my report, Barkley 07

Hey, and what's .7 ....chopped liver?

Okay, here's my tale, filed under "mistakes," despite pleading by Bill Losey not to enter that as my reason for not completing one loop. On Friday I was undecided as to which veteran(s) I was going to latch onto for the first loop. Initially, my thoughts had been to stick with John DeWalt and Sue Thompson, both of which I thought would be taking a reasonable pace, with enough room for a second loop, maybe even a third. My plans were to end up around 11 hours give or take. Considering recent years attempts by Dobies, I thought I might be up for pushing it a bit for that first loop. That was when I thought he'd be going for a 10 hour loop, considering he wanted to conserve for loops 2-4. Well, he failed to say anything about 8+ hour loops, and not far into the North Boundary trail I pulled back, knowing I couldn't keep that pace and plan to go for the distance I wanted (more than one loop, anyway). Last thing I heard from Mike, from a couple of switchbacks above was "Paul, apologies for how easy this trail is."

So, I was on my own, then. I could have held back for the next group behind me, but didn't see anyone and, well, I enjoy running solo and the challenge seemed good--especially given the trail was so damn clear--at least through Bald Knob. When I got to that point I circled around it but failed to find the turn-off down to the switchbacks and ended up cross country-ing it until meeting up with the trail (leaves kicked up by more than one set of shoes) over the next ridge and on the way down to SOB ditch. Would've been bummed to have missed that landmark, although it turned out not to be worthy of the name, at least with those nice branches to climb up the far side; I'd call it more like "that dang ditch."

On the way up from there, making my way around the coal ponds, I still could not hear or see anyone behind me-no one ahead either--so I pressed on, finding my way to the Garden Spot, book 2, then the water drop. Now here's where my tale goes south...or rather, west. In too much haste, I kept straight instead of following the road around to the left. This took me down a ridge line to a sign that read "Coffin Springs," which I thought the sign indicating the direction to get there; I was following "the jeep road...past the turn off (right) for Coffin Springs...right. Anyway, I headed up to what I thought was Stallion Mtn., but was in fact Squire Knob. I proceeded along a ridge line, found my way to the very top and, just as the turn sheet indicated, there was the "pile of rocks with a pipe sticking up out of it." I started looking for Book 3, but to no avail. At a certain point I think I started imagining triple-trunk and quadruple-trunk trees...I just couldn't find the damn rocks that were supposed to be nearby. After hunting around for far too long, and finally figuring out I must have climbed the wrong peak--after all, the runners behind me could not have been THAT far behind, right?--I headed back to where I'd been, making it back to Book 2 at almost 1:00. First got there at 11:30--3hr 20min--and then back again at 1:00. Regardless, it felt great to be there at Frozen Head and I was pleased to be back on track. Found Book 3 with no problem at all, then down to Fykes peak; I met up with Pete Ireland and one other runner at Book 4--a bit of luck, not having to search around for that one.

We headed on, but Pete was hurting, I think from a fall of some sort, and I wanted to try and catch DeWalt and/or Sue up ahead--though I was not counting on it at this point, since most everyone had long since passed through (actually, this was not correct). I went on ahead of them, and at this point what dawned on me wasn't good: I realized that I'd not refilled my water after that 2+ hours off course, and now faced having to ration it, which I did, coinciding with the afternoon heat rising up. I filled about 16 ounces at New River, but with the heat, this was gone before too long (why didn't I fill/purify more?). I made it to Book 5, Testicle Spectacle and then down to the Butt Slide, no problemo. Found my way to the waterfall and to Book 6, then Dave's Wall, again stopping at the creek and getting 16 ounces--again, not enough!

Up the wall, past the tires, across the road, on up to Rat Jaw, I'd let myself get way too dry, and had lost track of salts. DAMN, I was crapping out. By the time I made it up to Frozen Head, I lost every drop of what I had in me--at that point, just water. Took some salt which helped, of course, but felt that by that time I would need a good hour or more to get my stomach back in alignment. I looked at my watch, then the map, then back again at my watch; I knew I'd not make it before the cut-off. If I kept going I'd feel like crap, and darkness and Big Hell were approaching; I decided to head back on Old Mac trail, after getting 7 pages. In retrospect, I think I was totally delusional in making that decision rather than going on and finishing the loop, even if it took 14+ hours. Sure I felt like shit, but I decided not to experience the full loop, including all its glory. Shit!

Still, I'd not trade that time out there for anything. I will be back, if fortunes dictate, and work on that Fun Run.

Here are some photos, a mix of horror and Hallmark; wish I'd taken more. I videoed my taps, btw, in case anyone wants to witness my humiliation.

It was great to be there with all of you. Thanks laz, rawdog, and all those who helped make this 07 Barkley!

Paul Melzer