Thank you, Johan for the beautiful report. I look forward to seeing you again!
Thank you, Laz for the giving me a chance again. I will do better next time.
This year, I finished two loops within the time limit, and finished about 7 hours over the time limit (47h from the start, around 10:30am on Monday 3/30) for the third loop with Dale.
Barkley is tough, but recovering from Barkley is also tough. First, there was the skin flaking off my face from windburn and sunburn. Marc and I both had bloody nose on the plane home. My productivity at work was severely compromised. Prior to Barkley, my productivity was all-time high. I had to get everything done before taking a week off - I ended up bringing some work to Tennessee to finish few things and Marc and I both worked at Starbucks in Oak Ridge. I believe Marc was working until Friday 3/27. But, after Barkley, my head felt like it was still in Barkley fog. The only thing that kept me awake was the pain in my feet. Oh yes, the soles of my feet were burning for a couple of days. I've also had an inexplicable cravings for ice cream. I only found coffee chocolate chip gelato in my freezer and finished off half a pint. Yesterday, I got started on Ben & Jerry's Pistachio Pistachio because I couldn't find green tea ice cream. That and with a steady diet of jalapeno Cheetos, I have been surprising myself on how much appetite I have for not really moving much these days.
This was my second time running Barkley. When I ran with Bev and Alan on my first attempt at the Barkley in 2012, I was amazed by how easily they picked a line of descent on Jaque Mate Ridge - it almost looked like they picked the line on a whim; they didn't even pull their map out. The truth is that they have done this multiple times and the lines they picked were probably the best ones after trial and error. In order for me to be successful at Barkley, I had to come up with my own line that is suitable for my skills and my own method to memorize them. That is why I chose to split from the front pack with Bev and Alan from the start (and also because they left me in the dust).
I was very lucky to spend the first and second loop with Johan. He is naturally blessed with good tracking and navigation skills, not to mention looking much younger than his age. I was surprised to learn that I was younger than he was, but still a "veteran." It was Johan who led me to book 2 by staying on the right (west) side of Jury Ridge - I didn't even know why we did this until I found out on loop 3 that the ridge itself had obstacles and small bumps that slowed down the progress and became more confusing when it flattened out near the bottom.
Johan was faster than I was, but I caught up to him when he had trouble finding the books. On loop 2, he did better with the navigation. I was especially impressed with his line down Fykes Peak to New River. He was able to follow the faint tracks left by the Barkers and moved down like he owned the mountain. I was sure he would have no trouble on loop 3 to get back up Fykes Peak. His navigation was spot on even after we crossed the road. We found an open path in the brush and did no bushwhacking to get to the new ridge to the vagina tree.
Alas, all things must to come to an end. I could not keep up with Johan on Rat Jaw and he went on with a strong finish on lap 2. I caught up to Dale on Chimney Top. Dale and I hardly saw each other on the course, but we were actually running at a similar pace.
Dale was another strong runner and a Barkley veteran. I thought my transition time between loop 2 and 3 was fast, but his was even quicker. He caught up to me at Rat Jaw after his compass had ripped off on Big Hell. I gave him my spare compass and went on, but he caught me again at the drum. We climbed up to Meth Lab Hill on different ridges, but arrived at the top at the same time. We decided to stick together.
Dale showed me his route to get to Fykes Peak, but for some reason, he was stuck at the top of the draw and couldn't figure out where we were at. I had a hunch and kept insisting to go up the ridge to the right, but Dale kept running back and forth while I rested and rubbed my left butt cheek. One does not need to explain the rationale of rubbing one's butt on the third loop of Barkley other than "because it felt good," but allow me to divulge: (a) I pulled a muscle going down the vagina tree ridge and (b) it was unlikely that Dale was going to massage my butt (I asked Dale for a quick remedy, but massaging my butt was not one of his remedies). We eventually went up to the ridge on the right and made a slow, but steady progress to Fykes Peak.
It is also noteworthy to mention that Dale saved me that night. I made a rookie mistake of not carrying enough food (although, in my defense, I wasn't planning on staying out there for 22 hours). My stomach was producing a lot of acid and was starting to hurt. Among other things, Dale gave me a whole bag of animal crackers that soothed my stomach and stopped the gnawing pain.
The rest was a fairly standard Barkley night loop: sleep deprivation creeping up on us, hearing girls singing, laughing, chatting, Eva passing us at the coal ponds (she said I was supposed to make fun of Dale or vice versa... was I dreaming?), sleepwalking on the trail, taking a 5 minute break on a rock while the rain gently fell on us, getting stuck on the rock wall on Hillpocalypse... it finally started getting light when we started the climb back up to Jury Ridge.
I was finally able to find my line for Jacque Mate Ridge on loop 3. Dale was showing me his preferred route which lands him within the boundary of the park. I asked him to take a more rocky route (despite his objection) and it opened up a new route that seemed improbable at times, but avoids all the cliffs and rock walls. I cannot wait to try this route again.
After I completed third loop, Jeremy Ebel (a.k.a. The Chef) brought me some Vermont maple syrup breakfast sausages to my campsite. They were the best thing I've tasted since the Barkley chicken. I call him The Chef because he cooks so damn well. When I first saw him, he was cooking sausages on the grill. I was drooling, but stuck to my ramen and chili since we brought our own supplies to eat. Don't get me wrong - Marc and I cooked some mean mac and cheese with hot dogs, but somehow they pale in comparison with real food.
To quote Marc, this year's Barkley was "the best weekend of the year" even if our tarp broke in the middle of the night and we had to take it down. I would do it all over again... with a better tarp, of course.
slowly walking down the big hell,
-toshi "my pants don't fit cuz my butt's too big" :-o