**Note: This post was written by Luke with commentary added by Kate in Blue, Bob in Green, and Travis in Orange.**
By the end of the Perfect 10 Rogaine my feet were sore and beat to shit, I was fighting off cramps, and I was kinda lonely. Don’t get me wrong, though. It was an insanely fantastic day. It was just different than previous Perfect 10’s we’d done. Back in 2012, Bob, Kate and I ran the race together, and then at last year’s race, Kate and I teamed up and won a friendly bet against a team of Bob and Casey – a bet for which they still need to pay up, by the way.
Kate: But we have a plan for that, and it’s glorious.
But this year, Kate, Bob, Travis, and I decided to sign up as solos so we could all get some good navigation work on our own, rather than relying on each other.
The three of us dudes have had quite a bit of experience with navigation. At times, all three of us have been the lead navigator for our team. Kate, however, is the least experienced, and the Perfect 10 was to be her biggest solo effort to date. She was pretty nervous, but I knew she’d do fine. She’s come a LOOOOOONG way since her first navigational experience at The Deuce:
Friday afternoon, Kate met up with Bob, and they then drove to my house. From there we hopped in the Virtus Van for the short road trip down to Lake of the Ozarks State Park. Of course we had to stop for Kate to get some pulled pork, and then we needed to make a pit stop for Bob to get some underwear and other supplies.
Bob: That chick in the background is totally scoping me out. And for the record, we were buying underwear because I was, (and still am), covered in poison ivy from the waist-down on all sides. And dang my hair looks good!
We then headed to the campground and drove around trying to find our friends from Team Alpine Shop and Wedali/Gear Junkie, but the we had no luck since the campground is so huge. We ended up picking a site near the entrance, and then we set up camp in the dark. We decided not to build a fire since it was pretty late, but we had to have one adult beverage together before bed. That’s when Bob made a startling discovery:
“I just realized I didn’t actually pack any food for the weekend.”
If only we had just been at a very large store that sells just about anything you might need for a weekend of camping and racing. You know, kind of like a Walmart. Oh, wait…
Travis: Or maybe if someone had been driving up the day of the race. Maybe they could have brought something. Oh well.
It just so happened that I had made a crap-ton of Feed Zone Portables, which I will review in a later post. Kate had extra food as well, so collectively we had plenty of food for all of us. Crisis averted. I guess Bob’s motto of “It’ll work itself out” – shortened to IWIO – still holds up.
Bob: You totally saved my ass. I was really surprised at how tasty those things are.
We went to bed a little too late since we’d be getting up at 5:45 AM, but that’s how Virtus rolls. We don’t spend enough time together, so we try to make the most of it when we do.
We met up with Travis, who drove up on his own the morning of the race, at race HQ for the check-in. Then we received our maps at 6:45. With a start time of 8:00, we got straight to work strategerizing our routes.
We each planned our routes separately, but Travis and Bob mapped out the same route while Kate and I had planned a different route that happened to be the same for the first 6 checkpoints, though it was . It only made sense for Travis and Bob to start together and likewise for Kate and me. At any time, however, we could separate if someone was faster than someone else.
Kate: I was really glad that someone else was going the same way I was. I’m always shakiest in the beginning.
Travis: I was happy to be starting with Bob. I felt confident that I could navigate on my own, but since I don’t get to see my teammates very often I figured we would hang together until one of us was slowing the other down, or we decided on different route choices.
Kate has been training her ass off, and I haven’t run in months… literally. She’s been running a lot, focusing on the upcoming Skippo Trail Race. So I was pretty sure she’d drop me quickly. I decided I’d try to stay with her as long as I could and as long as she didn’t mind me tagging along. Below is a shot of the first part of the map so all you Virtusites can follow along at home.
- CP’s numbered 1 – 6 were worth 100 points (getting all 6 100 pointers gave you a 100 point bonus)
- CP’s numbered 10 – 19 were worth 10 points
- CP’s numbered 20 – 29 were worth 20 points
- CP’s numbered 30 – 39 were worth 30 points
- Total points available (including the bonus) = 1300
Bob and Travis planned on heading east to CP 28 first and then heading counterclockwise. Kate and I had planned on going north to CP19 followed by CP’s 27, 26, 17, 25, and 16 before parting ways… if I could keep up.
Kate and I jogged most of the way to CP 19, and just to be a jerk, when we got close to the CP I ran ahead of Kate to get there first. I didn’t realize there was a photographer there, so that only made it better.
From 19 we took the trail for a bit, running most of it, and then we bushwhacked up the spur to get CP 27. So far so good. From 27 we headed down to the road. We took the road to the creek south of 26. We followed the creek and then went up the reentrant to CP 26. Again, no problems.
Kate: Luke was doing the nav here, but I was following along on the map, and it was all making sense. That was a huge boost to my confidence, even if I needed a few reminders about orienting my map.
We were ahead of Wedali/Gear Junkie!!!!… Sort of.
We got to CP 26 just before Erl and Andrei from Gear Junkie/Wedali, one of the top teams in the nation. Erl was a good sport about posing for a photo of Team Virtus being “in front” of them. Yes, we got to CP 26 before they did, but they had already gotten WAY more points than we had at that point. They were way ahead of us in the race, but it was fun pretending we were awesome for a minute.
Kate: We’re always awesome; we’re just not that fast.
From 26 we headed northwest to the trail and then ran the trail to CP 17. I was feeling surprisingly good so far, but I’m sure Kage was just taking it easy on me. I know I wouldn’t have run nearly as much as I did if I hadn’t been with Kate.
Kate: I was perfectly happy with our pace. No point in sprinting at the beginning of a 10 hour race (not for me, anyway).
From 17 we took the trail north until it crossed the creek and turned northeast. We bushwhacked toward CP 25 at the pond. Along the way we found an abandoned picnic area complete with picnic tables and a monstrously big BBQ grill. We are Team Virtus so we obviously stopped for photos.
We got CP 26 and then headed to our last CP that we’d get together, CP 16. We followed the creek down to the road to the west. Then we decided to bushwhack across and up the spur to 16, cutting out some distance on the road. It wasn’t long, though, before we reached an old fence line. I was ready to cross the fence at a low spot when Kate said, “Oh, wait. This is private property.”
Kate: If you look at Alpine Shop’s maps, they always block out the private property. We need to start doing that, because all of those red lines kind of run together on the map, especially when you’re in a hurry.
A quick look at the map confirmed this, and Kate saved me from breaking the rules. So we backtracked to the road and after going the long way around we found CP 16 with no problem at about the same time as our friends from Boom Boom Pow. We headed west to the road and then north to the road junction where Kate struck out on her own, moving west to get CP’s 15, 14, 37, 24, and 5 (see the map below) before heading to the northwest section of the map. You can read her account of the Perfect 10 right here.
After wishing Kate good luck, I headed north (see the map below). At the second church, I headed west for CP 3, my first 100-pointer. I hesitated once, questioning if I had gone too far, but after going a little farther I walked right to it. That’s always a good feeling.
From CP 3, I hopped back on the road and went to CP 12 which was also a water drop. It was obvious that no one else had been to this water drop CP yet. Either that or no one else had take any water. The cases of water were untouched. This made me doubt my route planning.
I refilled two water bottles, ate a Feed Zone rice cake, and was on my way again to CP’s 21 and then 11. I didn’t have any trouble with either of these, but on my way to CP 32, following the ridge top, I think I must have gone down the wrong reentrant.
After searching for a little bit, I realized I had gone too far north. I circled back to start again from the top of the hill to the northeast of the CP. That’s where I ran into Bob and Travis. I let out a, “CaCaw! CaCaw!” as I approached. Since their planned routes were the same up to this point, they had remained together. They were taking a short break, so I decided to join them. I was really happy to see them.
Resting on my knees as I drank a Spike energy drink, my left hamstring cramped badly. It came out of nowhere, and I ended up face down on the ground, spilling my Spike all over my arm. My teammates immediately rushed to help me, and by that I mean they sat there and laughed at me.
Travis: I was very suprised to see Luke, and even more so by his direction of travel, since it was the same way we had just came in. As misfortunate as it was for Luke to cramp, it was incredibly funny to watch.
Once the cramping eased up, I slammed a serving of The Right Stuff. It tasted, as Bob likes to say, “like the Devil’s ball sweat.” Although I’ve never actually tasted the Devil’s ball sweat, I imagine that’s a pretty accurate comparison. But the stuff really works. It tastes awful, but it stopped my cramps almost immediately for the next couple of hours. I only wish I’d brought more than one pouch.
Bob: It’s odd that Satan’s ballsweat could cure cramps, but the flavor of that stuff has me convinced it can only be the ballsweat of the devil or a mythical beast.
At this point, I only had 230 points while they each had over 400 points. They were kicking my ass, and their route choice offered them many more options than mine did. Once again I questioned my route.
From here, the three of us got CP 32 together with no problems. We said our good byes and went our separate ways. I headed to CP 2 next. Bob and Travis had warned me that it was a bit tricky.
After my mistake trying to get CP 32, I was extra cautious trying to get CP 2. I was a little too cautious, second-guessing myself a lot and chewing up time by being so careful. I was stopped at a creek trying to make sure I knew exactly where I was when a coed team confirmed I was headed towards 2. Even with their assurance, though, I had a little bit of trouble finding it.
Travis: With the clue being a spur CP2 was definitely more difficult than one would think. Mostly due to the fact that the spur was rather poor in my opinion.
From 2 I went up and up and up the spur to the junction of Highways 42 and 134. From there, it was an easy shot to CP 13, and from there I headed south down the reentrant toward CP 35.
This is where having a teammate would have helped. I felt like I was walking forever to get to this checkpoint. I almost turned around no less than 5 times, pausing each time to make sure I knew where I was and where I was going. I probably wasted 10 minutes doing this, and it would have been nice to have someone with me to discuss where we were and what to do.
It was a big relief to finally find 35 without turning around or backtracking. My confidence was a bit shaken at this point, though. I didn’t feel sure of myself as I headed back to highway 42 and then down the reentrant toward CP 23.
Unfortunately, I went into the woods too early and hiked down the wrong reentrant. By the time I realized what I had done, it didn’t seem worth it to go back and get a 20-pointer. So I continued down the creek bed to the private property line where there was a fence.
From there I bushwhacked along the fence line even though the other side of the fence was awfully tempting. In this case the grass truly was green on the other side. It was a wide open field that had been mowed recently. But The Virtus Code would not allow me to cheat even though no one would be the wiser. So I kept bushwhacking through the brush of the State Park.
Once I hit the gravel road, it was a quick jaunt up the reentrant to find CP 4, another 100-pointer. Getting that one so easily bolstered my confidence again as I followed the road up the hill to Highway 42 once more.
Travis: CP4 was almost too easy to be a 100 pointer.
At this point I was almost out of water, and I could feel the cramps threatening to come back every time I had to step over a downed tree or other obstacle. From the highway I could go out of my way to the water drop at CP 18 and hope there was still water there or I could skip the 10 points and stick to my plan by going for CP 36.
I opted to skip 18 and the water drop, hoping to fill up in a creek later. I found 36 easily and headed down the trail toward CP 6. Shortly after the trail crossed the road, I found enough water in the creek to fill my bottles. I popped an iodine tablet into each bottle and kept moving.
I decided to follow the fence line of the airport to the “Beacon” before heading south again. This was a bit of a calculated risk. Last year Kate and I had bushwhacked on this side of the airport and it was very slow going. The brush was super thick, and in spots there were big rocks under the tall grass that threatened to break your ankle with one false step. At this point in the race, I hoped others had taken this route, beating down an easier path for me.
It was great to see not only a beaten path, but much less brush and overgrowth here than last year. I definitely saved some distance by choosing this route, and I think I saved some time as well.
From the Beacon, I headed south and picked up the trail again. From where the trail turns southwest, I headed into the woods and down the reentrant. I walked right to CP 6, notching another 100-pointer.
I headed down the reentrant and picked up what used to be a trail that still happened to be there. I ran most of this flat trail, taking a few walk breaks. My legs and feet hurt, but they didn’t hurt any worse when running.
I took the reentrant to the east of CP 28, and I climbed the less steep part of the spur to the top. The clue was “Bluff Top,” so I knew I wanted to attack it from above instead of below. After a long, fairly steep climb which sapped my energy, I was rewarded with a great view of the Grand Glaize Arm of the Lake where the CP was hung on the top of a cliff. It was beautiful, and I should have taken a photo. I didn’t feel like digging in my pack, though, so you’ll have to take my word for it. It would have been nice to have a teammate there with me to share the view.
At this point I had about 45 minutes left before the 10-hour cutoff after which I’d start losing points. I was pretty sure I had enough time to head south for CP 29, but that was only if I didn’t make any mistakes. It looked easy enough, but I was tired and lonely. I kept arguing with myself over whether or not to go for it.
As I neared highway 134, I heard a “CaCaw! CaCaw!” It was Travis walking along the road, and it was great to see him. He and Bob had split up a couple hours previously. Neither of us really wanted to go for CP29, so we hiked into the finish line together, jogging the last 30 yards or so. We crossed the finish line in 9 hours and 24 minutes.
Travis: At this point I had been on my own for approx. 4 hrs, hit several cps with great success, but was in pretty sad shape. An old ankle injury was acting up and two large blisters on the bottom of my toes of my right foot were killing me. Once I had hit that road I was just marching to the finish. In hindsight I basically walked right past CP27 but my only concern was to make it back before 6pm. I was definitely happy to see Luke come right on the road as I passed.
Travis posed for a photo at the finish line, and when the photographer kept asking him to smile, I assured her that he was indeed smiling.
I posed for a photo, and then we both posed for a photo together. Even though we only got one CP together, it was pretty cool to finish with one of my teammates.
Travis and I went to our vehicles to change clothes. As I was getting out of my stank-ass jersey, Bob came running into the finish line. He looked like he’d been pushing the pace pretty hard, but he also looked strong.
Travis: I was happy to see Bob come running in because when I left him he had big ambitions and I didnt want him to be late.
Bob: Those ambitions were quickly snuffed out by failure, but I did still manage to pick up a few small pointers on my way back to the Finish.
We brought a few beers back to the shelter and loaded up a plate of delicious BBQ, baked beans, and cheesy potatoes. We stuffed our bellies and cheered others in as we waited for Kage. It wasn’t long before she came running across the finish line.
Ladies and gentlemen, what I’m about to show you is one of the rarest things you will ever see. You see, I’m a bit of a photo ninja (just ask Bob about the photo I took of “Powder” at the god-awful Lionheart Race). As Kage was telling some hilarious account of her race, I managed to snap this incredible shot:
Getting a photo like this is sort of like shooting Sasquatch. Only I have done both, but the Sasquatch shooting is a tale for another day.
Travis: Yes I can smile. No I am not grumpy, I just choose not to be as expressive with my feelings I guess. LOL.
Bob: Yes, Travis is the strong and silent type. Just like my farts.
We all swapped stories of our successes and failures as we shared many laughs over great food and a few beers. It turns out that Bob and Kate struggled a little more than they would have liked, but we all had a great day.
Full results can be found here, but the results of the four of us Virtusans are as follows:
- Kage – 310 points – 9:43:37 – 3rd (out of 3) in her division and 47th overall
- Bob – 500 points – 9:33:11 – 8th in his division and 33rd overall
- Travis – 610 points – 9:24:30 – 6th in his division and 27th overall
- Luke – 650 points – 9:24:28 – 5th in his division and 24th overall
After the awards ceremony, we all headed back to the campsite. We showered up and sat around the fire. By the time everyone was cleaned up, we were sadly too exhausted to go find all our AR friends at their campsite to hang out. So we just sat around our campfire, drinking some good beer and honey whiskey while laughing our asses off like we always do. Some of us even did some campfire yoga:
The story doesn’t end there, though. We woke up the next morning way too early, packed up, and headed out for breakfast. We went back to Stewart’s and it was fan-frickin’-tastic.
Travis: Attempting to eat all that was almost painful.
After breakfast, Travis headed back home as Bob, Kate, and I went back to the course to look for her Garmin GPS watch that she had lost. She assured us that she was almost positive she knew where she had dropped it: near CP 22 by a downed log where she sat to get something out of here shoe.
Travis: I wish I would have felt up to going with you guys to look for the Garmin, but at that point I could barely walk on my ankle.
Bob: Painfully awesome.
It turns out there were only 4 million downed logs in this area. Unfortunately, we didn’t find her watch, but Kage managed to find a weird, creepy skull that my son can use to scare his sisters.
We made our way back to the Virtus Van and drove home to end a wonderful weekend. From all of us at Team Virtus, we’d like to thank Bonk Hard Racing for putting on another top-notch, must-do-every-year event. We’ll be back next year, though I think we all agree that we won’t be doing it solo.
Next up for us is the Castlewood 8-hour Adventure Race in November. Rumor has it that Team Virtus will be rockin’ some sweet new kits. So stay tuned for that.
I’ve heard that racing with your spouse can ruin a marriage. I’ve heard horror stories of couples nearly killing each other out there. But I’ve never had doubts about my marriage, and the High Profile Adventure Camp only made me realize how fucking lucky I actually am to be married to Becca. The weekend in Mount Carroll, IL only confirmed that my wife is indeed my soul mate… even though she literally wished she was with another man at one point, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
The original plan for Team Virtus was to all go to camp together and bring our significant others. It was to be an epic battle (and party) with all of us there. Unfortunately, this thing we call life got in the way. Work, children’s sporting events, medical procedures, and perhaps a touch of Antisocial Behavior Disorder kept many Virtusans and their partners from attending camp. But nothing would stop Adam, Michelle, Becca, and I from going. (EDIT: There was one more Virtusan there. Kate, as she pointed out in the comments below, was also there. She volunteered, and she kicked ass as the camp’s social media guru and helped clear the orienteering course.)
We saw a lot of our AR friends as we made our way through the painless check- in at Camp Benson, and we got our fantastic swag bags (worth well over $100 at least). Then we hauled all our gear down to our
orgy love shack cabin before heading back up to the lodge for burgers followed by Gerry Voelliger’s opening talk on all things Adventure Racing.
After Gerry’s talk, I headed over for the advanced orienteering lecture (although I am anything but advanced). Adam stayed with Michelle and Becca for the beginner orienteering talk, and our friend and camp volunteer Dave Huntley promised he’d help out if Becca needed it. Big thanks to him.
It was great sitting next to our friend Scott Frederickson from Team Bushwhacker at the advanced orienteering lecture. He chimed in with some great pointers a few times, and anything I didn’t quite understand was easily explained by Scott.
After the lectures, we hiked back down to the cabin for some
group love shut-eye. The flatulence was somewhat disappointing without our friends from WTFAR there and no Bob Jenkins, but Michelle almost made up for their absence. She can really rip ’em!
The next morning we practiced our orienteering skills at Palisades State Park. Unfortunately, the Mississippi was partially frozen over, so there would be no paddling practice for us. That’s probably a good thing since Gerry still uses this damn photo of us from our first year at camp in his opening lecture. That also meant we had more time to practice our navigation and, later, fixed ropes.
We decided we’d stay in a group of four for the orienteering practice. We headed straight up – and I mean straight UP – to our first checkpoint. On the way, we had to stop off at one of our favorite views, a spot we’ve visited every time we’ve gone to camp.
We were mostly successful, although I led us astray on one point that other teams swore was not there. So of course Adam and I had to try and find it. That was stupid. We spoke with our friend and camp volunteer Kim Heintz later, and we figured out where we went wrong. Even though I’ve been doing this for over 10 years, I still have lots to learn and a ton of room for improvement.
Although we didn’t have a perfect run of CPs, I thought we were all having a blast. But then, as we were hiking, Becca turned to me and said:
“I wish Bob Jenkins was here. He’s way more entertaining.”
Ouch. That one hurt. I tried to hide the tears, but everyone knew I was crushed. She’d rather be with my BFF than her own husband? Damn! That just killed me.
Becca claims that she thought she was boring me and that I’d rather have Bob with me instead of her. Don’t get me wrong. Bob always makes everything fun, but there was no one else I’d rather have by my side than Becca. (Cue the sappy music all you want, but it’s true.)
Becca and Michelle are brand new to adventure racing and orienteering, so it was good practice for them as well. They even lead us to one of the CPs without any help. For real! Check it out:
Being new to adventure racing, Becca tried to avoid using the woods as a bathroom (maybe we should get her a Go Girl?). She tried to hold it, but eventually had to succumb to nature’s call. Adam was a gentleman and turned the other way as Becca went behind a tree to take care of business. About 30 yards down the trail – literally – we found an outhouse which Michelle gladly used.
After another CP or two, it was time to go back to the Virtus Van and head back to Camp Benson. We stopped at McDonald’s on the way back, because there was a line at Subway. Believe it or not, we were running behind – shocker, I know! – so we opted for the quicker and much greasier burgers and fries than to wait in line at Subway.
Back at camp, Gerry gave the Ropes Safety Talk which terrified me the first year we went to camp. Then the one and only Robyn Benincasa gave a brief talk about paddling followed by some great, quick-hitters on AR gear, strategy, navigation, nutrition, and more. It was a short but jam-packed session as the knowledge bombs kept raining down on us.
And then it was time for the fixed ropes practice: rappelling, zip lining, tryolean traversing, and ascending (we skipped the rock climbing to practice more of the skills we’d encounter at the race the next day).
The first time I ever rappelled was at High Profile Adventure Camp, and I was flat-out petrified. I was nauseated and sweating profusely. I wanted to chicken out badly, but I didn’t. Even today, I get a little nervous, so I was expecting Becca and Michelle to be quite scared. Well, they weren’t.
After watching my wife give birth to our four amazing kids and pass kidney stones as easily as Bob passes gas, I already know she is way tougher than I’ll ever be. Watching her crush all of the fixed ropes proves she’s braver than I’ll ever be as well.
Rather than bore you with words, I’ll just show you how much fun we had on the ropes.
Michelle opted to conserve her energy for the race in the morning, so she decided to skip the Tryolean Traverse. It’s not too bad for the first half since you’re going slightly “downhill.” But then you have to pull yourself the rest of the way, fighting gravity. It can be very tiring.
Later that evening, Robyn Benincasa gave her world-class talk on what makes winners win, what makes a good team, and what makes a good leader. This talk alone is worth the price of admission.
Then Gerry gave the pre-race briefing, and we got our maps. The Lightning Strikes report will come out soon – sometime within the next two years.
As you can probably tell, we had an amazingly good time the first day and a half. The High Profile Adventure Camp is hands down the best way for beginners to get started in adventure racing, and it’s also a great place where veterans of the sport can continue learning and expanding their skills.
For what you get – the top-notch instruction, the lodging, the awesome swag bag, some food, the super safe environment, the fun, the adventure, the laughs, and then a 4- or 8-hour adventure race – it is an absolute steal. You’re crazy if you don’t go at least once.
We’ll definitely be back (a fourth time for me), and hopefully we’ll have more Virtusans and spouses with us.
Last year was the inaugural Perfect 10 Rogaine, a 10 hour orienteering race. Luke, Bob, and I had gone and had a great time, so I was already excited about this year’s edition even before a little intra-team bet upped the excitement level. A rogaine is a great learning/practice opportunity since everyone gets a map, and navigation is a huge weakness for me. As much as I was anticipating the race, though, I was most of all looking forward to getting to hang out with my teammates.
Since most of our activities are centered around Jeff City, where most of the guys live, I’m used to making the drive on my own, but not this time. Bob recently moved closer to the St. Louis area, and he’d picked up Casey from the airport, so the three of us made the very cozy trip together in Bob’s truck.
|Luckily everyone wore deoderant|
We met up with Luke, switched all our gear over to the Virtus van, and headed south (? I think it was south) to Lake of the Ozarks. (Luke: Why would Kate say her navigation is a weakness? And yes. It was south.) We were camping again, so I was not thrilled to see clouds gathering in the sky despite the scant chance of rain in the forecast. Last year it rained both nights, and the post-race rain had flooded my tent and made for a long, cold night. With temperatures even lower this year (30’s overnight), the last thing I wanted was a soggy sleeping bag.
We had time to find a spot to camp (my first non-campground camping trip), get set up, and climb back into the van before the rain started. I wanted BBQ, so we ended up at Fired Up BBQ. The parking lot was packed, but the restaurant was largely empty. Weird. The service wasn’t great, but the food was really good and we weren’t in any hurry to get back into the rain. We watched the Cardinals game, talked, and otherwise kept occupied.
The rain never did stop, but that was probably a good thing because it forced us to go to bed sooner rather than hanging out around a campfire. I for one needed the sleep, and thankfully my tent stayed dry and I stayed warm in my borrowed sleeping bag (considerably warmer than my own sleeping bag, thanks Luke!).
We got up around 6, which should have been plenty of time to make the short drive to the race start. As it turned out, despite taking the time to put on a little makeup after changing, I still wasn’t the last one ready. If Luke hadn’t looked at the time around 7:00 (15 minutes after maps had been handed out, oops!) we might still be there. Heading towards the start, we hit another hiccup when it turned out we weren’t as clear on where to go as we’d thought the night before.
Being a little lost on your way to an orienteering race is never a good sign, but eventually we got there and saw the tents pitched at race HQ. Brilliant idea! Why didn’t we think of that? We got our preplotted maps and then set to route planning. And by “we”, I mean that while Bob and Casey busily discussed potential routes and strategies with each other, I left Luke to deal with our maps while I finished putting my food in my pack, braiding my hair, and pinning our numbers onto our packs and then agreed with the route he thought was best.
Luke: That’s not entirely true. Kate had more input than she’s taking credit for. She handed me a pen and a highlighter.
|Photo credit: BonkHard Racing
“Sure Luke…whatever you think, Luke”
Michael, who has read our team blog, came up and introduced himself, and I also got a chance to catch up with my friend Melissa, who rocked the course as a solo.
|The map shows around 30 square miles. It’s a little hard to see, but all of those red circles and numbers show the location of checkpoints. For a look at how teams who could potentially clear the course, check out Emily’s blog post about the race. The highlighted section above is what we anticipated covering.|
Before we knew it, it was time for the pre-race meeting. A raffle ticket was drawn for the sweet Kuat bike rack, but sadly I didn’t win it. We barely had time for some pre-race pictures before it was time to start. In fact, our friend Kelly was still holding the camera as the race began. That’s fitting, because I’m pretty sure he’s the guy who once claimed that Team Virtus would probably do twice as well if we didn’t spend so much time taking pictures.
Luke: But we’d only have half the fun.
|There’s something funny about this picture (besides the fact that Luke and I are sharing one pair of gloves). Can you guess what it is?|
Since we’ve both been running a decent amount lately, we planned to try to do as much running as possible during the race. We’re definitely nowhere near Alpine Shop’s ability to tear up and down rocky slopes while bushwhacking through thorns, but we could at least jog along roads and trails. Our first steps, though downhill, were a good reminder of how much harder it is to run while carrying a pack. Last year, feeling the difference even just a large hydration pack makes helped me to realize how much easier running would be if I dropped some weight; I came back to Perfect 10 around 15-20 pounds lighter, which had to help.
|Our planned route.|
If you look closely at the map above, you’ll notice that each little circle (marking the location of the checkpoint) has a number next to it. The number both tells you which box on your passport to punch and signifies the points the CP is worth. (Important information if you read your race info…not naming any names here but there are a couple I could mention :D). Single digit CPs were worth 100 points, tens were worth 10 points, 20s were worth 20 points, and 30’s were worth 30 points. Strategy is key here in order to maximize your points. Our route included three hundred pointers.
We ran east out of race HQ along the road and then realized we had no idea which way Bob and Casey had gone. All day long we wondered where they were, how their day was going, and whether or not they’d beat us. We basically followed a run ’til Kate got tired/walk/run ’til Kate got tired plan for the road and for smoother trails. We hit our first few CPs with no problems and made sure to get a picture of the cemetery we came across for Chuck.
|Super excited because I’ve located the cemetery on the map.|
I was doing my best to follow along on the map, and I sort of could, but I’d have been in trouble if I was doing the navigating for myself. Well, I probably would have been in trouble, and I most definitely would have been far slower. I teach struggling learners, and navigating using a topo map always gives me insight into what school must be like for them. It takes me a lot of thinking to figure out something that would be immediately obvious to a competent navigator. I’ve learned a lot following along on the map while my more skilled teammates do the navigating, but it’s probably time for me to give it another solo go.
Our first hundred point CP was near the airport boundary. We’d traveled in this area the previous year, and this had been one of the spots where we tested alternate routes. Bob had discovered that the land near the airport fence was pretty clear. Armed with this knowledge, we planned to skirt the boundary. The area was level and clear enough that we were able to run a decent amount here.
|Hard to tell, but I’m running here.|
Since the next CP (number 19) wasn’t far off of the airport boundary and the mapped trails, Luke handed off the maps so I could navigate to this one. Like everything on a map for me, it was much more confusing than it should have been. Follow the airport boundary…which of these fences is the mapped boundary? Follow the trail…exactly which trail are we on? Sigh. We got all turned around and lost some time there before I handed the maps back to Luke and let him sort us out.
Luke: In Kage’s defense, it was a tricky for me as well. I was following along on the map with her, and I’m not sure I would’ve don anything different. Regardless, we found it, and that’s all that matters.
Being able to shrug my shoulders and pass off the map makes me appreciate my teammates who do the nav that much more. I was really focused on following along on the map for the first two thirds of the race, but later when my knee was really hurting and I was hating life a little, I totally checked out and just followed Luke. No one racing with me has that luxury because I’d have us lost in a heartbeat. That’s one of the reasons that I really do want to get better with navigation.
Anyway, we eventually found our way to 19, running into Kelly Sumner on our way out, and then made our way to CP6, another 100 pointer. I don’t remember much about that one, so it must not have been too remarkable. Our plan from 6 was to follow the airport boundary to our attack point for CP 29, but the eastern fenceline was nothing like the relatively clear area you see in the picture above. As we made our way through thickening brush and grass covered rip-rap style rock towards the fenceline, we heard a familiar voice call, “Do NOT come this way!! You can’t get through the thorns and brush.” B’rer Rabbit he’s not, but neither are we, so we took his good advice.
Eventually Kelly emerged from the thicket he’d lost all kinds of time attempting to pass through, so we had a chance to catch up with him for a while on the trek towards CP 29. Once we got passed the briars, the boundary cleared out nicely.
|Kelly leads the way|
Either Kelly moved a lot faster than we did (likely) or we attacked from different points (more likely both), but we lost track of each other before heading into the trees. We snagged 29 (“snagged” might imply that it was easier than it was…I don’t really remember 29, but it seemed like we had more trouble with the 20-pointers than any other CPs) and headed towards CP18.
With the sun finally out, the chilly day was starting to feel really nice. We were hiking along the road talking about the race so far and wondering about where Bob and Casey were, how they were doing, and what our chances were of beating them. I don’t think either of us felt super confident, and it was weird to have no idea at all where they were, what route they’d taken, anything.
Luke: I was pretty worried. I know my brother, and he’s a competitive dude. I thought he might kill himself and/or Bob trying to beat us.
|A partial view of the quarry from last year’s race|
We were just speculating whether Gary had put a checkpoint in the quarry, one of the cooler spots from last year’s race, when we turned off the road towards CP 18 and up to the edge of the quarry. I guess maybe the clue “rock pile” should have given us a hint. Of course, the quarry was full of rock piles. We were having a hard time making our approach match what we were seeing on the map, so we did a little walking back and forth looking for the intersection shown. “That looks like a likely spot,” I told Luke. He wasn’t convinced and started in another direction.
“I feel like it’s right,” I continued. “I’m just going to go check it out real quick.” I walked over to the rock pile and didn’t see anything. I was about to go follow Luke when I considered how stupid I’d feel (and how much time we’d waste) if my perfunctory glance missed if the checkpoint was actually there, so I walked a little further, looked up, and sure enough saw the flag. Now, it has to be mentioned that it was purely dumb luck that I found it; I certainly wasn’t following the map and probably would have been sure the CP was at whatever checkpoint I first laid eyes on…in this case, though, we were lucky enough to have seen the right one first. I called out our special secret code to Luke to let him know I had it and waited there savoring the feeling of — for once — being the one to find the CP.
Luke: Kate saved us at least 20 minutes here. Maybe more. And it was the first REAL time that we used our secret code. It was perfect, and I laughed as I trotted over to her.
We ran into Kelly on our way out of the quarry and attempted to let him know where the CP was, but when we ran into him at the next checkpoint (35) he told us our advice wasn’t so helpful. Sorry! We left that CP at the same time, but he took a slightly sharper angle towards the road or was moving faster than us (or both), and other than catching glimpses of him ahead of us on the road we didn’t see him again until the finish line. We had a long stretch (ok, not particularly long, looking at the map maybe just over 2 miles) of road hiking, which sounds like it should be gloriously fast but wasn’t at all. The race rules required that you walk on the mowed right-of-way next to the highway unless crossing, and trekking along the off-camber side pretty much sucked.Up to this point, we’d had a pretty smooth day with the exception of my attempt at navigation, but we hit a speed bump or two along highway 42. First, CP24 was playing hard to get. Seemed like we hiked a creek forever. We’d had a few other times when we’d questioned whether we were on the wrong track only to find our CP a little further than we’d expected, but this time, as Luke looked at the map and compass, it became evident (to him) that we weren’t in the right place. We ended up hiking over a spur and finding our CP in the next reentrant over, but we definitely lost some time here.
We hiked out to the road and then attacked CP22 which, despite its proximity to the road, was much harder to get to and steeper than we’d anticipated. We were both having trouble keeping our footing and feeling a little grumpy.
Luke: Hiking back up to the road from CP22 sucked. I was nearing a bonk, so I popped a couple of Foosh caffeinated mints and ate a bunch of food. About 10 minutes later, I was feeling much better.
|OK, I don’t look grumpy, but trust me, I was.|
We took a short break once we got back to the road, grabbing some food, checking the maps, getting the little rocks and junk out of my shoes. That taken care of, we snagged CP13 and then headed off in search of our final 100-pointer of the day. The CP required a half-mile hike along a (((ridge))) and then was located off of a hilltop with the ambiguous clue of “slope”.
We cut in too soon and did some wandering around in search of our CP, but that ended up being a good thing. We passed a guy in the woods who was looking for the same checkpoint. Shortly afterwards, Luke spotted it. “Should we tell him?” Luke asked.
“Yeah,” he decided. “We should…hey buddy, it’s over here!”
When the other guy got there, he asked if we were Team Virtus. “I thought you looked familiar!” he told us. It turns out he’s a blog reader who’s corresponded with Luke about adventure racing. We were really glad we’d called out to him. Very cool meeting you out there, Michael.
Luke: This was a different Michael than the one we’d met earlier in the day. It was great meeting both Micheals.
CP2 was the far point of our trek, and now it was time to head back towards race HQ, picking up checkpoints along the way. Last year our last CP was off of this same ridge, followed by a 5 mile road trek back to the finish line. This year’s route was much more pleasant, trekking through woods. Our first CP of the way back, another 20-pointer, seemed to take forever to find as we again wondered have we gone too far? Did we miss it? In the end, Luke led us straight to it and then we headed for the creek we’d follow to some trails.
At this point in the race, despite a healthy dose of ibuprofen, I was really sore. In fact, the last 3 or so hours were very painful. It was weird; the two sides of my body were having very different experiences. While my right side felt fantastic, my left foot, knee, and hip hurt like crazy. Getting to the trail was little respite, and it was around this point where I’d pretty much checked out on the map and was just following Luke, limping, wincing, and struggling mightily not to complain because what good would it do.
Luke: For the record, Kate never did complain. So her streak of no complaining is still alive. She may have stated a few facts regarding the pain in her Maw Maw hip, but they definitely weren’t complaints.
The trail seemed to take forever, but it was very cool to pass a man backpacking with his little boy. We passed another family already set up at a backpack camping site on our way to CP26. Finding 26, we set a fast hike back to the HQ to resupply and decide on our course for the last 1.5 hours. We’d worked all day to minimize our stops, and we were pretty quick grabbing some extra food and water at the Virtus van before setting off for a 30-pointer a half mile or so away. We toyed with the idea of going for one more possible CP but decided that we’d be cutting it close enough that getting 20 more points wasn’t worth risking more than that with the 10 point per minute penalty for finishing after the cutoff…especially when I wasn’t sure I could run.
Luke: We were tempted to get the 20-pointer since it would have put us over 600 points which was our original goal for the day. There was VERY little chance we’d make it back in time, so we played it safe.
Decision made, we hiked back uphill from the checkpoint. Between the steepness of the hill, all the babyheads rolling under our feet, and my sore knee, I was over it. I kind of wanted to scream…or cry. “I’m going to use up every single non-complaint on this hill right now!” I told Luke. “This must be how Todd feels when he has hiking madness!”
|It took a couple tries to get this without me laughing, but here’s my attempt at depicting my feelings about hiking.|
Luke was doing better than I was, but he sure wasn’t enjoying rolling his ankle with every step. No hiking madness for him, though; instead he did his best imitation of the thousand mile stare.
|This picture makes me laugh every time I see it.|
We had plenty of time to get back to the finish line before the cutoff, so we screwed around a little bit taking stupid pictures and then, spirits lifted, headed back the way we’d come….or did we?
“Wouldn’t it be funny if we were here laughing and being stupid and then took off the wrong way?” Luke asked. We both laughed at the thought and then he looked at his compass. Sure enough, we were hiking in the exact wrong direction. Crisis averted, we headed back to the finish line, breaking into a fake jog for the cameras.
|Photo credit: BonkHard Racing|
We made it back to the finish line with around 45 minutes to spare, so we got to watch a lot of the teams come through. It was nerve-wracking waiting for Bob and Casey and hoping they missed the cutoff finished well, but if you have to wait nervously to find out if you’re going down in flames, I highly suggest doing it with BonkHard’s awesome post-race food and good company.
Luke: Mmmm… Pulled pork… Mac & Cheese… Chili… Beer…
|Photo credit: BonkHard Racing
Casey, me, Luke, Kelly, Jason
Of course, what happens at the Lake stays at the Lake, but my face was sore from laughing by the time I went to bed, and the funniest exchange had to be between Casey and Bob. Ridiculous plans were being hatched for tormenting each other, and Casey asked, “What if I trained a bear to do it?”
“There’s a couple problems with that,” Bob replied, “First, if you find a bear, not cool if you bring it back here!”
Not cool at all. But a weekend hanging out with some awesome teammates? It doesn’t get a whole lot cooler than that.
Note: This report was written by Kate, with commentary added by Luke (in red), Bob (in green), Robby (in purple), and Travis (in orange). Since it’s the final installment of our Thunder Rolls trilogy, if you haven’t caught up yet you should probably take a moment to read up on parts 1 and 2.
Team Virtus had spent most of the race with our two teams — Kate/Luke and Bob/Robby/Travis — sticking together, but around 4:30 (??) we had gone our separate ways. Luke and I stopped running as soon as we were out of view of our teammates but maintained a fast hike because we were determined to get as many CPs as we could. Our primary goal was to clear the bike-o course; if we could do that, we’d evaluate how much time we had left and possibly go for one or two points on the next o-course before heading back.
All of this was heavily dependent on how well the next few hours went, though; the only thing certain was that we were going to leave ourselves plenty of time to get back. In fact, our personal cutoff time to be at the bikes gave us nearly twice the time it should take us to ride back. We were going to play it smart; the last thing either of us wanted was another frantic finish like at LBL. Our plan was solid.
Luke: There was NO way we were going to miss the cut-off. In fact, we modified our plan a couple of times to be extra conservative, thus ensuring we’d have plenty of time to finish the race.
Travis: I love the smiley face on Bob’s shirt. LOL.
The day had gotten pretty hot, and we were thankful that the temperature would soon start dropping from its midday peak. We headed into the woods after a short hike along the road. Following a reentrant to CP20, we found it with no problems. From here we made our way down a trail to a creek and stayed along it to a creek junction where CP19 was located. This was our attack point for the infamous CP17. The intel on CP17 was that it was hard to find. The team I’d run into at the pavilion had told me that they followed the creek from CP19 and that it looked on the map like the CP was on the right, but it was actually on the left. Armed with this knowledge, Luke and I set off up the creek. This walk in the park was… no walk in the park.
Luke: When the creek split, we stayed right as we looked to the left for the CP. We climbed through some SERIOUS shit. We were filthy, sweaty, and disgusting.
On a map, everything looks so cut and dried: Oh, just follow the creekbed until you come to the rock outcropping where the CP is. The reality is anything but. The creek was littered with downed trees, and the reentrant was lined with scrub so deep that you couldn’t see the sides. Looking for the rock outcropping in the clue for the point, all we could see was a wall of green. We hiked up the reentrant, trying higher and lower on the sides with no success.
Luke: I was getting pretty worried. After closer inspection of the map, we (“we” meaning “Luke”) noticed the CP wasn’t in the main reentrant like we originally thought. It was actually in a much smaller reentrant to the south of the main one. The circle that marked the CP on the map obscured the smaller reentrant, and it was difficult to see on the map. Once we figured this out though, we found CP17 pretty easily.
Luke: After conversing with a couple of teams that never found CP17, it was REALLY nice to find it.
From 17 we shot a rough bearing and headed up to the ridgetop and then down the biggest reentrant which led to the spur CP 15 was supposed to be on. We hit the wrong spur first but found it fairly quickly after some searching.
From 15, we headed down the creek and followed it to a park road. Stopping briefly so that Luke could mix up a bottle of E-fuel, we looked at ourselves in amused disgust. Though the temperature had slowly started to drop, the shade of the woods hadn’t provided quite the respite we’d anticipated. The nonexistent breeze combined with the heat and humidity to make our hike seem more like a trek through a tropical jungle. Our clothes were drenched and filthy; my hair was falling out of its braid and plastered to my sweaty skin. On one level I recognized how terrible I must look (and smell!), but I’ve never cared less about my appearance.
Luke: I’m pretty sure we’ve never been more disgusting in a race before. I was literally as wet or wetter than when we had been chest deep in the water heading into the cave earlier in the race. It was gross… And awesome.
Bob: You were pretty disgusting after the Berryman 36 with Drew. And the one with Casey. And then there was that time in the van when my window wouldn’t roll down.
Kate: They’re disgusting any time they’re in a vehicle. It’s like a point of pride with them.
We crossed the road and headed back into the woods and up a reentrant to find CP16. I was particularly happy to punch this one because this is where I’d mispunched CP24, so I was finally able to relax knowing we had them both (as long as I remembered to tell the volunteers back at the finish line about the switch). We climbed back down the reentrant and up to the road.
We could actually see CP18 from the road, so after a quick hop into the trees we were back on pavement and hoping to find a place to fill up with water. The road was long and steep, and I was pretty grateful that we’d left our bikes where we’d initially dropped them; it was hard enough to drag myself uphill. We followed the road to a trail/ridge junction. Luke shot a bearing that took us across a field before we dropped back into the treeline, and we followed a path pretty much right to CP30.
I had felt amazing all day long, but this section is where I started dragging. I’d been eating like crazy throughout the race, and I don’t think I had slacked off; maybe I did or maybe it was just the cumulative effect of 18 hours of racing. Whatever the reason, I was relieved when Luke “took his turn” at being the passport puncher since I’d been doing it all day. Of course, he’d been navigating all day, and I didn’t “take my turn” with the maps, but he had realized before I did that I needed a break. After smooth going all afternoon, the next couple of CPs took a little more searching (“helped” along by my spotting of a couple phantom checkpoints), but we found them. Naturally, we were trekking through fields of stinging nettle, and over and over again I was grateful that (this time) I’d listened to the guys about wearing pants. Because of my short sleeves, though, I spent a lot of time holding my arms out of harm’s way.
Luke: Stinging Nettle is the worst! I HIGHLY recommend some white sun-sleeves for summer racing. However, even with the sleeves, I still got stung.
Travis: Sorry Kate, I kinda feel like a jerk since I had two pairs of the white sun sleeves and I didn’t use either one of them. I don’t know why you didn’t have the other pair, especially since you had made mention about wanting them.
Kate: I think when I mentioned using them Bob spoke up too and maybe you didn’t want to play favorites. Yeah, let’s blame Bob.
Things were going well. Really well. We just had a few more CPs to go. Having cleared all of the points on this loop, Luke set a course back towards our bikes. Because I was still dragging at this point, rather than take Luke’s initial route over some hills we instead followed a trail up to a clearing. We emerged into another field and set a fast hike back to the bikes. We were just discussing whether or not this was a field we remembered from last year when we noticed someone running in our direction. We hadn’t seen another team since shortly after we’d split from our other half, so we waved happily at the runner. As she neared us, we realized it was Sue, one of the volunteers who we’d last seen some 16 (?) hours before at the ascending wall, and boy was she surprised to see us. “What are you doing out here??” she asked.
“Ummm…racing?” The question wasn’t as weird as it seemed to us because there had been some confusion. Having seen the other Virtus team at the finish, a volunteer had reported that we were all in.
Robby: I don’t know how the teams got confused because we were totally different numbers?!?!?!
I guess we were the only team left in this section, and volunteers were taking the flags down from this area. As soon as she saw us, Sue got right on the phone with the other volunteers clearing the course, making sure that nobody tore down the CPs we were still chasing. Hiking away, we were almost giddy with relief. What were the chances that we ran into Sue out there? If we’d gone with our original route, we’d have missed her. How terrible would it have been if we were out there looking for CPs that had been pulled down? By blind luck, we’d avoided disaster and were still in the game. We had some light left, and just a few more checkpoints to clear the bike-o. We had this.
Luke: Phew! We caught a HUGE break there. We left Sue with high hopes of getting all of the CP’s we wanted to get before making it back to the finish line with plenty of time left.
Back at our bikes, we opted not to change into bike shoes. We were only riding a couple miles of paved road, and we knew we’d want trail shoes for the trek to our remaining CPs. We were willing to trade a little bit of pedaling efficiency rather than waste time repeatedly changing shoes or suffer by trekking in our bike shoes (no fun). In what seemed like minutes we were riding into our next attack point, where we ran into our friends from Orange Lederhosen …being lectured by a conservation police officer?
If you’re lucky enough to know these guys, it might not surprise you that they’d be on the wrong side of the law, but their “crime” was a little ridiculous. As we rode up, she was informing them that this part of the park was closed, that they had to know that because there were signs up all over saying the park closed at sunset (7:46 that evening). Being as it was a good four minutes past that at the time, we were in clear violation of the park rules. We’d been in the park for several hours, almost all of that time was off-trail and away from signs, and even if we’d noticed the signs, we’d have ignored them. We had the expectation that, since the race was there, we had permission to be there…an expectation shared by the race director and his permit.
Luke: As soon as this “cop” said that “sunset was at 7:46 today” I knew we were in trouble. She clearly has limited power and authority, so she has to really abuse the little bit she actually has. I mean, come on! Who actually looks up the exact time the sun sets? And who in their right mind would write a ticket a few minutes past this time?!? It was absolutely ridiculous! I was dumbfounded.
I clarified, “So just the South section is closed?” This wouldn’t be a big deal because we’d already cleared this section. Instead, everything except the campground section was closed. This cut us off from our two remaining CPs in the North section and our planned route back to the finish. Just like that, the officer had squashed our hopes of clearing the bike-o. We stood there in furious disbelief, but as she turned her attention back to the Lederhosen boys and started writing them a warning ticket, Luke and I decided to slip away before she gave any more thought to us.
Luke: I went from being dumbfounded to pissed in a hurry. But I didn’t want to have to fight a bullshit ticket from 6 hours away, and I DEFINTITELY didn’t want to pay a bullshit fine for a bullshit ticket written by a stupid, bullshit rent-a-cop. Talk about having the wind taken out of your sails! This was a crushing blow.
We rode away in angry silence. We’ve weathered plenty of adversity in races — a fight between teammates, mechanicals, debilitating leg cramps, a yellow jacket attack, missing meds, and terrible ascents to name a few — and those kind of things are all part of the package. This was different. This was something from outside the race interfering. This wasn’t fair (stomps foot and pouts). One of the cool things about adventure racing is that you don’t necessarily have to be fast; strategy and perseverance come into play, and sometimes if you don’t quit, you end surprising everyone by a come from behind division win. Now, despite our good plan, successful navigation, and carefully budgeted time, the “don’t quit” option was gone. There were still three CPs we could get in the campground section, but I think for a while we could both have easily said fuck it, let’s just go back. But we didn’t.
Luke: I haven’t felt this low in a race since the Phantom Cut-Off fiasco, but this was different. The Phantom Cut-Off was because of an incompetent, asshole race director. This time, our hopes were crushed by an overzealous, idiot conservation “cop.” And Kage is right. I easily could have said, “Fuck it. I’m done.” But that’s not the Virtus Hhhhway.
We got the closest two remaining checkpoints, stopped to talk to another team, and then crossed paths again with the Lederhosens as we rode towards CP 34, the transition area. There, the volunteers told us Gerry was directing teams to take the short way back (our intended path) – because most teams would not make it back in time going the long way. Being as we’d just encountered an officer who had told us in no uncertain terms that we weren’t allowed to be in that part of the park — and that as an oldest child and a teacher I’m a born rule-follower — that didn’t work for me. (And the “cop” had already seen us and spoke with us, so we were pretty sure she wouldn’t just let us off with a written warning if she caught us “breaking the law” again.) In the end, we were directed to take the longer route back to the finish line. The volunteers warned us that teams were averaging 3.5 hours for the trip back, which was particularly unfortunate because we had less time than that before the midnight cutoff.
Since we had never planned to take this route back, we hadn’t plotted it on our map. While Luke painstakingly made out the numbers on our sweaty, smeared race booklet, I ate, drank, and waited. I’ve learned that hurrying your navigator doesn’t save time when it causes them to make mistakes, so tried to keep my impatience at a minimum. I’ve also learned how important it is to take care of your teammates — heaven knows they’re always checking if I’m eating and drinking — but somehow I never thought to check to see if Luke needed anything or make sure he ate something. This would prove to be a significant oversight.
Luke: I was so focused on plotting and planning our route (which was difficult since there were 5 or 6 maps involved), that I guess I forgot to eat or drink anything other than half of a Monster energy drink.
We rolled out of the TA at 9:15. Two hours and forty-five minutes to ride a route that was apparently taking many teams considerably longer. Oh, the irony…despite our good intentions we were once again racing our bikes to avoid missing a cut-off. We turned onto the highway in front of the park, and I immediately felt exposed and nervous. I don’t so much mind riding my bike on gravel in the dark because cars are few and far between; riding a busier road at night is scary because, despite our headlights and red blinky taillights, drivers really aren’t looking out for bikes in the dark (full disclosure: despite my big fear here, I think maybe only one car actually passed us on this road). As is typical with these guys I race with, always putting themselves between me and danger whether it’s an oncoming dog or potential traffic, Luke rode behind me on the highway.
Pedaling fast, because I really was scared here, I was for once having a little trouble with the chivalry. He has four young children, two of my kids are grown adults…if one of us is going to get killed it should probably be me…he’s so much younger than I am… Yeah, what can I say? My internal monologues can be a little dramatic. (I wasn’t being chivalrous, I was trying to draft off you.) Thankfully, we made it onto the gravel without incident, except that as I flew down the road I realized I’d lost Luke, who’d had to stop to roll up the pant leg that kept catching in his chain.
Back together, we made our way to the first CP on the bike leg back. Luke checked the maps while I punched our passport. Another team was there at the same point, confused about a course change that they apparently hadn’t heard in the race meeting, so Luke got them straightened up about that. As they rode off, his headlamp started flashing, so I pointed my light so he could get the batteries changed. Because I’m always the slowest team member on the bike, I started riding while Luke finished putting his old batteries away. “I’m going to go ahead since you’re going to pass me in a minute anyway!”
I rode in the direction he’d told me, pretty quickly coming alongside the other team and then, though I was sure they’d be zooming right by me again in a minute, passing them. We never saw them again. The hill seemed to go on forever, but I felt weirdly good for the first part, almost like I was riding on flat ground. Eventually it didn’t feel good at all, but we still managed to ride the whole thing.
Luke: This hill was effing ridiculous! It… Just… Kept… Going… I was proud to see Kate fly by the other team and completely smash them up that hill, but I soon realized that I was starting to fall behind and really starting to hurt.
Luke’s navigation was dead on, and we found the next CP with no problems. I had to climb a little hill at the intersection to punch the passport, and Luke looked over the maps. Orange Lederhosen pulled up as we were about to roll out. With a downhill ahead of me, I left before Luke. The guys are all way braver on hills than I am, so any head start would just lessen the amount of time he’d be waiting at the bottom for me. The Lederhosens caught up with us again during this section, and we all pulled over at one point so that Luke and Derrick could look over the maps and make sure we were going the right way. Course confirmed, we started back again, climbing yet another ridiculous hill. At one point Sheldon and I were riding towards the front, but then they were gone and it was just Luke and me again. And then it was just me.
Because my bike handling sucks, I have a hard time checking behind me to see who’s there, and I didn’t realize that Luke was gone. Bob and I always have to laugh in races, because while we’re dying at the end Luke and Casey just seem to get stronger. You’d almost hate them if they weren’t dragging your ass to the finish. Given this past experience, I kept expecting Luke to come flying up, but looking behind me on a hill his light was way back, so I got off and started walking, waiting at the top. When he got there, he looked grumpy, and I assumed he was irritated with me for getting ahead like that…which was a dick move, or would have been if it had been intentional. It wasn’t, of course, but I should have been more aware of where my teammate was.
Luke: I wasn’t pissed at Kate at all. In fact, I was proud of how strong she had been all race and especially proud of how super-strong she was on this last bike leg. I was just hurting and trying not to puke. I had nothing left in my legs, and I couldn’t eat or drink. It sucked. Plain and simple. And she’s too modest to say how much stronger than me she was this late in the race. She was an animal! Seriously. I’ve never seen her stronger.
Kate: He’s right. It was crazy and wonderful. I have no idea where it came from…maybe it was the Pop-Tarts.
I think I assumed he’d had to fix his pant leg again or wrestle with the maps, but after this pattern repeated itself a couple more times I finally realized there was something wrong. “Are you ok?” I asked.
“I’m bonking bad,” he answered.
Now I felt like a total asshole. Here I’d been, happily (ok not happily…those hills sucked) riding along, not realizing that my partner was hurting. And now that I did know, I didn’t know what to do. Food was making him sick, so he could barely force anything down; I didn’t think I could ride with both of our packs on, so that wasn’t an option. We were so short on time that we couldn’t afford to sit down and regroup, and I can’t cheerlead someone out of a bonk. In retrospect, it might have helped a little to switch bikes so that Luke could ride the one with the smoother tires, but trading his nice 29er for my heavy 26er might not have been any better. The only thing I could do is what I should have been doing all along: stick with my teammate. So that’s what we did, riding hill after hill until finally we made it to the finish line, 9 minutes past the cutoff.
Luke: Even with me bonking and being the weak link, we managed to finish that bike leg in just under 3 hours. Not bad in hindsight, but as we turned onto the final road leading to the finish line at Camp Benson, it was crushing to see my watch hit 12:00 and know that we had missed the cut-off.
I know Luke had a hard time mustering a smile for the camera, but unranked finish or not, I loved every moment of this race. We had some major ups and downs, but we came through them all as a team. And speaking of team, despite their threats to be sound asleep when we got back, our awesome teammates were there cheering as we arrived, taking our bikes and bringing us food (and even going back to the cabin so I could have diet soda instead of regular…thanks Travis!).
Luke: I was still trying not to puke, but I too loved everything about this race (other than super-“cop” of course). Aside from my bonk at the end, I think it was one of the strongest performances we’ve had. And big thanks to the rest of our team who took great care of us at the finish line.
Travis: Being there for you friends or team mates is what Team Virtus is all about, and that is why I am proud to be a part of this team. I sat anxiously awaiting your arrival, watching my clock, chewing my fingernails, no nevermind that is gross, pulling my hair out, or not. I just wanted to see you guys make the time cut-off that I knew you were working so hard for.
24 hours and 9 minutes of racing together and we were still on speaking terms. 🙂 Because Luke and I finished after the midnight cutoff, we weren’t ranked in the standings. We missed 20 CPs; the team that won our division finished way before us missed 18. Had we been able to get the 2 CPs in the forbidden North section and then picked up the one in the campground section we skipped AND gotten back to the finish on time by taking our planned route back, we’d have won our division. Sometimes you aim high and miss, but I still couldn’t be prouder of our race.
Luke: As my Dad has always said: “If the dog hadn’t stopped to take a shit, he’d have caught the rabbit.” Normally, I believe that statement, but not in this case. Our plan would have worked, but because of circumstances beyond our control, our plan had to be altered. So in this case I’ll modify it to this: “If the dog hadn’t been unjustly harassed and threatened by an egomaniacal, power-hungry, overzealous rent-a-“cop”, then he definitely would have caught the rabbit.”
On the other hand, not all of our team was struck down by the midnight cutoff. Because other teams in their division finished late, Bob, Robby, and Travis took third place! Now, my mom would say we’re all winners, but Luke and I don’t have a fancy piece of paper to prove it.
Luke: Nice work, fellas! Way to represent the team! Strength and Honor!
Bob: Oh, the irony. I’ll never forget Robby’s reaction. “What!?!? Oh, shit! Do we get a certificate or something?” It was hilarious. We had a lot of fun celebrating our “victory” and drinking as many free cans of Samuel Adams’ delicious Oktoberfest beer. And that, my friends, is a level 10 smile on MC Hammons’s face.
Robby: My reaction may have been influenced a bit by the Samuel Adams, but I was super pumped!
Travis: I don’t remember who came and told us that we had won third place, but I had seen our name on the board earlier and just assumed that it was some kind of cruel joke, -50 checkpoints yeah right that is not a third place ranking, but I guess it was.
Robby: The WINNING team’s trek back was a lot more uneventful. When we split ways, we were done. BUT we still had the bike leg back to camp. We spun up the hills and I struggled on my SS. Bob and Travis climbed those with ease and I did have to walk a bit on one of the long steep hills. As we were a few miles from camp we came upon a team hanging by the mile high corn. We stopped to check on them and one guy was seriously hurting. He couldn’t eat or drink and was doubled over and moaning in pain. Travis went right to work with his medical skills and got him in the shade. We found a rag in one of our packs and got it soaked in water which went right around the guys neck and head. We all offered him drinks and food and I think he finally choaked down some gatorade or something. After getting the guy better and having them call for sag, we made the few mile trek back to camp.
We finished knowing that we were out of the money a long time ago, but I was very proud of how far we came given the days events. We brought Bob back from the dead. We stayed together as a team and made decisions together. We picked each other up and got stronger throughout the day. I was proud of what we had become, proud of the obsticales we overcame, and proud of how we perservered.
Bob: I felt pretty bad about my performance on the ascending wall, but I think it’s worth mentioning again that no one ever gave me shit about it. The only negative comments were the ones in my head, and I’m infinitely grateful for that. I’m also grateful for how tolerant and forgiving you were as far as carrying my stuff and taking it easy while I got back up to speed.
Kate: That’s what a team does!
Travis: This race definitely had its highs and lows, but I am proud of what we did accomplish. Bob overcame a giant obstacle and pushed on to complete a lot more of the race than most people would have after the ascending incident. Robby did an awesome job on his first 24 hr race, and Luke and Kate pushed to the very end just as they wanted to do. And Robby and I both had our first rappel and ascent.I wouldn’t change a thing except to be a little stronger and faster. I do wish that as a whole team we would have gotten to do a little more navigation on foot, but unfortunately that did not happen. Oh and one more thing……. The morning following the race I came to a rather sad realization. I was gathering up my gear to pack into the Virtus van and emptied my camelbak which still had water in it. No big deal considering that everyone filled up whenever necessary, except for one thing: I never refilled mine. I went the entire race on less than 100 oz of water, one bike bottle of Gatorade and a monster energy drink. In hindsight a critical mistake that somehow went unnoticed by me and my teammates. You have to stay hydrated to feel good and I did not. But every race has a lesson to learn, sometimes it is one you have already learned before.
We all slept in as much as possible the next morning and then loaded up for home. I know I was a little sad. After a year of anticipation and excitement, it was over. Another 365 days of waiting seemed like way too long, and I don’t think I’m the only one who’d go back and do that race again tomorrow, with the exact same people, if it was possible. And since it’s not, at least there are only 6 more months til Adventure Camp!
Travis: Dirty Kanza is the only other race that by the next day I was already counting down the time till next year, until this race. I have every intention of going back next year, and maybe even adventure camp. I already said something to Crystal about it, she did sound slightly interested. =)
Robby: The rumor mill is that the Virtus Ladies may make an appearance at the Adventure Camp?!?!?! Time will tell….
Luke: Big thanks to Gerry Voelliger and ALL of the amazing volunteers for putting on one of the hardest, most memorable races I’ve ever done. The Thunder Rolls is a race that should be on everyone’s calendar every year. Don’t miss it!