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Jumping into the Fire – Berryman Past and Present

***UPDATE: The 2010 Berryman Adventure Race Report has been posted right here!***

9 years ago, I was a young, naïve, optimistic newlywed ready to take on the world.  I was relatively fit, and I loved the outdoors.  So when my friend, Drew, asked if I wanted to do a race with him, I jumped at the chance.

Then he told me it was something called an “Adventure Race” – The Berryman Adventure to be exact.  Okay… That sounds cool.  He then told me it involved hiking, trail running, paddling, and mountain biking.  Sweet! I was then informed that we had to cover 100+ miles over rugged terrain… Seems simple enough… while carrying everything on our backs… Easy – I’m strong… while finding checkpoints along the way using a map and compass… Cool! Like a treasure hunt!… all within 36 hours or less. No problem!

So, we recruited my cousin Darin, and his friend, Christine (way back then, the only option was a 4-person coed team, and there was no 12 hour option), and we headed down to the metropolis that is Steeleville, MO for the inaugural Berryman Adventure.

The Berryman Adventure 36 Hour AR

Um… Yeah…  We were in WAY over our heads.  I think Drew was wearing cutoff jeans or something, and he was using his old Eddie Bauer backpack from school.  Darin and Christine got brand new packs that were flippin’ huge.  I’m pretty sure I was carrying enough food for the four of us to survive for a month, and I didn’t know a thing about UTM’s (not good since I was the navigator).

Well, we started the trekking leg of the race.  We found the first couple of checkpoints with no problems.  Our spirits were high as the sun came up, and we continued on…

and on…

and on…

and on…

and did I mention we kept going?

15 hours and roughly 30 miles later, we limped and hobbled to the canoe put-in to start our 20 mile paddle.  We were sooooo thankful to be getting off of our feet, but the sun was setting.  It got dark and cold in a hurry.

We paddled down river in the dark for what seemed like forever.  Up ahead, we saw some lights at a low water crossing.  It was a race volunteer.  He said, “I have some good news and some bad news.”  We wanted the bad news first.  “Well, you’ve only gone about 4 miles.”  What?!?! We thought we only had a few miles left! Our spirits plummeted.  “The good news is there’s a van right here if you want to pull out of the race.”

We were cold, wet, exhausted, and in quite a bit of pain.  It didn’t take long to hop out of the canoes and into the heated van.  Our race was over.

We got our asses kicked.  It was terrible.  I was sore and hurting for the next week.  Yet, as painful and demoralizing as that race was, and although we may have pulled out of our first Adventure race with our tails tucked and our heads hung low, we’ve had the AR-bug ever since.

That was then… This is now…

A few months ago, Drew and I heard that The Berryman Adventure was moving back to Steeleville again for its 10th anniversary.  It seemed like fate, and Drew asked if I wanted to do the Berryman again this year.  We even joked about doing the 36 Hour race (there has been a 12 hour option every year since that first year which Drew and I have done several times).

Even though we had only joked about doing the 36 hour race,  I couldn’t get it out of my mind. The idea kept bouncing around in my head:

9 years ago we attempted the 36 hour and failed…

The race is back at the same location where it all started – pretty fortuitous…

Man, it would be so incredible to finish the 36 hour race 9 years after that DNF…

It’s the 10th anniversary – we pretty much HAVE to do the 36…

Now, you might think that over the last 9 years I have become a much different person.  Well, you would be wrong.  I’m not that much different.  I’m no longer a newlywed, and I’m not that young anymore.  But I’m still naïve, optimistic, and ready to take on the world.

So I told Drew that the thought of doing the 36 hour was really starting to grow on me.  Apparently, he had been feeling the same way, and the idea of doing the 36 hour race kept haunting him as well.  So, we’re doing the 36 hour Berryman Adventure Race this weekend.

If you want to see how Drew and I fare this weekend, you can follow the live, online coverage through Checkpoint Tracker.  There will be real-time leaderboard updates, photo updates, other updates, and you can even post comments by going here this weekend.  Please check it out even if it’s just to make sure Drew and I are still alive.

Online coverage is only for the 36 hour Berryman, which is too bad since our very own Bob Jenkins is teaming up with our friend Adam Hempelmann for the 12 Hour Berryman to compete as Team Virtus Part Deuce.  Good luck, guys!  Please pick us up if you see us passed out in a ditch.

I can’t wait for this race.  I know what most of you are thinking (some of you more than others).  Yes, we’re stupid.  Yes, we’re still in way over our heads.  Yes, we’re foolish.  Yes, there is a good chance we won’t finish the race.  Yes, We are incredibly handsome men… Wait… That’s not what you were thinking?  Are you sure?  Oh, sorry.  My mistake.

Am I scared?  Hell yes.  To say I’m a little intimidated is like saying Lindsay Lohan enjoys an adult beverage now and then.

Lindsay Lohan Hammered

I emailed my dad about this race, and he said that he was reminded of the Garth Brooks song, Standing Outside the Fire.  Here are some of the lyrics:

We call them fools
Who have to dance within the flame
Who chance the sorrow and the shame
That always come with getting burned

But you got to be tough when consumed by desire
‘Cause it’s not enough just to stand outside the fire

Standing outside the fire
Standing outside the fire
Life is not tried it is merely survived
If you’re standing outside the fire

My dad ended the email with this: So, I say go for it Luke!  No matter what the outcome – you won’t be “Standing outside the fire”!

He always has a way of putting things into perspective and making me feel better.  Thanks, Pop!

Anyway,  Drew and I are going to compete in the 36 hour Berryman.  Why?  Well, we “know” we can finish the 12 hour race since we have done so several times before.  No, we wouldn’t win the 12 hour race, and I’m not saying it’s an easy race by any means.  It’s always a VERY challenging, fun race.  We just want to see how far we’ve come in 10 years.  We want to REALLY push ourselves.  We want to have a great story to tell (hopefully).  We want to answer the question, “What if?” We want to have fun.  And we want to jump into the fire!

Fire Flame

We may be fools.  We may end up getting burned.  We may not finish the race, and to some of you that may be considered failure.  It’s not failure to us.  Failure would be not attempting this race.  Failure would be letting this opportunity pass us by.  Failure would be standing outside the fire.  Well, screw that.  We’re jumping in!

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