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Barkley & The journey to Gobi church

Updated: Jan 29, 2022


Well, my first Barkley adventure was a quick swift kick up the ass. I needed a few days to process everything. After years of just trying to find my way into the race and 2 solid years of training, it was over for me in an instant. It was heart breaking.

I arrived at Frozen Head with the same excitement and nervousness as the other runners. I spent the evening before making sure everything was dialed in, eating a good dinner, and trying to get the most sleep possible. The rain was coming down and I knew we were in for some special weather.

I awoke to someone banging on the window of my van followed by some car horns. I hadn’t heard the conch. I don’t think most of us had, but it was go time. I geared up and went to the staging area to get my watch. I had no idea when the conch had been blown, but I certainly didn’t get that full hour of prep. I went back to my van to grab my poles and I heard Laz giving his speech. It was already go time? It had been 20 minutes maybe? I rushed up and arrived just in time to see the ceremonial lighting of the cigarette and it was on.

We all charged forward past the yellow gate heading “out there” into the rain and mud. Things were great for the first 20 minutes. My goal was just to tag along with a veteran and soak up the course like a sponge. I didn’t want to worry about the physicality of the race. I was well trained for the climbs. I started thinking about the first book. I was going to tear out page...15? Was it 15? Shit. Was it 13? No it was 15...I think? I tore open my pack. My bib was gone. Is the number on any other info? I couldn’t find anything. By this time I was having a full on panic attack. I didn’t want to tear out some random page. I had to make a decision right then and there. After almost a mile and a half of climbing, I bolted back down the candy ass trail. I was trying to stay positive. I had time. I’d be behind, but I had to keep my head straight. Half way down I ducked under a downed tree. My pole managed to get wedged between the trunk and the ground. SNAP! The handle of the pole broke like a twig. One more thing, I couldn’t worry about it now. I made it back to the van in the campground and grabbed my bib. FML, #15!

Back up the candy ass trail I ran. I didn’t care how much my quads were screaming at me, I needed to make up time. At the ridge line, things took a real turn. By this time, the fog was thick as can be. The whiteout from the headlamp was one thing, but I kept seeing light reflecting off of the rain in my periphery. Were they headlamps? Nope, just more rain. I ended up taking the wrong descent of the ridge. Sliding through mud and briars I made it to a bench of the mountain. I followed my North bearing, but it didn’t matter. I was already on the wrong side of the mountain. I ran back and forth, every once and a while finding markers that were similar to the instructions. At night with rain and fog, it all looked the same. After a few hours I ended up at a church. I had crossed the raging river and stopped, staring up at the cross thinking there is no way I’m even remotely close. Crossing the river once more I took the trail further north until I was just in a tangled mess of trees and briars. I ended up back tracking to where I had popped out on the flatter section of trail. I climbed all the way back up to the summit to try and see a light...anything. In the end I popped out near the entrance to the park. I had covered a shitload of ground but nothing that had helped my cause. I was devastated. So much work and sacrifice to have it thrown away so fast into the event.

Back at camp, I tried to regain composure. It was hard to explain what had happened past the tears and anger I had towards myself. The sound of the bugle playing taps cut deep. I recounted my journey to Laz and Kieth. They seemed amazed that I had covered that much ground. Laz said that the church story would be one for the history books...hahaha not how I wanted to be remembered but it did bring a smile to my face.

It’s going to be hard to wait another year to have a real shot again. The mistake will eat away at me for some time I’m sure. Still, I would trade every race experience for what I endured out there. The Barkley ate its young once again.

At the fabled yellow gate.

This beautiful trail hurt so good.

A swift kick in the ass describes my first outing at the Barkley Marathons.

The best of friends. Cisca and I were fortunate to reunite with Leah & Tyler to share in my suffering.

Rat Jaw. Much nicer than it is during the Barkley Fall Classic.

We had a little fun revisiting Gobi church post race. I was lost as $#*@

A visit to the fire tower.

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