"For an occurrence to become an adventure, it is necessary and sufficient for one to recount it." ~ Jean-Paul Sartre

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Falling Rocks!


falling rocks back
When was the last time you fell?  Not metaphorically either.  Literally when was the last time you fell?  
For me it was just this morning.  I was running on the trails, my foot caught a root and down I went.  I twisted my body to take most of the impact with my elbow and my knee.  The first instinct is to reach out with your hands to brace your fall in this situation but since I was carrying a handheld water bottle that wasn’t an option (On another fall long ago I did brace with my water bottles and was stunned by the force with which my Gatorade was squirted out of each bottle.  Since then I have avoided the bottle brace).  Landing with a thud I laid there for a moment, audiobook still going in my headphones but I wasn’t listening.  As I laid there on the ground in a pile of myself I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was to be able to fall down.  I was out in the woods running by myself on a cold winter morning with nothing but some carefully chosen layers and the winter sun to help fight off the chill.  Seemingly I could have laid there forever, but the miles left to go brought me back to reality and soon I was upright and moving again.
Running this morning was not easy, it was not fun, and I did not enjoy it.  Even so I was glad to be out there and glad to once again have the opportunity to fall.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Snow Day

What is it about running in the snow that is so special?  I wouldn't mind if the snow stayed all winter long.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The SHITR Promised a Challenge and Delivered

Not long after the 12hour run back in November, Chuck and Robin of ROCK Racing told me they had an idea for an unsupported trail race at Lost Valley in Weldon Spring.  It sounded like a great idea, and I was all in.  What could be better than a trail half marathon in January?  Simple, a trail half marathon in January at night!  To make it even better they told me that in lieu of an entry fee they would suggest participants make a donation to the 100+Project.  How awesome is that? 
SHITR
The SHivering Icy Trail Run was set and word of mouth spread so fast that the parks department contacted Chuck and wanted him to get a permit.  I was kind of down on the whole permit process because I have had some unfavorable dealings with low level bureaucrats (don’t ask me about the permit for my shed) but everything went smoothly and the permit was issued.  Saturday morning Chuck and I met up at the Mound and proceeded to mark the course.  We rode our adventure bikes to make it go faster but it still took a lot longer than I thought it would.  The day was warmer than I thought it was going to be and I had on way too many layers.  When Chuck stopped to put up a reflective square I would peel of more layers.  The warm temps were kind of bumming me out.  This was supposed to be an event to be endured not some joyful romp through the park with smiles and good cheer, that’s what road races are for.  I was assured that the temp was supposed to drop and that it would also rain, however because our weather has been crazy lately I wasn’t convinced. 
I really didn’t help too much with the actual marking but a least Chuck didn’t have to go out alone.  I made it home with just enough time to eat take a short nap and get ready to leave again so I could meet up with Robin to carpool back to the Mound.  Because of the warm temps earlier in the day I decided to wear shorts.  Plus since there was now a 100% chance of rain, running in wet shorts sounded better than running in wet pants.  By the time we got to the Mound the temperature had dropped considerably and I was rethinking my shorts vs pants strategy.  More and more people started showing up and I hopped from group to group (literally) while trying to stay warm.  To help stay warm I put on my hoodie and decided that I would run with it. 
When it was time to start Chuck and Robin called everyone over, took a group photo and gave some last minute instructions.  Forty three people showed up to run the SHITR.  Being around a large group of likeminded individuals always makes for a grand time even in horrible conditions.  The route started with a dash to the top of the mound, which I am told is the highest point in St Charles county.  The wind was whipping across the top of the mound and I was glad to have my hoodie.  At the top we turned around and headed back down, this was when I noticed the first rain drops.  The rain had come after all, this was going to be miserable.  Excellent!  Coming down from the Mound it wasn’t long until we were on the Hamburg trail and the decision to wear the hoodie was proving to be one layer too many.  I ran down the Hamburg trail with Chuck, we were hoping that we marked the trail well enough so no one would get lost.  When I stopped to take off my hoodie Chuck kept going and Kate caught up to me.  I ran with her and Josh for a while then Josh rolled his ankle and told us to go on.  Kate and I crossed the creek and hit the single track.  I was putting a gap on her and would yell back  when I got to a particularly difficult part that was extra slippery or rocky.  It wasn’t long before we caught up to Chuck.  At the end of the first section of singletrack was the turn for the short course.  I noticed one of the reflective markers I had hung earlier had fallen on the ground, so I replaced it and continued on my way.  The three of us ran together for a while longer until I decided to stretch my legs a bit.  The next section of singletrack was a total nightmare!  It is new and not worn in yet, and with the rain and the camber of the trail it was muddy and slicker than ice.  Up until this point the rain and the cold weren’t too hard to deal with, but once we hit this section of trail, having to slow down to deal with the mud was allowing my core temp to drop and I was starting to get cold.  To make matters worse I have only been on this section once so I was unsure how long it was before it joined back up with the older section.  I ran as hard as I could while still being careful not to fall in the mud.  Soon I caught up to Russ and then Luke.  We ran together for a long time and I was glad when we got to the older section of trail for two reasons, first because there was no more off camber muddy mess to deal with and second, there was a long hill.  Normally I am not that fond of hills but in this case it was the fastest way to raise my body temp.  Not long after we reached the top of the hill I told Russ and Luke to be on the look out for the mystery task.  Because simply running was too tame for this group Chuck and Robin told them to get the name off the tallest tombstone in the old cemetery.  I think people enjoyed this aspect of the race, although with the rapidly deteriorating conditions I don’t think anyone was asked about it at the finish.  It was still worth finding though.  Luke and Russ spotted the cemetery easily enough because of the reflective tape Chuck and I placed earlier.  We respectfully entered the cemetery and got the name.  We met up with Robbie in the cemetery and we all headed back to the trail singing “Sweet Caroline”, the name on the tombstone. 
102_0083
Now the thing about this next section of trail is that to me it all looks the same even during the day so at night this problem was compounded.  The first time I ever rode at Lost Valley I flatted out on a sweeping rocky curve in the trail.  It sticks in my mind because it was the first flat I ever had to change in my adult life.  I felt totally inept and it seemed like everyone was wondering why it was taking so long.  They weren’t wondering that though because everyone there that day was a decent person.  My friend Krystal offered me a GU packet to boot up the punctured sidewall, the problem was I didn’t know why she was giving it to me and it took a minute figure it out.  Seriously, I felt totally incompetent.  Eventually I got it fixed and we continued our ride.  This story is relevant only because every time I am on this section and come to a sweeping rocky curve in the trail, and there are a few, I think “Hey this is that spot where I flatted”.  It makes judging distance impossible because I know that I flatted close to the doubletrack.  Every time I come to one of those sections I think I am almost to the end and when I realize I am not, the effect on my psyche is cumulative.  
Luke and I were cruising along pretty good and had left Russ and Robbie behind.  Luke was running really well especially since he was wearing an old pair of Nike Free’s since he forgot his trail shoes.  He was slipping and sliding so much that I felt bad for him.  At one point he slipped going up a small incline and his foot flew backward with such force that had I been a step closer he would have kicked me in the face.  I can clearly remember seeing the sole of his shoe in the light of my headlamp.  Soon we made it out of the woods and on to the doubletrack.  This meant that we were on the home stretch.  Being on the doubletrack meant that we were exposed to the wind which made the conditions that much worse.  I kicked up the pace in an effort to keep warm and Luke and I ran together until we ran into the Smith’s who were hiking the short course.  How badass is that? Lovely night for a stroll eh?  I stopped and walked with them for a bit and Luke kept going.  Once I noticed my hands getting cold again it was time to run.  This time getting started was harder and I realized that I had made a critical error.  I should have kept running with Luke.  I was getting cold and my gloves, well all my clothes really were soaked through, and not offering much in the way of comfort.  My thighs were starting to sting from the exposure too.  I realized then that these conditions could very easily turn into a survival situation if someone got lost.  I hoped that everyone behind me would find their way back to finish without harm. 
I ran as much as I could and when the trail began the long downhill the thought of picking my hoodie up had a curious affect on my mood.  I was anxious to reach it because even though it would be soaking wet I could still use it to help insulate my hands.  At the same time though I knew from experience that when it gets wet like that it weighs close to eight pounds, and I would have to carry an eight pound weight another mile and a half back to the finish.  I guess I would have to take the good with the bad. 
When I reached the bottom of the hill I ran over to the rock pile and grabbed my hoodie.  It was soaked and very heavy like I knew it would be.  I wrapped it around my hands and started the long climb back to the Hamburg trail.  My hands were starting to feel better, which only highlighted how bad everything else felt.  The hoodie kept sliding down under its own weight rubbing against my legs.  After a while I stopped and put my arms into the sleeves so it would be easier to carry.  I tried to power up the hill but I just didn’t have it in me so I just did the best I could satisfied in the knowledge that once at the top I had around one mile to the finish.  Back on the Hamburg trail it seemed like it conditions were even worse than on the doubletrack.  I wanted this section to be over as quickly as possible but all I could muster was a slow shuffle toward the finish.  I kept going and after what seemed like the longest mile ever found myself back at the finish. 
When I crossed the finish line Robin, Lori, and Susan were there to cheer me on.  They were the best finish line cheerleaders!  Those were some awful conditions to run in but standing around waiting for people to finish was just as difficult.  Truly all the volunteers were the unsung heroes of the day.  After finishing all I could think about was getting warm and dry.  I was done being cold and wet.  I went to the back of Robin’s van to get my clothes and found Robin and Susan standing there trying to keep warm.  All of the cars were occupied, so I was trying to figure out how to get changed without giving anyone a free show then I looked to my left and saw Russ strip down behind his van and change.  I was so envious of his now dry clothes that the next time Robin and Susan went to cheer someone in I did the same.  I was almost dressed by the time they made it back but I didn’t care because like Russ I now had dry clothes on.  I saw an empty spot in Chuck’s jeep so I hopped in there and warmed up a bit, while eating some cookies and drinking a beer.  Jacob was warm and toasty in the front seat.  He took the short course and had been finished for over an hour already.  I wanted so badly to go cheer for the other people that were coming in but getting back out in the cold was not on my to do list.  Eventually there were only a few left out on the course and I got ousted from my warm seat because Chuck had to go pick up Christina from the lower parking lot.  She was totally badass for doing the whole loop, and not short coursing it.  She is way tougher than me.  Chris and Kerri were the last across the finish line and we headed out to El Azteca to eat some Mexican food and share some stories.  I heard Goldmember pooped his pants!  He got a special award for that.  I still don’t know the story but I’m looking forward to the Team Virtus report so I can get the low down.
The restaurant knew to expect us but I think it was still a strain on the wait staff so I left a really good tip for their efforts.  There were so many racers still there when we arrived, probably 20 or so.  Dinner was great and I didn’t want it to end.  It made me a little sad every time someone got up to leave.  It was a dinner party where no matter where you sat you would be next to an extraordinary person with a great story to tell.  I sat next to Bill and Joe, two great guys, way faster than me but I won’t hold that against them.  The food was great but soon it was our turn to say goodbye and we piled back into Robin’s van and headed back home. 
I think it was after 11pm when I finally got home.  I dropped my bag of wet clothes at the door, cleaned up a bit, and slid into bed.  Beth asked how it was and I said. “Awful, just awful”.
Truthfully though it was awesome, awesome in a way that only the people sitting around those tables at the Mexican restaurant could understand.  We had all endured something together and even though I didn’t actually talk to every single person who was there I still feel a bond with everyone of them, and that is something you can’t get from a road race.
Thanks goes out to Chuck, Robin, Lori, Rob, Jacob, Susan, and everyone that made this race happen.
We raised a lot of money for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America St Louis chapter through the 100+Project.  I am  honored and grateful that ROCK Racing decided to include the 100+Project in their race. 
If you missed out on the race this year then you should totally feel jealous, and if you see someone trying to merge in traffic with a SHITR decal in their window you should give them room and allow them to move because they are badass and deserve your respect.
Next year the SHITR will be even better!  Don’t miss it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Who Is?: Robin Rongey


Who Is Robin Rongey?
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When Patrick asked me to write a post about “who I am”, I kept thinking, I really don’t
know what I can say. I mean, I could tell the truth and say that I am this super smart,
ultra fit, amazingly hot mom, “oh wait, I’m channeling Reese Witherspoon again, so
that’s not right. Well I could tell you what I have been called in the past, the little round
ball of muscle, and the … oh wait, I can’t put the other names in print, so maybe that’s
not who I am either.
After putting some more thought to it, I think to tell you who I am, I need to tell you
where I come from. So let’s see if I can sum up my life’s journey in just a few short
paragraphs.
I was born in March of 1964, one month pre-mature, my name was going to be April,
but when I was born in March, my mom decided on Robin because it made her think of
springtime. I was early arriving in the world and have been early at everything since,
like talking, walking, tying my shoes, everything I do, I want to do fast and be the first
one done, it doesn’t matter what it is, work tasks, workouts, races, I was even the
fastest person at picking berries in the summer, no one could keep up with me. I think
there is a pattern here; maybe that is where my competitiveness comes from.
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I grew up in the projects, we were poor, but of course I didn’t know it at the time
because poor is relative. We may have been financially poor, but we had a close family
and always had fun, we just did stuff that didn’t cost anything. So many people living
around us were poor in my eyes and I always felt so sorry for them, little did I know, I
was as poor as they were.
I am the only girl in a family of 5 kids. I am the second in line, but I ruled the house like I
was the oldest. I was always told I was really mean and bossy.
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I spent my summers heading outside at daylight and not coming in until dark. We
played kickball, hide n seek, kick the can, football, baseball, soccer, we even setup
a ring with our shoes that we ran around acting like we were in the roller derby and
knocking people out of the ring. Most often I was the only girl allowed to play any of
the neighborhood sports. I think that is because all the boys were afraid of me, at least
that’s what my brothers tell me.
When I was 9 my dad died and at 12 we moved from the projects to the country. I went
from having hundreds of kids to play with, in a quarter mile radius to having 10 kids to
play with, in a 5 mile radius. This is when I started picking up endurance activities, riding
my bike, skateboarding, even running, I would run laps around my block and it was 2
miles long.
Two weeks into my freshman year of high school I was in a bad car accident, I spent a
few months in a hospital and then spent months on crutches. My mom was told that I
would most likely have brain damage, so now when I do stupid things I blame it on the
brain damage. It took a year to recover, so it was my sophomore year before I could
play any sports. I ran track and cross country the rest of high school, then I ran track in
college on a scholarship. I was just an above average runner, but heck back then they
just wanted to find girls that would run, that’s why I had a scholarship. I was actually the
first girl to ever run cross country for SIU-E.
After college I got married and had 3 kids, I continued to run, but not really competitive.
When my kids started getting self sufficient I started training hard again and decided to
try some new things, like triathlons, mountain biking and road biking. I loved it all! Then
in 1996, I took a job with Boeing and met my friend and now teammate Chuck Vohsen.
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You all know Chuck as a Badass Adventure racer, but back in the day, he was just
some overweight jeep driving, martial arts practicing engineer. That was when I could
beat him both on foot and on wheels, but now, I’m just lucky he lets me follow him
around and share his adventure racing glory.
That leads me up to the current day and the fact that I am so lucky that I have a strong
mother who raised 5 kids on a yearly income that is less than I make in a month, having
4 brothers who even though they called me mean and bossy, they put the smackdown
on anyone else who said it, having friends like Chuck who would fight a bear for me or
give me his last sip of water if I was out, having 3 healthy kids that fight like cats and
dogs and are always planning the next way to pull the wool over their dad and my eyes,
but at the end of the day always give me hugs and “I love you’s”. I guess what I’m trying
to say is that all the events in my life have made me who I am today.
I still sometimes wonder who I am, but if I have to say who I think I am in one big run-on
sentence, this is what it would say.
I’m a girl who works hard at everything I do, I’m very organized, to the point of
annoyance to my family, I love being outside and I love adventure of any kind, I never
give up because I know with persistence I can accomplish anything, I may not be great
at it, but I can do it, and most of all, I’m a real cool mom, well my kids may not say that,
but I like to think I am.
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SHITR Report Coming Soon!

Here is a little preview of my SHITR report.  I hoped to have it done but it's not, deal with it.

Not long after the 12hour run back in November, Chuck and Robin of ROCK Racing told me they had an idea for an unsupported trail race at Lost Valley in Weldon Spring. It sounded like a great idea, and I was all in. What could be better than a trail half marathon in January? Simple, a trail half marathon in January at night! To make it even better they told me that in lieu of an entry fee they would suggest participants make a donation to the 100+Project. How awesome is that?
That's all you get for now.
If you are interested though here are some reports from people quicker than I.

 http://mlkillian.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/shivering-icy-trail-run-the-shttiest-trail-half-marathon-non-race-ive-ever-done/

http://kate-my-mind.blogspot.com/2013/01/shitr-happens.html

http://adventuresofdog.com/2013/01/15/latex-gloves-and-a-sticker/

I will finish my report and I think there is one more out there somewhere but I can't find it and I need to leave for work.

See ya!
 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Who Is?: Chuck Vohsen

When Patrick asked me to do a Who-is, it sounded easy enough, so I agreed and started writing.
Chuck Vohsen is ….some guy ….just like everyone else.
Chuck1
And that was all I had.
I had to come up with something better or this would be the shortest post ever. I read the previous
awesome who-is posts to get some ideas. They were great, but there was nothing there I could blog-
jack and call my own. So it was time to do some real thinking. A couple of days later when I was out on
a run, I was finally hit with my ‘Ahhaa’ writing idea. (Does that happen to everyone? ALL my ideas come
during runs and bikes.)
Nobody wants to read how I am like everyone else. Lets face it, as much as we like to pretend otherwise
there are more similarities between people on this planet than differences. We all eat, sleep, fart, work,
drink, and live and die.
So what makes me unique? My ‘Ahhaa’moment said experiences and memories are what define us. So
here’s my list of random memories that happen to be floating around my head today in no particular
order of importance. Maybe some of you have shared in them with me:
Chuck2
Seeing my first kid being born by C-section
Second kid being pulled out with giant pliers
Elbowing wife on altar after getting married
O’Fallon Gold Ale
Crashing Chevy Monza into a telephone pole
Buying my first ‘real’ moutain bike
Group snow run at Lewis and Clark
Finishing my first bike century
Trekking through flooded cave at Lightning Strikes AR
Paddling the last leg of 2011 Berryman 36hr AR
Finishing my first adventure race – Castlewood 8hr
Running through ankle deep rainwater in Berryman marathon
Hanging from my climbing harness over a canyon in Moab
Standing on top of my first 14’er in the cold sunlight with youngest kid
Stinging nettle and thorns at Thunder Rolls AR
Wife falling out of boat at Lake Taneycomo in December
Youngest kid catching monster brown trout at Taneycomo
Oldest kid driving my old jeep in the snow
Building my first set of bike wheels
Paddling across Kentucky Lake in the most amazing fog
Coyotes howling at midnight in LBL
Running along river during Colorado Relay
Pelicans on the Mississippi below Winfield dam
Saying: ’I will never do that again’ after 50K trail run
Thinking about doing 50K trail run again
Discovering I have two birthdays
Whitewater rafting the Nantahala River
“Chuck Vohsen, you are an Ironman”
Swimming laps in that little f’n pool training for IM
Riverboarding on the Colorado river
Sliding down dirt hill and in creek at the CAC
Kids behind house in underwear carrying a rabbit in fishing net
Grandpa Vohsen saying, “Don’t get old Chuck!”
Riding lost valley first time without putting a foot down
Navigating Moab canyons in the dark with crappy headlamps
Pulling kids in little wagon down trail to fishing spot
Rattlesnake at Berryman Duathlon
Hanging out with oldest kid in garage removing transmission from his car …. again
Foggy graveyard after dark in mountains
Jeeping Breakneck trail in Colorado
Every Berryman Epic mtn bike race
Bacon Donuts
Man, I seriously could go on all day! I’ve got some great memories. But I’m stopping with this and
hopefully that list gives an idea of who I am.
++++++++++
I’ve had a two week break since I made this list. Looking back over the random memories a second time
made me notice a few obvious exceptions.
All the years I’ve spent in school - not one
25 years at my current job – not one
All the TV or movies I’ve ever seen – not one
I think the exceptions speak even louder than the list about what is important to me. FAMILY, FRIENDS,
and DOIN COOL STUFF.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Who Is?: Lukas Lamb


I am Lukas Lamb, and I am nobody. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’d like to think that I’m someone
special to my wife, my four children, and my close friends. It’s just that I’m nobody compared to most
people.
I’m not that bright (it took me 13 years and 3 different schools to graduate college), and I’m not
even that athletic (although I used to be a mediocre high school wrestler if that counts). And I don’t
really have any unique talents, skills, or abilities. But if there’s one thing I have in abundance, which
I’ve always had in abundance, it’s an unadulterated willingness – a willingness to try new things, a
willingness to test myself, and, perhaps above all, a willingness to fail.
Luke2
Most people are familiar with the phrase “decision through indecision” - by not making a decision, you
are essentially making a decision. To put it another way, Henry Ford said, “Indecision is often worse
than wrong action.” For me, the same thing applies to adventure. By not trying something at which I
might fail, I’ve essentially already failed. I think never attempting something difficult is far worse than
actually failing. And that’s why I do the things I do even though I have failed pathetically at many of
them.
When a friend asked me to do my first adventure race over ten years ago, I could have (and in hindsight
maybe should have) said no, but I didn’t hesitate to try it. Although I was woefully ill-prepared, I
was willing to jump in over my head. That race ended in complete disaster. Since then, though, my
teammates and I have finished the 36-hour race twice.
When another friend asked me to be part of a duo and do half of the Dirty Kanza 200 with him, I agreed
to do so fully aware of the high probability of failure. And I did fail when I only finished 60-ish miles out
of 100. But the following year both of us went back and completed the full 200 miles of gravel with the
rest of our teammates.
I’ve DNF’d several other races, I’ve come in last place many times, and I’ve even been DQ’d from a race
before. Failures? Sure. But without those “failures,” I never would have experienced any successes
either. Without those “low points,” the high points would never be so high.
Luke1
So I’ll just keep failing. And then I’ll fail some more. Maybe next time it will be a 5-day expedition
adventure race. Or perhaps it will be a 50- or 100-mile ultramarathon. Whatever it is, I’ll be willing to
give it a shot. I’ll just keep failing until I succeed.
I am a failure. I am nobody. I am Lukas Lamb. Who are you?