Sunday, October 28, 2018

2018 BT Epic Report: The Hole-Shot Blues

The Berryman Trail Epic or BT Epic or BTE has all the makings of a great event. It's capped off our racing season now for the past 5 years and it's everything Ozark: beards, flannel, smoked meat, beer, a bon-fire to end all bon-fires and a fifty mile mountain bike race on a network of hill country trails under a dense canopy of hardwood trees. I can't think of a better way to spend a fall weekend.

This year's MTBLIMO crew was skeleton. Just Shawn-Shane Buscher and Alex "Do you have a Venezuelan aisle" Sanchez. Mike Miles met us there as well as the O'bs, Eric and Abbey. Her last BTE most likely (off to college next year). Sad face :(

We left Thursday night and drove to KC, where we stayed in a Best Western that left a lot to be desired but it was cheap. We ate at Denny's the next morning and of all the f-ing Denny's in the land, we eat at the same one Alex had eaten at after performing a gig in the area. Story goes he tried to get the waiter to give them booze. 

We arrived at the Bass River Resort under some misty skies around the lunch hour and checked into our cabins. As I was signing the paperwork I hear someone call out my name but using Abbott. I figured it was another racer but to my surprise is an old co-worker, Nicole Bormann, who was living in Columbia and was down supporting her friend who was racing. It was such an amazing surprise and made me so happy to see her smile and hear her infamous and infectious laugh that I miss hearing day to day.

Since all of the posh accommodations were booked, the only thing I could reserve earlier this year were two older cabins made of some plywood and beams. When we opened the door, it was colder inside than out. Luckily the heater worked awesome, albeit quite loud. No insulation in this place but we were warm and dry. 

Not too long after we arrived Mike showed up and we all hopped on bikes and took a stroll up the road. It was still drizzling a bit and even more by the time we got onto the single track. My ribs were holding up just fine but I decided not to go too far and risk a fall on the wet roots and rocks. Been there, done that. Got the fucking tshirt. So I popped back out onto the gravel and did a few openers and then headed back to the cabin and then to registration. The Resort built a brand new event center with a stage and large meeting space with tables and that was to be ground zero for post race celebrations. The timber was already stacked in an open field next to the Center for the bonfire that would be lit the next night. 

After everyone returned back to the cabin and got showered and hunkered down, the power went out in Mike's cabin so he and Ryan went down to the lodge to report and within minutes, they had someone there and got it fixed. Sort of. The night was spent getting bikes and gear ready for the big day. I slept pretty well considering my ribs. Ear plugs kept the noises at bay and a shot of whiskey helped send me off to sleep.

We were all pretty much up by 5:30. Can't really be quiet in small cabins so once one person is up so is everyone. Coffee and oats were on the menu, or if you're Shawn-Shane, cookies and coffee. At 5:40 Eric was at the door. Power was out again and it was chilly but Mike knew what to do and it was right back on. With the race not starting until a much more normal 8:30 (unlike the 7:30 start at Dakota Five-0 or the insane 7 am start at the Ozark Off-road) we had plenty of time to get ready. Outside it was pretty chilly and a fog was hovering in open areas. I carried a drop bag to the last aid station near the entrance so that I could stash my warm up layers. 

Wave 1 Photo by
By 8:15 I was at the line with 329 other racers. This year they decided to split the start into two waves to cut down on the congestion. It was a good plan in theory. In the pre race announcements, the promoter yelled to look for the truck blocking the road, signaling where we were to turn into the trees. Another good theory. I've done it many times, as recent as the day before. Piece of cake. I had also looked for markers the day before so that I could prepare to unlock my suspension before hitting the single track. As the minutes were ticking down, the sun finally draped us in warmth, the wind was low and it was going to be a perfect day for racing bikes! I was set.
Wave 2

Then, my computer shut off. 

"THIRTY SECONDS!" the announcer yelled.


I restarted the computer and watched it warm up. C'mon you POS! 


The screen came back up just as the start gun went off. I hit start. Then I got stuck behind the f-ing clog that happens every year. I'm lining up in the front next year. The race went up the road without me it seemed. Though I wasn't 100% due to my injuries and lack of training to try and heal, I still had some desire to push it up to the hole shot and then see how my ribs were going to handle things. I jumped from group to group and tried to get back some spots before heading up "the wall" as I like to call the first gravel climb. The opening stretch is only about 4 miles but it's climb after climb and it can just wear the shit outta ya - especially when your fucking computer isn't picking up your heart rate like it's been doing up until that moment. I do better racing with HR but at least I had power.

Riding up the road, I'm starting to see the markers I noticed the day before. I was in a group of guys and was holding onto their pace. As we started up a slight incline I see two racers coming right at us. Thinking they had mechanicals I dismissed them. Once over the rise, suddenly there is a stampede of racers coming at us. I was so confused. I saw Laura Scherff and she yells, "We missed it. There was no truck! We missed the turn!" I turned around with my little group. I'm thinking, nah, couldn't have missed it. I would have recognized it. There were a bunch of arrows the day before. I think it's still up the road. A couple others thought the same so we start back up the gravel when shortly after the rest of the first wave came over a rise and I'm like "Shit, we missed it." So we turn around again, weaving through people going slow as molasses. By then the 2nd wave has arrived, also missing the hole shot, and they're lining the road to let the first wavers through. At the entrance, there is a fucking conga line so I take a parallel ATV track right next to it that led to the same spot, passing probably 20 riders, and I slot right behind Julie Higgins. Within minutes, we're all walking the first technical descent b/c why? Wave 2 and 1 were all mixed in and it was just going all downhill. It was like scared cattle drive with racers trying to ride around the walkers, racers running and carrying bikes through the brush; whatever was necessary to make up ground like we were running from a forest fire. It was comical. Adrenaline is a drug by the way.

As things calmed down a bit, a did a computer check- 190 power. Ok, not horrible. Ride ride check, still 190. Well, I am riding hard to make up time. Gotta run this stupid climb that nobody seems to be able to ride. I finally get going and rip some down hills. The computer is still at 190 power. BUT I'M NOT PEDALING, YOU POS! So it's stuck. It's computing b/c the distance is working but no heart rate. F! So I just raced by feel. And I felt like I was going too hard and I knew it but I couldn't make myself slow down b/c I didn't know how far back I was. I didn't know where the other ladies in my age group were. They could be right in front of me or right behind so I just had to push. Ribs were handling things just fine thanks to my buddy, Larry, who taped me up before we left town.

By aid 1 at the highway crossing, I'm feeling pretty good. I shove down some food before heading back into the trees. The passing continued by me and to me. I was around dudes the whole time, and man they sure do like to talk a lot. I passed by Shawn-Shane not long after the road so I knew that I was somewhere among the 2nd wavers. I started seeing women here and there going at pretty good clips. One in particular would keep getting a gap until finally just after aid 2 I was able to get around her after she let some guys by that were between us. It was just before a fun descent so I stepped on the gas. The trails after aid 2 are what I look forward to during this race. They twist and turn and have a lot more descending than climbing and you can make up a lot of time, of which I tried, making bold passes, going by two sometimes 4 riders. I kept looking at my 190 and thinking I really needed to slow the fuck down. But I didn't. Just too many people to get through. The race was nerve racking, and I never felt like I was in a groove. I felt tense, in a hurry and just rattled. I'm glad I didn't crash although I did have a couple of scares. 

Finally out of the trees of the first section, I pass another woman on the long climb up to the road. Then on the gravel I fuel up a bit and restart my computer to see if I can get  my heart rate to read. It came back on and picked up my heart rate but no power. Greaaaat. Oh well. Then I see another woman up ahead. I don't panic but slowly get up to her and onto the wheel of a guy who is passing by her. I enter the next section of single track in a good spot and try to settle in. This section is long. Lots of riding in and out of ravins and across and out of creeks, only to repeat it again, what seemed like 1000 times. A couple sections lets you open it up but mostly it's grinding it out. By the time I came out of there, I was feeling the affect of the effort from the beginning of the race. 

I was caught by a woman, Amanda, who I think whipped up on me at the end of The Ouachita Challenge too. We came out onto the main road through the resort and had to climb a bit before heading back into the trees. I had stashed a bottle at aid 4 but after I felt how much water was left in my hydro pack, I decided not to stop and headed up the steep road climb. I was in my easiest gear just trying to keep from blowing sky high. Finally reaching the dirt service road, Amanda came around me and another guy. I tried to match her but she was just too strong and I was too out of gas. The last 7 or so miles of single track are pretty fun so I put in efforts where I could and hoped that I'd maybe catch up to her but it wasn't in the cards. Later I saw why. I hit all time power numbers in the first 90 minutes of the race. Oops. 

The finish was at the event center so once we came out of the trees for good, we were waved around the main lodge and around a fence where there was a really long finishing straight to the line. Once I got there, I found Ryan. We rehashed our hole-shot stories while we waited for the rest of our friends to arrive to give them high fives. When the announcement came that the food line was open we headed over to stuff our faces with smoked meat, taters and all kinds of sides. The new event center was nice but it wasn't the same as having the big finish tent right next to the line. Come to find out the promoter thought the same thing. It's already been announced that they're bringing the tent back! 

Alex explaining how he was actually first in the 2nd wave to the trees, even though he missed it.
(Ryan was technically first in the trees).
Later that evening I went around to the campsites to try and find my friend Nicole. I couldn't locate her so I just stayed in the event center & secured a table for the awards show. Soon the place filled up with standing room only. It was bright and loud. Finally, podium shots under actual light! Found out just before that I took 4th overall in women and 3rd in age group. Once again, the elders threw down. (wink wink). Abbey, despite going the furthest past the trail entrance, still managed a 4th place age group. 

Super cool that the promoter recognized the top 10 women just like they do for the men. Despite one of my slowest times here, I still had a great time riding bikes in the woods. Not gonna lie, I was pretty po'd about the hole debacle but it didn't last very long. Fifty-four miles will give you plenty of time to cool off. 

Aside from Mike tripping on some roots and fracturing his ankle, the evening went as usual: tell the same stories again and again, drink a lot, eat a lot, sit by the fire and keep doing more of the same. It was the perfect way to forget about a botched race and at the same time the perfect way to be reminded it really didn't matter anyway. 

It's been one hella season for Dirt Girl and the MTBLimo crews. From the desert canyons of Texas to the Black Hills of South Dakota and from MTB Nationals in Arkansas to our Great Wide Open trip around Colorado, we've had amazing, memorable experiences with wonderful friends. So to cap off the 2018 writing (and riding) season, just want to say thanks to all who came along for the ride. 

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