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Happy Birthday, MawMaw!!

For those who don’t already know, this young lady turned 49 today.

Ok, so she's only 39...whatever.

So raise your glasses for the only girl we know who pees standing up, never complains and isn’t afraid to put some damn gravy on her hashbrowns…..

Clearly more of a man than Adam

……who fearlessly stands within the blast-radius of Casey’s over-active colon for 28 hours……….

..she never even blinked

..she never even blinked

…isn’t afraid to paddle with Betty White…

….and runs almost as fast as me…

OK, we all know that's not true.

Let’s just hope she doesn’t shatter a hip before the next race:)

Just for Fun Friday – Team Virtus Greatest Hits (and Crashes) Edition

In case you haven’t seen some of our videos, I thought we would share some or our greatest hits with you to brighten your day as you head into the weekend.  All but one of the clips are between 8 and 36 seconds, so it won’t take very long to view them.  And as always, let us know what you think in the comments section.  Here you go…

Take a gander at this clip of Bob getting “caught from behind” at Syllamo:

And here’s my failed attempt at riding the same rocks at Syllamo:

Here’s a clip of Bob just having fun blazing his own path at Castlewood State Park, and note my encouraging words convincing Bob to go for it:

Back when Zack was on the team, he provided a ton of entertainment.  Here’s a clip of Zack trying to bunny-hop a log on the Bittersweet Trail down at Lake of the Ozarks:

Here’s a second camera angle of the failed bunny-hop, and it’s worth watching just to hear Bob laugh his ass off:

This is perhaps the funniest video we’ve ever shot (also of Zack at Bittersweet), and if this doesn’t make you laugh, then you really need to seek psychiatric help right now.  Bob’s reaction and my triumphant “YESSS!!!” at the end are just icing on the cake.  Enjoy:

And like any good Greatest Hits Compilation, you have to add some new material.  So here is a never-before seen helmet-cam clip of Bob crashing for no apparent reason at the worst race ever:

Well, we hope you enjoyed that stroll down memory lane as well as the new clip of Bob’s crash.  We really need to start filming more of our escapades, don’t we?  Until next time, Ciao!

The Hardcore 24 – 24 Hours of Peddaling? or Am I a Quitter?

PRERACE-Race Preparation and the Pre-ride

I was excited and a little anxious about competing in my first 24-Hour Mountain Bike Race.  Lacking a teammate within 1,000 miles and unable to find a local friend to race with, I had signed up to compete in the solo division.  How hard could it be?  You bike until you get a little tired, rest, eat, drink, then bike some more and repeat for the 24 hour duration.  I have done other types of 24 hour races as part of a team in the past so I figured I could do this one by myself.  Since I was lacking experience in this specific type of race, I drew upon my other racing experience, as well as advice from my Virtus teammates, to prepare as best as I could.

I received advice on how to butter my chamois (and various body parts),how to lube my feet, that I should bring diaper rash cream “just in case”, I needed to pace myself out of the gate…it’s a long race, as well as stay on top of my nutrition and hydration needs.  I took all their advice to heart and pulled together a bit of a game plan.  After some discussion with Dragon, I decided anything less than 10 laps (70 miles of single track) would be a disappointment.  I thought 12 laps (84 miles) was reachable, and my super stretch goal (if everything went perfectly) was 15 laps (105 miles of single track).

Dragon advised not to look at the time per lap or the miles per 24-hours but instead at the actual miles I planned to ride.  If I hit my must reach goal of 70 miles, I would surpass the furthest I have ever ridden any bike, on any terrain by almost 20 miles.  The furthest I had ever ridden single track was probably only around 15 to 20 miles.   I initially thought the goal I set was too low but when I looked at it this way, maybe it was a little too high.  Well, I’d find out in a couple of days at The Hardcore 24.

The race was at Ontario County Park (OCP).  My plan was to go to OCP right after work on the Friday night before the race, register for the race, and pre-ride the loop before heading home to pack my gear for the race the next day.  Well, I got down to OCP (yeah you know me) right at 6:00pm and was the first person through registration.  I picked up my shirt, my raffle ticket, and my schwag bag and headed out to the well marked trail to pre-ride the loop that I was planning on owning (at least in my own little world) the next day.

Ontario County Park Mountain Biking

A shot of OCP - not the exact location of the race, though.

Well, 1 hour 13 minutes later I was back at my car and my clothes were soaked with man sweat.  It wasn’t super technical but had a few challenging areas.  It was wicked rocky and only had a few short burner climbs.  In all, I felt pretty good about the course and felt it was something I was capable of riding over and over and over and over and over again.  I also felt that the course would produce some fast laps and that the top riders would be  logging some serious mileage.  I headed home and with the help of my wonderfully supportive wife, Lauren, I packed my stuff (while she packed hers and the two little kids).  You see, Lauren, Colton, Joselyn, and Big Mac (my wife’s annoying miniature wiener dog) were going to be my support crew for the race.  The forecast for the race was mid 90’s, humid, with a 30% chance of “isolated” thunderstorms.  I popped a couple tablets of electrolytes, had some water, got to bed before midnight, and had a good night’s sleep.

RACE DAY-The first leg of day light riding

I got to OCP about 90 minutes before race time and located an area for Team Virtus Head Quarters (TVHQ).

This would be home for the next 24 hours...See my shade tree?

We were right off the course (literally about 20 yards) and even had a tree (the only one in the area) to provide some shade.  We quickly set up our area and put up our new ridiculously large Eureka tent (15’ x 12’ x 7’).

Lauren and the kids were great at supporting me.  They helped me get my bottles filled and ready for my first lap.  Lauren even made me a slice of currant bread with natural peanut butter and clover honey to eat while we waited (it was the bomb) for things to going.  There was a racers meeting at 11:45 over at the main pavilion.

You rode through this pavillion ecery lap calling out your race number - 305!

They informed us that at the end of each lap you had to enter the chute, dismount, and walk through the pavilion calling out your race number (I was 305) as you passed the officials table.  They said to call it out a couple of times to make sure your lap was recorded.  It was very hot, I was already sweating and I hadn’t even started to ride.  Then they quickly raffled off a sweet bike light (I didn’t win).  Before you knew it, it was race time and they led a procession across the parade field, down the road a bit, and then back into the single track.  The purpose of this was to let us spread out a bit.  I hung back towards the back of the middle of the pack and chatted with some fellow solo riders as we made our way to the single track.

I guessed my place in the peloton about right and rode the first lap with a group of riders.  The solo rider right in front of me, John, and I chatted the whole first lap away.  The first lap went by uneventfully but fairly quickly.  As we finished the lap I looked down at my watch and saw that we rode the first lap in about 66 or 67 minutes.  The fastest first lap was 41 minutes and 6 seconds.  It was logged by Bob Pilato,  another solo rider, who is a serious stud.  I cruised over to TVHQ, swapped water bottles and headed back out without any rest.  As I passed John he questioned if I was going to stop and rest.  I told him I felt good and would stop for some rest after the next lap.

The second lap went by pretty quickly and I felt like I was finding a bit of a groove.  I was riding pretty well and would get over to the side of the trail and let the faster riders pass when they came up behind me.  Then I would watch them (until they were out of sight) and try to follow their line through the trail and emulate their riding style.  I would brake where they braked, trying to learn from observing their skill.  Believe it or not, I think I actually picked some things up by the end of the race by doing this.

Towards the middle of lap two, John (not the same guy as above) from my local bike shop caught up with me and I offered to let him pass.  He said he wasn’t in a hurry so we rode the rest of the lap together.  Towards the end of the lap he got a flat tire and stopped to fix it.  I offered to help but he told me to go on.  I figured he would be fine (he works on bikes for a living) so I finished the lap on my own.  I forgot to look at my watch until I was back at TVHQ but it was around 75 minutes of riding time.

See the playground in the background - my support crew's second home for the race.

This time I sat down and took a good 20-25 minutes break.  I drank a couple more bottles of water (I drank 1 bottle full of e-Fuel each lap while riding) and ate at least 300-400 calories.  I talked with the kids (I actually played a little catch with Josie), then the little ones shot me with the water guns (which felt awesome in the heat), and I got ready to head back out.

Casey at the Hardcore 24 mountain bike race

Who knew you could get helmet-hair with such short hair?

I was feeling pretty good at this point and was starting to get comfortable with the loop I was riding.  I was flowing into curves and hills with more ease, breaking less going into curves, and carrying more speed around the course.  I felt as if this was getting easier.  I even had the idea that I would count how many pedals I would need to complete the next lap; I pondered what the least number of pedal strokes I could use while circumventing the course (I forgot to actually count the pedal strokes once I started up again, though).

Suddenly I was passed by a very fast rider and tried to do what he was doing.  I was a dry sponge absorbing all the liquid skill he was spilling all over the trail.  I actually was pulling it off.  I was flying through the single track; this was fun, almost effortless.  I was free and fast.  This must be what it is like to really ride.  I could get used to this.  It was so easy, so fun.

And then… I was in the air and bouncing on the top of my helmet on the side of the trail (literally).

I paused for a second and took stock of the situation.  I wasn’t hurt, just a little adrenaline surge.  I was ok, a little amped up, but ok.

I would love to get to the point to where my skill level is such that I always ride this way.  Where I take speed into turns and obstacles and fly out of them without losing any speed or momentum.  It makes sense and is so much more efficient.  You work so hard to get to the top of hills and then lose all your effort by braking on the technical downhill or sharp curves and then you hammer away on the pedals to get going again.  The top riders recoup every bit of their uphill effort on their downhills and maintain their speed through the flats with minimal pedaling.  However, I realized it wasn’t going to happen all in one race for me.  I would watch what they do and practice it another day.  I will ride at this level again.

I hopped back onto my bike and hammered away at the pedals to get going again.  I was still on pace for my fastest lap yet.  I was cruising down a pretty steep, rocky grade when my front wheel hit a pointy rock and went flat instantly.  I actually saw it all happen in slow motion.  I saw the tire go flat instantly, slide off the rim, and then watched as my rim dug into the dirt.  You could see the little groove in the trail that my rim was digging.  And then my back tire started to rise up slowly and then everything went flying by in fast forward.

I was airborne… Again.

The handle bars jabbed into the right side of my rib cage and slid along my ribs and passed in front of me, I went up in the air and paused for a second above my handle bars, and then I came down hard on the crosspiece of my bike, fell off my bike, and was standing next to my bike, bent over, holding my ribs.

A rider quickly caught up to me and asked if I was alright.  I answered with a bit of a choke, through gritted teeth that I was fine.  He looked at me questioningly and I nodded my head as I rubbed my ribs.  He probably saw the whole thing and was wondering if I was really ok.  I waved him by me as I picked my bike up and dragged it off the trail.  I quickly changed my front tire and was back on my bike in no time (well, probably more like 10 or 15 minutes).  I would probably have a nice bruise on my ribs but nothing was broken.

I rode the rest of the lap cautiously and finished with an actual riding time around 85 minutes.  I rode into TVHQ covered in dust, with a bloody knee, elbow, and shin, and a great story to tell.  I went through the same routine as I did for every lap.  I drank couple of water bottles, and then ate at least 300-400 calories (often much more) of food.

Ascot or neck cooler?

Laps 4 and 5 were pretty easy and uneventful.  I was no longer looking at each lap as a whole but at each mile individually.  There were clear, distinct mile markers out on the trail, and I knew that I would pass one every 11 minutes (plus or minus a minute or two) almost without fail.  I could ride a little harder or take it easy and I still seemed to be hitting this mark.  Instead of having to ride 7 miles each loop, I only had to ride 1 mile at a time.  I was taking baby steps, like “Gil” was taking on his first attempt at ascending.

It was much more manageable mentally to know that I was only going to ride a mile.  You always feel like you can ride 1 more mile right?  I felt pretty good but was starting to fade a bit during the 5th lap.  My body was achy and my core was shot.  My lower back and my abs felt like I had been kicked 50 times with a Thai kick through a cheap belly pad (not recommended).  My palms were numb and I was looking for a reason to quit.  Plus, it was getting dark and I would have to take lights with me on my next lap (as I was directed to do so by the race volunteers).

As I was riding my 5th lap I began to doubt myself a bit and had a little argument in my head.  I reasoned that most people doing the race wouldn’t ride more than 5 or 6 laps for the entire race.  You see, most people were on a team of four.  I thought about being on a team of 4, and how only the top teams would get more than 5 or 6 laps a person, right?  This was my first 24 hour MTB Race, and I should have probably done it as a team of 4.  Had I done so, I would only ride 5 or 6 laps at most.  I had 5 laps down, so I could walk away and not feel bad.  I knew I was lying to myself; that my mind was grasping at straws and trying to find a reason to quit.  I knew I would be pissed later if I quit now.  I knew I had more laps in me, that I could keep going.  It might hurt a bit, it might not be as fun as the last 5 laps were, but I knew I could do more.  This wasn’t like me.  I have never quit or given up on anything ever in my life.  I’ve lost my share of competitions but I have never thrown in the towel (literally or figuratively).  The referee might stop a fight but I never have quit, I have never tapped.

Is this what quitting is like?  Is this what quitters go through?  Was I consciously looking for a reason to quit or was my subconscious kicking into self-preservation mode and trying to get my body to call it a day?  I fought these thoughts down and made my mind think other things.  I remember a quote from an old article in The Pitch Newspaper where Bob was quoted as saying that he thinks about boob’s when the going gets tough.  I tried that for a while… it didn’t work.  Lauren had boobs and was back at TVHQ.  What if I called it a day and we put the kids to bed and…?  No, I quickly abandoned that trail of thought and just focused on the ride one mile at a time.  11 minutes and I’d hit my next mark.  My sudconscious mind wandered and struggled to find a reason for me to quit while my consicious searched for a reason to continue.

My mind asked about the one unknown; what would continuing to push myself do to my body or how I would feel afterwards?  This was new territory for me and I did not know the answer.  I wasn’t sure how my body would respond to what I was preparing to ask it to do.  Then I thought about the upcoming race with my teammates 3 weeks from now, the 24-hour Lionheart Adventure Race.  Would I be able to race so soon after doing this to my body?  Now I was concerned, perhaps I had found a real reason to end my race.  My subconscious mind had found the only possible way that my conscious mind might allow my body to quit.

Wanted to Quit

This is a photo looking into my head.

What if I was unable to train for a couple of weeks due to my efforts at this race?  How would that affect my performance at the Lionheart?  I really did not want to ruin everybody else’s race because I was selfish today and pushed my body too far past it limits.  I knew I wasn’t lying to myself about this, this was real.  Somehow, my mind had found the one way out for my body.  Somehow, it knew that I could walk away without regret if it meant not letting my teammates down at the Lionheart.

You see, my teammates were driving halfway across the country to race in Pennsylvania with me (which is only 5-6 hours from my house as opposed to the usual 12-15 hours I travel to race with them).  I did not want to let them down and be the team anchor on race day only 3 short weeks away.  I was really thinking about calling it a day.  However, I kept resting, eating, drinking, and thinking.  What was the answer?  What should I do?  I wanted to keep going, but  what about the Lionheart in exactly 3 weeks from today?

I asked Lauren what I should do.  She didn’t have the answer and was unsure of how hard she should push me.  Then she told me she posted how I was doing on Facebook and there had been some responses and words of encouragement.  She powered up her fancy phone and read the comments to me.  I decided I’d call the Dragon and get his take on the situation.  The Dragon listened to what I had to say.  Then I asked him if everybody was 100% committed to doing the Lionheart adventure race in 3 weeks.  I told him I had more in me and could push harder and longer, but I wasn’t sure what it would do to my body and my ability to race well at the Lionheart.

He said yes, everybody was in for the Lionheart, Bob already had his leave approved at his job.  Dragon’s advice was to do what I wanted to do.  He said that I had nothing to prove to him or any of my teammates either way.  If I wanted to keep going, he felt that I could adjust my training accordingly and in the shape I was in, I would be fine come race day in three weeks.  He said I could take a rest, refuel, then ride a couple more laps in the night, sleep for a few hours, and then hit a few more laps in the morning if I felt like it.  I thanked him for his advice, hung up, and sat in my chair pondering my next move.

I knew immediately that I was going to keep riding, but I sat and thought it through anyway.

Fred Jones sporting his classic ascot as he ponders who did it.

As I thought, I prepared my lights for the night riding.  I rigged my Corona bike light onto my handle bars and jerry rigged my Apex headlamp onto my bike helmet using an extra byekyle Simple Strap.  Once I had everything ready, I drank and ate some more.  I think this is where I ate some of my turkey sub.  It was good and way tastier than the other race food I had been eating.  I had to wait a little longer before heading out because the sun was just starting to set and it was dusky (too dark to ride without lights but not dark enough for my affordable lights to work).  So I took a few more minutes of rest.  This was by far my longest break, probably a good 45 minutes of rest.  Lauren said that right before I came in they announced that the temperature was down to 88.  It was starting to feel a little cooler and I was starting to feel a little better.

It is only now, as I look back, that I can see that I was starting to bonk a bit.  I tried hard to stay on top of my nutritional and hydration needs but you can only eat and drink so much.  I was losing water and burning calories faster than I could replace them.  This longer rest was giving me the time I needed to catch up to my body’s needs.  I continued to eat, drink, and rest.  It was finally dark enough for me to head out, so I kissed the kids goodnight, told them I’d see them in the morning and headed out for my first ever night mountain bike ride (I rode once for about 50 miles on an old rail trail in the dark, but that was my only other night ride other than around my college’s campus after a night class).

RACE NIGHT- My first taste of single track after sundown

With my decision made and my mind at ease I was ready to continue my race.  It was much cooler with the sun out of the sky and physically I was feeling much better and actually looking forward to getting back out on the trails.  I was excited to try out my lighting system on the trail and get a taste of real night mountain biking.  I was not disappointed and thoroughly enjoyed riding the trails in the dark; it was a new experience for me.  I can’t believe I have waited over 37 years to try it.  If you haven’t ridden single track after the sun goes down, I recommend that you give it a try.  It is much different than biking the same trail in the daylight; you experience the trails on a different plane and truly get to know the trail, you become one with it (I am serious).

The first night lap, I was getting used to the whole limited visibility, tunnel vision phenomena.  The limited visibility forced you to really focus on the trail and take everything in.  You had to use all of your senses.  It was like my senses were hyper acute.  I was seeing every little bump or deviation on the trail.  I was hearing my bike creak and moan, smelling the leaves and dirt, and feeling the air on my skin.  I made good time and enjoyed the ride once again.  I felt revived and ready to ride several more laps in the dark.  I finished the last technical stretch and the cruised through the TA and back to TVHQ.  I rolled into an abandoned camp with a time around 1 hour and 18 minutes.  It’s amazing how a little rest and refueling can make you feel like a new man.  I was definitely back and knew that I had made the right decision.

Mountain biking at night

Clearly not me, but it's a cool shot nonetheless.

I sat down in my chair alone in TVHQ.  However, within a couple of minutes Lauren and Colton came sliding out of the tent and asked me how it went.  I told them I was back and that I had a blast.  We sat and talked a bit while I ate, drank, and breathed in the cool night air.  I told Lauren that I was going to do at least 1, possibly 2 more laps before catching a couple hours rest.  I also told her that I was still seriously considering riding the whole night through because I was feeling strong and I was still feeling pretty exhilarated after my first night ride.  She said that she would have to go to bed because at least one of us had to be functional in the morning because the kids would be rested and ready to go.  She told me she’d fill all my water bottles and lay out my planned snacks before heading in.  I thanked her and told her that I wanted her to go to bed and sleep through until morning.  I told her that since there weren’t two trees together anywhere near TVHQ that I would crash on the ground next to her and the kids if I decided to nap (I had planned on sleeping in my Hennessy Hammock).

As I prepared to take off again, I kissed Lauren and Colton good night and was about ready to ride away when Lauren asked me my plans if it started raining (foreshadowing or jinxing me?).  I told her that if it rained much that I would probably sneak into the tent for some shuteye.  She seemed relieved to hear my plans and I rode away into the darkness as she headed back to the tent.

The second night lap went smoothly and was pretty uneventful.  I felt more confident in my night riding ability and pushed the pace a little more this lap.  I thought that I was beginning to feel an occasional rain drop but due to the lack of consistency I wrote it off as sweat from my helmet.  Between miles 2 and 3 there was a nice little climb on a wide grassy path.  About half way up there was a nice little meadow with a pine tree and a picnic table inviting you to stop for a breather.  I finally gave in to the urge and hopped off my bike on onto the picnic table.  I wasn’t as lucky as Bob and found no mulberry tree to offer me any nourishment so I had to settle for a delicious Honey Stinger Waffle and half my bottle of E-fuel.  A rider passed me and asked if I was ok.  To which I answered, yes I am great – just catching a quick drink and snack.  I finished the lap strong and was feeling like I might actually be able to make it through the whole night without any rest.

I made it through the TA and back to TVHQ a couple of minutes faster than my last lap.  I sat back in my chair, loosened my shoes and repeated the refueling ritual that was quickly becoming habit.  I was sitting there relaxing and contemplating heading out in about 10-15 more minutes when I felt a rain drop.  Then I felt another one, and another one.  The rain began to fall more steadily.  I quickly tidied up the area and got everything put away so that nothing would get wet.  I thought about heading out for a quick lap and the rain began to pick up.  I stood my bike up under the tree and headed into the tent, disappointed that I was unable to get 1 more night lap in (I really planned on at least 3 night laps and then I’d need only 2 laps when I got up to hit my minimum goal of 10 laps).

I laid on the ground with my head on the air mattress as a pillow, without a blanket,  and stared at the tent ceiling while I listened to the rain pitter-patter on the tent’s fly.  I was unable to sleep.  I laid there hearing not only the rain but the occasional rider heading out, getting another lap while I lay in the tent trying to sleep.  You could feel the cool night air on your skin and smell the earthy rain.  I couldn’t seem to get comfortable and noticed the rain was letting up.  Wait… it had pretty much stopped all together.  I was about ready to sit up and head out for another lap when it happened…all hell broke loose.

I didn't take this picture but am sure that it was raining at least this hard by the way it sounded on my tent.

It began to rain hard, monsoon hard and the wind was beginning to pick up.  Then there were several bright flashes followed immediately by a series of thunderous booms that rolled away into the valley in the distance.  The storm, the one that only had a 30% chance of happening, was here right on top of us.  I decided that I had made the right call and was better off in the tent than out on the trail trying to get one more lap in.  I decided that I’d sleep until 6:00 (the sun would be up by then) and then head out and see how many laps I could get in before the race ended.

I wish I could tell you I slept soundly and straight through until 6:00 but I wasn’t so lucky.  I got cold without any sleeping bag and eventually managed to wiggle my way onto a deflated queen size air mattress shared by my whole support crew.  I had about 12 inches of mattress and maybe 8 inches of the sheet.  I seemed to sleep well for a while until I was awoken by something and realized it was the call of nature.

I snuck out the back door of the tent and relieved myself in the shadow of my tent.  When I snuck back into the tent I found that Colton had taken my spot on the mattress and there was no room for me.  I probably should’ve headed out right then but it was foggy and still raining.  I decided another hour or two of sleep would be best.  I’d wait until daylight before heading out again.  I laid across the bottom of the air mattress and slept with Lauren’s feet under me and my 2 year old, Joselyn’s feet on my chest.  She’s only like 2 feet tall but somehow her feet were down at the foot of the air mattress.  As I lay there trying to get back to sleep, I heard a couple of riders slide by and head out, getting in more laps in these less than ideal conditions.

Somehow, I fell back to sleep and woke up a little before 6:00 and climbed out of the tent to assess the situation and pull a game plan together for what was left of the race.  The first thing I noticed was how foggy it still was.

See how huge our tent is?

I imagined that as the sun finished rising that the fog would burn off pretty quickly.  The next thing that I noticed was that physically, I felt great.  I wasn’t sore anywhere and sure as hell didn’t feel like I had ridden 49 miles of single track the day before.  Hell, I didn’t feel like I had ridden 25 miles of rail trails.  I felt as good as I had on the previous morning.  I checked my watch and realized that I had a little less than 6 hours to get in as many laps as I could.  Since I was feeling so good, I was hoping to get in at least 3 more laps, which would give me my minimum goal of 10 laps.  That meant I had roughly 5 hour s and 50 minutes to complete 2 laps and start my 3rd lap since you could start a lap anytime before the noon cutoff.  If I was anywhere near my usual 75-80 minute lap with my 20-30 minute rest and refuel breaks I should reach my goal without much trouble, if the trails were in good shape or at least reasonably rideable.  After the rain we had gotten overnight, though, I was afraid the condition of the trails would be terrible.  I headed to the team area next to mine on a reconnaissance mission to gather some intel on the conditions of the trail and their rideability.

SECOND RACE DAY-The Morning After The Storm

After some discussion, I quickly found out the trails were in surprisingly good shape.  They said the first couple of miles were in real good shape because of how rocky it was and the elevation.  Then they said it got a little soggy in the middle and between miles 5 and 6 you had to be real careful because it was pretty slick, especially in the off camber section (this is just before where I crashed the previous day).  His main complaint was how foggy it still was in the low areas of the trail.  Overall, this was a much better report than I was anticipating, and I was optimistic about reaching and possibly surpassing my 10 lap minimum goal.

I had a quick breakfast and prepared to head out again.  I said goodbye to Lauren (the kids were still asleep) and I headed off.

As I was heading out I ran into John (the guy I rode the first lap with) and he was packing up.  I asked him how the trails were and he said he didn’t know.  He had called it a night when it started raining.  I asked if he was heading back out and he said that his race was over.  He informed me that every time he rode in these conditions he messed up his bike (he had a nice Canondale Lefty) and had to have brake work or his cassette replaced.  I wished him well and said it was nice getting to know him, and then I headed out for my first lap of the day.

The beginning was much like the day before only with less dust.  I was flowing nicely and making good time.  Around mile 3 the fog got much thicker.  My visibility was limited but not like it was the night before.  I actually thought the fog looked cool and regret not stopping to snap a picture to share with everybody.  There was one stretch of trail that meandered through a bunch of ferns and with the fog above them and water dripping from the trees.  I felt like I had been transported to a rainforest and was half expecting to see a monkey or exotic bird jump out.  I wish I could tell you this happened but it did not.  I continued on and quickly came to the area where I was encouraged to use caution due to it being so slick.  I slowed down a bit and took a little extra care and had no issues.  If anything, I thought the rain made most of the trail more fun to ride.  There were a couple of wet spots and a stretch or two of roots that were as slick as snot because they were wet.  But other than that, I had a great first lap and had a riding time of about 1 hour and 20 minutes.

I hit TVHQ and found everybody up.  I got hugs from everybody and quickly told them how much fun the last lap was.  I wanted to head right out for another lap but my experience from yesterday had taught me that rest was pertinent.  As Jason Bourne says, rest is a weapon, so I took a good 20-30 minute rest and refueled my body.  I was feeling so good and was sure that 11 laps was within my reach, and I was doing some math in my head to figure out if 12 laps was attainable.  I decided that 12 was out of reach unless I rode without any breaks from now until the end of the race and I’d have to push the pace the whole time.  Could I do that?  Did I have it in me?

I had about 4.50 hours to finish the rest of my laps and start my final lap (before that noon, last lap start cut off).  This meant that I’d have to hit my 80 minute per lap pace with only about 5 minutes between laps to rest and refuel.  It was another hot day and the mercury was already starting to climb.  I thought for a few more minutes and made a decision.  Although I think I might have been able to sneak in a 12th lap, I could be happy with 11 laps.  I decided to continue at my usual pace, with my usual routine between laps.

Prepping my bike to head out for another lap, the fog lingers.

So, I finished my routine and headed out for my second lap of the day.  I felt great and was pushing the pace a little more this lap.  I was enjoying the ride, and the fog was getting a little thinner.  As I came around a corner, I found a young woman standing beside the trail and looking at her chain.  I assumed that she broke her chain and pulled over to see if she was alright.  She said that she threw her chain and didn’t know what to do.  I offered my assistance and quickly showed her how to push the rear derailleur forward to slacken the chain and then loop the chain back over the front gear.  I lifted the rear tire, pedaled a few strokes with my hand and shifted the front gears to make sure she’d be all right.  I asked if she needed anything else and she said she was all set.  She thanked me, and I said no problem, hopped on my bike and rode away into the fog.  The lap flew by, and I was still finished in about 80 minutes.  I was back at TVHQ and checked in with everybody.

Lauren had already started breaking camp and had things laid out to air dry from last night’s thunderstorm.  I refueled and relaxed while throwing a ball around with the kids (I was seated in my chair).  I told Lauren how strong I felt and how much fun I was having.  I was actually beginning to dread the end of the race.  I wanted to keep riding all day (I guess I could have if I really actually wanted to).  I took a relatively short break and headed back out with plenty of time to finish my 3rd lap and still get my 4th (11th lap total) started before the cutoff.

I jumped on my bike and took off.  I was making great time.  My legs felt great, and the single track was flowing beneath my tires.  I got passed by a couple of riders and was a little surprised by how fast they were still going (must be on a team or Bob).  One rider came up, and I pulled to the side of the trail to let him pass.  He begrudgingly passed me and said that he was enjoying using me as a pacer, because he always goes out too hard.  He let me pass him, and we rode the rest of the lap together while getting to know each other.  Turns out he was only 16 years old and on a team with his twin brother.  He was riding multiple laps to his brother’s single laps because his brother didn’t keep on top of his nutritional needs and bonked pretty hard.  They were fighting to stay on top of the 2 man team division.

The second place team, a team consisting of a father and his two sons – ages 5 and 8, was closing hard so my friend and his brother really needed to finish this lap and get at least 1 more if they hoped to win their division.  I had passed this father and children team earlier in the race and thought it was pretty cool.  I figured it was a dad doing the race and letting his son pedal a stretch between the roads with him.  Either that or maybe he was a volunteer.  It turns out that they were registered competitors.  The father would ride a lap with each kid and then pound out several laps by himself to keep them in the running.  I hear he is an extremely strong rider and I thought it was a cool thing to do with his children.  I am not sure how they ended up, but win or lose, I am sure it is something the kids (and probably the father) will never forget.

My new friend and I continued to make good time and the conversation made the ride seem effortless.  He seemed to be a nice kid and a strong rider.  He told me biking was his thing and he did cross country skiing for his school only to keep himself in shape over the winter and ready for biking season.  We came up to the stretch between miles 3 and 4 where I always tried to drink half of my water bottle when I realized my cage was empty.  How the hell did I lose my water bottle?  Did I miss the cage when I was putting the bottle away (like Adam did on the bridge this past spring)?  Or had it bounced out as I rode over the last rocky section?  I had no idea what had happened.  What I did know, was that I was without water, had close to 4 miles before I’d get any, and it was hot.

We continued on and held our good pace and good conversation.  Before you knew it we were crossing the rode to ride up the hills in the meadow before entering the last bit of single track on this lap.  We pedaled on and as we left the last bit of single track to ride the asphalt around the upper field, he said his Dad was up ahead and he had to go.  I let him pass me, and then I heard a full grown man go completely bananas.

He was hooting and hollering and jumping around, encouraging his son on.  It made me think of my Dad and how he used to cheer for me and my brothers in our sporting endeavors.  Then I thought about how I cheer for my kids at their events and wondered if I ever looked as ridiculous as this guy did.  I am sure that I have (at least I hope I have) and I am sure that I will again.  I finished my lap and looked at my watch.  I had just turned in a 70 minute lap without any water.  This was my second fastest as well as my second to last lap of the race.  I was thirsty, but other than that I was feeling good.  It was a little before 11:00.  Could I sneak in an extra lap?  I decided probably not, especially since I had ridden the last lap without any fluids.

I headed back to what was left of TVHQ and proceded with my usual routine.  The first thing I saw was my water bottle full of E-fuel sitting on top of the cooler.  I had left it there in my haste to leave on my previous lap.  Lauren had noticed my error and tried to flag me down but it was too late, I was gone.  If she’d known the course she could have caught me at one of the road crossings but with two kids to chase around she never had the opportunity to get to know the course nor did I expect her to chase me down with the 2 little ones in tow.

I made sure that I took a little extra time during this break and drank a couple of extra bottles of fluids.  I had plenty of time since I only had to start my last lap before noon and regardless of what I now did I was only going to get 1 more lap.  I left around 11:20 for my final lap.  This should have been a victory lap, finally my last lap.  However, I was a little sad that it was almost over.  I was only passed by a couple of riders.  This surprised me since I thought everybody would be trying to sneak in one more lap.  I finished my last lap and crossed the finish line with a final lap riding time of around 76 minutes.  I think I was the last rider to leave the course.

I clearly had gas left in the tank and either could’ve have kept riding longer or pushed a little harder throughout the race.  But you never know how that might have affected me.  It might have caused me to bonk.  It was my first go at something like this, and now I’ll know how to better pace myself next time.  I also have learned how my mind works and how it tries to trick me into quitting.  I also learned that I can beat my subconscious and continue racing even though it wants me to quit.  As I crossed the finish line the award ceremony was just starting.  I found a seat near the guys from Trailblazers Bike Shop.

I applauded everybody’s accomplishments and was impressed to find out the winner of my division, Bob Pilato, had turned in 24 laps or roughly 168 miles of single track in less than 24 hours (I later found out he slept for about 2 hours because the weather sucked, and he usually rides straight through for all 24 hours).  I finished 10th out of 16 in the solo riders division.  The most laps ridden were 29 by a  team of 4 , Tryon Bike, and they rode straight through the night without any breaks.  The fastest first lap went to Bob Pilato and was an amazing 41 minutes and 6 seconds.

After the awards were handed out they raffled off an entire table of goodies.  If your name or number was called you headed up to the table and got to pick your prize from the mountain of goodies.  My name was called so I ran (probably more of a slow walk) up to pick my prize.  I thought about going for a set of fenders since I need or at least want a set but was unsure of which ones to take or if they would even fit my bike.  I finally decided on my prize and picked up a Sunlite Slimline 18 Cadence Cycle Computer.  What a great way to end a great race.

I headed back to TVHQ and my crew had everything packed up and ready to go (thank you crew).

"2 Thumbs up" from my support crew chief

Lauren said she heard my named called, and I showed her my prize.  I found out that a pasta dinner was included with my registration fee, so I quickly headed over to the pavilion to get some grub.  Since I was one of the last to eat and there was plenty of food left (and probably because I look like I need some extra nourishment because I am so tiny and frail) I received a mountain of pasta to go along with my tossed salad (insert joke here), delicious dinner roll, and my two brownies.  Lauren tried to buy a dinner (only $8) for her and the kids but they wouldn’t accept her money.  They said they had plenty left and not to worry about it.  So my crew and I sat at a picnic table and enjoyed our hard-earned pasta dinner.  We loaded my bike and the few items that still needed to be thrown in the van and then loaded the kids into the car.  We were one of the last teams to leave the race site; it was amazing how fast everybody disappeared.  They vanished almost as fast as a tub of strawberry cream cheese disappears when Bob is around.

Overall I am happy with my performance but think 12 laps was definitely attainable for me had I ridden a little smarter or had a little better weather.  I completed 11 laps, 77 miles of single track.  Plus, my body feels fine and after forcing myself to take two days off completely, I was right back to training.  I guess, overall, I did pretty well and should be happy with my effort.  However, I’d definitely do some things differently next time.

I would take a break after each lap no matter how great I think I feel, even if it’s only a short 5-10 minutes (and that’s all it should be…weather permitting) .  I would record my actual lap times, rest times, and nutrition for the race in a log at the transition area.  I think this would help me fine tune my nutrition and game plan at future races.  Plus, it would help me in writing up a report.  Oh yeah, I would train a little more in preparation for the race.

It was a great race, at a great park, put on by some great people.  I’ll definitely be back next year, hopefully with some Virtus teammates.  Thank you to all the great sponsors that made this race possible.

Back home - see the blood, mud, and smiles.

In Defense of the Group – 5 Reasons Why You Should Ride, Run, Paddle, Train, and Race with Others

Life is crazy. I get it. Trust me, I get it. With a wife, 4 kids, some rental property to manage, a job, grass to cut, sinks to fix, diapers to change, magazine covers to shoot, and now a dog to take care of, life can get crazy. But it’s for this very reason that we must continue to ride, run, paddle, train, and race as a group.

Group Ride in the Snow

Now, I am fortunate enough to have an AMAZING wife (I love you, Shmoopie!) that is cool with me meeting my friends and teammates for some group training or even leaving for an entire weekend to suffer through a 36 hour adventure race as a team. She doesn’t have a problem with it, but she doesn’t fully understand it. And I don’t think anyone can truly understand it without getting out there with like-minded people on a regular basis. You just have to experience it to really get it. But I’ll try to give you a few reasons why I love training and racing with others.

1. Training and racing as a group creates unforgettable moments that last a lifetime.

Adam, Bob, Luke Muddy

'Member when we rode through all that snow and mud, and then Bob crashed (twice) and got his knee all bloody?

For instance there was this one time when Bob decided to… Wait… It won’t be funny to type it. You had to be there. But there was this other time when Casey tipped our canoe and… Um… Well, it just won’t do the experience justice to simply describe it. You had to be there. However, this other time on the way to one of our races, Drew got out of the car on the side of the highway and… Uh… If I tell that story, Drew might get arrested. YOU HAD TO BE THERE! And that’s my point. You have to be there experiencing the ups, downs, and everything in between to create those everlasting memories.

After pack-rafting at Thunder Rolls

'Member when we endured the pure hell of pack-rafting UPRIVER only to climb what seemed like a thousand stairs just to get ONE measly checkpoint?

2. Training and racing as a group allows you to see and experience things you normally wouldn’t see or experience by yourself.

This one kind of goes along with #1, but I know I wouldn’t do half of the things I do if I had to do them by myself. Meeting up with friends and teammates, however, gets me to do all kinds of things which, in turn, leads to great memories.

For instance… Have you ever sat in a canoe on the bank of the Missouri River waiting for the river to calm down while a gynormous sand barge goes by? Well, we have.

Paddling on the Missouri River

That sand barge tried to run us over... Thrice.

Have you ever had to hike 13+ miles in a cold, driving rain at 50 degrees with your friend, a reporter with a separated shoulder, and a daring, young professional photographer? Well, we have.

Hiking in the Cold Rain

Still smiling even though we were miserable.

Have you ever built a raft out of pool noodles after being lost all night while hallucinating in the rain during a 36 hour adventure race? Well, guess what? We have.

Noodle Raft

Why did I have to be on bottom? Oh yeah... I'm the fat one.

With my friends and teammates I feel like I can do anything. Seriously… Alone, we are nothing to write home about, but as a group we are nearly invincible! Or at least mediocre.

3. You will form some great friendships and create and/or deepen bonds that will enrich your life.

I’ve made many new friends through racing and training. Bob has become one of my BFF’s, but I didn’t even know him until we agreed to do a race together. We’re good enough friends that he actually drove an hour and a half out of his way to help me fix the Virtus Van last week. And while I knew Adam and Robby before they joined the team, I now count them as two of my closest friends. So close in fact, that Adam and I helped Robby move into his new house in the blistering heat – something I would NOT do for just anyone. And I had never even met Rusty before he stumbled onto our blog, and now I consider him a great friend (and a replacement to Adam).

Rusty in deep thought

Rusty contemplates the meaning of friendship.

I’ve always been close with my family, but training and racing with them has made us even closer. There’s just something about suffering together and overcoming obstacles together that seems to strengthen family ties. We’ve all heard the saying, “The family that rapels together, stays together.” Wait… That’s a saying, isn’t it? Well, it is now.

3 generations of Lambs

Three generations of Lambs climbing, zip lining, rapelling, and kicking ass together.

4. Accountability is Huge when you train with a group.

Training can be fun… Sometimes. At other times, I’d rather drink a couple of shots filled with the sweat wrung out of Bob’s chamois after a long bike ride in blazing heat. It’s especially tough for me when it’s early in the morning.

Early Morning Run

It's so damn early Bob's eyes aren't even open.

Sometimes I just don’t feel like training at all. But then I remember that we’ve signed up for a 24 hour adventure race, and I know I need to train even when I don’t want to. So I go and check out our account on, and I see that Casey has just run 10 miles by himself in NY. I decide to call some of the guys up and plan some paddling practice, a run, or a ride. Knowing that others are training their asses off and knowing that I have to meet up with the guys to train forces me to do it when I don’t want to.

5. You become a better person in practically every way when you ride, run, paddle, train, and race as a part of a group.

Look… I LOVE my family. I love my family more than anything in this world, and I would do ANYTHING for them. Not only do I have the greatest wife in the world (as I previously mentioned), but my kids are the best in the world as well. My parents are the best parents a guy could ask for, and I can only hope that I’m half as good of a parent as they are. My brothers are two of my closest friends and I love them dearly (yes, even Casey). My In-Laws are even ridiculously amazing! Seriously, I’m truly the luckiest guy in the world, and I’m not just writing this because I know my family will read it (although that never hurts… I hope they emember this for my birthday in January).

Daddy Date Night

Daddy Date Night with Della and Mabel - I TOLD you I'm a lucky guy!

It’s not very hard to want to be around family when you’re as lucky as I am. However… I think I’m a better husband, father, son, brother, son-in-law and overall a better man because of Team Virtus and the training and racing we do together. Whenever I leave my family to do some training or racing, I always come back refreshed and rejuvenated. I come back with a different perspective.

Father Daughter Dance

Me and Lyd before the Father - Daughter Dance.

I don’t get as upset or annoyed with the whining when I get home. I don’t even care if Becca wants to watch a chick flick even though (SPOILER ALERT) we all know the guy meets the gal, one of them has a secret or has told a lie, the other one finds out and they break up, and then they get back together again. I don’t even look at changing Otis’ diapers as a chore anymore (except when he poops of course… That kid can drop a load, man!).

Otis Kiss

There's nothing better in the world.

I’ve also lost weight (yes, I’m still “husky” but I’m thinner than I used to be), I’m in better shape, and I’m healthier because of all of the group training and racing we’ve been doing. And that means that I’ll be around much longer for my family. You can’t even put a price on that one.

And we also have a “Team Code” that we all follow. It all starts with “Strength & Honor.” We try to portray those qualities not only in training and racing, but in everything we do. And that can only make us better.

Virtus Logo

So, there you have it. Five reasons to ride, run, paddle, train, and race with others. I know there is a time and a place for training solo, and we all have to do what we have to do. But you really need to get out there with other people to fully understand what I’m talking about.

If you don’t train or race with others, why not? And if you do, then share with us any reasons I may have missed. Seriously, we want to hear from you. Hit us up with a comment below.

WTFAR vs TV at the 2011 Lightning Strikes Adventure Camp

Lightning Strikes 2011

It would be impossible to top our experience at the 2010 Lightning Strikes Adventure Race, but that’s certainly no reason to skip it in 2011. Eager to once again explore the wonders of Camp Benson, Team Virtus decided to compete in this outdoor endeavour put on by Gerry Voelliger and our good friends at Team High Profile Adventure Racing. For those who don’t know, Gerry is a stone cold ladies man….

Even the Golden Girls can't resist the charms of Gerry Voelliger

At registration, Gerry informed us that he’d made arrangements for us to stay in one of the larger, newer cabins. This was great since we had such a large group. This year’s roster included Casey, Austin, Mr. Steve Lamb, Luke, yours truly and Adam Laffoon.

Casey:  If you look closely we all were rocking sweet facial hair of some kind.  Even my son and my Dad decided to forgo the razor for several weeks leading up to the event.  Austin looked like he had been drinking chocolate milk and my Dad looked a bit like a derelict.  However, they became true members of  TV for their wilingness to conform to the team dress code.  Don’t miss Adams wicked Fu Manchu and Bob’s 70’s porno star stache.

After checking in and dropping off our gear,  we headed into town for a Team Virtus time- honored tradition:

Adam was fired from the team for eating while Mr. Lamb waited patiently for his coleslaw. What a dick.

This was our second assault on the Kountry Kettle, and one that will not be soon forgotten. Despite our lack of elbow room at such a small table, this quickly became a 2-fronted assault. While the rest of us exploited the Kettle’s foolish decision to offer an all-you-can-eat menu of fried meat,  Mr. lamb shocked the locals by being the first vegan to walk through their doors. When he asked if there was anything on the menu not fried, dipped in grease or containing meat…you would’ve thought he’d claimed allegiance to Al-Quada. The entire room literally stopped. Praise be to Alla-..I mean, thank God he was wearing a flannel shirt, or someone may have shot him. (Terrorists never wear flannel)

Luke: Two dudes sitting behind us literally stopped eating, put down their forks, turned around, and stared in disbeif.  It was hilarious, and it would not be the last time that Dad would shock onlookers.

Casey:  You should have seen the guys behind my Dad.  They literally froze, forks in midair and became stone cold silent and looked totally lost and confused.  Was this little man in red flannel some sort of comedian.  THey were waiting for the punch line.  If a man walked through the door in white robes and a thorn crown and proclaimed to be the second coming of Christ they would’ve have been less surprised.

Furthering the awkwardness was Austin’s fury with his father. Here, we see him threatening to put a chicken leg up Casey’s ass if we didn’t stop making fun of the way he wears his pants. I’m sure this would have been immediately followed by Casey asking if it was gay to eat a piece of chicken that had been in his own ass. I mean, it is his ass.

What's wrong with pulling them up to my armpits?

Alas, time had worked against us once more and we had to leave the restaurant before fully defiling ourselves. With semi-full bellies and sound minds, we made our way back to camp and got settled in for the first round of lectures.

Luke: On the way back to camp, we narrowly escaped a head-on collision.  It was as close as you could get to a disastrous crash without actually crashing.  Pretty scary stuff, but Casey did a fine job of maneuvering the minivan.

Bob: I forgot about that. That was some pretty scary shit.

There were lots of familiar faces at camp this year, and it was nice to see everyone again. It was also nice to finally meet the members of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Adventure Racing, otherwise known as WTFAR.

Holy shit, these guys are almost as intimidating as we are

It was later learned that we’d be sharing a bunk-house with these gentlemen. Much to the dismay of all others present, Casey declared a “no-holds-barred” fart war against WTFAR to establish our dominance. Noone was safe, and I do mean noone.

Luke: The only female in our cabin elected to sleep in her car on the second night… Seriously.  The poor girl.

Casey:  We may have won the gas war but we lost the pyschological war that went on that night.  Team WTF kept our cabin up with a noise that sounded like a groundhog being stepped on and a ferret being choked at the same time.  One of the WTF team members makes some very unique sounds when he sleeps.  They were sporadic and, according to his team, a usual accurance.   How would you guys describe the sounds?

Bob: It sounded to me like a screaming midget tap-dancing on a xylophone.

A gas-induced nausea eventually caused team-mates to turn on one another. Here we see Austin falling victim to the fabled “sniper-fart”. These are rarely caught on film:

The poor kid never had a chance. And as you can clearly see, Adam had every opportunity to warn him. What an asshole.

Casey:  Bob thought Austin might need alittle help with the facial hair requirement and hooked him up.  I thought this was very thoughtful of him, but he really only gave it to him as a distraction to get his “sniper” rifle into position.  Poor kid…he never saw it coming.

After a foggy night of “shock and awe”, it was time to load up on the buses and head over for paddling/orienteering practice. It was a chilly morning and we  knew the river would be cold. This lead to a fair amount of banter about whether or not anyone would hit the water. One thing was for sure, there was no way in hell we were getting in one of those God-forsaken yellow boats.

A frosty morning as we make ready for paddling practice

Due to heavy rain, most of the parking lot near the boat ramp was flooded. This made for a tricky entrance/exit from the water. Last year, we figured out that 3 Virtusans in one canoe is a bad idea. In an effort to prove their dominance, our good friends from WTFAR decided to go for a 3-man dip of their own. Much to their chagrin, they never made it out of the “parking lot”. Luckily, Gerry was there to lend support. And by support, I mean he laughed his ass off and gave them a nickname.

Gerry would later rename WTFAR as "Team Parking Lot"

Luke: “Team Parking Lot” seems like a more appropriate nickname than what Gerry nicknamed us at last year’s camp: “The Six Pound Burrito Brothers.” Actually, I guess that nickname fits us pretty well now that I think about it.

Casey:  WTF was not the only team that went in that day.  However they were the only team to get a cool nickname out of the deal (much like us last year).  One of the teams in the other group ended up in a couple of trees.  I heard they were strong and very fast paddlers but somehow dumped their boat (I bet it was a yellow one).

The WTF boys were definitely re-living our experience from 2010. They seemed to be taking it well, but we knew from experience that tipping the boat is a confidence destroyer. They’d be nervous on raceday for sure, but if they could hold themselves together they would emerge a stronger team.

Casey:  I guess they learned from our experience the previous year, since they dressed on the bus instead of the middle of the parking lot.  Either that or they are more modest than TV (and the water wasn’t as cold as it was last year.  However, the part of the parking lot that we got dressed in was under water this year so they couldn’t have used it to dress.  Team Parking Lot…I love the nickname.

The tree of shame..obviously WTFAR weren't the only ones to get an ice-bath

Casey:  I have one question for Team WTF…Who went in first?

The rest of us were having a much better year in the canoes. Team Virtus was represented by 3 different 2-man squads this year. Luke and Adam, (Virtus 1), Casey and I, (Virtus 2), and Austin & Mr. Lamb, (J-Virtus). All three boats remained upright for the duration of the practice. We even tried, ( a bit unsuccessfully), to do a little canoe drafting.  It’s a lot harder than it looks

I guess Casey and I must’ve been looking pretty good out there, because you can clearly tell in this photo that Robyn Benincasa is TOTALLY checking us out:

Take it all in, Robyn....take it all in

Luke: Nice try, Bob, but neither of you guys had a blue jacket.  That’s clearly not you in the canoe, so Robyn was NOT checking you out.

Casey:  The other way you can tell it is not us…they are in a piece of crap, tippy ass, yellow banana boat.  I thought about BS’ing and trying to sell the picture as us until I saw the boat they were in.  Hopefully, I’ll never be in one of the yellow bananas P.O.S.’s again.

Bob: Well now…I am embarrassed. Up until this moment I truly believed we were in that boat.

Speaking of Ms. Benincasa, she gave an EXCELLENT presentation at the camp. With multiple videos, photos and stories of her own personal triumphs, she inspired everyone in the room and taught us what it truly means to be part of a team. I think what impresses me the most about Robyn is that while she is such an accomplished athlete, she’s also so humble and normal.  She was super-patient with everyone, and I think she even laughed at some of Casey’s jokes.

Luke: Robyn Benincasa was truly amazing.  Her talk was one of the many highlights of the weekend.  And she is one of the kindest, most down-to-earth people you’ll ever meet.  But she only laughed at Casey’s jokes out of pity.

Casey:  While all the lectures are infomative and very well put on, I thoroughly enjoyed Robyn’s lecture (yeah, we are on a first name basis now, thanks to all my great jokes she enjoyed, plus she is a fan of Bob’s).  I think it was my favorite lecture this year and was surely by anybody, even non-racers.  It was very inspirational.  I got a lot out of her talk and look forward to someday doing her Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim Hike to raise money for her foundation, Project Athena (  Check out this great cause and support it if you have the opportunity to do so, it’s a worhty cause.

Our pre-race pic w/ Robyn

After her speech, we made a team-decision to change part of the Virtus code. Carrying another Virtusan’s gear will no longer be something we do to give each other shit. Teamwork is teamwork, and you never know when you might need someone else to carry your pack for a while. Little did we know how quickly this new rule would come into play.

Luke: After Robyn showed a video of a Japanes AR team carrying a teammate with a knee injury across 30 + miles including a razor’s edge ridge top with death on either side just to finish the race, we decided that we could help each other a little more without ripping on each other.  Teamwork, baby!

Casey:  I agree.  You team is there to help you and you shouldn’t be ridiculed for accepting their help when you need it.   I have always felt this way and have even given my teammates the “gift” of carrying my pack at past races.  Robyn taught us that it is a gift you give to your teammates by letting them help you when you are down and need it.  Plus, if you race long and hard enough you will eventually need help from you teammates at some point.  I guess you could consider me a “pleasure-giver”.  I now ask my teammates to “give it back”.

On top of our canoe success, we also enjoyed much better results on the practice orienteering leg this year. I can’t speak for the other guys, but Casey and I had a great time and found most of the CP’s before time ran out. We even took a few minutes at the scenic overlook to get a few pictures.

The only place Casey could fart without killing anyone

I’m not sure the entire O-section was the same as last year, but there were definitely some of the same CP’s. This was actually a good thing, since we were able to gauge our progress from 2010.  There were definite improvements, especially for Casey.

Casey:  Our orienteering was spot on all day.  We used great attack points and were using handrails and collecting features.  We had a great game plan all day and we never lost contact with the map.  If you were with us you would have caught Bob and I “aiming off” every chance we could get that day in the woods.

Believe it or not, I find a CP once in a while

Luke: This was Adam’s first experience with orienteering, so I showed him the basics.  He did really well.  In fact, he didn’t do anything to get fired from the team.  It was very disappointing.  So he was once again fired for disappointing us.

After the paddling and orienteering practice sessions were over, we loaded onto the buses and headed back to camp for ropes practice.  My main concern was the ascending wall. I had bumbled my way through it through it once before, but was really hoping for some tutoring from one of the volunteers.

Our first order of business was to enjoy a nice zip-line. I’m not sure of the specific height, but it was a tall one. Here we see Mr. Lamb preparing to take his first leap of faith for the day. There’s just something about walking off the edge of a cliff…

Mr Lamb prepares for liftoff

Rappelling was much more fun without the crippling fear we experienced last year. Look at the absence of fear on Luke’s face. This is a stark contrast from the man we saw here last year.

Casey:  How were we so scared and nervous last year with the ropes and a kid and senior citizen had no problem this year?  Was it that they knew people who had actually did the ropes the previous year and were still living?  Or was it that they were better at masking their fears than we were (no Jimmy Legs)?  This year defiinitely was more enjoyable than last year (not quite as much of an adrenaline boost though).  We had an opportunity to practice many faucets of ropes that you see at various races.  We had a blast again this year.

No more urine-soaked hiking pants!!

It wasn’t long before we found ourselves standing at the ascending wall. There were several ropes available, and there was also a rescue ladder set up for us to attempt. Austin rushed over to the ladder and started to make his way up. I don’t know what the other guys were thinking, but I was a bit intimidated. The ladder was very narrow and completely unsupported. It was one of those ladders they drop out of helicopters in the movies. Undeterred, Austin twisted and spun his way to the top. We were all VERY impressed.

Next up was Mr. lamb. Now, I’m sure you’re wondering why I haven’t just called him “Steve”. Well, there’s a very good reason for that. You see, Mr. Lamb is what we like to call… a “Badass”. A veteran distance runner, vegan and father to 3 Lamb-boys, Mr. Lamb is no stranger to pain. He grabbed that ladder, tied into the safety rope and FLEW to the top. He made that ladder his bitch in a way you could only understand if you’d seen it with your own eyes. Later he claimed to have struggled a bit, but from where I was standing it looked like he did stuff like this everyday. It was impressive to say the least.

His name is Mister Lamb.

Luke: I had been a little worried about how my Dad would hold up at camp (although I never told him this).  After seeing how he dominated the ladder, though, I knew he was going to rock everything that Gerry would throw at him.  It was impressive, and a lot of people noticed.  I’m always proud to be his son, and this is just one of the infinite number of reasons.

Casey:  I was impressed by my Dad’s performance thoughout the entire camp, especially at the ladder.  He owned it.  Once my son and my Dad killed the ladder, I had to go up.  I had no choice.  I was next in line and had to do it .  I wanted to do it sometime at the camp but maybe after a little regular ascending first.  I thought the ladder would be harder than it looked and I thought it looked hard.  I had to get to the top…three generations of Lambs owned that ladder that day (perhaps the middle generation did so the least).

The rest of us made it up the ladder too, but with a lot more effort and a lot less grace. Personally, I was scared shitless the entire time I was on the ladder. It’s scary because you have no option but to keep going up. The safety rope won’t let you come back down, and it’s not like anyone would be stupid enough to unhook the safety rope. It was a bit harrowing, but at the end of the day I think we’re all glad we did it.

Moving on to the ascending wall, my stomach was in knots. Rope ascension is one of those things that requires a certain amount of finesse; You can’t just horse your way up the rope, your whole body has to move in sequence. I’d done it before, but was VERY exhausted once at the top. Today would be different, as I had the good fortune of  receiving one-on-one instruction from Robyn Benincasa.  She took a few moments to explain things in a way that I could understand and sent me up the cliff. With Robyn coaching from the ground, I made my way up the rope. I can’t even tell you how relieved I was to be ascending with confidence. I was so thrilled with my success that I rappelled down and ascended once more. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when there’s a woman there to tell you what to do.

Casey:  I was coached by Robyn as well.  She did a great job coaching me on the technique and keeping me relaxed and focused.  They taught a different techinque than we learned last fall at the Thunder Rolls.  This was a single leg ascent as apposed to a double leg that we learned last year.  I felt this technique was much more intuitive and easier to apply on the spot.  I felt confindent by the time we were done ascending.  We actually raced up the wall the second time. 

This photo was chosen so we could stress the importance of pooping BEFORE heavy athletic activity.

The ropes practice was a smashing success for all those present. We even had the good fortune to see a not-so-golden-looking Golden Girl making her way up one of the ascents.

Makin' it look easy

And who could forget running into our bunk-mates and esteemed “We’ve swam in the Mississippi River” colleaugues…WTFAR.

It looks like they're waiting for something to come flying out of Casey's ass

It would have been impossible to have a bad day out there. We had great weather, an awesome playground and great people all around us.

Casey:  When we were doing the Tyrolean Traverse across the river Austin jumped too far from the bank and landed flat on his back on the ground.  After several bounces he got up and tried a couple of more times, more bounces, and eventually made it out over the water.  I think we have  a video of this somewhere.  I’ll try to tind it and link it to this report for your viewing pleasure.

3 generations of the Lamb family (Left to right--Casey, Mr. Lamb, Luke and Austin)

Time flew by and we found ourselves heading to lunch. Who could have known we’d stumble across a tetherball pole? Soon everyone had stories about how good they were at tetherball “back in the day.” I think you kow what happened next..

Round 1:

Luke puts up a good fight, but eventually falls prey

Round 2:

Even with superior facial hair, Laffoon never had a chance

Then it got serious..


Squaring off

This was truly a battle for the ages. After losing the fart war and tipping their canoe, WTFAR wanted to yet again pit themselves against TV, this time  in a tetherball challenge. The Virtus code prevents us from declining a tetherball challenge, so the battle was on. We swatted the ball back and forth for countless seconds as our team-meates looked on in paralyzing suspense. With his towering height and longer arms,  things were looking grim until I hit this little gem.

“Oh Shi-“
..It was a bit of a Buster Douglas moment.
TV:3                                                                               WTFAR:0

Casey:  For the record I was not included in tetherball activities.  I guess nobody, not even my teammates wanted any of the Anchorman on the tetherball court.  I once hospitalized 2 opponents over the course of a single tourney back in my semi-pro tetherball days.  I was actually ranked in the world in the Clydesdale Division.

After that, it was time to head back inside for the pre-race pasta feed and enjoy a few more lectures. After a long day of outdoor fun, sleep would come easy. And that was a good thing, because we knew all too well…Gerry Voelliger was going to hurt us tomorrow.

Casey:  Much like we were last year, Team WTF was anxious about the paddlign leg of the next days race.  They somehow had to stay upright and dry.  We encouraged them and assured that it was now out of their systems.  I especially enjoyed hearing Bob explain his running the banks of the river during the paddle leg to Team WTF.  I think they decided against it. 

Bob: Chickenshits 🙂 
***NOTE: Be sure to read the race report from the Lightning Strikes Adventure Race.  Check it out right here.***

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