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Sunday, January 15, 2012

If you plan it, they will ride.

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Our area has had a freakishly warm winter this year.  Temperatures in the mid 60's are not at all typical for the Midwest in January, but we've had some of them, and so far truly cold days have been few and far between.  On Thursday, however, we woke up to actual snow and a thermometer showing seasonably normal teens.  The cold continued into the next day, and when I left school Friday afternoon, a co-worker commented, "You're sure bundled up." 

"I don't like the cold," I answered, and then I laughed to myself because I was planning to spend the following day mountain biking in whatever snow covered the Berryman Trail.


 My friends from Team Virtus had thrown out the suggestion of a group Berryman ride back before Christmas, and it quickly snowballed (see what I did there?) as other teams signed on.

My initial Berryman experience, in September's Berryman Adventure Race, was marred by some serious mountain biking regression on my part, and since then my brother and I have been planning to return and get in some time so Wimpy Kate can't hold us back in 2012.  I jumped at the chance to combine practice with good company and spent the next two weeks happily anticipating the ride.

Unfortunately, Thursday's trip to the bike shop for minor adjustments revealed that my rear shifter was broken.  This was a surprise to me since I'd been on my bike twice over the past weekend and had no problems with the rear derailleur; it was the front that had been misbehaving.  Since they had to order the part, basically I'd be stuck riding a really heavy singlespeed.  The guys at the shop asked if I was still going to go, and of course I was.  Wouldn't have missed it. 

I tried to spin it as a built-in excuse for having to walk my bike on the hills.  Still, with this unwelcome news in addition to the cold, the snow and ice, and the memory of my general lack of ability the last time I was on this trail, by Friday's drive home my happy anticipation had shifted to something more like sick dread. 

Luckily, I had a friend to talk me down from the ledge.
So.  I was still excited, but my excitement was now more like that of the pigs at the slaughterhouse, or the way wild animals sense a natural disaster ahead of time. Still, I took comfort in the thought that the vast amount of clothing required to avoid frostbite would double as padding when I slid on the ice and fell.

Photo credit: Luke (do I still have to
call you Capt. Awesome?) Lamb
I had spent the previous night making cookies for the post-ride BBQ instead of packing, so Jim had to wait around after dinner while I quickly threw my stuff together. Not entirely sure what I'd want to wear the next day, I packed 90% of the technical fabric I own, and then we headed to Cuba MO, where we were staying for the night. We shouldn't have eaten, because Luke's grandma had made a huge spread for supper. I tried once to tell her I'd already had dinner, and she just looked at me, so I sat down and dished myself some food. Hey, when somebody's almost 90-year old grandma cooks for you, you eat!

We had a great time hanging out and talking, and since I was the only girl of the crew I got a bedroom to myself (and thus happily missed the fart-off) while the boys slept on the floor or couches.  In the morning, Luke's grandma got up and made us a big breakfast, too.  She was absolutely wonderful, so welcoming and gracious.  It was really great to meet her.

About 30 people had responded that they planned to come out for the ride, so we were all curious how many would actually show up.  We thought it was very possible that the cold and snow would keep some people, so  I don't think anyone expected what we saw as we pulled into the parking lot.  It was packed.

Photo credit: Jim "Everything's Better With" Bacon
It was great to see some old friends, meet the Hoosier Daddies in person after reading their blog, meet lots of cool new people, and even re-meet Dave, who I rode with for a while back in 2010 in the Capital City Century.  The temperature, 23 degrees when we left Cuba, felt surprisingly comfortable.  Of course, it was plenty cold standing around in the parking lot, but I felt pretty confident that I wouldn't get too chilly during the ride.  I ended up deciding on a long sleeved base layer, a long sleeved tech shirt, and a long-sleeved jersey with a wind vest over them.  On the bottom, I wore bike shorts over running tights, two pair of socks, and shoe covers over my shoes.  I started off with a hat under my helmet, but I soon switched to an ear cover.  Just in case, I carried a fleece in my pack; having that pack made clothing choices less stressful because there was plenty of room to store layers if I had to shed.

I hung back as the ride started, knowing I'd be there before long anyway.  I felt pretty tentative as I headed down the trail, not sure how the snow was going to affect my traction and having visions of sliding on icy rocks and bashing my head. 

Fail
Luke and Bob had both stopped to take pictures along the way, so Luke got a good view of me getting off to walk my bike around a tight hairpin turn.  Otherwise, I rode most of what there was in the beginning.

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Being in the back was something of an advantage because it was really easy to see the lines of the riders in front of me on the snowy portions.  Other parts of the trail looked more like the above picture.  Once we'd been riding for a short time, it was clearly time to shed a layer, so I stuffed the jersey into my pack and switched the hat for the ear cover.  We rode on and came to a good-sized root followed a few feet later by a rocky step.  I made it partway up the root before having to put my foot down and then chose to walk the step after watching Jim kind of flip off his bike after hitting it wrong.  He wasn't hurt, but it would've been a good picture.

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Luke also had problems with that spot but opted to reride it.



Luke, Bob, and Travis ended up basically spending their whole ride with us.  I definitely appreciated the company though I worried that riding sweep behind me was making for a much slower day than Luke would've had if I'd stayed home.  Gradually I started feeling more confident on the trail, though I was never able to get clipped in consistently.  I think I'm destined to ride Berryman with one foot; last time it was the mud that clogged up my pedals and cleats, this time it was the snow.

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Enjoying a trailside drink, courtesy of the Hoosier Daddies
Clearly we did a lot of stopping and talking along the way.  We got to meet a couple more of the Hoosier Daddies along the trail.  I think this was Jake and Ryan's first time on the trail, and we leapfrogged and visited with them until they turned off onto gravel around the 7 mile point.

Hanging out with Jake and Ryan
Even though the temperature was still below freezing at this point, it was an absolutely glorious day.  Much of the trail is protected by hills; if you stopped on a ridge top, the wind cooled you off pretty quickly, but if you kept moving you were very comfortable.

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What a beautiful day!
Though I'd been worried about riding hills without being able to shift, it ended up that I was concerned for nothing.  I had no problems shifting at all.  That didn't mean riding up those hills was easy, though!  I got to the top of one and laid against a tree to catch my breath as we waited for the rest of the crew.

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Oh, tree...thank you for being here and holding me up!

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Because Bob's regular mountain bike was missing a bolt or something for the rear suspension, he was riding a rigid (no shocks) singlespeed.  Even so, he still managed to show us a thing or two about riding over obstacles in the trail. 



He and Travis split off from us around the ten mile mark or so (?) to head back to the campground where beer, burgers, and brats were waiting.

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Checking how exactly to get back.
The hills were definitely wearing me down, and I hadn't gotten hurt yet, so I was tempted to play it safe and head back.  Still, I felt pretty good and was enjoying myself.  Plus, we don't get down to Berryman often, and I wanted to take advantage of being there.  Luke said he was OK with going back or continuing, so he, Jim, and I continued on.

The first few miles made me really glad that we didn't stop.  The trail was great, and right now I'm remembering more downhill than uphill.  I stopped my bike at a tree across the trail.  "I know I could ride that..." I told the guys.  "Well, go ahead and try," Luke told me.  The best of my three tries (none too impressive) was the second.



Jim, on the other hand, cleared the log on his third try.



I still know I could ride it; I just couldn't that day.  I've ridden over logs that size, so I'm not sure what my problem was...maybe the turn in combination with the tree?  Anyway, not this time.  I redeemed myself slightly later in the ride.  I was following Jim, when he ended up stopping on the other side of a smaller tree.  I had to stop so as not to run into him, but I went back to reride that spot.  It took me two tries to clear it without putting down a foot, but I made it.  Incidentally, you'll notice that it takes me forever to start; that's because I couldn't get my first foot clipped in.  I swear, when I replace my pedals it's going to be with something easier to engage in crappy conditions.



The lower parts of the trail were nice and easy to ride because we weren't having to ride up hills, but we started to come to some soggy parts where we had to walk our bikes.  Berryman is a multi-use trail, and you can see from the picture below that horses have been through recently.

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What horses do to soft trails
Between soggy trails and some rough, torn up portions, we did some walking in this next section.  Finally able to ride again, we passed by this cool overhang with icicles dripping from it.

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Jim riding
Some of the sections of trail made me really nervous as they twisted back and forth along a steep slope.  Just stay on the trail...just stay on the trail... I kept telling myself, and the one time I fell there, I managed to fall uphill rather than downhill.  I wasn't crazy about that area, but my very favorite part of the whole ride came just before reaching the Hazel Creek campground.  For whatever reason, I was ahead of the guys on a solid, flowy downhill, and everything just clicked.  It felt fantastic.

As we got closer to the campground, though, we hit softer trail and walked that section.  I went from confident to nervous in no time.  Because we were going to leave the singletrack around 15 miles in and ride the roads back to our starting point, we had to cross the creek. 

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While we felt good riding, this wasn't a day you wanted to soak your feet, but luckily someone had put rocks across the creek. Turns out a bike makes a pretty good handrail.


Remember, the rule of hill pictures is that they never look as bad as they are,
so the very fact that you can tell this is steep is a huge signal that it's awful.
As Luke had warned us, the way back started with a hideous climb.  I was making slow, steady progress in my lowest gear when my chain slipped off.  Grr.  Luke put it back on for me, and then I was faced with the prospect of walking my bike the rest of the way since I'm terrible at clipping in on an uphill.  Instead, I gave it a try and managed to get going again. :)  The rest of the ride was rolling hills, not bad at all. 

BTW, the look on my face is a direct result of the photographer telling us to "think of [something gross]". I laughed, then actually thought of it and made that face...right as he took the picture. Figures.

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Berryman, I like you better this time around, no matter what my expression says.
Our ride may have been over, but the day wasn't.  As we left the bikes at the truck and got out our dry clothes, beers were delivered right to us.  The Hoosier Daddies, from nearby Sullivan, had volunteered to provide brats, burgers, and drinks.  Class touch, for sure.  I brought a few dozen cookies to add to the feast, and we got to hang out by the fire, eat, drink, and visit with all the people who hadn't had me dragging them back.  The perfect end to a fantastic day.

21 comments:

  1. WOW!!!!!!!!!! what an awesome ride! and those vids are hardcore :)

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  2. Seriously, that was the most fun I've had on a group ride in a loooong time... Maybe ever. It was so much fun riding with you and the other guys, and the post-ride hang-out wit BBQ and beers was fantastic! Big thanks to the Hoosier Daddies.

    I'd like to point out to anyone reading this blog that the obstacles in the photos and videos are waaaay more intimidating in real life. Kate attempted many things she would never have tried a few months ago. Kate, your riding is ridiculously better than the last time I saw you. You flippin' rocked!

    Oh, and I have a photo of you by the Berryman sign where you don't look like you're going to be sick. I'll let you know when I get it posted.

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  3. what a great ride Kate! you redeemed yourself at Berryman! i thought of you as we hit the trails yesterday and today. 21 miles yest, 30 today and my butt is worn out! i even have a few blisters on my palms ...good times on the trails!

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  4. Sounds like it was great and you are learning a ton. Funny about not liking the cold but going out in it to do what we like to do.

    You have great pics and videos in this post. Do you ever show these videos to your students? Are they properly impressed with you?

    Be sure you check out my newest post and my header.

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  5. This is the best race report you've ever written, probably because it's the race you have most overcome your fears. LOVE IT!! You are stronger than you think you are and you can accomplish way more than you ever thought. 2012 is turning into one of your best adventure years so far and we're just in touching the tip of the year.

    The pic of you and the tree makes me smile. You are so damn freaking cute!

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  6. Looks like a great ride Kate! I really love the videos.

    As for clipping in, I don't on steep uphills and I unclip on technical stuff I think I might fall on. I just ride with my foot slightly forward of the pedal. I don't get as much power (or bruises :-)), but it seems to work for me.

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  7. Oh, I forget to comment on the cooking :-). How cool is that to have grandma cook you dinner and breakfast? On top of that, a bbq after your ride? Sounds perfect!

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  8. Love the pics of the Berryman, I would like to try riding on that someday. The videos are a great touch.
    I clicked on your link to the Capital City Century ride and laughed out loud because we do that ride every year and I remember oh so well how terribly windy it was in 2010!!! I got dropped by the group (and my BF was leading!!!) out in the middle of nowhere near Auburn and spent 7 miles cranking slowly, hatefully...ugh, what a memory. I live about a mile from that bike trail and ride on it a lot.

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  9. Sounds like a super awesome ride. I haven't seen snow in awhile though, what's it like?

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    1. Really damn cold when you're lying in it. Not that I'd know that from personal experience yesterday. Oh, wait...that's exactly how I know. :)

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  10. Maybe switch to eggbeater pedals or is that what you're riding already? Looks like you had a blast, amazing that so many folks showed up!

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  11. Great write up Kate. I should also say that you make AWESOME cookies! You must have been the kid that always did your homework as soon as you got home because you get these reports out fast! I'm hoping to have something up in the next 6 months.

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  12. Whoa, warrior girl! What a ride. I was breathless just reading about it! You should be incredibly proud of yourself. That is quite a feat.

    Oh, and that grandma? That is one amazing spread! You're right. You do NOT turn down a 90 year old woman who can crank out that kind of feast.

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  13. Your posts make me want to organize a group ride out this way!

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  14. This just looks like so much FUN! And you have come so freaking far, in both your confidence and ability. Nice!

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  15. WOW! I'm freezing just looking at those pictures. What a fabulous day!!

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  16. Luke's grandma is awesome!!

    I especially like the eye of the tiger theme song :)

    Is it typical that everyone dismounts and waits for each person to clear different obstacles? I really have NO idea.
    Looks like fun!!

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  17. So much for freakishly warm winter...

    Sounds like a great ride!

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  18. That ride is ridiculously badass and treacherous and fabulous, but you already knew that. How much do I love that granny pic?

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  19. What a wonderful ride. Not only a great biker and runner but also a great writer and photographer!

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  20. Excellent race report, the photos were fab. It looks so much fun, and you are way much braver than me, the whole concept of being clipped in makes me shudder; tried it on the road, fell over, fell over, fell over. Gave up. You are a star.

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