April 29, 2011

SleepMonsters Front Page News

Rock Racing's report on the LBL adventure race made the front page of SleepMonsters the internationally acclaimed Adventure Racing News site that is headquartered in the UK.

http://www.sleepmonsters.us/news.php?article_id=4169
Visit the website to read all about the race.

Photo Friday

Read our LBL report to find out why I replaced the Bonty valve with this far superior Stans.

April 23, 2011

Paddle Day

ROCK Racing had a paddle day planned for 4/23,  taking the Cuivre River to a takeout at Dardenne Creek on the Mississippi.  Unfortunatly the weather had another idea.  A solid week of rain/wind/hail and even tornadoes flooded all the roads leading to the takeout spot. 

So we had to activate plan B. Which was an upstream paddle on the Cuivre from Old Monroe to the State Park.  National Weather Service had all  kinds of dire warnings for us, like this one:
 
THE FLOOD WARNING CONTINUES FOR THE CUIVRE RIVER AT OLD MONROE UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. * AT 7 AM SATURDAY THE STAGE WAS 26.0 FEET. * FLOOD STAGE IS 24.0 FEET. * FORECAST... THE RIVER WILL RISE TO NEAR 28.5 FEET TOMORROW AFTERNOON. * IMPACT... AT 28.1 FEET... DYER ROAD UPSTREAM FROM THE GAGE BEGINS FLOODING JUST DOWNSTREAM OF THE NEW HIGHWAY 79 BRIDGE. * IMPACT... AT 27.0 FEET... RIGHT BANK OVERFLOWS.

One of our paddlers Aaron, was flying in from Dallas.  Lambert Airport got hit by a tornado last night and was completly closed to air traffic.  Aaron got sent back to Dallas, after spending the night in KC.  That had to suck.
I turned the news on for a few minutes before Patrick arrived and heard all kinds of doom and gloom, thunderstorms coming all day long.  The news people will have fun trying to scare people with this for days.

Patrick showed up, we loaded the adventure van, and drove to the river.  We got there and looked at the water rushing past at what looked like 10 mph, and knew we'd never make the 25 miles to the State Park.  But we figured we would at least get in a good workout, even if we had to give up on our mileage goal.
Patrick paddles a 14ft Old Town Nantucket, mine is a 17ft Perception Eclipse.  Both of us use camelbaks strapped on the top deck for gear, food, and water.  Here are the 'yaks ready to be loaded with gear:




We weren't in the water 15 minutes before it started to rain.  Rain is fine as long as the lightning stays away.


video
The biggest challenge was dodging the piles of logs washing downriver.  We were steering from one side of the river to the other almost constantly dodging:


We did score a good toy:



Anyone who reads this blog knows I like taking pictures of strange things we spot in the woods.  So here's an old school bus parked in a field.  Its gotta be old, look at the curved back end on it:



Not long after the bus Patrick asked if I seen the lightning.  I didn't.  But only a few padlde strokes later it was unmistakable.  We got caught by a fast moving thunderstorm.  They say the worst place to be in a lightning storm is on the water, so we pulled up in a creek and pulled on rain gear to wait it out.  The wind picked up and rain poured.  Thunder and lightning all around.

video

When the thunder stopped we decided to call it a day and head back to the put-in spot before we got caught by another thunderstorm.  As soon as we cut back in to the current, it was amazing, after all that upstream paddling, we were finally going FAST.  With the wind and current pushing, we barely had to paddle.

It took a little while until we got back in cellphone range so I called Lori to bring the adventure van for a pick-up.  Of course it quit raining about the same time we got out of the water.  As we were loading gear both of us were saying how great the Stohlquist PFD's worked out.  Hardly even noticed I was wearing it.

So we got in a three hour paddle.  Much shorter than we had originally planned, but better than nothing.

April 17, 2011

ROCK Racing News Report

Thanks go out to The Adventure Blog for mentioning ROCK Racing in one of the biggest and coolest news blogs covering adventure sports.  Seriously, this is a great site, everyone should follow or bookmark, there are great new stories everyday.

Story link

Prizes

Yes, it's true ROCK Racing loves prizes.  Robin, Patrick and Chuck picked up these great belt buckles this weekend as a finishers prize for completing the Double-Chubb 50K trail race.  It was on the Chubb-Trail, one of the toughest trails in our area, lots of rocks, roots, mud, and climbing.  The race was put on by the SLUGS and was organized and ran perfectly.  The volunteers at the aid stations were incredible!  I tried to say thanks to all of you, but I'm not sure if I was entirely coherrent in the last miles, so Thanks!


April 15, 2011

Success!

ROCK Racing has enjoyed some early season adventure racing success (and luck) with a win at AdventureMax and a third place finish at LBL 24hr.  We picked up enough points in these two races to end up in first place in the two person coed division of the Checkpoint Tracker North American Championship.  So here I've saved a cut-n-paste of the standings from the Checkpoint Tracker site: 


April 6, 2011

LBL 24hr 2011

To say that the Land Between the Lakes was the hardest adventure race I have ever completed is just not enough.  In no way can these few words explain to you exactly what I was feeling and what I was thinking, that is when I was lucid enough to have an actual thought.

24 hours, that’s all it was to be, heck Chuck and I have done longer races than that and in what at the time seemed like much more treacherous territory then the Midwest could ever be. Let me just tell you, the Midwest is no place sissies.  

We arrived at the pre-race meeting with speculation as to the race start time and where we would start from, but like every other speculation we have ever had about adventure racing, this one was just as wrong.  We even tried to trick Jason into telling us the start time before the meeting, but Jason is sharp, he just laughs and says I guess you will find out at the meeting.  We were kind of hoping for a 7 am start, but were sure it was going to be a 12 am start.  So when Jason said the meeting would start at 12 am and that we had 40 points to plot, everyone groaned.  Lucky for us he then said “April Fools!”, we thought it was a gift from God when he said the real start time would be 7am.  We thought everything was going our way, ha ha, now that was a completely goofy thought.  We were given our maps and some instructions and sent on our way. 

Back at the hotel we plotted the points and realized just how long the mileage could be on all of the legs, but we were pretty confident that it would be no problem for us.  I mean we were nervous, but still confident.  I guess our confidence has been a real laugh, now that it is over.  So off to bed it was, I woke up every 45 minutes worrying that I was going to miss the alarm.  5:30 am came and I loaded my gear into the Adventure van and was happy about the warm temperatures outside.  Boy, was that a mistake, I would have liked it to be about 10 degrees cooler as the day went on.

We lined up at the starting line, which was after what seemed to be 10 trips to the bathroom. 12 hours racers in front, 24 hour racers in back, then with 15 seconds to the start Jason says, 24 hour racers, you don’t have to carry your packs for the first leg, but you do need your cell phone.  On one hand I was relieved that I wouldn’t have what felt like 30 pounds on my back for the first four checkpoints, on the other hand, we had to scramble to get our packs off and grab our maps before the race started.  Luckily our new Osprey packs are easy to organize and Chuck had the cell phone out in a flash.  This was just another of Jason’s little surprises.  He likes to surprise the racers every once in a while to keep us on our toes.



We took off and all was going well, we ran the entire first leg and went directly to all of the checkpoints.  At CP3 we had two choices, walk across a very long log over the lake or run a long way around the lake, we chose to cross the log.  I really think Chuck wants to see me swim in these events, but lucky for him I made it across without falling into the lake. CP4 was the transition, so we headed back up a long steep hill to grab our packs and our bikes.



CP5 through CP11 were bike points and they were all on single track. If you have never been to LBL, they have some of the best single track around.  We were moving through this section, hitting short steep climbs and rolling over lots of roots and logs.  This part made me think about Castlewood, there is a section at Castlewood that has a short steep climb and just before the top there is a tree root and some rocks and no mater how hard I try and can never ride through it without getting off my bike.  I have even tried to go up and down the hill trying to make it through, but I have never been able to do it.  So now we are hitting sections that are 10 times as hard as the section at Castlewood and we are riding through every one of them.  I just can’t figure out why that section of Castlewood beats me every time.  Sorry about the digression, back to the race. We quickly picked up CP 5-8 and then we rode and rode trying to get to nine.  On the way we passed a team that was having mechanical problems, their chain had broke for the 3rd time and they didn’t have a master link to fix it this time.  We didn’t have one or we would have given it to them.  They were really tough though, they were running pushing the bike and hopping on during down hills and coasting.  Get this, they were keeping up with us!  Somehow we were discussing the chain issue and rode right by CP9.  We rode for about 5 minutes and realized we had gone too far, so we turned around and rode back, only to see the bike pushing team at the CP.  I don’t know the team’s real name, but I would really like to know if they got the chain fixed and finished the race, they really deserved a shot at finishing after that, most teams would have just dropped after the 3rd break in the chain.



We hit the bike drop at CP11 and took off for a long orienteering section, which based on the maps looked to be at least 18 miles long.  We were told we had 7 hours to be finished, if we didn’t finish in 7 hours we would start losing CP’s , the first one being 1 second after 7 hours then 1 CP for every 5 minutes after that.  We knew we had to do what ever it took to be back in 7 hours or we were just wasting out time finding CP’s. 



We had a plan to pick up most of the closer CP’s then check our time and see what else we could grab.  Things were going pretty well, we were finding the CP’s exactly where we thought they would be.  I had forgotten to bring a headband and the wind was blowing my hair in my eyes, I really needed to see what I was doing and it wasn’t working too well.  We came across a tree that was marked by an orange ribbon, so I pulled the ribbon off the tree and tied it around my head as a headband, it worked really well, even if I did look like a dork.


Of course now there is some deer hunter out there wondering around in the woods unable to find his deer stand because I took his marker.   I’m pretty sure it belonged to a deer hunter because right after I grabbed the tape, we found a deer skull close by.


I was starting to get tired and there were a lot of really steep hills. Chuck even mentioned that I had not talked for 6 minutes which was a record for me, he knew something was going wrong when I wasn’t talking the entire race.  We hit a road and started walking for a few minutes, as we crested the hill we saw the Alpine Shop team coming toward us.  They were all hooked together by bungees and Jeff and pulling the entire team along. They were moving and looking as tough as ever.  Of course here we were walking and looking like death warmed over.  Chuck and I said the same thing,  “I can’t believe Alpine Shop just caught us walking”  it was too late to start running and no use doing it for show, they would know we were slackers just trying to look good. So as they ran by I said “I can’t believe you caught us walking” Oh and that wasn’t the worst of what they caught us doing, more about that later.

The next CP was at the end of a long plowed field.  We were lucky it wasn’t all mud, but walking through the plowed rows was no picnic.


We were watching the clock and knew we needed to start heading back to the transition at CP29, so we decided to skip CP26 and go after CP15 then head in.  Well something happened, I don’t really know what.  This was probably because I was starting to fall apart.  I was connected to Chuck with a bungee made out of carabiners and surgical hosing.  Chuck was dragging me behind and I was just thrashing through the thick brush, trying to jump logs to keep up before I fell to the ground and was dragged to my death.  We finally stopped so Chuck could look at the map a little closer and we found out we were way off course, so we trekked over about 3 or 4 more hills looking for a road. 

 We finally found the road, but we only had 23 minutes to get to transition and Chuck estimated that we had 2000 meters to go. So we took off running, the longer we went the tighter the bungee was being pulled, by the time we hit the last section of woods, which was covered in thick branches and logs that were left from the ice storm of 2009, the bungee was at it’s breaking point and so was I.  I knew Chuck was running so fast because he felt like it was his fault we might not make the cutoff time, but the truth is, I’m no help at orienteering, so he gets no second set of eyes like most teams do.  I wasn’t going to blame him if we missed the time cutoff, because if I would learn to orienteer, we probably wouldn’t be in these kinds of predicaments.  We were running fast and I couldn’t go any faster so I told him if he went any faster I was going to be laying on the ground and he was going to be dragging me, of course he thought I was joking, I wasn’t.  Then I told him I was going punch him if he didn’t stop dragging me, I think he still thought I was joking, I wasn’t, I was ready to resort to violence.  


We made it to CP29 with only 3 minutes to spare.  Our cheerleading squad was there, Chuck’s wife Lori and his boys, Sam and Jacob and my mom, daughter China and niece Kayla.  China and Kayla were stuck up in a tree and I think Sam and Jacob were just glad they couldn’t get down, because those girls just about drove them crazy talking all weekend.   Team Torti was there and we discussed the best way to start the bike, by either heading through the woods or taking the longer road route.  Fletcher (a fantastic navigator) convinced us the road route was better, I need to thank him for that.  I was really tired of crawling through downed trees and I didn’t want to do it with a bike on my back.


Lori gave us some updates from Checkpoint Tracker. We had lots of shout outs from our friends.  Kate, Shannon, and Mark were keeping it positive, while Patrick was telling us to get our butts moving while he took a nap. Oh and my son Garrett, asked if he could use the credit card for beer because he was having a party and they were out, what a joker he is. Those shout outs really gave us some motivation, because by this point I was thinking that maybe adventure racing was not fun any more.  We both ate a sandwich and put on a few more clothes, it was starting to cool off a little and the wind had really picked up, we knew we would be cold on the bikes.  We had been having a hard time all day figuring out what clothes to have on.  It was the type of weather that standing still or moving slow you were cold, but the uphills would turn you into fire.  We spent the entire race, dressing and undressing at the CP’s.


We said our goodbyes put on our Hardnutz helmets and headed out on the bike for the next leg, this leg had a lot of biking, but most of it on dirt and gravel roads, so we thought it might go faster.  


It was a long way, the leg was 40 miles by the time we reached the next transition.  I was glad I was riding my Trek Top Fuel, but as I watched Chuck on his Trek Superfly 100, I was getting 29er lust.  It just seemed like the 29ers roll through the hills, and turns with no effort.  It could just be the rider, but I would like to believe if I had a Superfly I could be the one riding effortlessly through the trails and making it look so easy. As we left on our bikes Chuck said he was so tired that it was like he was riding on flat tires.  As we headed up the hill and I fell in behind him, I saw why it was so hard for him, he did have a flat tire. 


We pulled off the road and fixed the flat, we only had to air it up, Chuck rides  tubeless tires, so we thought maybe some air and a rolling wheel would seal the leak.  I seemed to work so we kept riding, we did have to stop one other time to add air, but the new Kenda Slant Six tires took the beating well and we didn’t have to tube the tire at all.  We then rode right past our turn, but figured it out quickly and turned around.  It was really getting dark, if we turned off our lights we couldn’t see anything.  It’s a good thing we both have great bike lights.


Like I said the bike leg was long, but the CP’s were pretty easy to find, well that was until we hit CP35.  It was about 1 am and we found the creek we thought that the CP was in, but somehow were too tired to think straight and couldn’t find it.  So we rode on thinking maybe we were one creek away.  Well we figured out that the CP was just a little off the road and we didn’t look well enough, but we did not want to spend the time to go back, so we just rode to CP36 which was the bike transition.  We had ridden though a couple creeks and we both had wet feet when we got to transition.   We hit transition, quickly made it through the gear check, there were some great volunteers working the CP, they had built a campfire to warm up by.  We added a few layers of clothes, it was really starting to feel cold, probably because we had wet feet and legs.  I had an extra pair of socks so I put them on, Chuck didn’t have extra socks so he sat down and put his feet in the fire.


After a long transition, we headed out.  This is where it really fell apart for me.  My feet were hurting, I had gotten a cortisone shot in my foot a couple days before the race, to help with an injury to it, but the affects sort of wore off after the first 12 hours and now every time I put my foot down it hurt.  I’m not going to sugar coat this, I was whining about it the whole race, I think Chuck was about to resort to violence if I didn’t quit whining. Chuck did a little whining too, his knees and feet were hurting, but I was taking the prize for the biggest whiner.  I was also having problems eating.  I had eaten almost everything I had, I thought I had one Honey Stinger Rocket Chocolate left, but couldn’t find it in my pack. I did have a pack of sport beans, but I just couldn’t make myself eat them.  Chuck tried to get me to drink a bottle of Ensure he had, but I knew if I did, it would end up in projectile vomiting, so why waste the Ensure, he could drink it and keep it down.  I was stumbling around, I couldn’t walk a straight line. To top it off, we were told at the pre-race meeting that the maps were not correct for this section and didn’t show the trail in detail.  Chuck needed to study the map and I needed to stop just for a minute, so we stopped on the side of the trail, I laid down on the ground and went right to sleep, just as soon as I closed my eyes, I heard something, 4 bikes came past us, it was Alpine Shop.  So now not only did they catch us walking earlier, they caught me sleeping.  They asked if we were ok and Chuck told them we were just taking a break.  Well, that was pretty embarrassing, so we got up and started moving again.  Two more times during this trekking section, we had to stop for me to take a 15 minute snooze, but I would not have been able to go on without it.

As we walked up the last hill into the transition area, where we would pickup the last set of CP’s, we discussed our options for finishing the race.  With the condition I was in at the time, we weren’t even sure that we could get one canoe CP, then do a trek and ride to the finish.  This is what we were expected from the next map based on the comments we overheard at the last CP.  The fastest teams had already come through and picked up bikes, heading to the finish line.  We knew even with the 29 hour time limit we might not be able to make it back in time.  We discussed skipping the last CP’s and taking the hit.  We were not sure if that was legal. If that would be considered a withdrawal, we would not do it, and would take our chances on making it back on-time. Chuck mused that maybe he could leave me at the finish and complete the race solo.  Even though I wasn’t sure I could make it, there was no way I was sending him out solo, plus I think that is illegal and wouldn’t fly anyway.  I thought I was going to have to revert to violence again and kick him in the shin so he couldn’t go out.   

We reached the top of the hill and came down to the transition which was also the finish line, where we handed the volunteer our passport, ready to start exploring our options once we received the next map.  The volunteer said “Good Job you’re done.”  We both looked at each other and said, “Nope, we have one more map and a canoe to get into”.  That’s when the birds started chirping and the angels were singing and the sky opened and a rainbow with a pot of gold showed up.  Well that’s how it felt at least.  We were told that there were 50 mph wind advisories and that we were not allowed on the lake, therefore we were finished.


All of the sudden a feeling of relief so great came across me that I almost cried.  I really wanted to grab that volunteer and hug her.  But, as the seasoned adventure racer that I am, I decided that maybe that wasn’t the right thing to do, so instead we got a picture at the finish line, then went to the tent where I ate a chili dog minus the dog, which bye the way completely renewed my lease on life and I started talking non-stop about the stroke of luck we just had.  Chuck ate a baked potato covered with chili and he called Lori at the hotel to come pick us up.  My plan was to go back to the hotel, take a shower and a nap and head home.  I thought we had done so badly that there was no use staying for awards.  But Chuck being the optimist that he is, asked if we even had a chance at the top three and was told you are probably second or third.   So guess what, no nap, we had just enough time to go take a shower and make it back to awards.  Chuck found a few extra minutes to find the biggest plastic cup he could and fill it at the Kuat Rack trailer with his favorite Springfield Brewery pale ale.  Thanks Kuat!

We ended up in 3rd place in the 2 person co-ed division, which gives us a load of Checkpoint Tracker points towards the national rankings and a prize.  We both ended up with 30 dollar gift cards to the Alpine Shop, it’s only our favorite store.


Even though in the last few miles of the race, I had decided to end my adventure racing career, move to some old folks home and never workout again.  I now, after some of the pain has faded, am considering another race. I guess Chuck is stuck with me for a while longer.  And one last note, I am covered in chiggers and still removing ticks from my body.