Luke, Bob, and I were the only Team Virtus members who could make it, and Chuck and Lori registered as well. Unfortunately, Lori ended up opting to stay home to take pictures when their son's high school had the nerve to schedule Homecoming on race day. Also MIA were the Hoosier Daddies, who must not have wanted to miss their ballet lessons.
I left straight from work to meet the guys, and then we headed to Lake of the Ozarks. After grabbing supper and pitching our tents/hammocks in the dark, we hung out around the fire for a bit and then crashed. Big thanks to Luke for talking me into putting the rain fly on my tent; it definitely came in handy when my assertion that "it's not going to rain" was proved wrong.
We got to the race HQ in plenty of time to get checked in and get our maps right on time. The maps were pre-plotted, but checkpoints had differing values (ranging from 10-100 points), so strategy was key. As the guys started talking over route choices, I wandered around filling water bladders, getting numerous things I'd forgotten from the car, and putting on lipstick. Yeah, I know it's stupid, but it makes me feel better about pictures. Overall, it was pretty typical pre-race behavior for me.
Ostensibly, we were all competing as solo racers, but I had every intention of sticking with one of the guys. I definitely need to practice my navigation, but my last solo outing wasn't confidence inspiring. For this race, I was excited to have my own copy of the map (in AR, the team has only one map or set of maps; in a rogaine, each team member gets a map). I have a lot of trouble visualizing what the map is showing me, and I have a hard time connecting what I'm seeing in front of me with what's on the map. I was hoping a day of comparing the map to our progress would help.
Bob wanted to get in some solo nav practice, so we planned to attack the first few points together and then split up afterwards. Gary gave his last-minute instructions (which I missed because I was running some stuff back to the van), then everybody sang the National Anthem (which I also missed because I was running back to the van to grab the map I'd left there), and then the race started. Everybody ran underneath the start/finish arch and headed off for their first point. We began with a half-hearted jog that didn't last long.
|Pretty much in last place already...|
1. We'd talked about running but didn't much.
2. Our navigation (by "our" I mean Luke's and Bob's) was pretty spot on except for one hiccup where we missed a turn.
3. Bob found a skeletal deer head with antlers attached and carried "Buck" strapped to his pack the rest of the day.
4. Towards the end, when we were going to have to push to get back in time and all of our feet were hating us, we did a run/walk combo that's hopefully going to become more a part of our general race strategy as Bob and I get into better shape (because Luke's a marathoner, you know).
5. I got some great learning experience following along on the map and asking questions as we went along. I'm really lucky to have teammates who are such good, patient teachers.
6. The weather was pretty awesome. Even the rain later in the day felt good.
7. We covered 18+ miles on foot in just under 10 hours. That may not sound like much, but remember we're frequently bushwhacking and checking the map and looking for needles in haystacks. We made it back to the finish line with 10 minutes to spare.
8. I came in 2nd (out of 2 in my division) to a girl who registered pretty much as late as possible. This solved a moral dilemma for me, because while I was racing "solo" officially, in reality Luke and Bob basically led me through the woods, and I wouldn't have felt right winning a prize as a "solo racer" when I was anything but.
9. We ate ourselves silly on some delicious food.
10. Bonkhard puts on a fantastic race, and if you weren't there this year you missed out. Don't make the same mistake next year.
Our navigation was spot on for the first few points, and after one of them Bob made an awesome discovery.
|It made me nervous to walk behind him; every time I leaned forward on a hill I envisioned being gored in the eye.|
Running a little was a great reminder of how much more work it is to run with a pack, which then makes me think how much easier it would probably be to run if I lost about 20-30 pounds. The running idea didn't last long, and when we stopped, Bob spoke up: "I'm wondering why we're going north?"
Looking at the map, we realized that the trail we needed to pick up was marked with the dotted lines Gary had told us weren't very accurate. Taking a moment to orient ourselves, we then headed off into the woods. Nice catch, Bob! Luke had explained to me and showed me on the map what we were doing, but I only understood it in the same way I understood high school physics...enough to sort of get it, but not enough to do it on my own. Either way, we found checkpoint 18 right on the trail and then shortly turned onto a gravel road.
We ran into Chuck on the road and spent a few minutes visiting while Chuck admired Bob's rack, then parted ways.
|Luke, Chuck, and Bob|
|"The last time we saw Bob..."|
|Part of the burned area we walked through.|
|Crossing a creek..in order to avoid crossing a creek...that's how we roll.|
Not so easy, actually, as we made our only real misstep of the day by missing a turn...typical mistake for me since I tend to pay less attention on roads or trails. Unfortunately, during our trek to get back on track, Bob fell on a sideslope and hurt his knee. :(
|Cool area to walk through. Hey, how can you tell that's a low overhang?|
|Looks like a fun path, huh? Just as I was thinking it, Luke turned and said it reminded him of a section of the Deuce.|
|Cool old car in the middle of nowhere.|
A check of our packs and a little math reassured us that we had plenty of calories for the next four hours. Since we were all low on water, that made our next move pretty clear: head to CP17, which was also a water stop. Again we took separate routes, and this time Bob arrived at the very cool quarry CP quite a bit ahead of us.
|Lots of neat things to see in this race.|
|Luke was really thirsty.|
We had some discussion about our best plan of attack. There was one more 100-pointer within reach, and it was mostly road travel to get there. My suggestion, which we eventually used, was to go after that one and then collect anything possible on our way back. Since CP 23 was between us and the road we needed, we hit that one, too.
|This only barely shows how pretty these trees were, and we walked through a big stand of them.|
Luke led us straight to CP2, which included a long bushwhack from the road. All of our entry points from roads and trails showed me how much more I have to learn. Looking at the map I could see that we needed to take the road until such and such a feature and then cut off into the woods from there, but actually recognizing that feature from the road is another thing altogether.
|Pretty scenery, but I was over the road.|
We crossed the finish line with 10 minutes to spare. 18+ hours of hiking/trekking/running in 9:50. It was a really fun race to do, but as much as the biking and paddling portions of an adventure race can stress me out, they definitely give your feet a much-needed break. 10 hours on foot is no joke.
Supper was delicious, and while I didn't catch any of the cool stuff Ellen threw out Bonkhard did give everyone a UTM tool, so now I have one to add to my gear tub. We clapped for Chuck, who won 2nd in his division, talked to Gary and Ellen for a while, and headed back to our campsite (which we never actually saw in daylight). We had just enough time to clean up at the showerhouse before it started pouring, ending our campfire plans and sending us all to (much needed) bed.
I guess Luke slept pretty well, but Bob's hammock was leaking like crazy, and my tent was flooding from the bottom. I'd tucked the excess tarp underneath the tent when I set it up, but I guess the tucked-under section blew out while we were gone. It basically funneled the rain right under my tent, where it had nowhere to go but up through the floor.
The sleeping pad I was on kept me partly out of the water, but my sleeping bag hung over the sides and got progressively wetter as the night went on. Instead of snuggling inside it, I covered up with a flannel sheet and spent the night squeezing myself into the ever-shrinking dry section of my bed. I don't know how many times I woke up, checked the time, and sighed at the thought of 6 more hours of this...5 more hours of this...I was definitely happy when it was finally time to get up!
Thanks to our early start, we were back in Jefferson City in plenty of time for Bob to get to work, Luke to unload the car before his kids were up, and me to make it on time to the Queeny Park Bubba CX race, for which I'd left my bike in the car...just in case. I felt surprisingly good, but I was definitely tired and the race was sure to be muddy. I hate riding in the mud. I headed east not sure what I was going to do.