Posted by Lukas Lamb
**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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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… Uh–huh…
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:
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.
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.
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?!?
Casey managed to get a shot of Bob doing his best Ace Ventura impression while he was changing clothes…
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:
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…
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.