I arrived at the Barkley calmer than ever before. This being my third time “out there” I didn’t have the fears of getting lost that had previously haunted me. I also wasn’t worried about sleeping through the conch, so I racked up a lot of hours in my sleeping bag the two days prior. I was happy to have slept all the way until the conch sounded race morning at 9:43am.
The first loop was stellar. Conditions were pleasant and I navigated nearly flawlessly. I felt strong and was enjoying the course. The new changes and book placements were enjoyable diversions from the prior years route. I also appreciated the new cairn to honor those Barkers who have passed away at one of the book locations. I carried a rock with me to place on it in honor of Chip Tuthill, who passed this last year. Chip was a Barkley “old timer” and my first year he was the veteran I clung to on my first lap. Here’s to you Chip, thank you.
There was a good cheering crowd on top of Rat Jaw as always and I enjoyed the steep grind up to the tower. Unfortunately, by the time I reached Rat Jaw for the second time I would be quitting my race.
I had an amazing crew this year who had me in and out of camp in a matter of 15 minutes and I happily started my second loop not long before 11pm. I met another runner at the first book and we spent the majority of the second loop together.
Unfortunately, about ⅓ of the way through the second loop I knew I was probably not going to be able to finish. My stomach had gone south and I was either nauseous or ravenous at all times. Eating made me so sick I could barely move. Not eating sapped all my strength so that my pace was sluglike. For once Laz’s race prediction was right: “Heather weeps like a small child when a box turtle passes her.”
About ⅔ of the way through the second loop I encouraged my partner to leave me and forge her own way through the rest of the route. She was feeling strong and I knew she’d be able to finish in time to start a 3rd loop, which she did. It was interesting to me that I was in almost the exact same position last year, although the roles were reversed. The veteran I’d been with for 2 loops was sick and sent me on ahead from almost the same exact location. I’d started my 3rd loop with seconds to spare. This year the runner I sent ahead of me did exactly the same thing. It was one of those beautiful ironies of the Barkley.
I enjoyed time in camp reflecting on my experiences of three years at the race and cheering on the runners who continued. It was quite interesting to me to be there for Jared’s finish since he’d also finished the race my first year there.