This was ROCK Racings second year to compete in the Berryman Epic. In 2008 we suffered our way through the 55 miles and completed the race in 9:34. Both of us agreed that was the hardest thing we had ever done, Robin even swore the race off and said she would never do it again….so we signed up immediately when 2009 registration opened.
The Epic takes place on the Berryman trail and the Ozark trail between Steeleville and Potosi, MO. There is a short section of gravel and paved road between Checkpoints 3 and 4, the rest is all beautiful singletrack. The paved piece is just a long climb and is steep enough that you are glad it’s paved. Race start/finish is at BASS resort, with great parking, campgrounds, and cabins. I hope to get back down there this summer for some float trips.
The week preceding the start was marked by almost constant rain and several big thunderstorms. This left the Huzzah River well out of its banks for race start, all the creeks in the area were full, and there was plenty of mud.
The race started on time (8:30) with a quick ride to the Huzzah River crossing. This low-water bridge was now an under-water bridge, somewhere about waist deep. The race promoter (Scott from Springfield Bikes) backed a giant flatbed trailer into the river, and with pallets piled on each end, created a great makeshift bridge for the racers (of course there were a few that tried the river crossing and washed out).
The ride to the first CP at Brazil Creek was fast; the trail had enough hardpack and rock to stay easy to ride. There was a crash up among the leaders that sent someone the hospital. We scrambled across the temporary bridge that had been built just for the race. Riding from CP1 to CP2 we caught and passed a couple of riders. At CP2 the volunteers grabbed our drop bags and ran them over to us. This was a nice touch. We refueled, dropped some of the cold weather gear (pants, hat) and took off for CP3. We decided that we were well ahead of our last year time, and were really feeling good compared to last year.
The ride to CP3 had another creek crossing with a 2x6 ladder bridge built across it. It was deep and fast but we stayed dry thanks to Scott again. It was a longish ride to CP3 and it started to rain off and on. We started getting pretty muddy and the derailers, chains, and pedals were jamming up with mud, sand, and leaves. We had to stop a few times to clear them.
We got CP3 and had a long gravel and short paved ride to CP4. We rode in to get the drop bags in a steady downpour; it was starting to get colder. The volunteers asked several times if we were doing Ok or needed anything, and told us we made it in with only 7 minutes before the time cutoff. So we didn’t waste any time heading out for CP5/Finish.
We were tired by now, but not dead-beyond-caring like the previous year. We rode off in the pouring rain thinking we were still going to make a good time this year. We hit some really soupy muddy spots, parts of the trail had running water in it, and I crashed twice eating up time. So, it wasn’t long before we were caught by the sweeper. The sweeper (whose name I can’t remember now) was a great rider and offered just enough encouragement and conversation to keep us moving along. We finally made it back to the Huzzah river and seen that the temporary bridge had been removed. We tried to ride across and found out it was deeper than our skills allowed, so we used it as an opportunity to dunk the bikes a few times and rinse some of the thick mud off.
We crossed the finish line at 9hrs 14mins, slower than we hoped, but still beating last years time by 20 minutes. We decided that was pretty good considering the mud, rain, and flooded creeks and river. Scott made sure we were well fed on bbq'd hotdogs, hamburgers, potato salad, chips, and even a beer trailer from Springfield Brewery. Despite the conditions we both felt much better than last year’s race. A good sign that all the training is paying off. Can’t wait for next year’s race....Is it possible to do the Tour and Race in the same weeknd?