Posted by Lukas Lamb
Twas the Sunday after Thanksgiving. There was cold rain. There was mud. There was fire. There was coffee. There was whiskey. And there was laughter. Joyful, hearty laughter shared by bearded, manly men in the great outdoors. This is the telling of that story.
Read on, dear friends. Just know this: the words you’re about to read and the photos you’re about to see are meager substitutes for actually being there, experiencing it all, and sucking the marrow out of life.
Just ask Kate, who didn’t get to go. Now, on with the story…
As far as I know, I am the first person to finish the inaugural SHART, so I’m pretty much famous now. What’s that? You don’t know what a SHART is? No, not that kind of shart (although those of us on Team Virtus have plenty of experience with those as well).
If you haven’t been keeping up with us lately, then perhaps you missed this post explaining what a SHART is. If you’re too damn lazy to go read that, here’s a hint: SHared Adventure Race Training – that’s what a SHART is.
And perhaps you also missed this post regarding the very first SHART and how you too can participate if you’re in the St. Louis area-ish. This is the SHART which I was the first to complete. I guess that makes me sort of like the Neil Armstrong of SHARTs or something. Or would it be Neil SHARTstrong?
Bob was with me too, but I technically finished before he did. Chuck was also there, but he was the brilliant SHARTist behind this masterpiece, so he can’t really be considered for the first-ever SHART finisher. So I have laid claim to that title.
Bob was a last minute addition to our group just as Kate was a last minute cancellation. We were bummed Kate wouldn’t be joining us, but we were stoked about rubbing it in every chance we got.
We three men met up, geared up, and headed out.
Astride our trusty steeds, we pedaled out onto the gravel double track, hoping that most of the single track would be rideable. We had 15 checkpoints ahead of us. On each control marker – beautifully homemade by the one, the only, the amazing Lori Vohsen – was a secret letter which we needed to write down. These letters, when put together in order, would spell a secret word or phrase. This phrase would serve as proof that we reached all the checkpoints. Or would it?
Here’s our clue sheet:
We took a different route to CP 1 than Chuck, who had set the course, had anticipated, partly because we were unsure of the conditions of the single track and partly because sometimes navigators do things differently. And that’s one of the many cool things about this sort of event. We can practice navigating and discuss what was done, what should have been done, and what someone else might do. It’s a great learning experience, and damn it, it’s just a super fun time. Right, Kate? Oh, sorry…
Nearing CP1 – which was at a graveyard in the middle of the woods – a random person came down through the trees from the general direction of the graveyard. No bike. No map. Just a random dude appearing out of nowhere. Or maybe it was a zombie for all we knew. A few pleasantries were exchanged, and we headed into the woods and found the first CP.
Now, you may notice in these photos that Bob is in jeans and an ugly (or is it beautiful?) Christmas sweater with tinsel on the cuffs. Why, you ask? Because he’s Bob fuckin’ Jenkins that’s why. Don’t ask such stupid questions.
After getting the first secret letter, Bob thought he had the secret phrase figured out. Chuck neither confirmed nor denied if Bob was right. Spoiler alert: Bob was wrong.
From here, Bob F. Jenkins led us to CP2. We dropped our bikes on the double track trail and headed up and into the woods. The control marker shone brightly on this drab and dreary day, so it didn’t take long to spot it. We got the second secret letter, and as I was writing it down, it clicked. I knew without a doubt what the secret word or phrase was.
Chuck neither confirmed nor denied it… at first. However, the “Fuck you guys! Two freakin’ letters and you figured it out! Fuck you guys!” kind of gave it away. It was hilarious.
Now, just because we may have “cracked the code” doesn’t mean we just quit with an unbeatable time (trust me, our official finishing time is sure to be beaten). You’d have to be some kind of asshole to try to cheat at a free, badass training event. That would defeat the whole purpose and go completely against the spirit of the SHART. So we were still determined to get every damn CP come hell or high water. But not before a map check and bathroom break.
That rock was perfect, and this photo cracks me up. The sweater really sets the mood. But for some reason, this really reminds me of something from another time, another era…
Hmm… What could it be?
If you can tell me which race the above photo is from, you are a true Virtusite! And you have serious issues. But I digress.
We decided to take the trail, which was in surprisingly good shape, on foot to CP 3 at a spring/pond before heading back to get our bikes. That’s another cool feature of the SHART – being able to get the CP’s however we damn well please.
Bob and Chuck had already been to this little area back in the summer when they did a little swimming and exploring. With the temps in the 40’s, there would be no swimming on this day, though.
We made it back to our bikes and quickly pedaled our asses off to the next checkpoint. With a clue like “Irish Coffee Spot,” you’d be a fool to waste any time in getting there. We soon found the old pavilion as the rain started coming down a little harder. There were holes in the pavilion’s roof but not enough to leave us wet. It was the perfect spot for Irish coffee on a cold, wet day.
Chuck readied his Jetboil stove, Bob worked on the makings of a campfire, and I went to get some water out of the creek to boil. But not before I snapped a photo.
Chuck fired up the stove and put the water on to boil. Bob had his wood ready (TWSS) in the fire ring, but he needed some tinder. He scoured the ground under and around the Dublin Pavilion to no avail. Curses! After a few more minutes of Bob’s desperate searching, Chuck asked what he needed. When Bob answered he was looking for some tinder, Chuck reached under his seat and said, “Well here’s this remnant of a bird’s nest. Oh, and here’s this old, dried up piece of birch bark.” This is just one more piece of evidence confirming Chuck was raised by a pack of wolves. The man is completely at home in the wilderness.
Bingo. Chuck’s tinder was exactly what Bob needed. So with nothing but a flint, small pieces of nest and birch bark, and a whole lot of manly badassness, Bob got us a nice fire going just as Chuck poured the boiling water into our awesome 100+ Project SiliPints.
I had brought Irish Burritos (some sausage breakfast burritos from the most famous Irish restaurant in the world – McDonald’s), because you know, it fit with our Irish theme. Sadly, Bob and I devoured ours as soon as we unwrapped them, but not Chuck. Chuck is a wise and patient man. They say the best things come to those who wait which is usually bullshit. This time, however, it couldn’t have been more true.
Chuck whittled himself a roasting stick and roasted that damn burrito over the fire to perfection. The tortilla was golden brown with a nice, flaky crust. The sausage, eggs, and cheese were hot and tasty. It was the best damn $1.00 burrito I’ve ever tasted. Seriously.
I don’t believe any of us were quite ready to leave, but the day was getting away from us. We had 11 more CP’s to find before we were done SHARTing. So we extinguished the fire, packed up, and headed back out on our bikes. The next CP was a short ride down the double track to the old chimney, another really cool spot.
From CP5, we had a difference in opinion on which way to go. Taking the double track all the way around and then take the trail back to CP6 was one option. The other option involved a hike-a-bike up a fairly steep hill to the trail and then biking on the trail a shorter distance. We chose the latter option. I’m not sure it was the better choice, though.
After getting CP6, we hopped back onto the single track, and we rode to CP7. Actually, we rode past CP7 because I wasn’t paying close enough attention. After catching my mistake, we dropped the bikes and hiked to the the CP which was in another graveyard.
Those of you who participated in the first ShITR might recognize this tombstone:
From CP7, it was a short ride to CP8 at the “Spring/Cave” which was really cool. Had it not been for the Irish coffee and singing Kumbayah together around the campfire back at CP4, this one would have been my favorite CP.
CP9 at the “Peninsula” was also a short ride away, followed by just a bit of bushwhacking on foot. This was yet another cool place for a CP. It’s almost like Chuck knows his shit.
With all the recent rain, though, the water was up a bit, so Bob stripped down and braved the cold water to go get the secret letter (even though we already knew what it was since I’m basically Alan Turing when it comes to code breaking).
Back on the bikes, we rode down the trail and found yet another cool CP. The clue was “Reentrant/Pipeline,” and yet again, Bob went to get the super secret letter from the control marker. I think he enjoyed himself a bit too much, though.
We reached the next three CPs uneventfully and continued on toward CP 14. At this point in the day, the sun had almost set. With the cloud and tree cover, it was getting dark in a hurry. At least we were all prepared with headlamps, though. And by that, I mean we had one headlamp with nearly-dead batteries between us.
Bob and Chuck bombed the long, downhill doubletrack from CP13. Even with a headlamp, I was a little timid, and those guys just flew down it in stealth mode. Very impressive.
We found CP 14 as the darkness swallowed us, but we only had one more CP to go. CP15 was on the “SE Wall” in an old rock quarry. It looked like we were going to make it out alive and unscathed. But that’s when it happened.
Some asshole (me) forgot he had the only headlamp, so he didn’t point out a log in the trail leading into the quarry. It’s pretty impressive how fast a log will stop a front wheel if the rider never actually sees the log. Chuck nailed the log and crashed pretty hard. At least he got a pretty sweet knot under his eye from the crash. Sorry about that, Chuck.
We rode through the mushy, swampy grass and found the final CP. On the way out of the quarry, through no fault of my own this time, there was another crash. Somehow Bob crashed and managed to dry hump his handlebar on the way down.
It left a really good bruise above his package. And no, I didn’t just take his word for it. I actually saw the bruise on his majestically man-scaped pubic area at the Castlewood Race (report coming soon) the following weekend.
I pulled a DB move at the end by waiting until we were almost back to the parking lot and then sprinting to get back to the cars first. That’s how I became the first ever official SHARTer, edging out Bob for the title.
We headed into town for some food and drinks at Tully’s. I’m pretty sure the waitress wanted all three of us. We wreaked of the moist outdoors and campfire smoke with just a hint of whiskey. Throw in our wit, charm, boyish good looks, manly beards, and it’s no wonder she fell for us hard.
And with that, a mere 5 hours and 49 minutes after we started, our SHARTS-giving celebration came to an end. We had an absolute blast.
A day in the woods is a day well spent. A day SHARTing in the woods with great friends is even better.
Big thanks to Lori for making the awesome control markers, and big thanks to Chuck for inventing the SHART series and setting up the first course.
If you want to SHART with us, you can comment here on the blog or on our facebook page, and we’ll send you details on the current or next SHART event. That’s right, ladies and gents. We will be SHARTing throughout the year in lots of different locations. So stay tuned!