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Pushing Onward – The LBL Challenge Adventure Race Report Part 3

***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.

Transition to Paddle at LBL Challenge Adventure Race

Even with the not-so-perfect start to the race, we were still smiling and having the time of our lives, and THAT'S what is important.

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.

Paddling at LBL Challenge

We were so happy that we weren't in those yellow, tippy POS canoes!

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.

Casey and Bob paddling at LBL

Rougher waters and dark clouds

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.

Bob: Wow.

Kage happy in the boat at LBL Adventure Race

"Yesss! No portage!"

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 with sealskinz socks standing in water

Bob pretended his e-Fuel was whiskey so he'd be sure to drink enough.

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.

Canoe take-out at LBL Challenge AR

See? Kage is carrying the canoe better than Bob in this photo, isn't she?

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?!?!

Transitoin Area with Drop Bags at LBL Challenge Adventure Race

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…

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The Calm Before the Storm – The LBL Challenge Adventure Race Report Part 1

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:

Homoerotic Scuplture in the Art District

I believe this piece was called "Bumpin' Uglies"

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.

Hairy Men

Too many people, not enough seats. Reminds me of this photo from Berryman but with more hair.

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.

View from Inn at Paris Landing at the LBL Challenge

So peaceful and calm... Pretty much the opposite of how our race would go.

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.

Plotting UTM Points for the LBL Adventure Race

Although just a newby, Kage is quite savvy with plotting UTM's.

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:

Bearded Team Virtus

Beard Power x 4!

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.

Half-Beards

I always knew these guys were two-faced.

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:

Argyle Socks for Adventure Racing

Do you know how difficult it was to find non-cotton, argyle socks to match our jerseys? Incredibly difficult.

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.

Gear Bags for gear drops at LBL adventure race

Team Virtus was #185, but we know we're #1 in your hearts, right?

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…

To Be Continued…

Read Part 2 right here or you can read Kage’s perspective right here.

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