Last weekend, Casey quit the team.
Seriously. I’m not making that up. That’s how awful the LBL Challenge was. Now, I don’t mean it was a bad race. In fact, it was a fantastic race. I just mean that things went terribly wrong for us from start to end. Things just spiraled out of control, mistake after mistake, mishap after mishap. It was as if we were in quicksand, struggling to get out and back on track, but no matter how hard we tried, the more we struggled, the more we sunk into the depths of despair. At our breaking point late in the race, my brother threatened to beat my ass (something he could easily do), and then he quit the team. But I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I? Perhaps I should begin at the beginning. Buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride…
Pre-Race Friday Night:
Things started a little rocky right from the beginning. Bob and I were supposed to meet Kage at the Cracker Barrel on Exit 9 off of Highway 64. Unfortunately, she meant Exit 9 off of Highway 64 in ILLINOIS! Bob and I went to the Cracker Barrel on Exit 9 off of Highway 64 in MISSOURI! Who knew there were TWO Exit 9’s with Cracker Barrels? Well, now we all know.
So we soon found Kage at the correct Exit 9, and we made our way south to meet Casey in Tennessee. It was a fun ride down. We chatted, joked, laughed, and had a jolly good time. Just before we crossed the state line into TN, we passed through the “Art District” and found this amazing homoerotic sculpture:
Then we decided to stop at a Gander Mountain store for Bob to pick up a dry bag. While we were there, though, Bob found something for Kage. We wanted to make her feel like one of the guys, so Bob got her a “Go Girl” of her very own. She seemed much less thrilled with the idea than we did. She never used it, but I know if she would she would no longer “take life sitting down.”
We eventually pulled into the lot at the Inn at Paris Landing State Park, and it was a perfect spot for race headquarters. There were great rooms, nice cabins, a large conference room, and a restaurant which provided a terrific buffet on Friday night and early Saturday morning as well. After finding Casey, we piled into the Virtus Van to drive the long way (200 yards) to the conference hall where we could check-in.
We checked in, got our sweet race shirts, bought some Swiftwick socks and a Bonkhard Racing hat for a friend (Shout out to Kim Chou!). Then we hit the buffet – Spaghetti, bbq chicken, potatoes, grilled veggies, frog legs, shrimp, crayfish, ham & beans, coconut pie, chocolate pie, and probably even more. (Thank God, Bob and I weighed-in BEFORE this trip!) Then we checked into our room with a view of the Lake and started going through our gear before the pre-race meeting.
At the pre-race meeting, Kage had to go get the maps since she isn’t nearly as skilled at the “Not It!” game as the rest of Team Virtus. Kage also got to pick the ticket for the winner of the Kuat Bike Rack. None of us won it, and the guy that did win it acted like he must have already had two of them for each of his cars. He let out a little “Woo!” and sort of half-raised his arms. If I ever win a Kuat Rack at one of these races, I’m going to go flippin’ nuts! I guarantee it.
We chatted with Scott and Frederick from Team Bushwhacker for a bit, and let me tell you… They’re two of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. These guys are elite-level racers, and they went out of their way to give us some last-minute pointers on route-planning and map-prep. Big thanks to those guys, and if they ever decide to put on a navigation/AR clinic, I’ll be the first in line.
We then went back to our room to get our gear in order and to pack our gear-drop bags. Since the Land Between the Lakes area is so remote, we were allowed to pack 4 sacks with food, gear, and water. Two bags would be dropped at a point during the first half of the race where we could access it twice, and the other two bags would be dropped at a point during the second half of the race where we could access it twice as well. I’ve never done a race with gear/food drops like this, so it was a bit tricky deciding how much stuff to pack.
Kage and I plotted the points and went over some route options while Casey and Bob spooned each other in bed. Well, that’s not entirely true. While we plotted, Casey and Bob aired up the bike tires, put the bike lights on, and got other last-minute things in order.
We finally felt like we were as ready as we were going to be, and we ended up going to bed around midnight. I slept on an air mattress on the floor. Now before you think I did this to be chivalrous, in all honesty I just didn’t want to sleep with Bob or Casey in a full-size bed. Having slept near Bob more times than I’d like to admit, I can identify his snoring quite easily. He was definitely the first one to fall asleep. I’m not sure when Kage or Casey fell asleep, but I know I had a hard time drifting off. Eventually, though, I think we all fell asleep and got 3 to 4 solid hours of sleep (something we did not get at the Berryman 36-hour AR last year). Although we’d always like to get a full 8+ hours of sleep before a race, just getting any sleep is HUGE. But would it be enough?
Race Morning Saturday:
The alarm went off WAY too early at 5:00 AM. Casey seemed to be the only one not affected by the lack of sleep, but that’s usually the case. Casey is always enthusiastic and ready to go on race morning. We quickly got dressed and packed up as we scarfed down some bagels and other goodies for breakfast. We posed for a team photo:
Casey and Bob decided to do something a little different with their beards, and since they destroyed the sink, I’m really glad that I had already brushed my teeth.
Since this was our first-ever coed Team Virtus, and since this was Kage’s first official race with us, we wanted to make her feel as welcome as possible. Kage is known for many things: awesome cookies (which she didn’t bring on this trip), braided pigtails, wicked-fast race reports, never ever complaining, general bad-assery, etc. She is also well-known for her fashion sense – especially when it comes to her fancy, argyle socks. So we, the manliest of men, sported these:
We reloaded the Virtus Van, dropped our bikes at the bike drop, and then drove to the starting line under overcast skies with plenty of time to spare. It was actually pretty weird since we weren’t rushed at all. Usually, we are one of the last teams to drop the bikes and make it to the starting line. This time, however, we had enough time to just chill, use the port-a-potties, and talk to the Bushwhacker guys some more. We dropped off our gear/food bags, and we waited for the start of the race.
We grabbed our passports, sang the National Anthem, and we suddenly found ourselves toeing the line, finally ready to start the LBL Challenge 24-hour Adventure Race. It was finally here, and we were ready. Nothing could stop us. Not even the thunderstorms that were all but guaranteed to ravage the Land Between the Lakes over the next 24 hours. Not even the stiff competition in our division. Not even cramps…