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

Thursday, October 7, 2010

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.

1 comment:

  1. Great report! Oh, man...the rain. Saturday was beautiful, and I was thinking what a nice day you guys had for it, but then that rain was so cold and nasty. I was really feeling for you all. What a great accomplishment to finish...I didn't realize you'd only been planning this since June.

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