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Spring Fever with Snowshoes – The Medved Winter Challenge

Hello again to all of our loyal readers!  It’s time for another race report.  However… I want to preface this report by saying that what you’re about to read may not be 100% accurate.  You see, I was a wee bit ill when I did the Medved Winter Challenge.  And by “a wee bit ill” I mean I should have stayed in bed.  I had a nasty fever, felt like poop, and I’m pretty sure I actually coughed up a piece of my lung in the snow.  It could have been phlegm, but I really think I saw some alveoli in there somewhere. That is all I will say about me being sick, because I don’t want this to turn into a pity party for me (Yes I do).

There are parts of this race that I don’t remember, so Casey will chime in when necessary.  His comments will be in RED to which I may reply in BLUE.  One other note: If you want to read about the rest of my awesomely radical trip to visit Casey’s family in NY, then just go here.  Now, on to the race report…

Start of Snowshoe 5K

Casey, James, Austin, and Luke before the Race.

Casey, Austin (my nephew), James (Austin’s friend), and I arrived at Webster Park in Monroe County, NY.  Yes, we were running a little late (as usual), but we had plenty of time to register and pick up 3 pair of snowshoes from the race director (Austin is the only one that has his own snowshoes).  She was nice enough to let us borrow them, so a big thanks goes out to her.

There were actually two races going down on the morning of January 30th: a snowshoe 5K and the Winter Challenge Adventure Race.  However, if you signed up for the Winter Challenge then you were fortunate enough (or forced) to do the 5K as a prologue to the adventure race.  Oh joy!  Actually, I was pretty excited to try some snowshoeing.

Casey in snowshoes

Casey warming up before the Snowshoe 5K

I’ve read that you should expect to be 1 to 3 minutes slower per mile in snowshoes versus running shoes.  For Casey, James, and Austin, that was true.  Casey finished in 29 minutes or so, Austin finished in 36 minutes or so, and I have no idea what James ran.  I, on the other hand, dominated the field in a blazing fast 45 minutes and 16 seconds.  Okay, I only beat one person, but it was fun. Sort of.  The course was great, and the snow was falling.  Running in snowshoes was much less awkward than I thought.  I just had nothing in my legs.

As I finished the 5K, I knelt down in the snow trying to recover.  I contemplated bowing out of the adventure race, but that would have been the smart choice.  And we all know that Luke and smarts go together about as well as vomit frosting and angel food cake.  So, we all got ready for the adventure race that was starting in 15 minutes.  Austin and James were getting ready to dominate the Teen Course, and Casey and I were getting ready to dominate… to compete… to survive and finish the full course.

We ended up starting the race about 15 minutes behind everyone else since it took me so long to finish the 5K.  We were handed the maps along with a bag with a playing card (I think we had a queen of clubs), some bits of licorice, a carrot, 3 Swedish fish, and some zip ties.  We were then told that we needed to zip-tie one of our wheels so that it wouldn’t spin.  Apparently, bikes weren’t allowed on the trails in this part of the park, so they wanted to make sure that nobody was riding.  What, they don’t trust us?

Casey carrying bike

Casey carrying his bike in the snow.

So, we headed out on the trail carrying our bikes.  I told Casey that he was navigating, because I didn’t even want to look at the map.  All I wanted to do was focus on moving forward.  I had no idea how far we had to carry our bikes, and that’s probably a good thing.  If I had known how far it was, I might have quit right there.

Casey: I looked briefly at the map but since we were told “flags” mark the route we had to take I figured a map wasn’t necessary.  Plus, it was a trail map and I didn’t see any scale.  Had we known how far the hike-a-bike section was, we probably would have put our trail shoes on instead of hiking in 12+ inches of snow in our bike shoes.  We talked several times about making the switch but figured we had to almost be there and didn’t want to waste the time of two unnecessary shoe changes.

I could only carry my bike for a few minutes.  Then I started rolling it in front of me on the back wheel while holding onto the handle bars.  It was pretty rough.

Casey: For the record, I offered several times to carry Luke’s bike in addition to my own.  He adamantly refused.

Luke: This is true.  He offered to carry my bike, but I would have literally died before I let that happen.

At least it wasn’t snowing… for the first two minutes.  Then it started snowing ridiculously hard.  Seriously, it was a white-out for awhile during our stupidly long hike-a-bike.  The photo below doesn’t come close to what it was really like.  You can click on the image to see it a little better, but trust me… It was much worse than the photo shows.  Notice my pack and helmet are starting to get covered in snow.  This photo was taken early in the hike-a-bike section, too.  It was ridiculous!

Hike-a-Bike in White-out conditions

"How much farther?!?"

It seemed like it was taking us over an hour to travel what I would later learn was roughly 1.5 miles.  I guess it seemed that way because that’s actually how long it took us.

Casey: I think Laura, the race director, said the course setter clocked it at 1.6 miles with his Garmin.  One of the volunteers actually walked right behind us picking up their flags because we were the last team.  She was cool and we chatted for most of the hike-a-bike since Luke wasn’t really able to speak.  I asked Luke a question or two, and each time I got no response.  He was either ignoring me, or he was just completely out of it.

Luke: I remember ignoring you once because the question was stupid.  Other than that, I don’t think I heard you.  Or I was just spaced out.

I had NO energy, and I simply couldn’t move any faster.  I just kept my head down and tried to do the best I could. I was focused on putting one foot in front of the other.  So much so that I missed some pretty cool sights.

Cool Tree

Casey took this shot of a gnarly looking tree. I never even saw it.

Casey, to his credit, stayed right behind me and never complained.  After what seemed like forever and a day, we made it to Checkpoint (CP) #1 at a small parking lot.  Laura, the race director, was there waiting for us.  As she punched our passport, another team was coming in from a trail.  They had already completed 90% of the biking section, and we were just getting started.  I was grateful to be getting off of my feet, though, and the snow had come to a stop.

We hopped on our bikes and took off.  I asked Casey if he was sure we were going the right way, you know, just to be safe.  It would have been really embarrassing to start off in the wrong direction right in front of the race director.  He said, “Yeah, we need to go north for a little ways, and then make a – blah, blah, blah.”  I kind of quit listening.  All I heard was that we should be going north, so I checked my wrist compass to discover we were heading due south.  I let Casey know about this, and we stopped for a map check.  Sure enough, we had to turn around and ride past the race director again.  Awesome.  Casey didn’t know how the hell that happened, but read on to find out…

Casey map check

Completely turned around... and confused.

We turned around and started off in the correct direction this time.  We took snow/ice/slush-covered roads through the wind and cold, but we weren’t exactly setting any speed records thanks to me.  I just had nothing in my legs, and I mean nothing.  We rode roughly 48 miles on the road before we got to the first turn… Well, that’s what it felt like to me, but it was probably only a mile or so.

Casey:  I know Luke must have felt very bad.  I was behind him and looking at what gear he was in.  It was the little ring in the front and the second to biggest in the back, and we were on totally flat ground.  His cadence in a very low gear was even lower than it usually is in top gear.  I commend Luke for keeping his balance when we were going so slowly.  I even had difficulty staying upright a time or two, and I wasn’t on my deathbed.  We were going so slow that I am pretty sure, even in my current shape and in my bike shoes, that I could have run the whole bike section as fast, if not faster than we biked it.  I thought about hopping off for a while and jogging, you know to get in a good workout, but I figured it might provoke Luke.  In hind sight he might not have even noticed.  Or if he did, he might’ve hopped off too, thinking it was more hike-a-bike.

Luke: Dude, I know you could have run faster with your bike than I was riding.  I may not have noticed you run by me with your bike on your back, but if I did then I probably would have punched you in the face… except I’m sure I wouldn’t have caught you.

Riding at medved Winter Challenge AR

See all of the snow inside the vents of my helmet? That's from the white-out during the hike-a-bike portion of the race.

We eventually made it to what appeared to be an old railroad track that had been turned into a trail where we would find CP#2.  It was just a short ways down the trail, and there was over a foot of snow on the ground.  So instead of riding it, we just walked our bikes to the CP.  Casey climbed down the bank to punch our passport while I tried to find my happy place.

Casey Medved CP2

Getting CP#2

We hopped back out on the road, and this is where things get pretty foggy for me.  I don’t really remember how we got to the trails, but we made it to some single track that actually allowed bikes.  Unfortunately, with all of the snow and my lack of energy, the trails were not easily ridden.  The good news is that we started off on our second hike-a-bike section with a really steep hill.  Fantastic!

Casey: On a positive note…  By being the absolute last team to go through this (and any) section of the race we had a nice, broken trail.  Not to mention it was hard to get lost since there were fresh (starting to fill) tracks to follow.  Imagine how much fun it would’ve been to be in first.

Hike-a-Bike up a snowy hill

Soooo much fun... Now that it's over.

I knew we weren’t going to finish the bike leg before the 4-hour cut-off if I didn’t pick up the pace at least a little bit.  So it was at the top of the hill seen in the above photo that I decided to try to ride the trails.  Brilliant!  As I pushed off and tried to get clipped in, my wheel spun out in the snow.  I fell hard, and it was one of those slow-motion crashes that seem to hurt the worst.  I also managed to get powdery snow down my jacket and my pants.  That was great!

I managed to get up and say, “F*@% This!  I don’t even wanna be here!!!”  And then I knelt down in the snow and just sat there.  Casey somehow realized that the best thing he could do was keep his mouth shut and let me have a minute or two.  I kept waiting for Casey to blurt out one of his usual inappropriate comments about… Well, I can’t write what Casey normally talks about because this is a PG-13 blog.  If Casey had said anything, and I mean anything, I know Betty White would have returned and our race would have ended right there.  But he did great, and after a couple of minutes, I stood up and started hiking with my bike again.

Casey: We did a better job of communicating and I knew Luke felt like dog poop.  Either that or maybe it was his body language or how he was moving.  I have felt that bad (albeit, not in a race…yet) and knew he was nearing his limit.

To be honest, I don’t really remember much else of the bike leg.  I know that we did manage to ride some of the snowy, icy single track, and it was a lot of fun.  It was challenging enough on a mountain bike with fat tires, but Casey managed to ride it on his brand new Jake the Snake cyclocross bike on its maiden voyage.  Nice work, Casey!

Casey: Isn’t it a little ironic that my bike actually rode me before I got to ride her?  I guess I pedaled around the parking lot but this race was the first time I rode my bike at all.  The night before I sat on her while we adjusted the seat and swapped the pedals.  I love her.  She’s so much fun to ride and I can’t wait to start logging some serious miles on her, just as soon as it warms up a bit (even just a little bit).

Luke: What, are you Alanis Morissette now?

Casey on his Jake the Snake Cross Bike in the snow

Casey on his yet-to-be-named Jake the Snake.

I don’t really remember much else about the bike leg.  I know we got all of the CP’s for the biking leg, though.  I also remember popping out onto a road and seeing Lake Ontario, one of the Great Lakes.  I remember wanting the race to be over.  I remember giving our queen of clubs to the race director, and when we asked her what it was for, she said it was to keep us guessing.  Well, it worked.

I also remember Casey taking us in the wrong direction one more time.  I showed him my wrist compass, and he showed me his compass.  They were taking opposite bearings.  Not good.  What the hell was going on here?  Then Casey moved his hand, and his compass matched mine.  You see, he was wearing glittens (gloves that have a mitten flap for when it gets really cold) with a magnetic snap on them.  The magnetic snap was interfering with the compass.  So, Casey wasn’t a completely incompetent navigator after all.  Mystery solved and lesson learned.

Casey: Are you sure they are called “glittens’ and not “moves”.  This sort of thing once happened to a teammate at our first annual non-race.  He had his compass clipped onto a lanyard with a big metal hook and his compass was going bonkers.  You’d think I would’ve learned from his mishap.

Luke: Yes, I’m sure.  “Glittens” is the correct name.  I would never make up a word.

That’s about all I remember, though, so here are a few photos from the final part of the biking leg:

Luke getting a CP at Winter Challenge Adventure Race

Getting CP#???

Luke riding snowy single trackriding

Proof that I actually rode my bike on the snowy trails.

Casey on Tron Bike

I think Casey should name his bike "Tron."

Casey: Isn’t she pretty?  I’ll try out Tron and see if she likes it.  Can Tron be a girls name?

So, we made it back to HQ at the small lodge.  We were handed a sheet of instructions for the mystery event.  We had to build a snowman with at least 3 snowballs.  It had to be at least 64 centimeters tall which seemed like 10 feet to me at the time, but Casey assured me it was only about 2 feet tall.  It had to have two arms, and we had to use the carrot for the nose, the pieces of black licorice for the eyes, and the Swedish fish for the mouth.

We whipped out the world’s best snowman in record time since the 4-hour cutoff was almost up.  We grabbed chunks of snow left behind by a snow plow, and we stacked them up.  I shoved the carrot and candy onto his face while Casey worked on it’s arms that included trekking poles.  We ended up with this:

Snowman during a mystery event at the Winter Challenge AR

The frown on Frosty's face was no accident. And why is Casey so damn perky in this photo?

We went inside the warm, cozy lodge which was fully stocked with cookies, chips, and other delicious goodies.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t even think about eating anything.  We found out all of the other teams in the Adult Division had cleared the course and were already finished.  We had about a half an hour left or so, and there was no way we could get all of the CP’s in time.  There was also no way I was leaving the warm lodge to go back out into the cold and snow.  So we did what any great team would do.  We quit.

Okay, that’s not true.  We strapped on our snowshoes and begrudgingly made our way out the door.  As we headed out, Austin and James were coming in.  All they had left was to build their snowman.  Austin said he had the same problem with his glittens messing up his compass too.  Like father like son, I guess.  However, Austin figured it out much sooner than we did.  Those two young bucks cleared the course and rocked the crap out of that race.  They won the Teen Division and received sweet Mizuno backpacks for coming in first place!  Big props to those guys.

Casey: In my defense, we figured it out the second time I took a bearing; all orienteering up to that point needed no compass.  The boys made it to the orienteering leg much faster and had to use their compass much more.  Still it’s pretty embarrassing to make such an obvious mistake.  I blame Luke for not figuring it out much sooner.  After all, he is our usual map man, I am the Pace Center.

Luke: Sure.  It was my fault that I realized we were going the wrong way TWICE before we got too far off course.  I apologize :).

I sort of looked at the map as we left the lodge.  I agreed that we should hit the CP closest to us and then see if we had time to get any more.  We headed out on our snowshoes, but I was really struggling at this point.  We came upon some sort of tipi shelter.  Casey managed to snap a photo of me from inside the tipi, but I was too tired to take a photo of him inside it.  It would have been a cool photo, though.  I swear.

Tipi in the snowin

Looking out of the tipi at me struggling to keep moving.

We punched our passport at the next CP, and Casey thought we had enough time to get one more and make it back to the lodge in time.  I disagreed, but I was willing to try.  After about 5 minutes or so, I told him that there was no way I was going to make it.  He graciously agreed to turn back, and he never made me feel bad about it.

So we turned around and made it back to the lodge with just 2 minutes to spare.  Everyone ate snacks, chatted, and laughed as stories were told and jokes were made.  I think I managed to laugh at the appropriate points in the conversations, but I’m not sure.  We then went home, and I took the hottest shower ever and tried to nap on the couch with my niece and nephew, Josie and Colton, climbing all over me.

This was probably my worst performance in an adventure race (other than a couple of DNF’s earlier in my racing career).  I hated this race while we were racing, but as usual, now that I look back on it I realize that it was a great time.  The race director did a great job.  Huge thanks to you, Laura, and to all of the volunteers!  Casey was the best teammate a guy could ask for.  And Dude, I promise I’ll be healthy for the next race we do together… I hope.

Casey: I will try to be healthy as well.  You were a trooper and in hind sight probably shouldn’t have raced and stayed home in bed.  If Jay Culter had even one of your balls, the Bears would have beaten the sorry ass Packers and probably would have won the Super Bowl.  You say you’re done having kids.  I’ll believe it if you mail one of your testicles to the Bears front office with a letter telling Cutler to man up.

Luke: Stupid Packers!

Casey: Great race, I had a good time regardless of our finish.  I got to snowshoe for the first time ever (I agree with Luke, it was surprisingly easy).  Thanks for making the trip to New York to visit (it had been over 5 years), and remember… you’re coming out for the Lion Heart race later this summer.  If you haven’t read the story about his whole visit to New York, check it out.  We had a great time and did some great things (at least check out some of the pictures).  Thank you to Medved, the race director, the volunteers, and everybody else that was crazy enough to come out and race.  I promise a better performance next year.  Luke are you in again?  Anybody else?

Luke: Fo’ Sho’!  Count me in.

So there you have it.  We survived, but just barely.  Have any of you been racing in the snow this year?

Check out the rest of our photos below:



**NOTE** This race report is presented to you as a collaborative effort; Bob, Luke and I (Casey) pieced this one together as a group so we could each give our own impression of this event.  After many edits, re-edits, and more edits, we are happy to finally present it to you.

The original write-up is given in standard text by myself, Luke’s comments are presented to you in red, and Bob’s commentary is given in yellow. I added a response or two in blue.


As I sit and stare at my computer screen, I can’t decide where to start with the recounting of this race. Do I detail the injuries and training issues we had leading up to race day? No, that would bore both of you to death. Should I talk about our inability to decide between the 12 or 24 hour race? Maybe I should discuss my 14 hour drive from upstate NY to Oregon, IL and the luxurious accommodations at a $45.00 a night motel in Elkhart, Indiana?

Maybe we could talk about Luke & Bob’s road trip, and all of the weird things they saw along the way…like a giant statue of Abe Lincoln cupping an invisible set of balls?

Mind the step-children there, Abe

Or the strange display of Indian (or to be politically correct – Native American) teepees they found in a small town along the way.

Too many possibilities…so I guess I’ll open with how excited we were to be doing this race. It was finally here. You see we’d been looking forward to this particular race ever since we finished Team High Profile’s 8 Hour Lightning Strikes Adventure Race, (LSAR) back in April. Our Camp Benson experience had literally changed our lives and become the new metric by which all future races will be measured. It was by far the best race we’d ever done and it was only an 8 hour race. A 12 or 24 hour race by the same race director would have to be pretty epic, right (or should I say “REAL”)?

We could only hope The Thunder Rolls 12 Hour Adventure Race (btw, we finally decided on the 12 hour) would be a 12 hour version of the 8 hour race we had experienced earlier in the year. It was nearly unfathomable, but if anyone could pull it off, Gerry Voelliger was the guy.

After checking in and getting our mind-boggling schwag bags, (worth nearly the cost of the race), we headed to the communal campsite to set up Team Virtus Camp, (TVC). Luke and I set up our Hennessey Hammocks between four trees at the back of the campsite.  We asked Bob if he needed help assembling the enormous tent we had for him.  He informed us that he was sure that it wasn’t going to rain, and that he was too masculine for a tent anyway. He had plans to sleep out under the stars like a “real man”.  I think he was planning on channeling his inner Bear Grylls or some Winnebago Indian (Native American) spirits to be more prepared for race day.  If him sleeping without a tent would help us do better in tomorrow’s race…I was all for it.

I should have known better than to leave my fine buttocks exposed while tying my shoes:

How Casey got a hand-shaped red mark on his ass...

Since the ascending wall was open for practice, we changed into some race gear, hopped on our bikes, and headed over there to learn how to ascend. Ascending was the only discipline we failed to attend at the LSAR Camp, we just ran out of time.  I figured ascending would be much harder than it looked…. And I thought it looked pretty difficult.  We waited in line, watching people scamper to the top of the climbing tower some 30 – 40 feet above us.

It was obvious that some of these racers had ascended before, flying up the rope like they’re going to be in the next Mission Impossible movie.  Others swung back and forth, struggling with the task but eventually got to the top.  I was afraid I was going to look like one of these guys and flip-flopping my way up the wall..

After some instruction from one of the volunteers, I walked to the wall and began what turned out to be a physically exhausting and mentally taxing exercise. I tried to ascend as gracefully as possible, but I can tell you, without any doubt in my mind, failed…  I was anything but graceful.  I looked like young Sasquatch trying to “F” a football. like that football? You like that?!?!?

I went this way and that, back and forth.  As I struggled, I received pointers from the staff and even began figuring some things out for myself.  About half way up, it started to click and somehow I was really doing it. I felt less like a horny Sasquatch and more like a Ninja Warrior as I worked my way to the top.

One final effort..

Soon, I was at the top pulling myself up and over the edge.  I did it.  I had ascended one third of what we’d have to ascend tomorrow during the race.  I actually felt really comfortable by the end of my climb and was confident that I would be able to safely (but maybe not really fast) ascend during the race tomorrow.

Next up was Luke, who had apparently done this before at some point in his life (or maybe in a past life).  He looked like a pro climbing up the rope in short quick steps, barely breaking a sweat.   It turns out Luke is a natural ascender.  (What a jerk!) That was Greeeat!, he could go  first during the race.

Clearly, someone's been training

Luke: I may have made it up more quickly than you, but I also had the benefit of learning from your mistakes and listening to the great volunteers as they coached you.  I’m sure it would have been the other way around if I had gone first.

Bob went last and was definitely more Sasquatch than Ninja Warrior.  He took quite a while getting up the rope and nearly exhausted himself.  Initially he was pulling himself up with all arms. Bob was trying to horse his way up the rope and was taking these huge, three foot vertical increment steps each time his leg went up.

Bob nearly shits the pants trying to ascend

Dragon called out, “Baby steps, Bob!” trying to make him take smaller strides.  I shouted out something like, “Baby Steps, Gil.”  Which Luke appreciated and acknowledged with a smile (it was a reference to the cinema classic, What About Bob).  I guess I didn’t think to make the connection between Bob Jenkins and Bob Wiley, the title character of the movie.  I instead used Bob Wiley’s pet goldfish’s name.  For the rest of the climb the instructors kept yelling out instructions for “Gil”.  Bob seemed a little confused as to why everybody was calling him “Gil”.

Bob: Yeah, I might have been panicking for a minute there. And the whole time I’m blathering up the wall I’m looking around trying to figure out who this “Gil” person is…I began to think I wasn’t even going to make it 10 feet up that wall, but those volunteers REALLY helped.

Gil was much smoother and moving quickly by the time he reached the top of the tower.

To the doubters!!

We were now capable of a vertical ascend.  Maybe not quickly or with grace, but Team Virtus would be able to get to the top of the 100+ foot cliff in tomorrow’s race.

We headed back to TVC and then over to the mess hall for a spaghetti dinner put on by the Boy Scouts.  We had plenty to eat and drink, and attended the pre-race meeting shortly thereafter.  Gerry and company told us all the rules and regulations, and briefed us on the really cool, cutting edge “Radio Navigation” section that was going to be a part of the 24 hour race.  It sounded very challenging and fun.  We were beginning to regret our decision to register for the 12 hour race instead of the 24.

I also heard Gerry say something about wearing long pants or gaiters for this part of the course.  I guess I wasn’t really listening that closely to this part since we were doing the 12 hour race and I thought he was talking to just the 24 hour racers.

At the end of the race meeting we received our maps.  Our plan was to let Luke (our best navigator) work over the maps while Bob and I ran the bikes to the bike drop.  Let me tell you, it was a haul, taking us well over an hour to get the task done. When we returned, we found an ashen-faced Luke sitting half asleep where we had left him.  He said he was nauseated and having “intestinal issues” and it was bad enough that if we had signed up for the 24 hour race he would’ve strongly considered withdrawing. That would have left Bob and I to race as a team of two, so once again we were glad to be doing the 12 instead of the 24. This gave Luke another 6 hours to get over his illness and hopefully be well enough to race.

We headed back to TVC for some sleep.  Luke and I climbed into our hammocks and Bob slid into his open air sleeping bag on my extra air mattress.

What a dumbass....I mean badass

It took me awhile to get comfortable in my new hammock.   I was as excited as Ralphie Parker waiting to unwrap his new B.B. gun on Christmas morning for the following morning to finally get here.  This excitement coupled with the general commotion of the communal camp left me unable to sleep.  I lay there staring at the night sky, pondering the adventure that awaited us the next day.

Luke: I have to break in here.  He didn’t just lay there.  He tossed and turned, bounced and shimmied, shook, rattled and rolled in that damn hammock.  You know what you get when you have a 240 pound man doing that in a nylon hammock right next to you?  Waaaaaay too much damn noise!  Next time, I’ll position my hammock on the other side of camp.

Bob: For real, it sounded like someone was wearing silk pants and dry humping a leather couch. What were you doing in there?

I was about to drift to sleep when I heard…

…Indian chanting and drums in the distance??

Was I somehow dreaming or awakening from a dream and still hearing this strange music in my head?  I sat up in my hammock and pinched myself.  No, I wasn’t dreaming and the music was getting louder.  Not only was it loud, but it wasn’t stopping.  I had no idea what time it was or why an Indian (Native American) Dance of some sort was in progress next to our sleeping quarters.

Then I heard Gerry on a loudspeaker barking out instructions and it then fell into place and began to make sense; It was nearing midnight and the 24 hour racers were lining up to start their race.  There was a countdown and a loud “Go” followed by a bunch of yells. They were off.

Now that their race had started I was looking forward to some peace and quiet.  That wasn’t going to happen, though. We were all wide awake, listening to the continuous chanting and drums.  It continued and continued.  Was it going to play all night until the start of our 12 hour race?  Good God, I hoped not.  I got out of my hammock, took a leak in the brush, and climbed back into my hammock.

Eventually the music was silenced and I fell asleep… for a while.

I was sleeping like a baby when I heard Luke yell out loud and very aggressively, (and I quote), “What the fuck do you want!”  This was followed by a few more expletives and confusion on Luke’s part.

Next, I heard buck naked Bob ask where the bug spray was.  I think the more appropriate question would’ve been, “Where the hell are Bob’s clothes?”    Bob said he was getting eaten alive by bugs.  Through a sleep induced fog, Luke thought for a moment and eventually told Bob that the DEET was in the van. He asked Bob if he wanted the keys, but Bob said no, he’d make due until morning.  Then he crawled his naked ass back into his sleeping bag and we all went back to sleep.

Luke: Sorry, Bob.  When I’m awakened from a dead sleep, I tend to have no idea what’s going on.  I didn’t mean to be so harsh. And please put some pants on next time for the love of God!

Bob: If sleeping without pants is wrong, I don’t wanna be right. That being said, I will never forget bugspray again. That was horrible.

We got about four hours of sleep before being awakened by a cacophony of cell phone alarms going off.  Within minutes we heard the familiar drums and chanting start up again.  This time we didn’t mind the music, we knew it was for us and our race would be starting very soon.  Luke informed us that he was feeling much better and thought he’d be able to race.  Team Virtus was full strength and we anticipated a great race.

Level of sexiness increases from left to right

Team Virtus ate a quick breakfast; dropped a deuce (there was no line at the pit toilets) and headed towards the starting line.  We quickly grabbed our gear out of the vans and made some last minute adjustments.  After a group pre-race picture or two, all the teams bunched up at the starting line.  There was a quick count down followed by a loud “Go” and we were off.  Another life changing experience had just begun, whether we realized it or not.  We took off at a medium paced jog and followed the crowd down the road.

We jogged most of the way down the road to Control Point 1 (CP 1) where we punched our card and picked up our canoes.  Unfortunately for us, these were the same boats that we had to use for the LSAR earlier in the year.  The same boats that had lead to our now infamous swim in the Mississippi and subsequent strip show on its bank.  I am sure this is a nice boat for 2 normal sized paddlers, but we had 3 “rugbyesque” paddlers plus gear that weighed well over 750 pounds.  We were all thinking the same thing, but no one said it…..yet.

Well, shit. Here we go again.

We picked out a boat that called to us, lifted it over our heads and headed down the trail for the 1.5 mile+ portage to the banks of the Rock River.

This worked well for us. The guy in the back is totally blind, though.

About half way there Luke’s intestinal issue resurfaced.  Bob and I put the canoe down as Luke ran into the forest to commune with nature.  We were passed by 4 or 5 teams while Luke took care of his business, but he eventually rejoined us on the trail.  He wasn’t feeling real well, but wanted to continue.  Bob and I lifted the boat back up and headed to the river bank.

Practicing being under the boat..

Once we got there, we punched our card at CP 2 and noticed there was no boat ramp.  We had to climb down a steep bank with the canoe and launch from the bank.  As we put the boat in the water we had a discussion as to who would sit in the middle of the canoe.  We had decided, based on our 2 previous paddles in these canoes that the person in the middle would not paddle due to the instability of a canoe with such a load.

Why am I paying to carry a canoe?

Bob:  Check out that arm-vein!!

Bob was stuck in the middle last race and had been working really hard on his paddling all summer and Luke wasn’t feeling good but still really wanted to paddle.  It was my turn to take one for the team.  I volunteered to sit in the middle and be ferried to the next CP.

Luke: There was clearly some communication problems here, because I truly did not really feel like paddling.  Somehow, though we decided I’d be in the back.  Boo.

Casey: I was confused why you would paddle when you were feeling so poorly.  I apologize for the miscommunication, I assure you that I would have much rather paddled than have to sit entirely motionless for a lengthy period of time.  Lesson learned – communicate better next race.

Bob was in the bow and Luke was in charge of steering the canoe in the stern.  I was the baggage in the middle being instructed to sit perfectly still and not move at all.  Every time I moved even an inch, Luke would let me have it.  Apparently, to Luke it felt like the boat was going to tip whenever I moved the slightest bit, and he made it abundantly clear that I was to remain motionless.

Team Virtus in the Canoe

Casey assumes the position (Photo by: John Morris)

We were passed by many teams during the paddle.  Some of them looked like less technical paddlers than we consider ourselves to be, but I guess less technique with a third of the weight leads to a faster boat.  The paddle leg went very slowly for us, even though Bob and Luke were paddling hard and putting out a lot of effort.  I’m pretty sure we were the only canoe with an actual wake.  We passed a small bass boat and they had to turn their bow into the waves our boat was putting off.

Luke: A boat with two tiny female racers raced by us.  As we looked over at them, it appeared that they were floating completely on top of the water instead of plowing through it with very little freeboard like we were.  When I pointed out to them how they didn’t have enough weight in there boat, they said something like, “We’ll take that extra muscle that you’re not using in the middle there.”  I then joked, “You can have him.  He’s dead-weight anyway!”  Bob and I then teased Casey about how he was just an anchor slowing us down.  It seemed like we then came up with Casey’s new nickname at the same moment.  From now to eternity, Casey will be known as “Anchor Man.”  You can also call him Ron Burgandy if you like.  Casey, why did you leave this part out?

Casey: An honest mistake I assure you.  I am surprised that you didn’t refer them to a previous write where I apologized for being an anchor due to all my flat tires.  Stay classy San Diego.

Virtus Paddles away

The beginning of what seemed like the longest paddle in history (Photo by: John Morris)

About 30 minutes into a 2 hour paddle Luke transformed into a PMS’ing Betty White.  He started to bitch and complain incessantly.  We were exposed to several instant classic one-liners, none of which we’ll mention here :),  but if you re near our canoe in a future race listen and I am sure that you will hear a constant barage of these vintage Betty White one-liners that we all learned on the Rock River that day.  With all his GI issues and with the boat being so hard to maneuver, Luke was in a bit of an uber lousy mood.  I only recently found out how bad of shape Luke was really in.  I wish he had COMMUNICATED better and I knew how he was feeling during this part of the race.  I would have been a little more empathetic had I known.

We were not allowed to joke or goof around.  Any time I moved at all I was told to hold still.  I was reduced to sitting in the middle with both hands on the gunnels and my legs jammed under the seat in front of me.  My feet and legs cramped, my back was burning, and my ass was asleep but I was afraid to adjust.  Luke’s fuse was lit and the wick was quickly burning shorter.  I hoped he wasn’t going to be”Betty White” the whole race.  I wish I had a Snickers and a tampon to hand to him and tell him, “Hey Betty, you’re not you when you’re hungry and on the rag”.  I can joke about it now, but Luke was definitely not Luke at this point.

Luke: Yes, I was a total Debbie Downer (aka – a bitch) for the paddling leg of this race.  I felt like doo-doo, I didn’t want to be in the back of the boat, and that friggin’ canoe was impossible to maneuver with all of that weight in it.  On top of that, I really thought we were going to tip the canoe every time you took a breath.  Normally, I’m not like that, though.  I apologize to both of you guys for being such a jerk. I just wanted out of that damn canoe.  It was by far the least fun I’ve had in a canoe at any AR I’ve done.  Although it’s pretty funny to look back on now, it wasn’t very funny at the time.  Thanks for putting up with me, fellas.

Casey: I wish I knew how lousy your were really feeling.  I commend you for sucking it up, pushing through it, and finishing the race.  Plus, I now Bob or I can be a total jerk at a future race and not worry about it because we now have a “get out of jail free” card.  Seriously though, that’s what teams are for and we all have our moments.  We only grow together by sharing experiences like these.  The race was a blast and you rebounded nicely once we were off the river.

At long last, we reached the takeout and made ready to ride some BIKES!!

Swapping out gear to get the hell away from the boat

Luke was Luke again, and that was a very good thing.  We quickly transitioned to the bike portion of the race and headed out.  We worked our way from the TA to CP 5 and then to CP 6.  CP 6 was located at the Historic John Deere Site (where in 1836 John Deere invented the first plow using a discarded saw blade).  From here we picked up the rest of the biking CPs and ended up at the Nachusa Grasslands, where the orienteering leg of the race was to take place.

Being a little more Virtus-like again

The grasslands consist of 2800 acres of prairie remnants, restorations, and reconstructions.  The Nature Conservancy, (using hundreds of volunteers), has re-created an 1800 Illinois mosaic of prairie, savanna, and wetlands.  The volunteers literally lie on their bellies picking weeds and planting seeds one at a time.  Grasslands need a “disturbance” once in awhile to flourish.  You know… Something like a forest fire or a stampede of buffalo.  Well, in this case, we adventure racers acted as the buffalo.

Bob: As we rolled into the transition area, Casey stopped and fell over on his bike cuz he couldn’t get his shoe unclipped. It was priceless…effing priceless. If only we had a photo.

Luke:  Yeah, that was so damn funny.  He just came to a complete stop and fell right over in the middle of 30 racers or so.  Amazing.  It’s funny how he seemed to leave that part out.

Casey: I was slowing down, unclipped and stepping off my bike when I was told to park on the other side of the clearing.  So, I peddled over there without clipping back in but somehow I unknowingly clipped my one shoe back into the pedal.  When I slowed down again, I went to step down only to realize that my foot was stuck in the pedal and I went down like a ton of bricks right in front of everybody.  I definitely should have included that.  Good memory.  I wish he had a picture that we could include in the report, I went down hard.

The prairie looks exactly as it did when Chief Black Hawk made this area his home many years ago.  How cool is it to see the grasslands exactly the way they were so many years ago?  I thought it was an amazing experience; if you’ve never visited a native grassland, you need to experience it.

As you know, photos don't do justice

We were lucky to have been given this opportunity as part of the race.  This orienteering leg of the course took place entirely within the Nachusa Grasslands.  As we were transitioning from the bikes to the trekking, Bob decided to wear his Tahoe bike shoes because he didn’t feel like putting his wet trail shoes back on.  I questioned his logic, guessing that they would soon be wet too.  He said he knew what he was doing, so I let it go. We grabbed a Monster energy drink (free courtesy of the sponsors) and headed out into the grasslands.

Casey looking for shorter grass

Trekking through grass that’s over 7 feet tall is an interesting experience to say the least. Believe it or not, it’s not as soft as it looks.  It’s viciously sharp and hungry for your exposed flesh.

*NOTE TO FUTURE RACERS* Listen closely when Gerry Voelliger speaks!! If he tells you to wear pants at any time, any place, for any reason…do it.  I failed to bring suitable pants (I only had lightweight rain pants that would have been shredded in minutes had I put them on).   Somehow my teammates picked up on Gerry’s recommendation but failed to pass it along to me.  My legs were soon a burning mess of inflamed and scratched flesh.

We trekked through the first couple of check points without much issue.  We enjoyed the experience and unique opportunity to hike through these rare, native grasslands.

A rough day, but the beauty wasn't lost on us (as Luke was donning his long pants)

At one point, we decided to go into the thicker brush and “bushwhack” to the CP to “save some time”.  Not the best decision of the race.  It cost us some time hiking up and down consecutive valleys until we found the correct reentrant, and in the end, (since hindsight is always 20/20) we realized we could have followed a groomed path to the CP.  Whatever…nothing ventured nothing gained.

Luke: Yeah, that was my call.  Sorry about that.  I hate when that happens!

Crazy awesome

From here we headed down the hill and to a road.  We decided against the road and took the “shortest distance between two points” route.  We were walking through some of the thickest weeds, vines, thorns, and trees that you could imagine.  I was following close to Luke when we came out on another road.  We turned back and there was no sight of Bob.  We called out to him, and he answered that he was all right, but “stuck in some really thick shit.”

Yeah, true story.

We sort of chuckled because we knew what he was walking through.  Several minutes passed and still no Bob.  Finally, we began to hear brush moving and some swearing, but we still had no visual.  Then we saw the tops some 7 foot high grass move.  It was like we were being stalked by a velociraptor from Jurassic Park.

Motherf*&$3 %$^ & @Q%^ @#$ Hillary Duff son of &^*#$%@!!!!!!

Then we caught a quick glimpse of Bob’s head before it quickly disappeared back into the grass.  Some more grass crunching, sticks breaking, swearing, and then Bob popped out of the thicket.

You know what, I don't wanna talk about it. Let's just go.

Bob: That hurt so bad.

We proceeded to collect the rest of the CPs in the grasslands.  We finally wised up a little and took the grass road through the grasslands back to the TA even though it was a little further.  We had had enough of pushing through grass, thorns, cattails, and poison ivy (if the volunteers pick weeds and control all that grows in the grasslands, why is there so much poison ivy?).

The Dragon wandering in the grass

The tall grass presented us with a problem we’d never encountered before: Some of the pollen, (I guess), was getting in Bob’s eyes and blinding him.  His eyes were really bothering him, and it eventually became a big enough problem that something had to be done about it.

Seriously, I can't see shit!!

We couldn’t have Bob stumbling around the grasslands blindly.  But what do you do about this kind of thing?  It’s pretty simple, really: You spit clean water in his face.

Damn, now that’s friendship.

Bob: Hey, it worked.

Luke: Hey, I was more than happy to do it.

Upon arrival at the TA, we grabbed a couple Monster Energy Drinks (I think Bob ended up drinking all three of our drinks).

We had to pick burdocks and hitchhikers out of our clothes and leg hair as part of preparing for the bike ride.  We climbed on our bikes and hauled ass back to camp for the part of the race we were most were looking forward to…the pack rafting leg.

I must preface this section with a little back ground.  You see, we have been practicing for this event all summer.  Luke and I purchased the Sevylor Trail Boat back in late May or early June.  I practiced paddling mine on Canandaigua Lake in New York and Luke and Bob practiced numerous times on lakes and rivers in Missouri.  One day in late July, Bob decided to push the limits of the Trail Boat and ran a flooded creek in it.  It worked great, right up until he tore a huge gash in the bottom of the boat and sank it.


Bob had planned to replace Luke’s boat and buy himself another Trail Boat for the race.  The only problem was that Sevylor no longer made this boat and all vendors were out of stock.  You could not purchase a new or used Sevylor Trail Boat anywhere in New York, Missouri, or on the internet.  We looked everywhere.  What were we going to do?  The race was only a few weeks away and we only had 1 one-person pack raft.  We looked at other Sevylor rafts as well as some Alpaca Rafts (which would’ve been ideal, but we just could not justify the cost).

That’s when we got lucky and found out about the cool kids at They’re a company here in the UNITED STATES that produces the flytepacker. It’s lighter than the Trail boat, tougher than nails and half the price of an Alpacka. I can inflate mine in less than 2 minutes and it deflates in seconds.

Photo of the Flytepacker in action--from FWD's website

Bob: I should also mention that their customer service is phenomenal. I’ve been in contact with them no less than a dozen times and am always impressed with their service.  Every time I call them I get to talk to a real person,(usually a feller named Marc), and when I send  email I ALWAYS get a quick response. Top notch service without fail, and that’s no bullshit. These guys are the real deal, and their boat is pretty damn good too.

It packs down to nothing!!

As we rode into the TA from the final Bike CP we were like giddy school girls and seemed to have a surge in our energy levels.  We got the rafts out and went to work to inflating them as fast as we possibly could.  The Flytepackers were inflated in less than 3 minutes and the Trail Boat in about 10.  As we were getting all of our stuff together, we heard a volunteer yell that all 12 hour racers just coming in would be short-coursed to the final trekking leg and forced to skip the packrafting section.  I can’t convey to you the disappointment, heartbreak and then anger we felt at this point.  I actually thought Bob was going to start crying.  He was by far the most excited to test out his new raft.   We’d been looking forward to this all summer and had spent a lot of money just for this part of the race.

Bob and Luke were getting ready to deflate the rafts and move on with the race.  I told them to wait a second and left our area in the TA area.   I walked over to the volunteer area and asked if we were included in the group that was being short-coursed and gave them our race number.  They checked the clipboard and told me we were NOT short-coursed and that we could do the pack rafting leg if we wanted to do so.

Did I detect a sadistic smirk on his face or was it just my imagination?  I decided he was happy for us because he sensed how badly we wanted to raft.

I ran back to the TA and  told my dejected teammates we weren’t being short-coursed and we could do the pack raft leg “if we wanted to”.

“If” we wanted to do the pack raft leg?  Of course we want to pack raft!!  That’s what we came here for!!  We grabbed our crap and took off West toward the river.

This is where things started turning sour.  You see, we never took the time to walk to the river front at the camp prior to the race.  So when we left the TA, we headed off into some campsites and were nowhere near the river.  I suggested heading back to the TA to find a trail leading to the river, but Luke and Bob voted against it.  They were afraid if we went back, we wouldn’t be allowed to start the pack raft leg.  I went along with the team’s decision knowing the river still had to be west of our current location and it couldn’t be much further.  We found a little trail heading west and took it.

This trail quickly became very challenging as we started to climb over piles of brick and block debris.  How was this trail to the river front? I had a hard time visualizing little boy scouts walking down this trail.  I’m pretty sure we were in a ditch that had been used to dump all the building refuse over the years.

**Choking Luke** Admit it, ya bastard!!..we shoulda turned around!! I was right!! I was right!!!

Luke: As much as I hate to admit it, we should have listened to Casey here.  On the other hand, I’d like to point out the remnants of a chocolate energy bar on Casey’s lip in the above photo as he’s strangling me.  Gross!

Casey: I always think it is prudent to save a little for later.  How could you not tell me there was chocolate on my mouth?  We’re teammates and brothers; we don’t shake hands we hug.  You can tell me when I have some crap on my mouth.

Then it got steeper, thornier, and there was a drop off.  We were considering turning back when Bob saw a “fresh footprint”.  How the hell did he now it was fresh?  I speculated it was somehow related to his self sacrificing actions the previous night.  Based on the fact that another team must have gone this way and that it headed west, we decided to push on.  Anyway, we had to be closer to the river than we were to the TA at this point.  We climbed down a little rocky drop off and it got even worse, more thorns, overhead brush, and then the mosquitoes.

Bob: If anyone is curious, these are the links I used to explain to Casey the difference between a fresh and an old footprint

The bugs were so dense you could literally scrape them off your body.  I remembered the photos we saw of Ron (one e of the race volunteers and also an instructor form the High Profile Adventure Camp) from when he fell asleep without any bug netting or bug spray.  His face was swollen, bloated, and discolored.  He hardly looked like himself at all.  I wondered if we’d wind up like that. How many mosquito bites can you get before you have an allergic reaction?  Has anybody ever died from mosquito bites?  Why did we not remember to put on any bug repellent at the TA before we left?

I guess we were in such a hurry and so excited to get in our rafts?  We decided to continue west, being chased by the buzzing swarm. Eventually we arrived at the shore and we all ran out into the river in search of relief.  The water was refreshingly cool and the bugs couldn’t get to any part that was underwater.

Right at home on the water

We assumed that we were up river from the CP as we could see a couple of boats heading up river and decided to float down river.  In a few minutes we hit the CP and beached our rafts.  We quickly punched our card and hopped back into our rafts.  It was time to put our sharply honed skills in our pack rafts to use.

Flytepacker boats...more stable and comfy than a Trailboat

We took off paddling at a good pace and made some gains against the current.  We had to decide whether to go to the left or right of the islands in the middle of the river.  I’m not really sure why we decided to go to the left but we did.  Luke was a little ahead of me and Bob was a little behind me.

Everyone had trouble fighting the current

We worked hard to get across the current near the island so that we could hug the farshoreline, in hope of less current and an easier paddle.  Luke made some progress and was a little ahead of me now.   I found a tree on the bank that was maybe 7 or 8 feet up river and thought I’d see how long it took me to get there.  I paddled and paddled and paddled some more. It took me about 10 minutes.

10 minutes to go less than 10 feet?  Are you kidding me?  I tried to calculate in my oxygen deprived mind how long the paddle would take at this rate.  This was not good.

After another 20 or 30 minutes of aggressive paddling, I came to an area of the river that narrowed because of a fallen tree.  I paddled balls out for a good five minutes and moved at most 6 inches.  I floated a few feet down river and eddied out behind the fallen tree, catching my breath and transitioning to a more aggressive paddling position (I was now on my knees and closer to the front).  With a little prayer and a shout I pushed off the bank to try one more time.  I really dug deep, and after much effort I made it to the end of the tree.  I hung to the tree, trying to recover and slowly pulled myself a little further up river.

Bob pushes his boat upstream past a 4-person raft. Total misery

This wasn’t working so I pushed off and began paddling balls to the wall once again.  I moved 2 to 3 inches with each stroke and would slip back down river a good inch before I could get the other blade back into the water.  So this means that I was netting 1 to 2 inches per stroke.  I looked up and realized that I was being passed by a guy and a woman.  They were walking in the river pushing their boat and moving faster than I was in an all out paddle.  I processed my options and rolled over the edge of my boat and into the water.  I too was able to move more quickly employing this technique.

Luke was the only one capable of paddling upstream

I figured I still had at least half way to go before I reached the next CP.  I kept walking and pushing my boat in water ranging from waist to neck deep.  The terrain underfoot varied from loose sand to shin-deep river mud.  Oh, I forgot to mention the current pushing against my “rugbyesque” torso. It was not fun, but we weren’t the only ones suffering. This part of the course was a real equalizer; Skinny, fat, short and tall…the river was punishing everyone. We saw a LOT of teams give up and head back downstream.

As I walked along I made friends with a happy couple, Josh and Tina, from Team 13 Inches.  We chatted and worked together to get upriver.  At one point, we formed a 3-person chain and pulled one another across the current. Very good sportsmen, those two…together we made our journey up river and had some great conversation getting to know each other.

Casey's friends...not sure why they're so happy?? Must have been going downstream at the time

We continued to walk up river.  I had no idea how far behind me Bob was or how far ahead of me Luke was at this point.  I just knew I had to push onward and find my teammates.  As I came around the end of the island, I saw Luke sitting in the Trail Boat with his feet up on the side just chilling out in the water, as if he was working on his tan.  What a jerk.

I said goodbye to my new friends and made my way into the still water where he was waiting.  Luke asked where Bob was.  I didn’t know; there was just no way to stick together out in that current.  I hadn’t seen him since we were trying to get past the first bottleneck of the river.  This was taking us much longer than we anticipated; we had to wonder if skipping the rafting leg may have been the better decision.

Then in the distance we saw a tall, hairless Sasquatch like creature walking upriver humped over his raft.  He was shirtless and had his shorts hiked up to his ribcage (a great look for Bob).  We waited until he was in shouting distance and then we showered him with encouraging words.  Once again, Team Virtus was all together.

Dong Daly's new screensaver

We proceeded upriver as a single unit, Bob and I pushing our fancy rafts and Luke paddling his Trail Boat.  Finally, we reached the beach and gladly climbed out of the water.  What was the reward for all of this effort?  A short walk around a bluff and then up over 100 steps to a scenic overlook.

Oh, only 100 steps? COOL!!

As I climbed the first few stairs my quads began to cramp a bit.  I ignored the cramping and pushed up the stairs eager to see the view from the top.  I was sure this lookout was the same one I had seen online.  This photo is taken looking downstream. See that bend in the water towards the right of the photo? That’s the island we were talking about earlier. Take a moment to look at the current and feel sorry for the poor bastartds in that tiny fleck of a yellow raft on the right.

Worth the climb. Maybe not worth the paddle 🙂

Finally, we were at the top and took a few minutes to enjoy the vistas.  We snapped a few pictures and then headed back down the stairs and to our rafts.

We were looking forward to a leisurely float down river to the takeout.  As we pushed off, Luke and I looked back and saw Bob actively engaged in enjoying this experience.  All that was missing was a couple of beers in his boat.  He had his shoes off and his feet propped up on the edges of his boat.  He was fully reclined and relaxing.

Enjoying our boats for the first time all day

We took our time and really enjoyed the beauty of the river for the first time.  We knew the race was almost over  so we wanted to savor this experience together.

Almost done!!

We quickly reached the takeout and climbed to the shore.  Why did it take us 90 minutes to go upriver and only 5 minutes to come down?  I wished it could have somehow been the other way around.  We deflated our boats and headed back to the TA.  Once we checked back in and got our final orienteering map we realized that we only had about 25-30 minutes before the end of the race.  Luke voted to call it a day but Bob and I wanted to try for one more CP.

Betty… I mean Luke was too exhausted to lead, and felt there was no way we could get to the nearest CP and return to the finish line in the remaining time. I wasn’t really “feeling” the map, but wanted to try for one more CP and new Luke was our best chance of making it happen.  He had been point on all day with the navigation.

Luke: Actually, I was pretty crushed at this point.  I had dreamed about a good performance at this race for so long that realizing we weren’t going to come close to clearing the course took the wind right out of my sails.  I guess that’s why Betty White was back. Well that, and the fact that I was almost positive we couldn’t get another CP in time.

Bob is the least experienced navigator on the team (he says he can’t navigate for s**t – his words not mine), but he gamely decided to jump in with both feet and lead for once.  He took charge and said “F’ it,   I’ll lead.”  He looked at the map, took a quick bearing and we were off.  Bob was using dead reckoning , putting us on a course straight from point A to point B. (a direct route as the crow flies).

We were in a dead run in a race against the clock, and running  isn’t exactly our specialty (yet). As we started into the woods,  Betty… er, Luke mentioned we could take the trail around a ravine and get there quicker and easier.

Bob responded with, “Who’s leading!?!”

Bob: I regretted saying that even as it was coming out of my mouth. It was a very tense  moment and I felt like someone needed to take charge. There wasn’t time for deliberation, only enough time to  make a quick decision and commit to it. I think we all had some out-of-character moments that day.

Luke: Agreed.  I shouldn’t have even second-guessed you.  You manned-up.  We didn’t.  ‘Nuf said.

Casey: Yeah, nice job Bob.  Way to take charge we really needed somebody to.  I should have done it and dropped the ball forcing it onto you.  I owe you one.  In hind sight, we probably didn’t have enough time to get another point but I felt like we needed to end on a positive note.

So we went his way, up and down a ravine covered with thorns and poison ivy.  Then we came out on a trail, so I guess Betty was right but Bob was in charge.  We plunged down into another steep ravine lined with even more thorns and poison ivy.  As we came out of that mess, we hit another trail and stopped for a clock and map check.

Chances were pretty good that we’d miss the cutoff if we pushed on to get this last CP.  Should we chance it?  It would definitely be close.  Could we push the pace and make it?

I wanted that last CP so badly.   It would somehow put a positive finish on a very difficult and challenging race.  We could finish strong and on our own terms, but our fear of missing the cutoff was stronger than our desire to get the last CP.  As a team, we decided to head back to the finish line and call it a day.

And so we finished on a bit of a low note.  We felt dejected and disappointed with our performance.  We had trained hard for this race, and we had overcome several injuries just to be here.  Our goal was to clear the course and finish as quickly as we could.  Well, we finished as quickly as we could, but we didn’t clear the course.

We never made it to the 300 foot zip-line/ascension CP.  I wish we could have but I wouldn’t have traded it for the pack raft experience.  We finished as a team, learned a lot from this race, and grew closer despite the temper flare-ups.  We overcame adversity and a sick teammate’s near-meltdown.  After all of this we were still teammates, friends, and brothers.

Luke: And that’s what a true TEAM does. Big thanks to both of you guys for putting up with and carrying me in my darkest moments.

Casey:  I am just paying it forward for when you’ll have to do the same for me.

Luke: Wait… Wouldn’t that be paying it in advance?

Team Virtus at the Finish Line of the Thunder Rolls

Luke faking a smile to cover up the disappointment, Casey as happy as a 13 year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert, and Bob... Well, that's just Bob being Bob. (Photo by: John Morris)

We looked forward to a nice evening together.  After a quick shower and a snack (fresh hot pizza, nuts, and Gatorade provided by the race) we headed to a local watering hole where we met up with ”Peace By inches”, another team we had become friends with during the race.

We were in for a real treat, not only was the food good and the beer cold… they had live entertainment.  We got rocked out by the hard core heavy metal band, Rat Baxter.  They sang plenty of covers and a couple of originals.  They continually rocked too hard and blew the power in the whole bar at least 4 or 5 times.  Bob was really into the band and got our whole group into it.  We had a blast.  At one point the local ladies were out on the dance floor cutting a rug.  Our table began chanting Bob…Bob…Bob.

Rat Baxter.....holy shit.

Bob did not let us down, he answered the call.  He hopped up and owned the dance floor, shaking his ass like he was gettin’ paid.  The ladies were all over him and he can really dance.

Bob gets mobbed by horny locals while looking for the nearest exit

He was, however, being closely watched by one of the ladies’ companions.  Some crazy ass biker wearing just a black leather vest (if you looked closely you could catch a glimpse of an occasional nipple) had a 10 inch bone handle hunting knife strapped to his side.  It looked like Mic Dundee’s knife from the classic movie Crocodile Dundee.

Luke: This sounds completely fabricated, but it’s all true.  I was there, and I can confirm all of this.

Bob: The one that sticks out in my memory most is the short one in front of me who’s looking down. I think she had ideas..I’m glad we got out of there when we did.

Luckily, the dance ended uneventfully and we finished our meal and drinks as the band rocked on.

Since our ears were bleeding a bit and our throats were getting sore from trying to talk over the “music”, we decided to relocate to different bar.  Here we hung out, relaxed, and exchanged war stories from the day’s race and races gone by.  Time flew by, but we wanted to get back to see the last teams from the 24-hour race cross the finish line.  We said goodbye to our new friends and headed back to the camp.

We arrived with plenty of race time left to “clap in” the last three 24 hour team across the finish line.  While it’s impressive to see the first teams cross the finish line, there’s something to be said for those teams that get by on guts and grit, and persevere just for the experience.  You should have seen their faces as they crossed the finish line.  They were totally spent physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but there was certainly an aura of pride and accomplishment surrounding them.

There are always plenty of people around to clap in the winners and top teams.  However, there are often only race organizers and a few volunteers there to see the last few teams in.  We’ve been there.    Whenever possible (if we are not the last team) we like to see the last handful of teams cross the finish line.  They’re kindred spirits and are just as important to the sport as the top teams are.

Great job by all teams that raced.  Thank you to all of the volunteers for making the race a success.  Thank you to Team High Profile for putting on such a “REAL” race that challenged us physically as well as mentally.  Also, a big thanks to all the sponsors who made it all possible.

Two things I learned from this race that you’ll want to know for future Lightening Strikes Adventure Races and Thunder Rolls Adventure Races are as follows:

1) If Gerry recommends that you wear pants for any reason, at any time, at any place…DO IT!  Don’t doubt him, don’t question him, don’t argue, just do it!!!

Casey's scratched legs

Listen to Gerry for the love of God!

2) Gerry Vollinger is one sadistic SOB (we love him and could definitely feel his love for us during the upriver pack raft paddle).

Bob: Yeah, Screw you you’re the man, Gerry:)

Casey: Thanks for putting on such a “REAL” race Gerry.  It took me a while to really appreciate the experience.  We had a great time and a real memorable experience.  We are looking forward to the LSAR and the Thunder Rolls next year (or this year – 2011).

Luke: Yup, a big thanks to Gerry and all of the unbelievable volunteers.  You guys put on one helluva race!  And Gerry, you are a piece of work… in a good way.

I guess no race report is complete without the results, right?  Well, as disappointed and demoralized as we were, and with as much BS that we went through together as a team, we actually did much better than we had anticipated.  We ended up in 4th place out of 8 teams in the 3-person open division (finishing only 12 minutes behind the 3rd place team), and we finished in 8th place out of 40 teams overall.  Apparently, the pack-rafting took its toll on other teams as well.  Four teams DNFed, and only two teams cleared the course.

Now that time has passed, I look back at the experience fondly and know that we’ll be back next year for both races.  Don’t be discouraged by this report, see it as a challenge and rise up to it.  You’ll grow from the experience and after it’s all over and time passes….. you too will look back fondly at the experience and smile.  We’ll see you there next year (I guess it’s later this year now, isn’t it?).

(Note: If you wanna see all of our photos from this race go here for Casey’s Photos and also go here for Luke’s Photos.)

Shawnee Extreme Rogaine 2010 Race Report (Picture heavy)

Shortly after Drew and Luke had such a great finish at the Berryman 36, everyone on the team got the same email from Zack. It read:


Luke and Drew’s impressive finish at the Berryman has rekindled some of my old  desires for AR and Orienteering.  We did the 12 hour version last year,  so this year let’s do the 24 hour!  Last year, it was a good time and kind of an ass kicker. Who’s In??????????????????????????????

And so began the banter on our account, with pretty much everyone wanting to do the race. I’ve put on about 30 pounds since my trip to Leadville, so I was reluctant . Climbing steep grades for 24 hours sounded horrific, as did the prospect of putting a damper on the team’s performance. Lucky for me, this team cares a lot more about having a good time than winning anything. It was the perfect way to get everyone together for some team building/orienteering practice.

Wives and girlfriends were bribed and the trip to the Shawnee Extreme was planned. It was a long drive to Ohio from Missouri, so Luke and I met EARLY for the drive, picking Drew up along the way. I think we were somewhere in Illinois when Drew announced he’d brought some of my favorite, (and now illegal), adult beverages….

Drew's first Loko....he looks so happy

It was love at first swig. I could tell Drew loved Loko by the way he said, “Oh my God this shit is disgusting!!” After a bit of peer pressure he managed to drink the whole can, but he definitely had to work for it. Before long, “The quiet man” was talking all kinds of smack and treating Luke and I to an amazing musical compilation of mid-to-late 90’s hip hop music (Vanilla Ice, Boyz II Men, Tone Loc, and more). Drew’s music collection is unparalleled. I heard some jams in the truck that day that I havent heard since high school.

I’m a pretty big fan of the”Loko juice,” but it really is an acquired taste. The effects can really sneak up on you too, which was evident from the silence in the back of the truck.

Energy drink, my ass. And apparently it makes your knees HUGE.

We finally hooked up with Casey, who made the trip from NY, and we all made it to the campground. Casey had brought some “real” bagels from New York, and they were phenomenal. He even brought strawberry cream cheese…I love this team.

The hammocks were hung and gear was made ready, leaving us with plenty of time sitting around an imaginary campfire swapping stories. Beers were consumed and much wind was broken. There was even some discussion concerning the race report for “The Thunder Rolls”, and hopefully we can all come to an agreement on the final draft. More on that later:)

Hey dude, take a picture of me taking a picture of you!

Here’s a shot of yours truly, (Bob), and “The Pace Center”. Note the shocked look on my face as Casey tells me about his swing. There’s no way I’m telling that story on this blog..

Yes, those are my pajama pants

I think we all slept pretty good that night. In fact, the only time I woke up was when Drew barfed up his Four Loko right next to my hammock. I guess Hennessy Hammocks are hard to see in the dark. He was kind enough to cover the evidence with leaves, but still no word on whether or not he intends to drink another Loko. Ah, the memories.

Race day greeted us with a beautiful, chilly morning. We made our way over to race HQ and started route planning.

As he’d promised, Casey was in excellent shape. The only time I’ve ever seen him in better shape was from one of his pro MMA fights:

Clearly the most ambitious of the group, “PC” wanted to get ALL of the CP’s. After looking at the map, the rest of us had other ideas. A few of them involved a bit more climbing than we wanted, and we didn’t see a clear way to create a decent loop to maximize our point gathering. PC wasn’t having any of that sissy talk, so there was a spirited debate. I’ve captioned the photos below to recount their conversation:

Drew: You wanna do what??? BWHAHAHA!!!!

MF'er, I know 487 ways to kill you with my bare hands...and I've got a world-class smile.

The race had a pretty solid turnout; Men & women, kids and even some older-looking folk toed the line that day, there were even some high school kids from a JROTC detachment. Seeing those ROTC kids was very cool, it reminded me of a simpler time when I had fatter cheeks, no facial hair and was completely terrified of women.


For a moment we thought we’d been graced with the presence of Sir Mason Storm of the STL, but it was only an imposter with a very strong beard.

Beard POWER!!

How disappointing.

After a quick pre-race team photo the race was on! First order of business: walk up a gradual hill to a slightly larger hill, to a gynormously long and steep hill until your lungs, legs and ass are ready to explode.  OooooRah!!

At this point it still seemed like a good idea

Midway up the initial climb Luke spotted a buck rub. Buck-rubs have been an ongoing joke between the two of us; I used to hunt white-tail deer quite a bit and have a knack for spotting rubs. Luke has only ever hunted “human-whitetails”, (that means girls with tan lines), so he often pretends to have seen or spotted a rub. We’ve been hiking together for 2 years now and he’s never spotted one before, so it was kind of a big deal.

Gratuitous Beaver-Stik shot

If the first 20 minutes was any indication of how things were going to be for 24 hours, we were gonna be in some pretty deep shit.  The way down wasn’t so bad, and since horrific knee pain hadn’t kicked in yet, Luke managed to get a quick glamour shot:

After that, we were on flat ground for quite a while and there was plenty to look at. The teams were all very much fanned out by now, so it felt like the 4 of us had the woods to ourselves.  Stories of past and present sexual conquests ensued, and much wind was broken.

The terrain was certainly not accommodating to the foot-mobile traveler, as we soon found out in a slippery, yet beautiful creek. I believe it was Casey who slipped and fell, nearly taking out Drew in the process. Close call.. after that we made sure to spread out a bit.

Here we see Casey and some huge wood he found.

One more reason we (almost) never win…ya gotta stop and take pictures. Here, I do my best impression of Frodo hiding from the Nanzguul in the movie Lord of the Rings.

aw shit.. ring wraiths!!

See the resemblance??

I guess I look more like Sam. Frodo is a pansy anyway, everybody knows that

We had agreed from the beginning that today would be used as a means for everyone to do some nav, instead of crutching on Luke all day. Casey went first, and we had very few problems.

All in all, things were going very well. Everybody was staying hydrated, fed, and we were all in good spirits. During the daylight, time seemed to fly by. It wasn’t until later in the afternoon that I felt my feet blistering like a mofo. I think Luke was having some knee pain, and I started getting a hip flare-up from my wreck in Springfield this year. Good thing we had ibuprofen, or we would’ve been screwed.

Some of these CP’s had us walking thru some seriously rough/thorn infested terrain. The following pics should give you an idea:

Dude, you comin?

Flippin ridiculous, right?

Oh yeah, that one was easy to find...

I remember watching the rest of the guys walk down into this hell hole and wishing I was somewhere else. It wasn’t even dark yet.


Before long we came to a manned CP and were given additional UTM’s, along with some free ZANFEL and some kind of fancy detergent for your outdoor clothes. Very cool.

It was also a nice place to stop and eat some Rockit Fuel. If you’re not using Rockit Fuel yet, you need to get on board. I got a coupon for some free product from them about 6 months ago and was an instant fan. I also met the company’s owner while I was in Leadville and he was a very classy guy. I like to fill a water bottle with some of their Holy Pinole and just eat a pinch of it now and then. One water bottle-full will last a looong time, and it’s very light. I don’t like gels, so Rockit Fuel is perfect for me. Plus, I don’t get all sticky trying to keep track of empty wrappers.

Anyway, we plotted some points and got back in the game.

There seemed to be a great deal of long-distance navigation, which meant we did a lot of walking in between CP’s. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not, but we had ample opportunity to get lots of photos.

Here at Team Virtus, image is everything. Go pro or go home.

Eventually it got dark and the nav became a bit more difficult. When it was my turn to lead, I thought I’d be the big hero and follow a contour line  instead of taking the obvious route along a trail. I felt right, and it was one of those situations when I “just knew” I was going to pull it off. Alas,  my ego was bigger than my brain and I led us pretty far off course. It was disappointing because I REALLY wanted to hit that CP, but I’m glad we made the attempt.  We talked about where I went wrong and I learned from it. You never know until you try, and there’s always next time. Trust me, when I get it right… you’ll know:)

As we soldiered into the night,  it became apparent that Drew and Casey were in much better shape than Luke and I. The pictures below are testament to that fact. Here, we see Drew and PC lounging at the top of a large hill:

"...Totally beautiful night, huh?--Oh yeah, perfect weather.."

Luke and I at the top of the same hill:

"FML, are we there yet?" "They better not be out of food at HQ"

At some point, I had been awake long enough that my mind simply wouldn’t function correctly. As far as helping the team with navigation, I was completely worthless. I went into zombie mode, just following along blindly trying to put my mind somewhere else. 

Most unflattering photo ever

It wasn’t long before I got my first taste of “sleep monsters”. I was walking along and all at once I saw Cheshire from Alice in Wonderland in a tree right in front of me. It was only for a moment, but it absolutely scared the shit out of me. It turned out to only be a large U-shaped leaf hanging from a tree, but I was still a bit freaked out. If I’d have been out there  alone and saw that, they would’ve found me the next day laying in a pool of piss sucking my thumb.

Hey Bob! How bout I eat your face?

I saw a few other things I’d rather not mention, but the point I’m trying to make here is that sleep deprivation will indeed make you see some really bizarre things.

Ever since Zack went vegan we’ve all been trying to think of ways to make ourselves a little more eco-friendly. Casey recycles all of Luke’s jokes, I started drinking Loko so there’d be fewer empty beer cans at my house, and Luke has almost perfected a new technique for bottling farts as an alternative fuel source.  Drew, however, decided to take “going green”  to a whole new level….

3 Words: Giant. Tree. Vagina.

Finally, (and I do mean finally), we made it back to HQ for some serious crushing of chili, baby red potatoes and biscuits ‘n’ gravy. This race is worth the price of admission just for the food and the cool shirt.

Usually he's quiet when we're eating...

We may have eaten a little too much, but the indigestion was worth it.

Serious business...little guys like to eat too.

Midway thru “happy-time”, Casey told a swing-story that nearly caused the rest of us to vomit…look how happy he was:

Casey calls for a toast to our gag reflexes.

Hanging out at HQ for a while gave us an opportunity to figure out why the hell my feet hurt so bad:

Hmm. I kinda wish I hadn't looked

I know, I’s disgusting. Just do yourself a favor and learn from my mistakes. Prep your feet or you’ll be walking on fire for a while.

I don’t remember a lot of detail after that, but what I do remember is that it started to rain. The rain gained intensity until  we were mostly soaked and ready to get back to camp for a few hours sleep before the long drive home.

We, (meaning Luke), developed a route home and trudged back toward the finish line. Between Luke’s knees and my hip, we went thru a disturbing amount of ibuprofen. There was a short period of time when we may or may not have been lost, but I would have never known the difference. We wound up slashing our way through some super-nasty thorns until we found the trail and made our way back to camp.

TV....Checkin' out!

There was a mile or two of paved road before we officially made it back, and we passed the time the same way we always do: Laughing our asses off  recounting the day’s events and those of days gone by. Just like any other race report, this one has left out a multitude of details and I must ALWAYS point out that photos will never do justice to actually being there (For all of our photos, check out the slideshow at the bottom of this post).

The food station doesn't stand a chance

A huge thanks to all of the fantastic volunteers and especially to the great people at NSF Adventures for putting on an amazing event.  We did this race as a means of improving our nav skills and strengthening the bonds that hold Team Virtus together. Mission accomplished.

The only thing missing was you. You know you want to go, so leave a comment or click the contact link on our home page and we’ll see you on the trail. I’m talking to you, Travis Simmons, Robby Brown, Brandon Lepage, Sonya Tomes, and especially you…..Lurker.

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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


Otis almost asleep in the backpack


Otis asleep in the back pack


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.

High Profile Adventure Camp – Orienteering and “Paddling” Practice

**NOTE** This write-up is presented to you as a collaborative effort; I (Luke) wrote this report, and Casey and Bob added their comments. The original write-up is given in black text, Bob’s comments are presented to you in green, and Casey’s commentary is given in red.  I added a response or two in yellow.

Be sure to check out the Lighting Strikes Adventure Race Report and the Fixed Ropes Report from camp as well.


I nearly peed my pants in anticipation of the weekend to come. We were going to meet my brother, Casey, in Mount Carroll, IL for the High Profile Adventure Camp and Lightning Strikes Adventure Race. Bob and I made the 6 to 7 hour drive with only a few small problems.

My printer ran out of toner halfway through printing the directions. I didn’t realize it, however, until we were an hour or two into the drive, so our only directions were blank pages from that point on. So, I signed up for a trial GPS service on my phone (which I still need to cancel… Damn it!). Unfortunately, I forgot my phone charger, and the GPS completely drained the battery. So we sort of had directions, and we eventually made it there after “taking the scenic route” a couple of times. Was getting lost on the way to camp a sign of things to come? Man, I hoped not.

Bob and I got there with Casey arriving shortly thereafter, and we were the first team to check in. Was this a sign of things to come? Man, I hoped so. (Spoiler Alert: This was the only time Team Virtus would be first this weekend.) We had enough time to drive to a nearby town for some dinner. The Kountry Kettle couldn’t have possibly known that we were about to walk through their doors.

All you can eat steak

Kountry Kettle is to Team Virtus as a Brothel is to Tiger Woods.

Casey: Eating steak is one area that Team Virtus excels at.  If it’s ever a mystery event, we are golden.  (A great idea for next years race.)

Bob: If only we would’ve had more time…

After nearly putting the Kountry Kettle out of business, we headed back to camp.  We had an evening full of great instruction on navigation and paddling.

The next morning, the campers were split into two groups.  Half of us headed out for some navigation practice, while the other half hit the Mighty Mississippi for some paddling practice.  Fortunately, we were in the navigation group, so the paddling practice would wait until later in the day when it was warmer (albeit only a little bit warmer).  As we headed out, we realized that this park was not really tailor-made for Team Virtus.  We just never seemed to fit in here.  It was as if the Adventure Racing Gods were saying, “Stay away!  Today is not your day!”

Mississippi Palisades State Park, IL

What the...???? Seriously????

We should have read the signs… We should have gone back to bed… It just didn’t feel right.  On the other hand, Team Virtus has never backed down from anything!  Ever!  So, we grabbed our maps and compasses and ventured into the thick, harsh, unforgiving forest.

Thick forest at Mississippi Palisades State Park, IL

We took turns navigating, but I can’t remember who went first.  All I know is that we struggled from the start, and we all had some issues.  We just couldn’t get a feel for this map.

Casey: I cannot tell a lie…I went first.  Somehow we went up the wrong reentrant right from the start.  We decided to take off by ourselves and lose the crowd.  I consulted with our team navigator and we all agreed we were where we thought we were.  It turned out we were wrong.  We got so turned around, (this never happens, we are usually point-on with our navigation) we only found where we were once we hit a powerline and followed it to a CP that was not the one we thought we were at.  From there on, we were right on…I’m still not sure what exactly happened.

Luke: This is true.  I remember completely agreeing with Casey on which reentrant to go up.  If I remember correctly, Bob, who is the least experienced navigator of us, did the best job navigating that day.

Bob: Yeah, well..on some days the sun will shine on a dog’s ass.

After finally getting two or three checkpoints, we started to get in a groove, and things started to go more smoothly.  At one point I thought I saw Big Foot, but it was only Bob.

Bob Jenkins as Big Foot

Big Foot Bob

Time seemed to fly by, and soon it was time to head back to the parking lot for some paddling practice.  We don’t really have too many photos of the paddling practice for two reasons.  For one, I didn’t want to ruin my camera in the off-chance that we actually tipped our canoe.  And secondly, our paddling only lasted about 30 seconds.

Casey: An ironic forshadowing event occured as we headed back to the parking lot.  We ran into another team that informed us that 2 canoes had already tipped and one right near shore.  They had decided to continue on with the navigation for the second half of the session and skip the paddle all togehter.  We figured they were avoiding the possibility of a tip, and we were overly confident that we would not.  The paddle leg is where Team Virtus usually makes up some ground in races….

I’m still not sure what happened.  First of all, we had a lot of beef in one canoe. Secondly, none of us had ever used Kayak paddles in a canoe before.  From the beginning, the canoe felt ridiculously tippy.  I had a bad feeling as soon as we pushed off.  I was in the stern of the boat, Casey was in the Bow, and Bob was in the middle.

Immediately after pushing off from the shore, I looked up only to find that Casey seemed to be in the race of his life.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone take so many paddle strokes in such a short time before.  I called out to him, “Dude, take it easy!  Calm down a little until we get a feel for things.”  He slowed down for roughly 1.5 seconds and immediately continued paddling feverishly fast like a Tasmanian Devil on Meth.  He was like Jo-Jo the Idiot Circus Boy.

Casey: I am sure that I wasn’t the only idiot that day.  We all were paddling with the new technique we learned from Jeremy.  Guess we need a little more work.

Luke: Sure, sure… Everybody was paddling  just like you… Uhhuh…

Then we ended up completely sideways to the wake of a passing motorboat.  The next moment we were completely wet.  It happened really freakin’ fast, and the water was really freakin’ cold!  The next thing I saw will be imprinted in my mind until the day I die.  It makes me laugh whenever I think of it.  As I held onto the canoe trying (unsuccessfully) to fill my lungs with air, both Bob and Casey come up out of the water completely synchronized with the exact same look of horrifying shock on their faces.  It was absolutely priceless! However, I’m sure the look on my face was identical to theirs.  I wish someone would have gotten a picture of both of them, but I could only find this photo of Casey:
Casey after swamping in the Mississippi

Seriously… The water was cold, and the air temperature wasn’t exactly warm (~45 degrees).  I heard someone yell, “Stay with the boat, and we’ll come tow you in!”  The next thing I knew, Casey was trying to climb ONTO the swamped canoe.  I’m no expert or anything, but I’m pretty sure a swamped canoe isn’t going to stay afloat when 250 pounds of Casey climbs on top of it.  And I was right.  As Casey clambered around on top of the canoe, it became completely submerged. Fortunately, we were literally only 30 or 40 yards from shore so even if the canoe had sunk, I think it could have been saved.

Casey submerging a canoe

Casey seems so proud that he sunk the canoe.

Very specific instructions were called out to us.  One of us was supposed to grab onto a volunteer’s canoe while the other two waited for more help to arrive. As I turned around, Casey was almost to the shore already.  Apparently, Casey wanted to go in first, so Bob and I stayed with the canoe.  Shortly after that, two volunteers towed me in.  Then Bob, holding onto our (now submerged) canoe, was towed in by Professional paddler Jeremy Rodgers (who gave us a shout out right here).

Casey: The water was cold, really freakin’ cold.  First off I did not try to climb into the canoe.  I was hanging onto it as we waited to be rescued.  Secondly, the reason I headed in first was another safety boat instructed me to “walk into shore.”  I tried to do so but could not reach the river bottom.  I then swam towards shore and hung onto the front of a kayak as I was towed into shore until I found purchase and stood up and walked out of the water.

Jeremy Rodgers Hauling Bob and swamped canoe in

As soon as Bob and I made it to shore where Casey was waiting for us, the first words out of his mouth were, “Who went in first?” Um… Wait… What???? How could anyone possibly tell who hit the water first when a canoe full of 700 pounds of Team Virtus completely capsizes?  And even if someone had the super-human ability to tell us who “went in first”, does it really matter?

Casey: The first thing I really asked was if everyone was ok.  Then I asked what the hell happened, and then I really did ask who went in first.  I think I was trying to ask who caused us to tip, but through a foggy, frozen mind all I could get out was who went in first.  For the record: Bob and I went completely under water, totally submerged and had to swim towards the surface before taking a breath.  As we came up and took stock to be sure everybody was alright we saw Luke with a goofy grin on his face and immediately noticed his hat and head were completely dry.  I think he was last in, he must have clung to the boat, in an attempt to keep out of the water.  I am not sure how it happened but somehow I was shot out of the canoe like a clown out of a cannon.

Luke: Yeah, well… Maybe you said that other stuff and maybe you didn’t.  All I heard (and that’s all that really matters) was “Who went in first?” And I didn’t “cling to the boat.”  I just have cat-like speed and reflexes, so I didn’t go completely underwater.

Bob: I think we all knew what was going to happen when that boat crossed us, but there was no way to save it. When he cruised past us we did everything wrong. Somehow, we managed to turn sideways to the wave, and it was all downhill from there.

I’ve heard stories before about how the cold water “takes your breath away,” but I always thought it was a metaphor.  There was a good 5 seconds where I literally couldn’t make myself breathe, it was kuh-razy.

Anyway… It was very cold.  We crossed the parking lot to get to our packs.  We simply stripped down right there to get out of our freezing, wet clothes and into something warm and dry.  Apparently, it was quite a show for all of the volunteers and others that happened to be in the vicinity.  I don’t think any of us cared.

Casey: WARNING–> Naked man buttocks ahead.  Another thing you should notice…Look right below my waist kind of under my belly…that’s right, you know what you’re looking at right through my shorts and remember the water was extremely cold.  Damn, my wife is a lucky woman.

Luke: That little “bulge” of which Casey speaks is actually his extra stash of Cliff Bars.  He keeps them there so they’ll be warm.  He refuses to eat anything that is lower than his body temperature since he has sensitive teeth.  Yeah, he’s a diva like that.  And anyone that knows Casey knows that his wife, Lauren, is anything but lucky.

Bob: I thought Casey  kept  the Clif bars up his ass?

I didn’t actually swim back to shore. I was told to grab the boat with one hand and grab Jeremy Rodgers’ kayak with the other. That guy is an animal, how is it even possible to tow a grown man and a submerged canoe with a kayak?!?

Team Virtus Changing Clothes

Yes. That is my bare ass. I'm sorry you had to see it.

Casey managed to get a shot of Bob doing his best Ace Ventura impression while he was changing clothes…

Bob changing clothes

"Do you have a mint? Perhaps some Binaca?"

Casey: I am not sure exactly what Bob is doing here, but it really does look like he is “Assing me a question”.

Bob: Contrary to the appearance of this photo, I was  trying desperately to get my pants back on before the papparazzi got a shot of my bright red ass.

Luke: Yeah, Bob was in a race with Casey.  Casey got to his camera before Bob got his pants up, but it was close.

Once we finished exposing ourselves to everyone, we decided to head back out to do some more orienteering.  We fared better this time around.  Bob insisted that he could beat us to the first CP by climbing up and over a steep cliff instead of going around it.  We beat him there, but he managed to find this nice lookout point:

Lookout at Mississippi Palisades State Park

It was about time to head back to Camp Benson for some fixed ropes (read our report on that right here), but we were simply starving to death.  Bob and I decided we could wait until we got back to camp, but Casey was simply too hungry.  I tried to stop him. I really did, but Casey just couldn’t help himself. It was like he turned into Jacob, the Alpha Wolf from the fantastic Twilight Series (who, by the way, I thought was much better for Bella than Edward was since he… Uh… I mean… I never actually read those girly books…).  Anyway, the poor little creature never saw Casey coming…

Casey eating a deer

"Get back! This is my kill!"

So, we headed back to the buses and then back to camp.  We managed to get some decent orienteering practice under our belts, and we made complete fools of ourselves in the canoe.  We later learned that we were not the only ones to tip our canoes that day.  We were, however, the only ones that got completely naked out in the open.  The other teams seemed to be a little more modest by changing clothes on the bus.  I’m not sure if we were too cold to think about doing that or just too stupid.  Oh well… It’s not the first time I’ve exposed my bare ass to the general public, and it sure won’t be the last.

Casey: Lets hope it is the last time, it would be a public service.  A note to end on…Half of our cabin took a swim in the Mississippi that day.  5 out of the 10 of us, 50% joined the polar bear club that afternoon.  I am beginning to believe there must be some sort of jinx on the cabin.  That was the real reason we tipped.

Luke: Good point.  We may have been in a cursed cabin.  Hmm… Let’s make sure we get in one of the new cabins next year.

Bob: Yeah… it was either the cabin OR the crazed lunatic break-dancing in the front of the boat. I’m still having nightmares about that shit.

So, all in all we had a great time, and we learned a lot.  And that, mi amigos, is what it’s all about.

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