Wednesday, February 22, 2012

New Gear

2011 was a year of upgrading my bike.  Now that I've got it how I want it I think 2012 is going to be a year of upgrading my gear.  Yesterday I bought 2 items that I've been lusting after for awhile.  The first is a pack, the second is a pair of shoes.   

I've got several packs and several trail running shoes.  I like most of them but I haven't got any that I love.  My favorite current pack is an Osprey Talon 11.  
It's pretty light, is roomy enough and if you snug down the straps it will stay in place while you run.  I hate a bouncy pack.  What I don' t like about it is the waist belt.  The pockets are too small for much more than a couple gels and hard for me to open one handed.  Having the pack tightened enough it to keep it from bouncing gets uncomfortable after awhile.  So I end up loosening the straps and running with my hands holding the shoulder straps in place.  Not a good position when you trip and fall in the woods.  

My favorite current shoes are Salomon XR Crossmax's.  
I run on pavement more than trial (unfortunately), and these shoes work well for both.  What I don't like is the weight and tread; kinda heavy and not enough traction in the woods.  Good enough for most training but not what I want when I'm wearing them for hours and want to go as fast as possible.

My upgrades are both Salomon products; I'm a fan.  The first is a new pack that I read about when they came out with it last year.  It was a small pack (5 liter) so didn't really suit my needs, but I loved the design and hoped they'd come out with a larger version.  For 2012 they have.  Its the Advanced Skin S-Lab 12 Set (quite a mouthful).  
The idea is that there is no waist strap, and that the pack fits more like a vest than a typical backpack.  the weight is more evenly distributed and there are multiple chest straps so there shouldn't be as restrictive as what I've been using.  Plus BIG side pockets.  It was expensive, but it's gotten great reviews and I can't wait to try it out. 

The second product is a lighter pair of trail shoes, the Speedcross 3.  
While I intend to just use them for occasional trail running and adventure racing, I love the aggressive tread pattern and the weight will be an improvement over the Crossmax.  Again, I'm looking forward to trying them out.

I'll post up some reviews once I'm able to get some miles on them.

2012 Bonk Hard Chill - Küat Ünite

Last weekend I participated in my 6th adventure race; the Bonk Hard Chill.  It's an annual race that takes place in the Lake of the Ozarks region, and this year it was at Ha Ha Tonka state park near Camdenton.  It's an area I've been wanting to explore but for some reason never had, so this was a great chance to check it out.

Leading up to the race I intended to compete in the 4-person co-ed division, but my teammates were doing other things, so Jesse and I signed up for the 2 dudes class. It's not the "premier" division, but a lot of people sign up for it and the competition is always pretty good.  Jesse would be the navigator, I'd be the rabbit and I honestly just wanted a clean race where we got all the checkpoints and didn't spend hours wandering around in the woods wondering where the heck we were.

We drove to Camdenton Friday afternoon and checked out the park.  It was hilly and looked to be a great place to host the race.  We walked some trails around an island, checked out a balanced rock and climbed 300+ steps above a spring.  I wanted to do more exploring but also didn't want to wear my legs out the day before the race, so we decided to cut our scouting trip short and head to Osage Beach to have some dinner with the Hoosier Daddies at Biggies.  It was right next to the official Chill hotel, the Quails Nest where most racers were staying.  We however weren't staying at the Quails Nest because we got a good deal at a Day's Inn in Lebanon.  A little further drive but a dollar saved is a dollar earned, right?

Anyway, dinner was good, I ate too much as usual before a race, and afterward we headed to Oz Cycles in Lake Ozark for racer check-in.  Oz had quite a few items marked down and their entire rack of swift-wick products were 30% off.  So I got some arm warmers, compression socks and regular socks.  Good stuff.

Next we headed over to the gymnasium at the elementary school next door.  There we were given instructions for the race, some swag was tossed around, an Oz Cycles donated Kayak was raffled and we were given our maps and check point coordinates.  

We made it to the hotel in Lebanon around 10 and after plotting the checkpoints and preparing our packs for the race we were in bed by midnight with a 4am alarm set.  You never get much sleep the night before an adventure race.

After what felt like a few minutes sleep, we got up at 4.  I made my usual pre-race meal of oatmeal with peanut butter and brown sugar and drank some coffee.  Then we donned our spandex loaded the car and headed to the race.  The woman at the checkout desk at Days Inn gave Jesse a funny look when he turned in the room key, but I'm sure she's seen weirder sights at 5am.  

When we got to the park it was chilly outside, but not freezing.  There was a bike drop where we left our bikes near the entrance to the park and then we were able to find CP0 (the race HQ) without getting lost.  In the past that has been an issue, so in my mind it was shaping up to be a good day.  I got a little cold standing around waiting for the race to start, but they had hot coffee for us and before I knew it it was 6:30 and Gary was saying "GO!" .

Jesse and I took off with the 100+ crowd, running through a field on our way to CP1.  We stayed near the front and was able to avoid the bottleneck of punching our passport at the first CP.  Gary put two flags up to help speed thing along which was a great idea.  

I love running with the crowd at the start of the race.  There's so much energy.  I'm full of adrenalin and it feels like I'm just bouncing along on top of the world.  You've got to enjoy those moments while you have them because they don't last forever.

We quickly made our way to CP2 which was at the bottom of some fairly slippery steps at the entrance to the River Cave, then back up the steps and up a hill to CP's 3 and 4.  With the running I was heating up, and the fleece I put on while waiting for the start was too much.  I took it off after CP3 and felt much better.

On our way to CP5 the crowd was starting to thin and we catch up to the Stinging Nettles team of Jason Elsenraat and Paul Freeman.  Jason is the former owner of Bonk Hard Racing and I figured they were the top 2-person male team.  We chatted a little about pack technology and helmet restraint before Jesse and I started to move up. The next team we encountered was WOAH consisting of Sunny Gilbert and Emily Korsch; presumably the top 2-person female team.  As we approached them we noticed they were unintentionally shedding weight by dropping various nutrition products on the road.  We yelled at them but they ignored us.  When we caught up they said they thought we were heckling them.  I'm not sure it's a good idea to heckle someone ahead of you, but they got their stuff back and we would end up see-sawing with them for most of the race.  At one point Jesse said he felt bad because he couldn't keep up with them, but I told him they were pretty bad-ass and we were doing well to be around them. 

CP5 was the transition to canoes and after a few minutes on the water Jesse and I were regretting the decision of leaving the 4 piece kayak paddles in the car.  There was a headwind and as we struggled to keep the boat straight we watched several teams with kayak paddles pull away from us.  Boating is my weakest link in adventure racing.  It can be fun when you're on a fast moving river where you have to pay attention in order to keep the boat upright.  But when you're on a lake, or a wide river like the Meramec, it becomes something you just have to suffer through.  This could be because the only time I'm in a canoe is during races.  Anyway we traveled a few miles to CP6 where we disembarked and headed up to Bridal Cave for CP9.  From there we went into the cave with our bike helmets and headlamps for CP8.  This was one of the neatest parts of the race.  Luckily we were one of the first few groups to get there so there wasn't much traffic in the cave and we were able to move fairly quickly.  I love cave tours and I'm going to go back and use the free tour family pass I received with my race packet.  I want to be able to look around.

After the cave it was back to the boats and on our way to CP10 which was on a dock near where we originally put in.  Then we continued on a few more miles to CP11 and the end of the boat leg at the Spring parking lot at Ha Ha Tonka.  I've got to say I was glad to be finished with paddling.  I think Jesse and I got better at keeping the boat on a fairly straight tack and were going a decent speed, but it wasn't fun.

After a quick bathroom break Jesse and I headed up the steps above the spring to CP12, then on to a cool natural bridge that had CP13 underneath it.  From there it was a short run to the bike drop at CP14 where we would transition to my preferred mode of transportation.  We got to do a little token off-road riding on our way to CP16 and CP17, but from there all we'd see would be gravel and pavement.  It's a bummer we couldn't use some of the nice hiking trails around the park for the bike leg, but I guess Gary couldn't get permission for that.

CP's 18 to 29 are kind of a blur to me.  There was a lot of riding; at least 25 miles.  Most of it was on gravel roads and the CP's were hung from signs on the side of the road.  There was 1 decision that had to be made though.  All CP's from 1 to 18 had to be done in order.  But 19 to 24 could be done in any order.  They were all positioned in a big loop so we decided to make the trip around the longest portion then do a quick out and back on the short section before CP25.  It was the same route WOAH chose and we ended up riding with them most of the time.

CP25 was a manned CP and was pretty awesome because although we had to stop for a gear check, they had a HUGE tub of little debbie pastries (and water) that we could dig into.  After 6 hours of perpetuem it looked like food from the gods.  I ate a honey bun and two oatmeal cream pies and they were delicious!  I could have hung out there for awhile but soon we were back on the bikes and hitting CP's 26 to 29.  CP29 was the last known CP, and there we were supposed to receive instructions for the remainder of the race.  

It turned out to be a transition from bike to foot and we had 9 more CP's to find before the end of the race.  The transition area was at the old post office at Ha Ha Tonka and we had a covered pavilion with tables we could use to plot the remaining 9 CP's.  I took the time to change into some dry socks and eat some beef jerky but after 10 minutes or so we were off running in the woods.  We were in the top 5 overall teams at that point and I hoped we'd be able to hold on and finish strong. 

I'll get it out of the way; orienteering is hard.  It's one of the things I love about adventure racing, but I hate that it always screws us because we aren't that good at it.  But, each race we have done better and this was no exception.  We went straight to a few of the 9 CP's, made it to the vicinity of a few others where we had to wander around until we found them, and basically followed foot prints for the others.  We had a couple of mis-plotted points that cost us some time, but our real problem was not finding each CP quick enough.  I'd have liked to have finished the final portion of the race in 3 hours, which I think we are capable of, but we took 4.5 hours to do it.  That dropped us to 14th place overall and 7th in our division which isn't bad, but with our strengths in the other disciplines, is a little disappointing.   On the positive side, we DID find all of the CP's (yeah!), Jesse and I learned more about navigating, we had a great time and the post race BBQ was delicious.  

The results from the race are here, pictures are here.

This was Gary and Ellen Thompson's second race since taking over the helm of Bonk Hard Racing, and they did a wonderful job.  The course was fun and challenging and the event was very professionally run.  Their volunteers were friendly and helpful and did a great job.  We are lucky to have such a wonder regional AR promotion company in Bonk Hard Racing.  I appreciate what they put into the races and I look forward to doing more of their events. 

My next adventure race is in Branson on March 17.  I don't know who I'm going to team up with yet and it's a week after the Spa City 6 hour. I'd like to do Bonk Hard's next event at LBL on the 24th, but it's a week before Ouachita Challenge and that's packing a lot of endurance events (as well as travel) into a pretty short time frame. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Everyone has heroes.  People they look up to and try to emulate.  I have several people that I admire for different reasons and while none of them are perfect, they all have several qualities I aspire to.  Here are some of them in the context I think of them and in no particular order.  (all the pictures are stolen from facebook so please forgive me)

John Bradley 

I know John as an Adventure Racer.  Most of what I've learned about the sport came from him.  He's intense but approachable.  He has always been willing to share the knowledge he's gained from years of racing and I love talking to him about it.  He's the ultimate competitor that wants to win but at the same time want's you to do well.  I've been on many runs where I've not really been into it and thought about cutting it short.  Then I think, "I bet John ran 20 miles this morning".  So I keep going.  He's an inspiration and unknowingly a motivator.

Dwayne Goscinski

I've been a fan of Dwayne long before I knew him.  When I first started racing mountain bikes he always stood out as someone to watch.  To me, Dwayne is the ultimate mountain bike racer.  He's good, but that's not what makes him special.  It's his constant smile and the way he engages everyone around him.  He loves to ride his bike and you can tell he wants you to love it as well.  He's a great role model.

Team Trail Monster (Jim and Wendy Davis)

Jim and Wendy would be the first to tell you this;  they are not your prototypical athletes.  What they've got they haven't come by naturally.  But what they are in my opinion are adventurous souls.  They love the outdoors and they are great ambassadors of the active lifestyle.  They've worked hard for what they've got and it's paid off.  I look forward to each time I get to see them.  

Luke Kuschmeader

I really admire Luke for everything he's accomplished.  I think of myself as a dreamer.   But Luke is that and more.  He puts his dreams into motion and makes great things.  He's also an athlete.  I've done adventure races with Luke and I've seen him when he's hell-bound determined and when he's stopped caring.  The former made me want to follow and the latter made me want to pick up the slack.  I've seen him push himself harder than I thought he could and it somehow made my effort easier.  I'm glad I know Luke and can't wait to see what he comes up with next.

Jesse Livingston

Jesse lives a life a lot of people dream about.  He's been more places and done more things than I'll ever do.  Anytime I have a whim to go ride or to some race Jesse is always up for it.  He's a lot of fun to be around and if I were to go on a wilderness trek, I'd want Jesse to be my guide. 

John Penny

John is a motivator.  I don't know if Tony Robbins is still around, but John could take his job.  I've worked with John for a few years outside of my regular job and when I sometimes feel like there isn't enough time to get everything accomplished that I want to get done, he gets me going.  As a result I think we've created some pretty good stuff.  I'd love to have John's drive.  LETS GO!

Of course there are others and I wish I had the time to document all of them.  But I was thinking about this subject while working out today and these are the ones that came to mind.  We all touch peoples lives.  Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.  But these people have been a good influence and make me want to be a better person.  I figure that deserves some recognition.