December 7, 2011

Castlewood 2011

By Robin Rongey, Chuck Vohsen comments in red

At the beginning of 2011, Chuck and I decided that we would skip the Castlewood race and instead be volunteers. Our thought was, we always race, time to give back to those that volunteer so we get to race. Our plans changed though. You see Gerry the race director at the Thunder Rolls Adventure race gave this really nice speech about getting more people into the sport that we all love, and how it is really hard to do your first race. That speech got us thinking, why not get a bunch of people who are always asking about adventure racing, but are afraid to try it, and just make as many teams as we can and stick together the entire race. This way, they have veteran racers guiding them and helping solve problems along the way. It was going to be an adventure race clinic held during a race. So as my friend Patrick calls it, the Castlewood Experience came to life.

I sent out emails to everyone who had ever asked us about adventure racing, and soon we had 10 racers committed and ready to go, including Chuck’s son Jacob and his wife Lori, it was kind of a family affair for him.

Before the race I tried to give out as much advice as I could, on what to bring and what to wear and what to eat. Chuck said, “they are going to be really good at this because we are giving them everything we had to learn by mistake”. You know what, they all did really well, with only a few mishaps, read on to hear about it in detail. Oh and Chuck and I decided that we all needed ROCK Racing shirts, so we had my brother Joel, make us a bunch for them for the team. Everyone on the ROCK Racing teams are also Metro Tri Club (aka Team Godzilla) members, so Green fit well with the Team Godzilla theme.

So let’s start at the beginning. Once we had commitments from everyone, we entered the teams and started planning our strategy. We had a 2 person male, Chuck and Jacob, 4 person co-ed, Robin, Keith, Gary and Patrick, and a 4 person female, Jenny, Lori, Judy, and Vanessa. Questions came and answers went out and before we knew it, it was the night before the race and we all met at the Alpine Shop to sign in. Sign in came off without a hitch and we saw a couple of our favorite teams there, Alpine Shop and Orange Lederhosen. We chatted about the race and everyone was excited for all the new racers. Have I ever told you what a great group of people adventure racers are, they sincerely want new racers in the sport and will do anything to help any team out.

All the maps we received at check-in were plotted, except for 3 points, so we all drove down to the McDonalds and plotted points, Chuck and I teaching the new racers how to plot. We finished quickly and headed home, those of us who were driving from home in the morning had a long drive so we needed to get to bed, although the best plans never work out, I don’t think I got to bed until almost 11 pm.

At 4:30 am I walked out of my garage thinking I had a few minutes, but found out that Jenny and Patrick were already waiting for me. So I quickly threw my pack in the van and we all hopped in and took off for the race. You see this is where things started to go wrong, but you have to think fast with adventure racing, so when we were about 5 miles from my house and I realized that the bag with my clothes was still at my house, I didn’t worry, I just stopped at Wal-Mart and bought some clothes. Really it wasn’t so awful, it was mostly just dry clothes to wear home, I had all the required gear on or in my pack. Plus the Wal-Mart stop gave us time to use the bathroom and Patrick bought some bananas.

Our next stop was the bike drop, it was packed with racers dropping off bikes, it only took us about 10 minutes to drop the bikes and another 15 to make it to the start. At the start we saw Laura and Jason, the original owners of Bonk Hard Racing, they were parking the cars, weird seeing them as volunteers and not running the show, but they were great volunteers and we were just happy to see them. We got a pretty good parking spot, it was still dark out, so all you really saw were head lamps bobbing all over. I walked right past Chuck and didn’t even see him. We all headed to race headquarters, picked up our passport and hit the bathroom for about the 10th time. And get this, there was such a mad rush to draw first blood, that the race had not even started and Judy was bleeding, don’t ask me how it happened, I just know there was blood.

Chuck: Jacob has a great name for this situation. You find yourself bleeding but not exactly sure how it happened: Anonymous Blood. Haha, would make a great adventure race team name.

It wasn’t long before we were singing the national anthem, and who knew, but Keith can sing, I mean I knew Gary could sing, but had no idea Keith could too. I tried to keep my voice low as to not draw any attention to how bad I sing. After that it was time to play ball. We all scooted to the starting line and the gun when off and there we were all three ROCK Racing teams, the Rebels, Renegades and Trail Rats, all racing for the 1st CP.

We made it through some tough hills and the first 4 trekking points without a problem, before we knew it we were at the bikes and ready to ride. There was a ton of riding in this race, more riding then we have ever had in a Castlewood adventure race. We were hoping this would work to our benefit with all the new racers. I was happy knowing that I had brought my Trek Top Fuel, it was perfectly suited for this type of ride where I could ride the single track and just hit the switch on my handlebar to lock out the shock when I hit any pavement.

The bike leg started on the Green Rock Trail in Greensfelder Park. These trails have some really long steep climbs and super rocky sections, but they are so fun to ride. Some of them are even marked with black diamonds. Well that is my opinion, I think Gary felt that way too, he was a little worried about the bike coming into the race, but my gosh he was flying through the trails like he knew what he was doing and feeling good, trying to think of how he could talk his son into doing a few of these adventure races with him.

Jenny was right there with Gary, I could tell she really liked the trails, I think I might be able to talk her into going back out and riding them with me sometime.

Keith was chomping at the bit to ride faster staying right on Chuck and Jacobs wheel and of course Patrick was doing all kinds of stunts, I was just waiting for him to crash, he crashes more than anyone I know because he is just crazy when he gets on a bike.

Judy was right there with them too, I’m sure she thought she might see the Patrick crash, come on we were all thinking it. I was just glad to know that when the crash happened I would be able to see it in high definition since I was wearing my super clear XX2i glasses and if by some reason I was taken down in the crash, at least I had my Hadnutz helmet on, so I would probably live to write about it. I’m not sure Vanessa felt the same way about the single track being so much fun.

Vanessa went down a couple times, but she got right back up and got back on the horse.

It reminded of me of my first mountain bike race, it was a six hour solo race and I crashed 38 times in 6 hours and finished covered in blood, but my gosh I paid for 6 hours I was racing six hours, so I know exactly how Vanessa was feeling and I knew the team would do everything possible to help her through.

Lori on the hand was not having too much trouble at all. We started to figure it out, Lori was riding Andy Gibb’s old bike, she had just bought it from him a few weeks earlier. Now, for those of you that don’t know Andy, he is somewhat of a local mountain bike hero. He is a super fast expert racer, who wins all the races. He had a great Giant Anthem mountain bike, but needed to sell it because he was going to be racing on a team that rode Treks. Lori, who just happened to ride the same size frame as Andy was in the market for a new mountain bike and was lucky enough to score Andy’s. Someone asked Lori if she got a new bike and she said, yes, this is Andy’s old bike, well the crowd went wild, the knowledge that Lori was riding Andy’s bike filtered back through the team and everyone was commenting on how Lori could just hang on and a bike like that would do all the work, and to that point it was. Lori said “like in the movie Toy Story, where Woody has Andy written on the bottom on his shoe, I’m going to write Andy on the bottom of my bike”.

Even with all the Luck of Andy’s bike, it’s kind of like the luck of the Irish, Lori managed a crash, and you know it’s not a good ride unless there is blood and mud, so she was really just keeping with tradition. I was behind her when she went down and I heard her knee hit a big rock, I was really worried about it and said stay down, but when she turned her head and looked at me, there was blood everywhere, her knee wasn’t even a thought.

The handlebars had reached out and struck her right on the chin and she had a gaping hole in her chin, it looked really bad and blood was everywhere. She had her Icebreaker base layer on and the blood was running down her shirt. Funny, the things that go through your head in a situation like this, but I thought, I guess we will see how well you can get blood out of Merino Wool. I need to ask her how it came out of the wash. So Vanessa being a good nurse pulled out the first aid kit and got it cleaned up with some iodine and put some butterfly bandages on it, she did a really good job, even the doctor that fixed Lori up after the race said that the field dressing on it was really great. So yep, Lori got up like a true ROCK Racer and finished the race, then went to urgent care, where her family members seem to be regulars and got her chin super glued back together.

As all this was happening, like all great teammates we were cracking jokes about her crash and how no one better tell Andy that she crashed his bike. And of course I let her know how she stole my thunder, I can’t even write about my broken tailbone now, it just seems trivial.

We all got back on our bikes and made it through the single track section and out to the road.

We picked up a few more CP’s after stopping at a gas station for some food. Well you see I may have forgotten my clothes, but Judy forgot her food, so we had to load up at the Quick stop. See I’m not the only goof on the team.

Soon we hit the CP right next to the train tracks and Keith with the help of Patrick, found 10 railroad spikes, then piled them up next to the CP and went back after the race to get them, so that we could all have a souvenir of the race. I still can’t figure this guy thing out, last race Chuck was picking up used mortar shells and this race Keith and Patrick were picking up old railroad spikes, I guess it really is a guy thing. Chuck and I are now trying to figure out how to paint or engrave the race name and date on them.

We made it to CP 15 where we were surprised by a Bike-O course, we plotted the points quickly and headed out for the points, they were actually pretty easy points, all on road, except for the last one, it was down a narrow trail. It didn’t take long and we were back to the TA and headed for the river. At this point Chuck stopped to check his map, Chuck is like a human Garmin, and we just follow him around blindly waiting for him to say “in 200 meters turn left”. Well as he was arranging the maps, I heard, not in a St Paul Chuck voice, but an Adventure Patrick voice, “Recalculating”, we just all busted out laughing, because it doesn’t get truer than that.

It took a while to get the canoes in the water, we had to first take the front wheels off our bikes and then load two bikes in each of the canoes and that was after carrying the canoes all the way down to the river.

We all quickly grabbed food while loading the canoes, I had a Honey Stinger Rocket Chocolate, but I saw sandwiches, nuts, HS gels and fruit cups out. Keith, who is not used to eating during a race, said, “I have never been so full during a race before”, it’s crazy how much food it takes to get through an Adventure Race.

Once we sucked down some food, we were loaded and ready to go, but no one was as ready as Jacob. You see Jacob has youth on his side, this may have been his first race, but when your 14 years old, it’s easy to be like the energizer bunny. At every CP, Jacob would be watching and as soon as the last team punched the CP, he would say “Ok, let’s go” and he was off. My gosh! he was up front next to Chuck almost the entire race. Plus he looked so cool in his XX2i glasses, I really think they made him faster.

On the water, things were going pretty well, except that at one point Judy and Vanessa were floating backwards down the river, then there was a little issue of T-boning Lori and Jenny at one of the CP’s, but hey, no one ended up in the water so all was well.

We were soon floating under a train trestle and there was a train on the tracks, I tried to get it to honk, but it just gave me a little beep, but get this when the 4 girls came under the train it blew the horn super loud. I’m kind of thinking that having Keith in my canoe was really cramping my style, how do you get the train engineer to give you a good toot with a guy in your canoe, it just doesn’t happen. In Keith’s defense, he was sort of doing all the work, paddling hard while I was busy taking pictures, so I guess having a guy in the canoe isn’t all bad.

We soon made it to the beach where we pulled our canoes out, put our wheels back on our bikes and also had a gear check. While in gear check everyone had to show their headlamp and Keith couldn’t find his, he poured his entire pack out and finally found it. You could just see him getting frustrated because he knew he had it. What is really funny is that Keith is the most organized guy you could possibly know, he is the guy that keeps it together for everyone else and to see him not find something was so crazy. I guess we all have those days, I just never thought Keith did.

So with gear check complete, we all passed, we started carrying the canoes up the hill. If I were going to whine about my tailbone this is where I would do it at, but since Lori trumped me with the whole chin incident, I guess I can’t whine. So we carried the canoes up the hill and lucky for me the boys felt sorry for my all but forgotten tailbone and grabbed my canoe and took it to the top of the hill. Thank you so much boys, that was really nice of you. The beach was really muddy, so there you go, you now know what a great day it was, because now we had mud and blood. But really, the mud was in all of our bike cleats and we had to stomp around and try to get it out so that we could clip in for the next bike section. It was kind of like a really bad rendition of River Dance.

So after all the dancing was done we were on the bike riding down the trail, we even passed the little train on the tracks with the conductor working on it.

Chuck: Stop right there! None of the men-folk were dancing, we stomped the mud out.

Patrick said he might want to throw his bike on the train and have that conductor take him to the finish. Oh, but we are not quitters so that never happened. I think Patrick was onto something though, he knew that the Alt Road hill lie ahead. I have ridden the Alt Road hill before and I knew it was bad, but I had kind of forgotten about it. You know like after having a baby, you say, I will never do that again, then, before you know it, the joy of the baby makes you forget the pain and you do it all over again. Well, it’s like that, the joy of finishing the Castlewood race of a few years back, took away the memory of how bad that hill was, but guess what, I along with my teammates got to live the glory of the Alt road hill again. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to forget how hard it was this time, well at least until the next time I do it. The good news is we all made it to the top without the use of an oxygen tank, Jacob staying right up front. Then we were afforded the glory of the ride down the other side of the hill, it was so great, I was rolling at over 30 mph. This was also the point where we found out the limits of youth, Jacob was finally wearing down, I think he said he was tired and he was riding further back in the pack. So it took 8 hours and 3 minutes, plus the Alt Road hill to put the hurt on Jacob. Next race, I think we should make Jacob ride Alt Road Hill right off the bat, maybe then we will have a little leverage.

It seemed like it took forever to ride to CP 22, but we finally made it and when we got there Jason, Laura and Carrie Sona were working the CP. We picked up a new trekking map, checked on time and joked around with Jason about not having enough reentrants on the course. If you had competed in the Berryman race, you would understand why this was a big joke, every single clue for the Berryman race was reentrant and reentrants are not always easy to find. We told Jason we knew he didn’t setup the course there wasn’t enough reentrants on it.

So we had 50 minutes to be through the finish line, so we headed out hoping to get 3 CP’s, but quickly found out that the team was dragging. As we headed into the woods, we saw Team SLU, who we happen to know as Andrew and Aimee coming out of the woods with all the CP’s, they wished us luck and headed to the finish line.

We trekked through the woods to the top of a very long steep hill and found the CP, Jacob, Jenny and I were the keepers of the passports all day, so we not so quickly punched the CP and decided to call it a day, better to get back with only one CP out of the bonus O-section then to miss the cutoff.

We all ran across the finish line with Jacob and Patrick sprinting it out to the end. What a motley crew we were.

So after some pizza and beer, it was cold diet coke courtesy of Mr Keith Timmins for me and Lori, the two Diet Coke Alcoholics on the team, we hung out and waited for awards, that is after I put on my brand new Wal-Mart clothes, yeah I was styling! Guess what, our girl’s team, ROCK Racing Rebels, won first place and picked up some great gear, including some cool Yurbuds.

I want to thank God for the great weather he gave us, the volunteers for spending their day working so we could race, Mr Timmins for the Diet Coke and Bonk Hard Racing for putting on such a great event.

One last thing, I think most of the team is hooked and will adventure race again, although one member said he would prefer to do it in the summer, because if we hadn’t been so lucky with the weather and had the cold and rain that came the next day, we may have lost him on the course.


  1. Anonymous blood...that's the perfect term!

    This was such a cool thing you guys did, and I know everyone had an amazing time. I love getting to see all the's like I was there with you. :) Alt Road...gah...the neverending hill.

    Great race, and congratulations on mentoring some first place racers!

  2. The Bald (That's me) and the BeautifulDecember 7, 2011 at 5:31 PM

    Great job. I really enjoyed the story and pictures. It was my 1st adventure race also. I was also lucky enough to have great experienced team mates that encouraged and helped me through the race. I also took a tumble over the handle bars and have the bruise's to prove it. At 52 years old, I never would of been able to do this without my team mates.

  3. 2 things for the record:
    1- Keith gets credit for Recalculating and
    2- I didn't crash all day!

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