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

Monday, October 25, 2010

Berryman Trail Epic Mountain Bike Race

This race was physically the most demanding race I have ever done.  Robin, Chuck, Darrell, and I all rode together and were trying to get it done in eight hours.  We came in at 8:49 so we didn't quite make it but it was a great ride anyway.  The guy who won finished in about half the time it took us.  I can't imagine riding that fast up those hills.  Up the hills is where we lost most of our time.

Before the Race
I thought this was a 50mile race but as it turns out it was 56+miles.  I didn't figure this out until late in the race when I was starting to countdown the miles left to go and Robin's total was significantly different than mine.  Sure I was using the computer on my bike and she was using her Garmin (brought to her by the awesome wellness program at Boeing, it wasn't free, but all I get from my wellness program at work is a stupid water bottle and a cooler), but she couldn't have been that far off.  Note to the reader:  GPS systems are great but when you are out in the woods running or riding they will measure your total distance a little short because they don't pick up all of the switchbacks.  Try it out for yourself if you don't believe me, but the wheel doesn't lie.  I think I dealt with the race extension reasonably well.  It's not like I could stop at 50 and be done.  No matter what I was going to have to ride back to the finish.

The start of the race was pretty sketchy, a loud explosion that pretty much came without warning, then on the first turn someone pretty much stopped right in front of me when their chain came off.  So not 100feet into the race I almost went down.  I hoped this was not a sign of things to come.  Riding out of Bass River Resort we took one of the roads that we used in the Berryman 36hour.  Back then I described it thusly "Heading out of Bass it seemed like there was a never ending climb not too steep just up forever and it also seemed like the down was not proportional to the up.  I just sucked it up and dropped to a lower gear to spin my way to the top."  The only difference being between then and now fresh gravel had been put down.  Traction wasn't too bad but I was definitely glad we were going up instead of down (<-- foreshadowing).  

I can't imagine how they do it!

We climbed and climbed and ate a lot of dust, literally.  The forecast had been calling for rain, serious heavy rain complete with thunderstorms.  We were expecting to get wet not dusty.  Dust was the theme of the day though.  There were times on the single track that the guys in front of me kicked up so much dust that the fine details of the trail were obscured and I wasn't even following that close.
The single track was great and the first two sections were really fun.  I did have a flat which pierced my sidewall, and a minor crash, but that couldn't dampen my spirits.  I was also still in the comfort zone of a distance I had ridden before.

The flat I changed pretty fast in fact I changed it so fast I surprised my self, maybe it was too fast (<-- foreshadowing).  In the course of changing the flat I set my pump down next to my bike to be sure not to forget it.  Guess what, I forgot it.  I should have known better.  Putting something somewhere specifically so you won't forget it is a sure fire way to forget it.  How many times have you put something in a place so it won't get lost then when you need it all you can remember is that you put it somewhere where it wouldn't get lost?  This is the same concept.  I hope someone finds it and get years of good use out of it.

Trek Down...
The crash was going uphill so I wasn't moving very fast, and thankfully it was on my right side.  It made for a good photo op though.

We arrived at the Berryman campground which was one of the race checkpoints and the bag drop.  Some of the faster riders were coming in from the second loop.  Imagine the course like a figure 8 with the campground in the middle.  I noticed that they all looked really clean.  We were all filthy from the trail dust.  I wished I was clean.  We grabbed our bags and some food, refilled our liquids and headed back out on the trail.

I had been warned that this third section was full of really steep climbs.  I knew it was going to be bad but first we got to ride one of my all time favorite sections of the Ozark Trail.  It's not that long but it is mostly down hill and just has a nice flow to it, which I believe is pretty close to how I described it from the Berryman 36hour.  We ended that section of trail and crossed Hwy 8.  I was starting to remember this section from the first time I ever came to Berryman.  I was with my nephew and we made a wrong turn and ended up on the OT instead of the BT.  In our defense the sign-age wasn't as clear then as it is now.  Like I was saying I was starting to remember, and what I remembered was the monster hills.

The hills were no joke.  The first one we came to I feigned an attempt to ride up, got off and walked, I figured the sooner I got off and walked the less likely I would be to tip over and slide back down.  The word steep really doesn't convey my meaning effectively.  It wasn't near vertical by any means but anyone who knows me knows that I am all about going down.  Going up is a weakness of mine that was about to get exposed.  I did a lot of walking and really slow riding in this section.  When my calves started burning too bad from walking I would ride, and when I came to a particularly steep or technical section I would walk.  These were the rules by which I lived during this section.  I felt bad for holding everyone back but my legs just did not have it in them to do any more.  I caught up with the group and told them they didn't have to wait for me but they were in agreement  that no one would be left behind.  I was not happy with this decision and thought about refusing to move forcing them to go on a head.  But in the end I realized that if it had been one of them whose legs were about to explode I would have said and done the same thing.  I also thought of some advice I read about the MR340.  'stay in your boat as much as possible.  Time on land is wasted time, if you need to rest do it in the boat.  The river moves along at 3.5MPH so if you rest and don't paddle for an hour you are 3.5miles farther than you would have been had you rested on land.'  I took this advice and figured as long as I was moving no matter how slow I was closer to the finish than if I had stopped.  I also thought of the best advice anyone has ever given me "never make a decision on an up hill".  I was hurting pretty bad, and the gremlins were working their way into my head wanting me to give up, but I've heard their siren song before and it would be a lot more tempting if they offered a ride back to the finish.  I kept on moving slowly but always forward.

I caught up to the group again and I kept on riding past them into a short downhill section.  I was trying to rally and didn't want to stop.  I was having so much fun with the hops and jumps in this section that I got a pinch flat.  I had been wondering for quite few miles if I had put in enough air when I changed it previously, and as it turned out I didn't.  I was not too happy about having to fix it but I was happy about getting to rest for a while.  I told Beth on the way home that it was the pinch flat that saved the race.  It took me forever to change too, not because I was milking it but because this time nothing was going my way.  The whole tire came off the rim and as I was trying to get one side on in preparation for the new tube the part I had put on would just come off again at the bottom.  So there I am sitting there turning the wheel around and around like an idiot.  Finally I got it on and pumped up.  Darrell asked if I wanted him to pump some,  and I figured since I didn't put enough in last time more wouldn't hurt.  I also came to the realization that I need to ride at higher pressure than my friends because my riding style is different than theirs.  I like to get a little air now and then and they like to keep the wheels on the ground.

After the rest I felt a little better but we still had quite a way to go.  Finally Finally Finally we made it to the gravel road that would take us back to the campground.  There would still be hills but hills on flat predictable terrain at this point were a godsend.  There were some downhills too, one of which was on a paved section leading down to Hwy8.  We flew down that hill reaching speeds of 35MPH maybe faster I was trying to focus more on the road than checking my speed.  

When we got to the bottom we crossed the road and prepared ourselves for the long climb up to the campground.  I was feeling a lot better by this time but it was not a surprise to notice everyone spinning so "easily" up the hill while I was really having to put a lot of effort into it.  Instead of spinning my way to the top I was having to pedal hard.  After a while of wishing I had more gears I looked down and saw that I was on my middle chain ring.  Wishes do come true!  I shifted into the small chain ring and everything was fine.

I dropped my shorts into my drop bag.
We made it to the top and much like before we handled our business and rolled out knowing we were on the home stretch.  This last section of trail was like the greatest hits, it had everything tough winding climbs, creek crossings (mostly dry), fast downhills, rocks, roots, fast rolling sections in the bottoms.  I mean it this section was like a smaller version of the entire course, and it was fun.  Robin had been having some stomach issues and now her legs were starting to cramp on the steep sections.  I hung back to make sure she didn't have any more serious problems, which allowed Chuck and Darrell to go on ahead a little faster.  At one point Chuck pulled to the side and told me to take a turn chasing after Darrell.  We were in a fast downhill that ended in a rolling bottom section.  Darrell and I were killing it flying over the terrain.  I don't think I have ever gone that fast on single track.  That section was a real high light of the ride.  We regrouped at a wide ATV trail that would take us to the gravel road leading to the finish.  It did not take us long to regroup Chuck and Robin must have been flying too.

About 100 yards from the finish!
We rode up the ATV trail and got on the gravel road where we were assaulted by dust from a group of ATV riders.  Not really their fault mostly bad timing that we ended up on the road together at the same time.  However they did pass us then pull over for whatever reason and then pass us again.  Some of them were apologetic about the dust they were stirring up.  I figured there was nothing we could do about it, plus we were close to the finish, and soon it wouldn't matter.  After a while the road turned downhill for the final time and yes it was the same road we climbed at the start.  I am still nervous about thick gravel combined with high speed.  I let off the brakes and let her rip any way because you can't conquer a fear without facing it.  I was white knuckling it the whole way down.  As the road turned I went wide and ended up in the center of the road where there were some deep grooves these almost shook my eyeballs right out of my head I have no idea how I didn't crash.  I didn't though and now we were at the bottom.  Nothing left but a short ride around the backside of Bass to the finish.  As we rode up I saw Beth taking a picture with her phone.  I stopped and gave her a kiss as is the custom when she suffers through a long race like this, and hauled ass to catch up so we could all finish together.

Everyone clapped and cheered for us as we came into the finish and there were a lot of people there partying, drinking beer, eating food, listening to the band, and just having an all around good time.  We were filthy and I felt a little weird about it since most people were already cleaned up so I went and showered while the rest of the group ate.  That shower was the best $.50 I ever spent.  

This was a truly awesome race! I don't know if I will be able to do it next year but I will do it again.

Berryman 36hour Adventure Race Epilogue

Get ready for another Berryman post.  This one promises to be a disjointed hodge podge of random things that occurred to me but didn't make it into the official report, but was worth mentioning.  I also copied some of the messages we received from people tracking our progress on the internet.  So here goes.

I would be remiss if I failed to give a huge thank you to our sponsors without whom this race wouldn't have been possible, for me anyway.  
Rich and the VFW Post 2482 out of St. Clair Missouri whose generous donation was greatly appreciated by everyone on the team.
Jason at the Bird's Nest Lodge was also very generous with his donation and also in offering us whatever support we needed to help us out.  "Whatever support" almost became taking my place on the team because of the knee problems I was experiencing leading up to the race.  If you are ever going to float the upper Meramec River, Camp, or just take some time to get away from it all give the Bird's Nest Lodge a try.
Although not really a sponsor I should mention that if you like BBQ you should try Pappy's Smokehouse but get there early because this place is popular and for good reason I am told.  
Seriously though the team and I are grateful for the help that we were afforded to make this race happen and without the support of our sponsors we couldn't have done it.  There were times when we were feeling down and out questioning if we would be able to finish, just knowing there were people out there that believed in us and what we were doing was enough to pick us up and keep us moving forward.  So again from Team POW/MIA we thank you for your support.

Our packs were heavy- not sure how heavy but holy crap!  It was some comfort to find out that Ryan's was as heavy as mine.

I brought way too much food.  In fact over two times more than I needed.  I ate a lot.  My teammates frequently exclaimed "I can't believe you are eating AGAIN!"
Things I Ate:

  • Honey Stinger gels ,bars and energy chews
  • Rokit Fuel
  • Nature Valley chewy granola bars
  • Pizza
  • Cream of potato soup (from the can)
  • A tube of Sweet/Tarts gel
  • Wavy lays
  • A ProBar I found on the ground
  • and a whole lot more but you get the idea

We sang quite a few songs.  Ramblin' Man by the Allman Brothers was #1 on the POW/MIA charts mostly because it was still fresh in our heads from the practice on the Berryman trail, and our paddling practice.

Southern MO is where old school buses go to die.  Up north in the "citified" parts we keep our stuff in sheds, but down in the rural areas it seems when you have something to store you round up an old school bus and throw your crap into it.  One of the weirdest things I saw was not the school bus FULL of toilets, which was weird enough on its own.  The weirdest part was the lone toilet sitting outside on the ground.  There was room in the bus for it so why was it on the ground and not in the bus with its toilet kin.

The bathrooms at the Bass campground were actual bathrooms with real flush toilets, not the pit type I expected.

After we finished I was wired.  If someone would have asked me to run a 10k it most likely would have been a PR.

On the drive home I crashed (in the sleeping sense, not the driving) so hard I didn't wake up until we were approaching the Poplar street bridge.

At the beginning of the race we all sang the National Anthem.  I may have mentioned this before but it is more patriotic that way, and in my opinion far better than standing around listening to someone else sing.

Mark brought some pizza with him and shared it with us.  It was quite tasty once the dead animal flesh was removed from it.

After Ryan's crash we spooked some horses.  I was really worried that they were going to go into a full on equine freak out.  I now know what the term "wild eyed" means.

Getting messages from a volunteer

And now as promised some of the messages from our followers:

POW/MIA, keep it up, even if you are chumps Rrongey
Keep going POW/MIA ! You are almost there  ROCK Racing
See you in a few, POW/MIAers!! Lookin good, keep on going! Bring you some dry clothes and a power bar or two for lunch :) Congrats, almost there...!  Lauren Hum
Good progress, POW/MIA! Keep it up!  Kate
Good job POW/MIA!!!! Go, go, go!!!!  Ann
Go POW/MIA!!  Kate
Thinking of POW/MIA and sending them all my energy! Wish I was with you guys today! Keep up the good work.  Stacey
great job pow/mia!  Kat
Let's go POW/MIA!!! Keep it up!! Rootin for ya!  Lauren Hum
Come on POW/MIA!!!!  Ann Lauridsen
Team POW/MIA: Made it through the water. Keep going!  Paula
GOOD LUCK TEAM POW/MIA!!! big brother is watching.  Gravitymeatball

Thanks everyone for the support.
I don't know what is next on the horizon for the team but I'll bet it will be awesome!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Master Plan 2011

Berryman 50

Run to Pere Marquette

Missouri River 340

Katy Trail Ride

Ozark Trail 100

There it is the Master Plan for 2011.

Most likely there will be some other events thrown in as well but these events represent the framework of a a very ambitious year.  Currently all systems are GO, and I will be ramping up my mileage in a safe and responsible manner in an effort to avoid injuries.

Wish me luck...or even better feel free to join me for one or all of the above.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Berryman 36hour Adventure Race Slide Show

Berryman 36hour Adventure Race Chapter 2

Sorry for the delay on this chapter but I have other things in my life that need attention also.  I got the maps from Ryan and Looking at them really puts the race in perspective, and also brings back some memories.
So, when we left off last time we had just filled our bellies with food back at our camp site and were headed back out on our bikes.  I should say that most of the riding we did was on gravel roads, which was good since as a team riding technical trails is not a strength.  Our destination was the YMCA Trout Lodge but there were a few CP's along the way.

Heading out of Bass it seemed like there was a never ending climb not too steep just up forever and it also seemed like the down was not proportional to the up.  I just sucked it up and dropped to a lower gear to spin my way to the top.  Megan was in the second chain ring which was killing me.  Mark and Ryan adopted the strategy of walking up the hills which was surprisingly effective since they can walk really fast.

We rode about 9-10 miles to the next CP which was on the Berryman Trail.  This was only a short section of trail so I guessed everything would be alright.  I took the lead heading into the trail, and I was really enjoying the ride.  I was enjoying it so much that we missed the CP and had to go back for it.  Berryman does not have the best flow of the trails I have ridden in fact Mark calls it Ol' Rocks and Roots  but I got into a rhythm and was just enjoying the ride.

I must mention that some time around this point Mark's knees were starting to give him trouble.  It wasn't that noticeable at first but Megan and I noticed that he was walking a little stiff legged.  He said he would be OK which is what I would have said right up until the point where I could not walk another step.  I was worried about him doing real damage to his knees but also knew that he was the only one who would know when it was time to quit.

After the short section of trail it was time to get back on the gravel road but only for about a mile or so.  We came to an intersection and were faced with a choice, go around to the trail head which was out of our way or head straight into the woods for a little Bike Whacking (Bush Whacking with bikes).  The decision was actually very simple, the woods were very open which made for easy (easy?) riding, and it did save us some time.  We came out of the woods onto the trail very near the CP.  It seemed like everything was going our way.  Sure we weren't very fast, and yes we had a couple of problems, but it just seemed like we were knocking this race out pretty smoothly.  Mark kept telling us that slow and steady wins the race.  To me that sounds like something a slow and steady person would say.

Back on the trail we weren't having as easy of a time as we did on the previous section.  This time Mark was first followed by Ryan, then Megan, and I brought up the rear.  Let me say that our team did not spend enough time training on single track before the race.  Ryan was looking a little unsteady on the trails and when they got more technical I was a little worried.  This is how bad ass our team is, Ryan was riding along thinking that this race was too easy.  So far he had really yet to struggle so he decided a mountain bike crash was the way to level the playing field (I can only speculate as to what prompted the decision to crash), and he did it in grand fashion.  Ahead of us on the trail was an obstacle consisting of a big rock on the right and a big rock on the left.  Ideally a person would ride in between them.  Ryan hit the rock on the right which deflected his tire into the rock on the left which in turn stopped him cold and sent him right over the handle bars.  It truly was a spectacular crash.  He landed on the downside of the slope and it was lucky that it wasn't very steep, and he stayed pretty much right where he landed.  Megan and I told him not to get up right away just so he could take a second to check himself out and assess his injuries.  He seemed to OK except for his knee which was pretty banged up.  He told us that he would be able to continue but I knew he was hopped up on adrenalin, and once that wore off he might find out that he was worse off than he thought.  The knee problems were a big setback for both Mark and Ryan but they both took it stride (kind of a limpy stiff legged stride but in stride nonetheless).  Neither one complained about the pain they were feeling they just kept moving forward, there was still a lot of race left at this point.

We finished the rest of the trail section without incident.  There was a huge fallen tree crossing the trail that we had to climb over which I am sure was a lot fun for Ryan and Mark.  Once we reached the gravel roads again   it was pretty smooth sailing and I was grateful that we didn't have to do those trail sections in the dark.  We saw a couple of other teams during this section too which bolstered our spirits.  Just finishing this race was our goal but it was nice to see other teams were moving at around the same pace we were.  As we rode the 6miles to the next CP it was starting to get dark very quickly and some of the downhill sections of the road were getting a little sketchy in the low light.  I have to admit that after my crash in the gravel at Tour de Donut, the same crash that my wrist is still recovering from 3months later I was a little nervous flying down those gravel roads.  Our top speed, that I saw on my cyclocomputer?  30mph, not fun if you crash, in comparison I was only doing around 20mph at Tour de Donut.  Eventually I turned on my bike light, and was able to throw enough light onto the road for about 8 riders.  The battery is reported to last 12.5hours but I have never tested that and was trying to conserve battery life since I didn't know what was ahead.  On the uphills since we were moving so slow I either turned it off or switched it to low power.  I have since had a chance to use it on single track and it works like a charm, one of the best purchases I have made.

Eventually we made it to the next CP, which was off the road on a side trail.  The Marines were there punching their passport making it easier for us to find.  Now we were back on the gravel road and making good time.  We rode about 3miles to the hard ball road that we would have to take in order to reach the YMCA Trout Lodge.  It was only a short section of road but it was dark and there was no shoulder.  I was worried about the cars but we were all pretty careful to stay as far to the right as we could.  We rode by an entrance to the Lodge area but thought that there was another entrance farther up the road.  Our team took the lead going up the long steep climb eventually I turned around and the two other teams that were with us had silently turned around and headed back to the entrance we had previously left.  We decided that we would do the same.  It didn't take us long to make it back going down the hill.  By now it was almost 10pm and my butt was seriously chaffed from the under wear situation I had going on (why I didn't slip off on a side trail and fix the problem escapes explanation).  When we reached the bike drop I was 100% ready to not be on that saddle.

The next section was going to be a trekking section.  We took some time at the bike drop to eat and rest a few minutes.  We received some more messages from the internet, and the volunteers told us there were teams that had dropped out.  I was glad to hear this, but only because it meant that we were doing better than we thought.  The course had forced people to quit but we were still going strong (strong?).  I don't know why the other teams had to drop hopefully it wasn't because of injuries.  In my mind at the time I guessed it was because they weren't as strong as we were (strong?).

We headed off to the first CP of this trekking section which was a mystery event.  Eventually we left the paved road and our path lead us throw some wood chips that were below a zip line.  We figured that was what the mystery event was going to be, and pondered whether zip lining in the dark was a good idea.  As it turned out the zip line was not our event, it was the event for the 12hour race though, my friend Robin from ROCK Racing went down it and she probably had her eyes closed the whole time so it must have been very similar to doing it in the dark.  Our event was the Alpine Tower, a 50foot tower constructed in an hourglass shape with various types of handholds, ropes, logs, well just look at the picture and you will get the idea.  When they first told us that we would have to climb it I thought "You must me out of your damn mind".  Then I realized that we would be in harnesses with ropes and experienced belayers, DUH!  Once I realized that we would be safe I was a bit more agreeable.  It was dark but they had 500watt work lights pointing up at the thing which helped and hindered.  Megan said she was not good with heights but she was the first one of us to the top.  Maybe she just wanted to get it over with.  I was nervous about how my wrist would hold up, it was feeling OK in the brace but I wasn't sure how it would react to climbing up the tower.  I needn't have worried because everything went fine, except for the time I was peeking around the log while Megan was going up and I looked directly into one of the lights.  Being blinded while 30feet in the air is not cool no matter how look at it.  Eventually I made it very near to the top, reached out to a rope ladder and made a leap of faith.  Once on the rope ladder my legs were sticking under the top platform and I could not figure out how to get to the top.  I kept trying and eventually made it, before being lowered to the ground.  Ryan made it to the top shortly after I did and then Mark was soon to follow.  We all did great and all of the volunteers were impressed with how well we were doing since this was our first race.  All of the volunteers at this race were awesome.  They must get some sort of special class on how to lift spirits, because they always knew what to say, and more importantly what not to say.  Looking back on the tower I think two things, the time penalty for not doing it was shorter than it took us to complete it, and I am glad we did it because it was one of the highlights of the race.  Being confronted with huge tower in the dark and climbing to the top together as a team was really great, an apt metaphor for the race itself.  Now that we were done with the tower we were off to find the rest of the trekking points.

It was getting late and we were pretty tired with a full day of activity behind us.  Normally I would have been in bed by this time (I have no trouble waking up early but as a result I cannot stay up very late).  I don't think we were so tired that we were thinking about sleep at this point, at least I know that I wasn't but the days events were starting to show their effect on the team.  We walked for a long time and found another CP then began the descent into despair.  Ryan and Mark were doing their best to plot a course to the CP's but it seemed like they just weren't out there.  We looked and looked and then looked some more but we just couldn't find them.  It was very depressing because up until this point we had been doing so well.  As previously mentioned we weren't very fast but we were progressing at steady rate.  Now the whole world had come crashing down around us, and if that seems a bit overly dramatic you try racing for that long.  As long as we were finding check points the race was moving forward and we were getting closer to the finish.  Once we were no longer finding them the race went into a stall with no end in sight other than the 36hour cut off time that would result in a DNF.  This is why things were so depressing.  Also we were out there in the dead of night (OK that was a bit dramatic), and it was starting to rain.  There were so many times when we thought we knew exactly where we were, and headed off to find a CP only to come to the realization that we probably weren't where we thought we were.  This section of the race continues to haunt us even today (more dramatic than the dead of night).  At one point Mark was leading us down this road (road is generous label, overgrown 4 wheeler trail might be more accurate) that he was so sure was the right way to go we were all so defeated that we wanted to believe it too.  Eventually Megan spoke up as the voice of reason declaring that this was not the road he thought it was and we turned around and headed back the way we came.  We were defeated.  We walked around in those woods, up and down trails, bush whacking through dense brush, around and around, for 8hours.  We decided to make one last attempt at a CP we hadn't looked for yet.  I was certain that if we found one it would break the spell that had been cast over us and our spirits would be lifted to carry on.  The point we were searching for was an overlook, should be easy to find right?  Shut up! because it was not easy to find (for us anyway).  We thought we had found it because there were some benches on a high point "overlooking" the lake.  We searched the area very thoroughly and found nothing.  I walked down to the edge of the water the were some rocks and a short drop to the water.  I was standing on the edge (seriously inches from the edge) of those rocks looking back up to the "overlook" and obviously did not see anything.  I turned and shined my light onto the water and realized that I was actually about 30feet up from the water.  I was so tired I was unable to be properly frightened.  I am not afraid of heights but I don't usually just stroll carefree up the edge either.  We were exhausted.  It was hard for me to keep track of what our plan was at this point because every time we stopped moving I would fall asleep, and several times while we were walking I fell asleep.  We decided to head back to the bike drop to tell them we were giving up.  It seemed like the longest walk ever almost like the bike drop was moving away from us.  We were utterly defeated and my chaffing problem had not gone away.  I hate to keep coming back to that but it was such a huge part of my experience that to leave it out would belittle the suffering and hardship that I was going through.  I was also having some intestinal issues that were causing a build up of excess gases in my lower GI tract that frequently had to be released in order to maintain a proper pressure relationship with the outside world (and that is the last I will mention on that topic).

Finally we reached the bike drop.  By this time it had quit raining which was the only positive.  We walked up to the tent where the volunteers were and...ZzzzZzzz.  Once we stop in at there tent I was locked in an epic battle stay conscious.  I thought the plan was to drop from the race, and it was very likely was given our state of mind.  The volunteers told us to get some rest and then see how we felt.  I cannot say enough good things about the volunteers at this race.  After giving us our maps for the next section they told us that we could go crash in the lobby of the lodge and in fact there were some other racers up there already.  The thing is we had walked past the lodge to get back to the bike drop and there was no way I was going to walk back.  It also seemed like it was a long way to walk and yes I am going there again, with my chaffing issues I wouldn't have walked 10feet farther than I had to.  I decided to sleep on the sidewalk.  The ground was wet and I didn't have the energy to dig out my waterproof pants.  It felt so good to lay down that I proclaimed that I now knew why homeless people sleep on the streets.  That was a terrible thing to say but when you are physically and mentally wiped out you say some pretty weird things.  Ryan slept on the side walk also while Mark used his emergency blanket and slept under a tree.  Megan, known as the "smart one" took off for the lodge.  As tired as I was it was quite a chore to actually fall asleep.  Finally sleep came only to be interrupted by the reason sleeping on a cold concrete slab is not a good idea.  I was freezing the concrete was sucking the heat out of my body.  When I could no longer take it I unceremoniously got up gathered my things and took off for the lodge.  It was a tough decision whether or not to tell Mark and Ryan that I was going, on one hand they seemed to be sleeping soundly but on the other Ryan was in the same situation that I was and Mark was on the wet ground so maybe they weren't sleeping as soundly as I thought.  Eventually I decided to leave them be, and I walked up to the lodge which was actually fairly close.  I am not sure what time it was but it was getting close to sunrise.  Megan was sleeping on a couch in the lower level and it took me a few minutes to find her.  I crashed on a couch across from here and didn't sleep very well because the morning cleaning crew were going in and out of a nearby door and they were speaking in hushed tones, probably about the crazy people asleep on their furniture.  I did however get some good sleep, that couch was so comfortable I could have stayed there all day.  At some point Ryan came in and slept on another couch.  There we were 3/4ths of team POW/MIA sleeping in the lower lobby of the YMCA Trout Lodge, not exactly how I pictured the race in my head but way more comfortable.

Just when I started sleeping soundly Mark found us and said "wake up Team POW/MIA.  We have a race to finish!".  Reluctantly we rose from our collective slumber and prepared to finish this race.  The next leg we knew would be a bike leg, and I have to say the very thought of getting back on my bike sent a chill down my spine.  It was now or never I absolutely had to take care of the chaffing once and for all.  While the rest of the team was going over the maps I grabbed my dirty clothes bag and a stick of Body Glide and went to find a bathroom. It was disappointing to learn the only bathroom was upstairs (it is impossible to effectively communicate how bad things had gotten).  I sucked it up and climbed the stairs to find many people in the lobby but luckily no one was in the bathroom.  I hopped in the stall, removed the offending under wear applied a liberal coating of Body Glide to sensitive areas got dressed and went back down stairs.  The relief was not immediate but it was getting better with every minute.  When I rejoined the team they had a plan in place that would get us to the finish line provided that we could ride to the canoe leg in time.  This was a real wild card with Mark and Ryan's knees causing them so much discomfort.  We had about 8hours of racing left before the cut off,and a very good chance at finishing.  In order to ensure that we would make it bake in time we omitted a few of the CP's on the bike leg and skipped the second mystery event.  The second mystery event sounded like fun the team had to build a raft and one person had to paddle it across the lake to get a CP.  Any other time I would have been all about doing it but it was chilly and there was no way I was going to risk falling into that water plus we just didn't have time to waste our goal was to constantly move toward the finish until we ran out of time or became finishers.  We checked in at the bike drop and told the volunteers that we were going to make a go of it.  They gave us some more messages from the internet and we headed off on the bikes.  Spoiler alert my chaffing problem eventually went away.

When we left the YMCA grounds we made a wrong turn (so much for constantly moving toward the finish).  We fairly quickly realized this and turned around and got on the right track.  Once we were headed in the right direction we made pretty good time considering Mark and Ryan's knee problems.  We found our next checkpoint on the entrance to power line trail.  We returned to the gravel road and continued on our way.  After a while we rode by some houses and up ahead we could see where the road ended with a gate across it with a big private property sign.  No sooner than we realized that we had made a wrong turn and needed to head back in the direction we came from than an irate older woman came out and was yelling at us about how this was her property and we needed to stay off of it.  Apparently we weren't the first team to make this mistake.  We did the only thing that we could do, apologize, explain our mistake, and turn around.  None of us were in the mood to get yelled at but we took it in stride and didn't let it dampen our mood.  We returned to power line trail and realized that we needed to follow the trail to the top where we would intersect with a gravel road.  We walked most of the way to the top again because of the injured knees but it was also a good thing because there were some VERY sharp and pointy rocks on this section of trail and I did not feel like dealing with a flat.  The last time I rode some pointy rocks I ended up with a punctured sidewall that was kept from bursting by a used Honey Stinger packet.  I was also thinking about our last visit to this area and all of our mechanical problems and how during the race we hadn't experienced any.  I wanted to mention it because normally I like to tempt fate in that way but this time I didn't dare because a mechanical failure at this point could mean not finishing, and if the others hadn't though of that yet I wasn't going to put the idea in their heads.

We made it to the top of the trail without any problems, it was slow going but we made it.  On the gravel road we continued our different methods from the day before, we all rode down fast and let our momentum carry us as far up the hill as possible then Megan and I switched to an easy gear and spun our way to the top while Mark and Ryan got off and limped their way up.  I have to hand it to those two for "playing through the pain".  My hat is off to them (I literally just removed my hat).  We found our next check point tied to a tree along the side of the road, punched our passport and moved on.  It was starting to look like we were going to have enough time to finish.  As I mentioned before this final bike leg was a real wild card because we did not know if Ryan and Mark would be able to ride, and if so how fast, so we had no way to guess how long it would take.  We also modified this section eliminating some points so we could have a more direct route to the canoes for the next leg.  We continued to ride for a few more miles, Megan and I up ahead with Ryan and Mark bringing up the rear.  We came upon the Berryman Campground, and I got all nostalgic thinking about the races that I have done there.  I was also thinking about the sweet downhill leading to highway 8.  We rode past the campground and waited for Mark and Ryan to catch up.  I forgot that we were not allowed to use that section of Hwy8 so we had to ride back through the campground and onto the Ozark Trail.  I wonder if Mark and Megan were having flashbacks from the last time we were out here?  I was excited because I remembered this section of trail from the first time I ever came to the Berryman trail in preparation for the 50mile Ultra.  I have wanted to ride this section for a while because it has a nice flow to it and it is mostly downhill.  I ducked in first followed by Megan then Ryan and Mark.  I was moving pretty fast because I was really enjoying myself (clearly a violation of the rules by not staying close to my team mates).  When I came to a tricky section I would slow down to alert the team and the shoot off again down the trail.  I was having a blast but all good things must come to an end, and before I knew it we were back out to Hwy8.  It was a good thing we went back and took the trail because this was a manned (or womanned CP in this case).  I am not sure what the penalty would have been but getting DQ'd at this point would have been a real kick in the P's.  The volunteers were glad to see us and had some mini candy bars to share with us (three musketeers and milky way, all the snickers were taken).  We took a moment before moving on and they took our picture.  It was only a mile and a half to the canoes, and we knew we had enough time to finish the race.  This was a real pick me up.  The difference between guessing there is enough time and knowing is substantial.

We said our goodbyes and gave our thanks to the volunteers and headed down the road to the river where our vessels awaited our arrival.  The ride to the canoes was short and easy, no tricky turns or anything like that, we could even see it from a long way away.  We could feel the finish line getting closer and closer.  As we rode in to the bike drop area the volunteers gave us a cheer and a congratulations.  All I could think about was grabbing the canoes and getting in the river, but first there was a gear check and more messages from the internet.  The gear check frustrated me a bit because I was so ready to move forward to the next leg.  I rifled through my bag and grabbed the gear showed it to the volunteer and shoved it bag in my bag.  Next on the agenda, a little bit of paddling.  This time we decided that I would pair up with Ryan while Megan and Mark paddled together.  I figured Ryan had the most experience so it would be better to have him in the back to steer.  I am a little heavier than Ryan so this configuration didn't work out so well and I was forced to move to the back.  I have never really steered a canoe before so I was a little nervous.  Most of my canoeing experience has been on lakes so steering is pretty easy, however this section of the river was like an obstacle course it seemed like we were constantly having to maneuver around one thing or another.  Luckily Mark knows what he is doing so I followed the lines that he chose the best that I could.  Some times it worked and some times it didn't.  The important thing was we were going to finish.  Eventually we came to a low water bridge and I thought we were going to have to portage across, until I saw Mark choose a line headed directly toward it.  Megan ducked down then Mark and they were through to the other side.  Ryan and I were not as graceful going through but we made it.  I felt the need to get down to the bottom of the canoe instantly soaking the chamois in my cycling shorts (go ahead and laugh, I thought it was funny too).  We had about an inch of clearance between the top of the canoe and the bottom of the bridge, it couldn't have been much closer.  There was a truck on the road waiting to cross the bridge, the driver was probably thinking we were crazy.  Finally we made it to the CP on the river.  The volunteers there were great and we lingered for a while talking to them.  One of them told Megan that there were baked potatoes at the finish.  Baked potatoes sounded excellent!  It was time to finish this race and eat a potato.  We had 5 miles left to go and we had plenty of time so we were taking it kind of easy.  An all out sprint finish in a race like this is kind of a waste (unless there is another team chasing you).  As we went around a bend in the river Mark told us to look behind.  There was another team and they had kayak paddles which meant they were faster.  We decided to dig in, we did not want them to beat us.  We paddled hard but they were steadily gaining on us.  Then we saw it.  The campground was on our right which meant the take out was coming up fast and there was not enough river left for the team behind us to catch up.  We beached our canoes and I punched our passport.  It was faster for us to run across the waist deep water in the river than to run around so into the water we went.  An added bonus of this move was that our camp site was right there so when we came up the bank all of our fans were there cheering us on.  I stopped and gave Beth a kiss and ran of with the team toward the finish.  On the way I heard someone yell out "the rookies!".  It felt good that other racers were aware of our conditions, and could appreciate what we had gone through.

Crossing the finish was a great feeling, I couldn't believe it.  When this whole crazy adventure began back in June I thought the whole thing would be a train wreck and that we wouldn't even finish.  The closer it got to race day my confidence was building.  We made some rookie mistakes to be sure but over all we did very well.  Would I race with this team again?  Of course I would.  We functioned pretty well together and we never got on each others nerves (at least no one got on mine).  I have competed in many different races throughout the years and in some I have done pretty well, however this finish will be remember as one of the greatest of my racing career.  There has been a lot of talk about what we did wrong and how we can do better next year.  That's right, next year, you didn't think this was the end of team POW/MIA did you?

I am having trouble adding pictures so I will load the entire album in a slide show.  Plus in the coming days I will add some random thoughts about the race with a gear list and a huge thank you to sponsors and everyone who made this possible.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Berryman 36hour Adventure Race Chapter 1

Wow!  Where do I start?  I have not been looking forward to this part, writing a race report for a 36hour race might be harder than... OK it's not going to be that hard but still.  I've heard that when you have a story to tell and you aren't sure how to tell it you should start at the end, so that is where this story will begin.
L to R Me, Mark, Ryan, Megan
We finished in 34hours and 39minutes!  We crossed the finish line cold, tired, wet, and with a huge sense of accomplishment.  I am a little fuzzy on what day and what time things happened my watch was timing the race so most of the time I didn't know what time it was only how long we had been racing.  The race was the hardest I have ever competed in by far.  Physically it was tough but for the most part it was the fatigue ,the lack of sleep, having to keep pushing when all you wanted to do was drop to the ground and go to sleep that made it so difficult.  So now that you know how it ended let me tell you how it began...

Way back in June a crazy-eyed Mark came to see me at work... Wait that's too far back, but if you are curious how it all got started glance back on some of my previous posts.  Lets fast forward to the camp on race day.  Yeah that's a good place to start.

Beth and I got to camp first and set up our stuff, everyone else showed up later and got their tents and gear situated.  Once everyone was there the excitement really went to another level.  I stopped by and talked to Robin and Chuck of ROCK Racing we discussed some race stuff and joked about my team actually going MIA on the course.  It was good to see them there, even though they were doing the 12hour knowing they were out on the course was comforting for some reason.

Pre-Race meeting
At 7:30pm Friday night we walked over to the pavilion for the pre-race meeting.  It was here where we received some valuable race instructions, our maps, and clue sheets.  We were expecting a midnight start and were pleased to find out that it was actually going to be a 4am start which meant we could get some rest before it was time to go.  For me anyway sleep was restless.  Before I knew it though it was 0230, the alarm was going off and it was time to get moving.  We gathered up all of our gear and boarded the bus a 0300.  The bus brought us to the start of the race which was at the Bird's Nest (which you may remember from our test ride and paddle).  The first leg was a paddling leg, on a very dark and foggy river.  All the teams sang the national anthem and the race started with a short sprint down to the river.  Mark and I grabbed our canoe and Ryan and Megan grabbed theirs.  It was pandemonium on the river with all of the teams launching their canoes.  In all of the confusion Megan and Ryan jumped in theirs backwards which caused it to keep turning around in the river.  After a few spins they figured it out, switched places and they were on their way.
At the pre-race meeting Jason, the race director said that he was confident that he placed all of the check points at the correct grid coordinates, except the first one.  He told he thought it was close but he wasn't really sure.  We paddled through the darkness until the sun came up.  When we reached the  confluence of the Merrimac and the Huzzah rivers we turned and paddled up the Huzzah.  The current was strong and I wasn't sure how far we could make it.  We came to a spot where a bunch of teams pulled to the side to look for the CP.  We also pulled to the side, looked for it, didn't find it and moved on.  It was a good decision not to waste much time looking for a CP that may or may not have been in the correct location, and most of the teams we talked to didn't find it either.  No great loss.  Back in the canoes we paddled back down the Merrimac to the take out at Ozark Outdoors.  We dragged the canoes out of the water, checked in and the volunteers read some messages that people had left for us on the Check Point Tracker website that was tracking the race live.  The messages were a real pick me up.
The next leg of the race was a trekking leg through Onandaga Cave state park.  Mark was excited and wanted take off at a slow jog, the rest of use decided that a fast walk would be better since we had around 30hours of racing left.  This would be the first test of our team's navigation skills (navigational skills provided by Mark and Ryan.).  It was a long climb into the park, it seemed like we were going up the park road forever.  Finally it was time to take things off road and do a little bush whacking.  Not long after we got off the trail I tried to run across a log and succeeded in falling off said log (it's as easy as falling off a log).  In the fall I landed on my bad wrist and was then forced to wear my brace the remainder of the race.  Luckily I anticipated something like this and brought it with me.  While Megan and I were discussing why it was a good idea not to run across logs Mark and Ryan found the CP, and were deciding which way to go to find the next one.  I didn't realize they had found it and said "Hey! it's right there.", so proud that I had spotted it.  They said "yeah we know", Oh my bad.  Anyway on to the next CP.  We found a few more CP's and saw a bunch of teams.  We were moving right along then we got off track a bit and had some trouble.  Somehow we ended up on private property which we only noticed when we made it to a gravel road, turned around and saw the signs.  None of us could figure out how it happened.  Walking down the road we heard some dogs and could tell they were coming our way.  They came out to the road some distance behind us barking the whole time.  I told Mark I would fight a dog if I had to.  When I turned around to get a look at them I saw a huge junk yard dog that was quite imposing and two more normal sized dogs.  I turned back to Mark and told him "you get the big one".  I meant it.  We found our bearings and headed back into the park.
We came across a team that we called the Marines because one of their members was a former marine and another member was on active duty.  They saw our POW/MIA jerseys and thanked us for representing the cause and honoring service members.  They pointed us back in the right direction and gave us some motrin.  The Motrin was a little odd because I don't remember anyone asking for any but what the heck.  It was offered in the same way you would offer someone a stick of gum.  It just struck me as odd, I took it though, but it was still odd.  We parted ways and headed off to the CP that we missed, found it and moved on to the next.
We came down out of the woods and into the campground where several campers just had to ask us what we were doing.  We told them about the race and they just couldn't believe anyone would do such a thing.  At least one woman gave off a vibe of respect that we would have the courage for such an undertaking.  I know that made me feel pretty good about what we were doing.  I can only assume the rest of the team felt the same way.
Making our way through the campground we looked for site 18 where we would find a trail head leading us to the next CP.  Before we reached site 18 a woman sitting out by an RV pointed us to a very overgrown path next to a dry creek bed saying teams had been going up that way.  Lesson learned, trust your route not some random woman sitting in a chair next to an RV.  That path was wrong so we had to readjust we found the CP and then moved on to find the next.  Once we found all of the CP's we headed to the bike drop which was at the same location as the canoe take out.
Now here is a funny little anecdote that will come back to haunt me in subsequent chapters.  Back at the bike drop my plan was to find some cover, strip down and quickly put on my cycling shorts.  What could go wrong?  It was a plan too simple to fail.  Looking back I would have done this next part according to plan.  It is also weird how race life is so far removed from real life.  I've done some things in races without hesitation that I would never (never?) do in real life.  I always use the fact that I am in a race as justification, as in "sorry officer I am in a race".  Back to the story at hand.  I scoped out a berm that I could duck behind to carry out my plan it was perfect until...one of the volunteers, an older woman walked over to her camper and into full view.  I was forced to modify my plan, GRRR! I reluctantly put my cycling shorts on over my underwear, and hoped for the best.  If you have ever worn cycling shorts you know what I am talking about.  In fact that was the only navigation I did the whole race, finding my way to Chafe Town (population: ME!).
Megan on the way back to Bass
Ryan on the way back to Bass
We hopped on our bikes and headed back to Bass River Resort and CP15.  Now here is the problem with a 36hour race.  There are many details that I just simply do not remember.  There was just too much happening.  This leg is one of those things.  When I try to remember the route we took back all I come up with is a blank.  Megan says that we took a really long gravel road which might be why I don't remember.  Gravel roads can be boring and uneventful (unless you are on a road bike).  One thing I do remember is a little girl clapping and cheering for us as we rode into the camp area.  she was so cute.  Once there we checked in and received, our second set of maps and clue sheet along with some more inspirational messages from people following our progress.  I cannot stress how cool it was to periodically receive these messages.  I have tracked several of my friends through marathons, Iron, and half Ironman races but this is the first time anyone has been able to track me in a race and it felt really great knowing that people I knew were out there taking time out of their weekend to see how team POW/MIA was doing.
Mark on the way back to Bass
This was the part I was waiting for.  I pretty much knew this would be the only time we would be back at camp before the end.  Beth was staying the whole time and I was worried about her.  I was glad to see her and glad to see all of the food I had left at camp.  I ate a bunch of potato chips and drank some flat cherry Dr Pepper.  I also ate a cam of cream of potato soup right from the can.  This last item I highly recommend for any super endurance activities.  Everyone else grabbed some food and ate also while Ryan and Mark worked on the maps.  Our camp site was directly across the river from the canoe take out so many of the 12hour racers were finishing and we got to see them come in.  We had been racing for about 12hours at this time (we had an earlier start than the 12hour racers) and I was hoping to get to see ROCK Racing finish but no such luck.  Beth told me they came in about an hour after we left.
Representing the St. Louis VA Hospital
Speaking of leaving it was time for us to head out on the next leg of the adventure.  I kissed Beth good bye and we got on our bikes and headed on our way.  On the way out I stopped by race HQ and left an inspirational message of my own for ROCK Racing.  It simply read "Chumps".  I had tried to get them to do the 36hour but they wouldn't bite.
Riding out of Bass I saw a horseshoe on the ground (a real one not from the game).  I thought about picking it up because they are supposed to be lucky, but I didn't want to add any more weight to my already super heavy pack.  Looking back at how the next leg went I should have picked it up.  I went back for it after the race was over but it was gone.  That bit of extra luck must have been a one time offer.

You have reached the end of Chapter 1