The Thousand Mile Stare – 2012 Berryman Part 2
This report is a collaborative effort by both Bob and my self ( Travis). Bob’s part is in black and mine in green. Be forewarned this thing is long. (That’s what she said.)
The race began with a time-honored Bonk Hard tradition: Running uphill.
With 200 people all going to the same place, there wasn’t much reason to obsess over the nav, but I did anyway. The last thing we needed to do was lose contact with the map, and while it did slow us down significantly, I’m glad to have done it. We wound up hiking alongside Derrick and Kyle for a while, and Derrick was kind enough to help dust off some of the map-reading cobwebs. For whatever reason, I just really wasn’t comfortable with the map.
I believe we parted ways with the Boos brothers at CP 3. They do an outstanding job of punching CP’s and blasting off for the next one, and ….we don’t. From CP 3, we weighed our options and decided to head straight south toward the road. This time our nav was good, because we popped out of the woods precisely at the road-bend we wanted. From there it was a straight shot to CP4. Yahtzee!
From there it was an easy, mostly downhill hike to the canoe T/A. Despite my lack of nav-prowess, we both felt like this first section had gone remarkably well. Making our way into the T/A, it felt good to see that we’d gotten there ahead of several teams. We transitioned quickly and hit the water.
Council Bluff lake is a crappie fisherman’s paradise. The lake is man-made, so there are a lot of underwater trees for fish to hide under. On the flipside, those little underwater trees are a real pain in the ass when you’re in a canoe. Gary, (race director), made mention in the pre-race meeting that he’d flipped his kayak in the lake twice the day before the race. Recent rain-storms had brought the water up to a level about 3 inches higher than most of the underwater trees. He predicted that at least a dozen racers would tip on raceday.
The sun was out and it was a beautiful day. If we flipped into the drink, at least it’d be early in the race. And besides, it’s not like we’ve never flipped a canoe before. We’d brought our own 2-bladed kayak paddles, so that gave us a really nice advantage over the folks using the single bladed canoe paddles.
The route was basically one lap of the lake, stopping off at a handful of CP’s along the way. We could get them in any order, and had chosen to hit them in a clockwise order. The only real problem we had was that my memory was not functioning at all that morning. I bet I asked Travis 10-12 times which order we were getting the CP’s in. I’m sure it was plenty annoying.
As we were slipping into a cove to retrieve CP, (?) we crossed paths with WEDALI, Alpine Shop and the Elsenraat team. I panicked a little bit, thinking we had done something very wrong. Looking back, I can only assume they had all gone in the exact opposite direction as the rest of us. Not that it really mattered.
The one thing about this paddling leg I really enjoyed was constantly seeing other teams. There was always someone coming into a cove as we were going out, and vice versa. We must’ve crossed paths with Head Cases, Hoosier Daddies and Orange Lederhosen half a dozen times. It was a really fun part of the race. Bucky,( from Head Cases Racing,) was an absolute beast with that canoe paddle. I’ve never seen anybody paddle with that kind of fury, and he did it the WHOLE TIME!! Very entertaining.
As the paddle wore on, we somehow managed to catch the Hoosier Daddies. I was so busy trying to get a photo that we lost control of the boat for a minute and fell behind them again. I don’t think Travis was too happy about that, but we did manage to overtake them again before the next CP. Those guys are in top physical shape; I don’t think we would’ve caught them using the single-blade canoe paddles.
The next order of business was to head back to the boatramp and transition to bikes. As we were coming around the final turn, the wind was really picking up. I was glad we’d be off the water soon; the waves were starting to turn to whitecaps. For whatever reason, we had a lot of trouble keeping the canoe going in a straight line. rom turning to the left. It got to the point where each of us was only paddling on one side, just trying to keep the boat straight. It was a real pain in the ass but we got it done.
Back on solid ground, we had the option of ditching our kayak paddles or carrying them with us for the rest of the race. We decided to leave them behind; there was a lot of racing left to do and any weight we could leave behind was the smart thing to do. We shucked the paddles and made ready to ride some singletrack.
I was pretty excited to be hitting the trails, but slightly apprehensive for a couple of reasons…. I would be riding my recently assembled, Frankenstein of a 29er for the first time on singletrack, the singletrack was Council Bluff Lake, and though I can keep up with Bob on the road, I always worry about slowing him down offroad. Nevertheless, we hit the trail to ride the first half of the trail around the lake, I am guessing it was 6-ish miles. Bob took right off, but for the most part I was able to stay pretty close and instantly fell in love with the new bike. With no cp’s along the way, we hammered out a decent pace and were soon at the next TA.
Council bluff is probably my favorite mtb trail in Missouri. The only part that I didn’t enjoy was carrying full AR packs the whole time. You can ride so much faster when you’re not
obese carrying 20+ lbs of gear.
We quickly transitioned back into our trekking shoes and prepared for the next O section. I think there were 10 cps in this section. Since Bob had navigated earlier in the race and I had already given him a healthy ration of crap along the way he passed off the navigational duties to me. I couldn’t wait to show him how it was done. We left the TA and headed off, most teams were going the other way, but since the points could be gotten in any order, we stuck to our plan. Soon we were headed off the trail on what appeared to be a pretty simple shot to the CP. The clue was “pondish”. That should have been a clue that if it isn’t good enough to just be pond, then it might be a problem. The first problem was that a few hundred yards into the woods, it became a neverending maze of blowdowns from storms past, by the time we reached the top of the hill I knew we were off a little bit, and we were. After probably a good 30 minutes we eventually found the coffee table sized “pond”.
That was a pretty frustrating checkpoint. I thought Travis was just trying to make me feel better about the troubles I’d had earlier in the race. It’s funny in hindsight, but it surely sucked at the time. The real stinger was that it didn’t seem to be a problem for anyone else. I guess it just wasn’t our day.
This was a major blow to my confidence, but I could only hope the next one would go easier. I know we hit a couple more cp’s after this without tremendous difficulty, but I’m a little fuzzy on the details. I do remember that the checkpoints were considerable distances apart, and there weren’t a lot of good features to make navigation any easier. After a few more cps we decided that we’d head in to avoid the time cutoff and give ourselves a little more time to make the rest of the loop around the lake before dark.
I remember an abundance of thorns and no clear way to get to the cp’s. And there was definitely a lot of ground to cover between cp’s. I was glad Travis was navigating. I think this was around the time my brand-new Hi-tech AR shoes began to fall apart. Boy, was I pissed.
We arrived back at the TA, received our punch and made ready to ride again. We knew we had to bike around the rest of the lake and then hit the roads, but we had a couple decisions to make. Number one, we were getting low on hydration and the lake didn’t look like we wanted to drink it, number two, there were a couple of extra points on the roads that could be hit anytime before the last “O” section. We decided to ride the trail around to the dam and then reassess.
Even though it’s now very apparent that I was headed into a downward spiral, I was oblivious to it at the time and really enjoyed the rest of the trail to the dam.
It should be noted that when we got back on the bikes, our first mechanical problem occurred. Apparently while we were out on the trek, someone stepped on Bob’s bike, tweaking the rear deraileur.
Every time Bob would try to shift gears or stand up to power over something, his chain would jump a gear or two. Once at the dam, we decided it was only a couple more miles back to race HQ, and since the truck was there we could restock our food and fill up on fluids. We were around 12 hours in at this point and I was entering uncharted territory as far as adventure racing experience went. We still had the possibility of 15ish more hours and I wasn’t sure what to make of it. We located a water spigot on our way through HQ and soon were at the truck to resupply. Bob took right off gathering food, drinking and putting on some more layers for the riding ahead.
Around this point I sat down on the tailgate and entered a bad place. I guess the toll of the 12 previous hrs of racing, the disappointing O section and the prospect of racing the rest of the night all hit me at once. I was done; we were at the truck and all I could think about was how nice it would be to just stop right now, call it a day and go enjoy food and drinks with all the 12 hour racers who were finishing up their race. Bob was quick to recognize that I was having a breakdown and soon was forcing food and drink upon me. I sat there for a few minutes with tears welling up in my eyes, disappointed that I was feeling like this, but knowing this was not typical for me, not wanting to tell Bob how I felt. I eventually pushed these feelings aside enough to gather my stuff, layer up for the cold night ahead, and get back on the bike.
That was easily one of the most awkward conversations of my life. I didn’t think Travis was getting up off the tailgate. The look on his face, the “Thousand Mile Stare,” is a look that will live in infamy. I wouldn’t have done it at the time….but I will certainly be making fun of that facial expression in the future. I only wish I’d had the balls to get a photo.
It was like he was staring into a parallel universe or something. The man didn’t want food, didn’t want a drink of any kind….hell, he even turned down a can of peaches. Peaches!! Who does that?
We hit the water spigot and soon were on our way down the road. Within a couple of miles I was feeling better and we were at the first cp questioning the amount of clothing we had on; riding had warmed us right up. We both shed a layer and continued on down the road, I think once or twice one of us would ride past the cp and the other person would see. During this leg, we encountered our second mechanical. We had stopped at a stop sign and when I stood up on the pedals to take off I heard something slip near the rear deraileur. It was a strange noise, but I didn’t notice anything wrong right away. As I started up the next hill and tried to downshift, I discovered there was a problem, I couldn’t get any lower than about seventh gear.
I powered up the hill and stopped at the top in the first driveway. We examined the bike and found that the cable appeared to be slack, no big deal, we dug out the tools and set about tightening it. With the tension adjusted I hopped back on for a test spin only for the cable to go slack again. Upon further examination it was discovered that the little screw that holds the tensioner had stripped out for some reason. What a bummer, there was a lot of race left and I was now limited to a three speed bike, by three speed I mean 7th gear on the rear cassette with my 22,32,42 on the front, keeping in mind that going in the small sprocket was cross chaining the crap out of the bike. At the time, it seemed only to be minor and I was able to just power up the hills.
I was positive that chainwas going to eventally snap and leave us totally screwed.
By the time we reached the second paddling section on the little lake in the middle of nowhere I was definitely feeling the effects of my mechanical problems. We arrived to a very pleasant greeting from our very own Kage and her brother who had finished their 12 hour race and were checking on Kate’s son who was volunteering. The Boos brothers of Orange Lederhosen were also there, they had been racing in the 24 like us, but were taken out of the race by some type of major bike mechanical problem. They were visiting with Derrick’s lady-friend, Emma, who was also volunteering.
This was also the place where I lost my $50 thumb compass.
This paddling leg consisted of four or five cps which could be obtained in any order. I was excited to be paddling in the dark, since my only other night paddle had been two years prior at The Berryman when my teammate and I finished in the dark. The lake was incredibly calm, but also very foggy. I soon realized that my headlamp paled in comparison to Bob’s, I will be getting a better one. Three of the cps required us to portage over a berm that created the “cutoff cove” (which was the clue), and then paddle out to punch. Another interesting point about the lake was that the water was very shallow thoughout, there were several sand bars and when the water was deep the vegetation had grown very close to the surface, giving the illusion that the water was shallow. We collected all of our points with relative ease and no major issues.
I had been dreading this paddle for fear of exhaustion, but it was actually the easiest, most relaxing paddle I think I’ve ever done. There was no wind, so the water was like glass.
We arrived back at the TA and started the task of readying for more biking. Derrick of Orange Lederhosen offered to help me fix my bike by using the adjustment screw to push the deraileur over and hopefully get a different gear, but we were unable to gain any ground on it.
Back on the bikes, we headed down the road to hit a couple more checkpoints. There was one point just a short distance off of the road on a trail and we contemplated getting it, or letting Bob go and get while I waited on the road, because riding my bike with the limited gear really wasn’t an option for singletrack, we ultimately decided against it due to the 100 ft rule.
I wanted that CP pretty bad. This late in the race, I knew one or two more CP’s could really change our finish ranking. It looked like it would’ve been really easy to find, and getting there was all downhill. But with Travis’s ankle being flared up, we really didn’t think he’d be able to hike-a-bike back up. Cheating would’ve been easy, but it was a dick move and I knew we’d regret it later. Skipping that one was the right thing to do.
By this time of the morning we were both getting tired and our time on the course and bike problems were taking their toll on us. The one thing that seemed to be keeping us going was knowing that we had Subway sandwiches waiting on us at the next TA. After a couple more checkpoints and a seemingly neverending stretch of gravel, we intersected the highway.
Just down the road would be the turn to the next TA and another O section, and a few more miles down the road was the campground where HQ was located. Decision time was upon us. Bob wanted to get to the O section and try to find a few points, but I am not sure how bad he really wanted that. I was hurting everywhere, specifically my ankle from an injury earlier in the year, and wasn’t really sure if I could trek anymore. I will take the blame for what happened next because I think it was my idea. The idea of just riding the highway back to HQ and calling it a day came up, and it didn’t take much for us to agree on it. Bob may not have wanted to do it that way, but after 2o plus hours of racing he went along with it pretty easily.
It was pretty obvious that your ankle was destroyed, so there wasn’t much sense in putting you through another trekking leg. I think that o-section is what decided the finishing position for a lot of teams, though. We had enough time to get a few cp’s, but I didn’t see any sense in shredding Travis’s ankle. Plus, we were both mentally checked out; For all I know we may not have found any cp’s anyway. Live to race another day.
Looking back, I think we should’ve changed into some dry clothes, pumped you full of pain-meds, taken a nap and gone back after it. Maybe we’ll do that next time.
We made our way down the highway, walking several hills along the way, especially the ones after turning into the campground. Back at the truck, we dropped our bikes and made the walk of shame down to HQ to turn in our passport. Our race was over; I was happy and sad at the same time. Happy because I was tired, it was cold, I was hungry and the only thing I could think about was sleep. Sad because once again the Berryman had kicked our ass.
Bonk Hard got our photo at the finish….Travis still has “the stare” going on.
The photographer was like, “Oh wait.. let me shoot that again, you guys weren’t smiling.”
“Umm….let me try one more shot.”
We grabbed some of the awesome food provided by Bonk Hard; even though it was cold it was delicious. Next it was time to go and retrieve our drop bags that contained our sandwiches. I have to say this was the most dangerous part of the entire race. It was probably only three or four miles each way, but trying to stay awake and keep Bob awake proved to be a serious challenge. There may or may not have been more than one close call during the trip, but we miracuously made it back to camp in one piece. Kate and Jim heard us pull in, and woke up long enough to drowsily cheer us in. I made my way into my tent and into my sleeping bag. I offered to let Bob come in out of the cold, but he just crawled in his sleeping bag on the ground and that was the last I heard of him till after morning light.
There is no sleep like the sleep that comes after an AR.
Morning came and we had both gotten a little sleep. We all emerged from our sleeping quarters and began to break camp and prepare for our journeys home. We made a quick stop at HQ to check in on some of our friends and their teams while Kate was in search of a lost camera, I believe. After visiting with everyone, we hit the road with plans to stop in Steelville for breakfast. We made our way to the Spare-Rib Inn and we all treated ourselves to the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. We laughed and told stories about the highlights of the race and things we could have done differently and enjoyed our breakfast. It was a great time and an awesome ending to the weekend. Only one thing could have made it better: If our captain could have been there.
I know I probably left out some stuff but that is what I get for waiting so long to finish this up. We are already planning to return next year and give it another shot. If you want one heck of a challenge sign up and go with us. You won’t regret it.