The BonkHard Chill was March 15. I've never raced it, but of course I wanted to. I'd race every single weekend if I could afford to and if my schedule, which unfortunately is full of conflicts with this year's adventure race calendar, would allow. After my teammates decided not to race the Chill, I brought it up first to my sister-in-law and then to another friend who's been wanting to try out AR. When neither of them were able to race, I didn't put out any more feelers. I probably could have found a teammate, but instead I decided to volunteer.
While it's certainly not the same as racing, it is free, and I love volunteering. I'd hoped that Jeff and Jacob would join me and make it a family camping trip; they could hang out at my volunteer station while they wanted to and then go explore when they get bored. Great idea, right? They were unconvinced, and Jacob's soccer schedule (first game: race day) put the final nail in Chill Plan 2.0. Version 2.1 (operation convince your teammates to volunteer with you) also failed, and just like that I was back to "doing things on my own is way better than sitting at home and missing out".
I took a half day off work and left Friday afternoon. I have a new bike (I know! I haven't even talked about that yet!), and I wanted a chance to ride it before Sunday's (later cancelled) mountain bike race. My friend Dan runs Oz Cycles down at Lake of the Ozarks, so I messaged him to get a trail recommendation: "Nothing too hairy because I"ll be on my own and I'm not very good."
He suggested the Honey Run trail, so I printed off a map, put the coordinates into the GPS, and headed off right after my students left for lunch. I made it down in time to spend a couple of hours on the trail and ride each of the three loops.
|Scenes from the trail|
The three sections of trail that make up Honey Run come together around a parking lot off of a gravel road. I'd ridden the out and back section from a different lot, planning to hop onto the other sections. It wasn't quite that easy and took a little studying of the map to figure out where to get onto the north loop. The good news is that the map actually helped.
I wasn't really needed at pre-race check-in, so instead of helping I visited with arriving teams and mostly managed to control my envy that they were racing and I wasn't. It was fun to catch up with friends and put faces to some names I only knew on paper. When the pre-race meeting started up, I headed off in search of the campground, which was also serving as race HQ.
Even though I arrived after dark, someone was right there to check me in and direct me to my tent site, where I saw that I was the only person in that area. I was already less than thrilled about camping by myself, so you can imagine how delighted I was to be completely alone. Luckily, my friends provided plenty of reassurance.
I'd expected to be a little nervous on my own, but I fell asleep right away. I woke up freezing around 3 a.m. I had a bag full of clothes right next to me, but I was too cold/lazy to get my arms out of the sleeping bag and dig for them. Instead, I tossed and turned until finally giving in around 5:30 or so. No need to worry about setting an alarm after all.
My tent and car were covered by a layer of frost. I'd anticipated a low of 40* , but that was in town. At the campground, my car's dashboard showed high 20's, which may not be bad if you're tough and/or properly equipped, but I'm neither. I think it was my coldest night of camping, and my previous low temperatures were shared with my husband and tempered by hats, coats, gloves, and body heat.
|Home sweet home. The white smudges on the right side are some of the BonkHard vehicles.|
|Starting to get a little busier as the sun comes up.|
|Almost start time...|
I was delighted to learn that our station was at Ha Ha Tonka State Park. I'd heard of it and seen pictures, but I'd never actually been there. Doug and I took his Jeep over to our assigned shelter, but not before we caught sight of a team pull into the campground well after the other teams had disappeared, check in with Gary, and then take off. My team has its own issues with timeliness, so I really felt for these guys.
|The Kennedy clan plays catch-up. Also, my car is still covered in frost.|
|The average flow of the spring is 58 million gallons of water a day.|
|Rough life. ;)|
Our job was to mark down the times teams arrived, make sure they carried their canoes to the parking lot, and then check to make sure they had several items of required gear: everyone's headlamp and whistle, and the team cell phone and UTM tool. A gear check is stressful because if a team doesn't pass, they don't get credit for that CP, and you don't want to be the person who tells them that, even if rules are rules. Also, it can get pretty hectic when a bunch of teams are all in at once, wanting to get through the gear check and on their way. Doug and I did our best to work together, be efficient, and get teams moving as quickly as possible.
|Photo credit: Doug Arendt|
Working an early CP is nice because you get to see all of the teams (and inadvertently insult at least one of them...sorry Laura!) and your job is finished relatively soon. Of course, both Doug and I had signed on for the whole day, but we had a break in between assignments, so we dropped off Doug A (the photographer) at the bike drop and then did a little sightseeing.
|Lake view from the castle...not to shabby. The parking lot on the left is where our CP was.|
Sightseeing finished, we headed back to race HQ to drop off our paperwork and pick up our next assignment. The way back covered some crazy steep hills, and I was glad Doug was driving so I could admire the view without worrying about steering us off a cliff. The road into the campground was so hilly that every time I drove it I was thankful Jeff and Jacob hadn't come (because I'm not sure our van could've towed our camper up it!) and that I didn't have to ride my bike up it. Somehow, though, while I was relaxing around race HQ talking to Ellen and Doug I started thinking...I wonder if I could ride up it?
Eventually, of course, I decided to try. Ellen gave me the map to our next station, and I left a while before Doug so I could ride to it. Expecting to pass one of the orange and white checkpoint flags marking our spot, I rode right past it and all the way to the cross road before I realized my mistake. Luckily, I had the map.
|Trying and failing to replicate the previous day's uber-flattering angle.|
Our second assignment was to set up CP14 on the gravel campground road at an intersection with an ATV trail. We were about 500m from the finish line, and teams expecting to cruise downhill to finish a tough race were instead greeted with our smiling faces...and a "bonus map" with 5 additional CPs. Between the gear check and now this, Gary and Ellen must have been on a mission to make us the least popular volunteers. And it was pretty effective.
We had about an hour's wait before the first team showed up, and I slowly started adding layers back as the day cooled. At almost 4:00, we heard a team climbing our hill and saw the smiling faces of Alpine Shop. Well, they were smiling until we handed them the map.
|David and Jeff look over this evil new twist.|
The distance between teams had spread out a lot by the end of the race, so we never got much of a rush at this CP, but it was always exciting to hear voices coming up the hill or (after dark) to see the bike lights heading our way. Judging from the faces, it had been a good, but tough, day.
It was a good, but long, day for us, and I was pretty glad when Gary showed up at 8 (or 8:30, I don't even remember now) to hang a flag for anyone who was still on the course and send us back down to race HQ. As much as I love to hang around after a race and talk, I still had a 4 hour drive home waiting, so I said a couple quick goodbyes and scooted out of there.
I made it home just before 1 a.m. It would have been nice to have someone to share the driving with, but I caught my second wind after the first hour or so and was ok after that. Was going on my own ideal? Not particularly, but it was worth it. I had a fun weekend, rode some new trails, saw friends, met cool people, and still got to be part of the race. That definitely beats missing out.
Race results and pictures
Emily's blog about Alpine Shop's race