I’m sure I speak for my entire team when I say that this is by far the best race we have done to date. Justin, Trent, Matt, and I all met at my place on Friday and drove down to Bass River Resort for the pre-race meeting. We happened to pull in right behind our arch rivals, The Knuckleheads. After we all shook hands the trash talking commenced. Actually, it had started several weeks prior with Justin leaving comments on the Knuckleheads website, and the Knuckleheads responding with their always confident, we’re going to kick your ass attitude.
Our pathetic attempts at trash talk
We got checked in, got our sweet Columbia fleece’s, and sat down at a picnic table to negotiate the wager. We decided early on that a non-monetary wager was in order because it was much more likely that the bet would stick. After a little persuasion the Knuckleheads agreed to give us an hour. We also settled on the stakes pretty quickly. The losing team had to do century club with the beer of the winner’s choice (Milwaukee’s Best Ice if we won). For those of you that haven’t done century club it goes like this. One shot glass of beer, every minute, for 100 minutes. The beer drinking verterans amongst us may not think that sounds so bad, but trust me after about 50 it gets painful.
After the meeting we took our maps and clue sheet back to my house and got started plotting. We finished up around 11:30 and by the time I got everything together and got to sleep it was 1:00. My alarm went off at 4:00 and I begrudgingly got out of bed. I made sure Trent was up and we headed out to pick up Matt and then Justin. We picked up Justin in Bourbon and got almost to Cuba when Justin realized he had forgotten his bike helmet. Being a required piece of gear we had to go back and get it. We also had to make a quick stop at the Steelville Mobile for a restroom break. All of this had us pulling into the race HQ with about 12 minutes before the start. We quickly unpacked our bikes, geared up, got our passport, and headed to the start with 30 seconds left. Then I realized that we didn’t have Trent! We all started looking around frantically when Jason started counting 10, 9, 8. When he got to 5 Trent popped up beside us and we started the race.
It was dark when we started, so keeping track of each other with 200 other racers around was a little challenging. We started pretty strong up the hills and pretty quickly left a big portion of the racers behind us. We got the first Checkpoint (CP) quickly (actually we got a little lucky with that one) and got back on the road for another long ride to the single track. We found the single track with no problem and quickly caught another group of riders. We got CP 2 and settled in for what we knew was a pretty long single track ride to the Berryman campground. The single track was pretty muddy from all of the rain we had recently, but I always have fun biking in the mud.
We had been hitting the bikes pretty hard for about two hours when we decided to stop for a quick break. I knew we were fairly close to the campground, but we all needed something to eat and drink so we decided we’d stop on the trail for 5 minutes and then make the transition to the trek as quickly as we could.
taking our first break
When we arrived at the Berryman campground we asked how far ahead the Knuckleheads were. The volunteer told us that they hadn’t checked in yet! Ooohhhh yeeeaaahhh! Of course we were very happy to hear this news, but we were also aware that the Knuckleheads were a good team and we needed to do well on the upcoming O section to stay ahead of them.
Pulling into the Berryman Campground
There were 8 CP’s in the O section that could be gotten in any order and each team had 4 hours to get them. We decided on a counter clockwise order and headed out. Since Matt is an avid bow hunter, we decided to put his distance judging skills to use as our pacer. We had never used pacing to navigate before, but Matt did an excellent job and it proved to be a very useful tool to our orienteering. We found our first CP easily and headed for the rest. We took a short break to refuel after the 6th CP at which time Trent cracked a joke involving the Larabar he was eating and male genitals that took us all a while to recover from.
Still laughing at the joke
We were starting to run into more and more teams that had set out in a clockwise fashion for the O and when we asked how they were doing, the response was generally the same; CP 4 is a bitch. With about an hour and fifteen minutes left, we still had two CP’s to get. We decided that we had better pick up our pace to make sure that we had enough time to find the elusive CP 4. We ran straight to CP 6 and then quickly turned our attention to CP 4 (our last CP for the O). We decided to head to a small pond and then run a direct bearing to the CP. We did end up doing a little searching for CP 4, but no more than 5 minutes worth. After we got the CP we high tailed it back to the Berryman campground with 23 minutes to spare.
When we checked in with the volunteer we asked for a status update on the Knuckleheads. It turns out that it took them 2 ½ hours longer to finish the biking section that it did us. This news wasn’t all that good actually, because we figured that there must have been a bike failure or injury of some kind to delay those guys that long. Nevertheless, we realized that the race was ours at this point and proceeded to take a very long break at the transition. Once we decided to get going again I realized that my rear tire was flat. Trent and I got the wheel off, put in the new tube, and got the tire back on, but when we tried to get the wheel back on we were having a helluva time. A guy that was next to us saw what was going on and offered to help. It turns out that my hydraulic brake pads had gotten stuck together and needed to be pried apart before the wheel could be properly seated. Since I waited so long to write this I can’t remember the teams name that helped us out, but needless to say we thanked the guy profusely for his help and then hit the trails for some more biking.
We hadn’t been on the bikes for more than 15 minutes when we came to a large creek crossing. It was clear that there was no way across the water without getting your feet wet, and since we had all just put on fresh socks after the O we decided we’d take off our shoes and socks and walk across the creek. This isn’t something we would normally do in a race, but as I said, we knew that we had the Knuckleheads beat and we were taking it pretty easy at this point. Once we crossed Justin decided that we should pump some water while we were here. This took FOREVER! We just took a 30 minute break at the last transition and now I found myself waiting very impatiently for Justin and Trent to stop playing with what appeared to be a penis pump in the creek.
Justin "working" the pump
Finally the water was filled and we were ready to leave, well, almost. It turns out that Justin once again forgot his helmet. This time it was lying on the other side of the creek. Luckily another team showed up and was kind enough to throw the helmet to us. It’s probably the closest I’ve ever been to punching Justin in the face (in a race).
We quickly hit the gravel road we were looking for and set in for a long road ride. About halfway through Justin’s legs started cramping up hard. Other than walking a couple of hills that we probably would have walked anyway Justin fought through the pain and kept on pedaling. When we were a couple of miles or so from the canoe put in we met a car on the gravel. Suddenly the car swerved over to the right hand lane and all but forced me to stop and get off my bike. When I stopped she yelled at me “Where are you going”. I told her that we were going to Harper’s Slab. She said “Well there’s no such thing, but that’s fine. Where are you coming from?” I told her that we were doing a race and just passed Hwy Z. She mumbled something else that I didn’t quite catch and then sped off. We were all a little taken aback by this crazy lady, but we continued on.
About a mile down the road the same car pulled up behind us. We started climbing a big hill and about halfway up we got off and started walking. The crazy old lady followed us up this hill for a couple of minutes before finally deciding to pass us. When we got to the canoe takeout we told the volunteer about the lady and he said that she had been harassing racers all day. Apparently she was mad because her sister (the other lady in the car) needed to get out and walk the roads to get her exercise, but she was afraid that she would get run over by a biker. Crazy.
Matt doing all the work for Justin
Anyway, the second bike leg took us 2:46, not very good. We dropped our bikes and Trent and I grabbed a canoe and Matt and Justin jumped in another. The paddle was awesome in this race. We were on the Huzzah, which isn’t very fast, but there are plenty of turns to keep your interest along the way. Trent and I were handling the river like old pro’s, but Justin and Matt… weren’t. I don’t know what the hell they were doing back there, but every time we got to the smallest rapid they were running their boat into the bank, or a tree, or a rock, or… you get the picture.
We finally arrived at the takeout after 1:48 minutes of paddling. We were greeted with a gear check, which we quickly passed, and were then told that the takeout was incorrectly plotted on the map, it was actually a couple hundred yards further down then shown. This was no big deal, the bigger deal was that we all had on dry socks, but now we had to walk across the river to get to the next CP. Since we had been taking our sweet ass time since the last O section I decided that we needed to just walk across the river and do the last O section with wet feet. Everyone agreed and we took off.
When we got to the top of the hill where the CP was, we found several other teams searching for it. We were confident that we needed to continue in a South East direction on top of the hill to get the CP, but there were a lot of teams coming from there saying that it wasn’t that way. This made us second guess ourselves so we analyzed the map some more and decided that we had to be right. We kept going and found the CP easily. This is a very important lesson in racing; you have to trust your own judgment, trying to rely on other racers just never works out. We had a long hike to the last CP, but we found it without any issues.
This picture doesn't do the hill justice
Now we just had to head down the hill and take the roads back to the finish. When we got to the bottom of the hill I noticed another four man team ahead of us. I pointed this out to the rest of my team and we decided that we had to run it in. Matt and I both took off after the other team, but as we looked back we could see that Trent and Justin were struggling a bit. We slowed down a little and after some more encouragement we convinced them to run strong to the finish. We quickly passed the other team and made it to the finish in 11 hours and 56 minutes. When we got there Jason’s wife Laura asked us if we got all of the CP’s. I said that we did and she said: “then you just got first place in the four person male division!!!” None of us could believe it, but it turns out that it’s true. We all high fived, took some pictures, and then got a beer from the Kuat trailer.
Crossing the finish line
Justin and I ended up with some sweet YurBuds, while Matt and Trent both got a nice Columbia base layer for the first place finish. We didn’t stick around very long after the awards because everyone was waiting for us at Bruce’s house for the post-race celebration. The Knuckleheads showed up a couple hours later and we found out that they had gotten REALLY lost on the first biking leg. We all ate some great food and miscounted the shots of beer while the Knuckleheads did century club.
Where is the Kuat trailer?
All in all it was a great race! You can see the detailed results of the race here. A big thanks to Jason and Laura of Bonk Hard for putting on a really awesome race. I also want to thank all of the volunteers because without them we wouldn’t get to do races like this. I will definitely be volunteering in the future. We’ll be back at the Berryman next year, but I think we’re going to put on our big boy pants and see if we can handle the 36 hour race. Are you going to join us?