2016 “Not the O.G.R.E” by Scott Shaw (I will add pics later...maybe)
When I first heard of the Bonkhard O.G.R.E (Ozark Gravel Road Epic) I wanted to do it, but didn’t have the correct bike, or the legs, or butt for it. My longest ride was sub 100 miles on a road bike. I chickened out the first two years. I started riding a lot more in those years with longer distances and started feeling stronger. Then I decided I was going to do it and with no research into gravel grinding I jumped and bought a used Scott Comp CX bike. I found out shortly after that Bonkhard was pulling the races and that bike pretty much got stashed away for a while until I started riding gravel with friends and even raced a CX event. I then started figuring out a CX bike wasn’t a gravel bike. Speaking of Bonkhard’s abandonment, I never got to do the LBL, which I so was ready for, and I never got to do the Perfect Ten, even though I would have raced it as a not-so-perfect 9-1/2 due to my lack of toe situation. So when I saw the return of the “O.G.R.E.” I cringed and signed up and prepared for death.
I trained hard all last year and through the winter. I am thankful Kevin Minton and Dave Beattie, “sort-of-TeamBOR” members, Team Virtus, and Off The Front trained all winter long. I was able to hop from ride to ride to keep training as much as possible. I was feeling incredibly strong until I messed up my leg’s tendons in the beginning of April setting up the Chubb S.H.A.R.T. Mickey (TeamBOR for adventure racing and the “Freaking Momentum Guy” for bike racing) kept me serious about the Ogre. He kept stressing Tour of Hermann, so injured I rode day 1 of it and didn’t come back day 2, but I thought I could do it. So after some x-rays and consultation from the doc, I agreed to no running, cross train into swimming, and upper body workouts, and to ride the Ogre. Then Mickey hits me with all the crazy specifics. Crew…? Crap; I didn’t think I could get anyone. Place to stay. Ugh, hotel I guess; maybe the wife will crew if I have a hotel. Bags; dang those bags are expensive, make mine. Tires, buy gravel tires. Cue sheet and Garmin, wing it, I am an Adventure Racer!
With a week to go to the race, Tanya, my wife, is a go for crew, and finds us an awesome condo to use and I cancel the hotel. I am not mentioning who’s it was, but thank you so much, you know who you are! We decide to take our newish Wrangler instead of our other 4x4’s, because she can’t drive a manual Cherokee, and the Trailblazer is acting up; this will become important. I am against taking it because I know it’s going to get filthy and that sort of stuff is the Cherokee’s business for now until the Wrangler is paid off. Plus the new car smell will be destroyed by my funky after-race smell. We leave early Friday and head down to the Ozarks and Tanya is getting car sick. This is going to go great. We arrive majorly early, but drive past the event listening to Siri and down a one lane dirt road and creek crossing; Wrangler off-road check. It’s a dead end and we back up until we can turn around and find the race start. We find out we are too early, head to the condo, have fun trying to find it since Siri keeps getting us lost. We eat dinner, go to registration, talk to Larry and Mickey, listen to the safety/race briefing and go back to the condo to try to sleep through the thunderstorm. Wake up at 4am, and drive back to the start.
We are getting my bike ready as Mickey comes barreling in and gets stuck in a water/mud hole and tries to blame it on his wife. So we stop getting ready and pull him out; Wrangler rescue vehicle check. Mickey, Larry and I line up at the start. I am surprised Mickey is so far back in the pack with us. They start the race and we are off and in a matter of seconds someone already has a flat. Mickey is hauling some serious ass up some monsterous hills and I am trying my best to hang on and draft him. I never look back for Larry, for fear that I will die in this speedy pack. Mickey starts to lose me on a hill, but somehow I catch him later and draft him for a few minutes. I can tell he has no idea I’m behind him. I know that I cannot hold this pace for long and wait until he climbs the next hill like an insane man. I give the hill my best, but when I get to the top broken bikes are all over to my left and someone is hurling their breakfast on my right. Mickey is flat out gone. I figure the front pack dropped me so I start trying to hang with the second pack. I know that I will soon be dropped from this pack because I know I can’t keep attacking the hills like this for long. I keep telling myself I soon need to get into my pace and make this my race or I am going to bonk and not finish. “Crap; Bonk; oh yeah eat and drink and take care of yourself” starts entering my mind along with “don’t crash into him or that tree.” I start thinking “ride smart and don’t flat.” I then think, “Oh shit I didn’t pack my tubes!” I cursed Mickey’s tow out of the mud for making me forget. I am around 12 miles in and know I am not getting those tubes until mile 26. I ride on and try to avoid every rock which is really hard on gravel and I keep out of the saddle to reduce my 35’s rear tire from pinch flatting. I figure the 40 in the front can take it. I was bombing most of the water crossings before, but now I am riding slow through them. My average speed drops way down. I make it to the CP and no Tanya and my heart sinks. I hear her yelling from far away and go and get my tubes. I get water, electrolytes, and food and take off.
The next 25ish miles I am trying to regain speed, but the wet gravel is sucking my life force out. I start thinking “I am soon going to walk hills I can’t ride fast and that’s when I will drink and eat and check the cue sheet.” So far the race markings have been pretty well placed and clear. I come across down riders everywhere. Most are flats and breakdowns. Some are sick and some are peeing. I come across a guy sitting and ask him how it’s going and he doesn’t respond. I ride by and notice he has blood on his knee the size of a softball, but since he doesn’t say anything back I leave him there. I come across a young rider just hoppin back on his bike. He says he broke his rear derailleur off and converted to single speed, but his chain keeps hopping. I offer to ride with him to the CP, which is really close now. We talk about his bike and I tell him I don’t have the tool he needs on me, but I have it in my Jeep. We ride together until a massive hill, which he rockets up and I tell him I can’t hang and to have a good ride. I ask are you going to finish as a single speed and he tells me, “Yes, I am going to finish.” I pull into the CP and Tanya is like an Indy 500 pit crew and changes out my liquids and food, takes my turtle neck and stowed rain jacket. I start leaving the transition and see the newly converted single speeder getting ready to leave too soon. I think, “Damn my transitions are fast.”
I rocket down the highway and stupidly pass two riders with Garmins. I am reading the cue sheet and looking at my mileage on my bike computer and my Garmin Vivoactive. Left turn is coming up soon in two miles. I fly pass a left turn and look back wondering if it was my turn. Mileage is incorrect, couldn’t make out the street sign. Accelerating downhill, look back other riders are checking the sign and Garmins. I ride on, get to my mileage and there is no road. “Shit!” I overshot. I pull out the phone to check Strava, Strava confirms, turn it off to save battery. I head back and am pissed off! I get to the turn, 5 extra miles! There are no markings, but the sign confirms and I head down the road with Wolf Pack Racing. Wolf Pack drops me just a bit and all of a sudden they are all in the middle of the road yelling to me to stop. I stop and see the new single speeder laying on the ground and he is in some serious bad condition. Dave Frei from Alpine Shop is there and riders are scrambling to call 911, but there is no service. I check my phone too. We send the strongest riders off to get service. I am told the mail lady has gone to call too. I can see a female racer is checking vitals. I see the single speed with a broken handle bar and confirm that is the same rider. I kind of take charge of shitty situations and start barking orders; hence my Captain Ahab moniker. I tell them not to move him, hold his head, even though Hunter is already doing a great job of it. I ask who knows CPR besides me and almost everyone raises their hand. I thank God. I ask if anyone has medical training. There is a doctor and a vet. I thank God again. The mail lady comes back and I ask for an emergency blanket and First Aid kit. She won’t give me the kit and tells me, “but the ambulance is coming.” I tell myself not to kill her and remain calm. I ask for gloves and alcohol wipes because I can hear him gurgling and think I am going to have to start CPR if he stops breathing. She throws me alcohol wipes, but nothing else. I ask again for a blanket and she says she doesn’t have one. I said, “Give me those beach towels.” She says, “They are dirty.” I said I don’t give a F#@k; I’m trying to keep him from going into shock.” I take them from her and think about taking the kit from her too. She takes off too worried about finishing her route. I decide to let her live and let her go. I cover him in the towels and Emily and Earl show up. Emily’s got her E-blanket and we cover him up with that too. I tell him I am going to clean his mouth off just in case he needs help breathing, but I tell him to keep breathing. Hunter checks his teeth and makes sure he didn’t swallow his tongue. I clean his mouth as best I can and tell everyone to tell me if he stops breathing. I think he stops for a second and I give him a sternal rub and he gurgles and wrenches his body. The lady doc comforts him and gets him to lay back down. I can see his eyes are rolling back and he is not reacting well to my voice and responds better to the doc, so I step away to do something else. We think about blocking the place where he crashed because it is extremely dangerous, so I jump and do it and then someone else says the ambulance has to get through and he moves it back. I go and grab his bike’s race bib and put it in his left sock for identification. The rescue truck shows up and we help them turn him to look for back injuries and find his wallet and ID, which I give to the Paramedics when they arrived. Everyone works together to backboard and load him and they are gone taking him to the ambulance. I take his bike and ask a guy if I can leave it at his house for safe keeping. When the police arrive we ask them if they can take the bike back to the last race CP. All of us ride off together and I really really want to quit. I drop from the pack so I can pray. I ask that he makes it and recovers fully, I then kinda have it out with the Big Man and tell him what I thought of what happened, but then thank Him for making me get off track to be there for him, and for all the riders, adventure racers, and first responders that stopped to help. I ask that no one else gets hurt and He tells me to suck it up and to finish for the “single speeder.” (I am not using his name without permission.) So I am now somewhere around 60 miles and I should find Tanya around 76. I know she has to be worried because I am about an hour off my pace. I try texting his bib # in, but I have no service still. I think I need to concentrate on taking care of myself, so I drink all my fluids and eat. I ride and ride and ride and the suns out and its getting hot and I’m getting dehydrated. I notice the markings and flags are gone and figure I just entered an Adventure race and have to navigate. I pass a turn just barely and correct. I ride with Kevin from Dirty Dog Pack and tell him my frustrations with the course, what happened to the kid and that I was really down and was thinking of quitting earlier. He climbs away. I see Frei heading back and ask him if it’s a loop and he says yes, but he short coursed it. I figure he is going back to check on the single speeder because that’s just how Dave is. Everyone knows he is F-ing amazing! I ride on and on and it seems like an eternity. I pass a church and think about finding water, but I skip it. I ride more and find another church and search it for a water spigot, but find none. I ride on and walk up a huge hill that Tanya is standing at the top of cheering me on. I ask how is the “kid”? Someone says he has been life-flighted.
I have to tell Tanya what happened and a race official and Tanya tells me Mickey is there but he is at mile 110 and is feeling sick. I see him in the distance and we wave. I tell Tanya I am finishing for the “single-speeder kid.” She tells me someone has been stealing course markings. I am at mile 88, even though I have 5 extra miles. I ride on to the loop. I ride fast out of the gate and then slow when I see water and hills. I ride smart and walk hills and eat and drink. I pass and get passed repeatedly by Extreme Electrical and Kevin. I make the loop and get back and Tanya refills my gear again. Mickey has recovered and is long gone. I ride back the way I came trading places with E.Electrical and Kevin again. The markings are back and I make it to the last CP at mile 125. Tanya changes out my food and fluids and some awesome guy lubes my chain and I am out on the road again. I probably had the fastest transitions than anyone that day. My longest one was telling the accident story at mile 88. I ride into the night and find it really difficult to see the cue sheet without a head lamp. I lose a lot of time coming to complete stops to read the cue sheet with my bikes headlight or my phones flashlight. I continually check Strava to make sure I am on course. Kevin and I continuously leap frog each other and he is awesome each time and tells me I am on course. I am faster than him in the flats and downhills, but he can climb and I can’t. We leapfrog into the night and we talk each time we pass. I was amazed to hear that he never walked once. He also told me of some awesome adventures he had done alone and with his team. Kevin is an awesome guy. I start double guessing myself that the end wasn’t near and start slowing to eat and drink more instead of hammering down. I also keep checking the course. I hit concrete and drop the hammer and right before I knew it I crossed the finish line at 158 miles (7 extra). It wasn’t my best effort, but all in all I gave it my all. Could I have finished earlier? Probably. I think I could have finished under 13 hours instead of 15, but I could have also took that header in the creek and been life-flighted. Like I said I didn’t finish for me. Ride on “Single Speeder!” – Capt. Ahab.