***NOTE: The title of the blog post was completely ripped off from my race report of last year’s Dirty Kanza, but since I wrote it, I give myself permission to steal it.***
On Friday evening as Bob, Cary, and I were weed-eating the single track portion of the Cedar Cross course, Bob said to me, “Hey, you may want to seriously consider bringing a headlamp on race day.” Since Bob is the mastermind behind Cedar Cross and knows the course like the back of his hand, I threw a headlamp into my bag as I headed to race HQ on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, I am quite stupid. I thought there was no way I’d need a light, so right before the start of the race, I decided to throw my headlamp back in my van. Twelve brutally difficult hours later as the sun had set, I realized my stupidity knows no bounds.
I registered at the check-in table, said hello to a lot of my cycling friends, and then promptly fired Adam for showing up at the last minute with his son’s helmet that was way too small for his big melon. Once I made final preparations (and threw my stupid headlamp back in the van), we walked over to hear Bob’s words of wisdom before the race started. I can honestly say it was the funniest pre-race speech I’ve heard.
Here is a Garmin link to the Cedar Cross course if you want to see it or follow along. I’d like to point out that this is NOT my Garmin link. I was MUCH slower, and I wasn’t wearing my Garmin. Anyway…
The race would start out on pavement with a lead car showing us the way. I made my way to the back of the pack along with Adam. It was already in the 80’s and humid, but that’s perfect training for the DK200 in a few weeks. Bob said go, and all 120-ish racers rolled out with hopes of crushing the 112 mile course.
It was less than a mile before the race doled out its first set-back of the day. Just 0.8 miles into the race, our friend Jim Smith from Monster Bicycle Co. got a flat tire. Adam and I made sure he had everything he needed, and we kept going. We knew that Jim would catch up to us soon enough. Unfortunately for Jim, this would not be his last go-round with bad luck.
Adam and I made it to the gravel with only a few people behind us, one of them being Jim. It wasn’t very long before we saw our friend, Dave Baettie, pulled off to the side of the road. Somehow he lost a screw to one of his bottle cages. I handed him my bike tool since Adam couldn’t find his (Fired again!), and I took a pit stop in the brush. As Dave took his bottle cage off, Jim came up behind us. It was good to have him back in our group.
At mile 3, we began our first climb, and it was brutal. At the start of the climb, I heard someone’s tire spin out. When we got to the top, there was no Jim Smith. We assumed he had spun out and walked the hill or had just fallen behind. Later I found out that Jim had his secondflat tire within the first 3 miles of the race. That’s some pretty terrible luck. I feel bad for leaving him, but I really didn’t know he had had another flat. I just thought he would quickly catch up to us again.
Dave rode on ahead of us as Adam and I found ourselves on familiar ground: The Dirty Jenkins ride. We’ve ridden this stretch of gravel many, many times, yet we still love it.
As the sun beat down on us with no shade in sight, we rolled on.
We passed a handful of riders and caught up to a few more as the miles were easily ticking by. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves at the entrance of Mark Twain National Forest. It doesn’t look like it is public land, and without Bob Jenkins, a lot of people would have never known you could ride there. With double track though open fields, a pond or two, and a bit of single track thrown in, this stretch of the Cedar Cross course is just really cool.
At one of the cattle gates around mile 15, the Hoosier Daddies were volunteering, and by volunteering, I mean they were handing out ice-cold beer and water. We caught up with a few more riders and our friends Travis Hammons and the Boos Bros here as they enjoyed the frosty beverages in the shade. It was also here where Jim Smith caught up with us and informed us of his second flat. Unfortunately for Jim, this still wouldn’t be his last go-round with bad luck.
It was hard to say good-bye to these guys, but after one cold beer (or four if you’re Kyle Boos), we rode away in a “pace-line” through the fields.
Not long after the above shot was taken, we descended a rocky, rooty hill with lots of sticks and branches scattered about. As I came down the hill, I saw a rider off his bike. I realized it was Jim Smith pulling a stick out of his spokes. Unbelievable. Two flat tires, and now this? The cycling Gods were not smiling down upon Jim, but I guess it’s better to get all of your bad luck out of the way at a free race instead of the Dirty Kanza. He said he was just going to walk back up to the Hoosier Daddies and get a ride. Bummer. I would later find out that this STILL wouldn’t be his last go-round with bad luck.
I caught up to the group, and I stopped to get a shot of them as they rode through my favorite piece of this part of the ride: a long, flowing downhill through the tall grass.
We left the National Forest, and we jumped back on some gravel roads. This stretch of gravel had a few wet-weather creek-crossings and one low-water crossing. This particular low-water crossing can be very slick, but before I could yell out a warning, Travis and Kyle splashed right through it. Well, Kyle splashed right through it, but Travis wasn’t so lucky. He fish-tailed like a mo-fo, and just when I thought he was going to pull out of it, he crashed and slid on his side through the water. It was awesome to watch!
Adam and Derrick missed the show because they stopped to pick up one of my water bottles that had bounced out of its cage on the rough descent. The top of the bottle was destroyed, though, and I had lost my eFuel in that bottle. I used a simple strap to secure the other bottle after that, and I had no more problems.
Here’s a shot of Adam showing Travis how to do it:
I was feeling really strong as we rode the gravel on Clinkenbeard, Ginn Ln, and Barnes Chapel Rd. It kept getting hotter, though, and we were sweating buckets. Soon we found ourselves turning onto the single track at the trail head.
We hopped onto the first section of single track. Although it was muddy, the first quarter-mile or so was rideable. After we crossed the creek, though, things turned to crap in a hurry. You see, horseback riders completely destroy these trails no matter how much time and effort we put into maintaining them. It’s a shame, too, because these trails could be incredible. But it is what it is, and there’s not much we can do about it. Trust me. Trying to maintain these trails is a losing battle.
I didn’t get any photos of this section because I was too busy trying to survive. I tried riding what I could, but that wasn’t much. Riding was only marginally faster than walking, and the energy exerted just wasn’t worth it. So I pushed my bike the last mile and a half or so. Even pushing my bike was completely exhausting, though.
And then we got to the “Staircase of Pain” where we saw Jim Davis sitting and talking with Mr. Race Director himself, Bob Jenkins. He was there to get some photos of all the suffering. Just take a look at this:
PHOTO OF THE STAIRWAY COMING SOON!!
After the “stairway” completely drained what was left of my energy, we pushed our bikes up a hill to find our friends from the Hoosier Daddies again. It was great to see them. I stopped for a quick pee-break before I grabbed another beer. Uh-oh. My pee was a dark yellow. Not good at all.
So, I did something I never thought I’d do: I didn’t follow the Virtus Code that mandates no “free beer shall be refused.” I would hereby like to propose an addendum to this part of the Virtus Code: No free beer shall be refused UNLESS you are at risk of sever dehydration leading to cramps during a race. All those in favor say, “Aye.” All those opposed say, “Nay.” Okay, the “Ayes” have it.
I had been drinking a lot of fluids, but with this kind of heat, humidity, and energy expenditure, I guess it was enough. I was worried. We were only 30 miles into this race, and I was in trouble. Then I remembered that Bob said there was a Peach Snapple in his truck for me. I’m a Diet Peach Snapple addict. This, however, was the full-sugar variety, and it was just what I needed. I slammed the delicious Snapple and a couple of water bottles from the Hoosier Daddies. Hoping to recover, I rested a few more minutes than I normally would have at this point.
We said good-bye once again, and we rode off onto S. Millsite Rd. I’ve been on this road before and there are 4 nasty dogs here. In fact, the Cue Sheet for this race warned racers: “Watch for Four Pissed Off Dogs.” People thought Bob was kidding when he recommended dog spray, but these dogs are the reason for the recommendation. I love dogs as much as anyone and don’t like to spray dogs, but these dogs are vicious and not to be messed with.
By the time we got there, though, the dogs were no threat at all. They were either worn out from terrorizing all the racers in front of us (which was a lot), full from eating some of the racers in front of us, or they had been sprayed so many times by the racers in front of us that they didn’t dare mess with us. Regardless, we only heard one of them bark a wimpy, little bark as we simply strolled right by them along the gravel road.
A few miles later, we began riding past the “Cranky Old Bastard’s” place. He literally has this weird sign in his yard stating that he will shoot you if you mess with him. I’ve never stopped long enough to read the entire sign or get a photo of it, because I don’t really want to find out if he’s bluffing. As we rode past, he yelled out to us. I thought to myself, “Please don’t stop! Nobody stop! Nobody stop!” But then Jim Davis stopped, so we all stopped. He asked us how many more riders were coming through so he could let his dog back out. And then he apologized for making us stop our ride. Um… What?!? I couldn’t believe it. Maybe the faster riders had sprayed him with dog spray, too.
Anyway, we rode gravel for 4 or 5 miles. I’m sure it was a little unsettling for some riders to ride past a Dead End sign with 90 miles remaining, but that’s exactly what we did.
For those of us that ride gravel around Jeff City, we knew where this “Dead End” would take us. For a car, it is indeed a dead-end. On a bike, however, you get to cross the very cool Rutherford Bridge over Cedar Creek.
From the bridge, we hiked our bikes up a big, muddy hill and started riding more gravel, a bit of pavement, and then more gravel. Somewhere along the way, Travis and I lost Adam, but we didn’t realize it until we turned onto CR 326 and ran into our friends Aaron Lackman and Justin Nemeth along with a couple of guys I didn’t know.
It was brutally hot by now, and the two guys we didn’t know didn’t seem to be doing too well. I thought about waiting for Adam, but we had discussed this very scenario earlier in the day. We both agreed to go on without the other if one of us dropped off the back. Since it was only a few more miles until the manned checkpoint and bag drop, we rode on, hoping Adam would catch us there.
When we got there, we saw probably 8 riders sitting in the shade, resting and refueling before heading out on the last of the two stretches of single track.
The gear drop couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Knowing there was less than 20 miles to go before I could resupply my water and food, I had been pounding my water and food since my last stop at the end of the first section of singletrack, and I was running precariously low. Drinking ice-cold water was heavenly after chugging hot water and e-Fuel for so long. Big thanks to Mo and Chadwick for volunteering there! There was another guy helping out there, too, but I don’t remember his name. Regardless, thanks to him too!
Some of the riders looked like they were feeling pretty fresh, others looked a little rough, and some looked like they wanted to die. Kind of like this poor guy:
I was just beginning to worry about Adam as he rolled up. He seemed to be doing well enough. He didn’t look fresh, but he didn’t look like he was dying either. He said he was going to chill there and fill up with water. I gave him what was left out of my drop bag since he forgot to pack one, and I headed back out with a handful of riders including Travis, Aaron, and Justin.
I was dreading this next section of singletrack. I had helped Bob and Cary Maloney weed-eat and clear the trails on Friday, but Bob had gone back out there to find that horseback riders had already trashed part of them. Bummer because they were in great shape less than 48 hours earlier. If this section of trail took as much out of me as the first section, then my ride might be over.
Fortunately, the trails were in much better shape than I expected. They weren’t great, but there were some fun, rideable sections to go along with the muddy, destroyed-by-horses sections. I exited the single track feeling good. Travis seemed like he was starting to struggle a bit, though.
We ended up playing leapfrog with Randy and Dana from Team Red Wheel on the next several miles of gravel, and for whatever reason, I was starting to feel really good at this point. I must have finally caught up with my hydration and nutrition. It’s a good thing, too. Standing between us and the Hams Prairie Store 20 miles away were lots of big hills.
Being on a singlespeed, you either ride hard up the hills, or you get off and push your bike. There really isn’t much in-between. So at the start of every hill, I had to go up ahead of our little 6-person group and then wait at the top so they would catch up. I’m definitely not a good climber by any stretch of the imagination, but I had no granny-gear with which to spin up the hills. Believe me, if I had it, I would have gladly used it.
At the top of one hill, I waited for the group. Then I waited some more. After a few minutes, I thought something must have gone wrong, so I turned around and went back. Thankfully, they were just around the corner and not all the way back down the brutal hill. Everyone but Travis was pulled over talking to Randy’s girlfriend (or was it wife?). Travis had fallen off the group, but it would have been suicide to ride back down the hill for him. Fortunately, Randy’s girlfriend/wife said she’d drive back to check on him for us. Big thanks to her.
So we continued on our way. I kept riding ahead on the climbs and waiting at the top. Again, I want to make it clear that I’m not saying I’m a good climber. In fact, I kind of suck at hills. If I could have gone any slower up the hills without walking, I would have. The only problem with riding ahead and waiting was the heat. It was really starting to get to me. Sitting at the top of each climb in the blazing sun with no breeze was terrible. After one long, slow climb, I just couldn’t bring myself to stop. The thought of stopping as the sun torched my skin was too much. Since the others were still together, I decided to just cruise on, knowing that I would soon see them at the Hams Prairie Store at mile 69-70.
I was feeling the best I had all day long, and I was having a great time. Shortly after crossing Hwy 54 at mile 63-64, however, I started to fall apart. My legs began to feel heavy. My head started hurting. I even felt a little queasy. I drank as much as I could, but I was afraid of vomiting which would have only made things worse. It was mind-blowing how fast I went from feeling great to wanting to die.
I thought about waiting in the shade somewhere for the group behind me, but I knew I only had about 7 more miles to the Hams Prairie Store. Those seven miles really hurt, though. I hated every damn pedal stroke. I eventually made it to the store at 5:35 PM. Many of the top riders were already done with the entire course at this point, and I still had 40+ miles to go. What a bunch of show-offs.
I walked into the store with my head pounding, and my guts churning. The air conditioning was the bomb diggity, though! There were other riders coming and going, but all I wanted to do was order some food, get a drink, and sit down. I ordered a hard salami sandwich, but they were all out since Bob recommended to everyone that they order one at this store. Damn. I was looking forward to that. It didn’t really matter since I wasn’t sure I could even eat anything without vomiting. So, I ordered a roast beef and Colby cheese sandwich, grabbed two Powerades, and sat down. There was only one problem. I just couldn’t eat or drink any of it.
Fifteen minutes after I arrived, Aaron and Justin showed up. They didn’t look good, but they looked better than I felt. I think I had only eaten two bites and drank two swallows as they sat down at my table. Things weren’t looking good at all. I felt like absolute dog crap.
If I would’ve had a support vehicle there, I would have thrown in the towel. I was really bummed. I kept picturing Bob at the finish line, an ice-cold beer in one hand, a delicious homemade brat courtesy of the Hoosier Daddies in the other hand, laughing his ass off at how much pain I was in. So, I texted him. I remember texting him, but I didn’t really remember what I had written until I looked at my phone at the end of the race. We normally try to keep this blog PG-13, so if you’re offended by foul language, you may want to skip ahead. Here is the text conversation we had. And please remember that Bob and I are very close friends, and I was a bit delirious at this point in the race.
And now the world knows that Bob has agreed to ride the Cedar Cross course on his GT Peace 29er singlespeed. I’m going to hold him to it. Anyway, back to our story…
Aaron and Justin ordered some food, and I was still trying to force myself to eat and drink. Another rider came over and sat down on the bags of dog food by our table and starts talking to us. This guy looks like he had just been on a 5 mile leisure ride. His name is Keith Clark, and he was determined to finish the ride since his wife had told him he was too old for this kind of thing.
Then in walked Kyle Boos. He, too, looked a lot fresher than I felt, and he had consumed a 6-pack of the Hoosier Daddies’ free beer. Very impressive, and kind of disturbing too. Kyle ordered his food, took a leak, ate his food, and left before I finished half of my sandwich. I was struggling. I got some encouragement from my facebook friends, but I was really having doubts. Every gulp and bite I took just didn’t want to stay down. It reminded me of how I felt at the Tour de Donut, only 10 times worse.
I received a text from Adam saying that he was cramping up pretty badly back at Hwy 54. He and Travis were pulling out of the race. I wanted to join them, but I was starting to feel slightly better. Eventually, I was able to finish my sandwich and drink both Powerades. I grabbed two more Powerades to pour into my water bottles, I paid my bill, and I headed back out into the heat… an hour and 15 minutes after arriving at the store.
Fortunately, it was probably 5 to 10 degrees cooler than when I had arrived. That was fantastic! I knew there was one more climb left, but it was an SOB of a climb. After that climb, though, it was all flat. Having ridden those flat gravel roads that lay ahead of me, I knew the wind could be terrible. But I had checked the forecast earlier, and the wind was supposed to be at our backs. So I was confident that if I could make it to the top of the next climb at mile 76, then I could probably finish this race.
There was a group of 8 of us leaving the store. One guy only rode far enough to hit 75 miles on his bike computer, so that left us with 7. I didn’t get everyone’s name, but there was Aaron, Justin, Keith, Tony (who joined us on the Cock-Gobbler 50+ mile gravel grinder back in March), and two other guys. We headed out towards the killer climb that no one wanted to face. Of course the toughest climb of the day the last climb of the day. Thanks, Bob!
I was starting to feel quite a bit better by the time we got to the climb at mile 76, and for a split-second I thought about trying to ride all the way up. With more than 30 miles left, though, I figured I’d better play it smart and push my bike up it. It was the only hill I walked (other than the singletrack and the “staircase”). Two in our group rode the whole thing, one of them being Keith, and I was quite impressed.
It wasn’t long before we rode up on one of the coolest parts of the race: The Nuclear Reactor and Cooling Tower in Fulton. Keith, who was wearing a Wind Power jersey, asked me to snap a photo of him with the tower in the background. That’s pretty funny. A few others stopped for a photo-op, myself included.
Shortly after leaving the nuclear power plant, we had the pleasure of riding down what Bob referred to on the Cue Sheet as a “Totally badass downhill” and it was indeed BAD-ASS! Thankfully, we made it down the hill before it got completely dark. As we hopped on the Katy Trail at around mile 84, it was getting very dark, and everyone that had lights started using them. I, being the complete fool that I am, did not have one, though, and I was very glad to be in this group.
We rode the Katy Trail and then hopped onto CR 4000. A few guys in our group were talking about taking the Katy Trail the whole way back, and it was very tempting. I just couldn’t let myself do it after coming this far, though. I had ridden this gravel before, and although it can be tough, I knew I could make it – especially since the wind was supposed to be at our backs.
After a short stretch of gravel, we wound up back on the Katy Trail, but something didn’t feel right. Then we started having trouble following the cue sheet from this point on. I broke out my phone to pinpoint our exact location, and this confirmed my fear. We had unfortunately gone right when we should have gone left onto CR 4010. A LOT of riders must have done the same thing since there were a ton of tire tracks going the way we had gone.
So after riding 100 miles (only the second time I’ve ever done so), we had a decision to make. The two riders whose names I never got rode on ahead, so I assume they took the Katy Trail all the way back. Tony’s rear-end was killing him, and he had to work the next morning. So he understandably opted for the Katy Trail as well.
For me, there was only one choice. I had to go back. I said I was going to go back and ride the full course, but I told the other guys that I didn’t expect them to go with me. I was ready to ride the last 16 miles PLUS the 2 or 3 miles we had gone off-course by myself… in the dark… with no light. But I couldn’t have been happier when Keith said, “I’m going with you.” Aaron and Justin both said they were in as well. Holy shit. These guys were awesome riding partners.
We turned around and got back on course. The gravel on 4010, however, was fresh and loose. It was NOT easy riding. But we put our heads down and kept the cranks turning. Together.
Several miles of gravel led us to a short jaunt on the Katy Trail led us to CR 4015. Once we turned west onto CR 4038, the headwind slapped us in the face hard. A storm was blowing in fast and furious, and just like Bob planned, after 106 miles of riding, we’d be riding into a vicious headwind and trying to beat the storm the last 10 miles
It was not fun. At all. But again, we just put our heads down and kept the cranks turning. Together.
The lightning show was pretty impressive, but I really hoped we didn’t get caught in the storm. We kept getting closer and closer, but it seemed to take forever. But then finally, we rode under Hwy 54 and soon found ourselves riding toward the finish line to cheers of the few remaining riders, friends, and family still there at around 11:10 PM. Fourteen hours and roughly 116 miles after we had started.
The cheers grew louder, and then we were completely soaked with sprays of warm beer as we crossed the finish line. Together.
It was incredible. I couldn’t believe it. We had done it. Together. We were officially Cedar Crossers.
I hugged Bob (after flipping him off), high-fived everyone I could see – Travis, Kyle, Derrick, Emma, Adam, Cara, Jim, Bob’s Mom, my fellow riders… It was a great moment. One I’ll never forget.
Although the lights to the pavilion had been turned off, there were still deliciously hot baked potatoes (courtesy of Bob’s amazing Mother!), sour cream, and loads of butter. I had a couple of notes from my wife and kids that almost brought a tear to my eye. Unfortunately, they had to go home earlier since it was a school night. I never dreamed I would be finishing that later. In fact, I think I told my wife that I should be done around 8:00 PM and if I wasn’t, then it meant I probably wasn’t finishing.
And then the storm hit. We had made it in just in the nick of time. It was a perfect ending to an unbelievably great day.
But wait… It gets even better. Jim Smith from Monster Bicycle Co. handed me this:
I didn’t even realize that technically my tires were the last to cross the finish line, but I’m glad they did. I almost feel bad for winning this prize since the four of us really finished together, but I don’t feel bad enough to give it to someone else. 🙂 I freakin’ love this flask. I immediately filled it with Blackberry Whiskey (also courtesy of the Hoosier Daddies) and tried it out. Nothing ever tasted so good. Huge thanks to Jim, who ended up having an even worse day than I thought. Seriously, go read his report. It’s ridiculous.
We sat around reminiscing awhile as Bob called a bunch of people who had never checked in. He wasn’t sure if these people were still out on the course, on their way home, asleep in their beds, or dead. After a little while, though, the rain had let up a little, and it was time to go home.
This was definitely the hardest race I’ve ever finished, and it was one of my favorite races of all time. It was brutally hard. I wanted to quit several times. I hated Bob for a little while. But it was all worth it.
I’d like to thank the awesome sponsors of this race, the even awesome-er volunteers, and especially Bob Jenkins. I know everyone that took part in the Cedar Cross appreciates all that Bob did, but I don’t think anyone realizes what Bob actually put into this race.
He has worked tirelessly for months on this race: planning, scouting, weed-eating, lining up sponsors, getting permits, more scouting, hating horses, more weed-eating, blogging, riding the course, re-riding the course, more scouting, more schmoozing with sponsors, more weed-eating, more hating the effing horses, driving the course, more re-routing the course, answering countless questions via email that could have easily been answered by simply reading the damn blog, meeting with the Jeff City Tourism Bureau, checking the weather forecast every half hour during the week leading up to the race, worrying that even one of us coming to the race might not have an awesome time, marking the course, re-marking the course, hating the damn horses even more, and then worrying his ass off on race day until every last one of us made it back safely, and the list goes on and on and on…
And do you know how much money he made from this race? Not a damn cent. In fact, Bob sunk a lot of his own cash into this race to bring us the best damn gravel race Missouri has to offer. That’s just incredible.
Bob has said to me several times that “we” are doing this or “we” did that, and he has referred to this race as “our” race. I just want to make one thing clear. The Cedar Cross was, is, and always will be Bob Jenkins’ race. And don’t let him tell you otherwise.
So, Bob. Thank you. I’m proud to call you my friend.
And to those that raced, thank you.
And to those that finished with me, a giant thank you!
And to those that missed it, make sure you’re there next year. This thing is going to be HUGE next year.
***NOTE: This race report was written by Luke and is presented in black text. Casey added some comments and are presented to you in Red, Bob’s comments are in Green, and Kage’s comments are in Navy Blue. Luke added a response or two in Purple. If you need to get caught up, you can read part 1 here and part 2 here.***
Paddle Leg #1 – 1:13 PM Saturday Afternoon – 5 Hours 43 Minutes Racing
Somehow, through all the mistakes and mishaps, we managed to make it to the TA at CP8. We ditched the bikes and our bike gear, and we readied ourselves for the paddling leg. We all grabbed a bite to eat as we donned our PFD’s and put our paddles together. We only had 3 kayak paddles, and since Kage had little to no experience using one, we decided we’d let her just use a canoe paddle.
After a fairly quick transition (although we could have been faster), we carried the canoes down to the lake. Kage got stuck in a canoe with me, and Bob and Casey filled up another one (Bob: Is this a fat reference?). With storms in the forecast and clouds in the sky, we were a little worried that the water was going to be pretty rough. We were pleasantly surprised when we shoved off and headed out on a silky smooth lake. This was going to be easy.
On this paddling leg, we had to get 3 CP’s (9, 10, & 11) in any order before heading back to the TA. We decided to get CP10 first since it was closest, and then we would either portage the canoes across a peninsula to get CP11 before getting CP9 on an island OR we would paddle around the peninsula to get CP9 followed by CP11 if the portage looked too gnarly.
The paddling was easy and we made good time… until we left the bay. Once we were out of the shelter of the bay, the lake was much rougher. It wasn’t the worst I’ve paddled on, but it wasn’t exactly a cakewalk either.
Bob: The pictures do absolutely no justice to the size of the waves. Coming back to the canoe takeout, Casey and I had several waves crash right over the front and sides of the boat. I was soaked to my ass….balls first.
We stayed close to the coast and found CP10 easily. There was a team here, “For the Run of It” I believe, that was convinced this was CP11. I was 99.99% sure that we were at CP10, but a small seed of doubt had been planted in my brain. With the rocky start to the race and several navigational blunders, I started to second guess myself. We couldn’t afford another mistake.
We decided to paddle on and not portage the canoes since the brush and trees looked pretty thick. I also knew that Kage was dreading portaging a canoe, but I’m sure she would have done just fine. I mean, we all know that she has more upper body strength than Bob does, but then again, that’s not saying much.
Anyway, we decided to paddle to the island to get CP9. On the way to the small island, I kept looking toward the coast. The little seed of doubt about CP10 began to grow. Did we somehow paddle too far and miss CP10? Was that actually CP11 instead? I looked at the map, and I tried to convince myself that there was no possible way that could have happened. There was, however, a bit of doubt remaining in my mind.
The water was getting more choppy and the wind picked up as we made it to the island. It looked like it was raining to our east, but other than a few errant raindrops, we had managed to avoid the inclement weather. We beached the canoes and Bob punched the passport.
Bob: Actually, I was just trying to look like Scott Fredrickson. If he had a beard, we’d look exactly alike.
We paddled into the small bay to get CP11, and I was once again worried that I had led our team astray since that other team was so sure that what we thought was CP10 was CP11. I was still 99% sure I knew where we were, but it was a huge relief when we paddled right to the CP and confirmed that we had indeed gotten it right.
At this point, we could have portaged across the peninsula or paddled around it again. I know Bob really wanted to portage, but the rest of us voted to paddle around it. In hindsight, I think it would have been faster to portage, but I guess we’ll never know.
Kate: In retrospect, I feel bad that I argued against portaging. Wimpy move, especially since we didn’t have bikes in the canoes or anything. Next time, tell me to man up.
Casey: I was on the fence and would have been fine with the portage. It didn’t look too far but I think we made the right decision. I have a feeling the portage would have taken us longer.
Bob: I think it would’ve been faster. By the time we would’ve gotten there, the trail would have already been blazed.
Luke: Like I said, we’ll never know.
As we paddled around the peninsula, the waves seemed to have gotten MUCH bigger. It was really rough out there. It was so rough, in fact, that we had to make sure we didn’t get sideways to the waves. We had to hit the waves straight on or risk being tipped. Hitting the waves head-on was a rough ride, though, and Bob said that several times they took on water over the bow of the canoe as they came crashing down over each wave.
Kate: I was definitely nervous during this part of the paddle, especially being as someone had already almost tipped the canoe in calm water.
Bob: I’m so glad Luke lost the bet.
Kate: Still stinging from that upper body strength comment, huh?
Casey: It was pretty rough out there. Bob and I had a hard time not pulling away from the other canoe (we had 2 kayak paddles) with the rough waters. We’d try to coast and wait for them, and we’d get tossed around and had to paddle to keep our bow into the waves. We eventually decided to paddle a little ahead and get into the cove and wait for them there. We kept an eye on them and hoped they’d join us safely in a few minutes.
We eventually made it back to the TA after roughly 2 hours of paddling, but the last half of that paddling leg wasn’t exactly fun. Well, that’s not true. It was actually a lot of fun… now that it’s over. We were definitely glad to be getting off the lake without tipping.
Kate: Thanks for putting in that really flattering picture of me. Now I’ll never be selected for America’s Next Top Model. Jerk.
Luke: Kage, there can’t be a more flattering shot than a woman carrying a canoe in the middle of a 24+ hour adventure race. Right?
Casey: I guess we didn’t get any pictures when it was really rough, we were too busy trying to survive. The pictures we have don’t do it justice. However, according to people who raced LBL last year, it was nowhere near as rough as it was last year. Last year, they cut the paddle short because it was too rough and too many people were dumping their canoes (they were the yellow P.O.S. canoes, however).
We transitioned to the bikes for a short ride (roughly 2 miles) to the big orienteering leg of the race. We were really looking forward to getting to our first food drop, too. As we pulled up to CP13 and the start of the O-course, we were shocked that there were so many bikes still there.
Food Drop #1 / CP 13 – 3:56 PM Saturday Afternoon – 8 Hours 26 Minutes Racing
As we rode down the gravel road to the manned-checkpoint, we could see a team of four getting ready to get back on the bikes. It turned out to be Team Tecnu, one of the best teams in the country. Oh, crap! If it took a team of their caliber that long to finish the O-course, it must be pretty damn tough. We dropped our bikes, swapped our bike shoes for trail shoes, and started to go through our food bag as Tecnu took off on their bikes.
Then another team came out of the woods. It was Wedali. Double crap! Another top team was just now finishing the orienteering section. And then as we were going through our food, switching from biking gear to trekking gear, and just taking way too long at the TA, another team came out of the woods: One of the two Bushwhacker teams. What… the… hell?!?!
Casey: Thanks for putting in that really flattering picture of Bob and me. Now we’ll never be selected for America’s Next Top Model. Jerk!
Luke: Casey, there can’t be a more flattering of two husky dudes with half-beards. Right?
Clearly, this orienteering leg was a big, fat female dog, if you know what I mean. As we ate some food, restocked our packs, and got ready for the O-course, I studied the map. It was pretty clear that we were not going to clear the course. So the question then became how many CP’s we should try to get before the 9:00 PM (?) cutoff. Should we use all of that time to get as many CP’s as we can? Or should we just grab a couple of the close ones in the daylight and come back to the bikes and hope we can use that time to get more CP’s later in the race?
Since the top teams obviously had some issues with the orienteering course, I figured we just might have some issues as well – especially once it got dark. So I wanted to get 3 or 4 CP’s, skip the rest, and make our way back to the bikes before dark and hope that saving a couple of hours would help us later in the race. Casey disagreed. He’s the kind of guy that never wants to concede anything until absolutely necessary, and he always wants to push the envelope, for better or worse. So we planned on getting a couple of CP’s and then we would reevaluate.
Bob: You forgot to mention that he does it all with a million-dollar smile, dazzling facial hair and an endless supply of mind-bending flatus.
Casey: I think you should use all the time you have to get as many CP’s as possible, especially if you don’t know what is coming later in the race. I don’t like to ASS -U-ME anything. You know you have these CP’s to get and can’t assume there will be more later (undisclosed at this time). I would hate to leave early, saving time for later, only to find out that there were no more CP’s and finish with time to spare and CP’s left un-punched. Hell, I want to get all the CP’s every race.
Luke: Every team needs a guy like you, Casey. You always push us to do more than we think we can, and that’s a very good thing. Sometimes, however, it’s better to skip CP’s early to get more later. It’s a tough decision sometimes, though, because (like you said), you just don’t know what the rest of the race has in store for you.
As we were finishing up our (way too long) transition, the other Team Bushwhacker came out of the woods, our friends Scott and Frederick. We asked how it was out there, and they said it was pretty rough. That’s not what we wanted to hear. We said good-bye and good luck, and then headed into the woods. A few minutes later, we crossed paths with Team Alpine Shop, another top contender, as they were just finishing the orienteering leg.
Man, it was going to be a rough O-course.
To Be Continued…
***NOTE: This race report was written by Luke and is presented in black text. Casey added some comments and are presented to you in Red, Bob’s comments are in Green, and Kage’s comments are in Navy Blue. Luke added a response or two in Purple. If you need to get caught up, you can read part 1 here.***
Trek Leg #1 – 7:30 AM Saturday:
It was go-time, and we set off jogging at a nice easy pace for the first quarter of a mile or so. We then slowed to our endurance trekking pace. As we left the pavement behind and headed onto the trail, we noticed a couple of people running back toward us. It was Team Tecnu, one of the top adventure racing teams in the country. I’m not sure what happened exactly, but I believe one of them forgot or dropped their passport. Regardless, I’d like everyone to know that there was a moment, however fleeting it may have been, when Team Virtus was ahead of Team Tecnu… And I have photos to prove it:
CASEY: So the eventual winner of the race (Team Tecnu) had to pass everybody in the race from this point. They went from last to first. I’d love to know when they regained the lead.
Luke: Great, Casey. Now you ruined it, and everyone knows we didn’t win the race. Nice going.
As we watched Team Tecnu fly down the trail ahead of us, we noticed that Casey was starting to fall behind. I asked him how he was feeling. “Not good.” I asked if it was his legs cramping up. “Yup.” It was literally 7 minutes into a 28-hour race.
Casey has had some issues with this in the past. In fact, the cramps flared up on him about 6 weeks before the race. It was bad enough to make Casey consider pulling out of this race since he was worried that he might not be able to finish it. He just didn’t want to be the reason for a DNF. He worked on his nutrition, though, and he took some time off from training. The cramps seemed to disappear, so we thought we were good to go for LBL. However, we knew there was a possibility that the cramping might rear its ugly head at some point during this race, but we never imagined it would happen so soon.
At the High Profile Adventure Camp last year, we learned from Robyn Benincasa that a true team works together and does whatever is necessary to keep moving forward no matter what. So, rather than poke fun at Casey and tease him like we used to do, we all gladly took turns carrying Casey’s pack for awhile, and we slowed our pace substantially. So there we were, just 7 minutes into the race, in dead last, moving really slowly… even by our standards. But we kept moving, and that’s the important part.
Casey seemed really pissed, but there was nothing more he could have done to prevent this. Bob, Kage, and I were fine with the pace, though. We just wanted to take it easy to see if things got better for him, but he was really beating himself up. Sensing that Casey was dwelling on something that was out of his control, Kage stepped in and worked her magic. You see, when Kage isn’t being a bad-ass on the trails, she is a special education teacher. She used her mad teaching skillz to talk Casey out of his funk. The diversionary tactics seemed to work, and Casey’s spirits brightened significantly.
Kage: To give credit where it’s due, Casey’s a much better conversationalist than my first graders. And it gave me a chance to ask him what I always wonder when I watch a fight: why would you want to do that? Honestly, I still don’t get it, but now I have his perspective.
Luke: We really could have used you at The Thunder Rolls two years ago when I morphed into Betty White.
During this slow trek (and throughout the whole race for that matter), Bob gave us quite an education. You see, he’s been watching a ton of Man Woman Wild, Survivorman, and Bear Grylls-type shows lately. He has a wealth of knowledge (or “knowledge”). Anytime there was a lull in the conversation, Bob would say, “In a survival situation…” And then he would drop a knowledge bomb on us. Here’s one of my favorites: “In a survival situation, you can dry out your own turd in the sun and then use it as a fire starter.” Here’s one more little gem: “In a survival situation, you can rip off the nail of your big toe to use as a makeshift knife.” It was edutainment at its finest.
Bob: One of these days when we’re lost in the Alaskan tundra and the only thing keeping us warm is dried, smoldering animal poo….you’ll thank me.
We reached Checkpoint (CP) 1 when we noticed two people running back toward us. We were shocked that there was anyone still this far back. It was half of Team Punisher. I’m not sure what happened, but they must have missed the CP, so they had to come back to get it. On our way to CP2, the same thing happened. Two of their team were running back towards us, but this time the other two showed up a few minutes later. We discussed where we thought we were on the map, but we soon took different routes as Team Punisher ran off into the woods and we maintained our slow and steady pace along the trail, hoping Casey’s cramps would vanish.
Team Punisher looked like they were serious runners and in top shape. Not to mention being the best dressed team. I’m still a little bummed we never found out what (if) he was wearing under that kilt. I figured they would beat us to CP2, but as we headed off-trail toward the CP, Team Punisher came over the ridge behind us. We arrived at the CP just ahead of them. Team Punisher then decided to take a direct bearing to CP3 while we opted for the trail and found CP3 fairly quickly. We never saw Team Punisher again, and we later learned that they had to drop out because of bike issues.
The only issue we had with the first 3 CP’s was judging our distance. We had been moving so slowly that we were always second-guessing whether or not we had gone too far or not far enough. Fortunately, Casey’s legs were feeling much better, and he was able to take his pack back. We were still moving more slowly than usual just to be safe, but we were at least moving a bit faster at this point.
CASEY: I was feeling better but I wasn’t out of the woods yet (both literally and figuratively). My legs were really touch and go for quite some time and they could have gone either way. If they seized up, our race was over. We kept moving and hoped the AR Gods would smile upon us.
On the way to CP4 and the first Transition Area (TA), we somehow completely missed where the trail turns. Actually, that’s not true. Kage actually pointed out the trail we should have taken, and for whatever reason, I thought it was the wrong one. So, this was my mistake completely.
Kage: Yeah, but I for one spent way too much time coasting and waiting for you to tell me where to go rather than taking responsibility for paying attention to what was supposed to be coming up next. I think your job would have been a lot easier if the rest of us had stepped up a little.
Luke: I blame Adam.
Fortunately, we saw another team hiking back towards us which made me double-check the map. Rather than back-tracking on the trail, we decided to bushwhack through the woods…
…and then we trekked along the beach and up to the TA and CP4.
We made it to the TA about the same time as the other team we saw that had taken the same wrong turn that we did. They rolled out before we did, and there was only one other set of bikes left at the TA – Team Punisher’s. Well, even with the cramps and a wrong turn, at least we weren’t in last place, right? We transitioned to the bikes fairly quickly, although we still have a looong way to go before I’d consider us a good transitioning team.
Bob: We suck at transitioning. We really need to work on that.
Bike Leg #1 – 10:19 AM Saturday Morning – 2 hours 49 minutes racing
We said good-bye to the wonderful volunteers, and we hopped on our bikes for some sweet single track. We were having a lot of fun… Maybe too much fun since we blew by the first biking CP. Casey and Bob had pulled off the trail to get some shots of Kage and I crossing a creek.
Kage:Luke’s too nice to say it (though not too nice to christen me MawMaw during the race), but he rode across the creek and I walked across the creek.
CP5 was located at a trail/creek junction, the very junction at which we stopped to take photos, and unfortunately, we never saw the CP. Four people, eight eyes, and we still didn’t see the CP even though we were literally standing two yards away from it. Doh!
CASEY: I actually noticed something on the tree as I rode by, but I kept going. I never for a second thought it was a CP. I didn’t know we were coming up to one so soon. I guess I should have known to keep an eye out for one. I need to do a better job sneaking peaks at the map and asking Luke what we are looking for.
Now in our defense, when a CP is placed along a trail or road, there is no orange and white flag. There is only a cable with a passport puncher hanging from a tree, a post, or a road sign. Still, we should have never missed this CP. Fortunately, we didn’t go very far before we caught our mistake. As we stood there looking at the map, Bob somehow managed to fall into, onto, and over Casey’s bike, cutting his leg in the process. Of course, I used my ninja skills to snap a few shots before he managed to get back to his feet. It was pretty damn hilarious.
Of course, nobody laughed at all, and Casey even helped Bob up. Once we made sure he was okay, we hopped back on the bikes and easily found the CP that never should have been missed.
Bob: As much as it hurt, I came away with a really cool scar…six separate chainring scratches that look just like a Steak ‘n’ Shake logo. Totally worth it.
CASEY: Not only did he cut his leg, he left skin and blood on my gear teeth…Gross! I later found out that in a “survival situation” you can actually use your own blood (or a teammate’s’) to lubricate your chain. I guess Bob was just looking out for me.
The rest of the CP’s in the first bike section were easily found, but that doesn’t mean getting to them was uneventful. Kage’s bike was jumping gears like crazy. If you’ve never ridden when your bike does this, trust me. It sucks. We tried to adjust it for her, and then Bob decided to hop on the bike to see what he could figure out. After adjusting the height of the saddle on Bob’s bike, Kage hopped on it for a bit while Bob rode her bike. After a while, Bob managed to dial in Kage’s bike a little bit (although it wasn’t perfect), so they switched bikes back once again.
Kage: Now I want a 29er.
However, when Bob went to raise the saddle back up on his bike, the seat clamp wouldn’t completely tighten. Eventually, Bob just tightened it down as much as he could and had to leave the clamp open. So Bob was riding on a saddle that was too low, and every time he pedaled, his thigh would hit the open clamp. His seat also would shift side to side with each pedal. I imagine this created extra friction in the taint region. Way to suck it up Bob. It couldn’t have been fun or comfortable, but Bob’s a trooper. I never heard him complain, but watching him ride that bike from behind did NOT look like fun.
Kage: I felt like crap the rest of the day thinking about that bike seat…no good deed goes unpunished, Bob.
Luke: Again, I blame Adam.
Bob: My taint will never be the same.
The single track was a blast, and so far the storms were still holding off. During this bike leg, Casey crashed once (but somehow we never got a shot of it), and Kage crashed twice. Neither of them was hurt, and it provided some comic relief.
CASEY: I landed with much less grace than Kage did. It looked almost as if she was just sitting down for a rest. I, on the other hand, landed on the top of my helmet and did a complete somersault. Maybe as I age I’ll learn how to fall more gracefully (I guess you learn how to fall to prevent breaking a hip).
Casey’s cramps seemed to be gone. (They were gone only because I stopped talking about them. They weren’t too painful any more but felt like they might totally seize up at any minute.) We just hoped that they wouldn’t come back to haunt us later in the race. We got CP7 under a bridge, and then we hopped onto some old forest roads and then some paved roads as we made our way to CP8 to transition to the first paddling leg.
We made it to the TA at CP8 a little after 1:00 PM on Saturday, and there were several other teams getting ready to start their paddle. All but two (I think) were 12-hour teams, though, and it was here where we learned that Team Punisher had to pull out of the race. So, we were guaranteed to not finish last…
That is if we finished at all, and that was definitely not guaranteed. In fact, just making it to the TA at CP8 was a miracle with all of the problems we had already faced:
Cramps just seven minutes into the race…
Kage’s bike issues…
Bob’s saddle issues…
My sucking at orienteering issues…
All of this, and Casey hadn’t even quit the team yet.
To Be Continued…
Last weekend, Casey quit the team.
Seriously. I’m not making that up. That’s how awful the LBL Challenge was. Now, I don’t mean it was a bad race. In fact, it was a fantastic race. I just mean that things went terribly wrong for us from start to end. Things just spiraled out of control, mistake after mistake, mishap after mishap. It was as if we were in quicksand, struggling to get out and back on track, but no matter how hard we tried, the more we struggled, the more we sunk into the depths of despair. At our breaking point late in the race, my brother threatened to beat my ass (something he could easily do), and then he quit the team. But I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I? Perhaps I should begin at the beginning. Buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride…
Pre-Race Friday Night:
Things started a little rocky right from the beginning. Bob and I were supposed to meet Kage at the Cracker Barrel on Exit 9 off of Highway 64. Unfortunately, she meant Exit 9 off of Highway 64 in ILLINOIS! Bob and I went to the Cracker Barrel on Exit 9 off of Highway 64 in MISSOURI! Who knew there were TWO Exit 9’s with Cracker Barrels? Well, now we all know.
So we soon found Kage at the correct Exit 9, and we made our way south to meet Casey in Tennessee. It was a fun ride down. We chatted, joked, laughed, and had a jolly good time. Just before we crossed the state line into TN, we passed through the “Art District” and found this amazing homoerotic sculpture:
Then we decided to stop at a Gander Mountain store for Bob to pick up a dry bag. While we were there, though, Bob found something for Kage. We wanted to make her feel like one of the guys, so Bob got her a “Go Girl” of her very own. She seemed much less thrilled with the idea than we did. She never used it, but I know if she would she would no longer “take life sitting down.”
We eventually pulled into the lot at the Inn at Paris Landing State Park, and it was a perfect spot for race headquarters. There were great rooms, nice cabins, a large conference room, and a restaurant which provided a terrific buffet on Friday night and early Saturday morning as well. After finding Casey, we piled into the Virtus Van to drive the long way (200 yards) to the conference hall where we could check-in.
We checked in, got our sweet race shirts, bought some Swiftwick socks and a Bonkhard Racing hat for a friend (Shout out to Kim Chou!). Then we hit the buffet – Spaghetti, bbq chicken, potatoes, grilled veggies, frog legs, shrimp, crayfish, ham & beans, coconut pie, chocolate pie, and probably even more. (Thank God, Bob and I weighed-in BEFORE this trip!) Then we checked into our room with a view of the Lake and started going through our gear before the pre-race meeting.
At the pre-race meeting, Kage had to go get the maps since she isn’t nearly as skilled at the “Not It!” game as the rest of Team Virtus. Kage also got to pick the ticket for the winner of the Kuat Bike Rack. None of us won it, and the guy that did win it acted like he must have already had two of them for each of his cars. He let out a little “Woo!” and sort of half-raised his arms. If I ever win a Kuat Rack at one of these races, I’m going to go flippin’ nuts! I guarantee it.
We chatted with Scott and Frederick from Team Bushwhacker for a bit, and let me tell you… They’re two of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. These guys are elite-level racers, and they went out of their way to give us some last-minute pointers on route-planning and map-prep. Big thanks to those guys, and if they ever decide to put on a navigation/AR clinic, I’ll be the first in line.
We then went back to our room to get our gear in order and to pack our gear-drop bags. Since the Land Between the Lakes area is so remote, we were allowed to pack 4 sacks with food, gear, and water. Two bags would be dropped at a point during the first half of the race where we could access it twice, and the other two bags would be dropped at a point during the second half of the race where we could access it twice as well. I’ve never done a race with gear/food drops like this, so it was a bit tricky deciding how much stuff to pack.
Kage and I plotted the points and went over some route options while Casey and Bob spooned each other in bed. Well, that’s not entirely true. While we plotted, Casey and Bob aired up the bike tires, put the bike lights on, and got other last-minute things in order.
We finally felt like we were as ready as we were going to be, and we ended up going to bed around midnight. I slept on an air mattress on the floor. Now before you think I did this to be chivalrous, in all honesty I just didn’t want to sleep with Bob or Casey in a full-size bed. Having slept near Bob more times than I’d like to admit, I can identify his snoring quite easily. He was definitely the first one to fall asleep. I’m not sure when Kage or Casey fell asleep, but I know I had a hard time drifting off. Eventually, though, I think we all fell asleep and got 3 to 4 solid hours of sleep (something we did not get at the Berryman 36-hour AR last year). Although we’d always like to get a full 8+ hours of sleep before a race, just getting any sleep is HUGE. But would it be enough?
Race Morning Saturday:
The alarm went off WAY too early at 5:00 AM. Casey seemed to be the only one not affected by the lack of sleep, but that’s usually the case. Casey is always enthusiastic and ready to go on race morning. We quickly got dressed and packed up as we scarfed down some bagels and other goodies for breakfast. We posed for a team photo:
Casey and Bob decided to do something a little different with their beards, and since they destroyed the sink, I’m really glad that I had already brushed my teeth.
Since this was our first-ever coed Team Virtus, and since this was Kage’s first official race with us, we wanted to make her feel as welcome as possible. Kage is known for many things: awesome cookies (which she didn’t bring on this trip), braided pigtails, wicked-fast race reports, never ever complaining, general bad-assery, etc. She is also well-known for her fashion sense – especially when it comes to her fancy, argyle socks. So we, the manliest of men, sported these:
We reloaded the Virtus Van, dropped our bikes at the bike drop, and then drove to the starting line under overcast skies with plenty of time to spare. It was actually pretty weird since we weren’t rushed at all. Usually, we are one of the last teams to drop the bikes and make it to the starting line. This time, however, we had enough time to just chill, use the port-a-potties, and talk to the Bushwhacker guys some more. We dropped off our gear/food bags, and we waited for the start of the race.
We grabbed our passports, sang the National Anthem, and we suddenly found ourselves toeing the line, finally ready to start the LBL Challenge 24-hour Adventure Race. It was finally here, and we were ready. Nothing could stop us. Not even the thunderstorms that were all but guaranteed to ravage the Land Between the Lakes over the next 24 hours. Not even the stiff competition in our division. Not even cramps…
To Be Continued…
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.