Friday, October 28, 2011

Epic was an understatement

Bad Dirt Girl! Seems once I took a break from the bike, the blog kinda followed suit. And when I say take a break, I mean from training. This is the best time of year for RF and I. Like you all, we bust our asses training and racing for months, and suddenly we arrive at fall's doorstep battered and whipped, with scars and scrapes as tokens of good times. Now is the time when we enjoy riding for what it is: being out doors with our best peeps, ripping through the trees without so much as a thought about nutrition, power output or heart rate. Instead thoughts are to making sure our lights are charged, where to go for Mexican food and how much heaven-sent single track can we put under our tires before the flakes start to fall. We did plenty of the above and I plan on writing about them, or at least list them for posterity. I'll start with the latest adventure to the Berryman Trail Epic since it's the most recent and still swirling around in my brain.

The Berryman Trail Epic or BTE is a fine good time. It had been on our bucket list for a couple years. Most of you probably know the Berryman Trail in and of itself is an IMBA epic trail, meaning it succeeds to encompass all of the many attributes IMBA qualifies as epic, over and above the requirements of a well built trail. To be epic it must provide an experience that is challenging but doable, makes riders feel like they are "out there", and have a community that supports them and the trail. The Berryman Trail had all of those things and more.

The race itself is a youngster, with 2011being it's only 4th running. But the promoters have a lot of support. The race stages at the Bass River Resort, a family owned resort for everything outdoors. And I don't mean the lay by the poolside with your foo-foo drink kinda resort. Nah, this place is all about the Great Outdoors with some seriously posh digs all the way down to tent camp sites. It's nestled in a wide open valley, surrounded by hills and hills of Mark Twain National Forest. The resort has horses on the property, right in view of our cabin,actually. Does tranquil come to mind? It should. The resort had a general store with your basic needs, but they also sold cooked food, clothing, bait, etc. Then behind that was a banquet hall with kitchen and below all of that were bathrooms with shower stalls, so if you didn't have an RV, they provided that amenity. Add on a deck, patio, swimming pool, bon fires, horses...the list goes on. I'd imagine in the summer they are hoppin busy. Being that Steelville is the "float capital of Missouri" they have an army of buses for taking folks onto the many rivers that branch off of the Mississippi, but this was their off season, so mostly us lycra-wearing swash bucklers were the ones roaming around.

We arrived at the resort around 2:30 pm or so. We checked into our "lodge" and were totally blown away. We opened the door to a grand room, with wall to wall wood, wood floors and beamed ceilings. The table was a large buffet table with hand-carved chairs. There were 4 large bedrooms; two had two queens and two had one queen and a fold-out love seat. The place could sleep like 15 or something crazy. It had all the modern conveniences, including two bathrooms and a gas stove. The deck the was the crem de la crem. Hand carved beams surrounded a wood floor that was probably 20 feet off the ground. It over looked the meadow where the horses lounged and each house had its own grill and fire pit. After a day, I wanted to live there. Oh and I forgot one thing: these digs were within eyesight of the start/finish! We could actually watch the riders come in later in the day. We could't have asked for more!

Once we checked out the place, we kitted up and drove to get registered. Come to find out Jay Chesterman and Bill Ficus were down there as well as Sydney Brown and her friend from Texas, who was louder than Ryan on the trail. :) We got our socks/registration packet and were off to do some recon. With some great advice from Sydney, we drove up the gravel road instead of wasting daylight riding it up to the hole-shot. We wanted to get to the good stuff stat. We parked in a round-about but even before we could pedal, Miles busted a bolt tightening his shifters or break levers. I suggested he go ask the promoter (who I believe owns Springfield Bikes) who was managing registration to help him out. So Ryan and Miles jumped in the Sprinter. The Todds, Larry and I jumped on trail. Immediately we were swallowed by dense forest. The trail was covered in leaves, which also covered the roots and rocks. It was all good. We just had to pay attention. It was a good time. Not a lot of effort was needed so we could ride a bit over our limit on the climb come race morning, knowing there'd be certain relief once on the single track. We rode until it connected up with the Berryman Trail before heading back. It was getting dark and we felt we had a good sense of what to expect.

On our way back, we met up with RF and Miles. The promoter actually had a steel version of the bolt Mike needed! He was so happy. But we were all hungry so we all went back to the lodge, got cleaned up and hit a Mexican joint about 10 miles away. Jay and Bill tagged along, which for some good story tellin. The rest of the night, once back at the ranch, was spent fiddlin with gear, and filling up water bottles. I decided to run two bottle cages instead of wearing a camel back. There was a bag drop that we'd stop at twice, so I figured I wouldn't need it. I layed out the grub I'd need at the start and put the rest in the bag. Funny. I didn't have the nervousness I usually did at the other races like the Fire Cracker or the Five-0. I was on vacation! And if any of you have traveled with me you know that when I'm on vacation, I ride like I'm on vacation. I don't think I had even put on my HRM since Labor Day so you could say I wasn't exactly fit. But I didn't really care all that much. Yeah, sure, I'm not gonna lie and say having other tough chicks there didn't make me wish I hadn't couched my training for two months, but this crew were all there to go on a big, fast ride with friends and that's about it. Whatever happened, so be it.

So what did happen? The race started at 8am, so not too early. But, the sun had yet to show itself over the distance eastern hills so yes, it was pretty chilly. We all went back and forth about what to wear. Jay said to dress for the end as it will get warm enough and the 5 mile climb to the single track would be our heaters. Since I wished I had had more layers in the Five-0 and the temps were about the same, I went with arm and knee warmers and a summer layer. I wore wool socks and so glad I did. They got wet! The start was as casual as the Five-0 with folks lining up where they thought they should be. I saw lots of folks with camelbacks so I began to wonder. I lined up in the top quarter. I could see ladies in my age group here and there so I knew it would be challenging. Well that and I've had more nachos and beer in the last month than I've had all year. And I'm GLAD! Gun went off and away we went. It was pretty tight but not life threatening. Pace off the front was intense being that Tilford was leading the charge (which he never relinquished). I was nowhere near them. I could just see them from afar for about the first thirty seconds. Nah, I just did my thing. I did manage to find a clear lane on the outside and made up a lot of places riding through the leaves instead of on the gravel. By the time I hit the trees, I had no idea where anyone was and well, I didn't really care. Fast paced ride with friends.

Luckily I got behind a well-paced few who could flow. I just hung on and enjoyed the ride. I felt great. Bike was a little on the stiff side but not terrible. Not long after hitting dirt, I came upon Sydney. She was trailside, but seemed fine so I didn't slow down. At about mile 11 or so, the first check point came in site but it was on the other side of a steep set of switchbacks and a very cold, deep creek. The fans were cheering for folks to ride through it. There was no current and I could see the bottom so I stayed on the bike and rode to the other side. My pedals went into the water as I'm sure my hubs and bb. Greeeeaaaat. Once on the other side we had to grab a zip tie from anyone holding one and tie it onto the handle bars. This was a time suck and before I knew it Sydney was with me and then ahead of me, where she'd remain for the rest of the race.

Nothing was so hard to ride that it drained me, yet the changes in elevation kept me pedaling all of the time. I got to check point 2 after changing places with a dude who recognized me from the KC races. I spent a good few minutes here. I had to pee and then I couldn't fricken get my stash bag untied. I had to take off one glove just to get my fingers in the knot. Then when I bolted out of the check point area, I started going down the wrong single track. Thankfully, they had "wrong way" signs up. Sheesh!

They offered these potato bags to racers for the  aid station.
We used our own bags so we could find them.

The 3rd checkpoint was interesting. It was a stump that had the zip ties just laying on it for folks to grab. I got stuck in a traffic jam here and had to yell to get someone to move so I could get going. I jumped on the wheel of some southerner and we hammered up and down and around the forest like a couple of kids. We came out of the trees on this double track but it wasn't marked well. Just then a guy was coming at us from up the double track. We're all freaking out because we don't know which way to go. Suddenly I spot a pink ribbon across the double track, down trail. We booked it and soon we were catching up to other riders. Not a whole lot of action really. Just some damn fine flow. You know when you're dreaming and you think of all kinds of nonsence that you don't recall the next day? That's what my brain was doing, so yeah, I got nothin to report other than we rode our asses off. On this leg, I caught up to Wixen. Then Larry caught me, which surprised me cuz I was sure he had been ahead the whole time. Turned out he went the wrong way (he was one of many) and added some 15 minutes to his time because of it. But once past me, he was off like a rocket, trying to make up time. I was with him until we hit a gravel road (the dude trains on gravel like every day) and then a paved road. I was grateful for the road. It gave me a chance to stretch my back and give my arms a rest. The road led us to the bag drop aid station again. Larry was there and then he wasn't, still trying to make up time. I swapped out both bottles, downed some food and followed suit. Unfortunately, he got a flat. :( I was feeling awesome coming out of that check point, which was somewhere around the 3:30 mark or so but by 4-4.5 hours, I started to feel a bit tired. I made sure to keep the calories going but I wasn't fast enough. The E light was coming on. I got to the bottom of a springbed and came to a point where I wasnt sure where to go. A guy who had done it before said to follow him. Soon we were at the base of a steep service road. Once up that, he said, take a right on the gravel and it will take us back down to the start. Hallelujah! I suddenly felt way better. He had to get off his bike and walk up the hill. Not me (I won't say it). I grannied that bitch and just before the top I saw Eyberg spinning away. I asked how he was feeling and cramps was the answer. It was 5:09. I said, "Todd, we gotta get in under 5:30" Let's go. So we ground out the last five miles, making it under the wire at 5:24. I was glad to finish with a friend. Todd can turn a big gear so it was great to sit on his wheel. I think I helped him push the pace cuz that's what friends are for!

We waited around at the S/F. Sydney was hanging out, a little woozy from her champion efforts. Her CX training really came in handy that day, helping her take the top spot on the podium. I manged to eek out a 4th place finish, somewhere in the top 50 overall. I was pleased. One by one our friends came in: Todd, Larry. Jay was already in, having secured 17th place overall. Ryan was his jovial self with a 24th overall placing. For a "chill" ride, we had all done pretty well.

RF and Wixen in line at Beer Wagon
Post race eats and drinks were on hand. A band was churning out some rockabilly. I chose to hit the showers ahead of the boys and then I went back to eat. Around 6pm the awards and raffle started followed by more tunes, drinking and bonfire. We had all had a fair amount of beverage by then and someone said pizza. Tdub mentioned that he had home-made salsa and chipotle-seasoned chicken in the fridge at the lodge. We bought some fire wood for the pit and wobbled back to our homestead to have our own post race party. Now the details on this are foggy but suddenly someone felt the need for cheese to put on our chicken nachos so Larry, Todd E and Ryan took off for the general store to fetch some cheese. They took forever, so we heated up the food and started eating when they burst through the door, with said cheese (shredded mozzarella?) and two pizzas. Seemed they spied somebody else's pizza at the store and tried to bribe the woman behind the counter into give them the pizza. It didn't work so they ordered their own. Once full and happy, we capped off the night with stories around the fire pit. It wasn't as cold that night so sitting around the fire was just perfect. War stories, and lip service galore. Having traveled with these guys so much, I've become one of them, so to speak, so I dish it out and get it back. All in good fun.

So the takeaway, this place is freakin awesome! Do whatever it takes, but get your butt down there for the BTEpic. Bring your family, too. It's not as big or polished as many enduros but they're young still. Mark my words, this has lasting potential and will become a must-do event. Looks like I'll be training well into October next year.