Wretched Wisconsin Wilderness Wallops Wide-eyed Wanderers’ Wimpy Wits

2018 Stubborn Mule 30-Hr Adventure Race

American Birkebeiner Trail – Cable, Wisconsin

Background

Whoever coined the phrase “the best moments happen when they are unplanned,” was not familiar with the adventures of Michael “Southie” Southworth and David “McWild” McWilliams of “Les Missouriables.” In June, they both traveled to Southern Illinois to attempt the “No Sleep” adventure race. Southie lost his venture virginity to the 8-hour race as a member of “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” while McWild raced with a different group of “Les Missouriables” in the 24-hour edition.

Sadly, the extreme Illinois heat melted both teams’ glorious aspirations: Only two of the three team members on the 8-hour crew survived the marmots, which first tore apart Patrick’s shins, and then murdered Jake because they were tired of listening to him sigh. In contrast, Les Mis took a two-hour break so that Ben could pretend to have heat stroke, fooling two bathing suit-clad nurses into providing him with some intimate “treatment” on their way to the lake. Unfortunately, the excitement of the procedure drew the attention of the Sheriff, and also left Ben in a true state of shock, requiring the race director to remove him from the course. Not able to unsee the heinous acts they had witnessed, the other two members of Les Missouriables were in no condition to continue through the night, and so the team dropped only 11 hours into the race. Thus, McWild’s summer adventure racing itch failed to be scratched, while Southie reportedly crossed the 8-hour finish line wanting to go back and find more CPs. There was no doubt, both of them were hungry for more.

Patrick managed to fight off the marmots with only minor injuries. Teammate Jake was not so lucky.

A few days later, Southie and McWild sat down with a couple pitchers of Long Island Iced Tea after a Wednesday training ride. The pitchers pitched “Les Futurs Missouriables” an upcoming race that could possibly satisfy their need for muscle pain, mosquito bites, bruises, and dehydration: the “Stubborn Mule” 30-hour race in northern Wisconsin. The best part—it was only a week away! Despite the short notice, the pair were enthused, and after getting parental permission, they contacted the race director, Paula Waite, who added them to the team list—several hours after registration officially closed.

The Drive

Race weekend soon arrived, as did a serious case of sinus congestion for McWild. The pair loaded their gear into Southie’s Subaru, lifted their bikes high onto his roof rack, and hit the road. Foreshadowing the success of their future race navigation, Southworth immediately missed the first turn onto Tucker Boulevard. Once in Illinois, Les Mis learned from the resident farmers that GunsSaveLife.com. They also made a stop at the Carlyle Brewing Co. in Rockford, where they drank beers, ate pizza and pretzels, and chatted with the locals about a cross country ski area in Northern Wisconsin known as “Telemark.” McWild even purchased a growler of Vanilla Cream Ale to bring back to Saint Louis, because he is the best roommate ever. The rest of the trip included an in-depth lesson by McWild on aircraft landing gear design, the first of about thirty dead deer, and was deemed a general success, mostly because they avoided the sky squid and accidentally driving into Canada.

Carlyle, IL: home of the famous Vanilla Cream Ale.

Race Eve

Due to the beer stop at Carlyle, it was almost 10 p.m. before Les Missouriables rolled into their fine accomodations in Hayward, WI, 30 miles from race headquarters (HQ). With a temperature in the hallways of 85 degrees and a hint of musk in the air, McWild started digging through his gear and squealed, “where’s my clothes bag?” Southie had begun contemplating how far back the closest Walmart was when McWild finally found his belongings in one of his several backpacks. Southie immediately regretted bringing extra permethrin, as McWild proceeded to douse his gear, turning the entire hotel room into a chemical hazard. After the bags were packed and repacked, flashiest outfits worn and shorn, and the team paraphernalia meted and doled, it was decided that sleep was for the unadventurous, as well as a health risk, and they gifted emergency toilet paper to the other racers’ cars and bicycles in the hotel parking lot. They then set their alarms, and 4:30 a.m. arrived in no time.

Race Morning

Their alarms were set to allow 30 minutes to pack and 30 minutes to get to race headquarters, located at the Birkie Trailhead Great Hall, at the Telemark ski area that Les Missouriables had learned of the day before. Consistent with race strategy throughout, they spent extra time in the hotel fiddling with distractions, followed by reckless haste to the next objective. They both scarfed leftover bagels from No Sleep and McWild shoved dry clothes and emergency sinus drugs into waterproof fabric.  McWild practiced his autocross skills racing Southie’s Subaru to the race start and got the boys there just in time.

At the pre-race meeting, Les Missouriables received a packet of miscellaneous goodies: some advertisements for Tiger Balm, CAMBA bike trails, and Swiftwick coupons were distributed along with clues, rules, and gridless topo maps. The maps were preplotted with most of the first six stages, but the team spent entirely too long reading the rules, making map corrections, and arguing about how to pronounce “Ojibwe.” The announcement for all racers to report to the start for final instructions was the first of many instructions to almost be missed. Needless to say, water bottles were empty, race numbers were unpinned, and wits were still nowhere to be found.

Instead of planning their route, McWild spent their pre-race time complimenting Southie’s fingernails.

Race Start

After taking a pre-race photo, Paula began the race by instructing each team to send one member back inside race HQ for additional instructions. McWild was still fumbling with his race number and swallowing Sudafed, so Southie took the initiative to run after everyone else without completely understanding what everyone was running for. He received a sheet of paper with numbers on it, and still just as clueless, ran back to McWild to seek his sage advice. Thankfully, McWild had a clue, and the aptly named “clue sheet” provided a question to answer for Checkpoint O1 and the UTM coordinates for Checkpoint O6. The two members of Les Mis finished securing their race numbers and wristbands and began down the trail, already at the back of the pack.

Trek 1: Checkpoints O1-O6

The trails were wet and puddled from recent rain, and the two racers quickly realized that their dry feet weren’t going to stay that way for long. Once the smooth, flat, dry tables and patios at the starting line were sufficiently far behind them, Les Mis decided to stop and plot the UTMs for O6. Because the map had no gridlines, this required careful folding of the map to locate the square where the checkpoint was located, followed by precision use of the plotting tool to mark its exact location. The rocky, rutted ski trail provided the perfect surface for this delicate activity, and the team was probably lucky if McWild’s fat fingers were even within half a kilometer of the correct location. Since it appeared they had already passed the checkpoint, they decided to continue to O5, and then go for O6 on the way back to the other CPs (checkpoints). Still not understanding the difference between the red, purple, and blue trails on the topo map, Les Mis wandered generally westward until they found the power lines, and then O5, where Southie decided it would be a good place to leave behind his water bottle.

After celebrating their first punch, the team set their sights on O6, which they decided to replot since they weren’t very careful the first time. They took the trails to the general area, then headed into the woods, looking for a depression. After several unsuccessful minutes of searching, they decided to return to the trail and plot it for a third time, now with much more care. After pulling it out to check the O6 UTMs, Southie decided this would be a good place to leave behind the Trek 1 clue sheet. Finally, after finding all of the depressions around O6, Les Mis finally found the CP flag hanging out with some abandoned cars. This was the first of several “all-punch” checkpoints, which required each racer to punch their wristband in addition to their passport, to ensure they were following the buddy system. Southie decided this would be a good place to leave behind his compass.

Checkpoints O4, O3, and O2 were uneventful, but O1 was a cool ski cabin. Seeing that there was no flag to punch, McWild remembered that there was a question they were supposed to answer, and asked Southie to read the question from the clue sheet, which of course he no longer had. The two of them spent the next 10 minutes trying to memorize every feature of the cabin, so that they could prove their attendance to the race staff, before finally giving up and drawing a picture of the cabin instead. They then met a single track trail named “Ojibwe,” which McWild insisted on calling “Oboygee,” that they used to run back to HQ for their first transition.

At TA1 (transition area), they turned in their passport and learned they were currently in 6th place. Southie found his compass, which one of the other teams had returned, and the pair changed into their bike shoes, leaving their running shoes to dry since the next five stages were either biking or paddling.

Bike 1: Checkpoints B1 & B2

The next stage was a road biking section that involved biking 12 miles east so that they could turn around and paddle 12 miles west. Les Missouriables used this time to test out their towing system, raise their seats that were too low, and show off to any passerbys just how bad they were at keeping a paceline. They met and passed another team known as the “Cyclepaths” for the first and last time, and collected two easy checkpoints that required them to read names off of street signs. Southie also accomplished the impressive feat of dropping the chain off of his single front gear.

The pair soon rolled into TA2, and were apparently the 8th team to do so (but still in 6th by points). Another team had just arrived, who they decided to race to be the first into the water. After a quick lesson on paddle “feathering,” which they both agreed sounded complicated and unnecessary, they assembled their kayak paddles, refilled their bladders and bike bottles, and staged their bikes to be transported by the race staff to TA3. Interestingly, the racers were required to hold onto their helmets for the paddle. They grabbed a canoe, which they noticed weighed about half as much as the No Sleep canoes, and successful beat the other team into the river by a few seconds.

Paddle 1

The first paddle section didn’t have any checkpoints, it just involved them getting downstream to their relocated bikes at TA3. It began with calm water and a slow current, which gave them a chance to hydrate and eat their peanut butter nanner-dogs, an invention which they expect to soon go viral on Pinterest and Instagram. They found their first turtle, and then something faster: fast water, and the beginning of the rapids. The pair successfully navigated the first few sets, although the canoe color scheme may have been amended slightly to contain less paint and more rock. Then, there was a big rock, and a poor communication scheme, and Les Missouriables found themselves transitioning to a new stage a little sooner than expected.

Just wait until Pinterest sees these…

Swim 1

The big rock sent the canoe onto its side, and the packs, paddles, and occupants into the river. The canoe quickly took on water, and Les Missouriables struggled to keep it from floating away as they traversed the uneven and slippery rocks below the surface. They now understood why they were asked to hold onto their helmets, which they had left strapped to their packs. Eventually, they managed to bring the half-sunken canoe to a halt, which was mostly thanks to the large tree in the water that the canoe happened to steer itself into. With the situation at least partially under control, they drained the water from the boat and from their packs and pushed the canoe up onto the shore in order to reboard themselves and continue on their way. They also noted that the cool water was a great escape from the summer heat, and contemplated quitting the race and spending the rest of the day playing in the river instead.

Paddle 1 (continued)

After their mishap, Les Missouriables came up with a new communication scheme to better identify future threats. Southie would call out the direction and identity of the object, for example “10 o’clock rock,” and McWild would respond by singing “Rock Around the Clock Tonight” and steering them right into it. In addition to these exciting a capella sessions, the remainder of their paddle consisted of another turtle, as well as Southie bashing their brand new kayak paddles on every overhead bridge. McWild soon estimated that they were about halfway through the paddle, and then wondered why there were pink flags on the river edge, which they discovered was the canoe finish.

At TA3, Les Missouriables met another team, went for another swim, this time intentionally, and broke down their paddles for the UHaul. They probably should have looked at the map and seen the several hours of mountain biking ahead of them, in which case they might have considered refilling their water bladders, which were almost empty from the two-hour paddle.

Bike 2: Checkpoints B3-B9

The second bike section began by biking back to race headquarters, where Les Missouriables passed up another opportunity to refill their water before entering the network of ski trails and single track. Along the way, Southie commented that his new bike cleats seemed to have a lot more freeplay than his old ones. This confused McWild, who had made the same cleat change and never noticed. Their off-road fun began by revisiting their friend Ojibwe, where they soon discovered that the true mileage varied from the apparent map mileage by nearly a factor of two. Without getting too lost, they found their way to Checkpoints B3-B5, which included a new flowy section of trail where Les Missouriables enjoyed the banked turns and jumps—spirits were high.

Rather than specifically plotting the next few checkpoints, the race organizers provided a series of “waypoints,” along with instructions of what trails to follow between them, promising that the checkpoints would easily be spotted along the way. After finding WP1, Les Missouriables headed south down the trail “Flow Mama,” which was supposed to take them all the way to WP2, and right past Checkpoint B3. Once McWild noticed that the trails had good signage, he stopped using the map, estimating that only one or two miles remained to WP2. When one or two miles became three or four miles, McWild accounted for it as the “single track factor” they had discovered on Ojibwe; besides, the signs still read “Flow Mama,” and there was a second two-man team right on their heels. When it became six or seven miles, with a fruitless climb to “High Point,” the highest elevation in the region, the pair finally pulled off the trail to check the map—spirits were hopeful, but waning.

Having all but given up on McWild’s navigational ability, Southie decided to check out the CAMBA “tourism pamphlets,” which McWild had almost tossed into the car that morning. These “pamphlets” turned out to be fully-fledged mountain bike trail maps, including two-character codes which uniquely identified every trail junction in the county. With this new information, Les Missouriables determined they were several miles past WP2, which was not located on Flow Mama afterall. After conferring with the other team on their tail, both teams rode the road back to the trail split, where Les Missouriables did a needless loop on “38 Special” prior to finding the correct trail, and finally, Checkpoint B6 and WP2. On the last stretch of trail, McWild decided he didn’t really need his biggest chainring, which he proceeded to smash on a rock and bend beyond repair. Southie decided that his handlebars were too straight, so he pedaled them into a tree, ejecting himself from the saddle, and filling his water bottles with sand—spirits were steadily fading.

After WP2, Les Missouriables got a break from the single track as they headed back north on the road to WP3, wishing adieu to the other two-man team, who headed off south to drink beer and eat pizza. Southie noticed his cleats had even more freeplay than before, and inspected them to find that the bolts were coming loose, which he tightened, also talking a moment to lubricate some of his more personal “equipment” at the same time. McWild did his best to keep his speed on the road without his big chainring, now regretting his decision to smash it on a rock.

When they reached WP3, Southie observed the adjacent golf course, and was relieved that this would be a relatively flat section of single track to WP4. They then turned onto the trail, known as “Esker,” which began with their longest and steepest climb yet. McWild immediately needed to downshift to his smallest gear in the front, and discovered that his front derailleur no longer supported this function. Fortunately, he discovered that using his foot to kick the chain into low gear was a decent substitute.

Les Missouriables continued their climb up the never-ending ridge, which slowly grew until it was over a hundred feet above the lowlands on either side. Frustrated with the rocky ascent, Southie lost his ability to say nice things, even as the crew came across Checkpoint B7. The climbing had no sympathy for Southie’s woes, nor did his cleats, which continued to loosen themselves despite frequent attention, and soon he lost the will to mountain bike all together—spirits were at an all-time low.

The single track continued from Esker to Dankydank, where McWild found the ground and Southie found additional rocky, uphill, loose-cleated frustration. After what seemed like hours, they finally reached B8, and then Trail Lake Trail, which took them down from the ridge to WP4 and off of the single track, at least for the time being. Relieved, they reoriented themselves and transferred their last drops of water into a clean bottle before starting west down the dirt road. Their next turn was supposed to be a left at the “only” intersection, except there were many logging roads that the map was too old to show. Thus, the team was stuck relying mostly on McWild’s remarkably inaccurate distance estimates, as well as the many bike tracks in front of them, since they were now far behind most of the pack. Without much confidence, they eventually made the correct turn, leading them to the short bikewhack to B9 and then another road.

The rest of the bike ride was mostly a dehydrated blur, but included a bike past a big lake, a left after a little lake, and a dirt road that merged into a paved road just before TA4. When they arrived at TA4, the paddle put in, Les Missouriables contemplated stopping for beer and food at the adjacent country club, but learned that the race staff had brought them cold soda, which they downed immediately. The staff informed them that they were the last team expected to arrive (they later learned that two teams had dropped, including the Cyclepaths), and asked them to show their whistles, to ensure they were racing safely. They were also given the remaining clues and UTMs for Bike 3, but decided to get in the water as fast as possible and plot them after, since there was a 10 p.m. cutoff for the paddle, and it was already after 7. They did take the time to fill their waters and attach glow sticks to their boat and PFDs, and were the only team to do so: Go4Zero.

Paddle 2: Checkpoints P1-P13

Les Missourables somberly enter the lake in last place.

Paddle 2 was a flat water paddle between a bunch of interconnected lakes. Eleven of the checkpoints were north, while only two were south. Limited on time, Les Missouriables opted to begin with the northern CPs, which were also closer together. Instead of punches, each CP required the racers to identify something of interest, for example, “what is the fake animal on the pole?” (owl) or “what is the man made junk on the roof of the shack?” (lawn chair). The two realized that they would have benefitted immensely from a pair of binoculars, or at least a teammate without Southie’s old age and nearsightedness. Along the way, they saw an otter and a heron, tore lily pads out with their paddles, and got caught by an unattentive fisherman. They also received many strange looks and inquiries from people on docks and boats full of beer and passengers.

The pair finally found their swing with the kayak paddles, passing some boats with fewer legs, but despite their rhythm, the aches and cramps eventually set in, and Les Missouriables resorted to experimenting with different yoga positions to relieve their pains. They managed to snag all eleven of the northern CPs, but had to skip the southern two in order to make the cutoff and avoid paddling in complete darkness. Alas, they accepted that they were not going to clear the course, and in the fading afterglow of twilight, the racers made their way across the final lake to return to the paddle to pullout simultaneously earlier and later than they wanted, and transitioned back to the bikes.

Not willing to be hurried by their consistent behindedness, and excited to be ahead of one team again, Les Missouriables took their sweet-ass time at TA5. They each drank another soda and took a swim in the lake, which was warmer than the river, and was made even warmer before they got out. Southie also decided that the muddy lake would be a good place to leave behind his loose bike cleat, following closely in the Nordic tradition of planting important and valuable objects in bogs as a sacrifice to the Gods.

After their swim, they covered themselves with a fresh coat of 99% deet bug spray, melting the plastic on McWild’s watch, and also discovered that McWild’s headlamp wasn’t working, having gotten wet on the first paddle despite being “waterproof.” With potholes and single track on his mind, Southie reluctantly offered his headlamp to McWild for navigating, and with one working headlamp and two bike headlights as flashlights, Les Missouriables laid out their maps to plot the extra CPs for Bike 3. As if on cue, hundreds of small bugs emerged from the darkness to swirl around their lights, landing and drowning themselves on the wet map so as to add themselves to the great sacrifice to the adventure racing gods. Using his plotting tool, McWild struggled to squeegee them off the map as more and more came to join their fallen brethren in sacrificial doom. Giving up, he sufficed with plotting right on top of them by scratching away the print on the wet map, and then packed it away so they could begin their ride into the darkness.

Bike 3: B10-B15

The three lighted, three cleated, three chainringed crew began riding north-ish to return to the “left at little lake” for B10, and were surprised to almost immediately see another team riding in the other direction. After lavishly “complimenting” the other team’s navigational ability to Southie, McWild looked again at the map and realized that Les Missouriables were heading in the wrong direction. He had forgotten about the fork for the gravel road, and then had to offer himself the same compliments as they turned around to follow in the other team’s tracks. In spite of this, their biking spirits were refreshed after the break provided by the paddle; they were happy to be biking on the road, and it was hard to take anything too seriously as they ridiculed themselves over their missing and damaged gear.

After collecting B10, they arrived at a left turn that for once was actually where McWild said it would be. Nervous, Southie suggested that they go a little farther just to be sure. As they debated, another team appeared from the road in question, reporting that it dead ended after a short distance, and both teams decided to continue down the good road to get their bearings at the next intersection. The distance to the intersection confirmed that the road in question was the road on the map, but after returning to it one more time, Les Missouriables elected to take the advice of the other team and find a different way around the dead end.

The two teams navigated the alternate route together, eventually coming to an intersection where they took a short stretch of single track to find the stairs that needed to be counted for B11. This offered the first test of Les Missouriables ability to bike technical terrain without two headlamps, with McWild calling out warnings like “big rock left, keep right,” and Southie verifying these warnings by grunting in pain each time he hit the rock, root, branch, or pothole. After riding on the road together a little longer, the short-lived cooperation between the two teams ended when Les Missouriables briefly turned down the wrong fire road. Once again they were alone in the night, but the remainder of the biking went unusually well, with a bit more three-lighted single track and the remaining checkpoints bagged before the duo made their way down what they affectionately began calling the “home stretch” of the Birkie Trail to race HQ and TA6.

At headquarters, Les Missouriables once again set a new personal record for longest transition, beginning by eating the leftover pulled pork and casserole from the 12-hour post-race meal and pounding another round of Coke. They received a new, preplotted map for Trek 2, and determined that McWild’s headlamp worked again after they replaced the wet batteries. Excited to be reunited with his trail runners, McWild put them on before his trekking pants, and then had to take them off again to put his pants on. Southie was even more excited for the shoe change, but his bike shoes had other plans. With the ratchet release broken from a rock and lace locks filled with sand, they were firmly secured to something for the first time all race, and weren’t about to let go. After begging, weeping, and nearly breaking his foot, Southie finally managed to release his feet from captivity, by which time McWild had contrived a loosely organized plan to get them on their way for the next section.

Trek 2: O7-O17

Even in the dark, the intrepid trekkers managed to end up back on Ojibwe, still unsure if it was inspite of or because of their best efforts. Without their eyes to deceive them, they finally figured out how to choose attack points and then count paces into CPs. Despite a lot of figuring, they still ended up on more hilltops than CPs, even though they started out searching for depressions. As day finally broke, the two punched the final CP and took a shortcut towards what appeared to be either the top or bottom of a cliff. A steep climb ensued, and after the climb finally leveled, they realized that the map showed both a hill and a cliff, which they then descended. Back on the familiar ski trails of Telemark, they did their best to look strong on the jog back down the “home stretch” to HQ and TA7.

At transition, Les Missouriables continued their newfound tradition of stuffing their faces and screwing around with equipment as Southie was regaled with the ancient New England tradition of Fluffernutters, passed through generations from Pilgrims, to Puritans, to patriots, and finally pedalers. Full of peanut butter, fluff, and the fizzy uplifting powers of Coke, Southie began bashing his shoes against the pavement in an attempt to return some of the sand to its natural home. After replacing his missing cleat and a skinny jeans wriggle, Southie got his feet trapped into his shoes. McWild went off into the parking lot to experience nature in all its full frontal glory, while Southie fished around in McWild’s medicine baggy, now filled with a pink slurry of miscellaneous drugs and river water. In shorter shorts and low cut socks, McWild finished off a helping of grits and chased it with a Coke and a dose of rinsed off Sudafed before the pair headed back into the damp wilderness with their new map.

Bike 4: B16-B22

McWild led the fearless duo back out onto a ski trail to shortcut the winding single track of Ojibwe. A biker in tight spandex flew by, deflating quads and crushing egos, until he passed by again and again. After 24 hours, Les Missouriables had finally found someone more lost than they were. After a few left turns at a road that was now a lake, the two found a sign to reorient themselves. The choices were Ojibwe, or Ojibwe. The only thing more droning than riding the same single track for what was now a countless number of times was the incessant low groan of sand grinding its way through their bicycles’ drivetrains and down the back of McWild’s intelligently chosen low cut socks.

Ojibwe rewarded the pair for their reliable company and eventually released them back onto the ski trails where they bagged their first CP. It was another all punch, which they neglected to observe, but fortunately their spandex-clad biker friend rejoined them at this point and was later able to verify their attendance. Les Missouriables went on to snag the remaining southern and western CPs before heading north to grab the final few. All was going well until they found themselves in purple trail purgatory, with far too many junctions to identify the correct trail. Several theories were raised as to their location, all incorrect, and eventually they resorted to choosing turns at random until they finally reached the CP.

The remainder of the ride should have been a simple spin down the home stretch to HQ, but instead, McWild led them down a trail full of downed trees. McWild attempted to jump the logs, which resulted in the loss of another chainring, while Southie decided this seemed like too much work and let the sky squid take the wheel. After crashing through the log and taking a trip over the bars. He spent the next few minutes prostrated on the ground and debating the life choices that got him to this point. By the time he was back on his feet, his brain had gone full teenager, and he was only capable of one word responses.

The duo finally made it back to HQ and TA8, where McWild again changed his shoes before putting on his trekking pants, and this time decided that a few pantless hours were easier to handle than the prospect of retying shoes. The team pounded more Coke, and were rewarded with teams already celebrating their own finishes. After receiving a new pre-plotted map, the team laid-out a best case scenario. For some reason, everyone was excited for them when they settled on 6-8 out of the 14 available CPs.

Trek 3: O18-O31

Faced with having to hobble on rocky mountain bike trails, down one knee each, the two racers were properly motivated to successfully execute a shortcut and avoid Ojibwe’s siren single track. Despite McWild’s aches from overly ambitious marathon training and Southie’s bruises from log jousting, the two executed textbook attacks, barreling into depressions and trying to sneak around the now crowded trekking section. With newfound hubris, they briefly toyed with pursuing more distant checkpoints, but decided to stick with rounding up the nearby CPs on familiar trails. McWild, more wiser than Southie, did not follow frolicking down the hillsides over logs, and instead snacked on his Fluffernutter and acted lost to passers by.

The two headed north and west to the far end of Telemark to round up the final CPs. Apparently some of the CPs were from the original trek from the previous day, but between the two of them they still couldn’t tell what was new and what was old. After finding some CPs again for the first time, the two headed back toward the “home stretch.” Smelling competition, the two saw a group of more experienced racers enjoying the morning air as they walked their way back to HQ. Having learned his lesson at a previous race in Central Indiana, losing by only 45 seconds, McWild called for a sprint to the finish, passing the other team in the final quarter-mile yards. Stunned, the team they passed somehow didn’t manage to clock in until 18 minutes later.

At 28 hours and 55 minutes, Les Missouriables arrived at HQ and “show-me’d” their final passport to the race staff with six CPs punched, for a total of 59/69 CPs. Only later did they realize that the clue sheet had specifically required them to complete at least six CPs on the final trek not to be disqualified, affirming once again that Les Missouriables’ excellence in reading comprehension was far surpassed by their ability to trade on their good looks.

Happy to be back in civilization.

Post race

With at least an hour to spare until awards, the boys had plenty of time to rethink their race decisions over more delicious grits and free River Pig and Angry Minnow beer provided by the race staff. St. Louis adventure racing legends Emily and Erl soon returned from their post race shower and nap to regale the two with stories of glory and bike-wacking through the night with their new team, “Rib Mountain Racing.” Southie yanked off his bike shoes and briefly contemplated throwing them into the campfire, took a luxurious baby wipe shower in the 30-hour old portajohn, and began packing his things in the car and loading the bikes on the roof.

When the 30th hour came, Paula announced the race results. Rib Mountain Racing was first overall, while Les Missouriables finished 5th overall and second in their division. They were one checkpoint behind 4th overall, a girl who raced in the solo division. McWild chose a baggie of ginger chews as his prize, while Southie picked a tub of Tiger Balm to apply to McWild’s toilet seat in revenge for making him do the race. Finally, the two racers introduced themselves to Paula, thanked her for delivering just as much pain and suffering as promised, and said their goodbyes.

Back at the hotel, the two hurriedly checked into their room, where McWild tried to nap while Southie watched Naked and Afraid at high volume. Meanwhile, the reputation of Les Missouriables continued to grow on the Stubbon Mule Facebook page as racers puzzled over the final mystery of the missing paddle owners. After a quick nap and a message to both claim their paddles and forever cement their names in Paula’s memory, the weary adventurers grabbed a bite to eat at the local auto shop turned bar, restaurant and bowling alley. After drinking a few Spotted Cows and eating cheese curds, the two were deemed to have completed their Wisconsin baptism, and returned to their fine hotel where they fell asleep to Naked and Afraid’s greatest hits as they dreamt of their next adventure.

The plan was to sleep until they had returned to a reasonable state of mental awareness, but this apparently was not achieved. McWild insisted on Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast, where they ate a total of ten legendary tater tots. He then took a turn driving, since Southie had spent all of his time in the hotel watching TV instead of sleeping.  Later, after hours of being bored on Yelp, dreaming of lunch, Southie settled on a dairy shop on the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison. A construction crew took the only parking spots out front, so McWild demonstrated his sharp state of mind by trying to park in a low-clearance parking garage with the bikes on the roof. In what was otherwise a successful flying dismount, McWild knocked his bike off of the car, damaging his seat, and caused Southie’s one-by to drop its chain again. Fortunately, they were able to reattach the bikes with the duct tape and zip ties they had on hand, and their Wisconsin sandwiches, cheese, and ice cream cheered them up enough to cautiously finish the drive home.

mildly inconvenient
McWild decided to get payback on the bikes by crashing them into the parking garage.

As far as future adventures go, Les Missouriables are currently signed up to race a 3-man team at the USARA Nationals 30-hour in late September, but the exact make-up of the team is still unknown. While McWild and his fellow Mislocated Masshole Jack Bourbonnais have committed, it is unsure if Southie’s broken spirits will recover in time to join them on their quest, or if the Massholes will have to recruit a new victim to join them in their misery and folly. In the meantime, Southie and McWild are glad to be off of the race clock and back in the comforts of civilization.

Mislocated Massholes Mark Minimum Men’s Minutes Midst Mound Mayhem

2017 Central Indiana 12-Hr Adventure Race

Mounds State Park – Anderson, Indiana

Background

After successfully “Getting Adventurous” at the No Sleep Adventure 24-Hour race in June with frequent “Acme Maps” and “Mid Rivers Adventure” team member Bill Stevens, Mislocated Masshole 1, David McWilliams, eagerly sought out the next opportunity for spending a day lost in the woods with wet feet and insufficient drinking water. Among options for fall adventure races in the Midwest was a 12-hour race in Central Indiana, cleverly named the “Central Indiana Adventure Race.” Masshole 1 coordinated schedules with four other masochistic friends and determined that this was the most suitable race.

Time passed, and as seems to be typical in the sport, Masshole 1 found himself four weeks away from the race with zero of four friends still available to accompany him on the day of misery. Panic set in, and Masshole 1 began frantically searching for a new partner, with the strict qualification that they must know how many wheels were on a bicycle. Among people dumb enough to consider such a proposition was Mislocated Masshole 2, Jack Bourbonnais, who not only knew how many wheels a bicycle had, but even had a mountain bike hanging as a decoration in his apartment! Masshole 2 was convinced to join Masshole 1 as soon as it was pointed out that he wasn’t signed up for a race yet that weekend, and thus the partnership of the Mislocated Massholes formed. Given that Masshole 2 was completely unfamiliar with the sport, Masshole 1 arranged a gruesome training plan to prepare him for race day. This consisted of a single bike ride in which Masshole 2 confirmed for the first time in three years that his wall decoration was actually a functioning bicycle.

Race weekend soon arrived, and the Mislocated Massholes found themselves in Masshole 2’s pickup truck on the road to Mounds State Park in Anderson, Indiana. Highlights of the ride were a beer stop for post-race Colorado Cool-Aids and an in-depth discussion as to whether the terms 2-by-4 and 1-by-6 can be used to refer to 24 and 16 ounce cans. The Massholes eventually arrived in Indiana and set up camp before riding their bikes to race headquarters (HQ) for the pre-race meeting and meal, which consisted of chili, cornbread, and rabbit food with ranch dressing. While stuffing their faces, the Massholes made acquaintance with some of the opposition, including team “Honeybadger,” whose youngest member was only 13-years old! During the pre-race meeting, race director Brian Holzhausen explained that the maps would not be distributed until race start, or possibly even later, and teased the obsessive, detail-oriented engineers in the crowd that they would be unable to make any preparations in advance. It was also clarified that outside maps would be limited to the publicly available park and tourism maps conveniently weighing down the race swag bags, and that checkpoints during each stage could be completed in any order unless otherwise noted. Finally, Brian shared that he had completed the course himself in 10 hours earlier in the week, and announced that any team beating his time would win a free pair of wool DINO racing socks. Full of new information and chili, the Massholes made their way back to their campsite, and with no maps to plot or routes to plan, soon headed to bed.

Even though race start wasn’t until 8 a.m., the Massholes awoke at 6 a.m. in order to leave plenty of time for freaking out about how unprepared they were. They ate bagels, made Fluffernutter sandwiches, and arranged their packs with food, water, and spare socks. Having apparently mislocated his brain, Masshole 1 neglected to put his spare socks into his dry-bag, instead putting them loose in his pack while also neglecting to remember that his water bladder leaks when it is filled to the top and crammed into a small space. As a result, a puddle quickly formed under his pack, which upon opening, led to the discovery of two soaking wet pairs of spare socks. With no time remaining to properly deal with the situation, Masshole 1 squeezed as much water out of the socks as possible, mounted them on his shoulders as epaulettes, and called for the Massholes to mount their bikes and make their way across the campground to race start.

The small portion of the map required for all but Segment 4B…
Segment 0: Race Start – Acquiring the first clue sheet and map

Race director Brian lived up to his reputation for race start creativity, informing everyone of the task they must complete in order to collect their maps: find the clue sheet for Segment 1, 290 meters away at a magnetic bearing of 110 degrees from the start line. The field took off, looked at their compass, and collectively thought, “fuck it, I’ll just follow that guy in front.” After 290 meters and a quick detour around a stand of trees, the field had collected the first clue sheet and was headed back to race HQ to pick up the map.

Segment 1: Bikes and Canoes – Checkpoints 1–5
Laying out the map to plot Segment 1

The clue sheet politely informed the Massholes that Segment 1 would be a bike and canoe section with boring checkpoints (CPs) 1 and 5 at the canoe put in/pull out. Plotting out CPs 2–4 revealed that they were located in a magical, barely explored land known only as “Upriver.” The Massholes grabbed their gear and took off on their bikes for the very boring ride to the put in, where they acquired CP 1.

CP 2

Because Masshole 1 was wearing his only pair of dry socks, the canoe put in required a quick portage through 4-inch deep water to get to the main channel. About half a mile later, and after a few deeper sections of portaging, the Massholes arrived at “Upriver.” They beached the canoes on an outcropping of rock and climbed the bank up to a magnificent field. Broken down toy trucks, a lifeguard chair, a dollhouse and other assorted detritus generally found near houses on wheels and trucks on blocks peaked through the fog and dew covered field. The Massholes ducked down a trail off to the west and immediately jumped a creek to climb up a small hill. On top of the hill, Masshole 2 enthusiastically pointed out CP 2 to both Masshole 1 and the other three teams in the area. He was then introduced to Bob, who wasn’t pleased.

CP 3

A quick jog across the field and around the lifeguard chair led the Massholes to a new and strange creature, stinging nettle. It forced the two to brave its sting in their quest for a “re-entrant.” With the nettle’s hypodermic hairs injecting formic acid into his shins, Masshole 1 gallantly found the marker. With their work complete, the Massholes made a hasty retreat from the nettle and back to the canoe.

CP 4

CP 4 was on the east bank of the river under a bridge, a little upstream from the landing for CPs 3 and 4. Getting there didn’t really constitute an adventure worthy of being passed down, generation to generation eventually becoming more myth than truth.

CP 5

Their tasks in the “Upriver” complete, the Massholes started back down the river to the starting point. By this point, several four and six-paddled monsters were working their way down as well. Their rhythmic left-right-left stroking motion propelling them more quickly than the Massholes’ two-paddled flailing. Eventually though, they made it back to civilization, glad to be done with the “Upriver.” The canoes were stashed, and the clues to Segment 2 were obtained.

Segment 2: Bikes – Checkpoints 6–11
CP 6

CP 6 demanded a bike ride north from the state park of ancient human embankments. The Massholes worked their way through the park gate towards the relative danger of the open road, but quickly found that the road they’d intended to follow was closed, forcing them to brave the crazy bike trail instead. A small, poorly run paceline began, and before the two could take more than one lead each, they rolled upon the checkpoint. Several poor souls who’d hesitated to take the bike trail at the road closure were left in the dust.

CP 7

The map gods demanded a trek north, and so the Massholes obeyed. Their reward: CP 7, on a bike route ahead sign, and a trip back south into a headwind.

CP 8

The trek south was fraught with dangers. A pair of Blues loving brothers from team “Big Dogs” took a rock to the tire, and the Massholes found them befuddled along the side of the road as their spare tubes failed to fit their wheels. Fortunately, the Massholes were able to demonstrate the use of a patch kit, and the befuddled Saint Louis Blues band was able to continue. A couple of miles later, the Massholes pulled into a gravel parking lot, punched CP 8, and found a series of black diamond “expert” mountain bike trails between them and CPs 9–11. They were also given a decision to make: “to bike or to run?” Conscious that one day they may have to regale a lady with tales of this day, as part of a courtship ritual understood by only the most accomplished of anthropologists, the Massholes boldly decided to bike.

CP 9–11

The trail was tight and wet, but the Massholes went to work without hesitation. The trail started easy, requiring no special efforts to ride its curves, but eventually it demanded a more aggressive touch. The easy and intermediate trials fell away, and on the first of six expert loops, the trail took control. The Massholes climbed past a team on foot, who were struggling to sustain their rhythm. This reassured the Massholes, who remained mounted on their steeds. Checkpoint 9 came on the first expert loop, and CP 10 on the second, but the trail wasn’t done; it felt like teasing the Massholes, extending out the torture. The third and fourth loops provided no payoff, but left the Massholes yelling and grunting ugly noises. They started the fifth loop, and after more of the same, they finally came upon CP 11. There wasn’t much work left to do on the trail, so the Massholes pulled out onto the parking lot, showed off their gear to the race official who demanded to see that they were racing safely, and got the clue sheet to Segment 3.

Segment 3: Trekking and Canoeing – Checkpoints 12–14

Plotting out CPs 12–14 showed that the Massholes would be canoeing again, but this time they’d be heading towards a more civilized local: “Downriver.” Another curiosity, the canoe put-in at CP 13 would be upriver from CP 12, requiring anyone following the CPs in order to run south and then follow the river north. The Massholes decided to be lazy and just grab CP 12 while casually floating downriver, which meant they would run and then bushwhack their way to the canoe put in, where CP 13 was waiting.

CP 13

Their route decided, the Massholes took off east towards CP 13 and the river, but stumbled upon an unforeseen hang-up, more stinging nettle lay in wait. Familiar with this foe, the Massholes charged through, knowing that time was of the essence, and pain was of no consequence. The quick dash across the cool stream soothed the nettle’s sting, but the Massholes started downriver with shins slightly afire.

CP 12

A bridge across the river provided the Massholes with a landmark to beach the canoe and start looking for CP 12, somewhere in a re-entrant. Two re-entrants searched and some briers later, the race passport had a new punch, and the canoe was making further progress downriver, Massholes aboard.

CP 14

Let’s face it, canoeing can be boring, so we’ll ignore the next hour of canoeing downstream towards the pull out. Suffice to say there were a few rapids that barely deserved the name “rapid,” two tiny baby turtles perched on a log, and concrete dam that was supposed to be portaged, but that the Massholes failed to notice until they were already halfway over it. You’d think that would be exciting, but no, it wasn’t, it was more like, “oh?” The race volunteer at the pull-out, CP 14, informed the Massholes they had arrived downriver in third place—shocking, since they’d started Segment 3 in nowhere near such a competitive spot. After punching their passport, the Massholes collected the clue sheet for Segment 4, and began plotting their next route as the Blues brothers arrived at the canoe pull-out close behind them.

Segment 4A: Trekking – Checkpoints 15–19

In addition to the locations of CPs 15–22, the clue sheet for Segment 4 included the detail that Segment 5 would be the final segment, with three trekking checkpoints, and would take less than one hour to complete for the mildly competent. Plotting the checkpoints, the Massholes determined that CPs 15 and 16 were close by, CP 19 was where they had left their bikes, CPs 17 and 18 were en route to the bikes, and CPs 20 and 21 were practically off the map. Not sure how long their quest would take them, the Massholes decided to plan a route to CPs 15–19 and re-evaluate the time at CP 19 before planning a bike route to CPs 20 and 21. Checkpoint 22 was located at Race HQ and was the transition area to Segment 5.

CP 16 (take one)

With a little too much confidence in their plan, the Massholes left on foot for CP 16 and immediately headed down the road in the wrong direction. When they reached the first intersection, they exchanged confused looks at each other and at the map, and then remembered that they were wearing advanced scientific instruments around their necks, which were capable of telling them what direction they were facing. After relocating themselves, they planned a new route north to CPs 16 and 15. Along the way, the Massholes passed the first and second place teams, “We Will Survive” and “The Lost Boys,” heading south towards CP 17. With regained confidence in their route, Masshole 1 didn’t feel like stopping to read the street name for the next turn, and instead attempted to decipher the fine print as the map bounced up and down to the beat of their running. “It’s either Ridge, Bridge, or Fridge Street,” he said, as they ran past Rose Street, which was the turn they were supposed to take. Half a mile later, the Massholes recognized that they had made another error, and decided to continue north to CP 15 and try again for CP 16 on their way south to CP 17.

CP 15

The Massholes crossed a covered bridge to bring them near CP 15. The clue was “small knoll on east side of creek.” They quickly found a dry creek bed on the west side of the trail, but no checkpoint. Then they explored a little further west and found another creek bed, but still no checkpoint. Finally, the Massholes explored even further west and found a real creek with water! Sure enough, CP 15 was waiting in a knoll on the east bank. The Massholes scrambled their way back to the trail, and Masshole 2 led them on a run down the west side of the lake towards CP 16. On the way south, the real creek eventually met up with and ran along the trail. Had the Massholes approached CP 15 from the south as they originally intended, they would have seen the real creek and not wasted their time searching the two dry creek beds.

CP 16

CP 16 also presented a challenge. The clue was “west bank of creek,” however the location plotted was clearly east of the newly-found creek, with no other creek in sight. Having already been waist-deep in water a few times that morning, the Massholes had little concern for wet feet, and made their way across the creek anyways in hopes they had misplotted the CP. A few minutes later, they had another punch in their passport, and crossed the creek for the last time to head south to CPs 17 and 18 with soggy feet.

CP 17/18

Once again, Masshole 2 set a strong pace and led the way. Checkpoint 17 was to “write-in” the first name of the honoree on the Black Stone Veterans Memorial, which was easy to find thanks to the flagpole clue. On the granite bench at the memorial, Masshole 1 finally deemed his backup socks to be drier than the ones on his feet, and made a quick sock change before starting the remaining few miles on foot back to the bike drop. Along the way, Masshole 2 let Masshole 1 rest on the trail while he hiked a few dozen feet up the hillside to find and tag CP 18. Interestingly, both Massholes had accurately estimated the distance traveled to CP 18, but each in a different manner: Masshole 1 with step counting, and Masshole 2 based on time.

CP 19

The Massholes’ route for the final miles to CP 19 and the bikes proved to be another crucial decision that affected the race outcome. The most direct route was to continue east along the river trail and try to intersect a fire road that ran through the single track they had ridden that morning. The risk was getting lost in the single track network and having to follow the winding trails or bushwhack their way to the parking lot. Instead, the Massholes elected to head north to the road, which would be much easier to navigate, but added about a half-mile to their course. It seems that they made the right call, as the Massholes strolled into CP 19 a few minutes later and got the news that they had moved into second place! As the Massholes took a short break to refuel on Fluffernutter sandwiches and plan a route to CPs 20–22, the now third place Lost Boys arrived at CP 19. Living up to their name, “The Lost Boys” had attempted to take the fire road but weren’t able to find it, and were passed by the Massholes as they bushwhacked their way out. Realizing they had been passed, “The Lost Boys” wasted no time transitioning to their bikes and hitting the road. The Massholes and “The Lost Boys” left the parking lot neck and neck.

Segment 4B: Biking – Checkpoints 20–22

There were two ways to approach CPs 20–22: the Massholes chose clockwise, “The Lost Boys” chose counterclockwise. This meant that aside from passing each other about halfway around the loop, neither team would know who was ahead until they arrived at CP 22 to begin the fifth and final segment of the race. Checkpoints 20 and 21 sent the racers to the extreme northeast and southeast corners of the map. Without them, the map could have been half the size. The entire day, there had been a decent wind coming from the south. This is when it finally came into play.

Oh, so this is why the map is so big…
CP 20

By going clockwise, the Massholes got the tailwind early, and were able to maintain a quick pace on their route north to CP 20. Masshole 2 took the lead for most of the stretch, which let Masshole 1’s legs recover a bit from the run. The Massholes missed one turn, but were able to correct it without it costing them much time. With about a mile to go to the checkpoint, the Massholes were caught off guard by two country dogs who felt the exhausted bikers looked like a tasty afternoon snack. The dogs ignored Masshole 2, but took off after Masshole 1, who they determined would make for a more filling meal. One of the dogs had a line to cut him off at the turn, but decided at the last moment that it didn’t want to be run over by a bicycle, and let off. Masshole 2 continued to casually bike past them in peace. After regrouping, the Massholes rode the final half-mile to pick up CP 20 at the cemetery gate. Meanwhile, Masshole 1 began making painful noises which in a lost ancient language translated to “my calves are cramping.”

CP 21

The route from CP 20 to CP 21 consisted of about three miles east of crosswind and five-and-a-half miles south into a headwind. The Massholes took turns leading in the initial stretch of crosswind, and Masshole 2 took the lead for the first mile of headwind. Next was another quick “break” of crosswind, followed by four-and-a-half miles into the wind. Masshole 1 took the lead for this section, and went out a little too ambitiously, accidentally letting Masshole 2 fall behind. They then found a more sustainable pace. Around that time, the Massholes passed “The Lost Boys” headed north to CP 20. It was too close to call who had the advantage. After a long battle with the wind, the Massholes finally arrived to CP 21 in the southeast corner of the map, hidden under a bridge. From there, it was about a mile and a half of tailwind and about seven miles of crosswind to get back to camp. Masshole 1 was completely out of water, but Masshole 2 was willing to share the last half of his bike bottle, since he still had some water in his pack.

CP 22

Thus began the final bike leg to finish Segment 4. The Massholes managed to stick together through the tailwind section, but Masshole 2 started to fall behind after they turned to head west. It was time to put the towing system to use! Counting on Masshole 2’s strength as a runner to drag him through the final segment on foot, Masshole 1 played pack mule for the final four or five miles back to camp. The Massholes rolled into the transition area a short while later and punched CP 22. Status: still in second place, with “The Lost Boys” nowhere in sight. The first place team, “We Will Survive,” had arrived about 15 minutes before and was long gone.

Segment 5: Trekking – Checkpoints 23–25

By this time, Masshole 1 had finished off Masshole 2’s water as well—what a Masshole! He filled and chugged an entire bottle from the spigot and then filled a second one and dumped it into his bladder. The final segment was three checkpoints within the state park to be completed on foot. The Massholes plotted them on the large topographical map, but also replotted them on the blown up state park map that Brian had told them they could take the night before. One checkpoint was to the north and two were to the south, all relatively close to the park’s hiking trails.

CP 25

The Massholes chose to head to the northern checkpoint first. The hint was “spur.” Other than a small mismatch between the map’s trails and reality, the Massholes were able to close in on it rather quickly. They overshot to the wrong spur initially, but recognized their error and bagged it a moment later. The Massholes also posed for a few shots with the motion sensor camera that the race staff had left guarding the checkpoint, including a few with Masshole 1 carrying Masshole 2 in the “princess” pose.

CPs 23/24

From CP 25, The Massholes ran south past race HQ to CPs 23 and 24. As they crested the hill, they saw “The Lost Boys” leaving HQ to head south to the checkpoints as well. “The Lost Boys” pace had slowed, and it was starting to look like the Massholes had secured a second place finish. The Massholes caught up with “The Lost Boys” by the time they had entered the woods, punched CP 24 right behind them, and both teams punched CP 23 at the same time. “The Lost Boys” asked the Massholes whether they had found CP 25 yet, but the Massholes refused to share their secret.

Race Finish

The Massholes left CP 23 feeling good enough to run it in to HQ for a strong finish. What happened next was the last thing they expected. As they rounded the final turn to the finish line from the south, the Massholes saw “We Will Survive” approaching the finish line from the north. Unfortunately, it was too late to make up the lost ground, and “We Will Survive” crossed the finish line at 9 hours, 39 minutes, 20 seconds, winning the race. The Massholes crossed only 50 seconds later, with a time of 9 hours, 40 minutes, and 10 seconds, for a very unexpected second place overall finish!

Money shot
Post Race

Before dinner, Masshole 1 set off on his bike to grab the Colorado Cool-Aids. Upon taking a sip of his first 1-by-6, Masshole 2 became pleasantly tipsy and acted the part. “The Lost Boys” soon became the third team to finish the hike, and the “Big Dogs” and “Honeybadgers” weren’t too far behind. The mini-Honeybadger even admitted to popping his single track cherry on the expert mountain biking trails.

Pulled pork dinner! It was almost as if the DINO race organizers had known that a bunch of their racers would be coming from St. Louis and prepared every St. Louisian’s favorite meal. Being Mislocated Massholes, the Massholes weren’t as crazy about the pork as some of the others, but it’s hard to be more excited about pulled pork than a St. Louis native.

Closing Thoughts

The Mislocated Massholes plan to split up for the Castlewood 8-Hour adventure race in December. There are just too many inexperienced racers who’ll need their wisdom and leadership for the two to selfishly race together. Masshole 1 will be joining “Help Wanted,” while Masshole 2 will join “The League of Mild Inconvenience.”

Masshole 1 likes Dunkin’ Donuts, which isn’t all that surprising for a Masshole; however, Masshole 2 prefers Waffle House and insists that it is superior to all other regionally loved breakfast places with a penchant for serving a shit ton of coffee.

The End.