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Berryman Adventure
, Missouri
September 27-28, 2003
report by Deron Graham

We have been getting prepared for Berryman for what felt like a long time. It was a goal of Gravity Matters to do well in this race and we were roaring to go after a great finish at Raid the Ridge two weeks earlier in Iowa. We rolled into BASS campground on Friday and got checked in and camp set up in the early afternoon. Everyone prepared their packs and got organized for the race; thankfully we did this when we had a chance.

Friday evening we picked up our maps at about 8 and started plotting and picking routes. We had a safety meeting at 9 and then had to have gear drop off no later than 10:30pm. For every 2 people on the team we were allotted a 20 gallon crate to have transported to transition area on the course. It took some thought to make sure you packed just the right amount of stuff. In the days before the race we were worried that 20 gallons would be a tight fit, we found this wasn’t really the case. We had enough spare room in our box to add a 5 gallon jug of water. 10:30 came quickly and we all hesitantly agreed that our crates were ready to be loaded onto the bus for transportation. Everyone felt like there was something missing or too much was packed, it turned out good in the end as it was packed perfectly.
We finished plotting the maps and planning routes and went to sleep at about 11:30pm. Race start was at 6:30am and we needed to be there at least 15 minutes early to get our passports. Jonathan (on Gravity Matters Too) set his watch for the alarm clock at 5:30 and we all crashed. Brandi woke up first and asked what time it was, 6:05am!!!! We had overslept and had 10 minutes to get to the start; the alarm clock was set for Florida time. Brandi was ready first so she went and got the passport while the rest of us made our way to the start with a minute or two to spare.

The race started with a short mountain bike leg on country road and some double track. It was easy riding and after a couple of problems (rear wheel falling off, dropped headlamp) we made it to the canoes in the front pack. We were supposed to canoe with our bikes for 3 miles or so and then drop them off. We decided to take our bikes apart to get them in the boat, other teams didn’t. In retrospect it doesn’t seem like either way was better than the other, both had advantages and disadvantages. The boats were heavy and hard to steer but the river had plenty of water and we didn’t drag as long as we picked a decent line. We were one of the first groups to drop our bikes off and get back in the water; it was noticeably faster without the bikes. One team in front of us was zigzagging all over the river and making it tough to pass until they got run into shore along with another boat. Eventually we took the lead in the canoe and we were first into the transition to a short trek.

We had a little difficulty finding the first CP of the trek from an un-calibrated electronic compass. Luckily we were not far off and found it quickly. We found the other CP’s with no problems and transitioned back to the bike in second. We assembled our bikes and found that both Jason and I had broken our front brakes when stuffing the frames into the canoe. Who needs brakes anyways? Off we went.
We were doing well on the bike for a while until things didn’t seem to match up. We were checking out a potential route when a land owner got curious and came out to meet us on his 4-wheeler. He asked us what was going on and where we were headed. He tried to point us in the right direction but it wasn’t what our maps showed so we stuck with the maps. After riding down a very large hill we realized we had made an error with our maps and the old guy was right. We turned around and made our way to the correct trail only to find him on his 4-wheeler riding along with several teams. He would ride ahead a little bit and then watch people go by, he wasn’t leading them/us, just watching. It wasn’t long before I realized he was gloating about seeing us on the road he suggested and he kept riding up past us so he could do it over and over again. I was secretly hoping he would run out of gas and have to hike back home.

We finally got into the transition area and we were about 1.5 hours behind the first place team. We had a good transition and left jogging thinking we had a chance to get through most of the trek before dark. We had some good and bad decisions on the first 4 CP’s of this trek. It got dark much earlier in the trek than we had hoped. While searching for CP17 in the dark Aaron needed a break from navigation and handed me the maps. We got to CP17 after figuring out exactly where we were. The rest of the trek was relatively uneventful other than coming across a body passed out by a big pile of beer cans that was actually the 2 person Gravity Matter team (Casey and Jonathan) lying in the ditch under a space blanket.

We stopped and warmed up at CP20 and took entirely too long there. Our spirits were low and the fire was warm. We knew that there was no chance of even a top 5 finish at this point so we relegated ourselves to just finishing this 24+ hour race, something we had never done as a team. Aaron took the maps back for the final bike ride which was some single track, then double track, and then country road back into BASS. The final country road into BASS was fun, it was cold but mostly downhill and we enjoyed flying into camp in 15th spot at 8am.

Afterthoughts… I didn’t race this course last year but my teammates thought the course was easier than it was last year. We didn’t really struggle at any particular aspect of the race other than navigation. Navigation was hit and miss because of our route selection. We liked the idea that the CP’s were on major land features but disappointed that they were almost all on a trail or path. Breakfast buffet at BASS is good.

Gravity Matters was: Aaron Luffman, Jason Elsenraat, Brandi Resa and Deron Graham

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