By: Robin Rongey
The 2010 Bonk Hard Chill started out with a bang that came right from the weatherman, rain was forecast for all day on race day. With this in mind we packed our rain gear just in case.
My teammate Chuck and I entered the race thinking it was going to be held on February 6th, but found out a month before the race that there was an issue of scheduling with the Lake of the Ozarks State Park, so the race would be moved to March 13th. We were happy that meant the likelihood of it being 17 degrees outside was somewhat slim.
So Friday, I’m out the door and leaving to meet Chuck at the commuter lot in Missouri, 10 minutes from my house I realize I didn’t pack my bike jersey. I had to have a bike jersey because it gives me extra pockets to carry food and chapstick in. I turn around and drive home to get it, calling Chuck to tell him I’m running late. Oh but here is the funny part. I tell him I’m running late and will be on the rode in 15 minutes which means I will be about 15 minutes later then planned, making it 2:15 instead of 2:00, but instead I say so I will be there at 4:15, where that came from I don’t know. So I get to the lot and no Chuck, I call him and he says "you said 4:15 which I thought was strange because you said you were leaving in 15 minutes, which wouldn’t be 4:15 since it’s only a 40 minute drive." So this is how our adventure starts. Chuck loads up and comes to meet me; we get all his gear in my van and are on the road by 3 pm.
We make it to Osage Beach and find the church that race check-in is being held at, unload all our gear and when we get to the door we see a sign stating no gear check at check-in, so we unload the gear into the van and head in the church to check-in. It was pretty easy fill out a couple forms saying we won’t sue if we get hurt and who should pick up our bodies if needed. Then they gave us a great Bonk Hard Chill hoodie and we were on our way to find the hotel. When we got to the hotel we knew instantly that we were at the right place, since just about every vehicle in the parking lot had a bike rack on it. The clerk in the hotel was pretty nice and told some elderly people that we were bikers, but the kind that pedaled and if they got lost we could probably help them get back on track. He had a lot of faith in us. We threw our stuff in the rooms and headed across the street for some pizza, then went back to the church for the pre-race meeting. We talked to many teams one being team Alpine Shop, and got everyone’s thoughts on how tough or long the course was going to be. The meeting started and we found out some information about the course, but for anyone who has adventured raced, you know nothing really until you are out there on the course. We were given maps and directions to the bike drop and race headquarters. We made the 30 minute drive to the bike drop, then went back to the hotel and plotted our maps. Finally we made it to bed by 11:00 pm.
Race morning we planned to leave at 5:15 am, but when I got up and was doing one last gear check I couldn’t find my head lamp, at 5 am I’m banging on Chucks door telling him I have a problem and we need to leave now to hit the Wal-Mart that we hoped was open to buy a headlamp. Chuck scrambles to get his stuff while I run back to my room for mine, I decide to do one last check in my pack and I find my headlamp hidden under some trail mix bars, what a relief that was. I run out to the hall and Chuck is closing his door, since we were both ready, we just left for the race, it was a good thing too, it took a little longer then we thought to get to race headquarters. I was having a hard time getting any food down, so I was working hard trying to eat something. I think Chuck was getting his food down ok, he was eating a turkey sandwich while I was trying to eat some little white donuts, breakfast of champions you know. We get our gear out of the van and head to headquarters, but are told to go down the road and wait at the gate, so we did. Buses were coming to haul us to the start, they were 30 minutes late so we stood in the rain, worrying that we forgot something. All the racers were taking turns hiding behind trees doing their business, you know in the adventure racing world the woods are a porta john. The buses arrived and we all got on and warmed up, it was about a 30 minute ride to the start and on the way we saw the first checkpoint off the side of the road. We thought the first CP would be a piece of cake, never assume anything in adventure racing.
Off the buses, a quick run to the bathroom and then the national anthem, but Jason forgot the iPod, so we all had to sing it loud and proud and we did, not well, but we did. A quick prayer for our safety and a good time and we were off. The first checkpoint was a bit over a mile away, so it was a dead run with heavy packs. I am the keeper of the passport so I have to get to the control and punch the passport, the only problem was I had to jump across a ditch of water to get to it, so much for that piece of cake CP. This is where my feet first got wet, and never dried again. So another dead run back down the road past the start to CP2 and into the river, we made a perfect river entrance and headed down river in our canoes.
Although it was in the 40s and 50s most of the day, it was also raining most of the day. This was the perfect race for trying out our rain gear. I found out really quickly that it keeps the rain out, but keeps most of the sweat in. As long as we kept moving, it was fine, but when we stopped I felt like a wet noodle, or at least what I thought a wet noodle felt like.
We paddled for almost 2 hours and even passed about 6 canoes, and we are the worst paddlers around, so that was good for us. The canoe was 11 miles with no checkpoints until the end, so we hit the beach and punched CP3 before getting on our bikes. We rode off while eating sandwiches and started hitting hill after hill and dog after dog. Oh, we didn’t hit the dogs, we rode past them like screaming little girls (Chuck Edit: Only one of us was screaming like a little girl, and it wasn’t me!) trying to get away from them. We got CP after CP, hitting each one right on queue. Then we hit the gas station, all races had a $1.50 credit at the station and we both selected a slice of pizza for our money. It was so good, or at least we thought so, but when you’re that hungry and wet, anything tastes good, so I really can’t vouch for how good it is any other day. As we were getting on our bikes to head out, we noticed on of the racers lighting up a cigarette. We just started laughing, we couldn’t believe it. We headed down a road and seemed to be in the middle of nothing and there is a big building with a tank out front, so we stopped to take a picture, but as soon as we took the picture, the camera died, so we couldn’t take a picture of the gentlemen’s club that was next to the tank. There must have been a lot of testosterone in that neck of the woods.
Again, we picked up CP after CP then hit the woods for some single track, but first a gear check and some Oreo cookies. All the volunteers at the manned checkpoints were so friendly, it was great and at this checkpoint the volunteers happened to be one of my competitors in most races and her husband. Her and I battled it out in a couple races during the 2009 season, her beating me at Burnin at the Bluff and me beating her at the Berryman Duathlon. Funny thing is she cheered us on and made sure we were ok, if it had been me working that checkpoint, I might have flattened her tire. Not really, but I might have thought about it. The single track was muddy and we plowed through, some areas were just too tough to ride, so we had to get off the bikes and push them, but it wasn’t just us, no one around us was able to make it through. At one point we were going down a steep, muddy, rooty trail and my front tire sank into the mud, I was just about to go over the handlebars when I got a foot down on the ground, but to do it I had to slam my pedal into my shin, that hurt for a few hours. We made it out of the woods and I continued to follow Chuck leading us easily to all the CPs. Finally we hit CP 13 which was a mess hall of some type, we dropped our bikes headed into the building to applause by all who were in the room, we got our passport stamped and new clue sheets with 14 new checkpoints to plot. As we found a table, in the door comes team Alpine Shop they are done with the trek and heading towards the finish, they are super fast, but were in second place, they are very gracious and say that team Bushwacker was on their game and they didn’t know if they could catch them, well in the end they didn’t, but we could see how hard they were trying. We sat down and plotted checkpoints, ate some cookies and headed out for about 10 miles of trekking. The trekking section was mostly woods and bush whacking. Not a lot of places we could get a good run going. Lots of giant hills with loose rock, some barbed wire, which I always seem to find, and lots of bushes that seemed to smack me in the face and we can’t forget the mud and lots of it. I chased Chuck most of the way, I have a hard time keeping up in the woods. I hate to say it, but I’m not as strong as Chuck, so I am slower when it comes to sections that take more strength than endurance. We hit CP 14 without a hitch, but on CP 15 we stopped a hill too soon and wasted some time roaming around. We decided to go to the next CP and try to back track, but as soon as we got almost there Chuck realized what happened so we were at the CP we needed. From there we went from CP to CP with another team, of two guys who seemed to be on the same course as us. One of the guys was huge for an adventure racer and he was strong as an ox, his teammate would point the way and he was off, finding one point after the next. We just kept running into them for about 2 hours. Then they disappeared, we finished the trek, and made it back to the road to head for our bikes then we see the two guys we had been with for most of the trek coming out on their bikes, they are about 10 minute ahead of us.
It’s getting dark and we are tired and we know all we have left is to get to the bikes and make it back to the finish line. We also know that we have to be to our bikes by 7 pm or we won’t be allowed to go on. A look at our watches and it is almost 6 pm. We decide we can walk the half mile back, but after about 100 yards we feel guilty and start running. We get back and see that there are still quite a few bikes at the CP, so we are thinking we might be doing pretty well based on the number of bikes still at the CP. We run in the building and in get our passport stamped then hop on our bikes and are off to the finish. We ride hill after hill, we start seeing cars carrying bikes passing by us. We are not sure if this is good or bad, it either means that everyone has finished and are leaving or many people skipped CPs and went directly to the end. We have our headlamps and bike lights turned on, but it is still pretty dark, we turn a corner and see the finish line all lit up in the distance, we pedal in and stop our watches. We are welcomed by an air horn and some cow bells, lots of yelling and congratulations. A very nice lady took our pictures under the finish line and got our email address so she could send them too us. It was a great finish, we got all the checkpoints and finished under 12 hour. 11 hours and 29 minutes to be exact. Race volunteers brought us beer labeled with a Kuat racks label and made by the Springfield brewing company, the same company that sponsors the Berryman Epic mountain bike race. We dropped our bikes and went into a mess hall and ate hot baked potatoes, these are staples at adventure races. I ate so much my belly hurt. We checked the standings and found we were 4th in the 2 person co-ed division and 17th overall. We were very happy with our place and even happier because we were under 12 hours with all the checkpoints. Only 21 teams, just about half found all the checkpoints.
So we had big plans to go eat Mexican after the race then hit Cold Stone for ice cream. Well….. We went back to the hotel, and hit the showers, I just stood there under the hot water for about 20 minutes, then took a Tylenol pm, and called home. I almost fell asleep while talking to my spouse, so I told him I would call on my way home in the morning. Unfortunately, I needed to be home early so Chuck was at my mercy to get up early and get going. To top it off the time changed that night and we lost an hour of sleep. So at 6 am the next morning, which was really 5. I called Chuck’s room and said lets get out of here. We were packed and on the road in 15 minutes. We stopped at the Osage Beach Denny’s where we had race coupons that got us a free breakfast. My eyes were much larger then my stomach and I ordered the grand slam with 4 pancakes, well it goes to say I didn’t eat it all. Chuck devoured his grand slam and laughed at me for not being part of the clean plate club. We headed out the door and back on the road, I drove like a bat out of hell and we made it back to Chuck’s truck in 2. 5 hours. We unloaded his muddy gear said our goodbyes, and great race quotes then were off to our respective homes.
I got home and was beat, but had way too much to do to have any down time, so I put on my Recovery Socks, they felt so good, and helped me get though this busy post-race day. It was all worth it, another great race and more great lessons learned. One day we will be GREAT, it’s just going to take some more practice.