"Barkley. Where Dreams Go to Die" -Gary Cantrell
|The Race Start-Courtesy Leon Lutz|
If you're hoping to read a detailed account of my experience "out there" in 2016 don't bother reading this post. This story isn't about what happened out there, because that doesn't really matter. It's a reflection on what happened in me, because that is what matters.
I came to my third attempt at the Barkley Marathons ready to finish 3 loops. I was bolstered by my 3rd loop start last year and the excellent weather conditions. My navigation on the first loop was almost flawless. I felt good. I felt strong. I was excited. Until I wasn't anymore. Until my body decided to freak out on me and the reality of failure (again) ebbed higher and higher throughout my second loop.
|Finishing Loop 1-Courtesy Keith Dunn|
|First ascent of Rat Jaw. I quit here on the 2nd loop.-Courtesy John Price|
In my first application I told him that I needed to fail at something and that that is why I wanted to come to Barkley. So I came and I failed miserably. It was crushing and yet gave me the focus and the drive to set the AT FKT. Setting that FKT gave me the confidence to believe that I actually belonged at the Barkley this year.
|My first set of Barkley Book Pages ever|
Getting Tapped Out-J. Kowalski
The answers surprised me. I was there because other people wanted me there. So many people believe that I can be the first woman to finish 5 loops at the Barkley. My entire life has been a quest to make others happy. To get good grades for my parents. To marry someone that wasn't right in order to please others. To enter a race when my heart isn't in it and hope for the best.
|Just after Taps-Courtesy Joe Kowalski|
Moving across the country. Leaving unhealthy relationships. Quitting my job. Throwing myself into an FKT attempt on the PCT. These things didn't make anyone else happy. No one wanted me to do them. But I wanted to do them. I needed to do them. For Myself.
And I did them without regret and with a resolute, stubborn drive.
I have never come to Barkley with that drive.
|"I'm done."-Courtesy Leon Lutz|
I realized as I watched Jennilyn rocket up the ascents; and as I saw Gary, my friend and incredible athlete unravel in his 5th loop that I have never been invested in Barkley physically. In order to truly do well at the Barkley I have to be at the same physical level that I have been at in the midst of my record setting hikes. Where I eat elevation for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on little sleep for weeks on end. And I have to be at that level in March, without having the cushion of doing nothing but hammer out 45 mile days for a month beforehand. I haven't been willing. I haven't been invested in the training. I haven't wanted to finish Barkley enough to do what I have to do to be successful.
I watched John Kelly stagger into and out of camp during the transition from his 4th to 5th loops. I recognized that dreamlike stupor of fatigue that he floated in as the same thing I experienced in the High Sierra two years ago. I had wanted the JMT FKT like John wanted Barkley. I had wanted it enough to push my body through 80 hours of almost no sleep to the brink of death from HACE and HAPE. I had wanted to finish it so badly that even when I was coughing up blood I refused to stop.
After this year I finally realized that I can finish 5 loops at Barkley. I have no doubt of that now. But in order to do so, I need to want the Barkley for myself.
Will I apply again? Maybe. But only when I have decided that I want it enough.
If I return to the Barkley it will be when I am ready physically and mentally to finish it.
|Accepting the truth with tears in my eyes-Courtesy J. Kowalski|