**NOTE** This race report was written by Casey and is presented in black text. Luke added some comments and are presented to you in Blue, and Casey added a few additional comments in green. This is the conclusion to our story, and in case you missed the first two parts, you’ll want to be sure to get caught up by reading Part 1 right here and Part 2 right here.
THE PADDLE – Fog, Hallucinations, and Narcolepsy
After some discussion, we decided that Luke would man the bow of the canoe and I’d pilot our craft from the stern. Part of this logic was due to Luke’s adept skills at reading rivers. He does a great job of directing us to the deeper water, which is very important when your boat is carrying the load that is Team Virtus.
Luke: That and Casey is very good in the stern of a canoe even though it pains me to admit that.
Casey: Thanks. That means a lot coming from the team captain. Seriously.
Luke: I’m not the captain.
As the temperature continued to drop, we carried our canoe into the river and climbed into the boat. We were ready to rock the paddle section and make up some ground. We shoved off, took two strokes and were beached on the gravel in a shallow section of the river. Seriously? Way to read the river Luke (there was no other choice). In hindsight, we probably should have carried our boat across the off-shoot of the river, over the gravel bar, and launched on the other, deeper side. However, we were unwilling to admit our error and were just too stubborn to get out of the canoe just yet, so we manhandled the boat and pushed our way into deeper waters as the fog began to thicken.
We were off… Now it was time to make up some ground. We were doing great, and Luke was reading the river like a good book and directing our course well for about 10-15 minutes. Then the thicker fog rolled in and limited our visibility to anywhere from 3 to 25 feet (usually less than 10 feet). There were times that I could barely see Luke sitting in the front of the canoe. It looked kind of spooky and was beautiful and fun to paddle through. However, it was very difficult and slow to race through. We were literally feeling our way down the river. Luke would call out, “ROCK” or “LOG” only milliseconds before we crashed into it or slid over it, hoping that we wouldn’t tip. Just as we were getting used to the foggy, nighttime canoe navigation and beginning to move a little quicker by trusting the river gods to keep us dry, it happened again…
HELLO SLEEP MONSTER…..
We wondered where you have been…
We hoped and prayed that you were done with us…
That’s right. That SOB had climbed up and made himself comfortable perched atop Luke’s shoulders. It sort of looked like this:
Luke: I would like to include this disclaimer: What you are about to read may or may not have happened. I cannot verify nor deny most of the events as they are described below.
Casey: They happened and they happened exactly as they are written in this report.
Luke became quiet, listed from side to side, and almost fell out of the boat. It looked as if he would wake up just in time to keep himself upright and us out of the river. Luke was a trooper and pushed through the ordeal as best as he could. He was bound and determined to make it through the paddle. We ventured onward.
His struggle with the sleep monster continued. He would paddle, stop, and lean over the edge of the boat, then startle himself awake and sit upright once again. It was the bike ride all over again, only it was getting worse. He was no longer able to read the river in his mentally clouded state. Hell, he could barely paddle. I guess we had made a fortuitous decision to put him in the bow. I can’t imagine how horrific things would have gone had he been in the stern when the sleep monster attacked.
Luke: In my defense, I couldn’t exactly read the river before the Sleep Monster attacked me again. The fog was ridiculous.
I talked to him and asked him to call out which side of the river we needed to be on. He asked me how he was supposed to do this. How did he know which side we needed to be on? I told him to keep us on the side with the steeper banks and away from the gravel beaches. He said ok. Then our canoe squealed and moaned in pain as we hit the rocks and gravel, beached again. Luke was in no shape to hop out and back into the canoe so I hopped out, pushed us to deeper waters and jumped back in.
This happened several more times. Luke was just unable to make sense of what he could see of the river, and I could hardly see anything from behind Luke due to the fog and the darkness. We tried all permutations of possible lighting options – Both lights on, both lights off, my light on/Luke’s light off, Luke’s light on/my light off, Luke’s light on the bow of the canoe. We eventually left Luke’s headlamp on and mine off. This reduced the glare on the fog and shadows and enabled me to see a bit of the river and do some navigation based on what I could see from the stern.
This worked pretty well except for the times that Luke turned his head to look at something at one side of the river or another. I’d call out and ask him to center his headlamp. This happened one time and Luke corrected the beam of light pretty quickly. Then a few seconds later, his light (our only light) was pointing into the bottom of our canoe and Luke was asleep in the boat. I asked him what was to our right.
CASEY: “Luke! What’s that! I hear fast water! Is that a tree!? Which way!”
LUKE: “Huh? (raising his head) TREE LOOKOUT, GO LEFT”
And we paddled hard trying to move our craft to the left side of the obstacle… with no luck. We slammed into a little strainer and it was all we could do to keep the boat upright. We pushed the canoe back against the strong current, but we just couldn’t get our canoe clear of the obstacle. The gunwale of the canoe was pinned under one of the roots. We were stuck. Water was splashing over the side. The canoe was taking more water and it looked like we might dump it. Then Luke quickly, instinctively, hopped out of the canoe into the shallower water near the bow and pulled us free and to safety. Nice job! We were a little wet but still upright. This gave Luke a much needed shot of adrenaline and woke him up for a bit.
Luke: I vaguely remember this happening.
He was back to attempting to read the river. He asked me how to let me know where to go. I told him to call out “River Right” or “River Left” and we’d go that way. He struggled with this concept… He asked, “Do I call ‘River Right’ to go to the right or ‘River Left’ to go to the right and avoid the obstacle on the left? Does River Right mean go right or that there is an obstacle on our right?”
Luke: I remember being very confused, and Casey just wasn’t making sense at all.
After much discussion and several attempts of explaining what I was trying to say (I thought that it was all on Luke but in hindsight I might have been nearing the edge as well), we finally came up with some new verbage for this paddle. Luke would call out “Beach Left” or “Beach Right” and I would take us where we needed to go. And it worked. He’d call out the location of the shallow water, or beach, and I’d pilot us to the other side, which in most cases led us to deeper water.
I then tried to teach Luke the verbage that Bob and I use when in a canoe together. I said if you need me to move just a little left or right just say “Tickle Left” or “Tickle Right.” This blew Luke’s mind… Tickle what?…Who?…How?…Tickle? I dropped the whole tickle-talk, and we stuck with the “Beach Left/Beach Right” call-outs. K.I.S.S. –> We had to keep it simple.
Luke: My brain was simply not working. Nothing made sense to me. And I mean NOTHING.
We were making decent time and avoided the shallow areas that would beach us and slow us down. This worked well as long as Luke could stay awake and cognizant. He was fighting a good fight against the sleep monster.
Luke would say, “Why can’t I stay awake?! It doesn’t make sense. I am paddling and falling asleep! How can I fall asleep while I’m moving?!?!”
He couldn’t understand why he was falling asleep while actively paddling. He was getting mad at himself for his inability to beat the Sleep Monster. After some discussion, we decided it was in our best interest and probably safer if we stopped for a quick nap. We pulled over on this nice little gravel bar and made ready to take a quick nap.
Luke: All I wanted to do was sleep. I’ve NEVER been more sleepy in my life. My mind and body were just completely shutting down. I had been up since 7:00 AM on Friday morning, and it was now roughly 3:30 AM on Sunday morning. That’s 44+ hours with no sleep. In hindsight, we probably should have napped earlier in the race.
Casey: Hind sight is 20/20. I agree with Luke. A 15-20 minute nap probably would have ended up saving us more time than it would have cost us.
We drug our canoe entirely out of water and onto the gravel bar. We wanted to be sure it would be there when we awoke. Then we burrowed down into the gravel, used our life jackets as pillows and prepared for some much-needed shuteye. I set the alarm on my watch for 30 minutes and stuck the watch under the band of my headlight so that it rested on my left ear. I then dug out my mandatory cell phone and set the alarm on it and slipped it under my headlamp’s headband on the other side and rested the speaker on my right ear. Hopefully, one of these alarms would wake me up, and we could finish our race.
As we were getting comfortable, I noticed how clear the sky was. The fog was mostly on the river, and from the gravel bar, I could see the sky clearly and the stars were amazing. They were so bright that it looked almost fake, like I was at the planetarium. As I tried to get comfortable and drift off to sleep, I heard thunder in the distance and saw some lightning. How could that be? The sky was so clear, you could see everything. Then I heard Luke ask me…
LUKE: “Dude, do you think we should keep going? We should probably get off the river if it’s going to start lightning.”
His logic made sense to me. Water + electricity in a metal boat… Yeah, we should get going.
CASEY: “I am good to go if you want to. It’s your call man.”
LUKE: “We should get going. What if it starts lightning, and they come and pull us off the river. I don’t want to get short-coursed or get a DNF.”
I didn’t want to get short-coursed or a DNF either. Could they do that? Did they have any idea of where we were? Could they get to us? Could they short-course us? That would suck. I didn’t want to be an unofficial finisher again (Lionheart race report coming soon).
CASEY: “Yeah, that would suck. We better get up and get going. “
Luke: The gravel felt luxuriously comfortable, and I desperately needed to sleep. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was get back up and keep racing, but I guess my desire to finish this race was stronger than my desire to sleep. Standing back up to continue the paddle in the cold fog without taking a nap is one of the hardest things I’ve done in any race thus far.
So, the nap that we so desperately wanted and needed would elude us yet again. We packed up, climbed into the canoe, and set off into the thick fog once again. Luke started out doing a great job. He was paddling hard and commanding the canoe from the bow…
Log in the middle…
We were making decent time, and then something that I had read about and was looking forward to some day experiencing happened right before my eyes. Well, at least right before Luke’s eyes…
LUKE: “Holy crap, Did you see that?”
CASEY: “See what?” And I looked around and ahead into the fog, hoping to avoid an obstacle that I feared would tip us. What had he seen?
LUKE: “That floating Samurai face, kind of like on Scooby Doo. It was awesome.” He said with a big silly smile on his face.
CASEY: “No, there was no face Luke. You doing all right?”
LUKE: “All right? This is awesome. It’s like I am drunk and high but I am really neither. Just sleep deprived. Awesome! Last Berryman the hallucinations freaked me out. This time I know they aren’t real, so it’s really cool.”
Luke: I do remember seeing this. For a brief moment, it seemed real, but then I knew that my mind was playing tricks on me.
Although Luke was disappointed that there was no real samurai face and that I couldn’t see it (I tried to and really want to, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t there), he was a little excited to be hallucinating. He realized that he was seeing things that weren’t quite there in the real world. Maybe there was a shadow or a leaf, but his brain was now processing things a little differently and leading him to believe that he was seeing things that weren’t there. Luke had been here before, and instead of fighting the hallucinations or being afraid of them he embraced the experience. Luke was high; he was tripping his balls off. He would stare off into the fog, freeze for a second, and then laugh out loud.
Luke: That fog was totally messing with me. It was spooky, but it was amazing… Well, what I remember of it anyway. I mean, come on… Look at the fog in that photo. Now imagine being delusional with hallucinations in that fog. It was crazy.
He was no longer able to navigate our vessel so I turned my light on in an attempt to help our situation. This messed with Luke’s situation, and he gave me a very Cheech and Chong like reponse…
LUKE: “Whoa man. Did you see that? It just got like brighter or something…Hahuhuh.”
Then Luke made a discovery that had him very excited. He leaned over the side of the canoe and shined his light into the water as he told me to do the same. He told me the reflections were awesome, that I had to see them. I looked over the side and saw water and a rock. It wasn’t very impressive. At least Luke was excited. Then he told me again in his best Chong voice…
LUKE: “No man, you have to see the reflections. When you do this (he shined his headlamp into the water and shook his head) you see the reflections. They’re awesome!”
Then he looked up through the fog and shined his headlamp onto the tree limbs overhead and shook it once again.
CASEY: “Uh… Yeah man, that’s really cool.”
I had no idea what was cool about his light in the water and then on the limbs overhead, but he was excited about it and it was keeping him awake. He must have been seeing something that I could not see. Luke was like a mentally challenged child with severe ADD and Narcolepsy. One minute he’d be talking to me about reflections or trying to catch a wisp of fog coming off the water (which did look really cool) and the next minute he’d be falling asleep. He’d startle himself awake and then give me a play by play description of the landscape and everything that he could see, and he’d paddle voraciously as we’d surge forward…for several strokes, and then he’d fall asleep again. This repeated itself for the majority of the paddle. He rarely slept for more than a second or two but he was sneaking in many little micro-naps. I was entertained and experiencing the hallucinations from the back seat. I have to admit that I was a little jealous of Luke’s good time. It looked like so much fun. I wanted to see a samurai face.
Luke: I did indeed take many micro-naps, but they did not add up to your power-nap in the van on the way to Steelville:
Casey: I napped for maybe five minutes in the van on the way to the race. Maybe that’s why I didn’t crash as soon as Luke did.
Luke: It was more like 10 – 15 minutes, and that was definitely the difference. I’m sure of it.
Once again Luke told me to see the reflections. I “had to see them.” They were “soooo cool, soooo beautiful.” He repeated his little light shining and head shaking skit. He mumbled about the reflections and how cool they were. He really wanted me to see what he was seeing… And then I finally got it. He was trying to tell me that when he shined his headlamp into the river and wiggled it around, there was a kaleidoscope-like pattern of reflected light shimmering on the leaves and limbs overhead. He was right. It was really cool.
I am glad that, even in his psychedelic stupor, he made the effort to keep explaining it to me until I finally got it. We sat there and enjoyed the cool light show for a few minutes. What I was seeing was pretty sweet. I wish I could have seen it through Luke’s eyes as I am sure it was even sweeter. Luke was content that I finally understood him. He was a five year old little boy that finally made himself understood to his father. He was quiet and content for a little while. He had finally gotten his point across, and I had seen what he wanted me to see.
Luke: It was so amazingly cool. It was frustrating that I just couldn’t explain it to Casey. I remember explaining it in great detail only to have Casey completely blow me off as if I was a little kid. In hindsight, I’m sure I wasn’t communicating very well. Regardless, the light show was fantastic. It sort of looked like this, only better:
The fog got even thicker, and it was getting really tough to see. When Luke would drift off, I was sometimes unsure of what I was seeing. It looked like there were big, fog-covered islands in the middle of the river. My light couldn’t penetrate the fog deep enough to confirm their existence. So I’d steer the canoe a little to the side to avoid the island, and as we passed, the island would vanish. Was I slowly slipping into the same condition Luke was in? I hoped not, but it seemed that I was nearing the edge. I started seeing things differently than they really were. My mind was misinterpreting what I was seeing.
Was it a shadow?…No it must be an island. Is that a huge bush in the middle of the River?…Yes it was…I think.
CASEY: “Luke, wake up man. Is there a huge bush island in the river.”
LUKE: “You mean that house with a big bush in front?”
CASEY: “No! Nobody builds a house in the middle of a river. Is there a big bush type structure right in front of us?”
LUKE: “Uhhh…..Yes, GO LEFT, RIVER LEFT, BEACH LEFT, LEFT!!!”
Luke: I have no memory of this whatsoever.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll realize that Luke had told me to go left and right in the same breath (based on our agreed upon lingo for this paddle). I quickly decided to go left since he said that way the most, and since I could barely see Luke, let alone what was in front of the boat, I had to trust him (even in his mental stupor).
I took us left and we passed a huge bush-like object in the middle of the river that was indeed there, and we found ourselves in a little channel with bushes on both sides of us. The bush Island was real, it had been right in the middle of the river. So, I kept us going forward until we ran out of river. The river just ended. It stopped, and we were beached once again. Did it really end or had I, too, lost it mentally? The sudden stop in movement had woken Luke up, much like a kid in a car seat.
LUKE: “Hey, why are we stopped?”
CASEY: “Because we are out of river.”
LUKE: “Why did you go this way?”
CASEY: “You told me to go to the left.”
LUKE: “Oh, sorry man. I’m out of it. I think I fell asleep.”
CASEY: “No problem man, it’s cool.”
Luke: While I don’t remember seeing a “house” in the river or telling Casey to go left at all, I do remember waking up to realize that we had come to a complete stop. I remember looking around and seeing that we were at a dead-end, and I wondered why Casey would have taken us that way. I was very confused, and I seriously can’t believe that I was giving directions while I was sleeping. I don’t think I’ve ever sleep-walked, but I can now say that I have sleep-paddled.
We sat there for a few seconds. Should we paddle back up stream and down the other side of the “house-bush” or drag/portage the canoe through a low area between two little islands? We decided to muscle ourselves through the little crack between the islands and soon found ourselves back on the main river.
Luke checked the map quickly as we floated down the river. He said that once the river pointed West it meant that we had about 2 miles left. This meant that we currently had more than 2 miles left. I was hoping we had much less to go. Could I last that long? I had to keep focused, to keep it together mentally because Luke had long since flown the coop.
I knew that I was walking a fine line and could easily slide off the cliff and become as high and as goofy as Luke was at any moment. As fun as that sounded, I couldn’t let it happen. I had to keep it together until we got off the river… or else we might never get off the river. I somehow had to find a way to push through and control the hallucinations. I would occasionally see something, do a double-take, and then be able to identify the object for what it really was. I wasn’t sure how long I would be able to maintain this control. We had to get to the end of the paddle. I could easily let it go, embrace the hallucinations, and enjoy the experience. If Luke had been 100%, I might have been tempted to go down that path. But since he was still high as a kite, I had to keep it together. I kept telling myself that I had to keep it together until we got off the river. Just get off the river safely, get Luke and myself to the next TA/CP safely, then I could let myself slip into the delirious hallucinations just like Luke. Hell, we could even take a little nap if we needed/wanted to.
I was able to keep us going down the river. I kept seeing “fog islands”, most of which evaporated as we got close to them. Luke was back to dozing off again, listing to the side almost to the point where I thought he was going to fall out of the boat. I knew we had to be close to the end of the paddle.
Suddenly Luke woke up a bit and started paddling some more. I asked him if he wanted to play a game. He said yeah. I said that I would say a word and he would have to come up with a word that rhythms with it (I play this with my 5 year old all the time and he loves it). Well, it turns out that sleepy, tripping Luke loves it too. He was more awake and alert than he had been in the last couple of hours. Here is the rhyme that started the whole game…
CASEY: “No more rhymes, now. I meant it!”
LUKE: ”Anybody want a peanut?” (said in his best Andre the Giant voice)
Yes! Not only did he get the game, but he got my reference from the classic film, “The Princess Bride.” Sweet, was Luke really back from the dark side? Only time would tell.
Luke: I remember the “Princess Bride” reference, and I remember the rhyming game helping me stay awake for a little while. It was a lot of fun and effective… for a little while anyway.
We continued our game…
LUKE: “TRUCK” (I bet you thought he had another word to rhythm with Duck didn’t you?…Sinner)
And so the game went. We played for a good 5-10 minutes straight, word after word, rhyme after rhyme. I am not sure who stopped the game, but it ended. Shortly thereafter, Luke drifted back into his stupor. I let him have his rest and paddled us down the river. I felt like I should break into a song in Italian. It was as if I was a gondolier piloting a gondola with my passenger around the canals of Venice (only I wasn’t standing). I looked down at my wrist compass and noticed that the river was definitely starting to head West. I called out to Luke…
CASEY: “Luke, how far to the TA once the river turns West?”
Luke: “Yadada Bladada, bliggity do…Schmest!” – Luke really said this, and it was hilarious.
CASEY: Laughing, “What was that? Are you still playing the rhyming game?”
CASEY: “That game is over. We haven’t been playing for a while.”
LUKE: “What? It’s over? Who won?”
CASEY: “You did, you won the rhyming game.”
LUKE: (With both arms and paddle over his head) “Yeah, I won!”
Luke: I don’t recall doing this either, but it’s pretty damn funny.
After his quick celebratory paddle pump, I was able to ask him about the river and how far we had to go. After some convincing dialog, I got Luke to check his compass and map. Yep, we had about 2 more miles to go. We talked a little more as we paddled, and then Luke faded away into his happy place.
Suddenly we found ourselves grounded on a gravel bar once again. Luke awoke and started paddling. Nothing, we didn’t even move. We just sat there, grounded on some gravel. We both dug in with our paddles together and “poled” our canoe a few more feet before becoming fully grounded and unable to move any further forward.
Luke asked me what we should do. I told him that we should rest a minute or two. During that time, Luke drifted off and I decided to climb out of the canoe and push us to deeper water. As I stepped my first leg out of the canoe Luke came awake and began to paddle like he was possessed. This was great…had we been in deeper water and me in my seat. The canoe lurched forward, tripping me in the process and I fell over into the water and caught myself with an extended arm that was shoulder deep in the water (at least I found the deep water). Luke apologized and I jumped back into the canoe and we took off.
Luke: At least when I paddled like a mad man we didn’t tip the canoe… Unlike the last time you paddled unnecessarily fast.
Casey: I was trying to keep the cadence up like Jeremy Rodgers instructed. The man in the bow sets the cadence for the craft. If I let you set the cadence on that paddle we’d still be on the river.
Luke: And we’d still be dry.
After this, we both were fairly alert and the last bit of the paddle went pretty smoothly. The river grew wider and we passed through some camp grounds. Then we finally saw a campfire up ahead. We were finally at the end of the paddle. We both were more alert and energized with the end in sight. We paddled much like we normally do, when awake and fully alert. We were taking deep, powerful strokes in unison. The canoe responded well and surged forward and into the TA. We had done it. We safely made it through the paddle. We weren’t dry, but we never capsized the canoe.
We beached our canoe and headed over to the volunteers by their nice, warm fire. The paddle that probably should have taken no more than 2 hours had taken us 3 hours and 58 minutes.
Luke: That’s just embarrassing. I was absolutely useless (aside from providing some comic relief). Casey did an amazing job of getting us through the paddling leg. I’ve never struggled through a leg of a race like I did this one, so big thanks to Casey, The Anchorman (in a good way this time).
Casey: No problem man. You carried us later in the race. Plus, tripping-Luke is way better than Betty-White-Luke.
It turned out that this TA also was the Gear check. We had all the required gear and were able to quickly find what was asked for. I think we had to show our whistles, a UTM tool, an emergency blanket, a cell phone, a first aid kit, and iodine tablets. We chatted with the volunteers as we warmed our cold, water logged bodies by the fire. I shared with the volunteers highlights of our paddle: Luke’s hallucinations, his micro-naps mid-paddle, and the fog.
As I talked, I felt myself letting down. I had reached the goal I set on the river. We had gotten safely off the river. My mind began to relax and I felt relieved and for the first time during the race, I was getting a little tired. We thanked the volunteers and headed off into the woods just as dawn was beginning to break. All we had to do was collect the last two CPs and then get back to the starting line to receive the next set of checkpoints. As we began to move, Luke was coming alive again, which was great because I was slowly losing it. I feared (and hoped a little bit) that I was headed down the road that Luke had already traveled.
The Final O-Section – Lincoln Logs and Burger Stands
My fears and hopes were accurate, and my mental acuity rapidly declined. I was physically, and now mentally, exhausted. I had overdrawn on my mental-alertness-account and was now paying the overdraft fee in full. Luke’s feet condition was deteriorating even faster than my mental capabilities. He said it felt like the skin was peeling off the bottom of his feet.
I followed Luke across a river, through the woods, and up a hill (To Grandmother’s house we go?). He stopped, and we talked a few minutes. He wasn’t sure if we were on the ridge we were supposed to be on or the ridge one over. He asked me my opinion. I quickly glanced a the map and decided that we were on the right ridge and started walking up the hill. I based my decision on nothing more than the need to keep moving and that we had already started up the hill we were on. I started walking up the hill on autopilot when I noticed that Luke stopped. I looked back and saw that he was still studying the map. I decided to sit down on a nice comfy, little stump and wait for him. It was the world’s most comfortable stump. If I had that stump in my living room it would be the seat I claimed as mine and mine alone.
Luke: Although I was in better shape than I was during the paddling leg, I was still FAR from 100%. It took way too much effort to make sense of the map, but something just didn’t seem right. After a couple of minutes, I figured out where we were.
Casey: You were in much better mental shape than I was. It was your turn to carry the team for a while.
Luke: I don’t like carrying the team. We’re fat and heavy.
I let my mind wander as I sat there. Eventually (and I have no idea how long it really was), Luke caught up with me and said that he was pretty sure that we were on the wrong hill and that we had to head over to the next one. I told him that his “pretty sure” was good enough for me, and I followed him to the next ridge line.
From this point of the race to just before the finish line, my recollection of the events might be a little off. Luke will fill in the blanks. From here on, I would phase in and out of consciousness. There were times when I was very lucid and remember conversing with Luke and what was going on, and then there are large blocks of time that I cannot clearly recall. I plodded along like a mindless zombie following my teammate, my captain, my brother.
Luke: I probably won’t fill in any blanks. It took every ounce of mental energy to not end up completely lost. I don’t really ever remember talking to you all that much. I just remember trying to stay in contact with the map, walking forever, and the pain in my feet… Oh the pain… I shudder now, just to think of it.
What I remember about the hike to CP 31 was that it was a long walk and all uphill. We were hiking up a steep section, climbing over logs and pushing through brush and thorns and then I mentally zoned out. When I returned mentally, we were still climbing. I could have been on a mental vacation for seconds, minutes, or even hours. I had no frame of reference; I just kept putting on foot in front of the other. I was on auto pilot.
Then I was out again for a bit. This time when I came back, the terrain had become a little more bearable, and it wasn’t as steep. I asked Luke if we were at the top of the hill yet, and he said not quite, that we still had a ways to go. He said that he was pretty sure we were going right but if he was wrong it would be a long, hilly climb to the correct hilltop. That was enough for me to hear, and my mind wandered away to its magical happy place. This happy place is amazing. It wasn’t filled with tricycle riding midget-cowboys, or my wife in a teddy holding pitchers of beer, or Billy Dee Williams playing the piano; it was much more peaceful that that. I can’t really describe my happy place other than to say it was very calm and restful. I felt no pain or tiredness when in this happy place. I just was and that was enough.
I continued on, moving at the pace Lukas set with almost no effort. If I could have stayed in that mental stupor, I could have raced at that pace indefinitely. I’m not sure if I was walking while sleeping or if my mind had just had enough and turned off in intervals. The next time I came back to reality, we were much closer to the CP. Luke led us onto a trail and said it would be up ahead just a little further. I went out again for a bit and then when I returned we could see the CP. We punched our passport and checked the map.
Finding the CP gave me a little lift, and I was coherent for a longer spell this time. Luke planned our route, showed me on the map what we planned to do, and we started on. After walking a bit, I saw what looked like a rickety, wooden hamburger stand up ahead through the trees. I closed my eyes for a few seconds and told myself to see what was really there (like I did on the river the night before). When I opened my eyes it was still there.
CASEY: “Luke, is there a hamburger stand on the other side of that tree?” And I pointed towards the hamburger stand.
LUKE: “No man, it’s just trees. Well, wait a second. Don’t listen to me, I have no clue what is going on. There could be a hamburger stand there for all I know.”
Luke: Only someone who is weak in mind and spirit hallucinates during long races. You’re such a pu… Uh… Wait… Nevermind.
Great, I could really have gone for a hamburger right about then. I was thinking about digging out some of our emergency cash and was hoping they had some cheese and bacon for my burger, and when I looked back at the stand it was gone. Apparently, somebody had either moved the stand or the trees leaning over touching each other had just looked like a hamburger stand to my sleep deprived mind. Damn, I’d have to wait to eat something good until later. Then I remembered the note BLD and Travis had left us so long ago – PORK STEAKS ON THE GRILL!!! Even better than a hamburger. I smiled and thought about how good they would taste. But first, we had to finish this race.
Our journey continued and we walked, and walked, and then walked some more. I was pretty lucid through most of this stretch and was still hoping to see a samurai face (it never happened though) or at least something really cool. We walked on when Luke looked back at me and then pointed up ahead…
LUKE: “Do you see that building up ahead?”
CASEY: “Yeah, like a big metal barn kind of building?”
LUKE: “No, like a huge Lincoln Log building. More like a Lincoln Log sculpture or display.”
CASEY: “No, I see that big, brown, or dark gray aluminum barn-like building though.”
LUKE: “No man, it’s made out of logs. Like big Lincoln Logs.”
Lincoln Logs? I closed my eyes and told myself to see what was really there. No Lincoln Logs. We kept getting closer and I kept blinking my eyes. I now knew it was neither an aluminum barn nor a Lincoln Log Display. However, I wasn’t sure what we were looking at. It was big and dark (That’s what she said). We continued to get closer, and I focused all my mental energy to figure it out.
CASEY: “I think it’s a tree, a big dead pine tree or something.”
LUKE: “No. I don’t think so. I think it’s… (we got closer) …it’s a… a… a big dead pine tree.”
It turned out to be a huge dead pine tree (or that’s what we thought it was, neither of us thought to take a picture). I looked at it again and kind of could see how it looked a little like Lincoln Logs. Then I could see how it looked a little like a large aluminum barn as well. That was pretty cool, we had shared a hallucination but saw something totally different.
Luke: I sort of knew I was hallucinating at this point, but I couldn’t do anything about it. I knew I wasn’t really seeing a Lincoln Log home or sculpture, but I just could not tell what it truly was. To me, it looked a lot like this:
As cool as that was, I was now a little worried. If Luke was in the same boat as I was in, how was he possibly navigating? (I have no idea) Well, I trusted him and knew he had to be in better shape than I was, so I kept my apprehension to myself. No sense in worrying him if he was going right. And if he wasn’t, I couldn’t help him anyway, and we were pretty well screwed.
We kept walking a ways, and we eventually picked up another good-sized trail. As we were walking around, I saw something very strange on the ground. What the hell was that? We walked closer. I couldn’t figure it out. Was it even there?
CASEY: “Luke, what the hell is that little red thing over there?”
LUKE: “It looks like a red Lincoln Log roof.”
CASEY: “A what? A Lincoln Log roof?”
LUKE: “Yeah, like a one-piece, red plastic roof you put on top of your Lincoln Log building.”
CASEY: “No it’s not.”
We walked over to where it was laying on the trail. Luke affirmed his belief and said it was a Lincoln Log roof again. I just didn’t quite see it that way. I walked over and kicked it. Now I had confirmed it’s physical existance, it was really there. When it rolled over I knew that it definitely was not a Lincoln Log roof but I had no idea what it was. After a few seconds of staring at it, Luke was able to determine it was a rear casing and lens of a car tail light of some kind (neither of us thought to take a picture again). What was up with Luke and Lincoln Logs? (I have no idea) I hoped he was still able to read a map and compass well enough to lead us to the final CP… or at the very least back to civilization.
We continued on and eventually came up to a gravel road. I think I remember being passed by a couple of vehicles and assumed that they were other racers heading home already. At least they were friendly and honked and waved to us as they passed us.
Luke: I don’t remember any cars, and I don’t remember hearing anyone honking or waving.
Casey: Seriously? Was I hallucinating that badly? Awesome. Can anybody reading this confirm they drove by us sometime around 8:00 on Sunday morning?
Luke: I don’t know if you were hallucinating or if I was just using all of my mental capacity focusing on getting us to the CP.
I hoped we were going right. I had no idea how far we had come or where we were going. I wasn’t even exactly sure where I was. My trust and safety were 100% in Luke’s hands. We plodded along and eventually came to a big gate that said NO TRESPASSING and that it was private land that was under surveillance and we couldn’t enter. We checked the map again. I was now lucid enough to confirm that this was in fact where we were and that the final CP was on the other side of the NO TRESPASSING GATE.
A light went off somewhere in my mind. Didn’t Jason say something about private land during the race meeting? Damn. I wish I had talked less and listened more during that meeting. I mentioned my vague recollection to Luke and he remembered the same thing too. We walked around the gate and down the driveway, half expecting to see some red-neck in a pickup truck with guns hanging on a rack in his back window to come flying up the driveway to ask us what the hell we were doing on his posted land.
Luke was describing the driveway on the map as we walked, and it was matching up perfectly. He said when it made a sharp turn, we’d have to kick off into the woods to find the CP. The driveway turned, and we headed into the woods. I noticed these rocks on the ground that had little carvings or pictures on them. They looked like they had been carved and worked on by somebody with more skill than I have (Can anybody confirm the existence of these rocks?). I thought about taking a picture but didn’t want to stop to do so. Then I thought about picking up a rock at taking it with me because they looked so cool. I didn’t for two reasons—1) I would have to stop and bend over and 2) It would add weight to my pack for the rest of the race.
Luke: I never saw any of these rocks. Geez, man! You need to hold yourself together better at the next race.
Casey: If they weren’t there, I am glad that I didn’t pick one up. It would have sucked to carry a plain old rock to the finish line. I really hope that there were carved rocks near the final CP. They were so cool.
In a few minutes more we walked right up to the final CP. We had gotten all of the CPs that we could. It was time to head back to the Start/Finish line and get our next set of coordinates.
Luke looked at the map and told me we had a VERY steep, long downhill climb to get to the finish line. We found a little path that meandered down the hill and followed it. Luke then had a question to ask me.
LUKE: “Have you ever stepped on a thumb tack?”
CASEY: “Yeah. It hurts like a son-of-a-bitch.”
LUKE: “Yeah, I know it does. Now, just imagine if you covered the bottoms of both of your feet with thumbtacks and then stepped down with all of your weight. That is what my feet feel like with each and every step.”
CASEY: “That really sucks man. Are you all right? Do you need me to carry you (I hoped he would say no)? Can you sit and scoot down the hill?”
LUKE: “No. It is what it is. Let’s keep going and finish this.”
We walked slowly down the hill. Several times I slipped and caught myself quickly. Each time I did this, my back seized up, and I was afraid my (our) race would be over. I have a bad back, and when it goes out, I am done (It will be mentioned in the Lionheart race report that Luke is still working on). Why couldn’t my consciousness leave me now and let me finish the race as a zombie following Luke? My back hurt, but it wasn’t going to stop me. Not here, not now. If Luke could walk the last few miles on thumbtacks I could definitely walk it with a catch in my back.
Finally, we reached the bottom of the hill and noticed it was going to be fairly flat the rest of the way back to the finish line. We walked a little further and picked up a road. I soon recognized the road as the same road we drove down in order to register our car a couple of days ago. I now knew that we were almost to the finish line. However, we weren’t sure if our race was soon to be over. We were led to believe that there was at least 1 more set of coordinates, so we figured we would be racing right up to the cutoff.
The Finish Line – Swamp Foot and Champagne
As we walked, we reminisced a little about the race… how long it took us to find CP 2, the error from CP 4 to CP 5, following Team Kuat, the foggy paddle, the hallucinations, the sleep monsters. It all seemed so long ago and almost surreal. We also discussed the rest of the race. How much more could we do? We decided that we had to get the new set of coordinates, plot them, and then see how we’d be traveling. We were hoping for some more paddling or maybe some biking because Luke was nearing him limit on his feet.
Luke: That is an understatement. My feet were done!
As we walked past the cabins you could rent at Bass’ River Resort, we talked about bringing our families next year and renting a cabin for the weekend. It seemed like a great idea. The kids could play, and we could use it as a home base for the race. I guess we both just assumed we’d be racing the 36 hour Berryman again next year. I plan on it (We’ll see). As we neared the finish line, we could hear Jason on the loud speaker and lots of clapping. It looked like we were going to be coming in during the middle of the awards ceremony.
CASEY: “Luke, are we running across the finish line? We gotta look good in front of everybody.”
LUKE: “I don’t think so. My feet are F*#@ed up. If I run on them, the skin might come off.”
CASEY: “Cool, it’s fine with me. I’d hate for my back to seize up. We’ll walk across together.”
That decided it. We hadn’t run much (or any) the whole race and decided the finish line was not the place to start running. Plus, for all we knew, we had more racing to do. As we drew near the pavilion, somebody spotted us and Jason announced that Team Virtus was coming in. We were walking side-by-side just like we planned.
The clapping grew louder and then Jason shouted to “jog it in” or maybe it was “run across the finish line”, something to that effect. Luke and I instinctively began to jog. (Damn, it hurt!) I lead by a step, and then he surged forward and took the lead. The clapping grew louder, the cheering and encouraging words echoed in our ears. And Luke looked at me and I looked at him. We both knew what was about to go down.
You guessed it (or remembered it if you were there). We took off like Olympic sprinters. We were running like a couple of tired rhinoceroses across the African Savanna with poachers on their trail. We were free… We were flying… I was losing. I was losing?
How the hell was I behind my little brother? I dialed it up a notch and took a little lead. Luke, dug deeper and blocked out his thumb-tack-lined, skin-peeling feet and took it up yet another level. He passed me by a step. I decided to reach deeper and open it up all the way and show Luke how it was done. As I began to fire on all cylinders I felt a twitching in my back. Instantly, I decided that I was going as fast I was going to go. I coasted across the finish line a half a step behind Luke.
Luke: Uh… The way I remember it, you were about 30 yards behind me. But that might have been another hallucination… Or a complete lie.
Everybody was clapping, and I said something like, “That’s it?” Which was answered with some chuckles and a few laughs. I was seriously expecting to be handed more coordinates. However, that never happened. I was walking around, trying to figure out if our race was over or not when I heard footsteps behind me. As I turned around, I was showered with champagne as BLD emptied half a bottle of bubbly all over me. It was unexpected and great. This brought on more cheers and laughs. Bob then handed me the bottle, and I slammed the remaining champagne. It was cold and sweet. It really hit the spot.
Luke: Thanks for sharing with me. Dick.
Casey: There was plenty of champagne in my fleece if you really wanted some. There couldn’t have been more than 8-10 big swallows of the bubbly left in the bottle.
Luke: 8 – 10 swallows was enough for 4 – 5 for you and 4 – 5 for me. Again, what a dick.
I soon found out that there was more to the race, but it just wasn’t doable in the time that we had left. The second set of points took you on a 16 mile paddle and then a 13 mile bike ride back to the finish line. Since we only had about an hour and 45 minutes left, our race was over.
As it turns out, only 6 out of 27 teams even attempted the final set of points. I was a little disappointed, because I had planned on racing until the 12:00 PM cutoff. (Only Casey would be disappointed with what we had just done) But I would be lying if I didn’t admit to being a little happy that the race was over. All good things must come to an end, and my first 36 Berryman was now over. Did it kick my ass? I don’t think so. I had a great time and felt like I could have kept going. Was it a hard-ass race? Was it a “Real-Ass Kicker?” Absolutely. It was long, and it was hard (That’s what she said). It was an unbelievable time. My favorite race to date.
It was just starting to sink in as Luke when I sat down at a picnic table. We could stop now, the race was over.
Casey: With his squinty eyes and sagging stash doesn’t Luke look a little like a cartoon China-man.
I looked around and saw that we were surrounded by friends. I remember seeing Bob and Travis, Kage and her brother Jim, Derrick and Emma from Orange Lederhosen, and many others… and then I saw our other brother, Zack, and his family magically appear. It was great. The Brothers Lamb were back together again. Unfortunately, we were too tired or dumb to think of getting a photo of the moment.
As we sat there Luke took his socks off to reveal the whitest, most disgustingly wrinkled feet you have ever seen. This was the first time I had seen macerated feet in person. Our feet had been wet for well over 30 hours. His feet were sore, and I wondered how long it would take for him to recuperate.
As we examined and looked at Luke’s feet in awe and disbelief Bob fetched a couple of steaming hot baked potatoes for us. I have always heard about these baked potatoes after Bonk Hard races. They are legendary. Since this was my first Bonk Hard race, it was my first post-race experience with them. I opened mine and took a bite of the best baked potato I’ve ever had. Then Bob showed up with a bucket of margarine and covered my potato with gobs of the good stuff, only making it even more delicious. Now I was covered with melted margarine as well as champagne.
As we sat there, a few more teams trickled in. The awards were given out as well as some more free race swag. Jason made a few more announcements and thank-yous and invited us to compete in Check Point Tracker Nationals that Bonk Hard is putting on at the end of October (This weekend actually!). I asked Bob about the pork steaks that he promised us. He said they were on the grill. So we gathered up our gear and headed over to TV Camp. By the time we got there, Bob had Pork Steaks laid out for us to eat and had thrown some ribs down on the grill. Oh yeah, and a beer can chicken too. We ate and then ate some more. It was as if we were in training for an IFOCE or MLE event. I’ll bet if a mystery event ever involves eating, TV will own the challenge (Unless Rusty is there).
We sat around with Bob and Travis, relaxing and reminiscing about their race and our race, and we discussed our plans for next year. After much socializing and eating, we finally decided to hit the showers. I scrounged up a couple dollars worth of quarters and headed to the showers (apparently you have to pay to park AND to shower at this resort, at least they don’t charge you to breathe yet). At least the water was good and hot. After the shower, I felt much better. I headed back to TV Camp, and we talked and ate some more.
I eventually came down from the race high and was beginning to feel a little tired. I started to feel like I had just raced for a day and a half. I fell asleep in my chair for a few minutes during which time my teammates took advantage of me and had some fun.
Casey: How many race reports have included a photo of Bob’s butt? Do we really need another one? The answer is..Yes, we can never have enough of Bob’s butt. It’s kind of like a cow bell… I got a fever! And the only prescription… is more of Bob’s Butt.
I finally awakened and moved to the ground for a good 45 minute nap. After the nap I felt like a new man. We broke camp and headed for home. What a great time, a great weekend, a great race.
Well if you have read this far, I guess you’d like to know how we did. We finished 6th out of 13 teams in our division and 11th out of 27 teams overall. Although Luke wasn’t able to defend his divisional championship from 2010, I am pretty satisfied with our performance (As am I). After a hellacious start, we rallied and raced a near perfect race. It was my first attempt in anything over 24 hours. I got to spend a great weekend with my brother and create some memories that I am sure neither of us will ever forget.
I want to thank Jason Elsenraat, his wife Laura, and all of Bonk Hard Racing for putting on the best race that I have had the pleasure of being a part of. I’d also like to thank all the volunteers and sponsors that made this race possible. Without your funding and countless volunteer hours I’d never have just completed the greatest race I have done to date.
Luke: I, too, had an absolute blast. It’s a race that I’ll never forget. Thanks to Casey for doing this race with me. It was a helluva ride, bro. I’d also like to thank Jason, Laura, and all of the volunteers as well. It was a superb race. I can’t wait to do it again… After I my left big toe is no longer numb.
Casey: Thank you for racing with me. I hope that I raced well enough for you. After all, I was your second pick for this race.
Luke: Umm… Yeah… You were my second pick. I definitely did not ask 14 other people to race with me before I asked you. Let’s go with that.
I’m planning on racing the 36 hour again next year. Luke, Bob, and I have already committed to doing it. Anybody else interested in joining us?