Barkley Fall Classic x2 (ouch again)

The second time “running” the Barkley Fall Classic is a wrap. It was a surprisingly tough slog this year. I felt fairly confident of my fitness, but on the start line I just felt spent, depleted and pre-defeated.
I still had a blast though so I won’t focus on negatives. Coming in 14 minutes under the cutoff in 3rd to last place still counts. There were plenty who didn’t finish or who had to “settle” for the shorter marathon distance instead.
This race has now kicked my butt two years in a row. I’ve finished but it’s been ugly both times. I’ll have to come back next year of course. I’m starting to rack up a lot of “do-over races.”
 

The course

A few more climbs in this years race made it just a little tougher. The walk through the defunct Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary was very cool. Getting our bib punch from some random guy in the hole was amusing.
The course is deceptively easy in the first 10-12 miles. There are climbs galore but they are on non-technical single track. The middle is where all the bad stuff (or good stuff if you will) starts happening. Scrambling, climbing, sliding, grasping for stumps etc etc. It’s a full body workout really. I was having a hard time not overheating and trying to keep my breathing and heart rate in check. Then the last 3rd of the course is on mostly non-technical single track once again.

Defeat or Complete

I’ve never been in a race that has had me teetering back and forth between defeat and complete so fully. (except for last years race) I had totally given up on completing the 50K when my energy was zapped before going up Rat Jaw. I was done, toast. I laid down on the grass halfway up and took a nap. I woke up and continued trudging along, trying to be encouraging to the folks passing me, but I was frankly kind of out of it the whole climb. I even started meandering on my own far off course for the better part of an hour.
At the tower on top of Rat Jaw I was about 15 minutes behind the cutoff
At the 22 mile checkpoint I was 10 minutes ahead
The remaining 10+ miles I grunted and pushed my way in just on time

A climber I am not

I like speed, so flats and downs are what I love running. Climbing has always felt more like work. I’ve gotten more used to climbing the last few years but I’m still not that great. There were a ton of climbers in this race. Of course, that’s what the Barkley is known for and that’s the type of person it will attract the most. Hats off to them.
The last mile on the road I sprinted 6-7 minute mile pace just for the hell of it. I had energy to spare after 13 hours. A good sign.

Gear

First real race with my Ultimate Direction AK vest + squishy bottles. Worked pretty good. Calf sleeves were helpful. I forgot my gloves but managed. My New Balance 110s are so old they are rotting. I should just toss them but they are my all time favorite shoes. It’s going to be hard to part with them.

Next year

If I run this next year I have to be prepared for the climbing. I would not put it passed the organizers making the course even tougher.

 

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