Our trip to meet Casey and his family in Ohio didn’t start well. We got away a lot later than we had planned, and the traffic was terrible near NSF Adventures.(bumper to bumper forever… Who was the genius that decided to do work on 45 frickin’ Miles of highway?!?). We eventually made it into , checked in and went to bed around 1:00 AM. Casey and his fam were already asleep in the room next door, but Casey, Austin and I had previously planned to meet in the lobby at 6:00 AM for the Race of Hope Rogaine, put on by
We woke up, grabbed a bite to eat at the free continental breakfast, and we made our way to Lake Hope State Park. It was cold, but the forecast looked great. We checked in and got our maps. Unfortunately, we registered at the last minute, so we didn’t get any shirts or socks. Next time we’ll definitely sign up earlier.
Austin and I quickly got our gear ready while Casey took care of some “bidness” in the bathroom. Austin and I then went over the maps to strategerize our route. Casey had taken his map into his “office” so he could come up with a plan as well. Our goals for this race were to have more fun than anyone else (always our number 1 goal), get as many points as we could, and get better with a map and compass. Our plan was to let Austin navigate as much as he wanted to, and we would help him as he needed it.
It was then time to go to the pre-race meeting, and two-thirds of Team Virtus made it on time. Can you guess who wasn’t there?
At the pre-race meeting, we ran into Chris again. If you’ll remember from our last rogaine race, Chris was rockin’ a very strong beard, and we actually thought he was Mason Storm (of Team Seagal fame). Since that race, Chris’s beard grew to such epic proportions that he actually won “Best Beard” at the Warrior Dash, and after seeing a photo of his beard from that event, it was abundantly clear why he won. His beard would have made ZZ Top hang their heads in shame. While his beard was groomed into a goatee for this race, it was still mighty powerful. Have a look:
As we listened to the race director go over all the rules, we made sure we paid attention. We didn’t want to miss any important info about a Phantom Cutoff or anything. Most of the pre-race meeting was the standard fare, but there was one nugget of information that was very important (and one that would provide many laughs a little later in the day). Checkpoint (CP) 51 had been plotted near the park boundary, and the race director said that he noticed a deer stand nearby when he was placing the orienteering marker. He didn’t want to risk any showdowns with anyone holding a gun, so he moved the CP up the hill to the east and placed it right on the trail. Easy enough.
Here’s the map if you want to follow along (the highlighted CP’s are the ones we got, and the thick black line is our estimated route):
Now, moving the CP for safety reasons was a good call, and no one had a problem with this. However, I decided to take advantage of this bit of information… to mess with Casey. Muwahahahahah!!!
I told Austin, “We shouldn’t tell Casey about the CP being moved, and when we come to CP51, you should start going up the trail to the CP even though Casey will think you’re going the wrong way. Then when you walk right up to the CP, we’ll act like it must have been plotted on the map incorrectly just to see how Casey reacts.” Austin was definitely on board for this little prank.
Casey eventually joined us (after what seemed like an hour and a half), and we went over our plan to attack the CP’s in a clockwise direction. Casey agreed with our plan, so when the gun went off, we made our way to CP 50. If you look at the map, you may notice that the terrain is very hilly with some very steep sections. We didn’t even make it to the first CP before Austin fell on his buttocks (or is it buttocki?) not once, not twice, but THRICE.
We easily found CP 50, and there were quite a few other teams at the CP as well. Casey and Austin decided to shed some layers before moving onto CP 43, which we found easily as well. By this time, the teams had spread out and we were basically on our own.
From CP 43, we headed down the reentrant to the trail that ran along the creek, and we took the trail towards CP 51. If you look at the map, you’ll see that the CP was originally supposed to be in the creek to the west of the trail. But remember, CP 51 is the CP that had been moved up the hill on the trail to the east. But Casey knew nothing about it being moved… And honestly, I had already forgotten about it.
As we got near where we should have turned to the west for the CP, Austin looked at the map and said he thought we should go east. I began to tell him to stop over-thinking things, to trust the map and compass, and not worry about making a mistake. As Casey was looking at his map, Austin shot me a look as if to say, “Uncle Luke… Remember?!? This is the CP that was moved!” I instantly remembered our plan, but I felt like an idiot for forgetting about it. I guess it’s a good thing that I forgot, because I don’t think I would have been nearly as convincing if I had remembered.
Casey then said, “You think we should go east?!?” To which Austin replied, “Yup!” as he headed up the trail to the east. Casey looked at his map again, completely dumbfounded. He looked at me, and I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “We gotta let him do his thing, man.”
As we hiked uphill to the east, Casey kept looking at his map in disbelief. I was laughing my ass off on the inside. Casey then said, “So you really think we should go east up this hill?” To which Austin replied, “Yup!”
Casey said, “Why do you think we should go this way?” To which Austin replied, “I’m just going with my gut.”
Casey said, “And your gut is telling you that the CP is uphill in this direction and not across the creek to the west?!?” To which Austin replied, “Yup!” Austin seriously deserves an Oscar for this performance. Casey then looked at me in utter disbelief and muttered:
“What the hell is he doing, dude?”
I just said, “Hey, man. He’s never going to learn if we don’t let him make mistakes. We can’t just tell him where to go, can we? Let’s use this as a teaching moment.” And then I turned around and kept walking as I tried not to rupture a disc by holding in all the laughter.
Casey stared at his map again as we climbed the hill. The look on his face was absolutely priceless. I can’t even tell you how hilarious it was. Case was really trying to be supportive by letting Austin be the lead navigator, but Austin was literally going in the opposite direction of where Casey thought we should go. It couldn’t have worked out any better. I wanted to laugh so damn badly, but I knew I couldn’t let the cat out of the bag just yet.
We kept hiking up the hill, Casey kept checking his map, and Austin and I kept silently laughing hysterically. As we came around a corner, we saw the CP. Austin turned around, grinning smugly as we caught up to him. I said, “What the…?!? Dude, there really is a CP up here. ” And as I looked at the CP marker, I added, “And it really is CP 51!” Casey was now completely flabbergasted.
Casey kept looking from his map to the CP over and over. Austin was sporting the biggest smile I’ve ever seen in my life, and he and I kept looking at each other and then at Casey, soaking in this amazing moment. After a minute or so, we finally filled Casey in on what he had missed at the pre-race meeting. All he said was, “You assholes.” And then Austin and I finally let out all the pent-up laughter. Casey even laughed with us, and all was right in the world. Good times indeed.
Once we finally regained our composure and caught our breath, we started on our way again. I won’t bore you with all the step-by-step details, though (Shocking, I know!). I’ll just say that the terrain was beautiful but HILLY. Austin was our leader, and we hit CP’s 74, 45, 75, 52, 70, and 35 (also a water drop) with no problems. Here are a couple of photos from this section of the race:
After we left the water drop, we made one small mistake on our way to CP 63. We somehow blew right by the CP without seeing it. We quickly realized our mistake, and Austin led us to CP 65 before we backtracked to CP 63 which we easily found tucked into a small reentrant. It was a small mistake that didn’t really cost us any time since we needed to get CP 65 anyway, and it wasn’t Austin’s fault. Casey and I completely missed it, too.
In fact, Austin has gotten really good with a map and compass, and I’m very proud of him. The only thing he needs to work on is his confidence. He was second-guessing himself a little too much. I think he was terrified of going the wrong way since he was leading his uncle and his dad. He just didn’t want to screw up the race for all of us. So we helped him out…
By completely messing with him!
In fact, we messed with him so much, that we started to call him Sasquatch (thank God he didn’t retaliate like the real Sasquatch in that video!). How did we mess with him? Every now and then, I’d say something like, “Uh… Why are we going west?” when we were really going east. Or Casey would say, “Shouldn’t we be crossing a creek soon?” when there was no creek anywhere near us. Every time we did this (which was a lot), Austin stopped in his tracks to check the map again. It was great fun, but it also served a few purposes:
- It showed Austin that he needs to know where we are and what we’re looking for at all times.
- It made Austin realize that he needed to be more confident in his navigation.
- Most importantly, it made Casey and me laugh every single time.
Instead of “Sasquatch,” Casey wanted to call Austin “Squatch” for short, but I changed his nickname to “Baby Sass” which Austin liked much better. That would make Casey “Papa Sass.” Since we had already messed with him earlier in the race, I knew what the title of this race report would be. It was perfect.
After getting CP 63, we got CP’s 31, 54, and 55 with no problems. Well, we had no problems other than I was fighting the good fight against my bowels, and I was losing. I had seen Bob employ a certain turd-fighting technique at other races, and I had to do the same thing several times: stop hiking, double over in pain, and clench tightly to avoid a mess.
I had gotten to the point of no return, but I noticed we would be hiking right through a campground soon. I told Casey and Austin that if there was a bathroom at the campground, I would be using it. If there wasn’t one, I was going to have to drop trou and relieve myself behind a tree. As we climbed up the ridge, we saw this…
After a much-needed restroom break, we were on our way again. We were all feeling pretty good as the day wore on, and we had high hopes of getting many more CP’s. On our way out of the campground towards CP80, we came to a gate across the road. Not to be outdone by Bob at our last rogaine, Austin decided to show his mad limbo skillz.
As we kept moving, we just couldn’t believe how perfect the weather was. It was an amazing day to be in the woods with my brother and nephew. If anything, it was a bit too warm, but we would never complain about that in mid-November.
We found CP’s 80 and 42 with no problems, but we attacked CP73 from above. The CP, however, was at the base of the cliff, so we had to detour around and down to actually reach the CP. After punching the passport, we climbed back out of the reentrant and hopped on the road, grabbed CP41, and then headed for CP60.
As the sun began to fall from the sky, Austin’s energy began to wane. When we reached the CP, we decided to take a break to refuel, rehydrate, and reevaluate our plan for the remaining checkpoints. Austin had a hot-spot on his foot, so it was a perfect time to take care of that while we were stopped anyway.
Our original plan was to go hit CP40 before hitting the water drop on our way to CP71. However, with the hour getting late and Austin getting tired, we realized that we were not going to clear the course. So we decided to skip CP40, hit the water drop, get CP71, and then reevaluate again.
After eating, drinking, and making sure Austin’s foot was good to go, we climbed the rest of the way down the spur, crossed the creek, and climbed the steep hill to the road. We saw some buildings to the south, and we looked around for the water with no luck. There was a small park office building to our south, so we scouted that area for the water. Again, no luck. I ran down the road a short distance hoping to find the water. Again, nada.
Then Casey realized that the door to the bathroom at the office was open, so we filled up with water in there. There was also a soda machine. An ice-cold Diet Coke would have really hit the spot. I always carry some money for emergencies or in case we happen to pass a McDonald’s during a race, but I only had a 20 Dollar Bill. The machine only took Singles or change. Bummer.
We discovered one other interesting item here at the park office, and not to be out-done by Rusty at the Tour de Donut, I had to get a photo:
Now, you may think that we wasted way too much time here, and you may be right. However, we were out here to have fun, let Austin work on his navigation skills, and spend time together since we only get together two or three times each year. Plus, Austin still wasn’t feeling that great, so some extra rest didn’t hurt anything. And if we had rushed out of this area, we would have missed my favorite part of the race.
As we hoisted our packs onto our backs and started hiking again, we heard voices behind us. Assuming it was just other racers, we kept hiking. Then we heard, “Daddy!!!” And we heard, “Luke!!!” And, “Austin!!!” And, “Casey!!!” And, “Daddy!!!” We turned around to see my wife, Becca, with my kids and Casey’s wife, Lauren, with their kids.
What the What?!?!
This was impossible. There was no way that they could have known where we’d be at any point during the race, and honestly, we could have been anywhere in the park. They could have chosen any of the many trails to hike, and they happened to choose the one that led right to us… At the EXACT moment we would be there? Are you kidding me? Seriously, what are the odds?
Austin and I ran down the road to our families while Casey, you guessed it, was still messing with his gear. He had no idea why we were running the other way at first. He realized what was going on and quickly joined us. I got down on one knee, threw my arms out, and the kids ran at me. Casey said it reminded him of this scene (specifically at the 1:38 mark):
Many hugs and kisses were exchanged, and our spirits soared. I can’t tell you how cool it was to see our families out on the race course. That just NEVER happens. Plus, Becca had dollar bills so I could get an ice-cold Diet Coke!! But, I did not want to break any rules by accepting outside assistance, so I reluctantly declined. We chatted for just a few minutes, and snapped a few photos before parting ways.
As much as we wanted to stay with our families, there were CP’s to be found and ground to be covered. Since the sun was getting very low in the sky, we said our good-byes and marched onward. We continued on the road to the top of the hill. We then headed west down a spur, hoping to find CP71.
Unfortunately, we headed west a little too early, regrouped, and then went down another spur to the west. Once again, we headed west a little too early. We looked for the CP for 5 or 10 minutes, and then we decided to head all the way down to the trail that followed the creek. When we saw the big reentrant/valley to our west, we headed up the reentrant to the east. We found the CP easily at this point, but the extra hiking was taking its toll on us. Especially the hills.
The CP was near the top of the reentrant by a beautiful rock overhang/cave area. It was clear to us at this point that Austin not just getting tired, but he was indeed bonking. We stopped here and told Austin to eat some food. His reply was, “I don’t have any.”
This is really the first race I’ve done with Austin. Casey had done a few short orienteering races with him in the past, but nothing like this. In fact, this race was 3 times longer than any other race Austin had ever done. So, we’ll chalk this up to inexperience – both Austin’s inexperience with longer races, and our inexperience with racing together. Normally, we’re pretty good at noticing when one of our teammates needs help. Likewise, we’ve gotten pretty good at asking for help when we need it. Austin didn’t let us know he needed help, and we failed to realize it. I feel bad about that.
We took some time at this CP, and we handed Austin some delicious Honey Stinger Waffles and other food, and we had him pop a Foosh mint. After washing it all down with some water and e-Fuel, he was ready to go. It was twenty minutes well spent.
It was now completely dark as we hiked back down the trail to get CP33. It was a wet, marshy area, and we had to hop a creek. Austin looked like a leprechaun kicking his heels together as he soared over the creek.
I hopped the creek and kept my feet dry. Then I noticed that I could turn around and get a shot of Casey perfectly framed in an arch of weeds – yes, I’m that good with a camera, and no it wasn’t pure luck.
Immediately after the photo above was taken, Casey hopped the creek, caved-in the opposite creek bank, and soaked his feet. It was awesome. Have a look:
From CP33, we had a little trouble finding CP52 which appeared to be at the western most point of the cliffs. We purposefully climbed up to the cliffs on the eastern side, so we could just follow the cliffs to find the CP. A couple of teams were heading the opposite direction. They clearly hadn’t found the CP yet. Then a team of two traveling east met us as we were traveling west. They claimed that they had dropped in at the “very western-most point” of the cliffs, and the CP wasn’t there. They were sure that the CP was to the east.
Now, let me repeat Rule #1 of Adventure Racing which applies to Rogaine Racing as well: DON’T FOLLOW ANYONE ELSE… EVER! SERIOUSLY, DON’T DO IT! This rule is easier said than done, though. It’s really hard to follow this rule when a team seems so adamant about something. We stuck to our guns, though.
As we made our way west, we could see many other teams’ headlamps searching all over the cliffs. We kept heading west, though, and Austin found the CP tucked behind some rocks, brush, and trees.
We followed the trail and easily found CP’s 32 and 46 before heading back to the Hash House/HQ. Austin was beginning to crash again. This time, it wasn’t bonking, it was just that he had been racing for over 11 hours, 7+ hours longer than he had ever raced before. So this was to be expected.
I could tell that Austin really wanted to hand in the passport and be done for the day. Casey really wanted to go for CP’s 61, 10, and possibly 30. The hike back to HQ took us a little longer than we anticipated, so getting all 3 CP’s was out of the question. Casey still wanted to go for CP61, and Austin still wanted to call it a day. I was fine either way, and Austin said he would try for 61. We somehow managed to resist the Siren Song of the warm fire and delicious-smelling food in the pavilion, and we headed back out for one more CP. As we left the HQ pavilion, we ran into our families again. This was another spirit booster. We had no time for hugs and kisses, though. We told them we’d be back in a half an hour or less.
Getting to CP61 meant we’d have one more tough climb. This did not sit well with Baby Sass. He was a trooper, though, and he marched on since Papa Sass wanted to get one more CP. Not wanting to tarnish an otherwise fantastic race by going for one more CP, Uncle Sass stepped in. I told Casey that I thought we should go back and hand in the passport. Casey gladly agreed, and we quickly turned around and finished our race.
We finished 18th out of 29 overall and 13th out of 20 teams. We got 1260 out of a possible 1780 points. I’m more than happy with that. I think we met all of our goals, too:
- Have more fun than everyone else – By pulling the prank on Casey, we had already had more fun than everyone else by the time we got our 3rd CP
- Get as many CP’s as we can – Mission accomplished.
- Get better with a map and compass – No doubt about it.
We had unbelievably nice weather, it was a great course, the post-race food was delicious, Austin did a fantastic job navigating, and I got to spend a day in the woods with my nephew and my brother. We even got to spend a little time with our wives and kids ON THE COURSE! It truly was an incredible day. Big thanks to NSF Adventures for putting on another great race. Big thanks to our wives and kids for coming with us and supporting us. And big thanks to Casey and Austin for racing with me and making it a great day.
We headed back to the hotel for some family time, swimming, and some pizza. We slept in as much as the kids let us (not at all), had a nice breakfast together, and then we left for home in Missouri while Casey and his family headed for home in NY. It’s never fun to say goodbye, but we had a wonderful weekend, we created some great memories, and we survived even though we were messin’ with Sasquatch.