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Where the Hell am I?

I’ll agree w/ Luke about getting up at 5am; I’m not a morning person and I can usually think of at least 12 reasons to stay in bed on my day off. But.. knowing that I’d be hanging out with The Dragon and running through the woods was all the motivation I needed to get out of bed with a smile on my face.

Add to that, I knew today would be the first time I got to try some solo orienteering. Luke and I have been talking about this for a long time, and we decided  it was time to take the training wheels off if I wanted to get any better at orienteering.

I don’t think either of us was truly ready for how beautiful Hawn State Park was going to be. I mean seriously, I didn’t know we had these kinds of places in Missouri. The rock formations, creeks and pine trees were awesome. The first 10 minutes of being in the park was worth the drive. I’m already planning a trip there w/ my ladyfriend.

When it was time for the race to start, Luke and I made a point of  letting the other racers go ahead so we wouldn’t be tempted to follow them. We got to the 1st checkpoint about 5 seconds apart from one another and then it was off to #2.

By my figuring, if I headed North for a short bit I would cross 2 creeks before coming very close to the next CP. I didn’t want to  ride Luke’s coat-tails, so I got a quick bearing and took off running. I needed to space myself out so there would be no temptation to follow.

5 minutes later I was laughing out loud knowing full well I would not be influenced by anyone for the rest of the day.

I was already lost.

Somehow I had gotten all the way to the Northern border of the park. Not sure how that happened,  but hey, this is what I wanted. I found a landmark on the map, shot a bearing and found CP 2.

The trip to CP 3 was going to be a lengthy one, so I decided to take it a piece at a time. About 1/4 of the way there I got to descend a massive rocky hill making my way down to a creek. I’ve used creeks in the past to find CP’s and I figured today would be no different.

Pictures never do justice, but this is a look at the hill I came down.

I’m so glad I decided to follow that creek, because it was one of  the prettiest sections of running water I’ve ever seen. I was really angry at myself for not having a camera, and made a mental note to never do an O-race without one again.

This race was a heaping dose of reality for me. I had a lot of trouble finding CP 3, and from looking at the map it seemed  like I should have been standing on top of it.

At one point I was convinced that my compass was wrong, so I put it in my pocket and went where I thought I needed to be going. Not smart.

I eventually found it while I was trying to find a landmark reference. Talk about a relief. CP 4 was almost a straight shot through the open pines and I found it with no problems.

So, I’m sitting there in the woods looking at my map and deciding what to do next. CP 7 had water, and I knew there was no way in hell I was going to find all the controls before the time cutoff.  I decided to skip 5 & 6 and develop a route to CP 7. It looked good on paper, run next to the road a few miles, cut in next to an old barb-wire fence until I hit the trail, and then start looking for boulders.

The route worked beautifully until I ran out of trail and there were no boulders to be seen. When I actually did find boulders they were on the wrong side of the trail and I knew I was lost again.

Where the hell am I?  That was certainly my theme for the day. I never got too worried about it though, cuz I knew if worse came to worse I could just hike North until I hit the highway.

Every now and then I could feel a bit of negativity creeping up my spine…just itching to get in my head. When that happened I’d  think about what I’d be doing if I were at work, and suddenly things were great again.

After a few hours of wandering aimlessly I decided my race was over. I still didn’t have a clue where the hell I was, but it was a beautiful day and there were still plenty of hours left in the day. All trails lead somewhere, so I found one and started hiking. I hiked and hiked and hiked, enjoying the day and taking it all in. Eventually I found my way back to the trailhead, got an idea on where the hell I was, and started the trek back towards the start/finish line.

When I got back, quite a few people had already finished and were lounging around waiting for the award ceremony. I  grabbed my Beaver Stik and Luke’s camera and set back out to take some pictures.  Along the way I met a lot of cool people who were out enjoying the day, and even made friends with some drunk guy who had a mohawk.

Hey, I may be a shitty orienteer but I know how to take pictures and have a good time.

Who knows, maybe next time I’ll find 5 out of 26 CP’s…..

A few pics:


Goin’ Camping – To Adventure Race Camp That Is

High Profile Adventure Camp - For Adventure Racing

If you haven’t heard about this adventure racing camp, then you need to go check it out right now.  The 3-day camp will cover topics such as orienteering, canoe and kayak paddling, and fixed ropes (rappelling, zip lines, ascending, traversing). There will also be the longest and highest tyrolean traverse in the Midwest at this camp – over 500 feet long – holy donkey turds!

Tyrolean Traverse during an Adventure Race

Tyrolean Traverse

The paddling portion is taught by Jeremy Rodgers, an elite adventure racer, professional paddler, and a member of the US Canoe and Kayak Team.  So I guess he has enough credentials to possibly show me a thing or two.  On the other hand, maybe I’ll be able to give him some advice – “Don’t push the water, pull the canoe.” Well, maybe not.

I’m a little nervous about the ropes stuff since I’m not a huge fan of heights. However, if I ever want to do longer races, I’m going to have to learn this stuff sooner or later.  It also looks so flippin’ fun… I can’t wait.  Check out a couple of pics from last year’s camp:

High Profile Adventure Racing Camp Zip Line

What did we get ourselves into?

High Profile Adventure Racing Camp Zip Line

Uh... That looks really damn high.

To see all of the photos from last year’s camp go here and also go here.

The camp concludes with a 6 hour adventure race including orienteering, mt. biking, paddling, fixed ropes, and caving. The race, called Lightning Strikes, also happens to be a qualifying race for Nationals.  You have to place in the top 3 or 4 as a 3-person coed team, though, which means we won’t be qualifying for Nationals.  The Lightning Strikes race is also part of the Checkpoint Tracker Series, which is pretty cool.

All instruction, the 6 hour race, lodging, and some of the meals are all included for a measly 175 bucks.  Since most adventure races cost $100 or more anyway, we thought this was a pretty good deal.  The camp takes place the last weekend of March in Mount Carroll, Illinois.  I can’t wait to go, and we’ll take lots of pictures to post.  So… Who else wants to go?

Cold Weather, We Will Smite Thee!! – Adventure Non-Race Short Course Report

The forecast for New Year’s Day stated, “Ridiculously Cold with a chance of You Should Stay in Bed, Idiot!”  At least that’s what I was thinking when my alarm clock went off.  It was Non-Race day for Team Virtus, and we needed to get to Lake of the Ozarks State Park.  As I stepped outside, I thought there was absolutely no way that Brandon and his wife, Ronda (two first-timers that had never done any adventure racing before), would show up.  They agreed to come at the last minute, and that was only after we put a little good-hearted pressure on Brandon.

As we pulled into McCubbin’s Point, I was elated to see them waiting for us in their warm truck. Happiness spewed from my chest for a couple of reasons. First of all, I love it when we can get new people involved in this great sport. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, seeing Brandon and Ronda there meant that I was going to do the short course instead of the long course (Thank God I didn’t have to paddle!).

Staying Warm at the Team Virtus Adventure Non-Race

As we waited to see Casey, Zack, Bob, and Phil take off on the long course, I quickly showed Brandon the basics of using a map and compass while Ronda wisely waited inside the warm truck.  I somehow managed to screw the UTM coordinates up (I still need to figure out how I did this), but I was able to plot all of the points for everyone anyway.

Brandon learing how to use a map and compass

Brandon made short work of learning how to use a maps and compass

It seemed like it took forever to get going – we started at around 11:00 AM instead of 9:00 AM, but this might have been a good thing since it was slightly warmer (17 degrees instead of 13).  Once the long-coursers were on their way, Brandon, Ronda, and I drove down to the trailhead and started off on the orienteering leg of the non-race.  I’ve found that the best way to teach someone the basics of orienteering is to just let them go for it on their own and get their feet wet (there’s a little foreshadowing for you).  Brandon confidently took the lead and brought us right to the first Checkpoint with no problems at all.  Seriously, the guy acted like he had done this a thousand times.  Was he hustling me?  Had he done this before?

Finding CP #1 on the Team Virtus Adventure non-Race

Checkpoint #1

Both Brandon and Ronda were managing to stay warm, and they were still smiling.  So far, so good.  Brandon took his next bearing, and we headed off in search of CP #2.  This checkpoint proved to be slightly more difficult than the first one, but Brandon and Ronda soon found it after consulting the map and reading the landscape.

Finding CP #2 on the short course of the Team Virtus Short Course

Getting CP #2

Now it was time for Brandon and Ronda to make a decision.  They could take a bearing and go directly through the forest to CP #3.  Or they could head to the power line that we had previously crossed, take this down to the creek, and then follow the creek along to the CP (the clue was Creekside Cedars).  They chose to take the power line down to the creek which proved to be easier traveling than bushwhacking through the trees and brush.  After reaching the creek, the Wondrously Wed Duo quickly found #3.

Orienteering down the Power Line on the Short Course

Headin' down the power line

Ronda punching CP #3 on the Short Course of the Team Virtus Adventure non Race

Ronda getting CP #3

I asked Brandon and Ronda if they wanted to head back to the car.  Brandon told Ronda it was up to her, and, much to my delight, she said, “Let’s finish this thing.”  If that isn’t the attitude of a future adventure racing star, then I don’t know what is.

The weather was actually turning out to be pretty nice, all things considered.  Although it was still cold, the sun was out, and we stayed warm as long as we kept moving and stayed dry.    It’s the dry part that had me worried.  We needed to cross the creek to get to CP #4, and Bob had previously fallen in the creek when we set the course up two weeks prior to this (check out the photo right here).

I knew that if Brandon or Ronda got wet in this cold weather, the race might be over.  I wanted to make sure that they had fun and wanted to come back for more, so I was trying to guide them up the creek to a spot that I knew we could cross without getting wet.  Before we could get there, though, Brandon found his own place to cross.

As he took one step out onto some rocks, I tried to say, “You might not want to cross there.”  However, I was too late.  Splash!  Brandon took a second step that plunged his foot into the icy water, followed by a third step into the water. Splash!  At this point he was already committed, so he just kept on plodding through the creek, completely soaking his feet.  Splash, splash, splash, splash!  Once on the other side, he looked back and wryly said, “That might not be the best way to go.”  Truer words have never been spoken.

Although it was pretty funny, I couldn’t laugh.  I was a little worried.  I thought this was the end.  Having wet feet while hiking through the woods is never a picnic.  Having wet feet while walking through the woods when it’s less than 20 degrees out is even less fun.  I had two pair of extra socks, and Brandon and Ronda each had one extra pair.  So Brandon sat down, took off his shoes to wring them out as much as he could, and put on dry socks as Ronda and I headed up-creek.

Brandon "getting his feet wet"

Brandon "getting his feet wet"

Ronda and I crossed the creek, although Ronda ended up getting her toes a slightly wet, but not too badly. We headed down the creek to check on Brandon when we heard him call to us from above. He had already taken care of his feet, climbed the very steep hill, and was waiting for us. When asked if they still wanted to go on, both of them were ready to keep going – another sign that they have a bright future in this sport.

As we reached the trail at the top of the climb, we began to look for CP #4. Brandon was about to take us up a reentrant, when I (being the orienteering master that I am *note sarcasm*) pointed out that I thought we needed to go farther. A short distance down the trail, we met up with the guys doing the long course. They had to beach their kayaks at a different location due to the ice in the coves, and they were having trouble finding their CP #3 (which was the same as our #4).

Trying to figure out where the elusive #4 is.

Bob and Ronda try to figure out where to go.

After searching for a while, we headed back to where Brandon originally wanted to go up the reentrant. Sure enough, the CP was right there. The student had now become the master. Great work, Brandon! I felt a little silly, especially since I set the course up (hey, it was dark when I set that CP – cut me some slack).  It just goes to show you that we can always get better at orienteering.

Finding CP #4 on the Short Course

Brandon at CP #4 right where he thought it was

From here, the long coursers bushwhacked while The Wondrously Wed Duo and I headed down the trail to the tip of the finger before heading back up the hill to find CP #5.  Brandon led us right to it with no problems.  To get to CP #6, we could either take a trail and go down a reentrant or take a bearing and head straight at it.  Brandon decided to practice with the compass some more, so he took a bearing and went for it.  We came in just slightly above the marker, but we were close enough to find it easily (This wasn’t a mistake… This is normally how it works out for me anyway in most races).

CP #5 of the Short Course at the Team Virtus Adventure Race

Getting CP #5

CP #6 on the Short Course

Getting CP #6

From here, the orienteering leg was over except for getting back to the trailhead.  Brandon’s plan was to take the trail until we saw the power line and then take the power line back.  Either the power line didn’t cross the trail like we thought it would, or we somehow walked right past it.  So we ended up taking the trail all the way out to the gravel road to get a “bonus” CP (it was a CP for the long course, but since we were there anyway, we made it a bonus CP – hey, I was the race director so I could make that happen).

CP #7 - The bonus Checkpoint

Brandon Getting the Bonus Checkpoint

Ronda crossing the slabs at the Team Virtus Adventure Non-Race

Ronda crossing the slabs on the way back

We took the long, hilly gravel road back to the trailhead where we met Casey and Phil getting ready for the biking leg of the long course.  Brandon and Ronda took their truck up to McCubbin’s Point to use the restroom while I hung out with Casey and Phil.  Zack and Bob soon showed up as well.  The sun was now behind the clouds, and the temp was dropping as the hour was getting late.  Nobody wanted to paddle in the dark, so we decided to cut out the last paddling leg completely and to make the bike leg shorter for the long course.  If we would have started right at 9:00, then they might have been able to get it all in, but we did what we could.

Brandon and Ronda came back, and we drove down to the slabs to ride the South loop of the Honey Run Trail.  It was now getting really cold again, but like the troopers that they are, Brandon and Ronda got ready and hopped on their bikes.

Brandon and Ronda Mt. Biking in the cold

Ready for some single track in the bitter cold

We headed into the trail.  It was fun, but none of us were really feeling it that day.  Every little bump seemed like an enormous obstacle, every creek seemed like the mighty Mississippi, and every breezed seemed like gale force winds.  It was cold, it was getting late, and we were all beat.  So, after a short bike down the trail, we simply turned around and headed back to the truck.  I think this was a great decision.  I would much rather stop a little early with smiles on our faces than try to push ourselves so hard that we ended up hating the experience.

Ronda still smiling at the Team Virtus Adventure non-Race

Ronda still smiling at the end of a long day

We got back in the warm truck and drove back to the trail head.  Bob had gotten a flat and wisely hadn’t carried anything with which to fix it.  So he was already back at the trailhead when we got there while Zack, Phil, and Casey finished up on the bikes.  Brandon and Ronda dropped me off, and then they headed home.

Bob and I had to go with Dan from Oz Cycles to pick up the kayaks that we rented from him.  They had left the kayaks at the bottom of a huge hill at some sort of barracks-like camp.  Unfortunately the roads were gated and locked up, so we had to walk  all the way down to get them and carry them up what felt like Mt. Everest for at least a mile.  Dan put us to shame by single-handedly carrying a kayak while Bob and I struggled to carry one between us. It sucked bad.  I mean really bad.  And it was weird how Casey, Zack, and Phil all managed to show up juuuuust as we got the kayaks back to the car (Jerks!).  A HUGE thanks goes out to Dan.  If you go to the lake, be sure to stop in and say hi at Oz Cycles.

So, that was the end of my day, and the first annual Team Virtus Adventure Non-Race was over.  We had just completed a race on the coldest day of the year up to that point (and the hottest day of the year up to that point as well – not too many people can say they’ve done that).  We laughed in the face of the cold.  We scoffed at the rugged terrain.  We snickered at the thought of everyone else all snug in their warm houses while we brave few conquered the short course.

Brandon and Ronda did a superb job (and I’m not just saying that because they are going to read this).  Brandon was a natural with the map and compass, and Ronda seemed to smile the whole day even though she thought she’d hate being out in the cold when the day started.  They seemed to enjoy the race, but maybe they were just being nice.  At the very least, I hope they liked it enough to come back for more, because I think they’ll make great adventure racers.  I know I had a lot of fun tromping through the great outdoors with these two.  I hope to do it again sometime soon.

There are only two things that I regret about this race.  Casey had t-shirts made up for confirmed participants (Sorry Phil, Brandon, and Ronda – we didn’t know you were coming in time).  Unfortunately we left them at my parents’ house and had to hand them out later in the week.  Here is what they looked like:

Team Virtus T-Shirt

Front of the Team Virtus T-Shirt

Team Virtus Back of T-Shirt

Back of the Team Virtus T-Shirt

I also really regret not taking my Beaver Walking Stick that Bob had given me at the start of the race.  This thing is freakin’ amazing.  It has literally been chewed on by beavers, and it has been made into a suh-weet walking stick.  I love this thing.  But I’m an idiot, and I totally forgot to take it with me until we were a couple miles away from the trail head.  Anway, thanks a lot, Bob.  I’ll be sure to use it next time.  To find out more about them check out

So, there you have it.  If you stayed at home in your warm bed… Or if you were “driving back from somewhere with your girlfriend” (Corey)… Or if you were too scared to come out and join us… Then I feel sorry for you.  You missed a great time. Don’t believe me? Then check out the slideshow below:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Fooling Around in the Dark – The 2009 Mendon Ponds Night-O Race

The following is a race report from November of 2009.  Hopefully this will satisfy your lust for reading about our team until we get our Non-Race reports up…

On the evening of November 7th, my son Austin and I decided to compete in the annual Night-O put on by the Rochester Orienteering Club at Mendon Ponds Park in Mendon, NY.  This was our first attempt at night orienteering and we learned much from the experience and had a blast.  Before the race started, the rules were explained and the maps were handed out.  You had 5 minutes to look the map over and plan your race.  Then there was a shotgun start and all 44 teams took off running into the darkness with their headlamps bouncing up and down (it was quite a site).

Mendon Ponds Night-Orienteering Race

There was a train of headlamps through the first 4 points, hence no navigation was needed for the first four points unless you were leading the pack (and we were not), because you could see people bunching up near the Control Points punching their cards.

Here is how the event basically worked:  The course started with 4 mandatory control points (CPs), 1 through 4, and ended with 4 mandatory CPs, 5 through 8.  If you only completed these 8 points you were ranked in the White Course division based on your time.  If you wanted to challenge yourself and test your night navigation skills, there was a “rogaine” section between the mandatory legs of the race that you could complete in any order.

There were a total of 22 Optional Control Points (OCPs) and you could choose how many to visit.  If you bagged 3 Optional Control Points (OCPs) you were ranked in the Yellow course, 6 you were ranked in the Orange, 9 the Brown, 12 the Green, 15 the Red, and 18 put you in the most difficult course…the Blue Course.

However, there were a couple of caveats.  The first one was, you were ranked in your course based solely on time and an additional OCP did not help you in the rankings.  This forced you to manage your time and decide if you should head back or try to bag another 3 OCPs.  The other thing to keep in mind, was that you lost 1 OCP for every minute that you came in over the 90 minute time limit.  This made time management critical as it was extremely costly if you were even a couple of minutes late.

Austin and I spent our 5 minutes looking over the map and discussing our game plan.  By the end of the five minutes we thought we could get 9 OCP’s and compete in the Brown Course. It was time for the race to start.  Everybody bunched around the starting line with their headlights on waiting for the start of the race.  A quick count down and the race started.  Everybody took off at their own pace.  We decided Austin would be the pace setter and map guy for the race.   He set a fast pace out of the gate to avoid a possible bottle neck at any of the first 4 CP’s.   We followed the train of traffic through the first 4 CP’s.  Then we made the first of two errors that cost us some time.

Night Orienteering at Mendon Ponds

Austin getting one of the first four Checkpoints

Austin was looking for a specific CP and asked my opinion of the direction we needed to travel.  He showed me the map and I looked at it quickly and decided that I thought it was the trail to the left.  Austin said OK and we took off.  We found the CP but it wasn’t the one we were looking for.  Since you can get them in any order we punched our card and got out our map.  We quickly located our position and decided our best plan of action was to head back to where we came from and follow our original plan.  The good thing was that since we located a OCP we had not planned on getting, we could skip another OCP on our route somewhere along the way.

Austin at the Mendon Ponds, NY Night-O Race

Austin getting yet another CP at the Mendon Ponds Night-O

After the race concluded, Austin and I discussed what happened and the mistake became clear.  When Austin showed me the map I “assumed” that it was oriented and north on the map was in fact pointing north.  It was my assumption, my mistake.  I should have taken out my compass and figured it out myself, but I was in a hurry and assumed he keeps the map oriented as I always try to do.  If I move I try to keep north, north as much as possible and my thumb where I think I am.

After the race, Austin told me that he thought that I was taking us in the wrong direction.  I asked him why he didn’t speak up and correct me.  His answer was because I am the father and am supposed to be more experienced and know what I am doing.  I answered that while on the course, yes I am still his father and he is still my son, but we are also teammates.  We are equals.  His opinion counts just as much as mine.  I stated that I had final say regarding safety and things of that nature, but as far as game plan or direction of travel, we had equal say.   He said it was hard to speak up because I am his Dad.  I asked him to speak up in the future and express his opinion when he thinks I am wrong.  He told me that he would and our father-son relationship evolved forward a little bit thanks to this race.

The rest of the race went pretty smoothly and was a blast.  You couldn’t have really asked for better weather or a clearer night this time of year.  I was wearing shorts and a thin long-sleeve hoodie.  It was a nice, cool, clear evening, perfect for racing around the woods in the dark.

Our other misstep occurred when we came upon a trail junction.  We assumed that the trail intersecting our current trail was in fact the one we believed it to be on the map.  It looked like it was since it was the first trail to cross the trail we were on and was marked well with reflective markers.  However, we soon found out that we were on the wrong trail and had lost where we were on the map.  Based on our observations we found a couple of spots on the map where we could be and continued walking to find a distinct feature to pin point our location.

Luck was on our side and we saw a group of headlights up ahead (we assumed punching their cards).  We headed in their direction and using the newly acquired “sweep and peep” technique (headlamp on high and sweep your head back and forth to locate the reflective CP) we located an OCP and once again knew where we were based on the OCP number.  We found all the other points relatively easily and were on point the rest of the race.

Another memory from the race was seeing Austin slip on his way down a large hill and “butt sledding” down the rest of the way.  I caught a picture of him just before the slip and another as he was coming to a stop.

Night Navigation at the Mendon Ponds Night-O Race

Coming down the hill before "butt sledding"

Austin Having Fun Orienteering at Night

Smiling after "butt sledding" - It must have been fun

Another incident occurred in the final stretch when we were heading in to the finish.  Austin asked me to set the pace and push us a bit to ensure that we finished on time.  We were moving along pretty quickly and were passing the walkers as we headed towards the finish line.  Up ahead there was a tree across the trail ahead and I hurdled it no problem and kept on running.  I stopped when I heard a loud grunt and a splat.

It was Austin, who had hung his shin on the tree and had found himself flat out on his stomach in the mud and grass.  He quickly got up but had to walk for a while due to a sore shin.  I am proud that he attempted the hurdle even if he didn’t quite clear it.  A younger Austin would have gone around or climbed over.  He’ll clear it next time.   Austin told me to leave him behind and go ahead in order to beat the cut off (“Save yourself… Leave me… I’m no good to you…”).  I told him we were a team and we’d finish together on time or late, it didn’t matter.  He sucked it up, pushed through the pain and we were able to push it a little bit the last half mile or so.  This was good because we were getting close to the cut off time and had we not run at this point, we might not have finished on time.

We crossed the finish line before the cut off with a time of 86 minutes and 30 seconds.  This placed us 4th out of 6 teams in the Brown course (see the official results right here).  After the race the Rochester Oreinteering Club put out a nice spread of snacks and beverages (like they do after every race) and the two of us gladly sampled some of the delicious treats.  We really enjoyed ourselves and grew not only as O-racers but closer together as Father and Son.

Some things I learned:

  1. Always orient the map and make no assumptions.  Point North, North.  A couple of extra seconds to ensure you are headed in the correct direction are well spent and can save many minutes and lots of frustration.
  2. The “Sweep and Peep” technique of looking for a reflective CP in the dark by using a powerful headlamp (I recommend the Apex by PrincetonTec).
  3. Make sure you know where you are on the map at all times.  Keep your thumb where you are and move it as you are moving.  Keep north on the map pointing north at all times (This is worth repeating).
  4. Never assume the trail you find is on the map or a trail on the map is still around.  Many maps are old and outdated, and new trails pop up sometimes as olds ones fade away.  Use other definitive landmarks to locate your position on the map and identify all trails by multiple features when possible.
  5. Night orienteering is challenging and land features look different and are sometimes harder to see or identify in the dark.  Practice will improve my night navigation ability.
  6. My son is growing into a respectful and responsible young man, and I cherish the times we spend doing these types of activities together.  We are making memories that I will always look back on fondly and hope Austin will as well.
Father and son, Casey and Austin after a successful night orienteering race

Father and Son

If you get a chance to do some Night Orienteering I recommend you give it a shot.  Although challenging and a bit different than Day-time Orienteering, it really challenges you and improves your overall map skills.  If you can find your way in the darkness, day time navigation becomes easier.  So, grab a bright headlamp, a compass, a map case, a map, and head out to the woods for some great times and great memories.

Twelve Hours of Pain & “Fun” – The Sleepy Hollow Rogaine Race Report

A month and a half ago, we decided that we should do a 12 hour rogaine in Ohio since it is roughly halfway between Missouri, where most of Team Virtus reside, and New York, where Casey lives. Bob had a hair appointment with his stylist Bruno, and Drew could not make it due to a prior commitment as the keynote speaker at the local Star Trek Convention (I think that’s what they said, but I could be mistaken). So, it was just going to be the brothers Lamb – Casey, Zack, and myself. We agreed to meet in Ohio and race our asses off.


Team Virtus at the Sleepy Hollow Rogaine

Zack, Luke, and Casey before the "fun" started



Unfortunately, things would not go smoothly leading up to the race. Zack threw his back out about 10 days before the race. He tried to train through it, and, in the process, bruised his boys downstairs by running with unorthodox form in boxer shorts. A trip to the chiropractor and some R&R for his boys left Zack feeling a lot better, although still not 100%.

At about the same time, I found myself in the hospital with pneumonia. The pain in my lungs, back, and ribs left me feeling like I was suffocating. A few pain killers and several doses of antibiotics later and I felt much better. One short trail run confirmed that I would indeed survive the rogaine… At least I hoped so.

Five or six days before the race, Casey came down with the swine flu. Feverish and coughing his face off, Casey wasn’t sure if he was going to make it to the race. After resting and taking care of himself for a few days, though, Casey was feeling well enough to attempt racing.

Zack and I didn’t get into Ohio until 1:00 AM or so. Casey had arrived much earlier. We tried to get as much sleep as we could, but Casey’s coughing attacks sounded like a band of gorillas in the midst of an orgy.  After getting as much shut-eye as we could, we woke up early, packed our gear, and headed out to check in for the race. We checked in, got our t-shirts and maps, and we started to strategerize our route.


Route planning for the rogaine

The three of us planning our route



After we had mapped out an ambitious day-time route South of the hash house and a night-time route to the North, one of the race organizers let us know that the toughest navigation was to the North.  He said that they even had trouble placing the checkpoints using a GPS.  So, we decided that we should flip-flop our plan and do the tougher navigation while the sun was still up.  This decision, in hindsight, probably ended up hurting our overall score, but we’ll get to that in just a minute or two.

At 11:00 AM sharp, we were off.  We knew we were not going to be the fastest team, so we decided on a route that we thought no one else would take (we didn’t want to be following any other teams).  With the sun shining beautifully, we headed out from the hash house along a paved road for a couple of miles.  As we were jogging down the road, we met a man walking his dog.  He looked at us and said, “What is this?  A chubby race?”  Wow. This kind of took the wind right out of our sails.  Now I know we are not built like ultra-marathoners, but I prefer the term “husky” instead of “chubby.”

After leaving our new “friend” behind, we found the trail we were looking for and headed in.  We were all excited and talking non-stop which led to me taking us off the trail a little too soon.  Apparently, I had guided us up the wrong reentrant.  We soon realized this, and we headed over the ridge to the correct reentrant to find CP 55.  My mistake maybe cost us 20 minutes.  Not too bad, but I still feel bad about it.

Zack at our first Checkpoint (55) at the Sleepy Hollow Rogaine

Zack at Checkpoint 55 - our first checkpoint of the race

As we bushwhacked our way over to CP 55, we got a small taste of the rugged terrain and ridiculous thorns we would face throughout the race.  Casey also mentioned that his calves were about to start cramping pretty badly.  As we started to bushwhack up the reentrant to the top of the ridge, Casey’s calves and achilles tendons started killing him.  By the time we got to the top of the ridge, Casey was only able to manage very small, excruciating steps.  Zack and I thought the race was over.  At the pace Casey was moving, we would probably only get one more checkpoint before dark if we were lucky.

Casey showing where it hurts

Casey showing us where it hurts

We stopped on top of the ridge, and Zack began figuring out the best way to get us back to the hash house if Casey could not continue.  As he was doing this, I took out my first aid kit and gave Casey some Tylenol and two Ace bandages to add some compression to his calves.  Casey stretched his calves and downed several gels and other goodies along with copious amounts of water to get some electrolytes into his system. Zack and I decided to take turns carrying Casey’s pack so that we could hopefully make it to the next checkpoint at the very least.  However, we didn’t realize that Casey’s pack weighed forty-seven pounds or else we might not have offered to carry it.

Luke Carrying two packs at the Sleepy Hollow Rogaine

Luke with his own pack on his back and Casey's ridiculously heavy pack on the front. This is not the best way to carry an extra pack.

Luke with two packs and Casey Smiling

Self-portrait of Luke with two packs. Notice how happy Casey is in the background with no pack on his back.

I wore Casey’s pack on the front of my body, but this was not very comfortable. When it was Zack’s turn to carry the pack, he simply threw it over his own pack, and this was a much better way to carry it – especially when climbing some of the outrageously steep hills.

Zack with two packs climbing a monster hill

Here we see Zack carrying both packs up a monster hill. This hill was pretty typical of the terrain we traveled during this race.

With some pain killers, bandaged legs, and no pack on his back, Casey was able to maintain a fairly decent pace.  He was still in pain, but at least we were still in the race.  We followed the ridge line and headed down a finger to checkpoint 72. From here, rather than heading in a straight line down a reentrant and up a huge hill, we stayed on top of the ridge until we found the trail.  The trail led us close to CP 61, and we found this one without any problems.

We weren’t sure how long Casey was going to be able to go since he was still in a lot of pain. We had originally planned on skipping CP 34, but we decided to go for it since we were so close to it and since Casey’s legs were still functional.   It was now 2:30 PM, and we had a total of 210 points for an average of 60 points per hour.  This is not what we had hoped for, but that’s part of the adventure. We made a mini-goal of getting out next 3 CP’s (44, 52, and 81) before 4:00.

From CP 34, we headed off to find CP 44.  It was on the way to 44 that Zack fell flat on his face.  It was not a typical fall.  His laces got caught on something which took his feet out from under him, and he literally went straight down onto his face and stomach in the blink of an eye without having a chance to catch himself at all.  It provided some much needed comic relief.

After getting CP 44 with no problems, we hit CP 52 with no issues.  Then we trekked North to find CP 81. Casey’s legs were now feeling good enough to carry his own pack, although it was MUCH emptier and lighter at this point.

Casey finally carrying his own pack

Casey carrying his nearly empty pack

It was getting close to 4:00, and we needed to pick up the pace a little if we were going to get 81 by our self-imposed cut-off time.  On the way to 81, we found ourselves in an open field left behind from what appeared to be some clear-cut logging.  It was one of the few times we were not in deep woods and brush.

Clear Cut Field at The Sleepy Hollow 12 Hour Rogaine

On the way to CP 81

The clue for 81 was “deadfall.”  This seemed straight forward enough… Until we started heading down the reentrant. Everywhere we looked there was another deadfall and everything looked exactly the same.  After searching for roughly 10 minutes, we finally found the right reentrant.  It was very close, but we made our 4:00 deadline… Barely.

Just in Time

We had less than a minute to spare to reach our goal

Reaching our mini-goal seemed to boost our spirits.  There was still about an hour and a half of daylight left, we had gotten every checkpoint that we set out to get so far, and Casey’s legs seemed to be holding up.  Our spirits were high…

Then came our long, arduous trek to the next CP.  We had all run out of water by this time, and we were planning on filling up at the water drop after getting CP 60.  CP 60, though, was roughly 3 miles away with an abundance of elevation change that sucked the life out of us, and my feet and knees were beginning to hurt.

The sun disappeared, and the temperature started to drop.  It seemed like we would never get to CP 60.  It was as if we were Frodo, Sam, and Gollum on their impossible trek to Mordor.  Clearly, I would be Frodo and Zack would be Sam, which must mean that Casey is Gollum.  Anyway, we finally made it to where we thought we should turn into the reentrant to find CP 60.

The thorns and brush were ridiculously thick here, though, so we kept moving, hoping to find an easier path to the checkpoint.  We finally found an easier way to 60.  Had we fought our way through the thorns and brush where I originally thought we should, we would have gone down the wrong reentrant and scratched the hell out of our legs for nothing.  I don’t think I would have ever lived that one down.

From 60, we bushwhacked up the worst climb of the race.  Seriously, this effing climb was absurd.  It seemed to go on forever, and we literally had to grab branches and small trees to pull ourselves up a few times.  We hadn’t had anything to drink in nearly two hours, so this climb almost killed us.  The only thing that kept us going was the fact that the water drop was across the street at the top of the hill.

After finally summiting, we expected to see the glorious water waiting for us on the other side of the road.  A small piece of my soul died when the water was nowhere to be seen.  We thought that maybe we needed to head further West to find the water, but this was not the case.  We decided to just head into the woods to hit CP 40, and then we would skip CP 21 and go straight back to the hash house to get more water.  It was going to be a crappy mile and a half, but we could make it.  As we headed into the woods about 20 yards, we saw several jugs of water and a large cooler full of water.  Jackpot!!! We couldn’t be happier.  This was just what we needed.

Filling up at the Water Drop

Filling up with deliciously cold, fresh water - Casey looks so happy

With our water supply filled up, we headed down the ridge and found CP 40 easily.  Then we hit the trail to head down to CP 21.  Part of this trail was incredibly steep and covered with nearly tw0 feet of leaves and debris, making it very difficult to walk upright and wreaking havoc on my feet and knees. We soon found 21 without any problems, although the climb up to 21 was rough.  It was a big enough climb to make us wonder why we were exerting so much energy for a mere 20 points.

After hitting 21, we had a total of 500 points.  We followed the trail back to the hash house to get warmer clothes and more food.  We devoured barbecued pork sandwiches that were to die for, scarfed down parsley potatoes that warmed our souls, and we washed it all down with several ice cold bottles of water.  It was simply amazing.  The only bad part about our return to the hash house was fact that we knew we had to leave shortly.

Zack at the hash house.

Is this Zack or Zoolander?

Casey at the hash house

Casey looking satisfied after filling his belly

Luke at the hash house

So happy eating delicious food at the hash house

At the beginning of the race, we were told that one of the CP’s close to the hash house would reveal a clue for the “bonus” checkpoint.  Since we knew that we weren’t going to get many more CP’s, we figured we would try to find the bonus CP. So we left the hash house around 8:30 or so, and we headed West to CP 20.  Casey was feeling better than he had all race, but my feet and knees were killing me.  Zack’s knee was bothering him a little bit, too, but we really wanted to get to 600 points at the very least.

We skirted around the small pond, and we saw 5 or 6 teams through the trees trying to find the CP.  We were all tired and starting to hurt, so we just figured we’d follow everyone else to the CP.  This was a mistake as we seemed to blow by the CP without finding it.  After searching for CP 20 for 20 t0 30 minutes, we went back to the pond to start over.  This time we didn’t worry about what other teams were doing, and we took our time to make sure we found it.  Again, this was a lot of wasted time and effort for just 20 points, but it became a matter of pride.  We were determined to find CP 20 no matter what.

We found the CP with no more problems, and fortunately it was the CP with the bonus clue.  The clue said something like, “Find the head and Get 30 points. Take a 330 degree bearing for 205 yards.”  So, off we went.  The only problem was that we had to bushwhack the entire way up a pretty steep hill.  At this point, though, we felt like we had to find the head and get the bonus checkpoint.  After a little searching, we heard some screaming a short distance ahead of us.  We then saw red flashing lights, and we knew we had found the head and the bonus points.

Casey and the Bonus Head

Casey loved getting some bonus head

Now, I’ll admit that I didn’t really want to continue at this point.  I don’t know how Casey and Zack were feeling, but I was hurting.  I knew that we only needed 50 more points to hit a total of 600, but we were running out of time.  We had about an hour and a half left.  So, we decided we could definitely go for CP 41 and then reevaluate.

We found CP 41 easily, and then we started to head back towards the hash house. We came to a road/trail intersection, and we could either take the trail directly back to the hash house or we could go for one more CP.  It was 10:15 PM, so we thought that we had plenty of time.  We decided to go for CP 30.

We headed down the road and then down a steep reentrant.  I was starting to limp and hobble, and I was ready to be done.  This part of the park did not seem to match the map. We split up a little bit, and Casey soon found our final CP.

It was at this point that I thought Zack might actually try to strangle Casey.  We literally only had less than a quarter of a mile left in the race, and Casey said to Zack, “Hey, man.  You want me to carry your pack?”  Zack’s response was an emphatic “Hell, Fuck NO!! You’ve got to be kidding me!”  I was too tired to know if Casey was kidding, and I was in too much pain to care.  I just wanted to get back to the hash house before 11:00 PM.

We rolled in to finish the race at 10:54 PM with a total of 620 points.  We ate more delicious barbecued pork sandwiches, potatoes, and cake.  We found out who the top three teams were, and I was amazed that the winning team actually cleared the entire course in less than 10 hours.  That is simply incredible.

My feet and knees were shot, but I felt a little better when I saw several other teams hobbling around like I was.  I think we all underestimated how brutal the terrain would be in Ohio.  After looking at the map, I think we could have gotten more points had we headed South of the hash house at that start.  Many of the teams that placed ahead of us started South of the Hash House.  I guess next time, we’ll stick to our own game plan regardless of anyone else’s opinion.

A big thank you must go out to our sponsor at for making this race possible.  We couldn’t have done it without your support.  We also need to thank our mother for hooking us up with some incredible trail mix and pemican.  It was delicious.

We ended up 25th out of 36 teams which was a little disappointing.  I think we all thought we were capable of placing higher.  On the other hand, it was our first rogaine, and I got to spend 12 punishing hours of fun in the woods with my two brothers.  So no matter how we fared, I had one hell of a good time.  In the end that is all that really matters.

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