As much as I hate to do it, I’ve gotta break this report into fragments. For whatever reason, my employer seems to think my talents are better used “working” instead of AR-blogging during business hours. The following is a brief account of the hours leading up to our domination of the 2012 Berryman 24 hour Adventure race. And by “domination”, I mean we didn’t die.
At a table littered with empty fast-food wrappers, Travis and I sat in the Hardee’s dining room plotting UTM points. The 2012 Berryman 24 was happening the next day, and we had redemption on the brain. A full year had passed since our “Four Points Debacle“, and while it was surely on our minds, there was no talk of the past. We spoke only of the grandeur that lay ahead.
Brimming with confidence and the lofty goal of a top 3 finish, we had once again found ourselves drunk with confidence. Countless emails had been exchanged in the preceding weeks, and the phrase “if we can just run a clean race..” had been repeated over and over again. Hope had become certainty, and for better or worse, we’d let ourselves believe it was going to happen. Tomorrow would be a BIG success; of this we had no doubt.
“If we can just run a clean race..”
With each plotted CP, another piece of tomorrow’s quest was revealed. It was clear we’d be covering a lot of distance tomorrow. The mileage on the bike leg alone was… respectable. That was fine though, after all our Dirty Kanza training earlier in the year, we were confident the bikes were our strong-suit. My excitement came to climax when we confirmed that all 13 miles of Council Bluff’s bitchin’ singletrack would be used on the bike leg(s). Council Bluff was the first course I ever raced on, and I’ve had a lot of good times there. I think it was ’09 when Corey, Big Gay Bob and myself took home buckles in the clydesdale division. And I may or may not have whipped Corey’s ass at the Rimwrecker there in ’08, but it’s not like I’m gonna hold that over his head until my dying day.
Course plotted, we drove back to camp and managed to be in the sack by 11:30. Of course, this only gave me more time to lay in the sleeping bag and stare restlessly at the sky. Sleeping on the ground was so much better before I got fat, but hey, at least I forgot my pillow.
Frustrated at my inability to sleep, I watched the stars and let my mind wander. It dawned on me that we really hadn’t shown this race the proper level of respect. The Berryman is notoriously difficult, and this was gonna be Travis’s first 24 hour race. It made me nervous that we weren’t nervous, but there would be time for all of that tomorrow.
Morning finally came, and for whatever reason I was awake 15 minutes before my alarm went off. Trust me, that’s not the kind of thing that happens everyday. Resisting the urge to go back to sleep, I decided to head for the camp commode. Much to my surprise, I’d gotten there before a line had formed. Man, I felt like such a grown-up… until I opened the bathroom door. With a dropped jaw and bulging eyeballs, time literally froze as I realized I was standing face-to-face with a half-naked man sitting on the toilet.
He hadn’t locked the door.
Well, this is awkward.
Thankfully he was wearing a headlamp, so all I saw was a defecating silhouette. That being said, my imagination has a nasty habit of filling in the blanks. Without missing a beat, the mystery dumper, (keeping his headlight steadily in my eyes to secure anonymity) , said “Sorry dude.”
No other words were spoken; I quietly closed the door and got the hell out of there.
So, just to recap: I do NOT know who you are, Mr. Mystery Dumper, and I think it’d be really cool if we could keep it that way.
I’d say this is a great time to change the subject, so let’s fast forward to the final minutes before race-start
In the final minutes before race-start, the crowd of racers was large:
Our esteemed colleagues from the Orange Lederhosen cult are always a welcome sight, and I do believe Derrick has been trimming down. Emma was rumored to be somewhere on course, so we could only hope she’d have “provisions”. Speaking of distinguished, I had the pleasure of crossing paths with several CAC veterans. Folks like “Iron Man” Chuck Vohsen, male-model Steve Willi, (my mom thinks he’s hot), and the recently expedition-tested Team Wahoo. The Hoosier Daddies were also present, albeit without any alcohol. I’m sure that won’t be the case at Castlewood, though.
My mojo must’ve been through the roof, because I managed to get a 2-word conversation with Awesome-Butt Girl. As long as we’re on the subject, a lot of people have asked me about “ABG’s” true identity. I’m sorry to say it, but that information will never be revealed here. Firstly, knowledge is power. A woman with that knowledge could use her powers for evil, and I don’t need that weight on my conscience. Secondly, we don’t want to objectify anyone… I mean, I certainly wouldn’t want a bunch of people calling me “Awesome Abs Guy.” I’m not a piece of meat.
Swiftwick sleeves were donned, Bodyglide was applied and much pre-race wind was broken. The National Anthem was sung and race director Gary Thompson unleashed 200+ racers onto his AR masterpiece. The Berryman had begun.
**NOTE** This race report was written by Casey and is presented in black text. Luke added some comments and are presented to you in Blue, and Casey added a few additional comments in green. This is the conclusion to our story, and in case you missed the first two parts, you’ll want to be sure to get caught up by reading Part 1 right here and Part 2 right here.
THE PADDLE – Fog, Hallucinations, and Narcolepsy
After some discussion, we decided that Luke would man the bow of the canoe and I’d pilot our craft from the stern. Part of this logic was due to Luke’s adept skills at reading rivers. He does a great job of directing us to the deeper water, which is very important when your boat is carrying the load that is Team Virtus.
Luke: That and Casey is very good in the stern of a canoe even though it pains me to admit that.
Casey: Thanks. That means a lot coming from the team captain. Seriously.
Luke: I’m not the captain.
As the temperature continued to drop, we carried our canoe into the river and climbed into the boat. We were ready to rock the paddle section and make up some ground. We shoved off, took two strokes and were beached on the gravel in a shallow section of the river. Seriously? Way to read the river Luke (there was no other choice). In hindsight, we probably should have carried our boat across the off-shoot of the river, over the gravel bar, and launched on the other, deeper side. However, we were unwilling to admit our error and were just too stubborn to get out of the canoe just yet, so we manhandled the boat and pushed our way into deeper waters as the fog began to thicken.
We were off… Now it was time to make up some ground. We were doing great, and Luke was reading the river like a good book and directing our course well for about 10-15 minutes. Then the thicker fog rolled in and limited our visibility to anywhere from 3 to 25 feet (usually less than 10 feet). There were times that I could barely see Luke sitting in the front of the canoe. It looked kind of spooky and was beautiful and fun to paddle through. However, it was very difficult and slow to race through. We were literally feeling our way down the river. Luke would call out, “ROCK” or “LOG” only milliseconds before we crashed into it or slid over it, hoping that we wouldn’t tip. Just as we were getting used to the foggy, nighttime canoe navigation and beginning to move a little quicker by trusting the river gods to keep us dry, it happened again…
HELLO SLEEP MONSTER…..
We wondered where you have been…
We hoped and prayed that you were done with us…
That’s right. That SOB had climbed up and made himself comfortable perched atop Luke’s shoulders. It sort of looked like this:
Luke: I would like to include this disclaimer: What you are about to read may or may not have happened. I cannot verify nor deny most of the events as they are described below.
Casey: They happened and they happened exactly as they are written in this report.
Luke became quiet, listed from side to side, and almost fell out of the boat. It looked as if he would wake up just in time to keep himself upright and us out of the river. Luke was a trooper and pushed through the ordeal as best as he could. He was bound and determined to make it through the paddle. We ventured onward.
His struggle with the sleep monster continued. He would paddle, stop, and lean over the edge of the boat, then startle himself awake and sit upright once again. It was the bike ride all over again, only it was getting worse. He was no longer able to read the river in his mentally clouded state. Hell, he could barely paddle. I guess we had made a fortuitous decision to put him in the bow. I can’t imagine how horrific things would have gone had he been in the stern when the sleep monster attacked.
Luke: In my defense, I couldn’t exactly read the river before the Sleep Monster attacked me again. The fog was ridiculous.
I talked to him and asked him to call out which side of the river we needed to be on. He asked me how he was supposed to do this. How did he know which side we needed to be on? I told him to keep us on the side with the steeper banks and away from the gravel beaches. He said ok. Then our canoe squealed and moaned in pain as we hit the rocks and gravel, beached again. Luke was in no shape to hop out and back into the canoe so I hopped out, pushed us to deeper waters and jumped back in.
This happened several more times. Luke was just unable to make sense of what he could see of the river, and I could hardly see anything from behind Luke due to the fog and the darkness. We tried all permutations of possible lighting options – Both lights on, both lights off, my light on/Luke’s light off, Luke’s light on/my light off, Luke’s light on the bow of the canoe. We eventually left Luke’s headlamp on and mine off. This reduced the glare on the fog and shadows and enabled me to see a bit of the river and do some navigation based on what I could see from the stern.
This worked pretty well except for the times that Luke turned his head to look at something at one side of the river or another. I’d call out and ask him to center his headlamp. This happened one time and Luke corrected the beam of light pretty quickly. Then a few seconds later, his light (our only light) was pointing into the bottom of our canoe and Luke was asleep in the boat. I asked him what was to our right.
CASEY: “Luke! What’s that! I hear fast water! Is that a tree!? Which way!”
LUKE: “Huh? (raising his head) TREE LOOKOUT, GO LEFT”
And we paddled hard trying to move our craft to the left side of the obstacle… with no luck. We slammed into a little strainer and it was all we could do to keep the boat upright. We pushed the canoe back against the strong current, but we just couldn’t get our canoe clear of the obstacle. The gunwale of the canoe was pinned under one of the roots. We were stuck. Water was splashing over the side. The canoe was taking more water and it looked like we might dump it. Then Luke quickly, instinctively, hopped out of the canoe into the shallower water near the bow and pulled us free and to safety. Nice job! We were a little wet but still upright. This gave Luke a much needed shot of adrenaline and woke him up for a bit.
Luke: I vaguely remember this happening.
He was back to attempting to read the river. He asked me how to let me know where to go. I told him to call out “River Right” or “River Left” and we’d go that way. He struggled with this concept… He asked, “Do I call ‘River Right’ to go to the right or ‘River Left’ to go to the right and avoid the obstacle on the left? Does River Right mean go right or that there is an obstacle on our right?”
Luke: I remember being very confused, and Casey just wasn’t making sense at all.
After much discussion and several attempts of explaining what I was trying to say (I thought that it was all on Luke but in hindsight I might have been nearing the edge as well), we finally came up with some new verbage for this paddle. Luke would call out “Beach Left” or “Beach Right” and I would take us where we needed to go. And it worked. He’d call out the location of the shallow water, or beach, and I’d pilot us to the other side, which in most cases led us to deeper water.
I then tried to teach Luke the verbage that Bob and I use when in a canoe together. I said if you need me to move just a little left or right just say “Tickle Left” or “Tickle Right.” This blew Luke’s mind… Tickle what?…Who?…How?…Tickle? I dropped the whole tickle-talk, and we stuck with the “Beach Left/Beach Right” call-outs. K.I.S.S. –> We had to keep it simple.
Luke: My brain was simply not working. Nothing made sense to me. And I mean NOTHING.
We were making decent time and avoided the shallow areas that would beach us and slow us down. This worked well as long as Luke could stay awake and cognizant. He was fighting a good fight against the sleep monster.
Luke would say, “Why can’t I stay awake?! It doesn’t make sense. I am paddling and falling asleep! How can I fall asleep while I’m moving?!?!”
He couldn’t understand why he was falling asleep while actively paddling. He was getting mad at himself for his inability to beat the Sleep Monster. After some discussion, we decided it was in our best interest and probably safer if we stopped for a quick nap. We pulled over on this nice little gravel bar and made ready to take a quick nap.
Luke: All I wanted to do was sleep. I’ve NEVER been more sleepy in my life. My mind and body were just completely shutting down. I had been up since 7:00 AM on Friday morning, and it was now roughly 3:30 AM on Sunday morning. That’s 44+ hours with no sleep. In hindsight, we probably should have napped earlier in the race.
Casey: Hind sight is 20/20. I agree with Luke. A 15-20 minute nap probably would have ended up saving us more time than it would have cost us.
We drug our canoe entirely out of water and onto the gravel bar. We wanted to be sure it would be there when we awoke. Then we burrowed down into the gravel, used our life jackets as pillows and prepared for some much-needed shuteye. I set the alarm on my watch for 30 minutes and stuck the watch under the band of my headlight so that it rested on my left ear. I then dug out my mandatory cell phone and set the alarm on it and slipped it under my headlamp’s headband on the other side and rested the speaker on my right ear. Hopefully, one of these alarms would wake me up, and we could finish our race.
As we were getting comfortable, I noticed how clear the sky was. The fog was mostly on the river, and from the gravel bar, I could see the sky clearly and the stars were amazing. They were so bright that it looked almost fake, like I was at the planetarium. As I tried to get comfortable and drift off to sleep, I heard thunder in the distance and saw some lightning. How could that be? The sky was so clear, you could see everything. Then I heard Luke ask me…
LUKE: “Dude, do you think we should keep going? We should probably get off the river if it’s going to start lightning.”
His logic made sense to me. Water + electricity in a metal boat… Yeah, we should get going.
CASEY: “I am good to go if you want to. It’s your call man.”
LUKE: “We should get going. What if it starts lightning, and they come and pull us off the river. I don’t want to get short-coursed or get a DNF.”
I didn’t want to get short-coursed or a DNF either. Could they do that? Did they have any idea of where we were? Could they get to us? Could they short-course us? That would suck. I didn’t want to be an unofficial finisher again (Lionheart race report coming soon).
CASEY: “Yeah, that would suck. We better get up and get going. “
Luke: The gravel felt luxuriously comfortable, and I desperately needed to sleep. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was get back up and keep racing, but I guess my desire to finish this race was stronger than my desire to sleep. Standing back up to continue the paddle in the cold fog without taking a nap is one of the hardest things I’ve done in any race thus far.
So, the nap that we so desperately wanted and needed would elude us yet again. We packed up, climbed into the canoe, and set off into the thick fog once again. Luke started out doing a great job. He was paddling hard and commanding the canoe from the bow…
Log in the middle…
We were making decent time, and then something that I had read about and was looking forward to some day experiencing happened right before my eyes. Well, at least right before Luke’s eyes…
LUKE: “Holy crap, Did you see that?”
CASEY: “See what?” And I looked around and ahead into the fog, hoping to avoid an obstacle that I feared would tip us. What had he seen?
LUKE: “That floating Samurai face, kind of like on Scooby Doo. It was awesome.” He said with a big silly smile on his face.
CASEY: “No, there was no face Luke. You doing all right?”
LUKE: “All right? This is awesome. It’s like I am drunk and high but I am really neither. Just sleep deprived. Awesome! Last Berryman the hallucinations freaked me out. This time I know they aren’t real, so it’s really cool.”
Luke: I do remember seeing this. For a brief moment, it seemed real, but then I knew that my mind was playing tricks on me.
Although Luke was disappointed that there was no real samurai face and that I couldn’t see it (I tried to and really want to, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t there), he was a little excited to be hallucinating. He realized that he was seeing things that weren’t quite there in the real world. Maybe there was a shadow or a leaf, but his brain was now processing things a little differently and leading him to believe that he was seeing things that weren’t there. Luke had been here before, and instead of fighting the hallucinations or being afraid of them he embraced the experience. Luke was high; he was tripping his balls off. He would stare off into the fog, freeze for a second, and then laugh out loud.
Luke: That fog was totally messing with me. It was spooky, but it was amazing… Well, what I remember of it anyway. I mean, come on… Look at the fog in that photo. Now imagine being delusional with hallucinations in that fog. It was crazy.
He was no longer able to navigate our vessel so I turned my light on in an attempt to help our situation. This messed with Luke’s situation, and he gave me a very Cheech and Chong like reponse…
LUKE: “Whoa man. Did you see that? It just got like brighter or something…Hahuhuh.”
Then Luke made a discovery that had him very excited. He leaned over the side of the canoe and shined his light into the water as he told me to do the same. He told me the reflections were awesome, that I had to see them. I looked over the side and saw water and a rock. It wasn’t very impressive. At least Luke was excited. Then he told me again in his best Chong voice…
LUKE: “No man, you have to see the reflections. When you do this (he shined his headlamp into the water and shook his head) you see the reflections. They’re awesome!”
Then he looked up through the fog and shined his headlamp onto the tree limbs overhead and shook it once again.
CASEY: “Uh… Yeah man, that’s really cool.”
I had no idea what was cool about his light in the water and then on the limbs overhead, but he was excited about it and it was keeping him awake. He must have been seeing something that I could not see. Luke was like a mentally challenged child with severe ADD and Narcolepsy. One minute he’d be talking to me about reflections or trying to catch a wisp of fog coming off the water (which did look really cool) and the next minute he’d be falling asleep. He’d startle himself awake and then give me a play by play description of the landscape and everything that he could see, and he’d paddle voraciously as we’d surge forward…for several strokes, and then he’d fall asleep again. This repeated itself for the majority of the paddle. He rarely slept for more than a second or two but he was sneaking in many little micro-naps. I was entertained and experiencing the hallucinations from the back seat. I have to admit that I was a little jealous of Luke’s good time. It looked like so much fun. I wanted to see a samurai face.
Luke: I did indeed take many micro-naps, but they did not add up to your power-nap in the van on the way to Steelville:
Casey: I napped for maybe five minutes in the van on the way to the race. Maybe that’s why I didn’t crash as soon as Luke did.
Luke: It was more like 10 – 15 minutes, and that was definitely the difference. I’m sure of it.
Once again Luke told me to see the reflections. I “had to see them.” They were “soooo cool, soooo beautiful.” He repeated his little light shining and head shaking skit. He mumbled about the reflections and how cool they were. He really wanted me to see what he was seeing… And then I finally got it. He was trying to tell me that when he shined his headlamp into the river and wiggled it around, there was a kaleidoscope-like pattern of reflected light shimmering on the leaves and limbs overhead. He was right. It was really cool.
I am glad that, even in his psychedelic stupor, he made the effort to keep explaining it to me until I finally got it. We sat there and enjoyed the cool light show for a few minutes. What I was seeing was pretty sweet. I wish I could have seen it through Luke’s eyes as I am sure it was even sweeter. Luke was content that I finally understood him. He was a five year old little boy that finally made himself understood to his father. He was quiet and content for a little while. He had finally gotten his point across, and I had seen what he wanted me to see.
Luke: It was so amazingly cool. It was frustrating that I just couldn’t explain it to Casey. I remember explaining it in great detail only to have Casey completely blow me off as if I was a little kid. In hindsight, I’m sure I wasn’t communicating very well. Regardless, the light show was fantastic. It sort of looked like this, only better:
The fog got even thicker, and it was getting really tough to see. When Luke would drift off, I was sometimes unsure of what I was seeing. It looked like there were big, fog-covered islands in the middle of the river. My light couldn’t penetrate the fog deep enough to confirm their existence. So I’d steer the canoe a little to the side to avoid the island, and as we passed, the island would vanish. Was I slowly slipping into the same condition Luke was in? I hoped not, but it seemed that I was nearing the edge. I started seeing things differently than they really were. My mind was misinterpreting what I was seeing.
Was it a shadow?…No it must be an island. Is that a huge bush in the middle of the River?…Yes it was…I think.
CASEY: “Luke, wake up man. Is there a huge bush island in the river.”
LUKE: “You mean that house with a big bush in front?”
CASEY: “No! Nobody builds a house in the middle of a river. Is there a big bush type structure right in front of us?”
LUKE: “Uhhh…..Yes, GO LEFT, RIVER LEFT, BEACH LEFT, LEFT!!!”
Luke: I have no memory of this whatsoever.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll realize that Luke had told me to go left and right in the same breath (based on our agreed upon lingo for this paddle). I quickly decided to go left since he said that way the most, and since I could barely see Luke, let alone what was in front of the boat, I had to trust him (even in his mental stupor).
I took us left and we passed a huge bush-like object in the middle of the river that was indeed there, and we found ourselves in a little channel with bushes on both sides of us. The bush Island was real, it had been right in the middle of the river. So, I kept us going forward until we ran out of river. The river just ended. It stopped, and we were beached once again. Did it really end or had I, too, lost it mentally? The sudden stop in movement had woken Luke up, much like a kid in a car seat.
LUKE: “Hey, why are we stopped?”
CASEY: “Because we are out of river.”
LUKE: “Why did you go this way?”
CASEY: “You told me to go to the left.”
LUKE: “Oh, sorry man. I’m out of it. I think I fell asleep.”
CASEY: “No problem man, it’s cool.”
Luke: While I don’t remember seeing a “house” in the river or telling Casey to go left at all, I do remember waking up to realize that we had come to a complete stop. I remember looking around and seeing that we were at a dead-end, and I wondered why Casey would have taken us that way. I was very confused, and I seriously can’t believe that I was giving directions while I was sleeping. I don’t think I’ve ever sleep-walked, but I can now say that I have sleep-paddled.
We sat there for a few seconds. Should we paddle back up stream and down the other side of the “house-bush” or drag/portage the canoe through a low area between two little islands? We decided to muscle ourselves through the little crack between the islands and soon found ourselves back on the main river.
Luke checked the map quickly as we floated down the river. He said that once the river pointed West it meant that we had about 2 miles left. This meant that we currently had more than 2 miles left. I was hoping we had much less to go. Could I last that long? I had to keep focused, to keep it together mentally because Luke had long since flown the coop.
I knew that I was walking a fine line and could easily slide off the cliff and become as high and as goofy as Luke was at any moment. As fun as that sounded, I couldn’t let it happen. I had to keep it together until we got off the river… or else we might never get off the river. I somehow had to find a way to push through and control the hallucinations. I would occasionally see something, do a double-take, and then be able to identify the object for what it really was. I wasn’t sure how long I would be able to maintain this control. We had to get to the end of the paddle. I could easily let it go, embrace the hallucinations, and enjoy the experience. If Luke had been 100%, I might have been tempted to go down that path. But since he was still high as a kite, I had to keep it together. I kept telling myself that I had to keep it together until we got off the river. Just get off the river safely, get Luke and myself to the next TA/CP safely, then I could let myself slip into the delirious hallucinations just like Luke. Hell, we could even take a little nap if we needed/wanted to.
I was able to keep us going down the river. I kept seeing “fog islands”, most of which evaporated as we got close to them. Luke was back to dozing off again, listing to the side almost to the point where I thought he was going to fall out of the boat. I knew we had to be close to the end of the paddle.
Suddenly Luke woke up a bit and started paddling some more. I asked him if he wanted to play a game. He said yeah. I said that I would say a word and he would have to come up with a word that rhythms with it (I play this with my 5 year old all the time and he loves it). Well, it turns out that sleepy, tripping Luke loves it too. He was more awake and alert than he had been in the last couple of hours. Here is the rhyme that started the whole game…
CASEY: “No more rhymes, now. I meant it!”
LUKE: ”Anybody want a peanut?” (said in his best Andre the Giant voice)
Yes! Not only did he get the game, but he got my reference from the classic film, “The Princess Bride.” Sweet, was Luke really back from the dark side? Only time would tell.
Luke: I remember the “Princess Bride” reference, and I remember the rhyming game helping me stay awake for a little while. It was a lot of fun and effective… for a little while anyway.
We continued our game…
LUKE: “TRUCK” (I bet you thought he had another word to rhythm with Duck didn’t you?…Sinner)
And so the game went. We played for a good 5-10 minutes straight, word after word, rhyme after rhyme. I am not sure who stopped the game, but it ended. Shortly thereafter, Luke drifted back into his stupor. I let him have his rest and paddled us down the river. I felt like I should break into a song in Italian. It was as if I was a gondolier piloting a gondola with my passenger around the canals of Venice (only I wasn’t standing). I looked down at my wrist compass and noticed that the river was definitely starting to head West. I called out to Luke…
CASEY: “Luke, how far to the TA once the river turns West?”
Luke: “Yadada Bladada, bliggity do…Schmest!” – Luke really said this, and it was hilarious.
CASEY: Laughing, “What was that? Are you still playing the rhyming game?”
CASEY: “That game is over. We haven’t been playing for a while.”
LUKE: “What? It’s over? Who won?”
CASEY: “You did, you won the rhyming game.”
LUKE: (With both arms and paddle over his head) “Yeah, I won!”
Luke: I don’t recall doing this either, but it’s pretty damn funny.
After his quick celebratory paddle pump, I was able to ask him about the river and how far we had to go. After some convincing dialog, I got Luke to check his compass and map. Yep, we had about 2 more miles to go. We talked a little more as we paddled, and then Luke faded away into his happy place.
Suddenly we found ourselves grounded on a gravel bar once again. Luke awoke and started paddling. Nothing, we didn’t even move. We just sat there, grounded on some gravel. We both dug in with our paddles together and “poled” our canoe a few more feet before becoming fully grounded and unable to move any further forward.
Luke asked me what we should do. I told him that we should rest a minute or two. During that time, Luke drifted off and I decided to climb out of the canoe and push us to deeper water. As I stepped my first leg out of the canoe Luke came awake and began to paddle like he was possessed. This was great…had we been in deeper water and me in my seat. The canoe lurched forward, tripping me in the process and I fell over into the water and caught myself with an extended arm that was shoulder deep in the water (at least I found the deep water). Luke apologized and I jumped back into the canoe and we took off.
Luke: At least when I paddled like a mad man we didn’t tip the canoe… Unlike the last time you paddled unnecessarily fast.
Casey: I was trying to keep the cadence up like Jeremy Rodgers instructed. The man in the bow sets the cadence for the craft. If I let you set the cadence on that paddle we’d still be on the river.
Luke: And we’d still be dry.
After this, we both were fairly alert and the last bit of the paddle went pretty smoothly. The river grew wider and we passed through some camp grounds. Then we finally saw a campfire up ahead. We were finally at the end of the paddle. We both were more alert and energized with the end in sight. We paddled much like we normally do, when awake and fully alert. We were taking deep, powerful strokes in unison. The canoe responded well and surged forward and into the TA. We had done it. We safely made it through the paddle. We weren’t dry, but we never capsized the canoe.
We beached our canoe and headed over to the volunteers by their nice, warm fire. The paddle that probably should have taken no more than 2 hours had taken us 3 hours and 58 minutes.
Luke: That’s just embarrassing. I was absolutely useless (aside from providing some comic relief). Casey did an amazing job of getting us through the paddling leg. I’ve never struggled through a leg of a race like I did this one, so big thanks to Casey, The Anchorman (in a good way this time).
Casey: No problem man. You carried us later in the race. Plus, tripping-Luke is way better than Betty-White-Luke.
It turned out that this TA also was the Gear check. We had all the required gear and were able to quickly find what was asked for. I think we had to show our whistles, a UTM tool, an emergency blanket, a cell phone, a first aid kit, and iodine tablets. We chatted with the volunteers as we warmed our cold, water logged bodies by the fire. I shared with the volunteers highlights of our paddle: Luke’s hallucinations, his micro-naps mid-paddle, and the fog.
As I talked, I felt myself letting down. I had reached the goal I set on the river. We had gotten safely off the river. My mind began to relax and I felt relieved and for the first time during the race, I was getting a little tired. We thanked the volunteers and headed off into the woods just as dawn was beginning to break. All we had to do was collect the last two CPs and then get back to the starting line to receive the next set of checkpoints. As we began to move, Luke was coming alive again, which was great because I was slowly losing it. I feared (and hoped a little bit) that I was headed down the road that Luke had already traveled.
The Final O-Section – Lincoln Logs and Burger Stands
My fears and hopes were accurate, and my mental acuity rapidly declined. I was physically, and now mentally, exhausted. I had overdrawn on my mental-alertness-account and was now paying the overdraft fee in full. Luke’s feet condition was deteriorating even faster than my mental capabilities. He said it felt like the skin was peeling off the bottom of his feet.
I followed Luke across a river, through the woods, and up a hill (To Grandmother’s house we go?). He stopped, and we talked a few minutes. He wasn’t sure if we were on the ridge we were supposed to be on or the ridge one over. He asked me my opinion. I quickly glanced a the map and decided that we were on the right ridge and started walking up the hill. I based my decision on nothing more than the need to keep moving and that we had already started up the hill we were on. I started walking up the hill on autopilot when I noticed that Luke stopped. I looked back and saw that he was still studying the map. I decided to sit down on a nice comfy, little stump and wait for him. It was the world’s most comfortable stump. If I had that stump in my living room it would be the seat I claimed as mine and mine alone.
Luke: Although I was in better shape than I was during the paddling leg, I was still FAR from 100%. It took way too much effort to make sense of the map, but something just didn’t seem right. After a couple of minutes, I figured out where we were.
Casey: You were in much better mental shape than I was. It was your turn to carry the team for a while.
Luke: I don’t like carrying the team. We’re fat and heavy.
I let my mind wander as I sat there. Eventually (and I have no idea how long it really was), Luke caught up with me and said that he was pretty sure that we were on the wrong hill and that we had to head over to the next one. I told him that his “pretty sure” was good enough for me, and I followed him to the next ridge line.
From this point of the race to just before the finish line, my recollection of the events might be a little off. Luke will fill in the blanks. From here on, I would phase in and out of consciousness. There were times when I was very lucid and remember conversing with Luke and what was going on, and then there are large blocks of time that I cannot clearly recall. I plodded along like a mindless zombie following my teammate, my captain, my brother.
Luke: I probably won’t fill in any blanks. It took every ounce of mental energy to not end up completely lost. I don’t really ever remember talking to you all that much. I just remember trying to stay in contact with the map, walking forever, and the pain in my feet… Oh the pain… I shudder now, just to think of it.
What I remember about the hike to CP 31 was that it was a long walk and all uphill. We were hiking up a steep section, climbing over logs and pushing through brush and thorns and then I mentally zoned out. When I returned mentally, we were still climbing. I could have been on a mental vacation for seconds, minutes, or even hours. I had no frame of reference; I just kept putting on foot in front of the other. I was on auto pilot.
Then I was out again for a bit. This time when I came back, the terrain had become a little more bearable, and it wasn’t as steep. I asked Luke if we were at the top of the hill yet, and he said not quite, that we still had a ways to go. He said that he was pretty sure we were going right but if he was wrong it would be a long, hilly climb to the correct hilltop. That was enough for me to hear, and my mind wandered away to its magical happy place. This happy place is amazing. It wasn’t filled with tricycle riding midget-cowboys, or my wife in a teddy holding pitchers of beer, or Billy Dee Williams playing the piano; it was much more peaceful that that. I can’t really describe my happy place other than to say it was very calm and restful. I felt no pain or tiredness when in this happy place. I just was and that was enough.
I continued on, moving at the pace Lukas set with almost no effort. If I could have stayed in that mental stupor, I could have raced at that pace indefinitely. I’m not sure if I was walking while sleeping or if my mind had just had enough and turned off in intervals. The next time I came back to reality, we were much closer to the CP. Luke led us onto a trail and said it would be up ahead just a little further. I went out again for a bit and then when I returned we could see the CP. We punched our passport and checked the map.
Finding the CP gave me a little lift, and I was coherent for a longer spell this time. Luke planned our route, showed me on the map what we planned to do, and we started on. After walking a bit, I saw what looked like a rickety, wooden hamburger stand up ahead through the trees. I closed my eyes for a few seconds and told myself to see what was really there (like I did on the river the night before). When I opened my eyes it was still there.
CASEY: “Luke, is there a hamburger stand on the other side of that tree?” And I pointed towards the hamburger stand.
LUKE: “No man, it’s just trees. Well, wait a second. Don’t listen to me, I have no clue what is going on. There could be a hamburger stand there for all I know.”
Luke: Only someone who is weak in mind and spirit hallucinates during long races. You’re such a pu… Uh… Wait… Nevermind.
Great, I could really have gone for a hamburger right about then. I was thinking about digging out some of our emergency cash and was hoping they had some cheese and bacon for my burger, and when I looked back at the stand it was gone. Apparently, somebody had either moved the stand or the trees leaning over touching each other had just looked like a hamburger stand to my sleep deprived mind. Damn, I’d have to wait to eat something good until later. Then I remembered the note BLD and Travis had left us so long ago – PORK STEAKS ON THE GRILL!!! Even better than a hamburger. I smiled and thought about how good they would taste. But first, we had to finish this race.
Our journey continued and we walked, and walked, and then walked some more. I was pretty lucid through most of this stretch and was still hoping to see a samurai face (it never happened though) or at least something really cool. We walked on when Luke looked back at me and then pointed up ahead…
LUKE: “Do you see that building up ahead?”
CASEY: “Yeah, like a big metal barn kind of building?”
LUKE: “No, like a huge Lincoln Log building. More like a Lincoln Log sculpture or display.”
CASEY: “No, I see that big, brown, or dark gray aluminum barn-like building though.”
LUKE: “No man, it’s made out of logs. Like big Lincoln Logs.”
Lincoln Logs? I closed my eyes and told myself to see what was really there. No Lincoln Logs. We kept getting closer and I kept blinking my eyes. I now knew it was neither an aluminum barn nor a Lincoln Log Display. However, I wasn’t sure what we were looking at. It was big and dark (That’s what she said). We continued to get closer, and I focused all my mental energy to figure it out.
CASEY: “I think it’s a tree, a big dead pine tree or something.”
LUKE: “No. I don’t think so. I think it’s… (we got closer) …it’s a… a… a big dead pine tree.”
It turned out to be a huge dead pine tree (or that’s what we thought it was, neither of us thought to take a picture). I looked at it again and kind of could see how it looked a little like Lincoln Logs. Then I could see how it looked a little like a large aluminum barn as well. That was pretty cool, we had shared a hallucination but saw something totally different.
Luke: I sort of knew I was hallucinating at this point, but I couldn’t do anything about it. I knew I wasn’t really seeing a Lincoln Log home or sculpture, but I just could not tell what it truly was. To me, it looked a lot like this:
As cool as that was, I was now a little worried. If Luke was in the same boat as I was in, how was he possibly navigating? (I have no idea) Well, I trusted him and knew he had to be in better shape than I was, so I kept my apprehension to myself. No sense in worrying him if he was going right. And if he wasn’t, I couldn’t help him anyway, and we were pretty well screwed.
We kept walking a ways, and we eventually picked up another good-sized trail. As we were walking around, I saw something very strange on the ground. What the hell was that? We walked closer. I couldn’t figure it out. Was it even there?
CASEY: “Luke, what the hell is that little red thing over there?”
LUKE: “It looks like a red Lincoln Log roof.”
CASEY: “A what? A Lincoln Log roof?”
LUKE: “Yeah, like a one-piece, red plastic roof you put on top of your Lincoln Log building.”
CASEY: “No it’s not.”
We walked over to where it was laying on the trail. Luke affirmed his belief and said it was a Lincoln Log roof again. I just didn’t quite see it that way. I walked over and kicked it. Now I had confirmed it’s physical existance, it was really there. When it rolled over I knew that it definitely was not a Lincoln Log roof but I had no idea what it was. After a few seconds of staring at it, Luke was able to determine it was a rear casing and lens of a car tail light of some kind (neither of us thought to take a picture again). What was up with Luke and Lincoln Logs? (I have no idea) I hoped he was still able to read a map and compass well enough to lead us to the final CP… or at the very least back to civilization.
We continued on and eventually came up to a gravel road. I think I remember being passed by a couple of vehicles and assumed that they were other racers heading home already. At least they were friendly and honked and waved to us as they passed us.
Luke: I don’t remember any cars, and I don’t remember hearing anyone honking or waving.
Casey: Seriously? Was I hallucinating that badly? Awesome. Can anybody reading this confirm they drove by us sometime around 8:00 on Sunday morning?
Luke: I don’t know if you were hallucinating or if I was just using all of my mental capacity focusing on getting us to the CP.
I hoped we were going right. I had no idea how far we had come or where we were going. I wasn’t even exactly sure where I was. My trust and safety were 100% in Luke’s hands. We plodded along and eventually came to a big gate that said NO TRESPASSING and that it was private land that was under surveillance and we couldn’t enter. We checked the map again. I was now lucid enough to confirm that this was in fact where we were and that the final CP was on the other side of the NO TRESPASSING GATE.
A light went off somewhere in my mind. Didn’t Jason say something about private land during the race meeting? Damn. I wish I had talked less and listened more during that meeting. I mentioned my vague recollection to Luke and he remembered the same thing too. We walked around the gate and down the driveway, half expecting to see some red-neck in a pickup truck with guns hanging on a rack in his back window to come flying up the driveway to ask us what the hell we were doing on his posted land.
Luke was describing the driveway on the map as we walked, and it was matching up perfectly. He said when it made a sharp turn, we’d have to kick off into the woods to find the CP. The driveway turned, and we headed into the woods. I noticed these rocks on the ground that had little carvings or pictures on them. They looked like they had been carved and worked on by somebody with more skill than I have (Can anybody confirm the existence of these rocks?). I thought about taking a picture but didn’t want to stop to do so. Then I thought about picking up a rock at taking it with me because they looked so cool. I didn’t for two reasons—1) I would have to stop and bend over and 2) It would add weight to my pack for the rest of the race.
Luke: I never saw any of these rocks. Geez, man! You need to hold yourself together better at the next race.
Casey: If they weren’t there, I am glad that I didn’t pick one up. It would have sucked to carry a plain old rock to the finish line. I really hope that there were carved rocks near the final CP. They were so cool.
In a few minutes more we walked right up to the final CP. We had gotten all of the CPs that we could. It was time to head back to the Start/Finish line and get our next set of coordinates.
Luke looked at the map and told me we had a VERY steep, long downhill climb to get to the finish line. We found a little path that meandered down the hill and followed it. Luke then had a question to ask me.
LUKE: “Have you ever stepped on a thumb tack?”
CASEY: “Yeah. It hurts like a son-of-a-bitch.”
LUKE: “Yeah, I know it does. Now, just imagine if you covered the bottoms of both of your feet with thumbtacks and then stepped down with all of your weight. That is what my feet feel like with each and every step.”
CASEY: “That really sucks man. Are you all right? Do you need me to carry you (I hoped he would say no)? Can you sit and scoot down the hill?”
LUKE: “No. It is what it is. Let’s keep going and finish this.”
We walked slowly down the hill. Several times I slipped and caught myself quickly. Each time I did this, my back seized up, and I was afraid my (our) race would be over. I have a bad back, and when it goes out, I am done (It will be mentioned in the Lionheart race report that Luke is still working on). Why couldn’t my consciousness leave me now and let me finish the race as a zombie following Luke? My back hurt, but it wasn’t going to stop me. Not here, not now. If Luke could walk the last few miles on thumbtacks I could definitely walk it with a catch in my back.
Finally, we reached the bottom of the hill and noticed it was going to be fairly flat the rest of the way back to the finish line. We walked a little further and picked up a road. I soon recognized the road as the same road we drove down in order to register our car a couple of days ago. I now knew that we were almost to the finish line. However, we weren’t sure if our race was soon to be over. We were led to believe that there was at least 1 more set of coordinates, so we figured we would be racing right up to the cutoff.
The Finish Line – Swamp Foot and Champagne
As we walked, we reminisced a little about the race… how long it took us to find CP 2, the error from CP 4 to CP 5, following Team Kuat, the foggy paddle, the hallucinations, the sleep monsters. It all seemed so long ago and almost surreal. We also discussed the rest of the race. How much more could we do? We decided that we had to get the new set of coordinates, plot them, and then see how we’d be traveling. We were hoping for some more paddling or maybe some biking because Luke was nearing him limit on his feet.
Luke: That is an understatement. My feet were done!
As we walked past the cabins you could rent at Bass’ River Resort, we talked about bringing our families next year and renting a cabin for the weekend. It seemed like a great idea. The kids could play, and we could use it as a home base for the race. I guess we both just assumed we’d be racing the 36 hour Berryman again next year. I plan on it (We’ll see). As we neared the finish line, we could hear Jason on the loud speaker and lots of clapping. It looked like we were going to be coming in during the middle of the awards ceremony.
CASEY: “Luke, are we running across the finish line? We gotta look good in front of everybody.”
LUKE: “I don’t think so. My feet are F*#@ed up. If I run on them, the skin might come off.”
CASEY: “Cool, it’s fine with me. I’d hate for my back to seize up. We’ll walk across together.”
That decided it. We hadn’t run much (or any) the whole race and decided the finish line was not the place to start running. Plus, for all we knew, we had more racing to do. As we drew near the pavilion, somebody spotted us and Jason announced that Team Virtus was coming in. We were walking side-by-side just like we planned.
The clapping grew louder and then Jason shouted to “jog it in” or maybe it was “run across the finish line”, something to that effect. Luke and I instinctively began to jog. (Damn, it hurt!) I lead by a step, and then he surged forward and took the lead. The clapping grew louder, the cheering and encouraging words echoed in our ears. And Luke looked at me and I looked at him. We both knew what was about to go down.
You guessed it (or remembered it if you were there). We took off like Olympic sprinters. We were running like a couple of tired rhinoceroses across the African Savanna with poachers on their trail. We were free… We were flying… I was losing. I was losing?
How the hell was I behind my little brother? I dialed it up a notch and took a little lead. Luke, dug deeper and blocked out his thumb-tack-lined, skin-peeling feet and took it up yet another level. He passed me by a step. I decided to reach deeper and open it up all the way and show Luke how it was done. As I began to fire on all cylinders I felt a twitching in my back. Instantly, I decided that I was going as fast I was going to go. I coasted across the finish line a half a step behind Luke.
Luke: Uh… The way I remember it, you were about 30 yards behind me. But that might have been another hallucination… Or a complete lie.
Everybody was clapping, and I said something like, “That’s it?” Which was answered with some chuckles and a few laughs. I was seriously expecting to be handed more coordinates. However, that never happened. I was walking around, trying to figure out if our race was over or not when I heard footsteps behind me. As I turned around, I was showered with champagne as BLD emptied half a bottle of bubbly all over me. It was unexpected and great. This brought on more cheers and laughs. Bob then handed me the bottle, and I slammed the remaining champagne. It was cold and sweet. It really hit the spot.
Luke: Thanks for sharing with me. Dick.
Casey: There was plenty of champagne in my fleece if you really wanted some. There couldn’t have been more than 8-10 big swallows of the bubbly left in the bottle.
Luke: 8 – 10 swallows was enough for 4 – 5 for you and 4 – 5 for me. Again, what a dick.
I soon found out that there was more to the race, but it just wasn’t doable in the time that we had left. The second set of points took you on a 16 mile paddle and then a 13 mile bike ride back to the finish line. Since we only had about an hour and 45 minutes left, our race was over.
As it turns out, only 6 out of 27 teams even attempted the final set of points. I was a little disappointed, because I had planned on racing until the 12:00 PM cutoff. (Only Casey would be disappointed with what we had just done) But I would be lying if I didn’t admit to being a little happy that the race was over. All good things must come to an end, and my first 36 Berryman was now over. Did it kick my ass? I don’t think so. I had a great time and felt like I could have kept going. Was it a hard-ass race? Was it a “Real-Ass Kicker?” Absolutely. It was long, and it was hard (That’s what she said). It was an unbelievable time. My favorite race to date.
It was just starting to sink in as Luke when I sat down at a picnic table. We could stop now, the race was over.
Casey: With his squinty eyes and sagging stash doesn’t Luke look a little like a cartoon China-man.
I looked around and saw that we were surrounded by friends. I remember seeing Bob and Travis, Kage and her brother Jim, Derrick and Emma from Orange Lederhosen, and many others… and then I saw our other brother, Zack, and his family magically appear. It was great. The Brothers Lamb were back together again. Unfortunately, we were too tired or dumb to think of getting a photo of the moment.
As we sat there Luke took his socks off to reveal the whitest, most disgustingly wrinkled feet you have ever seen. This was the first time I had seen macerated feet in person. Our feet had been wet for well over 30 hours. His feet were sore, and I wondered how long it would take for him to recuperate.
As we examined and looked at Luke’s feet in awe and disbelief Bob fetched a couple of steaming hot baked potatoes for us. I have always heard about these baked potatoes after Bonk Hard races. They are legendary. Since this was my first Bonk Hard race, it was my first post-race experience with them. I opened mine and took a bite of the best baked potato I’ve ever had. Then Bob showed up with a bucket of margarine and covered my potato with gobs of the good stuff, only making it even more delicious. Now I was covered with melted margarine as well as champagne.
As we sat there, a few more teams trickled in. The awards were given out as well as some more free race swag. Jason made a few more announcements and thank-yous and invited us to compete in Check Point Tracker Nationals that Bonk Hard is putting on at the end of October (This weekend actually!). I asked Bob about the pork steaks that he promised us. He said they were on the grill. So we gathered up our gear and headed over to TV Camp. By the time we got there, Bob had Pork Steaks laid out for us to eat and had thrown some ribs down on the grill. Oh yeah, and a beer can chicken too. We ate and then ate some more. It was as if we were in training for an IFOCE or MLE event. I’ll bet if a mystery event ever involves eating, TV will own the challenge (Unless Rusty is there).
We sat around with Bob and Travis, relaxing and reminiscing about their race and our race, and we discussed our plans for next year. After much socializing and eating, we finally decided to hit the showers. I scrounged up a couple dollars worth of quarters and headed to the showers (apparently you have to pay to park AND to shower at this resort, at least they don’t charge you to breathe yet). At least the water was good and hot. After the shower, I felt much better. I headed back to TV Camp, and we talked and ate some more.
I eventually came down from the race high and was beginning to feel a little tired. I started to feel like I had just raced for a day and a half. I fell asleep in my chair for a few minutes during which time my teammates took advantage of me and had some fun.
Casey: How many race reports have included a photo of Bob’s butt? Do we really need another one? The answer is..Yes, we can never have enough of Bob’s butt. It’s kind of like a cow bell… I got a fever! And the only prescription… is more of Bob’s Butt.
I finally awakened and moved to the ground for a good 45 minute nap. After the nap I felt like a new man. We broke camp and headed for home. What a great time, a great weekend, a great race.
Well if you have read this far, I guess you’d like to know how we did. We finished 6th out of 13 teams in our division and 11th out of 27 teams overall. Although Luke wasn’t able to defend his divisional championship from 2010, I am pretty satisfied with our performance (As am I). After a hellacious start, we rallied and raced a near perfect race. It was my first attempt in anything over 24 hours. I got to spend a great weekend with my brother and create some memories that I am sure neither of us will ever forget.
I want to thank Jason Elsenraat, his wife Laura, and all of Bonk Hard Racing for putting on the best race that I have had the pleasure of being a part of. I’d also like to thank all the volunteers and sponsors that made this race possible. Without your funding and countless volunteer hours I’d never have just completed the greatest race I have done to date.
Luke: I, too, had an absolute blast. It’s a race that I’ll never forget. Thanks to Casey for doing this race with me. It was a helluva ride, bro. I’d also like to thank Jason, Laura, and all of the volunteers as well. It was a superb race. I can’t wait to do it again… After I my left big toe is no longer numb.
Casey: Thank you for racing with me. I hope that I raced well enough for you. After all, I was your second pick for this race.
Luke: Umm… Yeah… You were my second pick. I definitely did not ask 14 other people to race with me before I asked you. Let’s go with that.
I’m planning on racing the 36 hour again next year. Luke, Bob, and I have already committed to doing it. Anybody else interested in joining us?
**NOTE** This race report was written by Casey and is presented in black text. Luke added some comments are presented to you in Blue. And Casey added a few additional comments in green. This is part 2 of an epic tale of an epic team of epic brothers at an epic race of epicnicity. Be sure to read Part 1 right here.
PLOTTING and PACKING – Last Minute Race Prep
At the pre-race meeting, Jason mentioned how a lot of people have given him a hard time about using “reentrant” (think drainage or small valley) as a clue for a lot of his Checkpoints (CP’s) at previous races. So he decided to place all fourteen CP’s of the first orienteering section in a reentrant.
Luke: For those of you that have never raced in MO before, please let me enlighten you. Reentrants are EVERYWHERE. No matter where you look, you will see what could be considered a reentrant. Needless to say, this was going to be a tough O-section. Thank you, Jason. Thank you so much.
This was the first time that Luke and I actively plotted more than a couple of points together. Usually BLD or Drew calls the points out and Luke plots them. It took us a few CP’s until we fell into a cadence that made the plotting more efficient. As we plotted the points I would call out the clue to make sure that the clue and the point corresponded.
Luke felt the need to ask what the clue was for every single CP for this section. He’d say, “What’s the clue?”
And I’d respond with, “Reentrant.”
Then Luke would say, “You know that I already know the clue because they are all reentrants, right?”
To which I would answer every single time, “Yeah, that’s what makes it so funny.”
We did this for all 14 points of that section. This never grew old and brought a smile to each of our faces every single time. Travis and BLD were watching us plot our points, and even they were slightly amused by our repetitive, nonsensical comments.
Luke: I’m not sure they were amused. I think we thought it was funnier than they did.
By the end of plotting our points, we put together what passed as a rough game plan. Then we made our final pack adjustments, decided how much food to bring, filled our bladders and water bottles, and made last minute pit stops. BLD and Travis lubed our bike chains, checked the air in our bike tires, and adjusted my Corona bike light as we finished getting ready for the race. As I was taking care of some last minute business in the latrine (for the 43rd time) Luke looked over the maps, strategized a bit more, and came up with a more concrete game plan.
Luke: I’ve never known someone that poops more than this guy. I feared it was going to be a long race.
Casey: You go before the race so you don’t have to go during the race. Plus I am all about going light – I had to lighten the load, literally.
I returned to TV Camp and made our final preparations. With only 5 minutes left before the race started, we were rushing around making sure that we didn’t forget something. BLD and Travis were helping in any way possible, trying to make sure that we toed the line in time to start with the group.
I was standing by the passenger door of the TV van, and I was putting my wedding ring in a safe spot when Luke handed me his glasses and said, “Here are my glasses and wedding ring.” I looked down and said that I only had his glasses. Luke didn’t believe me at first, and then, once he realized that I was serious, he was visibly upset and said that he wasn’t leaving until we found it.
Luke: In my defense, my wedding ring means a lot to me. I know I could get a replacement, but this is the ring that I actually got married in. So a replacement just wouldn’t be the same. If that costs me man-points, than so be it.
Casey: No man points lost. I’d have done the same thing.
We now had about 4 minutes to the start of the race. I think this is when I heard the Star Spangled Banner playing (at least in my head). We were on our hands and knees looking for a little gold ring (actually, it’s platinum) in the grass around the car. Fortunately, Luke found it and handed it to me to put safely in the car. We ran to the starting line with a minute to spare. We sat on our bikes as everybody bunched around, ready for the starting gun.
And then my headlamp came unstrapped. I fumbled around with it for a few seconds to no avail. I then asked Luke to take a quick look at it. As he monkeyed around with it, the race started and we stood there as everybody began to ride away. Bob said, “So much for getting the hole shot.” Luke quickly had my headlamp fixed, I threw it on, we clipped in and then joined the peloton towards the rear. The race just started and already we were near last place. At least we didn’t have to worry about getting passed by too many teams.
Luke: I love starting a race off on the right foot. What a great start.
BIKE LEG #1 – Night Riding to Start the Race
We started the race with a huge uphill climb. We may have been a little cool at the start of the race but we were were sweating and had steam rolling off of us in no time. CP 1 was on the Ozark Trail just off of the gravel road. There were a lot of teams all around us when we found CP1 no problem.
We struggled a bit with CP2, and it took us longer to find it than it should have. Instead of taking an old jeep road down to the Berryman Trail where the CP was, we decided to take a gravel road down to the Harmon Springs campsite and then the Berryman Trail into the woods to the CP. We were afraid that the old jeep road wouldn’t be there or would not lead to the CP. With maps that haven’t been updated in decades, the jeep roads and trails are not always accurate. In hindsight, this was a mistake.
We cruised along the trail at a good pace and suddenly came up to at least 5 or 6 teams all looking around for CP2. After some quick conversation and a map check we decided the epicenter for the mass search for CP2 was incorrect, we could not have gone far enough to be at the CP yet. We decided to race our own race and continued along the trail, leaving a headlight-lit clearing behind us.
Luke: The #1 Rule in Adventure Racing is to NEVER FOLLOW ANOTHER TEAM! So we trusted our map and instincts.
After a couple of minutes we ran into another team headed back towards the group, and they informed us that we had missed CP2 and they had already gone far enough to be sure that it wasn’t up ahead. Well, we wanted to see for ourselves and continued down the trail.
Luke: See Rule #1 above.
Sometime during the search for CP2 the 30% chance of rain became 100% chance, and it rained on and off for the next 3 to 4 hours. Usually it was just a light mist but hard enough to soak us and everything in the woods, and at times, the sky opened up and really let loose for brief periods. Less than an hour into the race and we were soaked to the bone and our feet, as well as our shoes, where water logged.
After another 15 or 20 minutes, we were becoming more convinced that this wasn’t the right trail and we must have somehow missed the CP. We hated to turn around for fear that the CP might be just a little further down the trail. Should we continue the search where we were or retrace our steps and try again? Another couple of minutes and the trail began to play itself out and took a turn in an obviously wrong direction. We were now convinced that we were not near CP2 and had no choice but to retrace our steps.
Luke: Rule #1 is stupid.
We made it back to the previously-congested clearing and found nobody still searching for the CP. They all had either found it or had given up their search and headed to CP3. We looked around a little more, still with no luck. We continued to retrace our steps all the way back to the gravel road. We were sure that we knew where we were on the map, but we were unsure of how to find the correct trail to CP2. It should have been back where we just were. We were beginning to wonder if we had made a plotting error. But with so many other teams there, was it possible that we all made the same mistake? We thought about checking the point really quickly, when we realized that we left the clue sheet back at the TA. We no longer had the option of checking our points. We could only hope that we had plotted everything correctly.
Luke: Man, I felt like an idiot for leaving the clue sheet back at the van. I’m an idiot.
Casey: We left the clue sheet. I felt like an idiot too. It was the least I could have done.
We discussed our options…should we:
- Take the gravel road back to the main road, head down the road a bit further, hope we could find the jeep trail that appeared to lead almost right to the CP, and ride it into the area for a different approach? Or…
- Head back down the trail and find the trail and/or the CP2, we knew it had to be right there?
Well, we didn’t want to climb back up the gravel road, so we decided to head back into the woods on the trail for one more try. If that failed, then we’d back track to the main road and search for the jeep road. We took our time and rode slowly. Then as we neared the clearing, Luke spotted a trail marker for the BM a ways off the trail to the right (I imagine it’s more visible in the day light). We took the trail and within a several minutes we found the CP.
Luke: I felt pretty stupid for having missed the trail the first time. Fortunately, we caught my mistake relatively early and “only” wasted 20 to 30 minutes.
From there we headed towards CP3. As we neared CP3 we ran into a team back tracking looking for CP2. They had gone ahead, found CP3 and then backtracked hoping to find CP2. I guess we weren’t the only team that struggled with this CP.
We made good time to CP3 and CP4. We were a little annoyed that we lost some time searching for CP2 and we tried to push the pace a bit, hoping to make up some of the lost time. We hit CP4 and looked at the map really quick. If we rode down the trail a bit, we’d hit a jeep road that would kick us out onto the main road that would lead us in a roundabout way to CP5. However, it looked closer than staying on the trails the whole way. I asked Luke if the trails led all the way to CP 5. He answered that they did but it was quite a bit further and it was trail as opposed to gravel roads. He asked if I’d rather stay on the trails or take the shorter road option to CP5. I told him I was enjoying the single track but since it was a race, we should take the jeep road to the gravel road over to CP5.
So that was what we did. We hit the jeep road, cruised up to the gravel roads, and then rode hard to CP5/TA1. We felt that we might have made up a little of our lost time. We hit CP5 for the first rogaine section of the race. Our spirits were up and we found out that we were ahead of more teams than we thought. We changed into our trail shoes, ate a quick snack, checked the map, and then headed over to sign into the O-section (we had 8 hours to complete it or get as many points as you could find and for every five minutes past the 8-hour-cuttoff, you lost a CP).
We signed in and were about to head into the woods, when we ran into Jason, the race director. He said we were doing well and we told him about the difficulties we had at CP 2. He asked why we didn’t just take the jeep road. We told him we were afraid that it wouldn’t be there since the maps weren’t exactly new. He thought that the jeep road was the obvious route and that everybody would have taken it. We told him about the large number of teams (and there were some really good teams there) looking for the CP with us. He wished us luck and we checked the map again. Just as we turned to leave we heard Jason calling to us. (Uh-Oh) We turned around to talk with him.
He asked if we came in on the road to which we answered, “Yep.” We told him we had kicked out on a jeep road and rode down that way instead of taking the trail all the way around. We pulled the map out and showed him our route. Then he said that we were supposed to stay on the trail from CP4 all the way to CP5, it was on the clue sheet AND he mentioned it at the pre-race meeting. (Shit!) It hit me, I had read it briefly while plotting the points and I vaguely remember hearing it during the pre-race meeting (maybe we should not have been talking so much).
Luke: Now I felt like a complete idiot. I remembered reading it and hearing it too, after Jason reminded us of it. I can’t believe neither of us remembered it even after we debated about staying on the trail or taking the road. Would we have caught our mistake if we had a clue sheet? I have no idea, and I guess we’ll never know.
He said that he had extra clue sheets with him if we needed another. We walked to his truck and got another clue sheet (which we ended up never needed again). On the way to his truck we asked him what our options were.
He answered that we could continue with the race and finish “unofficially”.
To this Luke said, “No way. I’m through with that ‘UNOFFICIAL SHIT!’ We’ll go all the way back.” This reaction was based on the total BS that happened to Team Virtus at the Lionheart AR back in July (Luke is writing the report still). I have to admit I felt the same way but I just wasn’t able to verbalize my feelings as well as Luke did.
Luke: I’d like to apologize to Jason. I hope he didn’t take offense to my reaction. It was our mistake, not his. He had the rules in writing and discussed them at the pre-race meeting like a good race director should (unlike what happened at the Lionheart Adventure Race). There was just no way in hell I was going to be an “unofficial finisher” again, and I was just upset with our stupidity.
I then asked Jason if we could go back to where we cut out onto the gravel road and ride the trails all the way back to where we were and still be official finishers. He answered yes; we’d be official if we did this, but we had to go all the way back to CP 4, punch again on the “A” box, to prove that we had ridden the trail all the way from CP4 to CP5.
CP 4 was a several miles back up the trail from where we’d cut out on the jeep road. Our mistake was going to cost us several hours and many extra miles on our legs (and taints). We checked out of the O-section and explained what happened and that we’d be back in a while. We were pissed at ourselves. How could we make such a detrimental mistake so early in the race?
Luke and I were in a pretty bad place mentally and spiritually at that point. We had such a shitty race in Pennsylvania and were so looking forward to a good race at the Berryman. Now, due to a stupid mistake, that great race we had been looking forward to for weeks was in jeopardy. Luke checked the map and reminded me about the long down hills that got us to this TA and how crappy and slow it would be to get back to CP4. He guessed a good 2 hours of hard riding back to CP 4 (it only took an hour of riding to get to CP5) and then at least 2 hours to ride the trails from CP4 to CP5.
Luke: I can’t even tell you how low I felt at this moment. It felt like our race was ruined, and I felt like it was all my fault. It was probably the lowest I’ve ever felt at a race, because, unlike the Lionheart AR where the bullshit that happened was out of our control, this bullshit was self-inflicted. Did I want to quit? Absolutely. But then I remembered what Bob has said in the past: “Imagine how cool this story would NOT be if it ended with… ‘and then it got really hard so we quit.’” I didn’t want to have to write that on our blog, so we mustered all of the Strength and Honor we could and moved on the best we could.
Casey: It wasn’t all your fault. I could have taken over the navigation anytime I thought I could do better. We lost an hour or two with you navigating. It could have been 3 or 4 if somebody else (like me) was doing it. I am glad that we continued with the race.
As we got our biking shoes and helmets back on and prepared to head back out on our bikes, more teams trickled in from the road side. Apparently, there were several teams that took the road just like we did. We were clipping into our bikes when we heard Jason calling out and asking if Team Virtus was still here. We answered, “Over here!” and he came over to us. He said that they talked it over and due to the circumstances we could choose to ride back like we were planning on doing or continue with the race with a 2 hour time penalty assessed to our finishing time and still be official finishers.
Luke: I’ve never wanted to kiss a man so badly in my life. Thank you, Jason!
We agreed to this option and thanked him. This is what a good race director does. He makes adjustments on the fly. He could have made us all unofficial finishers (I think 6 or 7 teams, or about 25% of the 36 hour racers made the same mistake we made), he could have made us all ride back to CP 4, or he could assess a fair penalty and allow us all to keep racing.
I am pretty sure that nobody would have chosen to ride out on the jeep road and take a two hour penalty to avoid riding the trails to CP5. It just wouldn’t be time effective. We figured that we saved an hour by riding the road instead of the trail, but ended up losing roughly 2 and a half hours from the time penalty and changing back and forth from biking gear to trail gear and back twice. So we probably lost an hour and a half total. We quickly changed back into our trekking gear and headed over to the TA area to check back into the O-section.
THE FIRST O-SECTION – Rogaine Style: Team Virtus Does A 180 – the Trials and Tribulations of Night Navigation
We had 8 hours to do the first O-section. With 14 CP’s plus the final CP back at the Transition Area (TA) where we had checked in, we had about 32 minutes to make it to each CP’s if we wanted to clear the course. We had to be point on and needed to make up some ground. If we could clear this section we’d be right back in the race. We headed into the course planning on a clockwise rotation through the CP’s.
We quickly passed a team checking their maps, it was Team Kuat. We have raced against them in the past and know they are a competitive team. We didn’t have a definitive attack point for CP6 and hoped that Kuat did. We were trying to make up time and made a mistake that we have made over repeatedly, we followed another team. But this was Kuat, they knew what they were doing, so we thought it would be okay just this once. Maybe our decision not to follow the group back at CP2 somehow subconsciously effected our decision to follow another team and not race our own race.
Luke: Yeah, after NOT following other teams at CP2 led to us losing some time, we thought we could make up time by following a good team here. And I will now repeat Adventure Racing Rule #1: NEVER FOLLOW ANOTHER TEAM! EVER! Why do we have to learn this lesson over and over and over and over again?
Well, we followed Kuat into the woods for a while (kind of nonchalantly and hoped they wouldn’t notice), and we thought we’d see the CP in a few minutes. We followed Kuat for a while, but they eventually outpaced us. We knew we couldn’t keep pace with them for long, but we thought we could follow them for long enough to jump start our o-section and quickly find CP6.
Unfortunately, we hadn’t found CP6 before they dropped us. Now we were alone in the woods and had lost contact with the map.We knew we were in a specific general region but had no defining features that we could see in the dark to pinpoint our location.
Luke: This was really stupid of me. Stupid, stupid, stupid! And by the way, how can you be in a “specific general region?” It’s either specific or it’s general. It can’t be both, can it?
Casey: A specific general region is possible. We all can agree that there are many “general regions” on any given map. Out of all the “general regions” on the map we knew which “specific general region” we were in. We didn’t know exactly where in that” general region” we were in but we did know that we were in that specific region.
We continued down a ravine in what we thought was the correct direction. We eventually hit a significant trail and found a trail marker. We now knew that we were somewhere on a trail. Somehow, when searching for CP6 we had trailed off to the northwest and hit the Berryman Trail. We took the trail back towards CP6 and thought that we could go up the reentrant and find the CP pretty easily. We wandered around for another 30 minutes and still no CP.
So much for 32 minutes per CP. We had already wasted an hour and had yet to find a single CP in this rogaine section. Our attitudes were rapidly heading south, this sucked. Luke seemed more affected by our abysmal start than I was. I am guessing the reason for this was because he has raced Bonk Hard before and knows how good their races are, especially the Berryman. This coupled, with the lousy experience at the Lionheart and Luke’s spirit was close to breaking. I was down and pissed off but still thoroughly enjoying the time in the woods with my brother, whom I don’t get to see enough.
Luke: I really was close to breaking. The mistake at CP2, the two-hour time penalty, and now we were effing lost?!?!? I felt like all of the mistakes were my fault since I was navigating. I felt like I was ruining not only my race, but Casey’s race as well. And he had spent a lot of money and time to fly out to MO to do this race with me. I felt like a failure. Plain and simple.
We backtracked all the way back to where we left the trail and found a trail/creek intersection so we could locate our exact location on the map. Contact with the map again, we should find the CP shortly…Right? From here Luke shot a direct bearing and we decided to bushwhack directly to the CP.
We leapfrogged each other when the woods became too dense to follow the bearing by itself. I’d walk ahead of Luke and he’d line me up on his bearing. Then he’d catch up to me, and I’d head off ahead and make adjustments based on Luke’s verbal directions. A team headed past us back towards the trail. They asked us if we had found CP6 yet, and we said not yet and asked if we were close. They said that they didn’t know, that they were giving up on CP6 and heading on to their next checkpoint. We told them we had a direct bearing and were going to find it.
I wish I could tell you that it worked out and that we found CP6, had a big celebratory hug, and our raced improved from there. But alas… We were unable to find CP6. After a few minutes of discussion, we decided to throw in the towel on CP6 and head for CP8 (remember, this was a rogaine section, so we could get the CP’s in any order). In hind sight, we should have done this at least an hour earlier. Well, if we are looking with hind sight, I guess we never should have followed Team Kuat because we later found out that they never found CP6 after looking for about 2 hours.
At sometime around this point in the race Luke had a Viktor Frankl moment and made a conscious decision to turn his attitude around, which, in turn, turned our race around. For those that don’t know,Viktor was an Austrian psychiatrist that was imprisoned in Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp during WWII. His philosophy (you can read all about it in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning) basically stated that you can’t always control the circumstances you face or what happens to you, but you can always choose and control how you react to them. This led to his survival through some tortuous experiences. I am not for a second comparing this race or anything in my life to what Viktor went through, but I believe that his philosophy can be employed in my life, especially adventure racing where so many things are out of your control. I immediately noticed Luke’s improved attitude which in turn picked me up and we started having fun again. This was what it was all about. The race was on and Team Virtus was moving to the outside.
Luke: It’s funny you should mention this. While Viktor Frankl never crossed my mind, I did make a conscious decision to turn my attitude and my race around. I had hit rock-bottom as far as how low I felt. I knew that I couldn’t let this race crumble into further disaster. When we decided to give up on CP6, I made up my mind that I was NOT going to let what happened thus far ruin our race. I made the decision to not let any future mistakes ruin our race. I made the decision to stop beating myself up for making so many mistakes. And I made the decision to kick some orienteering ass to the best of my ability no matter what happened.
Casey: Luke did an amazing 180 and never looked back. He was a new man once we abandoned the search for CP6 (I know we had to be close to finding it). His change in attitude lifted my spirits and attitude as well. I knew from then on that we would have a great experience together regardless of what happened in the race. First and foremost, I wanted to have a great experience with Luke and be able to look back on this one day many years from now and smile.
Not only did Luke’s attitude improve but so did his navigation. We rallied off 8 CP’s in a row with the time we had left. He was on point. We never wasted more than 5 or 10 minutes looking for a CP not only for this o-section but for the rest of the race. He was like a homing pigeon, it was like he turned on a sixth sense and just knew exactly where to lead us. I started calling him “Homer” (short for homing pigeon) which took him several CP’s to figure out.
Luke: At first I thought you meant Homer Simpson since I had made so many mistakes.
The rest of the o-section went smoothly and was pretty uneventful. At some point during this section my headlamp broke, the hinge of my Apex snapped and my headlamp now pointed straight down. I’ll not bore you with a CP-by-CP account of the whole section. Somewhere in the wee hours of the morning, the rain stopped for good, but our feet and clothes were soaked through. Everything in the forest was still soaked and dripping wet as well, so it still felt like it was sprinkling on us. We made our way through the darkness, finding the CP’s with no problems. With each CP, our spirits brightened. And then the sun shone through the trees, perking us up evene more.
In hind sight, I think you’d have had to run some in order to clear the o-section. It was just too much ground to cover with a fast walking pace.
Luke: We got 8 CP’s plus the final CP at the TA where we checked back in. We had 15 minutes left of our 8-hour time allotment. If we spent an hour and a half looking for CP6 (and maybe it was longer than that), then we averaged a little under 42 minutes per CP. We weren’t too far off, but yes. We would have needed to run to get all of them I think.
However there is one more point worth mentioning. Towards the end of the 8 hour o-section we started seeing 12-hour racers biking on a trail that we were trekking on. We kept an eye out for any teammates or friends that we knew were doing the 12 hour, hoping that we’d see a familiar face. We never saw Bob or Travis (whose race report is in the works), but we did run into Kage and Jim (Their race report can be found here). They were in good spirits and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying their first adventure race. They asked if we were still in our 8-hour rogaine section and wished us luck when we answered affirmatively.
Luke: Actually, I believe Kate said something like, “Please tell me you’re not still on the orienteering section!”
After a few quick, encouraging words we parted ways, and they rode off down the trail as we hiked up the trail. We made it back to the TA with 15-20 minutes to spare. We noticed that we were almost out of water and were hoping to find a good source to refill our supply. We quickly transitioned, checked the maps, and took off on our bikes.
BIKE LEG #2 – Fast, Flowy Single Track and the Mystery Event
The bike section was fun and fairly easy to navigate. Shortly after leaving the O-section, we had to cross a beautiful little creek. Since we decided against changing into dry socks at the last TA we just waded across the creek in our already wet socks and shoes. However, there was another, drier option. There was a log across the majority of the river and you could cross on the log to dry land if you had good balance and the desire to do so. Since we were almost out of water we took this opportunity to fill all of our water bottles. I waded into the fast moving water and filled our bottles for us as Luke dug into his pack to retrieve the iodine so that we could properly treat the water. We popped an iodine table into each bottle, shook them up and prepared to leave the TA.
As we were packing up, we had an opportunity to see another team attempt the alternate option of crossing the creek by trying to tight rope the log. It turned out to be about as easy as it looked, and out of the four feet crossing on the log, three of them got wet.
We packed up and headed away from the creek. As we left, we walked down the trail a bit through several inches of sand. Once we cleared the sand we hopped back onto our bikes and took off. We pedaled at a good pace and enjoyed some fun, fast and flowy single track.
We hit on CP21 and ran into team Off Road Addiction as they were heading back down the trail to the CP. They had somehow overshot it and were headed back to collect it. It turns out that the Golden Girls were to us at the Truman Lake, as we were to Team Off Road Addiction at the Berryman (SAT flashback, sorry).
Luke: Dude, no one in the Midwest takes the SAT. Everyone out here takes the ACT.
Casey: Does the SAT reference still work with the ACT’s? I assume the tests are similar.
Off Road Addiction would fly by us at high speed on the bike or on foot and later when they stopped for a map check or a snack, we’d catch up, say hello, and pass them. Each time, within minutes of passing them, they’d fly by us and retake the lead. This went on for much of the race, we’d leap frog each other until the final bike leg and then we didn’t see them until the award presentation. After finding CP22, they passed us, and Luke and I sat down and took a good 10 minute break to eat, drink, and study the map.
Luke: Actually, they had the lead the whole time since they got 13 of the 14 CP’s on the O-course, only missing one, and we missed 5 CP’s.
After the break, we felt much better and we decided not to follow Team Off Road Addiction’s chosen route. Instead, we chose to bike-whack through the woods for a stretch and come out on a gravel road. During this bike-whacking expedition I commented on how much Bob would love this. I found myself doing this many times throughout the race. Bob would have loved the hard rain, he would loved that stretch of single track, and he would have loved the bike-whacking. I found myself wishing Bob was here to experience this and be a part of it with us. Maybe next year he’ll be there with us. We hopped on the road just like we had planned and quickly passed a couple of teams. We cruised down a HUGE downhill that dead-ended at a small beautiful lake.
This CP was manned by our friend Dan Dugan, from OZ Cycles (who rented, delivered, and picked up the kayaks for our first non-race), and it was also a mystery event. One member of the team had to pick an inflatable raft and paddle across the lake to a CP and then back. (Thank God we didn’t have to build a noodle raft like we did last year) I was going to do the event, but I had to pee really badly. I said I’d be happy to paddle but had to pee first. The volunteers said it’s a quick event and Luke would be half done with it before I was done peeing. So as I peed, Luke picked a raft, hopped in, and quickly made his way across the lake and back in 5-10 minutes. He was awesome in the raft, by paddling on alternating sides he was able to keep the raft tracking in a straight line and made it look effortless.
As Luke was paddling, two teams showed up with only half of their team (2 out of 4). They were asked about their teammates and one team had a rear derailleur break, forcing one teammate’s bike into a single speed. He didn’t want to ride that far or climb that big of a hill on a single speed. The other team just had tired teammates that didn’t want to climb back up the large hill. They were instructed to get their teammates or they would be in violation of the close-vicinity-of-a teammate-rule. Both teams said that this wasn’t an option and that they would take whatever penalty they had coming.
They were doing the mystery event as Luke and I saddled up and climbed up the bitch of a hill. At the top of the hill, we saw two of the missing teammates waiting for their teammates to reunite with them, and several miles down the road we ran into the other two teammates waiting patiently along the side of the road. We noticed that one of their bikes indeed had no rear derailer. At least they were telling the truth (personally I was glad to see they did). We know how it feels to lose your rear derailer in a race. It really sucks. It happened to us at the Lionheart Adventure Race (Luke is still working on the race report). We left both teams behind us as we headed towards the next o-section of the race.
The rest of the bike section was hilly but fun and fast in stretches. We got the opportunity to ride a lot of single track during this race. It is by far the most single track in any of the adventure races that I have experienced thus far in my adventure racing career. We finished the bike leg and hit CP24/TA3 around 4:20 PM on Saturday.
THE 2nd O-SECTION - Rogaine Style: Homer is Smoking
We took another little break and ate some food as we studied the map and planned out our route for the next o-section. We took the time to pinpoint definitive attack points for each CP, hoping to avoid any mistakes. We refilled all our water bottles (Luke filled them this time and I was in charge of the iodine) before we checked into the o-section. We had 6 hours to find the next 6 CP’s.
We headed towards the first CP and suddenly came to a large creek that we had to cross. We looked upstream and downstream hoping to find a dry crossing or maybe a log across the creek like we encountered before? No luck. So we waded across the stream and thoroughly soaked our nice semi-dry socks.
Homer continued his hot streak, and we rolled through the first couple of CP’s with no problems. The CP’s were pretty far apart, and since we weren’t running this section or really any other… until the finish (Nice foreshadowing!) it seemed to take a long time to get to each CP. However, we knew that we were going correctly as we never lost contact with the map and Luke gave an ongoing commentary of the terrain up ahead and twists and turns in the trails. He was spot on for this whole section and we kept collecting CP’s.
We knocked off the first 3 CPs in broad daylight and collected the 4th just as it was starting to get dark. We still had 2 more CPs to get, so we dug out our headlights. We continued with our hot streak and hit the last two CP’s with little difficulty. The last CP was placed in a “valley “(according to the clue sheet). We climbed down the valley from above and decided to follow the middle of it down to the CP. We climbed and scrambled over a collection of boulders of all shapes and sizes. This slowed our progress and took its toll on us physically. We eventually came right up to the CP.
We punched our passport and took a quick look at the map. We could either ascend back up the rockslide we just scrambled down and take the jeep roads/trail back out, or we could continue down the valley, bushwhack through some pretty thick vegetation, cross some creeks, and hit another trail and take it out. We were getting a little short on time and discussed which way would not only take less of a physical toll on our bodies, but which would get us back to the TA the fastest.
Neither of us really was looking forward to mountain-goating our way back up the boulder field and since we weren’t planning on running when we hit the trail (unless we had to, to get back in time) it didn’t look worth the time and energy we would need to invest to re-ascend to the trail above us. We decided to bushwhack down the valley, across the flat (and densely vegetated) field, hit the lower trail and take it back to the TA.
We walked, we bushwhacked, we climbed through thorns and poison ivy, we laughed, we cussed, we might have cried a little, and we second-guessed our decision and hoped we’d get back in time. After much effort and what seemed like hours, we finally kicked out on the trail just like we planned. However, it took a little longer than we anticipated and we worried about cutting it too close. We doubled our pace and speed-walked the trail as it meandered along the base of a hill. We kept one eye on the clock and the other on the map. We eventually hit a power line and walked up it to a trail that would take us right back to the TA.
Luke: My feet were killing me, and that speed-walking BS didn’t help matters any. I was determined not to lose a precious CP that we worked so hard to get, though. I think next year we need uniforms like Hal from “Malcolm in the Middle”:
We now knew that we’d get back in time and even had some time to spare. We slowed back down to our race pace and strolled into the TA with about 16 minutes to spare.
We took time at this TA to air our feet out (Note to self: at the next race bring more than 1 extra pair of socks with you). Luke’s feet were super white and very wrinkled. They were becoming more sore, and we feared they were becoming macerated and tried to let them air out for as long as we could.
Luke: My feet were hurting so damn bad!
Luke also became very aware of his Monkey Butt. His ass and taint area were chapped and chafed. He was afraid it might actually be bleeding. As much as he wanted to get off his water sodden sore feet, he didn’t want to climb onto his bike seat and aggravate his Monkey Butt. He thought about pulling a BLD and airing everything out (it’ll be in the Lionheart report, Luke’s working on it - Okay, Okay!!! I’ll try to finish the report soon. Geesh!), but since the TA was manned, he was respectful and modest and kept his pants on.
We ate lots of food, re-hydrated, rested, dried out Luke’s feet (sort of), and studied the map. This was one of our longer breaks. We knew we had a long bike ride to the paddle and neither of us was very excited or anxious to get started on the long bike leg. We were now out of caffeine (Note to self: always throw in a couple extra packets of Foosh Mints – They’re very light and worth it if you need it) and beginning to feel like we could use a little pick me up. The food was helping some, but we were afraid it wouldn’t last. We also didn’t bring any extra batteries because we thought we’d be back to camp much sooner and 1 set of fresh batteries should have been enough (Note to self: always throw in an extra set of batteries, worth the weight). (We did have back up headlamps, but hey weren’t nearly as bright as our Apex headlamps)
We decided to cannibalize my Corona Bike light, and we now had 8 AA batteries plus the quickly dimming batteries in our headlamps to make it through 10-ish miles of biking and 6 – 7 miles of paddling (something I have done very little of in the dark). I also took a few minutes to jerry-rig my Apex so I could actually see the road as I biked. I wedged a couple of Honey Stinger Waffle wrappers behind the light and duct taped the light back onto the base. This gave me a fixed angle and would allow me to bike and paddle without my light pointing at the ground.
We eventually ran out of things to do, Luke’s feet were as good as they were going to get so we decided that we had best be on our way. We put on dry socks, even though our shoes were still wet, and we saddled up and took off on our long, arduous pedal to the paddle leg of the race.
BIKE LEG #3 – The Sleep Monster Pays Us His First Visit
Navigation was basic and minimal on this section. We had a long ride on mostly gravel roads. We rode everything, even the big uphill sections; this spared Luke’s aching feet. However, every bump would aggravate his monkey butt so he was pedaling standing up most of the time. It was a lose-lose situation for Luke, and we still had a lot of race left.
We weren’t setting any speed records and were becoming tired, and we longed for even a few minutes of sleep. We were biking along when I saw Luke shake his head back and forth. Had it been Bob, I might have thought it was a start of a seizure. Then he continued biking like nothing unusual had happened. Once again he had a mini “seizure.” This time I asked him if he was OK. He said he was getting very sleepy and having trouble staying awake. He was being visited by the much dreaded SLEEP MONSTER.
His head-shaking technique seemed to work for a while.
This was Luke’s pattern for a long stretch of this bike ride. Then, when we were cruising down a nice long downhill, I saw his longest shaking session yet. Then I heard him yelling something out really loudly and making what sounded like farm animal sounds. At the bottom of the hill I asked him if he was OK. He said that he had almost fallen asleep on the last downhill.
Luke: It scared the hell out of me. Have you ever dozed off while riding your bike down a hill at 30 mph? I suggest you don’t try it.
I asked about the sounds and he answered that he was playing a game with the SLEEP MONSTER. He’d call out something like…
“A pig goes…”
And then make a surprisingly realistic pig sound.
“A cow goes…”
And do a really good cow.
He cycled through many animals, and I was kept awake by watching his performance. He was very entertaining; I had a one-man show travelling with me.
We climbed up another large hill and knew we had the big downhill coming up. I kept near Luke on the downhill, and I would call out various animals. Luke would then respond with the proper animal sound between head shakes. I now know what sounds an aardvark, a hippo, an alligator, a zebra, a sloth, a chinchilla, and many other exotic animals make. It was a very educating bike ride for me. Apparently, Luke knows his animal sounds and is quite adept at reproducing their calls. Next time you see him I encourage you to challenge him with an exotic animal and let him reproduce the sounds they make, he knows them all.
Luke: I only vaguely recall this little animal sound game. I don’t think I could reproduce the sounds of some of those animals if you asked me to now.
Casey: My favorite one was the spitting cobra. You have to ask Luke to do that one for you…classic.
We continued to pedal, and Luke continued his cage fight with the SLEEP MONSTER. Head-shakes and animal sounds won us some battles but Luke was slowly losing the war. He just couldn’t understand or rationalize why he couldn’t stay awake. If almost dying by falling asleep on your bike going 30 mph down a hill doesn’t give you enough of an adrenaline rush to wake you up, head-shakes and animal sounds don’t have much of a chance as a long-term solution to keep you awake.
We needed some caffeine but had none. We crested another hill and we decided to get off and walk down. That’s right. For Luke’s safety, we had to walk down a bombing big downhill. We were able to ride up it, but the speeds we’d hit going down were too much of a risk if Luke actually fell asleep again. As we walked, we played the animal sound game some more and it quickly lost its ability to have any affect against the sleep monster.
Not only was Luke losing his battle with the sleep monster, he had suddenly come down with a bad case of the UMBLES…he was stumbling, mumbling, bumbling, and even grumbling a little. As we walked, Luke was taking little micro-naps. I would be talking to him and then he’d become silent, stop moving, and list to the side. He’d then startle himself awake and start moving again. At least several times he fell into me as we walked and I would put a hand on his shoulder and push him back upright, and he’d continue on.
This went on for quite a spell. We now were walking the flats and uphills as well. Luke checked the map and saw we were getting closer but we still had a ways to go. I asked him if he wanted to take a quick nap on the side of the road. He said no, he was afraid we’d wake up after the race was over. So, we kept moving.
Luke: In hindsight, we probably would have been much better-off if we would have slept a little bit. In my sleep-deprived pseudo-coma, though, I thought that if we could just make it to the canoe put-in, I’d wake up and everything would be okay.
Eventually Luke decided that he had to ride if we were ever going to get to the paddle. He needed to wake himself up somehow. He decided to call upon a trick we have used in the past on long road trips…PAIN. He slapped himself silly. After 3 or 4 hard, full hand-slaps to his own face, he was able to wake himself up enough to saddle up. We climbed the rest of the hill and we flew down the backside. Luke was shaking and squealing his way down the hill. He began to pull ahead of me and was drifting across the road. I wasn’t sure if he was asleep or not so I called out as loudly as I could…
“A PIG GOES!!!…?”
And Luke squealed, grunted, and oinked himself safely down the hill as he shook his head most of the way.
We had done it; we safely pedaled down the last significant hill in this leg of the race. Now we just had a stretch made up of a nice flat, rolling gravel road which would lead us to the start of the paddling leg of the race. We talked as the end of the bike leg drew near. We decided it was in our strategic favor to take a quick 20-30 minute nap before launching our canoes for the paddle.
We thought we’d feel better and knew we’d be safer on the river with the rest. We began to feel better and picked the pace up as we knew we would soon get to sleep, even if for only a few minutes. We pulled into CP33/TA5, checked in and received a big smile from the volunteer, Dave from Team Forum Dental, who gladly snapped a photo of us:
He then handed us a note. It was from Bobby-Let-Down. It had some encouraging words, a bribe of pork steaks on the grill when we were done, and a nice hand drawn picture of either an erect penis or a hand with the middle finger extended. Either way it brought a smile to our faces and made us laugh.
Luke: Getting this note was almost like getting a hug from my kids… almost. It helped me wake up and lifted my spirits more than you’ll ever know.
In preparation for our nap followed by the paddle, Luke and I stripped down and dressed into every piece of dry clothing that we had. As we stripped down, we impressed even ourselves with the odor emanating from our bodies and clothing. Good God we smelled! I felt bad for the volunteer across the parking lot. I am pretty sure that he could smell our home-brewed batch of smelly man-filth. I couldn’t tell if Luke or I smelled worse.
Luke: Seriously. I’ve never smelled such a vile odor coming from a person in my life. It seriously made me gag a few times.
For the last 5 to 6 hours I noticed a stench following us through the woods. Finally I realized that the rotting carcass smell was emanating from us. I attempted to determine who was smelliest but wavered back and forth as to who would hold the title. Every time I thought I had a winner the wind would change direction and then suddenly find a new horrific odor. Was it coming from me or my teammate? Unable to determine a winner I decided that together we were smellier than our parts and anointed us both the title of World’s Smelliest Adventure Racer. I know without a doubt that this was the smelliest I have ever been in my life. My new TV jersey as well as some really nice racing gear might be ruined for good. So let me know if you are in the market for a used TV Jersey, some base layers, or lightly used bike shorts with a nice chamois.
As we layered up and talked about the paddle and our nap, a funny thing had happened. Luke had woken up; he was wide awake and ready to go. He had done it; he had finally kicked the SLEEP MONSTER’s ass. Awesome. Luke said he wanted to skip the nap and hit the river right away. I agreed and was excited that we might actually make it to the finish line without a nap and before the cut-off.
We checked out with the volunteer, picked our canoe, and headed to the Huzzah Creek to start the 7-ish mile paddle back towards the starting area. Once we finished this paddle, we only had 2 “quick and easy” CP’s to nab, and then we’d be back at race headquarters, where we’d get our second set of maps and coordinates and then make a decision on what to do with the time we had left.
THE PADDLE – Fog, Hallucinations, and Narcolepsy
Stay Tuned for Part 3…
**NOTE** This race report was written by Casey and is presented in black text, Luke’s comments are presented to you in Blue, and Bob’s commentary is given in Red. Casey added a response or two in green.
The Berryman 36 hour adventure race has been part legend and part icon in my adventure racing world. You see, this is where it all started. This was the first Adventure Race Luke did, which would eventually lead to me doing my first adventure race. Berryman was the mother of all races, a “real ass kicker”. I’ve wanted to do this race since half way through my first adventure race, the Inaugural Truman Lake Adventure Race. This was before Team Virtus even existed, and I was racing with Luke and Drew, who also happened to be Luke’s first Berryman partner 11 years ago. I heard all about their adventures, mishaps and everything they did wrong and would do differently “next time.” Their discussion made me desperately want to complete the Berryman someday. Last year I couldn’t find a partner for the 36 hour race. I could have made the trip for the 12 hour kiddy race, but I had my heart set on the grown-up race.. the “real ass kicker”, the 36 hour version.
Bob: Kiddy race? MF’er, I’ll kill you.
Luke: I’m with Bob. The 12-hour race is an ass-kicker as well.
Casey: I am calling you out right here on this blog Bob. Man up, train you butt off, and enter the 36 hour race next year.
Bob: Challenge accepted.
Earlier this year, I looked for a partner once again for the 36 hour race. However, I was only having luck finding people willing to do the 12 hour version of the race. This race must be a real S.O.B. since I couldn’t find anybody to race it with me. Luke and Drew were planning on racing the 36 hour Berryman again in 2011 as a duo in defense of their divisional victory last year. I guess I would have to wait another year before tackling this iconic race. I didn’t give up all hope, but I had realistically explored all the possible partners I knew of. I wasn’t too excited about racing for 36 hours with a stranger that I met online, so I decided I’d have to wait at least another year.
One day back in June, though, I received a call from Luke. He asked me if I was still interested in doing the 36 hour Berryman. I said “absolutely” and then asked who I would be teaming up with. He answered with himself, that he needed a partner to race with. What happened to Drew? Was he injured or was he just afraid to get his ass really kicked? He told me that Drew had an untimely family conflict that weekend. Luke knew I had been chomping at the bit to try the Berryman, so he called me. That decided it. Luke and I entered in the 2011 2-man division of the 36 hour Berryman Adventure Race. Even though I felt like the last kid picked for dodge ball at recess, it was finally happening. I was going to tackle the race, the myth, the legend, the real ass kicker…the Berryman Adventure.
I then checked my calendar and realized that I would be spending the week before the race in Sin City with my wife, my best friend, and his wife. We had planned to see if everything that happens in Vegas really stays there. I considered cancelling the trip, but since it was all prepaid, I’d lose too much money. I decided to take the trip, have a good time, eat, drink, and be merry, and then recover in the 6 days before the race. I figured that no amount of debauchery and fun could possibly annul months of preparation. Could it? Well, time will tell.
Luke: I couldn’t wait to hear all of the stories from Vegas. With 36 hours to race, I knew I was going to hear every detail about the tranny hookers, face tattoos, random babies named Carlos, a naked Asian man in the trunk of a car… Or was that a movie?
Casey: I took it a little easier than that. I did get to meet Sugar Ray Leonard in person. I also got to paddle the Colorado, which was a blast (report in the works). Oh yeah, I did see a naked Asian man but he wasn’t in the trunk.
So, I spent the rest of the summer training my ass off and racing whenever and wherever I could get the chance. You see, even though I was Luke’s second choice, his back-up if you will, I still didn’t want to let him down at the race. I wanted to make sure I did all that I could in preparation for the big day. I wish I could tell you that everything went as planned, that I was in the shape of my life, and that the Lionheart Adventure Race (our other “big” race of the year) was a great race and got me ready for the challenge. Well, shit happens; I’m not as young as I used to be, I had a couple of injuries, Luke hurt his ribs again, and the Lionheart was disappointing (so disappointing that Luke is still working on the race report). Overall, I put in a good summer of training and felt ready to race and hoped that I would not be the anchor of the team and let Luke down. I had to prove myself worthy of his choice as a partner for the race.
RACE DAY – Pre-Race
Around 9:00 AM on race day, Luke and I were in his living room sorting through gear, checking required gear lists, and trying to decide what was and was not needed. We planned on finishing packing and loading the van before lunch and then catching a quick nap (while Oat Boat took his) before we headed to Steelville for the race. The nap was going to be much needed since the 36-hour-racers were led to believe the race was starting Friday night and there would be no chance for sleeping once we arrived at the BASS RIVER RESORT for check-in.
As we were packing, we realized that we were missing some very important required gear. Luke, the nice guy that he is, had lent his map case and map tool to Bob, aka “Bobby Let Down” or “BLD” for short. Not a big deal, right? We’d just call him and ask him to bring it to the race and then we could catch our nap. Well, BLD doesn’t believe in modern technologies and conveniences like deodorant, underwear, chamois butter, cell phones, or even land-line phones for that matter. Who needs those silly training distractions that Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell came up with? They probably invented them just to distract BLD from his intense training schedule.
Luke: In Bob’s defense, I didn’t actually lend the map case and map tool to him. I just thought they may have ended up in his gear box from the last race, which, as it turns out, was true. So it was actually my fault for waiting until the morning of the race to pack and for not knowing where my gear was. However, not being able to get in touch with Bob was a huge pain in the ass. I think we need to get sponsored by AT&T or something to get that man a phone.
Bob: For the record, I had the map and UTM tool ready at the campsite.
Luke: That’s true. You would not have let us down, so I’m not sure we can use your new nickname… But it just sounds so good! I think we’ll keep using it.
Well, it appears that BLD did it again, he let us down. We had no idea whether he would bring the gear to the race or even if he had it any longer (ask him what happened to the pack raft Luke lent him). Our race was in jeopardy. Was the inability to plot points or keep our map dry (not to mention a potential time penalty for missing mandatory gear) worth gambling on the likelihood that BLD would actually show up at the race with the gear we needed? Would he come through for us this time or would history repeat itself? As George Santayana put it in his often bastardized quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Luke and I were able to remember the past and feared we’d repeat it if we left it in BLD’s hands.
Bob: What “history” was everyone afraid of repeating?
Casey: Doesn’t this picture of Bob look like a Will Ferrell character? Like maybe a gay lumberjack or a psychotic trapper about ready to break into song and dance or maybe the perfect cheer?
I told Luke that since I was planning on buying a larger map case anyway; that we should just run out and pick one up just to be safe. While we were at it, I could grab a couple of pairs of socks. Luke then told me that the nearest place to find what we needed was about 4o-45minutes away at the Alpine Shop in Columbia, Missouri. Seriously? Isn’t Jefferson City the capital of the great state of Missouri? You cannot buy a map case or Injinji socks anywhere in the capital city?
So we thought about it and mulled it over for a while as we packed up the rest of our gear. If we made the quick trip to the Alpine Shop we’d have no opportunity for a nap. However, if we showed up without the required gear we would have a bad race and have kicked our own asses before the event even started. Could we trust BLD – the loveable, cuddle-able, forgetful Bob to come through and show up with Luke’s borrowed gear? The answer was a definite, Hell No! Not BLD. So we threw Otis into the van and headed off to the Alpine Shop. Upon arrival we quickly found what we needed. I would have loved a chance to peruse around the shop and check all the gear out, but we had a race to get to. We drove back to Luke’s house and stopped for some Lutz BBQ on the way (this is becoming a tradition for Luke and I whenever we race together in Missouri).
After we each ate half a pig, we finished packing and then loaded up the Virtus Van. As we prepared to leave, the school bus pulled up to drop off my nieces. We said goodbye to Luke’s daughters and then hopped into the van and headed to Steeleville. We both sighed with relief as we pulled out. Somehow this always happens. No matter how early we get to a race or plan to leave for a race, we always end up frazzled and short on time. We hoped that we had everything and that the drive would be uneventful.
Bob: You know, I read a quote somewhere that said,” Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Our hopes were answered and the drive went smoothly. Were the tides slowly starting to change? We pulled up and were greeted by a wannabe-cop-park-ranger wearing a plastic badge who seemed to have a crappy attitude. We received strict instructions about how to properly register our car at the main lodge. As we pulled up we were greeted by BLD and his partner for the race, Travis Hammons (of Team Offroad Medics fame). Luke and I quickly signed in and grabbed our sweet-ass Columbia fleece jackets and our swag bags and then headed back to our van.
As we approached the van, another Mickey Mouse Park Ranger stomped over to meet us and inquired in a short, irritated voice if we were the owners of the two unregistered vehicles. Luke owned up to being the owner of the van. We were once again instructed how to register the van and where we had to go to do so (that’s 5 two-lettered words in a row). He also expressed the urgency with which we needed to do so. As we walked towards the van, Park Ranger Mickey gave us the stink eye with one hand hovering near his revolver.
Well, since Team Virtus respects the law so much (and fake park rangers too) we all piled into the Virus Van to ride up together. However, there were only 2 seats available in the van due to our bikes and gear taking up the rest of the van. If it wasn’t so urgent that we get our van registered we could have taken the time to unload it a bit. However, since the fate of the world seemed to depend on us getting the van registered within the next five minutes, we thought outside the box and found a way to get it done.
Luke drove, Travis made sweet love to my sexy bike in the back of the van, and BLD and I shared the front seat. The problem with this is we both more than fill up the entire front seat by ourselves. It was like trying to get a loaf of bread into your glovebox or 10 gallons of water into a 5 gallon container, it just doesn’t work. We tried a couple different configurations and nothing seemed to work. Time was running out. We couldn’t fit side-by-side, front-to-back wasn’t an option either due to the kayak paddles in the floor board. So, we decided the only way to get it done was for me to ride on BLD’s warm and comfy lap. Well, since the world was going to end if we didn’t register our van within the next 3 and a half minutes, I took one for the world and hopped onto BLD’s luxurious lap. Let me tell you, Bob did not let me down; it was an enjoyable ride down the road to the main lodge.
Luke: I may have alternated between pushing the accelerator and the brake several times just to see the look on Bob’s face when this forced Casey to rock back and forth on Bob’s lap. However, Casey seemed to rock back and forth a little longer than necessary each time I hit the brakes. Regardless, it was fun to watch.
Bob: I’ve been to strip clubs where people paid money to get dry-humped like that.
Casey: I can’t believe that I didn’t make any tips. I could have used them to pay for parking.
We arrived at the main lodge with 90 seconds to spare. It looked as if the world wasn’t going to end, that we’d get the Virtus Van registered properly and promptly. It looked as if Team Virtus was going to save the world once again (Bob and Luke saved it once from a demon by singing the greatest song in the world. They even wrote a song about the experience, you should have them sing it to you sometime).
We waited in line hoping we’d make it in time. I watched the clock on the wall as precious time ticked away. Tick…Tick…Tick…Would we make it in time. Beads of sweat broke on our brows. I checked the door expecting a grumpy ranger to come storming in to announce that our time was up.
Suddenly, fate smiled on us and we were waved over to another line and quickly explained our mission and its urgency. They helped us and charged us $22 dollars to park there for the weekend even though we wouldn’t be camping. Seriously?!? I guess they had us by the short and curlys, didn’t they? I mean, we had to leave the van at the resort, and they knew it. We even could have had our own campsite for another $20. Well, we planned on racing the whole weekend and figured we might as well save our $20, so we decided to forgo the campsite. We registered our van, purchased dinner tickets and headed over to the prerace meal.
We met up with our friends from Team Wahoo at dinner and had the opportunity to meet a real life Facebook creeper. We met Kim who was familiar with our team site as well as our Facebook page. However, she hadn’t “liked” us yet (maybe she really didn’t like it, but she seemed to know too much to have just stumbled on the page once by accident). Luke called her on it and she promised to “like” us as soon as she got home (we’ll see). We had an enjoyable dinner and then headed back to Team Virtus/Offroad Medics Campsite.
Luke: So Kim had seen our facebook page, read some of the stuff, and then decided NOT to like us. Ouch that hurt. That really hurt. Since then, though, she has completely redeemed herself by not only “liking” us, but actually commenting on our facebook page. So, we feel much better about ourselves now.
Casey: If there are any other “Kims” out there, you know who you are, click on the little box and “like” our facebook page.
I’ll admit our site was pretty sweet. We had our own picnic table, a huge grill (thanks to BLD), two tents, and a rain fly set up over the picnic table (set up in a very peculiar way that only BLD can do – it was lashed to his truck. We unloaded our gear and caught up for a while as we tidied up camp and began to unload the van. Before you knew it, it was time for the pre-race meeting. It was here that I finally got to meet the original broodmare herself, “KAGE” – formerly known as Kate or Super Kate (be sure to read her race report right here because it’s awesome), and her brother, Jim.
We sat through the meeting, the raffles (none of us won anything, it must have been rigged), the free throw-outs (we were too lazy to get out of our chairs and try to catch anything), final instructions and guidelines, and then it was finally time to get our maps. I headed up to the pavilion, waited in line, and grabbed our maps. We were told we’d get the passport at the start of the race. Luke and I headed back to camp to plot our CP’s, plan our route, and get our race faces on. The race would be starting in just a couple of hours… at 11:00 PM on Friday night.
Luke: Man, that nap would have really helped us out…
Casey: I agree. BLD should have stayed up all night to make up for us not geting our nap. I really wWish we could have napped, even just a little…
To Be Continued…
**UPDATE** – Part 2 of the Berryman Adventure Race Report can be found right here. Buckle up. It’s gonna be a wild ride!
Okay… Let me say this upfront. This is going to be a loooong race report. For those of you that have read any of my previous race reports, you already know that I’ve never been short on words. And remember, this race was much longer than anything we’ve ever done before. So grab some buttery popcorn and a nice warm blankey, dim the lights, put on some Marvin Gaye and turn off the phone. I’ll wait… Seriously, go do it… Are you ready? You didn’t do any of that, did you? Suit yourself. Okay, Here we go…
THE BERRYMAN REDEMPTION
Around 4:30 on Friday, September 24th, Bob and I drove from Jefferson City down to Leasburg, MO to stage my bike at the bike drop (Bob’s bike drop for the 12 hour race was at a different location). As we pulled down by the river at Ozark Outdoors, we were pleasantly surprised to see our friends, The Golden Girls – Susy and Connie.
It was great to see them again. After racing against them in the first Truman Lake Race and again at the Castlewood Adventure Race back in 2009, we’ve become good virtual buddies through facebook and our blog. For the Berryman Adventure, they were volunteering in style with a couple of beautiful dogs and a sweet RV parked right next to a beautiful river. Now that’s the way to do it, ladies and gentlemen. It was also great to see them because I owed Susy a huge High-Five for winning one of our contests:
After leaving the bike-drop, we headed to Bass’ River Resort in Steelville, MO where we met up with Drew to check-in. He and I had signed up for the 36 hour race to redeem our failure at the very first Berryman Adventure 9 years ago. We filled out the paper work, got our sweet North Face shirts, race numbers, and all that good stuff. Then we made our way over to the part of the evening we simply could not afford to miss. What’s that you ask? The pre-race meeting? Oh, no. Don’t be silly. It was the pasta dinner of course! And we ate our fair share of spaghetti – or at least I did.
At this point, everyone started rolling in – Phil and Corey (of Team Snail Trail fame – or is it infamy?), and Adam (racing with Bob as Team Virtus Part Deuce) all showed up to ingest some pre-race carbs. Cara (Bob’s girlfriend, aka Gomed) and Noelle (Corey’s common-law wife) were there to volunteer as well. So we all had a lovely meal together – tons of spaghetti with meat sauce, salad drowning in dressing, baked chicken, garlic bread, and 2 or 6 delicious brownies.
Just after finishing our meal, we headed over to the pre-race meeting where Jason from Bonk Hard Racing went over the rules and important information that all of the racers, (those doing the 12 hour course and the 36 hour course), would need. We learned that the 36 hour race would be starting at 4:00 AM. Yeah, that’s pretty early. We were also told that we would need to get on a bus at 3:10 AM… Yeah, that’s even earlier.
Jason also told us that there might be a discrepancy regarding checkpoint (CP) #1. This particular CP was on a short UP-river paddling section, and it may or may not have been placed in its correct location. There was some discussion between Jason and the racers as to whether or not we wanted to remove CP 1 from the course. I think both Drew and I were in favor of removing the CP, and just when it sounded like Jason was going to do so, he decided that it would still be a mandatory part of the race. Fantastic.
I’ll be honest… The pre-race meeting didn’t make me feel any better about our chances of finishing the Berryman 36 hour race. If anything, it made me feel worse. I thought about acting like I tripped over a fire-pit hidden in the shadows and faking a race-ending ankle injury (seriously, the thought really did pop into my head), but then I remembered that I had posted the whole “Jumping into the Fire” thing earlier in the week. After writing that we were ready to “jump into the fire” to take this race on, I guess it would look really bad if I “hurt” myself in a fire-pit before the race even started. The irony would just be too much.
We got our maps and clue sheet with the UTM coordinates, and we were all set to plot our points, plan our route, pack our stuff, and go to bed for some much needed rest. Then we ran into a problem. We couldn’t agree on how to plot the points correctly. We were both certain that the other person was completely wrong, but we just couldn’t agree. This never happens with Drew and me. The most we ever disagree on is what kind of beer to drink after the race. After a few minutes, however, we got it all figured out, and it only took 15 or 20 minutes to plot the first 15 CP’s .
Drew and I went to our campsite as Bob, Adam, Corey and Phil all went to drop their bikes off for the 12 hour race. We loaded our packs with all the required gear and enough food to get us back to race HQ, (CP15), for the Transition Area (TA). It was here we would get our new map and clue sheet and we could replenish our food and water.
Back in 2009, Drew’s fuel of choice at the Truman Lake Race was frozen mini-tacos. Unfortunately, Walmart was all out of them. So Drew came up with an even better plan for the Berryman – a 50 pack of McNuggets from McDonald’s. No really. I’m serious. Take a look:
We climbed into the tent around 10:00 PM which had to be a record for us. Usually we’re not in bed before midnight. We were planning on getting up around 2:00 AM to eat and get ready for the bus ride to the start of the race, so we were thinking we might actually get 4 hours of sleep. Sweet!
Uh… Not so much. It took awhile for my mind to settle down, so it was probably around 10:30 when I started dozing off. Then we heard some kids running wild through the trees and brush near our tent. Apparently they had bee-bee guns and were hell-bent on killing every damn frog and spider surrounding our tent. Just as I was about to get up and become that cranky old man who yells at kids, they wandered off.
Okay… So I had to settle back down. At around 11:00 or 11:15, I started nodding off again. And once again…the frog-murdering band of hooligans came back AGAIN (that’s right, I used the word “hooligans.” I told you I was that cranky old man)!
This time, it sounded as if they were standing right outside our tent. I tried to ignore it, but I couldn’t take it anymore after 20 minutes. I jumped up to go outside just as Drew ripped the window open. The kids heard the zippers and realized they were close to a tent. Drew said, “Yeah, you wanna keep it down?” These are not the words I was planning on using. They were effective, though, as the kids said sorry and moved on. Drew managed to snap a picture of them before they got away:
Now, I don’t blame the kids. It’s the parents that I’m pissed at. If I was a kid and my parents said I could run around the woods at 11:30 at night with a bee-bee gun and a seemingly endless supply of ammo, I would have made the most of it just like these kids did. This entire section of the campground was just for racers and racers’ families, though, so I’m not sure why their parents, as racers themselves or friends/family of racers, thought this would be okay. If you are reading this and these were your kids, I would like to thank you for ruining any chance of uninterrupted sleep that we may have had.
So, I got settled back into my sleeping bag, but I couldn’t fall asleep. I just laid there thinking about what we had gotten ourselves into – AGAIN. I refused to look at my watch and eventually fell asleep. I’m not sure how long I was asleep when Bob got back from his bike drop. He was as quiet as he could possibly be, and I thank him for that. He still woke me up, though. I eventually dozed off again, but I woke up about 15 minutes before our alarm was supposed to go off, so I just laid there until it was time to get up.
We got up, ate some breakfast, and tried to take a morning dukey. No luck. We hoped the urge wouldn’t hit on the bus-ride, because that could get ugly. We drove the van down to the pavilion that would serve as the TA / Finish Line. We then got on the bus that would take us to the canoe put-in at the start of the race.
With eleven 4-person teams and fourteen 2-person teams, there would be 29 canoes on the river. It was going to be a cluster-eff if we all hopped on the river at the same time, so we figured we’d be running a few miles first to spread out the field. There was no way Jason would want us all fighting to get onto the river first. Right? Well, we were wrong.
We all gathered around Jason and Laura for a prayer and then sang the National Anthem. It was around 50 degrees on a foggy river, so we got our glow-sticks out and we were ready to go.
Jason did have us run a little, and by “a little” I mean about 150 yards or so. You can imagine that this short of a distance was not going to spread us out very much. Jason said, “Go!”, and everyone took off like a bat out of hell… except Team Virtus.
That’s right. It only took 2.5 seconds for Team Virtus to find themselves in last place, but let’s be realistic here… It’s a 36 HOUR RACE! That’s 2,160 minutes! We didn’t think taking an extra 60 seconds to walk down to our canoe was going to be the deciding factor. We also didn’t want to have to fight with a bunch of teams once we got on the water. So we were the last team to find a boat. Being the last team down to the beach let us take in a pretty cool site of the many glow-sticks and headlamps sprawled out in front of us.
Although we were the last team down to the canoes, we were not the last team on the water. There were a few teams behind us and a few teams right in front of us as we started our long, 18 mile voyage down the Meramec River. Here’s the map of the paddling leg:
Now, paddling at night can be a little tricky. Paddling at night when there’s a lot of fog is even trickier. We quickly learned that we were better off paddling without our headlamps on. The headlamps’ light just reflected off of the fog, essentially blinding us. Fortunately, the moon was almost full, and we could “pretty much” see where we were going… Sort of… Sometimes…
There were a couple of times where we hit some swift water and bounced off of some rocks and/or trees that we just couldn’t see. We even got lucky a couple of times and accidentally picked a much better line than we might have had we been able to see better. I guess the AR Gods were smiling upon us.
After 2.5 to 3 hours of paddling, the sky began to brighten, and the fog began to burn off slowly. We knew we were getting close to the confluence of the Huzzah and the Meramec Rivers, so we kept our eyes open. We thought we had reached the Huzzah twice, one time even paddling up a small cove thinking it was the Huzzah, before we actually made it to the real confluence.
As we turned up the Huzzah and paddled upriver for a few hundred yards, we saw dozens of boats pulling off to the bank in front of us. We were trying to decide where to pull off of the river when a team came crashing through the woods. It turned out to be Wedali (Checkpoint Tracker has them ranked as the number 1 team in the nation and USARA has them at number 5), so we were pretty sure that they had found CP1, the CP that may or may not have been misplaced. Again, the AR Gods were being most generous to us.
We quickly beached the canoe and hopped out. As we headed into the woods, we heard Wedali shout to all of the teams, “Hey guys, you may want to come down here! The CP is in the woods by an oxbow lake!” Now, they didn’t have to say anything at all to anyone else. In fact, it could have hurt their chances by helping other teams. It didn’t turn out that way since they crushed the course and won it all, but it could have. I really thought it was a classy move by Wedali. Kudos to those guys.
So we headed into the woods, and there were a couple of teams coming back from the general direction we wanted to go. After a pee break, we made our way through the trees, and we eventually found the oxbow lake and the infamous CP.
We got back to the river, and we paddled down the short leg of the Huzzah back to the Meramec. We had another 2.5 to 3 miles to go down the Meramec before we could get out of the canoes. It was an uneventful final stretch of water, and it was much easier in the light of day. We arrived at Ozark Outdoors at around 8:30 (~4.5 hours elapsed time) where we had staged our bikes the night before. We got out of the water, and we were greeted by Susy, Connie, and Cara who were all volunteering at the canoe take-out/bike drop.
They punched our passports for CP2, and they asked if we would like to say anything to our friends and families that might be following us via the online coverage through Checkpoint Tracker. I said, “Hello Lydia, Della, Mabel, and Ote-Boat” (my four kids). I can’t remember if Drew said anything. The online coverage was amazing for spectators as well as racers, but we’ll get into more on that later.
We were grateful to be out of the canoes, but after sitting for so long, our legs were pretty stiff and tight. They would be loosened up soon enough, though. We were ready to embark on our first orienteering trek. There were 9 CP’s that could be reached in any order. We would have to make two loops since some of the CP’s were north of the canoe take-out and some of them were south of the take-out. We decided to head for the larger loop to the north first. To make it easier to follow along, here’s the map:
We headed across the river via the bridge. Then we followed the creek to the northeast until we headed up a reentrant to the west. We cut in too early, though, and we had to move over one more reentrant to find CP3. This only cost us 10 minutes at the most. Not a big deal.
From CP3, we contoured around the spur before heading up the next spur to get CP6. Rather than heading down and back up, we stayed high and moved northeast to the road. We stayed on the road until it teed into another road.
From here we cut into the woods looking for a trail that we thought would take us right by CP7. I made a mistake somehow, and we got off course and headed down the wrong spur. We never picked up the trail, so we knew we had to head west. It wasn’t long before we found the marker.
From CP7, we stayed on top of the ridge and skirted around and down the other ridge to CP9. We missed #9 somehow and had to backtrack just a bit. Again, this wasn’t a huge mistake, and it maybe cost us 10 minutes or so. From CP9 we bushwhacked down the ridge aiming off slightly so we would end up at the creek a little to the north of CP8. That way we would know for sure that we would need to follow the creek to the south to find #8, and that’s exactly what we did.
Since we had already made a couple of small mistakes, we decided to shoot a bearing from CP8 to CP5 just to be sure we hit the right spur. It may have taken a couple of extra minutes to do this, but we nailed this one with no problems at all. Had we gone up the wrong spur, then we might have lost 10 – 15 minutes. In my mind, it was a good decision.
From CP5, we bushwhacked back down to the creek and made our way east/southeast. We went up a major reentrant, but we once again managed to miss the smaller reentrant running into this one. We soon caught our mistake and quickly recovered. Total time lost was again 5 – 10 minutes.
Now, these mistakes don’t seem like much, but they really start adding up – especially over 36 hours. Not only do the mistakes cost you valuable time, but they, perhaps more severely, cost you distance and time on your feet which can come back to haunt you later in the race.
We left CP4, and we were working our way through the woods to get onto a trail that would take us through a campground and onto a road. Somewhere along the way, we ran into our friend, Kelly, from Offroad Fixation. After a short discussion as we continued to hike, Kelly and his teammate left us in their dust.
At the campground we found a bathroom where I finally got my morning dukey taken care of, although it was much, much later than usual.
From the campground there was a drive that lead us to the main road to cross back to the other side of the river for the final two CP’s of this trekking leg. After crossing the river, Drew and I hiked south along the road for quite awhile looking for the right spot to head into the woods.
We started our bushwhack along an unmarked trail/old jeep road. Unfortunately, we had gone too far south. We didn’t realize this at the time, though, and I started bending the map, convincing myself that I was in the right location when I clearly wasn’t. Stupid!
We looked for CP10 for a good 45 minutes or so. We picked up an old, downed fence that we thought was on the map. We tried using that to our advantage with no luck. We got on a gravel/jeep road, so we thought we were close to CP11. We figured we’d get that CP and then go back for CP10 on our way back to the bike drop/canoe take-out.
As we were trying to figure out our best route, Team Torti came down the road. It was nice to see a team of this caliber still out here. They said that CP11 had given them problems, too. They said to go back down the road in the direction from which they had just come, and then take an old jeep road down a big hill, across a creek bed, and then back up a big hill. They said we’d see the CP right next to the jeep road. Yet again, the AR Gods had blessed us with good fortune.
***Side Note: There are many gravel and old jeep roads on the maps that are no longer in existence, and there are many gravel and old jeep roads that are in existence that are not on the map. This makes it very easy to get turned around***
So, thanks to Team Torti, CP11 became easy to find. They were exactly right. After all of that bushwhacking, it was kind of frustrating to know that we simply could have walked on a nice, open jeep road all the way to the CP. A huge thanks goes out the Team Torti. You guys rock!
We made our way east from CP11, and on our way to CP10 we found another team that looked like they were a little turned around as well. I can’t for the life of me remember which team it was, but it was a team of 4 guys (Team Wahoo, maybe?). Sure enough, they were having problems with CP11, so we told them what Team Torti had told us. It’s always nice to be able to pay it forward.
We got CP10 with no further problems, and we made it back to the bike drop/canoe take-out (now CP12) at around 12:45 (8 hours and 45 minutes total elapsed time, 4 hours and 15 minutes on the trek). It was going to feel good to get on our bikes and off of our feet. My feet and legs were starting to hurt. Susy and Connie punched our passport while Cara made us show her some gear for the gear check. I think we had to show a fleece jacket, a fleece/wool hat, our first aid kit, and maybe our phone, but I can’t remember for sure. They also offered us some delicious candy which we gladly accepted.
We said goodbye to our friends, and we biked out of Ozark Outdoors heading south on the gravel road. We had two more CP’s to get on the bikes before getting back to race HQ and the TA at CP15. It was supposed to be around 11 miles of biking. If you look at the map below, you’ll see that we climbed a pretty damn big hill right off of the bat. You’ll also notice that it would really suck if you happened to miss your first left turn and bomb down the hill by going straight through that intersection. Yeah… Well, that’s exactly what we did.
On the way up that hill, we caught up to two teams, and I think we just got caught up in a “pack mentality.” We didn’t stop to check the map. We just kept pedaling mindlessly, staying in the herd. Stupid. We realized our mistake after we absolutely flew down that monster hill for a good half a mile to a mile.
Going a mile out of your way on the bike isn’t a huge deal, but when you have to climb a huge hill to get back to the spot where you previously were, it kinda sucks. Fortunately, this happened fairly early in the race, and we were both still feeling strong. So we made our way back to the top, and we got back on track. It probably cost us 30 minutes or so.
We hammered down on the pedals, determined to make no more mistakes. Or so we thought. CP13 was at an intersection of the gravel road we were on and an old jeep road coming in from the north. All of the CP’s that were on or near roads and heavily used trails did not have the typical orange and white flags on them. They only had the small orange punch attached to a pole or tree with a steel cable. This makes them much more difficult to spot, and it lessens the chance of any passersby messing with / stealing the markers.
We flew by this CP without ever seeing it. We found the next gravel road coming in from the North, and we couldn’t find the CP. So we did a quick map check, realized our mistake, and we cruised back the way we had come.
We passed another team heading on for CP14. We were bummed to let a team in front of us because of a mistake, but we knew there was plenty of time left in the race to make up for lost ground. It was relatively flat the whole way back to CP13, but we almost passed it again. The old jeep road didn’t look like much. It had 10 inch high grass grown up all over it, and it was blocked off with a steel cable. Looking across from the jeep road, we barely saw the CP punch tied to a fairly hidden street sign. We were pissed that we had previously ridden right passed it.
This mistake only cost us a couple of miles altogether and maybe 20 minutes, but this was back to back mistakes on the bike leg. We punched our passport and headed out for CP14. Here is the map of the final portion of the first bike leg:
When we got to CP14, the team that had just passed us was getting ready to punch their passport. They said, “You looking for 13?” When we said that we had just punched 13, and that this was 14, they were shocked. Fortunately they hadn’t punched their passport in the wrong location yet. They asked where 13 was, and we told them where to find it and how it was kind of hidden. One of them said, “Fuck it. Let’s skip it.” We assured them that it was relatively flat with only a few rolling hills if they wanted to go back. They made the decision to go back as we punched CP14 and headed out for the TA at CP15/Race HQ.
We reached the TA/CP15 around 3:00 PM I think (11 hours total time elapsed, 2 hours 15 min for the bike leg). At the TA, I spoke with Linda from Team Torti. Apparently they had blown by CP13 as well. They had gotten to CP14, realized their mistake, but decided not to go back for 13.
Also at the TA, we got to hear some of the things our friends and family were posting on the live message board at Checkpoint Tracker. We heard things like, “Go Team Virtus! Great Job” and “Keep it up!” It was awesome to hear comments from loved ones. We even gave a shout out to all of our friends and family that were tuning in. I said, “Couple of mistakes but still going strong. Don’t stop believing!” And Drew said, “Erin, please send beer!” And no, Drew was not kidding.
We briefly spoke to Corey’s common-law wife, Noelle, to see how Bob, Adam, Phil, and Corey were doing. She said they were all doing well, and they got to do some rock climbing and a zip line for their mystery event. Drew’s eyes widened. He asked if we were doing anything involving heights, and she just said that we would have a project at our mystery event. Whew! Crisis avoided.
Our plan for the TA was to get the new map and clue sheet, plot the points, and eat as much as possible. Drew used the bathroom and started getting some food down his throat while I plotted the points. I got a bunch of food out, and after slamming an Ensure and taking two bites of a bagel sandwich, I just couldn’t eat anymore. I wasn’t feeling well at all.
We realized we wouldn’t be coming back to the TA until we were through with the race. Knowing this, we packed as much food as we possibly could into our packs, and we filled our hydration bladders and water bottles. Our packs were heavy!
We hopped on our bikes and started heading out around 4:15 or so (about a 1 hour and 15 minute transition). We had another 20 miles or so to go before we pulled into CP20 for the next trekking/orienteering leg. This 20 mile bike included some serious hills and some Berryman Trail/Ozark Trail. It was going to be “fun.”
As we left the TA, we had only gone a half of a mile or less when Drew turned to me and said, “Dude, you look like shit! You’re sweating like crazy and we haven’t even started climbing.” Well, that was reassuring. I felt like shit. I thought I was going to puke. I couldn’t eat or drink anything. Just thinking about eating or drinking almost made me sick. This wasn’t good.
Apparently, after we left the TA, the race volunteers were tallying up how many CP’s every team had gotten. It seems that only a handful of teams had found the infamous CP1, and everyone was shocked that we were one of those teams. Here is how it went down on the Checkpoint Tracker Live Update for our friends and family to see back home:
5:18 Team Virtus has dropped off the leader board for some reason. Investigating.
5:21 Nevermind – They’re back.
5:25 The difference that one CP can make! Earlier this morning Team Virtus found CP1. They’re currently running in 7th place overall! Awesome job guys! Way to stick with it!
Now, we had no clue that we were only 1 of 7 teams to actually find CP1. We just wanted to keep going and get as many CP’s as we could. There is no way we thought we were in the top ten overall. But that’s why the online coverage was so cool. All of our friends and family could see what was going on. I’m sure they were shocked and excited for us.
Okay, back to our race…
Our goal was to be done with all of the singetrack on this bike leg before it was dark. It was going to be close with all of the hills and with me feeling terrible. Some of these hills were killer, but we tried to push the pace a little. I was starting to cramp up, though, since I had been unable to consume anything for the last couple of hours. This really wasn’t good. Usually, once I start cramping, it gets progressively worse until I can’t function. Unfortunately, we still had a loooong way to go. Not good at all.
Here are the maps of the first part of this bike leg:
As we got closer to the single track, though, my stomach was starting to feel a little better. I was able to whip out an e-Fuel and pour it into a water bottle. I slammed the whole thing as we headed down the Berryman Trail to find CP16. We missed it on our first go ’round, and we ran into Team America who had also missed it. They decided to move on to the next CP as Drew and I turned around.
We went much more slowly this time looking for the reentrant where the CP should have been. We knew we were in the right spot, but we didn’t see a flag anywhere. Then Drew spotted the small punch wrapped around a tree. There was no flag.
We tried to catch Team America before they got too far. Fortunately, CP17 was less than a mile away on the Berryman Trail. We soon saw Team America coming back towards us on the trail. We told them that they had been so close to CP16, and we explained where to look for it. They headed back to get it.
I slammed another full bottle of e-Fuel. My cramps were starting to lessen, thank God. From CP17 to CP18, we had to stay on the Berryman Trail even though it would have been faster and easier to hop out on the road. Those were the rules. So we rode the singletrack, and it was a lot of fun. We had made it through the single track before it got dark, but it wouldn’t be long before the sun went down.
At CP18 I slammed yet another e-Fuel and ate some food. And shortly thereafter, almost magically, my cramps were gone. It was amazing. I couldn’t believe it. I was a firm believer in e-Fuel and e-Gel before this race, but after this experience, I won’t ever do another race without them.
As you can see from the map below, we climbed some nasty hills on our way from CP18 to CP19, but we found 19 with no problems.
It had gotten dark, and the temperature had dropped. It was hard to regulate our body temperature, because it was too cool to ride without long sleeves, yet the hills were big enough to make sleeves almost too hot. So, we would break a sweat on the climbs only to freeze when bombing the downhills.
Anyway, we made it from CP19 to the YMCA camp with no problems, but we had a little trouble finding the manned CP20.
As we rolled into the YMCA camp, there were what seemed like hundreds of flashlights everywhere. Apparently, the kids that were staying at this camp were playing some kind of game with flashlights. They were running around like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off, and it was pretty disorienting. So we biked up and down the main road of the camp until we eventually saw the small pop up canopy where CP20 was located.
It was here where we were told that we had “a ton” of messages from friends and family that had been posted on Checkpoint Tracker previously in the day. Emily, one of the fantastic volunteers, tried to read as many of these to us as she could while we transitioned form the bikes to the trek. These messages included:
“Outstanding – still going strong!!! Fantastic. We BELIEVE. Keep up the good work. All of us here are pullin’ for you. Awesome!!!” – From my Dad.
“Drew baby, the Miller Lite tastes great!!” - From Erin, Drew’s wife.
“Roll – Virtus – Roll” – From my brother, Zack.
“Go TEAM VIRTUS!!!! Cheering you on from O-town!!! Hang in there….you’re animals…..GRRRR! TEAM VIRTUS, TEAM VIRTUS!!! WOOHOO!!“ – From Cara’s mom (I think).
“GREAT job Team Virtus!!!! Keep up the GREAT Work!!!!! I think I can- I think I can- I KNOW I can!!!! AWESOME!!!! We Love You!!!” – From my Mom.
“Let’s go Team Virtus! The kids are doing cheers in the front yard for you! We are toasting to you!” – From Drew’s wife, Erin (who may have a drinking problem).
I cannot express to you how awesome it was to hear these comments. It was about 8:30 PM at this point (16.5 hours total time elapsed, 4.25 hours for the bike leg). It was dark and getting cooler, we were getting tired, and we were hungry and thirsty. To hear such encouragement from loved ones was amazing! Thanks to everyone that commented, and thanks to the great volunteers, Bonk Hard Racing, and Checkpoint Tracker for making it possible. You can still check it all out by going here.
Right before we set out on our trek, we sent out a couple of messages of our own. I said, “Thanks and Love you Becca!” Drew added, “SEND ME A BEER!” Again, he wasn’t joking.
Now it was time to get some trekking done. We received a new passport for the orienteering section where we would have to get 17 CP’s (CP’s 1-18 because CP 3 had been removed from the race). We first had to visit CP1 which was the mystery event. After this, we could hit CP’s 2 – 18 in any order. Here’s the map to make it easier to follow along:
We had no clue what to expect at the mystery event, but we were anxious to get there and see what was up. We were both still feeling really good, and our spirits were still high. We still felt like we could possibly get all of the CP’s and finish this thing.
So we headed south along the road towards CP1. Rather than going all the way around on the road, we bushwhacked a short distance up to the CP. As we were going through the trees, we could here a gas generator and see some bright lights. We figured that we could easily handle this little “project” about which Noelle had told us. We were quite confident since Drew is a big nerd… I mean engineer.
As we came out of the trees, though, we saw this (except it was dark):
The first thing out of Drew’s mouth was, “Noelle’s a fuckin’ liar!” You see, Drew and heights don’t get along all that well.
We walked up to the volunteers to hear our instructions. To get our passport punched for this CP, one of us had to make it to the top and stand up on the top platform. The other person didn’t have to do it, but there would be a 5 minute penalty assessed from the time when the first person came down.
Drew was willing to give it a shot, but he was afraid he would freeze up. Since it was only a 5 minute penalty, we decided I’d go up, and he’d skip it. We didn’t mind taking an extra 5 minute break, and in reality, it probably saved us time.
Now, I’m not a huge fan of heights either, so I asked the volunteer which route was the easiest way up to the top. I’m not ashamed to say that this it the route I took. At this point, I just wanted to get up to the top and back down quickly. I had nothing to prove. So I made it up without any problems. I stood up at the top, and then I was let down safely by the volunteer. It was actually a lot of fun… once I was back on the ground
We got our passport punched before waiting and resting for the 5 minute penalty. Once our time was up, we made our way towards CP2 via the road. Now this is where things started to go south.
We reached what we thought might be the correct intersection, but the “road” coming in from the east didn’t look like much of a road and it looked like a private drive. On top of that, the clue for CP2 was “southeast of road intersection.” So I had either mis-plotted the point, or the clue was wrong. We tucked into the woods to the northeast of the intersection (like I had plotted it) to see if the CP was there. It was really thick, and it was difficult to bushwhack. So, we decided to look to the southeast of the intersection (like the clue said), figuring I had simply mis-plotted the point. It wasn’t there, so we concluded that this was not the intersection we wanted.
We headed farther South on the main road for a little while. As the road began to turn the wrong way, it soon became apparent that this was not right. We headed back to the intersection at which we were previously looking for the CP. We sat down and decided to double check the UTM coordinates to see if I had indeed made a mistake.
As we were doing this, Drew happened to look at the clues again. He said, “Uh, we were reading the clue for CP4 instead of CP2.” Sure enough, we had made a silly little mistake that probably cost us 45 minutes to an hour. At least we were no longer confused. The clue for CP2 was “reentrant” which made much more sense. We headed back into the woods, and we soon found the CP.
From here, we just headed down the road to the next intersection and quickly found CP4. Now it was decision time. Should we head north back to where we started this trek and make a circle of the remaining CP’s from there? Or do we risk finding an easy crossing at the southern end of Sunnen Lake and have to do some backtracking to get all of the CP’s?
Well, we decided to stay south and try to find an easy way across. It was probably about 10:30 now, and this is probably about as long as Drew and I have ever raced (and that was at the very first Berryman where we got our butts kicked). We were both starting to get tired. We also realized that we really should have filled up with water at one of the buildings at the YMCA camp when we had the chance. Stupid.
We headed out on a small gravel road. We followed it, thinking it would eventually lead us across to the other side. Well, we walked. And walked some more. And then we walked some more. It seemed like everywhere we went, the creek/lake only got wider and deeper. We really wasted a lot of time here.
I’m sure if we were fresh and if the sun was out, we probably could have found an adequate place to cross. Hell, there might even be a nice little bridge somewhere that we just missed (if there is, please don’t ever tell us about it). I was definitely starting to wear down, so we sat down to eat something and think.
Do we just swim across and hope for the best on what looks like a more difficult route? Or do we make the death march back to the north and start from a known location? We really wanted to make a smart decision here, but we were fatigued, hungry, thirsty, pretty much out of water, and it was getting cold. So, we decided to head back the way we had come, head north on the road, and go from there.
This next little section is what I’m going to call the Death March. We started the walk around 11:00 PM. I was exhausted. I have no idea how Drew felt because it’s really hard to read him. He’s like a book full of blank pages. He could’ve been ready and willing to run the whole way back at this point for all I know.
All I know is that for the first time I was starting to think about quitting. All I wanted to do was sleep somewhere warm with my belly full of biscuits and gravy. I think I even told Drew that I would gladly stab him in the thigh if someone offered me some biscuits and gravy (Sorry, Drew). But then I remembered that I had written that stupid, ridiculous blog post about “Jumping into the Fire” or something like that. How terrible would it look if I decided to quit the moment it gets hard after writing a post like that? Why in the hell did I write that damn blog post? Stupid.
So, we started off on what seemed like a never-ending walk. I was lower than low at this point. I don’t believe a word was spoken by either of us for the hour-long walk. At one point I noticed that Drew was ahead of me by about 5 yards or so, and he was on the opposite side of the street. I was behind him on my side of the street with my head down in silent misery.
After describing this to my brother, Zack, he said they called this “cocooning” in the Marines. He said when someone “cocoons” he just kind of shuts down and completely withdraws internally into themselves. I would say I was deep inside my own cocoon at this point. I’m not sure if Drew was. Again, it’s hard to tell with Drew.
A few times along this walk, I believe I actually dozed off as I was walking. It was kind of like trying to stay awake at a meeting or in church. You know you shouldn’t fall asleep, and you try so hard to keep your eyes open. But the next thing you know, your eyelids just get too heavy. You just can’t keep them open anymore no matter how hard you try. Then your head bobs before you quickly snap it back up, pretending that you never fell asleep. Well, that happened to me a few times in mid-stride, and I almost fell down on two occasions. I’m so glad that I was behind Drew, because I’m sure it looked hilarious from behind.
We just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Only two things gave me any comfort during the Death March: 1) Knowing that we would soon be able to fill up our water, and 2) Thinking, “Hey, it could be worse. At least it’s not raining.” Thus far, the weather had been absolutely perfect. We must have pleased the AR Gods.
We finally made it back to the YMCA buildings, and we found a building with a bathroom where we could fill our water. Drew decided to use the bathroom, and I decided to use the sidewalk… as a bed. I couldn’t help myself. I laid down on the concrete and used my pack as a pillow. The next thing I knew, I woke up to the sound of a toilet flushing. Drew came out, saw me laying there, and decided to lay down as well.
Two minutes later, I woke up to what I thought was a rain drop on my cheek. I immediately thought, “If it starts raining, I’m done. I don’t care. I’m not doing this B.S. in the rain.” I looked at my watch, and it was a little after midnight on Sunday morning. I knew that if I closed my eyes again, I might not get up for several hours. I hopped up and woke Drew up. He looked as fresh as if he’d slept a full 8 hours. What a jerk.
We made our way around the northwest corner of the lake, and we then worked our way towards the east camp (we had a small trail map that really helped for the next few CP’s). On our way there, it started raining just a little bit. We soon came into the camp, and we found CP18 behind one of the cabins.
As we punched the passport it started raining a little more. It wasn’t just a sprinkle anymore. I mean it started raining. As we walked toward the pavilion we saw another team of what looked like young kids. I think they were probably 17 or 18, but now that I’m an old man, they all look very young to me. They were hanging out under the pavilion to stay out of the rain.
Drew and I sat down at a picnic table and looked at the map. I couldn’t believe it was raining so hard. I guess our luck had run out, and we must have done something to anger the AR Gods. We wanted to wait out the rain, but after a few minutes, it didn’t seem like it was going to let up.
We knew there was no way we were going to finish in the upper half of teams. In fact, just finishing the race was looking doubtful at this point. We knew that our solid start to the race meant nothing now, and we figured we were probably in last place. It would have been so easy to just pack it in right there. It was dark, cold, and raining, and we had fallen way behind. Quitting wasn’t an option, though, and we both knew it.
We decided to try to clear this orienteering section, and then we would reevaluate. It was sort of like our own private race within the race. Could we get all of the CP’s in this section in the dark, cold rain? We were determined to find out. So, we decided to head back out in the rain. As we ventured off, Drew heard one of the kids say, “Are you serious?”
Looking at the small trail map, we saw that a trail would take us right to CP13, and it was relatively flat once we got down near the water. We made our way down many concrete stairs leading from east camp to the trail at the water’s edge. Once on the trail, we noticed an orange and white flag down by the water. What?!?
We checked our map, and this was clearly not one of our CP’s. Was this CP #3 that had been removed? Surely they would have taken the flag down. Maybe this was a CP for the 12-hour course that we were not supposed to get. We would later find out what this godforsaken CP actually was, but at the time, it was hard to just walk past it. It felt so wrong to leave without punching our passport. But leave is what we did.
CP 13 was supposed to be at the end of a “cove.” We got there, but we didn’t see any flag. I moved on ahead for a little ways when I heard Drew yell, “Got it!” I went back. He had seen a small railing through the trees right at the water’s edge. When he went to check it out, he saw the flag nearby.
From here, we could not take the trail to CP12. So we shot a bearing and headed straight for the CP. This technique is always slower than taking a general bearing and using land features and the map to guide you. But it was especially slow because we could only go 10 or 20 feet at a time due to the poor visibility in the rain. Our headlamps reflected off of the rain which hampered our vision quite a bit. We were dead-on, and we found CP12 with no problems at all. It felt good to nail this one.
The small trail map showed a trail to our southwest that should run right by CP9. We headed that way and picked up the trail. The clue for CP9 was “creek junction,” so we were looking for two creeks or drainages to come together near this trail. Unfortunately, we managed to lose the trail. No worries, though. After 5 or 10 minutes of searching, we found a drainage and soon found the creek junction and the CP.
We stayed on top of the ridge and headed south until we picked the trail back up. From here, we followed the trail to the west, and then we hopped off the trail and easily found CP6 at the “overlook.”
We then got back on the trail and made our way eastward. We hopped off the trail a little too soon, but after 10 or 15 minutes of searching, we realized that we were on the wrong “spur.” As we got back to the trail, another team of 4 came through (I wish I could remember who they were, but I just can’t seem to do so). I believe they were on there way to CP8. They said they knew exactly where to turn off the trail to get CP7, so we followed them. They pointed us down what looked like it used to be a trail at one point. We hiked for longer than I had anticipated, and I was beginning to doubt their instructions. I shouldn’t have doubted them, though, because CP7 was right where they said it would be. So, whoever you were, we thank you.
From CP7, we bushwhacked south across the creek and up to the top of the ridge. We picked up an old jeep road that headed east and farther up the ridge. This was exactly where we wanted to go, so we stayed on the road for a while. As we started to climb, the road veered to the southeast a little. After 100 more yards or so, we broke off of the road and bushwhacked up to the top of the ridge. We nailed this one, too, as we found it within a minute or two.
So, we had just gotten the last 7 CP’s in roughly 3 hours or so. Other than a few small hiccups here and there, we were doing remarkably well considering it was cold, dark, and raining. Unfortunately, this is the last time I will say anything went well on this orienteering section. It’s about to get ugly.
It was probably around 3:00 AM on Sunday morning, so we had been racing for almost 24 straight hours. We were completely soaked. We were cold. We were hungry. We were exhausted. We were starting to hurt.
We headed up the ridge, and we were going to find the jeep road and then CP8 in the “reentrant/fence.” Well, we found a jeep road, but I’m pretty sure it was not the one on the map now that I look back at it. We tried to find the “reentrant/fence” where CP8 should have been, but had absolutely no luck.
We kept coming to different jeep road intersections that were not on the map. We went back and forth several times without finding the CP. We then tried to go up and down every single jeep road that we came across. We even tried to find CP11 in another “reentrant” while we were traipsing all over the place.
The minutes ticked by… 10 minutes… 30 minutes… 1 hour… The next thing we knew, we had been wandering through the woods for 2 – 3 hours! My feet were hurting, and my mind was absolutely fried. I knew that the sleep deprivation and physical exhaustion would take its toll, but I was not prepared for how much I would be affected mentally. I couldn’t think straight, and, honestly, I didn’t really care.
I had no idea where we were. I mean, I wasn’t even sure we were still on the map at all. I was completely lost. I didn’t know which way to turn. I didn’t know where we had already been. I wasn’t even sure which direction we had come from. I have never been that lost in my life. It was NOT a good feeling. So, I handed the map off to Drew to see if he could do any better.
We kept walking and walking, going up and down the same jeep roads and bushwhacking through the same brush over and over again. it was frustrating. It was time consuming. It was demoralizing. It was pathetic.
The sleep monsters were out to get me. I’m fairly sure that I saw an enormous anaconda coming out of the brush right at my feet. It seriously scared the hell out of me, but Drew either didn’t see it, or it was my mind playing tricks on me. So I kept my mouth shut. I’m also pretty sure that I saw a small prickle of porcupines (yes, a group of porcupines is called a prickle) strolling beside me on the trail. Again, Drew either didn’t see them or I was seriously losing it. So I kept my mouth shut. At this point, if Drew had said he wanted to quit, I would have given him a huge hug and gladly agreed. But Drew kept us moving, and just as we were about to give up hope, we saw some lights ahead.
It was a great feeling to see another team still out here, and it was also good to know that we weren’t completely off the map. It turned out to be Team America, and they were struggling with CP’s 8 and 11 as well. They were doing the O-course in the opposite direction, so they had already gotten CP’s 16, 17, 15, 14, and 10. We worked together for a half an hour or so, but even with the four of us, we couldn’t find CP8 or CP11.
So, we decided to move on. We gave Team America a rundown of how to get CP’s 5, 7, 6, 9, 12, and 13. They gave us the rundown on CP’s 10, 14, 15, 17, and 16. As we parted ways, I was bummed that we weren’t going to get all of the CP’s on this orienteering section.
It was probably around 5:oo or 5:30 at this point, and my feet were killing me. The Terminator, I mean Drew, didn’t seem to be hurting at all, so I kept my mouth shut. We found CP10 easily. It felt soooo good to finally get another CP and to actually know exactly where we were on the map.
Looking at the map, it looks like the next 4 CP’s would be ridiculously easy to find. Well, they weren’t. Maybe it was the dark. Maybe it was because we were soaking wet. Maybe it was because we had been racing for 26+ hours at this point. I’m not sure what it was, but we continued to struggle.
Fortunately, the sky was beginning to slowly brighten as the sun was getting ready to rise. While this brightened our moods dramatically, it didn’t seem to help us with our navigation. We moved on to get CP14, whose clue was “spur.” Couldn’t find it. We doubled back. No luck. We tried going down a different spur. Nope. We never found CP14.
So, we decided to go for CP 15. The clues was “pond.” According to the map, the CP should have been right next to a pond near a 3-way jeep road intersection. When we got to the three-way intersection, we couldn’t find the stupid pond. It was like we were in the damn Twilight Zone. Nothing was making sense. We were tired, wet, hungry, and exhausted. Not being able to find this stupid CP was almost enough to make me say, “Eff this. I’m done.” But I once again remembered my stupid “Jumping into the Fire” post, so I kept my mouth shut.
The sun was up, and it was probably around 8:00 AM by now. We decided to give up on CP’s 14 and 15 and just try to get 17 and 16. As we were heading for CP17, we saw another jeep road intersection that sort of looked what we were looking for to get to CP15. So, in a last-ditch effort, we headed off the jeep road a short distance, and we saw a small opening in the trees and brush. Was that a pond? Yup! And sure enough, the beautiful orange and white flag was there to greet us.
We punched our passport and headed out on the jeep road to get CP17 at a “reentrant.” Well, we never found this stupid CP either. Again, looking at the maps from the comfort of my couch after a full night’s rest, it looks like we should have found these CP’s without any problems. I can assure you, though, that under those circumstances, it was outrageously difficult.
We decided to head down the jeep road and find CP16 on a “ridge.” Guess what. We never found it. We ended up back at CP13, so it’s now clear (although it wasn’t at the time) that we had gone down the wrong ridge. At this point I didn’t really care. My feet hurt badly enough that I didn’t even consider going back to look for it. I think Drew might have even said his feet were hurting, but that may have been another exhaustion induced hallucination on my part.
We followed the trail along the shore of the lake until we came out to the spillway where we could cross over to the other side of the lake. As we reached the manned CP (previously CP20, now CP21), we saw a couple of other teams getting ready to leave on their bikes. I was more than ready to be off of my feet.
It was right at 9:15 when the volunteers punched out passport for CP21. We knew we were in last place overall. It didn’t matter. We just wanted to finish this thing. Apparently there was a cutoff at 10:00 AM. Either this cutoff was put in place during the race, or we never heard the announcement at the pre-race meeting. I guess it was a good decision to not go back for some of those CP’s.
As we were given our final cluesheet with new UTM coordinates to plot, Emily, one of the amazing volunteers, read to us some of the Checkpoint Tracker comments from friends and family. It was incredibly uplifting to hear the encouragement and support from our loved ones.
My dad pretty much summed it up perfectly with this comment: “Now that you have made it through the night and banished all the ‘night demons’ – Bring it Home!!! We are all proud of you!! I am sure that you had to dig deep last night and found strengths you didn’t know you had. What a great accomplishment.“ Yeah, he pretty much nailed it. I sent a message back to them: “Last night I was more lost than I’ve ever been.”
We were then informed that our next CP was going to be a mystery event. We needed to build a raft out of 20 pool noodles, 3 pieces of 36″ pvc pipe and as much twine as we needed. Okay, so this is the “project” that Noelle was talking about. So, I guess she’s not a liar. She’s just not very forthcoming with everything she knows.
We were told that once we built the raft, we both would have to paddle across the lake (roughly a quarter of a mile) to get to CP22 on the other side of the lake. Apparently, this is the random CP marker that Drew and I had seen on our way to CP13 roughly 10 hours previously. Then we had to paddle back before we could continue with the race.
All of the teams that were at this CP when we arrived had decided to skip the mystery event, and they had already left on their bikes. So Drew and I had to decide if we wanted to build a raft and paddle it across the lake for one measly CP when the wind was blowing wildly and the temp was probably around 55 degrees. Or we could skip the mystery event and try to get the rest of the CP’s on the final biking and paddling legs.
We decided to plot the remainder of the CP’s on our map. Then we would determine whether or not we could do the mystery event and still finish the race under our own power. We knew that we were in last place, but we didn’t want to get DQ’d for finishing after the 36 hour time cut-off. We had come too far and gone through too much shit to get DQ’d.
At the same time, we knew that we pretty much had to build the raft. I mean, how many times in our lives are we going to get the opportunity to build a raft out of foam pool noodles and paddle it across a lake? Probably just this once. So, we were trying to decide what our best option was.
What if we just biked straight to the canoe put-in without getting any of the biking CP’s? Could we skip the last paddling leg and still make it back in time on the bikes? Did we even still have enough energy left to make it all the way back?
Meanwhile, pretty much all of our family and friends were online checking in on us at this moment. They had already read about the mystery event, and they had even seen some photos of other teams’ rafts at Checkpoint Tracker. They read this update: “Virtus is deciding to build the raft or head out on the bikes.”
As we finished plotting the last few CP’s, Emily started to write down some updates from the online chat room. Then she just handed me the phone as she said, “It’s way too much to write down, so here you go. Your fans want you to do the raft.”
Another volunteer read me the following posts over the phone:
“Nice work Virtus! the end is in sight. plenty of time left to make it in style! Nice work!” - From my brother, Zack
“I say make the raft, plenty of time. You’ll regret it afterwards if you don’t. Plus you have an engineer on the team.” - From my brother, Casey (I think)
“Build the raft, If you build it…they will come” - From “Another Virtusite”
“BUILD-THE-RAFT-BUILD-THE-RAFT-BUILD-THE-RAFT” - From Zack again
Clearly, everyone wanted us to build the raft. We had just finished plotting the rest of the CP’s, and we were still trying to figure out if we had time to do the raft and finish under our own power. We had another 15 miles or so on the bike with a lot of single track PLUS an 11 mile paddle to the finish line.
It was around 9:45 on Sunday morning, so we had 6 hours and 15 minutes to finish this race. We were told that the average time for the noodle raft (building it, paddling across and back, and then taking it apart) was around an hour and a half. So that would have left us with 4 hours and 45 minutes to finish IF we were at least average. The paddle would probably take us 2.5 – 3 hours. That meant that we would need to do the bike leg in around 2 hours.
We figured that we wouldn’t make it to the finish line in time if we did everything. We decided to give ourselves 30 minutes to build a functional raft. If we couldn’t do that, then we’d skip the mystery event and hop on our bikes. If we completed the mystery event, we had planned on skipping the last paddling leg and cutting the bike leg short, only getting a couple of CP’s along our direct route to the finish line.
So the decision had been made to build the raft. However, our friends and family at home were given this message: “They’re still debating! Fatigue induced indecision! Build the dang raft already!” So, of course they had a few more words of wisdom for us:
“Give me an “R”….Give me an “A”….GIve me an “F”….Give me a “T”….What’s that Spell? (RAFT)….Louder….(RAFT)….R-A-F-T….RAFT…RAFT…RAFT –> Build the raft” - From my brother, Casey
“Gooooo Beer-tus. I mean Virtus. Build the dang raft.” – From Drew’s wife, Erin who may or may not have been drinking on a Sunday morning
“BUILD the RAFT so you can get home and drink a cold DRAFT!!!!!!! GOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooo” – From my mom
“Virtus- decide already. the only logical way to decide at a time like this is to flip quarter. Heads- you build, tails,-you get on the bikes. No regrets!” - From my brother, Zack
Obviously, we would have been crucified if we had decided to skip the rafting mystery event. I think Zack had it right when he wrote, “No regrets!” I know that we could have probably completed the last biking and paddling legs if we wanted to skip the mystery event. Skipping the rafting probably would have been the “smart” thing to do as far as race strategy goes. But we’ve never been accused of being smart. It didn’t make any sense to “waste” an hour and a half just to get one CP since we had already missed 5 CP’s. But we knew we would have regretted it forever if we didn’t at least try to build the raft. We didn’t care about our final standings as long as we finished this damn race.
So we started to build the raft around 9:45. It took us literally less than 90 seconds to come up with our raft design. Looking back, it may have been more prudent to take a little more time in the design phase of this project, but we weren’t exactly thinking clearly at this point.
We laid the three PVC pipes down, and then we had two layers of 10 foam noodles laying across them. We used trucker’s hitches to cinch the noodles down tight on the PVC pipes. The whole process, from design to the water, took about 15 minutes.
We put the raft in the water. Drew sat on one side as I sat on the other. Now, I’m no genius, but I’m smart enough to realize that I outweigh Drew by a lot – probably 75 or 80 pounds. So when we sat down, the raft simply tipped over. We tried sitting Drew on the front with me on the back… Same thing happened. I guess I was just too fat for noodle rafting.
As we were about to give up, I had a stroke of genius. I told Drew that I would lay down, thus spreading out my fatness across the entire raft, and then he could ride on top of me and paddle. The look on Drew’s face was priceless as he said, “I’m not really comfortable with that.” We were already wet from the waist down, so we gave it a shot.
I hopped on the raft (face down of course), and the raft didn’t tip or sink. So far so good. Then Drew climbed aboard the S.S. Husky, and again, we stayed upright and balanced. Okay, this might actually work!
Then Drew started paddling. Only having one paddler basically sent us spinning in a circle as Drew could only paddle on one side at a time. After making it only 15 feet or so, we decided to pack it in and hop on the bikes. There was no way we could paddle a quarter of a mile across a windy lake and then back again.
As we turned around, Emily shouted, “No way! You can’t give up!” I started taking small, short-armed strokes as I lay on my stomach to help get us back to shore. All of a sudden, we were paddling in a straight line and moving at a decent pace. “There you go!” shouted Emily. So we turned around again to start the long, arduous paddle across the cold lake.
Unfortunately, after a few minutes of taking little baby strokes, my shoulders and traps started cramping up pretty badly. I would have to take breaks every couple of minutes, so Drew had to bear the brunt of the paddling. He managed to figure out a better paddling technique, taking two power strokes on one side and then two on the other side, to keep us moving in a straight line while I recovered. I’m sure it was exhausting for Drew. I tried to contribute as much as I could, but I think my main contribution was simply not tipping us.
We made it to the other side, and Drew asked if I had the passport to which I replied, “Uh… No. Don’t you?” For a few seconds, which seemed like an eternity, we thought we had left the passport behind. Thank God Drew found it in another pocket! So instead of getting punched in the face for losing the passport, Drew punched the passport. By this time, anyone following us on Checkpoint Tracker had already read all about it. They had even seen the above photo before we made it back across the lake. Now that’s real-time updates!
I know that Drew was pretty much spent, so we tried to reinforce the raft so we could possibly ride side by side again. No luck. In fact, the raft began coming apart. We made the necessary repairs while standing in waist deep water. Once it was repaired, we decided to try having Drew on the bottom so I could do all of the work. I kind of thought that I might crush Drew, but we tried it anyway. As I tried to climb on top, we (or I) tipped the raft, and we went into the water. I went in up to my neck, but Drew went all the way under. Did I mention it was probably around 55 degrees with a strong wind?
Anyway, we went back to having me on the bottom paddling with mini-strokes in between cramps and Drew on top doing all of the work. I’m not sure how Drew managed to keep paddling, but he was a machine. He never complained, and I know that paddling is his least favorite part of a race (and that’s usually in a canoe). I can’t imagine how much he must have loved paddling a noodle/Luke raft.
There were a couple of other things that occurred during our noodle rafting of which I cannot speak. Many jokes were made. We laughed. We cried. We suffered. We both felt like we had just wrestled with a creepy uncle. I will leave this part to your imagination and for Drew and I to treasure privately for the rest of our lives… no matter how much we may want to forget.
We had gotten CP22 on the other side of the lake, and we got our passports punched upon exiting the water at what was now CP23. Building the raft, paddling across, making repairs, going for a swim, paddling back, and disassembling the raft took us about an hour and 20 minutes. Yay! We’re above average!
So it was no a little after 11:00 AM, we were completely soaked and shivering cold, and we had to get on our bikes. By the time we drained all the water out of our jackets and pants and then transitioned to the bikes, it was probably 11:20 or so. With only 4 hours and 40 minutes left before the 36 hour cut-off, we knew that there was no way we could complete the entire biking leg and the paddling leg. So we stuck to our original plan: Skip the paddling leg and bike straight back to the finish line, getting a couple of CP’s along the way.
It was going to be a long, cold bike back to the finish line. I was wet. I was shivering. I was exhausted. My mind was numb. Yet, I was happy. I was pretty sure that we were going to finish the 36 hour Berryman Adventure to redeem our previous failure 9 years ago. Sure, we may be dead last, but that didn’t matter. It never matters to us. That’s not why we do this. Drew was not so sure we were going to make it in time.
So, we headed out on our bikes, and I made another navigational blunder. Somehow, I looked at the map wrong, and we left the YMCA camp going in the wrong direction. We quickly realized my mistake, but only after climbing a monster hill where we had to push our bikes. Fortunately, this hill warmed our frozen bodies. It also gave us a chance to slam a Spike energy drink for the final push.
The caffeine kicked in, and we flew down highway AA to get back on track. We were going so fast that we blew by the turn. Thankfully, we only went a quarter of a mile or less out of our way, and we quickly recovered. Then we blew by CP24 which was at the “powerline/trail” junction. When we saw “private property” signs we knew we’d gone too far. We turned around, found the CP, and punched our passport.
Wow. Three errors on the first CP on this biking leg. Finishing this race suddenly seemed to be in doubt. We headed up the powerline trail. It was kind of fun but mostly painful. We then took gravel roads all the way to CP25 which was formerly CP18. This was our final CP before crossing the finish line.
Rather than take the Berryman Trail, we opted to stay on the gravel road. While single track is more fun, it is also much more physically demanding and time consuming. My caffeine induced energy burst had vanished by this point, and I was really starting to struggle.
I told Drew that I was beginning to crash and burn. Then Drew yelled at me. Okay, he didn’t yell at me, but it’s as close as Drew has ever come to yelling at me. He simply said, “C’mon, man. Don’t crash and burn now.” That’s all he said, but coming from Drew, that’s all he needed to say. I pulled it together and pushed on as best as I could, walking the hills when I needed to.
We kept waiting for the bomber downhill that would lead us to the finish line. We knew we were going to make it, but it seemed like the gravel roads went on FOREVER. Seriously, this is all we saw for the last couple of hours:
And then we suddenly realized we were flying down the final hill. We knew we were going to make it. Redemption was almost ours. It was so close, we could almost taste it… and we were starving! We couldn’t believe it. We were actually going to finish the Effing 36 Hour Berryman Adventure!!!
As we rounded the corner and made our way into the campground, we saw Bob and Cara. Bob looked happier than I felt. He was smiling and laughing, cheering and snapping photos. It was great to see them.
We crossed the finish line to applause from race directors, volunteers, other racers, the Golden Girls and other friends.
I think Bob actually gave me a hug, which is a testament to our friendship since I smelled worse than an egg-salad fart brewing in a pot of rancid rabbit guts. “Congrats!” and high fives were given out copiously. We had done it. We had finished the 36 Hour Berryman Adventure. Redemption was finally ours after getting our asses kicked 9 years ago.
I cannot put into words how I felt as we crossed the finish line. Seriously. Nothing I could write will even come close, so I’m not going to try. Just know this: It was incredible!
Drew grabbed a hot baked potato, and so did I. I added butter and sour cream until you couldn’t even tell there was a potato in there. It was delicious. Then I grabbed another one and ate it in the same fashion. Still delicious. Then Kelly, from Offroad Fixation, gave us a huge cookie. It… was… phenomenal!! Probably the best cookie I’ve ever had. The cookies were made by Krista from Occasional Cookies. Huge thanks to Kelly and Krista. Rumor has it that Krista’s world famous “Power Cookies” were there too, but Alas!… They were all gone before we got there. Maybe next time.
S o, Drew and I missed 12 out of 51 CP’s, and we finished the Berryman Adventure in 33 hours and 55 minutes. There is no way we could have finished the rest of the biking leg and the 11 mile paddle before the time cut-off. It was a good decision to skip the last paddle.
I’d like to thank Jason and Laura from Bonk Hard Racing for putting on a fantastic race. I’d also like to thank Checkpoint Tracker for making the online coverage possible, and a HUGE thanks goes out to all of the great volunteers that made the race possible and also made this race a true spectator sport with all of their timely updates throughout the race. Also, thanks to Bob for sticking around and waiting for us to finish when you could have gone home on Saturday night.
And of course, a huge thanks goes out to my teammate, Drew. It was one hell of a race man! I’ll never forget it.
If you’re still reading this (and let’s face it, if you are then you need to find a job or a hobby), then thanks for sticking with it. I know it was a long report, but like I said, it was a long race. So that was our story. You may click onto something else now. Seriously… That’s all I have to… Wait… What? You want to know how we did? What, finishing this damn thing isn’t enough for you? Okay, then read on…
Jason asked me where my teammate was, and then he told Drew that he needed to talk to him. I thought this was odd, so I just sat there and looked at them, wondering what they were going to talk about. Then Jason told me that he needed me up there as well. Bob had a huge grin on his face and said, “Hmm… I wonder what he wants?” I just figured that he was going to show us the photo of our rafting fiasco and make fun of us.
As I walked up to the front of the pavilion, Jason stuck his hand out to shake our hands and said, “Congratulations on winning the two-person male division of the Berryman Adventure!”
W… T… F…?!?!
I’m all for pulling pranks and giving people a hard time, but this was a pretty sick joke. Then I realized that he wasn’t kidding. The only other time I’ve been more shocked is when I found out we were having twins. We were dumbfounded. How was this possible? We were sure we were in last place.
Well, it turns out that we beat the second place team by one CP. Maybe getting the infamous CP1 was the difference. Or maybe it was finding CP15 after nearly giving up hope. Or maybe it was getting CP22 on the S.S. Husky? I don’t know, but the AR Gods were clearly smiling down upon us once again.
So, we ended up in 1st place out of 9 2-person male teams, 6th out of all 14 2-person teams (coed and all female included), and 11th out of 25 teams overall. Official results can be found right here. Drew and I actually got to pick out a prize fo winning our division.
We both ended up getting a sweet Mountainsmith Zip-top Tote which is part of the Hauler Organizing Storage System. It’s really cool, and I think I might have to get the whole system now (Thanks, Jason!).
All we wanted to do was finish this damn race after getting destroyed 9 years ago. Somehow, we managed to do that, and it was an amazing feeling. Winning our division was just icing on the cake (Mmmm… Cake). Actually, by far the coolest part about winning was when I got home to my wife and kids. The girls asked me (like they do after every race), “Did you win, Daddy?” I think they were almost as shocked as I was when I said “Yes.” Seeing how happy they were almost got me a little choked up. It was the perfect end to a perfect weekend.