This is really long. By long I mean like my mother, who actually likes to read this stuff because I’m her little Judd E. Pie, would consider it long. Long like l…o…n…g long. But hopefully enjoyable.
I must give credit where credit is due. The Author of this “outline” is an individual that raced and posted on Red Wheel Bike Shop blog. The original post can be found in their archives for Feb. 2009 at the following link. http://www.teamredwheel.com/ the original post was so funny and so real to our experience that I opted to plagiarize and change the thoughts, feelings, names and experiences to reflect our team. If I were as eloquent as my brother-in-law’s Jeremy or Uillame, I would not need someone else’s words to help me out. Alas, it’s not to be.
The following events occurred between 6:00am and 6:00pm February 7th, 2009. Events occur in real time.
How can I possibly summarize 12 hours of adventure racing into words that would do it justice? It has long been my opinion that the words "epic" and "surreal" are so grossly overused that their meaning is lost. I'll break one of my own rules right now by saying this race was epically surreal....or was it surreally epic? Who knows, but the fact remains that the race is worthy of both words.
Jason and Laura, (Bonk Hard Racing www.bonkhardracing.com) put on a race that tested its participants' athleticism, intelligence, and character. This was Team Forum Dental’s 2nd Adventure Race. The first was The Berryman 12 hour race in September 2008. That is another story…
From the moment we walked into the pre-race meeting it was evident that this was a very well organized race. Volunteers were everywhere, all having very specific duties to which they tended with enthusiasm and attention to detail.
At the meeting we met Jason and Laura, whom comprise the brains of Bonk Hard Racing. The enthusiasm these two have for their sport is intoxicating. There was a raffle for a ton of free stuff donated by the sponsors. We didn’t come away with anything, but fortunately that was not a predictor in how well we would fair in the race. We had a good time meeting the other racers.
After being given our maps and clue sheets, Nav., Special D., Crack and Link (these are our super secret, super special, super cool code names for each other. Kind of like we were in the military or something like that) jumped into the "Red Dragon" (code name for our vehicle) and headed off to our luxury spa resort (snicker, snicker). HQ was a pretty pimpin' little dive in Osage Beach. With lightning speed and surgical precision, we plotted the checkpoints on the map, did a final gear check and were off to bed about 1:30am.
In case anyone was wondering, yes we are cheap, and yes we only got one room (with two actual bedrooms), and yes we shared beds. Hey, you’ve got to get your sleep, and we are grown men and know our boundaries. How does the old saying go… Pole to Pole, Hole to Hole….whatever. We were just fine. I did hear some strange noises from Nav. and Crack’s room, but I’m not one to ask questions.
When the alarm went off at 4:30am I think we had gotten about 20 minutes of sleep. We indulged in the wholly inadequate continental breakfast offered by the hotel and headed out to drop off the bikes and get to the starting line. I had just purchased a totally pimped-out headlamp. I don’t know exactly the wattage or lumens or candle power or whatever else light is measured by. Suffice it to say that I could have lit up a movie premier in Hollywood. Everyone around me at the bike drop had to have been suffering from light envy. They were all thinking “I wonder where they are ranked nationally? Look at that dude’s light. Did the sun just rise and we missed the start of the race?”
We all made friends around the outhouses as we tried to shake off the nervousness and began to feel the diuretic effects of caffeine. There were actually dudes warming up for the race by running up and down the street....What The Crud?!?!?...Like you're not gonna "warm up" in the first 2 hours of the race??? Freaks.
Two years ago at this race the temperature was Seven. Seven degrees. As in 7. As in days of the week, as in average number of teeth someone from Arkansas has, as in the number of commandments – No Wait…
They said GO and everyone took off. Some people ran and some people walked...we did more of an "old-lady working-out-in-the-mall-pumping-her-arms-and-swinging-her-tush" walk. Man we're sexy.
We were employing the “it’s 12 hours, don’t wear ourselves out in the first hour strategy”.
Checkpoints one and two came pretty easily, and it was interesting to see the incredible pace some of the other teams were holding. These dudes weren't here to play games; they had to have been running at an 8-minute mile pace thru the woods. With no desire to kill ourselves, we pressed on at our endurance pace; run the flats and downs, walk the hills.
Not long after checkpoint 3 or 4, the teams were already very much spread out. The 4 of us trudged along, watching the faster racers lumbering ahead of us.
My 1st brain-fart of the day came about an hour or so into the race. My strategy of wearing “sock liners” backfired and I had blisters on the heels of both feet. I’m thinking “no way am I going 11 more hours like this.” No duct tape and nowhere to turn, I let my teammates know that I was already in trouble. Fortunately Nav. had the foresight to bring along some Moleskin. Five minutes later I was off to the races and had no problems the rest of the day. Moleskin has been my friend ever since.
On the way to checkpoint 5 we passed a firing range. It was pretty dang funny, because they had a plywood cut-out of a car door. I’m thinking what? Are they practicing for drive by shootings? We stopped for some photos.
We realized that there were VERY FEW teams behind us, so we were looking to make up some lost time. We were looking for ways that we could be more competitive. I use the term competitive lightly here. We had no idea what lay in front of us. Our first race, we were given a map and ALL of the checkpoints (23 or so). This time we were given a map and some of the checkpoints (22 or so). I figured we would receive 3 or 4 more checkpoints to plot. Little did I know that Jason had much more planned than I had anticipated.
So at this point I was thinking “this race is going fast” we need to start moving! There was a road-route we could follow to get to CP 7, or we could bushwack our way thru some furry woods and cut out some distance. After careful deliberation we decided to pick up the pace, and take the road route. There are several calculations that you can make to help determine your path. We used the old reliable “gut” feeling. That and we didn’t want to get lost.
We made good time, and to my memory we got CP 7 & 8 without any further problems.
From CP 8 to 9, we were on our mountain bikes carrying all our required gear plus the extra food/water for the paddling leg. A bit awkward riding w/ only one hand, but this was a quick section mostly downhill to the canoes, so no problems there.
Upon arriving at the canoe station, volunteers checked our passports and sent us to the boats.
Canoeing is not a natural sport for our team. It is so unnatural for me that I actually carry some knee pads and a butt pad to try and be more comfortable. I’m not allowed in the back of the canoe, because it is s “skill” position. I’m also not allowed to move in the canoe, because I’m most likely to tip a canoe over. Basically I sit there the whole time and wonder how much longer we have to be in a canoe.
We always debate whether or not certain items are necessary. My response is always, “the pros wouldn’t use them if they didn’t help” - what do I know? We have this debate about clipless peddles vs. cages. Big powerful headlamps vs. the $3.00 Wal-Mart special. Waterproof shoes vs. non-waterproof. Basically Nav. is unwilling to spend more than $1.23 including tax on any racing gear. He is ALWAYS telling me “I could have made that for you”. I’m always like “well, this works great, and was only $19, so I’ll just stick with it. Maybe next time I need some racing shoes made out of a paperclip, and avocado and some plumbers’ putty, I’ll give you a call.”
On the way to the race we had been debating the use of double paddles (Kayak) and whether or not they were really worth having. (the race provides canoe paddles. If you want Kayak paddles, you bring them. And sometimes this means carrying them too)
The subject came up about 100 yards off shore. Just as we were about to begin the debate, a team with Kayak paddles went sailing past us. They didn’t even look like they were paddling. Here we are dragging our paddles through the water getting nowhere, and Team Swan Lake goes gliding by with what appears to be little to no effort. We all kind of looked at each other and in unison said “Looks like they probably do help.” End of debate. Now we just need to see if Nav. can make some out of some old bailing wire, some duck waders and a used flashlight.
It wasn't cold at all that day, but it was windy as crud on the water. It seemed like we were always paddling into the wind. I was feeling wholly inadequate with my canoe skills as I watched another team pass us like they were on a leisurely canoe trip. This was not a 4 MAN team like ours. There were 2 boys, and 2 GIRLS. As I began to work up a sweat trying like the Tasmanian Devil to catch up to this team, all I could think was how the heck are they pulling away from us. Have they found some secret, ancient underwater current in the Lake? Is the wind over by them somehow blowing the opposite direction as the wind by us?
Fortunately for me, Special D. is a master at piloting/powering a canoe, so we made the most of my second-rate paddling. Every now and then some goon in a motorized boat would go flying past us throwing a bunch of huge waves. I nearly "deloaded" a few times, but we made it thru alright.
When we got close enough to the land-based checkpoints, one racer was required to stay with the canoe while the other trekked landward to find the checkpoint. When it was my turn to run after the checkpoints I did everything I could on land to make up for my run of the mill paddling on the water. It seemed that we would find land usually around the same time as 2 or 3 other teams, and that really added a sense of urgency to finding the checkpoints. At one point Crack smashed his knee on a rock and got a nice little gash. He didn’t admit until the race was over that it had really taken its toll on him. The blood running down his leg totally made him look like a professional racer. I think the rest of us were secretly jealous and I could tell it intimidated the other racers......either that or they thought he was a clumsy dumbcrud. Either way, I’m sure he’ll have a pretty cool scar. (chicks dig scars)
At some point I was griping about what a horrible paddler I was, and Special D. decided to lay some wisdom on me. He said, “it’s all about your core. Use your core". I nodded to act like I understood, but it was obvious that fatigue had taken its toll on his brain and he was spouting gibberish. I sucked down some Perpetuem and tried to focus. About an hour later I was still thinking about WTC he meant by "use your core” – Nothing. I’d like to say it made sense, but it didn’t. We had managed to pass the Casual Co-ed team, but only because I think they wanted us to so that we would not find the ultra secret underwater Lake Current that they obviously knew about. As for Team Swan Lake, they were nowhere to be seen.
Other teams' canoes could be seen in the distance, they were not growing in size, and we were not reeling them in. Our six-pack of whoop-butt would have to be opened on the bike. At one point I looked over at Nav. and Crack and they were actually paddling their boat backwards. Dude, are we actually in this race. You are paddling backwards. Nav. is a real life engineer and I’m thinking to myself “what causes a person with some obvious mental capability to think that paddling backwards is actually faster than forwards?” I was concerned about their nutrition.
Their boat actually had a hole in it, and they were sitting pretty low in the water. All of their stuff was soaked. I was looking at the flair gun on Crack’s pack thinking we may actually need to use this thing. The water temp was around 40 degrees.
As we paddled into the gale force winds, we actually began to close the gap on another 4-man team. My first thought was to use the flair gun to take them out of competition, then I decided to use the patented "Scott Young maneuver". This is when you engage your opponent in conversation and attempt to have them believe that there is dissention on their team. We paddled up next to one of the canoes and whispered “your teammates over there said you were the weak link on the team. If it weren’t for you, they would probably be in 1st place.” It worked beautifully; 30 seconds of conversation had these jokers arguing like school children and wondering what had just happened. Exhilarated and re-energized from this small victory we sludged onward thru the growing wind and waves.
We hit dry land again for the next transition. Our new objective was to securely fasten our bikes into the canoe and paddle an estimated mile (?) to the biking section. We did a pretty decent job of balancing the boat, but realized that our transition time was about as speedy as a man in the bathroom with a newspaper.
I was in the front of the canoe w/ the top-tube of my mtb crawling up my hinny when we were suddenly hit crossways by a wave and a gust of wind at the same time. All I could think was how is it that the wind is blowing in the wrong direction only for our team? I’m sure Special D. was thinking “who cares about this race, my bike better not end up on the bottom of this Lake.”
We hit land, and I thought “thank heavens the canoe portion is done”, and the very kind Volunteer said “I’ll see you again later”. A not so subtle hint that the canoe was not over, and that I might have a second chance to cause Dave’s bike to end up in Davy Jones’s Locker.
Now it was time for the cycling leg of the race. After being in the canoe for that long I couldn't wait to get out and crank some pedals. The first part of the bike leg to CP 18 was a monster climb. Since there had been so much rain lately, there was zero single track riding for the bike portion; it was all gavel roads. There was certainly no shortage of quad shredding climbs tho, and we found ourselves gasping for air at the top more than once. There were even some climbs that had people pushing their bikes to the top.
I think I speak for everyone when I say one hill stood out among the others. This hill was an absolute soul-crusher. The higher you climbed, the steeper it got and the looser the gravel was. Towards the top the road turned into a quad shredding washboard of pain before finally leveling off into a gloriously flat hilltop. The view from the top overlooked a beautiful Missouri landscape.
As we pressed onward, Mother Nature obviously thought we were going too fast. She took it upon herself to pimp-slap us in the faces w/ a strong, gusty headwind. The rest of that bike-leg is a bit of a blur. Mostly we just rode into the wind and watched the miles tick by. We held a solid pace and began unleashing the 6-pack by passing a few teams.
Then came the church. This pit stop was loaded with teams.
Now we are not notorious for quick transitions. During our first race we took over 30 minutes getting our buns in gear on the bike; however, this was different. Nav. and Special D. had a foolproof checkpoint plotting system. I was convinced that by sitting there and keeping my mouth shut, that I was shaving a good 20 minutes off of our transition time. Let’s be honest. Sometimes the best way to contribute is to be quiet.
Many of the teams were lulled in by the kindness of the volunteers who had prepared sandwiches, cookies, lemonade, and a host of other amazing foods and drinks. They were a jovial group of people and I hope they know how much we appreciated their service. I have found that an all liquid diet works for me during the race. I get my nutrition from a liquid supplement from Hammer Nutrition called Perpeteum. During our first race I ate the wrong thing at the wrong time and paid for it the rest of the day.
A HUGE part of adventure racing is coordinating your nutrition. It sounds easy, but it’s not. You forget to eat. You overeat to compensate. Something does not sit right. Sometimes you only have one hand to grab stuff. It is an art that we are trying to perfect. With that said, I watched as my teammates ate 5, 6, 7 sandwiches and handfuls of cookies. Apparently they were so good that stopping was not an option. I just hoped that the other teams were feeling a little too comfortable.
We got our new list of checkpoints and coordinates. Then the magnitude of the race hit us. We thought it was going to be a fast race. Our new list of checkpoints consisted of another 20 checkpoints. All I could think was what were the race directors smoking? I thought there were going to be 3 more. We had our work cut out for us.
UTM and Sharpie in hand numbers were flying. We were all business. No chatting or small talk here.
With our bellies and our camelbaks full, we set out to kick some more butt. We were jumping on our bikes thinking we had passed a few teams at this checkpoint, and I saw a little bleb on the sidewall of my tire. WTC? A sidewall blowout, but my tube was still holding air. Do we stop and take the time to fix it, or just forge on and deal with it if it becomes a problem. We decided there was no time to waste and to deal with it if it became a problem.
While I was in total support of this idea, I couldn’t help but think that while there was no single track to punish my tire, we were moving very quickly on some gravel roads. A quick turn, a blowout, and I’m hamburger.
Heading northward we covered approximately 13 miles and a few checkpoints to the next transition. Bike tire still hanging in there, this was not as easy as I make it sound, and I should say that with ferocious tenacity, we passed 6 or more teams on this leg of the race. Having fun, and being competitive might actually be able to coexist in the same race.
The next checkpoint was a transition into a ROGAIN. ROGAINE is also a backronym for "Rugged Outdoor Group Activity Involving Navigation and Endurance". This is where you have a certain number of checkpoints, and you are allowed to get as many or as few as you want. You can also get them in any order you want. There was one catch – be back by 5:00pm, or lose 1 checkpoint for each minute after, and possibly be disqualified. Nav. and I competed in an SLOC (St. Louis Orienteering Club) event back in November and learned this lesson the hard way. Time management was our biggest concern.
Fortunately Scott is great at navigating – thus the nickname Nav. This is where we felt we could make up some ground. Little did we know.
It was about this point that another team pulled in to the transition area. The volunteer went over the rules and someone on the team joking said “just give us the fastest time that anyone has completed this section, and we’ll beat it”. The volunteer responded with a very serious “I don’t know, no one has come back yet”. We joked about this statement, but something told us that this was going to be more difficult than we thought. It was kind of like heading into the black abyss.
The earth was completely saturated in this area, basically turning it into a spongy sloppy mess. We blew out of the TA on to our first CP, only to be slightly lost. Here we were thinking that we needed to do this with pin-point precision, and we could not find the first CP. Delusions of grandeur were washed from my mind, quickly replaced by an overwhelming sense of failure as we listened to another team admit that they had already been out in the wood for 2 HOURS and only found 1 CP. I had already started trying to figure out how I was going to explain such an epic failure to my friends and family.
Seriously. Think about this. We are 10 minutes into this ROGAIN portion of the race and can’t find our CP. We hook up with a husband and wife team named Little Debbie & the Snack Cake that has been adventure racing for 7 years and has already been in the wood for 2 hours and only found 1 check point – the one we can’t find. This is our second race, not our 7th year. We just got here, they somehow got here 2 hours prior to us, so they obviously are some real butt kickers and actually know what they are doing. We are way out of our league.
So we soak in the fact that the scale of the map has thrown us off our senses, and we are a ridge or more away from our intended CP. Rather than go back, I suggest that we move on and get it on the way back if we have time. The team agrees. It’s all about Time Management at this point.
Then Nav. points to what seemed like the North American Continent’s answer to K2 or Everest. “We’ve got to get to the top of that” he says. I’m thinking “surely you jest”. I looked at the map, looked at the mountain, looked at the time and thought. No way in this lifetime are we doing that in the next 2 hours. Not only that, but surely the race directors did not intend for us to go that far away. We must be reading the map wrong again. I don’t even know if I could see the top of the peak through the cloud bank.
Well, off we trudged with Little Debbie & the Snack Cake in tow. Our new found friends and coconspirators. The thought process was that more eyes on the map would certainly make things go faster.
We quickly learned that Little Debbie & the Snack Cake were 2 parts of a 4 part team. Their Navigation guy was nursing a cold back home in Kansas. This revelation made things clear for us. Rather than become discouraged, we realized that we actually had a chance at this. With the scale of the map firmly under control, and the knowledge that while Little Debbie & the Snack Cake had plenty of experience and were endurance animals, their being lost in the woods was perfectly understandable.
This lit our fire. Now that we were feeling confident, it was time to do something bold. In order to save time and distance we decided to make a straight line to the top of Half-Dome, by crossing a creek and going up a steep embankment. This part was truly epic, we were basically grabbing small trees and roots and climbing the embankment like a ladder. This was the real deal, and it felt good when we got to the top.
We located CP29, checked the time and decided to move on to the next CP. With surgical precision we found several checkpoints and expertly managed our time. At one point Team Alpine Shop – our heroes – went cruising by. WOW, maybe that lady back at the TA was being serious about no one being back yet, surely if anyone would be done with the ROGAIN, it would be Alpine Shop (the eventual winners). In truth, they were probably on the way back after having finished this section, and we were just hoping to get a few checkpoints and get back by 5:00pm, but it was still inspiring.
We are now about 9.5 hours into the race, and it was beginning to take its toll. Right before Crack hit ground Zero, we pulled out the special weapon. The 5 hour energy Shot........and some drugs. With a handful of pain-relievers and a hefty dose of caffeine he was a brand new man.
With a renewed spirit, a fully healed mangina, and a mouth full of "Sport Beans" we began our assault on our next checkpoint. Nav. pulled some Macguyver maneuvers and whipped out his handy dandy watch-o-compass-o-matic. We would slash our way thru the woods for a while and then he would shoot another bearing. We repeated this until we found ourselves at the next checkpoint. It was soon clear to me that Scott Young is the Michael Jordan of orienteering....maybe not as bald though.
We had to be back by 5:00pm, and we were several miles away in some thick bush. We put the moves on, and made haste. Along the way back to CP39 we passed several teams. Some looked lost, some looked beat, and most were probably wondering why they didn’t take the time to put some pants on after the bike before heading out into the woods. Seriously, what were these dudes thinking heading out into some serious bushwhack country in bike shorts? Serious lack of IQ there. That darn rump pad ride’n up like it was an elevator at the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Legs that looked like they lost the battle with about a dozen alley cats with razor sharp claws.
Back at CP39 it was 4:36pm. We were on our bikes with no time to chat, so we rolled off on our way back to the canoes.
We were kick’n some serious Bahooki at this point, passing yet more teams. We could see that unless we wanted to be on the water in the dark, it was time to pull some serious MMA and Kung Pow Chicken this leg of the Canoe. We got the Mercedes Benz of Canoes. I had no idea that they had canoes with actual butt formed seats. Somehow I accidently grabbed a paddle that worked. I thought back to Special D’s statement and felt like Obi Wan Kenobi was with me “Use Your Core Luke”.
We were firing on all cylinders at this point. Forget the tie downs, the bikes were on and we were gone. We really embrace the pain, covered a lot of water in a short period of time. What took us a slothful 34 minutes in the canoe on the way to this point earlier in the day when we supposedly had more energy went by in a blistering 21 minutes.
We beached the canoe and climbed onto our mtb's one last time. No time for fiddling around, we needed to get out of there and up the road. I was certain my sidewall would give way any moment. Maybe even 100 yards from the finish – but it didn’t. Amazingly it held up, only to go flat on the trip back to Rolla – thank the stars.
The path leading out of the transition area that had been such a pleasant downhill earlier in the day was now a steep-uphill carnival of pain. A 4-person team about 40 yards ahead of us had begun the climb and were looking pretty haggard. By way of mental telepathy, we as a team decided to crush these punks. We reached down to places that no one likes to talk about and began mashing the peddles. My bike had decided not to shift at this point, so I was basically single-speeding it up this hill and all the way home. No time for sissies in this race. We swung around our prey and easily overcame them.
Basking in the glory of our triumphant destruction of yet another co-ed team, we sighted another 2-man team struggling with the next climb. These jokers would be next. Everyone clicked up a few gears (except for Mr. Singlespeed) and began the charge.
Restricted to my singlespeed, I ramped up the rpm's and we took turns pushing the wind. In no time we were right next to them, but they weren't giving up too easily. We decided it was time to pull another "Scott Maneuver", so I leaned over to the guy up front and said something about how "we were just using him to draft". When the dude turned to look at us, all I could see was hate and fatigue in his eyes. He seriously looked like he was on day 5 of a cocaine binge w/ no food or water. I knew that at any minute he would either keel over and die or pull out a machete and start killing people, so we simply passed them and mashed the pedals until we had enough of a gap that they would not be a problem later in the race. I don’t know if they ever finished, or if he is up on manslaughter charges.
Reality was beginning to set in that we were going to finish the Bonk Hard Chill in less than 12 hours. The finish line was getting closer; we could already hear the cowbells and smell the spaghetti & baked potatoes. No one could be seen behind us, we passed a few more teams along the way. Including one team that deserves a shout out. We came up on this team of 2 men and 2 women. The guys were holding on to the girls backside and kind of pushing her along. Very awkward. As I cruised by I told them if I had a tow rope that I would give it to them, but I didn’t. They said they had been doing this since about 5 miles into the first bike section. Doing what I wondered. Then I realized that the girls peddle had broken off. How do you do that???? Frig’n do 30+ miles on a bike with no peddle on those hills??
Our sympathy ended there and on we flew. There was no one to be seen ahead of us. I thought, "Jehoshaphat Trigger, this is really going to happen."
And it did. We crossed the finish line and our race was over. 11 hours and 5 minutes had passed since we had first begun that morning. We found/had time to find 37 of 42 checkpoints.
At the awards ceremony we were shocked to find that our team finished 2nd behind Wounded Warrior Project. We were totally shocked to say the least. But the best was yet to come.
A few days later, the Final results show "Forum Dental" as finishing 1st of 9 in the 4-man team division, and 13th of 52 overall. Wounded Warrior Project, actually ended up 6th of 9 in our division, and 34th overall. We surpassed our own expectations by far, and had an awesome time doing it. The race may be over, but the feeling of pride for finishing this race will remain with us indefinitely.