Viewing entries tagged

My Letter of Condolences Has Arrived - The Barkley is a Go!


My Letter of Condolences Has Arrived - The Barkley is a Go!

And on Feb 29th no less, that's gotta be a good omen on some level.

"dear gary;

it is my unfortunate duty to inform you that your name has been selected for the 2016 barkley marathons, to be held on april 2-4, 2016, at frozen head state park, in the state of tennessee, usa.

it is anticipated that this enterprise will amount to nothing more than an extended period of unspeakable suffering, at the end of which you will ultimately find only failure and humiliation. at best, you might escape without incurring permanent physical damage and psychological scarring, which will torment you for the remainder of your life.

you may, if you so desire, spend the intervening months between now, and april in a futile attempt to perform sufficient training to enable yourself to cover a greater distance before your ultimate demise. however, it would probably be better to spend this time putting your affairs in order...

update your will, visit with friends and relatives, and otherwise tie up any and all loose ends.

should the unfortunate mental condition which led to your application for the 2016 barkley marathons improve, you might still escape by simply writing me and asking that your slot be passed along to some other unfortunate fool. there are many other unfortunate fools suffering from the delusion that they *want* to participate in this hopeless endeavor.

otherwise, please respond with an acknowledgement that you indeed wish to participate, and (if you are not already on the barkley mailing list) write to NOT TELLING YOU to request to be added. this is the medium thru which I will pass along any information related to the race. please do not pay any attention to information from anyone other than myself on this list, as the barkers of the past may have been mentally damaged during their attempts to run the race, and are no longer reliable.

in order to protect your privacy, we will not announce your entry to the race on any public forum. this way, you may be allowed to fail quietly, without anyone ever knowing. however, if you wish to make any public statement about your acceptance into the race; that is your choice... if you tell the world that you will be running, do not be surprised to find your heirs requesting that you bequeath them favored items among your possessions, and making inquiries about the location of your valuables.

may your god go with you;


If you don't know Barkley, here's the wiki link and more importantly here's a great way to kill 90 minutes by viewing the highly entertaining recently released documentary, "The Barkley Marathons, The Race That Eats Its Young", which was recently released to Netflix for FREE!

The Coles Notes (Google Coles Notes if you didn't exist before Google)

-Absolutely one of the toughest physical challenges on the planet.

-There have only been 14 unique finishers in 30 years! Two runners have finished twice. 

-130 or so miles in length, though no one knows for sure / 210km

-60,000ft of climbing and an equal amount descent, as in 120,000ft of change! 18,300 meters!

-60 hour cutoff

-5 laps long. If you finish 3 laps they call it a "fun run" finish. I am not going for a "fun run".

-Never has there been a Canadian finisher of the event.

-The "race" is limited to just 40 runners. Yes, more than 40 people apply for this "privilege" :)

-This is the most quotation marks I've ever used in a blog posting :)

-HURT was a training run for Barkley, and so was this, just yesterday as I knew my letter of condolences was imminent. 


-There are no course markings at Barkley and no aid stations. You get a map, some coordinates, and you go find hidden books in the forest and pull out the page that matches your bib number to prove you found the checkpoints. Lose you pages and you're out of the race. Seriously, watch the documentary :)

-You are not allowed GPS, you are not allowed an altimeter, just map and compass.

-Each time the course is completed in its entirety the course is changed to make it harder the following year. No one finished in 2015 so the course does not change for 2016.

-Apparently 2016 will see the deepest field they've ever hosted as the initial announcement was that four previous finishers and eight previous fun run finishers were returning, and apparently a former Olympian (no idea what country of what sport it was) is in as well.

-There is no race website and they do not publish a starters list. It is up to the person if they wish to openly admit that they are attempting this. 

I applied as you are supposed to back in December and was not amongst the initially drawn entrants, but I did find myself at #8 on the weight list, yes they like to mess with words and they call it a weight list instead of a wait list. One by one I watched people climb the weight list whilst knowing full well that I was high enough to eventually get in. Barkley has been my focus and my big race goal for the better part of the last year. If I did not get into Hardrock, which I didn't, I was focussing on Barkley. This is not to say that HURT wasn't my absolute race goal in January, it was, but Barkley happens on April 2nd this year and as such you'd better be logging race specific mileage through at least December, January, February and March. If I were finally going to apply for Barkley, it was going to be in a year where I was also doing HURT as the training for both is so complimentary. 

A brief summary of my history with the Barkley. I've been dreaming about this day for the better part of seven years, maybe eight. I did come from an expedition adventure racing background into ultrarunning, so I learned of this impossible race early in my ultra career. If I didn't end up injured for all of 2011 I would most likely have applied that year, for a hopeful 2012 inclusion. 

In November of 2012 after working my fitness back from a lost year in 2011, I found myself in a room with two Barkley finishers and a third person who then went on to become a finisher. 

Andrew Thompson - 2009 finisher

Jonathan Basham - 2010 finisher

Travis Wildeboer - 2013 finisher

I brought up the Barkley and of course passionate discussion ensued. I took a lot away from that day but mainly this, you can't prevent the suffering, no matter how hard you try, and sometimes simply trying to prevent that suffering is to your own demise. Jonathan or JB as he's known summed it up best, while throwing his arms out wildly to the sides,

"You know how you finish Barkley, you've GOTTA WANT BARKLEY!"

Plain and simple, Barkley isn't an afterthought, it isn't something you just tack onto a racing calendar, it isn't something to be taken lightly and if you want to finish the damn thing you'd better be prepared to live for it for months and even years on end. This is where I've been for the last few years now, until I finally applied, knowing that there can never be excuses in getting the training in and ensuring I'm as prepared as possible come the day of reckoning. 

That workout shown above, or displayed in this image capped off a week in which I managed 42,000 feet of climbing, while also directing my first CMTS race of the season. It was a busy week and come Sunday the weather was the nastiest it had been in sometime. It was a miserable day with high winds, at time sideways rain down low and blowing snow up high.

All in all I would have preferred 101 other ways to spend my Sunday, but I knew I was eventually, maybe even that day (yesterday) getting into Barkley, and as such there are no excuses, only actions. I fought tooth and nail against quitting before I had even begun and ten and a half hours later I'd logged the biggest vert training day of my life, and by a decent margin. That's why I signed up for the Barkley to begin with, because I know that come race day it will challenge me in new and unforeseen ways, and that in the months leading up to the race, it would force me to be a better person, a better athlete, and that it would force me to challenge myself in new and creative ways. Yesterday was about doing something that not that long ago was beyond the realm of possibility for me, 20,000ft in 31 miles / 6100m in 50km, as a training day.

April 2nd is about facing the greatest physical and mental challenge of my racing career and indeed my life. 

The Barkley is a go, the training is right on schedule, now to figure out how to read a map and use that damn compass :)