Saturday, October 29, 2011

Berryman Epic Race Report

A little known piece of single track heaven in the wilds of Missouri.

I had to put this on the back burner in order to get things done prior to foot surgery.  Not that I am laid up for awhile, I have time to blog away.

This one was my last hoorah for the season.  Seeing as how I was going to be out of commission for at least a month, I was going to leave everything out on the trail.  The pre-ride went well and my legs felt rested.  Coach had me doing some threshold work leading up to this race and I felt that I was ready to ride 5 hours at intensity.

Race day was brrrr! cold.  I woke to temps in the low 30's; quite a shock to my system.  I dressed lightly as I knew it would warm up and the start was a gravel road climb.  I warmed up briefly and then jumped in line as close to the front as politely possible (I was still several rows back).

The start was fast like last year.  I settled in and although my legs did not feel the best, I thought they would come around soon enough.  It was hard to tell how many ladies were ahead of me.  No worries though; my race was with the trail.  As I hit the steeper pitch going up the gravel, I felt a twinge in my right hamstring.  It lasted maybe 5 seconds; I did not think too much of it, but later it would be a premonition of what was to come.

I hit the single track with no ladies in sight.  I was locked in to a train of about 15 riders.  I settled realizing that soon enough the trail would open up.  When it did, I tried to kick it up a notch, but nothing happened.  My legs had that "achy lactic acid build up" feeling.  Really?!?  I was only 8 miles in and my legs acted like they had already pedaled 40 miles.

Hoping that my legs would come around, I focused on nutrition and momentum.  I attacked the downhills, trying to gain precious seconds.  It seemed to work as I caught up to two ladies on the descent leading to Brazil Creek.  There was a bottle neck at the creek crossing.  I guess they were afraid to get their feet wet.  It reminded me of the Planet Earth series where the herd of wildebeest were getting ready to cross the croc infested river and no one wanted to be the first to take the plunge!

As I was waited to cross, I glanced at my watch.  I was 5 minutes off last year's pace.  I grabbed my zip tie on the other side of the creek, hit the pavement for a short section, and then dove back into the woods on the Berryman Trail, just behind a lady in a Trek racing kit.  I happily let her pace me up the climb.  Even though I was in the Ozarks, these mountains are old and eroded so the climbs are neither steep nor long.  But today it felt like every climb was like Pinhoti #3.

I passed her when she stopped at a gravel road crossing.  I was now in my own little bubble.  I then used my HR to pace me.  At around mile 16, I caught up to another lady in a black/red kit (later found out this was Laura).  I struggled to stay with her on the climbs, but was able to catch back up on the descents.  As I rolled into the Berryman campground, I once again looked at my watch ... 8 minutes off last year's pace.  That was demoralizing, but then I realized I had caught up to a lady in a Sheclismo racing kit.  This gave me a much needed burst of positive energy.  I refilled my Camelbak, grabbed a gel flask, and set off on the next section of trail.  I lost track of Laura during this transition.

I hit the next bit of single track with renewed hope.  Even though I was off my game, having made contact with two ladies gave me renewed hope.  I was able to hammer this 10 mile section of single track.  I kept expecting to see Ms Sheclismo at any time, but did not make contact with her until we picked up our 3rd zip-tie at about mile 32.  It was here that we exchanged names.  Ms. Sheclismo was Sydney Brown.  I knew that name!  She was one powerful roadie who loved to hit the mountain bike scene every now and again.  We took it relatively easy on the double track climb leading to the gravel road.

Sydney thought that we were #1 and #2.  We decided to work together on the 6 miles of gravel back to the campground and aid station.  I took the first pull.  Sydney came around me and began her pull.  Within 10 seconds, I knew I this wasn't going to end well.  She dropped me like a bad habit.  I tried to keep her in sight, but slowly watched her get smaller and smaller until she was gone.

That was an ego buster.  Luckily, my ego is not that big.  Once again, it seemed to take forever to reach the campground.  Last year I reached this point in 3:27; this year it took me 3:48!  But when I finally arrived, there was Sydney!  The game was back on!  She pulled out as I was reaching into my drop bag for my little bottle of happiness ... a Red Bull shot!  I grabbed a water bottle and began the chase.

I knew I could best her in the single track.  I had ridden the last section the day before and was familiar with its sketchiness.  I had to attack and attack HARD!  The last 6 1/2 miles were on gravel and Sydney definitely had the upper hand there.  I was amazed that my legs responded!  I felt none of that achiness that I had the first 40 miles.  I caught her within the first mile, made the pass, and put the hammer down.  At first she was able to hang on, but soon I could not hear her squeaky brakes any more.  I figured I needed at least 2 minutes advantage in order to have a fighting chance. 

The first 5 miles flew by and all was going well ... until I hit this short, root-filled climb.  As I cranked down to get over the obstacles, my hamstrings locked up!  I felt as if I had been tazed!  Not wanting to fall off my bike, I grannied down and attempted to spin.  I was able to coax my cramped hamstrings to cooperate and after a couple minutes, the cramps subsided.  However, whenever I tried to amp it back up, my hamstrings began cramping. 

My race was done.  I suppose that was my body's way of keeping my heart from exploding!  Normally at the end of a race of this distance, my HR is in the low 160's.  But when I was putting the hammer down, my HR had jumped up to the mid 170's!  I cannot remember the last time my HR was that high that late in a race ... probably 10 years ago.

As I was limping along, Sydney caught back up to me.  I let her pass and encouraged her to reel in as many guys as she could.  I thought that I was in the lead; neither one of us realized that Laura was in first.

Once again, I limped to the finish.  Last year it was on a shredded tire; this year it was on shredded legs.  I managed to stay on the podium with a time of 5:21.  Sydney ended up catching Laura on the gravel and won with a time of 5:17:50.

Kudos to Sydney and Laura for having great races.  They were both so strong this year!  I was definitely out-gunned.

I must say that Zeke had an awesome race as well.  He finished mid-pack in the SS class ... but, if he had raced his age division, he would have won by 13 minutes!  Ursula had a good race as well, despite her cramps.  She finished 5th; not bad for an old lady ;).  Zeke and I are hoping that she will get bit by the endurance bug!  Both Mary and Travis succumbed to the sharp Ozark rocks and got in plenty of tire-changing practice.

Enjoyed getting to know the Fowler's.  Both are super strong racers!

Will I be back next year?  Probably, but perhaps on a SS.

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