) and discussed our plans for the day.  Our plans were originally to ride Bittersweet and then head home in the early afternoon so I would avoid getting in trouble with my wife and my family could leave for New York (where we live) before it got too late.  However, due to our late start, the fact that Bob’s car was still at McCubbins Point (45 minutes in the wrong direction), that Bob’s back tire was still flat and had to be repaired (the tools to do so were still in his truck), and that Luke forgot his helmet and camera in Dan’s car we had a change of plans.  We first went to get Bob’s truck and then headed to OZ Cycles to get Luke’s brain bucket and camera.  These things had to be done and were not optional.  Once they were done we would know exactly how much time we had to play with on the Bittersweet Trail.

Unfortunately, we ran out of time and had to make the call to head home without riding at all that morning.  However, while we were at OZ Cycles Luke and Bob snagged up some stylish biking duds that were on super closeout and were very happy about their finds.  We said an emotional goodbye to Bob and headed back to Rolla and our families.  When I got there I was in a bit of trouble, but the wife seemed to understand the situation.  We quickly loaded up the car and the kids then left for home about 5:30pm (3-4 hours later than planned).

All things considered, I think our first attempt at an adventure non-race was quite a success.  Everybody had a great time.  We all worked on skills that we needed to improve on, and we all walked away a little better than when we showed up.  Plus, it was a great team-building experience, and we did not have to worry about the pressures or costs of a real adventure race.  We did what we wanted, when we wanted, where we wanted, and with whom we wanted.  I assure you we all had a blast.

Who won the non-race, you ask?  Well, it doesn’t matter one damn bit.  There were no losers, and only a jackass would care about who won.

I am sure that Team Virtus will be doing this again in the future, and I encourage everybody to come out, have some fun, and work on your adventure racing skill set in a non-race, pressure-free environment.  It is a great way to test the waters and see if adventure racing is for you.  If you’re a seasoned veteran, then it’s a great way to train all three disciplines (mountain biking, orienteering/trekking, and kayaking) in one day at one place.  It was free; it was fun, and a great learning experience.  A quick thanks to our non-race director Lukas Lamb, to Bob Jenkins and Austin Lamb for helping set the control point markers, to Dan from OZ Cycles for helping us out so much, and to our sponsor for defraying some of the costs of this race (gas, maps, lodging, grub, etc.).  Until our next non-race…

Team Virtus 1st Annual AR Race

I sat there in the parking lot… watching the minutes tick by. Zack and I were meeting at 7:30 so I could follow him to the “race” which was starting at 9:00.  I had no idea how to get to McCubbins Point, and I had the maps for the race.

It was 7:40 and I was nervous.

I called Zack… no answer.  So, I called Luke. He informed me that this was perfectly normal for Zack and everything would be fine. At 7:54 Zack rolled up and we were off.

To say that it was cold that morning would be like saying that Salma Hayek kinda has a nice rack. If I remember correctly, it was 8 degrees when we left Jefferson City.

When Zack and I rolled into McCubbins Point we saw Brandon and Ronda Lepage sitting in their truck waiting for us. No Luke and no Casey. Phil was late, too. Things were off to a bit of  a shaky start.

All my worrying was for nothing, though…within minutes everyone else was present and we were ready to get underway. A lot of us had never met, and it felt good to finally shake hands with people I had only ever spoken with on the internet. It turns out Casey is much hairier than I thought.

After some last-minute modifications to the maps we were ready to get things underway. Ronda and Brand would be running the “Supervised Short Course” with Luke  while Zack, Casey, Phil and myself would attempt the full course.

Dan from Oz Cycles was kind enough to get up early on his day off to deliver the kayaks to the race-course. We would be using 2 (2-man) kayaks for the first leg of the “race”. I had brought my own kayak, (borrowed from Red Wheel Bike Shop) but after much deliberation decided to ride in one of the tandems with Zack.

And so it became a 2-team race: Zack and I would be “competing ” against Casey and Phil.

Here we see Phil and Casey carrying their boat to the water:

Casey and Phil got a pretty good gap on us right away, as is evidenced by this photo.

Zack and I were undeterred. Armed with a brand new bag of Beechnut’s Moonshine-flavored long leaf tobacco, we raged forward and overtook them. Look at the pain in Zack’s face as he tries not to drop a doozer in the kayak:

The first CP was one that did not require being punched on the passport, we needed only to read the # on the control and write it on our passport. We found it quickly and moved on.

Cool pic off the front of the kayak:

Ckpt 2 would be a different story. Per the map,  ckpt 2 was at the end of a gravel bar right next to the water’s edge. The problem was that the entire cove was frozen, making the cp unreachable by kayak.  The decision was made to backtrack to the bank, beach the kayaks and proceed on foot to CP #2.  I snapped this photo as proof:

After some old-school style bushwacking/ unknowingly tresspassing on government property, Zack and I were face-to-face with a serious dilemma. CP 2 was about 10 feet off the bank underneath about 1/2 an inch of ice. Zack started taking his shoes off and I got my camera ready.

What a freakin’ animal. I never could’ve done that.

After that things got a bit hairy. Looking at the map, I was just “sure” I knew where we were going and exactly where CP 3 was waiting for us. An hour later  we were still looking for the damn thing because I was completely wrong. At this point Casey, Zack and I were walking around trying to find the CP while Phil was running wild thru the woods earning base miles for an off-road marathon later in the year. After running into Luke, Ronda and Brandon, we finally figured out where the damn thing was and punched the passport.

Damn you, CP 3…..damn you.

I’ve got a nasty habit of writing long-winded race reports, so how ’bout I show you some of our pics and letcha know what happened:

We stopped to snap a pic of this badness on the way to CP 3:

Zack punches CP 4

^^ CP 7 clue was “culvert”. I was smart enough to scratch my way thru a wall of thorns only to crawl into the wrong culvert about 100 feet up the road. Luke will pay for this someday.

Hard to believe it, but we found the CP!!!

After the race was done, Dan came to pick up his kayaks. Try to put yourself in his shoes: He delivered 2 very expensive kayaks to a group of total strangers, then had to come pick them up. When he showed up to get them he had to hike over a mile downhill to find them, then carry one BY HIMSELF back up a mile-long uphill climb back to his car. His wife thought he would be home hours ago and he was definitely going to get his ass kicked if he didn’t make it home with the groceries. Wouldn’t you be a little aggravated? Not Dan, he actually brought us beer and stood around in the freezing cold to shoot the breeze with us for a while. I can’t say enough about his kind of customer service. If you see this guy, shake his hand and tell him he’s the man.

Then it was time to head back to the cabin for some serious hanging out. Dan lead us out through a series of sketchy-ass gravel roads and across swinging bridges that had Luke and I dropping bombs in our pants. It was so crazy that we actually went back the next day to take pictures. Check this shit out:

Yeah, that looks safe.

Here’s the view from the bridge

I never would’ve thought that we would find Osama Bin Laden’s hideout in the middle of the Ozarks. Too-shay, Osama….Too-shay.

Tell me this isn’t creepy..this thing has electricity going into it, sewer pipes outside, and some kind of fan blowing air out the door.

Of course, the race is only half of the fun, so when we headed off to our cabin in the woods there plenty of shenanigans taking place. Casey brought me a souvenir from New York:

It was still very cold, and I think we were all a bit nervous when, even after Zack got the fire going, the cabin was colder than a well-digger’s ass in the arctic circle. It’s not everyday you can sit on top of a wood burning stove and not feel warmth:

Note the “mood candles” that Zack had strewn throughout the cabin.  I tried to use one to warm my face and lit my beard on fire…now my sideburns are all messed up.

^^^ Who would’ve thought that lasagna from a bag could taste so good? Casey is an official spokesperson for Mountain House camp food.

Three very hetero-men wearing spandex (post-race) with our brand new Beaver  Stix that we both forgot to use during the race.

Long story short, we had a ridiculous amount of fun and froze our asses off. You should’ve been there. Don’t worry though, we’ll be doing this again.

Team Virtus’ 1st Adventure Non-Race Complete

Cold Weather Kayaking on Lake of the Ozarks

Although it was cold, and it wasn’t a perfect race, we had four fearless competitors “compete” in the long course and two first-timers “compete” in the short course.  I can’t speak for anyone else, but I had a blast.

No one capsized their kayaks, and no one got frost-bite.  Everyone was smiling at the end of the day, so this will go down as a success in my book.

We’ll post more pictures and a much more detailed race report soon, so make sure you check back in with us. Oh, and… Happy New Year everybody!

Join Us for the Team Virtus New Year’s Adventure Non-Race

Okay, we’ve kept it a secret for long enough, and now it’s time to spill the beans. The masterminds behind Team Virtus are putting together a mock-adventure race on Jan 1st, 2010. If you’re reading this, then you’re invited. HOWEVER… we make no guarantees.  This race could be the worst thing ever created since this was invented (actually… I might order one of those).

Team Virtus First Annual Adventure Non-Race

We’ve never attempted something like this before, and we clearly don’t know what the hell we’re doing.  This might be a total waste of your time.  It might be too easy or too hard.  It might be boring.  It might be stupid.  It might not be worth the effort.

On the other hand… It could be an absolute blast!!!

Either way, if you want to come then you need to let us know immediately.  We need to know how many people to expect so we can get enough maps printed. You also need to make arrangements for your own canoe/kayak.  If you REALLY want to come and can’t beg/borrow/or steal one, then we might be able to rent an extra one for you.  But you have to let us know – like yesterday.

And if you’re a beginner, that’s cool.  I’d be happy to help you out or even do the course with you to get your feet wet. Since I set up most of the course (don’t yell at me if it sucks!), I’m not really going to do the race for time anyway.

The tentative start time is 9:00 AM on Friday, Jan 1st at or near McCubbins Point, near Osage Beach. You should plan on being there by 8:00 AM, though, so you can plot your points (again if you’re new to this, we can help you) and make sure you’re ready to go.

There are roughly 14 checkpoints to hit, and you can plan on roughly 2-4 miles of paddling, 4-8 miles of trekking, and 12-18 miles of mt. biking.  How long should it take you?  I have no idea.  I’m guessing anywhere from 4 – 7 hours. This is an unsupported, unsanctioned, uninsured event.  So participate at your own risk.

Right now, confirmed participants are Bob Jenkins, Casey Lamb, Zack Lamb, Darin Layman (our newest teammate), and myself.  If you want to take part in the shenanigans, then you need to post in the comments section and we can figure it out.

And once again, beginners are not only welcome, they are encouraged to come along.  It’ll be a great way to get a taste of adventure racing for a small fee – and by a small fee I mean absolutely FREE (unless you need to rent a canoe).

So, who’s got enough strength, power through courage, and bravery (that’s what Virtus means by the way) to join us?

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