**NOTE** This race report was written by Luke and is presented in black text. Casey added some comments and are presented to you in Orange, Bob’s comments are in Green. Adam’s too good for us to add comments, but his comments would have been in Pink. Luke added a few responses in blue.
I can remember it like it was yesterday… It was Christmas Eve, and I was 8 years old. As I snuggled into my bed, snow silently fell to the ground outside my window, covering the outside world in its frosty-white blanket. The minutes slowly ticked by, inching ever so closely to midnight. It felt like time was standing still. I wasn’t sure I was going to survive the night. The anticipation was almost too much to bear.
You see, all of my friends already had Nintendo Entertainment Systems, and it was the only thing I wanted for Christmas. I would have given anything to get a Nintendo. I wanted it soooo badly. In fact, I often had dreams about hanging out at the mall with Mario and Luigi while all my friends stared at us, jealous of my friendship with the two plumber-brothers.
When dawn finally broke, my brothers and I sprinted downstairs and tore into our presents. It was a fantastic Christmas! Santa was very, very good to us. However… We did not find a Nintendo under the tree. I had built this Christmas up in my mind to be the Christmas to end all Christmases. I just knew we were going to get a Nintendo. I just knew it was going to be the best Christmas ever. I never even considered not getting a Nintendo. When the last presents were opened and there was no Nintendo, I was crushed. My heart broke, and my soul blackened ever so slightly. A part of me died on that fateful Christmas morn…
And that’s exactly how I felt at the Lionheart Adventure Race.
We had been building this race up in our minds since we first talked about it a few months ago, and the growing anticipation only added to how awesome this race was going to be. We just knew it was going to be a great race. We just knew we were going to have a blast. We never even considered not finishing an awesome race.
And then we were crushed… Just like that Christmas morning 13 years ago… (Okay, so it was 25 years ago, but who’s counting?)
We were originally planning on doing The Thunder Rolls Adventure Race, but since Casey has traveled 12+ hours to race with the rest of Team Virtus here in the Midwest several times, we decided to broaden our horizons and head East to race a little closer to his home in NY. After much deliberation regarding which race to do, Bob, Adam, and I decided to meet Casey in Ohiopyle, PA for the Lionheart Adventure Race.
All of us prepared for battle with our customary facial hair, but Bob definitely gets a gold star for going all-out this time.
We were incredibly excited for many reasons. We had trained our asses off for this race, especially in the paddling department (something we usually neglect). We were also excited about racing in a new state with more mountainous terrain than we have here in the Midwest. The paddling looked like it was going to be an absolute blast, and there was going to be a 130 foot high rappel! On top of all of that, our brand new team jerseys had arrived in the nick of time to debut them in PA. We had researched previous races in the area as well as the local trails and rivers. Basically, we were probably more prepared for this race than we’ve ever been for any other race. We even had a game plan: Pace ourselves early so we would be strong throughout the entire race, passing those teams that went out too fast. After all, it was a 25-hour race, right? Well, no it wasn’t, but more on that later.
Before Adam, Bob, and I left Jefferson City on Thursday evening around 9:15 PM, we had to scramble a little bit to make sure we had all of the required gear. The gear list had changed a couple of times over the previous week, so Bob reserved a snake bite kit with the race organizers (which wasn’t actually reserved for him, but thankfully, Casey had already picked one up in NY). We also hoped to pick up an “Aqua Strobe Flashing Rescue Light” when we got to Ohiopyle. This just raised our level of excitement even more…
**We might get bitten by a snake!!! We’re going to have to paddle at night!!! Sweet!!!**
Um… Yeah… Just keep reading.
With all of our supplies ready, we loaded the Virtus Van, and we were ready to roll. The drive would take us roughly 13 hours to get there, and, thanks to Bob’s amazingly awesome Mom, we had enough snacks and supplies to make the drive at least 5 times. We took turns snacking, driving, and napping. Thank you , Mrs. Jenkins! You made the road trip a GREAT one, and you rock!
After driving straight through the night, we finally made it to Ohiopyle around noon. The drive into Ohiopyle was beautiful. However, the terrain was a bit intimidating. The mountains in this area make the Ozarks look like ant hills, but we were ready. We parked the Virtus Van, and we walked along the Yough (pronounced Yawk) River. We were blown away.
We grabbed a quick bite to eat in the small town of Ohioplye while we waited for Casey to arrive (and I’m not exactly sure what it was we were actually drinking in the little pizzeria). After unsuccessfully trying to get a campsite at the state park (apparently PA State Parks won’t let you get a campsite if it’s after Noon – WTH?), we found a little hole-in-the-wall campground (Scarlett Knob Campground) nearby and set up our camp. Shortly thereafter, Casey arrived. After many top-secret Team Virtus hand-shakes, high-fives, and a man-hug or ten, the four of us made our way back into Ohioplye for a quick dip in the river. Hijinks and tomfoolery ensued…
Bob: I like how these photos show the contrast between my manboobs and Luke’s ripped back. Way to rub it in, asshole.
Luke: Dude, I love that photo of you. Your face shows the sheer joy of racing down those natural water slides.
We were a little timid when we first started going down the natural water slides. I mean if you stop to think about it, it probably wasn’t a great idea to be doing this kind of thing the day before a “25-hour” adventure race. It really was a lot of fun, though. However, all good things must come to an end, and we knew it was going to be a long race the next day. We didn’t want anyone getting hurt, so…
We decided to go down the water slides head first for the next hour.
Videos of us having more fun than anyone else can be found here: Luke (notice the bikini girl is terrified of me at the end), Casey, Bob (sorry about the angle, but notice he takes care of his comb-over in the middle of water sliding), and of course Adam (who is fired for dropping my flip-flop that Bob’s mom packed for us). You can also see a first-person-point-of-view video right here. We seriously had a ton of fun.
Bob: Lest we forget that a new Virtus term was coined in those frigid waters… That water was so cold, everyone was “Laffooning”. Heck, I’m Laffooning right now just thinking about it.
Casey: Remember how slick it was upriver from the slides? We were sitting in the river waiting for Luke to catch up and as he passed some teenage girls he lost his footing and went airborne. He was parallel to the ground and about 4 or 5 feet in the air. Luckily he wasn’t hurt. Oh course, we didn’t laugh until we were sure he was alright.
Luke: I’m pretty sure I heard you laughing before I hit the ground.
After our swim, we went to grab a bite to eat at “The Pub”, one of only a couple of places to eat in Ohiopyle. It… Took… For… Ever… The food was good, but we actually had to get it to-go since the pre-race meeting was starting at 8:00 PM sharp. So we took our cajun chicken pasta with us and hurried over to the pavilion for the meeting. At the last minute, however, the meeting had been moved to the next morning. Bummer.
We checked in, grabbed our t-shirts, maps, UTM coordinates, and passport. Then we copied the off-limits roads from the master map.
We went back to our campsite to plot the points and get our gear ready to go. The race meeting was rescheduled for 8:30 AM sharp, and the race would start at 9:00 AM. I’ve never been to a race that started so late… especially a 25-hour race (which was actually turned into a 23-hour race for reasons unknown to us). We all went to bed ridiculously early for the night before an adventure race, and we got a very good night’s sleep, something I’ve never had before an adventure race.
We all woke up around 6:45 feeling refreshed and ready to race. We finished packing our gear boxes and backpacks. For long races, we all prepare in our own way. Adam likes to meditate and visualize himself as an actual member of Team Virtus. Bob likes to stare at photos of his girlfriend for motivation. I prefer to pretend to lose things so Adam and Bob can help me find them (Man, that was hilarious, but you had to be there). And Casey apparently likes to hump the Virtus Van…
Casey: Although the Virtus Van appears to be enjoying the special attention, I was really compressing air from my e-Vent water proof bag.
Luke: Uh-huh. Sure you were. Perv.
We drove to the start of the race, and we made our way to the pre-race meeting… Well, all of us but Casey went to the meeting. He was looking for his camera that he swore one of us had hidden just to mess with him. He didn’t miss much, though, since there really wasn’t much info given out at the meeting. We learned that we had to be back by 8:00 AM the next morning, and we had to stay off the off-limits roads. And that was it. Nothing else was said. Remember this. It becomes important later in the race.
Casey: I thought one of you were screwing with me because you kept laughing every time I asked about it. You guys even said you had hidden it in the glove box at one point (I checked and it wasn’t there). I needed my camera for the race or we wouldn’t have any pictures of Luke. This would lead to fewer hits on the race report since Luke has such a huge following…woof!
We went back to the Virtus Van to get our packs. Casey was still looking for his camera when it was time to go to the starting line. He said he’d catch up, so Bob, Adam and I left without him.
Standing at the starting line, we were ready to go… Well, Casey was still looking for his camera. He finally gave up so he wouldn’t miss the start of the race. He would have made it to the starting line in time too, if he didn’t run to the wrong location. He ran to the pavilion where the pre-race meeting had been held instead of to the starting line on the bridge. What a great start. Once again, Team Virtus starts at the back of the pack. That’s okay. It was all part of our plan.
Casey: I never looked at the map to see where the start was actually located. Luke was navigating and I didn’t think I’d need to know. When I got to the pavilion, nobody was there and the people inside the store had no clue where the start was. I was starting to panic a bit and then I remembered something about a bridge, so I sprinted a good quarter of a mile to the starting line. I got there just as the back of the pack was getting off the bridge. I was breathing heavy and sweat was dripping off my face for the start of the race. Sorry guys, maybe you shouldn’t have hidden my camera.
Bob: You totally cost us the podium.
If you wanna take a look at a map of the area to sort of follow along, here you go. The race started on a footbridge above Hwy 381. We were faced with a 3-mile trek heading north on an old railroad trail (The Great Allegheny Passage) to get checkpoint (CP) 1, and then a 3-mile trek back to the Transition Area (TA) in the parking lot. Since we knew we would be back to the TA shortly, we decided to forgo filling our packs with water and food to lighten our load. In hindsight, this was stupid.
We also knew that a lot of teams would go out hard and run all 6 miles. That was fine with us. We’ve had success in the past by pacing ourselves early while other teams go out too fast and blow up. Our plan was to “power hike” the 6 miles to keep our legs fresh. That lasted about 5 minutes, though. Take a look:
(By the way, leave us a comment if you actually get my reference to marsupials in this video)
Um… Yeah. We started the race with a 100 meter sprint. So what? It was fun, and I clearly won. Other than that, though, we stuck to our plan. It was kind of fun trying to guess which teams were going out too fast too soon as they passed us on their way back to the TA while we were still on our way to CP1. We found the CP with no problems, and we then made our way back to the TA to grab CP2.
I’d like to tell you that we flew through this TA, but I’d be lying. Clearly, this is an area in which we need a lot of work. It took us 35 – 40 minutes to get out of the TA. That’s just pathetic. Part of that was because we needed to fill our bladders and pack more food. In hindsight, it was stupid to not do this before the race started. The little bit of time it saved us on the trek paled in comparison to the time it cost us at the TA. The good news, though, is Casey found his camera in the van. However, he never apologized for blaming us. What a jerk.
Casey: You guys never apologized for hiding it from me. Plus, I apologized a few paragraphs ago.
While at the TA, I got a nice little surprise. As I slipped my foot into my bike shoe, something impaled my foot:
My son, Otis, had somehow left his toy car in my bike shoe. I’d like to think that he did this on purpose to put a smile on my face, but he’s only two. I’m guessing he was just playing, and the car ended up in my shoe on accident. It did bring a big smile to my face regardless of how it got there, but I wish I would have found it later in the race when I would really need something to brighten my spirits.
As I waited for everyone else (Adam) to finish getting ready, I tweeted:
“2 cp’s done. Transitioning to bikes. In last place, but just pacing ourselves. Feeling great!”
Aside from taking too long at the TA, though, everything was going according to plan. The weather was great, we were feeling great, and we were excited to get on our bikes. The next CP looked easy enough to find. We simply had to hop on the Great Allegheny Passage rail-trail heading east for a short distance, jump on the Baughman Trail, pick up the Sugarloaf Trail, and find the CP at the “sledding area.”
Unfortunately, we managed to completely miss the trailhead. We must have blown by it while flying on the flat, smooth rail-trail. Fortunately, we caught our mistake quickly… Or so we thought. Rather than backtrack, we decided to bike-whack up the hill. This was another mistake. The bike-whacking was about as easy as proofreading one of Casey’s race reports. Take a look:
So it turns out that we had biked farther on the rail-trail than we had originally thought. We only tried bike-whacking for a few minutes before stopping to reassess the situation. Rather than waste a ton of energy, we decided to head back on the rail-trail to find the trailhead. We found it easily, and I have no idea how we missed it the first time.
We started riding on the Baughman Trail, and it was pretty fun… at first. We somehow managed to completely blow by where the trail turned and went up some steps. Bob was leading, and he was wearing Casey’s GoPro Hero helmet cam. If you’ll watch the video below, you’ll notice that Bob actually looks at the stairs, but then he just keeps going. He thought the stairs just led to some lookout, and he saw a pile of brush in front of him. He thought it would look cool on the video if he rode over the pile of stuff in front of him, so he disregarded the stairs. In hindsight, this pile of sticks was to let riders know that it was the wrong way. Whoops.
To see the video, just go right here.
We can’t blame Bob, though. I was behind Bob, with Adam behind me, and then Casey behind Adam. I saw the stairs, too, but I didn’t really think about it. Adam saw them too, but he didn’t think much of them either. Casey never even saw the stairs, which is amazing in itself. So, it was a collaborative mistake.
Soon the trail petered out into nothing. We realized that we must have missed the turn, so we decided to bike-whack up the hill to get back onto the Baughman Trail. The bike-whacking in this area was MUCH easier than what we attempted before. We quickly found the trail and got back on track.
While the trail was easier than bike-whacking, it was still an S.O.B. of a climb. It seemed to go on… and on… and on… for… ever… We didn’t do much biking on this part of the trail. We lost about a gallon of sweat, though.
It was was hot, the climb was steep, we were hurting, and it was still very early in the race. Not good. We eventually made it to the top of the climb, and we took a short, 5 minute break at a beautiful look-out. Was it worth the climb? Well, yes and no. Yes in the sense that it was beautiful and No in the sense that this was actually a race, and we didn’t exactly relish how much energy was just exerted. Regardless, it was a very cool spot, and of course we had to take some photos.
Casey: There was one good section that had a bombing downhill that you could ride in stretches. Below is a clip of Bob riding it with a headcam rolling. If you listen really closely you can hear BLD laugh like a little kid. He was really enjoying the moment.
Bob: The video does no justice to that downhill, but you can kinda tell how fast I was going by the way the trees get blurry. That section was reaaally fun.
We made our way over to the “sledding area” to grab CP3. The volunteers here were very cool. I wish I remembered their names, but I’m drawing a blank. Anyway, a big thank you to those two ladies. They were very friendly, and they laughed at all of our bad jokes… Even Casey’s.
We took a little longer here than we normally would. The bike-whacking fiasco followed by that hellacious climb had taken a toll on us. Bob wasn’t feeling very well at all, so we sat down and had a little picnic lunch. Bob asked Casey for some sausage (insert your own joke here), but Casey said he was saving it for later in the race. What a jerk.
We sat in the shade, ate some Honey Stinger Waffles and other food, and drank some e-Fuel as we planned our route on foot to the kayaking put-in. Yes, that means we were dropping our bikes here, which also meant we would have to come back up this S.O.B. of a mountain.
After refueling, we thanked the volunteers, bid them adieu, and headed out on foot. (Didn’t Bob promise to bring the hot chocolate for them upon our return?) It was going to be a 7-ish mile trek to the river mostly on gravel roads. It was a loooong hike, but at least it was almost completely downhill to the river. Many jokes and stories were told, Adam was fired from the team numerous times, and many memories were made. I won’t bore you with all of the details (I know, it’s shocking that I’m trying to keep this short…er). Here are a few photos from our trek:
Casey: We actually bet on whether we’d be paddling in tandem or single inflatable kayaks. I bet it would be single kayaks and Luke thought it would double kayaks. So who really won the bet? You make the call…read on.
It was a great, but looong, hike, and my feet were aching. We had a blast, and we were absolutely stoked to be getting on the river soon. We had watched videos of the Middle Yough River, and it was going to be an absolute blast! We were also going to be using inflatable kayaks, something we’ve never experienced, which only added to the excitement. We simply could not wait. And since we were running very low on food, we were even happier to be getting on the river for a 2-3 hour paddle back to the TA and our supplies.
We found the CP and met the two volunteers. As we punched our passport, one of the volunteers walked up and said to the other volunteer, “So, did you tell them yet?”
**Uh oh… That doesn’t sound good at all.**
Volunteer: “Well unfortunately, I’ve got some bad news for you guys. You can’t get on the river”
Volunteer: “You guys and 5 other teams missed the cutoff and can’t get on the river. You had to be here almost an hour ago at 4:00 PM.”
**Um… What cutoff?!?!**
At this point, I looked around to see if there was a video camera. I seriously thought this was a prank. As we stood there in silence for a few moments, I realized there was no camera, no “gotcha!” moment, and this was no prank. This guy was serious.
There was no mention of a cutoff on the race’s website. There was no mention of a cutoff at the race check-in. There was no mention of a cutoff at the pre-race meeting. There was no mention of a cutoff on the clue sheet. Why was there no mention of a cutoff? Because…
There was NO EFFING CUTOFF!!!
We were absolutely dumbfounded. We informed the volunteers that there was no cutoff, that there must be some kind of mistake. They told us that the State Park does not allow paddling on the river after dark, and there was nothing they could do about it.
**We had 3 and a half + hours of daylight left!!! And WHY did we need to buy an “Aqua Strobe Flashing Rescue Light if we couldn’t paddle after dark!?!?**
We couldn’t believe it. How could this have happened? We didn’t come all the way from MO and NY for this. We just didn’t understand.
Bob was silent.
It was really, REALLY hard to not take out our frustration on these volunteers. I know they had nothing to do with it. They were simply the messengers, and we all know how that saying goes. We tried to plead our case, but their hands were tied.
Bob was silent.
We asked what our options were. They said we could drop out of the race or hike all 7 miles back to our bikes (UPHILL THE ENTIRE WAY), skip the 100+ foot rappel that we were soooo looking forward to, skip going back to the TA where our much-needed food was, and continue on with the race on our bikes.
Bob was still silent.
For those of you that don’t know Bob, there are only two reasons for him to be silent: 1) He’s battling a Prairie-Doggin’ turd so he doesn’t poop in his pants, or 2) He’s really, really, REALLY pissed. All I’ll say is, he had a healthy bowel movement earlier in the day, so he was not in danger of soiling himself. You do the math.
Now, let me break this down for you. We had just been completely blindsided by, what we have now dubbed, a Phantom Cutoff. We were going to miss out on the two things we were most excited about: the kayaking and the rappel. And we were going to have to hike 7 miles uphill and finish the race without refueling. All because we missed the Phantom Cutoff by 1 hour.
Just let all of that soak in for a minute…
For those of you that haven’t raced much, I’ll just tell you that racing with cutoffs is entirely different than racing with no cutoffs. Having a cutoff makes it a “race within the race.” You know you have to be somewhere at a certain time, so you plan everything around that cutoff. In all of the Adventure Races I’ve done over the last 10+ years, I don’t remember ever missing a cutoff. Not one. I’ve dropped out of races before due to injury or being fat and out of shape, but I’ve never missed a cutoff. There is no doubt in my mind that we could have made it to the kayak put-in by 4:00 PM had we actually known there was a cutoff!!!!
Completely deflated, with our heads hung low, we walked over to the park bathroom to fill up with water, relieve ourselves, and discuss what we wanted to do.
I was pissed. I was depressed. I was deflated and dejected. No one wanted to go on the trek from hell with no food. No one wanted to skip the kayaking leg. No one wanted to skip the rappel. But what could we do? I, for one, wanted to quit. I think quitting crossed all of our minds… Even Casey’s.
If you know Team Virtus at all, though, you know we didn’t quit. There is no Strength & Honor in quitting. It was very hard not to quit at the time, though. Since there was nothing we could do, we decided to walk into the tiny town, buy any food we could find with our emergency funds (something you should take on every race), and then start our long, uphill trek back to our bikes, skipping the paddle, the rappel, and the TA.
As we were on our way to tell the volunteers that we had decided to continue with the race, we saw another team walking towards the volunteers. They were all eating ice cream and drinking sodas (which looked ridiculously delicious by the way) that they had purchased in the small town across the river. We informed them of the Phantom Cutoff. And their reaction was on par with ours. Actually, they may have taken the news worse than we did.
As we started walking away while they were discussing their options with the volunteers, the race director pulled up in his truck. So we decided to stick around to see what he had to say.
I believe the racer you see in the photo above said to the race director as he approached, “It would have been nice to know about a fuckin’ cutoff!” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Bob was silent.
The RD said that he has organized races in this area for 13 years with very similar courses, and he had “Never seen teams move so slowly and take so long.”
Wow. So it’s our fault. And we’re fat and slow. The nerve of this guy!
When we and the other team tried to tell him that we had enough daylight left to finish the paddle before it was dark, the RD said (and I actually didn’t hear this, but all 3 of my teammates confirmed this), “Well it took Team SOG (affiliated with the RD and the race promotion company) 2 hours, so it would probably take you guys like six hours.”
I’m glad I didn’t hear this. I might have completely lost what little patience I had left. So, not only was missing the cutoff-that-didn’t-exist our fault because we’re fat and slow, but we suck so bad compared to Team SOG that we would take 3 TIMES as long as they did on the water. This RD’s customer service was top-notch. And by top-notch I mean it’s the worst I’ve ever seen in the Adventure Racing community. Man! I get riled up just typing this, and it’s been several months since this happened.
Casey: Team SOG is an elite team and might very well be 3 times faster than we are on land since they actually run during races. However, on water I’m sure they aren’t three times as fast. That is a huge margin of superiority. They’d most likely beat us in a kayak race, but I assure you not by the margin their friend, the RD was assuming. We are big, strong guys and would have crushed the paddle. We paddled a lot this summer, and we were really looking forward to paddling on the Yough River. Apparently, American Adventure Sports cares more about catering to elite teams than the average Joe. If that is their target audience, they should say so from the beginning.
Bob: I feel like I should point out that Team SOG was a very classy crew. They made sure to say hello every time we ran into them, and they always had something positive and encouraging to say. Our beef is definitely not with Team SOG.
We expressed our utter disappointment in missing the paddling leg AND the rappel as well as our concern about not having enough food. We asked if there was anyway to get a ride so we could do the rappel, go to the TA and refuel, and then hike to our bikes and continue on with the race from there as a “short-coursed” team. He thought about it for a moment, and said, “I don’t see why not. It’s about the same distance on foot.” So the Race Director himself gave us the green light, and nothing else was ever said.
Okay, so all was not lost after all. We were still really pissed and feeling down, but at least we were going to get to do the rappel, go to the TA and refuel, and then finish the race to the best of our ability. So we piled in the back of the RD’s truck and the other team piled into one of the volunteers’ trucks for a ride back to the TA.
Bob was still Silent (maybe his new nickname should be Silent Bob).
Bob: I haven’t been that disappointed and angry since I was married. I make a habit to process my emotions before I react to them. I knew if I said anything, it would come out wrong and I’d look like a major jerk. I was convinced noone else had heard the RD’s condescending comments, so I was trying to keep it to myself. Having said that, I’d been looking forward to that paddling leg for months and had trained accordingly. I just couldn’t get past the disappointment.
Casey: I heard his comments and just assumed he was star-struck over his friends, Team SOG. I chose to ignore his insulting comment and assumed he was just an ignorant jerk. Because we are not elite on our feet doesn’t mean we’re inept on the water. We could have floated down the river in tubes in less than 6 hours. Hell, we could have carried our inflatable boats down the cinder path along side of the river in less time than he was assuming it would take us to paddle it.
We made it back to the TA and walked along the rail-trail to the bridge over the Yough River where we would be rappelling. Even though we weren’t in good spirits, we were still pretty excited for the rappel. And it didn’t disappoint.
Casey: It was pretty scary. The volunteer set my ATC up for a lefthanded rappel but my ATC was on the right side of my body. I pointed this out to him, and he told me that I was wrong, it was safe and that I should just go. I looked down at my harness and showed him how the ropes twisted over each other if I rappeled right handed. I was not going to attempt a rappel with this set up, and I called over another volunteer. He agreed with my assessment of the situation and helped me reclip in properly. Once this got straightened out I really enjoyed the rappel off the bridge. It was one of only a few highlights of this race for me.
It was quite an adrenaline rush, and it was just what we needed to kick-start the rest of our race. When we went to punch our passport, we realized that we had left it at the TA. Adam was fired for not reminding us to bring it. We quickly went to get it, came back, and punched the passport.
We re-stocked our packs with food and water, and then we headed out on foot to go pick up our bikes. This time, however, we decided to take the Sugarloaf Trail instead of the Baughman Trail. I was actually against this , but Bob campaigned for the Sugarloaf Trail and I was outvoted. It turned out to be a great decision. We made decent time as we climbed our way up the mountain. Steep in spots, the trail was pretty rocky, but it was much faster than taking the Baughman Trail. I remember all of us commenting that it would be fun to bike down this trail and that we’d be getting off and walking some of the steeper, rockier sections.
We soon made it to our bikes to find the same smiling, friendly volunteers. (They asked about the hot chocolate they were promised. BLD lived up to his name once again). It was now getting dark, and we decided to have a snack before hopping on our bikes. I believe Casey was nice enough to share his sausage with the rest of us at this point (insert another joke here). In all honesty, Casey was right. It would have been too soon to eat such a delicious treat, and it was definitely worth waiting for. I needed more food, though.
Casey: I felt like such a jerk for telling Bob no earlier in the race. I was planning on saving it until we needed something to pick us up. I think it worked out though.
We once again said good bye to the wonderful volunteers, and we headed out on our bikes. I don’t remember exactly where we went, and the order of events may be off slightly. I can’t seem to find my maps (I may have either burned them or wiped my ass with them). I remember riding some fun, but tough, gravel roads for quite a while.
The navigation on the bikes wasn’t difficult, and we eventually found ourselves at the CP where we picked up our maps for the Optional Bike CP’s. After looking at the maps, we decided we would not be getting any of the Optional CP’s. The distances were too great, and the hills were ridiculous.
This turned out to be a good decision. Less than half a mile from the CP, we crossed a creek and heard a horrific sound – metal against metal. We stopped and looked back to find Adam off of his noble steed, looking at the chain. His derailleur had been torn off of his bike. It was bent badly, and no one had an extra hangar anyway. Our only option was to make it a single speed and hope for the best.
Bob had been dealing with a blister for quite some time at this point. Since we had been stopped for quite awhile anyway, we talked him into giving me the gift of letting me help him. I punctured his blister, covered it with a circle of moleskin, followed by a cover of moleskin, followed by some Kinesio-Tex Tape. I learned all of this from the great book, Fixing Your Feet (highly recommended). Thank you, Bob, for such a wonderful gift.
After fixing the bike and working on Bob’s blister, we hopped back on the bikes to head back to the TA. We took the gravel roads, and they were quite hilly. Adam’s single speed was in a pretty big gear, but he was a champ. He never complained, and he kept up quite well. He was so good, in fact, that he was almost re-hired to the team. Almost.
We found ourselves back on the Sugarloaf Trail, descending the rocky, hilly trail that we had previously hiked up. It was soooooo much fun. We absolutely flew down this trail, even though it was very rocky, steep and dark. It was one of the highlights (although there weren’t many) of the race. All of the parts we previously talked about getting off of our bikes and walking seemed to fly by us. We didn’t even think about getting off the bikes.
We were having way too much fun. I kept waiting for something bad to happen since this race had not gone as planned. Nothing happened, though. We all made it down safely, and it was one of the best downhill rides I’ve ever done. Well, there was one crash, but it was on a non-technical, flat section. Bob just fell over for no reason at all, and he mashed his junk on his handlebars.
We rode back to the TA, and we stopped briefly to fill up with water and food. We got back on the rail-trail and headed north once again, the same way we started this race on foot so many hours ago. At this point, Adam decided for no reason whatsoever to ask, “Hey, are we sure we have the passport?” For some reason, I had been carrying it (which usually isn’t the case), and when I reached down for it I realized it wasn’t there. Holy crap! Adam saved us a TON of time and heartache. For that he was re-hired to the team… For now.
Bob: As much as I hate to admit it, he really saved our bacon right there. Knowing Adam though, he probably hid the passport before “reminding” us to go back and get it. Tricky guy, that one.
We went back for the passport, and then hopped back on the rail-trail. We passed where we had turned off the trail to get CP1 earlier in the race, and we found the trail leading to Mitchell Trail. We took this trail, and it was brutal. The climb was steep, and it would have been crazy-hard without our bikes. With our bikes, however, it was pure hell. There were steps, rocks, washed-out and over-grown sections, and the incline was ridiculously steep.
We finally made it to the manned-CP where we learned that there was one mandatory CP to get on foot and several optional CPs on foot. The mandatory CP was on top of the rappelling cliffs, but we had to walk down Bruner Rd. to get there. It doesn’t look like much on the map, but this hill was STEEP and long. Bob’s heels and feet (they’ve always been a problem for him) were really starting to hurt, and the downhill walking was not helping. On top of that, Bob was getting some serious chafing on his… uh… “mini-me” if you know what I mean.
At one point, the chafage got bad enough that Bob walked behind us with his shorts pulled down to his knees. He was “letting it all hang out” so to speak. I tried to snap a photo, but Bob was too quick for me. Then, using my cat-like speed and reflexes, I managed to capture a photo of Bob in all of his full-frontal glory. I was like a Photo-Ninja. It was hilarious! Bob was very worried that it would end up on this blog, but I just couldn’t do that to him… or to you. You’re welcome. But here’s a shot of Bob in pain:
Bob: I feel like I should mention my life-long phobia that someone is going to see “Stanley”. I was the guy who never showered in gym class, electing to smell like a jockstrap over standing around in a shower-room with my business out in the street. Fast forward 20 years and here I am walking around in the woods waiting for my junk to burst into flames. I enjoy a brief reprieve while I’m “airing it out”, but then a camera flashes and I hear giggling. My worst fears were realized as I knew there was now a digital photo of my weiner on Luke’s camera. Talk about panic.
We got to the bottom of the hill and found a trail taking us up to the top of the rappelling cliff, but we had some struggles finding the CP. After some searching with several other teams, we eventually found it, though. Actually, I think Adam was the one that found it, thus reaffirming our decision to re-hire him.
We climbed and clawed our way back down the steep slope to the road below. We were all dreading the long climb back up, but it turned out to be waaaay better than the way down. It still sucked, but it was much easier than we had anticipated. I think it was a lot easier on Bob’s heels and knees too.
After making it back to the top, it started to sprinkle a little bit. We decided to take a break, grab a bite to eat, and discuss whether or not we wanted to try to get any of the optional CPs.
Well, it was nice while it lasted. Adam was promptly fired from the team again. Don’t ever let him sing to you under any circumstances. Ever!
Casey wanted to try to clear the course, but that just wasn’t happening. Some of us didn’t even want to try for any of the optional CPs, especially after the rain started to come down much harder. We decided to try for the closest CP, and then we would go for the next one if all went well. However, things did not go well.
Casey: We had time left and heading back before the cutoff without all the CP’s we could get seemed like quitting. Unless somebody was physically injured or if it was unsafe for some reason, I always vote to get one more CP. I am so glad that we made the effort, I felt much better about it.
Luke: True, but sometimes staying out there longer for “just one more” costs you in the final results. I think we could have had 3rd place at another race had we not tried for one more CP.
The rain was really coming down now, and it was hard to see more than a few feet in front of us. We started down the trail towards the CP, and we headed into the woods where we thought we’d find the CP. There were several other teams doing the same thing with no luck.
We rechecked the map, and we decided we needed to go farther down the trail before heading into the woods. We thought we’d find the CP for sure, but when we turned around, Casey was gone. Now, you would think it would be hard to misplace a 240 pound MMA fighter, but apparently it’s pretty easy to do. Especially when said MMA fighter wanders off on his own. Bob, Adam, and I stood around in the cold rain waiting for Casey to come back to us. We tried yelling, but the rain severely dampened our voices. We eventually headed back up the trail where we waited for Casey some more.
Honestly, I was getting a little worried about him. Finally after an hour and 15 minutes… Okay, it was only 5 minutes or so, but it seemed like forever… Casey made his way back to us on the trail. Apparently, Casey thought Adam was right behind him with Bob and me right behind Adam. With the rain drowning out all other noise and the hood of our rain jackets forcing us into tunnel-vision mode, it’s easy to see how this could have happened… Sort of.
Casey: I actually thought they were right there behind me. I was talking to them and felt we were really close to finding the CP. It looked like an obvious trail (it was a very old jeep trail) and I was sure it was heading to the CP. I turned around and saw I was alone. I immediately aborted my search for the CP and backtracked to my teammates. It turns out that I was probably within 25-30 yards of the CP. I stopped just on the other side of a little knoll down trail from the CP. I guess I should have expressed my thoughts better to my teammates. Somehow, getting just this one more CP would have made it better.
Luke: You think you were within 25 – 30 yards of the CP. We’ll never know.
I’m sorry to say we never found the CP, and when we discussed what we should do, Bob and Adam wanted to cut our losses and head back. Of course, Casey wanted to go for the next CP. No one can ever call Casey an underachiever. Annoying as hell and really ugly? Yes. Underachiever? Nope. I was kind of torn. Part of me really wanted to get another CP, but the other part of me knew the navigation in the dark, cold rain was very difficult.
From experience riding the Katy Trail back home, we knew that it could be a real “female dog” to ride when it rains a lot. It can get real soft and mushy, making it nearly impossible to ride. We were afraid that the rail trail here in PA would be the same. We were all wet and tired, and it was getting late. So we decided to skip the rest of the CPs and head back to our bikes.
We got on the bikes and rode down the hill on Bruner Rd. Yes, the same ridiculously long and steep hill that we had previously hiked down and back up. It was raining now, though, and it was very sketchy riding such a steep grade on wet pavement. We flew down it as fast as we dared to, and we hopped back on the old rail-trail. We had roughly 6 miles of flat, cinder trail between us and the finish line. We just hoped the trail was ride-able.
It was in great shape, and we rode as fast as Adam’s single speed would carry him. It turned out to be roughly a 14mph average, which, all things considered, was pretty darn fast. As the sun started to rise, the rain let up, and we made it back to the bridge off of which we had rappelled earlier the day before.
We were now at most a mile from the finish line, but we took a moment to take in the view and reflect on our race. Below us would have been the take-out point for the kayaks, but that just wasn’t meant to be… Because of the STUPID EFFING PHANTOM CUTOFF!!! (Yes, I’m still pissed).
We dropped the bikes off at the TA, and walked as a team across the finish line.
All things considered, we did the best we could do with the cards we were dealt. We could have (and really wanted to) quit when things beyond our control didn’t go our way. We didn’t, though, and that’s what it’s all about. And hey, even though we did the short-course, we were still official finishers, right?
It wasn’t until we were on our way back to MO that we found out we were “Unofficial Finishers” which, In my opinion, is a nice way of saying DID NOT FINISH (DNF). Casey had already made it back to his house in NY, and he looked at the online results. Even though we got permission and a ride from the race director himself without even so much as a mention of being DNF’d, that’s what happened. If we knew we would be DNF’d… Oh, wait… I mean “Unoffical Finishers”, we would have walked back to the bikes like we had originally planned to before the RD showed up.
I just don’t get it. I’ve never before seen a race with less communication than this one. I’ve never been more disappointed in how a race was organized and run than I was with this one. I’ve never been more disgusted with how a race went down than I was with this one.
We each paid $180 to do this race, not to mention the gas, food, and camping costs. We all took time away from our families to do this race. And to have it ruined by a Race Director’s carelessness really sucks. And then to be insulted and blamed by the same RD really sucks. And then to be DNF’d without ever knowing about it was the final straw.
Was it a complete waste of time? Of course not. I had a helluva a good road trip with two of my closest friends. I got to do a race with my brother and friends in some beautiful country. We got some great mountain biking and navigation work in. We had an absolute blast camping after the race (especially watching Bob try to shield the fire with wet pizza boxes – successfully, I might add). We overcame a lot of adversity and became a stronger team.
Oh, and the post-race meal was fantastic. It’s pretty bad when the post-race meal was the best thing put on by the RD.
So there you have it. That was our experience at the Lionheart Adventure Race. The good, the bad, the really, really bad, the total Bull Sh*t, and the ugly. I’d like to thank the volunteers that helped out at this race. You guys rocked! Nothing else to say, though.
But wait!!! There’s a happy ending!!!
No, not regarding the race. The race still sucked. I’m talking about that Christmas morning so many years ago…
As I sat in my living room trying not to show my disappointment while playing with my new toys, My mom said, “Wait a minute. I think I see another present that Santa must have dropped behind the couch.” My head snapped up.
What?!?! Could it be?!?! Was it possible?!?! YESSSSSSSSS!!!!!
Christmas miracles really do happen, and it was definitely a Christmas miracle that day. Although I got the original Nintendo and not the Nintendo 64 (which came out later), if we had a video camera, my reaction would have looked something like this. I literally got blisters on my thumbs from playing my brand new Nintendo. It was simply amazing. And I still remember the code to get to Mike Tyson on “Punch Out” – 007 373 5963.
Casey: I remember this Christmas and Luke was so excited.
Unfortunately, there was no Christmas miracle for Team Virtus at the Lionheart Adventure Race. I can’t speak for the rest of the team, but I will NEVER… NEVER… NEVER… EVER do any event put on by American Adventure Sports. I could have overlooked the Phantom Cutoff error. Don’t get me wrong. It was a HUUUUGE error, but I know mistakes happen. We could have dealt with that. It was how we were treated after the error that is simply unacceptable.
Bob: The more I think about it, this may have been the most team unifying race we’ve ever done. When you stop and recollect our triumphs over bike mechanicals, foot blisters and weiner phobias, it’s hard not to look back on this whole thing as a very positive experience. Granted, the organizational skills of the RD threw a pretty huge wrench into things, but those are the moments when you really find out what your team is all about.
I, for one, was 100% ready to quit when those guys told us we wouldn’t be paddling. Casey wasn’t having any of that. He MADE us keep going, and while I hated him for it then, I’m grateful for it now. I also wanted to murder his ass when we were walking around in that typhoon trying to find “one more CP,” but now I look back on that experience and laugh.
Casey: Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are. ~Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha. We came together as a team, faced adversity, and showed our true selves by persevering with strength and honor, the Virtus way. This race has ultimately made us a better team.
Luke: While the race itself was a disaster, I agree with Bob and Casey. We became a much stronger team, so it definitely wasn’t a waste of time and money.
So, what do you guys think? Have you ever had a similar experience? Let us hear it. Did we overreact? Are we spoiled divas that expect too much? Or are we justified in how we feel? Seriously, let us know what you think, both positive and negative. Inquiring minds want to know.