Over the Christmas/New Year Break, my family and I hopped in the Virtus Van and ventured up to the land of a thousand lakes where my parents live in Shakopee, MN. My brother Zack and his family were going to be there as well. Sadly, Casey and his family couldn’t make it.
Zack is an Ultrarunner, and he needed to get in some trail runs to keep up with his training plan. Since I have a thick “winter coat” on at the moment, and since I haven’t run in months, my dad rented a Fat Bike for me so I could keep up with Zack while he ran.
This was a Back-Off week for me in my training, so riding an easy pace while Zack ran is just what I needed. We ended up getting a Kona WO, and other than my toes and hands freezing – I really need to get some winter shoes and lobster gloves – the Fat Bike was a super-fun bike to ride.
I now understand why Fat Bikes have been exploding in popularity. First, they’re amazing bikes in the snow. When I first got on, I kept bracing myself to spin or slide out on the climbs and corners, but it never happened. Second, the Fat Bike is super fun. I felt like a kid again riding that thing. And third, the Fat Bike handles rocks, roots, features, and other obstacles like a champ. I rode a snow-covered rock gardens and other obstacles with ease. I almost looked like a real mountain biker. Almost. If I lived in MN or if MO had more snow, I’d save up and buy a Fat Bike for sure.
Anyway, here’s a short video from Minnesota. And I’ve said it before, but I’ll keep saying it: Photos and videos pale in comparison to what it’s really like out there. But anyway, here you go…
We didn’t just run and ride, though. We also went to a Minnesota Timberwolves game which was a great family experience. My kids had never been on a train before, and they thought it was pretty damn cool. Here are few shots from New Year’s Day…
We also played lots of board games and card games together. We played some hoops at the local rec center where I may or may not have dunked on my nephew. We chillaxed and talked basically non-stop. We ate a crap-ton of delicious food – which only added to my “winter coat.” And of course we all laughed our faces off. The only thing missing was Casey and his family. They were dearly missed.
How about you? Did you do anything cool over the Holidays? Let’s hear about it in the comments!
You know those running shoes that are too worn out to run in, but feel oh-so-good to slip into because they, like your favorite pair of jeans, are broken in just perfectly? Well, they don’t make good trail shoes – especially on a wet, muddy, messy trail.. Trust me on this one.
Robby, Bob, Christina, and I headed to Lost Valley Trail in Defiance, MO where we met up with Drew and a bunch of other crazy trail runners for Rock Racing’s SHivering Icy Trail Run (or SHITR for short). This was a half marathon in the middle of winter at night. Sounds awesome, right?
It wasn’t until I got there when I realized that I had forgotten my trail shoes… And my Garmin watch. But the Virtus Code wouldn’t allow me to sit this one out, so I ran in my crappy Nike Free’s. But oh what a run it was!
The cold and wind seemed to cut right through us as we stood around waiting for the race to start. People weren’t sure what to wear. One nut ran shirtless. Others were decked out in full winter garments. I chose to run in tights, a t-shirt with a long-sleeve shirt over it, a winter hat, and glittens (glove-mittens). Bob decided to wear this (although later he through a fleece on over the top):
Unfortunately, Bob would have to part ways with at least one piece of clothing by the end of the night. Don’t worry… I’ll get to that. Have a little patience.
We started the race by heading out to the top of “The Mound” as it was just starting to get dark. The wind at the top was ridiculous, so none of us stayed up there more than a few seconds. On the way down, I absolutely FLEW by the best runner on our team: Drew. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this video (courtesy of Robin Rongey from Rock Racing) at the 3:02 mark:
In case you couldn’t tell, the only reason I passed Drew was because of gravity. I got going a bit too fast, and I couldn’t stop. So I just went with it, and like an out of control snowball tumbling faster and faster, I flew down the stairs and almost died. It was probably the first and last time I’ll be ahead of Drew in a foot race. And don’t worry. He passed me shortly thereafter.
Before long, we had to turn on our headlamps. The rain picked up as the temperature continued to drop. Soon we were on some single-track. By the time I got there, the trails had become a slippery, muddy mess. And it was awesome! I’m not sure trail shoes would have helped much, but my shoes were worthless. I felt like I was skating more than I was running.
Somewhere in that muddy mess, Patrick from the 100+ Project and Russ (from Alabama I think) caught up to me. Their company was much appreciated as we ran together for awhile. The temps continued to drop, and the rain became more of a sleet/rain/snow mix.
It was dark. It was cold. It was raining/sleeting. It was muddy. It was slippery. It was terrible. Just terrible. And I was loving every minute of it.
Before long, we found the mystery event. We were supposed to find the name on a tombstone. Patrick and Chuck had done a good job of marking the tiny cemetery with reflective tape, so it was pretty easy to spot. Reading the name on the tombstone in the dark, however, proved to be more of a challenge. Patrick already knew the name, so he couldn’t help us. As we tried to make out the writing, Robby Brown caught up to us. Then Russ’s headlamp hit the stone sideways which provided enough shadow-relief that we could read “Caroline L.”
Even stopping at the tombstone for a few minutes caused our body temp to drop significantly. So we quickly trotted off again. I’m not sure who started it (‘Bama Russ maybe?), but someone in our group began singing “Sweeeeeet Caroliiiine.” And all of us chimed in “Bah, bah, bah!” It was a fabulous rendition that surely would have made the great Neil Diamond proud. And you’re welcome for getting that song stuck in your head.
The rain had fully converted to sleet by now, and it was VERY cold. I decided to pick up the pace a little just to keep warm. Patrick was right behind me, but Russ and Robby had fallen off the pace just a bit. This section wasn’t quite as muddy, but there was one small incline which was super-slippery. As my front foot hit the slope, it completely slipped out from under me. I was able to catch myself with my glitten-covered hands, but my foot flew up behind me and almost nailed Patrick in the face. It was a close one, but we both made it out unscathed.
Soon we found ourselves back on the double-track which meant we were getting pretty close to the finish line. I was tired and cold, but Patrick kicked it up a notch. I too picked up the pace to stay with him. Then we ran into Jim and Janie Smith from Team TOG and Monster Bicycles. They were walking the short-course… In the dark and cold and mud and wet. Very cool.
Patrick stopped to walk and chat with them. As much as I wanted to, I was just too damn cold. I said hello and good-bye and just kept running. I climbed the last hill by myself, and as I turned on the last stretch just a mile or so from the finish line, the wind just punched me in the face. It was brutal out there. Even though I was having a blast, I was glad that it was almost over.
Then I heard some weird noises. It sounded like a woman yelling. So I slowed to a walk to listen. It was indeed a woman yelling, so I ran ahead to see what was going on. No one was in sight, but there were lights through the trees to my left. After bushwhacking through a small block of brush and trees, I was on a small road. There was a woman yelling, “Jeff! Where the hell am I?!? What the hell am I going to do?!?” She seemed a little scared and quite pissed. Then I realized that it was Carrie Sona from Team Alpine Shop. She had gotten a bit turned around and off the trail, so we ran it in together until she saw her husband Jeff coming back for her.
They slowed to a walk, so I just kept running to the finish. I couldn’t believe there were still volunteers at the finish to welcome me in and hand me an awesome SHITR sticker. HUGE thanks to the volunteers out there! I finished in 2:36. Drew had finished 16 minutes ahead of me, and Robby came in a few minutes behind me with Kate coming in about 10 minutes after him.
I was really cold, but I didn’t realize how serious these conditions were until I tried to get my keys out of my pocket. It took me a several attempts and a couple of minutes before I could get my fingers to work properly. Eventually, I hopped into the Virtus Van, cranked the heat up, and changed into gloriously dry, warm clothes.
As I slowly started getting warm, I began to worry about Bob. This was his first half marathon – his longest run ever at that point I think. Temps has fallen close to freezing by now, and the sleet was unrelenting. The last thing I wanted to do was go back out in the nasty weather, but the longer I waited, the more worried I got. Fortunately, Bob made it in about a half an hour after Kate, and I didn’t have to go back out there.
It seems Bob was slowed down by some intestinal issues. Fortunately, our friends Chad and Bethany were with him to help him through this. He came over to the Virtus Van, but he wouldn’t get in. He had to be freezing his ass off, but he still wasn’t getting in. Why? Well, let me have him explain it in his own words:
For those that don’t know, Bob has some issues with pooping in the woods. He has a routine he likes to follow in the peace and quiet of his own bathroom. I, on the other hand, have no problem dropping a deuce behind a tree. So I’m always giving him hints and tips on how to shit in the woods properly, and to be more specific, how to wipe after taking care of business. So he finally followed my advice with success, but then… Well, I’ll let him explain it again:
So we had a VERY good laugh at Bob’s expense. Bob left his undergarments behind, got changed, and climbed into the Virtus Van. There were no casualties, and everyone made it out alive. We all headed to a local Mexican restaurant where we had beers, margaritas, tacos, and many, many laughs. Although none of us won the SHITR, one of us did win a prize – The highly-coveted SHITR Trophy.
It was a truly amazing night. Big thanks to Rock Racing and all of the volunteers! And don’t worry. This is happening again on January 11th, 2014! Get excited, people. And make sure you don’t miss this one!
First, I’d like to say happy New Year to all of you Virtusites out there! I hope it’s the very best year for all of you.
We’ve been a little quiet here on the blog lately. Well, we’re going to try to fix that. I need to finish several race reports, and I need to write a couple of posts about upcoming events (like the SHITR on Saturday and the MLK2 Ride the Saturday after that). But to whet your appetite, I thought I’d do a quick post on yesterday’s goings-on: The Soda Mile followed by some trail running.
After yesterday, I can proudly say that I have surpassed Kage with the highest miles-driven-to-miles-raced ratio. Her previous best was driving from Edwardsville, IL to Jefferson City, MO for the Kicks in the Sticks race. That’s roughly a 150 mile drive to run 7.5 miles for a ratio of 20 to 1. Well yesterday, I drove from Jefferson City to Edwardsville for a ONE mile race for a ratio of (for those of you who are mathematically challenged) 150 to 1. That’s gonna be hard to beat.
Why would I drive that far for a one mile race? To support a friend of course. But also because it sounded like a blast. It was a soda mile to benefit a friend’s son dealing with cancer. I had never even heard of a soda mile, but once I understood what it was, I knew I had to go.
Here are the rules:
- Drink an entire can of soda.
- Run one lap around the track.
- Repeat 3 more times.
- Try not to barf but if you must, do NOT barf on the track.
I was up in the first heat, and there were some young, thin, fit high school runners in my heat. Although I knew I wouldn’t be anywhere near the podium, seeing these young, fast dudes confirmed it. But there was something else I could do better than these young whippersnappers. I could out-chug them. My only goal was to slam my diet 7-Up, get the hole shot, and be the leader through turn one – just like Bob does at every cross race.
Taking the early lead was so easy I almost felt bad for the young bucks. I pounded the soda, smashed the can in my hand like a man, threw it down, and took off running. For a brief second, I thought about trying to run the mile as hard as I could. Then my right calf tightened up, and I reigned it back in. Not that it would have mattered. The other guys were much faster than I was.
As I was belching my way over to the straight-away on the track, I heard some monstrous burps behind me. It was a young guy who went on to be the overall winner with a time of 7:48 or something like that.
I finished lap one, grabbed another soda, and chugged as much as I could. It didn’t go down as easily as the first one, though. The third and fourth sodas went down a little more slowly as well. The first 100 yards after each soda was always the worst. I tried to open up my gut and throat to let as many belches out as possible. Every time I hit the straight-away on the other side of the track I would be burp-free, and I could actually run full-speed again (although I wasn’t exactly crushing it since I wanted to save my calf for the trail running later in the day).
I passed a couple of younger, faster guys on the side of the track barfing. It was hilarious. I finished in 10:49 or so. It was one of the slower times in my heat, but that’s okay. That’s not what this event was about. It was about helping a friend and having fun.
Kage was up next, and she was not really looking forward to drinking the soda and possibly barfing. But would that stop her? Absolutely not. We all knew that Kage was going to step up and chug 4 sodas and run the fastest mile of the day. And here’s a video to prove it:
Kage finished the first lap with no problems. There was no barfing. I know… Disappointing. Before Kage started her second lap, Patrick and I informed her that she had not actually finished the entire can. Well, here’s what she thought about that:
Kage probably drank half of each can (if we’re being generous), and she finished her mile in 25 minutes. Okay, that’s not true. I actually don’t know what her time was, but I think it was around 9 and a half minutes or so. And it didn’t really matter that she didn’t drink all the soda. The spirit of a soda mile is all about fun.
Our friend Sara – who broke out of prison with us – was in the last heat of the day. I think she actually drank all four of her sodas and successfully completed the mile without barfing. She rocked it!
The soda mile was a lot of fun. It was very laid back, and no one took it too seriously. The top three runners received their awards: Six-packs of soda. We later found out that the event raised $2,511.00 for our friend Lindsay’s family. And that is very cool.
After the race, Kage and Patrick (of 100+ Project fame) were nice enough to take me running on their local trails. The trail through the Big Woods was fantastic. The other trail was great too, but I really enjoyed the Big Woods. I won’t bore you with the details, but here is a synopsis followed by some photos:
- The trails were great.
- The company was even better.
- The bridges were super slick.
- Wild Running is way too much fun.
- We spotted Sasquatch.
- I learned about (and ran through the ruins of) the Mississippi River Festival from the ’70’s (Here’s a cool video that shows some of the trail and relics).
- We had some great conversations and laughed a lot.
- We covered 9.75 miles (with just a bit of walking at the end).
And now for the photos:
Don’t forget about the SHITR on Saturday and the MLK2 ride next Saturday! I hope to see you there!
On September 10th, the family and I headed out to Lawrence, KS for the first ever Wakarusa Off-Road Challenge. I would be doing the race as a solo since no one else could go with me. It was to be a final preparatory race for the Berryman Adventure, and then we were planning on spending some quality family time camping the rest of the weekend.
Becca took off from work early, we loaded the van up, strapped the canoe on top (solos had to bring their own boat), and hooked up our pop-up camper. We picked the girls up from school a little early, and we headed out on the 3 hour drive.
The weather was supposed to be almost perfect: Chance of thunderstorms on Friday night, but sunny and warm-but-not-too-warm the rest of the weekend. It was beautifully sunny on the way to Lawrence, so I knew it wasn’t going to rain on us.
We tried to make it to Sunflower Outdoors by 6:00 to register for the race, but we had to park 3 or 4 blocks away because of the pop-up. So I just missed registration as I got there to see Jason and Laura from Bonk Hard Racing packing everything up. No big deal. I would just have to get up a little earlier the next morning to register before the race.
We grabbed a quick bite to eat and then drove 20 more minutes to Clinton State Park as the sun set. We stopped at a store to buy some firewood, and the cashier said that there was a tornado warning in the area. That’s just great.
We rolled into camp in the dark, and the wind began to pick up. Shortly after getting the pop-up set up and all of our gear inside, I turned on the radio and heard the tornado warning for myself. Unfortunately, the kids also heard it. Then the rain started coming down as the wind grew stronger. Now, wind and rain in a small pop-up can feel and sound like a hurricane, so my girls were beginning to freak out on Becca and me (Otis was chillin’ as usual).
As the storm grew in strength, we tried calming the girls down by assuring them that we could always go to the bathroom/shower house to wait out the storm. Then the skies unleashed their furious rage. The driving rain pummeled the camper, and it felt like the punishing wind would tip us over any second. I could see that even Becca was beginning to freak out a little. Of course Otis was still as cool as a cucumber.
We decided to play it safe, so we all donned our jackets and made our way across the street to the bathroom/shower house. We were completely soaked by the time we got there only to realize that there was no roof. Well, there was a partial roof over the bathroom stalls, but it was basically an open-air building. So much for our promise of shelter.
By now the girls were almost hysterical. We were all wet and cold, and the storm was only getting worse. We ran back across the street and hopped into the van. We drove around the campground looking for a shelter… anything with a roof. No luck. Fortunately, the storm, although fierce, was short-lived. As it died down, we headed back to the camper with the girls completely shivering and Otis just grinning.
We dried off and changed clothes, and the girls calmed down. The storm had passed, and it became pretty muggy in the camper. We opened up the windows, took our shirts off (except for Otis and Becca), and we played some highly competitive Go Fish.
So I had to get up early, and much to my surprise, everyone wanted to forgo sleeping in to go and watch my race. Very cool. Other than a 5k, the fam had never really been to one of my races. Let’s face it… Adventure Racing is not a great spectator sport. This race, however, would allow them to see me come through the transition area a few times, and it wasn’t going to be an all-day race. So we woke up early and made it to the race to register and stage my canoe and bike.
It was a beautiful morning, and Jason assured us that the trail was in great shape. After dropping my canoe off (and realizing that I was the ONLY solo with a 17 foot canoe – Hey, it’s all I had) and getting my bike staged, I gave the kids and the wife a hug and a kiss.
I really wanted to intimidate all of the other racers to give myself a competitive edge. As we all lined up on the Levee Trail, I wanted to look fast so I busted this out:
I’m pretty sure my plan didn’t work. Not only did I not strike fear into the hearts of anyone, but I don’t think anyone even noticed me. It didn’t matter. I was just here to have fun and to get an idea of how ready I was for the Berryman Adventure.
I saw a team of two young guys with matching green tank tops and feather Duck hats on. Now, I’ve learned long ago that it’s never a good idea to pick someone out of the pack that you just have to beat, but in the back of my mind I told myself that it would really be nice to beat those guys.
The first leg of the race was a 2.2 mile run. The first mile was on the flat Levee Trail, and then we had to pop into the woods and run back to the transition area (TA) on the north side of the River Trail. When the gun went off, we started out jogging. I got caught behind some slower runners, but it wasn’t too long before everyone spread out enough to go my own pace.
I’ll be honest with you. I didn’t feel very strong. I’m not sure what it was, but my legs just felt a little dead. It wasn’t terrible. I just felt a little sluggish. The first mile was uneventful. When I got onto the trail, it was a lot more fun. I was passed by a few people (including the duck brothers), and I managed to pass a few people as well. I was holding my own, and I was able to stay right behind the duck bros. I finished the first running leg in 21 minutes – tied for 18th out of 30 solo men. Not bad, but I was hoping for better.
Happy to be done running for the moment, I was ready to get on the bike. I could hear the family cheering for me, and it was really great. I loved it. I waved to them and asked them how it was going, and then I made my way over to my bike as they told me I was doing a good job. I transitioned as quickly as I could and headed out onto the Levee Trail again.
The biking leg consisted of 17.2 miles. For this race we had to ride nearly 4 miles on the flat, open Levee Trail before hopping onto the south side of the River Trail which is all single track. We had to ride the south side of the trail back to the TA and then immediately get back onto the north side of the River Trail and ride the entire loop before coming back to the TA.
I got passed by two riders on the Levee Trail as the wind made it a little more difficult for someone of my stature (aka – husky). However, that would be the last time I got passed on the bike, and I passed many people here including the Duck Bros. So I thought that maybe I had a shot at beating them after all.
If you’ve never ridden these trails, you should do so if you’re ever in or near Lawrence. No, they are not technical at all, and there is not a lot of elevation change. But these trails are FAST and FUN! There are so many banked turns and berms that you almost never have to use your brakes.
Being somewhat of a slow runner, I got behind some inexperienced riders. You could tell that many racers had never, or almost never, ridden off-road before. Although it was difficult to get around some of the newbies, I thought it was great that they were out there racing. They may have been way out of their comfort zones, but that’s what it’s all about, right?
My first lap on the bike (~4 miles on the Levee Trail and ~4 miles of single track) took 45 minutes including my transition. This was good enough to have me tied for the 22nd (out of 30) fastest time for this leg. Again, not bad but not great. So I decided to push it a little bit on the next lap. My second lap (~8 miles – all on single track) also took 45 minutes – tied for 9th fastest time out of 30 solo males for the second lap on the bike. Now that’s what I’m talking about. That was much better.
I made it back to the TA where I once again heard the cheers from the Lamb fam. I dropped my bike off and put my trail shoes back on. I headed down a short distance to the canoe put-in. I slapped on my PFD, grabbed my white-water kayak paddle that was way too short for my canoe (Hey, it’s all I had), lifted the heavy, aluminum canoe, and made my way to the Kansas River.
This is where my race sort of fell apart. After a decent biking leg, my paddle down the Kansas River was S-L-O-W. I had to kneel in the middle of my canoe for the entire 4.2 mile paddle. My paddle was much too short for being in the middle of the boat, but I did the best I could. I got passed by 15 – 20 teams and solos (I quit counting at 10 because it was bumming me out).
Aside from being slow, the paddle was uneventful except for one soloist in a kayak somehow going for a swim. I never heard how or why he tipped the kayak, but seeing that the volunteers were there in a motor boat to help him, I passed him. It wasn’t long before he was once again in front of me, though (stupid kayaks!).
I finally made it to the aptly named Mud Creek Boat Ramp in 1 hour and 7 minutes. This was good enough for dead last – 30th fastest time out of 30 solo males. Out of all 84 Duos and Soloists combined, only 3 had a slower time and two had an equally slow time. Not good at all, but I gave it my all and did the best I could with what I had.
As I struggled to carry my canoe up the boat ramp, my legs felt like blocks of concrete from kneeling in a canoe for an hour after running and biking all morning.
I grabbed a quick drink at the aid station and then “ran” (and by ran I mean trotted slowly) into the woods. We had to run 4.1 miles on the north trail back to the finish line.
The first mile of that run was pure hell. I wanted to walk so badly, but I kept telling myself that I could “run” this whole thing no matter how slow I had to go. Every time I wanted to walk, I told myself that if I walked then there was no way I was going to be able to finish the upcoming 36 hour Berryman Adventure Race. I guess it worked, because I never walked.
The first mile was ridiculously slow. By the second mile, my legs were at least functional. By the third mile, I was actually feeling pretty good, so I picked up the pace a little bit (although it was still ridiculously slow). Then the 4th mile came, and I almost fell apart. If the first mile was hell, then the last mile was Hell’s purgatory (if there is such a thing).
That last mile felt like an eternity. I kept hoping to see the trail bust out of the trees into the grassy field where the finish line was only to be disappointed. With about a quarter of a mile left, the Duck Bros passed me. Bummer. Like I said, though, that is the danger of picking someone that you “have” to beat. When you don’t, it pretty much sucks – especially when they look like ducks. The Mighty Ducks ended up beating me by 1 minute. Kudos to those guys.
I made it to the finish line as my wife and kids were all cheering for me. That part was great. It was also great to be done because I was wiped out. My final 4.1 mile run (including the transition from the paddle) took me 50 minutes – tied for the 19th fastest split in my division. This was actually better than I thought since I felt like I was slower than I’ve ever been.
Overall, it was a really fun race. I must admit, though, it didn’t make me feel any better about my chances at Berryman. If you read our blog much, which I highly doubt, then you know that the Berryman actually went pretty well for us.
My finishing time was 3 hours and 48 minutes. I ended up 23rd out of 30 solo males, and I was 46th out of 84 solos and duos overall. Not bad, but I was honestly hoping to do a little better than that. On the other hand, it was a great race, and I had a blast. Official results with split times are right here.
I loved having my family there to watch me and cheer me on. There was enough pizza and soda provided by Bonk Hard Racing for my kids to have some which was very cool. After the awards ceremony, we made our way back to our campground.
The rest of the weekend was perfect. The weather was great. The campsite was great. We all had a blast. I’ll leave you with a few photos of our camping trip to show you how much you missed. Here you go:
It was really great race and a wonderful weekend with the family. Thanks to Jason and Laura for putting on a great event. It was a lot of fun, and I hope to be back next year with more of Team Virtus by my side. And thanks to my amazing wife and incredible kids for going with me and supporting me. You guys are way too good to me.
So, that’s it for now. Until next time… Peace out!