"Perhaps the genius of ultrarunning is its supreme lack of utility. It makes no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense."
- David Blaikie

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hanging out with Laz / Thoughts on The Barkley

I was fortunate to have some time on Sunday morning after Laz's Backyard Ultra to hang out with him (and his little dog, Little) and enjoy the "backyard" at a somewhat slower pace. We talked about the race, dogs, the caves around his property, some stone steps that he's working on and... The Barkley.  Laz has a beautiful home and one of the coolest "yards" I've been allowed into.  Some pictures below from the morning.

The Barkley conversation left a mark...

I have been interested in The Barkley for a while now but have been non-committal about taking any kind of real shot at it. For one thing, it felt a little presumptuous to intend to actually finish. Especially without ever seeing the course or talking about it with someone who did. (I have met finishers Horton, Wood and recently JB, although we didn't talk about Barkley).  I thought the "fun run" (3 loop, 100k for "women, children, and wimps") might be a good goal, but that otherwise it might just be fun to go in prepared for and expecting humiliation (which is to say, not prepared at all). I think there have been >700 people now that have attempted the Barkley since 1986 and only 9 finishes within the 60hr cutoff. No shame in not finishing then, right?!

Well, right, but here's the thing. You still have to step correct. For me, this means some specific training and learning as much about the course and area as possible before race day (around April Fools Day). And, it means setting out on race day with the intention of not giving up. Flipping the grit bit. After talking with Laz about the vibe at Frozen Head when someone actually finishes... seeing that gleam in his eye when he talks about those who have... well, it's clear this challenge deserves nothing less than 100%. 

So, keep a close watch on your license plates my NC friends.

Description of The Barkley from a bootleg copy of the entry form...

"What is it you are looking for in a race? Do you want huge crowds of gushing admirers? How about sumptuous aid stations, with a huge selection of goodies? Do you want to succeed and think of yourself as god-like? Maybe you want sympathy and consolation in the event you should fall short? Perhaps you are seeking well-marked, broad, and smooth footpaths? You might even be seeking an event where your pacer can hold your little hand and coax you thru the rough spots? Then throw this away and take the Barkley off your race list.

On the other hand,if you are looking for a racing experience that has been compared to being punched in the face for 60 hours, if you truly desire to be bruised, cut, battered, and left to lonesome hopelessness, on godforsaken trails in the middle of no-where, in the middle of the night, this might be the ticket. If you dream of clinging to a rocky hillside in pitch black darkness and/or impenetrable fog, in a freezing downpour, listening to your teeth chatter and wondering exactly where in the hell you are, then this might be just the race for you. If you want to return home to scorn from so-called trail runners without the nads to even read this entry form, you are on the right track. If you want to don your race-shirt at the next event, and have other runners move away from you, for fear they will be contaminated, this is definitely something to consider."

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1 comment:

T.I.M said...

Hi Josh, Naresh here. We ran the Backyard Ultra and I was the Indian guy who ran in his Vibrams, ring any bells?

Great post by the way especially about the Barkley. I can't imagine how the mother (Barkley) would be having seen the baby Barkley during Backyard ultra. Good luck for your future races.