Friday, April 29, 2011

SleepMonsters Front Page News

Rock Racing's (Robin and Chuck) 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.

Visit the website to read all about the race. I sure hope I didn't make any grammatical errors or misspellings when I wrote this report.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Double Chubb 50K 2011


If your foot has been hurting for months and hurts so bad that after 1 hour of running you can hardly walk on it, what do you do?

A. Go to the Doctor and do exactly what he tells you.
B. Go to the Doctor get a Cortisone shot and get fitted for orthotics, then back off running until the orthotics arrive.
C. Go to the Doctor, get a Cortisone shot and fitted for orthotics, then compete in a 24 hour race 2 days after the shot and follow that up with a 50K trail run 14 days later.

Well, if you are me the answer is C. In hindsight, C may not have been the correct answer to choose. So this is the story of the Double Chubb 50K.

I was talked into signing up for the DC 50K by my friend Val, she is an experienced Ultra Marathoner and convinced me that I needed to do my first Ultra. Of course things always sound so good 6 months before the event. And this is one of those events that fill up in just a few hours so I had to enter right away. Of course I did enter and Chuck and Patrick did also. This was Chuck’s first Ultra, but Patrick had done a few Ultras in the past.

We all had a training plan, but I really had a hard time getting my log runs in because the timeframe for the training was right in the middle of the competitive Cheerleading season, and since my daughter is a cheerleader, I was spending most weekends out of town at competitions. This really made it hard to get my long runs in. I was getting a long run in about every third week. Now I know that is not enough. My longest run before the event was only 23 miles and I struggled to finish it.

The next problem was my foot, I had been having problems with it for almost a year now. I finally went to the foot doctor and he said he could have me fixed up in a few months just by putting orthotics in my shoes, but for the short term to help with the pain, he gave me a Cortisone shot and said to back off the training until my orthotics were ready. Ha Ha, now that is really funny because I had a 24 hour race two days after I got the shot and this race 14 days after that. So guess what I did, I ignored the doctors advice and competed in both races.

This is the way my mind works, first I paid for the races, and I didn’t want to waste the money. Although, my foot was hurting so bad the week before Chubb that I thought about not competing, but then I saw it, all finishers would get the coveted belt buckle, Ultras always give belt buckles and I don’t have one, I wanted that belt buckle really bad, so I decided I could push myself through this.

So race morning came, I picked up Patrick and we headed out, we were thinking we were lost on the way to the race, but then we found the park. Imagine that me being lost, who would have ever thought that, (be quiet Chuck). We checked in and headed straight for the bathroom, it was just one of the many trips I would make before the start of the race. So we sat around discussing why the bathroom stalls didn’t have doors and how come the toilets never flush good, you know pre-race talk. Chuck and I both smeared some kind of cream his foot doctor gave him on our foot, he told me it would make my foot quit hurting, so I was willing to try it. We walked to the starting line and were standing chatting with Val the one that talked me into this and with a couple teammates from the Metro Tri Club, Pete and James when all of the sudden everyone took off running, I said is this the start, no one really knew so we just took off with the rest of the crowd.

We headed up a steep hill on the road for a short distance and were funneled into the single track. I felt pretty good my foot was feeling ok. I ran past the first aid station because I was carrying water and hadn’t drank much and I was also loaded down with Honey Stinger. I could still see Chuck in front of me going into the woods by the river and then I lost him. I came to a section where the trail went straight or right, but there was no sign saying which way and I couldn’t see anyone in front of me. I yelled to the 4 guys behind me, asking which way, no one knew so we went straight, after about 5 minutes we knew it was the wrong way and turned back, so I added close to a mile to the first lap.

The route was two laps, but I broke it into 4 lengths because my mind could handle that better. At the first turn around Pat was about a mile in front of me and Chuck about a half mile. My foot had started hurting at 1 hour and 6 minutes into the race, so I just decided to deal with it because even if I had to crawl I was finishing the race. I made it back to the start and hadn’t walked at all until the last hill at the finish line, it took me 4 minutes to walk up it. I came down the hill and ran past the finish line to start the second lap, I made a stop at my drop bag and ran into the bathroom to do some girl maintenance. I had the girl thing going on, you know the “P” word. When my girls and I talk about the girl thing at home, my son puts his hands over his ears and says he can’t hear this and that we are scaring him for life. So for those guys reading this, sorry if this is scaring you. You know its hard being a girl sometimes, not only do we have to deal with the cramps and backache, but the whole maintenance issue during a long run is really inconvenient, but I guess we learn to deal with it. So out of the bathroom with a quick stop at the aid station and I was off.

I have to tell you this, the volunteers at the aid stations were some of the best I have even seen, as I was running into the station they were filling my water bottle and getting me anything I needed. My hat is off to these people, they were all so great.

I was about 18 miles into the race and the leaders were passing me on their way back to the finish, it was kind of depressing to know I still had 3 hours or so to run and they would be finished in 30 minutes, but I kept trudging on. I wanted that belt buckle bad. I saw Patrick about a mile and a half from the turn around and then Chuck about a half mile behind him. Chuck stopped and said, I’m not sure the belt buckle is worth this. I had to agree. I was happy to know that Patrick and Chuck didn’t really have that much distance on me. I made it to the turn around and talked to a couple guys there, they said it was going to take 3 hours to get back, I could hardly believe that because my slowest leg was 2:03. So they took off in front of me and quickly lost me. I was really starting to get depressed because if they were thinking 3 hours then I was way slower. I kept going and by the aid station I had caught and passed them. About a mile from the finish they caught me, but that was ok, they were talking about breaking 8 hours and since I was thinking it would take me 7:30, I was going to be happy with 8 hours.

I came running out of the woods to the road and saw Patrick running in front of me, I yelled at him and he turned around and as we ran he showed me the belt buckle, it was pretty cool looking and I decided then that all the pain and suffering was worth it. As we ran down the hill to the last half mile section of single track, Chuck pulled up in his van and said when I finished he would taxi me back to my van which was about a mile away from the finish. This was the best news I heard all day. I hit the last loop and had 12 minutes to make it to the finish if I wanted to break 8 hours. Patrick said he wouldn’t be running that last hill with me and said good luck and he didn’t know if I could do it in less than 12 minutes, but he would see me at the finish. I knew that I was going to do it, I ran that loop in 8 minutes and finished in 7:56. Patrick and Chuck were yelling at me to hurry up when I was coming down the hill into the finish, little did they know I was on a dead run, it just looked like it was slow motion.

Through the finish line I came, I received my belt buckle and got a ride back to my van. It was a good day. Will I do it again…. NO, but of course I say that after every hard race, so I guess we will see at some time in the future. Oh as for Val she had been sick and injured before the race, so she dropped down and did the 25K. I’m not sure I’m listening to her the next time she tells me I need to do some freakishly long race.

Friday, April 15, 2011


This Trek Mountain Girl and her ROCK Racing teammate are enjoying 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. See the Rankings below, from the Official Checkpoint Tracker site: 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

LBL 24 hour Adventure Race 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, the race director 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 race 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 hour 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 expecting 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.

LBL Adventure Race 2011

Race report coming soon!