30 September 2013

Race Report: 2013 Berryman Adventure 12+hr AR

This one is gonna be a quickie since we're leaving for USARA Nationals on in 3 days, but I wanted to get my thoughts down ASAP before the big dance! 

As I mentioned previously, Alpine Shop was rolling 6 deep to the 2013 edition of Bonk Hard's Berryman Adventure. Because this race was so close to 2 national races, Bonk Hard shortened the normally 36-hr event into a "12+ hr" race. We weren't really sure what that meant, but when we were recruiting our 6th man, Brad, we just told him it was a 12-hour race and that we would be hiking all of the trekking sections because of Carrie's knee. Brad is a very fit dude and has done adventure races before so he was totally game-on, and we were stoked to be joined by such a positive and light-hearted guy.

The six of us meet up at our favorite commuter lot and we take 2 minivans (best adventure vehicles ever) down to Rolla, MO. Brad, Doug and I take a short side trip to visit Dan Fuhrmann at Route 66 Bikes. Brad is a SRAM rep so he just wanted to say "hey" and check out the shop. I always love visiting bike shops, and it's a good chance to pump Dan for local intel...where are the trails? What's the water level in the river? He guesses that we'll probably be paddling the Big Piney River, but there isn't any dedicated singletrack around that area so we'll probably be on horse trails and forest service roads. With that info, we head over to the host hotel to piddle with gear and food until the pre-race meeting at 7.30p. As we are packing, Carrie discovers she left her mountain bike shoes at home! Ahhhh! We run through our options and decide to call Dan at Route 66. He agrees to keep the shop open past the advertised 6pm closing time so she can buy new shoes and pedals. Dan, you are a lifesaver!! Thanks so much! Everyone go visit Route 66 Bicycles in Rolla, MO!
The meeting is signature Bonk Hard Racing style - lots of swag giveaways and then a short, informative presentation by Gary. We get 2 1:24k maps and coordinates for the first 13 CPs of the race. We go back to our hotel rooms to plot, eat pizza, and then piddle some more with gear until bedtime. Race morning is up at 0420, out the door by 0500, arrival at Race HQ about 0545, and then the race starts at 0630! Side note - while we were getting breakfast foods at the hotel, 2 people introduced themselves to me, saying that they read this blog! Thanks for saying hi! Great to meet you Andy and Jon!

TREK 1 (CPs 1-5, 5k) 
Jeff, Brad, David, me, Carrie, Doug, all ready to rock!
The first trek has 4 CPs that teams can obtain in any order. It's a smart way to break up the herd and we have a plan to go roughly clockwise. Except, in the first few hundred meters, we take a wrong turn on a road and end up...not exactly where we wanted. It's no big deal though because David calmly decides to just attack our route backwards. Our plan for this whole race is to take it easy on the treks, so we just hike most of this and then Jeff and I sprint for the punches. I also am wearing my Hokas in their first off-trail outing, and they are doing great! We are contouring below a ridgeline after CP3 and hear some teams start screaming - evidently they ran through a beehive and are getting swarmed! We stop and ask several times if they are okay, and after a few minutes they've calmed down and answer "yes" so we proceed. We arrive back at Race HQ and pick up our bikes for the next leg! 

BIKE 1 (CPs 6-10, 17 miles)
We roll out of TA with 12 happy knees and are soon able to organize into a paceline. Brad picked up an Alpine Shop jersey so it's an incredible sight to see 5 matching kits all lined up in front of me as we motor on down the road. Pretty soon we hit some horse trails/double track which are really rocky and eroded, but since my mtb mojo has returned, I'm totally loving the challenge. We meet up with several other teams at CP7 which is a cave/natural bridge. The map and terrain are pretty confusing and everyone's milling about trying to figure things out. It takes us a while too and we use the opportunity to put a tube in Doug's rear wheel which has gotten squishy in the opening miles. There are some more trails where we get to ride with my FG100 road trip buddy Laura and her husband Will who are a 2-person coed team. We sort of leapfrog with a couple other teams once we hit the pavement and after almost no time at all, we are rolling into the paddle TA!

PADDLE 1 (CPs 11-12, 7.5 miles)

Put-in at CP10. We had to get CPs 41 and 42 before CP14 (not shown, but after CP12).
The paddle put-in is crowded with 5 boats trying to get organized all at the same time. That number would be commotion enough, but we also have to load our bikes into the boats which takes some time. But finally we are gliding along the tranquil waters of the Big Piney River. Brad and I are paddling together and it's absolutely perfect weather for a float. You'll see on the map above that there was a slight twist to this part of the race - there were two "free-choice" CPs (41 and 42) that could be obtained using any mode of travel. Obviously paddling to these CPs would be a poor choice, but before the race we debated 3 different scenarios: 
  • Option A: beach the boats near CP11 and ride bikes up "Ticket Road"
  • Option B: beach the boats near FS174E (north part of riverbend) and ride bikes up
  • Option C: beach boats near CP12 and trek up. 
We were concerned about finding both of these roads, and what their condition would be, and the time it could take to get the bikes back into the boats, so we decided on Option C. That meant we could just focus on paddling, and this river definitely had spots where focus is needed! Brad and I let Jeff and David pilot the other 2 boats in front of us to watch their lines through the tricky sections. 
Brad and me paddling!
We are doing pretty well through the first couple, when we hit a slight riffle that requires a 3 quick turns in a row. We make the first 2, but the current through the third pushes us into/behind a huge rootstock and suddenly we're stuck! I get really nervous because we're starting to go sideways against the current, and with 2 not-cheap bikes laying sideways across the canoe, it's not a good place to be. We can't just go around the other side of the rootstock either because the tree trunk is blocking our way. Somehow we have to overcome the swift current without losing our balance. It's a tense spot to be, and we don't have much time to decide. We try grabbing onto the rootstock to pull us forward, but the bikes make it impossible to get close. The riverbank is just far enough away that we can't reach it with a paddle. Ahhh! Brad takes charge and jumps out of the boat, wading through the chest-deep water to bring us back into alignment with the current and around the rootstock. Somehow he manages to jump back in and the crisis is averted. Relief! It all happened so quickly, but now we're back to paddling peacefully downriver. Our teammates have stopped up ahead and Jeff is actually running up a gravel bar to come help us but I wave him off - we're okay! We make it through the rest of the paddle with ease and pretty soon we see the take-out at CP12.

TREK 2 (CPs 41-42 worth 2 points, 3.5k)

Except, instead of taking out on the right side of the river, we beach the boats on the left and change into trekking shoes to go after CP41 and CP42. David is feeling especially fast so he puts trekking pants on too, and then gleefully leads us (still in shorts) through large patches of stinging nettle. What a great teammate! Pretty soon we're climbing out of it and approaching CP41 where there is a crowd of racers including our friends on 34 Down. What the what? They know better than to chillax around the flag! But as we get closer, we see Bonk Hard volunteer Dan Dougan with a clipboard! Gear check! It's actually really fun to chat with the other teams to see where they attacked these points from. There are two other teams who used our Option A and report that the road wasn't that hard to find. But they still have to deal with the inefficiencies of an out-n-back route, so we are happy with our Option C. We run the road to CP42 and then back down to the boats with a lovely return trip through the stinging nettle! The river here is shallow so Brad and I decide to just wade across it with our boat, and the water is really refreshing on my nettle-d legs. Once we hit CP12, it's time to build bikes and ride out!

BIKE 2 (CPs 13-14, <5 miles)
Carrie, David, and Doug rolling into CP13.

Started at CP12, then rode to CP13 (location approximate), where we learned the location of CP14.

It's a short ride to CP13, where receive the location of CP14. We plot it and learn we will be going to a riverside location. Hmmmmm, maybe that's why we haven't been allowed to drop our paddles anywhere? We ride our bikes to CP14, and the race volunteers hand us UTM coordinates for the next section. We plot the next 9 CPs. This a big trek! We load up our pockets with food from our drop bags and strike out about 1pm.

TREK 3 (CPs 15-23, long)
Team BOR at CP13 checking the location of CP14.
We leave CP 14 with solid confidence and optimism. We are able to do a little running on the roads but most of the off-trail travel is done at a hiking speed. This is perfectly fine with us, especially because we are able to take very direct routes to each of the CPs. David's navigation is terrific as we hit CP after CP in a regular rhythm. This is exactly the trek I wanted from this race - quality time with my friends in the woods, some practice on the maps for David, and moving my legs around before Nationals x2. And everyone is on board with  that plan. We just chat our way through this leg, moving steadily through the woods without seeing any other teams. We are keeping an eye on the clock as well, to make sure we are back at CP23 before the 5.30pm cutoff. Then, somewhere in the middle of the trek, we hear branches snapping and there's another team! We're super curious to know who it is, and pretty soon the 4 members of Team Fusion/Kuat emerge. We are confused, because they were about 1 hour ahead of us at CP12 (the paddle take-out). But unfortunately the navigation monsters attacked them and they had trouble with some of the CPs. Now they are back on track and passing us. We offer them encouragement, and at the same time our spirits are buoyed to realize we might actually be in the mix for the lead! It just goes to show how important navigation is in remote, backwoods races like The Berryman Adventure. We continue at our marching pace and pretty soon are approaching CP23, which is the same location as CP12. We make it through the trek with all CPs in just about 4 hours.

PADDLE 2 (CP 24, maybe 4-5 miles??)

We paddled from CP23 to CP24.
It has started raining, but the temperatures are still warm so we just hop in the boats (this time without bikes) and start paddling downstream. There are a few more tricky sections to paddle through but now Brad and I have got a system down so we make it through just fine. Although I do run us aground on some shallow gravel bars, and Brad volunteers to get out and push. He is a great teammate! The rain continues to fall as we reach the take-out at CP24. The volunteers from earlier this morning are still there, sheltered under a small pop-up tent and handing out final cluesheets to a hoard of sopping wet adventure racers. It's really hard for Jeff, David and me to plot everything because our maps are soaking wet, and the Sharpies won't transfer. We have to take a couple deep breaths to collect ourselves in the chaos of TA and just take each CP one at a time. We finally get everything transferred and plan a sweep route. Time to boogie!

BIKE 3 (CPs 25-29 plus 2-pointers 38, 39, 40)

We ride up the large hill out of CP24 which helps a lot to warm up my soaking wet body. We collect all of the 2-point CPs. These were all located quite a ways off-road and require trekking in mtb shoes to get them. We realize that we won't be able to finish the whole course in the daylight, much less before the final cutoff, which is a little worrisome since not everyone brought good night lights. But, between the six of us, we distribute enough lumens to keep everyone moving decently along the gravel roads and trails. We decide to drop CPs 27, 28, and 29 in order to make it back to the finish line comfortably. There is no reason to cut things close when Carrie's knee has been a trooper all day and we're way beyond the "oh it's just a 12-hr race Brad, come join us" point. So we go punch CP26 which requires a big hike-a-bike up a seriously gnarly horse trail, and then back down and we cruise into Race HQ, greeted by the signature Bonk Hard Racing cowbells!

Jeff, Carrie, David, Brad, me, Doug, all smiles at the finish line!
We finish in a soggy mess and learn we are currently in 2nd and 3rd place overall! 34 Down has 37 points compared to our 36 so they are in 1st place. However, Team Fusion/Kuat (who we saw on the big trek) hasn't come in yet so they could still beat both of us if they've got more points. We hang around the finish line, get our pictures taken, and I get to catch up a little bit with Rachel from Bushwhacker which is awesome. After only about 10 minutes, Team Fusion/Kuat rolls through, but they've got 35 CPs so our position is solidified. We are really, really proud of 2nd/3rd place overall. We worked together as a team to stay motivated and moving forward throughout the whole race, despite it being much longer and more challenging than any of us were anticipating. For all of you racers reading this, I hope you realize that this course definitely lived up to its tagline - it's a real ass kicker! The fact that no team cleared the whole thing shows that. The weather and the amount of on-the-clock plotting could have driven many teams into disfunction, but we stayed calm and committed when things were slow. It was so great to have Carrie back in the woods, giving an absolute clinic on what it means to be tough. Brad got way more race than we promised him, and he rose to the challenge with positivity and tons of jokes. Jeff, David, and Doug were their usual studly selves, and that's why I love racing on team Alpine Shop! Now, get ready to cheer us on at USARA Nationals!

ROCK Racing: http://rock-racing.blogspot.com/2013/10/berryman-adventure-race-2013.html
ROCK Racing Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/103902132@N04/
Team Roadkill: http://www.justinrummel.com/2013-berryman-adventure-race/ with a super cool GPS map!
34 Down: http://sunnygilbert.blogspot.com/2013/10/race-report-berryman-adventure-race.html Pin It


  1. Yea!! Kicking ass even at a hiking pace! Way to go, team(s)!

  2. Very Impressive! Learned so much from this being my first race... see you again next year!

    1. Wow! What a doozy of a first race! Were you on team Roadkill?

    2. Awesome! Good meeting you at the end of the huge trek! Congrats on finishing a really hard race! The Berryman is the real deal.