Blog Archives

LSAR 2011 – The Lightning Strikes Race Report

***NOTE: Be sure to check out Bob’s report from the High Profile Adventure Camp leading up to this race.  You can find it right here. Now onto the race report.***

The night before the race,  we sat and listened to adventure racing stories as told by Robin Benincasa. As we listened, I wondered what would be bestowed upon us the next day. Because up to this point, the only bad experience I had encountered was sharing a small cabin with 10 other guys and a girl (I felt really sorry for her).  There was definitely some epic flatulence going on.  At approximately 11 o’clock we got our maps and it was back to the cabin to plan a route, load our bikes and get our gear together because the 5:30 bike drop was coming whether we liked it or not.

Fast forward about 4 and a half hours and it was time to get up. Yea, there isn’t anything like knowing you’re only going to get a few hours of sleep just to get up and do 8 hours of  endurance racing, not to mention the gas war that took place between WTF and Team Virtus.

At 5:30, Luke and Bob headed to the bike drop as I continued to drag my ass around getting ready for the race. I constantly questioned if I had too much or too little gear. Not knowing what to expect, I relied on the sage wisdom of the rest of my team to guide me.  With the 7:00 start time inching ever closer, I stuck with what I had and made my way to the dining hall.

Before the start of the race we posed for a few pictures, two of which were with camp director Gerry Voelliger and Robin Benincasa.

Team Virtus and Gerry Voelliger ( And Adam Laffoon)

Team Virtus and Robin Benincasa- (and Adam Laffoon)

With the start of the race looming, it was time to get our heads together and our butts to the back of the pack, so as to avoid the carnage that was about to ensue.

As the countdown from 10 started, you could feel the excitement. Once we started, we had to run a couple hundred yards to get the canoes and carry them about a half a mile to the river. Pretty much only one thing went into the selection of our crafts and that was no-yellow-canoes.   I for one did not feel like swimming this early in the morning. You know, come to think of it I didn’t want to do any swimming…period.

Casey:  I was so glad that we were able to secure a canoe that was not a tippy-ass yellow banana.

Luke: I hate those damn, yellow boats!

Bob: Echo that. It was hard not to laugh when we’d see other people going in. Check out this photo, you can actually see the water starting to pour over the side.

Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!!

We carried our canoes for what seemed like hours, but I’m sure that had more to do with the lack of sleep than the actual weight.

Carrying the canoes

We “strategically” placed our canoe next to the river in a spot that would make for an easy put-in if we arrived at the same time as a few other teams. After that,  we were on foot for the first 3 checkpoints.

As we wandered off into the woods to search for the first of 24 checkpoints, we  exchanged witty banter and talked of what the day would bring. At this point in the race as I’m sure you can imagine there were some bottlenecks at the checkpoints.

Bottleneck at CP1

With the superior navigation skills of our fearless leader, we made haste through the first 3 checkpoints with no concern except for the paddling I knew would be coming soon.

Luke: Technically, we were racing as two teams of two.  So, I’m not sure to whom you are referring when you say “our fearless leader.”  I really hope you’re not describing Casey in such a manner.

Up until the day before, I had only been in a canoe on a float trip and I mean, really, who actually paddles or, for that matter gives a damn if their canoe flips on a float trip? The day before the race, we were only in a flooded area of the Mississippi and there weren’t any rapids or real danger of the canoe tipping. Somewhere in the depths of my soul, I had a feeling that today would be a whole different ballgame. When we got back to the canoe put-in, We could tell by the number of remaining canoes that we were somewhere in the middle of the pack. This was good news, but there was still a lot of racing left. As we launched our canoe, we were immediately held up because about 40 yards from the launch a team flipped.

That's a hell of a way to start the day..

Once we actually started, things went pretty smoothly and we cruised down the river. We ended up passing 5 or 6 teams, one of which was our counterpart.

Casey:  You got by us when we “T-boned” another canoe that got wedged between a couple of trees in the only paddable section of the river.  We managed not to tip them or us and the bump actually helped  them straighten out a bit.  Once you passed us we gave you some space to avoid another “T-bone” (first time I ever passed up a T-bone in my life).  You guys somehow got around another canoe and we just couldn’t find the room to pass them until near the end of the paddle leg.

Luke: First of all, what does “Paddable” mean?  Secondly, it’s a race, dude.  You don’t wait for room to pass.  You MAKE room to pass.  That’s what Adam and I did.

It was really nice of Casey and Bob to let us pass them

We had to be moving at a pretty good clip. At one point, as we were coming up on a bridge we started talking about how much farther it was to the takeout, but just past the bridge we could see other teams taking their canoes out of the water. We both said there’s no way this is the end, but a guy standing up on the bridge heard us and confirmed that it was. We were amazed by how quickly it went and the best part is that we stayed upright the whole way.

Luke and Adam pulling away

We did have to get our feet wet to get the canoe out of the water but we knew dry socks were waiting at the transition spot.  We changed our shoes and put on socks  as we waited for what seemed forever (it was only a few minutes) for Bob and Casey.

Bob and Casey coming ashore

Casey:  Look at Bob’s newly aquired (this camp) canoe securring technique.  It was so stable I was able to walk  upright in the canoe without any fear of a swim.  We’ll definitely use this technique at future races as we get on and off the water.  Nice job Bob.

After they pulled their canoe ashore and changed socks, it was on to the first bike leg.

At the first transition

Casey:  If you look in the back ground you can see the “pace center” reducing the TA time as he sprints to the CP while his team takes their time getting on fresh new socks.  Our TA times were much better this year.

Bob: They’re probably distracted by the gaping flesh wound on my knee. Holy shit, I’m hardcore

Luke: The way I remember it, Adam and I had already punched our passport because we had plenty of time while you guys were waiting for teams to let you pass them on the river.

Now this is where we expected to make up time. We knew we were going to be weak at paddling because it’s not something we practice but biking was different. We weren’t in a line like we knew we should be but we were four across, taking up the entire road. It wasn’t until Robin Benincasa and one of the race directors come up behind us and was giving us crap about not being in a pace line that we decided to take things a little more seriously. So we got in line and it was Luke leading, then myself, Bob and Casey.  Now, I’m not sure what Luke had been eating or what kind of training he had been doing but this shit was ridiculous. We hit speeds of 18 to 20 mph going down the road.

Serious paceline

Bob: Luke definitely had a rocket up his ass that day. His nutrition must’ve been spot-on.

Luke: That’s not exactly how I remember it, but hey… It sounds good, so we’ll go with it.

I don’t remember how far we had gone, but we came to a bridge and it was time to “lose some water,” so to speak.  Bob and I parked our bikes along the railing and after I relieved myself I took a drink from my water bottle.  When I went to put it back in the cage, it fell between the railing and into the river. Now, I had just put dry socks on less than an hour ago and now I had about 30 seconds to decide whether or not they would stay dry, because the current wasn’t exactly still. Now, I know you’re thinking “it’s just a water bottle,” and I could easily get another one,  but I didn’t want to lose it. I dashed down to the side of the creek and of course it’s not going to come right up by the side…no, my new Smartwool socks were going to be put to the test that day. I waded into water about mid-calf deep and snatched the bottle as my teammates showed support by laughing and snapping a photo.

Casey:  I am not a statistician, but I am willing to bet the odds of Adam somehow missing his cage as he put his water bottle away and having the bottle slip through the railing and land in the water is pretty low.  I have to admit that I did laugh at his misfortune but I assure you it was in good fun.

Me fetching my bottle

Luke: Adam took the “Leave No Trace” rule to heart.  If it was me, that bottle would have stayed in the creek.
Crisis averted and we were back on the road. Cruising along at insane speeds again, we arrived  at the next transition spot in a hurry. Time to do some hiking.

As we started off on foot we knew we the easiest route to follow would be the road and look for the first re-entry. Easy enough, right?

Bob slowing us down

 Bob: Really? Cuz that looks a lot like MY team-mate Luke kneeling on the ground.

Luke:  Indeed, that is me kneeling on the ground.  Why am I kneeling, you ask?  Because I had to get into my first aid kit to get pain killers out.  For who, you ask?  That would be Bob.

Well, as fate would have it, (and because Bob and/or Casey distracted Luke), we walked by the first reentrant and entered in the second and walked about 15 minutes before we figured out that we were going the wrong way. After back tracking to get checkpoint 9 it was smooth sailing, once again thanks to Luke’s superior navigation skills (I am legally required to say that or I get fired from the team).   We only had to hike up and down several hills to get seven more checkpoints before it was back to the bikes.

Luke:  I still feel bad about that mistake.  It was such a stupid, rookie mistake to be lulled into complacency when you think something should be easy to find.  My apologies to the team.  At least it was the only navigational error that day, and at least we caught it relatively early.

Once we were on the bikes again we had to ride back to the transition spot at the end of the paddling leg and get our pfd’s and paddles.

Packing up to head back to camp

We left with our paddles and life jackets and immediately had to go up a hill.

Saving our legs for the rope ascent

Once we started riding, it was only a few miles back to camp but we were much slower than we had been on the previous bike leg.  We made it back and ditched the bikes and headed to the cave.   The water in the creek was cold, as you can see here.

Bob freezing his nuts off...literally

Crossing the creek proved to be harder than it looked.  There were some hidden rocks, one of which I found and tripped over and ended up falling face first in the creek.

punching the passports in the cave

Luke: Even though this was my second trip into this cave, it was still just as amazing.  I freakin’ love this cave!

Each team-member’s wristband had to be punched in addition to the passports, so that meant everyone had to go in.  I don’t know why anyone would want to skip out on seeing the inside of a sweet cave like this one.  There were several bats on the walls. Some were covered in frost, and others were…well, you can judge for yourself.

bats "sleeping"

We made our way through the cave, even though in some spots it was a pretty tight fit.  We headed from the cave to collect a couple more checkpoints before we went to the ropes.

When we got to the ropes we checked how much time we had and we had well over an hour.  We had 4 more checkpoints to get and they were pretty close together.  The first section of  ropes was rappelling and it went pretty quick, even though there were several teams there at the same time.

Rappeling into the river. The ascent is directly to the left

Casey:  This was the firs time anybody rappelled and ascended this cliff.  It was great.  However, due to the fact that rappelling is a bit faster than  ascending, we ended up standing around in cold, knee-deep water as we awaited our turn to ascend. 

Bob: It was pretty cool to hang out with the volunteers and some of the other racers, but after a while I really started to feel like we might miss the cutoff.

Luke: Yeah, it was tough knowing that the minutes were ticking by as we waited for our turn.  But that’s just part of racing.  If we want to avoid bottlenecks, we need to get there first!  I was a little worried though.  Since we missed clearing the course last year by 1 CP, I REALLY, REALLY wanted to clear the course this year.

Next was the ascending wall, and it was here that the pace slowed considerably.  Priority was given to the teams that had their harnesses setup correctly, but that didn’t help us because it seemed like everyone knew what they were doing.  The minutes seemed to tick by quickly as we waited to ascend.  Once it was our turn, we climbed as fast as our legs would allow.

Bob after killing the ascent

Casey:  We lost some time on the ascend section.  This was not because of our lack of ascending skill.  I thought our technique was as good as anybody elses and we were as fast or faster than most other teams.  We lost some time because we were 2 teams of 2 travelling together as a team of four.  We ended up getting separate ropes but we didn’t start at the same time so we lost some time since we had to wait for 3 separate ascensions instead of only 2.  I think it was definitely worth the 5-10 minutes we lost here to race together as a whole team.  Maybe we made up some of the lost time by using a 4 person paceline during the bike leg.

Luke: What he said.

Although I can’t speak for everyone, my ascending form was considerably worse than the day before in practice.

Bob: I definitely didn’t feel like I had a strong ascent. I made good time, but  took several stops. I was just about exhausted at that point. Overall, I think we had a major improvement over last year, especially since we didn’t even ascend last year:).

We all made it OK and went to checkpoint 23.  It was on a little waterfall which was pretty cool.   It looks much better in person.

Bob and I coming back from CP 23

Casey:  I was the last off the ropes on the ascension and we took off running to CP 23 as soon as I was unclipped.  As we ran, I was taking my gloves off, fixing my harness, putting my pack on, and trying to catch my breath.  I finally recovered and was all straightened out as we were leaving CP 23.  I think I gave Luke a “gift” and let him hold my pack as we walked/ran to CP 23 as I messed with my harness.  Thanks Luke (or I guess you should be thanking me).

Luke: Uh… Thanks?

We only had one more checkpoint and it was to the finish line.  The only thing standing in our way of clearing the course was the zip line.  We were all hoping it would be higher and faster than the zip-line the day before, and much to our delight we weren’t disappointed.   It was a lot faster than the previous day, which unfortunately made it difficult to land on your feet at the bottom.

Luke on the zip line

Casey:  This zip line was awesome.  It was long and fast.  I planned to land on my feet gracefully but I somehow got turned around on my way down and landed on my side and butt.  I bounced a couple of times and slid in the dirt, eventually coming to a stop.  The people who zip-lined after me had to deal with the little ditch I left behind.  I quickly  hand-over-handed myself to the end of the rope, hung a leg over the zip line, unclipped and watched my teammates come down.  Adam’s landing was the landing I had planned.  He landed on both feet and jogged to a stop.  It looked like he had done it a hundred times.  Nicely done Adam, you’re back on the team.  I nominate Adam as the new team captain.

Luke:  I agree with letting Adam back on the team and even making him captain, BUT… He let me make a navigational error earlier in this race, so he is once again fired.

We all made it safely and we had plenty of time to make it to the finish line.  We hiked up the hill toward the camp and jogged to the finish line.

Team Virtus bringing it home

We crossed the line to the applause of the other teams and spectators and posed for a few more photos like this one.

WTFAR and Team Virtus

Bob: That garlic bread was the bomb.

Luke: Agreed.  At our next non-race, we need hot garlic bread at the finish line.

We cleared the course with 5 minutes to spare.  Much to our delight, there was plenty of food left at the finish line.   All things considered, we were feeling pretty good with just having cleared the course.  We noshed on corn dogs with Boetje’s mustard, which is phenomenal, and we were all amazed when Robyn Benincasa recognized our very own Bob Jenkins from the movie “Race Across the Sky”.

Bob casting the rest of us into obscurity

Bob: I’m still working on a book deal for that one.

Of course, in hindsight, there are things that we could be better at : more efficient paddling, quicker transition times, and not dropping water bottles into the river. We all crossed the finish line together but the posted results had Virtus Team 1 finishing 3 minutes behind Virtus Team 2.  I’m still not sure how the hell that works.  All in all everyone had a fantastic time and we are looking forward to next year.

Casey:  If I remember correctly Bob and I were TV #2 weren’t we?  Here’s how it went down…I clearly remember a dead sprint from the zipline by Bob and I.  We looked back and TV #1 was casually strolling towards the finish line, like they were in a park on a Sunday afternoon.  Bob and I then kicked it up to an even higher gear and flew across the finish line in a big blur of manliness.  After a couple of minutes, once we caught our breaths and our heart rates dropped back to their resting rates of 5o BPM, we walked back towards the zip line.  This is where we reunited with you guys and crossed the finish line together (and took the picture above).  If you remember, when we found you guys back by the top of the ravine, you were in pretty bad shape.  Luke even told us we should go ahead without him, he didn’t think he was going to be able to finish this one.  With some encouraging words and threats of being kicked off the team we were able to coerce you guys across the finish line.  I think Bob even offered to carry your pack but you refused him the “gift”.  You are therefore fired from the team for depriving Bob of that gift. 

Luke: 1. Casey’s comment is pure fiction.  2. Casey has no firing/hiring authority on the team. 3. It was a great race with a great team, and I had an absolute blast.  On behalf of Team Virtus, I’d like to say thanks to Gerry and all of the volunteers as well as the great staff at Camp Benson, and a big thanks to Robyn Benincasa for her coaching and inspiring stories.

WTFAR vs TV at the 2011 Lightning Strikes Adventure Camp

Lightning Strikes 2011

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….

Even the Golden Girls can't resist the charms of Gerry Voelliger

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:

Adam was fired from the team for eating while Mr. Lamb waited patiently for his coleslaw. What a dick.

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.

What's wrong with pulling them up to my armpits?

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.

Holy shit, these guys are almost as intimidating as we are

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.

A frosty morning as we make ready for paddling practice

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.

Gerry would later rename WTFAR as "Team Parking Lot"

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.

The tree of shame..obviously WTFAR weren't the only ones to get an ice-bath

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:

Take it all in, Robyn....take it all in

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 (  Check out this great cause and support it if you have the opportunity to do so, it’s a worhty cause.

Our pre-race pic w/ Robyn

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.

The only place Casey could fart without killing anyone

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.

Believe it or not, I find a CP once in a while

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…

Mr Lamb prepares for liftoff

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.

No more urine-soaked hiking pants!!

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.

His name is Mister Lamb.

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. 

This photo was chosen so we could stress the importance of pooping BEFORE heavy athletic activity.

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.

Makin' it look easy

And who could forget running into our bunk-mates and esteemed “We’ve swam in the Mississippi River” colleaugues…WTFAR.

It looks like they're waiting for something to come flying out of Casey's ass

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.

3 generations of the Lamb family (Left to right--Casey, Mr. Lamb, Luke and Austin)

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..

Round 1:

Luke puts up a good fight, but eventually falls prey

Round 2:

Even with superior facial hair, Laffoon never had a chance

Then it got serious..


Squaring off

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.

“Oh Shi-“
..It was a bit of a Buster Douglas moment.
TV:3                                                                               WTFAR:0

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.***

Lightning Strikes Adventure Race

**NOTE** This race report is presented to you as a collaborative effort; Casey, Luke and I (Bob) pieced this one together as a group so we could each give our own impression of this event.

The original write-up is given in black text, Casey’s comments are presented to you in red, and Luke’s commentary is given in yellow. I added a response or two in green.

Also be sure to read our Fixed Ropes and Paddling Fiasco Reports from camp.


When my alarm went off at 4:43 I was already thinking about that damn canoe.

I didn’t get much sleep the night before the race, mostly I just laid there thinking about how we were going to get through the paddling leg without another capsizing disaster. The last thing anyone wanted was to go for another swim in 40 degree water and have to spend the rest of the day all wet.

There had to be a solution…there had to be redemption.

Furthering my frustration was the fact that I wasn’t exactly in an environment conducive to deep thought. Hell, I don’t think Albert Einstein could have heard himself think in that cabin.  9 grown men, (and Alec), all  crammed into one small room were working unconsciously to create a symphony of farts and snoring that was absolutely spell-binding. The guys all just kinda fell into a rhythm…unknowingly breathing in one another’s ass funk and then expelling it in long rattling snores. I didn’t know whether to laugh or vomit.

Bob in the Cabin at Camp Benson

Bob wonders what the race will be like... or smelling a fart.

Add to that, Casey was talking in his sleep…recounting an epic tale of  survival about “that one time he fell through the ice while he had a broken rib…” he was obviously somewhere in dreamland delivering a motivational speech before thousands of riveted fans. Every now and then he’d throw in a question about vibrating eggs, but I never really figured that one out.

Lying there in that haze of testosterone, I came to the conclusion that the 3 of us were too much “man” for one canoe. The only solution was for one guy to load his Camelbak as lightly as possible and run next to the water while the other two piloted the boat. Casey and Luke both had way more experience in the boat so it only made sense for me to be the runner. To my thinking, one wet ass was better than 3, so we would just have to make it work.

I had pitched a rough draft of this plan to the guys the night before….Casey and Luke both thought the idea sucked. Deep down I knew they were right, but this idea was the only one we had.

Anyway, back to the story. The first time I hit the snooze button, Casey was already awake and asking Luke questions. Funny thing was….Luke was asleep and so were the rest of the dudes in the cabin.

All at once Luke sits up and whispers, “Why are you yelling at me?!?!?”

I wanted to punch Casey in the face repeatedly.  Why in the hell was it so urgent to ask me so many questions before 5:00 AM???

It was race day.  Get your lazy butts up and out of bed.  It was time to rock and roll.  We had to get our bikes to the bike drop by 5:30, then back to breakfast by 6:00 and get all of our gear ready and to the starting line before 7:00.  Let’s go Team Virtus…Rise and Shine…It’s Race Time.

Moments later, the alarm went off again and we all sprung to life. There was only a short while to get our gear together, hit the bike-drop and be race-ready before start-time. Luke and I headed for the bike drop while Casey gathered his things and interviewed the other racers. The bike drop was only a few miles from camp so we made good time; there was plenty of time to eat, drop a deuce and make final preparations.

I was left at the camp because only 2 people could ride in Bob’s truck.  However, I did get a couple of good interviews and some pictures of me wearing Luke’s and Bob’s gear without any underwear.  You should see what I put in their water reservoirs.

Dear God, I hope that’s not true!

Good to know, now I can tell my doctor where I got  this strange rash

Strawberry cream cheese….glorious strawberry cream cheese!! I loaded my bagel with gobs of it and the world was right. Damn I love strawberry cream cheese!

Right about the time I was polishing off bagel #2, some guy walks into the room all in a panic and says he’s locked his keys in his car…with all of his gear.

That’s no way to start your day…

So, we headed out to his van to try to break in through the window.  I’ve had to break into my own vehicle literally dozens of times, so I was confident we could get into his van. But after 40 minutes of trying unsuccessfully, I handed the coat-hanger to someone else and ran for the starting line. We later heard that he had to call AAA and do the short race.  I felt bad for the guy, but sometimes shit happens.

**Here’s a fun fact: Apparently, he had been giving his wife a hard time about locking her keys in her car earlier in the week…His wife was his team-mate…I wonder how that conversation went.**

So there we are, standing at the starting line moments from when the hammer is going to drop. We’re totally organized, hydrated, equipped and ready for action. Fist-bumps and yee-haws out of the way, it was business time. We only had one problem: I was trying not to take a dump in my pants.


We had spent so much time trying to help that guy break into his car that I hadn’t been able to run to the latrine. Now I was paying the price: The 3 plates of spaghetti, a pile of salad and garlic bread from the night before were ready to be out of my body.

Not cool.

Gerry said go.

We went.

You’ll notice in the picture that Bob and I were carrying the canoe.  I am pretty sure that we carried it most of the way.  I haven’t seen any pictures of Luke carrying the canoe.  But wait…That’s Luke with the paddles in this picture.  He did carry the paddles.

Not true at all.  I carried the canoe as well, and there are photos on the professional photographer’s site to back me up.

I like Strawberry cream cheese.

The first order of business was to run about 3/4 mile to pick up our canoe and then carry it another 1/2 mile down to the river. The boat got heavy quick, so we rotated carrying duties along the way.

Carrying the Canoes at the Lightning Strikes Adventure Race

Casey and Bob carrying the canoes.

After dropping off the boat, paddles and PFD’s we headed  into the first orienteering section. There was a super rocky, steep  climb to get to the O-section, but the race directors had been gracious enough to place a piece of rope for us to use as we ascended the rocks. Once at the top, Luke guided us flawlessly to the first CP. #1 was creatively placed in an opening on the backside of a rock face.

Actually, I almost took us in the wrong direction when Bob asked if we were sure that CP #1 was not right behind us.  After a quick map-check, we found the CP behind us with no problems. Thanks, Bob!

As Bob was punching our passport, another team approached and asked if the Check Point was there and motioned towards Bob.  Luke answered, “No, he’s taking a dump.”  The team froze in their tracks and asked, “Seriously?” with a disgusted tone in their voice and look on their faces.  Luke laughed and said, “No, the check point is right up there.”  I found it funny that the other team actually believed one of the “6 Pound Burrito Brothers” (as the race director nicknamed us) would actually take a dump right on the main trail of the race.

It always feels good to get the first checkpoint

Checkpoint 1 at the Lightning Strikes Adventure Race

Checkpoint #1

And so it went with the entire first orienteering section. Luke was our lead navigator and things were going smoothly. Every now and then Casey and I would chime in to “verify” our route, but Luke lead the way about 98% of the time…and that was fine with us.

The weather was perfect;  just chilly enough to wear thermals, but warm enough to shuck your gloves and still be warm. The terrain was beyond description;  Massive hills, boulders, rock faces, streams and trees were putting us all on sensory overload.

It wasn’t long before we made it back to the canoe. Nobody really said anything,  but we were all thinking the same thing:

“We can not flip the canoe today”

We decided to launch the boat around the bend from where most people had put in.  We did this because we heard several teams had tipped on the first curve.  With our shaky canoe performance yesterday, why tempt fate?  We drug the canoe across the river, up and over the bank and put into the river on the other side of the bend.  As we looked up we saw a very disappointed photographer who had been patiently waiting for us to launch our vessel.  I imagine he was hoping to get a great action shot of the “6 Pound Burrito Brothers” dumping their canoe.  Sorry we disappointed him, but we were hoping and planning on keeping dry.

We got Casey and Luke situated in the boat and I made ready to run the bank. At first the running wasn’t too difficult. I criss-crossed the river at its shallow points and followed beaver trails along the bank. No problem. All the same, it was soon apparent that I was slowing down the team.  It was time to get my ass in the boat.

Luke was the point man, I was in the middle and Casey in the back. Normally when we’re in the boat there’s a great deal of story-telling, bullshitting and playful banter. Not on this ride, today it was all business. If one of us took a moment to notice the scenery he didn’t point it out to the others and risk a distraction. We had trees overhanging the water, menacing rocks  beneath the surface, and a whole lot of fast-moving white water.

It was some pretty scary shit.

With Luke very much in control, things got off to a  smooth start. He called out turning instructions and told us when it was time to duck under trees, bounce over rocks or slam into a rock face.

That’s right, I said we slammed into rock faces.

There was no alternative, really. With all our weight + the weight of our gear, there were several times when we were simply unable to maneuver fast enough to avoid obstacles. Luke would let us know about 5 seconds in advance when we were going to ram something and we just did what we could to hold on. I can’t even tell you how many times I was positive we were going to tip the canoe, but somehow we managed to stay above water.

Casey did a fantastic job in the back of the boat.  It was nearly impossible to maneuver the canoe very quickly with all three of us PLUS all of our gear (probably 750 pounds), but Casey did a much better job than I could have done.  Good work, man!

You would have done fine.  Plus you did a great job “reading” the river and keeping us in the deep water whenever possible.  You calling out directions was half the reason we didn’t dump the canoe.  Another issue we had to deal with was using kayak paddles instead of canoe paddles.  I think they are the way to go and definitely faster, we just need more practice with them as most of our paddling has been done with a canoe paddle.

My only job in the middle of the boat was to stay still and keep balanced. Sounds easy enough, right? Not really. There were at least 2 times when I saw Luke’s body disappear in a spray of water. One time the canoe took a hit from the side and at least a gallon of water rolled over the side of the boat straight into my lap. Unable to help, all I could do was sit there and hold my balance.

At one point, the water was so violent that the race directors set up a place for racers to portage their boats and carry them to the other side of the river bend. When we got to this spot we found Jeremy Rodgers waiting for us, and DAMN it felt good to tell him we hadn’t flipped the canoe….yet. Jeremy told us  several teams had capsized on the river today, and one team even managed to flip the boat 6 times.

With that in mind we were back in the boat and on our way to the transition area.  Confidence was building… nerves were starting to calm down… and we were beginning to believe we’d make it out of the boat alive.

Naturally, 5 minutes later it all went straight to shit.

After a sharp right turn, the speed of the water more than doubled and we were now on a crash-course with an enormous boulder. Further complicating the situation was the fact that the boulder was directly in front of a tight left turn.  Every few seconds we’d hit another underwater rock, jouncing the boat erratically. Despite all this, the boat was still gaining speed.

I literally couldn’t believe how fast we were going. The current was sucking us straight into that boulder faster and faster.

Our reality check had just bounced.

Jaws were clenched and buttholes were puckered water-tight as we tried to psychologically prepare ourselves for the train-wreck unfolding before us.

That water was gonna be cold.

We are so screwed..

Literally at the last second, the right side of the boat hit an underwater rock, shoving us laterally so that we raked the side of the boat against the boulder instead of slamming into it. This was good news, but there was no time to celebrate. We were now face-to-face with a rock wall and there was absolutely no way to avoid it.

Luke called out the warning to stay cool and hold tight, and a split-second later we hit the wall head-on. And when I say we hit the wall, I mean we hit it…we hit that bastard like it owed us money. We slammed it so hard I was thrown from my seat and into the floor of the canoe……but we stayed upright.

We stayed upright?

I don’t think any of us will ever know how that happened. We sat there dumbfounded for a moment before the nervous laughter started and we got back into the current.

That was amazing!  Looking back, it was a blast, but it was a little scary at the time.  I couldn’t believe we didn’t go in the water!

Bob was definitely on the floor and my lap got wet as water splashed over the sides.  It was fun, but I knew all along we wouldn’t tip.  We got all of that out of our systems the previous day.  I believed that we would complete the entire canoe leg without tipping.

The last mile or 2 of the paddling leg was hard on Luke. The water level had dropped far enough that he had to keep getting out and pulling the canoe while Casey and I “forgot” to push. I think we were punch-drunk from all the near-misses in the boat or something.

Yeah, I’m not sure what happened, but it was hard enough to pull a 600 pound canoe through 6 inches of water when Bob and Casey were pushing with their paddles.  After pulling for a minute straight and only moving a foot or two, I looked back to see my teammates taking a leisurely float trip as they took in the beautiful scenery.  WTF?!?!?!  I “politely” asked if they could possibly find it in their hearts to help me out by pushing a little bit, and they obliged.

We pushed the whole time he was pulling.  We only stopped pushing because he stopped pulling to look back.  If he was looking back he obviously isn’t pulling with full effort.  However, there was one time that Bob told me to quit pushing and let Luke earn this last foot or two.  I listened to him and took a 30 second breather.  This must have been the time Luke looked back and saw us “taking a leisurely float trip.”  Luke – Thanks for jumping out all those times and dragging us to bigger water.

Eventually we rounded a corner and saw the canoe take-out. One last section of whitewater separated us from our mountain bikes. As we began our final left-turn the boat smacked another underwater rock and we literally spun sideways until we were pinned against a log in the current. The boat was pointing the wrong way, and we were all dumbstruck.

“It’s fate”, I thought. We’ve come all this way just to capsize at the damn TA. It only makes sense to have an audience for such an epic last-minute failure. We had seen at least 4 capsized teams along the way who were wet and miserable and now it was our turn to douche it in the river.

Only we didn’t. We righted the boat, beached it and punched the passport. That big yellow boat was a memory now, and anyone who was banking on us capsizing today was just gonna have to suck it.

Dry land never felt so good. We mapped out our bike route and made ready.

Mapping the bike route at LSAR

Mapping out the bike route

There were several people standing around at the TA soaking wet and obviously miserable, so we loaned them some of our dry clothes. One woman in particular was shivering so badly she couldn’t even get her gloves on. We gave her a stocking cap to use for a muff and a facemask to get her core temp back up. There were plenty of other people there to take care of her so we pressed on.

Note**Giving people dry clothes when they’re soaking wet is a quick way to make friends**

By the time I realized anyone needed some help, Bob had already given up much of his warmer clothing to help our our fellow racers.  He’s just that kind of a guy.  By the time we left the TA, though, we were in last place… literally. DFL!  But not for long…

I quickly changed into my bike shoes (not taking time to even put on dry socks) and got ready to go and found my teammates making preparations for the bike leg.  They are more experienced racers than I am so I figured they knew what they were doing.  Plus, I wasn’t in a huge hurry, and when I realized Bob was helping another team, I figured the AR Gods had smiled on us during the canoe leg and it was the least we could do to help them out.  Somehow, even the team we were helping beat us out of the TA by quite a bit.  Luke and Bob changed into dry socks and rechecked the map (I was hoping that I wouldn’t regret not changing socks).  We were dead nuts last when we left the canoe/MTB TA.  Minimizing TA times is definitely one area we can and need to improve on.  I guess that comes with more experience and a better game plan.  We were there to learn and have fun, not do everything we could to win (that will be next year).

The bike leg was about 98% dirt and gravel roads. The scenery was beautiful, the climbs were steep and the wind was a nightmare. We formed a 3-man paceline to combat the wind and reel in the other teams. There were at least 2 climbs that had us pushing our bikes, but all-in-all I’d have to say that the biking portion of the race wasn’t very difficult. We overcame a handful of teams during this part of the race, and noone passed us. We held a solid pace, and anytime we saw another team we made a point of picking it up and passing them.

Gravel Road at LSAR

Luke and Casey riding some gravel

Halfway through the bike-leg we stopped for the 2nd section of orienteering.  Here, we met several other volunteers and Ron. Ron had given us the orienteering lecture the night before the race. He let us know it’d be in our best interest to skip controls #9 and #10 to make it back in time for the rock climbing section of the race. We weren’t necessarily happy to be skipping checkpoints already, but we appreciated the advice.

I was really bummed and pissed that we were getting short-coursed.  I was secretly crushed inside, but I tried not to show it.

I was pissed too.  We weren’t given a “cut-off” time for a short course.  I began to wonder if it was because we were not thin or because we dumped the canoe the day before.  Anyway we weren’t in last and figured everybody else after us would get short coursed too.  I am sure that Ron was just looking out for us and didn’t want us to miss all the great climbing and ropes that were to come later in the race.  However, I had every intention of getting all the points.  I was against skipping any and wanted to push the pace to ensure we cleared all the points.  That was my plan which I shortly shared with my teammates.  We all quickly agreed that we would not be short coursed and we would get all the CPs in this section.

On our way to CP # 6 we found a couple other teams trying to find the same control. As we searched for the correct re-entrant, the other racers revealed to us that they had not been advised to skip any checkpoints. This was odd, and we came up with all kinds of unflattering theories as to why we’d been short-coursed.  The next two teams we encountered (and passed) also hadn’t been short-coursed, and we decided we weren’t either. We were kicking all forms of ass on this section and there was no reason we shouldn’t just keep on truckin’.

Only now, the pressure was on. We’d never live it down if we “de-shortcoursed” ourselves and didn’t get all the controls. Given the remaining amount of time and all the work we still had to do, there was zero room for errors.

So….we didn’t make any. Luke was reading the map like it was the menu at Dragon Kitchen and we hit every one of those checkpoints; we even passed 2 more teams in the last 1/4 jog back to the bikes.

Once again, anyone banking on our failure was going to have to suck it.

We transitioned quickly back onto the bikes and got back on the road. Some of the downhills were incredibly fun and fast. The navigation on this section was near-perfect; we made no mistakes and held a solid pace.

Gravel Road Biking at the Lightning Strikes AR

Bob leading the way on the bike leg.

As we were nearing the final bike checkpoint, (which was also the canoe takeout), my bike started shifting gears on its own. The cables had stretched and now I had to be really careful about pushing down too hard on the pedals. We still made good time and found the CP. Once there, we had to load up our PFD’s and paddles to haul them back  to the bike-drop. Luke assigned himself to carry the PFD’s and I took the paddles.

It REALLY sucks when your bike starts jumping gears and shifting on its own.  I’ve had to finish a race like this, and it is NOT fun.  It completely sucks the power out of your legs, yet Bob still dominated the bike leg while carrying 3 paddles in some VICIOUS wind!

I remember it more like, Bob volunteering to carry the paddles since he had experience carrying things on his bike.  He loaded up the three paddles on the back of his pack and looked like a dragonfly as he got on his bike.  Then Luke grabbed his life jacket for him, and we were off.

It was all that extra energy I had from eating Strawberry cream cheese.

I’m always amazed at the versatility of my camelbak; the paddles fit in the back section securely even despite the wind, and we pedaled the last few miles to the bike drop.

Biking with Paddles at LSAR

We really need to get paddles that break down into two pieces.

Dropping the bikes was a relief. We weren’t really tired, but pedaling into the wind is only fun for so long. Plus, we were now entering into the final leg of the race and we knew it would be the most fun.

CP 16 was easy enough to find since the clue was zip line. We knew exactly where it was because we had run right past it earlier in the day. Today’s zip-line was significantly longer and steeper than the one we had ridden the day before; There was a series of safety lines skirting the cliff-top just to get hooked up to the thing.

Zip Line at the LSAR

Casey clipping into the safety rope as Bob prepares for the Zip Line.

My memory of the zip-line is a bit of a blur, but what I do remember for sure is  that when I stepped of the ledge I was hauling ass. The speed was overwhelming, so much so that I didn’t realize the rope was burning the skin off the back of my neck. (I wasn’t leaning back far enough) When I finally felt the burn, I put my hand up to grab the rope and was promptly told not to do so by the men on the ground. Apparently that’s a pretty good way to lose a finger.

Too bad, that would have been waaay cooler than a scar.

The other guys came down the line to the tune of a few “yee-haw’s”  and then it was time for us to move on to the moster-sized rappel.

The climb to the rappel was a beast, but we had been up this same climb earlier in the day so we knew a clean route. Once we got to the top of the rappel, Luke went first, then Casey, then me.

Luke had obviously conquered his “deep respect” for heights, as was evident by the way he stepped to the edge, hopped out and rapelled all the way to the bottom. Casey also strolled to the ledge, stepped back and rappeled to the bottom without incident.

Casey Rappelling at LSAR

Casey showing us how rappelling is done.

I remember standing there watching them and thinking about how things had changed since yesterday. Less than 24 hours ago we had all been scared shitless, legs trembling, death-grips on the top-rope and stank-holes puckered during our first rappel.

Now it was 80% fun and maybe 20% fear. Awesome.

This is so true.  I didn’t think I was going to do that first rappel, but after I did, the rest were a LOT easier and a LOT more fun!

Of course,  being unafraid sometimes has its disadvantages. I learned this lesson quickly when I took my turn on the rappel; I slipped on the initial step and  found myself upside down at the top of a 500-foot rope. People wll think I’m lying, (and that’s fine), but i swear to you that I never freaked out. After everything we’d learned about rappeling and belaying, I knew I was fine. Keeping one hand on the brake-end of the rope, I righted myself and enjoyed a BADASS rappel.

It’s true… Bob didn’t panic at all.  He simply got his legs back under him and finished the rappel.  I actually slipped on my first step, too, so this was a much trickier rappel.  I somehow managed to ca myself with my feet at the last second to save it without going upside down.

Bob was a stud.  He was hanging there upside down, very serene and calm.  Then he quickly righted himself and finished the rappel.  This was a very cool rappel.  I went through some branches at the top, and then as I cleared the branches I kicked off the rack faces.  I didn’t realize the cliff face was angled in at this point (because I couldn’t see it through the branches) and since I kicked out pretty hard I was hauling ass for about 40 feet before I made contact with the rock face again.  It was freaking awesome.  I was like G.I. Joe, Rambo, and Chuck Norris all rolled into one—I was G.I. Rambiss.

Or was it “Chuck RamJoe”???

Top of Rappel at LSAR

Here we see Bob at the top of the 100' rappel.

Upside down Bob at LSAR

And here we see Bob trying to get right-side-up.

Do you think those pants make my ass look fat?

After a lot of chuckles and some high-fives, it was time to move on to CP 18. Luke and I were clueless as to how we were going to get there, so Casey stepped in and casually said “Why don’t we just go this way?” His route was spot-on, so we took off.

I’m not sure why the map looked so foreign to me at this point.  Maybe I was fatigued, but I was struggling with which way to go.  Casey seemed to be the only one thinking clearly at this point, and once he pointed out the best way to go, everything clicked back into place on the map for me.  Thanks, Casey.

It was my one contribution to the orienteering on this race.  The sun shines on a dog’s butt once in a while.

We plodded along next to a creek until we saw the outcropping of rock we were certain housed the CP. The hill was “holy shit” steep, rocky and scary looking. There was no reason for all 3 of us to climb it, and since I had “saved energy” in the canoe all morning we decided I’d go up.

I’m so glad Bob did this.  I was not wanting to climb that thing.  Thanks, Bob.

I was happy to let Bob do it too.  Luke and I waited at the bottom as we watched Bob climb up the steep cliff face like a hungry badger after his favorite snack.  He made short work of the hill.  Thanks Bob.

It was a fun climb, mostly red dirt with small trees and roots to pull my way up, then as I got closer to the top there was a lot of rock. The CP was in plain sight so I punched the passport and headed down. The hike down was just as fun as the hike up. For the last half of the descent I actually sat on my ass and slid down the hill. It was great.

CP 19 was straight across the creek from 18 in a small cave. Casey located it very quickly and we sent Luke inside to punch the passport.

Part of the reason I found it so quickly was another team was walking away, and a friend winked and nodded his head towards the face of this huge rock.  I just followed the direction of his nod and quickly found the little cave that hid CP 19.

Cave Checkpoint at the Lightning Strikes Adventure Race

This was the small cave.

CP 20 was  the one we had all been waiting for…the real cave. We followed the creek for a bit until we came to what was obviously the cave’s entrance. There was a pile of camelbaks and other gear that people left behind before entering.

Smart move, we did the same.

There was a creek crossing right in front of the cave’s entrance, and it looked like the crossing could be attempted a variety of ways. We watched one guy come across the creek with water up to his chest, and then another guy six feet to the right with water to his mid-thighs. We went with the mid-thigh route.

We lost a fair amount of time waiting for other teams to make their way out of the cave. Standing at the cave’s entrance, Alec and his partner caught up with us. They asked if they could pass us since they were trying to finish on time.


We were trying to finish too.

Eventually Casey got tired of waiting for the other teams to exit the cave, so  he went in. Luke and I decided we better follow him, and Alec and his team-mate weren’t far behind us.

A team that was leaving as we entered the river said that there was room for only 1 team at a time and you had to wait for them to get out before you could go in.  The other team was taking forever.  I headed in a little way and looked around when I realized that although it was a really narrow passage that there were parts that you could definitely pass one another with a little cooperation from the other team.  So I headed in and my teammates followed, plenty of room.  I wonder if the other team (that told us we had to wait) was trying to stall us a bit…HMMM.

The cave was amazing. We know that because we were wearing our Princeton-Tec Apex Pro headlamps and we could see every detail of every single thing around us. Those headlamps are ridiculous.

Initially we were walking in what I’d describe as a long triangular tunnel. The floor was relatively flat and the sides tapered upward. We were splashing along through about 2 inches of water when we started to notice we were surrounded by bats. Bats were literally all around us, clinging to the walls… about the size of a midget’s fist and covered in frost. Very cool.

Every now and then we would even see a frog sitting on a ledge about knee-high.

Man, I wish I would’ve taken my camera with me.  I left it with my pack on the back of the river so I wouldn’t get it wet, but that cave was amazing!

At one point I told Luke there was a bat right by his head that he should check out.  He said that he saw it.  I told him I meant on the other side and when he turned around his nose was maybe an inch from a little bat’s frost covered butt.  It was awesome to see his startled reaction to being this close to a bat.  It was a really neat little cave and we enjoyed the experience (one of the best during the race in my opinion).

If you’ve never been face to face (or nose to ass) with a frost-covered bat, let me tell you – It’s quite an experience!

We walked for about 5 minutes, pressing deeper and deeper into the cave. I hadn’t mentioned anything, but I was going through a little bit of anxiety at this point. I don’t like being underground, it freaks me out. We were required to wear our PFD’s inside the cave, and for good reason. By now the water was coming about halfway up my shin and it wasn’t helping my sanity at all that were having to crawl on hands and knees since the ceiling was so low.

Right about now, Luke turns to me and says, “Dude, how far into the ground do you think we are right now? Have you noticed the water is getting deeper? Holy Shit, if it started raining really hard outside and the river came up….we’d never make it out of here.”

There might have been a little bit of my urine in that cave.

At long last we found the CP, punched our passport and got the hell out of the cave. Indiana Jones couldn’t have done it better.

Now there were only 2 CP’s between us and the finish line. CP 22 was the CP where we had to use ascenders to make it to the top of a cliff, and we hadn’t had time to learn that procedure the previous day. That’s where Alec and his partner were headed. We decided to skip it and head for the finish, we only had about 13 minutes left before the cutoff, and since we didn’t know how to use the ascending tools it was the smart thing to do.

About 100 yds from the finish line we realized CP 21 was really close by, so we decided to go for it. With 11 minutes until the cut-off, we had the CP in plain view, and it may as well have been at the bottom of a well.

It was like some kind of sick joke, we were literally looking straight down a 20 foot drop with zero chance of climbing down safely. Shit, the only way to get down there was to jump, and assuming you could survive the drop without  shattering your pelvis you’d still never get back out.

Not in 9 minutes, anyway.

As the clock was ticking (tick, tock, tick, tock) I was considering our options and through the fog of fatigue I could just make out a solution.  My mind came up with a great solution to this dilemma.  By using the 10 feet of rope Bob was carrying we could lower Luke down into the chasm to get close enough to punch the CP or at least close enough to safely make it down to the CP.  Luke was considering this idea when…

There had to be another way. We fanned out to find another route. The clock was ticking and we had come too far and overcame too much to end up with a damn time penalty. As luck would have it, I got lucky and found a descending rope. The time penalty was heavy on my mind, so I grabbed the rope and tore ass down the rocks. It was about a 15 foot drop through some sketchy terrain, but with that rope in my hands I was able to jump over the bigger rocks and use the rope like an “air-brake”.

Too bad nobody saw it. We really need to get that helmet cam.

CP 22 at LSAR

Bob at the bottom getting CP 22.

It was significantly more difficult to get back up the climb, but that rope helped a lot. I got a helping hand from my team-mates at the top and we headed for the finish line.

I really thought there was no way we were going to get that CP. Looking down at that damn CP from the top, I was just standing there dumbfounded.  Then I heard Bob’s carabiners clanging from somewhere down below.  Then he miraculously appeared from nowhere to punch our passport.  Awesome!

Luke and I verbally cheered and applauded once we realized Bob had found a way to get our final CP.  I am not sure if Luke applauded for Bob getting the CP or for the fact that I wasn’t going to be lowering him down the chasm to his death.  Once again, Bob saves the day.  I think Bob might have been this races MVT (Most Valuable Teammate) for Team Virtus.

I agree, Bob was MVT.

Horseshit.  I say casey gets MVT for keeping the canoe floating (mostly) in a straight line

Much to the bewilderment of all those present, we crossed the finish line with 5 minutes to spare. We had skipped one checkpoint, only one.

Race Director and High Profile Adventure Camp mastermind Gerry Voelliger was standing near the finish, and I believe his exact words were, “Holy shit, I can’t believe you guys are still alive!!” We asked someone to take our photo at the finish, and Gerry literally SPRINTED to have his picture taken with us. What a guy, he thanked us for coming to the camp and asked if we’d had a good time.

Finishing the Lightning Strikes Adventure Race

Gerry Voelliger, Bob Jenkins, Casey Lamb, and Luke Lamb at the Finish

No Gerry, we didn’t have a good time…We had the best time EVER!!

Did I mention that Luke won a free pair of Keen trail shoes? Perhaps I forgot to mention that Casey won a frickin’ amazing messenger bag from Keen as well. Perhaps it would interest you to know that I got a Pro-level discount package from Suunto… and maybe I should mention that Zanfel gave away $8600 worth of their product away as well…

The High Profile Adventure Camp community is as dedicated to customer service as any group I’ve ever even heard about. Every aspect of this camp was top-notch. Each rope-station had at least 2 volunteers working, we were fed quality meals each day from an army of volunteers, provided with 1st class instruction from World-Class Athletes, (ever heard of Jeremy Rodgers?), given loads of awesome schwagg, and it all happened in the most patient, beginner-friendly environment conceivable.

This is so true.  Gerry and his crew from High Profile Adventure Racing, LLC were absolutely amazing!  The staff at Camp Benson was just as amazing, and it is one of the most beautiful places you’ll ever visit. It was seriously one of the best weekends of my life, and it was easily the best race I have ever been a part of.

I agree with my teammates.  We learned a ton, had a blast, and grew as a team.  The High Profile Adventure Racing crew was a bunch of true professionals and were willing to help you in any way that they could.  The day and a half of instruction prior to the race was unbelievable, invaluable, and informative.  We learned many new skills in a safe environment and expanded on some skills we already had.  We now have the skills that may have prevented us from attempting certain races.  The camp was top notch and worth every penny.  In fact, I feel like we owe them more for everything they provided.  You should try to make next year’s camp; you will not regret your investment.  Team Virtus will be there, so come and join us for one of the best weekends of your life.

I’ve been to Ireland, Alaska, the Bahamas, Breckenridge and even Branson Missouri, but I’ve never seen anything like Camp Benson. This was easily my top 3 of the most incredible outdoor experiences of my life.  Having more friends and family with us would have been the only thing that could have made it any better, but there’s always next year.

But enough about us, how was your weekend?

%d bloggers like this: