The Hammons-Jenkins Express Rides Again at the Berryman 12 Hour Adventure Race
This year’s Berryman was a race I’d looked forward to for a long time. Berryman seems to bring people from all over, and it sure is nice to see all of our dirt-loving friends in one place. Kage, (formerly referred to here as Kate), and her brother Jim were gonna be there for their first 12-hour race. Jim & Wendy Davis, The “Lederhosens” and the Wahoo crew were gonna be there too, just to name a few. Casey flew in from New York to do the 36 hour race with Luke, and I partnered with Travis Hammons to do the 12. Adam was probably at home masturbating. To each his own.
I was first to arrive at Bass River Resort, and made short order of getting the camping spot closest to the Start/Finish line. There were going to be a lot of friends at this race, and I really wanted to be there when everyone finished. I’ve only recently begun learning the intricacies of tarp-hanging. In an effort to redeem my previous failures, I went for something elaborate.
It wasn’t long before Travis showed up and we started
drinking beer getting our gear in order for the next day. It felt really good to be at a race early enough to be ready and relaxed.
This is probably a no-brainer for everyone else, but I recently started marking my drybags so I know what the hell is in them. It helps a lot at gear checks and prevents last minute panic-attacks when I think I’ve forgotten something.
I’ll have to admit, I felt very well prepared. Travis and I really hadn’t discussed which of us would be navigating, but I’m pretty sure we both thought it would be the other guy. Everything was ready to go, all we had to do was suit up the next morning. The only thing left to do was plot some points and drink a few carbs.
Since Luke and Casey were running behind, we helped get their bikes ready for the race-start. I actually had to go get their passport since they were running so far behind, but I’m sure you already read about that in their report. Well wishes were exchanged and we prepared to send the “Alpha Squad” on their merry way. Somehow, a fist-bump was caught on film:
Travis & I were pretty jealous to not be doing the 36 at this point, but we were still pretty pumped for tomorrow’s race. We had one or two more rounds of PBR carbs and headed off to bed. It sure was nice to be sleeping next to Travis’ tent while he coughed, wheezed and hacked up snot all night. There was a shower or two throughout the evening, and I couldn’t help but wonder how far Luke and Casey would make it before they realized their clue sheet was still at the campsite.
The morning came quick, but we were up and ready to go with time to spare. We even had time for a pre-race photo.
I think we were both feeling pretty strong at the beginning of the race. We started out in a massive pack of riders on a fairly hilly stretch of gravel. The stream of red tail-lights was pretty awesome. Every now and then someone would get too close to the shoulder of the road and wipe out, so that was entertaining. It was a bit difficult to get decent photos with all the people around, but I did alright.
Despite a series of horrible coughing fits, Travis and I somehow managed to weave our way through the crowd and pass a few teams. It was a bit comical how easily some of the 4-person teams were getting separated. Racers lined the road waiting for their teammates. We got to a place in the road where it was pretty obvious that most people were turning into the woods for CP 1.
The trail was muddy as shit, so we decided to drop the bikes, make the 100 yard dash to the CP and come back. Along the short trek to the CP, we leap-frogged a team with one person who rather rudely informed us that this was a bike leg and we needed to be on our bikes. We just kinda brushed it off, I mean it’s not like we had some sort of strategic advantage from having to walk right? And after all, we were only trying to prevent riding our bikes through this:
So anyway, as we’re once again leap-frogging this same team, Captain Dingaling pipes up and decides he’s gonna lay down the law about “this is a bike leg”. He and Travis exchanged a few heated words and we all parted ways. I’ve decided not to elaborate on this incident as it seems only fair to assume he was the only douchebag of the group. As I said before, we had clearly not put ourselves in any sort of advantageous position by walking.
On with the race. By now we had figured out that the muddy road we were trying to avoid wasn’t even the right road. So, nav error # 1 was already in the books. By the time we got CP #1 and made it back to the bikes, we were…near the back of the pack.
I guess this was right about the time Travis threw up once or twice. He said the mapcase choking him and asked if I’d take over nav duties. (It seemed like a good idea at the time). From what I can recall, the gravel went on for a few more miles and we found our way onto the Berryman trail. I had only ridden Berryman once before, so I’m very unfamiliar with the trail-system. We both felt pretty good on the singletrack, and it wasn’t long before we were catching a few people and passing them. We were very close to CP 2 when we ran into Kage and Jim.
Travis and I were having a pretty good time flossing the singletrack, and I have to say that I was feeling way too confident. We came to the bottom of a descent and saw the artesian well, (natural spring). Neither of us needed water, so we didn’t stop. I saw some trail in front of me, assumed it was the Berryman, and off we went. I never realized there were like 3 other trails that all converged at the Artesian well.
Completely unaware of this enormous mistake, we rode ahead thinking we were still on the Berryman. There were LOTS of other people going the same way, so we stupidly assumed we were going the right way.
Bear in mind, I had no idea there was ever an option to take a different trail. We were on the Berryman and that was that. The trail didn’t match the map for shit, so I could only assume that the trail was improperly marked on the map. Trail conditions had gone from awesome to shitty in a hurry, and we were now doing lots of hike-a-bike. We both felt like the trail was going the wrong way, but had no clue where we ever could have gone wrong.
“Well, there’s a ton of bike tracks, so I guess we’re going the right way” I was so stupid.
I’ve heard Luke talk about what he calls “bending the map.” This is when you falsely convince yourself you’re going the right way. At this point, I was bending the map into positions that would make Gumby scream. I promised Travis that at the top of the next hill we’d see a gravel road and there would be trail on the other side. Lo and behold..we came to a gravel road. Only problem was, there was no trail on the other side.
There was no denying it now…we were butt lost. Neither of us wanted to go back the way we came, so we elected to follow the gravel road southward. In doing so, we would either come to an intersection that’d be on the map, or we would eventually run into the highway. The gravel road was mostly downhill, and that always means one thing…you’re going the wrong way.
When we got to the bottom of the hill, there were several other teams there standing around looking pretty unhappy. After a bit of discussion, we knew exactly where we were… and the news was not good. Somehow, we had found our way to a place known as the Four Points. I’m too embarrassed to post a picture of the map, you wouldnt believe how far off course we were.
I felt like I’d just been kicked in the nuts. The fact that so many others had made the same mistake did absolutely nothing to make me feel like any less of a moron. There was no coming back from this. Clearing the course would not happen. This was a catastrophic failure.
We had to get back on course, but there were differing opinions on how to do it. Going back the way we came was not an option, but it was the only “legal” way to get back. Any other route would involve a certain amount of tresspassing and the prospect of dodging gunfire.
We asked a landowner for permission to cross his field…..
…He said no.
So…..we tresspassed. I mean to say we tresspassed our asses off. We just wanted to get back on the course, finish in last-place and eat some porksteaks. Go ahead and judge us if you want.
I realize it’s completely wrong to feel this way, but this section of the race was actually my favorite. We bike-whacked through some serious shit out there, sped through open fields, and capped it all off by carrying our bikes up a super-steep muddy climb. This was the most serious orienteering I had ever done and I was juiced. There was no trail to follow and no footprints to cloud my judgement, it was just us and the map. We slashed our way through vines, thorns and trees as we worked our way toward a fire-road I could only hope still existed.
The terrain was horrible, but we were making progress. Thorns and vines grabbed at every part of us and tangled in our bikes, making this a particularly exhausting effort. Along the way, we had a quick conversation that went like this:
Travis: “I frickin hate you”.
Travis: “Nothing man, I really like racing with you.”
Me: “Oh, I could’ve sworn you said you hated me”
Yup, we were making some memories out there.
After what seemed like an eternity of bike-whacking, we finally came to the fire-road we were looking for and it lead us back to the Berryman Trail. I can’t even describe the relief I felt when we got back on that trail. I was so happy, in fact, that I decided to take a picture of myself.
About .08 seconds after that picture was taken, I hit a rock and flew off my bike into the woods. That put an end to my photo-taking while riding the Berryman, but I did manage to get a decent action shot of Travis later in the day:
I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, but I don’t remember very much of the race after this point. I think we were both so tired and defeated that we just did what we had to do to get across the finish line. I can recall that the remainder of the bike-leg was a torture-fest and that the paddle was alot of fun.
I also remember that I left our maps on the beach when we shoved off in the canoe. By the time I realized this colossal mistake, we were far enough downstream that turning back was out of the question. Travis was calling me “Bobby Let-down” once about every 15 minutes, and Iwasn’t arguing one bit. When we reached the canoe takeout, (with no maps), our only option was to walk in the ditch next to the highway until we found the Bass River Resort entrance, then hike/jog our way to the finish. Travis pushed through a lot of knee pain in those final miles, but we eventually made our way across the finish line.
Baked potatoes and beer were consumed until the world was right, then we fired up the grill and looked for Kage and Jim. They finished a while after we did, and I had a GREAT time spraying them with champagne as they crossed the finish line. Sadly, I have no photographs of this.
This will easily take first place as my greatest navigational blunder-fest, but I count the experience as a solid victory. I learned a lot of hard lessons out there and made some SERIOUS mistakes I’ll never make again, (like following other people’s tracks). I think we packed about as much failure into one race as is humanly possible, but at the end of the day we were laughing about it and already talking about getting some redemption next year.
I thing the sport is called adventure racing because the adventure should always come before the race. I think Travis would agree that we had one hell of an adventure out there. Maybe next time we’ll race too….maybe not:)