Monday, July 1, 2013

Reports on a race that may or may not have happened

The secretive sometimes-annual Barkley Book Fair was held Saturday night--and most of it Sunday morning. For a race that supposedly doesn't happen, it sure beat me up. For most years previous dating back to 2007, The race was "held" whenever I felt like buying a few books and devising a course. What is this about, you ask.
From Wikipedia: The Barkley Marathons is a 100 mile run and a 60 mile 'fun run' held annually in Frozen Head State Park near Wartburg, Tennessee in late March or early April. The course itself, which has changed distance, route, and elevation many times since its inaugural run in 1986, currently consists of a 20-mile (32 km) loop with no aid stations except water at two points along the route and the runner's parked car at the beginning of the loop. Runners of the 100 Mile version run this loop five times, with loops three and four being run in the opposite direction and loop five being runner's choice. Runners of the 60 mile 'fun run' (considered to be harder than Hardrock) complete three circuits of the loop. With 54,200 feet (16,500 m) of accumulated vertical climb, the 100 mile run is considered to be one of the more challenging ultramarathons held in the United States, if not the world. In addition to running, competitors must find between nine and 11 books (varies per year) and remove a page from each book as proof of completion. The cut-off time for the 100 mile race is 12 hours per loop, and the cut-off for the 60 mile version of the race is 40 hours overall, which averages out to approximately 13 hours and 20 minutes per loop. Since the race's inception in 1986, only fourteen runners out of about 800 have completed the 100 mile race within the official 60 hour cut-off (Mark Williams 1995, David Horton and Blake Wood 2001, Ted "Cave Dog" Keizer 2003, Jim Nelson and Mike Tilden 2004, Brian Robinson 2008 (55:42:27), Andrew Thompson 2009, Jonathan Basham 2010, Brett Maune 2011, Brett Maune 52:03:08 (new course record), Jared Campbell 56:00:15, John Fegyveresi 59:41:21 for 2012, Nick Hollon 57:39:24, Travis Wildeboer 58:41:45 for 2013). In 2006 nobody finished even the 60 mile 'fun run' in under 40 hours. The best women's achievement is Sue Johnston's 66 miles (106 km) in 2001. More than 30 competitors failed to reach first book (two miles). [1] [2] The race is limited to 35 runners and usually fills up quickly the day registration opens. Potential entrants must complete an essay on "Why I Should be Allowed to Run in the Barkley." The race starts at different times each year and is signaled by the lighting of a cigarette. The course was designed by Gary Cantrell. His idea for the race was inspired upon hearing about Martin Luther King, Jr's assassin James Earl Ray escaping from prison, and making it only 8 miles (13 km) after running 55 hours in the woods. Cantrell said to himself "I could do at least 100 miles." Thus, the Barkley Marathons was born.
I thought we needed a race like this in Tulsa. So, back in 2007, I bought some used books with titles like Blood Trail, And Then You Die, Terror In The Night, etc., and hid them on a semi-marked trail through trailz on Turkey Mountain. I had a day run of 4.5 miles and a challenging but doable course. And then, I devised a course much more difficult and tried to take people to places on the mountain where no one had ever been. This involved visiting several caves, up rubbed creek banks, and on mysterious loops in the trail where it seemed like you were in the Bermuda Triangle. I never wanted the run to get very big--just TATURs and friends of TATURs.  
Over the years, the night tun has evolved. It has went from being a marked race, to one with sparse markings and a detailed course description, to a race with a poorly drawn map, and finally to a good map with the book locations marked but no route specified.
Last year, Stormy and I talked about him having a whack at designing the night course, and he did just that. While my usual night outings were 7-9 miles in a big serpentine loop, Stormy chose to do several smaller loops with returns back to the start/finish. It made for a more interesting event for those waiting around on their friends/spouses, and it gave a way for runners to refuel and refill water bottles. I could SWEAR I heard Stormy say "15 books/three laps/five books per lap." But it turned out to be five laps/three laps per book. No problem--do the math. But this meant running many more miles, a bit of deviousness conjured by Mr Philips himself.
Rule #1--Follow the rules.
Rule #2--Stormy makes all the rules.
Rule #3--Stormy reserves the right to change or make up new rules along the way.
Rule #4--No whining or stupid questions.

By now, I realized it was gonna be bitter medicine and I needed to be a big boy--drink it down and like it. Si at a little after 9:00, we were sent off. Seven teams with 2-4 members each took off. My team of Kathy, Mitch, Russell and I had studied our map, and decided to climb LipBuster and head west to the washing machine where the first book was. Book two was in or near the Pepsi trucks, and the last book was on the stairway between the Ridge Trailz. Although we were way behind everyone and seemingly deep in last place, I knew all the shortcuts in the dark rugged wilderness area. This was gonna be fun. We found the first book easily right in the washing machine and tore out the page which corresponded with our team number. On the way to the Pepsi trucks, we took a little-used trail that lopped off a 1/4 mile, we passed a glow stick just off the trail, which we knew was not on our map this time around. We were running like gazelles and quickly found the second book where we bagged another page.
Swiped from Scott Smaligo's photo collection, his team were evidently ahead of us at this point in the race. Another shortcut, using a trail from Pepsi Pond alongside a feeder creek and then onto the Powerline Trail. I knew where there was a cut-in to another little used trail that bee-lined over to a trail that led right down the side of the east mountain and right down the staircase. I led us down to the lower Yellow Trail to head back home, and veered off the end of the mountain on another shortcut trail, and I thought our shortened course choices might have netted us the lead in the race, but we were in 2nd behind a twosome of Matt and Jenny.
This race was seeming easy, although loop one was right at 4 miles. Could each loop be a four miler?? 20 miles on Turkey Mountain AT NIGHT???
On lap two, I rolled my left ankle pretty hard, and spent the remainder of the race being very careful where the left foot fell. I still ran, but especially in the more technical sections I was barely faster than a hike. We were slower on the 2nd loop, but it was a longer loop too. Loop three was even longer with us going  as far north as possible and west to the YMCA area and finally southeast of the main parking lot across a gravel pit. Fatigue was setting in, as I had marked the 4.5 mile day run, and then actually ran the day run leapfrogging between Dana and the group behind her. With the 12 miles ran earlier, I was sure to get a marathon distance and all on mostly technical trailz.

We saw light as we neared our last book, and it was Matt and Jenny. We thought we were maybe 1/4 mile behind them, and taking another shortcut after our last find, I thought we'd catch them at the start/finish. But when we got there, they were gone. Our lap 4 sent us right back down the lower paved trail and onto a gravel road that crossed under 71st, and then we figured out that they were probably close to a mile ahead of us.

I am sure Stormy meant us to have to walk for miles on the railroad tracks, but we took the adjoining paved bike paths and I knew where holes in the chain link fence was so we passed through and endured a little tromping through weeds and saved a few minutes. From there, we ran along the service road on 1-44 and cut into the trailz across the old Pepsi Bridge. We had been here or near her twice already on previous loops, and it did seem like we used the same trailz a lot--the ones that made for faster running and that were straighter.

The next book was on the far north Pipeline trail, and we followed the map closely. I found the end of the trail, but it did not jive at all with the map. We stumbled around in a 1/4 mile circle, and it was starting to seem like we were stuck. My ability to reason was fading, and I was frustrated that we were burning time looking for a book that seemed to be deviously hid.

Then we followed a hunch to check out the glow stick we had seen earlier which was less than a 1/4 mile east. Eureka!! It was the book, and Stormy was guilty of a bad map marking. But who's complaining?

At this point, we were 80% of the way into the race, and wiped out. we had ran almost 20 miles, and I had a 50K on my legs for the day. Against my usual behavior, I took a couple of Ibuprofen and they kicked in quick. We were near Rock City, so we took the east side of the Snake Trail back to the upper parking lot, and then shuffled down Elwood instead of LipBuster.

Our last loop included a book hidden further west on 61st Street, and then in the stink plant parking lot and in the Petroglyph Cave. We were off. It seemed like this loop went fast. It was part of Stormy's rules that we had to be done before the sun came up. What a hoot, I thought. But if we walked the whole last loop, we might not make it in before sunup. We charged up LipBuster (actually walked very slowly up, and then jogged west to the far west side. From there, it was a well memorized cut-across to Pepsi Bridge, and a shuffle over to the stink plant. I know exactly where to slip through the fence to get up to the Petroglyphs. Book 15 found! We were done, and made our way the mile back to the finish line.
 Edward was a finish line official, and Christy had bailed earlier in the race. They were both dead to the world.
Matt had kicked it up a notch when he and Jenny saw us earlier. They thought we were right on their heels, and ran like the wind to finish over an hour ahead of us. We took second, and Scott Smaligo's team finished with just a couple of minutes to spare. We received nice finisher's canes--a very practical award and I am thinking about using these in future races. How far was the run? It depended on how many shortcuts you took, and/or how many tiomes you opted for longer distances on easier trailz. I have heard as few as 22 miles, and as much as 25. I had 36.68 for the day including my miles marking the trail and doing the day run.

Candice won the day run easily, and Dana took second--her best finish in a race to date. Rachel and Lana tied for third.

 Candice then competed in the night run, and broke her little toe and had to drop after a couple of loops. Dana drove to the YMCA and picked them up. 

I had a lot of fun running this. The hardest thing about the race was the distance, but to people who are not as familiar with the trailz, it would seem quite difficult. Stormy did a great job, and will make a great race director. (hint hint)

1 comment:

  1. Oh I probably wouldn't have found the first book without a guide.