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

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


  1. Cool! Looking forward to chapter 2. :)

    And my sympathies on your visit to Chafetown. That place is just no fun.

  2. The 'Chumps' message was great, we had a good laugh when they gave it to us.

  3. I can't wait for Chapter 2, hurry!

  4. Wow, Patrick. This sounds so fun. And so hard!