Hello again to all of our loyal readers! It’s time for another race report. However… I want to preface this report by saying that what you’re about to read may not be 100% accurate. You see, I was a wee bit ill when I did the Medved Winter Challenge. And by “a wee bit ill” I mean I should have stayed in bed. I had a nasty fever, felt like poop, and I’m pretty sure I actually coughed up a piece of my lung in the snow. It could have been phlegm, but I really think I saw some alveoli in there somewhere. That is all I will say about me being sick, because I don’t want this to turn into a pity party for me (Yes I do).
There are parts of this race that I don’t remember, so Casey will chime in when necessary. His comments will be in RED to which I may reply in BLUE. One other note: If you want to read about the rest of my awesomely radical trip to visit Casey’s family in NY, then just go here. Now, on to the race report…
Casey, Austin (my nephew), James (Austin’s friend), and I arrived at Webster Park in Monroe County, NY. Yes, we were running a little late (as usual), but we had plenty of time to register and pick up 3 pair of snowshoes from the race director (Austin is the only one that has his own snowshoes). She was nice enough to let us borrow them, so a big thanks goes out to her.
There were actually two races going down on the morning of January 30th: a snowshoe 5K and the Winter Challenge Adventure Race. However, if you signed up for the Winter Challenge then you were fortunate enough (or forced) to do the 5K as a prologue to the adventure race. Oh joy! Actually, I was pretty excited to try some snowshoeing.
I’ve read that you should expect to be 1 to 3 minutes slower per mile in snowshoes versus running shoes. For Casey, James, and Austin, that was true. Casey finished in 29 minutes or so, Austin finished in 36 minutes or so, and I have no idea what James ran. I, on the other hand, dominated the field in a blazing fast 45 minutes and 16 seconds. Okay, I only beat one person, but it was fun. Sort of. The course was great, and the snow was falling. Running in snowshoes was much less awkward than I thought. I just had nothing in my legs.
As I finished the 5K, I knelt down in the snow trying to recover. I contemplated bowing out of the adventure race, but that would have been the smart choice. And we all know that Luke and smarts go together about as well as vomit frosting and angel food cake. So, we all got ready for the adventure race that was starting in 15 minutes. Austin and James were getting ready to dominate the Teen Course, and Casey and I were getting ready to dominate… to compete… to survive and finish the full course.
We ended up starting the race about 15 minutes behind everyone else since it took me so long to finish the 5K. We were handed the maps along with a bag with a playing card (I think we had a queen of clubs), some bits of licorice, a carrot, 3 Swedish fish, and some zip ties. We were then told that we needed to zip-tie one of our wheels so that it wouldn’t spin. Apparently, bikes weren’t allowed on the trails in this part of the park, so they wanted to make sure that nobody was riding. What, they don’t trust us?
So, we headed out on the trail carrying our bikes. I told Casey that he was navigating, because I didn’t even want to look at the map. All I wanted to do was focus on moving forward. I had no idea how far we had to carry our bikes, and that’s probably a good thing. If I had known how far it was, I might have quit right there.
Casey: I looked briefly at the map but since we were told “flags” mark the route we had to take I figured a map wasn’t necessary. Plus, it was a trail map and I didn’t see any scale. Had we known how far the hike-a-bike section was, we probably would have put our trail shoes on instead of hiking in 12+ inches of snow in our bike shoes. We talked several times about making the switch but figured we had to almost be there and didn’t want to waste the time of two unnecessary shoe changes.
I could only carry my bike for a few minutes. Then I started rolling it in front of me on the back wheel while holding onto the handle bars. It was pretty rough.
Casey: For the record, I offered several times to carry Luke’s bike in addition to my own. He adamantly refused.
Luke: This is true. He offered to carry my bike, but I would have literally died before I let that happen.
At least it wasn’t snowing… for the first two minutes. Then it started snowing ridiculously hard. Seriously, it was a white-out for awhile during our stupidly long hike-a-bike. The photo below doesn’t come close to what it was really like. You can click on the image to see it a little better, but trust me… It was much worse than the photo shows. Notice my pack and helmet are starting to get covered in snow. This photo was taken early in the hike-a-bike section, too. It was ridiculous!
It seemed like it was taking us over an hour to travel what I would later learn was roughly 1.5 miles. I guess it seemed that way because that’s actually how long it took us.
Casey: I think Laura, the race director, said the course setter clocked it at 1.6 miles with his Garmin. One of the volunteers actually walked right behind us picking up their flags because we were the last team. She was cool and we chatted for most of the hike-a-bike since Luke wasn’t really able to speak. I asked Luke a question or two, and each time I got no response. He was either ignoring me, or he was just completely out of it.
Luke: I remember ignoring you once because the question was stupid. Other than that, I don’t think I heard you. Or I was just spaced out.
I had NO energy, and I simply couldn’t move any faster. I just kept my head down and tried to do the best I could. I was focused on putting one foot in front of the other. So much so that I missed some pretty cool sights.
Casey, to his credit, stayed right behind me and never complained. After what seemed like forever and a day, we made it to Checkpoint (CP) #1 at a small parking lot. Laura, the race director, was there waiting for us. As she punched our passport, another team was coming in from a trail. They had already completed 90% of the biking section, and we were just getting started. I was grateful to be getting off of my feet, though, and the snow had come to a stop.
We hopped on our bikes and took off. I asked Casey if he was sure we were going the right way, you know, just to be safe. It would have been really embarrassing to start off in the wrong direction right in front of the race director. He said, “Yeah, we need to go north for a little ways, and then make a – blah, blah, blah.” I kind of quit listening. All I heard was that we should be going north, so I checked my wrist compass to discover we were heading due south. I let Casey know about this, and we stopped for a map check. Sure enough, we had to turn around and ride past the race director again. Awesome. Casey didn’t know how the hell that happened, but read on to find out…
We turned around and started off in the correct direction this time. We took snow/ice/slush-covered roads through the wind and cold, but we weren’t exactly setting any speed records thanks to me. I just had nothing in my legs, and I mean nothing. We rode roughly 48 miles on the road before we got to the first turn… Well, that’s what it felt like to me, but it was probably only a mile or so.
Casey: I know Luke must have felt very bad. I was behind him and looking at what gear he was in. It was the little ring in the front and the second to biggest in the back, and we were on totally flat ground. His cadence in a very low gear was even lower than it usually is in top gear. I commend Luke for keeping his balance when we were going so slowly. I even had difficulty staying upright a time or two, and I wasn’t on my deathbed. We were going so slow that I am pretty sure, even in my current shape and in my bike shoes, that I could have run the whole bike section as fast, if not faster than we biked it. I thought about hopping off for a while and jogging, you know to get in a good workout, but I figured it might provoke Luke. In hind sight he might not have even noticed. Or if he did, he might’ve hopped off too, thinking it was more hike-a-bike.
Luke: Dude, I know you could have run faster with your bike than I was riding. I may not have noticed you run by me with your bike on your back, but if I did then I probably would have punched you in the face… except I’m sure I wouldn’t have caught you.
We eventually made it to what appeared to be an old railroad track that had been turned into a trail where we would find CP#2. It was just a short ways down the trail, and there was over a foot of snow on the ground. So instead of riding it, we just walked our bikes to the CP. Casey climbed down the bank to punch our passport while I tried to find my happy place.
We hopped back out on the road, and this is where things get pretty foggy for me. I don’t really remember how we got to the trails, but we made it to some single track that actually allowed bikes. Unfortunately, with all of the snow and my lack of energy, the trails were not easily ridden. The good news is that we started off on our second hike-a-bike section with a really steep hill. Fantastic!
Casey: On a positive note… By being the absolute last team to go through this (and any) section of the race we had a nice, broken trail. Not to mention it was hard to get lost since there were fresh (starting to fill) tracks to follow. Imagine how much fun it would’ve been to be in first.
I knew we weren’t going to finish the bike leg before the 4-hour cut-off if I didn’t pick up the pace at least a little bit. So it was at the top of the hill seen in the above photo that I decided to try to ride the trails. Brilliant! As I pushed off and tried to get clipped in, my wheel spun out in the snow. I fell hard, and it was one of those slow-motion crashes that seem to hurt the worst. I also managed to get powdery snow down my jacket and my pants. That was great!
I managed to get up and say, “F*@% This! I don’t even wanna be here!!!” And then I knelt down in the snow and just sat there. Casey somehow realized that the best thing he could do was keep his mouth shut and let me have a minute or two. I kept waiting for Casey to blurt out one of his usual inappropriate comments about… Well, I can’t write what Casey normally talks about because this is a PG-13 blog. If Casey had said anything, and I mean anything, I know Betty White would have returned and our race would have ended right there. But he did great, and after a couple of minutes, I stood up and started hiking with my bike again.
Casey: We did a better job of communicating and I knew Luke felt like dog poop. Either that or maybe it was his body language or how he was moving. I have felt that bad (albeit, not in a race…yet) and knew he was nearing his limit.
To be honest, I don’t really remember much else of the bike leg. I know that we did manage to ride some of the snowy, icy single track, and it was a lot of fun. It was challenging enough on a mountain bike with fat tires, but Casey managed to ride it on his brand new Jake the Snake cyclocross bike on its maiden voyage. Nice work, Casey!
Casey: Isn’t it a little ironic that my bike actually rode me before I got to ride her? I guess I pedaled around the parking lot but this race was the first time I rode my bike at all. The night before I sat on her while we adjusted the seat and swapped the pedals. I love her. She’s so much fun to ride and I can’t wait to start logging some serious miles on her, just as soon as it warms up a bit (even just a little bit).
Luke: What, are you Alanis Morissette now?
I don’t really remember much else about the bike leg. I know we got all of the CP’s for the biking leg, though. I also remember popping out onto a road and seeing Lake Ontario, one of the Great Lakes. I remember wanting the race to be over. I remember giving our queen of clubs to the race director, and when we asked her what it was for, she said it was to keep us guessing. Well, it worked.
I also remember Casey taking us in the wrong direction one more time. I showed him my wrist compass, and he showed me his compass. They were taking opposite bearings. Not good. What the hell was going on here? Then Casey moved his hand, and his compass matched mine. You see, he was wearing glittens (gloves that have a mitten flap for when it gets really cold) with a magnetic snap on them. The magnetic snap was interfering with the compass. So, Casey wasn’t a completely incompetent navigator after all. Mystery solved and lesson learned.
Casey: Are you sure they are called “glittens’ and not “moves”. This sort of thing once happened to a teammate at our first annual non-race. He had his compass clipped onto a lanyard with a big metal hook and his compass was going bonkers. You’d think I would’ve learned from his mishap.
Luke: Yes, I’m sure. “Glittens” is the correct name. I would never make up a word.
That’s about all I remember, though, so here are a few photos from the final part of the biking leg:
Casey: Isn’t she pretty? I’ll try out Tron and see if she likes it. Can Tron be a girls name?
So, we made it back to HQ at the small lodge. We were handed a sheet of instructions for the mystery event. We had to build a snowman with at least 3 snowballs. It had to be at least 64 centimeters tall which seemed like 10 feet to me at the time, but Casey assured me it was only about 2 feet tall. It had to have two arms, and we had to use the carrot for the nose, the pieces of black licorice for the eyes, and the Swedish fish for the mouth.
We whipped out the world’s best snowman in record time since the 4-hour cutoff was almost up. We grabbed chunks of snow left behind by a snow plow, and we stacked them up. I shoved the carrot and candy onto his face while Casey worked on it’s arms that included trekking poles. We ended up with this:
We went inside the warm, cozy lodge which was fully stocked with cookies, chips, and other delicious goodies. Unfortunately, I couldn’t even think about eating anything. We found out all of the other teams in the Adult Division had cleared the course and were already finished. We had about a half an hour left or so, and there was no way we could get all of the CP’s in time. There was also no way I was leaving the warm lodge to go back out into the cold and snow. So we did what any great team would do. We quit.
Okay, that’s not true. We strapped on our snowshoes and begrudgingly made our way out the door. As we headed out, Austin and James were coming in. All they had left was to build their snowman. Austin said he had the same problem with his glittens messing up his compass too. Like father like son, I guess. However, Austin figured it out much sooner than we did. Those two young bucks cleared the course and rocked the crap out of that race. They won the Teen Division and received sweet Mizuno backpacks for coming in first place! Big props to those guys.
Casey: In my defense, we figured it out the second time I took a bearing; all orienteering up to that point needed no compass. The boys made it to the orienteering leg much faster and had to use their compass much more. Still it’s pretty embarrassing to make such an obvious mistake. I blame Luke for not figuring it out much sooner. After all, he is our usual map man, I am the Pace Center.
Luke: Sure. It was my fault that I realized we were going the wrong way TWICE before we got too far off course. I apologize :).
I sort of looked at the map as we left the lodge. I agreed that we should hit the CP closest to us and then see if we had time to get any more. We headed out on our snowshoes, but I was really struggling at this point. We came upon some sort of tipi shelter. Casey managed to snap a photo of me from inside the tipi, but I was too tired to take a photo of him inside it. It would have been a cool photo, though. I swear.
We punched our passport at the next CP, and Casey thought we had enough time to get one more and make it back to the lodge in time. I disagreed, but I was willing to try. After about 5 minutes or so, I told him that there was no way I was going to make it. He graciously agreed to turn back, and he never made me feel bad about it.
So we turned around and made it back to the lodge with just 2 minutes to spare. Everyone ate snacks, chatted, and laughed as stories were told and jokes were made. I think I managed to laugh at the appropriate points in the conversations, but I’m not sure. We then went home, and I took the hottest shower ever and tried to nap on the couch with my niece and nephew, Josie and Colton, climbing all over me.
This was probably my worst performance in an adventure race (other than a couple of DNF’s earlier in my racing career). I hated this race while we were racing, but as usual, now that I look back on it I realize that it was a great time. The race director did a great job. Huge thanks to you, Laura, and to all of the volunteers! Casey was the best teammate a guy could ask for. And Dude, I promise I’ll be healthy for the next race we do together… I hope.
Casey: I will try to be healthy as well. You were a trooper and in hind sight probably shouldn’t have raced and stayed home in bed. If Jay Culter had even one of your balls, the Bears would have beaten the sorry ass Packers and probably would have won the Super Bowl. You say you’re done having kids. I’ll believe it if you mail one of your testicles to the Bears front office with a letter telling Cutler to man up.
Luke: Stupid Packers!
Casey: Great race, I had a good time regardless of our finish. I got to snowshoe for the first time ever (I agree with Luke, it was surprisingly easy). Thanks for making the trip to New York to visit (it had been over 5 years), and remember… you’re coming out for the Lion Heart race later this summer. If you haven’t read the story about his whole visit to New York, check it out. We had a great time and did some great things (at least check out some of the pictures). Thank you to Medved, the race director, the volunteers, and everybody else that was crazy enough to come out and race. I promise a better performance next year. Luke are you in again? Anybody else?
Luke: Fo’ Sho’! Count me in.
So there you have it. We survived, but just barely. Have any of you been racing in the snow this year?
Check out the rest of our photos below: