Berryman Epic 2010, great weather, great trail conditions, great bike and a little luck. Up to that Friday a week before when I crashed, I was planning on maxing myself to at least better my time from last year and hopefully beat my time from two years ago. Within 30 seconds of crashing I knew my goals had to change. 10 minutes later I was hoping to shake it off, ride some more that day and I was sure it was just temporary pain. I swung a leg over the bike on a flat section of trail and after several tries to simply get moving I was successful. I made it 10 feet and almost passed out. From there I began walking back to the car. It took me about 30 minutes to walk a little less than a mile using my bike as a crutch. Thoughts of possible internal injuries and my placement miles from anywhere weren't doing me any good. I knew that where I landed on the rock, which originally was the source of pain, wasn't where the debilitating pain was coming from now. Scary shit!
We ran into Ryan, one of the promoters for the Epic at the parking lot and right then and there I told him I was probably out for the race. I couldn't get my shoes off and definitely couldn't put any back on so I drove home in my cycling socks. I wanted to drive so I could control the speed and the heated seats helped a ton. When I got home, my shirt had a big spot soaked in blood. Long story short, I was planning on taking my son on a once in a few years' chance camping trip that night to S bar F scout ranch down south of Farmington for two nights. We were going to sleep in the "treehouses" which are elevated bunkhouses built on a steep hillside that falls off into a beautiful lake very similar in size to Council Bluff Lake.
Once I got the okay that I wasn't going to drop dead if I went we packed up and headed out. I'm glad I went, but it was tough. I took my tentcot which is just that, a tent on top of a cot, and I was glad. I would have been sleeping on a pad on top of plywood. 10 days later and I still have not slept in my own bed. It sucked but I got through the nights. The older kids got to do a high ropes course that looked awesome. We were just visiting and Adam was not allowed to do it, damned insurance. He got to do the low ropes course, do a 5 mile hike and burn lots of stuff.
I figured out in the next day or so that I had at the very least fractured and bruised a couple of ribs. This explained the pain I was having and it brought back memories of my first go around with broken ribs back in 2006. By Wednesday I was feeling a little better or at least coping better. I still had a hard time putting on socks and could barely tie my work boots. I got part of the day off so I headed out to Lost Valley. Since I'm very familiar with this particular ride I figured it would be my best test. I had already decided that if I was going to ride in the Epic it was going to be on my full squish bike. All in all the ride went okay and although it hurt, I decided then, I was going to try and at least finish my 3rd Epic. If I backed off it hurt less so my plan was to set a goal and stick to it to avoid quiting. I sat down and looked at last years results. What pace did I think I could manage? I looked at some of the times and who set them. Soon I settled in on 7 hours. I looked at the splits.
It's one thing to be able to go fast. You push harder, but you are out there for a lot less time. I admire the people that can ride at their own pace and stick to it. It would be so easy to quit knowing that other people were showering and you haven't even made the last check point, but look at all the people that just flat out love to ride their bikes and keep going. This thinking started to scare me and I started to doubt my perseverance in my current state of mind so I decided to change my goal to 6 hours. I wrote down the splits for Ray Porter who finished 42nd last year. I rounded up his split times and ended up with a true goal of 6:05, printed several copies and taped one to my top tube just below the "Pedal Damn it" decal on my Niner. I just figured that if I was out there any longer, I would for sure quit. After all, I had a good excuse, right? BS!
The bruising started to resorb but I felt about the same. The forecast looked gloom but I was in it for a good time. It's different when there are over two hundred other people, friends, out there to do the same thing, we all have our issues. Didn't rain Friday night, sidewalks were dry Saturday morning and it was warm, too warm for me. Sleeveless jersey was it for me. Not even a little cool. Two years ago it was well below freezing, I won't even comment on last year. Jim Vandeven crashed and broke a bone in his leg two weeks earlier at Burnin' so he showed up to assist us, again my problems were BS! He took our drop bags and we headed for the start line. I was planning on starting at the very back. I kept seeing people I wanted to talk to so I moved around a little. Bob Arnold had provided Scott with a mini stick of dynamite to start the race and off we went. I felt good and didn't start too hard but seemed to move up, more than I planned. Once up the worst part of the big climb I pushed on the flats and kept passing. On the last push before the trail I got into a good position. No one right in front of me so I had some control and could roll the flats and downs how I wanted and back off on any ups. I soon gapped the riders behind me and caught Zach Brace. I did not want by him, there I stayed. Later he wanted some alone time so he let me by and cranked up the toons. I rode up to Larry Koester humming along on his single. I matched his pace up the long but gradual climb before the drop to the first check point, Brazil Creek. My goal was 1:10, I made it there in just over 59 minutes. Cool, but there was a problem.
I was now having some pain in my side, chest and my breaths had been reduced to what seemed half of what they had been. I knew it was time to back off. I started up the long climb after Brazil and really started to feel it. Quick version, I let at least 20 riders go by but that was okay. I was feeling every bump, every effort made me wince. I felt bad for other riders around me as I was very vocal, but on I pushed. I did catch two or three riders before the next check point and blew by Jeff Winkler pushing his bike, I could still ride! It sucks when someone like Jeff who actually had a good chance of making some money has bad luck and ends up destroying his bike and his chances, another reason I won't quit. Even with the stops I had to make, I still made the 2nd check in 2:05-my goal was 2:25. That was a pick-me-up.
A quick stop to pick up a new bottle and I headed south on the Ozark Trail, my favorite section of singletrack. By the time I was half way up the climb after the creek and sand pit, I had picked up 4 more spots. One by one each rider I encountered, I caught and passed. Catherine Walberg was the one rider that I passed and she passed me back, back and forth we went. She dropped me on the last section of single track before we got our 3rd tie and headed for the gravel. I settled in and started my methodical big gear push. Soon Doug Long came and went, he was cramping. I could now see Catherine again. Right before I caught her she made a turn where she shouldn't have and I yelled for her to follow me. I thought she would jump on my wheel but soon she fell off.
Approaching Hwy 8 I could see a group of riders. I recognized Jim Krewet's bright green back pack. I thought I would hang with them up the mile long climb back to Berryman for the 2nd time but I locked up and had to stop for a while. A few minutes later Catherine came floating by me and disappeared over the top. I coaxed my hamstrings into some soft pedaling and slowly made it to the top. I finished my spare bottle that I had in my feed bag and grabbed a fresh one. I was without a doubt dehydrated and it would only get worse. I made it to the 3rd time check in 3:42-my goal was 4:15. That was a great pick-me-up! That and the P-nut gallery cheering me on-Jim Davis, Todd Holtmann and Todd Hecht.
This was it, I couldn't quit now, the last section-the section where I had crashed last week. I have to admit, I rode puckered up tight, I rode with caution. Right at about same point, the last point I remember having fun on our ride the day I crashed I came up on a group of three riders, all from the same team. I was too delirious to notice what team or who they were. Turned out to be Brad Huff and his team mates were sticking with him, riding it out. 9 days of professional racing in China ending only two days prior, flying home to end up here and not quit-that's class! He won a stage, placed second in another and had yet another top five.
I pressed on. One more cramping session, merely surviving the climbs and doing everything I could to stay upright I was soon at the end of the Berryman section. I got to watch Catherine ride away from me one more time up the double track leading to the final gravel. 5:00 was my finishing time last year and where I was starting this final leg today, I was certainly going to smash my goal. Passed a few more riders and got passed once but I was done. 5:21 and change for 33rd place overall. Didn't make the shirt this year but managed to get my name on there for the first two years with 14 other solid doodz and I'll be back!
In some ways I could think that it just wasn't my day but I think it was my day, I just had to see through the pain.