Thursday afternoon I was packed up, and ready to go. I was so excited to be running the inaugural Barkley Fall Classic, and couldn’t wait to get out to the mountains. My friend, Geoff, pulled into my driveway just before 2pm, and we were off on our adventure.
I first heard about the Barkley in 2011, when I first started trail running. One of the guys in my trail running club, Joe Lea, was preparing for Barkley that spring, he finished the “fun run” of 60 miles and brought back some great stories. Between his stories, and Geoff’s stories from the early 2000’s Barkley started growing into a mythic tale in my head.
I dream big, but knew from their tales The Barkley was way more than out of my reach, so when I heard about the BFC50k I thought it was my chance to get a little taste!
6 of us signed up last spring in a rush to be part of this new race, though as the summer progressed many of my friends ended up unable to run it. In the last week it was down to 3 of us, the day before 2 of us, and that morning I decided to pull the plug after not having been able to really eat or drink the few days prior..but I digress…
So back in the car on Thursday, as we drove through Asheville, I stared to feel “funny.” I pushed it out of my head and told myself it was just nerves. We stopped overnight in Knoxville, TN. Friday morning we were up and off to Frozen Head State Park to do a little recon.
Geoff had run the Barkley in 2000, and 2001 so on the ride over we hypothesized which parts of the Barkley would be part of the BFC50k. We were almost sure Rat Jaw would be in it, so we drove straight to the nearest pull out and hiked to Rat Jaw. No surprise, there was Laz’s arrow marking the turn towards the power lines.
Geoff and I hiked our way over to the base of it, he looked up, and chuckled softly. What greeted us was 6 feet of very dense, very thick brush, and saw briars…all.the.way.up. “Well, in the early spring the foliage is much less dense,” he pondered while he started looking for a route through, around, across and somehow up the hill. We eventually decided that by the time we arrived some of the front runners would have beaten down a path to take, or a path not to take.
We hiked back to the car wishing it was already time for packet pick up so we could find out what the route really would be. Since we still had 3 hours until packet pickup we went to find food, and I napped..hoping I could sleep off the yuck I felt.
Eventually time to get our packets and maps arrived and we headed over right away. As we entered the basement of the hall, immediately Mike Dobies recognized Geoff. We chatted with him and found that he wouldn’t be running, but was going to be the check point and bib punch after the first aid station. I listened to them reminisce about the “old days” of trail running. As we sat, Dan Baglione came over. At 84 he was picking up his bib and getting ready for whatever awaited him on the trail. He is an incredibly optimistic and intelligent man, and I was really lucky to spend some time listening to his tales from “out there.”
That night I was up, tossing and turning…it wasn’t nerves, it was worse…it was whatever GI issue that has been plaguing me for the last 3 years. I won’t get into the details, and I will stop here for now…
To be continued…