Close but no cigar. The Barkley is tougher than I ever could have imagined and I'm incredibly proud to have made it almost four and a half loops into what is a notoriously difficult race to close out. On my 5th and final loop I was up against some of the deepest sleep deprivation of my life, having not slept the night before the race and being unable to catch more than a ten minute nap during the race, I was on about 90hrs since my last snooze.
I knew my final lap would have to be mistake free and I was calculated and precise in grabbing the second book of the counter-clockwise loop, one of the harder books to locate (the first book on the CCW loop is a gimme). From the second book to the third I shot a bearing, triple checked it, followed it as closely as possible and came up a just a few degrees from where I intended to be, yet in my sleep deprived state I processed that I was too far north instead of too far south of my target. The following decisions that somehow made sense at the time will haunt my dreams until I one day return. Small mistakes became big mistakes and turning right instead of left became my undoing. Over the following 2.5hrs I wandered in circles in the forest as I watched the merciless 60 hour time limit fade away before me. When I finally located book three I knew that my Barkley dreams were shattered. I would not become the 15th ever finisher of The Barkley Marathons, and I would time out on the fifth and final loop. I decided to at least keep moving for a few more hours and I grabbed the fourth book at the prison and then climbed Rat Jaw for the fifth and final time.
At the top of Rat Jaw were a collection of misfits, also known as previous finishers and world class badasses, and they all but forbid me from ceasing forward progress. I dropped down RJ, again attempting to generate enough adrenaline to stay awake, yet at the bottom of the descent I sat down and knew sleep was my only course of action. I eventually dropped off the course and found a ride back to the campground to face my fate against the bugle. I had answered all of the questions I'd set out to source answers to when I lined up for this beast, and I had nothing left to prove to myself on the course. A Barkley finish, if it is in my future, would have to wait another year. The Barkley is beyond classification and hard to put into words, though I will try with an eventual blog posting.
Jared Campbell. I feel like that should be enough, just saying his name, and to those who know him or have witnessed him in action they know what I mean here. I spent 47 hours with Jared during The Barkley and am now honoured to call him a friend. I would have struggled to complete a single loop without Jared's hard earned course knowledge and his calm, kind demeanor actually contributed to enjoying quite a bit of the two and a half days I spent thrashing through the Tennessee wilderness.
My wife Linda, son Reed, high school buddy Shawn Martin, Ethan Newberry, Kimberley Teshima and Matt Trappe, thank you for being the best support crew a guy could ever hope for.
John Kelly, you made the 5th loop as well and inspired so many people in doing so. It has been pointed out that no person has made the 5th loop, not finished, and then not been able to return and eventually claim an elusive Barkley finish. John, I look forward to seeing you do just that in the coming years, hopefully on your very next go.
Raw Dawg, thank you for not freaking out when I inadvertently stole your campsite.
Danger Dave, I don't like your bugle but the ribs were delicious, thank you.
Frozen Ed, thank you for signing my book, but when you update it for version 2.0 you'll have to reword the thoughts on Canadian's at The Barkley :)
Lazarus Lake, thank you for introducing me to a side of myself that I believed existed but who I'd never met before. I liked who I became "out there" and I look forward to giving it another go.
Barkley 1 - Gary 0
Round two? To be determined, but 2018 at the latest.