Race Report: Smithville

Turns out there are so many fun things to do, and so little time to write about them. So I have been slacking. BUT! In an attempt to make it better, I’m actually going to write THIS WEEK about something that happened LAST WEEKEND! Like, whoa. It’s gonna be short and sweet (until I forget that I am hilarious and need to fill you in on every anecdote and tangent…mmmmyes where was I?).

So, one week post-cedar cross, I was feeling pretty great about biking, and wound up chatting with Carrie Sona – a totally badass adventure and bike racer. I’ve been debating for a while the merits of a tow system for AR’s – something just feels like ‘cheating’ using one. But then, I take a look at teams that win. Guess what? They all tow. So now that it’s been cleared from my conscience, I decided I would be OK with towing… as long as I was the one doing the towing (hey, my ego has to fit in here somewhere, alright?). Luckily (back to the point) Carrie was super super friendly and offered to help me figure out a tow system that she and husband/also intense adventure racer Jeff had figured out over the years – SO generous! I may have just directly asked, because after a day of trying our own system, Caroline and I clearly needed a few more years’ experience to put together something that’d actually work.


Did I mention they’re badass? Picture scrounged from the internets of CHAMPIONS of the 2009 Bonk Hard Chill AR (for reference, the AR that crushed Justin and I a few months ago) and 2010 (here) 2nd place 4p coed. Carrie and Jeff on the right.

More than just offer advice… when I got there, they had a parts list all written out, then also loaned us the actual tow system they use. I got a quick lesson taking Carrie around the block (yeah, they’re the kind of people that make sure you know how to use a tow by rigging it up to one of their bikes and rolling around the neighborhood for a few minutes… all for some random girl that asked. It’s really nice to find some of the truly awesome people in this world). Confident that the tow would work, I rolled back to St. Louis, and soon enough it was Friday and Caroline and I were headed out I-70!

Random note: I just got a new phone, and took this awkward photo of my leg by accident. Don’t worry, it comes into play later in the story. But for now, this is all you get:


pretty nice leg, eh?

We spent the night in Kearney at a lovely hotel I had pricelined… with a king bed. Can you say snazzy? It was actually perfect – tons of space for bikes and last-minute fanagling, plus we were a legit arm’s distance from each other when sleeping. Truly pleasant.


Those are some niiiice bikes I see

Saturday we dropped our bikes a few miles from the start and got the tow all set up – a quick spin around the parking lot, and we were confident we would be able to figure it out. We then headed down to the actual race HQ to check in and get our first map (guessing, correctly, that it would require navigation up to the spot where we’d left the bikes). Check-in went super smooth – so smooth, we had tons of extra time to kill. I mainly spent this time with the age-old debate: pants or no pants? It was so hot… yet I was sure there was so much poison ivy (and ticks) waiting for me…


The pants made it to the start line… but were ditched a few minutes prior to the race. It was hot.

We also said hello to our car neighbors, Renee and (Matt? I’m terrible with names). I get a kick out of introducing my adventure race partners as partners. So I did. Both Caroline and Justin have now probably been confused with my life partner… which is funny.


Hey look, we match! Lookin good killin time before the race starts

Finally, it was go time and we lined up under the arch for a true Bonk Hard sendoff. We navigated probably 3ish miles for 4 checkpoints, heading mostly north, up to our bikes. Following team goals, the nav was pretty clean (yay! it’s definitely the thing that I’m still struggling with most), and we tried out a foot tow system of a bungee cord strapped to the back of my bag, going to Caroline’s belt. To our surprise, there were still quite a few bikes at the transition when we got there – we weren’t last!! We didn’t run, but still managed to keep up with a lot of teams that did… a huge success in my book.


Land nav #1 with our notes, folded to be visible. We were coming from race HQ at the bottom off the page. We followed mostly trails after discovering dense vegetation, but nailed the direct cut through the field btw checkpoints 2 and 3!

Now, for the real fun part – we were given the map of the first bike section at the start, so we knew exactly where we were going. AND, we had the tow. And, we crushed it. It was awesome. Nothing terribly spectacular, just a steady stream of passing and chasing down teams, sticking to our plan (even when some teams went a different route, which made me a little nervous). We ended up in front of them after the route changes – the plan worked! We were also doing a good job of eating food and drinking water.


crappy photo of bike leg 1. We picked up bikes at the 5/28 parking lot, then ran a bike CCW loop through paved and gravel roads. We ran into RD1 and company just north of 228 on HWY O.

Then, plans were derailed, or shall I say, totally abandoned, as we hit checkpoint 10 and were headed on the last bike stretch down to the paddle TA. Only about 1/2 mile past the check, we ran into a team going the opposite direction who had crashed… hard. When we showed up, racer dude 1 (we’ll call him RD1, the guy of a coed team) was still trapped under his bike, a pool of blood forming around his head on the pavement, moaning. I thought he was unconscious. We stopped immediately, and I tried to remember all of the EMT skills I’ve let slip (there’s a reason you have to renew those things fairly frequently…). The guys on team Barley and Hops had been next to them when they crashed, so they were helping analyze and fix the situation, and were immediately on the phone with Gary (race director) trying to get an ambulance out. All I could think of was to check RD1’s eyes – were his pupils equal?? He eventually caught his breath a little and we were able to pull him out of his bike, and rolled him veeery carefully on his back. His pupils were, in fact, equal and tracking, but he was WAY out of it. We generally rate people on their ‘alert and oriented’ status score of 4 things: person, place, time, and event. RD1 was a 0. He didn’t know his name (his partner did, luckily), where he was, what happened, or what day it was. He didn’t know he was married until he looked at his mangled hand (definitely dislocated a finger, if not sliced through some ligaments) and saw a wedding band. He also had some serious road rash… not to mention a huge gash on his face, which was the source of the puddle of blood. You could see on the road where he’d first hit and left some DNA, then skidded to his final position. One of the more serious accidents I’ve personally (nearly) witnessed.


It may have happened something like this. Except on the opposite site. And with heavier bikes.

The best we could really do was wait for him to calm down a bit. He kept trying to get up, but we finally convinced him that wasn’t gonna happen. While we were there he progressed from moaning to forming words, then his disbelief that he couldn’t remember his name, or the day. His helmet had a huge crush mark over the right temple – good thing he was wearing one, or he might have actually been fully knocked out by the plunge (shudder). Caroline and I stood around and held a space blanket for shade and contributed what we could, until finally some medical personnel arrived… about an hour later. While that meant our ‘race’ was delayed, it was totally worth it to make sure RD1 was OK (his partner had also crashed, but had relatively very minor injuries), and that an ambulance actually showed up. It’s also good to have a reality check every once in a while, that even on a pretty tame section of back-roads (pavement!), you can seriously hurt yourself. Mental note: always, always pay attention to the road, and be ready to react. And have a friend that can speak (and tell people your name and contacts) when you can’t. Shameless plug: RoadID. I gave in and got one a few years ago (the wristID slim – wear it all the time, so I never have the chance to forget it)… for just situations like this. Hope they never happen, but if they do, someone needs to be able to figure out who you are.


Photo just for fun – I’ve been really liking this map case. It’s small (~7×9 visible area), but big enough to have the sections of map you need available. Plus, the whole top velcros for relatively easy access 🙂

After that fiasco, we hopped back on bikes, Caroline back on tow, and up a BIG hill on hwy O. We hit the paddle TA and successfully tied our bikes down in canoes after a quick gear check (UTM, space blanket,whistle, cell phone), and were off paddling! It was windy, but we made it to CP 13, where we took bikes back OUT of canoes (ugh) and set them up on the banks. Here, I made a crucial mistake… I left the map case attached to my bike, instead of my person. I’d just been holding map 3 (for the canoe section) in my shorts (since it was waterproof) for the paddle. I realized my mistake about 1/2 way to the next point, but we decided to just see how it all worked out. I knew we wouldn’t need map 1 for the nav back to our (newly placed) bikes, but would we need anything else? Luckily, Caroline is super awesome and hat a UTM and sharpie in her bag. SO, SO lucky. Good thing my partner is awesome.


Caroline – she’s the best

We battled the wind for the rest of the paddle, and finally emerged at CP18 for the take-out, where more points were waiting for us. And, luckily, they all used map 3! Phew. We plotted them up quickly and refueled, then headed out for the second (harder) navigation section of the day. We quickly realized it was much more efficient to go the ‘long way’ around the banks of the lake than to try to cut through the brush – it was seriously thick and sticker-y. Just really, really hard to make progress. After picking up a few of the points, we did a reality check on time and decided to cut straight down (through an open field, thank goodness) to a road we saw on the map, and just grab the last biking points (I assured Caroline we’d get more bike points at the next transition, based on my knowledge so far of Bonk Hard events). We managed to snag one last trekking point just off the trail, then it was down to our bikes for a gleeful last section of MOVEMENT!


Map 3: paddle points pre-plotted in red, new UTM points (and re-visits to paddle points) in sharpie. Intended route marked… we ended up cutting directly south after point 16/24, and hit 26 on the walk back. Please ignore bearings, they are wrong (mostly). I figured my mistake, but didn’t want to waste too much time fixing it until it actually became an issue.

As we suspected, we were given more points to find by bike once we hit the same trailhead where we’d left our bikes that morning. Unfortunately, it had rained enough during the day that the singletrack sections of trail were closed, and we were forced to use only the paved paths. Bummer – I was really excited for the singletrack, knowing Caroline and I could crush these, particularly within the women’s category. But I totally respect taking care of trails when they’re susceptible to damage – I’d much rather come back some day and crush it when we won’t ruin anyone else’s day (or week, or month, whatever). Still, it was biking, and biking was miles and miles better than running, so we just grabbed the points we could and sang our way to the finish line.


Last bike section – singletrack in blue and green was off limits, so pavement (red) and gravel (gray) was it. A revisit to the first trek points, plus an extra or two.

We officially crossed the line at 9:28, winding up 24th overall (not too bad!) and leaving 4 points on the course. One day, we will clear a course together. Until then… we won the 2P Female division! Two teams had dropped, but we solidly beat the other lady team with both points and time – which was awesome. It was also great to see them, and other teams in general, during the course of the race. This was a VAST improvement from Berryman, where we’d settled into last place early and didn’t see another team for most of the day. Woohoo!

Final success – the split times came up, and if we hadn’t stopped to help the injured rider, we would have been at least 3rd OVERALL for that section. Fuck yeah. I know we’re pretty decent at the biking to begin with… but particularly after my experience at cedar cross, and Caroline on tow, we stepped it up. I’m gonna blame all the alpine shop juju in that tow. It must also be said that Caroline did a fantastic job – I think she rolled up most everything on her own anyways, the tow was just a nice way to make sure we were still together.

Parting shots: remember that random awkward photo from earlier? Here’s one from after the race. Again, sunscreen kids! Despite my best efforts (I put on sunscreen MULTIPLE times throughout the day) I got meeself burninated 😦



Thanks to Bonk Hard for another awesome race – definitely challenging, well-organized, and well-run (huge thanks to all the volunteers for keeping our bikes safe, providing us canoes and WATER! and generally looking out for everyone on the course). We’ll be back for that singletrack!

From ‘The Complete Package’ to you, happy adventures! (What do you think our team name means? I’d love to hear… 😉 )


(give up? you can find the answer in Caroline’s blog, here)


3 thoughts on “Race Report: Smithville

  1. Pingback: Smithville 8 Hour | Eschcapades

  2. I would just like to clarify that an arms length away from each other is far apart for having to share a bed. We don’t normally like to sleep so close to one another, but if we have to share a bed, not being close enough to touch each when we roll over is a good thing.

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