Checkpoint Zero/Inov-8 Team Blog
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The Barkley 2009
posted Tuesday, April 07, 2009 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 3:52 PM - 0 comments

This, so called, race is best summed up by Race Director Gary Cantrell's pre-race BBQ chicken;

Burnt on the outside & frozen on the inside!

Watching Gary slather on the BBQ sauce with his bare hands and timing the cooking process by the amount of cigarettes he inhaled sent a chill down my spine. Of course it didn't stop me from eating the chicken; I mean, c'mon!

So back again. After being totally humbled last year I figured I could only learn from the experience and improve; right? Right? RIGHT?

In true Barkley fashion, Gary kept all the racers in suspense about the start time (signaled by him blowing on a conch shell one hour before the race start). The race can start any time between midnight and noon on Saturday. You never know. Gary eventually blew on the shell just before 10AM signaling a start time of 10.55AM. We'd better move fast if we wanted to complete the first loop before dark.

The course this year was the same as last year with eleven books to "find" although a couple of book placements had changed. To make sure you complete the course as instructed, Gary gives you eleven book locations and a set of written instructions. You have to copy the locations from a master map then, literally, navigate to a book, rip out your page # which is the same as your race # and at the completion of each loop, hand in to Gary all eleven pages with your race # (if you are starting a new loop, Gary gives you a new race #). Only upon him verifying that you have completed the loop are you allowed to continue. The navigation is not impossible but you have to concentrate and it gets exponentially harder in the dark. Add some exhaustion and sleep deprivation into the mix and you can see why people miss books and why pre-race scouting is so important! Oh yeah, a few examples of Gary's written instructions; "Go a long a ways", "climb down one bench", "take this trail some" are what you can expect!

The first lesson that I forgot was not to go out too fast. Up and over the first climb to the top of Bird Mountain (1600 vertical feet in about 100 yards!!!) had me tailing just Byron Backer & Carl Laniak both accomplished, fast ultra runners who had both completed three loops the year before (three loops is fondly referred to as the "Fun Run" reserved for women and children only as it is so "easy"!). This first section is all on "Candy-Ass trail" as Gary likes to call it. I find book 1 with no problem and head around to book 2, which is in a new location. After whacking through some briars to find the trail again, straight there with no problem then down to a bunch of deserted old strip mines known as the Coal Ponds. I got very "misplaced" here last year on my second loop and wanted to really figure it our better this year. This area was out of bounds for training/scouting so I was concentrating hard. I still wasn't too happy getting though it but noted a couple of points for my next loop. Up to book three, no problem then down to one of two water drops on the course and bumped into Team CP0 Captain Peter Jolles who had volunteered to crew for me and was out on the course taking photos and getting a bit of a work out.

I had got very lost on the next section, the previous year and had scouted it out pretty well a couple of weeks ago so up onto Stallion Mountain then Fykes Peak (the peak had actually been mined out so it's really Fykes crater!) then the long downhill to the New River towards book 5, picking up book 4 on the way. I was traveling in third place and got passed by a bunch of runners, led by veteran Mike Dobies on this section as it was rocky and wet underfoot and I tend to ease off a bit on this stuff to protect my dodgy ankles.

We headed up the Testicle Spectacle, which is a long, steep power line cut that just gets steeper. Then down Meth Lab hill and onto the Neo-Butt Slide to book 6 at Raw Dog Falls (don't you just love these names?). My calves and quads are seriously kicking up now and I'm starting to regret not doing more hill work; second lesson forgotten.

Up and over Dangerous Dave's climbing wall (a hand over hand scramble/slide/scramble, probably about 100ft high) and down the other side. Up a steep draw, cross the main road and then up, up, up towards the next infamous climb; Rat Jaw. This used to be a lot tougher as the saw briars were up and over your head but in recent years prisoners from one of the two jails bordering the park had cut them all down, well down to about six inches, just enough sticking up to constantly rip up your ankles and lower legs. I'm down to one eye at this point as one of my contact lenses was totally fogged up and Appalachian Trail speed record holder Andrew Thompson passed me at this point but takes the time to chat for a bit although I'm sure he couldn't understand my gasping attempt at conversation and we picked up book 7. At the top of Rat Jaw a crowd of spectators were enjoying our suffering and we hit the second water drop where someone had thoughtfully left some cokes. I thirstily downed one and set about changing out my contact lens with the help of a camera crew making a documentary about the race for the Sundance channel. The day was warming up and I was starting to feel the heat a bit. Andrew had barely stopped to fill up his water bottle and had left a few minutes before. I caught up with Mike Dobies, Dewayne Satterfield and co and stuck with them up over The Hump to book 8. Down the other side and along to book 9 at the Indian rock.

We then started the difficult descent to book 10 at the confluence of two creeks. The footing is slick, steep and rocky and I'm amazed at how fast these other guys can move down it. I'm hanging on for dear life. This area is difficult in the dark and banned from scouting so I was really trying to suck it all in. We hit book 10 OK and then up for the last really major climb "Big Hell" which is another 1600 vertical feet in about half a mile or something equally as ridiculous. While climbing this I notice I'm dropping back from the other runners and my head was starting to swim a bit. It's a long climb, I should imagine at least 45 minutes, maybe longer and by the time I hit the top I'm feeling really lousy and puke a little bit. Hmmm, not what I was really wanting at this stage. The other runners had long gone and I didn't hear anybody behind me so I took my page from book 11, kept on moving and picked up the Chimney Top trail and took it in totally the wrong direction for about 15 minutes. I was in a funk at this stage an NOT concentrating. I happened to notice the sun coming down in front of me and realized I shouldn't be heading west. A complete vocabulary of swear words later and I'm heading back to take the trail the right way. That little maneuver cost me almost 30 minutes.

I'm really feeling like crap now and this section of trail goes on and on and on. My memory was that is was all downhill but in the middle you start climbing again. My legs were total jello at this point and another runner, Wendell Doman (another veteran) passed me sprawled out at the side of the trail and, very kindly, gave me some crystallized ginger to settle my stomach. I swallow a couple of pieces, throw them straight back up and stagger on down the trail.

After a couple more miles I hit the main park road and take it to the start/finish line at the infamous yellow gate at the north end of the campground. I'm vaguely aware of a few cheers and Peter asking me what I wanted to eat but I'm not sure if I responded. I touched the gate, handed my baggy with my race # and pages to Gary and collapsed in a heap on the ground.

Head spinning, stomach churning, Peter half carried me back to our campsite and started getting my pack resupplied for the next loop. He had ravioli cooking for me and anything I wanted to drink. Unfortunately all I could do was crawl into my sleeping bag and curl up in the fetal position. I still had three hours to get back out before the cut off but in between bouts of sleeping, cramping and whimpering, all the while refusing Peter's offer of food and drink, it was soon obvious that my race was done.

And so it was.

2008: Rookie - one loop and partial second loop.
2009: Seasoned veteran - one loop; barely!

Congrats to all who started and especially to Fun Runners; DeWayne Satterfield & Byron Backer. Extra special congrats to Andrew Thompson for completing all five loops in just over 57 hours to become only the eighth finisher of this race.

Am I going back to try it again? Probably. Maybe. One day. I think. Possibly...

The Barkley Marathons - "The race that eats it's young!"



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