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Sleepless in Steelville, the Eve of Berryman 2012

As much as I hate to do it, I’ve gotta break this report into fragments. For whatever reason, my employer seems to think my talents are better used “working” instead of AR-blogging during business hours.  The following is a brief account of the hours leading up to our domination of the 2012 Berryman 24 hour Adventure race. And by “domination”, I mean we didn’t die.

At a table littered with empty fast-food wrappers, Travis and I sat in the Hardee’s dining room plotting UTM points. The 2012 Berryman 24 was happening the next day, and we had redemption on the brain. A full year had passed since our “Four Points Debacle“, and while it was surely on our minds, there was no talk of the past. We spoke only of the grandeur that lay ahead.

Brimming with confidence and the lofty goal of a top 3 finish, we had once again found ourselves drunk with confidence. Countless emails had been exchanged in the preceding weeks, and the phrase “if we can just run a clean race..” had been repeated over and over again. Hope had become certainty, and for better or worse, we’d let ourselves believe it was going to happen. Tomorrow would be a BIG success; of this we had no doubt.

“If we can just run a clean race..”

With each plotted CP, another piece of tomorrow’s quest was revealed. It was clear we’d be covering a lot of distance tomorrow. The mileage on the bike leg alone was… respectable. That was fine though, after all our Dirty Kanza training earlier in the year, we were confident the bikes were our strong-suit. My excitement came to climax when we confirmed that all 13  miles of Council Bluff’s bitchin’ singletrack would be used on the bike leg(s). Council Bluff was the first course I ever raced on, and I’ve had a lot of good times there.  I think it was ’09 when Corey, Big Gay Bob and myself took home buckles in the clydesdale division. And I may or may not have whipped Corey’s ass at the Rimwrecker there in ’08, but it’s not like I’m gonna hold that over his head until my dying day.

Course plotted, we drove back to camp and managed to be in the sack by 11:30. Of course, this only gave me more time to lay in the sleeping bag and stare restlessly at the sky. Sleeping on the ground was so much better before I got fat, but hey, at least I forgot my pillow.

Frustrated at my inability to sleep, I watched the stars and let my mind wander. It dawned on me that we really hadn’t shown this race the proper level of respect. The Berryman is notoriously difficult, and this was gonna be Travis’s first 24 hour race. It made me nervous that we weren’t nervous, but there would be time for all of that tomorrow.

Morning finally came, and for whatever reason I was awake 15 minutes before my alarm went off. Trust me, that’s not the kind of thing that happens everyday. Resisting the urge to go back to sleep, I decided  to head for the camp commode. Much to my surprise, I’d gotten there before a line had formed. Man, I felt like such a grown-up… until I opened the bathroom door.  With a dropped jaw and bulging eyeballs, time literally froze as I realized I was standing face-to-face with a  half-naked man sitting on the toilet.

He hadn’t locked the door.

Well, this is awkward.

Thankfully he was wearing a headlamp, so all I saw was a defecating silhouette. That being said, my imagination has a nasty habit of filling in the blanks. Without missing a beat, the mystery dumper, (keeping his headlight steadily in my eyes to secure anonymity) , said “Sorry dude.”

No other words were spoken;  I quietly closed the door and got the hell out of there.

So,  just to recap: I do NOT know who you are, Mr. Mystery Dumper, and I think it’d be really cool if we could keep it that way.

I’d say this is a great time to change the subject, so let’s fast forward to the final minutes before race-start

In the final minutes before race-start, the crowd of racers was large:

I’m pretty sure that’s Emily on the front row

and distinguished:

Hands-down, the coolest race kits in AR

Our esteemed colleagues from the Orange Lederhosen cult are always a welcome sight, and I do believe Derrick has been trimming down. Emma was rumored to be somewhere on course, so we could only hope she’d have “provisions”.   Speaking of distinguished, I had the pleasure of crossing paths with several CAC veterans. Folks like “Iron Man” Chuck Vohsen, male-model Steve Willi, (my mom thinks he’s hot), and the recently expedition-tested Team Wahoo. The Hoosier Daddies were also present, albeit without any alcohol. I’m sure that won’t be the case at Castlewood, though.

The Hoosier Daddies. If you received free whiskey, brandy, port wine or bratwursts on the course during Cedar Cross, it probably came from one of these fine Americans.

My mojo must’ve been through the roof,  because I managed to get a 2-word conversation with Awesome-Butt Girl. As long as we’re on the subject, a lot of people have asked me about “ABG’s” true identity. I’m sorry to say it, but that information will never be revealed here. Firstly, knowledge is power. A woman with that knowledge could use her powers for evil, and I don’t need that weight on my conscience. Secondly, we don’t want to objectify anyone… I mean, I certainly wouldn’t want a bunch of people calling me “Awesome Abs Guy.” I’m not a piece of meat.

(Right to left) Kate, Travis and myself. And yes, my abs are amazing.

Swiftwick sleeves were donned, Bodyglide was applied and much pre-race wind was broken. The National Anthem was sung and  race director Gary Thompson unleashed 200+ racers onto his AR masterpiece.  The Berryman had begun.

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Do We Need Rogaine? Yes… Yes We Do.

Seriously… We’ve got a problem, and the only solution is rogaine.  No, not the hair-loss treatment.  The only problem with my hair is that it’s all turning gray in a hurry (as you’ll see if you look closely in the photos below).  I’m talking about a race – the 24 Hour Shawnee Extreme Rogaine.

Shawnee Extreme Rogaine Race 2010

“What’s that?” you ask.  “What exactly is a rogaine?”  Well, here is what I wrote in a post from last year:

“There are two stories behind the term rogaine.  I have read that it comes from the first two letters of the names of the three athletes who supposedly invented the sport.  Their names were Rod, Gail, and Neil.  Rogaine is also an acronym. The letters stand for Rugged Outdoor Group Activity Involving Navigation and Endurance.

A rogaine is an orienteering race usually lasting 12 to 24 hours where each checkpoint has a point value. Teams of two to five can get checkpoints in any order they so choose, and the team with the most points at the end of the race is the winner.  So, strategy plays a huge role in a rogaine race.  Do you try to get all of the low-value checkpoints that are closer and easier to find?  Or do you try to go for the high-value points that are farther away and more difficult to locate?”

Last year, the Brothers Lamb (Casey, Zack, and myself) all met up to do the Sleepy Hollow 12 Hour Rogaine in Ohio.  It was our first rogaine, and it was the first time we had ever officially raced as Team Virtus.  It was a brutally good time, so we decided we needed to do it again.

This year, however, NSF Adventures is offering a 12 hour AND a 24 hour rogaine at the Shawnee Extreme (which has replaced the Sleepy Hollow Rogaine).  So of course we’re doing the 24 hour, and of course we’re in way over our heads yet again.  Zack couldn’t make it this year, but Casey, Bob, Drew, and I are ready to go.  Whatever happens, I know we’ll have a blast in Ohio.

To prepare, Bob and I ventured up to Rock Bridge State Park for some Orienteering practice.

 

Bob with O-map at Rock Bridge

Bob studies the map and shows his movie-star smile (Seriously, he's a movie star now. He was in "Race Across the Sky" - How cool is that?)

To prepare myself to carry Casey’s pack again (you really need to read last year’s race report), I decided to carry my chubby son Otis on my back, although I still think Casey’s pack was heavier… Seriously, it was.

 

Carrying Otis as Training for a Rogaine Orienteering Race

Perfect Training for a Rogaine Race

Actually, I pray that Casey doesn’t suffer cramps like he did last year.  We give him a hard time about carrying his pack, but he was a stud to push through the pain.  We were happy (well, not happy but we were willing) to carry his pack, because that’s what a team does.  We pick each other up when we need to.  I know Casey would do the same for me (Seriously, Casey, you have to carry my pack this year).

It was a perfect Fall day for orienteering in Missouri.  We had a blast.  We even had some run-ins with thorns and brush of which there will be plenty in Ohio, I promise.

Bob Bleeding in the Woods

Let's hope this is the worst of our injuries at the Shawnee Extreme Rogaine

At one point, we had to decide if we should cross the creek or backtrack at least a mile to get to the next checkpoint.  Well, we chose to cross the creek, and obviously Bob decided to cross a downed tree, possibly the most difficult option for crossing the creek.

 

Bob crossing a creek at Rock Bridge State Park

Bob crossing the creek...

Bob almost falling in the creek

Bob almost falling into the creek.

Bob came really close to getting wet, but he somehow managed to save himself.  It was hilarious! He then came up with a new method to cross the creek – the Sit and Scoot.  He used his Beaver Stick to clear the brush as he straddled the log and scooted on his ass.  It worked beautifully.

As tempted as I was to cross the creek here as well, I just couldn’t risk falling in from that height with Ote Boat on my back.  So I took my shoes off, hiked my pants legs up, and crossed the creek barefoot where it was shallower.  The water was cold, but we made it.

We got some good orienteering practice in, and although we weren’t out there setting any speed records, we kept moving most of the time except for a few map-checks and potty breaks.

 

Bob peeing in the woods

Peekaboo Bob, We see you!

Otis loved being out in the woods… as long as we didn’t stop for too long.  He would get pretty pissed if we stayed in one spot for more than 30 seconds. As long as we kept moving, though, Otis was as happy as can be.  He must have gotten very comfortable back there…

 

Otis getting drowsy in the backpack

Going...

Otis almost asleep in the backpack

Going...

Otis asleep in the back pack

Gone.

I always love getting out there for some orienteering.  I wish there were more orienteering races in mid-Mo.  I know St. Louis and Kansas City have orienteering clubs, but it can be too much to drive 2 hours for an hour-long O-race.  Maybe Team Virtus needs to start a mid-Mo orienteering club… Hmm… Anyone reading this think that’s a good idea?  Anyone?

Anyway, we had a great time, and we’re now ready to dominate the Shawnee Extreme Rogaine this weekend.  Okay, we’re nowhere near ready to dominate the race.  The terrain is ridiculously brutal with crazy elevation gains/losses, and the brush, briars, and thorns are insane. Domination?  Probably not, but we’re ready to have more fun than anyone else.  And that’s what it’s all about.

A Grunting Good Time and the Curse of the Armadillo- The Gateway Grunt Orienteering Race Report

Getting up at 5:00 AM is never fun.  It’s a little easier when you know you’ll be running wild through the woods with a map and compass, though.  So I hopped into the Virtus-Van and picked up the one and only Bob Jenkins at 5:30, and we then headed off to Hawn State park for the Gateway Grunt Orienteering Race.

I’m so used to sprinting to the registration table right before the start of a race, that it never even bothers me anymore if we’re running a little late.  Bob, however, gets a wee bit nervous if we’re running behind.  At last year’s Bonk Hard Chill, I thought Bob was going to have a heart attack when we had to drive 70 mph in a 30 mph zone just to make it to the start of the race in time.

Believe it or not, though, on this day we were actually early – definitely a first for Team Virtus.  We paid the entry fee, signed our lives away on the waivers, and received our race numbers and SI Sticks (An SI stick is an electronic punch instead of a mechanical one).

Bob's SI Stick at the Gateway Grunt

Bob gladly shows us what an SI Stick looks like.

One thing I’ve noticed at Orienteering events is that it seems sort of clique-ish. I’ve pretty much felt like an outsider at every orienteering event I’ve ever done. At adventure races and mt. bike races, it seems like everyone is there to have a great time and everyone is laid back and easy going. At O-races, though, it seems like everyone is out for blood.  It’s kind of weird.  I mean, everyone is nice enough, and they’ll speak to you if you initiate the conversation.  It’s just sort of awkward conversation.

We did have a nice conversation with Jeff Sona from Team Alpine Shop, though, and he seemed like a genuinely nice guy.  He has an adventure racing background, though, so maybe that’s why he seemed more like our type of guy.

Anyway, we finished checking in and got dressed.  I decided to go with shorts and a short sleeve jersey since it was supposed to be so warm.  I don’t think we could’ve asked for better weather for race day.  The day started a little cloudy with temps in the low 40’s, and as the day wore on, the sun would shine and the temps reached into the upper 50’s.  It was simply perfect racing weather. In hindsight, though, I really wish I would have worn long pants – not because of the weather, but because of the brush that shredded my shins and knees.

Team Virtus at the Gateway Grunt Orienteering Race

Team Virtus - aka The Outsiders

At 9:45, we walked down the road to the start of the Grunt.  We received our maps, although we were forbidden to look at them until the start of the race. The race director went over the rules.  We were allowed to skip any two of the 26 controls we wanted, and there were three time cutoffs.  You had to hit Checkpoint (CP) 10 before 12:00, and you also had to hit CP 20 before 2:00. The final cutoff was at 3:00 when the race ended.

We decided to do this race separately, so this would be Bob’s first solo endeavor.  I’ll let him tell you about his experience in a future post, though.  At 10:02, the race director yelled, “Go!”  Everyone took off… Except Bob and me and a few others.  We were still looking at the map and trying to figure out which way to go.

Getting to CP 1 was easy enough.  We just had to follow the other 40+ racers. Bob reached #1 slightly ahead of me, and then we headed off for CP 2. Bob took off running at a pretty good clip, and I maintained my “endurance pace” (aka – a really slow jog). I saw Bob heading farther east  than I had planned on going. I was about to yell, “Yo, Bob! Where you goin’?” After double-checking the map, though, I saw that there was a trail in that direction that would lead almost right to CP 2. I thought this was a pretty good idea, and I almost followed Bob. I decided to do my own thing, though, and I continued to bushwhack straight to CP 2.

I got to #2, and by this time there was no one around me.  I didn’t see Bob, and I wasn’t sure if he was ahead of me or behind me.  I found CP’s 3, 4, and 5 with no problems.  I ran down the trail that skirted alongside the creek for awhile, and I realized how beautiful Hawn State Park is.

Hawn State Park

On my way to CP 6, I saw several racers on their way back to CP 10. Wow. Those dudes were fast. I found #6, and I found #7 which was a water drop.  I slammed some Gatorade and water and ate a couple of cookies.  I didn’t stay long since the 12:00 cutoff was looming over my head.

CP’s 8 and 9 were not a problem, but it was getting close to noon.  As I neared CP 10, someone doing the Runt (the shorter version of the Grunt) asked me where I thought we were.  For some reason he had to cut his race short, and he wanted to head back to the parking lot.  After showing him where I thought I was, he took off towards the parking lot.  I then somehow managed to walk right by #10.  I soon realized my mistake and found the CP shortly thereafter.

CP’s 11 and 12 were found fairly easily, but it seemed like it was taking me forever to get to each CP.  I found CP 13 (another water drop), and I slammed some more Gatorade and water.  I really wanted to save my two skips until later in the race when I’d be worn out, but I knew that I wasn’t going to get to CP 20 by 2:00 if I didn’t use my skips soon.

I decided to hit CP 14 and then skip CP’s 15 and 16.  I was dead-on with CP 14, and again with CP 17.  CP’s 18 and 19 came and went without any problems, and it looked like I was going to beat the cutoff time.  Then it happened…

On my way to CP 20, I heard some rustling in the leaves behind me.  Was it Bob sneaking up on me?  Nope.  It was an armadillo scurrying away from me.  It was the first armadillo I’ve ever seen in the wild (other than dead ones on the side of the road).  I tried to follow the guy for a little bit, but he magically disappeared.  I turned around and headed towards #20 again.

I got to where I thought the control was, but I couldn’t find it.  I headed down to the creek to try to figure out where to go.  It was obvious that I was in the right place.  I headed back to where CP 20 should have been.  No luck.  I headed up and down the creek two more times.  Nada.  I was getting pretty damn frustrated at this point.  It was now a little after 2:00, so I was technically past the cutoff time.

By this time, though, it was personal.  There was no way I was not going to find this stupid checkpoint 20.  I decided to find CP 21 and work backwards.  I found #21 easily (although I did not e-punch 21 at this time), and headed backwards to CP #20.  When I found #20, I couldn’t believe it.  I seriously don’t know what the hell happened.  I must have walked by this thing at least 3 times, but I never saw it. It had to be The Curse of the Armadillo!  The stupid armadillo distracted me, cursed me, and then disappeared.  I know that’s what happened.  It’s the only logical explanation.

Stupid Armadillo

I'm taking some of this on my next race... Stupid Armadillo!

I went back to CP 21, the final water drop, and I drank some more water and Gatorade.  I found CP 22 easily, and I headed out for CP 23.  I knew I wasn’t going to get all of the CP’s in time.  I wanted to make sure that I finished before 3:00 so that I would not be disqualified.  As long as I finished before the final cutoff, I would get credit for finishing the race.  I would just be ranked according to how many CP’s I got (which means probably last, but the results haven’t been posted yet).

I climbed what felt like a mountain on my way to CP 23.  When I got to the top, I was wiped out.  My feet and legs were pretty beat up, and I decided to scrap the thought of getting any more CP’s.  I was going to have to push the pace just to make it to the finish before 3:00.  I bushwhacked my way back to the road, and then I made it back to the finish line with 5 minutes to spare.  Bob’s stuff was in my van, but he was nowhere to be found.  What happened to him?  (Check back in with us for his race report.)

I skipped CP’s 23-26 in addition to the two earlier skips that were allowed.  So it wasn’t a great performance for me.  The park was beautiful, the weather was perfect, and I got to practice my orienteering.  So it was a great day even though I would’ve liked a better finish.

I heard that the winning time was something like 77 minutes which just blows my mind.  That’s ridiculous! (UPDATE: the winner of the RUNT finished in 77 minutes, and the winner of the GRUNT finished in 110 minutes – still unbelievably fast!) I’ll just keep plugging away at losing weight, getting faster, and getting better at orienteering.  Next time we do something like this, you should really come.  It’s always fun, and you can’t help but get better.  Just be sure to avoid all armadillos.  Stupid armadillos!

UPDATE #2: My “Official” finish was 34th out of 35 competitors, but it’s pretty clear that they screwed up my results… They had me with a finishing time of 140 minutes when my actual finishing time was 295 minutes, and they had me finishing with a total of Zero CP’s when I actually got 20 CP’s.  So that should have put me 31st place out of 35 racers.  I’m not going to contest the results or anything since it clearly doesn’t matter, but I just thought I’d let you all know.

Grunt if You Love Orienteering

Our next test of skill and manliness is coming up shortly. Bob Jenkins and myself will be heading to Hawn State Park on March 7th for the Gateway Grunt Orienteering Race.  This is a 16 Km race with 26 controls, and we are allowed to skip 2 controls throughout the race.  It is basically the same format as the Rockwoods Range Goat that Bob and I competed in back in February of ’09 and the Possum Trot that I competed in back in December of ’09.

Orienteering Cave

The race is being put on by Carol’s Team and the St. Louis Orienteering Club. Carol’s Team is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) and easing the suffering of the disease through the development of communication aids, so this race is helping support a great cause.

If you want to join us, we’d love the company (Brandon? Ronda?).  There is also an Intro to Orienteering Session for beginners, and there is a shorter version of the Grunt called the Runt (9.5 Km).  And if you don’t feel like doing either of those, there is also a Green course (5.2 Km) and an Orange course (3.5 Km). So, let us know if you’d like to tag along.  You know it’s going to be a blast.

No Playin’ Possum – The Possum Trot XIII was Serious Business

Possum Trot 2009

In the photo above, you see me proudly showing off my hard-earned trophy from yesterday’s Possum Trot XIII Orienteering Race.  Okay, that’s not true.  I didn’t win anything.  I did NOT, however, finish last.  It was an awesome race, though, and I had a lot of fun.

Bob had to “work” (aka – sitting on his ass and bitching to anyone and everyone), Zack had to “study” (aka – cramming at the last minute for finals), Drew had “piano lessons” (aka – …actually he really did have piano lessons), and Casey still lives in NY (damn Yankee!).  So I ventured out to Knob Noster State Park on my own.

Apparently, the competitors that show up for this race every year are no joke. There were people from Minnesota, Kansas, Texas, Colorado, all over Missouri, and even a guy from England.  I think the race director said that there was even a female World Sprint Orienteering Champion there whom I of course ended up beating by an hour and a half (this is clearly another lie).

There was a short course consisting of CP’s 1-14 and 26-30 (~9 km).  The long course consisted of CP’s 1-30 (~15 km as the crow flies), and this is the one I signed up for.  The short course racers were allowed 1 skip, and those doing the long course were allowed two skips.  We were told we could skip any 2 of the 30 controls that we wanted (they could be consecutive, but they didn’t have to be).

The race was to start at 9:00 AM, and there were two time cutoffs for the long course.  The first cutoff was (I thought) CP 14, and you had to be there by 11:00 AM.  If you didn’t make it here by 11:00, then you needed to do skip ahead to CP 26 and do the short course or just head back on the highway for a DNF. However, keep in mind that the short course racers were only allowed One skip. The second cutoff for the long race was at the finish, and you had to be done by 2:00 PM.

The skips made the race very interesting, because you have to think and plan ahead on the fly to determine when and where to use your skips. We were given the maps 2 minutes before the start of the race, so there was not a lot of time to stategerize.

Possum Trot Map XIII (North Section)

Click on the Image for a Larger Version that You Can Magnify

Possum Trot XIII Map (South Section)

Click on Image for a Larger Map that You can Magnify

There was a mass start (everyone started at the same time instead of a staggered start), and when the race director said “go”, everyone took off in a flash.  I was like, “Aww, shit.  This race is probably not designed for slow chubby guys.”

I started out jogging along the trail around the pond towards CP 1.  I overshot it, though, so I had to back-track a little.  I found a CP, but it was for a different course (there were also regular white, yellow, orange, and green o-courses going on).  I had to back-track some more and soon found the right CP.  It “only” took me 20 minutes.  After doing some quick math in my head (28 CP’s x 20 minutes = Never Going to Make the Cutoff) I realized I was screwed.  Damn! Not a good start.

I found CP’s 2 – 5 without any problems, and while I was moving faster than I had been for CP1, I just seemed to be moving slowly – even for me.  During this stretch there was a handful of people around me, and we kept leapfrogging each other as we chose different routes to the CP’s.  Most of these people, however, were doing the short course, so I figured I was in dead last for the long course.

I went down the wrong reentrant for CP 6.  The group of racers around me seemed to miss this CP as well, and we all found the CP at roughly the same time.  On the way to CP 7, I had a decision to make.  I could skip CP’s 8 & 9, cutting off a decent bit of distance and quite a bit of elevation change, or I could save my skips for later.  If I skipped 8 & 9 I would be burning both of my skips early, but this was probably the ONLY way I was going to make the first cutoff.  However, if I skipped two CP’s and still missed the cutoff, then I would be demoted to the short course, already having missed a CP (remember, the short course was only allowed one skip) and ranked below anyone that got all of the CP’s.

So I decided to go for it.  After finding #7, I skipped CP’s 8 & 9 and headed over to CP 10.  I HAD to make it to CP 14 by 11:00 now, or my race was ruined.  I found 10, 11, and 12 with no problems, and I seemed to picking up the pace.  I was getting a feel for the terrain and the map, and I was getting into a groove. I felt good.  I was running out of time, though, and it was going to be close.  I hit 13, and then I had to haul ass to get to 14 in time.

I got to where I thought 14 should be with 5 minutes to spare, but I couldn’t find the CP.  With some frantic searching, I found it and realized that no one was there to make sure I made the cutoff.  Then I remembered that we actually had to get to the Water drop at the road junction to the South-East of CP 14.  I hopped out on the road and heard my watch beep.  That meant it was 10:59 (my watch was a little over a minute faster than the race director’s).

I started to sprint (using that term loosely)  as fast as my chubby ass could go. I was picturing a race volunteer standing there looking at a watch with an evil grin on her face, counting down the seconds and getting ready to tell me I had failed.  I made it to the water drop with mere seconds to spare and… there was nobody there.  I guess the whole cutoff thing was on the honor system.

It doesn’t matter, because I made the cutoff.  Yes, the margin was thinner than a supermodel on a two-month long herion binge, but I had made it.  So skipping the two CP’s was the right decision so far.  I had covered 12 CP’s in 120 minutes exactly.  So, if I could keep up the 10 min per CP pace, I might actually make the 2:00 cutoff (16 CP’s left x 10 min = 160 min and I had 180 minutes left).

I slammed a cup of Gatorade, ate a couple of cookies, and headed off to CP 15. I hit CP’s 15 through 20 with no problems.  I mean I nailed them!  I was still moving slowly by most people’s standards, but, for me, I was rockin’ it.  I was keeping contact with the map at all times, and I found the CP’s exactly where I thought they would be.

Next, I would’ve really liked to skip CP 21 (it was actually the most skipped CP of the race), but I had already burned my two skips.  I hadn’t seen any other racers since CP 14, so I was sure I was in last place as I reached CP 21.  After I punched my passport, a woman comes jogging up to the control out of nowhere and punches her passport.  We both commented that we thought we were the only ones left on the course and then started on our way to #22.

I “let” her start out ahead of me since I am so chivalrous – you know, ladies first and all that.  Okay, that is yet another lie.  She took off ahead of me before I took my bearing.  We both seemed to be taking the same route to 22.  We also took the same route to 23, with her ahead of me once again.  I hope she didn’t think I was following her, because I wasn’t – seriously.  No really, I wasn’t.  I swear.

On the way to #24 is where I made my move.  I was like Cole Trickle in Days of Thunder. We slammed into each other as I was trying to pass her (“Rubbin’ is Racin'”), and I smashed through the brush as she fell behind me wondering what the hell just happened (“He’s going high. Goddamn it!” Trickle takes the lead).

Cole Trickle Possum Trot

Yeah, I felt as cool as Cole Trickle looks.

Okay, so it didn’t happen exactly like that.  She decided to take the trail, and I decided to bushwhack.  I got to CP 24 and didn’t see her anywhere.  Did she beat me here?  Did she have a skip left?  I had no idea, but there was no time to think about it.  I moved on to #25, and then hit the water drop again on the way to #26.  Always looking over my shoulder, I never saw her again, so she must have taken the faster route.  Another cup of Gatorade and a couple more cookies at the aide station hit the spot.

The rest of the CP’s went very smoothly.  My legs were starting to hurt, and time was running out.  Fortunately, I didn’t make any errors, and I made it to the finish line with 6 minutes and 25 seconds to spare.  I handed in my passport and got a couple of congratulations.  Most people had already left by now.  I ate a baked potato (apparently there was no other food left for slow, fat guys), and hopped in my car after snapping this cheesy shot:

Luke after the Possum Trot XIII

I checked my phone, and I had a voicemail.  It was from the meet director saying that they were ready to go home. Now, I know that I was slow, but this pissed me off a little bit.  If you’re not gladly willing to wait until the very end of the race for people like me, then you should make the time cutoff 3 hours.  This would have only allowed 16 of the 36 competitors to finish, but at least it would have been a shorter race. I know I’m not one of the elite guys (and maybe I never will be), but shouldn’t these races be open to everyone?  I think so.

Maybe the race director was just worried about me, and I took it wrong since I was worn out.  That’s what I’m going to think anyway because the race itself was phenomenal, and I don’t want to taint it.  The course was great, the park was great, the weather was great, and I got a lot of great orienteering practice in.  Like I said, this race was fantastic.  I’ll definitely do it again, although I hope I won’t keep anyone waiting next year.

As I drove out of the parking lot, I saw the woman I had met at CP22 running towards the finish line. I must have passed her with my Cole Trickle move after all. I wonder if she, too, got a phone call from the race director.  It doesn’t matter. I ended up taking 35th place out of 36 racers.

I know Some of you may think of finishing second to last as a failure.  Well, to that I say, “Screw you!”  Just kidding – sort of.  But I don’t think of it as a failure at all.  I had fun, I got better at orienteering, I experienced a great race, and I finished.  And that, my friends, is what it’s all about – is it not?

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