LBL was a challenge from the minute the guys and I arrived at our arranged meeting place, exactly on time.
A quick call confirmed the fear that struck me when I read "Cracker Barrel?" It turns out that there are two Interstate 64 exit 9's between Jefferson City and Fairview Heights, both with a Cracker Barrel. The guys were at one in Missouri, and I was sitting at the one in Illinois. 45 minutes later we were all together and heading down the road.
The weather forecast, which had been progressively more ominous in the week leading up to the race was certainly born out during our drive.
|Beautiful day, huh?|
After hitting up the all-you-can-eat buffet, where I turned in a disappointing performance of one plate of spaghetti (and 1.5 desserts), we headed back to the room to start getting our gear together.
|It looked like a gear bomb exploded|
|Photo credit: BLD Jenkins|
Points plotted, it was back to the room to finish loading our packs and drop bags. Because the area is so remote and devoid of services, we had two separate gear drops where we could restock our food and water, which was wonderful. Figuring out what all to send in the drop bag, though, was harder. I'm so not used to making sure I have enough calories; usually the problem is the opposite.
|Wearing my beard so I can fit in. (L-R) Kate, Bob, Casey, Luke|
|Team Virtus ready for LBL. Notice Casey and Bob each sporting 1/2 beard.|
Trek 1: ~5 miles
|It was an absolutely beautiful morning. Photo credit: Bob "Renaissance Man" Jenkins|
If the weather gods smiled on us early, the AR gods were not so kind. Barely 7 minutes into the first trekking leg, Casey's legs started cramping up. He's had problems with this in the past and had actually considered pulling himself out of the race so a flare-up wouldn't spoil things for the team. The problem had seemed to resolve itself, though, so its early resurgence was a blow to him, and while the rest of us were cool with taking a very easy pace until the cramps worked themselves out, I can't say that I'd have been any less stressed out than Casey was if I was in his situation...and I had some similar moments later in the race myself.
|Bob punches the passport|
|Lake Barkley in the background, but honestly I'm just posting this because I like the way my legs look.|
|Adventure racing makes you hungry!|
Bike 1: ~ 8 miles
|Walk of shame...not quite as fun as the college version.|
This is such a great team to ride with, totally supportive and encouraging without being patronizing. Someone almost always rides behind me so I'm not dropped, and when I hit a sideways log wrong and flew off my bike, I'm pretty sure Casey made sure I was OK before laughing. In fact, I don't remember him laughing, though it probably looked pretty funny. It was a good fall; I landed on my hip and rolled--didn't even end up with a bruise.
|Yeah, I know...it's just a baby of a log. More of a stick, really.|
While Casey's cramps had ceased to be a big issue during the trek, we didn't do ourselves any favors on the first bike CP. That creek crossing I walked? Bob and Casey had stopped there to take pictures of Luke and I riding across, I walked through it, and Luke rode it...and somehow all of us missed the fact that the CP was right there. This cost us some additional time as we rode further past and then stopped to decide if we'd gone too far; it also cost Bob some skin lost when he fell onto Casey's bike.
|Apparently Bob's first fall.|
I don't know if it was the mud on the trails or what, but my bike--the bike I had just had tuned up so I wouldn't have any bike issues during the race!!--was misshifting all over the place on hills. It made it difficult to get any kind of momentum going. Very frustrating. Bob switched bikes with me to see if he could get mine adjusted better, and when he took his bike back and went to raise his seat again, the seat post clamp wouldn't work right. Despite taking some time to fiddle with it, the best we could manage still left him on a seat far too low to be comfortable. Every time I thought about it for the rest of the race, I blamed myself.
To recap: we'd already suffered cramps, navigational missteps, and two mechanicals. I was thrilled to be racing as part of Team Virtus and was having a great time despite the problems, but I worried that they might regret bringing me. Rather than being an asset to the team, I was starting to wonder if I was more of a bad-luck charm...and it wasn't even noon yet.
....to be continued....on to Part 2