Thank you everyone for all the heartfelt support and well wishes. It's been quite an emotional rollercoaster these last few days.
I just want to say a few quick things right now before delving deeper into my full race experience in the coming days.
First and foremost, congratulations to John Kelly on becoming the 15th ever finisher of The Barkley Marathons! John and I got to spend four laps together and we were a great team. I have a solid grasp on most of the course, as does John and we worked together very effectively to help launch each other into lap 5 with enough time to close it out.
John grew up in Oak Ridge, 30 minutes away, and he and his family have been hiking and camping in the park his entire life. When we discussed lap 5 direction, while on loop 4, John said "When I've dreamed of finishing Barkley, it's always been while coming down Chimney Top (clockwise) as I've hiked there so much with my family."
John Kelly is the 15th person to ever finish The Barkley Marathons. John Kelly deserves more congrats and recognition than I do right now. Please take a second to properly congratulate him on his phenomenal accomplishment.
Regarding my finish yesterday. After collecting my 13th and final book page, having not stopped moving for even a second on my fifth and final lap, the fog had once again set in. As I went over the final bump on the course I knew I would hit a trail, go left, and run down into camp with maybe five minutes to spare, but the math added up, I was going to make it.
In the fog I was a few degrees off course and when I hit my trail I must've trended into it left and then continued following it, now counting down the minutes till I would intersect the final turn down the last switchbacks into camp, with about two miles to go.
Something didn't feel right though, it was taking too long (like these brief few words) so I checked direction and it seemed to be right, but in my deprived state I didn't assess that I should have rapidly been heading east, and not south for more then a few seconds. I pushed harder now, wondering why the "pillars of death" just would not appear. Did I step over them in the fog and not realize it? No I thought, not possible, so I pushed harder, and then I came to a staircase. There are no staircases on the Barkley course, not a one.
I ripped open my map and the gravity of things hit me. I did not have enough time left to correct my mistake by going up and over the mountain again. If I did this I would have finished in maybe 60:05 and I would not be an official Barkley Marathons finisher. Here's the thing though, that's exactly what I should have done, and the one regret I have after now sleeping is not doing just that.
The Barkley Marathons is not an orienteering style race. You do not get to select the route that best favors you between books. You need to navigate between books, off trail, but in a very specific direction of travel. My finish, even if it were 6 seconds faster would not have counted. I put Laz and the race in a precarious situation and in hindsight I'm glad I was six seconds over so that we didn't have to discuss the validity of my finish.
In that raw moment however, I see two options, turn back up the mountain and finish over time, or shoot a bearing and find yet one more reserve of energy to get to the yellow gate in under 60 hours. I bushwhacked down the mountain at breakneck speed and I found myself at a large river. The river was maybe fifteen feet wide and absolutely raging from all the rain we were experiencing. I took one step off the river bank and was already chest deep. I would never have made the decision to attempt to swim such waters under anything other than a highly sleep deprived and stressed state of mind.
I washed out on the other side maybe thirty feet down stream. I continued buswhacking and quickly spotted the road into camp. I had less than three minutes left till the sixty hour cutoff. I thrashed my way to the road and put my head down and gutted out the hardest three minutes of my life to collapse at the gate, overtime, and from the wrong direction. I did not finish The Barkley Marathons, and that is no one's fault but my own. That one fatal error with just over two miles to go haunts me.
Congrats to John Kelly on one hell of a run and thanks to every single person who makes The Barkley what it is.
My crew were amazing and I can't thank them enough for all that they did for me this past weekend. Linda, Reed, Shawn, Kim and Ethan. I love you guys and I couldn't have come so close without each and every one of you.