Back to Back Monsters

More than a month ago I enlisted my Nemesis, Andy Peterson, to fill in Jason on my annual trek to the Monster Adventure Race in Quincy, IL.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from him, but I knew he was strong on the bike and run.  Andy also possessed great mountain bike skills and strength. 

Monster Dan

I didn’t really communicate much with Andy leading up to the race.  I knew he would continue to train and be ready on race day.  This would be Andy’s first adventure race, and it was up to me to coach him on the fine details.

It all started on Friday when I picked up Andy in the Jeep and we headed over to Quincy for the pre-race meeting and dinner.  We check in to our hotel in plenty of time to unpack our gear.  We were lucky to score a first floor room, which is a huge convenience when bringing in bikes and equipment. 

We then headed to the Monster Meeting at Tony’s Restaurant in downtown Quincy.  Over a hundred racers and support crew members were served a spaghetti dinner while watching a slide show of photos from last years event.  After dinner the meeting started.  They talked about some of the changes in the course and how wet and muddy it was.  People asked last minute questions, and they responded the best they could without giving too much away.  Part of the “adventure” of the Monster is the lack of information preceding the race.  All the important details are handed out the morning of the race.

After the meeting we headed back to the hotel to prepare.  We put our equipment and plan together.  We  filled up our 70oz camelbaks, pinned our number on our jerseys and then got some shut-eye.  The alarm was set for 5:15.

The morning came in no time.   We got our things together and actually had time to spare.  The hallways were busy with other racer preparing.  We loaded the car and made it to the equipment check-in by 6:30. 

Mountain bikes, check, helmet, check, 70oz water, check, first aid kit, check, compass, check, whistle, check.  And those were just the mandatory pieces of equipment.  We also had our giant camelbaks holding food, running shoes, hats, glasses, socks, pens, paper, maps and instructions.

We placed everything else we might need in the transition area.  Just some extra food, water, socks, and shoes. We headed to back to the Jeep to look over the maps and instructions.  The map showed us covering most of Quincy, or at least it look like it.  The main transition area was pretty useless, seeing we did not come back to it until the last stretch of the race.

Monster Passport

A passport punch card is supplied as part of the race materials.  This is one of the most important things you carry all day.  The card has several “check points” listed on it.  Each of these check points are locations throughout the course.  Most of these check points are un-manned, with a special hole punch for marking your card.  Each punch is a different series of holes or shapes.  This assures you made it to each check point.  At the end of the race, you must turn in your card to be approved.  Any missed check points result in time penalties.

The map is of equal importance.  You need to know where you are going.  You are screwed if you don’t have it.

We lined up at the start line on our bikes.  The first check point was at a location called the “Wilderness” or Goehl Property.  It was about 6 miles away.  We would take regular city/county roads to the location.  Roads and intersections are not closed or manned by officers like a running or cycing race, so your best judgement must be used when going through stop lights or signs.  The map has a route to each location, but as part of the “adventure” it is only a suggested route.  It really doesn’t matter how you get from point A to point B, just as long as you get there on your own.

The race started, but with a slight detour.  everyone had to put down their bikes and run down hill a good 400 yards to a nearby baseball diamond.  The backstop fence was covered in tags, with a code word and our team numbers.  We had to find our team number, store the tag for later use and run back to the bikes.   Andy found our tag, after I overlooked it.  We ran back and hopped on our bikes along side many other teams.

We were grouped until, we took the first wrong turn.  Several other followed us.  In a slight panic, I looked at the map while riding.  We would not be taking the “suggested” route to the first check point.  The route did not look any longer, and using a few different roads, we would make it to the Wilderness with no problem.  I think this may have been an advantage for us.  We are both pretty strong on the bike and were able to keep our own pace without anyone else sucking our wheels.  The last road to the Wilderness, we pulled out and look back we could see most of the group in the distance.  We had put a huge gap in the field.

Monster Map

We arrived at the Wilderness transition area.  We dropped our bikes, took off our helmets, camelbaks, and changed into our running shoes.  The trail run started with by crossing a small stream and heading up a hill.  We had another two person team and a soloist on our heals.  Andy took the lead on the trail.  It wasn’t soon before we dropped the other two person team, but the young soloist was holding tight.  Andy had a pretty good pace going.  While running we dodged several spider webs, thorn bushes and ruts.

We eventually made it to a creek/river crossing  The water was flowing rather well.  (Quincy had gotten 8 inches of rain the previous week.)   There was no chance of staying dry, the water was knee to waist deep.  We made it across with some excitement.  That was just plain fun!

The other side of the creek was not so much fun though.  Sand dunes and weeds plagued the route.  My legs were being ripped to shreds.  About 4 miles later the weeds and timber eventually opened back up to the transition area.  It was time to get back on the mountain bikes and do a similar loop.

The soloist dropped us at the transition, and we would not see him again until later in the loop.  The course was tough enough running, it was even tougher on the bikes.  We did a couple more river passes and had to carry our bikes across.  One time while crossing, I looked back at Andy, he took one step in and his foot sunk in the mud all the way too his need.   I kind of chuckled.   The conditions were tough.

We made it to the fire road section of the loop.  Looking ahead we saw soloist coming our way.  He wasn’t sure were he was going.  He got on our wheels.  We then got back on the road and headed towards a huge hill.  We are talking granny gear here.   One plus is that this was a paved road, but steep.  Andy and I were spinning like crazy to make it up the hill.  I looked back and soloist was walking with his bike.  He was able to keep up till the top and I think this is where we lost him.

We punched our passport at several check points during the wilderness section, and now we needed to head across town.  We took another couple detours from the map.  Our route just seemed shorter, around 7 mile.  The next test was kayaking.

We made it to the next park and got off the bikes and put on our running shoes.  We grabbed a kayak, paddles and life vest.   We put our kayak in the water and we were off.  We needed to find 4 more check points on the water.  There were several steaks in the pond with punches strung to them,  But only 4 punches would match the shapes on your passport.  A butterfly, a heart, a diamond, and a star.  We paddled to every point finding all but one of our punches. 

We didn’t know how we could have missed it?  We did the entire loop again.  Where the hell was it?   Then we made it back to the far side of the pond.  There was a small inlet.  One of the volunteers was siting in a kayak, blocking the entrance the first time around.  But the second time around, she had moved.  We found the hidden punch.  After wasting a good 10 minutes.  We headed back to the dock and returned the kayak.    We then completed 3 small obstacles and headed to the next location 3 miles away. 

Monster Run

The Veterans Home was where our 2 mile road run would begin.  We didn’t see any signs.  We pass a young volunteer at the entrance and asked him where the check point was.  He pointed us down the road. (The map said it was at the entrance.)  We went down the road, to find nothing.  We headed back.  Asking the kid where it was.  I then saw he was holding the punch.  I could have killed him!  We punched our passport, dropped our bikes and headed out on the run.  It was 1.1miles to the check point. We navigated our map the as best as possible.  Somewhere on the run we stopped and took a leak.  We made it through the veterans campus and headed to the cemetery.  Weaving our way up the hills we made it to the check point and headed back.  On the way back in we close to the finish of this leg, we crossed the second place team.  We had a 2 mile lead, so roughly 16 to 20 minutes.

We now had only 3 miles back to the original transition area.  The home stretch!  

Back at the transition, we dropped our gear, changed shoes again and headed to the sandbag carry.  We grabbed empty sandbags and filled them with our bare hands.  Guestimated the weight of 40# and took them 100 yards away to be weighed.  We both had around 48# in our bags.  The great thing about going over is you don’t have to go back to the sand pile to get more sand.  We went half the distance and emptied some of the sand in a trailer.  Then headed back to the weigh station.  Both of us ended up with 41#, perfect.  We started our 2+ hike with the bags on our shoulders.  Through a creek, up a hill and over some grassy terrain.  We hit every check point and made our way back in. 

On to the 3 final obstacles.  The ladder carry was not tough, but draining.  Basically we went to our check point and they had Tags with codewords on them, up in a tree.  We had to run at least 400 yards with a good size hill in it to get the ladder at another location.  Then run the ladder back, climb up the tree, find our tag, run the ladder back, then run back to the check point with our tag to get punched.  We easily put in a good mile on this obstacle.

The next two obstacles were much easier.  A bucket drop, and a rope crossing.  No running involved. Once completed we only had to complete the final mile run around the park.  It really felt more like a victory lap.   We congratulated each other and crossed the finish line breaking the tape with our arms raised.  5 hours and 9 minutes (and some change).

We were awarded our first place medals immediately and presented with a check for $150 (our entry fee).  There was no waiting around for an awards ceremony, seeing it could be several hours before the last team finishes.

Andy and I cleared the transition area and packed up the Jeep.  Food was the next priority.  The free meal afterwards hit the spot.  A huge hamburger, chips and a Diet Pepsi.

Andy Peterson Monster Adventure

We then headed to the Jeep.  Cracked open a RedHook Long Hammer and watched some of the racers walk by with sandbags.  My third year at the Monster, my second victory with a different teammate.  I told Andy we will probably need to do a three person team next year with Jason.  I would not want Andy on an opposing team, he was way too strong.  Thanks Andy for a great race!

Did that sound like fun?  Are you ready for next years Monster?